If feels odd these days to focus on any specific loss, given how many people are grieving for either someone specific or just for the sheer number of people passing in such a compressed period of time, but I took Irrfan Khan’s death hard, and I was definitely not the only one. It’s not quite like when Prince died, which felt like a constellation being erased from the sky, but as I said on Twitter, a bit more like losing a distant yet much-loved relative. I liked this LiveMint appreciation of his career very much; and I loved re-reading this interview with him (how well-adjusted and reasonable he sounds) but I can’t recommend enough that you simply watch his movies. A lockdown treat, maybe? Just don’t call it Bollywood.
- The best thing I read all week was another appreciation of person who died too young, but in this case, he died in 1930. Economists will – or should – know Frank Ramsey’s name, but they may not know his story. Last year I taught a seminar class (partly) about The Ramsey Rule, and in my head, Ramsey was an elderly, staid man in glasses with an accountant’s demeanor; nothing could be further from the truth. Frank Ramsey died at 26, having made pioneering breakthroughs in economics, maths and philosophy and becoming part of the Bloomsbury set. This New Yorker profile (on the occasion of a new biography, which I’ll be ordering) is fantastic; this sentence is glorious: “Although Ramsey didn’t bear grudges, the two men had no contact for four years, except for a distinctly cool exchange of letters in 1927 about the logic of ‘=.’”
- I can imagine Clemence Landers and co clicking publish on this blog and then immediately closing the door and putting up an umbrella to protect themselves, but it’s very good: they argue that debt relief from IDA (the World Bank’s concessional lending arm) would be counterproductive, reducing the flexibility the Bank has to respond to the crisis.
- Increasingly, I see the possibility that globalisation will be a victim of the longer-term response to Covid; not in the sense that it will be unwound completely, but more in that there will be some judicious vandalism to its edifice. Charles Kenny went on Planet Money to make the unambiguous case against this (highly recommended, transcript here), pointing out that our ability to fight disease has been immeasurably strengthened by globalisation. He is not alone: this piece by Anna Stellinger and co-authors also makes clear that protecting global value chains is an important component of protecting global health. And Anne Krueger takes solid aim at Trump’s war on public health, not least his attack on its global institutions.
- Two more Coronavirus links, before I try change the subject: first, FiveThirtyEight’s brilliant Maggie Koerth writes about what we know about the difference in deadliness of the disease by sex; and second, Andrew Gelman on the updated Imperial College model of the disease and its response to policy actions.
- On a completely different note, Branko Milanovic on how Marx and Ricardo conceptualised inequality. I don’t think nearly enough people spend nearly enough time learning about the history of economic thought, and I really like that Branko will sometimes just take a random topic and expound on it – it is always a learning experience.
- And finally, in definitive proof that I have too much time on my hands, my latest discovery: a research project which is trying to build a computer that tells jokes. It is TERRIBLE. The jokes are sub-Christmas cracker, and yet completely addictive. For example: What temperature is a son? Boy-ling point. I feel like these jokes are what Aubrey Plaza is thinking about to