Links round-up

Hi all,

Remind me never to make cricket predictions. No sooner had I finished predicting the collapse of the England cricket team in New Zealand than they proceeded to fold like origami – if origami came in the form of spineless amoeba. Clearly, this was a causal relationship, and I spoke the collapse into life (just in case this is true, I’m hereby predicting an anonymous millionaire choosing to make a large lump sum transfer to my bank account by the end of the day). Anyway, with Tom Latham unbeaten on a century, I’m not going to tempt any further fate. Straight into the links:

  1. If it’s true that the best economics comes from the hardest times, we should be in for a bonanza of economic thinking soon. Barely a day goes by that I don’t faintly bruise my forehead facepalming at the latest bout of economic insanity proposed by some politician somewhere in the world. Kaushik Basu is surely right that what will come next for economists is almost certainly a better understanding of how our economic interactions are shaped by norms and values – an interrogation of the assumptions in the woodwork of our models. This is what Sam Bowles, George Akerlof and others have been recently investigating and I am increasingly convinced of their importance.
  2. There is a fantastic quote from Thomas Schelling in this piece by Tim Harford on why we should all play games: “One thing a person cannot do, no matter how rigorous his analysis or heroic his imagination, is to draw up a list of things that would never occur to him.” I’m a big believer in letting your mind and attention wander: part of understanding the world can only come from being in it, and being surprised by it.
  3. Every year, my friend Paul texts me to ask when the Development Impact crew will start their Job Market Papers series. Well, it’s kicked off, and from the first few entries, it’s going to be another fun season. First, Jeffrey Bloem looks at the massive negative effects of the Dodd-Frank Act on conflict in the DRC (that’s negative as in more conflict, not the good kind of negative). He starts with a great first line, pointing out the reader is most likely using a conflict mineral to read it. And another post (by Julian Dyer) looks at the impact of crime and insecurity on agricultural productivity.
  4. Vox have a really good write-up on the latest paper on GiveDirectly’s basic income experiments in Kenya. This paper, by Ted Miguel and co-authors, finds large general equilibrium effects from their transfers. It appears that the demand stimulus creates a supply response and essentially creates a rising tide. I haven’t read the underlying paper yet, but these are really big results.
  5. I like to argue with people. (Note: This will not be news to anyone whose ever expressed an opinion in my presence). With Thanksgiving in the US yesterday, both Vox and 538 ran pieces this week on how to argue better; I have to say I find 538s more convincing. But if you don’t agree, that’s ok: we can argue it out.
  6. CGD look at the manifestos for the forthcoming elections are discuss what they mean for international development.
  7. Finally, are you a cat person? If you are, there are few things I can recommend more than this excerpt from Bohumil Hrabal’s book about his cats. Hrabal was a genius; who else could turn a single run-on sentence by a boasting drunkard in the pub into a novel (Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age), or an extended attempt to hide his short stature into a history of his country (I Served the King of England). His skill for plausible exaggeration is on full show here. If you don’t like cats, maybe you like rap? A man of similar talents, Rakim, has a new book out; it doesn’t take too much squinting to see the links between I Ain’t No Joke and Dancing Lessons…

Have a great weekend, everyone!


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