Month: July 2018
When Facebook moves into its new offices in Mountain View this fall, a signature Silicon Valley perk will be missing — there won’t be a corporate cafeteria with free food for about 2,000 employees.
In an unusual move, the city barred companies from fully subsidizing meals inside the offices, which are part of the Village at San Antonio Center project, in an effort to promote nearby retailers. The project-specific requirement passed in 2014, attracting little notice because the offices were years away from opening.
It came in response to local restaurants that said Google, the city’s biggest employer, was hurting their businesses by providing free meals, according to John McAlister, a Mountain View councilman.
To pay for his professional flight degree at Purdue University in Indiana, Andrew Hoyler had two choices. He could rely on loans and scholarships. Or he could cover some of the cost with an “income-share agreement” (ISA), a contract with Purdue to pay it a percentage of his earnings for a fixed period after graduation.
Around a third of graduate education in America is now online, according to Richard Garrett of Eduventures, a consultancy. Many universities take a do-it-yourself approach, but the better-known ones tend to go into partnership with the OPMs. 2U, a ten-year-old startup, led the way, and has been followed into the business by, among others, Pearson, an educational publisher, and Coursera (which started off as a provider of MOOCs). Coursera joined up with UoI to create its online MBA programme.
Both are from The Economist.
For the time being, we have turned off comments on MR posts. Is not a higher gdp a good thing?
…Illing: Let’s return to the “competence principle.” Why does the right to competent government trump other fundamental rights, like the right to participate in the democratic process?
Brennan: I think the real question is why should we assume there’s a right to participate in democratic process? It’s actually quite weird and different from a lot of other rights we seem to have.
We have the right to choose our partner, to choose our religion, to choose what we’re going to eat, where we live, what job we’ll do, etc. While some of these things do impose costs on others, they’re primarily about carving out a sphere of autonomy for the individual, and about preventing other people from having control over you.
A right to participate in politics seems fundamentally different because it involves imposing your will upon other people. So I’m not sure that any of us should have that kind of right, at least not without any responsibilities.
So how do we create an epistocracy?
Brennan:…Here’s what I propose we do: Everyone can vote, even children. No one gets excluded. But when you vote, you do three things.
First, you tell us what you want. You cast your vote for a politician, or for a party, or you take a position on a referendum, whatever it might be. Second, you tell us who you are. We get your demographic information, which is anonymously coded, because that stuff affects how you vote and what you support.
And the third thing you do is take a quiz of very basic political knowledge. When we have those three bits of information, we can then statistically estimate what the public would have wanted if it was fully informed.
Under this system, it’s not really the case that you have more power than I do. We can’t really point to any individual and say you were excluded, or your vote counted for more. The idea is to gauge what the public would actually want if it had all the information it needed.
Lots to think about. Read the whole thing.
That is the title and topic of my latest Bloomberg column. Here is one short bit:
In essence, Trump wants a fall guy. He may be secretly afraid that his “trade war” and general political volatility — or just plain bad luck — will damage the U.S. economy. If that happens, Trump will need a political target to absorb the criticism. With midterm elections around the corner, he doesn’t want to point the finger at Congress. Hillary Clinton can no longer serve as a plausible target. So the Fed is the convenient scapegoat. The last thing he wants is for the Fed to do exactly as he says, because then he would have no one to blame but himself. He did stress, “I’m letting them do what they feel is best.”
Do read the whole thing, it represents a revision from my earlier view.
The cyclically adjusted deficit has decreased considerably, moving from 8.7% of potential GDP to 1.9% in 2013 and to 0.9% in 2014. This is better (lower) than the OECD average in 2014 (3.1%), reflecting some improvement in the underlying fiscal position of Portugal.
Or see p.20 here (pdf), which shows a rapidly diminishing Portuguese cyclically adjusted deficit since 2010. Now I am myself skeptical of cyclically adjusted deficit measures, because they beg the question as to which changes are cyclical vs. structural. You might instead try the EC:
…the lower-than-expected headline deficit in 2016 was mainly due to containment of current expenditure (0.8 % of GDP), particularly for intermediate consumption, and underexecution of capital expenditure (0.4% of GDP) which more than compensated a revenue shortfall of 1.0% of GDP (0.3% of GDP in tax revenue and 0.7% of GDP in non-tax revenue)
Does that sound like spending your way out of a recession? Too right wing a source for you? Catarina Principle in Jacobin wrote:
…while Portugal is known for having a left-wing government, it is not meaningfully an “anti-austerity” administration. A rhetoric of limiting poverty has come to replace any call to resist the austerity policies being imposed at the European level. Portugal is thus less a test case for a new left politics than a demonstration of the limits of government action in breaking through the austerity consensus.
Or consider the NYT article itself:
The government raised public sector salaries, the minimum wage and pensions and even restored the amount of vacation days to prebailout levels over objections from creditors like Germany and the International Monetary Fund. Incentives to stimulate business included development subsidies, tax credits and funding for small and midsize companies. Mr. Costa made up for the givebacks with cuts in infrastructure and other spending, whittling the annual budget deficit to less than 1 percent of its gross domestic product, compared with 4.4 percent when he took office. The government is on track to achieve a surplus by 2020, a year ahead of schedule, ending a quarter-century of deficits.
This passage also did not completely sway me:
“The actual stimulus spending was very small,” said João Borges de Assunção, a professor at the Católica Lisbon School of Business and Economics. “But the country’s mind-set became completely different, and from an economic perspective, that’s more impactful than the actual change in policy.”
Does that merit the headline “Portugal Dared to Cast Aside Austerity”? Or the tweets I have been seeing in my feed, none of which by the way are calling for better numbers in this article?
I would say that further argumentation needs to be made. Do note that much of the article is very good, claiming that positive real shocks help bring recessions to an end. For instance, Portuguese exports and tourism have boomed, as noted, and they use drones to spray their crops, boosting yields. That said, it is not just the headline that is at fault, as the article a few times picks up on the anti-austerity framing.
I’m going to call “mood affiliation” on this one, at least as much from the headline and commentary surrounding the article as the author herself.
I was surprised by the consistent level of quality in the production. It runs for about 2 hours, 20 minutes, with hardly any slow musical moments — how many pop or rap albums can say the same?
I do not agree with those who see it as too authoritarian or too glorifying of raw ambition and war. In my read of the piece, it is “crazy” King George III who speaks the truth about politics. The main plot of course has non-white characters in the roles of Founding Fathers. I view this as an imaginary history, to be compared against what actually happened, to illustrate just how far America is from having an actual emancipatory history. At the same time, America is the country where people tell such imaginary stories about emancipatory histories, a sign that we are not entirely hopeless. Yet when it comes to “who is in the room,” and “who gets to tell the story” — two recurring themes — the outcomes have been less than ideal. I saw Hamilton as a piece about shattered dreams and yet picking up the pieces yet again.
It is striking how good a job Hamilton does at appealing to viewers of all different levels of education and information.
Here is a review from David Brooks (NYT).
In normal times and places house prices are kept fairly close to construction costs by the ordinary processes of supply and demand. Average house prices didn’t rise much over the entire 20th century, for example. Even today, house prices are kept close to construction costs in most of the United States. But extreme supply restrictions in a small number of important places (San Francisco, San Jose, LA, New York, Boston etc.), have driven average prices well above any seen in the entire 20th century.
Over the last several decades high productivity industries have become more geographically concentrated. As a result, a substantial share of the productivity gains from technology, bio-tech and finance have gone not to producers but to non-productive landowners. High returns to land have meant lower returns to other factors of production.
The return to education, for example, has increased in the United States but it’s less well appreciated that in order to earn high wages college educated workers must increasingly live in expensive cities. One consequence is that the net college wage premium is not as large as it appears and inequality has been over-estimated. Remarkably Enrico Moretti (2013) estimates that 25% of the increase in the college wage premium between 1980 and 2000 was absorbed by higher housing costs. Moreover, since the big increases in housing costs have come after 2000, it’s very likely that an even larger share of the college wage premium today is being eaten by housing. High housing costs don’t simply redistribute wealth from workers to landowners. High housing costs reduce the return to education reducing the incentive to invest in education. Thus higher housing costs have reduced human capital and the number of skilled workers with potentially significant effects on growth.
Housing is eating the world.
The Guyanese government, under its agreement with Exxon, will receive roughly half the cash flow from oil production once the company’s costs are repaid. Economists say that will mean the country’s current gross domestic product of $3.6 billion will at least triple in five years.
That is from a longer feature article by Clifford Krauss at the NYT.
1. In 1800, there were no formal laws against abortion in the United States, although common law suggested that the fetus had rights after a process of “quickening.”
2. Ten states passed anti-abortion laws in the 1821-1841 period. De facto there were many exceptions and enforcement was loose.
3. Abortion became a fully commercialized business in the 1840s, and this led to more public discussion of the practice. Abortion in fact became one of the first medical specialties in American history. It is believed that abortion rates jumped over the 1840-1870 period, and mostly due to married women.
4. Drug companies started to supply their own abortion “remedies” in the 1840s on a much larger scale.
5. At this time there were few moral dilemmas, at least not publicly expressed, about the termination of pregnancies in the earlier stages. That came later in the 20th century.
6. In 1878, a group of physicians in Illinois estimated the general abortion rate at 25%. In any case during this time period abortion was affordable to many more Americans than just the wealthy.
7. Several states started to criminalize abortion during the 1850s.
8. 1857-1880 saw the beginning of a physicians’ crusade against abortion. By 1880, abortion was illegal in most of the United States, and this occurred part and parcel with a rise in the professionalization of the medical profession. These policies were later sustained and extended throughout the 1880s and also the early twentieth century.
9. Over the 1860-1880 period, doctors succeeded in turning American public opinion significantly against abortion. The homeopaths supported them in this.
This is all from the very useful and readable book Abortion in America: The Origins and Evolution of National Policy, by James C. Mohr.
“Tokyo developments curtailed by rising construction costs”
Imagine construction costs being the binding constraint on prices, rather than regulations and supply restrictions. Remarkable.
Here is the full FT story by Hugo Cox.
Do you favour beach, city or rural destinations?
City and rural. I keep returning to my two favourite cities, Reykjavik and Addis Ababa. They’re such different places, yet my life is deeply entangled with both. I spend most of my time — holiday or no holiday, physically or mentally — in one of four cities: Berlin, Copenhagen, Reykjavik or Addis Ababa.
6. Putin’s approval ratings are falling, due to “a deeply unpopular change to pensions.”
Formal training programs, which can be called education, enhance cognition in human and nonhuman animals alike. However, even informal exposure to human contact in human environments can enhance cognition. We review selected literature to compare animals’ behavior with objects among keas and great apes, the taxa that best allow systematic comparison of the behavior of wild animals with that of those in human environments such as homes, zoos, and rehabilitation centers. In all cases, we find that animals in human environments do much more with objects. Following and expanding on the explanations of several previous authors, we propose that living in human environments and the opportunities to observe and manipulate human-made objects help to develop motor skills, embodied cognition, and the use of objects to extend cognition in the animals. Living in a human world also furnishes the animals with more time for such activities, in that the time needed for foraging for food is reduced, and furnishes opportunities for social learning, including emulation, an attempt to achieve the goals of a model, and program-level imitation, in which the imitator reproduces the organizational structure of goal-directed actions without necessarily copying all the details. All these factors let these animals learn about the affordances of many objects and make them better able to come up with solutions to physical problems.