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Assorted links

by on February 24, 2015 at 12:11 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. State governments are pre-empting local government interventions.

2. There is no great snowplow stagnation!

3. Did intervention in Libya just make everything worse?

4. The Great Reset, in a single picture.

5. Critics of Greek austerity are basically asking for a free lunch.  You never hear them compare more aid to Greece to more aid for a developing nation, for instance.  And 7-11 charcuterie.

6. David Brooks reviews Hamilton, the musical.

Assorted links

by on February 23, 2015 at 10:35 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Modeling economic civil war and protection in Somalia, and why Islam has an advantage.

2. Witches of Chiloé.  And the price of condoms in VenezuelaReal world development indicators.

3. Greek debt/eurozone rap video, best is Merkel.

4. Why it is better to read on paper.  And there is no great beehive stagnation.

5. The values of different Nobel Prizes, market price data.

6. The most unhappy singles in China?

Ironically, given all the concerns about robots destroying jobs, Mr Tsuda said one of the main constraints on the market’s growth was a shortage of human engineers.

“To use robots — not just to make them — you need quite a level of engineering,” he said. “If anything, for us and the market as a whole, growth is held back by the number of engineers who can do that.”

From Robin Harding at the FT, there is more here.

Assorted links

by on February 22, 2015 at 12:25 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Unusual “review” of 50 Shades of Grey.

2. Markets in everything: the hippopotamus sofa.

3. The Greek artist who hacks the euro.  And here are fictional banknotes for the Hungarian euro.

4.”Do Not Cite or Circulate.

5. Eric Voegelin: “Don’t immanentize the eschaton!

6. What should Greece do now?  And Paul Krugman thinks the Greeks got an OK deal.

The Economist, referring to “six-party politics,” reports:

In 1951 the Conservative and Labour parties together scooped 97% of the vote; in May, opinion polls suggest, they will each win barely a third.

You will note that the UK has a fairly strict “first past the post” system, so if such fragmentation happens in their system perhaps it could happen anywhere.  A second Economist article offers a few hypotheses about why this is happening:

1. People are now used to shopping in markets, and on the internet, for exactly what they want.

2. Politics has become increasingly multi-dimensional; this article cites the possibility that a “libertarian-authoritarian” axis may be replacing “left-right,” or consider the issue of Scottish independence.

3. Perhaps current politicians are less skilled than Thatcher and Blair at attracting the allegiance of a broad cross-section of British society.

I worry that the general decline of discretionary government spending may make politics less stable (but also more interesting, not necessarily in a good way).  When there is plenty of spending to bicker about, politics revolves around that question, which is relatively harmless.  When all the spending is tied up, we move closer to the battlefield of symbolic goods, bringing us back to “less stable and more interesting.”  If that is a cause, this trend is likely to spread.  (In a new paper David Schleicher argues that electoral reform may not stop polarization and splintering.)

Arguably a good deal of American politics is a cloaked debate over whether a particular kind of Christian worldview ought to enjoy higher or lower social status.  Since Britain doesn’t have much religion, perhaps that is why they are fragmenting in so many other directions.  Exactly which British debate is supposed to be imposing the uni-dimensionality on the political spectrum?

Other links

by on February 21, 2015 at 3:17 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Behzod Abduraimov from Uzbekistan is the new piano sensation.

2. Against robot worries.

3. Can you tell whether it is you or your avatar talking?

4. More tweets about Amartya Sen, some even mention his daughter.

5. Every bridge in America.

1. The new Greek deal and trustDie Welt (in German) says that Greece has four months to get its act in order, otherwise prepare for an orderly exit.  Here is the comment of the Greek government issued at the end of the Eurogroup meeting, worth a read.  Here is a Rubens painting of Achilles.

2. Numerous sources suggest that without a deal, Greek banks would have been broke on Tuesday (Monday is a holiday there).  Given game theory, does this raise or lower your opinion of the quality of the deal that was cut?

3. Peter Spiegel notes on Twitter: “Morning after: still not sure why picked this fight. Got v little, & spent lots of political capital they need for 3rd progm negs”

4. The struggle resumes on Monday, with further negotiations required to define the actual substance of the policy reform part of the agreement.

5. It seems to me that if you put aside the talk, and the creative ambiguity on the primary surplus numbers, that overall Greece is on a shorter leash than before.  The Germans have shown credibly that they are willing to live with Grexit, Syriza showed it doesn’t have a Plan B, doesn’t have so much support within the eurozone, and it is revealed that Greek deposit flight is on a trigger-sensitive path at any moment.

6. Should you be afraid of dark matter?

Sam asks:

Given all the recent global currency changes, and other turmoil, what is the best vacation destination for American’s who earn dollars.

Is it possible that I/others can go somewhere previously unaffordable because of the changes?

The dollar is much stronger in many parts of the world these days.  But the currency of Ukraine has taken an especially steep dive as of late.  It’s down about 17% in the last two weeks and that is mostly for geopolitical reasons, not hyperinflation.  So go quickly, and avoid the East!  (Whoops!  Kharkiv too…)  I hear Kiev is lovely in February.

Given government shenanigans, it is hard to get a read on the true price level and real exchange rate in Argentina, but the country has offered incredible bargains during crises in times past, and our winter is their summer.  Brazil has become much cheaper, relative to the past, but it still feels more expensive than traveling in the U.S., for the most part.  But if you are convinced you must go there, try now.  Tokyo is much cheaper than people think, but that has been the case for quite a while.

In my opinion most of the eurozone is at about PPP right now for Americans, Berlin has the best bargains, maybe Paris the worst.  Spain and Portugal to me seem to have had a lot of unreported deflation.  Just say nein to die Schweiz, they let Scott Sumner down and now you must pay for that.

Mexico remains a tremendous bargain, with a rate of about fifteen pesos to one dollar.  The best food in Mexico only costs about $2.50 a meal to begin with, now it is cheaper yet.  Most of the country is quite safe, in Yucatan the murder rate is about as low as in Finland.

Assorted links

by on February 20, 2015 at 3:48 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. What Chris Blattman has been reading.

2. How capital regulations are changing banks.

3. Yet more cruelty to robot dogs.

4. German performs iPad magic tricks; perhaps he also was negotiating with Greece.

5. The Greek agreement, annotated.

Oceanic average is over

by on February 20, 2015 at 1:41 am in History, Science, Uncategorized | Permalink

The animals in the ocean have been getting bigger, on average, since the Cambrian period – and not by chance.

That is the finding of a huge new survey of marine life past and present, published in the journal Science.

It describes a pattern of increasing body size that cannot be explained by random “drift”, but suggests bigger animals generally fare better at sea.

In the past 542 million years, the average size of a marine animal has gone up by a factor of 150.

It appears that the explosion of different life forms near the start of that time window eventually skewed decisively towards bulkier animals.

Today’s tiniest sea critter is less than 10 times smaller than its Cambrian counterpart, measured in terms of volume; both are minuscule crustaceans. But at the other end of the scale, the mighty blue whale is more than 100,000 times the size of the largest animal the Cambrian could offer: another crustacean with a clam-like, hinged shell.

There is more here, and here is Wikipedia on Cope’s Rule.  Here is one possible explanation.  Does the Rule apply to dinosaurs?  I wonder if the risk-adjusted returns to species size also are going up.

The Department of Economics at the University of Chicago announces the first annual Summer Institute on Field Experiments for scholars, to be held the summer of 2015 at the Saieh Hall for Economics. The Summer Institute will train the brightest young researchers to partner with key stakeholders in government, industry, and the not-for-profit sector to solve the unique problems faced in society through applying economic theory and rigorous field experiment methods.

Organized by John List, there is more information here, a post by Steve Levitt on the Institute here.  Many of you should consider applying.

Assorted links

by on February 19, 2015 at 7:44 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Noah Smith recommends economics blogs.

2. Facts about young Americans.

3. How effective is pharmaceutical self-regulation in Sweden and the UK?

4. Justice reform is uniting the left wing and the right wing.

5. Oliver Sacks writes of David Hume and his terminal illness.  And a good review of Ian Bostridge’s superb Winterreise book.

6. Fixed costs really matter, Indian wedding edition.

Assorted links

by on February 18, 2015 at 2:33 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Purported advice for NYC.  And Zimbabwe covets canines.

2. What are the limits of ECB assistance to Greek banks?  And it is becoming increasing difficult to maintain natural history museum collections.

3. Shipping the good lobster out? (China fact of the day) — “Chinese New Year is on the verge of becoming Maine’s second-biggest lobster shipping week of the year, behind Christmas week, according to industry officials.”

4. Gordon Wood on Bernard Bailyn.

5. The economics of Orthodox monastic communities in the United States.  And Hasidic atheists.

6. Does talking about inequality and stagnation prompt political inaction?

Here is a piece by Tomala, Jia, and Norton:

When people seek to impress others, they often do so by highlighting individual achievements. Despite the intuitive appeal of this strategy, we demonstrate that people often prefer potential rather than achievement when evaluating others. Indeed, compared with references to achievement (e.g., “this person has won an award for his work”), references to potential (e.g., “this person could win an award for his work”) appear to stimulate greater interest and processing, which can translate into more favorable reactions. This tendency creates a phenomenon whereby the potential to be good at something can be preferred over actually being good at that very same thing. We document this preference for potential in laboratory and field experiments, using targets ranging from athletes to comedians to graduate school applicants and measures ranging from salary allocations to online ad clicks to admission decisions.

Here are some ungated copies.  For the pointer I thank the excellent Kevin Lewis, who sent me the link in response to my earlier post on age discrimination.

Syriza will deal. As with the “troika,” there’ll be a change in vocabulary so they can minimize loss of face, but they’ll deal. They simply don’t have a choice if they plan to remain in power very long.

Not only do most Greeks oppose Grexit, but the sympathies of far too much of the Greek army and law enforcement agencies are, frankly, not with Syriza. Nobody knows if they’ll acquiesce to being paid in drachmae and not deutschmarks by the grandsons of “anarcho-communists.”

Neither, incidentally, do the rest of the EU gain anything from another failed state and/or Russian client in the Balkans.

By now, they’ll have told Varoufakis, in some form, formally (during discussions) and informally (during networking breaks):

“Yanis. We get it. You’ve made your point. Greece is a miserable place right now. There’s a lot of it going around. Listen to us. Please. We secretly care about Greece enough not to want another 1967 or Balkan war. You don’t have to believe that, but it’s true.

“We may have overdone it. Fine. We’re flexible. But seriously—if you walk away we’re looking at another 1967 when you run out of cash. Greece will become an even more miserable place real fast. Do you want our help or not?”

That is from Richard Besserer.