Month: December 2019
To many, Japan seems like a technological wonderland that’s at least a couple of decades ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to innovation. That even applies to something as seemingly mundane as office supplies, as is evident by this new see-through eraser that enhances precision by providing an unobstructed view of what’s actually being erased.
…And with a price tag of around $1.40 for a large version of the Clear Radar, and around 90 cents for a smaller one, Seed isn’t charging an inflated premium for this innovation, so why wouldn’t you upgrade?
Here is the full story, via Samuel Brenner.
That is a new paper by Yonathan A. Arbel and Roy Shapira, forthcoming in Vanderbilt Law Review:
Nudniks are those who call to complain, speak with managers, post online reviews, and file lawsuits. Typified by an idiosyncratic utility function and personality traits, nudniks pursue action where most consumers remain passive. Although derided in courtrooms and the court of public opinion, we show that nudniks can solve consumer collective action problems, thereby leading to broad market improvements.
Second, the Article spotlights a disconcerting development: Sellers’ growing usage of Big Data and predictive analytics allows them to identify specific consumers as potential nudniks and avoid selling to or disarm them before they can draw attention to sellers’ misconduct. The Article therefore captures an understudied problem with Big Data tools: sellers can use these tools to shield themselves from market accountability.
Finally, the Article evaluates a menu of legal strategies that would preserve the benefits of nudnik-based activism in light of these technological developments. In the process, we revisit the conventional wisdom on the desirability of form contracts, mandatory arbitration clauses, defamation law, and standing doctrines.
I am posting an on-line review of sorts on this paper, but I am not complaining. But perhaps a few of you are nudniks?
MacGuffins! That said, contrary to many reviews, the plot made perfect sense to me, many scenes were excellent, and the whole thing had a sweep and grandeur that episodes seven and eight completely lacked. It had many of the strengths and flaws (and plot devices) of Return of the Jedi, but after forty-two years of waiting for the series to conclude mostly I went away happy. Believe it or not.
Pronomos Capital, which [Patri] Friedman incorporated in August, is supposed to bankroll the construction of experimental cities on vacant tracts of land in developing countries. Pronomos is set up like a venture fund, making investments in local organizations that do the work of securing government approvals, finding tenants, and hiring retired U.K. judges to enforce the new legal framework, to be based on British common law. The firm says it’s discussing semi-autonomous cities of varying sizes with foreign and local businesspeople in countries where officials have seemed receptive to exempting them from area laws, including Ghana, Honduras, the Marshall Islands, Nigeria, and Panama. A given community could start as small as an industrial park, Friedman says. Most will be aimed at foreign businesses seeking friendlier tax treatment…
The venture firm has raised about $9 million so far (more than half from Thiel), well short of Friedman’s initial goal. He says that’s only enough to cover basic fact-finding expenses for his local partners, and he’ll raise more to buy and develop land once governments approve the plans.
Here is more from Lizette Chapman at Bloomberg, interesting throughout.
3. A Dutch museum that will put out everything it owns, not just the usual five percent (NYT).
5. David Brooks Sidney Awards (NYT).
Developing countries racked up a “towering” $55tn of debt by the end of last year, in a borrowing surge since the financial crisis that has been the fastest and widest in modern history, according to World Bank research.
China itself, whose debt-to-GDP ratio has risen 72 points to 255 per cent since 2010, accounts for the bulk of the boom, but nominal debt levels have doubled in the rest of the developing world, the bank found.
For now, historically low interest rates make a crisis less likely, according to the report, but the authors said that roughly half of the 521 national episodes of rapid debt growth since 1970 have resulted in crises which significantly hurt incomes.
I am happy to recommend these selections, the links going to my earlier remarks about them:
Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse (animated)
Campernaum (Ethiopian refugee in Beirut)
Ash is Purest White (Chinese, obscure)
High Life (best science fiction movie of the year?)
Long Day’s Journey into Night (big screen only, Chinese obscure)
Woman at War (Icelandic, wacky)
Booksmart (full of energy on the screen)
Echo in the Canyon (L.A. music scene in the 1960s and beyond)
The Farewell (American-Chinese, about a dying relative)
Honeyland (Macedonian, about bee keepers)
Inside Bill’s Brain (Bill Gates, short documentary)
Parasite (Korean, the Straussian reading is anti-egalitarian)
JoJo Rabbit (modern-day anti-Nazi comedy, mostly they pull it off)
The Rise of Skywalker
A Hidden Life
From those my top picks would be Marriage Story — the American redo of Scenes from a Marriage, and then Honeyland. Overall it was a much better year for movies than last year.
As for marginal choices, Ad Astra and Knives Out were two movies I liked, and came close to making this list, but didn’t.
As for historic cinema, I am very glad I purchased the complete Blu-Ray set of Ingmar Bergman movies, spectacular transfers and the American viewer can watch the true, complete version of Persona for the first time.
As for the rest of the year, I have high hopes for The Souvenir, Little Women and also the new Adam Sandler movie, but I have not yet seen them. The documentary For Sama has potential too.
What am I forgetting?
1. Losing faith in religion and losing faith in the humanities are somewhat the same thing. The truth of this has not yet been internalized.
3. MIE: Qatar hospital for falcons (NYT).
We develop a parsimonious general equilibrium production model in which heterogeneity in a small set of firm characteristics coherently explains a wide range of asset pricing anomalies and their linkages. The supply and demand of capital of each firm and equilibrium allocations and prices are available in closed form. Even in the absence of frictions, the model produces a security market line that is less steep than the CAPM predicts and can be nonlinear or downward-sloping. The model also generates the betting-against-beta, betting-against-correlation, size, profitability, investment, and value anomalies, while also fitting the cross-section of firm characteristics.
That is from a recent paper by Sebastian Betermier, Laurent E. Calvet, and Evan Jo, “A supply and demand approach to equity pricing.” As with my other posts on investment CAPM, I am not saying this new approach is either correct or useful, as I genuinely do not know. It’s just that I don’t see too many new ideas in economic theory these days, so when I do I am happy to give them attention.
My colleagues at GMU are awesome and you can see why by reading the opening to Garett Jones’s forthcoming new book, 10% Less Democracy.
ONCE I GOT THE CALL FROM CAMPUS POLICE, I knew I needed to write this book.
It was spring semester 2015, and I’d recently given a brief talk to a student group at my university. Natalie Schulhof, a reporter for the student newspaper, Fourth Estate, had come to the event and reported on my talk, entitled “10% Less Democracy.” That was the first time I’d spoken at any length about this book’s central idea: that in most of the rich countries, we’ve taken democracy, mass voter involvement in government, at least a little too far. We’d likely be better off if we kept the voters and even the elected officials a little further away from the levers of power. Let the government insiders run more of the show. After all, the insiders don’t have to be perfect for 10% less democracy to be an improvement; they just have to be better than the voters.
About a week after my talk, Schulhof’s piece came out, quite thorough and extremely accurate, complete with a photo of me standing before the small student audience. From the article: “Garett Jones, associate economics professor at George Mason University, says that there should be less democracy in the United States. . . . Less democracy would lead to better governance.”
But in our new age of social media, that article, accurate down to the last detail, wasn’t the article that became widely shared online. Instead, the subsequent firestorm was fed by ideology-driven websites, with authors posting articles loosely based on Fourth Estate’s original piece but filling in the blanks of the short, accurate article with their own vitriol and blue-sky speculation.
…In the days after these ideology-driven websites wrote about my talk, I discovered a torrent of hate polluting both my email inbox and my Twitter account. I welcome disagreement with my ideas, and passionate disagreement is part of a healthy public debate, but for a brief period, I had my sole experience (so far!) as an object of profanity-laced Internet rage. It culminated in the call from campus police—and in my dozen years at George Mason, that was the first and still the only time I’ve received such a call. An officer left a voice-mail message, and I called back at my first opportunity. She said someone had left an angry voice mail criticizing me on a general campus phone number, and the officer noted with great discretion that the voice mail contained at least one profane expression. Was there anyone who might be upset with me lately? the officer asked.
I had an idea. And that idea became this book. So to the unknown person who left that voice mail, I offer my heartfelt gratitude. I dedicate this book to you.
By the way, the title of Garett’s book might sound inflammatory but it’s only 10% inflammatory. Surely, we can talk about that rationally? Do we want all judges to be elected? Aren’t two year terms a little short in the modern age? Might we better off with an independent tax authority more like an independent central bank? Garett discusses these and many other ideas and unlike much of the constitutional economics of the past, Garett brings plenty of empirical evidence to bear–this is a good book to learn about modern political economy regardless of whether you buy the conclusions.
You can pre-order 10% Less Democracy at the link and you should, it’s very good.
Eric and his team describe it as follows:
In this episode, Eric sits down with Tyler Cowen to discuss how/why a Harvard educated chess prodigy would choose a commuter school to launch a stealth attack on the self-satisfied economic establishment, various forms of existential risk, tech/social stagnation and more. On first glance, Tyler Cowen is an unlikely candidate for America’s most influential economist. Since 2003, Cowen has grown his widely read and revered economics blog Marginal Revolutions with lively thought, insight and prose resulting in a successful war of attrition against traditional thinking. In fact, his well of heterodox thinking is so deep that there is an argument to be made that Tyler may be the living person with the most diverse set of original rigorous opinions to be found in any conversation. The conversation takes many turns and is thus hard to categorize. We hope you enjoy it.
I was bowled over by the boldness of the new conception and the quality of all the additional art out for view. The new MOMA, by mixing genres and periods and styles, comes close to abolishing the canon. Furthermore, they put out much more art by women and minorities and in the process they made it a much better and more compelling museum. It also refutes the notion that contemporary America is somehow artistically or aesthetically stagnant, keeping in mind that art museums reflect more generally the societies that house, fund, and curate them.
The big winners from the new makeover include Mark Bradford, Kara Walker, Haegue Yang, Yoko Ono, Jacques Tati, Romare Bearden, Annie Albers, Jesús Rafael Soto, Helio Oitcica, Wilfredo Lam, Gego, David Tudor, Cecilia Vicuña, Hector Hyppolyte, Duchamp (his influence more than any work out on display), and Picasso, whose best room still dominates the proceedings and comes across as more universal than before.
As a group I would say the Latin American mid- to late 20th century abstract and conceptual artists gain the most in status and impact.
The big losers are the Abstract Expressionists such as Kline, Rothko, Styll, Motherwell, and the like, as much of this work now looks overblown and also tired compared to what surrounds it. Some of the early twentieth century French art comes across as a bit lost, though not lacking in quality.
My biggest complaint is that Chinese contemporary art still is radically underrepresented.
The bottom line is that America’s best art museum ever just opened, and you probably still haven’t seen it.
Self-recommending if there ever was such a thing, here is the audio and transcript. In addition to all of the expected topics, including gender in the economics profession, we even got around to Indian classical music and Bach cantatas (she prefers the latter). Excerpt:
COWEN: Do you worry much that the RCT method — it centralizes authority in too few institutions? You need a certain amount of money. You need some managerial ability. You need connections abroad. It’s not like running regressions — everyone can do it on their PC. Is that, in some way, going to slow down science? You get more reliable results, but there’s much less competition of ideas, it seems.
DUFLO: I think it would be the case if we had not been mindful of this problem from the beginning. And it might still be the case to some extent. But I actually think that we’ve put a lot of effort in avoiding it to be the case.
When you take an organization like J-PAL, just in India we have 200 staff members. And we have, at any given time, 1,000 people running surveys. I say we, but these people are not running my project. These people are running the projects of dozens and dozens of researchers. When I started, I couldn’t have started without having the backing of my team because it was such a risky proposition that you needed to be able to easy risk capital kind of things.
But at this point, because of the infrastructure, it’s much more normal sense. People can get in with no funding of their own, in part because one of the things we are doing as a network is raising a lot of money to redistribute to other people widely. J-PAL has 400 researchers that are affiliated to it, or invited researchers, many of them quite, quite junior.
So that sort of mixture — it was very important to us, and I think we’ve been quite successful at making the tool marginally available. It’s never going to be like running a regression from your computer. But my philosophy is that if you have the drive and you’re willing to put in your own sweat equity, you can do it. And our students and many other students who are not at top institutions are doing it.
COWEN: On the internet, there’s a photo of a teenage Esther Duflo — at least it looks like you — protesting against fascism in Russia on top of a tank, is it?
DUFLO: That was a bus, and it was me. It was me. So that was in 1991. This was not when I lived for one year there. I lived one year in ’93–’94. But this was in ’91. I had gone to Russia about every year since I was a teen to learn Russian. I happened to be there the summer where there was this putsch against Gorbachev. That summer…
And someone gave me that fashizm ne poletit placard and asked me to hold it. And I’m like, “Sure, I’m going to hold it.” So I’m holding my placard. We stayed there for a long time when things were happening. Next time I saw in the evening, my parents called me, “What are you doing?” Because it turned out that that image was on all the TVs in the world. [laughs] And that’s how I very briefly became the face of this revolution.
COWEN: Does child-rearing in France strike you as more sensible than child-rearing in the United States?
DUFLO: Oh very much so, very much so.
COWEN: And why?
DUFLO: You know that book, Bringing Up Bébé?
DUFLO: I think she picked up on something which rings so true to me, which maybe is a marginal point about the US versus France. In France people are reasonably content to just go with the flow and do what everybody does. Every kid eats the same thing at 4:30, has dinner at the same time, has gone through the same experiences, learned the same songs, and everybody thinks they are totally free. But in fact, they are all on this pretty sensible railroad. And also, they don’t agonize about it.
In the US, child-rearing is one more occasion to make a statement about your identity. You’re the kind of mother that carries the baby, or you’re the kind of mother that puts the baby in a stroller. And somehow it almost can predict what you’re going to think about Donald Trump. That’s crazy. Some people are so concerned about what they do. Not only they feel that they have to invest a ton in their children, and they feel inadequate if they are not able to, but also, exactly what they do creates them as people.
In France that’s not there, and I think that makes everybody so much more laid back, children and adults.
Here are some extensive travel notes, taken from two years living in Munich, working for a Danish company. Excerpts:
I also think I might just sound negative; like theres a negativity bias in frank descriptions about what people and places are like.
The US, its common wisdom that a resume should only be one page. This is like a basic rules of Resumes, and at places I worked, we would throw out resumes that exceed one page. In Europe, it is uncommon for resumes to be merely one page.
European people will put a picture of their portrait on their resume. I found that weird. It seems to imply they think their looks matter, or that I, the resume reviewer, am the kind of person who thinks their looks matter.
My Danish coworkers were complaining about how young people today find nudity awkward. Both of them viewed the acceptance of nudity and human bodies as a traditional value that was disappearing in the modern danish world. One of them said that their sports club makes it a point to do big group bathing together after practice to set a good example for their children. The other told me that at a job he had long ago, the employees went on a ski trip together and they would share beds with their coworkers. He said his bed was so small and his sleeping partner was so big he had to physically hang on to him to stay in the bed. He presented this as a kind of ideal; that thats how things were in the good old days.
I read an article on Scandanavian dating norms, which basically said “Scandanavian people dont date”. The article said in a comedic tone, that Scandanavian people dont date, they just get really drunk with their opposite sex friends, have drunken sex, and then thats it: its a relationship. One of my Scandanavian coworkers said exactly the same thing.
Entertaining throughout, written by Chad, via Lama.