Links - February 12, 2017
This is a podcast heavy list. I have been reading plenty of books lately (this year I’ve already finished 4, and I’m partially through 3!), so I’ve been spending more and more time on podcast land. There are a couple of programm-y things, but everything else is sadly about Politics.
- Government Economists Are Going to Produce Statistics Trump Doesn't Like Gene B. Sperling - The Atlantic
Data are the base on which we assess the validity of any policy, and on which we can measure the success or failure of ideas. When China announces growth numbers, no one believes them. Can the US potentially get to the same situation?
- How to Spot Visualization Lies Nathan Yau - Flowing Data
Facts don’t need to be alternative to make you arrive at the wrong conclusions.
- So You Want to Move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem? Here’s How Daniel Shapiro - Foreign Policy
When I went back home, I was amazed by how many of my friends and family were convinced that having Trump in the White House was a good idea just for this. Someone with a little more experience tells us how simple the process would be.
- This is the Republican plot to kill the US corporate income tax as we know it Tim Fernholz - Quartz
The headline is a bit click-baity, but the content is good. Tax reform is not a bad idea. At face value, this variation on the VAT seems good, but to be honest I don’t understand the full implications yet. This Planet Money episode tries to explain the same idea from a different, lighter angle. If you have other good explanations on this topic, please send them my way.
- Senior Republican statesmen propose replacing Obama’s climate policies with a carbon tax Chris Mooney and Juliet Eilperin - The Washington Post
I am very much in favor of a carbon tax. However, there is no way that the right kind of carbon tax will be instituted given Trump and friends’ stance on the fossil fuel industry. It’s not like the Secretary of State is the ex-chariman and CEO of the world’s largest refinery business. While Rex Tillerson might have said that a carbon tax is the best possible policy, there is no reason to believe that the government will curb the industry as much as it should.
- The Dirichlet is a Mixed Bag (of Nuts) Justin Bozonier - Data Bozo
Using short code snippets, and a bag of mixed nuts as the motivating example, Bozonier explains a complex probabilty concept.
- Buggy Software, Loyal Users: Why Bug Reporting is Key To User Retention Itamar Turner-Trauring - Code Without Rules
Filing bugs sucks, every time, but few things are as satisfying as getting a message that says “this will be fixed in the next build!” and feeling like you’re helping improve a system that you actively use. Whether it is opening an issue on an open source project, or filing a Radar for a different team at Apple, the less I have to think about how to report a bug, the more likely it is that I will continue using your software, and helping you improve it.
- George Borjas on Immigration and We Wanted Workers EconTalk
Understanding that the economy is not a zero sum game is essential when talking about immigration. Borjas and Roberts describe the short and long term implications of the demographic changes that are tied to immigration, not just on the economic side, but also in terms of culture.
- Michael Munger on the Basic Income Guarantee EconTalk
Lately I have been coming back to the Veil of Ignorance and how morality can be defined in terms of the choices we’d make behind it. If we did not know in which part of society we’ll fall, our policy choices would be very different. This can apply at the level of a city dealing with its poor, a country dealing with its healthcare system, or the international community dealing with its refugees. The idea of a basic income guarantee is gaining more and more steam, and I think this Rawlsian exercise can help us understand why.
- Jesus Fernandez-Villaverde on European Economic History and Macroeconomic Modeling Macro Musings
I especially liked the section on why people remember hyperinflations, but not financial crises. Essentially, the argument is that hyperinflations affect anyone with savings. A financial crisis, on the other hand, can make you better off in real terms — as long as you keep your job.
- It’s Working Out Very Nicely This American Life
By far, act two was the best part of this episode. The Trump Administration’s rhetoric implies that the current vetting system for immigration into the US is leaky, and useless. The wording of the executive order is one of “taking first steps,” while “extreme vetting” suggests that the current implementation is not strong enough. Hearing the opinion of one the interviewers who actually take part in the vetting process shows how naïve the narratives coming out of the White House can be.
- Cars and Cities, the Autonomy Edition a16z Podcast
What happens to our urban environments when car culture goes away? What kind of businesses are enabled due to autonomous vehicles?
- If Economists Controlled The Borders Planet Money
More on immigration. This episode includes three interviews with three economists with very different views. First, Dean Baker, whose suggestion is that the US should open its borders for high skilled individuals, such as doctors, engineers, scientists, etc. The most interesting part of his argument is that he’d like to make it mandatory for these individuals to repatriate some of their income, and so improve their home-countries in return for the brain-drain. Next, Giovanni Peri makes an argument for an auction based system, in which companies bid for the most lucrative candidates. This is a system I’d be against. For starters, how would we control for living cost in different areas of the country? And importantly, money is not a good measure of how valuable a job is. Last, Alex Nowrasteh, whose proposal most aligns with my views: make it a free for all.
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