The benefit of being away for three weeks (apart, that is, from being somewhere sunny and reasonably even-keeled for a while) is that it gives me ample opportunity to ignore any unpleasant cricketing events that occur during the links hiatus, though try as I might, I haven’t been able to ignore all the other unpleasant events going on, ad infinitum, elsewhere. Returning brings a few downsides, ranging from the near total-absence of warmth and daylight to an RSS feed so over-stuffed with information I’m fairly sure a portion of my brain exploded trying to clear it. My original plan was to do a sort of best-of-2018 round-up to kick off the year, but then I remembered what 2018 was like and realised it was akin to having a list of the best times I ran face-first into a wall. I just home my go-to 2019 gif isn’t this.
- Planet Money had the right idea, though – their end-of-year bash was an awards show for the lowlights of the year (transcript), ranging from sexist Doritos to Elon Musk’s late-night tweeting habits. Amazingly, they manage to avoid giving awards to any policy makers. I can only assume they were exempt from the competition this year. That provides a nice segue into one of my favourite annual traditions, the 538 ‘What I Got Wrong this Year’ piece, in which their main forecaster looks at what predictions didn’t pan out, and why. On a slightly more cheerful note, they also list their 45 best graphs of the year, with my favourite being the graphical summary of the sexual adventures of Mr. Prospector the horse who begat virtually every horse in this year’s Kentucky Derby. And ending this link on a positive note, the Development Impact crew pick their favourite papers of the year and Pinelopi Goldberg, their Chief Economist, does the same (that they did not extensively cover separately), an excellent starting point for good things you might have missed in 2018.
- The first half or two-thirds of this interview with Daniel Kahneman is fantastic: because Kahneman is acutely aware that he might be wrong about anything, he’s both extremely precise about what he does know and extremely honest about the limits to the various ideas he’s made his name on. He has begun researching the same kind of questions about organisations that I’m interested in, which is both great and terrifying. The last third goes off the rails a bit as Cowen, who has never met a speculation he wasn’t willing to make, discovers that Kahneman just doesn’t go in for wild connections.
- There was a late slew of economics on equality to close the year (increasingly, I find the most interesting research in economics is on questions of attitudes and behaviour, both of which are crucial for understanding gendered outcomes). First, Markus summarises Seema Jayachandran’s new paper on changing attitudes towards gender among adolescents (related: at the AEA annual meeting this year, gender was high on the agenda). Then the Economist ran an article on the growth implications of increased equality (I’m not 100% convinced about all of the underlying research, and even less convinced that the way to motivate working on equality is because it makes us richer). And lastly, a VoxEU piece summarising research suggesting that same-race teachers can improve the outcomes of minority students, though it doesn’t really isolate why. They speculate that role model effects are important, but another possibility is that it’s simply the absence of bias against minority students among minority staff.
- Branko Milanovic summarises the ways in which Marx has helped him better understand the world, and to be a better economist. Like Branko, I think Marx is particularly important when you work on economies that, while private and market-based, aren’t fully capitalist.
- Dietrich Vollrath is developing a new course on the ‘deep roots’ of economic development, covering institutions, geography, culture and more. The first of a series of posts summarising his teaching is an absolute belter. One of the problems with all of the literature on ‘deep’ development is that when the events you explore happen far in the past, it becomes increasingly difficult to even distinguish geography and institutions or culture even conceptually; and this makes it hard to interpret the results they find. Dietz does a great job of explaining this, and explaining how you still can use this research to understand the world better.
- Have you come across the Joy of Destruction game? No, it’s not NCAA basketball in the Zion Williamson era, but a lab game in which you can give up some of your own winnings in exchange for decimating another players’. In a finding that will probably not surprise anyone who reads the news these days, joining a group seems to induce a heightened appetite for destruction (and not the good kind), with groups more likely to give up winnings just to harm others.
- That seems an appropriate way to sally into 2019, if a bit downbeat. Is there anything to look forward to? Well, we’ve got Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, Spiderman: Far from Home and the new season of the Punisher, so escapism is definitely on the cards. And just think, this time next year we’ll be watching Mount Zion up against Luka in the battle for the NBA’s future…
Have a great weekend, everyone!