Month: February 2015

The Decline of Science in Corporate R&D

That is the subtitle, the title of the paper is Killing the Golden Goose, and the authors are Ashish Arora, Sharon Belenzon, and Andrea Patacconi.  The abstract shows what an important paper this is:

Scientific knowledge is believed to be the wellspring of innovation. Historically, firms have also invested in research to fuel innovation and growth. In this paper, we document a shift away from scientific research by large corporations between 1980 and 2007. We find that publications by company scientists have declined over time in a range of industries. We also find that the value attributable to scientific research has dropped, whereas the value attributable to technical knowledge (as measured by patents) has remained stable. These effects appear to be associated with globalization and narrower firm scope, rather than changes in publication practices or a decline in the usefulness of science as an input into innovation. Large firms appear to value the golden eggs of science (as reflected in patents) but not the golden goose itself (the scientific capabilities). These findings have important implications for both public policy and management.

There is an ungated version here (pdf).  Of course, for better or worse, this means there is more of a burden on universities.

Mood affiliation tweets to ponder

The Greek People Have Punctured the Smugness of the “Moneymen” – hope is replacing despair

That is from a Dr. Adnan Al-Daini.  He links to this piece of his on the same theme.  It is noted that the Dr. used to teach at a British university.  Behind the first link, there are several comments on the tweet.

Yet, in reality, the ECB and the EU seem to be holding all of the cards.  I do not expect that to change.  Here is “Emergency Liquidity Assistance for Greek Banks: An Explainer.”

Monopoly markets in everything, French edition

Monopoly games filled with real money, in this case euros, from France:

In honor of the game’s 80th anniversary this year, its French manufacturers have replaced its traditional fake bills with real money in 80 boxes now on sale.

As if Monopoly needed higher stakes.

Agence France-Presse reported that 69 of the prize sets will include five 10-euro notes and five 20-euro notes, while another 10 will include five real 20-euro notes, two 50-euro notes and one 100-euro note.

For the final box, the entire “bank” has been replaced with real bills, making the game — which costs about 26 euros before shipping and handling — worth 20,580 euros, or about $23,000.

The notes were replaced during a covert operation last month in the small forest town of Creutzwald in northeastern France.

The monopoly boxes are selling for the normal price, although of course without notice as to which boxes have the real money inside.  Hasbro’s U.S. wing, by the way, is planning a ““vintage style board” to complement the 27 other variations currently available.”

The article is here, hat tip goes to NinjaEconomics.

Assorted links

1. Revisiting Chinese consumption.

2. As parents get more choice, San Francisco schools resegregate.

3. Is it good signaling if your finance minister looks like a normal person?  And is there a better way to negotiate with terrorists?

4. Will new FCC rules kick 4.7 million households off-line?  And who complains? (not me, actually)

5. Daniel Davies on Greek bargaining strategy.  And claims about economics majors.

6. Overview of Haitian food, including spaghetti shakes.

7. Walter Russell Mead on how Putin really sees things.

8. Sunk costs in a basketball economy.

Optimal life cycle unemployment insurance

It seems we should index unemployment benefits to a person’s age.  For the liquidity-constrained, human capital-investing young, we don’t want to rush them into unsuitable jobs.  The older workers — that’s another matter.   Michelacci and Ruffo report:

We argue that US welfare would rise if unemployment insurance were increased for younger and decreased for older workers. This is because the young tend to lack the means to smooth consumption during unemployment and want jobs to accumulate high-return human capital. So unemployment insurance is most valuable to them, while moral hazard is mild. By calibrating a life cycle model with unemployment risk and endogenous search effort, we find that allowing unemployment replacement rates to decline with age yields sizeable welfare gains to US workers.

The AER version is here.  Ungated versions are here.  Elsewhere Ben Casselman considers some ways that unemployment has changed, and what that may mean for benefits.

You’d better not judge this book by its cover

At least not too visibly:

Thijs Biersteker of digital entrepreneurs Moore has created a book jacket that will open only when a reader shows no judgment. An integrated camera and facial recognition system scans the reader’s face, only unlocking the book – in the prototype, filled with creative work for the Art Directors Club Netherlands annual – when their expression is neutral.

“My aim was to create a book cover that is human and approachable hi-tech. If you approach the book, if you’re overexcited or your face shows a sceptical expression, the book will stay locked,” explains Biersteker on his website. “But if your expression is neutral (no judgment) the system will send an audio pulse and the book will unlock itself. I often worry about my scepticism and judgement getting in the way of my amazement. Judgment should never hinder the relentless enthusiasm of seeing things for the first time.”

The full story, which includes photos, is here.  The Twitter pointer is from Ted Gioia.

Current research about vaccines and vaccination

From Harvard’s Kennedy Center:

…see the related article “Addressing Vaccine Hesitancy,” by report co-chairs Barry R. Bloom of the Harvard School of Public Health, Edgar Marcuse of the University of Washington and Seth Mnookin of MIT.

The beginning of this misinformation problem, researchers say, dates back to 1998, when a now-discredited scientific paper was published in Britain linking vaccines to autism, a link that was proven entirely false and even labeled “fraudulent.” A number of activists and some celebrities have adopted prominent anti-vaccine positions, and media and entertainment outlets have provided a platform for some of their views.

Despite the importance of this issue, little research has been done on how newer forms of technology and communication, including social media or video-sharing sites, influence health decision-making. And there are basic questions about the effectiveness of traditional public health campaigns. One of the most important studies to date is a 2014 paper in the journal Pediatrics, “Effective Messages in Vaccine Promotion: A Randomized Trial.” The researchers — Brendan Nyhan of Dartmouth College, Jason Reifler of the University of Exeter, Sean Richey of Georgia State University and Gary L. Freed of the University of Michigan — analyzed the results of a Web-based national survey of nearly 1,800 parents. After asking respondents about their own family health situations and beliefs, researchers then tested common public health communications strategies to promote vaccination: “(1) correcting misinformation, (2) presenting information on disease risks, (3) using dramatic narratives, or (4) displaying visuals to make those risks more salient or accessible.”

The study’s findings include:

  • The data indicate that “pro-vaccine messages do not always work as intended and that the effectiveness of those messages may vary depending on parental attitudes toward vaccines.” In fact, there was “little evidence that messages emphasizing the risks of vaccine-preventable diseases were effective in promoting vaccination intent.”
  • Further, the data show that a “dramatic narrative about measles and images of sick children” actually ended up increasing misperceptions about MMR.
  • The study’s conclusion was unequivocal regarding traditional messaging: “None of the pro-vaccine messages created by public health authorities increased intent to vaccinate with MMR among a nationally representative sample of parents who have children age 17 years or younger at home. Corrective information reduced misperceptions about the vaccine/autism link but nonetheless decreased intent to vaccinate among parents who had the least favorable attitudes toward vaccines.”

By the way, Werner Troesken at the University of Pittsburgh will be publishing a new book on how American freedoms have allowed infectious diseases to spread, or so sounds the description.  It is from University of Chicago press, due out in May.

Assorted links

1. An impressive display of, um…Big Data (pdf), addressing how suppliers discriminate against customers in Singapore.  There is also an NBER version, but I don’t see it on their site at this moment.

2. The religion that is Iceland.

3. “…the greatest work of journalism from the nineteenth century.

4. The Hospital is no Place for a Heart Attack.  And few from the EU side like the Greek debt swap idea.

5. Best films of the decadeWinter Sleep should be added to the list immediately, it is Ceylan’s masterpiece.  That, along with Uncle Boonmee, should be very close to the top.

6. Weitzman reviews Nordhaus.

7. Timothy Taylor on the new corporate income tax proposals.

Gdp-linked loans and loan restructuring for Greece

Here is a new paper by Fratzscher, Steffen, and Rieth (pdf), advocating gdp-linked loans for Greece.

Here are older proposals for gdp-indexed bonds (pdf).  Scott Sumner comments on the new Greek proposal.  Here is an IMF paper on the topic (pdf).  Greece already issues some gdp-linked warrants.  Here is Argentina fudging its gdp stats to save on its gdp-indexed bonds.  Here is more on related disputes.

p.s. they are not going to do it.

Should you tell your children how much you make?

This NYT article has been widely read and emailed.  Ron Lieber argues yes, you should tell your children, but I’m not sure I can pull out the exact thread of his argument from the piece.

I say no you should not tell them.  But you should tell them something about your monetary situation.  If you are not so well off, you should tell your children that you are upwardly mobile, and will someday be more prosperous, through hard work.  At the very least then they won’t be scared.  If you are middle class, tell them a somewhat scaled-up version of the same.  You don’t want to tell them anything they can use as a “club” against their possibly poorer friends, so leave creative ambiguity in your answer.  If they boast about the family income, they will mostly end up embarrassing themselves, in addition to the negative externalities they might impose on others.

That said, you are marking out a range, so when they grow up and the time comes for them to learn the exact truth, they won’t feel you were tricking them or keeping family secrets.  In the meantime you are a role model for upward mobility.

If you are well off or very well off, tell them “Yes, we are well off but the real metric of success is X,” depending on what you think they need to hear, within the bounds of realism of course.  X might be how many friends you have, how happy your children are, how holy or pious or God-fearing you are, how many books you have read, or how much you have helped the world, among other candidates.  Serve them up a weighted average of those Xxs over time, so as to a) avoid seeming like a monomaniac, and b) give them a sense that many values are important, and c) drive home that money is not at the top of the list, even if you think it is.  They’ll have enough chances to learn to feel that way.

Remember, you’re trying to maximize some weighted average of covering your bases for future revelations, moral instruction, not scaring them with Piketty-like reasoning, stopping your kids from making fools of themselves with the information you give them, and stopping your children from making you look foolish or like a bad parent.  You’re in essence the central bank here, and it’s creative ambiguity all the way.

Russo-German sentences to ponder

Ms Merkel is familiar with Mr Putin’s psychological operations. In 2007, he played on her well-known fear of dogs by allowing his black Labrador, Koni, into a meeting with her in his summer residence in Sochi. Photos show her tight-lipped as the Labrador buried its head in her lap.

Berlin officials say the chancellor does not allow Mr Putin to get to her through such displays or, for example, by turning up hours late for a meeting, as he did the night before the summit in Milan. Instead, she turns it to her advantage, treating the Kremlin chief’s bad manners as a sign of weakness.

From the FT, there is more here, interesting throughout.  File under still an important relationship.

Assorted links

1. When is male shame attractive?

2. Anacostia, which is in many ways the nicest part of DC with the best views, will flip.  And L.A. shopping mall based on the set from a D.W. Griffith film.

3. What is going on with Greece and the ECB?  And Woolen-coat economics.

4. History of Economic Thought Summer Institute at Duke University, highly recommended.

5. Are women studying economics more or less?

6. “Parents act more dishonestly in front of sons than daughters.”

7. Is 2% growth the new 4%?

Patriots Used to Be Skeptical of the Military

The most recent issue of the Fletcher Security Review features a paper by Alex Nowrasteh and myself on Privateers! Their History and Future. One of the interesting side notes is that Americans supported privateering not just because it was effective but also because America’s greatest patriots, the founding generation, were deeply skeptical about standing armies and navies. Today, the right-wing, uber-patriotic brand of Americanism is pro-military and pro-empire. In contrast, the founders would regard the empire as deeply un-American. Quoting from the paper:

The founders feared standing armies as a threat to liberty. At the constitutional convention, for example, James Madison argued that “A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defence against foreign danger have been always the instruments of tyranny at home.” For the founders, the defense of the country was best left to citizens who would take up arms in times of national peril, form militias, overcome the peril, and then to return to their lives.

As a result, the ideal military for the founders was small and circumspect (remember also that the second amendment was in part about the fear of standing armies, hence the support of the militia). The 1856 Treaty of Paris banned privateering but the United States refused to sign. Secretary of State William Marcy explained why in a great statement of patriotic American anti-militarism:

The United States consider powerful navies and large standing armies as permanent establishments to be detrimental to national prosperity and dangerous to civil liberty. The expense of keeping them up is burdensome to the people; they are in some degree a menace to peace among nations. A large force ever ready to be devoted to the purposes of war is a temptation to rush into it. The policy of the United States has ever been, and never more than now, adverse to such establishments, and they can never be brought to acquiesce in any change in International Law which may render it necessary for them to maintain a powerful navy or large standing army in time of peace.

Today the patriotic brand of anti-militarism, the brand that sees skepticism about the military and the promotion of peace and commerce as specifically American, is largely forgotten. President Eisenhower’s farewell address to the nation was perhaps the last remnant in modern memory. It’s a tradition, however, that true patriots must remember.