I have to admit: my reading took a hit yesterday after the news about Aretha Franklin broke (for all the many qualities of her music, it’s not something you can concentrate on reading to). My first memory of listening to Aretha Franklin was rewinding my copy of the Blues Brothers to watch her scene haranguing Matt Monroe with Think repeatedly (for years, my go-to move on the dancefloor was a version of that dipping, rising, jazz hands thing she moved Jake and Ellwood to). This was way pre-internet, and we had to try and decipher the lyrics to all those amazing songs through repeated listens, no great hardship in retrospect (“is she saying ‘taking care of TCP?!’”). My favourite of her songs, though, were her cover of The Weight, paired with the best slide guitar line of all time, and her version of People Get Ready. The latter, weirdly, reminds me more of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan than any soul singer: the last minute of the song is as much a Haal as the climax to Allah Hoo Allah Hoo.
- Aretha wasn’t even the only cultural giant who died last week: we also lost the rather complicated figure of V.S. Naipaul. By all accounts he was a pretty unpleasant man, as this excellent retrospective by Gabrielle Bellot on LitHub remarks; I remember Diana Athill, his editor, used to combat depression by reminding herself ‘at least I’m not married to Vidia’. He wasn’t even my favourite writing Naipaul (I preferred his less misanthropic – or rather, more evenly misanthropic – younger brother Shiva). However, if you were concerned with displacement, belonging, the migrant experience and the sense of dislocation that comes from being an outsider anywhere he was one of the great writers of the last century.
- And speaking of migrants, Christopher Parsons and Pierre-Louis Vezina use the allocation of Vietnamese boat people around the US as a natural experiment and generate estimates for the causal impact of migration on trade at different stages of the US-Vietnamese trading relationship. If you’ve been paying attention to the evidence here, the results will not surprise you: the effect is large and positive.
- I once gave a presentation about the gender wage gap that made reference to that ill-judged Australian poster declaring how great an arbitrage opportunity the undervaluation of female workers was (really, click that link; it is spectacular). This article about the ‘stereotype tax’ in poker reminded me of it: men tend to find it hard to separate gender from the game and wind up behaving in systematic ways when playing women that good poker players can exploit – the similarity being that both imply that the underlying problem can just be competed away without much trouble. If only.
- Branko Milanovic on the third globalization: the formatting is a bit funny on my computer at least, but it is worth struggling through – politics, history and economics brought together by a true polymath.
- This is brilliant: A Morning Consult poll asked people how trustworthy they felt an article would be based only on the headlines, rather than the text. The twist is that they randomly put the headline under the logo of different newspapers, and found that perceptions of trustworthiness varied massively depending on the respondents political orientation and that of the news source. The same headline is assessed very differently depending on whether it falls under a CNN or Fox logo, but the direction of the difference depends on whether the respondent is a Democrat or a Republican.
- I never need an excuse to link to Tim Harford, but this is particularly excellent, because it’s Planet Money: Stacey and Cardiff (Garcia!) get Tim to play overrated/underrated and he panders to my priors gloriously, deeming messy desks underrated and throwing shade at the iPhone. Transcript here. And, if that’s not enough Harford (and Tim Harford is one of the only commodities that defies the law of diminishing marginal utility), here he is discussing research that supports the Peter Principle. Note to my seniors in both DFID and BSG: do not kill, or demote, the messenger!
- And lastly, because it’s Friday and there’s a bottle of Grüner Veltliner with my name on it waiting for my Kirsten Wiig impression, here’s the FT giving credit where it’s due and attributing humanity’s success to moderate boozing. I’ll be honest, some of the research seems more than a bit dodgy (how on earth is the ‘local boozer’ thing not massively endogenous to close community relationships?!), but they’re my priors and pander to them if I like. ‘hic.
Have a great weekend, everyone!