Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Economists endorse Unicorn World Bank

Two of my favorite Michaels (right behind Mungo of course!), Clemens and Kremer, have a new paper arguing that even though the access to financing mission of the World Bank is no longer relevant, we still need it for poverty reduction and knowledge dissemination.

There's just two problems with that viewpoint.

1. Most of the global poverty reduction we've seen has come from the simple adoption of capitalism (China and others), not World Bank projects or initiatives. And, in my view, the Bank is more anti-capitalism now that it has ever been.

2. The World Bank's "knowledge" has been consistently off base for at least the past 50 years.  We've gone from the financing gap to education to institutions to you name it. Countries have spent real scarce resources following the advice and by and large it hasn't worked. Take the great universal primary enrollment goal (please). Whoever would have thought that governments would end up creating Potemkin schools where learning is often absent.

Phone call for Bill Easterly. Paging Lant Pritchett!

Even old, bad, discredited advice never seems to die out at the Bank as evidenced by this tweet:

Note the date. 2016!! Not 1955. Apparently the Harrod-Domar model and the financing gap still live in the executive suites of the bank.

The tweeter is Vice President for Equitable Growth, Finance and Institutions at the Bank.

Now Clemens and Kremer are both way smarter and more successful than me. I had been thinking about a post like this but only decided to write it after seeing that incredible tweet this morning.

But Clemens and Kremer are committing the Mungowitz Unicorn fallacy.

They are conjuring up an idealized World Bank that has never existed and claiming we still need that unicorn Bank, rather than evaluating the desirability of the World Bank we actual have.

If we think about the actual World Bank, it's not so obvious that the cost-benefit calculation comes out positive.


It appears I am hypothyroid, in terms of blood tests for TSH.

The doctor prescribed the (common) drug Levothyroxine.

There are many possible side effects.  But two of the more prominently mentioned are:
  • Change of consciousness
  • False or unusual sense of well-being 
I don't want to reveal anything embarrassing.  But Angus and I really could have used some of this stuff in 1981.  Because what we were using to change our consciousness and produce a false or unusual sense of well-being was more expensive and harder to get.

Hard to imagine going to the doctor and complaining, if that is the profile of side-effects to expect...

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Florida Man

If the headline starts with "Florida Man," even after a colon, it's going to be good.

Assault With a Deadly Weapon: Florida Man Charged with Trowing Live Alligator into Wendys

Pure gold:

The driver, wearing a backwards baseball hat, arrived at the drive-through window to receive a large drink just before 1:30 a.m. on Oct. 11, according to the report’s summary of surveillance footage.

“While the attendant has her back to the window and is at her register, the male driver reaches across the inside of his vehicle in the passenger area and throws an alligator from his vehicle into the drive through window,” the report reads.  
"Wearing a backwards baseball hat."  The redneck version of "He was wearing a hoodie."

If you like "Florida Man," well, then....

Monday, February 08, 2016

Don't Stand, Don't Stand So Close to Me

Where does one stand: A biological account of preferred interpersonal distance 

 Anat Perry, Nikolay Nichiporuk & Robert Knight
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience,
February 2016, Pages 317-326

Abstract: What determines how close you choose to stand to someone? Why do some people prefer farther distances than others? We hypothesized that an important factor is one’s sensory sensitivity level, i.e. how sensitive one is to nearby visual stimulation, noise, touch or smell. This study characterizes the behavioral, hormonal and electrophysiological metrics of interpersonal distance (IPD) preferences in relation to levels of sensory sensitivity. Using both an ecologically realistic task and electroencephalogram (EEG), we found that sensory sensitivity levels predicted IPD preferences, such that the more sensitive one is the farther distance they prefer. Furthermore, electrophysiological evidence revealed that individuals with higher sensory sensitivity show more alpha suppression for approaching stimuli, strengthening the notion that early sensory cortical excitability is involved in one’s social decision of how close to stand to another. The results provide evidence that a core human metric of social interaction is influenced by individual levels of sensory sensitivity.