Links round-up

Hi all,

Every once in a while, you can actually see the economy evolve before your very eyes. I’m going to Porto next week for a short break (long hours working on my data have taken a toll), and have just received an email from the airline asking me to participate in an auction for an upgrade. I would like to announce this clearly for all companies who might be reading: GET YOUR FILTHY MITTS OFF MY CONSUMER SURPLUS. I’m so annoyed I’m not even going to bid zero. I’m not going to help them construct their demand curve. While part of me admires this attempt to maximise their revenues, is it surprising that so many are dissatisfied with the economy when companies weaponise personalisation so effectively?

  1. Arthur Cecil Pigou was, by reputation, a somewhat odd man. Back in the days when he was the only Professor of Economics at Cambridge, he used to rock up to meetings with an axe, on his way to climbing expeditions. He was a genius though, arguing for paid maternity leave roughly a century before it became a thing; and he came up with an idea for taxing negative externalities that is both intuitive and difficult to teach (I know: I was teaching it last week). Planet Money have a very fun show on him (transcript), including the way Canada has tried to adopt a tax on carbon, pairing it with a flat payment to citizens, which winds up being rather progressive, since the rich consume much more carbon…
  2. A very wise man gives a 90 second interview about a very good book. Matt wants more. Don’t @ me, mainly because I’m not on Twitter.
  3. Diane Coyle looks at productivity and its discontents, arguing that the dematerialisation of the economy (basically, the fact that we make, buy and sell less actual stuff and more ideas, services and information) has fundamentally undermined our traditional measures of productivity. Robert Solow once observed that the technological revolution is observed everywhere except in the productivity statistics. Diane is suggesting the problem is with the statistics and not the technology.
  4. When Michael Clemens talks about migration, just pull up a chair and listen. This blog (with Jimmy Graham) is typically excellent and will be a learning experience for most of us. I particularly liked the heading: “the effect of aid on migration is complex – because so are migrants’ motives”. No-one who has been receiving these links for more than a few weeks shouldn’t need a primer on why human movement is such a force for good, but it’s always nice to find a new angle: Planet Money discuss the social mobility of the children of migrants and why it is so impressive (transcript).
  5. Erica Field and co show that using digital payments to women to give them greater control over their resources increases the labour force participation of the most constrained women significantly in the long term. And on the subject of control, this piece by Aleitheia Donald and Markus Goldstein finds that surveys can uncover disagreements between spouses as to who has decision-making responsibility in the household – and these disagreements are predictive of negative outcomes for women. Meanwhile, Charles Kenny bemoans the lack of women in senior positions in think tanks.
  6. One for the contracting geeks (and if you’re an economist but not a contracting geek, shame): Oliver Hart and David Frydlinger on the role of stated norms and principles in overcoming incomplete contracts.
  7. I normally end the links on a note of pop culture marginalia, but  this week it’s something different: one of my friends, Paul, helps run an amazing football club in Glasgow dedicated to helping refugees, asylum seekers and minorities of all stripes find a sense of community there. The BBC gives a small taste of how amazing United Glasgow is, and if you live nearby and have some spare kit going, they are looking for donations.

No links next week: I’ll be knee-deep in Port and Francescinhas. Have a great weekend, everyone!


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