Month: January 2022
2. The real Coleman Hughes. Looks really good.
3. Tooze on Ukraine. Excellent piece.
The world’s poorest countries face a $10.9bn surge in debt repayments this year after many rebuffed an international relief effort and instead turned to the capital markets to fund their responses to the coronavirus pandemic.
A group of 74 low-income nations will have to repay an estimated $35bn to official bilateral and private-sector lenders during 2022, according to the World Bank, up 45 per cent from 2020, the most recent data available.
One of the most vulnerable countries is Sri Lanka, where the rating agency S&P Global last week warned of a possible default this year as it downgraded the country’s sovereign bonds. Investors are also concerned about Ghana, El Salvador and Tunisia, among others.
Here is my keynote talk for the ACM Advances in Financial Technologies conference. I discuss Two Novel Mechanisms for Funding and Discovering Public Goods, namely dominant assurance contracts (with experimental support here) and the Buterin, Hitzig, Weyl work on quadratic funding.
Lots of other excellent talks on blockchains, AMMs, decentralized finance and so forth are at the link.
When I lived in Germany in the mid-1980s, it seemed obvious to me that the chances of a pending German reunification were pretty high. West Germany seemed obsessed with its status as a separated twin. That seemed everywhere in the serious literature and film of the time. Yet all my German friends insisted that my expectations were nonsense and that they absolutely had moved on and did not care one whit about East Germany. Still, to me the yearnings were obvious.
At that time I was expecting an overture from the Soviet Union, bringing the two Germanies together and cementing a status somewhere between Finlandization and outright Soviet sympathies. Neutral de jure, but never much upsetting the larger neighbor to the east. The United States wouldn’t much like that arrangement, and would be preparing to pull out its troops, but what could it do?
I simply could not imagine that the USSR would give up its East Germany prize and so 1989-1992 came as a major shock to me. I traveled to the new, free East Germany as soon as I could, not long after the Wall came down, because I wanted to witness what was happening.
For many years, while I was pleased by the unfolding of events, and pleased to have seen an inkling of reunification, I felt my prediction was absolutely, totally wrong.
– Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Democratic voters would favor a government policy requiring that citizens remain confined to their homes at all times, except for emergencies, if they refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Such a proposal is opposed by 61% of all likely voters, including 79% of Republicans and 71% of unaffiliated voters.
– Nearly half (48%) of Democratic voters think federal and state governments should be able to fine or imprison individuals who publicly question the efficacy of the existing COVID-19 vaccines on social media, television, radio, or in online or digital publications. Only 27% of all voters – including just 14% of Republicans and 18% of unaffiliated voters – favor criminal punishment of vaccine critics.
– Forty-five percent (45%) of Democrats would favor governments requiring citizens to temporarily live in designated facilities or locations if they refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Such a policy would be opposed by a strong majority (71%) of all voters, with 78% of Republicans and 64% of unaffiliated voters saying they would Strongly Oppose putting the unvaccinated in “designated facilities.”
That is from a Rasmussen poll. You might consider Rasmussen a right-leaning institution, but these kinds of results should not be possible even in somewhat slanted polls (methodology here). Furthermore, this poll came out January 13, and it hasn’t exactly received a ton of attention from mainstream media, can you model that too? Wouldn’t it be awful even if this poll were off by 2x?
One lesson is that it is not always good for your party if it is on the winning side of the culture wars.
Just an FYI that my Twitter has been hacked. I am in touch with the company, hope to have it back to normal soon!
Update: Twitter now fixed!
3. World’s largest cast-iron skillet travels down a Tennessee highway. And the now-deleted thread on Big Tech, work from home, loneliness, Covid, etc.
4. “Under only the efficiency channel, the optimal minimum wage is narrowly around $8, robust to social welfare weights, and generates small welfare gains that recover only 2 percent of the efficiency losses from monopsony power.”
7. “Even according to exaggerated figures, China’s total fertility rate in 2021 was only 1.1-1.2, far below the 1.8 forecast by Chinese State Council in 2016, the 1.6-1.7 forecast by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in 2019, the 1.7 forecast by UN in 2019” Link here.
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provided small businesses with roughly $800 billion dollars in uncollateralized, low-interest loans during the pandemic, almost all of which will be forgiven. With 93 percent of small businesses ultimately receiving one or more loans, the PPP nearly saturated its market in just two months. We estimate that the program cumulatively preserved between 2 and 3 million job-years of employment over 14 months at a cost of $170K to $257K per job-year retained. These estimates imply that only 23 to 34 percent of PPP dollars went directly to workers who would otherwise have lost jobs; the balance flowed to business owners and shareholders, including creditors and suppliers of PPP-receiving firms. Program incidence was highly regressive, with about three-quarters of PPP funds accruing to the top quintile of households. This compares unfavorably to the other two major pandemic aid programs, enhanced UI benefits and Economic Impact Payments (i.e. stimulus checks). PPP’s breakneck scale-up, its high cost per job saved, and its regressive incidence have a common origin: PPP was essentially untargeted because the United States lacked the administrative infrastructure to do otherwise.
That is from a new NBER working paper by David Autor and many others.
In 1695 the British pirate Henry Every commanding a stolen ship, one of the fastest in the world, captured the Ganj-i-Sawai an immense treasure ship carrying the granddaughter of the Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb, from her pilgrimage to Mecca. The looting and mass rapes set off repercussions around the world.
Enemy of All Mankind is Steven Johnson’s page-turning account. I’m not fascinated by pirates per se but Johnson surrounds the narrative arc with expert historical context. Anyone can tell you that cotton was important in trade between India and Europe but you would be hard-pressed to find a more concise account of why than Johnson’s primer. What made Indian cotton unique wasn’t the cotton but Indian chemical engineering.
What made Indian cotton unique was not the threads themselves, but rather their color. Making cotton fiber receptive to vibrant dyes like madder, henna, or turmeric was less a matter of inventing mechanical contraptions as it was dreaming up chemical experiments. The waxy cellulose of the cotton fiber naturally repels vegetable dyes….The process of transforming cotton into a fabric that can by dyed with shades other than indigo is known as “animalizing” the fiber, presumably because so much of it involves excretions from ordinary farm animals. First, dyes would bleach the fiber with sour milk; then they attacked it with a range of protein-heavy substances: goat urine, camel dung, blood. Metallic salts were then combined with the dyes to create a mordant that permeated the core of the fiber.
…The result was a [soft] fabric that could both display brilliant patterns of color and retain that color after multiple washings. No fabric in human history had combined those properties into a single cloth.
Lots of other insights. Every, by the way, was never captured but in 2014 a Yemeni coin that might have come from the Ganj-i-Sawai was found in a Rhode Island orchard.
See also my previous post on Enemy of All Mankind.
From a reader:
Re your observation that most people don’t know what their strengths are and your interest in finding and fostering talent:
I haven’t done the two things I’ve recently come to think I’d have the greatest comparative advantage in – marry and stay married to a very talented male and raise very talented kids. As a 36-yr-old female with no potential mate at present, I’ve decided I need to be more intentional about this.
What are your thoughts on the best strategies to maximize my chances of success? How to approach dating sites- multiple with different types of profiles and levels of info; deep on just 1 or 2? Focus more on new sites/established sites/niche sites? Best questions/methods for weeding out and attracting potentials online- especially deeper cultural/moral/values questions? Seek out more in-person opportunities instead? What kind? Groups, orgs I should join? What should I be most/least picky about? Other considerations I’m likely over- or under- rating? I’m in the Dallas area, finishing up my PhD in [redacted], free to move most anywhere.
You haven’t set yourself up as an expert on this, but I know you’ll answer. Also open to suggestions of who else to ask for such advice.
This one is far outside my expertise, but I have a few comments:
1. Are you sure this is what you really want? I don’t know you at all, but surely you are smart and skilled and so far it hasn’t happened. (What is your theory of why not? Maybe you wanted it less before, but keep in mind part of what men want is women who have really wanted this all along.) That said, if you don’t really want this, I don’t see the harm in trying to make a match of the sort you indicate. Your own intuitions will save you in time, conditional on you not really wanting this.
2. Use on-line dating. I’ve seen a graph indicating a trend line marching straight upwards for how many matches, in percentage terms, come from on-line dating (might any of you know the link? Here it is.). That is very often how the trend line looks for a dominant trend that is still underrated. On-line dating simply seems better than any other method, for the same reason you are reading this blog.
2b. I have no idea which services you should use, but since network effects in this market are strong, plenty of your same-age friends should know the right answers without much hesitation.
3. If you are considering doing more “in person” things, such as joining clubs and associations, do things you would wish to do anyway. If you are doing those activities as part of your effort to be “intentional,” they are dominated by doing more on-line dating. So just do what you want in this regard.
Other people to ask might be clergy? Recently married same-age friends? All the other econ bloggers?
Some things I have watched, some good, some not so good.
Cobra Kai on Netflix: A reliable, feel good show, well plotted. It plays like they mapped each season in advance covering all permutations and combinations of friends turning into enemies and enemies turning into friends. Do I really need five seasons of the same thing? No. But I still watch. Popcorn material.
Maid on Netflix: I appreciated the peek into the difficulties of managing the welfare system and pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps when your family is pulling you down. Margaret Qualley (Andie MacDowell’s daughter who plays her mother on the show) has an odd charisma. It’s been noted that she is an impossibly perfect mother. Less noted is that she is a terrible wife, a poor daughter to her father and a bad girlfriend. Everyone deserves a break is the message we get from this show, except men. Still, it was well done.
The Last Duel is one of Ridley’s best. Superb, subtle acting from Jodie Comer–deserving of Oscar. Slightly too long but there are natural breaking points for at home watching. N.B. given the times it can’t be interpreted ala Rashômon as many people suggest but rather the last word is final which reduces long term interest but I still liked it.
Alex Rider on Amazon: It’s in essence a James Bond origin story. If that sounds like something you would enjoy, you will. I am told the books are also good for YA.
14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible: A mountain documentary following Nimsdai Purja as he and his team attempt to summit all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks in seven months. In many ways, the backstory–Purja is a Gurka and British special forces solider–is even more interesting. It does say something that most people don’t know his name.
The Eternals on Disney: Terrible. Didn’t finish it. A diverse cast with no actual diversity. Kumail Nanjiani, Dinesh from Silicon Valley, plays his super hero like Dinesh from Silicon Valley. Karun, the Indian sidekick, is the most authentic person in the whole ensemble. Aside from being boring it’s also dark, not emotionally but visually. It doesn’t matter the scene, battle scenes, outdoor scenes, kitchen table scenes–all so dark they are literally hard to see.
Wheel of Time: It’s hard to believe they spent a reported $10 million per episode on this clunker. The special effects were weak, the editing was bad, the mood-setting and world building were poor. The actors have no chemistry. Why would anyone be interested in Egwene who shows no spunk, intelligence or charisma? For better in this genre is The Witcher on Netflix.
The French Dispatch (theatres and Amazon): I loved it. Maybe the most Wes Anderson of Wes Anderson movies, so be prepared. Every scene has something interesting going on and there’s a new scene every few minutes. A send-up and a love story to the New Yorker. Lea Seydoux is indeed, shall we say, inspiring.
6. Tate notes for the new Hogarth display. People, some of you have gone crazy.
As it happens, Balzac is Houellebecq’s hero. Anéantir not only demonstrates comparable ambition to Balzac; it is also proof of Houellebecq’s tireless work. In his various books he has accumulated notes on: the stages of terminal tongue cancer; the precise topography of the Ministry of Finance; the exact operation of a guillotine (with schematics); the names, composition and texture of processed sandwiches on sale in Parisian train stations; the vernacular of Paris’s best political spin doctor; the triage of dying residents in provincial care homes, and more. When, some time around the 2100s Anéantir is re-published by Penguin Classics, the notes section will take up half the space of the novel proper. The translator will battle to properly convey the Tom Wolfe-like bleak hopelessness encompassed in ‘un sandwich Daunat maxi-moelleux au blanc de poulet-emmental dans son emballage et une Tourtel’.
Like Balzac, many of Houellebecq’s characters are drawn from real life. The book is set in the year 2026. The sitting president is transparently Emmanuel Macron, who’s been re-elected in 2022. Term limits mean he can’t run again: his cunning plan is to push a popular television talk show host to win in 2027, coached by, among others, the minister of finance, thereby keeping the seat warm for a return of ‘Macron’ himself at the 2032 election — a kind of Putin-Medvedev switcheroo.
The book just came out in France, here is more information. Is Houllebecq best at 736 pp.? I guess we’ll find out. In French, on Kindle. And in German. When in English? I have ordered it in German, though I am not sure when I will get to start much less finish it.
We develop experimental evidence on cooperation and response to sanctions by running prisoner’s dilemma and third party punishment games on three different pools of subjects; students, ordinary criminals and Camorristi (Neapolitan ‘Mafiosi’). The latter two groups were recruited from within prisons. Camorra prisoners show a high degree of cooperativeness and a strong tendency to punish defectors, as well as a clear rejection of the imposition of external rules even at significant cost to themselves. The subsequent econometric analysis further enriches our understanding demonstrating inter alia that individuals’ locus of control and reciprocity are associated with quite different and opposing behaviours amongst different participant types; a strong sense of self-determination and reciprocity both imply a higher propensity to punish for Camorra inmates, but quite the opposite for ordinary criminals, further reinforcing the contrast between the behaviour of ordinary criminals and the strong internal mores of Camorra clans.
I will be doing a Conversation with him. He is Ireland’s greatest historian, here is part of his Wikipedia entry:
He has written early biographies of Charles Stewart Parnell and Lord Randolph Churchill, edited The Oxford History of Ireland (1989), and written Modern Ireland: 1600–1972 (1988) and several books of essays. He collaborated with Fintan Cullen on a National Portrait Gallery exhibition, Conquering England: the Irish in Victorian London. Foster produced a much-acclaimed two-part biography of W. B. Yeats, which was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Seamus Deane wrote a review of the biography in which he quoted the last line of Yeats’ poem The Municipal Gallery Revisited: “My glory was that I had such friends”, and stated that Yeats was also lucky to have Foster as his biographer.
Modern Ireland 1600-1972 would be the place to start, and it is a book you can read more than once. Here is an excellent Guardian profile of Foster, worth reading in its own right. So what should I ask him?