Thursday, December 31, 2015

KPC year in review

Here's a wrap up of the 6 most popular posts this year on KPC.

Our most viewed post was America the Beautiful, which chronicled the amazing Texas Law Hawk and his talons of justice.

Second was my screed against the typical use of IV and over identification tests with special invective against dynamic panel methods called Friends don't let Friends use IV.

Third place went to our post documenting the phallic fetishes common to Oklahoma TV weather people.

Coming in fourth was one of my frequent attempts to fix the internet in general and Paul Krugman in particular titled, A tale of two Krugmans.

Then we got silly again pointing out that mass murderer Anders Breivik was now majoring in Political Science.

Finally, coming in at #6 was my post, The powerful negative theorems of economics, detailing why it really is the dismal science!

So there you have KPC in a nutshell, 50% economics, 50% snarky foolishness.

Long may we reign.

UPDATE BY MUNGOWITZ:  Unsurprisingly, all six of the top posts were Angus joints.  He's like Mr. Ed:  He only speaks when he's got something to say!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

I'm sure that Brendan Nyhan already knows this paper. But it's not very good news for those of us who hope political debate can be improved by more accurate political information. The message seems to be "Lie often, and go negative early." Reminds of the Christmas card I saw from Jason Reifler

Belief Echoes: The Persistent Effects of Corrected Misinformation

Emily Thorson 
Political Communication, forthcoming 

Abstract: Across three separate experiments, I find that exposure to negative political information continues to shape attitudes even after the information has been effectively discredited. I call these effects “belief echoes.” Results suggest that belief echoes can be created through an automatic or deliberative process. Belief echoes occur even when the misinformation is corrected immediately, the “gold standard” of journalistic fact-checking. The existence of belief echoes raises ethical concerns about journalists’ and fact-checking organizations’ efforts to publicly correct false claims.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Monday, December 28, 2015

Comparative Advantage: An Idea Whose Time Has Passed?

Art Carden is living in the past.   Here, for example. Notice that he really just means "division of labor," because DoL is limited by the extent of the market, so "more trading partners" is just "more extent for the market.)

The truth is that "comparative advantage" is nearly useless, except as a pedagogical tool to amaze people innocent of economic knowledge.  My Freeman article, at FEE.

Now, "living in the past" may not be a bad thing.  When I say that about Jacob Levy, I mean that as a compliment, because Dr. Levy is actually studying ancient texts. 

But Dr. Carden (the DubMOE) is living in the past in a bad way, because he is ignoring an important feature of modern markets.  Here is a good summary of the view that I think we ought to jettison.  Not because it is wrong, but because it makes economics seem deterministic.  Very few of the factors that determine productivity are fixed.  So "opportunity cost" and "division of labor" are all we need.

To make the argument really work, of course, one must also resort to Buchanan's notion of returns to hard work and "increasing returns." 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Bruce made Tapes!*

and, right underneath my nose, Gerhart made tapestries!

In 2009, in editions of 8. Each one enlarging a detail from one of his epic paintings.

I just became aware of these from a friend's photo from Art Basel Miami (I am not making that title up).

They are titled, Musa, Yusef, Ibian, and Abdu.

Looks like they run just a bit north of $1,500,000 per rug (not too bad for a 9x12 carpet, eh?).

Needless to say, my house is available to display any/all of these bad boys.

* Not Jenner. THIS Bruce

Friday, December 25, 2015

All That Experiments Is Not Science...

All that glitters is not gold.  Not all who wander are lost.  And some people who do experiments are not scientists, but just hacks pursuing an overtly ideological agenda.

Invisibility Cloaks and Knapsacks: How the Advantaged Work to Conceal Privilege 

Taylor Phillips & Brian Lowery 
Stanford Working Paper, January 2016 

Abstract: We suggest the experience of unfair advantage pits two critical motives: the merit motive and the maintenance motive. Together, these motives lead people to mobilize their advantage in order to secure desired outcomes, but to conceal these advantages under the cloak of merit as they do so. In Experiments 1a and 1b, we find that when their advantages are exposed, the wealthy (but not the non-wealthy) claim increased effort at work. In Experiment 2, we show that the social elite claim their social advantages (family connections) were the result of effort, but suggest others’ social advantages were not. In Experiment 3, we find that the wealthy not only claim, but commit greater effort when their class advantages are exposed. Finally, in Experiment 4, we show that the educational elite claim that advantage resources are not useful, but then continue to take these resources and use them to their benefit anyway. 

Lest you think this is an isolated incident, there's more.  A remarkable piece of work.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Average is so over

People, I once had a department chair who denied that, if we had a policy of giving above average (in percentage terms) raises to the lower paid faculty, in the long run everyone would be paid the same. Just flat out denied the math.

This same chair, upon the occasion of me complaining that my evaluation was above the departmental average while my raise was below, told me not to worry, that everyone had gotten a below average raise.

I am not making this up.

But I guess you can see where all this is leading.

Yes HRH HRC has proclaimed that she would close any school that was below average. Like it was obvious and I guess just be a few. Sadly, no one asked her how, in the long run, we were gonna fit all the kids in the US into one school (barring ties of course).

Mrs. Angus has suggested to me that maybe HRC was thinking globally, closing any US school below the global average.

I think Mrs. Angus has a bright future in politics.

ps. this same chair, in a public seminar, vehemently denied that (PQ)/Q = P. Vehemently.

Monday, December 21, 2015

You only need it as long as you don't use it....

Terry Pratchett's book, Making Money, has a passage on gold that I found pretty insightful.
It is in Chapter 5 of the book, starting on page 136.

Moist grinned as the discussion wobbled back and forth. Whole new theories of money were growing here like mushrooms, in the dark and based on bullshit. But these were men who counted every half-farthing and slept at night with the cash box under their bed. They'd weight out flour and raisins and rainbow sprinkles with their eyes ferociously focused on the scale's pointer, because they were men who lived in the margins.

If he could get the idea of paper money past them then he was home and, if not dry, then at least merely Moist. "So you think these might catch on?" he said, during a lull. The consensus was, yes, they could, but should look "fancier," in the words of Natty Poleforth--

"You know, with more fancy lettering and similar." Moist agreed, and handed a note to every man, as a souvenir. It was worth it. "And if it all goes wahoonie-shaped," said Mr. Proust, "you've still got the gold, right? Locked up down there in the cellar?"

"Oh yes, you've got to have the gold," said Mr. Drayman. There was a general murmur of agreement, and Moist felt his spirits slump.

"But I thought we'd all agreed that you don't need the gold?" he said. In fact, they hadn't, but it was worth a try. "Ah, yes, but it's got to be there somewhere," said Mr. Drayman.

"It keeps banks honest," said Mr. Poleforth, in the tone of plonking certainty that is the hallmark of that most knowledgeable of beings, The Man In The Pub.

"But I thought you understood," said Moist. "You don't need the gold!"

"Right, sir, right," said Mr. Poleforth soothingly. "Just so as it's there."

"Er . . . do you happen to know why it has to be there?" said Moist.

"Keeps banks honest," said Mr. Poleforth, on the basis that truth is achieved by repetition.

America the Beautiful

Having sat on top of Texas for like 17 years now, I can tell you this is the most Texas thing ever!

This video makes me want to move to Texas and drive in a way that gets me stopped for DUI (while actually being totally sober of course), just so I can call this bro to represent me.

big hat tip to @texasinafrica

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Libertarian Doctrine in "Attack of the Clones"

Star Wars 2 has an interesting passage, one that fully comprehends politics.  Surprisingly insightful, for a George Lucas script....

OBI-WAN You look tired.

ANAKIN I don't sleep well, anymore.

OBI-WAN Because of your mother?

ANAKIN I don't know why I keep dreaming About her now. I haven't seen her since I was little.

OBI-WAN Dreams pass in time.

ANAKIN I'd rather dream of Padmé. Just Being around her again is... intoxicating.

OBI-WAN Mind your thoughts, Anakin, they betray you. You've made a commitment to the Jedi order... a commitment not easily broken... and don't forget she's a politician. They're not to be trusted.

ANAKIN She's not like the others in the Senate, Master.

OBI-WAN It's been my experience that Senators are only focused on pleasing those who fund their campaigns... and they are more than willing to forget the niceties of democracy to get those funds.

ANAKIN Not another lecture, Master. Not on the economics of politics.... It's too early in the morning... and besides, you're generalising. The Chancellor doesn't appear to be corrupt.

OBI-WAN Palpatine's a politician, I've observed that he is very clever at following the passions and prejudices of the Senators.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Thing Itself: An Utterly Corrupt System

The level of corruption of our government is nothing short of remarkable.  Look, a dark-skinned man.  Let's steal all his money.  Because we have guns.  Oh, and badges.  But mostly, because we have guns.

"In April of this year, two Drug Enforcement Administration task force members stopped a man named Issa Serieh at Los Angeles International Airport, asked him some questions, and seized $30,750 in cash off of him. They sent him on his way without charging him with a crime...The complaint states they identified him as Issa Serieh later, during their questioning. The only reasons they give for initial suspicion are the backpack, and the flight from Chicago to L.A."  (Source:  The right-wing WaPo)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Compared to what?

One of the problems economists have is that we always ask obnoxious questions.

When I was in grad school, Angus will attest that my obnoxious question was usually, "Hey, bud:  you gonna eat that?"

But my current obnoxious question -- and it's the same one that everyone else should be asking -- is "compared to what?"

So, when people say that "You shouldn't eat bacon, meat is bad for the environment!" then you should say, "Well, compared to what?"

Some Carnegie-Mellon U folks did that, and the results are perhaps a bit surprising to the sanctimonious and the environmentally conscious.

The fact is that human beings, just being human beings, are "harmful to the environment."

Friday, December 04, 2015

Isomorphic Mimicry run Amok: John Cochrane Edition

People, I am a big JC fan. But this time he's really way way way off.

He appears to be arguing that feasible deregulation in the US would create 20 years of 5.4% growth.

Even worse, he is basing in on a single graph.


And here it is:

The graph shows the correlation between the base10 log of income per capita and a country's ease of doing business score.

But there are few things that should make us pretty nervous here. The first of course is causal identification, which John mentions.

But there are more basic problems.

First, according to his analysis, China is done growing. That is a pretty bold prediction.

Second, and this is really my main point, the scale of the vertical axis is disguising the incredible heterogeneity of outcomes associated with any value of the doing business score.

For example, at China's score of 63, they have a PC GDP of $7000. But Nepal has a very similar score and a PC GDP of well under $1000! Ghana has a similar score and a PC GDP less than half of China's value.

Where is the growth boom in those countries and the dozens of others with similar scores than China's but notably lower GDP.

Again, the graph makes them look close. But they are not. It's the scaling.

The same is true on the other side. There are countries with similar scores to China who are more than twice as rich, and not all of them are oil countries.

From 50 to 75  in the doing business scores there is incredible heterogeneity in outcomes in terms of the associated PC income levels.

This of course is what we know all too well in development economics. Simply adopting a set of laws or regulations is no guarantee of getting a particular economic outcome.

Growth accelerations are by and large unpredictable. Here is the money quote from Hausman, Pritchett and Rodrik's classic paper:

"Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we find that growth accelerations tend to be highly unpredictable: the vast majority of growth accelerations are unrelated to standard determinants such as political change and economic reform, and most instances of economic reform do not produce growth accelerations."

John. it's not mechanical. if it was we would have sorted this all out in development decades ago.  Heck if it was as mechanical as you are suggesting, the World Bank's advice would have actually worked and we would have solved global poverty decades ago!

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Cavalcade of Endogeneity: The Market Monetarist does Micro Edition

So on the Market Monetarist blog, I recently saw one of the worst examples of the correlation implies causality fallacy ever by a supposed professional economist.

There is a graph presented of a raw correlation between an index of property right protection in a country and an index of "environmental performance"

Look for yourself, here's the graph:

and then the hammer drops:

"So there you go. The one graph version of Free Market Environmentalism – if you are concerned about the environment you should really primarily concern yourself about the protection of property rights"

That is just a stunning leap from the graph.

Might we dare to think there is a third factor, I dunno, maybe income, that is causing both of these indices?

Or try it this way, if I presented a graph that showed government spending was positively correlated with environmental performance, would the Market Monetarist then conclude that big government was the way to protect the environment?

If not, why not? Why would my analysis be any worse than this?

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Menu, Chez Mungowitz

For T-day, we had:

  • Butterflied turkey, with salt-rub/air dry for 5 days.  Roasted on rack.
  • Roasted root vegetable (taro, sweet taters, rutabaga, parsnips, onions, jicama, carrots), from roasting pan placed below turkey on rack.
  • Smashed white taters, skins on
  • Smashed carrots and turnips, mushed together
  • Smashed squash (butternut and acorn), mushed together
  • Peas
  • Gravy made from turkey/giblets stock
  • Persimmon chutney (very spicy!)
  • Cranberry sauce (fresh cranberries, fresh apple cider, and raisins, no added sugar, very tart!)
  • Traditional dressing (cornbread crushed up, sage sausage, onions, celery, lots of extra sage)
  • Nontraditional dressing (cornbread crushed up, oysters, dates, onions, cayenne pepper, slivered almonds)
  • Dinner rolls
And dessert:
  • Apple pie
  • Pecan pie
  • Pumpkin pie

The guy on the left

Happy Thanksgiving from KPC!

and a theory on the origin of the American "left"

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Burt Helm's article on AirBnB

Did an interview with Burt Helm, of INC, on AirBnB

The link is here....

He raises some interesting questions.

Airbnb, a startup which is still not yet eight years old, continues to face many of the same challenges it faced last year: It's trying to retain a folksy, community-driven image even as it surpasses multinational hospitality chains in size. It faces public relations crises when bad things happen in Airbnb homes--most recently, a death in Texas and report of a rape in Spain. And it still runs afoul of local governments who say the company's listings are unlawful.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Optimal Fraud, and Efficiency Fraud

"Deliver the Vote! Micromotives and Macrobehavior in Electoral Fraud"

Ashlea Rundlett & Milan Svolik
American Political Science Review, forthcoming

Abstract: Most election fraud is not conducted centrally by incumbents but rather locally by a machinery consisting of a multitude of political operatives. How does an incumbent ensure that his agents deliver fraud when needed and as much as is needed? We address this and related puzzles in the political organization of election fraud by studying the perverse consequences of two distinct incentive conflicts: the principal-agent problem between an incumbent and his local agents, and the collective action problem among the agents. Using the global game methodology, we show that these incentive conflicts result in a herd dynamic among the agents that tends to either oversupply or undersupply fraud, rarely delivering the amount of fraud that would be optimal from the incumbent's point of view. This equilibrium dynamic explains when and why electoral fraud fails to deliver incumbent victories, why incumbents who enjoy genuine popularity often engage in seemingly unnecessary fraud, and it predicts that the extent of fraud should be increasing in both the incumbent's genuine support and reported results across precincts. A statistical analysis of anomalies in precinct-level results from the 2011-12 Russian legislative and presidential elections supports our key claims.

Nod to Kevin Lewis


@econtalker was kind enough to include me (much more than I deserved) in the 500th episode of "Econ Talk."

The link is here.

Got to tell the Unicorn story, which is also a centerpiece of The Thing Itself.

Thanks so much to Russ Roberts, for having created a new thing in the world.

 For many thousands of people, Mondays are now a good day.

Friday, November 13, 2015


I have not had this experience.  But that may be because (a) most students actually want an education; the students who are focused on subverting education are likely to come from rich families that pay for everything, freeing little Junior and Buffy to be indignant with impunity and (b) my classes just don't promise any of this sort of thing.

So, with the caveat that I have never seen this kind of class, and the warning that this video is actually fairly offensive,  here is one version of "educayshun."

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Holy Toledo!

People I am grooving on Car Seat Headrest (AKA Will Toledo).

Dude has like 10 albums up on Bandcamp! (go to the lower right to see them all)

Now he's signed to Matador and has released a sort of best of compilation from his existing work.

Highly Highly recommended.

Reminds me a bit of Jens Lekman and of White Fence. This is the kind of low fi shit that really floats my aging boat!

Here's one of my favorites:

Monday, November 09, 2015

The TSA does NOT save us from terrorists

There's an old joke:

A:  Elephants are really good at hiding in trees.

B:  Wait, what?  That can't be right.  I've never seen an elephant in a tree.

A:  Well, right.  See how well they hide?

The TSA operates on pretty much the same principle.  There is enormous expense and hassle, including a lot of just aggressively personal abuse (just this week, I saw an old lady yelled at until she burst into tears, just because she had an artificial hip and didn't know what to do).

But there are no terrorist attacks.

See how well the TSA is protecting us from terrorist attacks? usual, Adam Ruins Everything.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

"Genius Faculty" at ILS Freedom Week

Pretty great video.

I like the part that the students talk about the "Genius faculty."  But then they show Steve Horwitz. (Thanks, folks, I'll be here all week!)

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Angus gets nudged!

So Richard Thaler has an NYT op-ed, The Power of Nudges for Good and Bad

You can read it here.

I thought it was a bit unbalanced, and I tweeted the following:

Richard was not pleased and tweeted back (he's pretty aggressive on Twitter):

"Total" is a matter of fact, and can be discussed "Willful" is just a cheap shot.

As to whether or not I misread it, here is Thaler in the piece:

"As far as I know, the government teams in Britain and the United States that have focused on nudging have followed these guidelines scrupulously. But the private sector is another matter. In this domain, I see much more troubling behavior."

So I tweeted a 140 character version of that quote back to him and dropped the mic.

But then Richard tweeted,

@FarmerHayek @ez_angus I have said the opposite dozens of times. Read the book!
— Richard H Thaler (@R_Thaler) October 31, 2015

And then I realized, "hey Angus, you got NUDGED"!!!

Though it's not clear to me how the first sentence in any way incentivizes me to follow the command in the second.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Bartleby the Economist!

Our universally acclaimed  Governor has promulgated a budget clawback executive order, which was passed on to us individual OU faculty without any guidance about which parts, if any, apply to us.

What applies is an open question because State appropriations only provide 15-20% of OU's budget, thus limiting what can be clawed back.

The parts that have attracted faculty attention are these bits:

So the question is, do I have to notify the State in writing when I renew my Econometric Society membership?

Or, if another school or organization pays my expenses to come and give a seminar (which I have coming up at least 3 times next semester) do I have to inform the State and get permission from the Governor?

I'm not sure who to blame most, Fallin for the unparseable XO, or the OU administration for just forwarding it to us with no interpretation or guidance.

However, in this matter, as in most other such cases I have encountered along my life's journey, I will practice my usual passive civil disobedience.

Bartleby the Economist!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Re-issue of the century

People, "Torch of the Mystics" is coming out (again) on October 30th. Even in Vinyl for the hipsters (and me).

If you always wondered what the Sun City Girls were about, this is the album to go to. Quite a bit more musical and accessible than say "Midnight Cowboys from  Ipanema" or "330,003 Crossdressers From Beyond the Rig Veda".

I guess it goes without saying that this is self-recommending?

I'll throw in that I also consistently enjoy the solo work of SSG member Richard (Rick) Bishop.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Do we have Joanna Newsom to thank for Dirty Projectors?

Well, maybe so!

Here's a quote from Dave Longstreth about how Newsom's debut, "The Milk Eyed Mender" affected him:

“I was in college, living in this weird house off-campus with some friends, and we blasted it a lot in that house," said Longstreth. "The melodies, the stories, the rhymes, the chord progressions: she was speaking our language for sure. I think it was one of the reasons I left school the next semester. I was like, "[what] am I doing here if someone is already out there making music like this, on this level??"

I'm a big fan of both and it's cool to learn about this connection/inspiration.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Throwing You Under the Bus: High Power People Knowingly Harm Others When Offered Small Incentives 

Jessica Swanner & Denise Beike 
Basic and Applied Social Psychology, September/October 2015, Pages 294-302 

Abstract: The potentially exploitative effects of power and incentive were examined. In the study, 250 participants heard a confederate admit or deny a misdeed and were pressured by the experimenter to inform on the confederate, sometimes in exchange for a small reward. The majority of participants knowingly falsely informed on the confederate when put in a position of high power and offered an incentive. Participants truthfully informed on the confederate regardless of power or incentive. Results are interpreted in light of social psychological theories of social power, which suggest that harmful opportunism is a likely but not inevitable effect of empowerment.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Illusion of Competence

This may explain why Duke's Lit Department has a "Political Economy" Program.

Or why I think I am really, really good at Putt-Putt Golf.  That sort of thing.

The Curse of Expertise: When More Knowledge Leads to Miscalibrated Explanatory Insight 

Matthew Fisher & Frank Keil
Cognitive Science, forthcoming

Abstract: Does expertise within a domain of knowledge predict accurate self-assessment of the ability to explain topics in that domain? We find that expertise increases confidence in the ability to explain a wide variety of phenomena. However, this confidence is unwarranted; after actually offering full explanations, people are surprised by the limitations in their understanding. For passive expertise (familiar topics), miscalibration is moderated by education; those with more education are accurate in their self-assessments (Experiment 1). But when those with more education consider topics related to their area of concentrated study (college major), they also display an illusion of understanding (Experiment 2). This “curse of expertise” is explained by a failure to recognize the amount of detailed information that had been forgotten (Experiment 3). While expertise can sometimes lead to accurate self-knowledge, it can also create illusions of competence.

Nod to Kevin Lewis.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Oh, She's Mad....

This is amazing.  Even WOMEN think that the default setting for women is "angry."

Is She Angry? (Sexually Desirable) Women “See” Anger on Female Faces 

Jaimie Arona Krems et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract: Intrasexual conflict may pose unique challenges for women. Whereas men’s aggression tends to be physical and direct, women’s tends to be relational and indirect, particularly when directed toward other women. Moreover, women’s expressions of anger are often suppressed, perhaps particularly when other women are the targets. Thus, women may face difficulty anticipating anger and anger-based aggression from other women. How might women manage this challenge? The functional projection of emotion may facilitate useful behavior; for instance, “seeing” anger on people believed to pose threats to physical safety may help perceivers preempt or avoid physical harm. Given the threats that women face, we predicted that (a) women are biased to “see” anger on neutral female (but not male) faces and that (b) women who are likely targets of intrasexual aggression (i.e., sexually desirable or available women) show an exaggerated bias. We report three studies that support these hypotheses and, more broadly, illustrate the value of a functional approach to social cognition.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

What state has the most dangerous toddlers?

If you are in Missouri (good lord, why?) and you see a toddler....


There are more shootings by toddlers in Mizzou than any other state in the Union!

Here's the map to prove it.

I am so impressed with Arkansas. Zero! Must have mandatory safety lessons there before giving carry permits to the toddler crowd.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Lord, Forgive the Economists, For They Know Not What They Do

A remarkable disruption in the force.  How anyone could understand the complex rules of threat, deterrence, and protection as "profit-maximizing" per se is beyond me.  But it does illustrate how bizarrely intellectually impoverished economics is as a field.

Fighting as a profit maximizing strategy in the National Hockey League: More evidence 

Duane Rockerbie 
Applied Economics, forthcoming 

Abstract: This article estimates the effect of fighting in hockey games on attendance in the National Hockey League (NHL) over the 1997–1998 through 2009–2010 seasons. After estimating a system of equations developed from a model of a profit-maximizing club owner, it was found that fighting had a small negative effect on attendance implying that encouraging fighting on the ice is not a profit-maximizing strategy. The results are quite robust when incorporating capacity constraints on attendance and exogenous ticket pricing. Other factors that determine club performance and market size were found to significantly affect attendance. The empirical results also suggest that NHL club owners are maximizing profit.

Look, folks, hockey fights, like stylized fights in the animal kingdom, prevent actual violence and injury.  Having specialized goons makes the game cleaner.  And, in equilibrium, there is less violence.  Selecting on instances of violence and then drawing inferences is not just a misunderstanding of hockey, but a show of ignorance of basic game theory.  If you have a reputation for effective violence, you won't have to fight.  And you won't get that stick handle poke-check to your star forward's chest, breaking his rib.  Gretzky pretty much never got touched.  'Cause if he did, there would be a fight.  Gretzky wouldn't fight, and not because he was a pussweiler.  Gretzky didn't fight because he was too valuable, TO BOTH TEAMS.  Nobody wanted Gretzky hurt, and someone who hurt Gretzky was gonna get an ass-whuppin'.  Knowing that, the "no violence" equilibrium could be supported.

For a Canadian (and Duane Rockerbie is clearly a Canadian, eh?) to make this mistake is even more inexcusable.

For those seeking enlightenment, the answer (as always) is one of my appearances on EconTalk.  This one, in fact.  This recent book does a nice job of discussing when violence is "virtuous."  And, like any literate people, they know enough to reference EconTalk as THE authoritative source. Or, something like that.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Monday, October 12, 2015


People, the Nobel Prize in Econ went to Angus!!!!!! OMG OMG. Take THAT, Munogwitz!

What's that you say? It's not OUR Angus?

But look at this quote:

“You’ve got a line that no one knows where to put it, PPPs that change, and underlying data that is bad,” he said. “It is sort of a statistical problem from hell.”

Are you sure it's not our Angus?

Seriously, big congratulations to Angus Deaton on a well deserved award.

Also big congrats to the Swedes for giving the thing to a single recipient two years in a row. That Fama, Shiller, & Hansen deal a couple of years ago was a hot mess.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Markets in Everything

How many ships would a shipping ship ship,
If a shipping ship could ship ships?

This shipping shipping ship seems to ship all the shipping ships!  Though, it's really a barge.  How many shipping ships would a shipping ship barge ship if a shipping ship barge could ship ships, then.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Hit Me! Hit Me! Hit Me With Your Selfie Stick!

Bad selfies.  They happen.  Not everyone wants to immortalize one in a tattoo, but that happens, also.

I have to admit, selfie-ing rarely occurs to me. (There was this, with "ties to both schools," but you see how that turned out).  I usually take a photo of a scene.  My big head is not an asset (though I admit there are people, including the LMM, who sometimes question whether I actually KNOW my head from my asset).

There is apparently a backlash against selfies.  But then I don't go to places like Disney World any more, or even to Disney World itself.  So I'm not a soldier in that fight. Some soldiers are taking selfies, though perhaps in a different fight.

Still, out of respect for frequent reader Shirley, a remembrance (with thanks to WH for the find):

Oh, and if you find the title obscure...  I was curious if this is a trope: Yes, yes it is.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

...And The Pursuit of Happiness

A two-fer!

Culture Shapes Whether the Pursuit of Happiness Predicts Higher or Lower Well-Being 

Brett Ford et al.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming

Abstract: Pursuing happiness can paradoxically impair well-being. Here, the authors propose the potential downsides to pursuing happiness may be specific to individualistic cultures. In collectivistic (vs. individualistic) cultures, pursuing happiness may be more successful because happiness is viewed — and thus pursued — in relatively socially engaged ways. In 4 geographical regions that vary in level of collectivism (United States, Germany, Russia, East Asia), we assessed participants’ well-being, motivation to pursue happiness, and to what extent they pursued happiness in socially engaged ways. Motivation to pursue happiness predicted lower well-being in the United States, did not predict well-being in Germany, and predicted higher well-being in Russia and in East Asia. These cultural differences in the link between motivation to pursue happiness and well-being were explained by cultural differences in the socially engaged pursuit of happiness. These findings suggest that culture shapes whether the pursuit of happiness is linked with better or worse well-being, perhaps via how people pursue happiness.


Narcissism and United States’ Culture: The View From Home and Around the World 

 Joshua Miller et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract: The issue of Americans’ levels of narcissism is subject to lively debate. The focus of the present research is on the perception of national character (PNC) of Americans as a group. In Study 1, American adults (N = 100) rated Americans as significantly more narcissistic than they perceived themselves and acquaintances. In Study 2, this finding was replicated with American college students (N = 322). PNC ratings of personality traits and externalizing behaviors revealed that Americans were perceived as disagreeable and antisocial as well. In Study 3, we examined the broader characteristics associated with PNC ratings (N = 183). Americans rated the typical American as average on a variety of characteristics (e.g., wealth, education, health, likability) and PNC ratings of narcissism were largely unrelated to these ratings. In Study 4 (N = 1202) Americans rated PNCs for different prespecified groups of Americans; as expected, PNC ratings of narcissism differed by gender, age, and occupational status such that American males, younger Americans, and Americans working in high-visibility and status occupations were seen as more narcissistic. In Study 5 (N = 733), citizens of 4 other world regions (Basque Country, China, England, Turkey) rated members of their own region as more narcissistic than they perceived themselves, but the effect sizes were smaller than those found in the case of Americans’ perceptions of Americans. Additionally, members of these other regions rated Americans as more narcissistic than members of their own region. Finally, in Study 6, participants from around the world (N = 377) rated Americans as more narcissistic, extraverted, and antagonistic than members of their own countries. We discuss the role that America’s position as a global economic and military power, paired with a culture that creates and reifies celebrity figures, may play in leading to perceptions of Americans as considerably narcissistic.
Nod to Kevin Lewis

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

"One of things just doesn't belong here, and now it's time to play our game!"

Usually I see the Washington Center for Equitable Growth in the usual convoluted cross-chain of Brad DeLong links and sub-links and can't make hide nor hair of what may or may not be going on.

But this morning Brad tweeted a straight up link to an article there by Nick Bunker that made me sit up and take notice.

It is called "What does and does not boost Economic Growth"

Good topic. Kudos.

Unfortunately, the post considers 3 policies. (1) Investment, (2) paid family leave, (3) Ideas.

We are told "under Solow’s framework, adding more capital and labor will only temporarily boost growth, and the pace of growth in the long run will eventually go back to where it was before. What needs to be increased, then, is productivity."


But for many countries increasing capital and labor has provided increased growth for decades. The east asian "miracle" was not a primarily a productivity miracle but rather an accumulation miracle.

How is this possible? Well the speed of convergence to a new equilibrium growth path is slow so the temporary boost can last a long time. Also, if you keep increasing capital, the path keeps shifting up! See China.

Then, incredibly, the article segues into,  "policies like the one proposed by Equitable Growth’s Heather Boushey that help workers balance work and family responsibilities are important to boost overall economic growth."

Heather's article is about paid family leave. Yes, paying people not to work will raise economic growth. Who knew?

No models to cite, no evidence given, no idea that there might be a cost-benefit analysis to consider, just toss it out there like it's obvious and move on.

Finally, we are told that Romer's endogenous growth model puts ideas at the center of long run growth. Totally true. But in Romer's model, the level of ideas affect the rate of growth, because there are non-diminishing returns. This has been pretty comprehensively beaten down, mostly by Charles Jones.

Note that if we allow for non-diminishing returns to capital (the AK model) investment increases can permanently raise growth.

I would be so bold as to venture that over a 20 year horizon a boost in investment would do much more for growth than instituting paid family leave.  I guess maybe that's one reason why I'm not writing for the Washington Center of Equitable Growth.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Arrgh, I've been name-shamed by Marc F. Bellemare!!!

Over at the interestingly named Marc F., there is a pro-IV post.

A very good point is actually raised, namely that in some very cool cases you can get random assignment of the instrument. Here I totally agree that you are on solid ground.

I can actually argue further against my former self and point out that Fuzzy RD models ARE IV models.

Whoever writes at Marc F. also appears to somewhat agree with me saying that,

Don’t get me wrong: If you are going to use an observational IV, you do need to think very carefully about how and why it meets the exclusion restriction. And if it does meet it, you need to pray that it will be a relevant IV. But there are clear cases where IV works, and that is especially the case in a setting where you randomly assign the IV, or in quasi experimental settings where people are assigned to some treatment at random (e.g., Angrist’s famous Vietnam draft lottery setting).

Again, I agree these are clear cases. But they are a tiny minority of the cases where IV is used.

Look at a typical dynamic panel paper. it uses a test for no second order autocorrelation, generally accepting if the P level is worse than 0.10,  so all variables lagged twice or more can be instruments. Then a second test, Sargan or affiliated, of OVERidentification again accepting the null with a P worse that say 0.10, and then claim to have validated their identification strategy.

Two consecutive filters with little to no power to fail to reject a false null, a test that doesn't test what you are claiming, and voila, SCIENCE.

In other news, Me and Mungowitz are looking into legally changing our blog's name to Marc F.

Wish us luck!

Cutting the pay, or cutting the cheese?

Were these folks the victim of blatant gasism?  Or were they let go because they had trouble cutting the pay?

It's a Jersey thing.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

The "Spillover Effects" of Having to Pee: You Lie Better?

Seriously.  They actually say "spillover effects."  Me gusta.

The inhibitory spillover effect: Controlling the bladder makes better liars 

Elise Fenn et al.
Consciousness and Cognition, December 2015, Pages 112–122

Abstract: The Inhibitory-Spillover-Effect (ISE) on a deception task was investigated. The ISE occurs when performance in one self-control task facilitates performance in another (simultaneously conducted) self-control task. Deceiving requires increased access to inhibitory control. We hypothesized that inducing liars to control urination urgency (physical inhibition) would facilitate control during deceptive interviews (cognitive inhibition). Participants drank small (low-control) or large (high-control) amounts of water. Next, they lied or told the truth to an interviewer. Third-party observers assessed the presence of behavioral cues and made true/lie judgments. In the high-control, but not the low-control condition, liars displayed significantly fewer behavioral cues to deception, more behavioral cues signaling truth, and provided longer and more complex accounts than truth-tellers. Accuracy detecting liars in the high-control condition was significantly impaired; observers revealed bias toward perceiving liars as truth-tellers. The ISE can operate in complex behaviors. Acts of deception can be facilitated by covert manipulations of self-control.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Friday, October 02, 2015

A Taste of Headline Heaven

My love of an excellent, self-contained headline is well-documented.  One advantage of this is that sharp-eyed KPC readers send in examples.

This one...oh, man, this one is excellent:

"Watch woman yell 'bear don’t eat my kayak' as bear eats kayak"

It's all there:  pathos, drama, action.  Lovely.

Thanks to Rob Hallford, who offered this analysis:  "My favorite part is when she screams that the kayak "doesn't even taste good." Like a) she's tried it and b) knows what tastes good to bears. In fact, seasoned with her tears, I bet it tasted pretty damn good. "

Keep 'em coming, folks. 

Update:  Loyal reader DD notes that the Gawker headline is also well done:  "Bear Politely Ignores Woman Yelling at Him to Stop Eating Kayak."

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Last meals

Oh Oklahoma. you just can't do anything right.

Take the case of this dude Richard Glossip, on death row for murder for hire.

He's already had two last minute stays of execution, this time because the state did not get the correct third drug for its 3 drug lethal injection cocktail.

No matter what you think of the case or of capital punishment, can you imagine being set to be executed twice already and getting last day reprieves and knowing that it will happen again in 37 days?

Jeebus help us all for what happens in our penal system.

Here, by the way, is the menu for Glossip's second last meal:

On Tuesday evening, Glossip received a second last meal: a medium double-bacon, double-cheese pizza from Pizza Hut; two orders of fish and chips from Long John Silver's; and a Baconater and strawberry malt from Wendy's.

I wonder what he'll ask for on his 3rd one. I wonder how many last meals this poor bastard will have.

By the way, here's my last meal request if it ever comes down to it:

Wagyu beef skirt steak(medium rare), mexican-style corn on the cob, risotto, charred brussels sprouts, key lime pie.

I'd like the pie to come from The Tea House in Santa Fe, the steak, risotto and brussels sprouts from Red Prime in OKC and the corn from Passion Latin Fusion in Albequerque.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


Okay, so people make fun of the bad forecasts of economists.  Fair enough.  But economists are trying to forecast actions of sentient, prospectively focused creatures.

Hurricanes are just big unruly piles of wind.  But we can't forecast THOSE either.  Check out this "ensemble" forecast for the next week (click for an even more incoherent image):
Of course, if we can't predict the actions of "big unruly piles of wind" I guess forecasts about Congressional votes are also off the table. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


How Disgust Influences Health Purity Attitudes 

Scott Clifford & Dane Wendell 
Political Behavior, forthcoming 

 Abstract: Food and health regulations are increasingly being pushed onto the political agenda, with rising concerns about genetically modified foods, obesity rates, and vaccination. Public beliefs and attitudes on these issues often conflict with the scientific evidence, yet we know relatively little about what influences opinion on these issues. The public lacks clear partisan cues, and many food and health attitudes cut across the ideological spectrum. We argue that these issues represent new 'purity' attitudes that are driven by the emotion of disgust. Across three studies, both by measuring individuals' trait disgust sensitivity and experimentally inducing an emotional state of disgust, we demonstrate the impact of disgust on food and health policy attitudes. Our results show that greater sensitivity to disgust is associated with support for organic foods, opposition to genetically modified foods, and anti-vaccination beliefs. However, we find only limited evidence that experimentally manipulated disgust affects attitudes toward genetically modified and organic foods. Overall, our results demonstrate that disgust plays an important role in attitudes regarding public health and broadens our understanding of purity attitudes.

Thanks to Kevin Lewis

Monday, September 28, 2015

Friends don't let Friends do IV

Just don't do it. And if you must do it, dear God please don't do it with a Arellano-Bond type dynamic panel model (it's the worst, Jerry).

Here are the problems.

First of all, no matter what you may have read or been taught, identification is always and everywhere an ASSUMPTION. You cannot prove your IV is valid.

Second, no matter what you may have read or been taught, the family of Sargan-type tests are tests of OVER-IDENTIFICATION, not identification. You can "pass" the test and still not achieve valid identification.

Third, passing the tests, useless though they are, in any realistic fashion does not mean failing to reject the null at the .05 or even the .10 level.


The reason why is that our worry is we might fail to reject a false null. This is type II error. Choosing .05 essentially MAXIMIZES the chances of committing a type II error (minimizes the power of the test). I'd like to see p-values on the order of at least .25 to .30 (or higher).

Since identification is done by assumption, theory becomes super-important. The right way to do this in my view is by recognizing that the equation you seek to estimate is part of a system and the properties of that system will let you know whether identification is achievable or not.

If not, too bad. Estimate a reduced form and be happy.

I pretty much refuse to let my grad students go on the market with an IV in the job market paper. No way, no how. Even the 80 year old deadwoods in the back of the seminar room at your job talk know how to argue about the validity of your instruments. It's one of the easiest ways to lose control of your seminar.

We've had really good luck placing students who used Diff in diff (in diff), propensity score matching, synthetic control, and even regression discontinuity. All of these approaches have their own problems, but they are like little grains of sand compared to the boulder-sized issues in IV.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Attack of the Killer Cukes

In the fall, I like to make pickles.  Pretty standard pickles, one big batch of sour (fermented) pickles and one big batch of pickled (vinegar) pickles.  They are quite different, in prep and taste, and I like each of them.

This year, it was getting late.  The LMM volunteered to get the cukes at the farm stand.  She asked, "How many do you want?"  And I said, "I need quite a few, dozens at least."

You may see a problem here.  We had not standardized on UNITS.  I was referring to cukes...dozens of CUKES.  But they sell cukes in...pounds.  The LMM bought 36 pounds of cucumbers.

They are lovely, I have to admit.  They completely fill the large sink and then some.

So, time to get out the crock.  I have a nice 2-gallon ceramic crock, from Zanesville (Ohio) Stoneware.  Ain't nobody knows more about being stoned than rural eastern Ohio.  Note the matching top and two special pickle stones (pretty much just expensive rocks, to hold the pickles under).

So, time to load up.  I'm hoping to get MOST of those cukes crammed into the crock.  But that turns out to be a crock:  two gallons hardly even makes a dent in the cuke hoard.

Still, fair enough.  I have put the aromatics and spices at the bottom (here is the recipe I use), and now put the thing in our (little used) downstairs shower and put on the weights.  


Then you just put on the top, and once a day check to see if there is the bubbling of healthy fermentation, the scum of unhealthy nastiness, or the white disaster of mold.  You can work around the scum, but if you get the white mold you have to stop the thing, wash them, and chill them up in some weak vinegar solution.

Now, gotta go to the store and get a lot of nice vinegar.  My only hope is to fill the fridge with refrigerator pickles.

Album of the summer

For me it's Adult Mom's "momentary lapse of happily" and the corresponding song of the summer is "Survival"

You can listen to the whole album for free here. I bought it on CD and on Vinyl.

Here's another example:

This record more than makes up for the relative let down that Waxahatchee's new record was for me.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Emergence of Leadership in a Group of Autonomous Robots

Emergence of Leadership in a Group of Autonomous Robots

Francesco Pugliese, Alberto Acerbi & Davide Marocco
PLoS ONE, September 2015

In this paper we examine the factors contributing to the emergence of leadership in a group, and we explore the relationship between the role of the leader and the behavioural capabilities of other individuals. We use a simulation technique where a group of foraging robots must coordinate to choose between two identical food zones in order to forage collectively. Behavioural and quantitative analysis indicate that a form of leadership emerges, and that groups with a leader are more effective than groups without. Moreover, we show that the most skilled individuals in a group tend to be the ones that assume a leadership role, supporting biological findings. Further analysis reveals the emergence of different “styles” of leadership (active and passive).

Friday, September 18, 2015

how can you have any pudding if you don't eat your, err Cereal?

So I am an old guy and had never seen these before. Pretty fun:

I guess the author recently passed away and Mr. Gosling ate some cereal in his honor:

Men in Kilts

Men in Kilts Window Cleaning

Not sure what the "in Kilts" part is doing here, though of course that is what made me notice it.  So maybe that's the answer.

But is it so that interested parties can peek up the skirts when the lads are up washing windows?

Leading to the REAL question, of course:  Are these "true Scotsmen?"

Leading to a question I didn't even know about, the "True Scotsman Fallacy."

But then that all reminds me of the joke:  Scottish regiment visits France.  Young French female reporter breathlessly asks one of the soldiers, "Sir, people want to know:  Is anything worn under that kilt?"

Scotsman answers, "Nah, lassie, 'tis good as new!"

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Fed Hysteria

Check out this quote from Daniel Henninger in today's  WSJ:

"Not least, the future of the slow-growth, anxiety-producing American economy is in the hands of one nice lady named Janet Yellen, who presides over what is literally a central-bank black box. Crazy."

People this is indeed crazy. Also ridiculous, untrue, ignorant, etc. 

 Repeat after me, the FED does NOT control the real growth rate of economy!

(In fact it barely influences it).

Then as a corollary try this, The FED chair is NOT the dictator of the FED and the FED is NOT independent of politics.

There is a boatload of academic research supporting all three of these points.

But America is gripped by this weird cult of personality view of economic events. The Volcker recession, Alan Greenspan; The Maestro, the Greenspan (and Bernanke) put. 

The FED chair is NOT steering the American Economy.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Just another Brick in the wall

Over on Cherokee Gothic yesterday, I wrote about a factory in Russia that was paying its workers in bricks.

I claimed that bricks were not a very good medium of exchange.

It was pointed out to me on social media by Alex Tabarrok and Larry White that James Buchanan had mooted exactly a brick standard for money!

As Larry put it,  "Bank reserves wouldn't be in the vault, they would BE the vault."

There's a discussion of Buchananian monetary musings in Chapter 2 of a recent book put out by Cato. The chapter is written by Hugh Rockoff.

Buchanan also discussed a labor standard, where you could pedal a stationary bike to get cash from an ATM.

In both cases he wanted the monetary system to be "the employer of last resort".

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A whiff of scandal

People, check out this pic. Can you spot the scandal?

Supposedly it's that this dude, Dmitry Peskov, Putin's "spokesman" is wearing a $620,000 watch.

But I say it's that anyone would pay $620K for such an ugly POS.

Either that, or it's that sweater! The collar! The staples! The horror!

The look on missy's face indicates that the smell in that particular area of said sweater might have a whiff of scandal to it as well.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Now they're on to us

In a huge development, the government of the United Kingdom has blown our cover.

Gov.UK has issued a warning to parents about their children's use of vintage internet acronyms including, Keep Parents Clueless. Which of course what KPC has been all about these last 8 years!

UK youth can still keep using FBI to great profit though as Gov.UK is not hep to that one (yet).

Hat tip to loyal KPC reader (and hep internet cat) SR.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Immorality East and West: Are Immoral Behaviors Especially Harmful, or Especially Uncivilized?

Emma Buchtel et al.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

Abstract: What makes some acts immoral? Although Western theories of morality often define harmful behaviors as centrally immoral, whether this is applicable to other cultures is still under debate. In particular, Confucianism emphasizes civility as fundamental to moral excellence. We describe three studies examining how the word immoral is used by Chinese and Westerners. Layperson-generated examples were used to examine cultural differences in which behaviors are called “immoral” (Study 1, n = 609; Study 2, n = 480), and whether “immoral” behaviors were best characterized as particularly harmful versus uncivilized (Study 3, N = 443). Results suggest that Chinese were more likely to use the word immoral for behaviors that were uncivilized, rather than exceptionally harmful, whereas Westerners were more likely to link immorality tightly to harm. More research into lay concepts of morality is needed to inform theories of moral cognition and improve understanding of human conceptualizations of social norms.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Monday, August 31, 2015

Training Day

Okay so this is 2.5 minutes you will never get back.  But it's a pleasant little trifle for golfers.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Goalie Hit in Face Every Time

Is this dumb, and absurdly fake?  Sure.

But credit to the BYU folks:  It's well done, in the tradition of Dodgeball/Most Extreme Elimination "announcing."

As in, "That's a bold strategy, Cotton..."

Friday, August 21, 2015

The powerful negative theorems of Economics

People, one area where economics has proven to excel is showing us what cannot be done.

There are several very powerful negative theorems out there that have real implications for policies but are often downplayed or ignored.

Here I pay homage to them.

1. The theory of the second best.

Simply put, if the world or model has multiple distortions in it, removing only one of those distortions may not make things better. This applies so strongly to macro and development economics, but it rarely even mentioned. Consider corruption. Suppose a polity has bad laws, weak rule of law, oppressive regulations, little protection of property rights and corruption. In such an environment, an anti-corruption campaign alone may actually make many people worse off. You can no longer bribe your way out of the oppressive regulation or bribe your way into protection of your property. This one is a real doozy.

2.  Arrow's impossibility theorem.

Simply put, this tells us that there is no ideal, comprehensive way of aggregating individuals preferences into an aggregate choice. Arrow shows there is no mechanism that is non-dictatorial, satisfies independence of irrelevant alternatives, and pareto efficiency.

Or as the great philosopher Robyn Hitchcock put it, "When I hear the word "Democracy", I reach for my headphones."

3. Related is Hurwicz's impossibility theorem of mechanism design, which shows that there is no strategy-proof, Pareto-efficient, and individually rational rule for allocation. In other words, a planner cannot get truthful revelation from people about their preferences and willingness to pay without wasting resources in the process.

4. The Folk Theorem.

This is a strange one because some "folks" take is as a feature, rather than the devastating bug that it really is. The folk theorem shows that if people are patient enough, any behavior pattern can be an equilibrium of an infinitely repeated game. I have actually seen papers invoke the folk theorem in a positive sense, citing it to prove their preferred story is an equilibrium story, without realizing the irony that in that setting ANY story is an equilibrium story.  Ouch.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

This is why we can't have nice things!

People, this happened:

"a Weibo post showed a child defecating on board Shenzhen Airlines flight ZH9709 from Nanjing to Guangzhou.... after a passenger complained saying both bathrooms were vacant, the parents said the bathrooms were too small anyway so they used the back of the plane because it had more room."

What's that you say? Pictures or it didn't happen? OK.

I can't believe that the only valid complaint was that the bathroom was vacant. On Chinese airlines are you ALLOWED to poop in the aisle if the bathrooms are occupied?

In the process of designing our house in Santa Fe, we were concerned the guest bathroom was too small. Our architect assured us it would be functional and beautiful "like an airline bathroom". Robin went totally nuts. We somehow got the project done anyway and the bath in question is actually quite spacious. Even a Chinese kid would deign to poop there.

Perhaps the worst part of the airline poop saga? The plane had not yet taken off!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Wheels up!

I have finally used up all the maple slabs I bought last year. They are now a dining room table, a desk and shelf and a massive coffee table.

Here's the finished coffee table, with its 10 inch metal wheels. I love how the wheels reflect off the polished concrete!

Thursday, August 13, 2015


A snippet from the Q&A portion of the "Cato Book Forum" in July.

In which I come out as a Buchananite...

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


Hierarchy, Dominance, and Deliberation: Egalitarian Values Require Mental Effort 

Laura Van Berkel et al. 
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, September 2015, Pages 1207-1222 

Abstract: Hierarchy and dominance are ubiquitous. Because social hierarchy is early learned and highly rehearsed, the value of hierarchy enjoys relative ease over competing egalitarian values. In six studies, we interfere with deliberate thinking and measure endorsement of hierarchy and egalitarianism. In Study 1, bar patrons’ blood alcohol content was correlated with hierarchy preference. In Study 2, cognitive load increased the authority/hierarchy moral foundation. In Study 3, low-effort thought instructions increased hierarchy endorsement and reduced equality endorsement. In Study 4, ego depletion increased hierarchy endorsement and caused a trend toward reduced equality endorsement. In Study 5, low-effort thought instructions increased endorsement of hierarchical attitudes among those with a sense of low personal power. In Study 6, participants thinking quickly allocated more resources to high-status groups. Across five operationalizations of impaired deliberative thought, hierarchy endorsement increased and egalitarianism receded. These data suggest hierarchy may persist in part because it has a psychological advantage. 

What I think is interesting about this is that markets have the same problem.  People's support for price gouging laws, for example, is based on an atavistic set of mental modules about sharing in a lifeboat, or in a cave.  It takes an effort, one most people just don't feel like making, to overcome the inertia of that immediate impulse to hate someone who is charging you for something you need.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Saturday, August 08, 2015


Unsurprisingly, gaydar doesn't really exist.

Inferences About Sexual Orientation: The Roles of Stereotypes, Faces, and The Gaydar Myth

William Cox et al. 
Journal of Sex Research, forthcoming 

Abstract: In the present work, we investigated the pop cultural idea that people have a sixth sense, called “gaydar,” to detect who is gay. We propose that “gaydar” is an alternate label for using stereotypes to infer orientation (e.g., inferring that fashionable men are gay). Another account, however, argues that people possess a facial perception process that enables them to identify sexual orientation from facial structure. We report five experiments testing these accounts. Participants made gay-or-straight judgments about fictional targets that were constructed using experimentally manipulated stereotypic cues and real gay/straight people's face cues. These studies revealed that orientation is not visible from the face — purportedly “face-based” gaydar arises from a third-variable confound. People do, however, readily infer orientation from stereotypic attributes (e.g., fashion, career). Furthermore, the folk concept of gaydar serves as a legitimizing myth: Compared to a control group, people stereotyped more often when led to believe in gaydar, whereas people stereotyped less when told gaydar is an alternate label for stereotyping. Discussion focuses on the implications of the gaydar myth and why, contrary to some prior claims, stereotyping is highly unlikely to result in accurate judgments about orientation. 

Nod to Kevin Lewis.

On the other would be useful.


Thursday, August 06, 2015

A Dog Post....For Shirley!

A post for frequent reader Shirley in Westerly, RI.  We figured she would enjoy it for two reasons.

First, some cute and smart dogs. Always a winner.

But second, and much more importantly, note that this "smart" dog NEVER makes....

A left turn!

Just like Shirley...

Friday, July 31, 2015

Headline Meme?

So, I do often post about my favorite kind of story, one where after reading the headline you don't really need to read the story itself.

The question is, is this one such story?

Wyoming Man Found with 30 Eyeballs in His Anal Cavity

I mean....maybe you don't need to read more.  Because you have the basic facts.  On the other hand, I think that most people would at that point want more information. 

Or less.  Thanks to JB for the find...

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Write Every Day...

I am an annoying person, I accept that.  One of the reasons I am annoying is that I claim that people who succeed in academics may succeed for all sorts of reasons, but almost ALL of those who fail, fail because they didn't try, and keep trying, to write every day.  Every. Day.

So, you folks are going to find this study annoying, too.

People underestimate the value of persistence for creative performance 

Brian Lucas & Loran Nordgren  
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
 August 2015, Pages 232-243 

Abstract: Across 7 studies, we investigated the prediction that people underestimate the value of persistence for creative performance. Across a range of creative tasks, people consistently underestimated how productive they would be while persisting (Studies 1–3). Study 3 found that the subjectively experienced difficulty, or disfluency, of creative thought accounted for persistence undervaluation. Alternative explanations based on idea quality (Studies 1–2B) and goal setting (Study 4) were considered and ruled out and domain knowledge was explored as a boundary condition (Study 5). In Study 6, the disfluency of creative thought reduced people’s willingness to invest in an opportunity to persist, resulting in lower financial performance. This research demonstrates that persistence is a critical determinant of creative performance and that people may undervalue and underutilize persistence in everyday creative problem solving. 

Nod to Kevin Lewis

 Note:  I am certainly not saying that people who fail in academics are lazy.  Nor am I saying that people should want to succeed in academics, because there are many other things that are more important for society and more satisfying for the individual.

What I'm saying is that if you want to succeed, it's a simple business.  As Jim Buchanan put it, "Keep your ass in the chair."  And then write.  Every day.  So, if you want to succeed, and you fail...well, it was unnecessary.

I had lunch with a friend while I was in England recently. (We went to Nando's Peri-Peri.  I liked it; it was cheeky).  And we chortled to each other.  There are SO MANY people who are clearly smarter than we are.  I don't just mean people who THINK they are smarter; I mean people who are actually smarter.

The reason we chortled is that they eat their livers every day, because to them our (relative) success is inexplicable.  But it's actually pretty simple.

What did you write today?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Democracy is Destiny, or Vice Versa?

Destined for Democracy? Labour Markets and Political Change in Colonial British America

Elena Nikolova
British Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Abstract: In this article a new explanation for the emergence of democratic institutions is proposed: elites may extend the right to vote to the masses in order to attract migrant workers. It is argued that representative assemblies serve as a commitment device for any promises made to labourers by those in power, and the argument is tested on a new political and economic dataset from the thirteen British American colonies. The results suggest that colonies that relied on white migrant labour, rather than slaves, had better representative institutions. These findings are not driven by alternative factors identified in the literature, such as inequality or initial conditions, and survive a battery of validity checks.

Nod to Kevin Lewis