Month: July 2015
Fewer than 4,000 tigers roam across the Asian continent today, compared to about 100,000 a century ago. But researchers are proposing a new way to protect the big cats: redefine them.
The proposal, published this week in Science Advances, argues current taxonomy of the species is flawed, making global conservation efforts unnecessarily difficult.
There are up to nine commonly accepted subspecies of tigers in the world, three of which are extinct. But the scientists’ analysis, conducted over a course of several years, claims there are really only two tiger subspecies: one found on continental Asia and another from the Indonesian islands of Sumatra, Java and Bali.
If the tiger is redefined more broadly, the emphasis can be on saving tigers as a whole, rather than having to treat subpopulations in very particular and sometimes inefficient ways. Monetary theory enters into this problem as well:
At the heart of the debate is a concept called “taxonomic inflation,” or the massive influx of newly recognized species and subspecies. Some critics blame the trend in part on emerging methods of identifying species through ancestry and not physical traits. Others point to technology that has allowed scientists to distinguish between organisms at the molecular level.
“There are so many species concepts that you could distinguish each population separately,” Wilting said. “Not everything you can distinguish should be its own species.”
That is all from Robert Gebelhoff.
Scott Sumner has the scoop:
In one important respect southern Italy is different from Greece. Like eastern Germany, southern Italy is part of a larger and more prosperous fiscal union. For many decades, Italy has been doing the things that American progressives would recommend, pouring lots of fiscal stimulus into the south, to build up the economy. But nothing seems to work. Indeed from Greece to Italy to southern Iberia, the entire southern tier of Europe is doing quite poorly. But why? And what can America learn from the failure of Italian policies aimed at boosting the mezzogiorno?
American progressives will sometimes argue that we have much to learn from the successful welfare states in northern Europe. Perhaps that’s true. But I’d have a bit more confidence in that claim if they could explain what we have to learn from the failed welfare states in southern Europe. Indeed I’d have more confidence in progressive ideas if they even had an explanation for the failed welfare states of southern Europe. But I don’t ever recall reading a progressive explanation. Indeed the only explanations I’ve ever read are conservative explanations, tied to cultural differences.
PS. The mezzogiorno has roughly 1/3 of Italy’s 60 million people, making it almost twice as populous as Greece. In absolute terms, incomes there (17,200 euros GDP per person in 2014) are far lower than among American blacks or Hispanics. In contrast, GDP per person in northern Italy was about 31,500 euros in 2014. And while the gap between eastern and western Germany is narrowing, the gap in Italy is widening. Why?
…because of an obscure law known as the Jones Act, which bans foreign vessels from shipping goods between U.S. ports, businesses in Puerto Rico have to use the U.S. merchant marine to import anything. They can’t just hire whatever boats and crew are available, which makes shipping even more expensive. The cost of transportation in Puerto Rico is twice that in the neighboring Caribbean nations…
After all of this and two complete open enrollments, only 40% of those who are eligible for Obamacare have signed up—far below the proportion of the market insurers have historically needed to assure a sustainable risk pool.
If this were a private enterprise enjoying these kinds of benefits [ namely legal coercion], and only sold its product to 40% of the market, its CEO would be fired.
Looking at this picture, only 20% of those eligible for Obamacare, who make between 251% and 300% of the poverty level, bought Obamacare. Why?
The Obama administration will in fact be increasing the subsidies it will pay to insurance companies.
“The law will not treat a ledger record as authoritative if everyone knows that the current longest chain contains blocks generated by an anonymous attacker who replaced a bit of history that was chronologically prior,” he says. “In financial markets there’s always a mechanism to correct an attack. In a blockchain there is no mechanism to correct it — people have to accept it.”
That is an FT quotation from Robert Sams, the article is interesting more generally, focusing on Wall Street’s attempt to incorporate the blockchain in settlement in some manner.
A study of the chestnut-crowned babbler bird from Australia revealed a method of communicating that has never before been observed in animals.
The bird combines sounds in different combinations to convey meaning.
The findings could help in the understanding of how language evolved in humans, researchers report in the online journal PLOS Biology.
Co-researcher Dr Andy Russell from the University of Exeter said: “It is the first evidence outside of a human that an animal can use the same meaningless sounds in different arrangements to generate new meaning.
“It’s a very basic form of word generation – I’d be amazed if other animals can’t do this too.”
3. Lyft vs. Uber.
5. The world’s tallest cow dies after a lifetime of Photoshop accusations (recommended).
The Greek story is being framed as a battle between the Greeks and the Germans and thus between spending and austerity. But this frame can’t make sense of the fact that, win or lose, large numbers of Greeks will vote for austerity on Sunday.
To understand what’s really going on, listen to this remarkable interview between NPR’s Robin Young and Nikolalos Voglis, a restaurant owner in Athens. The interview begins with a discussion of the crisis. No one has cash or credit and Voglis’s restaurant is basically shuttered. Young then asks Voglis how he will vote on Sunday and he replies, “Definitely, Yes.” Young is surprised, she tries to clarify, you will vote, “even for more austerity?” “That’s right,” he replies.
Following the conventional frame, Young finds this difficult to understand and she pushes back against Voglis with all the conventional arguments. She quotes Paul Krugman saying that the problem isn’t really Greece’s doing, that the IMF and EU are being too tough on Greece, that Greece has done a lot of cutting already and so on. Voglis responds:
We are on the right track but unfortunately the job wasn’t completed. We are a country in the European Community which has the biggest public sector in Europe. And all of us in the private sector spend millions to support the situation. So the only way that Greece can become a true Western country…is to make these reforms.
…Look the main problem in this country is the public sector. There is no other problem. Entrepreneurs here are very, very competitive. We have to let this thing, this monster that we call the public sector, it has to go, it has to finish. This is the main issue.
Many Greeks are sick and tired of the bloated public sector and its corruption, inefficiency and waste. In this frame, the Greek story is not fundamentally about Greeks versus Germans it’s about the Greek people versus their government–the Germans have simply been the vehicle that has brought the Greeks to their kairotic moment. The Greeks want normalcy, as the Poles did after communism. If the Yes vote wins on Sunday it will be the Greeks voting not just against the current administration but against the entire state apparatus.
Kevin Love, in his infinite wisdom, decided to test the free agent market. At least for a while, it seemed to raise the possibility that he wouldn’t return to the Cleveland Cavaliers with LeBron James.
Courtside critics of Love frequently cite the Coase theorem, especially when criticizing his play this last year for Cleveland. Arguably Love is a better player on a bad team than he is on a good team. He scores a lot, but only if he is the primary option on offense; you can see this by comparing his numbers on Minnesota, a poor team where he was a big star, with his numbers for Cleveland, where he was the number three scoring option. He needs a lot of touches to hone his shooting, which is a kind of scale effect. He also pulls in a lot of rebounds by neglecting his duties on team defense. For a poor team, maybe that is OK, because the team defense had serious holes anyway. For a good team it can wreck the entire plan.
This situation differs from the traditional O-Ring model (clever link there), in which the lesser talented workers hold the more talented worker back. Here the lesser talented workers allow a flawed, attention-demanding competitor to flourish.
It may sound negative to say a player is more valuable on a bad team, but that is a skill too. These individuals are perhaps no less virtuous or hard-working than those who are better on a good team. Michael Adams was better on bad teams (and he played on lots of them), but was hard-working and non-selfish and also widely admired, even though he was too short and weak to hold the line in a good defensive set-up.
There are analogues in business. Some managers may have special talents in bringing out the best in less talented workers. Or they may make better decisions when they get to be the real boss of just about everything. They may need a lot of unfettered experience to refine their skills, and perhaps they’re not so good at collaboration anyway.
Some politicians may be better at running chaotic countries; Nelson Mandela would have been wasted as Prime Minister of Iceland.
Some economists may be of more value in weak departments than in strong departments. Their generalist skills fill in a greater number of gaps, and perhaps they can bring out the best in weaker students, when better students would find their lack of specialization a bigger drawback.
What are other examples of this phenomenon?
Given that Kevin Love is indeed re-signing with Cleveland, does this mean the knock on him is wrong? Or is the equilibrium that the Cavaliers will become a worse team? Or maybe virtually all players are good bargains the year before the salary cap will go up a lot? Maybe Cleveland re-signed him…because they can? The rumored deal is for $110 million, tell Coase about that.
The late chef Michael Roberts was the inventive Southern Californian who created a green pea guacamole. I was puzzled by the unusual yet pleasing quality of the green peas he used instead of avocado. In this adaptation, I have combined avocado with peas for a refreshing, clean flavor.
The next three will be with Luigi Zingales, Dani Rodrik, and Clifford Asness, you will find the details here, all coming this fall!
In a very good piece on the risk from asteroids the Washington Post quotes me going all crunchy-granola:
Tabarrok says his hope is that private efforts in space will one day soon focus on mining asteroids for valuable resources. If you have miners and private developers working with asteroids in space, that could inadvertently make it easier to defend the planet against an asteroid collision.
And of course, there is the option that people on Earth could somehow get the motivation to work together, and asteroid defense might ultimately be a reason for unifying the world, says Tabarrok.
“The idea that the whole planet is potentially under threat from an asteroid does make us think that the world is our home, and we’re all in this together – Spaceship Earth, to get a little crunchy granola. And that makes us think a little more about our fellow travelers, our fellow world residents, that we’re all in this together.”
I may have to turn in my hard-headed economist card.