Links round-up

Hi all,

 Well, that was quite a week, but these links signal that it’s almost over and time for relaxation (also known as backbreaking labour in the garden) and keeping an eye on the cricket – a gratifying day, with England ticking along nicely and Mohammad Amir demonstrating that he’s still got something special in that left arm (16-3-50-2 and counting). But anyway, enough of such thrilling figures and on to the only slightly-less exciting economics.

 1.       I’ve often said that every new Nicholas Bloom paper should be welcomed by dancing in the streets and heavenly singing. This one is another blockbuster, setting out his ideas in a single coherent framework. Here’s a key sentence from the abstract: “[we find] a positive relationship between product market competition and average management quality (part of which stems from the larger covariance between management with firm size as competition strengthens)”. In plain English this means that competition is important in driving up management quality in an industry, which we already know is important in generating productivity gains; it also means that bigger firms tend to be more productive, a fact which doesn’t always hold in uncompetitive environments… both facts which are particularly important for developing countries, which often have limited competition, even protecting large, bad firms. Many of our good ideas and policies will not work without competition.

2.       Nick Lea, on holiday but unable to resist the lure of economics, sent this to me: a wonderful article from the FT about how a reliance on data alone can cause us to ignore or miss some of the most important trends. My own take on this is that everything you see is a data point, biased or not, and it should all inform your view, appropriately weighted and triangulated. Ignoring any one class of evidence entirely is rarely a good idea. Related: the ever-excellent Andrew Haldane’s speech, which prompted the article.

3.       Branko Milanovic is one of my favourite economists. Here, he talks about income inequality and welfare economics, but I think the best thing about it is the second half, where he explains his three rationales for caring about inequality. He manages the difficult trick of being both radical and sensible, and that is a real rarity.

4.       While we’re on inequalities, let me just quickly high-five Adam Silver.

5.       And still on the topic, this one might be a bit controversial – but the evidence is pretty consistent that men tend to be more risk-loving than women, at least in the cultures which have spawned most of the research. The finding is replicated in a sporting context here. Obviously, nothing about this is inevitable and is likely the product of gender roles and identities constructed from youth. I would like more research on the why now that the fact is reasonably well attested (apparently).

6.       Two related posts: Chris Blattman on why ‘what works’ is the wrong question to ask (he gave this talk at DFID, but I had to leave early – a combination of a clashing meeting and the room being so hot that I was convinced I would be cooked in my seat if I remained); and Michael Woolcock on how qualitative evidence can help answer the better question ‘why did this work in this place it worked in?’ (Michael is under-read by professional economists, I find). As an aside, Chris Cramer made the same point Blattman does in a talk to DFID a few weeks ago as well.

7.       In every country I move to, my one irrational piece of chattel that never gets left behind is my massive hardback edition of the complete Calvin and Hobbes, which weighs about five kilos and takes up half a suitcase. I love it and never get tired of reading it – and I’m not the only one. Here’s LitHub on why Calvin and Hobbes is great literature.

 Have a great weekend, everyone!


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