1. For the population of the average county, 62.8% of friends live within 100 miles.

2. Over distances of less than 200 miles, the elasticity of friends to distance is about – 2.0, and about – 1.2 for distances greater than 200 miles.

3. Conditional on distance, social connectedness is significantly stronger within state lines.

4. “Counties with a higher social capital index have less geographically concentrated social networks.”

5. Social connectedness predicts trade flows, even after controlling for distance, and it also predicts patent citations.

That is all from a new NBER working paper by Bailey, Cao, Kuchler, Stroebel, and Wong.  Here is an ungated version.

In the place of U.S. support, Japan has offered to step in.

“Japan is the only state willing to help India in its Indian Ocean project to develop islands there,” said Abhijit Singh, head of the Maritime Policy Initiative at the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi think tank. The reason, he added, is that other nations—notably the U.S.—consider offering such help too provocative to China.

Here is the full WSJ story.

That is the theme of my latest Bloomberg column, here is the concluding bit:

As for 2017, I have been concluding that I should raise my relative opinion of business and lower my view of government. I’m still waiting for millennials — a relatively left-leaning generation — to reach a similar position.

Sometimes we forget about companies, in part because it is the business of business that we don’t notice it too often for the wrong things. And don’t forget that most of the weird stories about Trump or politics refer to a pretty small slice of our world, further amplified by social media.

In a war between the boring and the weird, don’t be surprised if the weird commands the most notice. But the normal and the boring have enormous powers of inertia on their side, not to mention human goodwill, and they are doing better than it might at first seem. So if you think America is falling apart, give the corporate world another look.

I believe that right now we are all too entranced by the “news of the weird.” On the side of business, there are problems with productivity growth and perhaps excess monopoly, but arguably those are about the most normal problems you could have.  I suspect the world of American business is these days a bit too normal, and could use a marginal dose of some more Elon Musk.

As you might expect, they came up with a good photo for the column.

Now it is textbooks:

When primary school administrators in the U.K. choose study materials for the fall semester this year, they will have a new option: math textbooks imported from Shanghai, a city celebrated as a global math power.

In the books, the British pound will replace references to the Chinese yuan. But in just about every other way, the versions of Real Shanghai Maths available in London will be exactly like those used in China, the ideas, sequencing and methods kept intact.

It is a remarkable admission by British education authorities that their own methods have stumbled, and that Chinese educators – after years of racking up world firsts in math scores – have developed something admirable enough to import in whole cloth.

Here is the full article, via A.T., our A.T.

Mr. Ferretti, 36 years old, and Mr. Lopez, 44, had enjoyed themselves under the supervision of a doctor for what some are calling a brosectomy—a vasectomy with friends in a cushy setting of couches, snacks, big-screen TV, and in some clinics, top-shelf liquor.

Here is the WSJ story.  And:

The University of Utah Health in Salt Lake City has run March Madness promotions for the past three years. It offers a vasectomy package that includes a Utah Jazz basketball ticket giveaway, goody bags and basketball-shaped ice packs. This year, its surgeons performed more than three times as many vasectomies in March compared with the average number done in the other months through May, according to the health center’s internal marketing data.

They promised us flying cars, and all we got was…

Our World in Data has an excellent writeup of earlier research by Eisensee and Strömberg. 

How many deaths does it take for a natural disaster to be newsworthy? This is a question researchers Thomas Eisensee and David Strömberg asked in a 2007 study. The two authors found that for every person killed by a volcano, nearly 40,000 people have to die of a food shortage to get the same probability of coverage in US televised news. In other words, the type of disaster matters to how newsworthy networks find it to be. The visualizations below show the extent of this observed “news effect”.

In other words, the famine you haven’t heard much about is more important than you think.

Monday assorted links

by on July 24, 2017 at 2:49 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

By 8 p.m., the party was in full swing when the couple took to the stage, the front of a sign pressed up against Ms. Pienkowski’s chest. The crowd quieted…The D.J. took a musical pause.

“You’ve been so patient about the date of our wedding,” she said. “We promised we would tell you tonight when it will be. I hope people are ready to pack their bags and get excited, because …” She then paused to turn over the sign, which read, “Surprise! Welcome to the wedding of Lauren & Corey, March 18, 2017.” “It’s today.”

And:

…such weddings are becoming popular among couples who can’t pin down a date months in advance, are overwhelmed by the prospect of planning a huge gala, or want to save a bundle on doing an out-of-season event (sometimes without having to provide dinner).

And:

“I overhead someone screaming to their date: ‘Put more money in the card, it’s a wedding. It’s. A. Wedding!’” he said. “People were screaming: ‘Oh my God! Oh my God!’ We really nailed this.”

Here is the NYT story, of course not everyone wants to limit rent-seeking and excess signaling.

What else should we do on a surprise basis?  Tenure votes?

Here is the government’s own answer:

No.  The President’s clemency power is conferred by Article II, Section 2, Clause 1 of the Constitution of the United States, which provides:  “The President . . . shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.”  Thus, the President’s authority to grant clemency is limited to federal offenses and offenses prosecuted by the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia in the name of the United States in the D.C. Superior Court.  An offense that violates a state law is not an offense against the United States.  A person who wishes to seek a pardon or a commutation of sentence for a state offense should contact the authorities of the state in which the conviction occurred.  Such state authorities are typically the Governor or a state board of pardons and/or paroles, if the state government has created such a board.

Solve for the equilibrium!

I thank J. for a relevant pointer.

Sunday assorted links

by on July 23, 2017 at 4:32 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

I would like to see building deregulators pay more attention to this aspect of the problem:

The next step would be transferring ownership of these assets to what Detter and Fölster call an “urban wealth fund”. Ideally, all publicly owned assets in a given city would be placed in the fund, regardless of whether they technically belong to the county, the city, the school system, the state or some other entity. The local governments would each have shares in the fund proportionate to the value of the assets they contributed. These shares would be reported as assets on the municipal balance sheets.

Independent managers with experience in real estate and finance would be charged with maximising the value of the portfolio. Cities would receive dividends from their stakes in these commercial properties and have the option to borrow against or sell their shares if desperate for cash.

Public officials would then have to decide whether it makes sense to pay fair market rents to stay in their properties. Moving offices might be inconvenient for government workers but the potential gains for taxpayers and citizens who depend on government services would be far greater. Leasing space in subway stations to shops might detract from the “historic” character of the US’s barbarous public transit systems, but the revenues could fund needed improvements, such as ventilation, without the need for debt or higher passenger fares.

That is from Matt Klein at the FT.  Note that profit maximization does not have to be the sole goal of such funds.

NYC pet-sitting is now illegal

by on July 22, 2017 at 1:20 pm in Law | Permalink

Pet lovers are barking mad over a little-known city rule that makes dog-sitting illegal in New York.

Health Department rules ban anyone from taking money to care for an animal outside a licensed kennel — and the department has warned a popular pet-sitting app that its users are breaking the law.

“The laws are antiquated,” said Chad Bacon, 29, a dog sitter in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, with the app Rover. “If you’re qualified and able to provide a service, I don’t think you should be penalized.”

Here is the full story, via the excellent Mark Thorson.  Ostensibly the purpose of the regulation is to ensure the health and safety of pets.

Saturday assorted links

by on July 22, 2017 at 12:30 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

Adam Ozimek asks me:

How should we think about this in a meta-rational sense? https://www.theverge.com/2017/7/20/16003766/elon-musk-boring-company-hyperloop-nyc-philadelphia-baltimore-dc

…What should we make of it?

To be clear, I have never had interaction with Elon Musk, so I intend these as general possibilities, rather than as commentary on his individual personality:

1. There are some people who on Twitter will just “fuck with us.”  Precisely because they have done a lot in the so-called “real world,” they just don’t take Twitter that seriously.

2. Some very successful people are programmed to rhetorically overreach.  This makes them the center of attention and furthermore keeps them motivated.  They don’t apply the same kind of “reality filter” to their rhetoric that a scientist might.

3. Sometimes exaggeration is used to distract from pending failures, a’la Trump, and this process may include self-distraction.  (Tesla?)

4. Exaggeration is a way to keep the hyperloop on the agenda and in the mindset of the nerdy public.  Eventually that will help make the hyperloop possible.  Speakers with this motive often think of themselves as bootstrapping the reality, rather than “making stuff up.”

Most of talk isn’t about reporting the truth! In this sense the tweet isn’t surprising at all.

And what the heck is “verbal government approval” in a world with federalism, multiple layers of environmental review, NIMBY homeowners, and courts of varying jurisdictions? I like to think the tweet might be an act of sarcastic protest, or Straussian meta-commentary born out of frustration, but somehow I suspect neither of those is the case.

I am in Delaware only briefly.  I have not covered the state before, so here are some of my picks:

1. Chemicals manufacturer: I think that one has to go to the Duponts, I enjoyed the Gerard Zilg biography of the Dupont family and history.

2. Economic historian: Alfred Chandler.

3. Monetarist who studied policy instruments and uncertainty: William Poole.

4. Semi-libertarian journalist: Dave Weigel.

Hmm…music?  I don’t like George Thorogood.  A quality novelist?  How about a painter or sculptor?  Some big time NBA star?  Biden is my favorite of Obama’s VPs.  It is claimed that the movie Fight Club is set in Delaware.  So many special dishes too, in the local cuisine.

The bottom line: Small wonder it is!