Welcome to the annual advent of low-productivity Ranil. It occurs during the relatively short coincidence of two events: the British summer bringing glorious sunshine and good cheer, hence reducing my ability to concentrate on my computer during the day (I’m writing these in the garden – thank god for WiFi); and the advent of the NBA Playoffs, severely denting my sleep patterns for fear of missing even 15 seconds of Playoff Lebron or (for the first time ever) Post-season Troll Embiid. I’m on limited sleep and even less patience. But still, on to the links.
- Was Biggie right after all? Do cash transfers actually cause more damage than they do good? I linked to a piece by Berk Özler last week that looked into the possibility of catastrophic negative spillovers in the recent long-term evaluation of the GD cash transfer programme in Kenya, but Justin Sandefur is here to keep you calm. He points out that the scale of the negative effects are so large as to be implausible, but this does not mean that all is sweetness and light. The findings do suggest that the gains to cash transfers are, while important, limited. They are not a cure-all; and they are not even a cure-something-for-ever. That said, they work for some things, for as long as you use them. If this was a medicine, we’d say it did its job – just so long as we were realistic about what that job is. You don’t take painkillers to cure a broken leg – just to dull the pain. He also cites the excellent Pam Jakiela to point out: “The idea that we want every poor person to run a bigger microenterprise is not entirely innocuous.”
- Tim Harford, a man who literally wrote a book called Messy about the value of chaos, reckons that Donald Trump’s style of ‘governance’ is way too chaotic to work. I’m still reeling from my confident predictions that Trump could never win either a presidential nomination, nor an election against a sentient human being, so I make no predictions on how this will all play out. I would like Tim to be right, but do we underestimate how much is actually working pretty well? Is his North Korea policy in danger of becoming sensible? Might the tariff threats between the US and China end in a negotiated settlement the US benefits from? We shouldn’t discount all of this altogether.
- FiveThirtyEight continues to be the best outlet to read about the MeToo movement, and its complexities. Here, Kathryn Casteel and Andrea Jones-Rooy talk about the difficulties our limited vocabulary relating to the different kinds of ‘sextual misconduct/harassment/assault’ generate for action, activism and justice.
- I used to joke about Alex Tabarrok’s ‘tinfoil hat blogging’, but he’s been making a lot of sense recently (I’ve just checked my head, and I’m not wearing any kind of hat at all). Here he argues that Facebook never took ‘our data’. It co-created it.
- Dan Rogger writes a round-up of the latest work on governance, institutions and public policy. It’s excellent.
- Magical economics, part 3 of a continuing series: it turns out that the costs of structural reforms to labour markets are smallest for those countries that need them most.
- Amazingly, the coolest thing that happened this week was not Justise Winslow and Joel Embiid trading blocks last night. Rather, it was the release of Prince’s hitherto unheard original studio recording of Nothing Compares 2 U, and the incredible accompanying video. Not only is his version predictably amazing, just look at the moves he’s busting – in the studio! Soundtrack for the summer sorted. (The track is only slightly shorter than the British summer, too…).
Have a great weekend, everyone!