Sicily, for instance, employs 28,000 forestry police — more than Canada — and has 950 ambulance drivers who have no ambulances to drive.

More here on the general state of decline in Italy.

While American universities debate whether “civility” is an appropriate way to evaluate faculty members, a British institution has faced intense criticism for punishing a faculty member for sighing, unfriendly body language and the use of irony.

…Docherty’s suspension was revealed by Times Higher Education, which reported that the university said he was undermining the authority of his department head (who has since stepped down) by making “ironic” comments during job interviews, sighing and using negative body language. The suspension had Docherty banned from contact with anyone on campus, and even from writing a book preface.

Charges were just dropped, so could I request to be interviewed by this guy?  I think I would enjoy the experience.

Jason Weeden and Robert Kurzban report:

Despite occasional statements to the contrary, most political scientists have long known — going back at least to Philip Converse’s work in the 1960s, and probably farther to Walter Lippmann’s in the 1910s/1920s — that many Americans do not in fact show substantial ideological consistency across policy views, except among limited groups…The 20% of the adult population who are white voters with bachelor’s degrees show some degree of coherence when it comes to views on same-sex marriage and income redistribution.  But, when it comes to the 40% of the adult public who have one or none of these characteristics — including, for example, African Americans and Latinos without bachelor’s degrees and nonvoting whites without bachelor’s degrees — there is no tendency whatsoever for people who lean in a given direction on one of these issues to lean in the same direction on the other.  For the remaining 40% of the adult public, who have two but not three of these features (e.g., white voters without bachelor’s degrees), ideological coherence is barely measurable.

That is from their new book The Hidden Agenda of the Political Mind: How Self-Interest Shapes Our Opinions and Why We Won’t Admit It, interesting throughout.

What I’ve been reading

by on October 27, 2014 at 1:52 am in Books, Film | Permalink

1. Emmanuel Carrère, Limonov, The Outrageous Adventures of the Radical Soviet Poet Who Became a Bum in New York, A Sensation in France, and a Political Antihero in Russia.  Blends fiction, non-fiction, and occasional social science (was a non-corrupt transformation of the Soviet Union really possible?, Gaidar ultimately decided it wasn’t), but in terms of the subjective experience of the reader it is most like a novel.  Excellent and also entertaining.  I consider this a deep book about why liberalism will never quite win over human nature.  Here is an interesting Julian Barnes review, although in my opinion it is insufficiently appreciative.

2. Kenneth D. Durr, The Best Made Plans: Robert R. Nathan and 20th Century Liberalism.  I may be biased because I just gave a talk at the Nathan Foundation and received it as a gift copy.  I call this the “real history of economic thought.”  It’s a look at the career of a man who worked with Simon Kuznets to improve gdp statistics, helped lead the war effort in the 1940s, supported the civil rights movement, founded a major economic consulting firm, and supported the idea and practice of economic development, most of all for South Korea and Myanmar.  It’s a splendid look at twentieth century economics as it actually influenced the world, without centering the story on academia.  By the way, here is Diane Coyle on Walter Lippmann.

3. Marlon James, A Brief History of Seven Killings.  This account of 1970s Jamaica, centered on a plot to shoot Bob Marley, shows a remarkable amount of talent, as well as a mastery of plot construction and different novelistic voices, some of which are in Jamaican patois.  If you pick up this book you will be impressed and indeed many of the reviews are glowing.  Yet somehow never did I care, feel entertained, or wish to read further.  I stopped.  I remain interested in that era, but will instead recommend a viewing — or reviewing — of The Harder They Come or Marley.

4. John D. Mueller, Redeeming Economics: Rediscovering the Missing Element.  That element would be Providence, and this work looks at how Scholastic insights can serve as a foundation for economic thought.  Loyal MR readers will know that is not exactly my brew, but some of you will find this of interest.

Sentences to ponder

by on October 26, 2014 at 3:54 pm in Data Source, Religion, Uncategorized | Permalink

In “A More Perfect Union,” Mr. DuBois downloaded 19 million profiles from 21 online dating sites. He then wrote software to sort them by ZIP code, and determine the words most frequently used in each location. In the resulting maps, the top-ranked words replace city names. New York is “Now.” Atlanta is “God.”

That is from Steve Lohr at The New York Times.

Assorted links

by on October 26, 2014 at 12:57 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Quora forum on what it’s like to move from India to the U.S.

2. It is stunning that the teacher had no idea about these truths.

3. Why won’t we watch Australian films?

4. The North Sea is very important.

5. The views of the wealthy aren’t that different.

6. The Establishment and How they Get Away With It (UK).

It is from Japan:

The Yokohama District Court sentenced a former Japanese college employee on Monday to two years in prison for producing guns with a three-dimensional printer.

Yoshitomo Imura, 28, a former employee of the Shonan Institute of Technology, was found guilty of violating laws that strictly restrict the possession of guns and large knives and the production of weapons. The prosecution had demanded a 42-month prison term.

Imura’s actions were “vicious” because he made it easy to imitate his production method, presiding Judge Koji Inaba said, noting that Imura had released 3-D design data for his guns on the Internet.

The story is here, the pointer is from the excellent Mark Thorson.

Libby Nelson reports:

It’s common to hear that teachers should be paid better — more like doctors and lawyers. In 2009, the Equity Project, a charter school in New York decided to try it: they would pay all their teachers $125,000 per year with the possibility of an additional bonus.

The typical teacher in New York with five years’ experience makes between $64,000 and $76,000. The charter school, known as TEP, would pay much more. But in exchange, teachers, who are not unionized, would accept additional responsibilities, and the school would keep a close eye on their work.

Four years later, students at TEP score better on state tests than similar students elsewhere. The differences were particularly pronounced in math, according to a new study from Mathematica Policy Research. (The study was funded by the Gates Foundation.) After four years at the school, students had learned as much math as they would have in 5.6 years elsewhere…

The gains erased 78 percent of the achievement gap between Hispanic students and whites in the eighth grade.

…The $125,000 number was eye-catching, but it was just the start of the school’s approach to teaching. Teachers were also eligible for a bonus of between 7 to 12 percent of their salary. The teachers, who are not unionized, went through a rigorous selection process that included a daylong “audition” based on their teaching skills. The typical teacher already had six years of classroom experience before they were hired.

Teachers at TEP also get more time to collaborate and played a bigger role in school decision-making than teachers in other jobs. Teachers were paired up to observe each others’ lessons and provide feedback, collaboration that experts agree is important but happens too infrequently. During a six-week summer training, teachers also helped set school policy.

There is more hereAddendum: Do read the comments, there are some excellent points in there.

Loren Adler and Adam Rosenberg report:

…the disproportionate role played by prescription drug spending (or Part D) has seemingly escaped notice. Despite constituting barely more than 10 percent of Medicare spending, our analysis shows that Part D has accounted for over 60 percent of the slowdown in Medicare benefits since 2011 (beyond the sequestration contained in the 2011 Budget Control Act).

Through April of this year, the last time the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released detailed estimates of Medicare spending, CBO has lowered its projections of total spending on Medicare benefits from 2012 through 2021 by $370 billion, excluding sequestration savings. The $225 billion of that decline accounted for by Part D represents an astounding 24 percent of Part D spending. (By starting in 2011, this analysis excludes the direct impact of various spending reductions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), although it could still reflect some ACA savings to the extent that the Medicare reforms have controlled costs better than originally anticipated.) Additionally, sequestration is responsible for $75 billion of reduced spending, and increased recoveries of improper payments amount to $85 billion, bringing the total ten-year Medicare savings to $530 billion.

The full piece is here, via Arnold Kling.

Assorted links

by on October 25, 2014 at 1:12 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. The Danish nudge.

2. Clone your dog in Korea for 100k.

3. China’s strangest buildings.

4. There is no great stagnation, unbundling your breakfast edition.

5. Kevin Drum health update, we all wish him well.

6. I agree with David Denby, *Fury* is one of the best war movies ever made, see it on the big screen.

7. Brad DeLong on profits and investment.  And Paul Krugman on whether QE boosted inequality.

Carlsen or Anand?

by on October 25, 2014 at 7:32 am in Games, Uncategorized | Permalink

The rematch starts in November, but it is by no means obvious that the champion Carlsen is favored.  Anand is separated from his Indian well-wishers and relatives (which helps him), he has been playing well lately, and he feels he has nothing to lose at this point.  It is often easier to win a rematch than to defend a championship.

Carlsen’s play has been listless as of late.  Yet he has two factors going for him.  First, he is a better player than Anand, a factor which is obviously important, and second he is younger and has better stamina.

Carlsen suffers from having to play in Sochi, which is basically a KGB village with extreme surveillance.  Any chess innovation which he speaks to his seconds in his hotel room or leaves on his hard drive will end up being distributed to the camp of his opponent.  That also will hurt his morale and make it hard for him to concentrate on the match.  Like many others, I was surprised he agreed to play in Sochi in the first place.  I think he also suffers from this match coming so quickly after the first.  He feels he hasn’t had enough time to enjoy the promised benefits of the world championship, not all of those benefits were delivered, and in a sense the first match still isn’t over but rather has been extended.

Chess often brings surprises, I am forecasting Carlsen to fall behind in the match early on, but successfully defend his title at the end.

China fact of the day

by on October 25, 2014 at 2:39 am in Current Affairs | Permalink

This year China is set to pay an interest bill of about $1.7tn, an amount not far short of India’s entire GDP last year ($1.87tn) but larger than the economies of South Korea, Mexico and Indonesia.

That is from James Kynge at the FT, there is more here.

So says one new paper on PubMed, by de Ridder D, Kroese F, Adriaanse M, Evers C.:

Three experimental studies examined the counterintuitive hypothesis that hunger improves strategic decision making, arguing that people in a hot state are better able to make favorable decisions involving uncertain outcomes. Studies 1 and 2 demonstrated that participants with more hunger or greater appetite made more advantageous choices in the Iowa Gambling Task compared to sated participants or participants with a smaller appetite. Study 3 revealed that hungry participants were better able to appreciate future big rewards in a delay discounting task; and that, in spite of their perception of increased rewarding value of both food and monetary objects, hungry participants were not more inclined to take risks to get the object of their desire. Together, these studies for the first time provide evidence that hot states improve decision making under uncertain conditions, challenging the conventional conception of the detrimental role of impulsivity in decision making.

The link is here, via Neuroskeptic.  Also from his Twitter feed we learn that rats may be Bayesians.

Via Samir Varma, here is a piece on whether Tylenol can ease the pain of decision-making, I say probably not.

Ebola plush toys have been selling so fast in response to this year’s outbreak that a Connecticut manufacturer, Giantmicrobes Inc., can’t keep them in stock.

The company, which was founded a decade ago, makes stuffed toys based on the appearance of microbes like Ebola, Chicken pox, bed bugs, and even non-harmful microscopic organisms things like brain and red blood cells.

The items are meant to be educational tools for young children, Laura Sullivan, vice president of operations, told CBS News.

There is more here, and for the pointer I thank James Lynch.  Via Tim Harford, here is GiveWell on whether you should donate to Ebola response causes.  Here is how Nigeria and Senegal beat back Ebola, let’s hope we can do the same.  It is a good example of how developing economies can innovate based on cheap labor costs and lots of available labor resources.

Assorted links

by on October 24, 2014 at 11:49 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Where is the missing right of center media?

2. There is no great stagnation (juvenile, skip it).

3. Unemployment and the minimum wage in China.

4. Do hedge funds get there first?

5. Did Thor Heyerdahl have a point after all?

6. Why not make your car a cathedral?

7. Ferns.