Monday assorted links


#3 Outstanding researcher!

So they looked at communities flooded with roughnecks, who engage in well paid, dangerous, physical labor and tend to live in all male camps in out of the way places, and they were surprised at how these men spend their money?

A little more research would have revealed that an inordinate number of them also drive expensive, maxed out pickup trucks, too.


I'll bet you could find a surge in smokeless tobacco sales in these same locales, too. Econ PhD, here I come!

These f*cking eggheads are geniuses.

‘...and if somehow my conduct ain't all your fancy paints, why single men in barracks don't grow into plaster saints.. " Kipling

Achilles probably had similar issues with the Myrmidons in front of Troy.

Those eggheads get paid for that twaddle.

#3: Is there a corresponding dip in other counties? Could these rises be due to drillers moving into the area? If you've never worked with a driller, they have their own culture. A Drunk and Disorderly arrest isn't considered a black mark. It's no longer a mark of pride, the way it used to be ("Shows you're a man!!"), but it's still considered blowing off steam. Same with STDs.

I work with drillers and I've seen the women they sleep with. I'd rather be celibate.

#2 This is a very compelling way to frame the history of technological progress. The Singularity cultists fundamentally misunderstand where they are in history: the Singularity already happened 250 years ago, and it changed everything about human life. We're now on the long tail of descent into resource depletion and entropy (climate change etc.) -- sort of like the heat death of the universe, or whatever slow-motion Armageddon plays that role in their mythology.

Wait a sec. While this piece offers some interesting math, the idea isn't new. It's James Burke and Connections modeled.

And that said, most connections flow through one critical device, the steam engine (which took machinery and machine thinking everywhere, and not just where there was a steady mill stream).

Yes, that was one singularity. But with a someday AI we could have another. Singularity squared. From machine thinking, to thinking machines, as it were.

But not likely real soon now, IMO.

My prediction: we get self-aware super-AI in 30 years and when it comes online it's all, "Damn guys, if you'd unleashed me 200 years ago I might have really gotten something done, but now the planet is on fire, the power grid is too unstable to let me run more than 20% of the time most days, and you don't have the infrastructure to send things into space anymore. But hey, anybody want to hear how you COULD have done some cool stuff if you hadn't flushed all your resources down the drain?"

That might be fun as dystopian fiction, but US grids now run at 99.98% reliability. (The average U.S. electricity customer was without power for 112 minutes and experienced one outage (2016), and there are 525600 minutes in a year.)

I'd consider a real AI in only 30 years to be positively Panglossian.

Presumably a real AI would be wicked smart at both genetic engineering and bioremediation. Home free at that point.

That is hilarious levels of pessimism Picador. You need to move out of California I think.

"Singularity already happened 250 years ago"
I have Ben Franklin and electron discovery.
At that point the 'force' came into control with their subterranean quantum field.

#3: these changes can be partially explained by selective in-migration and agglomeration effects.

So I take that to mean that a bunch of blue collar guys from out of town show up to drill gas wells, and the result is a local uptick in STD's and alcohol-related arrests? That seems quite reasonable, maybe bit shy of earth-shattering, though.

That is pretty much about it in a nutshell.

You'd probably see the same effects in rural areas from any long term, scale construction project such as a highway.

Also how much of this can be explained by the general increase in STDs population wide being brought into a rural area from outside.

The increase in STDs probably isn't directly related to the influx of roughnecks. For some reason, where camps of men go, what Terry Pratchett called "ladies of negotiable virtue" follow.

But the claim it addresses is that poverty causes crime. These guys are not poor but still committing crimes.

Are you reading the same papers? Where is it linking poverty and crime?

An increase in property crime could also (most likely) come from locals taking advantage of the influx of wealth and outsiders into the area rather than the rig hands committing the crime.

#2: These guys should have a look at Martin Weitzman's 1998 paper on Recombinant Growth, as it covers more or less the same ground:
I wrote a summary of that paper for a class I teach here:

That was my initial reaction. But they seem to be making a stronger claim, that due to the combinatorial forces, the Industrial Revolution was inevitable and post-revolution growth would continue to be exponential. (Or maybe Weitzman made that claim too? It's been decades since I read his paper, or it might've been an earlier version of the paper that you cite.)

All well and good; thanks to combinatorics, growth is exponential. Until it isn't, either due to resource depletion, Great Stagnation, disruptive disorder and unrest, or whatever it is that the model is ignoring.

@mkt42 - a physicist once calculated that if growth was indeed exponential, the earth would literally overheat and melt. So Club of Rome was right in a way (just early), which does not bode well for non-total-factor-productivity growth (i.e., dumb growth comprising more people = greater GDP).

Bonus trivia: since the derivative of an exponent is itself an exponent, the logical result is that if you "zoom out" on an exponential curve it *always* looks like it "takes off like a rocket after some tiny growth" depending on the scales used on the X and Y axes.

Exponent I meant EXP(x) = exponential function of course.

What do you think the derivative of x^2 is?

That's just a consequence of self-similarity. Doesn't have to be its own derivative to do that.


North Korea also has an interesting subway system as well

3. check meth

There are parallels with Kremer's O-Ring theory of development.

But she is saying that that England just rolled lucky dice and got the industrial revolution.

Presumably, the IR could have happened just as easily in Tibet, Mongolia, Congo, Hawaii, Greenland, Russia, Mexico, or Egypt. The IR got going in Britain, Netherlands, northern Germany, and the US just by a handy roll of the dice.

I don't think so. I remember Edison saying, the harder I work, the luckier I am. Certain cultures are open to exploiting luck when it shows up; some aren't. The IR could have happened in China first, but China suppressed the culture that could have exploited its luck.

That and they were invaded and subjugated by the Mongols.

The problem with this explanation is that many parts of the world are still not participating in the IR. So it may be part of the story but it cannot be the whole explanation. I think the Clark hypothesis that Western Europeans were bred to be capitalists is also a big part of it.

2. Was the Industrial Revolution caused by a combinatorial explosion?

Rotary steam press made trade journals and standard product catalogs widely available for cheap. Resulted in standard components that can be interchanged across designs.

#3: The Oil Curse.

#1: I think this is the same Claudia who used to sometimes comment here at MR?

But doesn't anymore. Maybe she now has better things to do with her time. I hope it's not an example of ... somebody's undoubtedly invented a name for the web version of this, I think of it as Gresham's Law on the Web: bad commenters drive out good.

yes, it’s me ... commenting on MR was fun until someone called me a nasty name ... and I had to email Tyler to get it deleted, ahem ... I still read and enjoy the blog and comments

Well it's good to see that you're still around in some sense. Too bad that it looks like the web-version of Gresham's Law also applied, somewhat.

And I wonder what is the record for youngest economist to have a law or rule named after them? Sahm Rule.

Gresham's Law. Taylor Rule. Coase Theorem. Cobb-Douglas Production Function. Hausman Test.

Arrow's Impossibility Theorem apparently comes from his dissertation, so he was around 30 when he came up with it, although I don't know how long it took for people to name it after him.

Malthus was 32 when he published his namesake.

Could you ask Tyler to post at least a jist of articles from high gate sources like WSJ

Our current definition of a recession is two consecutive quarters of falling GDP. Not sure where it came from, but it's arbitrary.

To regular folk, a recession is when the guy down the street loses his job, and a depression is when you lose your job. The salient variable is not GDP growth, but employment. I'm not sure I agree with the particulars of Sahm's definition (I would focus on job growth/contraction rather than unemployment, because the labor force today has a permeable membrane, particularly for the young and old), but it's definitely a step in the right direction.

Looking at employment has the additional virtue of giving us information in real time. The backward-looking GDP definition of recession is such that we can't even call a recession until it's probably over.

The labor force has always been permeable with people moving out of it as a result of various life events- retirement, disability, marriage and childbirth

from wiki:
"In mathematics, a combinatorial explosion is the rapid growth of the complexity of a problem due to how the combinatorics of the problem is affected by the input, constraints, and bounds of the problem. Combinatorial explosion is sometimes used to justify the intractability of certain problems."
I know what that means reasonably well.
This sounds unrelated to the industrial revolution to me. Someone care to make the connection for me here?


The idea is similar to the value of a social network -- except it's a network of ideas rather than of people.

If your society is coming up with advances in metallurgy, that's nice, you can produce iron and steel and other alloys.

If your society is coming up with advance in petrochemicals, that's nice, you can produce kerosene, gasoline, high octane gasoline, etc.

If your society is studying aeronautics, that nice, you can build hang gliders as Otto Lilienthal did and figure out better ways to steer and control them.

Separately those are nice, but limited. Combine them and you can build a lightweight and powerful internal combustion engine, put it on a Lilienthal-inspired glider (though the Wright brothers eventually discarded his data and used their own data gathered from the wind tunnel they built) and invent the airplane.

Combinations of ideas are much more powerful than single ideas in isolation.

Major progress in science most often occurs when someone combines two or more ideas that were previously separate. A truly original idea that leaps forward is rare. Eg. Paul Krugman won his Nobel largely for combining concepts from industrial organization with those of international trade.

The more ideas that are floating around, the more combinations can be made to come up something new. Without Rosalind Franklin's work on x-ray diffraction, Watson and Crick could not have deduced the structure of DNA. Without tensor calculus, Einstein could not have worked out general relativity.

More ideas ==> more progress, exponentially more.

"Combinatorial explosions" is about problems getting harder. So the time requirement for solving the problem is bounded by: t(n)=n!
n being the number of inputs.
[from what I understand this in a complexity-theory way]
What is the problem that shows this combinatorial explosion here?
The problem of the Gods to keep humanity down, after humanity has reached a certain point of development?
That's just a strange perspective.

Also you can't mix up exponential with combinatorial here (unless this was somehow done in the original article, which I have trouble approaching). Combinatorial is much faster than exponential, see here for the intuition:

Your question is still unclear. It sounds like you understand the argument of Deveraux, Weitzman, et al well enough, i.e. that it is based on combinatorics. But what you are objecting to is them calling it "combinatorial explosion" because you think that term should be reserved for describing a certain category of mathematical problems.

I.e. you don't have a question so much as a complaint about their use of the phrase.

All I can suggest is let's see what the mathematicians say. Do they object to the article's use of the phrase? (Granted, few of them are probably aware of or care about the article.)

Was not a complaint, but a question.
Cause I read "combinatorial explosion", thought "what's that?', looked it up, thought "That I understand..... but that's something different!".
Looked at the wiki-article again. I just read above the contents where the summary is, leading me to believe that this was only used as a term in complexity theory (with which I'm familar with, so I may whinge about it, if I wanted to).
But there's usages that doesn't conform to the summary at all.
Bad wiki-article summary and me not being paranoid enough, is all.
Question withdrawn :)

#4 - China will always choose stability, cohesion and greater accounting over maximum economic growth.

This is plainly false. China is one of very few countries to have explicitly set economic growth as a policy goal, and it plainly worked. Over that period, China grew faster than any other polity on the planet.
The correct response to this researcher's work is: hahahaha, yeah, you know how to grow economies better than the most successful growers of economies the world has ever seen. That's why they pay you the big bucks.

This is plainly false. China has been going through cycles of centralization and decentralization for a thousand years. The forces of decentralization are creeping both in Hong Kong and some of the provinces.

ahem... China is a nation of young men fueling a bubble of completely unnecessary real estate, so that they can have enough homes to their name, so they may have a shot in the marriage market, because the one-child policy has led the whole country to abort all those sorely missing baby girls. A lot of those uninhabited houses are naturally shoddy and overpriced.
Does not scream "stability" to me.
[slowly dawning on me....]
you were being sarcastic?

Partially sarcastic. I think there's support for a reading either way. There are several areas (e.g. education system, great firewall) where China has pretty explicitly opted for cohesion and stability over growth. There are several areas where the choice has been for short term growth over long term stability and growth, as you mention. It's just hard to say what the internal rationale of party members and planners are.

I visited Uzbekistan this year, unfortunately the best Soviet art was in the restored mosques and madrassas in Samarkand, spectacular but a little too perfect for my taste. In some of the bazaars you can see how the Registran looked before restoration, that works better for me.

#1 - The arrogance of those who believe that they can "combat recession" or "soften the impact" of a recession is on par with those who think of climate change policy as akin to a thermostat.


The author should be congratulated for working through the concepts of current land supply in coming to conclusions in the paper, but I feel that it's only a partial solution.

Land supply is obviously a supportive policy, but there are generally serious impediments to enhancing this: firstly political, but there are also diminishing returns to the remaining land available, and developing what remaining land there is also carries its own negative externalities (try find a park to go for a run). But more than that, the new transport corridors required to facilitate new land supply (find a highway wide enough to connect to the new land and join it to the current road network), plus utilities, and everything else, isn't simple. And the marginal costs of this infrastructure comes in very large and discrete steps, not continuous functions, and it's often prohibitively expensive if it's practical at all, regardless of whether its funded by consumers through user charges or via taxes and the state.

This is the long explanation to go with the simple example: try building a new high school in either a super dense high rise city with no spare land, or on farm land. Which one is cheaper? And now try to do that for every single piece of infrastructure you can imagine and let's weigh up the cost difference to the welfare gains from agglomeration. And while you're at it, try to equalise the quality of service between those two high schools.

Intuitively I suspect that incumbent residents understand this, which is why they're often so opposed to new residents. And city planners, who often wear the bill for new capex, also intuitively understand this, and elect to use systems like Hukou to limit population growth.

It seems entirely possible that we could reach an equilibrium where people are born where it's cheaper to live, then high human capital potential employees work in cities where returns to agglommeration are high, and then they retire back to cheaper cities once their careers are over. That's effectively what happens today in much of the western world.

#5. What is it with progressives and their love of choo-choo trains? Left-wingers here in Atlanta, for example, want so badly to spend billions on trains and make auto traffic even worse in the hope that one day we'll all stand butts-to-nuts in a urine-scented MARTA station.

Comments for this post are closed