It may seem like nothing ever changes: the seasons still follow one another with grim inevitability (in England, Winter follows Autumn, and then Winter comes back to annoy us after a mere insinuation of Spring or Summer); LeBron James continues to school fools and the Gods of Cricket find ever-more inventive ways of crushing dreams (England look good now, but I await the inevitable Trent Boult double century, followed by Ben Stokes getting out hit wicket, tying his shoelaces). Occasionally, though change shocks us into uncharacteristic action. Specifically, climate change can shock us to act out of character: I know many people who joined the climate protests whose previous heights of rebellion were to send back a lukewarm tea in a café. And now, that venerable institution, the Oxford English Dictionary has revealed its word of the year: ‘climate crisis’. Yes, that’s the word of the year. The end of days is upon us, verily.
- Well, this is awkward. What do you do when a senior World Bank Official goes off on one, calling you a Marxist (“committed or uncommitted”, as he puts it) because you run a piece of analysis and post your code for transparency’s sake? Well, if your Justin Sandefur you clap back, and point out that whatever name you call him, the analysis is still up there, and still not proven wrong.
- What do you remember from 13 July, 1994? If you’re anything like me, you remember Roberto Baggio running circles around Hristo Stoichov’s Bulgaria to send Italy into the final of the most boring World Cup ever, towards a mouth-watering confrontation with Romario. Silvio Berlusconi guessed that would occupy most other football-crazed minds (which covers about 88% of the Italian population), and used the day to sneak out the news that he would, by emergency decree, absolve hundreds of Italian politicians from corruption allegations. Can you keep a straight face while saying “I’m sure it was just a coincidence?” If not, then this paper is for you – Milena Djourelova and Ruben Durante show that the political news cycle is carefully choreographed to bury bad news, surely shocking news to anyone in the civil service.
- This is great: a David McKenzie twitter thread reviewing the migration and trade chapters of the new Banerjee-Duflo book; he considers a dissonance in how they handle the two topics. And on the subject of migration, this is fantastic: Planet Money look at how a small town in the US has turned itself into a refugee hub and is reaping the benefits (transcript). And on the benefits of migration (how often have I written these words here over the years?), this VoxEU piece sets out some of the benefits of returning migrants on growth in their country of origin.
- Daron Acemoglu and co. have produced a model of the data economy to illustrate the myriad ways it can generate inefficiencies. My go to analogy for Facebook and the like has for a while now been that of the Eiderdown farm, but they’ve extended the analogy: they point out that by providing free services, Facebook is in effect paying for our data, but also that they can use data collected from users to infer knowledge about non-users.
- Two good pieces about urban mobility, though very different. First Ricardo Hausmann discusses why it shouldn’t be surprising that a small metro price rise has generate such a large backlash in Chile. And then this VoxDev piece looks at the genesis of long journey times in India, finding that it’s not traffic but ‘uncongested travel times’ that is the biggest contributor time spent in traffic. Something to think about while I sit on the X90, cursing my way through the journey to London.
- Vijaya Ramachandran has done a survey of tech entrepreneurs in Nigeria, and reports some of the results here; they’re interesting and worth reading in more detail. I particularly like how she unpacks their responses on the perennial problem of credit. Read it carefully and it sounds like a banking system working well (even if that means not funding many firms) than one doing its job badly. As I never get tired of telling people here: fix the problems, don’t try and force yourself through them.
- Star Wars and economics collide in a supernova of geekery: the Ringer run a surprisingly economically literate analysis of monetary economics in The Mandalorian and the broader Star Wars universe. They consider what might be behind the multiplicity of currencies the Mandalorian operates in (surprisingly, they omit to consider currency hedging as an important part of the Bounty Hunter’s economic toolbox); they look at exchange rate volatility and relate it to incessant conflict; and finally, they ask if the failure to establish a single currency and unify trading standards was cause, not consequence of the Rebellion’s fall and the rise of the New Republic. Can you tell how much fun I had with this?
Have a great weekend, everyone!