The Kids Are Also Polarized

Adolescents used to identify with a party but polarization was muted by a general warmth towards authority figures. Today, however, the warmth is gone and adolescents are as polarized as adults which has implications for future polarization and generalized distrust. New paper by Iyengar and Tyler (note the data is pre-pandemic): We have shown that […]

MRU Around the World

Here’s a message I received from Amol Shaila Suresh: Hi Prof. Alex, Last year, I started preparing for entrance exams of India’s premiere universities for masters in economics. I am an ‘engineering’ undergrad, turned to development sector. When I decided to do masters in economics, I had a huge 6 years educational gap and was […]

Gödel Prize Winners Don’t Cosplay

Tim Roughgarden, a top-notch computer scientist (co-winner of a Gödel Prize), is teaching a class on blockchains. He’s only just begun to put up material but I liked this bit of “hype” from Lecture One. It’s worth recognizing that we’re currently in a particular moment in time, witnessing a new area of computer science blossom […]

Scott Gottlieb’s Uncontrolled Spread

Scott Gottlieb’s Uncontrolled Spread is superb. I reviewed it for the WSJ. Here’s one bit: If there’s one overarching theme of “Uncontrolled Spread,” it’s that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention failed utterly. It’s now well known that the CDC didn’t follow standard operating procedures in its own labs, resulting in contamination and a […]

What’s the Right Dose for Boosters?

The Biden administration says booster shots are coming, but the FDA hasn’t decided on the dose. Moderna wants a half-shot booster. Pfizer a full shot. But could the best dose for Americans and for the world be even less? COVID-19 vaccines are the first successful use of mRNA vaccine technology, so a lot remains unknown. […]

What’s the Right Dose for Boosters?

The Biden administration says booster shots are coming, but the FDA hasn’t decided on the dose. Moderna wants a half-shot booster. Pfizer a full shot. But could the best dose for Americans and for the world be even less? COVID-19 vaccines are the first successful use of mRNA vaccine technology, so a lot remains unknown. […]

What to Watch

A few things I have watched recently: The Courier–a taut, spy drama about the true story of Greville Wynne, an ordinary British businessman who was recruited by the British and American spy services to courier information in the 1960s from Russian agent Oleg Penkovsky–information that proved crucial to the United States during the Cuban Missile […]

Operation Warp Speed: A Story Yet to be Told

Operation Warp Speed was by far the most successful government program against COVID. But as of yet there is very little discussion or history of the program. As just an indication I looked for references in a bunch of pandemic books to General Perna who co-led OWS with Moncef Slaoui. Michael Lewis in The Premonition […]

The Ig Nobel Prizes

The Ig Nobel Prize in Economics this year went to Pavlo Blavatskyy for Obesity of politicians and corruption in post-Soviet countries: We collected 299 frontal face images of 2017 cabinet ministers from 15 post-Soviet states (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan). For each image, the […]

Strategic Citing

Amir Rubin and Eran Rubin have a clever new paper in the JPE on strategic citations (SSRN). In order to obtain publications in top-tiered journals, get invited to conferences, become a reference and so forth: …authors may cite top-tier journals as a way to enhance their relationships with those journals.They may further consider the preferences […]

Organic Disaster

Sri Lanka’s President abruptly banned chemical fertilizers earlier this year in a bid to become 100% organic. The ban has resulted in reduced production and soaring prices that, together with declining tourism and the pandemic, have created an economic crisis. According to major Sri Lankan tea conglomerate Herman Gunaratne, one of 46 experts picked by […]

Authoritarian Australia

Australia is now one of the most authoritarian states in the world. Conor Friedersdorf writes: Australia is undoubtedly a democracy, with multiple political parties, regular elections, and the peaceful transfer of power. But if a country indefinitely forbids its own citizens from leaving its borders, strands tens of thousands of its citizens abroad, puts strict […]

The Kids are Doing Alright

You may have seen the viral tweet suggesting that boomers own all the wealth and millennials are poor. It’s hard for me to get worked up. Talk about a problem that will solve itself! The problem that the graph suggests, however, is not even correct. Why are we looking at generational wealth shares when we […]

Econ 101, the Drug War, and Afghanistan

Jeffrey Clemens has an excellent piece summarizing his work on the economics of opium production and foreign policy: From the perspective of Eurasian heroin traffickers, raw opium accounts for a small share of the cost of reaching either their middle- or high-income consumers. Most of the cost is driven by the expenses and risks associated […]

Hispanic and White Criminality are Converging

Keith Humphreys has a good post at the excellent Slow Boring on how Hispanics and White statistics on crime are converging. An otherwise dull new government report on incarceration contains a startling fact: Hispanics are slightly less likely to be jailed than whites. It’s one of multiple unappreciated signs of fading disparities between Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites in […]

Crypto-Volcano Sentence of the Day

The 40-year-old president also wants to lure foreign investors to develop geothermal power from volcanoes to supply the large amounts of electricity needed for mining the cryptocurrency. This is from the WSJ’s article on El Salvador’s adoption of bitcoin. Hat tip: Scott Lincicome.

Why Doesn’t the United States Have Test Abundance?!

We have vaccine abundance in the United States but not test abundance. Germany has test abundance. Tests are easily available at the supermarket or the corner store and they are cheap, five tests for 3.75 euro or less than a dollar each. Billiger! In Great Britain you can get a 14 pack for free. The […]

Thailand and The WHO on Fractional Dosing

Thailand will study fractional dosing: Thailand is studying the possibility of injecting coronavirus vaccines under the skin to try to stretch its limited supply, a health official said on Thursday, as the country races to inoculate the public faster amid a worsening epidemic. “Our previous experience shows that intradermal injections uses 25% of a muscular […]

Historical Migration, Vitamin D Deficiency, and Health

In an interesting new paper, Andersen et al. (2021) use the Putterman-Weil historical migration index to show that life-expectancy is lower in countries where a large proportion of that country’s population emigrated from places with more sunlight (UV-R). Ethiopians in Israel, Indians in the UK and blacks in the United States, for example, tend to […]

Shame. Shame. Shame.

The Afghanistan war was an epic disaster. Nothing good came of it. The least we can do as we evacuate, however, is to help all the Afghanis who helped us and who are now under death threat from the Taliban. But our record on Afghan refugees is shameful. At right from Daniel Bier is a […]

Build

The excellent Eli Dourado in the NYTimes: Many of our country’s problems are reducible, in one way or another, to the fact that we have lost the imperative to transform the physical world. While the soft technology of the internet has marched forward, development of real stuff — of steel and concrete — has slowed, […]

The TGA is Worse than the FDA, and the Australian Lockdown

I have been highly critical of the FDA but in Australia the FDA is almost a model to be emulated. Steven Hamilton and Richard Holden do not mince words: At the end of 2020, as vaccines were rolling out en masse in the Northern Hemisphere, the TGA [Therapeutic Goods Administration, AT] flatly refused to issue […]

Our Regulatory State Isn’t Learning

Outsourced to John Cochrane: Delta is the fourth wave of covid, and amazingly the US policy response is even more irresolute than the first time around. Our government is like a child, sent next door to get a cup of sugar, who gets as far as the front stoop and then wanders off following a […]

Solve All Murders

Defund the police is a bad idea and a terrible slogan. Conor Friedersdorf argues for a better policy and a better slogan, Solve All Murders.  He quotes, Jill Leovy, author of Ghettoside: Forty years after the civil rights movement, impunity for the murder of black men remained America’s great, though mostly invisible, race problem. The […]

The FDA Is Still Much Too Strict

Here is just one bit from a superb post on the FDA by psychiatrist Scott Alexander at Astral Codex Ten. I worry that people are going to come away from this with some conclusion like “wow, the FDA seemed really unprepared to handle COVID.” No. It’s not that specific. Every single thing the FDA does […]

The Most Important Act of the Last Two Decades?

A good case can be made that Project Bioshield is the most important piece of legislation passed in the last twenty years. Passed under President Bush in 2004, Project Bioshield’s primary goal was to create advance market commitments to purchase countermeasures for chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear agents (CBRN). Several billion dollars have been spent […]

Status Quo Bias

Here is the lead sentence from a CNN piece on vaccine boosters: Even though the biopharmaceutical company Pfizer has announced that it might be time to consider giving a third dose of its coronavirus vaccine to people, many doctors and public health officials argue that it’s more beneficial to get shots into the arms of […]

Achieve!

It’s very easy to include MRU videos in a class using our textbook, Modern Principles of Economics, and the course management system, Achieve. Just a few clicks to assign videos along with auto-graded questions. Awesome! Check out the integration in the video. Sign up for an Achieve demo here.

Olympic Charter Cities

An interesting idea from Max. It’s getting harder to find a city to host the Olympics , a Charter Olympic City might be just the ticket to get a Charter City off the ground and share costs. A public-private partnership model for building the Olympic village would alleviate some of the budgetary pressure on governments […]

Are You More Strategic than a Fifth Grader?

Isabelle Brocas and Juan Carrillo have a new paper in the JPE testing when children develop strategic (k-level) reasoning. A clever game outlined below illustrates the basic idea. Players 1,2 and 3 are asked to make (simultaneous) choices to earn prizes (money for the adults and older kids, points for toys for the younger kids). […]

Welcome to the Club

Ashish Jha, dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University, has had it with the FDA: Nearly all public-health authorities in the country are urging people to get vaccines. We see the incredible results that the vaccines have had and how many lives they’re saving, and still the F.D.A. has not offered full, […]

A Step Closer to General AI

From Google’s Deep Mind: In recent years, artificial intelligence agents have succeeded in a range of complex game environments. For instance, AlphaZero beat world-champion programs in chess, shogi, and Go after starting out with knowing no more than the basic rules of how to play. Through reinforcement learning (RL), this single system learnt by playing […]

The Farrago of International Travel Restrictions

International travel restrictions are a farrago built on fear, statistical confusion, and out-dated information. The US, for example, is still requiring a virus test to enter the US but not proof of vaccination. In other words, a fully vaccinated citizen can now travel to Canada (with Canadian requirements) but if they want back in they […]

The 1991 Project

In 1991 on the verge of bankruptcy, India abandoned the License-Raj and freed its economy from many socialist shackles. Prime Minister Narasimha Rao announced to the nation: We believe that a bulk of government regulations and controls on economic activity have outlived their utility. They are stifling the creativity and innovativeness of our people. Excessive […]

Why I Am Angry

Agnes Callard explains: … at times it is only the angry who are in a position to apprehend the magnitude of some injustice. For they are the ones willing to sacrifice all their other concerns and interests so as to attend, with an almost divine focus, to some tear in the moral fabric. When I […]

Excess Deaths in India

Abhishek Anand, Justin Sandefur, and Arvind Subramanian calculate excess mortality in India since April 2020 based on three different datasets (each with their own challenges.) Each estimate indicates that excess mortality is more likely around 4 million than the official figure of 400,000. These figures accord with what everyone on the ground has been telling […]

Vaccines Dramatically Reduce Deaths

A very good graph from the New Statesman. The vaccines give the body a huge advantage in fighting the virus so even when there are infections the number of deaths is dramatically reduced. This is UK data but the same type of relationship should hold everywhere.

Review of Nightmare Scenario by Abutaleb and Paletta

Nightmare Scenario opens with Anthony Fauci stripped to his skivvies and wondering whether the white powder he has just been exposed to in his NIH office is anthrax, ricin, or a hoax. The first and last he can survive, ricin is a death sentence. A security team douses him with chemicals and moves him to […]

Second Doses Are Better at 8 Weeks or Longer

In Britain people are now being warned *not* to get their second dose at 3 or 4 weeks because this offers less protection than waiting 8 weeks or longer. Warnings over the lack of long-term protection offered by jab intervals shorter than eight weeks come as scores of under 40s continue to receive second doses […]

A Regression Puzzle

Here’s a regression puzzle courtesy of Advanced NFL Stats from a few years ago and pointed to recently by Holden Karnofsky from his interesting new blog, ColdTakes. The nominal issue is how to figure our whether Aaron Rodgers is underpaid or overpaid given data on salaries and expected points added per game. Assume that these […]

Self Recommending Links

1. I had a fun and wide-ranging conversation with Jonah Goldberg on the Remnant. We covered the economy, immigration, cyborgs and the Baumol effect among other topics. 2. Tim Harford covers fractional dosing at the FT: The concept of a standard or full dose is fuzzier than one might imagine. These vaccines were developed at […]

Why Do Women Earn Less Than Men? Evidence from Bus and Train Operators

From a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Labor Economics (ungated) by Valentin Bolotnyy and Natalia Emanuel, both excellent labor economists. We show that a gender earnings gap can exist even in an environment where work tasks are similar, wages are identical, and tenure dictates promotions. The 11 percent earnings gap in our setting arises […]

Towards a COVAX Exchange

Israel had vaccine that was about to expire before it could be administered. South Korea needed vaccine immediately to stop a surge. They arranged a deal. South Korea said it will receive 700,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine from Israel on loan this week, in an attempt to speed up immunisation following a surge in […]

Alternative Dosing

Close-up medical syringe with a vaccine. Alternative dosing is finally getting some attention. This story in Nature recounts some of the recent arguments and evidence: Two jabs that each contained only one-quarter of the standard dose of the Moderna COVID vaccine gave rise to long-lasting protective antibodies and virus-fighting T cells, according to tests in […]