Have you ever seen a fight between two kittens? It involves a great number of swipes at thin air, a lot of leaping around and much complaining, but it’s over very quickly and is often the source of great hilarity among the spectators. Such were my thoughts as I watched 21 out 30 wickets that fell in the India-England test at Ahmedabad fall to straight balls, with even Cheteshwar Pujara – a man whose batting has all the flair of a 1950s civil servant – forgetting how to play a straight bat. It was all over in just two days of wild incompetence (and yes, I’m aware that only a cricket fan could complain about a match that finishes in two days being far too short), but at least it’s another step towards normalcy. There are fans in the stands (I’ve no idea how bad an idea that is right now), the England team are a complete shower, and Rohit still wins the match with a six. Happy days.
- Branko has spent the week eviscerating the degrowthers, and it’s been *very* satisfying. His piece on degrowth and magical thinking is perfect. Global mean incomes are just $16 in PPP terms; any solution to global challenges that involves growth being brought to a halt will require that we either leave the global poor to rot or we somehow inspire an absolutely massive redistribution to the developing world that would require virtually every person living in richer countries to reduce their standard of living massively. It’s fine in Excel, when you can just take global GDP and divide by the population, but not so simple in the real world (though real people will not, unlike Excel, think you are proposing a date). I got into a discussion with someone on twitter, who rightly pointed out that even if this is true, and both the degrowthers and the doughnut crowd (a diagram in search of a theory of change) are being magical, it’s not like there’s a wide menu of other options being proposed by economists. Branko acknowledges that, and goes into some options here. All of them require big changes, and he is not optimistic that they will happen.
- Is blogging making a comeback, a mere month after I declared it moribund on a podcast? (That was a bad hot take, I will admit; stay tuned for more on Episode 2 of Paper Round, dropping in the next week or so). First, Matt Collin posted a great piece on his substack (no, don’t worry, he hasn’t been cancelled, he just has a substack anyway) recounting the time he tried to randomise his coffee intake and using that a launchpad for some navel gazing into the limitations of RCTs as a source of knowledge. If you want to read something that’s thoughtful and not a random collection of straw men, it’s recommended. And my ex-colleague Liz has also launched a new blog on Medium (she hasn’t been cancelled either, for avoidance of doubt), which I’m reliably told will include thoughts from other writers as well. She looks into why many South Africans are so negative about being taxed, and makes the positive case for paying them. And Heather Marquette’s latest round up of writing on governance is typically excellent, and – most importantly – ends with a plug for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, the show that got me through the first sleepless weeks of fatherhood.
- Speaking of Marvel, in a piece of economic reporting that seems to have been written directly for me, the Planet Money crew attempt to buy the rights to the world’s crappiest superhero (Doorman, who has the ability to turn into a door, in case you’re curious) from Marvel (transcript). It doesn’t work out and they make a follow-up attempt (transcript).What, exactly, is the economics at stake here? I could try very hard to sell you the idea that you’ll learn about copyright law, but … just enjoy the bad superheroes and don’t think too much about it.
- Re-engage your brain please: Michael Woolcock has written a brilliant blog on Development Impact on the new QJE paper ‘Folklore’ (you know it’s a blockbuster when the title is one word). Michael should always be listened to, and he takes you on an amazing ride, via Chris Bayly, James C. Scott and his own work with Vijayendra Rao. Give yourself some time, click through to the links, and learn something.
- This week in ‘what the hell is wrong with you, Economics’: the male skew of the economics profession isn’t just an academic phenomenon, but is seen in think tanks, among top authors, in the private sector and among large public institutions. The best ratio is in public economic institutions, where a measly 32% of economists are women. I don’t really know what more to say. Our discipline needs much, much more diversity. Planet Money cover Arthur Lewis here, but call him an unsung economist (transcript). If Lewis – an economist who deserves a full-scale gospel choir – is unsung, things really are bad.
- Andrew Gelman is like the boogieman, there to scare researchers into good behaviour. This piece about why he engages so deeply with bad research is really thoughtful, and – once again – ends with a warning we should all heed. ‘The lesson to take away from extreme cases of scientific and scholarly mispractice is not, “Hey, these dudes are horrible. Me and my friends aren’t like that!”, but rather, “Hey, these are extreme versions of things that me and my friends might do. So let’s look more carefully at our own practices!”’
- Lastly, by far the most satisfying video I’ve seen all week (and no it’s not that little dude beating the absolute crap out of a bully): a supercut of typerwriters being used on screen, featuring Barton Fink, Throw Momma from the Train, All the President’s Men and – of course – the Shining. I’m old enough to remember using my dad’s typewriter, and writing on my Logitech just isn’t as satisfying. Whack the volume up, and feel joy.
Have a great weekend, everyone!
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