I hope Peter remains my colleague for a long time to come:
COMING FALL 2017
“This book has a surprise—not to mention a puckish joke—on every page. It’s strange, it’s fascinating, and it’s one of the most original books I’ve ever read.”
—Tim Harford, author of The Undercover Economist
“The most interesting book I have read in years! Peter Leeson displays his unique talent: unearthing mankind’s seemingly craziest behaviors, and then showing that these behaviors, against all odds, ultimately make perfect sense. WTF?! is like Freakonomics on steroids.”
—Steven D. Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics
“A fascinating tour of the world’s strangest customs and behaviors, led by a brilliant, funny, and eccentric tour guide. It’s okay to gawk, he says, but it’s even better to empathize and, armed with Leeson’s insights, there’s no reason why we can’t do both.”
—Steven E. Landsburg, author of The Armchair Economist
“Your initial reaction might be ‘WTF!?’ How can medieval trials by ordeal, wife sales, and divine curses all boil down to rational economic behavior? But Leeson will lead you deftly through the logic and history behind these seemingly senseless rituals. Keep an open mind and this book will surprise, teach, and entertain!”
—Andrei Shleifer, Harvard University
The post Good endorsements for the forthcoming Peter Leeson book appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.
Four of New York’s five medical marijuana companies have filed suit against the state Department of Health to stop it from licensing additional operators to take part in the tightly run state program. The companies argue that the expansion could tank the nascent industry and potentially harm thousands of patients who rely on medical marijuana to treat their ailments.
Here is the article, via Peter Metrinko.
The post Baptists *are* bootleggers, medical marijuana edition appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.
Today, San Francisco is one of the great capitals of the information age, yet from 1980 to 2010, that city’s population grew by only 4200 people per year.
1. Mark Zuckerberg at the Ford Rouge Plant. It is one of America’s great sights.
5. Massive wind tunnel for Shaolin monks to do their exercises there is no great Shaolin stagnation. Designed by Latvian architects.
Here’s my Q&A column from the WSJ this week — and if you have any questions for me, you can tweet them to @danariely with the hashtag #askariely, post a comment on my Ask Ariely Facebook page, or email them to AskAriely@wsj.com.
A friend told me recently that wearing a bike helmet is actually more dangerous than not wearing one because those who wear a helmet take more risks, which outweighs the benefits of having their heads protected. Should I tell my kids to stop wearing helmets?
Definitely not, but the question is a complex and interesting one. The real issues here are: what kinds of injuries helmets can prevent, how wearing a helmet alters our behavior and how our risk-taking changes over time.
Let’s think for a minute about a related case: seatbelts. When drivers, pushed by legislation, began to wear seatbelts as a matter of course, they might have felt extra-safe at first, making them think that they could get away with driving more aggressively. But after a while, as wearing a seatbelt became fairly automatic, that sensation of cocooning safety subsided. The tendency to take extra risks subsided too. So the full benefits of seatbelt use only emerged after we got used to wearing them all the time.
The same can be said about helmets. When we initially put one on, we may feel overconfident and cut more corners with road safety. But once helmet-wearing becomes a habit, we should revert to more prudent behavior, which will let us realize the helmet’s full benefits. That’s especially important, of course, with children.
I’m finding dating tricky these days. I’d like to show some chivalry, but it isn’t clear how to do that. Try as I might to pay the bill for dinner as a sign of respect and care, the women I’ve been out with seem to want to split it. Any advice?
Acts of chivalry are acts of respect. They aren’t about practicality but about doing something kind for the other person. So I would suggest instead that you open the car door for your dates.
Decades ago, when car doors had to be unlocked manually, it was customary for the driver to open the door for the passenger. These days, when car locks release with a click and a beep from a keychain, doing so seems like a pointless gesture.
But that only makes it a stronger signal of chivalry: You don’t have to open your date’s door to let her in or out, but by choosing to do so, you offer a true act of consideration and caring. And it’s not only a nice gesture–it’s cheaper than picking up the tab.
Why don’t people bike more? Bicycles are amazing vehicles—fast, efficient, easy to park, good for our health and our planet. What’s holding us back?
Simple: hills. Bicycles are fine things, and technology will no doubt continue to make them lighter, faster and safer. But all of these improvements aren’t likely to overcome our laziness—our deep-seated desire to move through the world with as little effort as possible.
See the original article in the Wall Street Journal.
That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is the concluding paragraph:
The general spread of expertise, high housing costs in the most successful cities, and perhaps even a degree of intellectual complacency in Silicon Valley all may, looking forward, favor some of America’s laggard regions. There is no single answer to regional economic development, but finally some factors seem to be pointing in the right direction.
Mandel also estimates that the e-commerce sector has added 270,000 jobs to the American economy since March 2014, across multiple regions, and, in spite of all the recent problems, retail employment remains above its 2007 peak. Some additional good news is that e-commerce distribution jobs tend to be better paying and less of a dead end than most retail jobs. The warehouse and storage sector is growing dramatically, and those jobs are typically far from the wealthiest parts of the country — they are boosting Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.
In the last two years, again according to Mandel, “the regions outside the top 35 metro areas accounted for almost half of net new establishments,” compared with less than one-fifth of net new businesses during the seven preceding years.
And the opening:
Sometimes significant news doesn’t make much of a splash, and that was the case for a major transaction last week. PetSmart Inc. announced the acquisition of Chewy.com LLC for $3.35 billion, the largest e-commerce deal ever. Also notable is that Chewy.com, which sells pet products online, is based near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, rather than San Francisco or Seattle or New York. Might we be at a point where startups and e-commerce drive economic growth and job creation in many regions of the country, not just a few of the more famous (and expensive) areas?
Do read the whole thing.
The post Will tech start-ups spread throughout America more generally? appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.
The author is Richard E. Ocejo, and the subtitle is Old Jobs in the New Urban Economy. Here is one summary bit:
The three transformations that frame the content of this book — the restructuring of elite taste around omnivorousness, the changing of traditional community institutions into destinations of the new cultural elite in retail, and the recoding of work in the new economy — combine to explain how these jobs and businesses have become upscale, cool, and desired.
The jobs are bartender, distiller, barber, and butcher.
…these new elite manual labor jobs give men — mainly those of a certain race and social class standing — the chance to use their bodies directly in their work, as men did in the industrial era but do so less often today, as well as their minds, which grants them greater status in these jobs than they would otherwise have. They are simultaneously respected knowledge workers and skilled manual laborers, and perform their work in public. Men are thus able to use these jobs to achieve a lost sense of middle-class, heterosexual masculinity in their work.
I definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in the evolution of labor markets, how America will respond to ongoing automation, the production of status, and the role of men in an increasingly feminized society. It is more of an “thick description, insights throughout” book than an “easy to sum up the bottom line” treatment. Here is the book’s home page. Here is a very positive FT review of the book.
In Britain and Ireland, a large number of enterprising early birds made a living waking people for work.
A knocker-up would be paid a few pence a week to make the rounds and rouse workers, banging on their doors with a short stick or rapping on upper windows with a long pole. The knocker-up would not move on until he received confirmation that his drowsy client was up and moving.
The profession died out in the 1920s as alarm clocks became cheaper and more reliable, but a few specialized knockers-up — such as Doris Weigand, employed by a railway depot to summon workers for short-notice shifts — survived for a few decades more.
Here is the full story, via Michael Clemens. Remember how the Brits used to say “can you knock me up in the morning?” Here is the Guardian on the race to build the world’s first sex robot.
2. What if female scientists were treated like celebrities? (short video)
3. The New Zealand Project — can the Kiwis stop being so complacent?
Stubborn Attachments is the advance peek bonus book I offered to those who pre-ordered The Complacent Class. I once described Stubborn Attachments as follows:
In that work, I outline a true and objectively valid case for a free and prosperous society, and consider the importance of economic growth for political philosophy, how and why the political spectrum should be reconfigured, how we should think about existential risk, what is right and wrong in Parfit and Nozick and Singer and effective altruism, how to get around the Arrow Impossibility Theorem, to what extent individual rights can be absolute, how much to discount the future, when redistribution is justified, whether we must be agnostic about the distant future, and most of all why we need to “think big.”
Unlike the last few sequences of Tyler’s longer published works — the books on culture and economics, the self-help via economics wisdom books, and the Stagnationist trilogy — Stubborn Attachments is foundational Tyler. It represents the Tyler from which the distinctive contrarian and provocative and educational and speed-reading and culture-savvy and eccentric Tylers all emerge.
It is also the most comprehensive expression of Tyler’s particular brand of libertarianism that I have read.
There is also a “desert island” section of the podcast, where Cardiff asks me which bodies of film, for instance which directors, I would most want to have on a desert island. He also asks me to construct my NBA “Dream Team,” which indeed I do for him.
The post My *Stubborn Attachments* podcast with FT Alphaville appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.
Save the drama for a llama on your wedding day. No, really! For brides getting married in the Portland, Oregon, or Vancouver, Washington, area, your llama dreams can now be turned into reality. Mtn Peaks Therapy Llamas & Alpacas is offering an exclusive service to brides and grooms who want to make sure their wedding is the most talked about event of the year. Because we mean, what’s more memorable than some dressed up alpacas at your reception?
Here is the story, from a bridal magazine, good photos at the link, via Catherine Rampell and also Jodi Ettenberg. Meanwhile I found this of interest:
A poll from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) of young Americans ages 18-to-25 shows that almost no millennials want a career in construction — a high-paying industry. 64 percent of these millennials said they wouldn’t even consider working in construction if you paid them $100,000 or more.
74 percent of young adults know what career field they want to pursue, and of these millennials, just 3 percent want a career in construction trades. What’s more stunning is that of the 26 percent who don’t know what career they want, 63 percent of these undecided millennials said there was “no or little chance regardless of pay” that they would work in construction trades.
It’s a Canadian company that specializes in speech synthesis software. They’ve developed software they claim can copy anyone’s voice and make it say anything.
The founders tell me if they can get a high-quality recording of you speaking for just one minute, their software can replicate your voice with very high accuracy.
If they get a recording of you speaking for five minutes, they say it would be difficult to tell the difference between your voice and their computer-generated mimic. That’s where the name Lyrebird comes from: a lyrebird is an Australian bird that’s noted for its mimicry.
Here is the story, as they say solve for the equilibrium…
Confidential business conversations over the telephone might dwindle, and perhaps we will have Peter Cushing and Humphrey Bogart movies for a long time to come. What else?
For the pointer I thank Michelle Dawson.
I refer you to the excellent post by A Fine Theorem on David Donaldson, here is one excerpt:
Donaldson’s CV is a testament to how difficult this style of work is. He spent eight years at LSE before getting his PhD, and published only one paper in a peer reviewed journal in the 13 years following the start of his graduate work. “Railroads of the Raj” has been forthcoming at the AER for literally half a decade, despite the fact that this work is the core of what got Donaldson a junior position at MIT and a tenured position at Stanford. Is it any wonder that so few young economists want to pursue a style of research that is so challenging and so difficult to publish? Let us hope that Donaldson’s award encourages more of us to fully exploit both the incredible data we all now have access to, but also the beautiful body of theory that induces deep insights from that data.
The post is superb, yet A Fine Theorem remains underrated.
That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, and here is one part of my argument:
This argument for a corporate tax cut — “let’s borrow more now while rates are relatively low” — is remarkably like the argument that Keynesians have been using for more government infrastructure spending for years. The main difference is that here the spending would be done by private corporations rather than the federal government. You may or may not believe the private expenditures will be more socially valuable than the government expenditures, but if you think we can afford one kind of stimulus we probably can afford the other. And as I said, the private rate of return on investment probably is higher than the government’s borrowing rate, even if you think that government spending would yield higher returns yet.
Of course that argument does not require unemployed resources. On the micro side, I find it amusing when people suggest that the rate of return on government infrastructure is high, but that corporations have nothing better to do than to sit on their cash. It is hard to have it both ways! Imagine arguing that biomedical R&D through the NIH yields high returns, but that pharma investment to commercialize the resulting drugs or devices does not. National parks aside, most government investment is in inputs, and thus for it to have a high marginal rate of return someone on the output side has to have a high marginal rate of return as well.
Here is another part of my argument:
The pessimist might wonder whether companies would take their windfall and invest it at all. Many companies might simply hold the gain in money management accounts. In this scenario, the tax plan probably won’t be worth passing, as American companies would have nothing useful to do with the free resources, even when given a nudge to invest. That should induce a fairly panicky response, including radical deregulation of business and fiscal austerity on entitlements, but I don’t see critics of the tax plan following up on this view consistently.
The post What about Trump’s plan to cut the corporate tax rate? appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.
1. Édouard Louis, The End of Eddy. LitHub wrote: “Even in the wake of Knausgaard and Ferrante it is hard to find a literary phenomenon that has swept Europe quite like the autobiographical project of Édouard Louis.” I don’t know that I enjoyed this book very much, but it was an effective fictional experience. Most of all it scared me that such a tale of poverty and abuse could be so popular in Europe these days. Recommended, but in a sobering way; I would rather this had been a bestseller in 1937.
2. Karan Mahajan, The Association of Small Bombs. A novel about the consequences of a Delhi terrorist bombing that is both deep and compelling to read, full of surprises as well. Here is a useful NYT review.
3. Edward T. O’Donnell, Henry George and the Crisis of Inequality: Progress and Poverty in the Gilded Age. This focuses more on George’s connection to social and labor movements, and less on George as an economist or land theorist, than I would have liked. Still, it is an information-rich narrative that most of all brings the times and movements surrounding George to life.
4. Andrew Marr, We British: The Poetry of a People. A good introduction to its topic, most of all for the mid-twentieth century, with plenty of poems reproduced. Here is a Louis MacNeice poem, Snow:
The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.
World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various
And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes —
On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of your hands —
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.