In an effort to raise the intellectual standard of the Links round-up intros, we are going to talk about art (it also has the very welcome side-effect of distracting me from the rain-delay induced rage that characterises my life when some genius decides to schedule a cricket tour to Sri Lanka during one of our venomous monsoon seasons). When the Nobel prize in economics was announced this week, a small part of me hoped that Banksy had somehow won it. His decision to shred a work that had just auctioned for a little over a million pounds is both high class trolling and high-class economics. Not only is that particular work more valuable, but now all of his future works carries a premium generated by the possibility of some insane, unthought-of stunt.
1. But actually, the Nobel this year was shared by Bill Nordhaus and Paul Romer. Nordhaus’s economics of climate and resource use was and is staggeringly good and prescient, predicting the choices we are now faced with (and failing on) some fifty years ago, and he is also responsible for one of the great graphs of all time. Romer’s endogenous growth theory is something that every economist, everywhere, will be taught. VoxEU ran a hagiography of the pair here. Unfortunately, I’m of the opinion that at least some of Romer’s work might have benefited from the Banksy treatment at the time of the award. Both Matt and Rachel retweeted a piece I wrote almost ten years ago savaging his charter cities idea. I re-read it, and apart from the references to de Soto (my opinions have been updated by the evidence), I wouldn’t change a word.
2. Speaking of climate change, let me quote Christie Aschwanden, from an erudite 538 discussion of what the latest UN report leaves us: “we should acknowledge how desperate it is to be looking at ways to suck carbon from the atmosphere. It’s like trying to cram all night for a final [exam] you never studied for.” Niels Bohr once said that anyone who wasn’t shocked by quantum theory hadn’t understood it. I’m beginning to feel similarly about people who are not scared about what is happening, and will happen, to our climate.
3. Tyler Cowen conducts a good interview with Paul Krugman. The part I found most interesting was the discussion of how inadequate traditional notions of market failure are for thinking about big, pervasive tech companies who don’t use prices in the way we’re accustomed; but I really liked that Krugman also points out that most of the economy is still stuff for which old notions of tech and antitrust is just fine. Related: Meghana Ayyagari and co-authors argue that, correctly measured, returns to invested capital are not becoming more unequal, and this means there is not an underlying increase in inequality among firms with negative market level effects. I need to think about this more and I’m not yet fully convinced, but it is interesting.
4. Justin Sandefur tweeted these graphs about the legal impediments to women’s engagement in the economy, and Charles Kenny followed up with a good blog here. It should hardly require repeating, but such constraints are never a good idea economically (let alone from a social justice perspective); taking one extreme example Huber and co-authors find massive negative effects from the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany.
5. One thing about money laundering that people don’t often think about – it induces really, really weird behaviour. People buy some incredibly stupid stuff, in incredibly inconvenient places, and it creates this odd doublespeak in which the reality of the world is not reflected by its legal status, leading to sentences like this, spoken outside a Presidential mansion on the outskirts of Kiev: “Look it up. This palace, it isn’t even in Ukraine. Look it up. It’s in England”. Planet Money investigate (transcript).
6. David Evans summarises a nice intervention on using technology to coach the performance of teachers in South Africa, and combines it with good cost data to show that while it works, it’s not more efficient than the traditional approach.
7. Lastly, have you noticed that Tom Hardy seems to be ashamed of his face? I quite like it, but it appears that in most of his movies, he tries to obscure as much of it as possible (in the remainder, like Warrior, he seems to get punched in it a lot). The Ringer discover that he hides his face in about 30% of his career screen time. Theatricality and deception, indeed. This surely makes him the ideal choice to play Manny Calavera in a film of Grim Fandango, surely the greatest video game ever made? Just when you thought I couldn’t get any geekier, right?
Have a great weekend, everyone!