Month: May 2017
That is the new NBER working paper by Alberto Alesina, Bryony Reich, Alessandro Riboni, here is the abstract:
The increase in army size observed in early modern times changed the way states conducted wars. Starting in the late 18th century, states switched from mercenaries to a mass army by conscription. In order for the population to accept to fight and endure war, the government elites began to provide public goods, reduced rent extraction and adopted policies to homogenize the population with nation-building. This paper explores a variety of ways in which nation-building can be implemented and studies its effects as a function of technological innovation in warfare.
That is related to some recent work by Ferejohn and Rosenbluth.
Switzerland has taken in a high portion of foreign-borns, yet without losing its identity or sense of order. Over 24 percent of the population is foreign-born, noting that almost half come from France, Germany, Italy, or Portugal. The country recently imposed restrictions on migrants from Romania and Bulgaria.
German as a second language in Switzerland is declining, as the migrant workers in the service sector do not command it with much fluency if at all. In Lugano, for instance, English now seems to be of more value.
In so many parts of the country unemployment is below two percent, with a national average of 3.3 percent. And the Swiss manage this with an “overvalued” exchange rate, at least by purchasing power parity standards. It is worth pondering how this is possible.
Probably the Swiss have never seen a better time. Their countryside is gorgeous and intact, and their major cities are creative and flourishing, yet many Swiss remain deeply unhappy about inward migration.
The Swiss are no “snowflakes;” they impose and enforce stiff penalties on those who don’t meet the insurance mandate, and they are on the verge of deporting an ethnically Spanish man who was born and raised in Switzerland, and who never has lived in Spain, for his repeated criminal offenses. Furthermore “Voters in Bern on Sunday rejected a proposed 105 million franc funding boost to help asylum seekers in the canton, primarily unaccompanied minors.”
It is striking how much the theory of comparative advantage has operated on Switzerland over the last thirty years, as the country has moved to a true economic integration with the EU.
I see Swiss cuisine as declining in relative value, as quality ingredients have spread to many other countries, including the United States (and Ireland!), but Swiss cooking has grown only marginally more imaginative. And food prices here can be 2x or more typical developed country levels.
Bern feels much freer and less provincial than it did thirty years ago, the last time I visited. Living here now seems imaginable. And in Bern you still can see a working public phone booth. Nor, from casual observation, do people here seem as cell-phone obsessed as their American demographic contemporaries.
As for Lugano, nothing seems to happen there.
Switzerland, an extreme country, and an extremely successful country, is always worth pondering. And visiting, even at 2x prices for the food.
..in the 10 years from 1999 to 2009, India’s workforce increased by 63m. “Of these, 44 million joined the unorganized sector, 22 million became informal workers in the organized sector, and the number of formal workers in the organized sector fell by 3 million.” This is a social catastrophe. It is due not only to labour-market distortions, but to a host of constraints on the creation, operation and, not least, closure of organised and large-scale businesses.
This is not my view, but I am happy to present an alternative perspective for your consideration:
Yes, IRB’s sometimes do ridiculous things. But I served a total of 21 years on the IRB’s of two different institutions, and I’m sure I can match you anecdote for anecdote with obviously dangerous study protocols submitted by investigators, or protocols where the associated consent documents were blatantly misleading or so confusing that even professionals couldn’t understand them. It’s a small minority of submissions, to be sure, but it’s a recurring problem.
In my experience, most protocol delays in IRB review boiled down to issues of clarifying ambiguous language or providing additional background information so that the appropriateness of the proposal can be better assessed. I suspect that much of that could be avoided with better training of investigators on how to write their submissions. At one of the institutions where I served, my Department encouraged junior investigators to “pre-clear” their IRB submissions with me or another Department member who also served on the IRB. We were often able to spot the things that would likely catch the IRB’s attention and help those investigators revise their protocols before submitting them so that they would sail through approval without delays on the first try.
In my view, no person should ever be the judge of his/her own cause. There is nothing in the earlier rules, nor in the modified ones, that prevents an IRB from expediting the review of social science projects that plainly involves little or no risk. Such protocols can be turned around by a staff member in a day or two. But it should never be left to the investigators to make those assessments on their own.
Here is the link of origin.
Is this a good idea? A whole station devoted to Beatles music and Beatles music-derived products, plus a few early musical inspirations? I ask as a fan, not a critic. Based on about a week of listening, here are my impressions:
1. No Beatles songs were better live. Paul McCartney had a few gems in concert, most notably the 1976 Wings over America “Maybe I’m Amazed.” Oddly, “Magneto and Titanium Man” is also better live, perhaps because it was silly to begin with.
2. There are too many extant versions of “Here Comes the Sun,” though Nina Simone had a good one.
3. Ringo songs from the early 1970s, while you would never listen to them voluntarily, hold up OK in this context.
4. The worst feature of the channel is how they use short bursts of Beatle songs to advertise the channel itself. To play only the first few chords of “Getting Better” is an abuse of the ear and maltreatment of the art, like seeing Mondrian designs on shopping bags. Why can’t the station just advertise itself by…playing Beatle and Beatle-derived songs? In their entirety.
5. The last sequence of “Rain” still seem to me their finest moment. “Let it Be” remains the most overrated major Beatles song.
6. The early solo songs are what are most welcome to hear, at the margin.
7. The way this station operates doesn’t mesh well with the rest of satellite radio. No single station on satellite radio is that good, except for the classical music station. Yet the medium as a whole works because you can always switch to another station, especially with voice activation. Yet one is reluctant to switch away from the Beatles station. Even if the current song is bad, you feel something wonderful always might be coming up, and besides most of the songs are pretty short and so they will be over soon. But if it’s just the Beatles you want to hear, you don’t need satellite radio to achieve that end. So a funny kind of intransitivity kicks in, and maybe the Beatles satellite radio channel can nudge you away from satellite radio altogether, precisely because it is better than all the other channels, and it thus pushes you away from an approach based on a diverse menu of DJ-driven choice.
8. Would it hurt to play more Dylan, a major influence on the Beatles?
Here is the link.
4. Why cultural appropriation is wrong; I mostly disagree but still worth a read.
White defendants in Winnebago County, Wisconsin were nearly twice as likely as non-whites to enter diversion programs instead of going to jail. A straightforward example of judicial racism? Surprisingly, no. The study, which was looking at people with no previous records who had committed non-violent misdemeanors, found that
… judges were offering white and non-white defendants the option to enter diversion programs such as drug rehabilitation at equal rates. But non-white defendants opted for jail time more often. And choosing jail means opting for a criminal record, which can mean opting for a life in which everything from jobs to loans become much tougher to get.
Does the rehabilitation program cost the defendants more? Do non-whites feel they are guiltier? Is there a lack of trust? Are there deeper structural issues that can account for these different choices? And why are we “privileging” the white decision? Could it be that whites are making the wrong decision? WIRED doesn’t offer a solution but discusses the new Zuckerberg financed dataset, Measures for Justice, which led to the discovery of the discrepancy.
It is here, & here is a blog he passes along from his writings inside the Bank. Here is Romer on his dyslexia.
1. Harold James, The German Slump: Politics and Economics 1924-1936. Not economic history in the post-cliometrics sense, but a history of economic issues, very high quality, full of good information on just about every page.
2. William Rosen, Miracle Cure: The Creation of Antibiotics and the Birth of Modern Medicine. A good book on exactly what the title promises, my favorite sentence was this: “Before penicillin, three-quarters of all prescriptions were still compounded by pharmacists using physician-supplied recipes and instructions, with only a quarter ordered directly from a drug catalog. Twelve years later, nine-tenths of all prescribed medicines were for branded products.”
3. Justin Yifu Lin and Celestin Monga, Beating the Odds: Jump-Starting Developing Countries. An instructive look at how countries have to start growing before the right institutional framework is in place, and how they can get around that. Haven’t you wondered how China racked up so many years of stellar growth with such a bad “Doing Business” ranking from the World Bank? One of the better books on developing economies in the last few years.
4. Joan C. Williams, White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America. An intelligent and indeed reasonable basic approach to answering questions about class, including “Why don’t they push their kids harder to succeed?” and “Why don’t the people who benefit most from government help seem to appreciate it?” I am not the intended audience, but still this was better than I was expecting.
Rick Wartzman, The End of Loyalty: The Rise and Fall of Good Jobs in America, is a densely-written but nonetheless useful history of how America moved from paternalistic big businesses to lower-benefit jobs.
Arnold Kling, The Three Languages of Politics: Talking Across the Political Divides. This short book, revised, improved, and expanded, is so good it is wasted on almost all of you. Here are various pieces of background information.
I have no direct knowledge of the situation, but here is an extensive report from Bloomberg. The summary headers are:
Paul Romer to give up management of research department
Researchers chafed against push to communicate more clearly
But there is more to the story than that. And here is the FT story:
But some said Mr Romer’s management style, particularly over what some saw as a dogmatic approach to clear writing, was key to the move, citing the recent spat over “and” as evidence.
Circulating a draft of the upcoming World Development Report, Mr Romer warned against bank staff trying to pile their own pet projects and messages into the report. The tendency, he argued, had diluted the impact of past reports and led to a proliferation of “ands”.
“Because of this type of pressure to say that our message is ‘this, and this, and this too, and that …’ the word ‘and’ has become the most frequently used word in Bank prose,” he complained in an email.
“A WDR, like a knife, has to be narrow to penetrate deeply,” he added. “To drive home the importance of focus, I’ve told the authors that I will not clear the final report if the frequency of ‘and’ exceeds 2.6%.”
The 2.6 per cent bar, Mr Romer told the FT, marked the current frequency of “and” in scholarly writing. It also, according to an analysis of bank reports going back decades that he commissioned, was roughly where World Bank report authors landed in the institution’s early years.
But the use of the word “and” over the years had doubled to almost 7 per cent in World Bank reports, Mr Romer pointed out in a January memo to his staff.
I will now have to be more conscious about the use of those three little letters…
If you can play the “Imperial March” in less than 12 parsecs, you’ll want to check out this highly customized Millennium Falcon piano up for auction on eBay. The piano starred in a popular YouTube video featuring pianist Sony Belousova turning out an impressive medley of Star Wars music.
Hat tip goes to Ted Gioia.
4. The energy expansions of evolution (interesting, speculative, worth reading).
6. Marc Andreessen evaluates people not tech (podcast with Ritholtz).
The author is Alexander Todorov, and the subtitle is The Irresistible Influence of First Impressions. Here is one short excerpt:
When Israeli and Japanese women rated these faces on trustworthiness, their impressions were predictably influenced by what they considered typical. As the face became more similar to the typical Israeli face, Israelis trusted it more and Japanese trusted it less and less. As the face became more similar to the typical Japanese face, the opposite occurred. We trust those who look like members of our own tribe.
The book has excellent photos and plates, recommended.