econotariat   621

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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 
6 days ago by nhaliday
Adam Smith, David Hume, Liberalism, and Esotericism - Call for Papers - Elsevier
https://twitter.com/davidmanheim/status/963071765995032576
https://archive.is/njT4P
A very good economics journal--famously an outlet for rigorous, outside the box thinking--is publishing a special issue on hidden meanings in the work of two of the world's greatest thinkers.

Another sign the new Straussian age is upon us: Bayesians update accordingly!
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12 days ago by nhaliday
Reid Hofmann and Peter Thiel and technology and politics - Marginal REVOLUTION
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22 days ago 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.
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25 days ago 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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6 weeks ago 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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7 weeks ago by nhaliday
Team *Decorations Until Epiphany* on Twitter: "@RoundSqrCupola maybe just C https://t.co/SFPXb3qrAE"
https://archive.is/k0fsS
Remember ‘BRICs’? Now it’s just ICs.
--
maybe just C
Solow predicts that if 2 countries have the same TFP, then the poorer nation should grow faster. But poorer India grows more slowly than China.

Solow thinking leads one to suspect India has substantially lower TFP.

Recent growth is great news, but alas 5 years isn't the long run!

FWIW under Solow conditional convergence assumptions--historically robust--the fact that a country as poor as India grows only a few % faster than the world average is a sign they'll end up poorer than S Europe.
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8 weeks ago 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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9 weeks ago 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.
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11 weeks ago 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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12 weeks ago 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: http://www.arnoldkling.com/blog/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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12 weeks ago by nhaliday
Disaggregating the economy: cost of living | askblog
here are the US states color-coded according to per capita GDP with an adjustment for Regional Price Parities: that is, it’s a measure of income adjusted for what it actually costs to buy housing and other goods. With that change, California, New York, and Maryland are no longer in the top category. Hoever, a number of midwestern states like Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and my own Minnesota move into the top category. A number of states in the mountain west and south that were in the lowest-income category when just looking at per capita GDP move up a category or two when the Regional Price Parities are taken into account.
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november 2017 by nhaliday

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