Friday assorted links

1. Germany’s exporters don’t embrace the internet.

2. Is the new EU equilibrium to simply stop following the rules?

3. What is your favorite description of female beauty in literature?

4. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a deeply original movie, mostly about race, full of cinematic allusions (LOTR, First Blood, Smash Palace, classic Westerns, Butch Cassidy, Thelma and Louise, Deliverance, Mad Max, and so many more) and with Kiwi social finery as well.  None of the reviews I read seem to get it.

5. Do men or women cite themselves more?

6. Within-nation popularity of the game really matters, and the internet has not led to a convergence in chess skill across countries.


#3 She walks in beauty, like the night

Of cloudless climes and starry skies,

And all that's best of dark and bright

Meets in her aspect and her eyes;

etc... Lord Byron

“She did not look like an orphan," said the wife of the Oriel don, subsequently, on the way home. The criticism was a just one. ... Tall and lissom, she was sheathed from the bosom downwards in flamingo silk, and she was liberally festooned with emeralds. Her dark hair was not even strained back from her forehead and behind her ears, as an orphan's should be. Parted somewhere at the side, it fell in an avalanche of curls upon one eyebrow. From her right ear drooped heavily a black pearl, from her left a pink; and their difference gave an odd, bewildering witchery to the little face between.”
― Max Beerbohm, Zuleika Dobson

Those politicians and "economists" quoted in #1 sound like marketing executives for the tech industry. Reality is, bringing in those IT consultants is hugely expensive and often harmful to the bottom line, and the thrifty Germany Mittelstand has understood that.

Yep, which is why there are probably a more than a couple of dozen Mittelstand software suppliers in Germany, as SAP is truly expensive, without offering much in the way of benefit compared to other ERP software.

Yeah, I'm skeptical of this. What I learned from the article:

1) Lots of companies haven't heard about a specific initiative started by the German government.

2) Stringent data protection laws are hampering internet-enabled technology.

3) German companies and the German economy are currently doing well.

#2 is an interesting point, but I see nothing that really supports the "Germany is about to get left behind" framing.

I actually consider the data protection laws to be a huge strength, and would take my server business to a country with laws like Germany in a second flat if they could offer a price that was remotely similar.

I'd happily pay another $10-20 a year to get that data (potentially) out of the prying hands of the NSA and other criminals who fill the security arms of the US State. But you're often talking double or triple the price for basic packages according to what I've been able to find.

I actually consider the data protection laws to be a huge strength, and would take my server business to a country with laws like Germany in a second flat if they could offer a price that was remotely similar.

Have you considered the two may be related?

What's the connection? It's presumably not the added cost of handling NSLs. How much do the German data protection laws add?

So you'll basically replace the criminals who fill the security arms of the US States with the criminals who fill the security arms of Germany. Not that you should not have that choice.

Didn't Goldman Sachs do this exact story in May? It's really the same thing. The article doesn't give credit.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople has smashed box office records in NZ for a locally made film. Everyone I know who has watched it loves it. My children (12 and 14) laughed and clapped throughout. As did I and the rest of the audience. It is flawed. It is low budget. But it is a hoot. And it is a pretty accurate reflection of the dry, sardonic, deadpan, off beat but friendly and optimistic brand of humour which increasingly features in our national psyche. And the scenery is authentic, and representative. Do go and see it. Go with the expectation (if you are not from NZ) that you are not going to get it. Probably because self-deprecation (which forms the basis of so much of our humour) is just totally weird for you. But then remind yourself that that sometimes trying to understand someone else is A Good Thing To Do. And at least there are no hobbits this time...

But are there orcs?

It's filmed in NZ, which is their native habitat, right?

My thought exactly. It seems a waste filming in a country and not using the native fauna. We could have used a Komodo dragon or a lion or any other fancy animal to honor the Summer Olympics torch relay, but we decided to use a jaguar instead ( ) because it is a native animal, it was cheaper and it represents Brazil's indomitable will and unconquerable spirit (an old Brazilian indian warrior, when told that men shouldn't eat men, replied that he was not a man, he was a jaguar -- -- Brazilians have carried this proud spirit throught the ages).

And did the killing of that Jaguar at the torch relay represent Brazil's unrestrained criminal culture? :)

Thiago: honestly asking, without you think the Rio Olympics will be a disaster as predicted by numerous articles like these?

Please answer for real, avoid the 'proud spirit' and 'best among nations' stuff and address the issues.

Like so much of 2016, this event looks to be an epic disaster. Man the worldwide headlines for this year have been as bad as any I can remember.

"And did the killing of that Jaguar at the torch relay represent Brazil’s unrestrained criminal culture?"
No, Brazilian military authorities killed it, there was nothing criminal about it. I would say the jaguar is a symbol of Brazil's brotherhood and love for freedom. It escaped restraints and decide to fight and die rather than be a captive. Like a Brazilian does. In 1864, at Dourados Colony, a Brazilian military colony, about twelve Brazilian soldiers were sieged and ordered to surrender by hundreds of savage Paraguayan soldiers. There was no hope of victory. Having sent the civilian colonists away to save their lives, the Brazilian colony leader refused to surrender, saying his blood and his comrades' would be a most solemn protest against the Paraguayan invasion of Brazilian sacred soil (others say he simply replied he would not surrender without orders from the Brazilian Emperor himself-- you know when the legend becomes fact...). The invasion and their deaths galvanized the nation, convinced many civilians to volunteer as soldiers or donate money and gave the Brazilian cabinet an excuse to bypass the pacifist Emperor and declare war against the Paraguayan aggressor. The martyrs fought and died, and because the died tens of millions have lived in freedom and safety since.

Thiago: again, answer my question. Or I guess you can duck it and confirm the obvious disaster coming in Rio.

"Thiago: honestly asking, without malice….do you think the Rio Olympics will be a disaster as predicted by numerous articles like these?"
People said the same things about the World Cup, and it was great (well, Brazil vs Germany could have got a better outcome, I guess). Yes, some people will die, people die everyday everywhere. I have met people who were robbed at gun point in NYC. Some things may not work. But no space shuttle will explode. The facts are:
1) Almost all public works are finished, some that had been planned for the World Cup are almost finished too.
2) The plague is almost under control. It's winter at Brazil, which retards its spreading. The critical phase is probably over, and anyway the toll was worse in the Northeast, hundreds of miles away from Rio.
3) The riots are abating already. Political violence is anthetical to the Brazilian character. Never a Brazilian Emperor or president was killed for instance. The Orlando guy killed between half and one-third as many people as Brazil's military dictatorship did from 1964 to 1985 while fighting a Communist insurgency.
4) Common crime is a somewhat bigger issue, but again: tens of millions of Brazilians live their lives with little or no problem. Brazil hosted Pan-American Games, two World Cups (1950 and 2014) and the UN Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit (in 1992) with no scares. The security forces have been training exhaustively.
Yes, Brazil is a rough patch right now, but things are sorting themselves out already. We probably will have a new government soon. Taking in account we barely have a government right now, we are doing well and showing commendable restraint. Think about New York City Blackout of 1977. How people would have reacted if the American government had collapsed? Brazil's line of succession was devasted. The House Speaker was dismissed, the President of Senate can get jail time, President Dilma was impeached and will be judged by the Senate (and almost certainly dismissed), the vice president is the acting president (and probably will inherit the job) and widely despised and wildly unpopular. Yet, there were no big explosions of hatred. Rio is not Dallas or Fergusson.

"Thiago: again, answer my question. Or I guess you can duck it and confirm the obvious disaster coming in Rio."
No, in fact, I was having problems with the virtual keyboard of my tablet.

@Thiago: I hope you are right, the world needs some good news. The signs do not look good right now. And many athletes are skipping the games, so even if they go on without a problem they will be missing something.

Well, bad things can happen anywhere, as Waco, WTC, Munich and Orlando showed us, but, as the guy who fell from 25 th floor said when he was around the 10 th, "for now, things are going well".
"And many athletes are skipping the games, so even if they go on without a problem they will be missing something."
Their loss, I guess. I respect their decision, but it's ridiculous to treat Brazil as a rogue leper colony when they would be eager to drink lead in Beijing (or Flint) and be exploded by Chechens in Russia. There is a clear Anti-Brazilian bias at work here. And Brazil is not the only issue anyway. Everyone knows that many athletes skip the Olympic Games as a less important competition. Tennis players and NBA players are notorious for this.. I think the last time the Americans sent a complete basketball team was 1992, the original Dream Team.
"America has climbed to the top of the podium in five out of the past six editions of the Olympic Games. The US team only failed in Athens 2004, when Argentina, with a young Manu Ginobili, defeated it in semifinals. Now, “Coach K” will have the opportunity to handpick 12 stars. So far, most of them have agreed to go to Rio, although many things can change before August, since the players are worried about possible lesions that could compromised their performance in the NBA; but, anyway, there is great talent available. " -


Sorry - that was a reply to dan111. Thiago, you have Komodo Dragons? Jealous ...

"Sorry – that was a reply to dan111. Thiago, you have Komodo Dragons? Jealous …"
No, at least, not outside some exotic zoo at least, which is the point. We could have flown in as much African lions and as much Komodo Dragons as we wanted --former President Lula spent about 20% of his second term outside Brazil--, but we decided to go for native flavor, authenticity and symbolism. A jaguar represents Brazil's spirit of courage, national independence and brotherhood.

You are thinking of hobbits, dude.

What about ents?

"None of the reviews I read seem to get it." Well who are you going to trust? The experts or your own lying eyes?
Although it doesn't translate well.
Also, Romeo's "Oh, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!".

Such a limited article, but these two sentences really stood out -

'The fine-tuned, gas-powered engines Germany’s auto industry spent the better part of a century refining could quickly become obsolete, replaced by the electric internet car.' First, the German car industry has not spent the last couple decades refining gas powered motors, it has spent it instead refining diesel motors to a major degree. The Germans used to joke about how diesels had a 'black flag' due to the exhaust, and that a diesel sounded like it was pounding nails. Such jokes seems outdated at this point.

'Ask a German auto executive about Tesla, the trendy electric car maker, and the response is likely to be a roll of the eyes.' Yep, those BMW execs, with BMW i3s (all electric) and i8s (plug-in hybrid) rolling off the assembly line are rolling their eyes too -

And the article makes the same mistake that so many observers, particularly American, do - Mercedes, as a concrete example, sees much better possibilities in selling trucks with self driving features (not to mention fuel saving ones such as convoying). Trucks that use diesels, which have a global market, and which are generally bought for their economic efficiency in terms of the buyer's bottom line - that is, the sort of market that actually requires something more than marketing and meaningless hype.

And it is hilarious to read this - 'When it comes to developing electric cars and other new technologies, the auto companies’ first step is to ask the government for subsidies, officials say.' Tesla's blazing the path in getting subsidies seems to have been conveniently forgotten.

Agree with your Tesla points. That is a major weakness of a weak article. The article insinuates the Germans are behind on electric and self-driving vehicles, without really providing evidence.

They are slightly behind in some respects (and they have kept relatively quiet about much of their R&D and investments) but they are actually quite well prepared for mass market electric vehicles + battery storage together with solar cells and large-scale batteries for peak smoothing.

> mostly about race

I've heard good things about this movie, but if true this is a bit of a turn-off - I don't need more nagging about how awful white people are (which is how I'd tend to read that statement).

That's ok, because "None of the reviews I read seem to get it" most likely means that it is not about the stuff Tyler claims it is about.

It reminds me of a statement a professor of mine made about Biblical studies, which I think applies here as well:

"If no one else has ever thought it had this meaning before, either you are wrong, or the text was spectacularly badly written, since no one except you was able to understand the intended meaning."

Maybe it's a Straussian movie.

Are there any non-Straussian movies, from a Straussian point of view?

War and Peace. Well, at least, the book is obviously about Russia, according to noted schollar Woody Allen and others h,( ttps:// ). Maybe the movie is about another country.

"Tolstoy himself said that War and Peace was 'not a novel, even less is it a poem, and still less a historical chronicle'."

Hmmmmm...I'm not sure it's about Russia!

What did he know? Critics outrank authors. Wikipedia itself says "War and Peace (pre-reform Russian: Война́ и миръ; post-reform Russian: Война́ и мир, translit. Voyná i mir [vɐjˈna i ˈmʲir]) is a novel by the Russian author Leo Tolstoy." And with names like "Andrei Nikolayevich Bolkonsky", it must be about Russia. Unless it is a thinly veiled and shockingly racist critique of Obama's Administration.

#2 - so how does this affect the wisdom of Brexit? I see two possible interpretations.

1) Britain should have just stayed in, since they can flout the rules and do what they want.

2) It is all the more reason to get out, since the dysfunction and disintegration will drag all members down.

Yes, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is one of the best movies of 2016, but WTF is "Kiwi social finery"? A full review by Tyler/Tyrone would be great!

"WTF is “Kiwi social finery”?" -- now you're on the right track!

And in my view the movie is very much not a cliche. It is difficult to review without throwing in spoiling spoilers.

#6 - Internet has not converged chess skills, popularity determines competitive advantage.

Part of the problem in the developing world (Philippines) is chess players are poor and don't have good internet access. I tried to get masters to play online, and they lost so many game due to a bad connection that they've given up. Also payed-internet sites are somewhat expensive for them, and the free sites have too much cheating (you might as well play your PC). Consequently clubs are more popular (which is good, I like it better than online chess). But the thrust of the article is sound: comparative advantage can be determined by fiat, by decree (Asian model), or by popularity (Western model: 'it's cool to be a computer geek, to be a doctor, etc).

Couldn't they just get a chess app on their phones or something (which are apparently GM level now).

Of course, but it's not the same as playing a human, since humans make mistakes in complicated positions.

My criticism of the study is two fold: (1) in developing countries there's no internet, so you cannot 'blame or finger the internet' if there's no internet, and, (2) if chess is not popular, as in Japan, then your survey will suffer from a small sample bias: if only 1000 people play chess in Japan, the odds of having a grandmaster are low.

I would be surprised if a lot of people picked up chess based on the internet only. It doesn't seem like a game many people would choose if they sit down to play a computer game. Most likely, interest in internet chess is driven by having a local community of chess enthusiasts.

I think Vishy Anand picked up his chess as a kid when his father was posted in the Phillippines.

2. Competition not cooperation. Doesn't that define capitalism, "a machine that takes private self-interest and organizes it to produce general prosperity". Cowen's friend David Brooks isn't buying it any longer: "Now economic, utilitarian thinking has become the normal way we do social analysis and see the world. We’ve wound up with a society that is less cooperative, less trusting, less effective and less lovely. By assuming that people are selfish, by prioritizing arrangements based on selfishness, we have encouraged selfish frames of mind. Maybe it’s time to upend classical economics and political science. Maybe it’s time to build institutions that harness people’s natural longing to do good". It's one thing to have to convince Bernie Sanders voters of the benefits of self-interest, but an altogether different thing to convince fans of David Brooks.

Capitalism works because it acknowledges humans' fundamentally selfish nature. This isn't the same as encouraging selfishness or making a virtue of selfishness.

I would argue that certain aspects of human nature are selfish. However, we routinely cooperate and often demonstrate altruism in all sorts of small and large ways.

I agree. "[F]undamentally selfish nature" was a bit too strong of a way to put it.

I've worked in agriculture where I get paid shared rates on small teams, and damn straight I understand why collective agriculture leads to harvest collapse - at least on a team of 3 you get to keep 1/3 of the premium effort you put in. (agrees with the first way you put it.)

But I've also met easily hundreds of strangers in many different countries who do things like share cigarettes, alcohol or food with a stranger, or face difficulties in order to share some special experience despite the fact that everyone knows you're leaving tomorrow and will never come back.

I dunno, people are odd, but they're OK most of the time...

Does David Brooks have any fans?

The Democrats thought that the best institution to 'harness people's natural longing to do good' is the IRS. They put it in charge of administering the ACA collections branch.

Sure does.

And - he actually wrote, in a book called, "Why I Turned Right", that he realized he was inherently conservative when as a five-year-old, standing around a trash can fire, with burning money, holding hands with a large group in a circle, he broke the circle to go after a burning fiver that was being carried away in the smoke & heat.

Capitalism works because it is natural and inevitable. It is more like a law of nature like gravity or magnetism than it is like a man mad construct. Capitalism just is. What most people think of when they discuss capitalism is not capitalism but rather the freedom to employ or practice capitalism. Our democracies allow us the freedom with some/many restrictions. More oppressive forms of government like socialism/communism or dictatorships have greater and stronger restrictions which mostly serve to prevent the individual from practicing capitalism so that the government can exploit it without competition.

Every long lasting system seems natural to the people in it. It's a matter of what you are used to. All of them are man made. Capitalism is made out of government regulations. Companies are government regulations. Land ownership is government regulations. Money is government regulations. Contract law is government regulations.

Is the National Football League about competition or cooperation? Teams try to beat each other but they do it within a fairly detailed set of rules they have all agreed on. Rules that tell people what they can do on field and off.

Capitalism is the same way. You can pursue your self-interest but you have to respect other people's rights to their lives and property--just as they have to respect yours.

This propensity to compete within rules is so great in us that Frank H. Knight said our species name should not be Homo sapiens, wise man. It should be Home ludens, playing man.

True... but some sports take rules more seriously than others. In golf breaking a rule is a mortal sin. In NASCAR, if you ain't cheatin' you ain't tryin'.

5) I always remove any names which identify gender from a paper (and in references within the paper I remove "she" and replace it with something like 'the author", "the research", etc.) because I assume that the reception of the paper is less biased (minimized bias in reception of a paper is basically my top goal after the obvious stuff). And the vast majority of papers I edit have at least one women on the team, due to a strong preference for supporting teams with at least one woman on the part of one of my regular clients.

I'm sure there are plenty of others who remove first names for a similar purpose, which would affect the method of the referenced study in the manner that they express concern about. I hugely doubt it could explain the size of difference observed though.

"And the vast majority of papers I edit have at least one women on the team, due to a strong preference for supporting teams with at least one woman on the part of one of my regular clients."
What does your work consist in?

You know what else Hunt for the Wilderpeople was about? Freedom.

Maybe the German manufacturers are watching as their brilliant tech minded competitors drive themselves out of business with their shiny toys that disconnect themselves from their core business, customers and ability to develop products and services that serve their customers instead of some silly management fad.

US corporations are becoming utterly impossible to deal with. With exceptions of course. German and Asian offerings are better quality and actually seem to understand the business they are in.

Oh, those wonderful big names of US manufacturing with their unpopulated factories. I can't use the stuff they produce. They all got rid of the people who know what the products need to do, and the consultants are overpaid jackasses who do wonders except put together systems that produce products that can be used in the market for which they are intended.

You really should have let Wall Street go bust. It represented the accumulation of collective stupidity, all exquisitely structured by technical wizards in an intertwining of complexity that masked it's detachment from reality. Now you are saddled with a voracious monster that will continue to suck the life out of the economy, who emerged from that destruction stronger and with the whole of the US government system structured around it to keep it alive. You had your chance, the best minds of the country ignored the reality presented before them, and you will never recover from that error.

Two egregious examples. The first one shocked me. A customer has a boiler, an older boiler. It has operated for a few decades, a simple system. The gas valve failed after a long life. it was replaced, and three days later it failed. It is now in the gas safety code that there be two gas valves in series because the brilliant US manufacturers can't seem to make one that is reliable. Instead of going out of business, it is easier to change the safety code and require two of them. So they get double the sale for their incompetence, all enforced by the regulatory agencies.

Second example is a company who made it's reputation on consistent quality goods that worked very well. Install and forget. A generation of trademen would not use anything else. They were purchased by some conglomerate. They got rid of their engineers and manufacturing expertise. How difficult is it to manufacture a solenoid valve? I got one of the products of their brilliance, installed it (a two hour job) and it didn't work. I took it apart and the height of technological advancement and manufacturing techniques produced a brass valve whose internal workings were clogged with green scale. The local supplier had taken apart and checked almost all their stock, and somehow missed this one. About 1/2 of the stock they received was faulty.

I don't use the products anymore, I can't afford to. There are very good european replacements that just work. Maybe the brilliant consultants haven't worked their magic yet.

I recommend The Pusher trilogy.

On #2 I don't think the EU has much choice. They are currently facing a Catch 22. If they "punish" the UK in order to deter other members from leaving, then they punish those members as well. If they play nice with the UK, then other members may get the idea that they can do an Xexit, for some X.

One way to escape from the impasse is to allow member states to remain in the EU but not follow the rules they currently find problematic. This would mean remaining EU member states, while gaining some of the benefits of not being a member state. Which rules each member state would choose to suspend would differ, of course. That's the basic issue with "one size fits all."

5. Implicit and questionable assumption that men and women are equally productive authors or, perhaps more subtly, that men and women are equally productive in their early years of publishing.

Is there any research on the relative productivity of men and women in Economics? (By number and quality of journal articles)

A person who produces better work early in their career is far more likely to cite themselves.

3. My delight at the very first response was unshaken by all that followed.

3. "She was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window." - Raymond Chandler (this is from memory so I may not have it word for word)

Comments for this post are closed