Month: April 2011

Sentences to make you angry (or not)

In a recent paper, James Lindgren of Northwestern reports:

…compared to anti-redistributionists, strong redistributionists have about two to three times higher odds of reporting that in the prior seven days they were angry, mad at someone, outraged, sad, lonely, and had trouble shaking the blues. Similarly, anti-redistributionists had about two to four times higher odds of reporting being happy or at ease. Not only do redistributionists report more anger, but they report that their anger lasts longer. When asked about the last time they were angry, strong redistributionists were more than twice as likely as strong opponents of leveling to admit that they responded to their anger by plotting revenge. Last, both redistributionists and anti-capitalists expressed lower overall happiness, less happy marriages, and lower satisfaction with their financial situations and with their jobs or housework.

Further, in the 2002 and 2004 General Social Surveys anti-redistributionists were generally more likely to report altruistic behavior. In particular, those who opposed more government redistribution of income were much more likely to donate money to charities, religious organizations, and political candidates. The one sort of altruistic behavior that the redistributionists were more likely to engage in was giving money to a homeless person on the street.

This is much more to this paper.  For instance, at the U.S. national level, racists tend to be pro-income redistribution on net.  Anti-capitalist attitudes are associated with higher levels of intolerance.  I thank an MR reader for the pointer, I am sorry that I have lost the identifying email.

Bryan Caplan, prophet of his time

From today’s NYT:

…not all parents are made wretched by their offspring. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, and the University of Pennsylvania found that people over the age of 40 [my link] are happier with children than without.

To arrive at this conclusion, the demographers Mikko Myrskyla and Rachel Margolis crunched data from the World Values Surveys, looking at self-reported levels of happiness among more than 200,000 respondents from 86 countries.

They studied how individual factors such as age, sex, income and health status affected happiness as well as how the respondents’ institutional and cultural context came into play — whether they lived in countries with a social democratic, conservative or developing regime. This led to some interesting off-shoot conclusions like this one: people in former socialist countries show a strong positive relationship between happiness and child-raising, with parents of three in those countries happiest of all.

But the most striking findings revolved around parenthood and age. Whether it is a function of exhaustion, bickering over diapers or something inherently unpleasant about raising little children, the data doesn’t say, but parents under 30 are decidedly less happy than their child-free peers. Then, once parents hit 40, the relationship reverses and people with children are cheerier than those without.

The more, the merrier, too — at least for older parents. For people under 30, happiness declines with each additional child. Young parents of two are unhappier than young parents with one, and young parents of one child are unhappier than young people with no children. But with parents between the ages of 40 and 50, the number of children has no impact. And after 50, each child brings more joy.

The source paper is here.  You can, and should, buy Bryan’s new book here.

The culture that is France

Asked at the Paris book fair last week which book had made the greatest impression on him during his life, Lefebvre told the interviewer it was “without doubt” Zadig et Voltaire – the name of a French fashion chain. “It’s a lesson about life, and I reread it pretty often,” said the politician, at the fair to publicise his own book, Le mieux est l’ami du bien, an exposition of his political views. He actually meant to refer to Voltaire’s celebrated philosophical novel Zadig, about a Babylonian man subjected to the whims of fate.

The video of his mistake has now been viewed almost 200,000 times, and the French literati have been quick to mock Lefebvre for his slip, suggesting other combinations of consumerism and literature – from The Girl with the La Perla to The World According to Gap, Thus Spake Zara, Waiting for Gaultier and Victor Hugo Boss’s Les Misérables – on the trending Twitter hashtag #bibliolefebvre.

…His mistake follows Sarkozy’s criticism of Madame de Lafayette’s The Princess of Cleves two years ago, which prompted a literary backlash against the French president. Sales of the 17th-century novel soared, public protest readings of the book were held and the 2009 Paris book fair sold out of badges saying “I’m reading La Princesse de Clèves”. It is too early to say whether Lefebvre’s appreciation will provide a similar boost to Zadig by Voltaire – or even to Zadig and Voltaire.

Here is more.

Brazil fact of the day

When Lula won the presidency in 2002, Brazil’s main trading partners were the United States (25.5%), the Netherlands (5.3%), Germany (4.2%) and China (4.2%).

Over the eight years, the U.S. share collapsed, while the Chinese share more than tripled. By 2009, Brazil’s main trading partners were China (13.2%), the United States (9.6%), Argentina (7.8%) and the Netherlands (5.0%).

Here is more.

“When and where do great feats of architecture come about?”

The post is interesting throughout, but these are the two best paragraphs:

You only need to impress someone when there is asymmetric information, where that someone does not know how great you are. Shah Jahan needed to build big because the targets of his attention did not know the GDP of his dominion and his tax/GDP ratio. In this age of Forbes league tables, Mukesh Ambani does not need to build a fabulous structure for you to know he’s the richest guy in India. A merely functional house suffices; a great feat of architecture is not undertaken.
Accountability The incremental expense of going from a merely functional structure to a great feat of architecture is generally hard to justify. Hence, one might expect to see more interesting architecture from autocratic places+periods, where decision makers wield discretionary power with weak checks and balances. As an example, I think that Britain had the greatest empire, but the architecture of the European continent is superior: this may have to do with the early flowering of democracy in the UK.

For the pointer I thank Yogesh.  Three older posts of relevance are here and here and most of all here.

Cell Phone Paternalism

Believe it or not, a group of civil rights activists is lobbying the FCC to investigate MetroPCS for violating “net neutrality” because they offer cell phone service with and without things like streaming video. According to these groups such plans are a “gross inequity” that is “un-American.”

Here is an excellent response in the Huffington Post by (self-described) lefty David Honig, co-founder of the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC):

Do you have a cell phone? How would you like it if the FCC required you to pay an extra $20 a month to get movie downloads, whether you want them not, or to allow your kids to access violent video games or adult content, whether you want them to or not, just so everyone would get what the government considers to be “the full Internet experience?” What if you’re low income, and you’d rather spend that $20 on books? Or warm clothes? Or food?

My friend Malkia Cyril of the Center for Media Justice doesn’t want low income people to have that choice. She says it’s “un-American to give low-income communities substandard Internet service that creates barriers to economic opportunity and democratic engagement.”…

Cyril is making a common mistake among us lefties when it comes to low income people — she is being paternalistic. Those poor poor people. They can’t think for themselves, so the government has to make decisions for them. In this case, Cyril argues, the FCC should outlaw Plan A (and maybe Plan B) and require every carrier to offer only full-menu service like Plan C. All this in the name of “net neutrality.”

If I’ve learned anything from my 45 years working with low income folks, it’s this: they’re intelligent and they’re resourceful. They have to be in order to survive. They don’t appreciate condescension or sloganeering in their name. And they have sense enough to know whether they’d rather use an extra $20 a month for movie downloads or for movie tickets — and would rather get discounts for services they do not want or need.

…What the FCC doesn’t need to do is increase costs for those who can least afford it. As long as there’s full transparency, low income people ought to be able to choose Plan A, B or C. Low income people — the underserved — don’t need the FCC to decide, for them, how they can spend their money.

Bravo. We need more lefties like this.

Addendum: More from Tom Hazlett.

A Rubinstein bargaining model with a finite time horizon

Not something I’ve studied in any depth, but there is this paper by Randolph Sloof:

We characterize equilibrium behavior in a finite horizon multiple-pie alternating
offer bargaining game in which both agents have outside options and threat points. In contrast to the infinite horizon case the strength of the threat to delay agreement is non-stationary and decreases over time. Typically the delay threat determines proposals in early periods, while the threat to opt out characterizes those in later ones. Owing to this nonstationarity both threats may appear in the equilibrium shares agreed upon. When the threat to opt out is empty for both agents, the outcome corresponds exactly with the (generalized) Nash bargaining solution. The latter observation may prove useful for designing experiments that are meant to test economic models that include a bargaining stage.

In other words, I am not surprised they are on the verge of reaching a deal.  The features determining behavior in the earlier periods are not the same as the features determining behavior toward the end.  Low “delay costs” do not mean low “no deal at all” costs, especially for the Republicans.

Relativistic statistical arbitrage

I haven’t read this paper (pdf) yet, but the abstract is already a winner:

Recent advances in high-frequency financial trading have made light propagation delays between geographically separated exchanges relevant. Here we show that there exist optimal locations from which to coordinate the statistical arbitrage of pairs of spacelike separated securities, and calculate a representative map of such locations on Earth. Furthermore, trading local securities along chains of such intermediate locations results in a novel econophysical effect, in which the relativistic propagation of tradable information is effectively slowed or stopped by arbitrage.

Hat tip goes to Robert Cottrell, and Kevin Drum pulls the map out.

David Brooks nails it

The Democrats are on defense because they are unwilling to ask voters to confront the implications of their choices. Democrats seem to believe that most Americans want to preserve the 20th-century welfare state programs. But they are unwilling to ask voters to pay for them, and they are unwilling to describe the tax increases that would be required to cover their exploding future costs.

…Until they find a way to pay for the programs they support, they will not be serious players in this game. They will have no credible plans and will be in an angry but permanent retreat.

Here is the full column (NYT), worth one of your twenty.  As this is the blogosphere, it’s worth noting that many bloggers, including many of the best ones, will come right out and advocate higher taxes on the middle class.  But the Democrats more generally have painted themselves into a corner on this issue.  People will look back and see the non-expiration of the Bush tax cuts as a turning point.

Vaclav Smil

His books are excellent, you probably should read them all.

His Energy Myths and Realities: Bringing Science to the Energy Policy Debate is depressing, excerpt:

A world without fossil fuel combustion is highly desirable, and, to be optimistic, our collective determination, commitment, and persistence could accelerate its arrival.  But getting there will be expensive and will require considerable patience.  Coming energy transitions will unfold, as the past ones have done, across decades, not years.

And this:

…do not underestimate the persistence and adaptability of old resources (remember that coal is still more important globally than natural gas) and established prime movers, particularly those that have been around for more than a century, including steam turbines and internal combustion engines.  Recall that the latest incarnations of the internal combustion engine, the new DiesOtto machines, have the potential to be more efficient than the best hybrid drives on today’s market.

My favorite book by him is Prime Movers of Globalization: The History and Impact of Diesel Engines and Gas Turbines, a better title and subtitle there never was.