My conversation with Luigi Zingales

The transcript is here, with a podcast version, and there is also a YouTube version at the link, with cleaned-up audio compared to any earlier link you may have come across.  Luigi was wonderful, and also fantastically witty.  The topics included Italy, Donald Trump, Antonio Gramsci, Google and conglomeration, Luchino Visconti, Starbucks, and the surprisingly high productivity of Italian cafés.

Here is one excerpt:

I don’t understand why in the United States the only thing that is really noncompetitive is sports. In Europe, the only thing that is really competitive is sports.

And another:

COWEN: …Angela Merkel, overrated or underrated?

ZINGALES: I think she’s probably underrated. I’m impressed by her ability to, number one, run Europe for the interest of Germans in a very effective way.

The longest bit from me is where I compare and contrast Luigi with Gramsci, another theorist of hegemony, and try to sum up Luigi’s work; you can find that on the video or in the transcript.

And again from Luigi there is this:

…when I arrived in this country 27 years ago, you were not really drinking coffee. You were drinking a dark thing that tastes like I don’t say what because we’re online. The culture of coffee did not exist here.

The culture of coffee and a café where you seat and drink, et cetera, what Starbucks is, is an Italian or at most French culture. Why were you unable to export this? This is my little explanation. By the way, the only country in the world where Starbucks has not arrived is Italy.

Luigi then considers when Italian coffee is better tasting and better run at the artisan level, yet without the same possibilities for corporate expansion.  I liked this sentence from Luigi:

The extreme agency problems of Italy make it difficult to scale firms.

And finally:

One thing I can predict fairly confidently is that we are not going to pay the debt.

This is also a worthwhile observation:

When you’re down to one or two kids, the chance that one is an idiot is pretty large.

His favorite film is Visconti’s The Leopard, a good pick.  And he was the public choice scholar who forecast the rise of Donald Trump, as we discuss in the chat.  Self-recommending.


Sports leagues are zero-sum games and economies aren't. So it makes sense to run the former "socialistically." I don't understand why you'd do things the opposite way.

Sports themselves may be zero-sum games, but sports leagues are not. If more people are watching a league, then even teams that perform poorly on the field of play can make a lot of money.

His remark is not about the zero-sum competition on the field, but rather the competition within the industry, specifically the process by which clubs can move up and down the ranks of leagues in Europe via relegation. Here once you've managed to get the golden ticket of becoming a major sports league team owner you're protected essentially forever regardless of how bad you perpetually are (see Clippers for most of their history, Seattle Mariners for most of theirs, etc.). The system that guarantees you to be the only person allowed to provide top-level (and I use that term loosely) baseball to the entire Seattle (and Northwest US) area, thus extracting extraordinary rents as team owners have been doing for the last few decades, for example, is what's noncompetitive.

The existence and immense popularity of college sports is probably one of the reasons why no major sports leagues do that sort of thing.

US sports teams who are forever uncompetitive are the exception, not the rule. As a pure investment product, major league franchises in the US don't provide that great a return. For the amount you need to put down to get into the game, you're mostly treating it as a vanity project to win championships and be on TV.

If anything, the risk of relegation causes everyone but the classic top four sides in the Premier League to spend *less* -- if you run up a huge wage bill but get relegated, you might go bankrupt (see for example Portsmouth). This causes even teams in large-ish metropolitan centers with huge fanbases to deliberately stay midtable and not try for Europe -- see for example Newcastle.

Josh: incorrect on US franchise returns (for the big 3 baseball, football, basketball). The current income might be good or bad depending (although almost every franchise in those 3 sports is profitable), but owners can and do eventually sell their teams for enormous profits, crazy insane profits. Recently Donald Sterling was famously forced to sell the LA Clippers that he bought for $10 million in I think 1981 for $2 billion.

The lamest franchise in basketball just sold for $500 million (the Bucks). The Warriors were purchased just 5 years ago for $450 million, they are now worth at least the $2 billion the Clippers were.

Owners make tons of money on their investment whenever they are ready to sell, and most make plenty of profit along the way.

Even given the premise ("Sports leagues are zero-sum games..."), why would it follow that it makes sense to run them "socialistically".

For entertainment value nothing beats a good relegation battle, precisely because the (somewhat zero-sum) stakes are so high.

Because they're zero-sum, there's no tradeoff to make between egalitarianism and total welfare. There's no loss to the sport as a whole from measures like revenue-sharing, drafts, etc. that improve poor-performing (and small market) teams at the expense of the big and successful.

For lack of entertainment value, nothing beats a midtable side with no realistic shot at Europe and no realistic fear of relegation. Sports are fun when they're at least a little unpredictable, and the big European leagues are anything but. It's a testament to how great a sport soccer is that it's worth watching despite knowing that the championship will be won by one of three teams every year.

League parity seems more entertaining to me than a relegation battle. But I'm American, so that's probably biasing me a bit.

Doesn't the possibility of relegation make thinks more competitive, though (ie, promote parity)? As someone mentioned above, you wouldn't see someone like Donald Sterling keep the same incompetent GM in place for 25 years or whatever if doing so meant the Clippers were likely to get booted down to the D-League.

Depends on how you define parity. If you mean that there usually aren't outright terrible teams, then perhaps. If you mean that a decent number of teams have a legitimate chance at winning the championship, then not really. The NFL (and, to a lesser extent, the NHL and MLB) have the latter kind of parity, but not the former. A salary cap and revenue sharing can't ensure that teams won't be horribly mismanaged for 10+ years (see: Cleveland Browns), but it also ensures that management and coaching does matter quite a bit because you can't just assemble superstar teams by throwing tons of money at the best players. The NFL is the best when it comes to that type of parity, although the randomness of football probably contributes some there too. The MLB and NBA each have their own problems in guaranteeing that kind of parity: no salary cap for the former and the existence of max contracts for the latter. But even those leagues seem to have more parity in the latter sense than most (all?) top European soccer leagues.

@ Josh M

John Henry, the owner of the Redsox also owns Liverpool FC. He's said global soccer is the Wild West because there are no salary-caps, drafts, revenue sharing is much lower, and a lack of many parity rules US sports leagues have.

Look up "promotion and relegation," for an amazing example.

Even more, in the transcript, he said that owners can't buy their way in the top league, like they do in the NFL and NBA, but that is flat wrong. Abramovich, Chelsea's owner, bought a weak team, filled it with stars and bought himself several trophies and a world class team. The same thing happened with Manchester City. Without salary caps, owners can effectively buy themselves a trophy by buying real expensive players, who cares if the team they buy is a second division team, they just wait it a couple of years to promotion to the top league.

That can't happen in the NFL, and proof of that is that small city teams (Green Bay, Baltimore) hav a realistic expectation of winning the superbowl, while big city teams like San Francisco and New York not.

"Chelsea’s owner, bought a weak team, filled it with stars and bought himself several trophies and a world class team."

Chelsea's Premier League rank in the three season before purchase by Abramovich (out of 20 teams): 6th, 4th, 2nd.

Yes, that "weak" team finished 2nd the year before purchase.

Although the mechanism is not exactly the same, you can think of the NCAA has having a promotion/relegation aspect, in the sense that schools periodically jump from one league to another. The NCAA and most European FAs have in common that they both started out as organizations for amateurs and there was no profit motive. By contrast, most US leagues were organizations as pro leagues right from the start.

Loved this, hope we can get Conversations with Tyler more frequently in the future!

The current pace is fine. The quality may suffer if required to be produced at a quicker rate. See every hot author ever.

COWEN: …Angela Merkel, overrated or underrated? ZINGALES: I think she’s probably underrated

Recent events should correct that misalignment.

Are you underrating the ability of Germans to organize stuff?

To the extent that recent events will help revivify German National Socialism, wouldn't they be consistent with Zingales's point?

A neo-Nazi revival will enhance Merkel's capacity to 'run Europe for the interest of Germans in a very effective way.'?

It's laying the groundwork for the future, long after Merkel.

In the age of the smartphone, Merkel's Boner shows that one bad quick decision can cause a global flash mob to assemble and storm, peacefully or violently, your country and even your continent.

I have to say TC is a real genius here.

In terms of migrations, what amazes me in DC is the number of young spaniards. They are hard to pick out -- they don't dress like Europeans. Not even that skinny. But so many! I think every upper middle class swainish kid who speaks english now lives in the UK or the US.

Why are so many Italians drawn to economics?

Economics is drawn to Italians.

I've seen his name before but from his witty quotes I expected to see a Wise Old Man of 70. Instead he looks like he's in his mid-40s.

It's an excellent interview, meaning I agree with most of it, but I'm very surprised his favorite Visonti film isn't La Terra Trema.

May we anticipate that Illy Coffee of Trieste will soon launch its own café franchise here in the US? (Will each location come with its own vigilant Italian grandmother to manage operations and cash flow distribution?)

Is The Leopard his favorite Italian film or his favorite Visconti film? I don't recall that LZ offered the distinction: he didn't mention any other director by name that I heard.

Sigh, alas, and alack: a SPLENDID opportunity to mention University of Pavia graduate Carlo M. Cipolla deferred!

At least TC managed to allude in passing to Luigi Barzini, whose account The Italians remains an excellent overview of Italy and Italians up to its publication date of 1964.

P. S.--"The culture of coffee and a café where you seat and drink" is perhaps not an altogether accurate transcription of LZ's charmingly accented English.

Illy already has a chain here.

My impression is that the number of Illy coffeehouses in the US is around 30 or so based on Google Maps. There are about 10,000 Starbucks in the US. I see Illy in high-end areas like airports, better Las Vegas casinos, and high-end malls.

They certify their coffee houses and are really good.

Grazie! to you both: I knew they were dispensing machines and coffee but had no idea they had cafes, too (no telling when they'll make it to the Southern provinces, but I'll continue to look. Their coffee off the shelf is flavorful and well roasted).

Does Italy have a coffee culture? It seemed more like an espresso culture to me when I visited there a decade ago.

Ahh.....a fan of the "dark thing", are you?

You can always make espresso into the dark thing by pouring hot water into it, as GIs on leave in WWII Italy did. Thus, the Americano was born.

Brewed coffee is much more on the cutting edge than espresso right now. Single origin pour-overs, nitro cold brew, aeropress, etc. Even within espresso, the Italians are objectively inferior to third wave cafes in Australia, Scandinavia and the West Coast.

It doesn't help that they pre-grind into dosers, making sure the espresso is super stale by the time you drink it. Of course the Italians are too steeped in tradition to change their ways. Nearly every mid-sized American city has a cafe doing better coffee than the best Italian coffee.

I neither understand the question nor the ensuing comment.

In Italy, espresso is coffee. Except in the far north, where they serve something different.

Just being silly, but I appreciate the US for being able to get both quality espresso and quality American-style coffee. Although I wouldn't mind espresso bars becoming more popular here.

Americans actually work for a living. No time to sit around sipping an sspresso. Caffeine maximization is the name of the game.

It seemed very common in Italy for someone to buy an espresso at the bar, down it in one gulp, and leave.

It has an espresso culture, but in general scoffs at the type of drinks that really increase coffee chain profit margins. Because they just have their espresso, maybe macchiatto; no lattes after 10 or 11am. Whereas Starbucks will sell a sugar-bomb dessert drink that has some coffee in it at any time.
And all the espressos are 1 euro. Tight profit margins...the coffee is more expensive in the states.

A few years ago in Naples an American tourist came into my local cafe and asked "what flavours of coffee do you have" after some jokes at her expense, in Italian, the barista answered "white and black".

Because the US was a single nation, Major Sport Leagues became a natural monopoly. (I believe only MLB and NCAA are protected monopolies. Not the NFL, NBA or NHL.) All sports had similar histories.

1) Early days of rough border line existence with numerous competing leagues. (MLB 1871- 1900, NFL 1920 - 1958)

2) Finally a success alterntaive league (American League, AFL) which creates a short period of competition and huge growth in popularity.

3) Peace with the leagues (MLB - 1905, NFL 1966) with a better defined championship game/series...World Series & Super Bowl.

4) Natural monopoly with unsuccessful alternative leagues (Federal League 1914/15 and WFL/USFL) Note Donald Trump was a big owner of the New Jersey Generals with USFL..Signed Hershal Walker and Doug Flutie back in the day!

Hockey and Basketball had similar histories all the alterntative league failed and merged into current league.

Don't forget the XFL!

The monopoly model's development is interesting. The two oldest pro sports leagues are MLB's National League, and England's Premier League. Both leagues had a competitive balance problem.
NL solved it by imposing the first parity rules, and forming a monopoly in order to get security for owners. The PL adopted promotion and relegation. Teams that couldn't compete are kicked down to the next highest ranked league, and replaced by the best team(s) from the next best league.
Both models work, but the American model requires heavy subsidies to crappier teams. For instance, Parma, an Italian team that spent many years at the top of Italian soccer went out of business recently, and that had no effect on Italian soccer because the authorities just elevated all clubs below Parma one spot.

In what way are those subsidies required the Florida Marlins aren't going to shut down because they don't get a new stadium. Move maybe, but they could continue to exist just fine with a bad stadium. What American sports could not survive would be the situation like there is in Europe where one of 4 teams in England and Italy and 2 teams in Spain win the league every year. If anything American sports are set up to maximize the consumer benefit because a fan of Wolverhampton or Sunderland is literally never going to watch a significant game in their lifetimes except maybe a FA Cup quarterfinal/semi-final.

29 NBA owners bought the New Orleans franchise a few years ago to prevent it from going bankrupt. The same thing happened in the NHL with Phoenix. Major league Soccer need a HUGE bail-out as multiple teams almost collapsed in the early 2000s. At one point something like 4-5 guys owned all the teams.

That doesn't happen in pro/rel league systems.

Is the MLB really the second oldest pro-league? There were numerous pro soccer leagues before MLB came along. Also, England's Premier League is only twenty years old..

The Premier league is the successor to The Championship. it's confusing because England's 2nd Division is called...The Championship. England's had a pro 1st division since the 19th century.

"The extreme agency problems of Italy make it difficult to scale firms."

Every country has the principal-agent problem. Why would it be worse in Italy than in other countries? Maybe the labor laws make it hard to fire poor managers? Maybe it's hard to prosecute managers who steal cash from the business? (The trials of Amanda Knox taught us how slow the Italian justice system can be.) Could an Italian business expand better if it only accepted card payments?

And our justice system is quick? You can sit in jail for two years before a trial in the United States (well, in Illinois at least).

You hit the nail on the head. Based on data from Informa UK, 80% of Italians work for companies with under 250 employees, whereas just 51% UK workers are in companies with under 250 employees.

Ninety-nine percent of the approximately five million Italian firms have less than 50 employees and 95% less than ten. Average firm size in Italy is 4.0 employees, in the UK it is 11.1 (and Germany 13.3, France 5.8).

Regarding causes, see the SERC paper "Firm size and judicial efficiency in Italy: evidence from the neighbor's tribunal" which states "Results show that halving the length of civil proceedings, average [Italian] firm size would increase by around 8-12%, everything else equal."

In an assessment of Italy, the International Monetary Fund attributed Italy’s low productivity
growth to a variety of structural causes:

(1) Policy and regulatory rigidities limiting competition and hindering the business environment;
(2) Low efficiency, linked to the preponderance of small and medium-sized enterprises typically
unable to exploit fully economies of scale;
(3) Limited process and product innovation, hindered by labor market rigidities;
(4) Outdated specialization patterns, given a production structure (especially in manufacturing)
based on traditional low skill products; and
(5) Relatively poor human capital.

"When you’re down to one or two kids, the chance that one is an idiot is pretty large."

There's a funny causality here. Often the reason a couple has only one child is that the first child turned out poorly.

It's not the only reason, but it's surprisingly common. Other common reasons include "the marriage stopped working" and "infertility or other health issues." Which may also be associated with difficult children.

A lot of people think being an only child causes being messed up, rather than there being a common cause for being an only child and being messed up.

You mean the couple can tell the first child is going to turn out poorly when they are two or thee years old which is when they might decide to have another child.

I hope Luigi was joking because the more children you have the more likely you have a problem child.One could say though, you are more likely have a problem child.without a competent sibling to help him if you have only one or 2 children. Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is there for times of trouble.

Have you never seen a difficult three year old? I don't mean they realize he's going to fizzle in his career, I mean they directly observe that he's a difficult child.

Seriously, I see this all the time: "We were thinking about having three, but Angela was so tough we decided maybe we shouldn't have more."

On Pope Francis, from a perspective I wish more people on the American right would spend an ounce of energy to understand:

ZINGALES: I thought he was joking, but when they elected Pope Francis, I realized it was true. First of all, Pope Francis was elected, basically, by Northern and Southern American cardinals who were sick and tired of the Italian Mafia in the Church. They were sick and tired of why?

Because they end up being sued in here in the States and losing money in the States for responsibilities of the Vatican, and the Vatican did not chip in one dime. Not only that, it was wasting money with this IOR, Istituto per le Opere di Religione, that was a money‑laundering organization. Something that should be dedicated to charity was a money‑laundering organization.

Pope Francis is changing all this. My only hope is that he’s not killed, because I think the chances of him being killed is not zero. He’s fantastic.

But he is a Communist according to Rush Limbaugh (the second or third Pope branded so already). I am not Catholic and I usualy avoid commenting on Catholic dogma or Church governance, but the pope (any pope)-American right relationship pattern is obvious by now: only outright golden calf worship will be regarded as kosher by America's right wing.

But he is a Communist according to Rush Limbaugh

Just out of curiosity, when did Limbaugh say that?
In fact, just google a little and you will see that, every time he mentions the pope, every third word is "Marxist". It is hard to understand if he is talking about Pope Francis or Fidel Castro and most right wingers I know assure me there is no difference at all). By the way, in Brazil, we have been told for the last 50 years that the popes are Communists, so I must say the right wing hatred machine which went on overdrive since at least John Paul II refused to back the conquest of Iraq does not impress me: I saw it when the Church had problems with the military regime

Your own links have Limbaugh saying "Remember this? Early on he started attacking capitalism using Democrat Party language. "Unfettered capitalism." I said, "This guy sounds like a Marxist," and remember the ruckus that that caused?" and "“A man of religion, the vicar of Christ, seems to have fallen in with the communist way of doing things,” Limbaugh said on his national broadcast Wednesday, “controlling mankind through command-and-control governments backed by police or military power. This is what the pope is essentially calling for.". These are much more precise and qualified statements and draw from Francis' public remarks. Try to be less crude in the future.

1) These are much more precise and qualified statements and draw from Francis’ public remarks.
No, they are not, by any stretch of thought. Apparently, being the "Vicar of Christ" must entail a zen-like dettachment before other people's suffering , while the likes of Limbaugh and his "religious" counterparts are free to call the state to the service of their commercial ventures disguised of religions. By the way, he called the latest encyclical "pure Marxism". Can you explain me how can a pope craft a Communist encyclical without being a Communist himself? By the way, he said, "The Vatican (without naming me, of course, 'cause I'm just a peon) started denying it left and right. 'The Pope is not Marxist! This is an extreme characterization of the pontiff's remarks. There's no way.' But I stood by it at the time." If it is not calling the Pope a Communist, what is it, can you tell me?
2) There had been no "ruckus" since the pope had not advised anything that is nothing old hat since at least Rerum Novarum. The so-called ruckus began when the American far-right decided that speaking for the poor is some kind of deadly sin and the first step towards the Gulag. Cue the hundreds of media outlets from BBC to CNN to New Republic, afterwards, asking experts if Limbaugh is right and the pope is really a Bolshevik. It is a rare case in which the (biased) report becomes the news. The same explosion of stupidity happened when Benedict XVI mentioned Marx en passant in "Jesus of Nazareth" when dealing with the idea of alienation in a historic context..
3) If you ever find a pope for "unfettered capitalism" or unfettered anything else, please show me the avis rara. By the way, the far-right attacked Benedict XVI's social/economic declarations (it is funny how money seems always involved in the right wing opposition to recent popes-- I wonder) too.

To be fair, Limbaugh's dishonest remarks have nothing on Forbes', even if the Forbes piece only was written thanks to the Limbugh-made ruckus.
Summary: how do know you the pope is Marxist? He does not follow Ayn Rand (!) and he believes in the supernatural (!). No, really! No attempt at all to prove he has turned away from previous Catholic teachings (since he is a pope at all, it should have some weight, you know). There are only two kinds of people: Randians and Marxist-mystics.
" (...) the pope’s 'Evangelii Gaudium' rings of Marxism: the difference between collectivism and supernaturalism is one of details". Maybe all popes were (quasi) Communists.

On Pope Francis, from a perspective I wish more people on the American right would spend an ounce of energy to understand:

They can consult Rorate Caeli, Maureen Mullarkey, or Steven Skojec if they'd like some laymen's insights into Pope Francis. He's only 'fantastic' if you care nothing for orthodoxy or the health of the Church.

Then he's fantastic.

IVV- either you care about other people or you don't. If that statement is false, libertarianism as it is currently preached is much more intellectually persuasive than it actually is. If that statement is true, then a different result is obvious to those who think about it.

What competes with soccer in Italy? Basketball?

There is nothing like the relation among basketball, football and baseball in the USA. It's soccer, soccer and soccer. Often people follow a first division team, the second division team of their city, and another small local team.

Prof Cowan, thank you very much for this series of conversations, they have all been outstanding. Luigi Zingales was particularly perceptive about some undervalued or understudied matters.

Starbucks arrived in Australia but it left. We did go there to laugh at how Americans drink coffee out of buckets, but when we got there we found that Starbucks had done market research and found that Australians laugh at the idea of drinking coffee out of buckets. And we can drink coffee out of non-buckets anywhere so what's the point of going to Starbucks?

Starbucks still has a few stores remaining in capital city CBD's.

For the rubes.

Literally everything in the USA Australian-related exists to laugh at the backwardness and awkwardness of Australia. So I hope you enjoyed it I guess.

If Americans could see the futuristic dance moves I was pulling off at our 30 Glorious Years Of Electricity celebration last night, there is no way they'd ever think we were backwards.

Enjoyed reading the transcript, but just one complaint on the formatting: The first time through I didn't realize that the pull-quotes in bigger font and italics were actually part of the flow of the interview (and not duplicates of material in the regular body of the article as they usually are), so I skipped over them and had missed part of the argument in a couple of places.

"I don’t understand why in the United States the only thing that is really noncompetitive is sports"

This is profoundly ignorant and stupid. I don't know much about baseball and "football" but NHL and NBA are without any doubt--and by largest margin--the most competitive leagues in the world in ice hockey and basketball, respectively.

That's depressing for basketball, if true, given how uncompetitive the NBA is. That could be solved rather easily, though, by abolishing the max contract. LeBron is incredibly underpaid.

Nine different teams participating in the last 10 finals is hardly uncompetitive!

That doesn't really seems like a good metric. To me, it's how many teams have a legitimate shot at winning the championship due to the quality of their players and coaching. In the NBA, that pretty much maxes out at three teams per year; four in a good year. One of the major reasons that number is so low is that the best players are getting underpaid. Cleveland can afford LeBron, Kyrie, and Love because LeBron is being paid far under his market value were there no max contract rule.

But from a league standpoint, parity isn't necessarily the prime goal, as much as I'd like it to be. The NBA wants whatever team LeBron is on to get far in the playoffs. Having LeBron lose in the first round because all his team can afford is Austin Rivers and Kendrick Perkins isn't going to get great ratings. I get that, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

Yes...We can argued is underpaid but what is getting with endorsements? He probably making more from endorsements than the Cavaliers. Anyway, Lebron James to maximize endorsements can take less money to subsidize the rest of his teammates as winning championships benefits him more than his salary.

The big problem with economics of Major League sports is the losing franchises have to be economically viable. If not they are drop out mid season and the league becomes a joke.

You've missed his point. He meant competitive from the ownership point of view.

Wow you really missed the point.

Conversation with Steve Sailer. Come on Tyler. DO IT!

Not happening. Tyler is shitting his pants merely at the thought of it. Gotta keep that high status up.

What makes you think Sailer is either interesting or distinguished enough to qualify?

Maybe he can do back to back interviews with Steve Sailer and Louis Farrakhan.

That would be better done as "Conversations with Tyrone". :)

How would that conversation go?

"COWEN: Over or under-rated: African Americans?"

That's pretty funny. Tyler is so sophisticated.

Great. Maybe he could then follow up with Jared Taylor and Kevin MacDonald really get into the psyche of white nationalism.

Kevin MacDonald should be engaged. The ideas that he is infamous for espousing publicly are quite reasonable, at least the ones in culture of critique. I don't know much about what he has been up to since.

I would totally go to a Conversation with Ray Lopez!

ZINGALES: I think she’s probably underrated. I’m impressed by her ability to, number one, run Europe for the interest of Germans in a very effective way.

If only she would run Germany for the interests of Germans...

Interesting distinction at work between noncompetitive and uncompetitive. American sports leagues have noncompetitive arrangements so that games and seasons will not be uncompetitive. If a desireable feature of a sports league is competition, some noncompetitiveness is a good idea. If the point is to create a team that defeats all opponents, like the (former) U.S. Olympic softball team, then noncompetitiveness is bad, but why would that be the point?

"His favorite film is Visconti’s The Leopard, a good pick." I know the novel only in English; it's terrific. I detected only one bum note in the whole thing, so it's only wonderful, not actually perfect.

But as for the film, nope: we watched it a couple of weeks ago and thought it a curate's egg. That it was poor compared to the book is perhaps inevitable but it's not even a very good film as films go. In particular the last "act" is an interminably boring ball which is presumably an unsubtle metaphor for, oh, decadence, boredom, a doomed world, a doomed class, a rising class, a compromised revolution etc, etc . One of film's merits which may be unsung is how balletically fit the chap playing Tancredi is. I have never before been impressed by someone going up a staircase. That may well be a metaphor too, in which case I will acknowledge its excellence.

I am impressed that you think "curate's egg" is understandable here! But if you wanted to learn to read German, why on earth did you take a course? Why not just buy a dictionary and read the German translation of Paradise Lost, or Surprised by Joy, or Alice in Wonderland a few times over? By the way, what was the discordant note in the novel? My one word guess - and it is only a guess - is condescension - not sure what the best Italian word for that would be -

What I found most interesting about the conversation was Zingales's comments on refugees and immigrants.

Of course, you have the usual comments about refugees.
"ZINGALES: We want refugees, because refugees are the best people. Not only is there a moral obligation to save people that escape extermination, it’s also an economic consideration."

But he also expresses doubt, "This is something that is not discussed enough about immigration is the process of assimilation. I think that it’s important to try to get immigrants that are more similar so that they assimilate faster, precisely to avoid those fractures that we have seen in the French banlieue, in the suburbs of Paris and so on and so forth."

That's a step in the right direction.

And how is this for a challenging, politically incorrect question? Bravo, Tyler!
"COWEN: If we look at those border areas of Africa, does it matter much for their future economies if they go Christian or Muslim?"
"ZINGALES: If I look at the data, I think that Muslim religion is not generally associated with good attitudes for capitalism."

He goes on to waiver and sort of change the subject to Protestant vs Catholic and Max Weber. But I think Tyler caught him a little by surprise with that one.

Seconding all the previous compliments on the program. CWT would make a fine broadcast TV show.


Truly, what else can be said?

Zingales' insight on Starbuck vs Italian coffee houses or "bars" as they are called locally is very important. Not only are they probably more efficient at delivering a cup of coffee to a consumer, they do so in more ways (at the counter, at the table, or at home/office), and for the consumer it is a more pleasant experience to wait two minutes at the counter and possibly have a light chat with the barrister or fellow drinkers in the meantime than wait in line at Starbuck, then go to the sugar stand and then move on again. Tables at Italian coffee houses are always clean as opposed to Starbucks'. A final point: the Italian coffee house provides a stable long-term form of employment that, even if humble, is socially respected and opened to men -- just the kind of manual jobs disappearing in the US. In sum, the model is both economically and socially superior to its alternative.


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