Month: July 2017

Sunday assorted links

1. Some core features of Ethereum.

2. Watching and lamenting (?) the death of the NYC diner.

3. Top ten stock football (soccer) images?

4. “Over the next three years, local authorities in China are planning to build more than 900 airports for general aviation…

5. When will the drone wars escalate?

6. Matt Klein on Harberger taxation and they assured us the proposal was not satire.

7. The Ross Douthat recipe for health care reform.

Greece fact of the day

Better than not, but I can’t say I find this entirely reassuring as a predictor of future productivity growth:

With the exception of shipping, tourism is Greece’s biggest foreign earner, the mainstay of an economy that has otherwise contracted by 27% since late 2009 when the country’s debt crisis began.

The industry accounted for eight out of 10 new jobs in 2016, vital for a nation hit by crippling levels of unemployment. Bank of Greece figures show around 23.5 million tourists visited in 2015, generating €14.2bn of revenues, or 24% of gross domestic product. Last year, the country’s tourism confederation, SETE, announced arrivals of 27.5 million, an all-time high.

Increasingly, the sector has helped boost much-needed job creation, according to data released by the labour ministry. Recently, the prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, said April and May had been record months for tackling the problem with 92,000 and 89,500 jobs created respectively. For every extra 30 holidaymakers a job is created, say officials.

Greek hotels and facilities could improve considerably, but the weather and ancient sites already have peaked.

Here is the full piece by Helena Smith.

*The Deerslayer*, an appreciation

Yes,I mean the book by James Fenimore Cooper.  I am reading it for the first time and it is much better than I had expected.  Mark Twain’s mockery of Cooper led me wrong, as I let it turn me away from being an appreciator.  And for all the more recent talk of the book being archaic and racist, I am finding it surprisingly sophisticated, for instance:

“Why, then, does the pale-face use them [rifles and powder and bullets]?  If he is ordered to give double to him that asks only for one thing, why does he take double from the poor Indians who ask for no thing?  He comes from beyond the rising sun, with his book in his hand, and he teaches the red-man to read it; but why does he forget himself all it says?  When the Indian gives, he is never satisfied, and now he offers gold for the scalps of our women and children, though he calls us beasts if we take the scalp of a warrior killed in open war.  My name is Rivenoak.”

The white settlers are perplexed and dumbfounded in response.

The Deerslayer himself is a kind of naif, frequently confronted with new situations and trying to figure out the boundaries between man and nature, between man and woman, what law might mean across differing civilizations, and which of the rules apply or do not.  He is continually experimenting with one point of view and then moving on to the next, though I suspect by the end of the book he will settle somewhere.

It seems he is attracted only to the Delawares (Native Americans) and he doesn’t quite know what to do about that.  At least up through my p.196.

It’s also about the loss of innocence, and to what extent violence is an inevitable part of history, some of the plot line being drawn from Homer’s Iliad.  The protagonist is called Deerslayer to highlight that he has not yet taken human life.

There was, by the way, a 1920 German silent movie version of the book, with Bela Lugosi playing the role of Chingachgook.  “This was the first part of the two-part Lederstrumpf silent film.”

And: “While on his death bed, the Austrian composer Franz Schubert wanted most to read more of Cooper’s novels.”

It has a good amount on the evolution of property rights and also how to, verbally, make credible or enforceable agreements.

I’m find this book much fresher and more stimulating than my recent reread of the well-worn Crime and Punishment.  Twain’s essay, while full of talent and his good humor, is actually one of the most harmful and misleading pieces of literary criticism ever penned.  You can take it as a model for what to avoid in life and in your intellectual thought — what I call “devalue and dismiss.”  Appreciate, there is so much to appreciate in books.  Do not devalue and dismiss.

Saturday assorted links

1. What Chinese bosses think of American workers.

2. “The share of employment in the manufacturing sector and long-run manufacturing job loss at the county level are not statistically significant in explaining the change in Republican vote shares from 2012 to 2016, when controlling for standard voting determinants.”  Link here.

3. Grenfell and regulatory capture.  And an interesting NYT piece stressing horizontal vs. vertical externalities of fires.

4.Is Hermann Hesse’s Demian the most popular Western novel in Korea?

5. China has its own version of Amazon buys Whole Foods.

6. Peter Berger, RIP (NYT).

The Zingales and Rolnik approach to social network reform

It is sufficient to reassign to each customer the ownership of all the digital connections that she creates — what is known as a “social graph.” If we owned our own social graph, we could sign into a Facebook competitor — call it MyBook — and, through that network, instantly reroute all our Facebook friends’ messages to MyBook, as we reroute a phone call.

If I can reach my Facebook friends through a different social network and vice versa, I am more likely to try new social networks. Knowing they can attract existing Facebook customers, new social networks will emerge, restoring the benefit of competition.

Today Facebook provides developers with application-program interfaces that give them access to its customers’ social graph, Facebook Connect and Graph A.P.I. Facebook controls these gates, retaining the right to cut off any developer who poses a competitive threat. Anticipating this outcome, very few developers invest seriously in creating alternatives, eliminating even the threat of competition.

By guaranteeing access to new customers’ data and contacts, a Social Graph Portability Act would reduce the network externality dimension of the existing digital platforms and ensure the benefits of competition.

Here is the full NYT piece.  Is it feasible that the data could be transferred in a ready-to-use form?  And can the contacts object that they did not themselves consent to a transfer of their associated information say to “Alt-RightBook”?

Canada fact of the day

Canada’s foreign-born population is more educated than that of any other country on earth. Immigrants to Canada work harder, create more businesses and typically use fewer welfare dollars than do their native-born compatriots.

Here is the full NYT piece by Jonathan Tepperman.  It remains interesting, of course, that Canada has produced so few noteworthy international business brands.  Could it be that Canada gets the labor right but America rules when it comes to the capital?

Do Republicans give their representatives more ideological slack?

I found this intriguing:

According to several years of nationally representative survey data, about two-thirds of Americans believe that elected representatives should “try their hardest to give the people what they want.” Remarkably, however, Republican voters are between 20 and 30 points less likely than their Democratic counterparts to agree. Moreover, people represented by a Republican member of Congress are almost 20 percentage points less likely to perceive their member as behaving that way, regardless of their own party identification.

It’s not as nefarious as it sounds. Republican voters, whether they consciously realize it or not, are more comfortable with what political scientists call “trustee-style representation,” whereby representatives use their own principled judgment when casting votes. In contrast, the “delegate style” binds legislators to constituent demands. Many Republicans — voters and lawmakers alike — cherish their principles more than they do the whims of a mostly uninformed and inattentive mass public.

…members of groups that comprise the Republican base seem especially averse to delegate-style public overtures. Even after taking account of other forces that might shape citizens’ views of lawmakers, we found that traditionalistic Christians are 23 points less likely than seculars to say that representatives should “give the people what they want.” Instead, they should “stick to their principles, no matter what the polls might say.”

…when Republicans think their representatives are getting soft, they try to hold them accountable. In surveys, we asked respondents to tell us not only what kind of representation they wanted but also the kind they thought they were actually getting. Democrats proved 23 points less supportive of their representatives when they perceived them paying too little attention to public opinion. In contrast, Republicans were up to 50 percentage points less supportive when they saw them paying too much attention.

Fourth, judging from legislative roll-call data since 1985, Republicans in Congress have been considerably less likely than Democrats to follow their constituents’ policy preferences — a tendency that has grown over time. We found that the ideological convergence between voters and legislators is more than three times greater among Democratic legislators than among Republicans.

There is yet more of interest at the link, from Monkey Cage, by David C. Barker and Christopher Jan Carman.