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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
Sex, Drugs, and Bitcoin: How Much Illegal Activity Is Financed Through Cryptocurrencies? by Sean Foley, Jonathan R. Karlsen, Tālis J. Putniņš :: SSRN
Cryptocurrencies are among the largest unregulated markets in the world. We find that approximately one-quarter of bitcoin users and one-half of bitcoin transactions are associated with illegal activity. Around $72 billion of illegal activity per year involves bitcoin, which is close to the scale of the US and European markets for illegal drugs. The illegal share of bitcoin activity declines with mainstream interest in bitcoin and with the emergence of more opaque cryptocurrencies. The techniques developed in this paper have applications in cryptocurrency surveillance. Our findings suggest that cryptocurrencies are transforming the way black markets operate by enabling “black e-commerce.”
study  economics  law  leviathan  bitcoin  cryptocurrency  crypto  impetus  scale  markets  civil-liberty  randy-ayndy  crime  criminology  measurement  estimate  pro-rata  money  monetary-fiscal  crypto-anarchy  drugs  internet  tradecraft  opsec  security 
february 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.
econotariat  marginal-rev  commentary  study  summary  economics  macro  investing  ORFE  securities  data  street-fighting  objektbuch  scale  time-preference  cost-benefit  outcome-risk  housing  money  monetary-fiscal  debt  history  mostly-modern  world-war  trends  correlation  moments  growth-econ  inequality  piketty  stylized-facts  war  meta:war 
december 2017 by nhaliday
The Grumpy Economist: Bitcoin and Bubbles
Bitcoin is not a very good money. It is a pure fiat money (no backing), whose value comes from limited supply plus these demands. As such it has the huge price fluctuations we see. It's an electronic version of gold, and the price variation should be a warning to economists who long for a return to  gold. My bet is that stable-value cryptocurrencies, offering one dollar per currency unit and low transactions costs, will prosper in the role of money. At least until there is a big inflation or sovereign debt crisis and a stable-value cryptocurrency not linked to government debt emerges.

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/939242620869660672
https://archive.is/Rrbg6
The Kareken-Wallace Cryptocurrency Price Indeterminacy theorem will someday receive the attention it deserves

https://www.mercatus.org/system/files/cryptocurrency-article.pdf
Cryptocurrencies also raise in a new way questions of exchange rate indeterminacy. As Kareken and Wallace (1981) observed, fiat currencies are all alike: slips of paper not redeemable for anything. Under a regime of floating exchange rates and no capital controls, and assuming some version of interest rate parity holds, there are an infinity of exchange rates between any two fiat currencies that constitute an equilibrium in their model.

The question of exchange rate indeterminacy is both more and less striking between cryptocurrencies than between fiat currencies. It is less striking because there are considerably more differences between cryptocurrencies than there are between paper money. Paper money is all basically the same. Cryptocurrencies sometimes have different characteristics from each other. For example, the algorithm used as the basis for mining makes a difference – it determines how professionalised the mining pools become. Litecoin uses an algorithm that tends to make mining less concentrated. Another difference is the capability of the cryptocurrency’s language for programming transactions. Ethereum is a new currency that boasts a much more robust language than Bitcoin. Zerocash is another currency that offers much stronger anonymity than Bitcoin. To the extent that cryptocurrencies differ from each other more than fiat currencies do, those differences might be able to pin down exchange rates in a model like Kareken and Wallace’s.

On the other hand, exchange rate indeterminacy could be more severe among cryptocurrencies than between fiat currencies because it is easy to simply create an exact copy of an open source cryptocurrency. There are even websites on which you can create and download the software for your own cryptocurrency with a few clicks of a mouse. These currencies are exactly alike except for their names and other identifying information. Furthermore, unlike fiat currencies, they don’t benefit from government acceptance or optimal currency area considerations that can tie a currency to a given territory.

Even identical currencies, however, can differ in terms of the quality of governance. Bitcoin currently has high quality governance institutions. The core developers are competent and conservative, and the mining and user communities are serious about making the currency work. An exact Bitcoin clone is likely to have a difficult time competing with Bitcoin unless it can promise similarly high-quality governance. When a crisis hits, users of identical currencies are going to want to hold the one that is mostly likely to weather the storm. Consequently, between currencies with identical technical characteristics, we think governance creates something close to a winner-take-all market. Network externalities are very strong in payment systems, and the governance question with respect to cryptocurrencies in particular compounds them.

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/939259281039380480
https://archive.is/ldof8
Explaining a price rise via future increases in the asset's value isn't good economics. The invisible hand should be pushing today's price up to the point where it earns normal expected returns. +
I don't doubt the likelihood of a future cryptocurrency being widely used, but that doesn't pin down the price of any one cryptocurrency as the Kareken-Wallace result shows. There may be a big first mover advantage for Bitcoin but ease of replication makes it a fragile dominance.

https://twitter.com/netouyo_/status/939566116229218306
https://archive.is/CtE6Q
I actually can't believe governments are allowing bitcoin to exist (they must be fully on board with going digital at some point)

btc will eventually come in direct competition with national currencies, which will have to raise rates dramatically, or die

http://www.thebigquestions.com/2017/12/08/matters-of-money/
The technology of Bitcoin Cash is very similar to the technology of Bitcoin. It offers the same sorts of anonymity, security, and so forth. There are some reasons to believe that in the future, Bitcoin Cash will be a bit easier to trade than Bitcoin (though that is not true in the present), and there are some other technological differences between them, but I’d be surprised to learn that those differences are accounting for any substantial fraction of the price differential.

The total supplies of Bitcoins and of Bitcoin Cash are currently about equal (because of the way that Bitcoin Cash originated). In each case, the supply will gradually grow to 21 million and then stop.

Question 1: Given the near identical properties of these two currencies, how can one sell for ten times the price of the other? Perhaps the answer involves the word “bubble”, but I’d be more interested in answers that assume (at least for the sake of argument) that the price of Bitcoin fairly reflects its properties as a store of value. Given that assumption, is the price differential entirely driven by the fact that Bitcoin came first? Is there that much of a first-mover advantage in this kind of game?

Question 2: Given the existence of other precious metals (e.g. platinum) what accounts for the dominance of gold as a physical store of value? (I note, for example, that when people buy gold as a store of value, they don’t often hesitate out of fear that gold will be displaced by platinum in the foreseeable future.) Is this entirely driven by the fact that gold happened to come first?

Question 3: Are Questions 1 and 2 the same question? Are the dominance of Bitcoin in the digital store-of-value market and the dominance of gold in the physical store-of-value market two sides of the same coin, so to speak? Or do they require fundamentally different explanations?

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/944582032780382208
https://archive.is/kqTXg
Champ/Freeman in 2001 explain why the dollar-bitcoin exchange rate is inherently unstable, and why the price of cryptocurrencies is indeterminate:

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/945046058073071617
https://archive.is/Y0OQB
Lay down a marker:
And remember that the modern macro dogma is that monetary systems matter little for prosperity, once bare competence is achieved.
econotariat  randy-ayndy  commentary  current-events  trends  cryptocurrency  bitcoin  money  monetary-fiscal  economics  cycles  multi  twitter  social  garett-jones  pdf  white-paper  article  macro  trade  incentives  equilibrium  backup  degrees-of-freedom  uncertainty  supply-demand  markets  gnon  🐸  government  gedanken  questions  comparison  analogy  explanans  fungibility-liquidity 
december 2017 by nhaliday
Americans Used to be Proud of their Universities | The American Conservative
Some Notes on the Finances of Top Chinese Universities: https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/world-view/some-notes-finances-top-chinese-universities
A glimpse into the finances of top Chinese universities suggests they share more than we might have imagined with American flagship public universities, but also that claims of imminent “catch up” might be overblown
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Tax Evasion and Inequality
This paper attempts to estimate the size and distribution of tax evasion in rich countries. We combine stratified random audits—the key source used to study tax evasion so far—with new micro-data leaked from two large offshore financial institutions, HSBC Switzerland (“Swiss leaks”) and Mossack Fonseca (“Panama Papers”). We match these data to population-wide wealth records in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. We find that tax evasion rises sharply with wealth, a phenomenon that random audits fail to capture. On average about 3% of personal taxes are evaded in Scandinavia, but this figure rises to about 30% in the top 0.01% of the wealth distribution, a group that includes households with more than $40 million in net wealth. A simple model of the supply of tax evasion services can explain why evasion rises steeply with wealth. Taking tax evasion into account increases the rise in inequality seen in tax data since the 1970s markedly, highlighting the need to move beyond tax data to capture income and wealth at the top, even in countries where tax compliance is generally high. We also find that after reducing tax evasion—by using tax amnesties—tax evaders do not legally avoid taxes more. This result suggests that fighting tax evasion can be an effective way to collect more tax revenue from the ultra-wealthy.

Figure 1

America’s unreported economy: measuring the size, growth and determinants of income tax evasion in the U.S.: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10611-011-9346-x
This study empirically investigates the extent of noncompliance with the tax code and examines the determinants of federal income tax evasion in the U.S. Employing a refined version of Feige’s (Staff Papers, International Monetary Fund 33(4):768–881, 1986, 1989) General Currency Ratio (GCR) model to estimate a time series of unreported income as our measure of tax evasion, we find that 18–23% of total reportable income may not properly be reported to the IRS. This gives rise to a 2009 “tax gap” in the range of $390–$540 billion. As regards the determinants of tax noncompliance, we find that federal income tax evasion is an increasing function of the average effective federal income tax rate, the unemployment rate, the nominal interest rate, and per capita real GDP, and a decreasing function of the IRS audit rate. Despite important refinements of the traditional currency ratio approach for estimating the aggregate size and growth of unreported economies, we conclude that the sensitivity of the results to different benchmarks, imperfect data sources and alternative specifying assumptions precludes obtaining results of sufficient accuracy and reliability to serve as effective policy guides.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
GOP tax plan would provide major gains for richest 1%, uneven benefits for the middle class, report says - The Washington Post
https://twitter.com/ianbremmer/status/913863513038311426
https://archive.is/PYRx9
Trump tweets: For his voters.
Tax plan: Something else entirely.
https://twitter.com/tcjfs/status/913864779256692737
https://archive.is/5bzQz
This is appallingly stupid if accurate

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/11/28/upshot/what-the-tax-bill-would-look-like-for-25000-middle-class-families.html
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/11/30/us/politics/tax-cuts-increases-for-your-income.html

Treasury Removes Paper at Odds With Mnuchin’s Take on Corporate-Tax Cut’s Winners: https://www.wsj.com/articles/treasury-removes-paper-at-odds-with-mnuchins-take-on-corporate-tax-cuts-winners-1506638463

Tax changes for graduate students under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: https://bcide.gitlab.io/post/gop-tax-plan/
H.R.1 – 155th Congress (Tax Cuts and Jobs Act) 1 proposes changes to the US Tax Code that threatens to destroy the finances of STEM graduate students nationwide. The offending provision, 1204(a)(3), strikes section 117(d) 2 of the US Tax Code. This means that under the proposal, tuition waivers are considered taxable income.

For graduate students, this means an increase of thousands of dollars in owed federal taxes. Below I show a calculation for my own situation. The short of it is this: My federal taxes increase from ~7.5% of my income to ~31%. I will owe about $6300 more in federal taxes under this legislation. Like many other STEM students, my choices would be limited to taking on significant debt or quitting my program entirely.

The Republican War on College: https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/11/republican-college/546308/

Trump's plan to tax colleges will harm higher education — but it's still a good idea: http://www.businessinsider.com/trump-tax-plan-taxing-colleges-is-a-good-idea-2017-11
- James Miller

The Republican Tax Plan Is a Disaster for Families With Children: http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/11/the-republican-tax-plan-is-a-disaster-for-families-with-children/
- Kevin Drum

The gains from cutting corporate tax rates: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/11/corporate-taxes-2.html
I’ve been reading in this area on and off since the 1980s, and I really don’t think these are phony results.

Entrepreneurship and State Taxation: https://www.federalreserve.gov/econres/feds/files/2018003pap.pdf
We find that new firm employment is negatively—and disproportionately—affected by corporate tax rates. We find little evidence of an effect of personal and sales taxes on entrepreneurial outcomes.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/26/us/politics/johnson-amendment-churches-taxes-politics.html
nobody in the comments section seems to have even considered the comparison with universities

The GOP Tax Bills Are Infrastructure Bills Too. Here’s Why.: http://www.governing.com/topics/transportation-infrastructure/gov-republican-tax-bills-impact-infrastructure.html
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Can Europe Run Greece? Lessons from U.S. Fiscal Receiverships in Latin America, 1904-31 by Noel Maurer, Leticia Arroyo Abad :: SSRN
In 2012 and again in 2015, the German government proposed sending German administrators to manage Greece’s tax and privatization authorities. The idea was that shared governance would reduce corruption and root out inefficient practices. (In 2017 the Boston Globe proposed a similar arrangement for Haiti.) We test a version of shared governance using eight U.S. interventions between 1904 and 1931, under which American officials took over management of Latin American fiscal institutions. We develop a stylized model in which better monitoring by incorruptible managers does not lead to higher government revenues. Using a new panel of data on fiscal revenues and the volume and terms of trade, we find that revenue fell under receiverships. Our results hold under instrumental variables estimation and with counterfactual specifications using synthetic controls.
study  economics  broad-econ  political-econ  growth-econ  polisci  government  monetary-fiscal  money  europe  the-great-west-whale  germanic  mediterranean  usa  latin-america  conquest-empire  corruption  integrity  n-factor  management  history  mostly-modern  pre-ww2  models  analogy  track-record  endo-exo  counterfactual  cliometrics  micro  endogenous-exogenous 
september 2017 by nhaliday
A simple minded approach – spottedtoad
The Affordable Care Act was a famously complicated bill, but at a very simple level, its intent and effect were to drive more economic activity into the health care sector. Young people and the near poor, in particular, would get more treatment, because the bill would use carrots (the subsidies and Medicaid expansion) and sticks (the mandate) to get them insurance. In fiscal terms, the bill raised taxes on the rich to pay for the subsidies and Medicaid expansion.

So at a basic level, the question for everyone about the bill was (and is), was American economic activity in 2010 insufficiently focused on health care? Not whether any individual deserved more care, but whether in aggregate we were spending enough.

If you read what Peter Orszag or other wonks in the Administration were saying at the time, the intent of the bill was to bend the cost curve and reduce total expenditure by limiting what Medicare reimbursed, using various pilot programs to find out what kinds of treatments were ineffective, get some death panels up and running, and so on.

But that’s bullshit. You made more money available, so more money was going to get spent.

The death panels were real, of course, but they were mostly for young people instead of the old, as it turned out.
ratty  unaffiliated  wonkish  reflection  policy  law  healthcare  class  egalitarianism-hierarchy  monetary-fiscal  taxes  government  obama  summary  explanation  chart  roots  impetus  technocracy 
september 2017 by nhaliday
Is the economy illegible? | askblog
In the model of the economy as a GDP factory, the most fundamental equation is the production function, Y = f(K,L).

This says that total output (Y) is determined by the total amount of capital (K) and the total amount of labor (L).

Let me stipulate that the economy is legible to the extent that this model can be applied usefully to explain economic developments. I want to point out that the economy, while never as legible as economists might have thought, is rapidly becoming less legible.
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august 2017 by nhaliday

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