Twitter Stories

Back in the day, when I had structure, regularity and a schedule here on EFE, Saturday used to be about five tweets that I enjoyed reading that week.

Which, on reflection (and some gentle prodding from Navin Kabra) wasn’t the brightest idea, because that’s what likes and RT’s are for on Twitter. So how about maybe a brief write-up based on a tweet that I read recently?

This week’s tweet that turns into a post is based on a variety of things. First, Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

The Black Swan is kind of like Thinking Fast and Slow, in the sense that everybody claims to have read it, and very few people actually have. If you haven’t read all of his books, please get started. The order doesn’t really matter, but if you’re asking, my favorite is Anti-Fragile.

There’s a lot to like about his books, his tweets and his outlook towards life, and this tweet is one example (note that I am talking about the pics in the reply, not the original tweet):

Now, the original tweet, reposted as a stand-alone:

So what is the company about?

Nasser Jaber is cofounder of the Migrant Kitchen, a catering company and social impact organization that hires immigrants, migrants, and undocumented workers to both train them in commercial cooking as well as help gain their cuisines more exposure in the marketplace.

https://stories.zagat.com/posts/nasser-jaber-on-creating-jobs-through-immigrant-cuisine

Read the whole article! I got to learn about quipe (kibbeh, apparently), and esfiha (the spelling differs based on context, so my apologies if I got it “wrong”), among other things.

Twitter is a wonderful, wonderful way to learn more about the world, but it is like a garden, in the sense that constant weeding is required. But when you tend to it just so, it is completely worth the effort!

If you have had moments of serendipity on Twitter that you’d like to share, please, send them along. @ashish2727 on Twitter.

Thanks, and enjoy the weekend 🙂

Reflections on “India Moving” by Chinmay Tumbe

Every now and then, you read about courses you would really, really want to attend yourself (and keep an eye out this Thursday for another such course). Here is one such course, which I found out about as a consequence of reading the book India Moving: A History of Migration by Chinmay Tumbe:

Hitchhiker’s Guide to Business and Economies across Five Centuries

As you’d expect (indeed, demand), the two major academic requirements for the course each have a weightage of The Answer To The Ultimate Question of Life, Universe and Everything. (Where can I sign up?)

Reading the book was an enjoyable experience for two reasons. One, there is a wealth of knowledge to be gleaned from the book – Chinmay Tumbe has clearly spent years and years engaged in researching this topic, and it shows. But second, the book never becomes turgid, because sprinkled with a judiciously light hand throughout the book are little snippets of delightful humor, and you almost end up turning the page to find out when the next one will appear.

Migration is a tricky topic to study, by the way, especially in terms of causality. Shown here is a little diagram that has helped me think about the issue as systematically as possible:

Taken from Todaro and Smith’s Textbook on Development Economics

Note that while this diagram is about rural to urban migration, I often find it helpful to use the same framework to think about migration out of India. The inputs into the decision-making process remain more or less the same. The professor inside of me wants to spend some time in explaining this chart more, but I’ll resist, for two reasons. One, the length of this blogpost. Two, I honestly think it is fairly self-explanatory!

Now, the reason I bring up this chart is because while it works in the sense that you understand how to think about migration, it really needs a complementary good. That good being this book!

For example, it is one thing to talk about rural-urban migration, but quite another to learn about the origin of the sobriquet ‘maca paos‘. Or the chapter on migration from Ratnagiri (the title of which has a lovely pun too), which speaks about the psychology of children (boys and girls), and how it may have been shaped by the trends of migration.

The book, in other words, talks about theory, but also works in examples that fill the book with more than just a dreary recital of facts, figures and theories.

The book is built around one central idea, that of the Great Indian Migration Wave, which is the author’s term for a phenomenon that has lasted for well over a century, and encompasses over 200 million people. As Chinmay Tumbe puts it, this Great Indian Migration Wave was ‘responsible for the formation of cities such as Kolkata and Mumbai, and ended up producing freedom fighters, political leaders, regional cultures and culinary delights’ – and much else besides!

Having explained the central idea in the second chapter, the rest of the book is about the consequences of the Great Indian Migration Wave, including chapters on the migration of capital (my term, not his), the folks who chose to not return, the impact of partition and finally the impact of migration on development.

Each chapter is full of little, and often surprising, nuggets of information. For example, we learn that:

If Kerala were to be a country , it would rank among the five most remittance – dependent nations in the world as its remittance to GDP ratio stood at a staggering 30 per cent .

Location 926 (All locations refer to the Kindle version)

… and you might say that well, this isn’t all that surprising, given what we know of migration patterns from Kerala to the ‘Gelf‘. But then how about this?

Annual migration to the Gulf from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar now exceeds that from Kerala

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Thirteen years after I got my passport, I finally understood what ECNR was all about!

In the 1840s , legal provisions introduced a ‘ protector of immigrants ’ at the port of disembarkation and a ‘ protector of emigrants ’ at the port of embarkation . The latter now survives as a department in India’s ministry of external affairs . As per an Act of 1844 , the protector of emigrants would ensure that ‘ no emigrant shall embark without a certificate from the Agent , countersigned by the Protector ’ leading to a curious phrase that is now imprinted in Indian passports as ‘ Emigration Check Not Required ’ .

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1840’s! Why do we still have this on our passports?

The next chapter looks at migration based on a mixture of geography and community. We learn about the Parsis, the Marwaris, the Chettiars among others, and one revelatory point for me was how much of migration there was between India and Myanmar before the IInd World War, and how badly it turned out.

Another highlight for me was a potential explanation for why communities from Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Sindh were as exceptional as they are:

Claude Markovits , a historian of Indian business , provides one possible explanation for the exceptional selectivity of merchant migrations from the region comprising Punjab , Rajasthan , Gujarat and Sindh . His ecological argument credits the ‘ dry zone ’ for honing skills in risk management , which provide a comparative advantage in trade and finance , over regions with more reliable access to water .

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Which, as the book goes on to say, may or may not be true, but it is certainly a point worth considering. This chapter also helped me understand why business is a ‘dirty’ word in India – and the answer may well be very, very ancient indeed!

The Arthashastra , India’s most famous treatise on statecraft compiled over 1800 years ago , mistrusted traders arguing that that they were ‘ all thieves , in effect , if not in name ’ and that ‘ they shall be prevented from oppressing the people ’. The caste system itself accorded the trading caste the third position , ritually lower than the priests and the warriors . Further , taboos on overseas travel were pervasive . In such a milieu , the trading castes were not likely to be in a position to expand their network or gain acceptance among other castes .

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(Although I still remain confused about why taboos on overseas travel were pervasive. And I think this is a very important question, too. What is it about India (and, I think, China) that made our societies reluctant to travel far and wide?)

Elsewhere in the book, Chinmay Tumbe also points out how low acceptance of Indian migrants was as much a problem in the receiving country as well:

According to an official report in 1910 , Indians were ‘ the most undesirable of all Asiatics and the peoples of the Pacific states were unanimous in their desire for exclusion ’

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How long does it take you to lose your Indian identity if you migrate abroad? There are two quotes in this regard that stood out to me:

Cricket itself became a litmus test of loyalty . The Tebbit test , named after Lord Tebbit , proposed that Indians could be considered to have successfully assimilated into British society only if they rooted for England during cricket matches against India . With a few exceptions like Madras – born Nasser Hussain , former captain of the England cricket team , most people of Indian origin would flunk this test even today , even though they have integrated on various other counts such as language and civic and political participation .

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Second, Punjab is famously known in India for its agricultural might but also infamously known for its ‘ missing women ’ phenomenon . Sex ratios at birth are skewed starkly in favour of males due to a preference for sons and abortion of female foetuses . As it turns out , studies have shown that this cultural trait persists in Canada , even if it is under different material conditions . Old habits often die hard in the diaspora.

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What I remain curious about is whether it is only ‘us’, or whether this applied to migrants from other nationalities as well. That is, are Indians unique in taking a long time to assimilate, particularly from a cultural viewpoint, or is this true for other nationalities as well. That is, of course, beyond the scope of this book, but in this regard, there was this delightful little nugget:

If there is one striking cultural practice that unites Indians across all these identities and separates India from the places they usually migrate to , it is the use of water in toilets as opposed to tissue paper abroad . Indians ’ love for water is closely matched with their love for steam generated by the pressure cooker , a wonderful gift of humankind celebrating both rice and noise , amplified many times over in silent honk – less neighbourhoods abroad . It is no wonder then that a mug and a pressure cooker are important objects packed in the luggage of a first – time visitor or settler in new lands .

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What unites Indians abroad may well be a continuation of our innate Indian-ness, but another thing that unites us is also the reasons we choose to go abroad. For example, is it not puzzling that Bihar and Kerala have similar rates of outmigration? Chinmay Tumbe’s answer to this little puzzle is linked back to our abysmally low rates of urbanization (although of course, there is the thorny little problem of trying to figure out our actual urbanization rate)

One reason I really loved the book was because while it speaks about migration, it does so by dipping into a whole host of related factors, such as caste:

According to one nasty upper – caste parody , ‘ untouchable ’ sweepers did not care about the violent chaos surrounding them during Partition , as nobody was going to ‘ touch ’ them in any case .

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…. and gender:

There is , however , an alternative brain drain that is rarely talked about . This refers to the migration of high – skilled spouses , almost always women , who accompany the high – skilled migrant workers , but do not end up working for remuneration due to restrictions placed by families or visa regulations . Within India , this leads to a colossal under – utilization of talent as millions of female graduates forgo active professional careers upon their move to a new state or city , to look after children or the family . Outside India , visa restrictions on work for dependents can kill aspirations and dull the brains . In the USA , over a 1,00,000 Indian dependents live on the less – known H4 visa , known as the depression visa . Studies have shown how this brings about a loss of self – confidence and discomfort because of financial dependence on the spouse , even for remittances , and overall , retards professional careers due to the erosion of skills . In such cases , the American sitcom Desperate Housewives offers only partial relief to the brain pain.

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…besides, of course, poverty, rural-urban divides, community and ethnicity, which we have touched upon earlier.

My ‘standard’ papers to recommend to students to read about migration are Theories of International Migration: A Review and Appraisal, by Massey et al and The Costs and Returns of Human Migration, by Sjaastad. (And I can’t resist adding that you really should read We Wanted Workers, by Borjas and Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration, by Caplan. Two diametrically opposite views about immigration, but that is exactly why you should read both.) Here’s an older EFE post about immigration, with a set of five links (the fifth of which is this very book).

In short, an excellent book, and heavily recommended!

Two further notes:

  1. There is an excellent set of links about migration on Chinmay Tumbe’s homepage. For those of you who want to go down a seemingly endless rabbit-hole, well, dive in!
  2. He has got a new book coming out in early December, called The Age of Pandemics. I have (of course!) pre-ordered it, and hope to write a review as soon as I get a chance to read it.

Agriculture in England and India, Immigration, Water and Healthcare

Five articles I enjoyed reading this week – and hopefully you will as well

The change that is coming over farming can be summarised in simple economic terms. Intensive agriculture prioritises a bumper harvest – the annual dividend – while the new approach emphasises the preservation of the initial capital – the land itself. For a glimpse of how this new investment priority will affect British farming, it suffices to visit those progressives who have already, to varying degrees, made it their own.

The Guardian Long Read on agriculture (in England). Horizons (one out of choices, horizons, incentives and costs) remain underrated in economics classes, as this article points out. But there is much more to read here: recommended!

It developed an app-based platform that registers orders directly from buyers, analyses category-wise demand, fixes dynamic prices depending on daily demand, and transfers the orders to its network of 1,000+ farmers. Farmpal’s price comparison feature ensures that farmers can sell their produce at rates higher by 20 to 30 percent than what they would normally get in the mandis.
“This is one of our main promises to the farming community. We are able to offer them premium prices because technology eliminates at least four to seven middlemen from farm to fork,” the founder explains.

While on the topic of agriculture, this from Maharashtra, India: Farmpal.

Caplan’s case isn’t entirely about economics: he also makes a moral appeal. Consider the case of “Starving Marvin,” who needs food and is prepared to purchase it legally. On his way to the market, he is turned away by an armed guard. If Marvin subsequently dies of starvation, Caplan asks, is the guard guilty of murder? The philosopher Michael Huemer, who first introduced this hypothetical, in 2012, concluded that the answer was yes. He writes, “If a person is starving, and you refuse to give him food, then you allow him to starve, but if you take the extra step of coercively interfering with his obtaining food from someone else, then you do not merely allow him to starve; you starve him.” Caplan doesn’t go that far, but he does argue that the guard is wrong to prevent Marvin from feeding himself.

Read the paper, read the book, read this profile of Bryan Caplan, and his quixotic quest to get all of us to accept a world without borders.

Geologists and hydrologists, who worked on implementing the project, shared similar views and hailed Jalyukta Shivar. This was mainly due to the interventions undertaken in the existing water reserves, planned de-silting activities, among many others. However, experts agreed that the scheme was not appropriately implemented. Now with Jalyukta Shivar no longer in existence, focused efforts of the past five years, in most likelihood, will go down the drain unless a similar scheme is introduced. With rainfall variations getting more pronounced, in addition to depleting groundwater reserves, the state will need concrete interventions to tackle future water requirements, experts recommended.

As Tyler Cowen is fond of saying, solve for the equilibrium. On the politics of water conservation in Maharashtra.

America’s mediocre health outcomes can be explained by rapidly diminishing returns to spending and behavioral (lifestyle) risk factors, especially obesity, car accidents, homicide, and (most recently) drug overdose deaths. [Please read this post for the full explanation]

The diminishing returns are evident in cross-sectional analysis. Higher-income countries like Norway and Luxembourg spend twice as much as the likes of Spain and Italy and probably experience worse average outcomes.

Via the excellent Navin Kabra, a very, very long article on healthcare in America. Excellent if you are a student of America, healthcare or microeconomics. At the intersection of the three, it becomes mandatory reading. Pair up with Baumol’s Cost Disease (although the name is misleading, it is the most popular way to this phenomenon is referenced)

 

RoW: The movement of people into and out of Poland

One target for this year, 2020, is to write about one country a month. As this Wednesday article makes clear, this month’s country is Poland. Given its history and its current politics, I was curious about immigration and Poland – as the title of this post suggests, the movement of people into and out of Poland.

This is a topic that is of interest to me for a variety of reasons. I got the chance to teach a course on migration and its impact on development some years ago, and reading up for that course was quite instructive. Specifically, I got to know the works of Douglas Massey, and also chanced upon this lovely paper – lovely to me, that is – by Bryan Caplan. I also want to read this book, written by him.

Our government’s approach to migration – completely wrongheaded, in my view – is of course another reason to want to read about experiences in other parts of the world.

Onwards, then: five articles about Poland and its approach to immigration.

  1. “A draft of the interior ministry’s new migration policy, leaked to Polish media last month, revealed the government’s priority is to lure Poles back from western Europe, and to attract people from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, who can prove they have Polish origins.The document said Poland’s safety was guaranteed by its cultural, national and religious homogeneity, and said the new policy would focus on selecting immigrants who would follow Poland’s law and customs, as well as “values emerging from . . . Poland’s dominating religion”.

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    An article form the FT, miraculously ungated, about the issue.
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  2. “Poland’s massive migration numbers, and the warm welcome Ukrainians have received, stands in marked opposition to the anti-migrant electoral campaign that helped bring PiS to power four years ago. The party crushed a coalition of opposition parties with 46 percent of the vote in last month’s European Parliament election, its strongest ever result. Stumping in 2015, PiS head and Poland’s de facto leader, Jarosław Kaczyński, said that “refugees” would “bring in all kinds of parasites, which are not dangerous in their own countries, but which could prove dangerous for the local populations.”
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    The title of the article says it all, really.
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  3. “So it may come as a surprise that the Polish government has, very quietly, presided over the largest influx of migrant workers in the country’s modern history — though they are mostly Christians from neighboring Ukraine.Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has not been shy about promoting the government’s agenda. “We want to reshape Europe and re-Christianize it,” he said in 2017 in an interview with a Catholic television station. The government recently ordered all new passports include the phrase, “God, Honor, Motherland.”

    But immigration is Poland’s paradox. It has benefited greatly from the European Union’s open borders, earning billions of dollars in remittances from the hundreds of thousands of Polish workers who have migrated to other countries in the bloc, especially to Britain. Yet with Poland now facing labor shortages, the government is failing to lure back the diaspora — and is restricted by its political stance against migrants.”
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    The more things change, the more they stay the same, as the saying goes.
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  4. “Since the opening of the labour market following Poland joining the European Union in 2004, Poland experienced a mass migration of over 2 million abroad. As of 2011, 52 out of 1,000 Polish citizens have lived outside the country;[10] estimated at 2.2 million by the Polish Central Statistics Office (GUS), and 2.6–2.7 million by the journalists. GUS statistics estimate that the number of long term Polish immigrants abroad have risen from 0.7 million in 2002 to a peak number of almost 2.3 million in 2007, and has since declined to 2 million by 2010–11.It has remained relatively stable at that level for a short period, following the uncertainty of Global Recession of 2007–08, By December 2015, 12% of Polish labor population left for UK to work there.According to a 2013 survey, approximately 14% percent of adult Poles have worked abroad since 2004 (approximately a quarter for over a year); 69% have a family member of a close friend who lives abroad, and approximately 24% are open to immigration. Majority of Polish migrants or those considering leaving are young; according to a 2014 survey approximately 90% of Poles under 34 have considered some form of migration. ”
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    That is from a Wikipedia article about the topic.
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  5. “BELGIANS must believe Siemiatycze is the capital of Poland, residents of this eastern Polish town like to quip. Those that are left, that is. Since before the fall of Communism Brussels has been the destination of choice for thousands of Siemiatyczans who seek work abroad. Accurate figures as to just how many have left are hard to come by, as people often retain Siematycze as their official place of residence. But it is clear that the real population of the town, at any given moment, is considerably less than the official figure of 15,000.”
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    From within that Wikipedia article, an article from the Economist about the number of people who have left Poland over the years.

 

EC101: Links for 12th December, 2019

What do economists have to say about (ahem) immigration?

  1. The Wikipedia article on Harris-Todaro.
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  2. Feeling ambitious? Use this CV as a jumping board for stuff to read about immigration. Douglas Massey.
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  3. One of my favorite papers to read about immigration (and you can see where my sympathies lie, I suppose, where immigration is concerned).
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  4. George Borjas – his Wikipedia page.
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  5. I’ll link to this again: Chinmay Tumbe’s excellent book on migration into and within India.

RoW: Links for 30th October, 2019

  1. Who, exactly, are the Rohingyas? A short explainer from Wikipedia.
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  2. “With repatriation stalled, Bangladesh is now exploring relocation. The country has thus far been patient and welcoming, but its willingness to host such a large refugee population is wearing thin. Dhaka now plans to relocate about 100,000 Rohingya to a remote island at the mouth of the Meghna river in the Bay of Bengal. Known as Bhasan Char, or “Floating Island” in Bengali, the islet is made up of accumulated silt and is hard to reach—aid workers worry that anyone moved there would be vulnerable to floods, cyclones, and traffickers.”
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    A problem that the world would rather not acknowledge.
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  3. “Myanmar, which United Nations officials say should be tried on genocide charges over the orchestrated killings that began on Aug. 25, 2017, is keen to prove it is not a human rights pariah.Bangladesh, struggling with overpopulation and poverty, wants to reassure its citizens that scarce funds are not being diverted to refugees.

    But the charade at Nga Khu Ya, with its corroded buildings devoid of any Rohingya presence, proves the lie in the repatriation commitment. The place is so quiet that a dog snoozes at the main entrance, undisturbed.

    Even the repatriation center’s watchtowers are empty of soldiers. There is no one to watch.”
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    They, the Rohingyas, are to be sent back to Myanmar. Except not.
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  4. “One day in the 1980s, my maternal grandfather was sitting in a park in suburban London. An elderly British man came up to him and wagged a finger in his face. “Why are you here?” the man demanded. “Why are you in my country??”“Because we are the creditors,” responded my grandfather, who was born in India, worked all his life in colonial Kenya, and was now retired in London. “You took all our wealth, our diamonds. Now we have come to collect.” We are here, my grandfather was saying, because you were there.”
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    Suketu Mehta in fine form on this topic.
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  5. “I want you to think of free movement across borders as not just a matter of humanitarianism, not just a matter of good policy, but as an issue of civil rights, in the same tradition as those of Milk, and King, and Stanton, and indeed others yet to come.”
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    A short blog post on a longer essay, which argues about instituting immigration as a civil right.

ROW: Links for 19th June, 2019

This week, here’s a selection of five articles that help you understand issues in America a little bit better.

 

  1. “The old consensus that the US needed to help address the “root causes” of migration, by investing in the Northern Triangle countries and making it more appealing for people to stay, was never supposed to be an immediate solution to anything. Of course, Trump’s view of migration makes it less likely that anyone will be able to start work on long-term solutions that might bear fruit down the road. It is almost certainly, in the meantime, going to get worse before it gets better.”
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    Vox gives us a clearer picture on the migration crisis at the southern US border. Yes it is bad, yes, there is a crisis, and yes, it likely will get much worse before it gets a little better, for a variety of reasons. All of which are explained in this piece.
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  2. “Of course, if it hadn’t been for Roe, there also wouldn’t have been more than 50 million abortions since 1973; whether that’s a good or bad thing will be left as an exercise for the reader. But many abortions would have been performed anyway, because before the court took the issue away from voters, polls showed public opinion steadily trending in favor of legalized abortion, and the procedure was already legal in several states.”
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    Are you familiar with Roe v Wade? If you aren’t, read up about it first. Then read up about what Alabama is up to today. And finally read this article. And also consider following Megan McArdle (the author of this piece)
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  3. “Rather, regardless of what any deal achieves, the two nations appear to have entered a protracted era of competing for technological advantage, in areas ranging from aerospace and telecommunications to artificial intelligence, all with big military as well as commercial implications. Managing tensions over the issue is an increasingly important part of the U.S.-China relationship, for both sides.”
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    The Christian Science Monitor on what the trade war, or the new cold war (or whatever else it is that you want to call it) really is all about.
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  4. “This resonates with my own view. A large, established enterprise can be thought of as a cultural institution, with particular rules, norms, systems, processes, and institutional knowledge ingrained throughout the firm. In a stable environment, this corporate culture is a valuable asset. But as the business environment evolves, a firm’s culture can inhibit its ability to adapt. Cultural assets can depreciate, and one of the most difficult tasks for top management is to know when and how to replace elements of a culture that otherwise had served to keep the enterprise sturdy and reliable.”
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    Arnold Kling reviews a book that has appeared on these pages before, but the reason I put this article up here is because it helps you understand an important point about America today: it’s reviling of the corporate culture is very real – and Tyler Cowen says perhaps misplaced. Useful to think about how one should think about what made America great, and how perhaps it is changing – for the better or otherwise is your opinion entirely.
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  5. “Before I left, I asked the black waiter, Darick Thomas, how he felt about my hat. “I don’t care. At all. Really. At all! I look at a hat and that doesn’t tell me who the person is,” he said. “I’m not against Trump. He says some smart things; he says some dumb things.” Darick didn’t vote. “Voting is the illusion of choice for the masses,” he explained.”
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    What happens if you were a MAGA hat in a famously liberal restaurant in LA? This is, of course, at best an anecdote – but an enjoyable one, nonetheless.

Links for 29th May, 2019

  1. “And so India will continue to grow at her sluggish pace; socialism will continue to thrive; Air India will continue to fly; and Modi will continue to waste a fifth of our yearly budget on PSUs. Modi always knew that the secret to winning elections is socialism. What he has learnt now is the secret to running India. It is to gamble.”
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    I have posted this link not because I agree with the conclusion (I don’t), but because I share the sense of pessimism when it comes to matters pertaining to economic reforms, or the lack of them. India needs me, and the author, to be completely wrong about our pessimism.
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  2. “Zahran Hashim, 33, radical preacher and alleged ringleader, found little acceptance in his hometown Kattankudy, in eastern Batticaloa. Mosques in the predominantly Muslim town rejected him outright. Their members even complained to authorities, before he went absconding in 2017 after a clash with a fellow priest who challenged his interpretation of Islam.But soon, a team of young Muslim men — and one woman — from other, mostly Sinhala-majority, areas eagerly joined him on his Easter mission to carry out a suicide attack on churches and high-end hotels in and around Colombo and Batticaloa. All nine bombers were in their 20s and 30s.”
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    A mostly depressing, but also revealing, portrait of the nine people who perpetrated the terror attacks in Sri Lanka recently.
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  3. “There are striking parallels between the philosophies of Trump and NIMBY urbanists. Trump asserts that America is “full” and so wants to restrict the flow of immigrants. The urbanists, who tend to be Democratic and highly educated, assert that their cities are too crowded and so want to restrict the supply of housing. The cultural valence of the two views is quite different, but the practical implications have a lot in common — namely, a harder set of conditions for potential low-skilled migrants to the U.S.”
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    As he so often does, Professor Cowen reminds us why studying economics is entirely worth our time. In this case, he explains why NIMBYism, and high minimum wages are at least as anti-immigration as are, well, walls.
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  4. “Our goal is to defeat the snail in a race.”
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    Possibly the shortest extract I have put up ever, but it is hard to improve on that sentence. For once, I won’t speak about what the link is about. Try guessing what it might be about before clicking here!
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  5. “What’s happening here is much more complicated than an imagined zero-sum game between the defenders of books and library futurists. The decline in the use of print books at universities relates to the kinds of books we read for scholarly pursuits rather than pure pleasure, the rise of ebooks and digital articles, and the changing environment of research. And it runs contrary to the experience of public libraries and bookstores, where print continues to thrive.”
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    The Atlantic on substitutes and complements. On books actually, but read this article to understand how to think about the implications of thinking about complements and substitutes

Links for 14th May, 2019

  1. “The issue is much simpler: Do you trust Mark Zuckerberg and the other young lords of Silicon Valley to be good stewards of the world’s digital speech?”
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    Via Tyler Cowen, an interesting article about the unintended consequences of the evolution of Facebook. Worth reading to think about free speech, Facebook, Silicon Valley and the benefits of a well-rounded education.
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  2. “When and where should scientists report controversial research ideas that colleagues share with them in confidence? Have scientists acted inappropriately if they provide conventional research advice to someone conducting an unorthodox experiment?”
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    How should you think about policing the cutting edge of science – or anything, for that matter? What is the opportunity cost of policing – and what is the opportunity cost of not policing? I (and the article) don’t have any answers – but you should be thinking of these issues while reading it.
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  3. “It is a path humanity is already on, of course: When was the last time you ever read a map rather than got directions from Google? Or cracked a book to find an errant fact? It’ll be like that for so many things we do, as normal practices change to reflect and take advantage of the convenience and precision of AI.”
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    Kara Shwisher talks about emerging tech, and the (as she puts it) new internet. Worth reading to understand how technology is likely to evolve, and change.
  4. “Maybe Hanson could focus on this in his next book. Nevertheless, this book is a necessary corrective to the center-right, neo-liberal dogma of the last quarter century. To crudely paraphrase David Frum, if liberals and conservatives do not take control of mass immigration, the public will elect authoritarians to do the job because the job needs to be done.”
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    The Quillette reviews a book that defends Trump – a useful read to find out why Trump won, and what the thinking is of the processes that got him to where he is.
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  5. “It was in 1906 when the Indian National Congress, prompted by its leader Lokmanya Tilak and industrialist Ardeshir Godrej among others, promised to introduce the swadeshi element into the production of soaps.Ardeshir Godrej, a lawyer-turned-serial entrepreneur, along with his brother Pirojsha Burjorji co-founded the Godrej & Boyce manufacturing company, which is now a $4.54 billion Indian conglomerate called Godrej Group.”
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    A fascinating story about how the Godrej group got into the soap making business

Links for 11th February, 2019

  1. “We probably would not have planes, trains, or automobiles if we had insisted on today’s safety levels during the early days of those technologies’ development—likewise, we should have laxer safety standards for new emerging technologies.”
    Worth reading this for many reasons. Don’t miss the bit about the need to change ideological commitments on the basis of rationally-arrived-at conclusions, for example. But that excerpt above is a great way to understand the concept of, and the importance of, opportunity cost.
  2. “I want to make it clear that although enriched environment dominated the 20th century, IQ gains are not destined to persist like the law of gravity. Factors that were immediate triggers of IQ gains included more adults per child in the home, more and better schooling, more people at university, more cognitively demanding jobs, and better health and conditions of the aged. There are signs that these are beginning to show diminishing returns.”
    The Flynn effect is one of the more interesting things you can learn about – and having learnt about it, it might interest you to know that the Flynn Effect may now be reversing.
  3. “They’re having a fight about the wall except the wall is the English Channel: half of these people want to turn the English Channel into a wall to keep out their version of the Mexicans.”
    An interview with Anand Giridharadas about the perils of philanthropy. Worth reading, not necessarily to agree with everything he has to say, but to think about was in which he may be right.
  4. “So, for example, if people don’t take into account the macro consequences of their borrowing, then they could borrow collectively at the same time, which might be rational from an individual perspective but that collective borrowing leads to future problems such as a foreclosure problem that has spillovers for everyone in the economy. When people borrow individually, they may not take into account those spillovers. And so, again, from a macro perspective, people might over-borrow.For all of these reasons, a possible result conceptually is that if and when credit expands, it is possible for households to over-borrow, to overstretch from a macro kind of social perspective. And that over-borrowing, that overstretching during the boom phase of the credit cycle, can then come back to hurt on the downside and lead to a deeper recession than it would otherwise have been.”
    This much is straightforward for a student of macroeconomics – but the rest of the interview with Atif Mian is worth reading for how he teases out the mechanisms of thinking about the follow-up questions in the context of today’s economy. If you want to learn how to think like a macro-economist, this interview will help.