Month: December 2021
What has Johns done for us lately? Pretty much what he did for us in the first place: he continually disrupts the mental shorthand that converts complex visual experience into simpler mental categories, with all their buttressing opinions, received wisdom, and personal preferences. In a world (including the art world) where “visuals” are used to simplify arguments and kindle beliefs, Johns reminds us that doubling, bifurcation, and uncertainty are the terms of vision itself.
That is from Susan Tallman in the New York Review of Books. Happy New Year everybody!
2. Short essay on web 3.0. Good.
5. David Brooks Sidney Awards (NYT).
We use data from Airbnb to identify the mechanisms underlying discrimination against ethnic minority hosts. Within the same neighborhood, hosts from minority groups charge 3.2 percent less for comparable listings. Since ratings provide guests with increasingly rich information about a listing’s quality, we can measure the contribution of statistical discrimination, building upon Altonji and Pierret (2001). We find that statistical discrimination can account for the whole ethnic price gap: ethnic gaps would disappear if all unobservables were revealed. Also, three-quarters (2.5 points) of the initial ethnic gap can be attributed to inaccurate beliefs of potential guests about hosts’ average group quality.
That is from a newly published paper (AEA) by Morgane Laouénan and Roland Rathelot.
We estimate that COVID-19 vaccination reduces anxiety and depression symptoms by nearly 30%. Nearly all the benefits are private benefits, and we find little evidence of spillover effects, that is, increases in community vaccination rates are not associated with improved anxiety or depression symptoms among the unvaccinated. We find that COVID-19 vaccination is associated with larger reductions in anxiety or depression symptoms among individuals with lower education levels, who rent their housing, who are not able to telework, and who have children in their household. The economic benefit of reductions in anxiety and depression are approximately $350 billion. Our results highlight an important, but understudied, secondary benefit of COVID-19 vaccinations.
Here is the NBER working paper by Virat Agrawal, Jonathan H. Cantor, Jeeraj Sood, and Christopher M. Whaley.
As the omicron variant rips through NBA players and coaches, it has reached a season-high among game officials: 36% of the league’s referees are in COVID-19 protocols, sources told ESPN on Thursday.
Here is the full ESPN story. Unlike most Americans, NBA refs are tested on a regular basis.
5. “The more someone shops online rather than in stores, the less inflation the individual has faced.” Austan Goolsbee on the missing inflation data, and the NYT uses a photo of Rainier cherries.
Jeff is the CWT producer, and it has become our custom to do a year-end round-up and summary. Here is the transcript and audio and video. Here is one excerpt:
HOLMES: …Okay, let’s go through your 2011 list really quickly.
HOLMES: All right, number one — in no particular order, I think — but number one was Incendies. Do you remember what that’s about?
COWEN: That is by the same director of Dune.
HOLMES: Oh, is that Denis Villeneuve?
COWEN: Yes, that’s his breakthrough movie. It’s incredible.
HOLMES: I didn’t know that. I’d never heard of it. French Canadian movie, mostly set in Lebanon.
COWEN: Highly recommended, whether or not you like Dune. That was a good pick. It’s held up very well. The director has proven his merits repeatedly, and the market agrees.
HOLMES: I’m a fan of Denis Villeneuve. Obviously, Arrival was great. I can’t think of the Mexican drug movie off the top of my head.
COWEN: Is it Sicario?
HOLMES: Sicario — awesome.
COWEN: It was interesting, yes.
HOLMES: He is one of the only directors today where, when he now makes something, I know I will go and see it.
COWEN: Well, you must see Incendies. So far, I’m on a roll. What’s next?
HOLMES: All right, number two: Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.
COWEN: Possibly the best movie of the last 20 years. I’m impressed by myself. It’s a Thai movie. It’s very hard to explain. I’ve seen it three times since. A lot of other people have it as either their favorite movie ever or in a top-10 status, but a large screen is a benefit. If you’re seeing the movie, pay very close attention to its sounds and to the sonic world it creates, not just the images.
There are numerous interesting observations in the dialogue, including about some of the guests and episodes.
For my latest Bloomberg column, I ran the experiment of typing “economics” into the TikTok search function, and here is what came up:
The first video I saw was about the high pay of economics majors in the job market, relative to softer majors. The speaker has a strange British accent, and it is possible that he was deliberately trying to look and sound stupid. It has been liked more than 32,000 times. The next was a rant about the outrageous price of beer at sporting events. There is no obvious intelligence or analysis in the video. It has been liked almost 32,000 times.
I also saw a video called “Why I left economics,” in which a student who took an economics class at Brown explains how his professor taught about inequality but lived in a mansion with servants. He argues that economics as a subject distracts our attention from “what the **** we’re supposed to do.” The number of likes exceeds 258,000.
I watched a video of a woman loudly sighing in relief as a caption explains she has just dropped her economics class. Likes: more than 22,000. Then there was one mocking the idea of being an economics major, calling it another religion and suggesting the demand for economist friends is quite low. It had more than 34,000 likes.
But I am not upset at TikTok:
I think of TikTok as a useful wake-up call for economists.
First, TikTok is one of the dominant modes of presenting and debating issues and ideas, including economics, yet it is hardly used or even discussed by professional economists. (University of Houston Professor Chris Clarke is a notable exception.) Economists are ignoring the market signals — to our own detriment.
Second, TikTok’s preoccupation with the status and morality of economics exists beyond TikTok. TikTok offers economists a view of ourselves as much of the world sees us. We are judged not for our analytics, but rather by how we fit into various moral codes. Like it or not, that is something we economists have to come to terms with. Maybe we should thank TikTok for making this so clear.
Recommended. And whether or not you like TikTok, you all should be spending a non-zero amount of time with it.
3. Mayda, Peri, and Steingress (AEA gate): “Our main contribution is to show that an increase in high-skilled immigrants decreases the share of Republican votes, while an inflow of low-skilled immigrants increases it.”
You won’t find many accurate reviews of this one, in part because it is so brutal about media, not to mention American politics. The core message, however, is that everything is downstream of culture. And that we are incapable of taking our own decline seriously. Think of it as an update of Mike Judge’s Idiocracy. And Trump and Hillary blend into one character, played by Meryl Streep.
At 2.5 hours, the movie is overly long but about 2/3 of it hits the target head on. These days it is rare to see a Hollywood movie of actual social import and insight. Science/politics is but one of the significant themes, another is Bruno M.’s claim that America has become a “virtual society.”
The ending also shows the film has the courage of its convictions.
Elsewhere, it is hard to know what to make of the utterly failed Bergman Island. Under what theory of the world does this cinematic outing make any sense whatsoever? Perhaps it is best interpreted as a self-referential punishment for those who, circa 2021, still think they ought to be watching movies titled Bergman Island. In that regard it succeeds beautifully.
As measured by page views here are the most popular MR posts of 2021. Coming in at number 10 was Tyler’s post:
Lots of good material there and well worth revisiting. Number 9 was by myself:
TDS infected many people but as the Biden administration quickly discovered the problems were much deeper than the president, leading to revisionism especially on the failures of the CDC and the FDA. Much more could be written here but this was a good start.
Number 8 was Tyler’s post:
which asked some good questions about a bad plan.
Sadly this post, written by me in January of 2021, had everything exactly right–we bottomed out at the end of June/early July as predicted. But then Delta hit and things went to hell. Sooner or later the virus makes fools of us all.
One of my earlier pieces (written in Feb. 21) on fractional dosing. See also my later post A Half Dose of Moderna is More Effective Than a Full Dose of AstraZeneca. We have been slow, slow, slow. I hope for new results in 2022.
Listener’s took umbrage, perhaps even on Tyler’s behalf, at Srinivasan but Tyler comes away from every conversation having learned something and that makes him happy.
Still true. Still jaw-dropping.
I let loose on the Biden administration’s silly attacks on vaccine patents. Also still true. Note also that as my view predicts, Pfizer has made many licensing deals on Paxalovid which has a much simpler and easier to duplicate production process (albeit raw materials are still a problem.)
A very good post, if I don’t say so myself, on this year’s Nobel prize recipients, Card, Angrist and Imbens.
Who else but Tyler?
To round out the top ten I’d point to Tyler’s post John O. Brennan on UFOs which still seems underrated in importance even if p is very low.
Erza Klein’s profile of me still makes me laugh, “He’s become a thorn in the side of public health experts…more than one groaned when I mentioned his name.” Yet, even though published in April many of these same experts are now openly criticizing the FDA and the CDC in unprecedented ways.
UFOs going mainstream or Tabarrok’s view of the FDA going mainstream. I’m not sure which of these scenarios was more unlikely ex ante. Strange world.
Let us know your favorite MR posts in the comments.
In the comments, Rahul asked that question as follows:
In general perception, why are there no achievements in classical music that rival a Mozart, Bach, Beethoven etc. that were created in say the last 50 years?
Is it an exhaustion of what’s possible? Are all great motifs already discovered?
Or will we in another 50 or 100 years admire a 1900’s composer at the same level as a Mozart or Beethoven?
Or was it something unique in that era ( say 1800’s) which was conducive to the discovery of great compositions? Patronage? Lack of distraction?
I would offer a few hypotheses:
1. The advent of musical recording favored musical forms that allow for the direct communication of personality. Mozart is mediated by sheet music, but the Rolling Stones are on record and the radio and now streaming. You actually get “Mick Jagger,” and most listeners prefer this to a bunch of quarter notes. So a lot of energy left the forms of music that are communicated through more abstract means, such as musical notation, and leapt into personality-specific musics.
1b. Eras have aesthetic centers of gravity. So pushing a lot of talent in one direction does discourage some other directions from developing fully. Dylan didn’t just pull people into folk, he pulled them away from trying to be the next Pat Boone.
2. Electrification favored a variety of musical styles that are not “classical” or even “contemporary classical,” with apologies to Glenn Branca.
3. The two World Wars ripped out the birthplaces of so much wonderful European culture. It is not only classical music that suffered, but also European science, letters, entrepreneurship, and much more.
4. It is tough to top Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, etc., so eventually creators struck out in new directions. And precisely because of the less abstract, more personality-laden nature of popular music, it is harder to have a very long career and attain the status of a true titan. The Rolling Stones ran out of steam forty (?) years ago, but Bach could have kept on writing fugues, had he lived longer. More recent musical times thus have many creators who are smaller in overall stature, even though the total of wonderful music has stayed very high.
5. Contemporary classical music (NB: not the best term, for one thing much of it is no longer contemporary) is much better than most people realize. Much of it is designed for peers, and intended to be experienced live. In the last decade I saw performances of Glass’s Satyagraha, Golijov’s St. Marc Passion, Boulez’s Le Marteau (at IRCAM), and Stockhausen’s Mantra, and it was all pretty amazing. I doubt if those same pieces are very effective on streaming. It may be unfortunate, but due to incentives emanating from peers, most non-peer listeners do not have the proper dimensionality of listening experience to proper appreciate those compositions. To be clear, for the most part I don’t either, not living down here in northern Virginia, but at times I can overcome this (mostly through travel) and in any case I am aware of the phenomenon. For these same reasons, it is wrong to think those works will have significantly higher reputations 50 or 100 years from now — some of them are already fairly old!
There are other reasons as well, what else would you suggest?
I will be doing a Conversation with him, here is an excerpt from Wikipedia, shorn of footnotes:
Samuel Bankman-Fried (born March 6, 1992), also known by his initials SBF, is an American businessman and effective altruist. He is the founder and CEO of FTX, a cryptocurrency exchange. He also manages assets through Alameda Research, a quantitative cryptocurrency trading firm he founded in October 2017. He is ranked 32nd on the 2021 Forbes 400 list with a net worth of US$22.5 billion. In addition, Bankman-Fried a supporter of effective altruism and pursues earning to give as an altruistic career.
SBF is also well-known for his interests in veganism and utilitarianism and philanthropy. So what should I ask him?
6. The most scathing book reviews of the year? The important point here is that many of these books are good.
To foreigners, seventeenth-century England was infuriating to observe — its political infrastructure weak, its inhabitants capricious and is intentions impossible to fathom.