Sunday, 31 August 2014

End August Links

# Chris Dillow's Repressive Diversity makes the point that it is possible that as 'opinion-former talent' is drawn from more disparate sources (variable cultures, ethnicity, genders, and sexuality), the opinions of these opinion formers may become more homogeneous. This sounds possible to me: if you don't share some strong cultural bond with the person you're about to hire, then you're more likely to select on intellectual conformity. This contrasts with points made by Lesley Riddoch in her book, Blossom: "The exclusion of women doesn't just narrow the pool of talent available to play the existing game - it excludes the most likely game changers" - and again it's certainly true that variation in life experience will lead to variation in opinion. So there're two mechanisms going on here, one which represses and one which promotes diversity of opinions as the diversity of the talent pool rises. It would be interesting to know which mechanism is dominant.

# This series on welfare economics from Interfluidity was great. From the 5th in the series:
"You might, think, then, that I’d advocate abandoning those diagrams entirely. I don’t. All I want is a set of caveats added. The diagrams are redeemable if we assume that all individuals have similar wealth, that they share the similar indirect utility with respect to wealth while their detailed consumption preferences might differ, and the value of the goods being transacted is small relative to the size of market participants’ overall budget. Under these assumptions (and only under these assumptions), if we interpret indirect utilities as summable welfare functions, consumer and producer surplus become (approximately) commensurable across individuals, and the usual Econ 101 catechism holds. Students should learn that the economics they are taught is a special case — the economics of a middle class society. They should understand that an equitable distribution is prerequisite to the version of capitalism they are learning, that the conclusions and intuitions they develop become dangerously unreliable as the dispersion of wealth and income increases."

# Simon Jenkins in the Guardian says that Northern cities need more than 'powerhouse' rhetoric: "... lively group of local executives.... Their obsession was simple, how to stop their brighter employees, not to mention their own children, vanishing to the bright lights of London. Their problem was not industry, it was image.... An English provincial revival will never lie in pre-election promises of half-hearted localism. The wealth and subsidy gap between London and the rest is now ludicrous and impossible to defend. The cliche, implied again by Miliband today, that the provinces make widgets while London makes money, will not close it.... These places must acquire some of the glamour that is attached to York, Oxford, Winchester and Brighton, cultural magnets for young and old. Cities must fizz or die. That means big government should move itself out of town. Big art should disperse if it wants subsidy. Big media should become geographically pluralist."

Sir Harry Burns says Yes vote could be 'positive' for health - but how do I put that in an economic model!!

Dinner with No Voters or “What I wanted to say before the Pudding hit the fan” - this is the best description of the politics of independence that I've seen

# This is maybe an issue which doesn't translate well across the Atlantic: How The Public Funding Of Elections Increases Candidate Polarization at Marginal Revolution. Tyler Cowan seems to be suggesting that proponents of public funding of political parties say that it would reduce the political distance between the parties, and that this is a good thing (divergence causing gridlock in American politics). Whereas the evidence seems to show that public funding increases the polarisation, and so public funding is a bad thing. My British view of this is that the evidence is unsurprising - I'd expect it to promote polarisation - and that therefore public funding is likely to be a good thing if it means that the two main parties who fight it out (in England) don't attempt to occupy the same ideological ground.

# Interesting: A marriage made in hell: Housing and foreign demand

# I have a mention in Full Fact's article on Scotland’s international trade under independence

# I entirely agree with de Zeeuw & van der Ploeg, Climate tipping requires precautionary accumulation of capital and an additional price for carbon emissions, but in the context of this I do get a bit annoyed that no-one would publish my A Balance of Questions: what can we ask of climate change economics? paper!

# A great simple description by Noah Smith, Chris House on stimulus spending, of why it is highly likely that increased government investment is a better form of fiscal stimulus than tax cuts.

# Also from Noah Smith, a description of two papers, RBC models we can believe in, in which network effects and a complex economy, mean that local idiosyncratic shocks combine to produce aggregate fluctuations (rather than cancelling in a law of large numbers type way). My interest is not so much on how complexity underlies the business cycle, but rather the impact such complexity has on issues of optimal size and scale. However, these papers do sound like something I should know about.

# Paul Cairney, from a completely different perspective, also discusses complexity: Scottish Independence: Will Anything Really Change? In particular, this is about the tension between the "inescapable trade-off between a desire to harmonise national policies and to encourage local discretion."

# Paul Krugman reports that "Vox has a great explanation of the Roman Empire in 40 maps". Like Krugman, I love this sort of stuff.

Citizens are happier in countries where the government intervenes more frequently in the economy

38 maps that explain the global economy

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