What Would Your “The Question” Be?

I ask my students to ask me five random questions at the end of each class. And I was asked a fascinating question today: “If you could ask god a question to which you would get an answer, what would it be?”

My answer was that I would ask god if there is a point to all this. That is, is there meaning and purpose to the universe, or does the universe just go completely cold and dead at some point in the future?

But on reflection, I am not so sure that I would want the answer to that question. If there is no point to the universe, will I have the motivation to do anything? And if there is a point, well, carry on!

That is, a point to the universe implies I should do what I was doing anyways. Because if there is a point to the universe and I’m not contributing meaningfully, then what is the point of my existence? I should do more!

And if I think that I am contributing meaningfully (in my opinion), then the answer doesn’t change anything in my life. So on balance, I would rather not find out the answer, which means I shouldn’t ask this question. Would you agree?

But then what question should I ask? Asking god if she exists is a fun candidate, but surely I can do better. Resolve a conjecture in mathematics? Ask if traveling back in time is possible? What was there before the Big Bang?

What about this: “What is the one question you are hoping I ask?”. Or its converse, for that matter. But if god has a Puneri sense of humor, she might well say “the one you just asked!” Back to square one, then.

“Do the ends justify the means?” is a question that I would like an answer to, but I worry that I will no longer want to read another version of the Mahabharata, and why deny myself that pleasure? The search goes on!

I honestly don’t know of a really “good” question, so I’ll go with a question that is meta, fun and one I would genuinely enjoy having answered. “Would you classify Douglas Adams as a fiction writer? Yup, I think this is it!

Or as a tribute to an author whose work I have always enjoyed reading, here’s another: “Is good a noun?” Either of these two, then, and not being able to decide is a privilege, I suppose. Finally: what would your question be?

Jeff Bezos, ex-CEO, Amazon

I thoroughly enjoyed going through these pictures, and you probably will too.

Here are three things I’d recommend you read about Amazon, to get a better sense of the company and what it has been up to:

  1. The Everything Store, by Biz Stone
  2. The Amazon Tax, by Ben Thompson
  3. A fascinating story about how Amazon developed it’s batteries.

Books about Macro

Praneet asked me this on the basis of yesterday’s post:

And so here we go:
  1. I and my batchmates spent hours reading Snowdown and Vane. Like any good book on macroeconomics, we were more confused for having read it, and I mean that as a compliment. (As an aside, I loved the bit in Amit Varma’s conversation with Karthik Muralidharan where they spoke about N Gregory Mankiw’s quip about being confused about economics. Don’t ask me what it was about, this is me trying to incentivize you to listen to the conversation!)
    But this really is an excellent book to read. It is mostly accessible, contains very very good explanatory diagram, and best of all, each chapter concludes with an interview with an economist who was most representative of that particular field of thought. If I remember correctly, the last question always used to be about whether Keynes would have won the Nobel prize had he been alive then. Fun book, and it would still be my top pick. (The listed prize on Amazon is barking mad, please note)
  2. I think I came across this paper via Marginal Revolution, but am not sure. It’s a pretty good paper to read as a macro student today, because it gives you a very good idea about what folks in the field have been up to in the last four decades or so. I personally think DSGE models are a little bit overrated, but you can’t ignore it if you want to build a career in academia as a macroeconomist. Most of all, though, as a student, you really want to understand the difference between description, pure theory, falsification, and model fitting papers. But on all accounts, if you want to read just one survey paper, this would be a good pick.
  3. Speaking of Marginal Revolution, this blogpost is a wonderful read, in the sense that it is full of wonderful reading references. By the way, I’ve been promising myself for well over a decade now that I will read more about Henry Thornton, but have never gotten around to actually doing so. As Professor Cowen says, please do read the second comment (the one by Kurt Schuler).
  4. Brad DeLong lists out books you should read on the Classical Economists over on FiveBooks.com, and that should serve you well. I have not read all of them, I should say. One book that I would add to the list (because the concept was so interesting) is Linda Yueh’s “The Great Economists: How Their Ideas Can Help Us Today”.
    Well, ok, another book: PJ O’Rourke On The Wealth of Nations. Easily the most fun book of the lot.
  5. Raffaele Rossi picks the five best macro textbooks here, and alas, DBF doesn’t make the cut. It was my first macro text, and I still remember working through IS-LM for the first time. I’m still working through it, because I still don’t understand it, but that is another story. Arnold Kling put up his own list, and I would personally prefer his list, especially Leamer’s book. And psst, Kling’s own book is very, very underrated.
  6. Now, India secific macro books: Joshi and Little’s book about post-91 reforms deserves mention, as does Macroeconomics of post-reform India. Joshi’s Long Road is also worth reading, as is The Turn of the Tortoise, by TN Ninan. TCA Srinvasa Raghavan had recommended an excellent collection of essays called Towards Development Economics, if you want to understand what India’s earliest modern (poor phrasing, I know) economists were up to. The festschrifts honoring Montek Singh Ahluwalia, and Manmohan Singh are also very good, as was Bibek Debroy’s book about getting India back on track. Bhagwati and Panagariya’s Tryst with Destiny also!
  7. Finally, a book I am really looking forward to reading is Alex Thomas’ book on macro. I’m a GIPE student, so heterodox is a good wonderful thing. But that is a whole different blogpost in its own right!
  8. Lists like these can never be comprehensive, and I’m sure there will be people reading this who will be chomping at the bit to add to this list. Please, have at it, and share. That’s the point of the internet, no?

On Signals and Noise

Have you ever walked out of a classroom as a student wondering what the hell went on there for the past hour? Or, if you are a working professional, have you ever walked out of a meeting wondering exactly the same thing?

No matter who you are, one of the two has happened to you at some point in your life. We’ve all had our share of monumentally useless meetings/classes. Somebody has droned on endlessly about something, and after an eternity of that droning, we’re still not sure what that person was on about. To the extent that we still don’t know what the precise point of the meeting/class was.

One of the great joys in my life as a person who tries to teach statistics to students comes when I say that if you have experienced this emotion, you know what statistics is about. Well, that’s a stretch, but allow me to explain where I’m coming from.


Image taken form here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Z-test

Don’t be scared by looking at that formula. We’ll get to it in a bit.


Take your mind back to the meeting/class. When you walked out of it, did you find yourself plaintively asking a fellow victim, “But what was the point?”

And if you are especially aggrieved, you might add that the fellow went on for an hour, but you’re still not sure what that was all about. What you’re really saying is that there was a lot of noise in that meeting/class, but not nearly enough signal.

You’re left unsure about the point of the whole thing, but you and your ringing ears can attest to the fact that a lot was said.


Or think about a phone call, or a Whatsapp call. If there is a lot of disturbance on the call, it is likely that the call won’t last for very long, and you may well be unclear about what the other person on the call was trying to say.

What you’re really saying is that there was a lot of noise on the call, but not nearly enough signal.


That is what the signal-to-noise ratio is all about. The clearer the signal, the better it is. The lower the noise, the better it is. And the ratio is simply both things put together.

A class that ends with you being very clear about what the professor said is a good class. A good class is “high” on the signal that the professor wanted to leave you with. And if it is a class in which the professor didn’t deviate from the topic, didn’t wander down side-alleys and didn’t spend too much time cracking unnecessary jokes, it is an even better class, because it was “low” on disturbance (or to use another word that means the same thing as disturbance: noise).


That, you see, is all that the formula up there is saying. How high is the signal (x less mu), relative to the noise (sigma, or s). The higher the signal, and the lower the noise, the clearer the message from the data you are working with.

And it has to be both! A clear signal with insane amounts of noise ain’t a good thing, and an unclear signal with next to no noise is also not a good thing.

And all of statistics can be thought of this way: what is the signal from the data that I am examining, relative to the noise that is there in this dataset. That is one way to understand the fact that the formula can look plenty scary, but this is all it is really saying.

Even this monster, for example:

https://www.statsdirect.co.uk/help/parametric_methods/utt.htm

Looks scary, but in English, it is asking the same question: how high is the signal, relative to the noise. It’s just that the formula for calculating the noise is exuberantly, ebulliently expansive. Leave all that to us, the folks who think this is fun. All you need to understand is the fact that this is what we’re asking:


What is the signal, relative to the noise?


And finally speaking of noise, that happens to be the title of Daniel Kahneman’s latest book. I have just downloaded it, and will get to it soon (hopefully). But before recommending to you that you should read it, I wanted to explain to you what the title meant.

And if you’re wondering why I would recommend something that I haven’t read yet, well, let me put it this way: it’s Daniel Kahneman.

High signal, no noise.

Rahul Gupta’s Recommendations

 

Rahul Gupta (a well thought-out URL, that) graduated from Gokhale Institute, and now works with EY in Gurgaon. He sent across his list of recommendations for students to go through, and it can be found below.

Keep ’em coming, everybody!

 

Here is a list of my recommendations –

  • For students of Economics –

    • Hubris: Why Economists Failed to Predict the Crisis and How to Avoid the Next One – Lord Meghnad Desai
    • History of Economic Thought: A Critical Perspective – Emery Kay Hunt
      Both books by Abhijit Banerjee & Esther Duflo (currently reading the second one)
    • Most books recommended by you and the faculty at GIPE. Hopefully, some of them will be read cover to cover. Please do.
    • An Economist in the Real World: The Art of Policymaking in India – Kaushik Basu
    • In service of the Republic – Vijay Kelkar & Ajay Shah (Thank you!)
  • General stuff that I would recommend –

    • Anything by Yuval Noah Harari
    • Books and lectures by Jordan Peterson (if you can digest that kind of stuff easily)
    • The Emperor of All Maladies – Siddhartha Mukherjee
    • Following books in the domain of philosophy and political economy –
      • Leviathan – Thomas Hobbes
      • Art of War – Sun Tzu
      • Republic – Plato
  • Some of the books that are on my radar –

    • A Theory of Justice – John Rawls
    • Anarchy, State and Utopia – Robert Nozick
    • Road to Serfdom – Friedrich Hayek
    • How Fascism works – Jason Stanley
    • The Book of Why – Judea Pearl
    • The origins of Political Order – Francis Fukuyama
    • and some more additions to it, it will be a long list.
  • For the students who are currently figuring out what to do, some things that might interest all:

    • https://www.elementsofai.com/ – It’s a free course that really explains the ideas behind AI/ML in an easier to digest and intuitive way. Randomly stumbled across this and really loved the content.
    • Introduction to Statistical Learning – Gareth James et al. Highly recommended, it digs deep into statistical learning, takes some time for the non-math-y person, but eventually it is an interesting read.
    • 3Blue1Brown YouTube channel, already posted in your recommendations. It is a delight to watch.
    • Numberphile YouTube channel – Good to know how much of maths and numbers you have no clue of, and an occasional greek letter that you never knew existed.
  • Finally, anyone who doesn’t like reading. These podcasts might be a welcome addition to daily schedule –

And he ends with a request:

Would love to know your top 5 books of all-time/2019, my reading list would keep growing this way.

All time is a dangerous thing to think about, because you end up thinking about all day long, and keep wishing you could go back and change, but for what its worth, here you go:

  1. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig
  2. Mahabharata, pick whichever version you like to start with – Amar Chitra Katha is actually under-rated – and keep reading other versions
  3. How Asia Works, by Joe Studwell – this taught me more about international trade and development than any other single book. Not even close.
  4. Triumph of the City, by Ed Glaeser. Urbanization is increasingly my favorite topic to read about, which is also why the final book is…
  5. Order Without Design, by Alain Bertaud

 

I owed you a fair amount of beer in any case, let’s just end up doubling the owed amount for sending in this list, Rahul. Thank you so much!

Krishna Subramanian’s List of Things to Read and Learn

Krishna Subramanian, Ajinkya Jadhav’s batchmate in SCMHRD, was kind enough to message me separately on LinkedIn, and send across his list of things students might benefit by reading, along with some tips and tricks that he found to be useful.

If you have finished college and are reading this, a request: please help out students who are currently in college, and are wondering how to add to their learning. I and other faculty members can help out with syllabi and all that, but you are folks with skin in the game. What helped you in your career, what helped you learn better, what did you wish you had done when you were in college?

I’m reachable on LinkedIn and on email. Please send along your recommendations, and I’ll share them here. Thank you!

On to Krishna Subramanian’s list – thanks a ton for sending these in, kind sir 🙂

 

My own top 5 books which all MBA Streams should read
1) Basic Economics by Thomas Sowel
2) Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
3) Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham
4) Goal by Etiyahu Go
5) Life and work priciples by Ray Dalio.
6) Linchpin by Seth Godin (Bonus)

Books for Finance professionals, Other than above:
1) Manorama Yearbook
– If you are working in India, it would surprise you how little you know about India. Keeping this handy and going through once in a while is a massive boon.
2) Security Analysis By Graham & Dodd
3) Damodaran on Valuation
4) R programming for dummies. (most underrated skill any finance professional can have)
5) Warren Buffett and the interpretation of financial statements by Mary Buffett and David clark.

This should help.

I would recommend the following technology trends
to keep an eye on:
1) Blockchain ( Blockchain Revolution by Don and Alex Tapscott is a good read )
2) Artifical Intelligence ( course by Andew Ng on Coursera and Prediction machines by Agrawal gans and goldfarb)
3) Augmented Reality (best is youtube videos, because you really need to understand visually why this will change business)

Ajinkya captured the blogs and podcasts perfectly, so I figured I would add a list of don’t dos?

1) Do not read any book only once.
2) Accounting is a mechanical process but Finance is not. Do not be close minded on how things must be done. (once you come into the world, even accounting is not mechanical)
3) Do not forget your basics. NPV, IRR, Time value of Money, P&L, Balance sheet, Cash flow statements.. these things should be absolutely solid. Its remarkable how many people still fumble with these.
4) Do not ignore Taxes./hidden charges. We always do things ” tax exclusive” but remember, taxes/ hidden charges are a massive key to anything. Eg: Read about active and passive Mutual Funds.
5) Do not call Ashish as Sir. (This is correct, and important – Ashish)

Lastly I think Ajinkya captured it best, you are the average of the 5 people you hang out with. Even if you read none of the above, bring out ruthless choice in your company.

Thank you for all the learnings,
Krishna Subramanian

 

Notes from Pale Rider, by Laura Spinney

This is a book that was recommended to be a while ago, but I only got around to reading it today. It likely would have been a page-turner in its own right at any time that I happened to read it, but in these times, it was the very definition of unputdownable.


 

I have pages and pages of notes, and I’m just going to note stuff over here in haphazard, higgedly-piggedly fashion. Hopefully, I will come back to it later on and write a more considered essay. For the moment, this must do.

  • Between the first recorded case, on the 4th of March 1918 up to sometime in March 1920, the Spanish flu killed anywhere between 50 million to 100 million people. For point of comparison, the two world wars, put together, killed 77 million people.
  • The reason we don’t hear as much about the Spanish flu is because of the Euro-centric reporting of the time. France lost six times as many people to the war as it did to the flu, Germany four times as many – Britain three times and Italy two.But everywhere else, the flu killed more people than did the war.
  • A virus doesn’t typically “jump” over the species barrier. To use the author’s phrase, it “oozes” over, across multiple generations of the virus. And in some cases, having oozed over, it finds itself mutated into a formidable shape indeed: ideally suited to grow and humans unable to defend themselves against it.
  • Climate can cause disease, but there have been cases where disease has caused climate – and as recently as the sixteenth century. The germs unleashed by Europeans in the Americas could possibly have ushered in the Little Ice Age.
  • The flu struck in three waves, and the second wave was by far the deadliest.
  • Australia was almost entirely unaffected by the second wave because of very strict maritime restrictions. But as it turns out, they lifted the restrictions far too soon, therefore becoming susceptible to the third wave.
  • The Vaccine Revolt of Brazil.
  • Naming viruses and the diseases they cause has been a tricky thing for years. Hong Kong objected to the SARS virus outbreak being called that because the full name of Hong Kong then was the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong.
  • The Spanish flu had nothing to do with Spain. It emerged either in China, or America or France, but certainly not in Spain. But historical accidents, and the victorious nations of WWI called it the Spanish flu, and so the name stuck.
  • The Spanish, incidentally, called it the Naples soldier flu.
  • Influenza itself simply means influenced by the stars, as that was one of the then prevailing theories of the cause of the flu. When I say then prevailing, I mean much, much before 1918, of course.
  • Shansi’s history with the flu, and the role of Yen Hsi-Shan and an American missionary called Watson was fascinating, as much for the cultural aspects as for the masterful reasoning employed by Watson.
  • Even back then, people were theorizing that the flu may have been biowarfare. The suspicions about the aspirin tablets manufactured by Bayer was particularly interesting.
  • The history of the town of Zamora was also fascinating – and heartbreaking.
  • A sense of disgust is an evolutionary gift that allows some species to dispose of their dead. This is not unique to humans. It is an innate survival mechanism.
  • One of the most important lessons of that time was the ability to quickly identify the source, then the vector (how the disease spreads) and finally ensuring compliance. Again, social distancing matters.
  • The natural experiments of American and Western Samoa were eye-openers. Read more here. Again, social distancing matters.
  • This book has been added to the list.
  • In New York, in the 1830’s cholera was thought to be an Irish disease, while TB was known as the “Jewish disease”.
  • Polypharmacy: multiple medicines being used by a single patient. But in this context, it is the medicinal equivalent of throwing the kitchen sink at the opponent. Because nothing works, use everything.
  • Karen Starko advanced the theory that aspirin might have actually been a poison, so widely was it prescribed and overused. Along similar lines: arsenic, mercury. Not to mention cigarettes and alcohol. (Yes, I am aware that some things haven’t changed)
  • Black Wedding: this was, of course, tried as a cure. Among many other things, worldwide.
  • Learning more about Wu Lien-Teh was fun.
  • Étaples, and the theories surrounding the origin of the Spanish flu over there ought to be a case study in statistics classes the world over.
  • Would you give yourself an injection of the coronavirus in the cause of furthering science? This guy, René Dujarric de la Rivière, did.
  • Between 13 million and 18 million Indians died because of the 1918 outbreak of the flu.
  • In Paris, some of the highest fatalities were recorded in the most affluent areas. But a deep dive into the data revealed that it was the servants living below the richer floors that had the highest rates of fatality.
  • I got to learn about the molecular clock.
  • Culture, diet, gender, religion and heritable traits all played – and still play! – a role. This point deserves a separate blog post of its own.
  • The painter Edward Munch may have gone through two bouts of the flu – and one of it may have been responsible for The Scream.
  • The silver linings were that Russia, USA and China, among other nations, updated their National Health Systems after the Spanish Flu.
  • The flu may have had a role in how the Treaty of Versailles played out, which is a fascinating thought.
  • Might there be a link between La Nina and pandemics? Speculative, but worth a read.

Notes on In Service of the Republic, by Vijay Kelkar and Ajay Shah

A book that I have recommended unhesitatingly to students who ask me about how to go about learning public policy is “In The Service of the Republic” by Vijay Kelkar and Ajay Shah.

In this Monday post, I plan to write my observations from having read the book.

The book is divided into six sections:

  1. Foundations
  2. Diagnosing the Indian Experience
  3. The Science
  4. The Art
  5. The Public Policy Process
  6. Applying These Ideas: Some Examples

Part V and VI are the meat of the book, and that’s a good thing! If you are a student reading this book, it will be really helpful to have many, many examples of what the actual applications of the theoretical parts are.

What follows below are my highlights from having read the book, divided into four sections, with some commentary below each excerpt. The book is, it goes without saying, much much richer – and you should definitely read it, especially if you are interested in the field of public policy!


The Big Introductory Idea

The first question in the field of public policy is: What objectives of public policy are appropriate?

And for whom? For the government, for the people in society, for the elected representatives or somebody else? These questions need to be asked (and answered), for that changes the answers to the question in quotation marks above!

While the state is often seen as benign or benevolent, almost like an uncle or a parent, we have to remember that at the heart of the state, there is violence. The state acquires a monopoly upon violence. States establish conditions where nobody is permitted to engage in violence, but the state is able to inflict violence.

If this definition of the state strikes you as unusual, you should read, at the very least, this Wikipedia article.

The big idea of liberal democracy is to limit state violence into a controlled, predictable and just form.

That’s the plan, at any rate.



 

 

 

On State Intervention and Market Failure

The free market tends to overproduce things which induce negative externalities and underproduce things that induce positive externalities.

The price mechanism matters!

Markets work, but nothing ever works perfectly. People can (and should!) always debate how perfectly markets work, but it is simply an unavoidable reality that they sometimes fail.

Now, when they fail, it is usually because of one of the following four reasons:

Market failures come in four kinds: Externalities, Asymmetric information, Market power and Public goods.

When such a market failure occurs, a state intervention may be necessary. Without one or more of these factors being present, it absolutely isn’t necessary. But even with their presence, we’re on thin ice when we recommend that the state intervene:

When faced with a proposed state intervention, our first question should be: What is the market failure that this seeks to address? When market failure is not present, we should be sceptical about state intervention.

The state can intervene in three ways:

In many fields, we see three pillars of intervention: production (e.g., government running schools), regulating (e.g., government regulating private schools) and financing (e.g., government paying kids to attend private schools).

But the state can also intervene when there isn’t a market failure:

Forcing companies to spend 2 per cent of their profit on ‘corporate social responsibility’ is a use of the coercive power of the state that is not connected with market failure. Companies are rational economic actors, and if there is a problem with non-compliance, monetary penalties would suffice. When the law threatens to put individuals in jail for violating the rule, this is an excessive use of force.

And, pleasingly enough as an economist, every now and then, externality problems can be solved by the market itself:

In Maharashtra, there are professional beekeepers now charging farmers anywhere from Rs 1000 to Rs 3000 for renting out boxes for a month. 2 This presence of a private market for pollination services shows that this contractual solution is a feasible one. Through these private contracts, we have solved the externality problem, without a requirement for state intervention.


———————————————————————————————————————

Management is Hard!

It’s hard for anybody, anywhere. It is much harder for government:

There is quite a management challenge in identifying the 0.1 billion poorest people, and accurately delivering Rs 100 to them every day.

It is made harder for the following reasons (each of which is discussed in detail in the book):

Public policy failures are born of: (1) The information constraint; (2) The knowledge constraint; (3) The resource constraint; (4) The administrative constraint; and (5) The voter rationality constraint.

And “democratic decision making” is often problematic (also see Garett Jones‘ book about this):

Direct democracy also suffers from majoritarianism, the idea that policy should be made based on the views of 51 per cent of the population. We must question the extent to which ‘the voice of the people’ is the oracle that must be followed. There is much more to liberal democracy than winning elections.

Incentives matter, and policies have unseen, unintended consequences. The entire book is about this, but the following was my favorite passage by far:

In 1902 in Hanoi, under French rule, there was a rat problem. A bounty was set—one cent per rat—which could be claimed by submitting a rat’s tail to the municipal office. But for each individual who caught a rat, it was optimal to amputate the tail of a rat, and set the rat free, so as to bolster the rat population and make it easier to catch rats in the future. In addition, on the outskirts of Hanoi, farms came up, dedicated to breeding rats. In 1906, there was an outbreak of bubonic plague that killed over 250 people.

Update: Aadisht sends in this, from Discworld:

Shortly before the Patrician came to power there was a terrible plague of rats. The city council countered it by offering twenty pence for every rat tail. This did, for a week or two, reduce the number of rats—and then people were suddenly queueing up with tails, the city treasury was being drained, and no one seemed to be doing much work. And there still seemed to be a lot of rats around. Lord Vetinari had listened carefully while the problem was explained, and had solved the thing with one memorable phrase which said a lot about him, about the folly of bounty offers, and about the natural instinct of Ankh-Morporkians in any situation involving money: “Tax the rat farms.”

The Tinbergen Rule is really and truly important, and not just in public policy:

Public choice theory predicts that public organizations will favour multiple objectives as this gives reduced accountability. Clarity of purpose is efficient for the principal and not the agent.


Thinking about how government functions:

The five pillars of checks and balances—data, intellectuals, media, legislature, judiciary—all work poorly upon state governments.

As it turns out, not only is management hard, but management at the state level is even harder.

Why is there such a dearth of research when it comes to public policy?

At present in India, there is no community which systematically looks for fully articulated solutions. Academic journals do not publish policy proposals, hence academic researchers are not keen to invent policy proposals.

Or to use the jargon of public policy, we are missing incentive compatibility.

As Isher Ahluwalia says, nothing gets done by writing it in a government committee report, but nothing ever got done without it being repeatedly written into multiple government committee reports.

Public policy proceeds along the margins, and then very slowly!

Don’t fix the pipes; fix the institutions that fix the pipes. Old saying in the field of drinking water

The public policy equivalent of give a man a fish versus teach a man to fish

 


All this apart, the authors of the book also outline the “full pipeline”  of the policy process:

Stage 1: Collect data

Stage 2: Descriptive and Causal Research

Stage 3: Inventing and Proposing New Policy Solutions

Stage 4: Competing Policy Proposals are debated

Stage 5: Internal Governmental Debates, and Choice

Stage 6: Translate Decisions into Legal Instruments

Stage 7: Construction of State Capacity, Enforcement

I would personally add a stage 8: Monitoring, Evaluation, Feedback Loops.

But that quibble apart, the book is quite an education for anybody who hopes to learn more about the art and the science of public policy. If you are such a person, this book is certainly for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RoW: Links for 23rd October, 2019

Five books that I have read about our neighboring countries that helped me understand them a little bit better. If you ‘re looking for books to read during the holidays, this list might help:

  1. From a while ago, and set many decades ago, but I loved reading The Glass Palace. Anything by Amitav Ghosh is worth your time, I’d say, but this helped me learn more about Myanmar.
    ..
    ..
  2. Samanth Subramanian is a magnificent writer, and that is not hyperbole. In this book, This Divided Island, he brings us a raw, disturbing and depressing account of Sril Lanka today, and how it is divided, perhaps beyond repair, on grounds of ethnic and religious conflict. He doesn’t pull his punches, but more: he doesn’t take sides. If you are looking to understand Sri Lanka today, this is the book to read.
    ..
    ..
  3. How did Bangladesh come to be Bangladesh? What was Pakistan’s role in it? What was India’s? What was – and this might come as a surprise to some – the USA’s? The Blood Telegram answers these questions, and more besides, in a always interesting read about the war of 1971.
    ..
    ..
  4. And two recommendations about Pakistan. The first is a book by Stephen Cohen: The Idea of Pakistan. Is Pakistan an army with a country or the other way around? Why? Will this change in the future. What is (or what used to be) the political calculus of the United States of America when it came to Pakistan? This book answers these questions, and then some.
    ..
    ..
  5. And finally, Pakistan: A Hard Country, by Anatol Leivin. A Ukraininan journalist who has spent some time in the country, and is equally horrified and fascinated by it. Somewhat sympathetic in its treatment, it still helped me understand the country a little bit better – without, of course and unfortunately, ever having been there.

EC101: Links for 12th September, 2019

Following on from my review of “Launching The Innovation Resistance”, here is a selection of five papers from its bibliography that I enjoyed going over.

  1. “Using a sample of engineered mice that are linked to specific scientific papers (some affected by the NIH agreements and some not), we implement a differences-in-differences estimator to evaluate how the level and type of follow-on research using these mice changes after the NIH-induced increase in openness. We find a significant increase in the level of follow-on research. Moreover, this increase is driven by a substantial increase in the rate of exploration of more diverse research paths. Overall, our findings highlight a neglected cost of IP: reductions in the diversity of experimentation that follows from a single idea.”
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    The title of the paper is much more entertaining: Of Mice and Academics(!)
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  2. Understanding patent thickets (Note: this is a JSTOR link, you may not be able to download the paper. If so, my apologies!)
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  3. The patent paradox revisited (Again, a JSTOR link)
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  4. On roses and patents (I really enjoyed reading about this in the book, and therefore this paper as well)
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  5. On the history of patent law.