Independent Streams (week of January 23)

Our weekly roundup of policy-relevant reads and IPPSR-connected research Problems Betsy DeVos’ Accountability Problem (link is external) IPPSR Affiliate David Arsen comments on charter school organization in light of President Donald Trump’s pro-charter school education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos. Senate Hearing, DeVos Shows Ignorance Central Debate Over How To Measure Schools (link is external) IPPSR …

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Publication – The Economics of a Food Fraud Incident – Case Studies and Examples, Including Melamine in Wheat Gluten

We all know Food Fraud occurs for economic gain, but it is more complex than just “profit margin” or “commodity price swings.” Reviewing the incidents provides insight on exactly how and where bad guys are attacking… which is critical to prevention and selecting countermeasures. New Publication: The Economics of a Food Fraud Incident – Case …

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Shift Commission on Work, Workers, and Technology (New America Foundation and Bloomberg)

I spent yesterday at this event. If you look carefully you can see Tim O’Reilly in one of the photos below. New America and Bloomberg are convening the Shift Commission on Work, Workers, and Technology to bring together a community of leaders from different disciplines — technology, business, policy, civil society, academia, and others — who want to understand …

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The Sell-Off of Democracy

In the past few months we have seen an acceleration of mergers among giants in many industries. Dow Chemical and Dupont, followed by Monsanto and Bayer, Marriott and Starwood, Microsoft and Linked-In, Verizon and Yahoo, and recently Miller and Budweiser. Each of these firms were giants before a merger. By combining they not only grab …

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The Vanishing Trash Collector

July | 2016 | American Myths A few days ago the trash collector came along on his usual route. Typically, one person would drive while the other collected the trash bins and moved them to an automatic lift that dumped them into the truck. Afterwards, the same trash collector would deposit the empty bins on …

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Arthur Kroeber (Gavekal) on Chinese economy

Highly recommended. Kroeber gives a realistic assessment of the Chinese economy, covering topics such as historical development models, infrastructure investment, debt levels, SOEs vs private enterprise, corruption pre- and post-Xi, demographics, hukou reform, etc. In this episode of Sinica, we present an in-depth interview with Arthur Kroeber, founding partner and head of research for Gavekal …

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Enlightened Minds in a Darkening Time

It’s been more than a month since I finished reading two very insightful books, Sheldon Wolin’s Democracy Incorporated (2008) and John Ralston Saul’s The Collapse of Globalism. I have been wanting to write about them but have felt mentally paralyzed by fear that I could not possibly provide an adequate synopsis of their depth of …

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Putting a Lid On It

It is time for me to get off my duff. I have been sitting safely a bit too long, ensconced in my middle class security. A security a majority can’t share. Time to push forward some radical possibilities. Here’s one to start, some of which I’ve hinted around in the past. It’s time to enact …

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John Stuart Mill

My second “food ethics icon” for 2016 is John Stuart Mill. Mill is a pretty interesting figure in his own right and certainly one of the most important individuals of the 19th century. Mill inhabited a rarified intellectual and political environment from his London birth in 1806 to his death from a severe skin infection …

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A New Year, A New Economy?

I did not begin the day with any intention to write about anything in particular. Several ideas popped in and out of my consciousness during the day, but no one thing grabbed me. But then I skimmed the new January 2016 issue of Too Much, diligently compiled by Sam Pizzigati, and saw a familiar name …

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Saudis toast?

See also The one sided clash of civilizations. Telegraph: …If the aim was to choke the US shale industry, the Saudis have misjudged badly, just as they misjudged the growing shale threat at every stage for eight years. … The problem for the Saudis is that US shale frackers are not high-cost. They are mostly …

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Who’s on the other side of the trade?

A great conversation between Tyler Cowen and fund manager Cliff Asness, who has appeared many times on this blog. See, e.g., this 2004 post on his analysis of the well known Fed Model for equity valuation, also discussed in the interview. Hedge-fund manager Cliff Asness, one of the most influential—and outspoken—financial thinkers, will join Tyler Cowen …

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Dollar Empire

This speech emphasizes an under-recognized motivation for US adventurism abroad: local military and geopolitical conflicts enhance the strength of the US dollar as a reserve currency in the face of global volatility. The essay is long but worth reading as it gives a fresh look at superpower competition across multiple arenas, and some insight into …

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W-2s don’t lie

These numbers are derived from aggregate W-2 incomes for 158 million working Americans (see link for full table). The “raw” average wage, computed as net compensation divided by the number of wage earners, is $7,050,259,213,644.55 divided by 158,186,786, or $44,569.20. Based on data in the table below, about 67.2 percent of wage earners had net …

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Productive Bubbles

These slides are from one of the best sessions I attended at scifoo. Bill Janeway’s perspective was both theoretical and historical, but in addition we had Sam Altman of Y Combinator to discuss Airbnb and other examples of 2 way market platforms (Uber, etc.) that may or may not be enjoying speculative bubbles at the …

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I call this progress

The tail of the (green) 2000 curve seems slightly off to me: ~10 million individuals with >$100k annual income? (~ $400k per annum for a family of four; but there are many more than 10 million “one percenters” in the US/Europe/Japan/China/etc.) Via Roger Chen. Tweet

Elegant Economies

The 19th century author Elizabeth Gaskel advises that “almost everyone has his own individual small economies—careful habits of saving fractions of pennies in some one particular direction—any disturbance of which him more than spending schillings or pounds on some more real extravagance.” She goes on to illustrate the point with examples, one of which falls …

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Strange Alignments – Trade and Democracy

As the battle for fast track status for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) continues watching the alignments for either side form has been curious at least. President Obama and generally progressive Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) have been bullish on the pact, as of of course has been conservative stalwarts like Sen. Orin Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. …

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John Nash, dead at 86

The original title of this post was For this you won a Nobel (Memorial) Prize? But see sad news at bottom. A Beautiful Mind: Nash went to see von Neumann a few days after he passed his generals? He wanted, he had told the secretary cockily, to discuss an idea that might be of interest …

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New kids on the blockchain

WSJ reports on institutional interest in blockchain technologies. WSJ: Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. is testing a new use of the technology that underpins the digital currency bitcoin, in a bid to transform the trading of shares in private companies. The experiment joins a slew of financial-industry forays into bitcoin-related technology. If the effort is deemed …

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Our Kids and Coming Apart

Nick Lemann reviews Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert D. Putnam. At the descriptive level, Putnam’s conclusions seem very similar to those of Charles Murray in Coming Apart. Of course, description is much easier to obtain than causality. NYBooks: … By the logic of the book, access to social capital ought to …

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Value-Added College Rankings

New report from Brookings estimates value added (in terms of economic success) by university, controlling for input factors such as student quality and family income. This is just the first step toward outcomes-driven rankings of universities that will be far more useful than the existing rankings, which are largely based on prestige. Brief summary. See …

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The Fires of Mordor

We’re right in the middle of a multi-week theme here at the Thornapple Blog, so if you are just dropping in you might find it helpful to go all the way back to February if you want to get the full treatment. But the synopsis is that we’re taking a dive into moral dietetics: the …

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Income, wealth, and IQ

I’m occasionally asked about financial returns to cognitive ability. As a rough rule of thumb, judging from the graphs below (obtained here), I would say: On average, an increase of IQ by one SD corresponds to  ~ $30k per annum of additional income. (Somewhat less than 1 SD in income; the distribution is far from …

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The rich (and powerful) are different

Discussions at the meeting I just attended are off the record, so I have nothing to report. But I will link to some previous posts of relevance: Creators and Rulers How the World Works Educational background of US elites A word cloud produced from the collective bios would feature: Harvard, Stanford, Goldman Sachs, Rhodes, Marshall, …

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