I’m going on leave tomorrow and won’t be back to my regular linking until the tail end of June, so I’m afraid this one is going to have to last you for a while, though the next will undoubtedly be about 25 links long to report on all of the drama I miss while I’m away. It also means that today’s links are totally threadbare and barely coherent, because let’s be honest – I’ve mentally checked out already. I may be in a grey suit in Whitehall in body, but in spirit I’m knee-deep in Thai street food and enjoying an ice-cold beer at the Rajadamnerrn.
1. Let’s start with the important stuff: the NBA finals start tonight. You have to have the Warriors as favourites (indeed the betting odds on them are prohibitive) – how do you beat a team with four of the best nine or ten players in the world on it? Yet part of me quails at the idea of betting against LeBron. Last year, he was so good that you had to invent new adjectives for it: he was thumpfunkalous. In a way, though, it doesn’t matter. His influence has gone well beyond basketball now: he’s probably the most political sporting superstar since Ali (how many sports press conferences include a discussion of Emmett Till’s open casket?) and – here’s the economics – he creates jobs by his sheer presence. Maybe this is the answer to recessions: deploy LBJ.
2. The dust has not yet settled on the ‘Romer vs. “And”’ superfight (And is ahead on points, but Romer has forced it into significant concessions). The Economist reports on the numbers behind the brouhaha; and Tim Harford suggests Dr. Seuss is a substantially better style guide than the typical World Bank report. My final take: muddled and incomprehensible writing is more often than not the product of a muddled and incomprehensible idea. Trying to tackle the problem with a style guide is the literary equivalent of attempting to polish a turd. A good WB paper (think the typical Markus Goldstein or David Evans publication) is normally the product of good ideas and good research. Focus on the ideas and then refer to The King’s English if you still feel you need to improve the writing.
3. Speaking of English, don’t be afraid of long words. It’s the short ones that trip up contestants of those slightly odd Spelling Bees that have turned into a cultural phenomenon in the States.
4. Is Liberal Democracy (apparently it’s a proper noun now) on the retreat? Has it ever truly been in the ascendant? Branko puts the case forward that capitalism has always been characterised by crises and the apparent retreat from globalisation that many fear characterises the new world we live in is simply the latest of these.
5. I’m not going to leave you on this one, as it’s pretty depressing, but Duncan Green on an excellent response to his new book: “Most bad things are amazingly durable. Take racial inequality in the US – we might as well admit it is constitutional to offload X percent of the population indefinitely, so long as you do it in the right way. “Doing it right” changes, but the inequality does not.”
6. Lastly, something to keep you all occupied until I’m back: VoxEU ran a blog considering what economic ideas we should all just quietly forget about and pretend never happened. I like this idea – I’d happily shove one particular Nobel winner’s work down this black hole, given the chance. But I’m going to open it up – send me your best example of an economic theory that keeps hanging on for dear life despite clearly being wrong an I’ll report back on the best suggestions when I’m back.
Have a great couple of weeks, everyone!