Links round-up

Hi all,

I normally start the links with something happy, but I saw this in the Grauniad and it made me so angry I couldn’t concentrate on anything except my seething rage for about fifteen minutes. On the tiny chance anyone who reads this witnessed anything, get phoning to the police. The idiots responsible urgently require comeuppance. People are crap sometimes. In happier news, I was at the cricket on Wednesday, and the Bangladesh fans turned South London into a suburb of Dhaka – a truly amazing atmosphere. Andy Bull got it right when he said that even if England host the event, the rich cultural mix here makes this everyone’s World Cup. Well, everyone except Sri Lanka’s; we’ve been abysmal, and the wash out today with Pakistan did us far more favours than them. Can we rain our way to the final? What’s worse, in trying to prove a point about mean regression to a hammered Kiwi fan on Tuesday, I spent ages loading up highlights on when we were actually good. What a come down.

  1. It won’t surprise anyone reading this that I’m a massive nerd, but I am: I still get properly excited when I see good new data on firms in developing countries. One of the most important seams of research in development economics over the last ten years has focused on how the characteristics of firms that exist in developing countries differs to those in more successful economies. Much of this work is just descriptive: describing how big firms are, how they change over time, the rate at which they die and how productive they are. VoxDev run a summary of a new paper comparing firms in Colombia to those in more developed economies, reinforcing some of the key findings of this literature: that it’s the extremes of the firm distribution that seem to drive most of the action in the economy; and that firm death is too slow in developing countries. It may seem like a perverse conclusion, but when crap firms can pootle along, neither thriving nor being forced out of the market, it represents a failure to reallocate scarce economic resources to those firms that are actually growing and a penalty to the economy.
  2. While I’m geeking out, last week I linked to some of Alex Tabarrok’s work on service prices in the US because it focuses on Baumol’s cost disease, one of the more under-rated theories in modern economics. Well, Alex has gone one better with two excellent posts explaining the Baumol effect and why it’s not so much a s disease as the sign of something going very right in the economy, which is exactly the most important point to take from it. Highly recommended.
  3. Also via MR: Sam Bowles and Wendy Carlin suggest a radically different approach to teaching basic economics. As I’ve said before, I think the problem with a lot of econ foundation courses is that many students never go any further. They instead go into the world with some fundamental misconceptions of what ‘economics’ thinks about the world and how it can be used to make it better. I think this proposed approach is actually a substantially better starting point for demonstrating what economics has to offer the world’s biggest problems.
  4. “Does evidence matter when it tells us something we’d already thought was true?” Maggie Koerth-Baker at 538 adds another one to their collection of brilliant pieces about how science and social science gets better and tries to influence the world. This time she uses the struggle of researchers to prove that money matters in politics as a starting point to question how research can also change the way we ask questions, rather than answer them.
  5. Pam Jakiela at CGD summarises a bunch of papers using lab-in-the-field techniques to understand preferences and how people make decisions.
  6. So, the absolutely appalling reviews for Dark Phoenix have left me tapped out for good pop culture geekery to sign off with (seriously, how many times are they going to screw this story up?). So instead, I’ve been looking for fun songs for a wedding party in languages other than English. Some of the better ones we’ve come up with are Jaan Pehchan Ho, Siku ya Badaaye, the non-Bieber Despacito and Aicha. But we need more: suggestions please!

Have a great weekend, everyone!


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