Links round-up

Hi all,

 This is not a drill: the NBA is back. With the news basically being unremitting bleakness and irritation, I am seizing every possible opportunity to overreact outrageously to everything. Already, I’ve found time to seriously consider whether LeBron James has discovered a cure for aging, joined the city of Philadelphia in entering a state of rapture on the event of Markelle Fultz actually making a shot and have extrapolated from Luka Doncic’s slight puppy fat to the assertion that that physical fitness and athletic ability is no longer a requirement for being a star. This is going to be fun (until the Warriors win the Championship with crushing inevitability).

 1.       A colleague pointed me to this little nugget that I’m stunned was not a bigger deal: a few years back, when Michael Clemens was playing whack-a-mole with Jeffrey Sachs’ Millennium Village Project (smacking it on the head with a large cudgel labelled ‘no evidence of impact’ in his right hand and one labelled ‘refuses to commission a proper evaluation’ in the left whenever it popped up in discussion), Sachs’ team literally threatened to sue him for an academic paper. And it’s not a one-off: apparently the same thing happened to Nina Munk when she published her brilliant book, The Idealist. Anyone who cares about the integrity of research should be up in arms. Having said that, trust the Daily Heil to use the headline “New study proves foreign aid doesn’t work” (no, you’re not getting a link, they will not get advertising revenue from me). Funny how the failure of stop-and-search didn’t prompt a splash titled “New study proves policing doesn’t work”. Mendacious [insert insult of choice here].

2.       And now to the optimism: Dev Patel, Justin Sandefur and Arvind Subramanian check in on the state of the world 20ish years after Lant Pritchett’s massively influential paper, ‘Divergence, Big Time. Lant looked at the historical growth paths of the then-rich and poor countries and found that the rich were putting distance between them and the poor more or less consistently over time. That appears to no longer be the case – the subsequent period has seen consistent and significant convergence, even between the poorest group of countries and the richest, an effect that exists even discounting China and India. A superb read.

3.       Want a give a cash transfer, but worried it will turn the recipients into a mindless, work-shy zombie? Never fear, Sarah Baird and co-authors have your back. They explain why the standard work-leisure trade-offs might not be in play, and summarise the evidence that shows cash does not reduce labour supply.

4.       Migration is good for the poor, part 23,929,139,102: a new study uses a random historical shock to generate causal impacts of internal migration within China on household welfare. They’re good, but we knew that. Related: ending violent crime is good for business. Nice to confirm, but you’d probably guess it anyway. Well, except for gun-runners, I assume their business suffers.

5.       This could have been a very short article: Maggie Koerth-Baker on why political science research doesn’t seem to inform much actual political campaigning. It’s a variation on an old theme: what maximises academic value doesn’t always maximise practical value.

6.       I don’t know why I was surprised that Dietz Vollrath is a fan of Clifford Geertz (they both write beautifully, to start with), but his post on ‘involution’ and growth is fantastic, a treatment of how some technological and market changes generate rapid productivity growth, but others don’t. It’s probably for the growth geeks (and those who haven’t had the good fortune of encountering Geertz yet), but very good.

7.       Some random sources of happiness for the weekend: first, not only does Chow Yun-Fat look awesome in a trenchcoat and have the ability to say ridiculous things with a straight face (“save my corneas for Jenny!”), he’s also going to give around $700 million to charity. Second, LitHub are doing a series on the books that defined every decade of the 20th Century – 1920s here, and 1930s here, massively anglo-centric but fun. And lastly, Joel Embiid is still going to son you whenever you get in his face.

 Have a great weekend, everyone!


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