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