Month: September 2012

New issue of Econ Journal Watch

You will find it here.  The contents include:

James Tooley on Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo’s Poor Economics: Banerjee and Duflo propose to bypass the “big questions” of economic development and focus instead on “small steps” to improvement. But, says Tooley, they proceed to make big judgments about education in developing countries, judgments not supported by their own evidence.

Why the Denial? Pauline Dixon asks why writers at UNESCO, Oxfam, and elsewhere have denied or discounted the success and potentiality of private schooling in developing countries.

Neither necessary nor sufficient, but… Thomas Mayer critically appraises Stephen Ziliak and Deirdre McCloskey’s influential writings, particularly The Cult of Statistical Significance. McCloskey and Ziliak reply.

Was Occupational Licensing Good for Minorities? Daniel Klein, Benjamin Powell, and Evgeny Vorotnikov take issue with a JLE article by Marc Law and Mindy Marks. Law and Marks reply.

Mankiw vs. DeLong and Krugman on the CEA’s Real GDP Forecasts in Early 2009: David Cushman shows how a careful econometrician might have adjudicated the debate among these leading economists over the likelihood of a macroeconomic rebound.

Is the Indian left preparing its cave-in on FDI?

It seems there is still some fight left in them:

…leftwingers inside and outside the Congress party, including a few of Mr Singh’s allies in the multi-party coalition, oppose economic liberalisation and in some cases regard retail reform as a capitalist plot masterminded by Walmart.

“The tragedy is that our prime minister has begun to worship the US,” said Sitaram Yechury, leader of the opposition Communist Party of India – Marxist. “Congress wants Indians to be slaves and foreigners to be our masters. We will not accept FDI [foreign direct investment] in retail. We will protest this decision till our last breath.”

On the political right, BJP leaders – backed by small shopkeepers wary of retail competitors – sense an opportunity to destabilise the government before its term expires in 2014 and are not shy in pursuing that goal through short-term alliances with the hard left.


Are the Republicans preparing their cave-in on taxes?

“This is a referendum on taxes,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a senior member of the House Budget Committee. “If the president wins reelection, taxes are going up” for the nation’s wealthiest households, and “there’s not a lot we can do about that.”

Funny words from a party that might control Congress, or at least the House.  Read the Constitution!  Here is much more.

I’ve long maintained that Republican legislators do not hate high taxes, they only hate having to vote for high taxes.  Come this December, they may pretend to voters that they are more or less powerless, while negotiating some concessions from Obama (and other Democrats) behind the scenes.  A lot of them are probably relieved or happy that taxes can go up, and furthermore they can then complain about this the next time around.

Go ask Ramsay MacMullen

It used to seem shocking that five of the ten richest counties in the United States were part of the DC Metropolitan Statistical Area, but  the 2011 American Community Survey numbers released yesterday show that the DC suburbs now account for seven of the ten richest counties in America.

Loudon, Fairfax, and Arlington in Virginia lead the way followed by Hunterdon County, NJ then Howard County in Maryland; Somerset, NJ; Prince William and Fauquier in Virginia; Douglas, CO; and Montgomery County, MD.

Here is more.  File under “Makers vs. Takers.”  Here is Will Wilkinson on making vs. taking.

Does work or school boost your vocabulary more?

From the new James R. Flynn book:

It appears that the world of work, which follows university, has been the main force behind the adult vocabulary gains of the last half-century…Note that in 1953, low-IQ people enhanced their vocabularies over the ages of 17 to 22 far more than low-IQ people did in 2000.  I suggest the hypothesis that they were more likely to be settled in apprenticeships or adult jobs in those days than today.  Even the high-IQ people increased their vocabularies more between the ages of 17 to 22 in 1953 than in 2000.  Apparently being placed in work was more potent than being in a tertiary institution.

Isn’t it also the case that we have been moving to a flatter, simpler English for a long time?  Try reading some James Fenimore Cooper.  Plus schools are less likely to make you memorize long, classic poems, which is another good way of building vocabulary.

Still the No Brainer Issue of the Year

In The No Brainer Issue of the Year I wrote:

Behind Door #1 are people of extraordinary ability: scientists, artists, educators, business people and athletes. Behind Door #2 stand a random assortment of people. Which door should the United States open?

Once again, as the NYTimes reports, our dysfunctional political system has opted for Door #2:

A Republican bill to provide permanent resident visas for foreigners who graduate from American universities with advanced degrees in science and technology failed to pass the House on Thursday, a setback for technology companies that had strongly supported it.

…[The bill] would have eliminated an annual lottery and instead allocated 55,000 visas for legal permanent residency, known as green cards, each year to foreigners who have completed master’s and doctoral degrees from American universities in the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Some life expectancies are shrinking

For generations of Americans, it was a given that children would live longer than their parents. But there is now mounting evidence that this enduring trend has reversed itself for the country’s least-educated whites, an increasingly troubled group whose life expectancy has fallen by four years since 1990.

And this:

The steepest declines were for white women without a high school diploma, who lost five years of life between 1990 and 2008, said S. Jay Olshansky, a public health professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the lead investigator on the study, published last month in Health Affairs. By 2008, life expectancy for black women without a high school diploma had surpassed that of white women of the same education level, the study found.

Here is more, scary throughout.  We are not as healthy as we thought we were.

Can a Google autocomplete function be libelous?

From Germany:

…for Bettina Wulff it’s a nightmare. The wife of former German President Christian Wulff wants the search engine to cease suggesting terms that she finds defamatory. This has nothing to do with the search results, but rather with the recommendations made by Google’s “Autocomplete” function, a service that is also offered by competitors like Bing and Yahoo. All one has to do is type her first name and the first letter of her last name to get search suggestions such as “Bettina Wulff prostitute,” “Bettina Wulff escort” and “Bettina Wulff red-light district.”

Don’t forget the problem of cascades here:

The Autocomplete function, the usefulness of which Google so guilelessly praises as a means of giving one’s fingers a rest, undeniably helps spread rumors. Assuming that someone unsuspectingly begins to look for information on “Bettina Wulff” and is offered “prostitute,” “Hanover” and “dress” as additional search terms — where, independent of their actual interests, will users most likely click?

The new (and inaugural?) Chinese translation of Finnegans Wake

In volume one, it seems that only half the words of the original are kept.  M.A. Orthofer reports:

Beijing University teacher Liu Yiqing is quoted:

“There is still something we can improve in the way the footnotes are presented,” she says. “While putting every possible meaning in Chinese into the text, it will break the integrity of the story. We should make it a story that is also interesting for college students to read and understand.”

Also via Orthofer, here is one measure of which is the most frequently liberated book.

Sentences to ponder

Real earnings for young college grads have fallen by over 15% since 2000, or by about $10,000 in 2011 dollars

Michael Mandel’s tweet is here, and link to the underlying material is here.

Don’t be misled by claims of a “high” or “rising” college premium, that is indeed true relative to high school (or less), but many of those wages are down even more.  In absolute terms the return to college is not doing well.

Sir John Strachey’s *India: its Administration & Progress*

This is a fascinating and indeed highly readable book.  The third edition dates from 1903 but it is based on some 1884 lectures.  Here is one excerpt:

If the richer classes in China were deprived of Indian opium they would suffer as the richer classes in Europe would suffer if they were deprived of the choice vintages of Bordeaux and Burgundy, or as tobacco-smokers would suffer if not more cigars were to come from Cuba.  In such a case, in our own country, the frequenters of public-houses would be conscious of no hardship, and the vast majority of the opium-smokers of China would be equally unconscious if they received no more opium from India [TC: China itself produced a lot of opium].  If, in deference to ignorant prejudice, India should be deprived of the revenue which she now obtains from opium, an act of folly and injustice would be perpetrated as gross as any that has ever been inflicted by a foreign Government on a subject country.  India now possesses the rare fortune of obtaining from one of her most useful products a large revenue without the imposition of taxes on her own people…

Recommended, especially if you like to discover what people were really thinking at the time.