Results for “wisdom garett jones”
24 found

The culture that is Japan

A contentious requirement for Japan-specific trials has delayed the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines in Asia’s largest advanced economy and threatened the Tokyo Olympics.

Small clinical trials that demonstrate the vaccines generate a similar level of antibodies when used in Japan are the main outstanding condition for approval of the jabs from BioNTech/Pfizer and several other companies.

Japan’s demand for proof that safety and efficacy do not differ in the country means that it will not start vaccinations until the end of February — three months after the earliest rollouts and fewer than five months before the delayed Tokyo Olympics are due to start.

Here is the full FT article.  Via the Approve AstraZeneca wisdom that is Garett Jones.

Sauce, goose, gander

A panel appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to review taxpayer-subsidized health insurance for retired government workers suggested the city [Chicago] could drop coverage to help erase a financial shortfall…

Phasing out coverage for most retired city workers would leave the bulk of retirees dependent on the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Here is more, and for the pointer I thank The Wisdom of Garett Jones.

Steven Pinker on violence

It is an important and thoughtful book, and I can recommend it to all readers of intelligent non-fiction, reviews are here  But I’m not convinced by the main thesis.

Might we run an econometrics test on regime changes?  The 17th century was much more violent than the preceding times, as was the early 19th century, albeit to a lesser extent.  Perhaps the distribution is well-described by “long periods of increasing peace, punctuated by large upward leaps of violence”, as was suggested by Lewis Richardson in his 1960 book on the statistics of violent conflict?  Imagine a warfare correlate to the Minsky Moment.  In the meantime, there will be evidence of various “great moderations,” though each ends with a bang.

Pinker does discuss these ideas in detail in chapter five, but at the end of that section I am not sure why I should embrace his account rather than that of Richardson.  I am reminded of the literature on the peso problem in finance.

Another hypothesis is to see modern violence as lower, especially in the private sphere, because the state is much more powerful.  Could this book have been titled The Nationalization of Violence?  But nationalization does not mean that violence goes away, especially at the most macro levels.  In a variant on my point above, one way of describing the observed trend is “less frequent violent outbursts, but more deadlier outbursts when they come.”  Both greater wealth (weapons are more destructive, and thus used less often, and there is a desire to preserve wealth) and the nationalization of violence point toward that pattern.  That would help explain why the two World Wars, Stalin, Chairman Mao, and the Holocaust, all came not so long ago, despite a (supposed) trend toward greater peacefulness.  Those are hard data points for Pinker to get around, no matter how he tries.

We now have a long period between major violent outbursts, but perhaps the next one will be a doozy.

How would this book sound if it were written in 1944?  Maybe there is a regime break at 1945 or so, with nuclear weapons deserving the credit for a relative extreme of postwar peace.  Pinker’s discussion of the nuclear question starts at p.268, but he underrates the power of nuclear weapons to reach the enemy leaders themselves and thus he does not convince me to dismiss the nuclear issue as central to the observed improvement, throw in Pax Americana if you like.

In one of the most original sections of the book (e.g., p.656), Pinker postulates the greater reach of reason, and the Flynn effect, working together, as moving people toward more peaceful attitudes.  He postulates a kind of moral Flynn effect, whereby our increasing ability to abstract ourselves from particulars, and think scientifically, helps us increasingly identify with the point of view of others, leading to a boost in applied empathy.  On p.661 there is an excellent mention of the wisdom of Garett Jones.  Pinker’s thesis implies the novel conclusion that those skilled on the Ravens test have an especially easy time thinking about ethics in the properly cosmopolitan terms; I toy with such an idea in my own Create Your Own Economy.

What is the alternative hypothesis to this moral Flynn Effect?  Given that the private returns to supporting violence are rare — most of the time — and violence has been nationalized, people will have incentives to invest in greater empathy and to build their self-images around such empathy.  This empathy will be real rather than feigned, but it also will be fragile rather than based in a real shift in cognitive and emotive faculties; see 1990s Mostar and Sarajevo or for that matter Nagasaki or British or Belgian colonialism.

When doing the statistics, one key issue is how to measure violence.  Pinker often favors “per capita” measures, but I am not so sure.  I might prefer a weighted average of per capita and “absolute quantity of violence” measures.  Killing six million Jews in the Holocaust is not, in my view, “half as violent” if global population is twice as high.  Once you toss in the absolute measures with the per capita measures, the long-term trends are not nearly as favorable as Pinker suggests.

Here is John Gray’s (excessively hostile) review of Pinker.  In my view this is very much a book worth reading and thinking about.  And I very much hope Pinker is right.  He has done everything possible to set my doubts to rest, but he has not (yet?) succeeded.  I find it easiest to think that the changes of the last sixty years are real when I ponder nuclear weapons.

Assorted links

1. Good and more positive review of Parfit.

2. The wisdom of Garett Jones.

3. Congestion pricing in the Netherlands.

4. Michael Lewis on Germany, funny, one-sided, slightly offensive, somewhat true.

5. Did CCTV stop the riots?  And Amazon UK withdraws the truncheons, via Chris F. Masse.  Here is The Browser compendium of articles on the riots.

6. Photos to ponder, don’t forget the caption.

Assorted links

1. The wisdom of Garett Jones and Reihan Salam.

2. Are they raising a gender-free baby?

3. The story of economics, a three-minute video, via Tim Harford, quite good I thought and also pleasingly philosophical.

4. Thwarted markets in everything: Denmark bans Marmite.

5. Do medical patients have an excess status quo bias?

6. The online grocery business is returning.

7. A good post on project evaluation.

Assorted links

1. More culturally untranslateable expressions, some of them obscene.

2. Blog symposium on behavioral law and economics, with many notables.

3. Against overlordship.

4. Ireland markets in everything, boxer shorts edition.

5. Should men or women staff Saudi lingerie stores?

6. Do scientific effects shrink over time?

7. The Taiwanese explain Ireland (video).

8. Why are there so few great women chefs?  (Or are there?)

9. The wisdom of Garett Jones, on the status of science.

10. Why I don’t blog the “tax cut deal” very much.

11. More backlash against the arsenic paper.

What is the case for the Fed?

Alex asks this question.  I am not so enamored of the pre- and post-Fed macroeconomic comparisons.  Presumably the Fed advocate also favors deposit insurance and active exercise of the lender of last resort function.  Furthermore most Fed advocates today do not want a gold standard, in part because it ties the hands of the Fed in a crisis.  I view 1929-1932 as a better illustration of the workings of "a world without a Fed" than "a world with a Fed," even though of course we had a Fed then.  If you take the relevant division to be "before and after WWII," the Fed looks pretty good.

It's also the case that the 19th century had much less interconnected leverage than today's world (not only because of the absence of a Fed) and that agricultural productivity was a much bigger determinant of overall volatility.

I see the historical ledger as follows:

1. The Fed made 1979-1982, and the 1970s in general, much worse than they had to be, and for no good reason.  Count that as a strike against the Fed.

2. The Fed made the recent crisis much better than it otherwise would have been.  Without a Fed, we would have experienced something akin to a Great Depression, including a frozen payments system.

2b. If you wish to give the recent crisis an anti-Fed spin, you can argue that if previous bailouts had not occurred, we might have avoided the high levels of leverage circa 2006 and thus avoided such a major crash.  We would have had one or two big recessions earlier on, however.  More to the point, I believe that Congress would have done earlier bailouts; after all, that is what just happened in Ireland and TARP was Congress in any case.  What is the point of going that route?  People think of the gold standard as fetters on the Fed, but I think of the Fed as an excuse for Congress to step back.  Consult the wisdom of Garett Jones.

3. A "real Fed" would have made 1929-1932 much better than it was.  In my view this #3 more than cancels out #2b.  It is unrealistic to ask for a perfect or even a very good Fed, but it is not unrealistic or utopian to advocate "a Fed better than the 1929 Fed" and indeed we've had that ever since 1937.

4. In the 1950s, 1960s, 1980s, and 1990s, I see the Fed as bringing improvements, of unknown magnitude.

5. Historically central banks have been essential in helping nations fight major wars.  The world's preeminent military power simply will have a Fed, for the same reason that it has lots of nuclear weapons.

6. More generally, both Fed and Treasury are usually, in relative terms, voices of economic reason within government, even if they're not everything you wish them to be.  It is arguably counterproductive to lower their status.  Currently, the relevant alternative is a totally politicized Fed, not no Fed at all; see #5.

Addendum: Bryan Caplan offers relevant comment.

Is the VAT a money machine?

This is a very useful paper, full of facts and figures on VATs around the world.  Here is one bit:

As shown in the first column, all OECD members other than the U.S. have adopted the VAT over the last 30 years or so, beginning with France continuing through adoption by Australia in 2000. The (unweighted) average standard rate of VAT is about 17 percent, but with considerable variation. Within the EU, it varies between 15 percent (the minimum permissible under the union’s rules) in Luxembourg, and 25 percent (the maximum) in Denmark and Hungary. And several non–EU countries apply far lower standard rates than this, the most striking being the fi ve–percent rate in Japan. Most also apply a reduced rate to some commodities, with domestic zero–rating being quite widespread. The fourth column shows that revenue from the VAT is also typically substantial– averaging a little over seven percent of GDP–but again with considerable variation, from a high of over 12 percent of GDP in Iceland to a low of around 2.5 percent in Japan.

The authors — Michael Keen and Ben Lockwood — conclude that a VAT is a "weak" money machine in the sense that increases in a VAT are partially offset by declines in other tax rates.  They also note:

In a purely statistical sense, there is, thus, no strong evidence that the VAT has in itself caused the growth of government.

I saw this on Twitter somewhere, though now I forget whom to thank; sorry! [Update: It is probably "the wisdom of Garett Jones"]

  • 1
  • 2