Links round-up

Every week, Ranil Dissanayake updates us on the latest interesting links and other readings he came across. Ranil is a Senior Economist at the UK Department for International Development, but the opinions expressed in his writings are entirely his own and do not represent the views of his employer.

Well, I’m back in London and while it’s not the 30-degrees-and-the-sea-everywhere-you-turn Salone was, there are worse places to be in the spring. Add that to a genuine surfeit of cricket (most of which I was too busy to follow in Freetown), and it’s been a pretty soft landing (well, if you exclude the fact that we conceded 450+ to Bangladesh at home). It’s been a ridiculously busy week between the travel, landing to a firestorm of deadlines and the cricket, but I did manage to read some economics and general marginalia this week – and it was a pretty good crop.

 1.       I missed this last week, and everyone with two typing fingers has already linked it, but on the principle that you can never have too much Angus Deaton, here’s his interview with Annie Lowery at the Atlantic. They discuss whether it’s worse to be poor in Bangladesh or the Mississippi Delta. Angus says “I’m not sure who would have the better life” when considering this comparison, but I’m not sure this is even the relevant issue. Making these comparisons in a framework of subjective quality of life isn’t a coherent intellectual exercise – it’s like saying “if everything was completely and totally different, and you had a totally different life history, would you feel better or worse?” It’s not useful for deciding on the global distribution of resources. Objective well-being and subjective well-being don’t have the same weight in my utility function, and I don’t think that’s unusual. The key point is that it’s possible to care about both and we’re not, collectively, limited to doing only one or trading off between them.

2.       Changing the subject completely – PETA have bought shares in Canada Goose in order to have a voice on their board, and to complain about their use of animal fur. I genuinely have no idea if this is a good idea from their perspective or not. On the one hand, I see the strategy. On the other hand, what’s the equilibrium effect (after publicity) on share prices? And is it a replicable strategy? I lean towards a sarcastic hand clap but I can be persuaded otherwise.

3.       I know some people think I read a lot. I want to introduce them all to David Evans and cower in a corner at his mind-boggling capacity to comprehend such a vast amount of information while simultaneously reading enough fiction to keep up an excellent blog on it.

4.       Ok this one is a spectacular case of research confirming my priors, but a research paper that say if people from different backgrounds just talk to each other more, we wind up building better social outcomes together is too optimistic not to link. I, like them, worry about reverse causality though (places with better social outcomes are more likely to lead to a more equal society where people engage with one another on their own merits), but unlike them am congenitally suspicious of instrumental variables.

5.       Tyler Cowen is a genuinely superb interviewer – I like Conversations with Tyler much more than Marginal Revolution. Here’s Malcolm Gladwell covering everything from the role of sport in social advancement to finding and measuring talent. It’s superb, though very long.

6.       This is fantastic, if a stretch: using speed boat races to work out under what circumstances and why women underperform relative to men. One finding is that they do worse when their gender identity is more pronounced.  Also from VoxEU – China is becoming less unequal.

7.       Lastly, and because I’m reading Oliver Sacks’ brilliant book Seeing Voices, some links about language: Rumours of the demise of dialect are greatly exaggerated (and to prove it, here’s a Korean man speaking perfect Geordie); and the Oxford comma was the deciding factor in deciding a court case on overtime pay in favour of the drivers in a company. In case you are against them, rethink after reading the following (real) sentence: “This book is dedicated to my parents, Ayn Rand and God”. I’m not sure where it’s from but I’m willing to bet Tyler Cowen wants to use it every time he writes a book.

 Have a great weekend, everyone!


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