I’m not a miserable person, honestly. I actually smile quite a lot and find the funny side of most of life (well, about most things – you’d need an electron microscope to find the funny side of the impending political ructions here). Yet these weekly e-mails seem to start far too often with the two grim certainties of life: death and humiliating defeats in the cricket. While England and Sri Lanka compete to demonstrate the greatest lack of spine in sports (for those paying attention, England are currently the more amoebic), we’ve also lost two literary giants in the last couple of days. Diana Athill, editor to some of the greatest novelists of them all (VS Naipaul, Jean Rhys, John Updike) and brilliant author in her own right managed to make her century, while Hugh McIlvaney fell a little short. If you’ve never come across him, I highly recommend spending a few hours scouring the Observer archives for his writing on boxing. It’s filled with little bits of poetry, as when he said of Johnny Owen, the near-mute Welsh bantamweight who died in the ring: ‘It is his tragedy that he found himself articulate in such a dangerous language.’.
- Economics isn’t a dangerous language (though I have annoyed more than one anthropologist to the brink of physical violence in the past), but it can sometimes induce a kind of mania in researchers. In that vein, let David McKenzie talk you through the dos and don’ts of setting up your own business for the purposes of running a randomised control trial. And in case you think this is a concern for highly funded researchers with the kind of track record that makes Usain Bolt blush, one of the examples he cites is a work in progress from two DPhil students from Stanford, examining how gender profit gaps arise. Related, David apparently read Angus Deaton’s book on the Analysis of Household Surveys several times from cover to cover as a student(if you’ve noted how careful he is with data, this shouldn’t surprise you at all). It’s now been released with a new preface for free online.
- Research on monopsony isn’t nearly as cool as setting up your own firm, but it’s one of the more important and under-studied aspects of the economy. This excellent VoxEU piece looks at monopsony power by sector and region in the UK to understand when labour has relatively little power compared to the firms that hire them, and what the consequences are. It’s really interesting: within sectors, monopsony varied dramatically by region, with parts of the North faring particularly badly; but even within individual regions, workers can face extremely different power dynamics with their employers depending on the sector they’re in. This has real implications for wages, job stability and precarity. I wish there was more work like this.
- For economists of a certain vintage, ‘industrial policy’ is a bit like Masterchef – one of those things you know you’re not meant to like, but you secretly have some affection for. Very slowly, and unlike Masterchef (do any of them every begin to look less smug?), it may be being rehabilitated. Dani Rodrik stans hard for it (industrial policy, not Masterchef) over at VoxDev.
- I briefly toyed with a new year’s resolution to shout ‘FAKE NEWS’ at people more often, but I desisted after a few trial runs ended in unpleasantness. Anyway, a new paper in Science digs into the phenomenon with more panache, and discovers that fake news is actually pretty tightly contained: 0.1% of twitter users shared 80% of fake news, and only 1% of users were exposed to 80% of the fake news. I’ll leave you to judge if the Links are in the 99% or not…
- Ted Miguel and co. lay the smack down on rural electrification. Their policy conclusion is that it’s not cost effective.
- Planet Money do a piece on the impact of the China-US trade war on farmers. It’s really great: they talk to a farmer who has been hit hard, and whose community is doing worse – yet still supports Trump’s policies. Transcript here.
- Lastly, new s**t has come to light (by the way, if I ever write a paper about the effects of providing new information on decision-making, that’s what I’m calling it and none of you are allowed to steal it): Jeff Bridges has tweeted a tantalising 15 second clip that suggests that a sequel to The Big Lebowski might be on the way. The Guardian, however, crush my hopes and dreams by suggesting that it’s just an advert featuring the Dude that’s forthcoming. Well, you know, that’s just, like, their opinion, man.
Have a great weekend, everyone!