Month: September 2015
New data, released by the Centers for Disease Control, show that America’s love for fast food is surprisingly income blind. Well-off kids, poor kids, and all those in between tend to get about the same percentage of their calories from fast food, according to a survey of more than 5,000 people. More precisely, though, it’s the poorest kids that tend to get the smallest share of their daily energy intake from Big Macs, Whoppers, Chicken McNuggets, and french fries.
That is from Robert Ferdman. By the way:
More than a third of all children and adolescents living in the country still eat some form of fast food on any given day, a number which hasn’t budged in decades, according to the CDC.
And many children are getting alarmingly high proportions of their diet from chicken nuggets and french fries. About a quarter of all kids in the United States get 25 percent of their calories from fast food. And 12 percent of kids get more than 40 percent of their calories from fast food.
Busan — the second largest city in South Korea — would also be the second largest city in Western Europe.
That is from the new and interesting paper by Glaeser, Ponzetto, and Zou (pdf), on mega-cities vs. networks. By the way, I consider Busan to be a lovely and underrated city, think of it as the Vancouver of Korea, and on a clear day you can look across the water and see Japan.
Update: See the comments for some challenges to the #2 claim.
Some thoughts from a pseudonymous political consultant:
1) The filter for politicians hardly selects for spontaneous television charisma at all until the very highest levels. Typically the types of offices one holds prior to being a Governor or a Senator (Congress, lesser statewide office, Mayor of a medium-sized but not too big city) are offices that select for skill-sets like working a room of a handful of insiders, and avoiding making mistakes; not spontaneously debating on camera. Let’s say at any given point in time there are 1,000 people in the country in one of these “feeder” offices (Congress, Statewide elected officials, mid-city mayors, etc).
2) Governor and Senator positions select a little bit more for charisma and media presence, but not much, and usually they only do so in big expensive contested Senate Races – not in the safe blue or safe red states that most Senators and Governors represent. If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say that no more than 50 out of 150 Governors and Senators were elected in the sorts of elections that test a person’s debating mettle and television presence. This doesn’t seem like a process where one is going to end up with tremendously charismatic TV personalities running for president. But it does pose an interesting puzzle, because it would seem to me that professional entertainers could wipe the floor with politicians.
3) Very rarely do celebrities or CEOs run for offices that are “to scale,” or things that they could easily win. If Carly Fiorina had run for an open Republican seat in Congress instead of Senate on her first shot, she’d be a shoo-in. Ben Affleck would be iffy for Senate, but he’d coast to a victory in Congress (and then Congressman Ben Affleck could easily rise up the ranks and build a political career from there, if he had the patience). When they do run for things that are “to scale” – like Kevin Johnson running for Mayor of Sacramento – they tend to win. When they do things not to scale – Chris Dudley running for Governor of Oregon – they tend to lose.
4) Being an entertainer/CEO is generally a better life than being a politician. This selects for second tier CEOs and entertainers running for office, not first tier ones. Al Franken was an entertaining guy, but he was hardly a first-tier celebrity prior to running for office. For him, running for Senate was a step up in status. For somebody like John Stewart or Stephen Colbert, not so much. Similarly, Bill Gates and Tim Cook have nothing to gain by running for office, so the businessperson candidates we get are generally not first-tier. No offense to Carly Fiorina, she has “succeeded” more than the vast majority of people ever will in her field, but she has dedicated her life singularly to making money, and there’s thousands of people who have done a better job than her. She’s the businessperson equivalent of a State Attorney General, not a Governor or a Senator. Trump fares a little better, but still, there are dozens of more successful businessmen in the U.S. than him. If you were to rank all the politicians in the U.S. in terms of electoral success, all the legitimate presidential contenders would be in the top 150. Would anybody make the case that Carly Fiorina is one of the top 150 businesspeople in the U.S.?
5) This leads to the interesting observation that CEOs and entertainers may be so much more talented at some aspects of charisma than politicians are that a C-list CEO or entertainer might still be more compelling than an A-list politician. And if an A-list entertainer or CEO ever decides to run for major office (like Arnold running for Governor), they’ll have a real shot at winning.
Don Boudreaux had asked Dani why favor free trade within nations, but not always favor free trade across nations? Dani wrote a long response here, self-recommending, do read the whole thing, but here is a brief excerpt:
So the national market and the international market are different. The defining characteristic of a national market is that it is deeply embedded in a set of social and political institutions – a common legal and regulatory framework provided by the nation-state. The international market is at best weakly embedded in transnational arrangements, and the arrangements that do exist such as the WTO and bilateral investment treaties are commercial rather than fully-fledged political/redistributive/regulatory arrangements.
On Thursday the dialogue will continue…
Yes, the set up is important, but let’s cut to the chase:
The experimental behaviors of these three subject classes—once again, making real allocations with real money—revealed stark differences between attitudes toward economic justice among ordinary Americans and among the elite. To begin with, the Berkeley and Yale subjects were twice as likely to be selfish as their compatriots in general. In this respect, intermediate and extreme elites stand together with each other, and stand apart from the rest of the country.
What’s more, elite Americans show a far greater commitment to efficiency over equality than ordinary Americans. And this time, the bias toward efficiency increases with each increment of eliteness. The ALP subjects split roughly evenly between focusing on efficiency and focusing on equality; the Berkeley students favored efficiency over equality by a factor of roughly 3-to-2; and the Yale Law students favored efficiency by a factor of 4-to-1.
Yale Law students’ overwhelming, indeed almost eccentric, commitment to efficiency over equality is all the more astonishing given that the students self-identified as Democrats rather than Republicans—and thus sided with the party that claims to represent economic equality in partisan politics—by a factor of more than 10-to-1. An elite constituted by highly partisan Democrats thus showed an immensely greater commitment to efficiency over equality than the bipartisan population at large.
That is from Ray Fisman and Daniel Markowits, do read the whole thing. I say that is mostly good news, and I disagree with the claim of the authors that a new class war is on its way.
1. Chimpanzees enjoy horror movies, and they do not turn away or cover their eyes when watching.
2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; I’ve always been a fan.
4. Gary Becker’s last paper? (pdf), on intergenerational mobility.
5. Larry Summers leads economists’ statement on universal health coverage in Lancet.
US and European stock gauges are lower after a mixed Asian session as investors give a cautious response to the Federal Reserve leaving interest rates at record lows.
That’s from the FT. You do not, however, have to infer that the Fed’s recent decision to keep rates at zero, and signal ongoing dovishness, did not matter. In part the decision also signaled a Fed belief in global weakness, and it signaled a pessimistic Fed stance on China. Whether or not traders look to the Fed for superior knowledge, the beliefs of the Fed may be a relevant “sunspot” which traders respond to. Here is my recent post on the paradox of no market response, very timely I would say.
That all said, I still do not see the market response as validating the view that an enormous amount was at stake with this decision. And note the two-year rate went crazy once the press conference was underway, so the observed extent of dovishness from the Fed was truly a market surprise.
I watched about an hour total, mostly because my father-in-law has been regularly engaged in this Methodenstreit. Two related facts struck me:
1. I know this is hard to believe, but not every participant did remarkably well from a marketing point of view. Put aside whether or not you agreed with them, more than one candidate was disappointing in terms of voter appeal. Yet these were, for the most part, professional politicians.
2. The two participants who have done the best relating to voters, through the media, are the two former CEOs, Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina. Overall that is true even if you think Trump had a subpar performance this debate.
A priori, you would think that being a professional politician selects exactly for people who can do well in a televised national debate. Yet, from this limited number of data points, it is the CEOs who have the relevant skills.
What should we infer about the relative filters for CEOs and politicians?
a. Do CEOs work with real people more? Or perhaps the CEO filter requires a greater diversity of life experience.
b. Is the CEO market simply tougher, more competitive, and more demanding of talent, given how much money is on the line?
c. Do CEOs have an easier time being eclectic or perhaps talking tough? After all, they’re “the boss” and they can on a regular basis make tough, oppositional decisions in a way that a mainstream politician usually cannot. (Indeed Fiorina and Trump have done plenty of this.) This seems to be a time when many voters prefer eclecticism and outside the box flair.
d. Is there something else about the filtering process for professional politicians? What might that be, if not the ability to be good on TV? You might think “ability to raise $$ from big donors” is a major filter, but I would think the donors would care enough about electability for this to collapse back into the original question of why the CEOs are doing better on TV.
Robin Hanson yesterday raised the question of why actors and actresses, in either the literal or the operational sense, do not take over the upper tiers of the political sector. Take a taller Tom Cruise, subtract Scientology, school him, and put him on that floor — how well would he have done? Would a George Clooney or Harrison Ford really have no chance? How about a smart talk show host?
Inquiring minds wish to know.
Wanted: One good squatter.
It’s no joke. In a remote pocket of northwest Detroit along the Rouge River, neighbors are so desperate to stop a cycle of abandonment and blight they’re recruiting a squatter to occupy a home whose longtime owners left last weekend.
That’s because neighbors fear the onetime farmhouse on Puritan and Hazelton will be stripped and torched if it remains empty for long. Eight nearby houses burned in the past two years. A few blocks away, there are more weedy lots than homes.
A co-founder of one neighborhood group explained:
“You want someone in the house when it’s still functioning. Otherwise, it will be destroyed in 24 hours.”
In this case the homeowners are asking potential squatters for references, so as to avoid drug dealer squatters. How about some Syrian squatters?
Technically, squatting in Detroit is against the law but it is often tolerated. But not all settlement attempts pass legal muster:
“The over-arching theme is that the city of Detroit does nothing, so we’re forced to do our own thing,” said Brown, 34, a Wayne County Community College professor.
Brown also made headlines last year. That’s when she and her husband, David, bought a $2,000 house in the neighborhood in hopes of forming a kibbutz, a Jewish communal settlement. City officials seized backyard goats and charged the couple with violating ordinances.
The full article is here, hat tip goes to a loyal MR reader.
4. Behavioral Science Insights Policy Directive, from The White House.
5. Ankle sprain hysteresis, with the last paragraph as the clincher.
The Caixin services PMI is barely in expansionary territory. A new index of restaurant revenue from Union-Pay Advisors contracted 7.9 percent year on year in August – a drop that reflects more than belt tightening by bureaucrats.
I should note that the overall stance of the piece is more nuanced than that single excerpt would indicate.
Swiss health insurers could demand higher premiums from customers who live sedentary lifestyles under plans to monitor people’s health through wearable digital fitness devices.
CSS, one of Switzerland’s biggest health insurers, said on Saturday it had received a “very positive” response so far to its pilot project, launched in July, which is monitoring its customers’ daily movements.
The MyStep project, developed in conjunction with the University of St Gallen and the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich, is using digital pedometers to track the number of steps taken by 2,000 volunteers until the end of the year, synchronizing that data with an online portal on the CSS website.
But don’t worry, that is just the pilot program:
Fitness wristbands such as Fitbit are just the beginning of a revolution in healthcare, believes Ohnemus.
“Eventually we will be implanted with a nano-chip which will constantly monitor us and transmit the data to a control centre,” he said.
Obesity in Switzerland now costs the health service eight billion francs a year, according to figures from the Federal Office of Public Health, rising from 2.7 billion in 2002.
There is more here, and for the pointer I thank Axacatl Maqueda.
Here is the latest, I do not know the backstory but this seems to be of interest:
Many social sciences and humanities faculties in Japan are to close after universities were ordered to “serve areas that better meet society’s needs”.
Of the 60 national universities that offer courses in these disciplines, 26 have confirmed that they will either close or scale back their relevant faculties at the behest of Japan’s government.
It follows a letter from education minister Hakuban Shimomura sent to all of Japan’s 86 national universities, which called on them to take “active steps to abolish [social science and humanities] organisations or to convert them to serve areas that better meet society’s needs”.
The ministerial decree has been denounced by one university president as “anti-intellectual”, while the universities of Tokyo and Kyoto, regarded as the country’s most prestigious, have said that they will not comply with the request.
However, 17 national universities will stop recruiting students to humanities and social science courses – including law and economics, according to a survey of university presidents by The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, which was reported by the blog Social Science Space.