Saturday, May 04, 2013

Art Imitates Life, or is it the other way 'round?


Is that rat tart? DIS-gusting. Life:
Nod to GWS, with thanks.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Annals of strange co-authorships

Did you know Maya Angelou wrote a kids book with J. M. Basquiat? Me neither.

Here it is, your moment of Paco:

Economic Freedom, Politics, and Problems

Economic Freedom of the World: An Accounting of the Literature 
 Joshua Hall & Robert Lawson
Contemporary Economic Policy, forthcoming

 Abstract: The Economic Freedom of the World (EFW) index was first produced by Gwartney, Block, and Lawson (Economic Freedom of the World: 1975–1995; 1996) and has been updated annually since. During this period, the EFW index has been cited in hundreds of academic articles. Here, we provide an accounting and description of this literature. Of 402 articles citing the EFW index, 198 used the index as an independent variable in an empirical study. Over two-thirds of these studies found economic freedom to correspond to a “good” outcome such as faster growth, better living standards, more happiness, etc. Less than 4% of the sample found economic freedom to be associated with a “bad” outcome such as increased income inequality. The balance of evidence is overwhelming that economic freedom corresponds with a wide variety of positive outcomes with almost no negative tradeoffs.

The Impact of Political Cycle: Evidence from Coalmine Accidents in China 
 Huihua Nie, Minjie Jiang & Xianghong Wang
Journal of Comparative Economics, forthcoming

Abstract: This paper examines the impact of political cycle on coalmine accidents in China. The political cycle is formed by the major local meetings of legislative bodies held every year in all provinces of China. This is because the government has a strong incentive to maintain social stability during the meetings and to focus on economic growth in other times. We test how such cycles affect coalmine fatality using monthly data at the provincial level between 2000 and 2010. We find that the number of accidents and casualties were significantly lowered during the local events of “two sessions” after controlling for other time fixed effects. The temporary reduction of accidents seemed to have been achieved by controlling production rather than by improving safety measures. The magnitude of the cycle for accidents is enlarged in provinces where media exposure is stronger and where the vice governor in charge of safety is faced with a possible extension to another term in the current post.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Painfully Earnest Hipsters Spouting Nonsense

The saving grace of hipsters is their self-conscious irony in actually advocating FOR anything.

This video is hilarious because it shows why hipsters need to be ironic. It's because when it comes to actual policy questions, their (unfinished) humanities majors didn't really teach them how to think about policy questions.

It appears that they are upset that a pipeline carrying "fracked gas" will pass under the New York.  Dude.  If there is a gas leak, the fact that it is fracked will be the LEAST of your problems.  And the video about being able to light your faucet on fire?  That's because of the proximity of a well to a gas deposit in the ground.  It's not likely that proximity to a gas PIPELINE is going to allow gas to travel through the gas pipe, through the ground, through the water pipe, and into your kitchen in that sweet minimalist loft you are subletting in Williamsburg.

Even if the gas is that magical evil called "fracked."

I watched it twice, and I'm still not totally convinced it isn't a hoax.  But the self-righteous indignation, if it is faked, is pure genius.  And if it is "real" (note hipster air quotes), then

Nod to Anonyman, who--though he has faults--has never, ever been called a "hipster."

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Bonus Links!

1.  My friend George Leef with an interesting book review, and expose.

2.  The rise of Wiener:  The sad thing is that he is really bright and talented.  Why do these people get siphoned off into politics, when they could be making stuff?

Headline Meme!

Some of my favorites, headlines that--once you have read them--there isn't much more to say.

1.  Henry Gribbohm loses life savings at carnival, wins giant stuffed banana with dreadlocks.
Actually, there is a little more to say here.  An xBox Kinect costs $300, max.  The dude spent $2,600?

2.  Dutch Boy sends this one:  Prime minister praises old queen, new king and everyone else .   Jackie Blue fails to understand the concept of "link."  Sad, really.  Old statistician/lawyers never die.  They just get broken down by age and sex.  Jack:  It's called the "internet."

Mine's Bigger!

A "sensitivity for bigness," seriously?

An exploration of the functions of religious monumental architecture from a Darwinian perspective 

Yannick Joye & Jan Verpooten 

Review of General Psychology, March 2013, Pages 53-68 

Abstract: In recent years, the cognitive science of religion has displayed a keen interest in religions' social function, bolstering research on religious prosociality and cooperativeness. The main objective of this article is to explore, from a Darwinian perspective, the biological and psychological mechanisms through which religious monumental architecture (RMA) might support that specific function. A frequently held view is that monumental architecture is a costly signal that served vertical social stratification in complex large-scale societies. In this paper we extend that view. We hypothesize that the function(s) of RMA cannot be fully appreciated from a costly signaling perspective alone, and invoke a complementary mechanism, namely sensory exploitation. We propose that, in addition to being a costly signal, RMA also often taps into an adaptive “sensitivity for bigness.” The central hypothesis of this paper is that when cases of RMA strongly stimulate that sensitivity, and when commoners become aware of the costly investments that are necessary to build RMA, then this may give rise to a particular emotional response, namely awe. We will try to demonstrate that, by exploiting awe, RMA promotes and regulates prosocial behavior among religious followers and creates in them an openness to adopt supernatural beliefs. 

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Munger Games

Part I:

Part II:

I especially liked the "Cornell Way."  It's gorgeous. And of course Fook-wah!

False Specificity

The price of a drink – too exactly? Flawed evidence for minimum unit pricing 

John Duffy
 Significance, April 2013, Pages 23–27

The UK government has been considering whether to introduce minimum unit pricing for alcohol. Extraordinarily precise benefits have been claimed for the measure, down to exactly how many lives a year will be saved. But are the statistics real or illusory? John Duffy says they are flawed to the point of uselessness.

An earlier, longer version.  

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Monday, April 29, 2013

Gypsy Law

Gypsy law 

Peter Leeson 
Public Choice, forthcoming 

 Abstract: How do the members of societies that can’t use government or simple ostracism produce social order? To investigate this question I use economics to analyze Gypsy law. Gypsy law leverages superstition to enforce desirable conduct in Gypsy societies where government is unavailable and simple ostracism is ineffective. According to Gypsy law, unguarded contact with the lower half of the human body is ritually polluting, ritual defilement is physically contagious, and non-Gypsies are in an extreme state of such defilement. These superstitions repair holes in simple ostracism among Gypsies, enabling them to secure social cooperation without government. Gypsies’ belief system is an efficient institutional response to the constraints they face on their choice of mechanisms of social control. 

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Monday's Child is Full of Links

1.  Newt Gingrich and the EMPeril.

2.  Instead of defending Obamacare and gun registration initiatives, Sen. Baucus decides to "spend more time with his family."  Suuuuurrrre.

3.  Q:  Could North Korea be any more bizarre?  A:  No.  Some medals, in a photo.  A story from NK that may be about medals, but it's hard to tell.

4.  People who believe in markets reject science.  Note that this requires the equation of "state control of means of production" and "science."  Sometimes, it is wrong to compare these guys with the USSR.  But sometimes "scientific socialism" is just what it appears to be.

5.  The ULTIMATE in cookie-dunking technology.

LOTS more after the jump...Click through!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Lawmakers Exempt Selves, Families, and Staffs from Obamacare

Seriously?  We were supposed to pass it first and then find out what is in it?

And once they found out what was in it, they decided to exempt themselves, their families, and their staff?  Congress, I mean.  I don't know much about health care, but I don't think that this is a good thing.

Furthermore, when the Army said, "We don't need more tanks," the Congress said..."You WILL take more tanks, and you will *&$^%$ing LIKE it!  We don't care about defense, we just want to spend more money!"

As Pope Leo X said, "God has given us the Papacy. Now let us enjoy it."

Nod to M.K., and Anonyman.


Friday (like most days), Brad DeLong said some amazing stuff.

In particular he claimed that, "There Are Two Unit Roots and Strong Mean Reversion in U.S. GDP per Capita".


Phone call for Clive Granger.

First off, unit roots and mean reversion are incompatible concepts. A unit root is essentially a stochastic trend. There is no fixed mean of the series to revert to.

Second, "two unit roots" means that real gdp per capita is I(2). Which means in English that shocks to the growth rate are permanent, that the variance of the growth rate continually increases over time, and that there is no mean reversion in the growth rate.

We actually have a lot of statistical tests for unit roots. Sure they are not so great, especially in the power department. So if we fail to reject the null, we are not thrilled about rolling with it.

But if we can reject the null, the size of the tests (probability of rejecting a true null) are not far from accurate, especially over longer time periods, and we have over 200 years of data to work with!

So here's the augmented Dickey-Fuller test for a unit root in the growth rate of real GDP per capita(the null is that there is such a unit root):


Null Hypothesis: D(LRYPC) has a unit root Exogenous: Constant Lag Length: 0 (Automatic based on Modified SIC, MAXLAG=14)

                                                                t-Statistic                     Prob.

Augmented Dickey-Fuller test statistic          -11.43155                  0.0000
Test critical values:  1% level                        -3.461630
                             5% level                        -2.875195
                           10% level                        -2.574125

*MacKinnon (1996) one-sided p-values.


We are rejecting (crushing) the null of a second unit root in the series at the 0.01 level. You can click through all the options in EVIEWS on lag length selection and get exactly the same rejection.

There are not two unit roots in real US GPD per capita.

Here's a graph of the growth rate of real GDP per capita in the US since 1800:

The data run from 1801 to 2010 (I'm pretty sure it's the same data Brad used).

The mean of the series is around 0.015, or a 1.5% growth rate. As you can see, while there is evidence of volatility clustering, the series is strongly mean reverting and shocks to the growth rate are decidedly not "highly persistent"  (i.e. it does not have a unit root).

There is even a big debate about whether real GDP per capita has even one unit root, because there are a lot of processes (long memory, Markov switching, structural breaks, breaking trends) that are not unit root processes but typical tests will fail to reject the null of a unit root anyway.

How Florida can you GET?

This...this is the essence of Florida, folks.  At least, MY part of Florida, the idiot redneck part.

This Is Quite Possibly the Most Florida News Story Ever Written 

Not even The Onion could make up a more Florida story than the real-life misadventures of one William Daniel Lloyd, AKA Florida Man. 

The 31-year-old Gainesville resident, who has been in and out of mug shots for charges ranging from grand theft to drug possession to disorderly conduct, recently had a hankering for some dinner squirrel, so he tried to hunt one down with a BB gun. To improve his chances of taking the squirrel out cleanly, Lloyd decided to tape a bullet to the end of his Pumpmaster 760. 

Surprisingly, his MacGyver-esque troubleshooting backfired. Literally: Lloyd fired the BB gun, causing the BB to strike the cartridge's primer. The cartridge discharged and fragmented, striking Lloyd in the upper arm and lower leg. He was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. 

Lloyd was subsequently charged with discharging a firearm in public and possession of ammunition by a convicted felon. He later told police he found the cartridge while looking for scrap metal to sell. As for the squirrel, one commenter suggested he probably died. Laughing, that is. 

Let's make sure you understand what he did.  He has a pump air gun, that shoots BBs (every man needs a "Pumpmaster 760," I'd say!).  He "finds" a bullet (maybe, maybe not.  He's a convicted felon, like pretty much everyone in my extended Florida family, like Dutch Boy and Jackie Blue.  So he can't have a bullet, legally).   (More after the jump)

Seating and Persuasion

For those who have spent time around the "hollow square," there is some research on how it affects the discussion:

Exploring the Impact of Various Shaped Seating Arrangements on Persuasion 

Rui (Juliet) Zhu & Jennifer Argo 
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming 

Abstract: Despite the common belief that seating arrangements matter, little research has examined how the geometrical shape of a chair arrangement can impact persuasion. Across three studies, this research demonstrates that the shape of seating arrangements can prime two fundamental human needs which in turn influence persuasion. When seated in a circular shaped layout, individuals evaluate persuasive material more favorably when it contains family-oriented cues or majority endorsement information. In contrast, when seated in an angular shaped seating arrangement, individuals evaluate persuasive material more favorably when it contains self-oriented cues or minority endorsement. Further, results reveal that these responses to persuasive material arise because circular (angular) shaped seating arrangements prime a need to belong (need to be unique). Thus, this research shows that a subtle environmental cue – the shape of a seating arrangement – can activate fundamental human needs and consequently affect persuasion. 

(nod to Kevin Lewis)