Month: January 2013

Should we mint the platinum coin?

The economics of such a move would work fine, and I understand the game-theoretic rationale, but still I agree (strongly) with Kevin Drum’s “no” answer.  I don’t know if the courts would uphold such a move, but I do know they would not uphold such a move instantaneously.  The uncertainty would in the meantime whipsaw and shut down the markets and the shadow banking system.

And let’s say that — somehow — the whole thing miraculously worked out well from start to finish.  The testier Republicans would in fact get exactly what they want.  They would receive isolation from any negative consequences from brinksmanship, and a new narrative about how President Obama is a fascist incarnate.  Keep in mind that since the coin would bear the sparkling image of Sayyid Qutb, there are even some members of the American electorate who would find such charges plausible.

This is a bad idea, and Obama has been wise to try to take it off the table from the get go.  He knows that Congress actually needs to sign off on a solution, as indeed they have twice in the last year.  It also confirms Paul Krugman’s view that he would not in fact make a good Secretary of the Treasury.

Addendum: Felix Salmon has good comments.

Nine Facts about Top Journals in Economics

That is the new paper by David Card and Stefano DellaVigna, here is the abstract:

How has publishing in top economics journals changed since 1970? Using a data set that combines information on all articles published in the top-5 journals from 1970 to 2012 with their Google Scholar citations, we identify nine key trends. First, annual submissions to the top-5 journals nearly doubled from 1990 to 2012. Second, the total number of articles published in these journals actually declined from 400 per year in the late 1970s to 300 per year most recently. As a result, the acceptance rate has fallen from 15% to 6%, with potential implications for the career progression of young scholars. Third, one journal, the American Economic Review, now accounts for 40% of top-5 publications, up from 25% in the 1970s. Fourth, recently published papers are on average 3 times longer than they were in the 1970s, contributing to the relative shortage of journal space. Fifth, the number of authors per paper has increased from 1.3 in 1970 to 2.3 in 2012, partly offsetting the fall in the number of articles per year. Sixth, citations for top-5 publications are high: among papers published in the late 1990s, the median number of Google Scholar citations is 200. Seventh, the ranking of journals by citations has remained relatively stable, with the notable exception of the Quarterly Journal of Economics, which climbed from fourth place to first place over the past three decades. Eighth, citation counts are significantly higher for longer papers and those written by more co-authors. Ninth, although the fraction of articles from different fields published in the top-5 has remained relatively stable, there are important cohort trends in the citations received by papers from different fields, with rising citations to more recent papers in Development and International, and declining citations to recent papers in Econometrics and Theory.

The paper is here, and an ungated version is here.

Retrying Socrates, in front of Judge Posner

Star litigators in Chicago are preparing to retry a controversial 2,400-year-old free speech case that famously resulted in the death of Socrates, now considered the father of Greek philosophy, when he drank a cup of poisonous hemlock.

Dan Webb of Winston and Strawn and plaintiffs lawyer Robert A. Clifford, a former chair of the ABA Section of Litigation, will represent Socrates at the Jan. 31 proceeding, which is being held as a fundraiser by the National Hellenic Museum in Chicago. The case for the City of Athens will be made by former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, now a partner at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, and Patrick M. Collins of Perkins Coie.

Judge Richard A. Posner of the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will head a three-judge panel that also includes his federal appeals court colleague William J. Bauer and Cook County Circuit Judge Anna Demacopoulos.

Here is a bit more, and for the pointer I thank John C.A.K.  I suppose Socrates is now in exclusive company with Conrad Black.

Assorted links

*The Bankers’ New Clothes*

That is the new book by Anat Admati and Martin Hellwig and the subtitle is What’s Wrong with Banking and What to Do about it.  Here is their bottom line:

We have argued that if banks have much more equity, the financial system will be safer, healthier, and less distorted.  From society’s perspective, the benefits are large and the costs are hard to find; there are virtually no trade-offs.

I agree with the proposal, though not with the claim that this is virtually costless, as is laid out in their chapter seven (oddly they focus on the question of whether debt and equity “require” comparable rates of return, rather than the general notion of opportunity cost).  In any case this is a major net work on banking and its regulation.  Here is the book’s home page.  Here is Admati on YouTube.

Signaling markets in everything: fashion braces

Many teens in Southeast Asia have been shelling out more than $100 for so-called black market braces, mouth gear that doesn’t serve any function other than fashion — and status. While being a brace-face stateside might be a drag, real braces cost close to $1,200 in places like Bangkok, putting dental care far out of reach for the average family. As a result, braces have become a surprising status symbol.

Here is more, via Daniel Lippman.  From Daniel, here are expensive parking spaces in Hong Kong.

The culture that is Republican

House Republicans signaled Thursday they will not follow rules in President Obama’s healthcare law that were designed to speed Medicare cuts through Congress.

The House is set to vote Thursday afternoon on rules for the 113th Congress. The rules package says the House won’t comply with fast-track procedures for the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) — a controversial cost-cutting board Republicans have long resisted.

Here is more, via Brad DeLong.

How brutal is vegetarianism to animals?

Here is one take on the matter, from Mike Archer, controversial to be sure, and in some ways under-argued, but offering some points to ponder:

… the largest and best-researched loss of sentient life is the poisoning of mice during plagues.

Each area of grain production in Australia has a mouse plague on average every four years, with 500-1000 mice per hectare. Poisoning kills at least 80% of the mice.

At least 100 mice are killed per hectare per year (500/4 × 0.8) to grow grain. Average yields are about 1.4 tonnes of wheat/hectare; 13% of the wheat is useable protein. Therefore, at least 55 sentient animals die to produce 100kg of useable plant protein: 25 times more than for the same amount of rangelands beef.

You will note that this comparison works for grass-fed beef only.

Hat tip goes to Dalibor Rohac.

A skeptical perspective on African development

Rick Rowden thinks manufacturing is a key:

We can look at whether manufacturing has been increasing as a percentage of GDP, or whether the manufacturing value added (MVA) of exports has been rising. In these cases the comparison between Africa and East Asia is actually quite revealing — as demonstrated by a recent U.N. report that paints a far less flattering picture of Africa’s development prospects.

It finds that, despite some improvements in a few countries, the bulk of African countries are either stagnating or moving backwards when it comes to industrialization. The share of MVA in Africa’s GDP fell from 12.8 percent in 2000 to 10.5 percent in 2008, while in developing Asia it rose from 22 percent to 35 percent over the same period. There has also been a decline in the importance of manufacturing in Africa’s exports, with the share of manufactures in Africa’s total exports having fallen from 43 percent in 2000 to 39 percent in 2008. In terms of manufacturing growth, while most have stagnated, 23 African countries had negative MVA per capita growth during the period 1990 – 2010, and only five countries achieved an MVA per capita growth above 4 percent.

The report also finds that Africa remains marginal in global manufacturing trade. Its share of global MVA has actually fallen from an already paltry 1.2 percent in 2000 to 1.1 percent in 2008, while developing Asia’s share rose from 13 percent to 25 percent over the same period. In terms of exports, Africa’s share of global manufacturing exports rose from 1 percent in 2000 to only 1.3 percent in 2008.

The pointer is from the excellent @FGoria.