RoW: Links for 13th December, 2019

  1. “The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a global development strategy adopted by the Chinese government in 2013 involving infrastructure development and investments in 152 countries and international organizations in Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and the Americas”
    ..
    ..
    Five articles about the Belt and Road Initiative, earlier known as the One Belt One Road Initiative. We begin with the Wikipedia article.
    ..
    ..
  2. “The Belt and Road Initiative includes includes 1/3 of world trade and GDP and over 60% of the world’s population.”
    ..
    ..
    That excerpt is just the caption to the first chart in this write-up from the WB, but it is the one that really opens ones eyes to how large the BRI is.
    ..
    ..
  3. ““There are some extreme cases where China lends into very high risk environments, and it would seem that the motivation is something different. In these situations the leverage China has as lender is used for purposes unrelated to the original loan,” said Scott Morris, one of the authors of the Washington Centre for Global Development report.”
    ..
    ..
    The Guardian in a write-up about the same topic.
    ..
    ..
  4. “But the Crusades, as well as advances by the Mongols in Central Asia, dampened trade, and today Central Asian countries are economically isolated from each other, with intra-regional trade making up just 6.2 percent of all cross-border commerce. They are also heavily dependent on Russia, particularly for remittances—they make up one-third of the gross domestic product (GDP) of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. By 2018, remittances had dipped from their 2013 highs due to Russia’s economic woes.”
    ..
    ..
    The Council of Foreign Relations with their take.
    ..
    ..
  5. “Throughout the text, Maçães prefers to use the term ‘Belt and Road’ over the more succinct — and increasingly popular — ‘BRI’. This has the effect of giving credibility to the author’s speculation that eventually, Belt and Road terminology will be used much like ‘the West’ is to refer to the contemporary order. This musing reveals Maçães’s central argument: that the Belt and Road has the capacity to blaze a path to an alternative world order that reflects new universal values. At some points in the text, this comes across as a utopian promise; at other points, an improbable claim. These perspectives are compared and contrasted over the course of five chapters.”
    ..
    ..
    Read this review, but more importantly, read the book! A review of the book that Bruno Macaes has written on BRI.

Tech: Links for 10th December, 2019

  1. “To be clear, both roles can be beneficial — platforms make the relationship between users and 3rd-parties possible, and Aggregators helps users find 3rd-parties in the first place — and both roles can also be abused.”
    ..
    ..
    The always excellent Ben Thompson on regulating monopolies online, drawing a distinction between platforms and aggregators. His articles, as I have mentioned before, are always a delight to read, and this one in particular is a great collection of links to articles he has written before. Plus, this article is inspiration, if you will, for the links that follow.
    ..
    ..
  2. “Columbia University law professor Tim Wu coined the term “network neutrality” in a 2003 paper about online discrimination. At the time, some broadband providers, including Comcast, banned home internet users from accessing virtual private networks (VPNs), while others, like AT&T, banned users from using Wi-Fi routers. Wu worried that broadband providers’ tendency to restrict new technologies would hurt innovation in the long term, and called for anti-discrimination rules.”
    ..
    ..
    An excellent explainer from Wired about Net Neutrality.
    ..
    ..
  3. “For years, I winced at how Big Tech approached regulatory matters. When they wade into policy matters, they fail to see the bigger picture — and the younger the company, the worse they are at this. The hole that Facebook has dug for itself is entirely because its leadership seemed to believe that if they stayed within the letter of the current law they wouldn’t be regulated. This is a completely naive and ahistorical view. And this view has prevented Facebook from innovating in their own policy space. Without that policy innovation, we are left with essentially nonsensical suggestions to break up Facebook — which wouldn’t actually solve any of the issues anyone has with Facebook.”
    ..
    ..
    If you’re looking to do research in this field, you can’t not read Joshua Gans. This is just one of many excellently argued articles. Do read the whole thing!
    ..
    ..
  4. The internet activist Nikhil Pahwa lists out his expectations about the future of internet regulation in India. Agree or disagree (as usual, I fall in the middle), it is worth reading.
    ..
    ..
  5. “More generally, however, the bigger Google gets the more countries it has a physical presence in (servers, sales staff and support etc.) and thus the more leverage individual countries, especially large countries, will have to degrade the services that Google offers not just within-country but to the world.”
    ..
    ..
    Alex Tabarrok gives a fun example and a chilling analysis in the same short blog post.

India: Links for 9th December, 2019

Five rather eclectic links from a variety of issues pertaining to India. Also, my apologies about the delay in posting today! I’m traveling a fair bit, and there may be some delay in posts this week.

  1. Surjit Bhalla and Karan Bhasin present the other side of the story when it comes to the release (or lack of it) of the NSO consumption survey.
    ..
    ..
  2. The Scroll sheds light on a little known issue today: austerity in marriages in India in the years gone past – enforced by the government!
    ..
    ..
  3. Anupam Mannur and Pranay Kotasthane make the important, but not well known point that Bangalore needs more firms (and more people!) not less.
    ..
    ..
  4. Via Mostly Economics, a lovely write-up about the fish traders of Madras.
    ..
    ..
  5. 18000 birds died in Rajasthan recently. Here’s why.

Video for 8th December, 2019

Tweets for 7th December, 2019

I try to post Twitter threads here for the most part, but one tweet today is an exception to the rule, both for the link within, as also because the person who tweeted that link is worth following on Twitter.

 

 

Etc: Links for 6th December, 2019

Five articles about my favorite sportsperson

 

  1. “Dear Maya, It’s June 25, 2032 and it’s your 18th birthday. I don’t have anything profound to give you except for this thumb drive about an unusual man. Roger Federer didn’t fight for peace or solve world hunger, but he did what most could not. In an era of athletic conceit and inflated skill, he lived for roughly 20 years at the unique intersection of art, accomplishment and decency.”
    ..
    ..
    Rohit Brijnath.
    ..
    ..
  2. “Four years ago, trying to comprehend the phenomenon of Federer’s late career, which even then seemed like it had lasted an astonishingly long time, I wrote that the best athletes usually have a “still” phase. First they’re fast. Then they’re slow. In between, there’s a moment when they’re “still” fast — when you can see the end coming but can’t deny that, for now, they remain close to their best. Federer, I wrote, had spent longer in that “still” phase than any great tennis player I could think of.”
    ..
    ..
    Brian Philips, amazed at how long Federer has been awesome… written in 2015.
    ..
    ..
  3. A Wikipedia article about the greatest rivalry in sport.
    ..
    ..
  4. “I was broken after the final at Wimbledon then. I was equally gutted after the final today. There’s a difference in outlook though. Back then, I hated the opponent with every small bit of childish rebellion could gather. Today, I respect Djokovic. I acknowledge his presence as the superior player of the day. And I thank him for a being a part of a spectacle I will never forget my entire life.”
    ..
    ..
    For the tennis aficionados, care to take a guess what match is being spoken about? Sumedh Natu in top formSumedh Natu in top form.
    ..
    ..
  5. If you are as much a fan of reading and watching tennis as I am, you knew what the fifth link was going to be. If you aren’t, and are reading this for the first time, I envy you.

EC101: Links for 5th December, 2019

If you think of one’s opinion about RCT’s as a spectrum, I fall on the “I think it’s not a bad idea at all” part of it. How might I be wrong? Five articles that help me understand this.

  1. “Lately I find myself cringing at the question “what works in development?” I think it’s a mistake to think that way. That is why I now try hard not to talk in terms of “program evaluation”.“Does it work?” is how I approached at least two of the studies. One example: Would a few months of agricultural skills training coax a bunch of ex-combatants out of illegal gold mining, settle them in villages, and make it less likely they join the next mercenary movement that forms?

    But instead of asking, “does the program work?”, I should have asked, “How does the world work?” What we want is a reasonably accurate model of the world: why people or communities or institutions behave the way they do, and how they will respond to an incentive, or a constraint relieved. Randomized trials, designed right, can help move us to better models.”
    ..
    ..
    Chris Blattman on the issue. (Note that this was written in 2016)
    ..
    ..

  2. “In the early 2000s a group emerged arguing that important improvements to development and hence to human well-being could be achieved through the wide spread use of independent impact evaluations of development programs and projects using randomized control trial methods (RCT) of choosing randomly “treatment” and “control” individuals. I have been arguing, since about that time, that this argument for RCT in IIE gets one small thing right (that it is hard to recover methodologically sound estimates of project/program causal impact with non-experimental methods) but all the big things wrong.”
    ..
    ..
    You can’t write anything about RCT’s without writing about Lant Pritchett’s opinion about them.
    ..
    ..
  3. “Like other methods of investigation, they are often useful, and, like other methods, they have dangers and drawbacks. Methodological prejudice can only tie our hands. Context is always important, and we must adapt our methods to the problem at hand. It is not true that an RCT, when feasible, will always do better than an observational study. This should not be controversial, but my reading of the rhetoric in the literature suggests that the following statements might still make some uncomfortable, particularly the second: (a) RCTs are affected by the same problems of inference and estimation that economists have faced using other methods, and (b) no RCT can ever legitimately claim to have established causality.”
    ..
    ..
    Angus Deaton weighs in (and if you ask me, this is my favorite out of the five)
    ..
    ..
  4. “The economists, like the medical researchers, seem to have lost touch
    with their proper role. They are not ethically assigned to master our lives.
    The mastering assignment is what they assume when they focus on
    “policy,” understood as tricking or bribing or coercing people to do what’s
    best. It sounds fine, until you realize that it is what your mother did to you
    when you were 2 years old, and had properly stopped doing to you by the
    time you were 21. The field experimenters scorn adult liberty. And that is
    the other way many economists have lost touch. As noted by the
    economist William Easterly, another critic of the experimental work, and as
    argued at length by your reporter in numerous books, the real way to solve
    world poverty is liberty. Not dubious, fiddly, bossy little policies handed
    down from the elite. ”
    ..
    ..
    Dierdre McCloskey (as usual) doesn’t pull punches.
    ..
    ..
  5. A set of links about the topic from Oxfam.