Cat food markets in everything

Fancy Feast is expanding into feline-inspired human cuisine, with a New York City Italian restaurant designed to celebrate the company’s new line.

Gatto Bianco, which means “white cat,” is described by Fancy Feast as an “Italian-style trattoria,” and will be open for dinner reservations on August 11-12 only, according to a news release from Purina, which produces Fancy Feast.

The human-friendly dishes were inspired by Fancy Feast’s new “Medleys” cat food line, which feature options like “Beef Ragú Recipe With Tomatoes & Pasta in a Savory Sauce” for the cat with discerning taste.

Here is the full story, via Balding.

What I’ve been reading

1. Lilia Moritz Schwarcz, Brazilian Authoritarianism: Past and Present.  One of the best general books on where Brazil is right now, and yes it is sad that you can say that about a book on political authoritarianism.  Don’t forget that most of the slaves brought to the New World were brought to Brazil, and the country now has the second largest African population in the world.  The problem with this book is that while the first half on Brazil is quite good, too much of the second half is social science mumbo-jumbo.

2. Isaac Asimov, The End of Eternity.  This novel is not so famous, but it is one of his best and also most literary creations.  Like so many Asimov tales, it is fundamentally biblical in inspiration.  Of course Asimov wrote numerous books about the Bible, so he knew it well.  You can start with Adam and Eve, Abraham, and Samson, but it doesn’t end there.

Dan Slater and Joseph Wong, From Development to Democracy: The Transformations of Modern Asia is a good “state capacity” take on how democracies developed from strong states in Asia.

Richard M. Eaton, India in the Persianate Age.  Among its other virtues, including excellent research, this book does a good job of recharacterizing the “Mughal” era as one of massive Persian influence in India.

Lindsey Hughes, Russia in the Age of Peter the Great.  I only read part of this book, as it had more detail than what I was looking to consume, but it is clearly a major and very useful source on its topic.  It focuses on the progress, science, and state-building sides of the reign of Peter.

The inflation impact of the Inflation Reduction Act

Post title and everything, here I am just copying Greg Mankiw:

“According to CBO:

In calendar year 2022, enacting the bill would have a negligible effect on inflation, in CBO’s assessment. In calendar year 2023, inflation would probably be between 0.1 percentage point lower and 0.1 percentage point higher under the bill than it would be under current law.”

TC again: I know you can be on Twitter, and honestly pledge this thing will reduce inflation, but…c’mon people….

Friday assorted links

1. The dissolution of the monasteries.

2. “By my count, at least 29 of the 605 NBA players who saw the court last season had fathers who played in the league—almost 5 percent, a ludicrously high figure, and enough to fill two teams’ rosters.”  About Bronny.

3. Trends for U.S. water infrastructure.

4. “Considering that it predates the Bank of Ireland and the State itself, it could even be said that Guinness is the longest-running successful large institution in Ireland.”  Link here.

5. Podcast with Josh Szeps.

6. Bryan Caplan does stand-up comedy at the Comedy Cellar.

7. Is Google making the internet more boring?  An interesting piece.

Dose Stretching for the Monkeypox Vaccine

Photo Credit: NIAD. https://www.flickr.com/photos/niaid/52103767506/

We are making all the same errors with monkeypox policy that we made with Covid but we are correcting the errors more rapidly. (It remains to be seen whether we are correcting rapidly enough.) I’ve already mentioned the rapid movement of some organizations to first doses first for the monkeypox vaccine. Another example is dose stretching. I argued on the basis of immunological evidence that A Half Dose of Moderna is More Effective Than a Full Dose of AstraZeneca and with Witold Wiecek, Michael Kremer, Chris Snyder and others wrote a paper simulating the effect of dose stretching for COVID in an SIER model. We even worked with a number of groups to accelerate clinical trials on dose stretching. Yet, the idea was slow to take off. On the other hand, the NIH has already announced a dose stretching trial for monkeypox.

Scientists at the National Institutes of Health are getting ready to explore a possible work-around. They are putting the finishing touches on the design of a clinical trial to assess two methods of stretching available doses of Jynneos, the only vaccine in the United States approved for vaccination against monkeypox.

They plan to test whether fractional dosing — using one-fifth of the regular amount of vaccine per person — would provide as much protection as the current regimen of two full doses of the vaccine given 28 days apart. They will also test whether using a single dose might be enough to protect against infection.

The first approach would allow roughly five times as many people to be vaccinated as the current licensed approach, and the latter would mean twice as many people could be vaccinated with existing vaccine supplies.

…The answers the study will generate, hopefully by late November or early December, could significantly aid efforts to bring this unprecedented monkeypox outbreak under control.

Another interesting aspect of the dose stretching protocol is that the vaccine will be applied to the skin, i.e. intradermally, which is known to often create a stronger immune response. Again, the idea isn’t new, I mentioned it in passing a couple of times on MR. But we just weren’t prepared to take these step for COVID. Nevertheless, COVID got these ideas into the public square and now that the pump has been primed we appear to be moving more rapidly on monkeypox.

Addendum: Jonathan Nankivell asked on the prediction market, Manifold Markets, ‘whether a 1/5 dose of the monkey pox vaccine would provide at least 50% the protection of the full dose?’ which is now running at a 67% chance. Well worth doing the clinical trial! Especially if we think that the supply of the vaccine will not expand soon.

The new tax on stock buybacks

Democrats opted to seek a new 1 percent tax on corporate stock buybacks, a move that would make up at least some of the revenue that might have lost as a result of the [Sinema-driven] changes.

Here is further detail.  Something has to be taxed, and I don’t pretend to have a comprehensive ranking of tax options from best to worst.  I can’t tell you where this might rank on the list.  I can however tell you these three things:

1. This is flat out a new tax on capital, akin to a tax on dividends.

2. Are you worried about corporations being too big and monopolistic?  This makes it harder for them to shrink!  Think of it also as a tax on the reallocation of capital to new and growing endeavors.

3. The real reason this is being proposed is because so many Democratic and left-leaning public intellectuals have written “flat out wrong, doesn’t matter what your partisan stance is” pieces on stock buybacks.

And there you go.

Sex ratio and infant mortality in India

“India has made tremendous progress since 1990. …

What would you expect about sex ratio at birth in India?

I expected the following:

  • It would have improved across the whole country.
  • It would be worse in the north than in the south.
  • It would be worse in rural areas than in urban areas.
  • The law banning prenatal sex determination, which was passed almost 30 years ago, would have helped with the known problem of selective abortion of female fetuses.

I had also assumed these to be true and touted them as facts to multiple people, including twice in the last two years. Recently, when I tried to confirm this, I learnt the opposite:

  • Sex ratio at birth has gotten worse across the whole country.
  • It is better in the south than in the north, but neither is it better in every southern state nor is it good in absolute terms.
  • It is worse in urban areas than in rural areas.
  • The impact of the law has been mild.”

Here is the link, that is all from .

The rise and fall of empires

The last two centuries witnessed the rise and fall of empires. We construct a model which rationalises this in terms of the changing trade gains from empires. In the model, empires are arrangements that reduce trade cost between an industrial metropole and the agricultural periphery. During early industrialisation, the value of such bilateral trade increases, and so does the value of empires. As industrialisation diffuses, and as manufactures become more differentiated, trade becomes more multilateral and intra-industry, reducing the value of empires. Our results are consistent with long-term changes in income distribution and trade patterns, and with previous historical arguments.

That is from a new NBER working paper by Roberto Bonfatti and Kerem Coşar.

How many times are we going to make this kind of mistake?

The shortage of vaccines to combat a fast-growing monkeypox outbreak was caused in part because the Department of Health and Human Services failed early on to ask that bulk stocks of the vaccine it already owned be bottled for distribution, according to multiple administration officials familiar with the matter.

By the time the federal government placed its orders, the vaccine’s Denmark-based manufacturer, Bavarian Nordic, had booked other clients and was unable to do the work for months, officials said — even though the federal government had invested well over $1 billion in the vaccine’s development.

The government is now distributing about 1.1 million doses, less than a third of the 3.5 million that health officials now estimate are needed to fight the outbreak. It does not expect the next delivery, of half a million doses, until October. Most of the other 5.5 million doses the United States has ordered are not scheduled to be delivered until next year, according to the federal health agency.

Here is more from the NYT.

There is No Such Thing as Development Economics

I used to think there was such a thing as development economics. There are still richer and poorer countries, of course, but is there a “development economics,” a special type of economics for poor countries? I don’t think so. Maybe there once was. In the twentieth century, divergence in per-capita GDP increased big time and it was a burning question why poor countries weren’t on the same development path as the developed nations. Starting around 1990-2000, however, we have seen convergence. Most countries are now on the same path. Poorer countries and richer countries are becoming more alike, sometimes for good and sometimes for bad. I tweeted the following news headline recently:

Image

Notice the commentary on NYC infrastructure but also the man bites dog angle. In Pakistan people on social media are apparently sharing videos of flooding in the New York subway to complain about the poor state of infrastructure in Pakistan!

My own anecdote fit the pattern. This week I am in Delhi and due to a series of unfortunate supply chain shocks at my house-build in the US, for the first time in 3 weeks I have running hot water and reliable internet access!  Not only that but although India has sadly fallen for the paper straw nonsense the top hotels remain free from flow constrictors so the water gushes out of the shower with elan just as God intended. Civilization is  truly moving back east.

More generally, poorer and richer countries face many of the same problems today: infrastructure, low-skill workers and technological change, climate adaption and so forth. Is the latest paper on cash transfers, pollution, or corruption about a poor country or a rich country? It’s hard to tell. Poor countries still have their own unique problems, of course, but those problems are best analyzed by country rather than by income category. India is not the same as Thailand or Peru. I see little that unites poor countries under the rubric development economics.

My charitable giving advice from 2007

I had a chapter on this topic in my 2007 book Discover Your Inner Economist, with much of the material based on blog posts from 2004-2006 or so.  No, I was not recommending particular charities, but rather considering how to think about giving more generally.  Since that time there has been so much discussion of the topic in EA communities, I thought it would be interesting to see how well my earlier recommendations have held up.

I argued for the following:

1. Do not give money to beggars, it only encourages rent-seeking for further transfers.

2. Accordingly, many donations should be surprise donations.  In the meantime, limit the ability of people to invest resources in donation-seeking.

3. Give to causes where your giving will have a positive contagion effect upon others.

4. The promise of matching grants is not always very effective in stimulating larger donations.

5. Many forms of ostensible charity in fact have negative effectiveness.  For instance parachuting for charity can lead to a good number of injuries and not bring much positive attention to the charitable cause, at least not relevant to alternatives.

6. I endorse cash transfers, provided you don’t encourage people to work too hard to receive them.

7. There is a cautious endorsement of micro-credit.

8. A fundamental problem is that a lot of giving is driven by motives of affiliation rather than effectiveness.

#8 seems more true than ever before and it is now widely recognized.  #3, while discussed in the current literature, still seems an undervalued point.

On the revisions, microcredit has lost some status since that time, though it still seems modestly effective and it has the further virtue of being self-sustaining.  Cash transfers remain a popular and reasonably effective option, although a) sometimes they are much more effective with mentoring, b) some recent Chris Blattman results suggest they may wash out in the longer run, and c) sometimes cash transfers raise expectations without making the recipients happier in the longer run (a recent paper measures this, does anyone have the link handy?  From Ariella, link is here).

Overall I overrated the dangers of charitable rent-seeking, and underrated the dangers of the bureaucratization of altruism?  In any case, it was interesting to go back and read my earlier thoughts on the question.

Wednesday assorted links

1. New books expected out in the latter half of 2022.

2. 1960s British kids predict the year 2000.

3. Those new service sector jobs (and their pay).

4. “Harvard researchers account for about 5 percent of articles published in the top four medical journals, a larger share than Germany or Canada as a whole.

5. Carbon from the Congo? (New Yorker)  There might be lots of it.

6. FT coverage of famine in Madagascar.