Two days ago I reported on how Italian food was the big winner from culinary globalization.  How are things going in Italy itself?:

Annual spending by Italian families on restaurants and cafes shrank nearly 2% between 2007 and 2014, Eurostat’s latest data show, while consumption of ethnic foods such as Chinese or North African has nearly doubled during that period.

The Masuellis—with a back-of-the-envelope way of running their business—can’t get bank loans to modernize their restaurant. They had to sell a property to fund the restaurant in 2011 and 2012, and have also reached into their own pockets to pay salaries and taxes at times.

Mr. Masuelli considered firing some of his five employees, but the rigid labor laws meant the cost of dismissing them was too high. At the same time, new health and safety regulations have eaten into profit.

More broadly there is this:

Officer Pang is a top supervisor in one of China’s biggest police departments, in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou. But for two weeks, he and three other Chinese police officers are in Italy with strict orders: to protect Chinese tourists.

Of course it is only four officers, but isn’t that what they said at first about RoboCop?  I also enjoyed this paragraph:

“It’s our duty to make Chinese fall in love with Rome and Italy,” said Alessandro Zucconi, the president of the Young Hoteliers Federation in Rome, who agreed that “misunderstandings” sometimes occur between the two cultures. “They are not like the Germans, who mostly come knowing our culture and literature better than we do.”

Developing…

Dalibor Rohac had a new and important book just out — Towards an Imperfect Union: A Conservative Case for the European Union, obviously of great relevance to the Brexit debates.  Here is the book’s home page, here is the publisher’s home page for the book.

My own view is this: if the United Kingdom could simply press a button and obtain the current status of Canada, via-a-vis the EU, probably they should do so.  But they cannot, and in some issues, as with Catalonian independence, the path is everything.  I’ve read through much of the Treasury report, and I believe it underestimates the economic cost of Brexit.  Were Brexit to happen, probably the UK would see a major recession, and possibly a financial crisis, and there is even a chance significant parts of the EU could unravel in response.  And for what gain?  The country would not be able to boost living standards through EU immigration cuts.  Building new trade agreements would take a long time and in few of the most important cases would the UK hold most of the bargaining power.  Security issues probably would worsen.

Even if the Brexit vote fails, it remaining on the table as a live option, as would result from a close vote, would dampen investment in the UK.  The best way forward is for the UK to swallow its pride and admit the whole referendum idea was a mistake by voting unanimously to stay.  No one would take the unanimity vote as a sincere reflection of preference, but best not to know the true state of public opinion on this one!

I sometimes call Brexit “the Donald Trump of England” — don’t be fooled!

Saturday assorted links

by on May 14, 2016 at 12:40 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

This study examines cultural differences in ordinary dishonesty between Italy and Sweden, two countries with different reputations for trustworthiness and probity. Exploiting a set of cross-cultural tax compliance experiments, we find that the average level of tax evasion (as a measure of ordinary dishonesty) does not differ significantly between Swedes and Italians. However, we also uncover differences in national “styles” of dishonesty. Specifically, while Swedes are more likely to be either completely honest or completely dishonest in their fiscal declarations, Italians are more prone to fudging (i.e., cheating by a small amount). We discuss the implications of these findings for the evolution and enforcement of honesty norms.

Here is the research, by Andrighetto, et.al., via the excellent Kevin Lewis.

Jay McCarthy writes:

I am Mormon. I am from Massachusetts, but lived in Utah for a long time, and have lived in prosperous and not-prosperous Mormon areas.

I don’t think tithing is an effective way to get social status.

Let me explain some mechanics. When I get a paycheck, I got to a Web site the church runs and tell them to transfer 10% from my checking account to their accounts. The new online system lets me do it whenever I want, whereas previously (the online system is about eight months old) I wrote a check and handed it to a local church leader. Even in the old days of physical checks, there was extreme paranoia about keeping this an anonymous process. You would occasionally see people handing their checks, but the only people who could know what the amount was was the local leader (called a bishop) and their one or two clerks. (Aside: this local leader and their clerks are lay people that volunteer on a rotating basis for terms of about three to five years.) In the new system, only the local leader sees your tithing amount and maybe a clerk as they print out reports.

The next step is that each year, around the end of the year (December), you have a meeting with the local leader called “tithing settlement”. Before the meeting, you get a sealed letter from a clerk with a statement of all the money you’ve given. You go to the meeting as an entire family (in my case, my wife and three kids younger than 8). It normally lasts about 30 minutes and you spend the time chatting about how things are going in your life and if you have any needs and what is going on. At the end the bishop remembers, “Oh, it’s tithing settlement.” And says, “Is this amount tithed listed on your report accurate?” then asks “Are you a full tithe payer, a partial tithe payer, or not a tithe payer?”. Whatever you answer, he will have no comment about and then you leave.

The other way that tithing is noticed is that every two years you renewed what is called your “temple recommend”. This is an barcoded ID card that is tied to your membership records in the church database. When you want to go to the temple, you bring this card and they scan it to verify that you are allowed in the temple. (Aside, the temple is not where you go each Sunday. There are about 150 in the world. It is for special occasions and most people that are working try to go monthly, but most retired people try to go daily.) During this renewal process, you have an interview with two local leaders—one that you go to church with and one from the administrative unit above that (called a stake). During this interview, you are asked lots of “Yes” and “No” questions (they are encouraged to not require more than “Yes” or “No” answers, because historically some of these leaders changed the requirements to reflect their own interpretations of the rules.) One of the questions is, “Are you a full tithe payer?”. There is no checking of this answer with the answer you give at tithing settlement.

So, in summary, tithing is such a secretive process that I don’t believe it is a good way to get status.

In the preceding discussion, I always wrote “tithing”, but actually we would say “tithes and offerings” because when you pay you can always give additional money. The additional money can be flagged for certain programs. (The tithing CANNOT be flagged.) For instance, one program is called a “fast offering” and it is used for the poor and needy who are local to you. Others are to sponsor a missionary or help build a temple.

I have never heard a local leader with knowledge of offering matters ever say anything about how much a family gave or if they were giving a lot or being generous or anything like that. I have not been a local leader, but I have been on the executive committee of local congregations and attended all the meetings that the local leader did. If they said anything, it would be considered an incredible violation of protocol.

In my opinion, Mormons gain social status within the group by two major ways. First, by externality conformity to norms, such as dressing modestly, having lots of kids, never cursing, discussing the gospel with each other, and so on. Second, by in kind donation of time. Everything that happens at church is done by volunteers and there are many things that need to happen. Each Sunday, meetings are three hours long and there are many classes and lectures that need to be given. The first hour has about three lectures. The second and third hour each have about fifteen concurrent lessons (for different age groups). So, this means that about 33 people need to volunteer to teach for an hour weekly. On the Wednesdays, all youth from 8 to 18 have their own classes and activities at the church that need to be taught by someone. There’s another program for high school students called Seminary (a dumb name) where they are taught about the scriptures EVERY DAY before school. Outside of Utah, this is a volunteer position typically done by one person and is an immense time commitment. (That’s what I do.)

I think these things are much more expensive than tithing and an academic analysis of Mormonism would get more out of studying their impact than studying tithes and offerings.

— A few small comments.

The tithing settlement form says “The Church provided no goods or services in consideration, in whole or in part, for the contributions detailed below but only intangible religious benefits.” I chuckle every time I see that.

I assume that the details of your tithing are considered if you are considered for prestigious volunteer jobs, like bishop.

In executive meetings, we do hear about what percentage of the local membership paid tithing. In my experience, in Utah, social conformity is high but tithing payment is relatively low, but outside of Utah it is the opposite: there are more diverse Mormons and everyone is paying tithing.

Mormon home production is not caused by tithing. It’s explicit motivation is worry about the millennium (a similar impetus to “preppers”) and getting attacked by the government (as happened in Missouri, Illinois, and Utah in the 1800s.) It’s implicit motivation is to gain social status by conformity to norms.

Here is the original post.

That is David Neumark in the WSJ, here is one excerpt:

Another recent study by Shanshan Liu and Thomas Hyclak of Lehigh University, and Krishna Regmi of Georgia College & State University most directly mimics the Dube et al. approach. But crucially it only uses as control areas parts of states that are classified by the Bureau of Economic Analysis as subject to the same economic shocks as the areas where minimum wages have increased. The resulting estimates point to job loss for the least-skilled workers studied, as do a number of other recent studies that address the Dube et al. criticisms.

The piece is a good brief survey of some of the developments since Card and Krueger.  Here are some alternate links to the piece.

This is an email from Oli Cairns, a loyal MR reader:

I’ve recently been thinking about the role sporting success plays in fostering patriotism.

As a Brit, the only time my cynical friends, colleagues or fellow commuters stop complaining about the country/each other is when our compatriots start winning tennis sets, Olympic medals or football matches (not much of that recently). I used to think this was a good thing, but now I worry that these boosts in patriotism and social capital are not being allocated efficiently.

My proposal would be to alter the structure of global sports to increase the success of poorer nations. Say that 50% of future Football World Cups must take place in Sub-Saharan Africa, 25% of qualification spots are allocated to the region and every top-tier European club is mandated to start 2 of their players per game. At the same time, we could replace most Olympic track-cycling, rowing and horse riding events with the 125m, 250m or a 10k lap elimination.

Do you think this would be welfare improving?

From this perspective, maybe Sep Blatter is transformed from villain to hero!

Friday assorted links

by on May 13, 2016 at 11:29 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

Kenya fact of the day

by on May 13, 2016 at 3:16 am in Religion | Permalink

There are about 300,000 Quakers in the world, and over one-third of them live in Kenya…

While you’re at it, solve for the equilibrium:

While the amount of constituents there is growing by the day, numbers in the West (the United Kingdom and United States, in particular) have nosedived in recent years, some 25 percent from 1972 to 2002, according to the Friends World Committee for Consultation.

More broadly:

The Pew Research Center estimates that there will be two and a half times more Christians in Africa than Europe by 2050. Currently, the numbers are about equal.

Here is the article, via Rachel Strohm.

The data start in 1880 and run through 2013.  Based on my visual reading of the chart, discussion of Chinese restaurants appears to have peaked in the 1940s (!).  German restaurants are the biggest loser over time, with plunges during each of the two World Wars; French falls more steadily.  American and Japanese go up slowly but consistently.  The big winner: Italian restaurants go up by far the most in discussions, starting in about 1940, and never stop rising.

The Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune show broadly similar patterns, though the absolute level of discussion for Mexican is much higher in Los Angeles.  For the Western world at least, Italian cuisine is the major winner from globalization.

It is in the 1890s by the way that restaurants are discussed more often in The New York Tribune/Herald than are saloons.

That is all from Krishnendu Ray, The Ethnic Restaurateur, which is intermittently quite interesting.  Here is the Google Books page.

What I’ve been reading

by on May 12, 2016 at 2:04 pm in Books | Permalink

1. Philip Norman, Paul McCartney: The Life.  From this book one learns that young Beatle Paul had more sex with more women than most people had thought, his daily pot habit started earlier than most people had thought (it inspired “Got to Get You Into My Life”), and Paul not John was the musical innovator (duh).  I enjoyed this book (duh) and it had a reasonable amount of detail about his last twenty years.  Good for fans, at the very least, but it will not convert the uninitiated.

2. Joseph E. Stiglitz, The Euro: How a Common Currency Threatens the Future of Europe.  Recall that while Krugman is much more influential in America, Stiglitz is more influential in Europe and in most of the developing world, thus the topic of this book makes sense.  I agree with most of the arguments, though not the view that trade surpluses are essential for understanding the problem.  This book is good for fans, at the very least, but it will not convert the uninitiated.

3.George J. Borjas, We Wanted Workers: Unraveling the Immigration Narrative.  My favorite two-sentence sequence in this book is: “It is worth emphasizing that the distributional pain is the flip side of the economic gain.  And ironically, the greater the distributional pain, the greater the economic gain.”  Good for fans, etc.

Thursday assorted links

by on May 12, 2016 at 12:24 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

NBER: We study a unique quasi-experiment in Austria, where compulsory voting laws are changed across Austria’s nine states at different times. Analyzing state and national elections from 1949-2010, we show that compulsory voting laws with weakly enforced fines increase turnout by roughly 10 percentage points. However, we find no evidence that this change in turnout affected government spending patterns (in levels or composition) or electoral outcomes. Individual-level data on turnout and political preferences suggest these results occur because individuals swayed to vote due to compulsory voting are more likely to be non-partisan, have low interest in politics, and be uninformed.

In other words, all mandatory voting did was add noise to the system and as such probably made everyone worse off including the new voters.

There is a new and intriguing book out by Benjamin Peters called How Not to Network a Nation: The Uneasy History of the Soviet Internet, which outlines exactly what it claims to.  Here is one introductory excerpt:

In late September 1970, a year after the ARPANET went online, the Soviet cyberneticist Viktor Glushkov boarded a train from Kiev to Moscow to attend what proved to be a fateful meeting for the future of what we might call the Soviet Internet.  On the windy morning of October 1, 1970, he met with members of the Politburo, the governing body of the Soviet state, around the long rectangular table on a red carpet in Stalin’s former office in the Kremlin.  The Politburo convened that day to hear Glushkov’s proposal and decide whether to build a massive nationwide computer network for citizen use — or what Glushkov called the All-State Automated System (OGAS, obshche-gosudarstvennyi avtomatizirovannaya system), the most ambitious computer network of its kind in the world at the time.  OGAS was to connect tens of thousands of computer centers and to manage and optimize in real time the communications between hundreds of thousands of workers, factory managers, and regional and national administrators.  The purpose of the OGAS Project was simple to state and grandiose to imagine: Glushkov sought to network and automatically manage the nation’s struggling command economy.

They failed!  The author blames this not on backward technology, but rather “entrenched bureaucratic corruption and conflicts of interest at the heart of the system…”

Anyone interested in the history of the internet, comparative systems, or the history of the Soviet Union should read this book.

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