Links round-up

Hi all,

You’ll have to forgive the links for being so late today. I was going to send them earlier, but I was busy melting into a puddle of sweat and tea; we really do have to get a grip on this climate change thing. I’ve not been in a room so hot, and so ill-equipped for heat, since I lived through a summer-long power cut in Zanzibar a decade ago. I’d have hit the beach, pool, or literally any other cooler place were it not for the raging pandemic around me. 2020, amirite? Still there are some small mercies in the middle of this weirdest year (and it really is the weirdest year – “worrying about Britney Spears’s suffrage” was not one of my January predictions); continuity is still available if you know where to look. LeBron James, aged 921, is still dominating a league made up of just about the greatest athletes in history, because robots don’t age. The NBA is back, and even without fans, it’s amazing. One day will find a thesaurus comprehensive enough to save me from repetition in describing his brilliance. For now, it’s enough just to be able to watch, even if the NBA bubble set-up feels like an early iteration of The Running Man.

  1. Fair warning: the links are going to be depressing before they get optimistic. During the lockdown in the UK, I talked a lot to my wife about how we thought other people were experiencing the pandemic. Though it was difficult (note: try not to go through a pregnancy during a raging pandemic), we knew we were lucky – both to still have jobs (I even changed jobs during it!) and able to have groceries delivered and the like. Not everyone was lucky: this great piece by Kathryn Beegle looks at the impact of lockdown on domestic violence in India. They are large and positive, and incredibly depressing. The impact of the pandemic has been asymmetric in many, many ways. Policy, too, has helped it punch down. FiveThirtyEight look at the disjunction between jobs restarting and returning to in-person performance and childcare, and speculate that the pandemic, and its policy response, may push a generation of mothers out of the labour force. More generally, Tim Harford speculates on which scars from the pandemic will mark us permanently. And if you want still more miserable reading, Claudia Sahm’s takedown of the economics profession.
  2. Okay, that first link was a massive downer, so if you need a breather, here’s Gore Vidal being interviewed by Ali G, and somehow keeping enough patience to explain that he was not, in fact Vidal Sassoon. Still not as good as Boutros Boutros Boutros Ghali rapping with him (Ali G, that is, not Gore Vidal).
  3. So people are generally terrible, but they do often get better over time. As a reminder of this, it’s edifying to look at this survey from 1969, which straight up asked whether homosexuals were ‘better or worse’ than doctors who basically killed their patients.
  4. In VoxDev Erica Bosio and co-authors look at the strength of legal restrictions on public procurement and find that stronger legal restrictions on procurement processes are positively correlated with the quality of product procured in lower-capacity countries, they’re negatively associated with performance in higher capacity countries, presumably because there’s some sort of raise-the-floor, lower-the-ceiling effect going on. That said, what rules we do have seem pretty important. Otherwise you might, I dunno, buy a satellite from a company that make pencils or something.
  5. In a kind of sequel of sorts to his chat with Melissa Dell, Tyler Cowen talks persistence with Nathan Nunn. Two good bits: Nunn talks about Morgan Kelly’s excellent paper The Standard Errors of Persistence, which picks a bone with much of the literature on historical persistence; and when Nunn picks countries for success on the basis of the things the persistence literature might prize. It gives you an idea of how much else also matters that his choices include the DRC and Zanzibar.  
  6. And just to continue this week’s theme of everything being terrible: a piece on VoxEU suggests that while outright racism is stigmatised enough to disincentivise people from expressing outright racist views, all they need is a tiny bit of camouflage before they’re back out there talking about them furriners stealing *our* jobs.
  7. Ok – so that was a massive downer of a links round-up, blame the pandemic and stifling heat. To send you all into the weekend on a more cheerful note, two completely pointless lists that are nevertheless brilliant. First, a list of the 26 best pop culture babies, which underrates Baby Yoda, Maggie Simpson and the baby on the cover of Nevermind, and completely omits the Muppet Babies… so actually maybe it will just enrage you? And to make up for that misfire, an actually good list of the greatest 40 AC/DC songs. Angus Young once complained that people were being disrespectful when they complained that ‘DC had released eleven albums that all sounded the same. “We’ve released twelve albums”, he explained.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


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