marginal-rev   155

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More arguments against blockchain, most of all about trust - Marginal REVOLUTION
Auditing software is hard! The most-heavily scrutinized smart contract in history had a small bug that nobody noticed — that is, until someone did notice it, and used it to steal fifty million dollars. If cryptocurrency enthusiasts putting together a $150m investment fund can’t properly audit the software, how confident are you in your e-book audit? Perhaps you would rather write your own counteroffer software contract, in case this e-book author has hidden a recursion bug in their version to drain your ethereum wallet of all your life savings?

It’s a complicated way to buy a book! It’s not trustless, you’re trusting in the software (and your ability to defend yourself in a software-driven world), instead of trusting other people.
econotariat  marginal-rev  links  commentary  quotes  bitcoin  cryptocurrency  blockchain  crypto  trust  money  monetary-fiscal  technology  software  institutions  government  comparison  cost-benefit  primitivism  eden-heaven 
april 2018 by nhaliday
My March 28 talk at MIT - Marginal REVOLUTION
What happens when a simulated system becomes more real than the system itself?  Will the internet become “more real” than the world of ideas it is mirroring? Do we academics live in a simulacra?  If the “alt right” exists mainly on the internet, does that make it more or less powerful?  Do all innovations improve system quality, and if so why is a lot of food worse than before and home design was better in 1910-1930?  How does the world of ideas fit into this picture?
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march 2018 by nhaliday
Strategic height adjustment - Marginal REVOLUTION
Professor Bogin’s study, carried out in collaboration with Dr Christiane Scheffler, at the University of Potsdam, and Professor Michael Hermanussen, from the University of Kiel, also explored a second phenomenon called competitive growth — where the ruling social classes adjust their height to exceed the subordinate population.

Prof Bogin said: “This is when the mean height of colonial or military migrants, who become the socially dominant group in the conquered country, surpasses the average height of the both the conquered people and the origin population.”

In one example, the researchers found that the height of Dutch colonial masters in Indonesia in the 19th and early 20th centuries was greater than the Indonesians they ruled, and also greater than social upper classes back in the Netherlands.

“This was also the case for English colonial masters in North America,” said Prof Bogin.

“We find that it is the superior social status of the conquerors that promotes their greater height.
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march 2018 by nhaliday
Reid Hofmann and Peter Thiel and technology and politics - Marginal REVOLUTION
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february 2018 by nhaliday
Why Sex? And why only in Pairs? - Marginal REVOLUTION
The core conclusion is that mutations continue to rise with the number of sex-participating partners, but in simple Red Queen models the limiting features of the genotypes is the same whether there are two, three, or more partners.

Men Are Animals:
I agree with all the comments citing motility/sessility.
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january 2018 by nhaliday
Self-Serving Bias | Slate Star Codex
Since reading Tabarrok’s post, I’ve been trying to think of more examples of this sort of thing, especially in medicine. There are way too many discrepancies in approved medications between countries to discuss every one of them, but did you know melatonin is banned in most of Europe? (Europeans: did you know melatonin is sold like candy in the United States?) Did you know most European countries have no such thing as “medical school”, but just have college students major in medicine, and then become doctors once they graduate from college? (Europeans: did you know Americans have to major in some random subject in college, and then go to a separate place called “medical school” for four years to even start learning medicine?) Did you know that in Puerto Rico, you can just walk into a pharmacy and get any non-scheduled drug you want without a doctor’s prescription? (source: my father; I have never heard anyone else talk about this, and nobody else even seems to think it is interesting enough to be worth noting).


And then there’s the discussion from the recent discussion of Madness and Civilization about how 18th century doctors thought hot drinks will destroy masculinity and ruin society. Nothing that’s happened since has really disproved this – indeed, a graph of hot drink consumption, decline of masculinity, and ruinedness of society would probably show a pretty high correlation – it’s just somehow gotten tossed in the bin marked “ridiculous” instead of the bin marked “things we have to worry about”.
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january 2018 by nhaliday
What explains the formation and decay of clusters of creativity? - Marginal REVOLUTION
Creativity is often highly concentrated in time and space, and across different domains. What explains the formation and decay of clusters of creativity? In this paper we match data on thousands of notable individuals born in Europe between the XIth and the XIXth century with historical data on city institutions and population. After documenting several stylized facts, we show that the formation of creative clusters is not preceded by increases in city size. Instead, the emergence of city institutions protecting economic and political freedoms facilitates the attraction and production of creative talent.

IOW, the opposite of what Dick Florida said.
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january 2018 by nhaliday
The rate of return on everything - Marginal REVOLUTION
Here is what I learned from the paper itself:

1. Risky assets such as equities and residential real estate average about 7% gains per year in real terms.  Housing outperformed equity before WWII, vice versa after WWII.  In any case it is a puzzle that housing returns are less volatile but about at the same level as equity returns over a broader time span.
2. Equity and housing gains have a relatively low covariance.  Buy both!
3. Equity returns across countries have become increasingly correlated, housing returns not.
4. The return on real safe assets is much more volatile than you might think.
5. The equity premium is volatile too.
6. The authors find support for Piketty’s r > g, except near periods of war.  Furthermore, the gap between r and g does not seem to be correlated with the growth rate of the economy.

I found this to be one of the best and most interesting papers of the year.
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december 2017 by nhaliday
The Long-run Effects of Agricultural Productivity on Conflict, 1400-1900∗
This paper provides evidence of the long-run effects of a permanent increase in agricultural productivity on conflict. We construct a newly digitized and geo-referenced dataset of battles in Europe, the Near East and North Africa covering the period between 1400 and 1900 CE. For variation in permanent improvements in agricultural productivity, we exploit the introduction of potatoes from the Americas to the Old World after the Columbian Exchange. We find that the introduction of potatoes permanently reduced conflict for roughly two centuries. The results are driven by a reduction in civil conflicts
#4 An obvious counterfactual is of course the potato blight (1844 and beyond) in Europe. Here’s the Wikipedia page ‘revolutions of 1848’
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december 2017 by nhaliday
The Power of Abortion Policy - Marginal REVOLUTION
I provide new evidence on the relative “powers” of contraception and abortion policy in effecting the dramatic social transformations of the 1960s and 1970s. Trends in sexual behavior suggest that young women’s increased access to the birth control pill fueled the sexual revolution, but neither these trends nor difference-in-difference estimates support the view that this also led to substantial changes in family formation. Rather, the estimates robustly suggest that it was liberalized access to abortion that allowed large numbers of women to delay marriage and motherhood.
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december 2017 by nhaliday
Understanding differences in life expectancy inequality - Marginal REVOLUTION
The life expectancy gap at age 40 between high income and low income individuals is substantial. I explore how medical expenditures and unhealthy behaviors account for the life expectancy gap. The data reveals the following. First, low income individuals tend to spend more on healthcare than high income individuals at all ages. Moreover, health disparities by income is salient due to differences in unhealthy behaviors such as heavy smoking. To answer how much dierences in access to medical services and unhealthy behaviors can explain in light of these stylized facts, I construct a life cycle model. The distinctive features of the model are that it flexibly incorporates unobserved, potentially correlated initial human and health capital stocks and embed unhealthy behaviors. Furthermore, the model includes two health systems: private health insurance and Medicare. The main findings are i) differences in access to medical care driven by income inequality potentially accounts for 12.5% of the life expectancy gap, ii) health insurance increases longevity for low income individuals, but modestly, iii) the health condition when young shapes the trend in average medical expenditures by income groups and iv) the impact of differences in unhealthy behaviors is predominant in understanding the life expectancy gap.

Health spending negatively correlated with health outcomes:
Pointer from Tyler Cowen. In the paper, Katera argues that the lower life expectancy of lower-income individuals reflects differences in their behavior rather than differences in access to medical services. My thoughts:

1. This seems consistent with Hansonian medicine, in which on average the benefits of more health care spending are about zero. But it also could suggest a counter to the Hanson view. That is, it could be that at the margin everyone benefits from more health care spending, but because the people who spend more tend to be people who behave in unhealthy ways, the benefits of more spending are difficult to tease out from the data. It is like trying to measure the relationship between policing and crime. If areas with a lot of crime tend to require more police, then a simple correlation analysis might suggest that adding police does not help to reduce crime.

2. Katera’s findings are not politically correct. I am on the record as saying that academic economics is headed toward a state in which findings like this will make one almost unemployable. Imagine trying to get Katera hired in a sociology department. Katera’s experience as a job candidate will be help to indicate how far along we are on this path.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Indiana Jones, Economist?! - Marginal REVOLUTION
In a stunningly original paper Gojko Barjamovic, Thomas Chaney, Kerem A. Coşar, and Ali Hortaçsu use the gravity model of trade to infer the location of lost cities from Bronze age Assyria! The simplest gravity model makes predictions about trade flows based on the sizes of cities and the distances between them. More complicated models add costs based on geographic barriers. The authors have data from ancient texts on trade flows between all the cities, they know the locations of some of the cities, and they know the geography of the region. Using this data they can invert the gravity model and, triangulating from the known cities, find the lost cities that would best “fit” the model. In other words, by assuming the model is true the authors can predict where the lost cities should be located. To test the idea the authors pretend that some known cities are lost and amazingly the model is able to accurately rediscover those cities.
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november 2017 by nhaliday

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