Links round-up

Hi all,

I’ve had to link to this brilliant piece by Tim Harford, about the effects of terrorism, far too often. Terrorists seek an over-reaction, and the best thing that we can do is refuse them that. So instead, I’m going to talk about the Day-Night test, and Alistair Cook’s inevitable quintuple century (assuming England don’t declare, it certainly doesn’t look like the Windies have a chance of getting him out); about this brilliant long article by Rob Smyth about Patrick Patterson’s finest moment, and about this terribly sad article about his life since then. And about the idiocy of the man who got arrested after accidentally firing a gun while taking a selfie. In a strip club. And, of course, I’ll talk far too much about economics.

  1. One of the things about new technologies and innovation is that their contribution to the world is often under-counted: because many innovations operate by rendering old technologies obsolete, their effect on overall GDP (and inflation, since indices will be slow to respond) isn’t representative of their real world effect. Phillippe Aghion and friends have made a valiant attempt at measuring this effect, for the US at least, and have good news and bad news. The good news is that roughly half a percentage point of ‘actual growth’ is missed out by the statistics each year. The bad news is that this number seems pretty constant over time, and so Robert Gordon’s thesis that we’re entering a productivity slowdown isn’t affected by it.
  2. Of course, another effect of technological change is that it makes it easier for us to dodge work (I say, as I check Instagram and read tweets that make me despair of humanity). Tim Harford has a good piece here about how we work and the value of working. A passage I particularly liked: “Work that matters is often difficult. It can be absorbing in mid-flow and satisfying in retrospect, but it is intimidating and headache-inducing and full of false starts.”
  3. I’m a big fan of Chris Woodruff’s work that shows that perceived gender productivity gaps in Bangladesh seem to arise from men and women overestimating men. This nifty paper provides some (admittedly fairly weak, and slightly esoteric) evidence that it also arises from people underestimating women. The paper looks at betting odds on female jockeys over a large dataset and finds that on average, women win slightly more races than the betting markets predict (0.3%, to be precise), and that this is exacerbated where female participation is less common. Please excuse me if I don’t rush down to Paddy Power and start a new lifetime gambling strategy.
  4. Noah Smith’s piece on specialisation and international trade suggests that countries that produce more different kinds of things (typically those with greater economic complexity) wind up doing better out of trade, based on research by Ricardo Hausmann and co. I take a slightly different reading. Specialisation doesn’t mean you produce few things. It means you produce lots of those things that take advantage of your endowments and skills, and your produce virtually nothing of those things that don’t. So a country that exports lots of goods and has high economic complexity hasn’t necessarily foregone specialisation – it’s just specialised in skills and processes, rather than goods.
  5. I found this fascinating: Prashant Bharadwaj and Saumitra Jha on the effects of the partition of India. Hard to summarise, but much to learn.
  6. This has nothing to do with economics, but it concerns another dear love of mine, noodles (they sit alongside birdwatching, cricket and LeBron James in my affections). A man in Chongqing has bought noodles for every patron of a shop where someone returned an engagement ring he misplaced. The article makes the terrible error of focusing on his act of goodwill and not on the noodles – what kind were they? How spicy?
  7. Lastly, the two best things I’ve read all week: the absolutely hilarious proceedings of the jury selection for Martin Shkreli (“He disrespected the Wu-Tang Clan”), and a definitive typology of the ways in which Samuel L. Jackson uses his favourite word – you know the one, it’s four syllables of incestuous obscenity. It’s most definitely not safe for work, which is all sorts of awkward, because I just read it at work, and then watched a tutorial from him about how to use the word.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

R

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