Month: July 2017
Paul Krugman says a mix of “never” and “certainly not now” (my paraphrases, not actual quotations from him). Here is one bit:
On environment, a similar turn took place a bit later. The use of markets and price incentives to fight pollution was, initially, a conservative idea condemned by some on the left. But liberals eventually took it on board — while cap-and-trade became a dirty word on the right. Crude slogans — government bad! — plus subservience to corporate interests trump analysis.
I believe this is pretty far from the reality, here are a few points:
1. Conservative intellectuals never have turned against the idea of a carbon tax, as evidenced by Greg Mankiw’s leadership of the Pigou Club. Cap-and-trade is somewhat less popular, but that is probably the correct point of view, given the time consistency problems with governments that increase the supply of permits, as has happened in Europe.
2. Water economics is a big part of environmental economics. “Raise the price” and “define property rights better” remain central ideas in that field, commanding a lot of attention. David Zetland is one recent exemplar of these ideas.
3. The idea that there can be too much environmental regulation in many particular cases remains a central contribution, often associated with the Right. Of course this view is compatible with much tougher restrictions on carbon or other forms of air pollution.
4. The idea of properly applying “value of life” analysis to regulation, and seeking greater consistency (let’s save lives in cheaper rather than more expensive ways), remains a significant and undervalued insight.
5. Some of the key work on valuing biodiversity has come from Chicago-related methods, though I do not know the political affiliations of the authors.
6. Jonathan H. Adler is a significant ongoing contributor to environmental law and economics. Or try the work of Terry Anderson.
7. Applying property rights analysis to animal herds, animal ownership, and the tragedy of the commons remains a significant conservative idea. You will note throughout I don’t like calling these “conservative” ideas, they are simply good ideas or bad ideas. Still, in the broader sociological sense you hear these ideas from conservatives and libertarians fairly often.
8. There is plenty of recent work on the political economy of the administrative state, and whether it generates abuses of the rule of law or bad incentives.
9. I could go on, with perhaps Vernon Smith”s recent work on peak-load pricing for electric utilities being next in line. Or pro-green, pro-nuclear analysis often comes from the Right.
10. Overall, “schools of thought” have been dwindling in economics, and so it might seem that the golden ages of various ideologies or schools of thought lie well behind us. But if we focus on the ideas and their influence, rather than whether carriers of those ideas bear particular political labels, the influence of Chicago, UCLA, cost-benefit, and Montana/PERC ideas in environmental economics never has been stronger. In that sense the golden age is right now.
Addendum: Here is a better Krugman piece on the history of thought, though I would note that capital movements were integrated into the price-specie-flow mechanism in the 18th century and fully by the time of Henry Thornton.
There is a new Mercatus study by Eileen Norcross and Olivia Gonzalez, here is the bottom line:
TOP 5 STATES:
2) North Dakota
3) South Dakota
BOTTOM 5 STATES:
50) New Jersey
My own state, Virginia, comes in above average at #18.
Probably not, or so I argue in my latest Bloomberg column. Here is the closing bit:
It is again time for the West to learn from China. The emotional force of nationalism is stronger than we had thought, stability is not guaranteed, and the Western democratic status quo ex ante is less of a strong attractor than many of us had believed or at least hoped for.
In other words, we have our work cut out for us.
As I point out in the column, the world is getting richer but the number of democracies is shrinking.
2. Nine young New Yorkers poised for creative greatness? (NYT) Without intending any slight to these undoubtedly fine individuals, I found these feature scary.
This Buzzfeed article on unauthorized poop transplants has much of interest:
A spate of studies over the last decade have convinced microbiologists and doctors that “fecal microbiota transplantation,” or FMT, works for at least one disease: a deadly bacterial infection in the gut known as Clostridium difficile, or C. diff. No one knows whether the procedures work on other conditions, though dozens of clinical trials are testing them on people with irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, obesity, diabetes, epilepsy, autism, and even HIV.
The science is advancing rapidly, with more and more scientists excited about the potential and potency of fecal matter and the microbes in it. The FDA regulations on these procedures, however, keep them out of reach for most patients: Since 2013, the agency has banned doctors from doing fecal transplants on anything except C. diff.
A rogue clinic in Tampa, however, provides the carefully sourced material and explains to patients how the procedure is done. Since the procedure is simple, lots of experimentation is going on which upsets some people.
Poop from an unscreened stranger could carry serious infections, like hepatitis or gonorrhea, or dormant viruses.
No doubt–this is why we also ban sex and french kissing.
I suspect that many of the so-called treatments are crazy but people do a lot of crazy things. It’s odd that we allow some crazy things and ban others—even more that the crazy things we allow are sometimes socially useless while the crazy things that we ban are sometimes socially valuable.
The case for banning extreme sports, for example, is much stronger than the case for banning extreme medicine. Extreme sports don’t provide much benefit to the rest of humanity, other than some entertainment of questionable social value. Extreme medicine, on the other hand, has the potential to improve all our lives and at the very least is a useful warning about what not to do. Yet, extreme sports are lauded, or at least treated as mostly your own business (we do put some regulations on boxing and race car driving), while extreme medicine is heavily regulated and socially frowned upon.
My attitude is the reverse. You want to risk your life climbing without ropes? Knock yourself out–but don’t expect any support from me. I won’t even watch Alex Honnold because I think that what he does is Russian roulette and I do not approve. But, you want to risk your life trying an unapproved medical treatment? Sir, I salute you. Give that man a Nobel prize.
Here is a good Tobin Harshaw interview with Jeffrey Lewis, here is one good bit, scary in more than one regard:
Nuclear-armed missiles are a 1950s-era technology.
Well, there is a difference between the range the missile demonstrated last week, which was about 4,000 miles, and what the simulations we do at the Middlebury Institute suggest the missile may be capable of. My colleages, along with David Wright at the Union of Concerned Scientists, looked very closely at the launch of a new intermediate-range missile in May, as well as this one, trying to measure the missile and model its performance. It seems to me the North Korea cut the engines a bit early here, possibly so they did not overfly Japan. But they have been very clear their targets are in the continental U.S. — the Pacific Fleet in San Diego, Washington, and lately New York City — not Alaska. And our initial modeling of this missile suggests that it should be able to deliver a nuclear-weapon sized payload to most, if not all, those places. We’re still modeling away though.
I don’t think the North Koreans are going to deliberately start a nuclear war, but I think they might use those weapons if they thought a war was coming and they needed to get a jump on the U.S. and South Korea. And, despite the poor track record of decapitation strikes, the idea really frightens the North Koreans. But instead of making them behave, I suspect it will lead them to do things that I really don’t like, such as releasing nuclear weapons to lower level missile units.
Food for thought, the interview is interesting throughout.
Almost all of the artifacts described as the oldest in the permanent collection of the Mexican Museum are either forgeries or cannot be authenticated to display in a national museum.
It is easier for populist politicians to mobilise along ethno-national/cultural cleavages when the globalisation shock becomes salient in the form of immigration and refugees. That is largely the story of advanced countries in Europe. On the other hand, it is easier to mobilise along income/social class lines when the globalisation shock takes the form mainly of trade, finance, and foreign investment. That in turn is the case with southern Europe and Latin America. The US, where arguably both types of shocks have become highly salient recently, has produced populists of both stripes (Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump).
That is the title of an extraordinary Chinese-Tibetan film (with English subtitles, even in Kunming), here is one description:
A birth, a death, a pilgrimage. A film about the 1,200-mile journey of a pregnant woman, a butcher who wants to atone for his sins and a rag-tag band of villagers who go on foot from their small village in Tibet to the sacred Mt. Kailash has become a surprise winner at the Chinese box office.
It is doing better here per screen than Transformers 5 (or is that 6?). Here is more about the plot premise;
They travel wearing thick aprons made of yak hide and wooden planks tied to their palms. Every few feet, they raise their hands high above their heads in respect for the Buddha, then lower their worshipping hands to their forehead and then to their chest before diving into the ground, touching the earth with their foreheads. To an outsider, the ritual looks like bodysurfing on solid ground. While they chant a simple mantra, devotees lie flat on their stomachs with their hands bent at their elbows, pointing toward the heavens in a sign of prayer. Then they stand up and repeat these steps as the summer’s scorching asphalt roads turn into slippery ice-covered tracks in the winter.
It turns out this is a real thing, as they say back in The Great NJ, and they keep it up for 1200 km over the course of a year (really). Strapped babies and small children partake as well. And this isn’t a pure outlier, as my Yunnanese friend Jimi tells me he has seen it many times in Tibet on the open road.
You may think it all sounds silly, but by the end of the film you realize that what you are doing with your own life isn’t actually so different and is perhaps in some ways less valuable.
I’m calling this as one of the two or three best movies of the year, or indeed of any year. Highly recommended on the big screen, though here you can find it on Amazon. It goes without saying that the film is full of social science.
I can pass along that there’s another angle to the grunts (having played a lot of tennis). The sound of the ball hitting the racket provides useful information, particularly for a mishit or a powerful shot — because you have to move up or back quickly to cope. For years, top tennis players have used grunts and shrieks to conceal this sound from their opponents (e.g. I always thought Sharapova, and Seles years ago, were prime offenders). There’s no need for such noises as a function of effort, or events like NBA games would sound much different. But the tennis authorities haven’t done anything about it.
In table tennis, where I have a very long involvement, the spin on the ball is tremendous in high-level play — so much so that a concealed dead ball (with no spin) is a very effective tactic because the opponent will err by responding to the spin that isn’t there. Years back, a totally dead racket covering was developed for this purpose; even worse, it tends to continue the spin so that the originator effectively gets the reverse back of what he put on the ball. A top US player with whom I grew up developed a style where he used only one side of the racket for both forehand and backhand, while frequently flipping between the spinny and dead sides of his racket that were colored the same. Players could hear the difference, however, as the dead side made a little thud when struck. His innovation was to stomp his foot on the floor each time he struck the ball (going beyond the norm of the time of just stomping on the serve). A subsequent regulatory change required rackets to have one red and one black side, to facilitate keeping track of which rubber covering is being used for a given shot.
For broader perspective, I found this a very useful New Yorker piece by Joshua Yaffa. Here is one bit from it:
In advance of Trump and Putin’s first meeting, on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Hamburg, I decided to ask Russia’s sharpest and most experienced political journalists and investigative reporters what they thought of this coverage…
On the whole, said Mikhail Zygar, a political journalist and the author of “All the Kremlin’s Men,” a well-sourced insider look at the cloistered world of Russian politics, the way the U.S. media has covered the Russia scandal has made “Putin seem to look much smarter than he is, as if he operates from some master plan.” The truth, Zygar told me, “is that there is no plan—it’s chaos.”
The most important thing that U.S. reporters should remember, Shleinov told me, is that “money is fleeing Russia in all directions, people are trying to invest anywhere they can, to get their assets out before the secret services or their competitors show up and try and take them all.” On the whole, Shleinov said, a wealthy Russian—even a politically connected one—is likely buying real estate abroad “as a place to run to,” not on Putin’s orders.
Speculative, but interesting throughout, there is also much on the possible Trump-Putin connections.
4. “We believe a drone was used to fly in the tools that allow him to escape,” link here.
There is a new NBER working paper by Richard J. Murnane, Marcus R. Waldman, John B. Willett, Maria Soledad Bos, and Emiliana Vegas. I have not had a chance to read it, but here is the key part of the abstract:
We found that:
1. On average, student test scores increased markedly and income-based gaps in those scores declined by one-third in the five years after the passage of SEP.
2. The combination of increased support of schools and accountability was the critical mechanism through which the implementation of SEP increased student scores, especially in schools serving high concentrations of low-income students. Migration of low-income students from public schools to private voucher schools played a small role.
We interpret these findings as more supportive of improved student performance than other recent research on the Chilean policy reform.
That is not exactly the Milton Friedman story, but it is essentially a positive report for vouchers.
Education services bring in £17.5bn a year to the UK economy, but what is driving the demand for a British education and why are some parents willing to spend thousands of pounds to secure a “super tutor” for their child?
“It was on the plane over I realised I’d made a mistake,” a 25-year-old private tutor tells me.
He was flying to New York to spend the summer helping to prepare a 12-year-old boy for the Common Entrance exam – a test taken by children applying to private secondary schools.
The boy’s mother had insisted he sat next to the boy so he could spend the flight time teaching him.
He did an hour and then given they were spending the next three weeks together, decided to take a nap.
The next thing he knew, he was being woken up by the mother standing over him, shouting “You think this is some kind of holiday?”.
And here is the economic background:
The Londoner uses the job’s flexibility to fund his real passion of film production and acting. He is unwilling to be named in this article in case it jeopardises future jobs.
Yet he says the money easily makes up for the occasional difficulties. He charges anywhere from £40 to £90 an hour in the UK, although the agencies he is hired through take a 25% to 50% cut of this.
When he takes an overseas job, the fees are much higher to compensate for the fact that he can’t do any other work. Typically he earns between £800 and £1,500 a week.
In three years as a tutor he’s worked in India, Indonesia and Costa Rica, as well as the US.
Here is the full BBC story, interesting throughout, average is over as they say.