Month: December 2016
His words, “Yesterday, I had jollof rice and shrimp. It was delicious, fantastic. I was told not to compare Nigeria’s jollof rice to that from other neighbouring countries.”While he did not say Nigeria has won the battle, Nigerians did not care, they took to Twitter to celebrate this significant victory.
1. These “world-improving innovations of 2016” seem lame to me.
San Francisco’s Quince made news this October when it was awarded a third Michelin star, but in a sign that even the most prestigious restaurants are struggling to maintain their cutting edge we learn today that its chefs have cooked up a bold new plan to grab the Instagram-ready eyes of customers: Dishes served on iPads. And to make matters even lamer, they didn’t even come up with the idea themselves.
Chef and local firebrand Richie Nakano tweeted out the news this afternoon, and a quick Yelp search confirms the existence of the questionably plated “a dog in search of gold” dish (we called the restaurant for further details, but they were closed).
Described as “white truffle croquettes on iPads playing videos of water dogs on the truffle-hunt” by whoever sent the photo to Nakano, the plating raises some obvious questions. Namely, does the San Francisco Department of Public Health have an acceptable washing method for iPads? And, this being San Francisco, how long until someone reprograms one of those things to display one-star Quince reviews on Yelp?
According to the Daily Mail, chefs serving up dishes on iPads has been a thing in the United Kingdom since at least 2015. In other words, Quince’s idea isn’t just bizarre — it’s a rip-off as well.
Professor John Van Reenen, who predicted ahead of the referendum that Brexit would cost up to £1,700 per household per year, has been given an OBE for services to economics and public policy making.
Other academics to receive honours include Professor Paul Cheshire, who has argued that the green belt should be opened up to ease the housing crisis. He will receive a CBE in the honours, which are recognising 1,197 people in total.
“Surge Pricing Solves the Wild Goose Chase” is the title of the new paper by Juan Camillo Castillo and E. Glen Weyl, here is the abstract:
Why is dynamic pricing more prevalent in ride-hailing apps than movies and restaurants? Arnott (1996) observed that an over-burdened taxi dispatch system may be forced to send cars on a wild goose chase to pick up distant customers when few taxis are free. These chases occupy taxis and reduce earnings, effectively removing cars from the road and exacerbating the problem. While Arnott dismissed this outcome as a Pareto-dominated equilibrium, we show that when prices are too low relative to demand it is the unique equilibrium of a system that uses a first-dispatch protocol (as many ride-hailing services have committed to). This effect dominates more traditional price theoretic considerations and implies that welfare and profits fall dramatically as price falls below a certain threshold and then decline only gradually move in price above this point. A platform forced to charge uniform prices over time will therefore have to set very high prices to avoid catastrophic chases. Dynamic “surge pricing” can avoid these high prices while maintaining system functioning when demand is high. We show that pooling can complicate and exacerbate these problems.
Perhaps it is an analogy to suggest movie theaters might use more surge pricing if a low valuation buyer took up the seat for several showings of the movie rather than just one.
1. Iran’s presidential race in May. Iran does run real elections — sort of — but will Rouhani survive? Or will the hardliners ascend again? How much is Rouhani a hardliner anyway? Stay tuned. I’ll just note a theorem in the margins here: the greater the unpredictability of the American president, the more the identities and decisions of the other world leaders matter. According to Wikipedia, the only announced reformist candidate is a blogger (not a good sign for him or them).
2. How Nigeria copes with its recession. This is the one country in sub-Saharan Africa that has the size and talent to make a significant commercial breakthrough. Now that oil prices are back up a bit, can they dismantle their counterproductive exchange and capital controls, boost FDI, and get to four to six percent growth? Or will they wallow in the range of one to two percent, which hardly means anything in light of Nigeria’s rising population?
3. Whether the Democratic Republic of the Congo remains stable. Joseph Kabila is staying past the end of his second presidential term. Will this lead to renewed instability and conflict, beyond what is already the case? “Africa’s World War” ended in 2003, not long ago, and it is not impossible to imagine it resuming.
4. African fertility rates. They’re high. In most other parts of the world, including Latin America and the Middle East, fertility has fallen much faster than most commentators had expected. That is not yet the case for Africa, but will it be?
5. Modi’s India and where it it headed: Maybe the demonetisation was an unforced error, but it seems increasingly likely it was part of a broader strategy to push India into a semi-cashless, biometrically marked, income tax-paying society. I’ll be curious to see how that goes.
6. Economic growth in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Pakistan grew 4.7 percent last year and Bangladesh has averaged about six percent for the last decade. Is all that (relative) good news going to continue? If so, the world will be in much better shape than otherwise.
7. Will Xi Jinping overturn Chinese political conventions? His term is supposed to end in 2022, but for a while he has been sending signals he might try to stay on as leader for much longer. That could bring a new round of political instability to the Middle Kingdom. Or a new round of stability. Depending how you look at it.
8. Chinese capital flight and the currency peg. This one seems to be heating to a boil. Capital flight continues to rise, using every technique known to mankind including Bitcoin and e-purchases of Singaporean gambling tokens. The government says that the sporadic reports of USD trades at 7-1 are nonsense, so they must be right. When will it snap? And when it does, will it be a non-event or a big deal?
9. American institutions: Will the United States Congress and courts continue to secure some version of rule of law in this country? And will we agree on what that means?
10. What is the Latin American middle class good for? Many Latin economies now have built a reasonably-sized middle class, but commodity prices are not in general favoring those economies. Will those middle classes push their countries into better policies and educational systems? Slowly but surely, I believe the answer is yes.
There is a chance the French or German elections make this list, but right now the best forecasts are for “business as usual” in both cases. Brexit will continue to torture us with its drawn-out agony. And remember — your emotional guide as to what is an important issue often reflects your own selfish concerns about the status of you and your preferred groups. Do keep that in mind throughout this year.
If you’re looking for a few sleeper issues, I’ll cite Russia-Israel tensions over control of Middle Eastern airspace, economic and institutional recovery in Ukraine combined with sabotage potential from you-know-where, the political economy and geopolitics of aging in Japan, the rise of a Trump-like populist in Mexico, and the potential failure of the Saudi reform process as a few more to keep your eye on. Climate change and the destroyed parts of the Middle East bear watching too, along with ongoing collapse in Yemen, for water supplies too.
A French town is to christen one of its streets “rue du Brexit” in a move its far-Right Front National mayor says is to “pay tribute to the sovereign British people” who chose to leave the European Union.
Critics point out that the road is in an ugly industrial zone and “goes nowhere” as it is circular.
In a highly symbolic move, Julien Sanchez, FN mayor of Beaucaire in the southern Gard département (county), chose to place Brexit street next to “rue Robert Schumann” and “rue Jean Monnet” – streets named after two of the founding fathers of a post-war European Union.
Here is the link, via the excellent Samir Varma.
What better way to move toward that goal than to start with the category labeled as “disabled”:
Last Thursday, the House passed HR 4919, also known as Kevin and Avonte’s Law, which would allow the US attorney general to award grants to law enforcement for the creation and operation of “locative tracking technology programs.” Though the program’s mission is to find “individuals with forms of dementia or children with developmental disabilities who have wandered from safe environments,” it provides no restriction on the tracking program’s inclusion of other individuals. The bill would also require the attorney general to work with the secretary of health and human services and unnamed health organizations to establish the “best practices” for the use of tracking devices.
…“While this initiative may have noble intentions, ‘small and temporary’ programs in the name of safety and security often evolve into permanent and enlarged bureaucracies that infringe on the American people’s freedoms. That is exactly what we have here. A safety problem exists for people with Alzheimer’s, autism and other mental health issues, so the fix, we are told, is to have the Department of Justice, start a tracking program so we can use some device or method to track these individuals 24/7,” Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX) said in a floor speech opposing the bill.
…Though the bill specifically mentions those with Alzheimer’s and autism, how long before these tracking programs are extended to those with ADHD and bipolar disorder, among other officially recognized disorders.
Even the dislike of authority is considered a mental disorder known as “Oppositional Defiant Disorder,” which could also warrant microchipping in the future. If these programs expand unchecked, how long will it be before all Americans are told that mass microchipping is necessary so that law enforcement and the government can better “protect” them?
I do hope we know better than this!
Here is the full story, via the excellent Mark Thorson.
That is the title of a new paper by Jakob B. Madsen and Stojanka Andric, here is the abstract:
Using annual data from 1850 to 2010 for Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, and the USA, this paper examines the impact of immigration and the immigrants’ educational and cultural background on unemployment. Instruments for 27 emigrating countries are used to deal with the feedback effects from unemployment to immigration. The results show that educated immigrants, in particular, and immigrants from Protestant countries significantly reduce unemployment, while poorly educated and non-Protestant immigrants enhance unemployment.
For the pointer I thank the excellent Kevin Lewis.
5. Will the underhand free throw make a comeback? Why the stickiness on that one?
Those are the topics of my latest Bloomberg column, with side remarks on sex tourism, the Pulaski Skyway, and the Ruhr-Gebiet as well.
He is from Brown University, we met at a tacqueria, here is the interview, here is one bit from it, from me:
Popular culture is not nearly pro-science enough…. It should be much higher status to be in science. This would boost the rate of innovation. I think people privately can just choose to respect science more. In a sense it’s a free lunch! You don’t have to spend money, people just have to actually believe science is really good. So that’s what I advocate. And that’s a question of role models and exposure when you’re young. I think TV shows are very important… Star Trek and even Gilligan’s Island I think made science cool to a lot of people. I think President Obama actually has done a pretty good job of being a pro-science role model and how he talks about science. His powers are limited but I think he actually gets this pretty well, because he’s made a real concerted attempt rhetorically to work that into what he’s about. I think historically, America has not been all that pro-science, but we invented the atomic bomb, we industrialized in this fantastic manner. In a bunch of ways pro-science and nationalism should overlap. Being the first country to put a man on the moon gave a huge boost to science. That boost has proven temporary, much to my dismay.
Here are bits and pieces on the very smart Noah Cowan, who was a Jeopardy champion at a very young age.
Pensioners who need help being helped back to their feet after a fall at home will be charged £26 by their local council.
Tendring District Council said it would introduce the fee as part of its Careline service for elderly people who require home care.
An elderly rights campaign group has described the charge as “shocking” and equivalent to a ‘falling fine’.
The £25.92 annual charge means a carer will come to pick an elderly resident up after a fall.
…”These people will have no other option but to pay because if they don’t, they’re going to be lying there on the floor aren’t they?” he added.
Here is the full story. Do keep in mind that the number of phone calls will exceed the number of people who require public sector assistance.