Month: July 2016
1. Gareth Stedman Jones, Karl Marx: Greatness and Illusion. I am not right now looking to read 595 pp. on mid-19th century Marxism, but this is a high quality Belknap book which should be of great interest to some.
2. Marc-William Palen, The “Conspiracy” of Free Trade: The Anglo-American Struggle over Empire and Economic Globalization, 1846-1896. On how free trade debates reshaped America’s political parties and also how free trade and anti-imperialist views were connected. Interesting in parts, but too dependent on concepts such as “neoliberalism.”
4. Marc Levinson, An Extraordinary Time: The End of the Postwar Boom and the Return of the Ordinary Economy. There need to be many more books on this critical topic.
5. Matthew D. Adler and Mac Fleurbaey, The Oxford Handbook of Well-Being and Public Policy. A superb collection on contemporary welfare economics, and I usually dislike edited collections.
In early April, shortly after his team celebrated a postseason championship, a George Washington men’s basketball player visited a campus Title IX coordinator to log complaints about Coach Mike Lonergan. Lonergan, the player believed, had created an offensive, intolerable environment, evidenced in his mind — and in the minds of many of his teammates — by the spate of transfers during the coach’s five-year tenure.
There is much more to the story, here is just one bit, from a player:
“It was always weird. When he goes on those rants, it’s like, how do you react? How do you respond to something like that? Players kind of just stayed away from him. We knew every time it would be you and him, he would go on some kind of weird rant. We would just kind of stay away from him. He did a great job in terms of winning. Off the court, something weird is always going to come out.”
Can you imagine that response to either Bobby Knight or John Wooden? But at GW many players have left the school, refusing to play under the coach’s tutelage. He may yet be dismissed and possibly also sued for creating an abusive environment. In the old days, at the end the team wins, everyone bonds, and the coach is a hero. Or was it really ever like that? Maybe we have just stopped pretending.
That is via Peter Boettke. Via Mark Thorson, the Japanese just made their last VCR player.
That is a new paper by René Böheim, Christoph Freudenthaler, and Mario Lackner, the abstract is to the point:
We analyze gender differences in risk-taking in high-pressure situations. Using novel data from professional athletes (NBA and WNBA), we find that male teams increase their risk-taking towards the end of matches when a successful risky strategy could secure winning the match. Female teams, in contrast, reduce their risk-taking in these situations. The less time left in a match, the larger is the gap. When the costs of an unsuccessful risky strategy are very large (losing the tournament), we find no increase in risk-taking for male teams.
This is consistent with the broader portfolio evidence on risk-taking. For the pointer I thank the excellent Kevin Lewis.
1. “But in our situation we’re all powerless. I mean, we pretend we’re run by people. We’re not run by anybody. The secret of modern Britain is there is no power anywhere.” Some commentators, he says, think we’re run by an oligarchy. “But we’re not. I mean, nobody can see power in Britain. The politicians think journalists have power. The journalists know they don’t have any. Then they think the bankers have power. The bankers know they don’t have any. None of them have any power.” That is Rory Stewart, who is more interesting than most American politicians.
6. Margalit Fox obituary for John Gruen (NYT).
7. A marketing perspective on why Leave beat Remain. Recommended.
“Average Management Scores by Country,” manufacturing only, here are the rankings from Nicholas Bloom, Raffaella Sadun, and John Van Reenen:
1. United States
6. Great Britain
That puts Mexico ahead of Singapore, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland, Chile, Spain, China, and many other nations. I do in fact believe this result, but of course that means Mexico’s other problems must be correspondingly more severe than one might have thought.
Here are various copies of their paper “Management as a Technology.”
This topic seems to have entered the news cycle. I am not sure how, so I thought I would add a few observations in the interests of clarity:
1. Under the most plausible “yes” scenario, Lucifer inhabits the corpus of us all, not just the Clinton family grandchildren included.
2. The correct answer is still “probably not.”
3. Is there a greater chance that Hillary Clinton is in fact Lucifer himself, rather than merely being possessed by him? (Would that not also be a new kind of transgender relation?) No, more likely she would have a Satanic familiar. In most equilibria, the number of familiars is greater than the number of Satans. Far greater.
4. Saul D. Alinsky once cited (Milton’s) Lucifer: “Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins — or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom — Lucifer.” Who does that sound like? Not Hillary.
5. I find it striking how many observers can so suddenly grow intolerant of religious sentiment, once such sentiment upsets the status relationships they are so intent in seeing through. It is considered politically incorrect and indeed downright unacceptable to mock those who believe the Deity is present in various religious ceremonies. Yet may not the Deity’s former premier angel also reside somewhere? Is it more plausible to believe the demoted angel haunts an obscure mold or grape than that he has carved out a small corner in the crook of the elbow of Hillary Clinton? What if someone held the latter to be true on grounds of religion and faith? Is the chance there simply too low compared to the chance of other specific religious beliefs being true? Where exactly is the probability threshold set for allowed mockery? How many other people would you need to have believing that with you before it would be “a religion” rather than…?
6. No sir, the separation of church and state will not save you here. If you indeed felt Lucifer inhabited the corpus of Hillary Clinton, it would be strange to stay silent about such ontology on the grounds of the First Amendment. So any potential ridiculousness of said belief must derive from epistemic grounds, and not its political implications or uses.
7. The Straussian interpretation of the Republican Convention is the correct one, which is perhaps one reason why Peter Thiel will be speaking there. They are not saying what they are saying, in fact they are saying “the world is going to hell, and many of those amongst us have been traitorously disloyal. That is why we scream out stupidities, debase ourselves, and court attention by waving our arms in ridiculous ways. We are a small church seeking to become larger.” Is that not how many smaller churches behave? Is that not how some of the early branches of the Christian church behaved? Did they have any influence? See also the remarks of Cass Sunstein.
8. You may or may not agree with the true message of the Convention, but if you think it is merely stupid you are, sooner or later, in for a big surprise.
Is education overrated? Or did the real industrial revolution not come until the latter part of the nineteenth century? Or maybe a bit of both? Here is new research by B. Zorina Khan (pdf):
Endogenous growth models raise fundamental questions about the nature of human creativity, and the sorts of resources, skills, and knowledge inputs that shift the frontier of technology and production possibilities. Many argue that the nature of early British industrialization supports the thesis that economic advances depend on specialized scientific training, the acquisition of costly human capital, and the role of elites. This paper examines the contributions of different types of knowledge to British industrialization, by assessing the backgrounds, education and inventive activity of the major contributors to technological advances in Britain during the crucial period between 1750 and 1930. The results indicate that scientists, engineers or technicians were not well-represented among the British great inventors, and their contributions remained unspecialized until very late in the nineteenth century. For developing countries today, the implications are that costly investments in specialized human capital resources might be less important than incentives for creativity, flexibility, and the ability to make incremental adjustments that can transform existing technologies into inventions that are appropriate for prevailing domestic conditions.
For the pointer I thank David Levey.
1. A survey of the evidence on alphabetic discrimination. It is real.
4. Data on retirement insecurity: “The percentage of workers very confident about having enough money for a comfortable retirement, at record lows between 2009 and 2013, increased from 13 percent in 2013 to 22 percent in 2015, and, in 2016 has leveled off at 21 percent. The percentage of workers somewhat confident increased from 36 percent in 2015 to 42 percent in 2016, while the percentage not at all confident decreased from 24 percent in 2015 to 19 percent in 2016.” And here is a complex discussion of SSA estimates.
5. The new science of cute the culture that is Japan — “Nobody is cute in Shakespeare.”
If researchers test a hundred hypotheses, 5% will come up “statistically significant” even when the true effect in every case is zero. Unfortunately, the 5% of papers with statistically signficant results are more likely to be published, especially as these results may seem novel, surprising or unexpected–this is the problem of publication bias.
A potentially simple and yet powerful way to mitigate publication bias is for journals to commit to publish manuscripts without any knowledge of the actual findings. Authors might submit sophisticated research designs that serve as a registration of what they intend to do. Or they might submit already completed studies for which any mention of results is expunged from the submitted manuscript. Reviewers would carefully analyze the theory and research design of the article. If they found that the theoretical contribution was justifiably large and the design an appropriate test of the theoretical logic, then reviewers could recommend publication regardless of the final outcome of the research.
In a new paper (from which the above is quoted) the editors of a special issue of Comparative Political Studies report on an experiment using results-free review. Results-free review worked well. The referees spent a lot of time and effort thinking about theory and research design and the type of institutional and area-specific knowledge that would be necessary to make the results compelling. The quality of the submitted papers was high.
What the editors found, however, was that the demand for “significant” results was very strong and difficult to shake.
It seems especially difficult for referees and authors alike to accept that null findings might mean that a theory has been proved to be unhelpful for explaining some phenomenon, as opposed to being the result of mechanical problems with how the hypothesis was tested (low power, poor measures, etc.). Making this distinction, of course, is exactly the main benefit of results free peer review. Perhaps the single most compelling argument in favor of results-free peer review is that it allows for findings of non-relationships. Yet, our reviewers pushed back against making such calls. They appeared reluctant to endorse manuscripts in which null findings were possible, or if so, to interpret those null results as evidence against the existence of a hypothesized relationship. For some reviewers, this was a source of some consternation: Reviewing manuscripts without results made them aware of how they were making decisions based on the strength of findings, and also how much easier it was to feel “excited” by strong findings This question even led to debate among the special issue editors on what are the standards for publishing a null finding?
I’ve seen this aversion to null results. In my paper with Goldschlag on regulation and dynamism, we find that regulation does not much influence standard measures of dynamism. It’s been very hard for reviewers to accept this result and I don’t think it’s simply because some referees believe strongly that regulation reduces dynamism. I think referees would be more likely to accept the exact same paper if the results were either negative or positive. That’s unscientific–indeed, we should expect that most results are null results so this should give us, if anything, even more confidence in the paper!–but as the above indicates, it’s a very common reaction that null results indicate something is amiss.
Here, by the way, are the three papers reviewed before the results were tabulated. I suspect that some of these papers would not have been accepted at this journal under a standard refereeing system but that all of these papers are of above average quality.
The Effects of Authoritarian Iconography: An Experimental Test finds “no meaningful evidence that authoritarian iconography increases political compliance or support for the Emirati regime.”
Can Politicians Police Themselves? “Taking advantage of a randomized natural experiment embedded in Brazil’s State Audit Courts, we study how variation in the appointment mechanisms for choosing auditors affects political accountability. We show that auditors appointed under few constraints by elected officials punish lawbreaking politicians—particularly co-partisans—at lower rates than bureaucrats insulated from political influence. In addition, we find that even when executives are heavily constrained in their appointment of auditors by meritocratic and professional requirements, auditors still exhibit a pro-politician bias in decision making. Our results suggest that removing bias requires a level of insulation from politics rare among institutions of horizontal accountability.”
Banners, Barricades, and Bombs tests “competing theories about how we should expect the use of tactics with varying degrees of extremeness—including demonstrations, occupations, and bombings—to influence public opinion. We find that respondents are less likely to think the government should negotiate with organizations that use the tactic of bombing when compared with demonstrations or occupations. However, depending on the outcome variable and baseline category used in the analysis, we find mixed support for whether respondents think organizations that use bombings should receive less once negotiations begin. The results of this article are generally consistent with the theoretical and policy-based arguments centering around how governments should not negotiate with organizations that engage in violent activity commonly associated with terrorist organizations.”
Addendum: See also Robin Hanson’s earlier post on conclusion free review.
I have written for the Times for ten years now, and, excited as I am about moving to Bloomberg, I am sad for my time there to be coming to an end. It is the world’s greatest newspaper and probably will be for some time to come. They also have treated me consistently well and always made me feel welcome, and were only nice and encouraging to me when I announced my departure. I’ve had great and understanding editors in Tom Redburn and Jeff Sommer, Jeff for the last eight or so years of my writing for them. I’ve been reading the Times for the last forty-four or so years of my life, since I was about ten, and I am not about to stop. One further testament to the paper is that two of the main people from Bloomberg who recruited me had their background at…The New York Times.
Soon I’ll write a bit about Bloomberg and what I’ll be doing there.
Justin Winkler has a new thesis from Haverford (pdf):
This paper analyzes the impact that the influx of foreign players has had on the salaries and labor market outcomes of domestic players in the National Basketball Association (NBA). The study builds on previous literature in the field of labor economics by examining this research question in a highly specialized labor market with a rigid salary structure. First, an unbalanced panel data set at the player-year level from 1990-2008 is used in combination with a log-linear regression model to estimate the impact that the number of foreign players in the NBA has on the wages of domestic players. Results are insignificant. A handcrafted dataset tracking the careers of Chad Ford’s top 50 American prospects from 2001 through 2015 is used with a series of ordered logistic regressions to examine foreign players’ impact on the career length and outcomes of American players. Additional ordinary least squares regressions are used to estimate the career quality of American prospects by the quality of the leagues in which they played. Results of all regressions investigating the career outcomes of American prospects are also insignificant.
2. Chat at the Institute for Economic Affairs with Stephen Davies. We covered Brexit, Trump, the great stagnation, why you won’t live to 800, cultural diversity, and much more. I wasn’t holding back for this one, and some crowd members were appalled.
6. Against dichotomies for understanding Turkish society — Jenny B. White from 2015.
Yes, globalization, immigration, and wage stagnation are all factors, not to mention the cultural issues. But there is another culprit: inadequate savings. This, by the way, helps explain why so much of the Trump support comes from relatively old people. Here is one bit from my Bloomberg View column today:
Social Security is already the primary source of income for retired Americans, yet Social Security benefits for the elderly average only $16,000 a year, and traditional private-sector pensions have dwindled in importance.
When it comes to comparative retirement security, in an international comparison the United States finished 19th for three years in a row. Even relatively optimistic assessments suggest that only about 28 percent of American households will be able to maintain their pre-retirement living standards.
…As for today’s 45-to-69-year-olds, only 36 percent claim to be engaging in net savings. And only 45 percent of all people earning $75,000 to $100,000 a year claim to have net positive savings, as measured in 2012. That helps explain why the typical Trump voter in the Republican primaries earned a relatively high income of about $72,000 a year and still worried about his or her economic future.
We all know that falling incomes often have more political salience than low incomes. Furthermore this weakness of the American economy does not show up in either gdp or unemployment statistics. My conclusion is this:
Trump is himself often portrayed as impetuous. It is less commonly remarked that he may be in part the result of a broader and larger impatience that has plagued American society for decades.
Do read the whole thing.
Addendum: Here is commentary from Kevin Drum but I do not think he rebuts the estimates that consumption levels will be declining, often significantly, for a big chunk of this population.
Households making $25,000-$35,000 a year spend ninety-two more minutes a week online than households making $100,000 or more a year in income, and differences vary monotonically over intermediate income levels.
That is from a new NBER paper by Boik, Greenstein, and Prince. Do note that the authors adjust for age and other demographic variables.
The upshot is that the real “undervalued” services from the internet come from its risk-sharing properties, not from the supposed lack of pricing of internet services. If something bad happens to you, well…there is always the internet to fall back upon, at least provided you still can afford the connection. This also means that business cycles are not quite as painful as before, but also that labor markets will be slower to adjust.
Some also may find in this fact an optimistic statement that “real life” (ha ha) has more to offer than the internet, with the caveat that real life is expensive.
The data in this very interesting paper also indicate that Chat has largely collapsed since 2008 as a way of spending time on the internet, internet time devoted to news sites has fallen from 10% to 5%, and social media and video are on the rise.
Matthew Gentzkow, Jesse Shapiro, and Matt Taddy have a new NBER paper Measuring Polarization in High-Dimensional Data: Method and Application to Congressional Speech.
We study trends in the partisanship of Congressional speech from 1873 to 2009. We define partisanship to be the ease with which an observer could infer a congressperson’s party from a fixed amount of speech, and we estimate it using a structural choice model and methods from machine learning. The estimates reveal that partisanship is far greater today than at any point in the past. Partisanship was low and roughly constant from 1873 to the early 1990s, then increased dramatically in subsequent years. Evidence suggests innovation in political persuasion beginning with the Contract with America, possibly reinforced by changes in the media environment, as a likely cause. Naive estimates of partisanship are subject to a severe finite-sample bias and imply substantially different conclusions.
It seems this move toward polarization starts around the time of Newt Gingrich and the Contract with America, and it starts with the Republican Party. It remains an open question, however, how much this corresponds to greater polarization in more concrete terms. To some extent symbolic polarization may substitute for the ever-diminishing ability of politicians to disagree about how to allocate discretionary spending. Let them eat ideology!