Links round-up

Hi all,

So, I’ll be honest: I’m struggling to think of a good intro to this week’s links. I’d normally say something about the cricket, but given Sri Lanka’s performances I can’t think of anything to say that wouldn’t create a new entry into Viz’s Profanisaurus; or about the Basketball, but so far this week there have been no-dimension shifting dunks (though the Ringer are now comparing LeBron to Prometheus, which doesn’t seem too far-fetched to me); so I’ll settle for describing what Oxford looks like today: sunny and inviting, which turned out to be false advertising as I turned into an icicle on this morning’s run.

  1. A few weeks ago, I mentioned that Lant Pritchett delivered the keynote speech at DFID’s annual conference for its economists. It was an absolute barnburner, incorporating basketball statistics, big ideas about what development is and about what change matters, as opposed to how it’s measured. He’s written an essay on his talk here (minus the balloons). As with everything Lant writes, he takes a strong stand – you can agree and disagree with parts because of this. But it should make you think twice about why we do what we do, because he is making an important point. Related, Lant has long taken a strong stand against defining development down to the lowest bar possible, and here reports that the World Bank will now be making it easier to define it back up. Also at CGD and also an important, big issue: Michael Clemens on Global Skills Partnerships as a way to break the impasse in global migration negotiations. He remains substantially the foremost thinker in the world on this topic, to my mind.
  2. I loved this, because it took me to very unexpected places. A five-and-half-year-old asked FiveThirtyEight what if there was no number six?’ The answer takes us into philosophy, music, and modular arithmetic.
  3. Speaking of maths, it’s not just the Supreme Court that are allergic to it: Maya Forstater is still having to point out that the ridiculous numbers bandied about for the scale of tax evasion make no sense at all. For them to be true, there would need to be enormous processing plants operating at full capacity that simply don’t exist.
  4. These ridiculous numbers are fake facts. The peddlers of them may claim they’re not doing damage to our core institutions the ways that others who use them are, but they’re wrong. They’re using numbers they know are ridiculous to shift spending decisions to their hobby horses; and usually, given the way the world works, the money isn’t being taken from some low-marginal value use, but from another important thing that supports the poor and development. So this isn’t costless, and they’re trying to pervert the systems designed to make these choices well. Tim Harford attacks the usage of fake facts while investigating their efficacy here. He has suggestions on how to combat them, too.
  5. Last week I linked to Branko describing inequality through different measures. This week he starts looking at causal mechanisms.
  6. Dietz Vollrath’s blogs are like an economic detective story. They start with a puzzle; he finds some facts around them, tests them against the various plausible theories and – sometimes – finds out what’s going on. This week he’s looking at investment, profits and growth. But I’m struggling to work out which detective he most resembles. He’s not Poirot (that’s more like Lant, with his sense of theatre), and he’s not Maigret (he’s too clear about what’s going on). Does that make him Columbo? Martin Beck?
  7. Apparently, writing is not only hard, it’s dangerous: LitHub on writers sustaining injuries on the job. So I’m going to sign off here, before my leg falls off.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

R

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