Month: June 2015

Saturday assorted links

1. In fact, people get annoyed pretty easily at a whole lot of different things.  What would Bryan Caplan say?

2. Hadrian, the robot bricklayer.  And commercial jetpack coming for 150k.

3. FT lunch with Piketty.

4. An insider’s guide to better eating in Chinese detention centers.

5. Google Sheep View.

6. Swedish scientists build artificial neurons to connect with organic neurons.

7. “Please, someone, buy me…

Scandinavian Unexceptionalism

That is the new IEA book from Nima Sanandaji, freely available here (pdf), introduction by Tom G. Palmer.  Here is one short bit:

The descendants of Scandinavian migrants in the US combine the high living standards of the US with the high levels of equality of Scandinavian countries. Median incomes of Scandinavian descendants are 20 per cent higher than average US incomes. It is true that poverty rates in Scandinavian countries are lower than in the US. However, the poverty rate among descendants of Nordic immigrants in the US today is half the average poverty rate of Americans – this has been a consistent finding for decades. In fact, Scandinavian Americans have lower poverty rates than Scandinavian citizens who have not emigrated. This suggests that pre-existing cultural norms are responsible for the low levels of poverty among Scandinavians rather than Nordic welfare states.

The book has many other points of interest.

The Not Very Serious People call for Greferendum

Hugo Dixon has a good analysis:

My instant reaction to Alexis Tsipras’ decision to call a referendum on whether to accept creditors’ terms on Jul 5

1 Tsipras is effectively calling for Greece to quit the euro. Even if that’s not the question, that’s what it will amount to.

2 All sides have mishandled negotiation but Tsipras has mishandled it particularly badly.

3 Tsipras didn’t even complete the talks and wring out the last concessions. There was one more day to go.

4 Greece obviously won’t be able to pay the IMF on Tuesday.

5 Greece won’t be able to get extension of bailout which runs out on Tuesday, as referendum is following Sunday. Ie bailout expires.

6 ECB highly likely to stop emergency liquidity to banks. if capital controls not imposed on Monday, there will probably be bank run.

I would put it this way: when you call for a referendum in this kind of setting, you suffer all the costs of having to take a stance, and yet give up all of the potential benefits of control.

There are already reports of long lines at Greek ATMs.  What’s the chance the Greferendum even ends up happening?  As I’ve said before, the only thing worse than the Very Serious People are the Not Very Serious People.

Legal gay marriage

This is exciting and very positive news.  Most of all, it is a breakthrough for those people who can now marry, or exercise the choice not to marry.  There are two other aspects of the decision which I like.  First, it keeps current the idea that the United States still is a world leader when it comes to liberty.  Second, it encourages the idea that there are significant freedoms still to be won.

Which freedom will be next?  Here is my earlier piece on Andrew Sullivan as the most influential public intellectual in recent times.  Andrew even wrote a new post for the occasion.

King vs. Burwell, and other stuff

I have not been a fan of Obamacare, which I consider to be a highly inefficient form of wealth insurance.  Nonetheless, had this decision gone the other way at this point we would have ended up with something worse, or ended back at “Obamacare as know it,” but only after a lot of political stupidity and also painful media coverage.  So on net I take this to be good news, although arguably it is bad news that it is good news.

From the decision, insurers gained $3 billion in market value, and hospital stocks surged about ten percent, make of that what you will.

I found the remarks of Robert Laszlewski to be most to the point.  Philip Wallach had some excellent legal and constitutional points, see also Cass Sunstein.  I am very much a legal outsider, but it seems to me this does indeed rejigger something or other looking forward.

Elsewhere in the world, Schaueble does his best Scalia impression and tells us that June 30 is June 30, not July 1.  Greece hasn’t exploded — yet — and everyone is wondering how much time is left on the shot clock.  I’m still predicting an agreement, albeit one which will break pretty quickly.

TPP received fast track approval.

It’s been one of the best political weeks in years, although disconcertingly most of the good news has been avoiding even worse outcomes, not actual forward political progress of the kind one would like to be celebrating.

In Berlin, you can rent the smallest house in the world for one euro a night.  And here is a baby owl, learning to fly, or so one would expect.

Translating *Seinfeld*

And because of Seinfeld’s unique approach to comedy, it poses special translation problems. In one Radboud University study of Dutch viewers’ reactions to Seinfeld, viewers commonly reported being baffled by the show’s laugh track; the audience regularly missed the joke. Some of those who did laugh told researcher Elke Van Cassel that they were laughing only because the characters reminded them of Americans they knew.

There is more here from Jennifer Keishin Armstrong, of interest throughout, including the discussion of Germany.

Forager markets in everything

Apparently the institutionalization of small-scale food foraging is part of the new food chain for restaurant supply, and it has become an “intensely secret” and “ultracompetitive” world:

FreshDirect, the online grocery-delivery service, offers packs of foraged lambsquarters for $4.99 each. Chef David Waltuck, who’s bought ingredients from foragers at his New York restaurants since the ’70s, says the picking operations have gotten more sophisticated to keep up with the market. “Foragers sell to purveyors now,” he says. “It became more of a business. Back in the early days, there was nothing like that.”

With the explosion in popularity, though, the foragers themselves have had to become even more protective of their wares. “You’re looking at limited resources,” says Matt Parker, a West Coast–based purveyor of foraged ingredients who works with a small network of gatherers and sells to restaurants such as Spago and Gjelina. “Foragers live and die by the seasons and what’s available, so of course they are protective of their spots — that’s how they make a living.” Parker sustains a roster of “seven to nine guys, depending on how reliable they want to be,” but none will reveal their “honey grounds” to him. Waltuck adds, “They might take you out with them, but they’ll blindfold you.” Indeed, when another prominent New York chef offered to send me out with his preferred forager in Jersey’s Delaware Water Gap, he agreed to do so only if I’d wear a pillowcase over my head for the entire car ride. Eventually, the forager got cold feet and reneged on the deal altogether.

That is from Edna Ishayik, via MR reader Jeremy Yamada.

Bermuda notes

It is more picturesque than I had expected, and the zoning is very tasteful.  Interesting food is hard to find, and a simple fish and chips can run over thirty dollars; try to eat in Lido if you can.  Some of the men downtown wear shorts and dark socks, with jacket and tie.  I find the accent interesting.  Parts of Hamilton, the largest city, remind me of Wellington, New Zealand.


Finance and Growth

The rough consensus until recent years has been that finance increases growth. The great recession has led a number of researchers to revisit that result and several papers now report that finance increases growth just up until a point and then turns negative. William Cline, however, has a short but elegant rebuttal. Using the same basic methods, Cline finds that doctors per capita, R&D technicians per capita, and fixed telephone lines per capita all show a positive effect on growth when GDP is low but a negative effect when GDP is high.

Before you turn on your thinking hats to “explain” these results consider that growth tends to slow as GDP increases (moving from catching up to cutting edge growth) and some of the growth slowdown is inevitably picked up by a quadratic term in some other variable that is increasing.

Cline summarizes:

The recent studies’ finding that “too much finance” reduces
growth should be viewed with considerable caution. The reason
is that there is an inherent bias toward a negative quadratic term
in a regression that incorporates financial depth, or any other
variable that tends to rise with per capita income, along with
the usual convergence variable (logarithm of per capita income)
in explaining growth. That the results may well be unreliable is
demonstrated here by finding a statistically significant negative
quadratic term in equations that “explain” growth by spurious
influences: doctors per capita, R&D technicians per capita,
and fixed telephone lines per capita. In some situations, finance
can become excessive; the crises of Iceland and Ireland come
to mind. But it is highly premature to adopt as a new stylized
fact the recent studies’ supposed thresholds beyond which more
finance reduces growth.

Hat tip: Greg Ip.

Addendum: The authors of one of the key papers reply.

The recent fiscal policy debates

Russ Roberts surveys the fiscal policy back and forth, and Scott Sumner also has a good post.  I’ll add this: yes there is theory, but there is also what one chose to blog about, the tone and mood and certainty of what one wrote, and what data one was looking at or emphasizing.  Those are also “tests” of one’s overall approach.  Viewed in that light, there simply isn’t any way to argue that the American or British Keynesians did well on the sequester or on the British economic recovery, in the sense of being reliable guides to what was going on at the time.  It isn’t just about “missing one number.”

And note that “frameworks” do not make predictions of their own, so it is off base to respond that Keynesian economics did better here than the Keynesians.  Part of a framework is the very human connections it requires in terms of bringing the moving parts of the model into contact with real world events and data.  An AD-AS model is just lines on a piece of paper, so Keynesian economics does in fact require that Keynesian economists can use and measure and calibrate the model in the appropriate ways.

That all said, non-Keynesian approaches have had their Waterloos too.  The point is pluralism, not to throw out the ideas of any single economist.  For a moment, forget about 2013 and think about 1973-2015.  You need quite a few analytical tools to even begin to make sense of that longer period.

What they say about you when you are not listening

An operation was inadvertently recorded, and here are some of the results:

The recording captured Ingham mocking the amount of anesthetic needed to sedate the man, the lawsuit states, and Shah then commented that another doctor they both knew “would eat him for lunch.”

The discussion soon turned to the rash on the man’s penis, followed by the comments implying that the man had syphilis or tuberculosis. The doctors then discussed “misleading and avoiding” the man after he awoke, and Shah reportedly told an assistant to convince the man that he had spoken with Shah and “you just don’t remember it.” Ingham suggested Shah receive an urgent “fake page” and said, “I’ve done the fake page before,” the complaint states. “Round and round we go. Wheel of annoying patients we go. Where it’ll land, nobody knows,” Ingham reportedly said.

Ingham then mocked the man for attending Mary Washington College, once an all-women’s school, and wondered aloud whether her patient was gay, the suit states. Then the anesthesiologist said, “I’m going to mark ‘hemorrhoids’ even though we don’t see them and probably won’t,” and did write a diagnosis of hemorrhoids on the man’s chart, which the lawsuit said was a falsification of medical records.

After declaring the patient a “big wimp,” Ingham reportedly said: “People are into their medical problems. They need to have medical problems.”

Shah replied, “I call it the Northern Virginia syndrome,” according to the suit.

There is more here, from Tom Jackman, stunning throughout.  For the pointer I thank Michael Rosenwald.