Category: Political Science
We introduce history-bound reelections. In their simple form, they consist in a “score-replication rule.” Under such a rule, an incumbent has to match the highest vote share he or she has obtained in any previous election in order to be reelected. We develop a simple three-period model to examine score-replication rules. We show that suitable variants of such rules can improve welfare, as they reduce the tendency of reelected incumbents to indulge in their own preferences, and they ensure that able officeholders are reelected. Candidates might offer their own score-replication rule in campaigns. We outline how political competition may be affected by such new forms of elections.
That is from a new paper by Hans Gersbach, in American Economic Journal: Microeconomics. At some margins, we might use this procedure for scientific refereeing as well. You would have to receive superior referee reports, relative to the weighted average of your last set of publications, for instance. What about people who continually raise the bar on what they expect from their friends? Petulant, immature demanders, or do you bring out the best in people, otherwise serving as an optimal recycler/changer of the human experience?
Yes, the Jason Furman, here is the audio and transcript, please note this was recorded in January. Here is part of the summary:
Jason joined Tyler for a wide-ranging conversation on how monopolies affect investment patterns, his top three recommendations to improve American productivity, why he’s skeptical of place-based development policies, what some pro-immigration arguments get wrong, why he’s more concerned about companies like Facebook and Google than he is Walmart and Amazon, the merits of a human rights approach to privacy, whether the EU treats tech companies fairly, having Matt Damon as a college roommate, the future of fintech, his highest objective when teaching economics, what he learned from coauthoring a paper with someone who disagrees with him, why he’s a prolific Goodreads reviewer, and more.
And here is one excerpt:
COWEN: The US is losing some of its manufacturing capacity, and certainly a lot of its manufacturing workforce. Are there external benefits to keeping those activities more in the US? Significant benefits?
FURMAN: I don’t think that manufacturing itself should be an important objective of US policy. It’s one type of job. It’s been a good type of job, but there’s other good types of jobs as well. I wouldn’t focus on where physical things are being made as opposed to where services are being made. In fact, if anything, I think the error in policy is probably a little bit too much emphasis on manufacturing and a little bit less on services.
COWEN: What do you think of the national security argument? That, say, when building a ship, we might be dependent on South Korean components. If there were a war in Asia, those might be, for some reason, unreliable. We depend on China for rare earths. We depend on Taiwan, to some extent, for high-quality chips, even though we make our own. Is the supply chain extended too long, and it was a kind of economic fantasy, and it doesn’t make national security sense?
FURMAN: I don’t consider myself an expert in any of those national security questions, so I would be open to thinking about the national security concerns associated with the supply chain. I have an awful lot in specific cases — both when I was in government and just in the world more generally — heard people make national security arguments that I found tendentious and pretty unpersuasive.
There may be some that are persuasive and that are true. There’s an awful lot that aren’t. Our administration, towards the end, worried a bit about semiconductors. When I’ve looked at that, there’s enough of a diversified world supply, enough of an ability to scale up if necessary in the United States, that I don’t think on semiconductors — there, it was protectionism under the guise of national security.
So I think we should accept the possibility of national security, take it seriously, but be really, really wary that a lot of protectionist arguments use that trappings.
Economics throughout, with a touch of Dickens. Recommended.
For those who don’t know, the Australian Aboriginal flag (https://i.imgur.com/sGsnLkv.png) is actually copy-righted by an individual although it is recognized as a national flag.
It was created in 1971 by an artist named Harold Thomas and went onto to become culturally accepted as the flag of the Aboriginal people. And then as above, went onto being proclaimed a national flag by the government.
Unfortunately, since then, Harold Thomas has licensed the flag to various private agencies. One of the licenses was exclusive to a clothing label, which now means that no other Aboriginal business can print clothes with the flag on it without paying royalties. (Sitting around 20%) A lot of Aboriginals feel dismay at the current situation of the licensing.
I am rather free market orientated and do respect the artists desires.
But, the situation is rather unique, I can’t seem to find any other examples in the world of a nations/cultures flag being owned by an individual.
The creator has no intention to relinquish the copyright, so movements have already sprung up.
Here is further discussion, via Andrew Burchill. Imagine in the United States if private individuals had copyrights over the flag (in general, not just particular images), the American bald eagle, the U.S. dollar, and so on.
That is the title of a new research paper by Kenneth S. Brower, focusing on the capabilities of the Israeli military against various potential adversaries. I do not myself have particular opinions on these questions, but I found this piece interesting throughout. Here is one excerpt:
The simple and unarguable truth is that for decades the US military has lacked the ability to quickly project conventional ground and air forces into the Middle East that would be able to successfully defend Israel. This has been true for about 50 years.
The US Army and US Marine Corps combined now have an active force structure of just 39 maneuver brigades, of which only about 13 are combat ready. It would require many weeks to bring a portion of the remaining 26 active maneuver brigades to combat ready status. Achieving this would require cannibalization of about 25% of the remaining active units in order to bring the others to full strength. US reserve National Guard maneuver brigades would each require about five months for mobilization, retraining, and deployment. These National Guard reserve units are thus irrelevant to any Israeli rescue scenario.
The ability of the US military to deploy forces over long distances has declined in the last 30 years because of a lack of investment in large specialized roll-on roll-off ships. Many of the existing US reserve merchant marine ships dedicated to military use are overage and have been poorly maintained. Based on the deployment times achieved during Operation Desert Storm, it is estimated that within about three weeks the US could project two light infantry paratroop brigades into Israel by air, plus one Marine infantry brigade transferred by forward deployed USN amphibious ships and pre-loaded forward-based maritime ships. Given about nine weeks, the US would likely be able to field nine maneuver brigades in the Middle East consisting of three paratroop, three Marine, and three heavy armored brigades. Consequently, it would require about nine weeks for the US military to generate roughly 15% of the IDF’s ground force mobilizable order of battle. These US forces would only deploy about 10% of the number of armored fighting vehicles the IDF can field.
The USAF has a very limited number of combat aircraft currently deployed in Europe. With air-to-air refueling, it is estimated that these aircraft might be able to sustain the generation of about 90 sorties a day in support of Israel. But these few sorties, which only 14 I Israel Versus Anyone: A Military Net Assessment of the Middle East represent 5% of Israeli wartime capability, could only be generated if the host country where these aircraft are based were to allow them to be operated in support of Israel. In the past, this approval has not always been provided. Neither the USN nor USMC currently have any operational combat aircraft based on aircraft carriers or large amphibious ships that are normally deployed in the Mediterranean within range of Israel.
Via Adam K.
Even exposure to the ill-defined term “fake news” and claims about its prevalence can be harmful. In an experimental study among respondents from Mechanical Turk, Van Duyn, and Collier (2019) find that when people are exposed to tweets containing the term “fake news,” they become less able to discern real from fraudulent news stories. Similarly, Clayton et al. (2019) find that participants from Mechanical Turk who are exposed to a general warning about the prevalence of misleading information on social media then tend to rate headlines from both legitimate and untrustworthy news sources as less accurate, suggesting that the warning causes an indiscriminate form of skepticism.
That is from Brendah Nyhan’s good new JEP survey article on how misperceptions come about and persist.
That is the new and excellent book by Richard Van Emden, and it covers how the British bureaucracy handled the reporting and identification of soldier corpses during and after the First World War. Here is the author’s summary:
Here is the story of the army’s hunt for legions of missing men. How were they sought? How many were found and identified and what were the implications for families when that search was wound down? tens of thousands of British people felt compelled to visit France and Belgium to see where their loved ones died; here we will explore what happened to the battlefields of Northern France and Belgium in the immediate post-war years…In telling the story of Britain’s military cemeteries on the western Front, this book will look at their design and horticulture, and examine the extraordinary lengths to which the gardeners of the Imperial War Graves Commission went to create an Eden for their dead comrades.
It turns out the British Army searched for remains for about three years, and after that the efforts pretty much dwindled to zero. I also enjoyed reading about how these efforts, and the building of on-the-site graveyards, intersected with French and Belgium law and property rights. And this:
An important question had been posed: to whom did the dead belong? Did families own them? Or did the bodies of servicemen and women remain in passive, eternal servitude to the army and, by extension, the government? They were, after all, in military service and under military law when they died. Did death release a body from continued service only to be automatically re-enlisted into the ritual of state-organised and state-controlled remembrance?
Among its other virtues, this book is also an interesting look at some of the efficiency properties of the earlier 20th bureaucracies. The fact that they didn’t have the ability to make things too complicated often was a great virtue.
Recommended, you can order the book here.
Monaco was granted sovereignty in the 1860s by Emperor Napoleon III of France, deposed a few years later. San Marino received its independence from the Roman Empire in the 4th Century, while Andorra was split off from the long forgotten Kingdom of Aragon in the 13th century. None of these great potentates would ever have imagined that the tiny stubs of countries they took pity on would have legacies much longer than their own. Yet today, San Marino competes in Eurovision and the Roman Empire does not.
Here is the transcript, audio, and video. Here is part of the summary:
Nathan joined Tyler for a conversation about which African countries a theory of persistence would lead him to bet on, why so many Africans live in harder to settle areas, his predictions for the effects of Chinese development on East Africa, why genetic distance is a strong predictor of bilateral income differences and trade, the pleasant surprises of visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo, the role of the Catholic Church in the development of the West, why Canadian football is underrated, the unique commutes of Ottawans, the lack of Canadian brands, what’s missing from most economic graduate programs, the benefits of studying economics outside of the United States, how the plow shaped gender roles in the societies that used it, the cultural values behind South Korea’s success, and more.
Here is one excerpt:
COWEN: If you try to think, say, within Africa, what would be some places that you would be modestly more optimistic about than, say, a hedge fund manager who didn’t understand persistence? What would a few of those countries be? Again, recognizing enormous noise, variance, and so on, as with smoking and lung cancer.
NUNN: If I’m true to exactly what I was just saying, then southern Africa or places where you have a larger population of societies that historically were more developed. South Africa, you have the Afrikaans, and they have a different descent than others. That’s if I’m true to what I was saying. But that’s ignoring that, also within Africa, you had a very large number of successful, well-developed states, and that was prior to European colonialism and the slave trade. So one could look at those cases.
One area that I worked at, the Democratic Republic of Congo, where you had the great Congo Kingdom, the Kuba Kingdom, a large number of other kingdoms, the Luba for example — that would probably be one country. That country today is pretty much as low as — in terms of per capita income — as you can be, right at subsistence. But if we’re predicting just based purely on persistence and historical state formation, that would be one to pick.
COWEN: What do you find to be the most convincing account of Botswana’s relative economic success?
NUNN: A few things. One is, Botswana is pretty small in terms of population. Anytime you have smaller countries, you can have more extreme outcomes. That’s one, that it’s small. But then related to that, it’s, in general, ethnically homogenous, particularly compared to other countries within Africa. The Tswana are the predominant ethnicity. They also have a historical social structure, and I think that was pretty well maintained and left intact. That’s a big part of the explanation.
COWEN: Is it fun to visit Democratic Republic of Congo?
NUNN: Yeah, it’s great. Yeah.
COWEN: Tell us what’s fun. I need to go once I can.
NUNN: Yeah, it’s really, really great. The first time we went as a team — this is James Robinson, Sara Lowes, Jonathan Weigel in 2013 — we were pretty apprehensive. You hear a lot of stories about the DRC. It sounds like a very unsafe place, et cetera. But one thing we didn’t realize or weren’t expecting was just how lovely and wonderful the people are.
And it turns out it’s not unsafe in general. It depends on different locations. In the east, definitely near Goma, it’s obviously much, much less safe. But I think what, for me, is wonderful is the sense of community. Because the places we go are places that haven’t been touched, to a large extent, by foreign aid or NGOs or tourism, I think we are treated just like any other individual within the community.
COWEN: What’s your favorite movie and why?
NUNN: Oh, favorite movie. [laughs] That’s a good question. Favorite movie — in the past it was Dazed and Confused. I must have watched that in university about a hundred times.
COWEN: A wonderful film.
Recommended, interesting throughout.
I will be doing a Conversation with him. If you don’t know he writes for The New Yorker as a music (and literary) critic, writes a wonderful music blog, has first-rate books on music and has a new book coming out titled Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music.
So what should I ask him?
And now it’s becoming clear why almost all popular initiatives are rejected. If the initiative had a obvious chance of being approved, the parliament would introduce the necessary legislation on its own. From this point of view the small number of successful initiatives is not a sign of a system malfunction, but rather a proof that the system is functioning the way it is expected to.
Another safety measure is that Swiss referenda are, in their essence, not polarizing. In referendum you are never asked to decide between two extremes, between, say, pro-life and pro-choice, but rather between the initiative proposal and the status quo. Voting against is always a safe and neutral option. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you are not sympathetic to the spirit of the initiative. You may just think it’s going too far, or maybe you like some aspects of it but don’t like some other.
Here is more from Martin Sustrik, via The Browser (always excellent). I’ll say it again: there should be far more books and articles asking the basic question of why Switzerland seems to work so well — Progress Studies!
Since 1950, the average age of heads of government in the three dozen member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has steadily declined, from above 60 years old to around 54 today. The average O.E.C.D. national leader is now two decades younger than Mr. Trump — and almost a quarter century younger than Mr. Biden…
And it isn’t just the American presidency that’s gone gray. The average age of Congress has trended upward for decades. Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, is 80; Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, is 78. The Supreme Court’s nine justices average above 67. Mr. Trump’s cabinet averages over 60, among the oldest in the O.E.C.D.
Here is one (not the only) explanation:
The way countries select their leaders offers a third possibility. In most O.E.C.D. countries, the head of government is a prime minister chosen by fellow lawmakers in the national legislature. Because party members pick their leaders, and can recall them at will, parliamentary systems give political parties significant control over whom to elevate, said Kaare Strom, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego. And parties often have strategic reasons to pick younger leaders: to appeal to particular constituencies or to brand themselves behind more telegenic faces.
Presidential systems, by contrast, give parties less control over who from their ranks will run — and which candidate voters will prefer. “The process is more driven by who’s out there, who’s interested, and what kind of resources they have,” said Professor Strom. “There’s not the same kind of institutional control and vetting of those candidates that you have in the European parliamentary systems.”
Accumulated wealth and fundraising connections may matter more too in the American system, also favoring seniority. Here is the full NYT story by Ian Prasad Philbrick.
Not long ago someone tweeted this part:
The President of the United States has the unrestrained Power of granting Pardons for Treason; which may be sometimes exercised to screen from Punishment those whom he had secretly instigated to commit the Crime, & thereby prevent a Discovery of his own Guilt.
And that led me to wish to read the whole thing. Mason of course was an anti-Federalist, and in his short piece he lays out why he opposes the proposed new constitution. Here is what I found striking:
1. He feared that the President would become a tool of the Senate or of his own cabinet.
2. He feared the Senate would not be directly accountable to the people. Of course, in due time we changed that through constitutional amendment.
3. He feared the federal judiciary would end up taking over state and local judiciaries.
4. The Senate can excessively legislate through the use of treaties — quite a contemporary objection by the way.
5. The individual states won’t be able to levy tariffs on trade across state borders.
6. Federal and state legislatures won’t be able to pass enough ex post facto laws (the strangest worry to me).
7. He made various claims that ended up being made obsolete by the adoption of a Bill of Rights.
8. The southern states would end up systematically outvoted.
9. The Vice President could end up becoming too powerful through his role in the Senate.
It is striking to me in these early writings how much people worry about the evolution of the Senate, and how little attention they pay to the Supreme Court, which at the time was viewed as not slated to be so powerful.
The problem of “Congress will toss away its legislative and war-making roles, and give up a lot of effective control of the budget” was also nowhere to be found in the words of the early critics, as far as I can tell. Nor did they have much of a notion of the rise of the administrative state.
Mason was a forceful writer, but the broad lesson is simply that the future is very difficult to predict.
Interesting throughout, here is the transcript and video and audio, here is part of the summary:
From the impact of the Mexican Revolution to the different development paths of northern and southern Vietnam, her work exploits what are often accidents of history — whether a Peruvian village was just inside or outside a mine’s catchment area, for example — to explain persistent differences in outcomes. Her work has earned numerous plaudits, including the John Bates Clark Medal earlier this year.
On the 100th episode of Conversations with Tyler, Melissa joined Tyler to discuss what’s behind Vietnam’s economic performance, why persistence isn’t predictive, the benefits and drawbacks of state capacity, the differing economic legacies of forced labor in Indonesia and Peru, whether people like her should still be called a Rhodes scholar, if SATs are useful, the joys of long-distance running, why higher temps are bad for economic growth, how her grandmother cultivated her curiosity, her next project looking to unlock huge historical datasets, and more.
And here is one excerpt:
DELL: Yeah, I’ve done some work looking at the persistence of economic development in Vietnam. The work I did, actually, was limited to what was South Vietnam because there’s also been huge events, obviously, that have happened in the past hundred years in North Vietnam, with a war that destroyed much of the country and was fought over an extended period of time.
But when you look, in general, at places in Vietnam that have a similar recent history, but going back in time, one of them was part of a much stronger, more centralized state. The other one was part of what is today Cambodia, a much weaker state, generally ruled by local lords instead of by a strong centralized state.
You see the towns that were part of the stronger, centralized state going back before colonialism, so several hundred years ago. More recently, they have better-functioning local governments. They’re richer. They’re better off, which shows that places that have a long history of governance seem better able to do that more recently.
So places going back a long time ago — they were part of the central state. They had to collect taxes locally to send up to the central state. They had to organize military conscripts. The central state mandated that they had certain laws.
More recently, those places also have more functional local governments and are also better off economically, whereas the places that never had that structure that comes from a state — it was, essentially, if you were living in that area, there’d be a warlord that you sent tribute to. But there was never any regular taxation, never any organized local government under a central state. Those places much more recently — when there were constitutional reforms in Vietnam that gave them a degree of self-government — they weren’t able to do that very effectively.
They weren’t able to keep the positions on their local city council filled. They weren’t able to provide, as effectively, local public goods, like education or health services. So really, having this long history of governance makes places more able to do that today. That’s relevant because there’s been a big push to have local governments provide an important role in providing public goods, et cetera.
If places don’t have a history of doing that, perhaps not surprisingly, they tend to have a much harder time. When the World Bank says, “Well, we want to give local autonomy to let local governments decide how to provide schools in the way that works best for them,” that’s going to work in places that have a long history of providing education. In places that don’t, they’re more likely to have a hard time.
COWEN: But if you select your cases on the basis of having similar histories, aren’t you selecting for persistence because the locales that have reversals of fortune — a big war in North Vietnam, Communism coming to North Vietnam — that’s a kind of mean reversion. It deliberately gives them a not-similar history. Do you then not overrate the degree of persistence in the dataset by just taking the sliver that is indeed continuous with its own history?
DELL: I think that you could imagine writing papers about different things. Our motivation was, we wanted to think about if the historical state could have a role at all. In order to do that, you don’t really want to compare South Korea to the Philippines — which is what most of the historical literature on this does — because they’re different in so many ways. We know that South Korea looks really different from the Philippines, but there’s so many ways that they can be different.
By looking within South Vietnam, we wanted to say, “Okay, these are places that had a much more recent modern history. Can their past history still matter?” But we’re not saying that that begins to explain everything. There’s other forces that happened more recently that we think are also important.
Certainly, there can be mean reversions, and the argument is not that things are always persistent. I think part of the literature is about understanding why sometimes things persist and sometimes they don’t. Certainly, more recent events can matter, and we’re not claiming that there’s an R-squared of one that a place’s history is its destiny, but that there are these forces.
Next up will be Nathan Nunn, and I asked him a series of related questions about persistence…
Here is one part of it:
But the truth is that intellectual curiosity—let alone risk-taking—is now a liability at The Times. Why edit something challenging to our readers, or write something bold only to go through the numbing process of making it ideologically kosher, when we can assure ourselves of job security (and clicks) by publishing our 4000th op-ed arguing that Donald Trump is a unique danger to the country and the world? And so self-censorship has become the norm.
What rules that remain at The Times are applied with extreme selectivity. If a person’s ideology is in keeping with the new orthodoxy, they and their work remain unscrutinized. Everyone else lives in fear of the digital thunderdome. Online venom is excused so long as it is directed at the proper targets.
Op-eds that would have easily been published just two years ago would now get an editor or a writer in serious trouble, if not fired. If a piece is perceived as likely to inspire backlash internally or on social media, the editor or writer avoids pitching it. If she feels strongly enough to suggest it, she is quickly steered to safer ground. And if, every now and then, she succeeds in getting a piece published that does not explicitly promote progressive causes, it happens only after every line is carefully massaged, negotiated and caveated.
I will be doing a Conversation with him, based in part on his new forthcoming book One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger. While I have not yet read it, I strongly expect it will be excellent.
So what should I ask?