Increasing Marginal Utility

A blog so good it violates the law of diminishing marginal utility.

Browsing Catharsis – 03.29.15

The Thin Blue Line of Entitlement,” by Ken White.

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“This paper is a critical review of and a reader’s guide to a collection of papers by Robert E. Lucas, Jr. about fruitful ways of using general equilibrium theories to understand measured economic aggregates. These beautifully written and wisely argued papers integrated macroeconomics, microeconomics, finance, and econometrics in ways that restructured big parts of macroeconomic research.”

Thomas J. Sargent. 2015. “Robert E. Lucas Jr.’s Collected Papers on Monetary Theory.” Journal of Economic Literature 53, no. 1: 43-64.

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Browsing Catharsis – 03.28.15

The Campus Climate Crusade,” by Kimberly Strassel.

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“Milton Friedman died in 2006, right before the onset of the Great Recession. Unfortunately, we will never know how Friedman would have interpreted this event. However, we can draw some inferences from his published views on the Great Depression, as well as his views on more recent monetary policy, especially in Japan. It seems likely that Friedman would have blamed the Fed for insufficiently expansionary monetary policy during 2008 and 2009, a view that is quite different from the conventional conservative interpretation of events.”

Scott Sumner. 2015. “What Would Milton Friedman Have Thought of the Great Recession?” American Journal of Economics and Sociology 74, no. 2: 209-235.

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How Snobbery Helped Take The Spice Out Of European Cooking,” by Maanvi Singh. I’m conflicted by this. On the one hand, screw you, food snobs! On the other, I hate Indian food. And I spent two weeks in Mumbai on business in a past life so, yes, I know what “real” Indian food tastes like.

Browsing Catharsis – 03.27.15

Which Position Would Win A Tournament of Positions?” by Sam Miller.

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Here’s what happened when Los Angeles banned new fast-food restaurants,” by Megan Thielking. The answer is obesity increased. It’s almost as if consumers are rational and consumer sovereignty holds. This is good reporting followed by several ad hoc reasons why the study doesn’t count because the researchers and the Vox author dislike the result.

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Browsing Catharsis – 03.26.15

Libertarian Strategy in a Non-Ideal World,” by Kevin Vallier. Gaus’s argument (and analogy) is a thought I’ve had many times and I’m glad someone has articulated it.

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Debunking the Myth of the Job-Stealing Immigrant,” by Adam Davidson.

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Social Spending in the US versus the OECD.

Libby Nelson of Vox notes that America does spend substantially more per student on education than others in the OCED. She gives the exact data: $15,171 per student in the US, $9,313 OECD average.

Her first reason why America has mediocre educational outcomes is the lack of other social spending. The section title is “The US spends more on education but less on other social programs.”

I was curious as to why the section doesn’t contain the analogous number for social spending. If you look up the equivalent number (per capita, constant prices, PPP adjusted, 2011 numbers), you get this:

US social spending: $8,398 per person
OECD average: $6,856 per person

At second glance, she does say in text, “The first is that the US spends less on social programs than some other countries,” not the OECD average. So this isn’t a lie, but it is a lie in the sense that Fox News regularly lies. When you read the headline and the data it first reports, what is the implication of social spending in the United States relative to the average?

Here is the per capita spending for all OECD countries. Note that since this is PPP adjusted, poorer countries shouldn’t be given any extra credit for more social spending even though they are poorer. Social spending as a percentage of GDP screws that part up.

Australia 7026.4
Austria 9884.4
Belgium 9864.6
Canada 6350.6
Chile 1792.9
Czech Republic 4887.4
Denmark 10003.1
Estonia 3373.3
Finland 8925.9
France 9291.7
Germany 7939.7
Greece 6141.1
Hungary 4649.6
Iceland 7149.4
Ireland 8483.8
Israel 4824.1
Italy 7916.8
Japan 6014.1
Korea 2622.1
Luxembourg 15371.6
Mexico 1177.8
Netherlands 8748.9
New Zealand 5687.7
Norway 9962.1
Poland 3666.6
Portugal 5229.5
Slovak Republic 4070.8
Slovenia 6946
Spain 7517
Sweden 9749.4
Switzerland 7191.8
Turkey 4831.3
United Kingdom 7482.9
United States 8397.5
OECD – Total 6855.7

Thank you for explaining the news to me, Vox.

Browsing Catharsis – 03.25.15

Federal court rejects Third Amendment claim against police officers,” by Ilya Somin.

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Improper payments are undermining the EITC,” by Angela Rachidi. I normally don’t bite for these types of things but the magnitudes look fairly big.

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Sabermetrics 101: Introduction to Baseball Analytics.” You might learn more in this course than in three undergrad stats/econometrics courses.

Browsing Catharsis – 03.24.15

Spring Forward,” from The Economist. This actually is a good listing of the failures of sabermetrics. On the one hand, some sabermetricians still only get agitated when you point out these failures. On the other, I’m not sure if they are all failures.

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“Conspicuous displays of consumption and benevolence might serve as ‘costly signals’ of desirable mate qualities. If so, they should vary strategically with manipulations of mating-related motives. The authors examined this possibility in 4 experiments. Inducing mating goals in men increased their willingness to spend on conspicuous luxuries but not on basic necessities. In women, mating goals boosted public-but not private–helping. Although mating motivation did not generally inspire helping in men, it did induce more helpfulness in contexts in which they could display heroism or dominance. Conversely, although mating motivation did not lead women to conspicuously consume, it did lead women to spend more publicly on helpful causes. Overall, romantic motives seem to produce highly strategic and sex-specific self-presentations best understood within a costly signaling framework.”

Vladas Griskevicius, Joshua M. Tybur, Jill Sundie, Robert B. Cialdini, Geoffrey F. Miller, and Douglas T. Kenrick, 2007. “Blatant benevolence and conspicuous consumption: When romantic motives elicit strategic costly signals.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 93, no. 1: 85-102.

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Browsing Catharsis – 03.23.15

Mugged by Reality,” by Scott Sumner.

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“American sociology has consistently leaned toward the political Left. This ideological skew hinders sociological insight in three ways. First, the scope of research projects is constrained: sociologists are discouraged from touching on taboo topics and ideologically unpalatable facts. Second, the data used in sociological research have been limited. Sociologists neglect data that portray conservatives positively and liberals negatively. Data are also truncated to hide facts that subvert a liberal narrative. Third, the empathic understanding of non-liberal ideologies is inhibited. Sociologists sometimes develop the erroneous belief that they understand alternative ideologies, and they fail to explore non-liberal ways of framing sociological knowledge. Some counterarguments may be raised against these theses, and I address such counterarguments.”

Chris C. Martin.2015. “How Ideology Has Hindered Sociological Insight.” The American Sociologist.

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Browsing Catharsis – 03.22.15

More info for consumers can backfire: Column: GMO labeling has real costs, no pay-off,” Sherzod Abdukadirov. Ideologically I obviously don’t want labeling, but the arguments regarding the practical effects of labeling “feel” like libertarian paternalism.

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Keith Law reviews Paleofantasy.

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Browsing Catharsis – 03.21.15

Meet the 26-year-old who’s taking on Thomas Piketty’s ominous warnings about inequality,” by Jim Tankersley. Rognlie’s paper can be found here.

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“We review new findings and new theoretical developments in the field of intelligence. New findings include the following: (a) Heritability of IQ varies significantly by social class. (b) Almost no genetic polymorphisms have been discovered that are consistently associated with variation in IQ in the normal range. (c) Much has been learned about the biological underpinnings of intelligence. (d) “Crystallized” and “fluid” IQ are quite different aspects of intelligence at both the behavioral and biological levels. (e) The importance of the environment for IQ is established by the 12-point to 18-point increase in IQ when children are adopted from working-class to middle-class homes. (f) Even when improvements in IQ produced by the most effective early childhood interventions fail to persist, there can be very marked effects on academic achievement and life outcomes. (g) In most developed countries studied, gains on IQ tests have continued, and they are beginning in the developing world. (h) Sex differences in aspects of intelligence are due partly to identifiable biological factors and partly to socialization factors. (i) The IQ gap between Blacks and Whites has been reduced by 0.33 SD in recent years. We report theorizing concerning (a) the relationship between working memory and intelligence, (b) the apparent contradiction between strong heritability effects on IQ and strong secular effects on IQ, (c) whether a general intelligence factor could arise from initially largely independent cognitive skills, (d) the relation between self-regulation and cognitive skills, and (e) the effects of stress on intelligence.”

Richard E. Nisbett, Joshua Aronson, Clancy Blair, William Dickens, James Flynn, Diane F. Halpern, and Erick Turkheimer. 2012. “Intelligence: New Findings and Theoretical Developments.” American Psychologist 67, no. 2: 130-159.

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Via Ezra Klein.

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