A new study of crypto ownership

Employing representative data from the U.S. Survey of Consumer Payment Choice, we disprove the hypothesis that cryptocurrency investors are motivated by distrust in fiat currencies or regulated finance. Compared with the general population, investors show no differences in their level of security concerns with either cash or commercial banking services. We find that cryptocurrency investors tend to be educated, young and digital natives. In recent years, a gap in ownership of cryptocurrencies across genders has emerged. We examine how investor characteristics vary across cryptocurrencies and show that owners of cryptocurrencies increasingly tend to hold their investment for longer periods.

And:

Moving from a lower category of education to a higher one increases the probability, on average, of recognising at least one cryptocurrency by around 8.7 to 11.1 percentage points…Being a man in the US increases, on average, the probability of knowing
about at least one cryptocurrency by between 9.6 and 12.1 percentage points.

That is from a recent paper by Raphael Auer and David Tercero-Lucas, via Shaffin Shariff.  Data are from 2019.

Facts and uncertainties about ear wax

Our attitude to ear wax is in some ways surprising. A review of impacted ear wax estimates that 2.3 million people a year in the United Kingdom suffer problems with wax needing treatment, with some 4 million ears being syringed annually.2 This makes it possibly the the most common therapeutic procedure carried out on any part of the body. Symptoms of excessive wax or impaction, especially in the elderly, include not only hearing loss but tinnitus, dizziness, infections, social withdrawal, poor work function and mild paranoia. Other problems include general disorientation and loss of an aural sense of direction. With unilateral wax, sounds can appear to be coming from the wrong side, leading to accidents as a driver or especially as a pedestrian. Inappropriate self-treatment (or even treatment by health professionals) can cause perforated eardrums and in very rare cases cochlear damage, leading to nystagmus and sensorineural deafness. In spite of this catalogue of harms, the clinical profile and management of excessive wax are poorly understood. The evidence base is poor and inconsistent, leading to few strong recommendations, even relating to the most commonly used treatments.

Low esteem for ear wax is surprising in other ways too. As a substance, it is unique in the human and mammalian body. This is due to its position in our sole anatomical cul-de-sac. Everywhere else on our body surface, dead and redundant skin cells fall off or are scrubbed away when we wash. In the ear canal – which points forwards and downwards and might otherwise turn into a dermatological garbage dump – ear wax binds these together, along with other assorted detritus that may have entered from the world outside. It is then moved up to the exit by jaw movements and as a result of the skin of the canal slowly moving outwards like an escalator. Wax also prevents multiplication of micro-organisms and infection. It is as essential as sweat and tears, although perhaps not quite as vital as blood. Wax is also fascinating in its own right.

Imagine an ear wax post that is not solely about Q-tips! (Have you ever wondered why they have to be so dangerous?  Can’t you just put them in a little way?  Or is there some indivisibility here?  I have never understood the anguished warnings here.  If you are not using Q-tips at all, you only have to put them in a little way to pull out a lot of earwax, right?  Solve for the equilibrium!)

Here is more by John Launer, about ear wax throughout, via Michelle Dawson.

Sunday assorted links

1. Culture wars are long wars.  And is it the Left that has jacked up the culture wars?

2. More Scott Sumner movie reviews, he is always right.

3. Cleaner air has contributed one-fifth of U.S. maize and soybean yield gains since 1999.

4. Do we enjoy our stereotypes?

5. Police officer plays Taylor Swift song to try to block video.

6. “Demisexual people only feel sexually attracted to someone when they have an emotional bond…

Some major cities ranked by surveillance cameras per km

Not what I would have expected:

1. Seoul

2. Paris

3. Boston

4. NYC

5. Baltimore

6. San Francisco

7. Tokyo

8. London

9. Chicago

10. Philadelphia

11. Bangkok

12. Washington, D.C.

13. Milwaukee

14. Singapore

15. Seattle

16. Los Angeles

The difference here between Seoul and Los Angeles is almost 4x.  Mostly I am surprised that London and also Singapore are so low.  Here is the paper, via the excellent Samir Varma.

*The Volga: A History of Russia’s Greatest River*

The author is Janet M. Hartley from LSE, here is one excerpt:

…the religious composition on the Volga is complex.  Finno-Ugric settlers originally followed shamanistic beliefs, although many converted, at least nominally, to Orthodoxy after they became subjects of the Russian Empire.  The ruler and the elite in Khazaria probably converted to Judaism sometime in the early ninth century.  Kalmyks in the south and south-east of the Volga were Buddhists (the only Buddhists in Europe).  The Bolgar state, the Golden Horse and the khanates of Kazan and Astrakhan were, or became, Muslim.  the Russian and Soviet states were conscious of the potential threat of Islam in the Volga region from the time of the conquest of Kazan in 1552.  The history of the Volga is, in part, the history of (often forced) conversion to Orthodoxy by the Russian government and the reaction to this of the local inhabitants.  In many cases, the conversion process was incomplete or, in the case of Islam, could be reversed.  The remoteness of much of the Volga countryside attracted Old Believers — that is, schismatics from the Russian Orthodox Church who did not accept the changes in liturgy and practice in the middle of the seventeenth century.

Recommended.

Living under guardianship is worse than you think

According to Jonathan Martinis, the senior director for law and policy at a center for disability rights at Syracuse University, one of the most dangerous aspects of guardianships is the way that they prevent people from getting their own legal counsel. “The rights at stake in guardianship are analogous to the rights at stake in criminal cases,” Martinis said. “Britney could have been found holding an axe and a severed head, saying ‘I did it,’ and she still would’ve had the right to an attorney. So, under guardianship, you don’t have the same rights as an axe murderer.”

…there is also a wide range of alternatives to conservatorship that are less strict than what Spears has experienced, such as conditional powers of attorney or formal shared control of finances. As conservatorship law is written, the court is required to determine that a conservatorship is—and remains—necessary. “In practice,” Zoë Brennan-Krohn, a disability-rights attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, said, “this is absolutely not the case. What should be happening is that a judge at a reëvaluation hearing would ask, ‘What else have you tried? Why isn’t anything else working?’ And, if the conservator hasn’t shown that they’ve tried less restrictive options, the conservatorship should be suspended. But I’ve never heard of a judge asking that in any situation.”

Here is the full New Yorker story by Ronan Farrow and Jia Tolentino, focusing on Britney Spears.

Saturday assorted links

1. Memos related to the hiring of the “radical” economists at U. Mass Amherst, way back when.  And Bobby Fischer video on what went wrong with chess.

2. The history of Earl Slick, sideman guitarist.

3. A Richmond series on how the guardianship process leaves vulnerable people unprotected.

4. What the commies think.

5. “This estimate implies that the amenity value of a government job [in India] is at least 81% of total compensation.

6. Columbus vs. Columbo (what!!??).  That’s the TV character, not Sri Lanka.

7. “Farmbake biscuits are smashed into crumbs, combined with milk and thrown in the microwave to create fluffy chocolate “jail cake”.”  Not the only thing they make in NZ prison, a new home for yogurt entrepreneurship.

Bullshit Ability as an Honest Signal of Intelligence

By Martin Harry Turpin, et.al.:

Navigating social systems efficiently is critical to our species. Humans appear endowed with a cognitive system that has formed to meet the unique challenges that emerge for highly social species. Bullshitting, communication characterised by an intent to be convincing or impressive without concern for truth, is ubiquitous within human societies. Across two studies (N = 1,017), we assess participants’ ability to produce satisfying and seemingly accurate bullshit as an honest signal of their intelligence. We find that bullshit ability is associated with an individual’s intelligence and individuals capable of producing more satisfying bullshit are judged by second-hand observers to be more intelligent. We interpret these results as adding evidence for intelligence being geared towards the navigation of social systems. The ability to produce satisfying bullshit may serve to assist individuals in negotiating their social world, both as an energetically efficient strategy for impressing others and as an honest signal of intelligence.

Here is the full article.  Am I allowed to call him the “straight-shooting Kevin Lewis“?

Let’s all have a revisionist Fourth of July

That is the theme of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:

Revisionist history serves many useful purposes, and for the most part it should be encouraged — even though many particular revisionist claims turn out to be wrong. The natural human state of affairs is a kind of complacency and acceptance of the status quo. If historians sometimes write a bit too sharply or speculatively to capture the audience’s attention, it is a price worth paying. At any rate, the audience tends not to take them literally or to pay close attention to their more detailed claims.

And:

The problem is that the revisionism isn’t diverse enough. A few issues — most of all those raised by Critical Race Theory — get caught up in the culture wars and are debated above all others. I agree that we should devote more time and attention to America’s disgraceful history of slavery and race relations, and I have incorporated that into my own teaching.

Still, other matters are being neglected. The longer trajectory of U.S. foreign policy is hardly debated, or what that history should mean for current decisions. There is plenty of carping about “the deep state,” but actual history has fallen down a memory hole, including the history of U.S. intelligence agencies.

It gets worse yet. According to one recent survey, 63% of the American public is not aware that six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. Ten percent had not heard of the Holocaust at all. Or consider the treatment of Native Americans, which was terrible and produced few heroes. Yet American soul-searching on this history seems to be minimal.

America needs revisionism, more of it please, and on timely and controversial topics. But it also needs less politicized and more intellectually diverse interpretations of its history. On this Fourth of July, what America needs is not the promotion of some particular claim of historical hypocrisy, but the elevation of the historical itself.

Recommended, and have a happy Fourth!

U.S. Citizenship exam from 1944

Here is one sample question:

Which of the following states seceded during the Civil War?

The choices are Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware, Florida.

Or try this one:

What evidence is required for a citizen to be convicted of treason?

The options are:

— It varies by state

— Nothing beyond what is needed to convict an ordinary crime

— The testimony of two eyewitnesses or a open confession in court

— The testimony of two eyewitnesses and an open confession in court

Here is the full Bloomberg piece by David Shipley.  There are many more questions — how many would you get?

Friday assorted links

1. “Given these results, we show that it may be optimal to visit restaurants in a zigzag that alternates between high- and low-quality choices.”  I am not endorsing that one!

2. Jordan Schneider podcast has Larry Summers on China.

3. Is your “aha!” moment actually the announcement of a meta-cognition prediction error?

4. Long Twitter thread on Maimonides.

5. Immunological dark matter hypothesis is being revived.  And what might the Delta wave look like in the U.S.?

6. Louis Andriessen, RIP (NYT): “Mr. Andriessen wrote that in Mr. Greenaway’s films, “I recognize something of my own work, namely the combination of intellectual material and vulgar directness.””

7. Eight-year-old ant entrepreneur.

Haiti fact of the day

Democratic governance is eroding in Haiti, but through an unusual mechanism — an ongoing diminution [The Economist] in the number of federally elected officials:

Today there are only 11 nationally-elected officials, including him [Jovenel Moïse].

A parliamentary election had been scheduled for October 2019, but it was never held.  The current president refers to himself as “Après Dieu” [second only to God], and also “Banana Man,” as he is a former plantation manager.  Solve for the equilibrium.

Market fragmentation can boost liquidity

We model a simple market setting in which fragmentation of trade of the same asset across multiple exchanges improves allocative efficiency. Fragmentation reduces the inhibiting effect of price-impact avoidance on order submission. Although fragmentation reduces market depth on each exchange, it also isolates cross-exchange price impacts, leading to more aggressive overall order submission and better rebalancing of unwanted positions across traders. Fragmentation also has implications for the extent to which prices reveal traders’ private information. While a given exchange price is less informative in more fragmented markets, all exchange prices taken together are more informative.

That is a new American Economic Review piece by Daniel Chen and Darrell Duffie.  My slight rewording of their argument is this: with market fragmentation, you can split up your order across exchanges and thus submit more total orders, with less fear of the prices moving against you.  Fair enough, but what does this mean for the supposed greater efficiency of a single medium of exchange?  Might there be reasons why a multitude of exchange/payment media, including foreign currencies and crypto, could give you further liquidity?

#NewMonetaryEconomics