Category: Games

Toward a theory of autocracy

The Russian head of the World Chess Federation said he spoke Tuesday with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and that he remains in Tripoli and defiant.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has known Gadhafi for years. His visit to Tripoli in July was among the last times the Libyan leader was seen in public after NATO airstrikes began.

…He said Gadhafi sounded full of vigor and told him he was “certain we will win.”

Ilyunzhinov said he also talked to Gadhafi’s son Mohammed, Libya’s Olympic chief, who said his father’s forces would “drive the rats out of
the city.”

The link is here, via @JamesCrabtree and Natasha.  Of course I also could have titled this post “Toward a theory of the World Chess Federation.”

Washing Away Sin

Attendees at a nationalist, right-wing concert in Germany were duped into wearing souvenir T-shirts…the t-shirts originally read “hardcore rebels” and sported a skull and nationalist flags. However, once the garment had been washed, the shirt revealed a new message:

“If your t-shirt can do it, you can do it too — we’ll help you get away from right-wing extremism.”

Awesome.

Hat tip: Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic.

Job markets in everything

Economy Designer:

It’s the economy, stupid! Drive players to invest in our game economy by analyzing the subtleties of behavioral economics and pondering the pitfalls of specialization and free trade. Theorize why people make irrational economic choices and use the tricks you’ve learned to ensure players only make the irrational choices you want them to. Create an economic system that will fulfill a player’s needs just as much as shooting an alien in the face.

The Economy Designer at Bungie will develop a robust and rewarding game economy that drives player behavior toward intended goals and validate those systems through intense simulation, testing and iteration. You’ll design the systems and mechanics which drive in-game trade, satisfy the players’ need for possessions and wealth whilst ensuring rewards retain their intended value despite attempts to exploit or grief the system. You will determine what data is necessary to mine, ensure we have all of the hooks necessary to gather that data, and come up with all of the interesting metrics and questions we should ask of that data. You will run simulations of these mechanics based on expected player behavior and test these simulated results against actual player behavior; tuning the live system accordingly.

Are chess players getting better over time?

Mostly.  Kenneth W. Regan and Guy McC. Haworth analyze games move-for-move, using chess-playing computer programs.  The result:

…we conclude that there has been little or no ‘inflation’ in ratings over time—if anything there has been deflation. This runs counter to conventional wisdom, but is predicted by population models on which rating systems have been based…The results also support a no answer to question 2. In the 1970’s there were only two players with ratings over 2700, namely Bobby Fischer and Anatoly Karpov, and there were years as late as 1981 when no one had a rating over 2700 (see [Wee00]). In the past decade there have usually been thirty or more players with such ratings. Thus lack of inflation implies that those players are better than all but Fischer and Karpov were.

The game

Democrats hate tough budget votes — as evidenced by the Senate’s failure to even bring up a budget for so long. And Republicans love tough-sounding votes but often fix the deck so they lose and can score political points without having to live with the results.

That’s why the debt ceiling presents such a quandary: It requires both parties to take a tough vote — and it must pass.

From Politico, here is further analysis.  With this and the euro crisis, in the next few weeks (days?) “the world” is going to have to step up to the plate in a big, big way.  Stay tuned.  If you’re not afraid, you haven’t been paying attention.

The next Fed nominee

1. Should have spent a lot of time talking to Republicans.

2. When meeting with Ron Paul, the following should come to his mind: “I have great respect for the proponents of hard money and I view them as one reason why America became great again, in the 1980s.  I know you think the minimum wage is worse than we at the Fed do, so please let me bring one argument to your attention.  Unemployment is very high now, perhaps in part because the minimum wage has raised forty percent in the midst of a downturn a few years ago.  But those statists in Congress simply will not vote to lower or abolish the minimum wage, damn them.  We can, however, surreptitiously lower the minimum wage in real terms with a bit of loose monetary policy.  I know you are not with us on this monetary issue, but if you find yourself having to strike a compromise of some kind, at least rest assured that a budge from your side would be liberating millions of lower-income Americans from slavery.  It could get us off the Road to Serfdom.”

The Fed governor doesn’t have to believe that, and may not wish to say exactly that, but a speech of that nature should come rather quickly to his or her mind.  If not, he or she is probably not the right nominee in the first place.  The Fed staff can figure out the rest.

Addendum: Matt Yglesias offers relevant comment.  Alternatively, Felix Salmon may be correct that there is no deal to be made with the Republicans.  In that case, a) Diamond would not have mattered anyway, and b) we still should base the choice upon the scenarios where the choice stands a chance of making a difference.  Furthermore, the Republican reps. do not have the same incentives as the Presidential candidate, so a deal may be possible after all.

Glasgow markets in everything

A parking fine in Glasgow is £30 if paid promptly, £60 otherwise. Our entrepreneurs have other ideas. They’ll sell you a used parking ticket with a specific time on it for a tenner, which you can send to the council to “prove” that you were wrongly fined.

Here is more, pointer via Greg and also Yahel.  The intro to the story is this:

If you park your car or walk through the Osborne St car park near my flat, you are quickly approached by one or more rough looking types asking if there is any time left on your parking ticket. They’re rude and slightly threatening, so most people give up their used ticket. If it’s valid for any significant amount of time (ie. you’ve paid for the whole day or a several hour stretch and there is time remaining) they will stand by the ticket machine and sell your ticket on to the next punter. They’re not the type of people you say no to so they no doubt do a roaring trade.

But that’s not all. If you protest that your parking ticket is about to expire and is therefore useless they’ll demand it anyway. Why? This is where it gets interesting.

When the parking inspectors come past the thugs keep a keen eye on which cars they catch. On a driver returning to their car and discovering that they’ve been fined the thugs move in.

The Spencer Scholarship plan

For months, Fitzsimmons gave each of the women $200 weekly, promised to pay for their college tuition, treated them to lavish nights on the town and even bought one a car as part of his so-called Spencer Scholarship Plan. They were spanked if they violated rules, such as failing to call Fitzsimmons or drinking too much alcohol…

The Spencer Plan started in the 1930s as a form of “carefully regulated corporal punishment” between husband and wife. Couples agreed to a list of things the wife needed to change, such as not spending money frivolously. If the rules were broken, the husband punished her by spanking and it was put behind them. It has expanded through the years.

One 21-year-old woman testified Thursday that the day she joined the program in November, Fitzsimmons spanked her and gave her $300. He paid for her to live in an oceanfront suite and gave her a $200 weekly allowance. In return, she was required to walk 20 blocks each day, keep a log of her meals and spending and refrain from drugs. When she didn’t, she was spanked.

Fitzsimmons took it further, she said, when on three occasions he sexually assaulted her with a curtain rod, a hairbrush and a horse riding crop. When asked by attorneys why she allowed it to happen, she replied: “I’m not allowed to tell him no.”

I can’t bring myself to file this one under “Markets in Everything,” though read the last line of the piece.  For the pointer I thank DL.

The wisdom of Josh Barro

Unfortunately, it’s also possible (as many other voices on Wall Street are warning) that a default would permanently raise Treasury spreads, drive investors to find alternative safe havens, cause a double-dip recession, and unleash various other evils. So, if they are willing to create the possibility of a default, Republicans in Congress are willing to expose America to severe downside risk.

It’s important to step back and consider the stakes here. Republicans say it is important, above all else, to rein in federal government spending. But the risk with excessive spending is not that government will literally become unaffordable or that we will be unable to service our debts. The United States has tremendous available fiscal capacity, as demonstrated by significantly higher tax burdens in most other first-world countries. The real risk of elevated spending is that we’ll adopt a permanently higher level of taxation.

That is a risk, but not a catastrophic one. While there is a link between government spending and economic growth, it is not as strong as conservatives like to believe. For example, Mueller and Stratmann find that a one percentage point rise in government spending as a share of GDP will tend to reduce annual GDP growth by a bit under one-twentieth of a percentage point. If we take Simpson-Bowles as an example of the sort of deficit deal that might be achieved in the medium term without the need to flirt with a bond default, then we’re talking about a difference of one to two points of GDP in government spending compared to an all-Republican plan.

There is also nothing special about government spending as a share of GDP as opposed to other determinants of economic growth, such as rule of law, freedom of contract, immigration policy, free trade and the structure of the tax code—not to mention policies on infrastructure, land use and education. Basically, we could make up a sub-0.1 percentage point hit to long term GDP growth with policy improvements elsewhere.

Which is to say, it does not make sense to create a risk that U.S. Treasuries will be dislodged as the world’s safe-haven investment as a strategy to shift the size of government by a percentage point of GDP or two. Winning this fight is not so important that it makes sense to throw caution to the wind, but that is what Republicans in Congress appear willing to do. The gamble looks even worse when you consider that a debt-limit-impasse-gone-wrong would not necessarily lead to Republicans getting their way on the long-term fiscal adjustment.

The full post is here.