Results for “assorted links”
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Assorted India links

Assorted Launching Links

Paul Howard of the Manhattan Institute talks with me about innovation in a fun podcast (mp3) and here is my earlier Econ Talk with Russ Roberts. I was also interviewed by Davin O’Dwyer for the Irish Times. Launching also has a new cover, shown at right. Here is one bit from the Irish Times:

The new normal is that we’re going to go back to where China and India are going to be playing huge roles. That definitely means that our relative status is going to fall. We’re not going to be, either the US or Europe, the powerhouse we once were. We’re not going to be the giant in the land of the Lilliputians. But, in an absolute sense, we can continue to do well and even better than before. I like to say that if you invent a cure for cancer, that’s great, that’s fantastic. If your neighbour invents a cure for cancer, that’s almost as great.

 

Assorted Movie Links

…[T]he more blatant lesson of Avatar is not that American imperialism is bad, but that in fact it’s necessary. Sure there are some bad Americans–the ones with tanks ready to mercilessly kill the Na’vi population, but Jake is set up as the real embodiment of the American spirit. He learns Na’vi fighting tactics better than the Na’vi themselves, he takes the King’s daughter for his own, he becomes the only Na’vi warrior in centuries to tame this wild dragon bird thing. Even in someone else’s society the American is the chosen one. He’s going to come in, lead your army, fuck your princesses, and just generally save the day for you. Got it? This is how we do it.

  • And finally. this is not a good way to open the NYSE.

Assorted

1. On inequality, Krugman responds to critics and Samwick adds further commentary.  I’ll note that the "marginal products" of big changes in government, society, technology, etc. are not always well-defined.

2. Tower Records is bankrupt again, and this time the stores may not survive.

3. In case you missed it, there is now very strong evidence for the existence of "dark matter."

4. The genetic causes of autism — do they lead to early brain inflammation?  Have I mentioned that my mother was instrumental in founding and running a care home for autistic children?  Among other things, I use this blog to send her the latest news on the topic.

5. Seven puzzles: find them here, with solutions, and one of them is explained by GeekPress.

6. Virginia Postrel in Forbes, on why median incomes are not stagnating, here is a summary and a link.

Ola Malm on the future and industrial organization of chess

It was great to see your “Thursday assorted links” link regarding chess. It has been fascinating to follow the recent online boom to which the game has been subject and to think about what it may mean for the organization, and business, of chess over time.

I speculate, of course, but – as to what the future holds – I believe at least one possible path for the sport runs as follows:

1. The three major chess-focused online platforms (chess.com, lichess, and chess24) reduces to one through a self-reinforcing cycle of greater revenue concentration, the attainment by one party of progressive technical superiority, and the increasing convergence of the chess-playing public on a single provider.

2. The market leader signs exclusivity agreements (governing non-FIDE play) with a significant portion of top players and becomes the de-facto organizer of most commercially significant tournaments. In contrast to (1), this could conceivably happen quite quickly, as it involves only a limited set of individuals.

3. The centralization of elite-level play on a single platform enables that platform’s Elo rating to emerge as the chess world’s most important manifestation of achievement, thus furthering the leading provider’s competitive position (and affording it, through subscription fees, the financial means of accelerating (1) and of maintaining (2)).

4. FIDE’s tight grip on the sport is somewhat loosened, and the organization reverts to being something more akin to what it used to be and was originally intended to be – a (gentler) gentlemen’s club (in the English, rather than the American-English, sense of the term) focused on advancing the sport of chess.

Step (2) is, to a certain extent, already underway in the form of Nakamura’s link with chess.com and Carlsen’s ownership interest in Play Magnus (which owns chess24 and hosts the Champions Chess Tour). Attempting to negotiate individual agreements with single players would very likely turn out no easier than herding cats (and a rather resourceful and independent sort of cat, at that); rather, I believe whichever party may seek to implement a form of player exclusivity would find it easier to, on a unilateral basis, simply issue rating-based cash compensation (in exchange for promises of exclusivity) to the top-10-ranked (or top-50-ranked – the precise number is of course unimportant) Grandmasters. To rate players, the provider could adopt the current FIDE ranking as its starting position, but thereafter “fork” it (much like an open-source piece of code is forked) and base future rankings (for payment purposes) exclusively on play on its own platform (to enable (3)).

Some would no doubt scoff at such a development as unwelcome commercialization. And, yet, I think it would constitute a step, if not indisputably forward, certainly not backward, for chess. International sports tend to be organized in one of two ways: through one-nation-one-vote Swiss associations (such as soccer’s FIFA); or through commercial corporations (such Formula1’s Liberty Media). Time has undeniably imbued governing bodies in the former category with a certain cachet, but it has also made many of them inefficient and corrupt, as their governance systems – designed for a pre-WWI European world of volunteerism and gentlemanly conduct – have failed to adapt to, and to ward off, an extent of contemporary cynicism. If the Guardian is to be believed, FIDE has not been entirely spared: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/jun/03/chess-rights-multimillionaire-model-agency-owner-david-kaplanhttps://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/jun/03/chess-fide-president-offshore-firms-rights-kirsan-ilyumzhinov. I think most sports, including chess, would be no worse managed – in the sense of attracting both a broad player base as well as a vibrant elite tier – were they to convalesce around corporate organizations rather than Swiss associations.

I am pleased to report that Ola was an earlier Emergent Ventures recipient.

A test of Marginal Revolution political bias

Here is an email from Daniel Stone at Bowdoin, I am not imposing a double-formatting on it for ease of reading and formatting:

“Dear Tyler (if I may),

I’m a big fan of your work in general, and MR in particular, and think that you do as good a job as anyone at exploring a variety of political perspectives, and sharing related (diverse) research.

Still, you’re human after all J. I’ve always been curious if there are systematic patterns in your writing or links you post.

It occurred to me a couple weeks ago that you sometimes describe research as speculative or imply this by adding a question mark to the end of the link (the example that made me notice this was: “Minimum wage effects and monopsony?”https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2019/07/thursday-assorted-links-215.html). At other times your link simply states the main research finding or directly quotes from the paper or its title.

So, while it might be hard to identify a general bias in your links – even if the majority were, say, “pro-liberal”, this wouldn’t necessarily mean *you* were biased, since the majority of good research out there could be pro-liberal, using the added “?”s provides an identification strategy: if you were more likely to add a ? for research that leans one political direction or the other, that would suggest a bias on your part.

As a fun side project, that I thought might also have some value given the importance of MR and understanding bias more generally, I had my RA (Maggie Hanson, cc’d) grab all your links from Assorted Links posts to social science research this year (as of a few days ago). Together we coded the ‘slant’ of each as L, R or N (neutral) – depending on whether the research supports regulation, indicates market failure, etc (admittedly our process here was not extremely scientific). She also recorded whether your link text is phrased as a question (or notes that the finding is speculative, which you did a couple times and seems similar). In addition, for link text phrased as a question, we also noted whether this text is a direct reference to the research paper’s title, as this means you didn’t actually add the “?”.

We did a bit of very basic analysis, here are results:

The distribution of slant across links is quite balanced, but leans left:

. tab sla

Slant |

(L/N/R) |      Freq.     Percent        Cum.

————+———————————–

L |         35       29.17       29.17

N |         58       48.33       77.50

R |         27       22.50      100.00

————+———————————–

Total |        120      100.00

 

But you were slightly more likely to phrase your link as a question for “L” links vs for Rs (9/35 for Ls vs 5/27 for Rs):

.   tab slant endswith

Slant |      Ends with ?

(L/N/R) |         n          y |     Total

———–+———————-+———-

L |        26          9 |        35

N |        48         10 |        58

R |        22          5 |        27

———–+———————-+———-

Total |        96         24 |       120

 

And you were a bit more likely to do this for links that were not direct quotes of article titles that were questions (7/33 = 0.21 for Ls vs 2/24=0.083 for Rs):

tab slant endswith if linktex==”n”

Slant |      Ends with ?

(L/N/R) |         n          y |     Total

———–+———————-+———-

L |        26          7 |        33

N |        48          8 |        56

R |        22          2 |        24

———–+———————-+———-

Total |        96         17 |       113

 

But the magnitude of this difference is not large (and I bet not statistically significant), and the large majority of both L and R links were presented by you without questions marks.

Bottom line: you do present a quite balanced set of research findings, the general distribution leans left but it is hard to interpret this (without knowing the slants of research in general or the slant of research you post elsewhere, aside from Assorted Links). And there is suggestive evidence of a small tendency for you to be more questioning of research supportive of liberal/leftist policies.

Here’s a link to the data:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1CrPqezV51SCwAwuwjdRqBy4jUlX76Iti0X4P1nKPMpM/edit?usp=sharing

This includes a sheet with all the links that end in ?, that aren’t quotes of article titles, and their slants.

I wanted to share this with you before sharing with others. Please feel free to let me know any questions or comments!

Thanks, and thanks again for all your work. All the best – Dan”

Computational complexity and time travel

I’ve already put this Scott Aaronson paper in Assorted Links, but here are two passages I liked in particular:

…finding a fixed point might require Nature to solve an astronomically-hard computational problem! To illustrate, consider a science-fiction scenario wherein you go back in time and dictate Shakespeare’s plays to him. Shakespeare thanks you for saving him the effort, publishes verbatim the plays that you dictated, and centuries later the plays come down to you, whereupon you go back in time and dictate them to Shakespeare, etc. Notice that, in contrast to the grandfather paradox, here there is no logical contradiction: the story as we told it is entirely consistent. But most people find the story “paradoxical” anyway. After all, somehow Hamlet gets written, without anyone ever doing the work of writing it! As Deutsch perceptively observed, if there is a “paradox” here, then it is not one of logic but of computational complexity…

And:

Now, some people have asked how such a claim could possibly be consistent with modern physics. For didn’t Einstein teach us that space and time are merely two aspects of the same structure? One immediate answer is that, even within relativity theory, space and time are not interchangeable: space has a positive signature whereas time has a negative signature. In complexity theory, the difference between space and time manifests itself in the straightforward fact that you can reuse the same memory cells over and over, but you can’t reuse the same moments of time.

Yet, as trivial as that observation sounds, it leads to an interesting thought. Suppose that the laws of physics let us travel backwards in time. In such a case, it’s natural to imagine that time would become a “reusable resource” just like space is—and that, as a result, arbitrary PSPACE computations would fall within our grasp. But is that just an idle speculation, or can we rigorously justify it?

It is in general quite an interesting paper.

Usain Bolt should be running in the 2040 Olympics

Originally I was going to put this under "Assorted Links" but I decided it deserved its own spotlight.  Here is one very good excerpt of many:

During the drive phase, Bolt and the rest of the runners are all leaning forward at an unsustainable tilt, their torsos out ahead of where their feet impact the ground. They are basically in the act of falling down, face-first, but their legs, racing against gravity, are preventing that from happening, propelling them forward so hard and so fast that their bodies, instead of face-planting, begin to slowly rise up into a full upright position. Sprinters often describe this phase, when everything happens correctly, as being analogous to liftoff in an airplane.

Here is another good bit:

His top speed is such a spectacle, so phenomenal, so searing that many who witness this race, who see Bolt cross the line in 9.69 seconds, breaking his own three-month-old world record by three hundredths of a second, don't notice, until they see the replay, what is perhaps the most salient and frightening thing about his performance: Approximately eighty meters into the race, twenty meters from the finish line, Bolt stops trying.

Read the whole thing.  For the pointer I thank The Browser.

Conniptions coda

Last night one of my law students — who is also a realtor — informed me that many parts of northern Virginia do have a form of effective rent control.  Various apartment buildings have to set aside a certain percentage of their apartments for low-rent uses and try to attract people who receive housing subsidies.  He said this was true for Arlington but he wasn't sure about Fairfax County.  (This article suggests Fairfax County does have a similar program, with rent subsidies.  Although it does not state that the resulting rents are below market-clearing my student indicated that was true for Arlington County and also in Fairfax putting aside these apartments for low-income groups does seem to be a burden for the landlord.)  I wouldn't call this "stringent" rent control but it has effects much like those of rent control.  We should expect excess demand for those apartments, people masquerading as low-income when they are not, supplier reluctance to participate, and landlords who look for other ways of charging people for access to those apartments.  My student claims we do observe these phenomena and that the program is a mess.

Should I throw a conniption?

In any case I probably will, as I had once pledged, spend a few days soon blogging local issues only.  That's not a strict commitment; you'll still get Assorted Links and I'll break the truce if/when big news breaks elsewhere.

From the comments, on Covid and our response

It is simply not a tenable policy to oppose pandemic lockdowns on the premise that COVID-19 only negatively affects a certain portion of the population. First, the fact that COVID-19 disproportionately killed the elderly was not something that was readily apparent right out of the box, when the virus was spreading rapidly. Hindsight is 20-20. Second, focusing solely on mortality is short-sighted given that approximately one-third of all people who get over COVID-19 suffer “long haul” symptoms that persist for months and may even be permanent in some. We cannot simply claim that the non-elderly have no reason to fear COVID-19.

So far, COVID-19 has killed more Americans than we lost in World War II, and it took the war five years to do what the virus did in one year. Even though the majority of the deaths were 65+, these are staggering numbers. Losing well over 100,000 people under the age of 65 in one year alone is nothing to sneeze at, and that’s with lock-downs and other harsh measures being taken. A “let them live their lives” approach would doubtlessly have escalated those numbers greatly.

The best early policy for any pandemic is to ramp up rapid testing as fast as possible, and test people constantly. A widespread testing regime (like in South Korea) would allow uninfected people to live more or less normally, while stifling the spread of the virus by identifying infected people quickly so they can immediately quarantine and prevent further spread. [Alex’s] earlier post on Testing and the NFL is instructive on that point. Such a testing regime could have enabled us to avoid harsher measures later on. But, unfortunately, America was led at the time by a president who did not prioritize testing (and in fact discouraged it to hide the spread of the virus) and sought to pooh-pooh its danger, shrugging off even the slightest mitigation efforts, like masks. Even after he got it, and was hospitalized, almost put on a ventilator, he acted as though it was nothing. That leadership caused a dangerous cognitive dissonance in public perceptions of COVID-19 — a dissonance that is causing people to take unreasonable risks, refuse to get vaccinated, and otherwise take actions that will make it even harder for us to get out from under this pandemic.

Focusing on the Great Barrington Declaration itself, the big problem with its approach is that it presumes that “herd immunity” will naturally occur with COVID-19 at some point. The evidence indicates, however, that natural infection does not lead to permanent immunity. The worse a person’s symptoms from COVID-19, the longer their immunity lasts, but that’s it. The only immunity that is possible now is through vaccination, and even that will require yearly updates as the virus mutates as it is already doing. Eventually we will have it under control. But the suggestion that people under 65 can just safely infect themselves into herd immunity is likely an impossibility, and certainly not a good enough foundation to rest any pandemic policy on. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-00728-2

None of this is meant to minimize or challenge the obvious economic and mental health effects of certain pandemic policies. There are a great many costs being imposed by lock-downs and other policies. Businesses are failing and not coming back, jobs are being permanently lost, people are feeling isolated, on and on. All of that is tragic, and could have been largely avoided had we aggressively pursued testing (especially rapid-result testing) from the outset. When the next pandemic comes, I hope our descendants remember that lesson. Because once the pandemic started spreading because we didn’t get a testing regime in place, it was too late, and then the harsher policies became inevitable. The horse was out of the barn, and the game changed for good.

That is from James N. Markels, responding to Don Boudreaux in these comments.

Here is another way to put the broader argument, not my preferred first-order response, but I think significant nonetheless.  Given the way government and public choice work, anything that kills over half a million Americans is going to be a big deal for policy, whether we like it or not (Don should be the first to recognize that government will restrict your liberties for far less than 500k deaths!).  You want the best feasible version of a response, as there isn’t really a stable libertarian response pattern out there.  Trying partial but non-sustainable libertarian approaches will in the end get you more and more statism as the virus keeps on defeating you, deaths rise, and calls for ever-greater state action increase.  A lot of what libertarians don’t like about lockdowns in part stems from the “do nothing” response of the first two months of notice that we Americans had when Covid first appeared in China.