Links round-up

Hi all,

Sorry I forgot to warn you all that I wouldn’t be sending any links out before Easter: partly forgetfulness, partly the fact that my stomach had entirely overtaken my brain in anticipation of our Easter trip to Italy. The preparatory re-routing of blood to my belly proved a good move as much more of me has returned than left (a growth rate that would make China blush with shame). I’ve just spent hours catching up with my RSS feed. This one might be a bit epic, but on the plus side they start with a clip from Ferris Bueller and end with Justin Bieber’s moobs.

  1. How often do you get to preach free trade with the help of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? But if you remember the greatest teaching scene in the history of movies (thankfully, no idiot climbs up on his desk to shout ‘oh Captain, my Captain’) you’ll know that the tariffs made famous by Ferris Bueller’s absence, those of the Smoot-Hawley Act made the Great Depression – anyone, anyone? – worse, not better. Planet Money uses this scene as a stepping off point to talk some of the dumber tariffs of all time here (transcript); they also investigate the effects of China’s retaliatory tariffs here (transcript, note that the US and China have now escalated the proposed schedules and China will be imposing tariffs on Boeing and soybeans), pointing out they’re hitting agriculture hard to hit Trump’s base. 538 used the impending trade war to teach us a little game theory, but found that their readers tended to get more vindictive as games repeated, rather than less, as the theory would predict. We might all be headed to an – anyone? Anyone? – recession, but at least we got some good reading.
  2. Let’s cheer up by reminding ourselves how dumb our more popular political instincts are. Jonathan Portes summarises around 20 years of reading on the effects of immigration on the UK’s economy and points out that not only does it have no negative effect on employment in the medium/long run, it appears it doesn’t have any in the short run, either (Adam is saying ‘magic economics’ somewhere); it increases productivity; and increases wages for most of the distribution. Also, immigration increases in the US haven’t increased crime: if anything they’re associated with lower crime. And if the US does restrict its H1-B visas, not only will it disproportionately hit the most highly-skilled groups, it seems local people will not be employed in their stead – companies would just shrink.
  3. Lant mentions immigration in this barnburner of a post, but really it’s about focusing on the big questions of economics. Elaborating on a point he made in our last economics conference, he points out that successful growth accelerations (or decelerations) have a much, much larger impact on welfare than even the best things donors can implement directly, like cash transfers or livelihoods work. I agree with Lant that the big questions are the most important ones, but the implied either/or isn’t there for me. Not everyone should be doing the same kind of work. We need more Lants, but not fewer Esthers.
  4. Speaking of more Esthers, a series of podcasts with women in economics – the most recent one is Claudia Sahm. And researchers have found that in the movies, men are much more likely to be smart and make cognitively sophisticated points. Someone should show them Iron Fist, which should really be renamed ‘Leaden Brain’. Lastly, Justin Sandefur argues that girls education is not the answer to the gender pay gap; the problems lie elsewhere (he is not, obviously, saying we shouldn’t fund it – it is the answer to a lot of other things).
  5. I’ve thought about this a lot, because I expect some of the things I want to research to throw up null results: how do you emphasise how interesting the lack of a statistically significant effect is? David Evans has answers. Also on Development Impact, Berk goes into great detail about why the new Give Directly results imply no long-term effect from cash transfers in the setting investigated.
  6. Dietz is back – and he’s dissecting a paper from the fantastic Jane Humphries, who taught me years ago, when I was an 18 year-old.
  7. “OK, so basic income is all about the freedom to say no. That’s a privilege for the rich right now. With a basic income, you can say no to a job you don’t want to do. You can say no to a city in which you no longer want to live. You can say no to an employer who harasses you at work . . . that’s what real freedom looks like.” There’s some I disagree with here (especially the implication that in developing countries structural problems can be ignored and cash will solve all), but a very good piece on UBIs.
  8. Lastly, as a reward for wading through all those links, a definitive ranking of all the ridiculous tattoos on Justin Bieber’s ridiculous torso. Did you know he has what appears to be a lion wearing a tiny crown tattooed on one of his moobs? There’s a bear on the other one. He looks like the drawing wall at a kindergarten.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


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