In the normal run of things, scoring a match-sealing century and captaining your team to victory in a Test is pretty much as good as it gets for an England captain, used as they are to painful drubbings overseas, badly punning newspaper headlines calling for them to be sacked and the odd teammate being arrested for some description of drunken idiocy. This week, though, it’s all overshadowed by Joe Root demonstrating a much more important kind of leadership. When an opposing player used a homophobic insult on the pitch, Root, unaware that he was being picked up on a microphone, gave him a very well-worded piece of his mind. This probably all seems very normal for people about ten years younger than me, but if you’re my age you probably remember a time when people routinely used casual intolerance in conversation, and the vast majority of people just accepted it. We didn’t have many examples like this to demonstrate how easy – and helpful – it would be to object. I’m reminded of when Ron Atkinson was sacked after a horrific racist outburst on TV: ITV acted quickly in getting rid of him, but as one of my friends pointed out: “Isn’t it interesting that the microphones didn’t pick up anyone objecting?”. Anyway, this week I’m in the unusual position of being proud of the England cricket team.
- One of the most impressive talks I’ve ever attended was given by Kaushik Basu in DFID a few years ago, though I didn’t realise quite how much I took from it at first. He’s not a bombastic speaker at all, quiet and measured, and he didn’t have any slides or research to present. What was striking, though, was quite how carefully he understood things. He seemed to really dig into the mechanisms underlying the things he observed or thought to be important and wound up explaining things that ought to have been obvious, but somehow weren’t – a sign of a special thinker. This VoxDev interview has these characteristics: he talks about his new book, The Republic of Beliefs (about the law and economic behaviour), and in just two minutes demonstrates the same clarity of thought and ability to draw out the salient characteristics of a problem that so impressed me back then. It’s rocketed the book up my to-buy list.
- Is it possible that the very things that lead girls to outperform boys in school contribute to their slower rate of advancement in work? This largely speculative piece in the NYT by a psychologist suggests that girls feel less able to blag their way through life, which results in overworking in school (with resultingly good, if inefficiently achieved, grades) and a sense of under-preparedness later in life with a corresponding anxiety or lack of confidence. As a result, boys who are equally underprepared are more likely to demand promotions, pay rises and responsibility, simply because they don’t let their lack of preparation bother them too much. I have no idea if there’s any merit to this at all (I rather suspect not much), but it’s an interesting idea.
- I feel a little dirty after linking to psychological speculation, so to make up for it, here’s David Evans summarising a huge body of actual research on gender and development.
- I was sent this a few weeks ago by a friend, but completely forgot to post it: The Bank of Jamaica have won economics. In a series of reggae videos and brilliantly conceived tweets, they are trying to improve communication to the public, essentially doing what Mark Carney does when he holds his (brilliant, and occasionally darkly hilarious) press conferences. This kind of communication is one of the most important functions of a central bank, since their policy influence depends fundamentally on the public believing what they say and behaving accordingly. Planet Money also pay homage to the Bank of Jamaica – and how MMA teaches us about monopsony, among other things – here (transcript).
- Speaking of communicating economics clearly, Tim Harford has a story for you. He describes how he reduced his addiction to his phone using behavioural economics.
- And lastly, I’ve had an idea to deal with climate denialism: have you heard about the Russian town that has been besieged by polar bears? They’re coming into apartments, swarming playgrounds, walking the streets (btw – I have no idea how anyone managed to film this stuff: if I see a polar bear anywhere near my flat, I’m screaming and running the other way). My idea: let’s do a house-swap. Residents of Polarbearhellski and the climate deniers swap places for a few weeks. One way or another, average beliefs about climate change will converge towards the scientific consensus.
Have a great weekend, everyone!