Month: April 2010
1. Favorite song, set in: "Blue Moon," Cowboy Junkies version The Louvin Brothers have some contenders, including "Kentucky."
2. Basketball player: Rex Chapman. Honorable mention to Pervis Ellison, I watched both of them for years with Angus.
3. Film director: Tod Browning, see Freaks to blow your mind. "Goo-bah, Ga-bah, one of us, one of us!" is one of my favorite moments in all of cinema. There is also John Carpenter's The Thing.
4. Popular music: The Everly Brothers, most of all their 1968 album Roots.
5. Jazz musician: Lionel Hampton.
6. Bluegrass music: It's hard not to pick Bill Monroe, who more or less invented the genre.
7. Country guitarist: Merle Travis, watch these clips on YouTube.
9. Rapper: Muhammad Ali.
10. Movie, set in: "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!" Can you figure out which film that is from?
Excluded: Robert Penn Warren's book has never made sense to me, sorry. I also have the vague sense that a lot of movie stars are from this state.
The bottom line: Culturally speaking, Kentucky is a much more important and impressive state than it usually gets credit for.
That's the title of the new Rob Feenstra book. In the first section, he, like Paul Krugman, tries to resurrect the view that trade patterns explain recent wage movements. For a published book, however, I'm not sure how much he has come up with:
As I have just shown, a factor content calculation can potentially give us a large impact of trade on factor prices, once we imput the factor intensities corresponding to disaggregate trade flows. Additional work is needed to confirm this result for the United States, since I have made simplifying assumptions in the calculations; the estimates in table 1.5 use an input-output matrix from 1982, and the final years all use domestic shipments data from 1994. In addition I have not experimented with constraining the Baldwin-style regressions to be stable across years, which might explain why the 10-digit results for 1997 give only a small impact of factor contents on the implied effective factor ratio, unlike what was found for 1994 and 2000. And of course, it is most important to check my assumption that the coefficients of the Baldwin-style regression run at the 4-digit SIC level can actually be applied at more disaggregate[d] levels. But even with all these considerations, the preliminary results are promising enough to convince us that headway can be made on the aggregation problem in factor content calculations. In future work we can expect to find more profound impacts of offshoring as measured by the factor content of trade.
File under "If it were true, I'd expect it to be more obvious than that." Still, I commend Feenstra for his thoroughness and straightforwardness. It is in any case a stimulating book for the economist reader.
Here is Feenstra's home page.
Bored guests at a certain Crowne Plaza hotel can now skip the pricey mini-bar and hop on an exercise bike, generate some electricity, and earn some meal vouchers. The hotel in Copenhagen started the free meal idea as a way to boost guests' fitness and shrink their carbon footprint, according to the BBC.
The bikes are hooked up to generators that require guests of average fitness to pedal for about 15 minutes to create 10 watt-hours of electricity. iPhones attached to the handlebars display the amount of power being generated.
Hitting the 15-minute mark earns lucky exercisers a $36 meal voucher…
- Washington Express has a professional Line Standing team that specializes in monitoring congressional hearing schedules, as well as the demand for particular hearings.
- Washington Express constantly checks the demand for individual hearings so we can accurately suggest the proper line standing starting time.
- Washington Express regularly surveys committee websites to check for hearing re-locations and postponements so that your line standing is done at the right time and place.
The rate is $36.00 an hour and that one comes from Timothy McKenna.
Darren Johnson sends along meteor hunting in Wisconsin.
Using public choice economics, how might we redesign the Constitution of California? Lawmakers from both parties have proposed this idea, plus there were (failed) attempts to call a new constitutional convention through a referendum. Did you know that the operative constitution from 1879 is the third longest in the world, after Alabama and India?
I see a few options on the table:
1. Eliminate the 2/3 legislative majority required to pass a new budget.
2. Eliminate popular referenda.
3. Move closer to a Swiss-like "veto only" system for referenda.
4. Eliminate the power of referenda to authorize state-level expenditures.
5. Cap state-level expenditures.
6. Regulate state treatment of pensions more strictly, to encourage fiscal responsibility.
7. Amend the constitution to make it harder to…amend the constitution.
Joseph Palermo proposes doubling the number of State assembly members and Senators, ending term limits, ending state tax exemptions for extractive industries, and limiting out-of-state money to influence elections, plus finance and referenda changes similar to those stated above.
Is there a good theory of which changes are appropriate or inappropriate at the constitutional level?
Here's one downside:
With everything on the table, the same interest groups that today fight tooth and nail over a budget resolution or a ballot measure can be expected to do battle even more vociferously over an entirely new Constitution.
I welcome your suggestions in the comments. Surely economics has a contribution here, right?
Richard, a loyal MR reader, writes to me:
For the last couple months I've been following the FemaleScienceProfessorblog (http://science-
professor.blogspot.com/). It's basically about the professional life of a biology professor. It's not fascinating or thought-provoking in the way MR is. Much of the time, it's really rather mundane, which is the whole point. Reading it, I feel like I know much more about what it's like to be in a professional position much like hers. It's not cluttered with really any other random stuff; every new post that comes in from her, I know what I'm getting.
Here's my request: I'd love to find 5-10 more blogs like this. I don't even particularly care what professions, but I'd like to get a non-glamorized, relatively even-handed inside view of other professions. I certainly would have loved to have had a few dozen of these to follow when I was trying to make career choices…
This is a good question, but I have nothing to offer. Would MR readers care to make some suggestions?
Andy Francis and Hugo Mialon, both at Emory, report their latest research:
We empirically investigate the effect of tolerance for gays on the spread of HIV in the United States. Using a state-level panel dataset spanning the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s, we find that tolerance is negatively associated with the HIV rate. We then investigate the causal mechanisms potentially underlying this relationship. We find evidence consistent with the theory that tolerance for homosexuals causes low-risk men to enter the pool of homosexual partners, as well as causes sexually active men to substitute away from underground, anonymous, and risky behaviors, both of which lower the HIV rate.
That piece has recently come out in the Journal of Health Economics.
Where should I eat tomorrow night?
Buried on p.A12 on The New York Times:
Fearing that health insurance premiums may shoot up in the next few years, Senate Democrats laid a foundation on Tuesday for federal regulation of rates, four weeks after President Obama signed a law intended to rein in soaring health costs.
I am disappointed in many of the responses which you offered to Bryan on the cloning question. First, I think he is assuming that cloning can work, not postulating hundreds of unethical experiments to try to get there.
So many of you cited reasons why you didn't like it, but hardly anyone performed a sober assessment of the relevant trade-offs. It seems we get an extra person out of the deal, for one thing, and I am taken aback that a number of you would regard this person as a net negative. For others, "I can find some reason to object to this" seemed like a decisive argument. Bryan's joy in the arrangement seemed to bug the readers all the more; I had the feeling many of you would have found it perfectly OK if he had expressed resignation at something like this being an accidental occurrence.
I don't have the same preference as Bryan, far from it. I think most of us desire children who are "too similar to us" and there are obvious Darwinian reasons why this is the case. Nonetheless we should try to overcome this attitude and there are many successful instances of adopted children or various other "mixed" arrangements, such as foster parents. We can only hope there will be more and that means we need a greater flexibility of intuitions about parenting and inheritance.
As a proud step-parent, I find it increasingly odd how many of you insist on the "fifty percent solution." Ew! What if it — heaven forbid — looks like you? What if you're both economists named Keynes? But there's more: the rest of your daughter looks just like the woman you chose to marry? Yuck!!!!! And so on. Maybe you all think that fifty percent is great but one hundred percent is unacceptable, when it comes to the genes. Good luck arguing that one with a committed nominalist. And I bet most of you don't find it repugnant if a father wants a son rather than a daughter, but similarity of gender is pretty important too.
If I have any criticism of Bryan, it's that he's pro-natalist (fine in my book) but I've never heard him promote the idea of adopting a child or defend the idea of raising a biological child who is, for whatever reason, very different from his or her parents. (Don't overreact here and interpret his silence in a negative way, I'm simply goading him to take up these issues, which I think will force him to revise his thought.) Furthermore I think his intuitions about similarity, and child-rearing, will change once (some of) his kids start rebelling against him.
Most of all, I found this thread to be a lesson in how quickly smart people will side with their Darwinian intuitions, and attack another smart person with intolerance, just because something feels icky to them. It's not so different from how some people find gay people, and also "what they do," to be disgusting. They also don't want gay people to be adopting children because they see that as offensive too. It's not, least of all for the child.
That all said, I guess he shouldn't put the passage in his book.
A genetic analysis of nearly 2,000 people from around the world indicates that such extinct species interbred with the ancestors of modern humans twice, leaving their genes within the DNA of people today.
The article is here, including a link to the original research, which is published in the highly reputable Nature. I am not able to evaluate this result, but it does seem newsworthy and also from a reputable source. Hat tip goes to the ever-excellent The Browser.
Serious question: even if it is true only probabilistically, should I be happy or sad about this news?
Chug asks me:
Tyler, do you scrawl notes in the margins of the books you read?
No. The key constraint for me is finding the page, not remembering the associated idea, and I find it odd that other people are not also this way. (That said, I do know I am the outlier. But really: do you write the notes to actually remember something? Or do you do it to make the reading experience more real in the first place, much like taking notes in class?) So in some of my books I dog-ear the pages which are important for me. In other books I write those page numbers on the inside book jacket.
In the longer run I expect "annotated" books will be available for full public review, though Kindle-like technologies. You'll be reading Rousseau's Social Contract and be able to call up the five most popular sets of annotations, the three most popular condensations, J.K. Rowling's nomination for "favorite page," a YouTube of Harold Bloom gushing about it, and so on.
The journals of the American Economic Association have started an experiment that acknowledges the reality that papers move from one publication to another — and the system could save authors considerable time, and publications money. In the experiment, authors of papers that are rejected from the flagship journal — American Economic Review — can now opt to have referee reports sent directly to one of four other journals published by the association.
So far it looks like a near-Pareto improvement. Here is more detail; by the way, editors from sociology and anthropology say that plan wouldn't work in their disciplines, though neuroscience has a reviewing consortium.