Links round-up

Hi all,

I had a whole spiel prepared to open the links, warning you that since the first link is all about the prospect of an impending global recession – which may turn out to be permanent – those looking for a shot of optimism before diving in should refer to the Ashes scorecard, in which King Jofra was the hot knife and the Aussie batting line-up the butter. But England, never missing an opportunity to punish hope with despair, promptly surrendered four early wickets and now look like they may contrive to lose even this test. Added to the news that Boogie Cousins has had yet another career altering injury, this week’s links are in an absolutely filthy mood, no doubt to be made worse by the UK rail network this evening. Gah.

  1. So, about that impending global recession… (five wickets now. Mood darkens). Increasingly, I’ve been wondering whether part of the apparently unpredictability of the economic policy of major players in the global economy has in fact been the result of incorrectly diagnosing what their ultimate aims are. Take Trump’s trade policies. They appear to most economists short-sighted and counter-productive against his stated aim of improving the US economy, living standards and trade deficit. But what if his actual aim is far more radical than that? What if the US is actually aiming to completely decouple their economy from the other major economic superpower, China? If this is the aim, then much of what they’re doing is at least internally consistent. Chad Brown and Douglas Irwin make this case in Foreign Policy, and Brown discusses it further on Planet Money (transcript). Nouriel Roubini lays the doom on thick in his Project Syndicate forward look, explaining that the consequences of this may not be a simple recession, but permanently lower global living standards.
  2. My mistake, six wickets down. Grrr. However, channelling both Hans Rosling and Charles Kenny, trying hard to be positive: Africa is *this far* from being Polio-free, a tremendous victory for technology, policy, service delivery and the hard work of some incredible people.
  3. Lest you get all misty-eyed about how great humanity is, let me draw your attention to another story on the same day from the same source: an immigration judge refused an application for asylum on the basis that the applicant was insufficiently camp. This is not an exaggeration: he literally drew comparisons between the poor man he refused and another witness who wore bright colours and lipstick. Just when I think that my outrage at how absolutely messed up the sheer injustice and callousness of the way humanity treats those who leave their homes has peaked, along comes this relic.
  4. Are you still upset about the global recession? Well, one point to bear in mind is that economists are actually quite rubbish at predicting recessions – though most of the mistakes come in the form of false negatives (i.e. predicting no recession when one is actually around the corner).
  5. Seven wickets down. Words fail me. Well, not actually – they’re just unprintable. In other news, I very much liked this piece on India’s demonetisation and its effects on the real economy (technically, according to some macroeconomics, money is basically neutral and should not have real economic consequences). This is one for the economists, having few policy implications, despite the final section.
  6. David Evans’ regular round-up of education research is always worth reading, but this week’s is particularly so, especially the section on the impact of secondary schooling on teen pregnancy. Secondary schooling reduces the risk of teen pregnancy, even if learning is basically absent. Policies typically have lots of impact (and not all good). Good research thinks through many of them.
  7. Lastly, this week’s links have been rather miserable – and England are nine down for 66 right now – so I’m going to make an effort to sign off on a happy note. Firstly, this great FiveThirtyEight video highlights the absurdity of American political discourse by asking participants (all of them either political or sports journalists) whether a given quote comes from political pundits or sports broadcasters. Both are ridiculous. Secondly, it feels appropriate to celebrate the emergence of a genuinely fast, scary England bowler with this fantastic interview with Shoaib Akhtar, once probably the fastest bowler on the planet, and certainly the maddest. From his very first words he’s endearingly nuts. And lastly, I was telling a colleague from abroad about Bake Off yesterday, and trying to explain the appeal of it. I don’t think I quite did it justice, but this interview with Selasi and Val, who developed an odd-couple friendship gets somewhere close to it. And with that, the links (much like England) are all out of material for the week.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


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