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The Falling Price of Fat | Pseudoerasmus
Summary : There are too many baroque explanations for the increased prevalence of obesity. I suggest a simple mechanism : falling food prices, rising incomes.
econotariat  broad-econ  pseudoE  economics  supply-demand  food  obesity  trends  explanans  cynicism-idealism  money  compensation  cost-benefit  backup  epidemiology  public-health  roots 
february 2018 by nhaliday
Muscle, steam and combustion
Vaclav Smil’s Energy and Civilization is a monumental history of how humanity has harnessed muscle, steam and combustion to build palaces and skyscrapers, light the night and land on the Moon. Want to learn about the number of labourers needed to build Egypt’s pyramids of Giza, or US inventor Thomas Edison’s battles with Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse to electrify homes and cities, or the upscaling of power stations and blast furnaces in the twentieth century? Look no further.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Does European development have Roman roots? Evidence from the German Limes
The results indicate that economic development—as mea-sured by luminosity—is indeed significantly and robustly larger in the formerly Roman part of Germany. The study identifies the persistence of the Roman road network until the present an important factor causing this developmental advantage of the formerly Roman part ofGermany both by fostering city growth and by allowing for a denser road network.
CC: @GarettJones this puts a new spin on deep history! Hard to explain...
I've got a theory, have a partial model but need some time to formalize it. I've called it the Radio Brain Hypothesis...
pdf  study  economics  growth-econ  cliometrics  broad-econ  history  iron-age  medieval  mostly-modern  europe  germanic  path-dependence  divergence  shift  transportation  network-structure  urban  pseudoE  within-group  wealth-of-nations  natural-experiment  microfoundations  mediterranean  the-classics  conquest-empire  the-great-west-whale  geography  infrastructure  multi  twitter  social  commentary  backup  spearhead  econotariat  garett-jones  aphorism  ideas  branches  urban-rural  hari-seldon 
july 2017 by nhaliday
Does Management Matter? Evidence from India
We have shown that management matters, with improvements in management practices improving plant-level outcomes. One response from economists might then be to argue that poor management can at most be a short-run problem, since in the long run better managed firms should take over the market. Yet many of our firms have been in business for 20 years and more.

One reason why better run firms do not dominate the market is constraints on growth derived from limited managerial span of control. In every firm in our sample only members of the owning family have positions with major decision-making power over finance, purchasing, operations or employment. Non-family members are given only lower-level managerial positions with authority only over basic day-to-day activities. The principal reason is that family members do not trust non-family members. For example, they are concerned if they let their plant managers procure yarn they may do so at inflated rates from friends and receive kick-backs.

A key reason for this inability to decentralize is the poor rule of law in India. Even if directors found managers stealing, their ability to successfully prosecute them and recover the assets is minimal because of the inefficiency of Indian civil courts. A compounding reason for the inability to decentralize in Indian firms is bad management practices, as this means the owners cannot keep good track of materials and finance, so may not even able to identify mismanagement or theft within their firms.30

As a result of this inability to delegate, firms can expand beyond the size that can be managed by a single director only if other family members are available to share directorial duties. Thus, an important predictor of firm size was the number of male family members of the owners. In particular, the number of brothers and sons of the leading director has a correlation of 0.689 with the total employment of the firm, compared to a correlation between employment and the average management score of 0.223. In fact the best managed firm in our sample had only one (large) production plant, in large part because the owner had no brothers or sons to help run a larger organization. This matches the ideas of the Lucas (1978) span of control model, that there are diminishing returns to how much additional productivity better management technology can generate from a single manager. In the Lucas model, the limits to firm growth restrict the ability of highly productive firms to drive lower productivity ones from the market. In our Indian firms, this span of control restriction is definitely binding, so unproductive firms are able to survive because more productive firms cannot expand.
However, when we reverse the employment statistic–only ~15% of Indians work for a firm compared to approximately 90% of US workers we see the problem. Entrepreneurship in India isn’t a choice, it’s a requirement. Indian entrepreneurship is a consequence of India’s failed economy. As a I wrote in my Cato paper with Goldschlag, less developed countries in general, not just India, have more entrepreneurs.


The modal size of an Indian firm is 1 employee and the mean is just over 2. The mean number of employees in a US firm is closer to 20 but even though that is ten times the Indian number it obscures the real difference. The US has many small firms but what makes it different is that it also has large firms that employ lots of people. In fact, over half of all US workers are employed by the tiny minority (0.3%) of firms with over 500 employees.

blames colonialism, idk, might have contributed

Dishonesty and Selection into Public Service: Evidence from India:
Students in India who cheat on a simple laboratory task are more likely to prefer public sector jobs. This paper shows that cheating on this task predicts corrupt behavior by civil servants, implying that it is a meaningful predictor of future corruption. Students who demonstrate pro-social preferences are less likely to prefer government jobs, while outcomes on an explicit game and attitudinal measures to measure corruption do not systematically predict job preferences. _A screening process that chooses high-ability applicants would not alter the average propensity for corruption._ The findings imply that differential selection into government may contribute, in part, to corruption.

Where Does the Good Shepherd Go? Civic Virtue and Sorting into Public Sector Employment:
Our study extends the understanding of the motivational basis of public sector employment by considering civic virtue in addition to altruism and risk aversion and by investigating selection and socialization. Using a largely representative, longitudinal data set of employees in Germany including 63,101 observations of 13,673 different individuals, we find that civic virtue relates positively to public sector employment beyond altruism and risk aversion. We find evidence on selection and no evidence on socialization as an explanation for this result.
Sadly, this is not a book about some small, shady corner of Indian politics: 34% of the members of parliament (MPs) in the Lok Sabha (lower house) have criminal charges filed against them; and the figure is rising (see chart). Some of the raps are peccadillos, such as rioting or unlawful assembly—par for the course in India’s raucous local politics. But over a fifth of MPs are in the dock for serious crimes, often facing reams of charges for anything from theft to intimidation and worse. (Because the Indian judicial system has a backlog of 31m cases, even serious crimes can take a decade or more to try, so few politicians have been convicted.) One can walk just about the whole way from Mumbai to Kolkata without stepping foot outside a constituency whose MP isn’t facing a charge.


What is more surprising is that the supply of willing criminals-cum-politicians was met with eager demand from voters. Over the past three general elections, a candidate with a rap sheet of serious charges has had an 18% chance of winning his or her race, compared with 6% for a “clean” rival. Mr Vaishnav dispels the conventional wisdom that crooks win because they can get voters to focus on caste or some other sectarian allegiance, thus overlooking their criminality. If anything, the more serious the charge, the bigger the electoral boost, as politicians well know.

As so often happens in India, poverty plays a part. India is almost unique in having adopted universal suffrage while it was still very poor. The upshot has been that underdeveloped institutions fail to deliver what citizens vote for. Getting the state to perform its most basic functions—building a school, disbursing a subsidy, repaving a road—is a job that can require banging a few heads together. Sometimes literally. Who better to represent needy constituents in these tricky situations than someone who “knows how to get things done”? If the system doesn’t work for you, a thuggish MP can be a powerful ally.
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Economics empiricism - Wikipedia
Economics empiricism[1] (sometimes economic imperialism) in contemporary economics refers to economic analysis of seemingly non-economic aspects of life,[2] such as crime,[3] law,[4] the family,[5] prejudice,[6] tastes,[7] irrational behavior,[8] politics,[9] sociology,[10] culture,[11] religion,[12] war,[13] science,[14] and research.[14] Related usage of the term predates recent decades.[15]

The emergence of such analysis has been attributed to a method that, like that of the physical sciences, permits refutable implications[16] testable by standard statistical techniques.[17] Central to that approach are "[t]he combined postulates of maximizing behavior, stable preferences and market equilibrium, applied relentlessly and unflinchingly."[18] It has been asserted that these and a focus on economic efficiency have been ignored in other social sciences and "allowed economics to invade intellectual territory that was previously deemed to be outside the discipline’s realm."[17][19]

The Fluidity of Race:
So: what can we conclude about this paper? It’s a classic case of economic imperialism, informed by what ‘intellectuals’ [ those that have never been introduced to Punnet squares, Old Blue Light, the Dirac equation, or Melungeons] would like to hear.

It is wrong, not close to right.

Breadth-first search:
When I complain about some egregious piece of research, particularly those that are in some sense cross-disciplinary, I often feel that that just knowing more would solve the problem. If Roland Fryer or Oded Galor understood genetics, they wouldn’t make these silly mistakes. If Qian and Nix understood genetics or American post-Civil War history, they would never have written that awful paper about massive passing. Or if paleoanthropologists and population geneticists had learned about mammalian hybrids, they would have been open to the idea of Neanderthal introgression.

But that really amounts to a demand that people learn about five times as much in college and grad school as they actually do. It’s not going to happen. Or, perhaps, find a systematic and effective way of collaborating with people outside their discipline without having their heads shaved. That doesn’t sound too likely either.

Hot enough for you?:
There’s a new study out in Nature, claiming that economic productivity peaks at 13 degrees Centigrade and that global warming will therefore drastically decrease world GDP.

Singapore. Phoenix. Queensland. Air-conditioners!

Now that I’ve made my point, just how stupid are these people? Do they actually believe this shit? I keep seeing papers by economists – in prominent places – that rely heavily on not knowing jack shit about anything on Earth, papers that could only have been written by someone that didn’t know a damn thing about the subject they were addressing, from the influence of genetic diversity on civilization achievement (zilch) to the massive race-switching that happened after the Civil War (not). Let me tell you, there’s a difference between ‘economic imperialism’ and old-fashioned real imperialism: people like Clive of India or Raffles bothered to learn something about the territory they were conquering. They knew enough to run divide et impera in their sleep: while economists never say peccavi, no matter how badly they screw up.
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Kinship Systems, Cooperation and the Evolution of Culture
In the data, societies with loose ancestral kinship ties cooperate and trust broadly, which is apparently sustained through a belief in moralizing gods, universally applicable moral principles, feelings of guilt, and large-scale institutions. Societies with a historically tightly knit kinship structure, on the other hand, exhibit strong in-group favoritism: they cheat on and are distrusting of out-group members, but readily support in-group members in need. This cooperation scheme is enforced by moral values of in-group loyalty, conformity to tight social norms, emotions of shame, and strong local institutions.

Henrich, Joseph, The Secret of Our Success: How Culture is Driving Human Evolution,
Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smarter, Princeton University Press, 2015.
—, W.E.I.R.D People: How Westerners became Individualistic, Self-Obsessed, Guilt-Ridden,
Analytic, Patient, Principled and Prosperous, Princeton University Press, n.d.
—, Jean Ensminger, Richard McElreath, Abigail Barr, Clark Barrett, Alexander Bolyanatz, Juan Camilo Cardenas, Michael Gurven, Edwins Gwako, Natalie Hen- rich et al., “Markets, Religion, Community Size, and the Evolution of Fairness and Punishment,” Science, 2010, 327 (5972), 1480–1484.


—, —, Will M. Gervais, Aiyana K. Willard, Rita A. McNamara, Edward Slingerland, and Joseph Henrich, “The Cultural Evolution of Prosocial Religions,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 2016, 39, e1.


Purzycki, Benjamin Grant, Coren Apicella, Quentin D. Atkinson, Emma Cohen, Rita Anne McNamara, Aiyana K. Willard, Dimitris Xygalatas, Ara Norenzayan, and Joseph Henrich, “Moralistic Gods, Supernatural Punishment and the Expansion of Human Sociality,” Nature, 2016.

Table 1 summarizes
Figure 1 has map of kinship tightness
Figure 2 has cheating and in-group vs. out-group
Table 2 has regression
Figure 3 has univeralism and shame-guilt
Figure 4 has individualism-collectivism/conformity
Table 4 has radius of trust, Table 5 same for within-country variation (ethnic)
Tables 7 and 8 do universalism

Haidt moral foundations:
In line with the research hypothesis discussed in Section 3, the analysis employs two dependent variables, i.e., (i) the measure of in-group loyalty, and (ii) an index of the importance of communal values relative to the more universal (individualizing) ones. That is, the hypothesis is explicitly not about some societies being more or less moral than others, but merely about heterogeneity in the relative importance that people attach to structurally different types of values. To construct the index, I compute the first principal component of fairness / reciprocity, harm / care, in-group / loyalty, and respect /authority. The resulting score endogenously has the appealing property that – in line with the research hypothesis – it loads positively on the first two values and negatively on the latter two, with roughly equal weights, see Appendix F for details.²⁴I compute country-level scores by averaging responses by country of residence of respondents. Importantly, in Enke (2017) I document that – in a nationally representative sample of Americans – this same index of moral communalism is strongly correlated with individuals’ propensity to favor their local community over society as a whole in issues ranging from taxation and redistribution to donations and volunteering. Thus, there is evidence that the index of communal moral values captures economically meaningful behavioral heterogeneity.

The coevolution of kinship systems, cooperation, and culture:
- Benjamin Enke

pretty short

Joe Henrich presentation:

relevant video:
Johnny Cash - God's Gonna Cut You Down:
this says Dems more guilt-driven but Peter Frost says opposite here (and matches my perception of the contemporary breakdown both including minorities and focusing only on whites):
Faction who overused shame shocked they created shame resistant super bug
The dems have no shame they just don't have anyone on the opposite end who can ever shame them, GOP deep down wishes they had approval of dems
"Can't we agree to disagree? Can't I think diff policies are true without being accused of evil?"
too shame someone you need to get the mob out
and you can only create the mob if you control the media
unfortunately conservatives dont have media and havent for a while
weaponized shame's been since the era of lippmann & bernays. this is the death of guilt, which only became possible when 24/7 media scrutiny (both through social media channels & tv) pressurized narcissism into a super power

The Origins of WEIRD Psychology:
Recent research not only confirms the existence of substantial psychological variation around the globe but also highlights the peculiarity of populations that are Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic (WEIRD). We propose that much of this variation arose as people psychologically adapted to differing kin-based institutions—the set of social norms governing descent, marriage, residence and related domains. We further propose that part of the variation in these institutions arose historically from the Catholic Church’s marriage and family policies, which contributed to the dissolution of Europe’s traditional kin-based institutions, leading eventually to the predominance of nuclear families and impersonal institutions. By combining data on 20 psychological outcomes with historical measures of both kinship and Church exposure, we find support for these ideas in a comprehensive array of analyses across countries, among European regions and between individuals with different cultural backgrounds.


A growing body of research suggests that populations around the globe vary substantially along several important psychological dimensions, and that people from societies characterized as Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic (WEIRD) are particularly unusual (1–6). Often at the extremes of global distributions, people from WEIRD populations tend to be more individualistic, independent, analytically-minded and impersonally prosocial (e.g., trusting strangers) while revealing less conformity, obedience, in-group loyalty and nepotism (3, 5–13). While these patterns are now well documented, efforts to explain this variation from a cultural evolutionary and historical perspective have just begun (13–20). Here, we develop and test a cultural evolutionary theory that aims to explain a substantial portion of this psychological variation, both within and across nations. Not only does our approach contribute to explaining global variation and address why WEIRD societies so often occupy the tail ends of global distributions, but it also helps explain the psychological variation within Europe—among countries, across regions within countries and between individuals with different cultural backgrounds within the same country and region.
Our approach integrates three insights. The first, drawing on anthropology, reveals that the institutions built around kinship and marriage vary greatly across societies (21–23) and that much of this variation developed as societies scaled up in size and complexity, especially after the origins of food production 12,000 years ago (22, 24–29). In forging the tightly-knit communities needed to defend agricultural fields and pastures, cultural evolution gradually wove together social norms governing marriage, post-marital residence and in- group identity (descent), leading to a diversity of kin-based institutions, including the organizational forms known as clans, lineages and kindreds (21, 27, 30). The second insight, based on work in psychology, is that people’s motivations, emotions, perceptions, thinking styles and other aspects of cognition are heavily influenced by the social norms, social networks, technologies and linguistic worlds they encounter while growing up (31–38). In particular, with intensive kin-based institutions, people’s psychological processes adapt to the collectivistic demands and the dense social networks that they interweave (39–43). Intensive kinship norms reward greater conformity, obedience, holistic/relational awareness and in-group loyalty but discourage individualism, independence and analytical thinking (41, 44). Since the sociality of intensive kinship is based on people’s interpersonal embeddedness, adapting to these institutions tends to reduce people’s inclinations towards impartiality, universal (non-relational) moral principles and impersonal trust, fairness and cooperation. Finally, based on historical evidence, the third insight suggests that the branch of Western Christianity that eventually evolved into the Roman Catholic Church—hereafter, ‘the Western Church’ or simply ‘the Church’—systematically undermined the intensive kin-based institutions of Europe during the Middle Ages (45–52). The Church’s marriage policies and prohibitions, which we will call the Marriage and Family Program (MFP), meant that by 1500 CE, and likely centuries earlier in some regions, Europe lacked strong kin-based institutions, and was instead dominated by relatively weak, independent and isolated nuclear or stem families (49–51, 53–56). This made people exposed to Western Christendom rather unlike nearly all other populations.


Substantial debates persist about why the Church adopted the MFP, which we summarize in Supplementary S2. Support for the full … [more]
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Economic Growth in Ancient Greece | pseudoerasmus
Maybe land-and-dung expansion does not really require a fancy institutional explanation. Territory expanded, land yields rose, and people have always traded their surpluses. Why invoke “inclusive institutions”, as Ober effectively does, for something so mundane ? Perhaps the seminal cultural accomplishments of classical Greece bias some of us to look for “special” causes of the expansion.

Note, this is not an argument that political economy or “institutions” play no role in the rise and decline of economies. But in this particular case, so little seems established about the descriptive statistics, let alone the “growth accounting”, of Greek economic expansion in 800-300 BCE that it’s premature to be speculating about its institutional causes.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
The Data We Have vs. the Data We Need: A Comment on the State of the “Divergence” Debate (Part I) | The NEP-HIS Blog
Maybe as reaction to Pomeranz, the Great Divergence gets dated earlier & earlier & earlier on the slimmest evidence. Next: Pangaea breakup
I think it's a bit out of control, the urge to keep bringing the roots of the great divergence earlier and earlier and earlier
@s8mb @antonhowes I am impatient w explanations which do not start w origination/adoption/diffusion technology as proximate cause
@s8mb @antonhowes in respect of which finance, market integration, & formal institutions all dead ends for divergence of West with the Rest
Are you more with Pomeranz that there's not major difference until c. 1750 or 1800, or do you put departure much earlier?
it's now beyond doubt established there was a major diff in living standards, state capacity, market integr+
between the most advanced regions of China and the most advanced regions of Europe, no doubt
@bswud +broadberry estimates evidence groupthink on matter (i.e., everyone wants to locate precursor to IR earlier and earlier) @antonhowes

The Little Divergence:
The Early Transformation of Britain's Economy:
There’s a nice working paper out by Patrick Wallis, Justin Colson, and David Chilosi called “Puncturing the Malthus Delusion: Structural Change in the British Economy before the Industrial Revolution, 1500-1800”. The big project they undertake here is to mine the probate inventories (along with several other sources) from Britain in this period to build up a picture of the rough allocation of workers across sectors. They do a very nice job of walking through their data sources, and the limitations, in the paper, so let me leave those details aside. In short, they use the reported occupations in wills to back out a picture of the sectoral structure, finding it consistent with other sources based on apprentice records, as well as prior estimates from specific years.
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june 2017 by nhaliday

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