Month: July 2022

Thursday assorted links

1. Most common dream by country (speculative).

2. Atif Mian on Pakistan’s desperate economic situation.

3. David Wallace-Wells on where we stand with Covid (NYT).

4. Officials to reorganize the federal health department, currently hard to assess but surely no response to pandemic failures was a mistake.  CDC to lose some power.

5. Thomas Edsall on the feminization of U.S. politics (NYT).  Important, recommended.

6. Thailand not happy about seasteading.

7. Russ Roberts on marriage, rationality, and Darwin, and also his new book (NYT).

The latest wisdom on corporate income tax cuts

A corporate income tax cut leads to a sustained increase in GDP and productivity, with peak effects between five and eight years. R&D spending and capital investment display hump-shaped responses while hours worked and employment are much less affected.

That is from a new NBER working paper by James Cloyne, Joseba Martinez, Haroon Mumtaz, and Paolo Surico.  You will hear many economists, including Paul Krugman, tell you that the Trump corporate tax cuts were a failure.  It would be more accurate to say that we still do not know how effective they will be, noting that the pandemic may have extended the “five and eight years” benchmark a bit.  And it would be more accurate to report that the best available science indicates the tax cuts stand a good chance of succeeding.  See this earlier research, in top-tiered outlets, and also this.

English Forests are Growing

England has doubled the amount of forestland in the past 150 years, and now has as much land dedicated to forests as the year 1350.

As I have reported before, the earth is greening–especially in China and India, in part because of rising CO2 levels and in part because of increasing urbanization and agricultural productivity.

That’s the gist, you can find a more detailed world investigation at OurWorldInData.

Hat tip: the excellent Jeremy Horpedahl.

How well will Colombia end up doing?

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column.  I am ultimately optimistic, but let me present the case for the negative:

Yet those positives have been in place for a while, and the results are less than earth-shattering. By World Bank estimates, Colombia has a per capita income of slightly more than $16,000, using purchasing power parity standards. For purposes of comparison, Mexico comes in at slightly over $20,000. Argentina is considered to have been an economic failure since the Peronist years, but still has a per capita income exceeding $22,000.

Also troubling is the country’s export profile. After fossil fuels, which have a limited future, the country’s leading exports are coffee, gems and precious metals. None of these is large enough or sophisticated enough or training enough quality labor to push the nation over the top. When it comes to complex manufacturing, the country is lagging well behind Mexico and Brazil, much less South Korea.

A pessimistic view of Colombia would cite the country’s very different geographic regions that have never seen full economic or even political unification. The lack of a fully developed nation-state has been reflected in the country’s ongoing troubles with guerrillas and drug lords. The major urban centers of Bogotá and Medellín are both deep in the interior, surrounded by mountains, and unable to take advantage of major navigable rivers. There is no world-class port or harbor, and except for its connection to the US, the country is inward-looking and has attracted relatively few immigrants, recent Venezuelan refugees aside. The Amazon cuts off Colombia from much of the rest of South America. De facto Colombia has no richer neighbor to pull it up by its bootstraps, Panama being much too small and most of Brazil being too distant. Colombia’s problems also include a recent uptick in troubles with former guerrillas.

I look forward to my next visit to the country…

China new product fact of the day

On 10 July, in Guangdong Shunde, MBG released “Dressed Air Conditioning”, which was described as the product of the first global 3C certification of cold-wearing equipment with a compressed mechanism.

What do you mean, “dressed air conditioner”? – Put air conditioner on your body, wear it on your body. Its three cores are a vest, a mini-direct compressor, and a battery, but it’s easy to say, it’s got a lot of technology in it. The miniature compressors can reduce the temperature to 16°C in three minutes, weighing just 485g, less than a kilogram. The total weight of the equipment is about five pounds, which is equivalent to keeping the lady with the smallest number in the gym away from her waist.

(What does that last segment mean?)  Here is the full story, via Anecdotal.

Some reasons why the U.S. dollar is strong

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column.  After talking through some traditional economic reasons, here are some cultural reasons:

In addition, American soft power is far more robust than many criticisms would indicate. English is increasingly entrenched as the global language. The world’s major internet companies are still largely American, with the exception of some Chinese ones. If the internet continues to become more important in our lives, that is another plus for the US — and the dollar.

America also sets a good deal of the global intellectual agenda, for better or worse. The #MeToo movement, Black Lives Matter and wokeism, among other topics, are debated around the world. A US presidential election is akin to a global presidential election, in terms of interest and maybe impact. No other country can say the same.

Perhaps, in view of the larger moral picture, this is all a mixed blessing. But in terms of keeping the dollar as a focal reserve currency, it is a major plus.

There is a reason why the global intellectual chattering classes find it hard to be bullish on America, and so to them a strong dollar is counterintuitive. When one country is so much the center of global attention, it is hard for that country to look good. As my colleague Martin Gurri argues, anything studied and discussed long enough on the internet tends to lead to disillusionment. People focus on the vices more than the virtues, and lose trust.

And so it is with the US. Both abroad and domestically, on both the left and right, there seems to be less faith in the American dream than there was three or four decades ago. In some quarters the US is seen as on the verge of collapse, or at the very least moral and intellectual ruin.

…Most people around the world can recite the defects of America far more easily than they can those of, say, Paraguay.

As a related side note, with both nominal incomes and the dollar up, now is a remarkably inexpensive time for Americans to travel abroad.

Wednesday assorted links

1. New jobs at ARIA, the exciting new UK science research agency.

2. Magnus drops out of the WCC cycle.

3. This study claims that fewer collaboration hours is what makes Microsoft employees happy.

4. Ross Douthat praises driving (NYT).

5. An evil Russian perspective on the war in Ukraine (NYT).

6. “Scotty Pippen Jr and Shareef O’Neal are two such shadow-dodgers, and they just so happened to end up on the same NBA Summer League roster this month.

7. “It turns out posting anonymously on anonymous review site Glassdoor may be a thing of the past.

An American judge has just ruled in favour of kiwi toy company Zuru (valued at well over a billion dollars) — meaning it will be handed the details of former Zuru employees who posted anonymous reviews on the Glassdoor site.”  Link here.

Those new Chinese service sector pandemic jobs

Xie Yuke has attended over 40 weddings in the past two years and is now making a living from it.

The 22-year-old has flown more than 140,000 kilometers and traveled around China working as a professional bridesmaid.

It’s a fast-growing industry in China and is “expected to grow by 25% to 30% a year,” Cao Zhonghua, an expert at the Chinese Traditional Culture Promotion Council, told state broadcaster CCTV Wednesday.

COVID-19 travel restrictions have made it hard to find friends able to travel to weddings, while some couples complain they can’t find friends that are up to the standard.

A bridesmaid needs to be unmarried, Xie told Sixth Tone on Monday, and it’s important not to be taller than the bride. For aspiring professionals, 155 cm-173 cm is a good height, she said.

Here is the full story, via Britta.

Is scientific writing becoming stupider and more emotional?

Yikes awful absolutely, demeaningly, absurdly so:

Writing in a clear and simple language is critical for scientific communications. Previous studies argued that the use of adjectives and adverbs cluttered writing and made scientific text less readable. The present study aims to investigate if the articles in life sciences have become more cluttered and less readable across the past 50 years in terms of the use of adjectives and adverbs. The data that were used in the study were a large dataset of 775,456 scientific texts published between 1969 and 2019 in 123 scientific journals. Results showed that an increasing number of adjectives and adverbs were used and the readability of scientific texts have decreased in the examined years. More importantly, the use of emotion adjectives and adverbs also demonstrated an upward trend while that of nonemotion adjectives and adverbs did not increase. To our knowledge, this is probably the first large scale diachronic study on the use of adjectives and adverbs in scientific writing. Possible explanations to these findings were discussed.

That is a new paper from Ju Wen and Lei Lei, via Michelle Dawson.

How good is the food in Cali?

The guidebooks say that Cali has worse food than Bogotá or Medellin.  Two people I know, both from Cali, wrote to tell me that Cali has worse food.  It is true that Cali does not have the fine dining culture of the two larger cities.  And yet…  When I visited the food market in Bogotá, about half of the stalls were serving Mexican food.  The rest seemed decent but uninspired.  The two meals I had in the food stalls in the Alameda market in Cali were perhaps the two best (and cheapest) meals of the whole trip, and original too, at least to me.

n = 2 does not suffice for inference.  And yet…

Making the other side better

So many political strategies are centered around “beating” the other side(s), and claiming victory over their defeat.  For evolutionary reasons, it is easy to see why these attitudes might have won out.  Yet in general those approaches are a sign of a narrow vision.  Beating the other side is a possible strategy, but it should hardly be the only strategy you attempt, even if we forget about the “you might be the one who is wrong!” worry.

Quite simply, a lot of the time you never beat the other side, though over time the terms of the debate do shift ground.

An alternative strategy is to try to make the other side better, even if you do not agree with the other side.  You might try to make the other side saner and more open, and I do not mean by telling them how wrong they are.  You do this, believe it or not, by supporting them in some ways, or at least supporting the best parts of the other side.

It is remarkable how few people pursue this strategy.  I do know two prominent people, both on the Left, who do this and I think they do it fairly effectively.  It is sad that I am reluctant to name them, for fear of getting them into trouble with their compatriots.

If the ongoing equilibrium is “the terms of the debate will be shifted,” why should “improving the other side” be any less important than “improving your own side”?  On average it should be symmetric, no?

Yet the unpopularity of this strategy once again suggests that politics isn’t about policy, in this matter it is more often about internal norms of group solidarity and intra-group status.

Learning to see that, and to internalize that knowledge emotionally, is often a better strategy — if only for your sanity — than trying to defeat the other side all the time.

“Republicans start more firms than Democrats.”

Republicans start more firms than Democrats. In a sample of 40 million party-identified Americans between 2005 and 2017, we find that 6% of Republicans and 4% of Democrats become entrepreneurs. This partisan entrepreneurship gap is time-varying: Republicans increase their relative entrepreneurship during Republican administrations and decrease it during Democratic administrations, amounting to a partisan reallocation of 170,000 new firms over our 13-year sample. We find sharp changes in partisan entrepreneurship around the elections of President Obama and President Trump, and the strongest effects among the most politically active partisans: those that donate and vote.

Here is the full NBER paper by Joseph Engelberg, Jorge Guzman, Runjing Lu, and William Mullins.

Monday assorted links

1. An alternative to the Baumol cost-disease hypothesis (but is it really, isn’t worker allocation across sectors endogenous to, among other things, Baumol-like factors?)

2. Are bees sentient?

3. Please stop saying that hot drinks cool you down.

4. “…mass shootings are more likely after anniversaries of the most deadly historical mass shootings. Taken together, these results lend support to a behavioral contagion mechanism following the public salience of mass shootings.”  Link here.

5. What motivates leaders to invest in nation-building?

6. Arkansas and the abortion mandatory waiting period.

7. The economics of stablecoin crashes.