Sunday, October 30, 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pomo humor

Hat tip: Sue Gindlin Weidman

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mara Berman Lederman seminar at Michigan

Mara Berman Lederman is at Michigan this Friday. Mara was one of the two or three strongest honors undergraduates I interacted with during my seven years at Western Ontario (where she was known among the faculty as "magnificent Mara"). Sadly, I will miss her talk as I am at a conference on Friday. But local economist readers should think about going. The topic sounds fun and she is very bright.

Here are the details:

Friday, October 28, 2011
12-1:30 pm
Room: E1540
Presenter:  Mara Lederman, University of Toronto
Topic:   Quality Disclosure and Gaming: Do Employee Incentives Matter?

We investigate gaming of a public disclosure program and, in particular, whether gaming depends on the incentives provided to the employees who are most likely to carry out the gaming. We do this in the context of the government-mandated disclosure of airline on-time performance. While this program collects data on the actual minutes of delay incurred on each flight, it ranks airlines based only on the fraction of their flights that arrive 15 or more minutes late. This creates incentives for airlines to game the program by reducing delays on specifically those flights they expect to arrive with about 15 minutes of delay. In addition, several airlines have introduced employee incentive programs based explicitly on the airline’s performance in the government program. Our empirical analysis finds no evidence of gaming by airlines without incentive programs or with incentive programs with targets that are unrealistically hard to achieve.
On the other hand, we find strong evidence of gaming by airlines that implemented incentive programs with targets that could be – and were - achieved. Specifically, we find that their flights that are predicted to arrive with about 15 minutes of delay have significantly shorter taxi-in times and are significantly more likely to arrive exactly one minute sooner than predicted. Our findings highlight that gaming of a disclosure program will not only depend on the design of the program but will also depend on if and how the measured quality dimensions can be manipulated and whether those who are in a position to manipulate them have incentives to do so.

Paper here.

NASA misbehavior

NASA roughs up the elderly wife of the late astronaut Neil Armstrong.

I thought they were trying to get their budget increased, not their agency closed. How tone deaf can you possibly be? Jeez.

Addendum: alert readers Dan and Lones correctly pointed out that I read the reason article too quickly (or, perhaps more to the point, when I was not sufficiently awake). It was not Neil Armstrong's widow, but rather the widow of a co-worker of his. I am not sure that makes it better.

William Niskanen, RIP

A nice blog post from reason provides further links.

Niskanen also generated one of the main theories of bureaucratic behavior, namely budget maximization. It doesn't explain everything, but it does surely account of a chunk of the variation.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Gaddafi's end

Some gruesome photos and video of the nearly dead, and newly dead, Libyan dictator.

Truly, nothing is private any more.

Book: Soft Apocalypse by Will McIntosh

I was in the mood for some science fiction, have always been a fan (not sure why, if I had a therapist maybe I'd know) of post-apocalypse fiction and so I read Soft Apocalypse by Will McIntosh, which I picked from the bones of the Borders in Burlington, Vermont on a trip this summer.

It is very much science fiction. The main character, a likable, nerdy sort of guy who does not do that well with women and does not think very deeply about anything ever, will be familiar from many other science fiction stories by many different authors. The characters are pretty one-dimensional. There are more coincidences than Dickens at his best (or is that his worst?). The briefly appearing economist character does not quite ring true. And for a story set in Savannah, Georgia, the near total absence of Christians is a bit jarring. One might imagine they would have things to say as civilization collapses.

But one does not read science fiction for character or writing, one reads it for ideas, and there are some ideas here that are interesting enough. Ever since visiting the Roman baths in Bath I have been thinking on and off about what it would be like to live at a time when civilization was moving backwards rather than forwards. What would it have been like for those left behind to watch as the Roman pulled out of Britain? That is the sort of reality that McIntosh wants to capture in his book, though in the context of the 21st century American south. In particular, I liked the idea of arrogant and politically motivated scientists trying to hasten the crash and thus the renewal. I also liked McIntosh's portrayal of the gradual collapse of normative social order and of legitimate political authority.

So, overall, okay, maybe even good, but not great. I found a bunch of more positive reviews online, such as this one, and the Amazon comments do a pretty good job of capturing both the strengths and weaknesses of the book.

Recommended for those who like post-apocalyptic fiction.

Movie: Love Crime

This is great French fun (though I sometimes think the French themselves would view this as a documentary on business practices in large firms). And the sets - both the offices and homes - are gorgeous. The heroine, in particular, picked up her design sensibilities from Mickey Rourke in 9.5 weeks.

A.O. Scott is back on key with this review, and captures the movie perfectly.

Great naughty fun .... recommended.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Advice for economics doctoral students

This short piece summarizes just about everything one needs to know when making the transition from research consumer to research producer at the end of the second year of an economics doctoral program.

Movie: The Ides of March

I enjoyed this movie, but not quite as much as I expected to.

Regular readers know that I have become a fan of New York Times movie reviewer A.O. Scott, who seems to me both insightful and on target most of the time. He - I just checked, he is indeed a he - goes off target only when lefty politics come up, and then his NYT blinders come out. This review is no exception, as he writes:
Morris [the movie's fictional new class democrat dream candidate played by George Clooney, who claims that his religion is the constitution but whose every policy proposal is unconstitutional on any reasonable reading of that much-abused document], locked in a battle for the nomination with a colorless (and barely seen) Senator Pullman (Michael Mantell), is a bit of a cipher, or perhaps a symbol. He stands for an ideal of political charisma that the film, directed by Mr. Clooney and based on the play “Farragut North” by Beau Willimon, sets out to tarnish. And yet it seems doubtful, after more than a decade of scandal, acrimony and bare-knuckled media brawling, that this noble fantasy exists anywhere but in the minds of writers and actors who look back fondly on the glorious make-believe administrations of Henry Fonda and Martin Sheen.
In fact, what I think is stunning about the American political scene is just how much of the electorate, including much of the chattering classes, still does fall in love with the politician of the moment, whether red or blue, despite all of the evidence that suggests the idiocy of doing so. One needs only refer back to 2008, and the hordes of aggressively naive and idealistic Obama supporters, to realize the falsity of Scott's empirical claim. Yes, many of those folks now feel hungover and regretful of their one-campaign stand, shocked to discover that their one-time hero is actually a Chicago politician (who could have known?), who really didn't mean that stuff about peace and transparency and chilling out the drug war and all the rest. I read the movie as reflecting this sort of still-raw disillusion with Obama, which is a very different reading than Scott's.

In any case, recommended, if only for some excellent acting, and a healthy does of realism about American politics.

Mankiw on what should be done

A wise column from Greg Mankiw on the present big picture policy impasse in the US.

I would only add that we already know the answer to the rhetorical question that ends his column, and we know it from a fifth country, Ireland, where the previously happy-go-lucky culture disappeared in a blaze of labor supply when marginal tax rates were reduced.

How college football fans think about Europe

ESPN sums up the long-standing confusion between the US and Europe in just a few seconds.

Stanford 65, Washington 21

Stanford is really, really good team. Washington is just a good team, and maybe not that good on defense, though they have looked better on other days. And Stanford ran the score up a bit, presumably as an offering to the BCS gods. The Seattle Times has the story as well as some griping about the defense.

Next up: Arizona, complete with a new coach, at 10:30 PM Eastern next Saturday.

Michigan had a bye this week and plays Purdue at noon Eastern next Saturday.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Warsh and Bresnahan on Steve Jobs

A fine obituary from Stanford economist Tim Bresnahan, which David Warsh wisely quotes in full.

I was never much of an Apple guy - maybe it was growing up in Seattle, maybe because the early Apple computers seemed too cute and their buyers too smug - but Jobs was clearly a great entrepreneur and will be sorely missed.

Stoops out at Arizona

Somehow I missed the firing of Arizona head football coach Mike Stoops a couple of weeks ago.

Will Slick Rick be next?

How things work in Illinois

This story does a wonderful job of combining corruption and incompetence.

Self-government among the occupiers

Someone at New York magazine has a fine sense of humor indeed.

In point of fact, bureaucratic leftist control freaks of the sort one frequently finds in government agencies, university administrations and foundations really don't have much in common at all with left anarchists who just want to be left alone.

The dangers of discretization

Shouldn't someone who is a medical intern understand the difference between a discrete and continuous variable or, more precisely, understand what happens when one discretizes a continuous variable to create categories?  I think the columnist should get a partial refund from whatever medical school she attended.

Hat tip: Charlie Brown

Universities expanding overseas provides an interesting AP piece on various overseas ventures by US universities.

I am always cautious about these: I think they often reflect the fact that many universities have too many senior administrators and one or more of them gets bored with the core mission of the university and/or thinks they need some bold initiative to get a better job offer somewhere else and so follows whatever the current fashion is among university administrators trying to gain attention. In recent years, that current fashion has been overseas adventures.

Also entertaining in the article is the belief that calling something an "additional campus" or a "portal campus" rather than a "branch campus" actually fools anyone.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Atlantic on Qaddafi

A short but informative history of the misrule of the late Colonel.

MTO, obesity and the Daily Mail

Many years ago, my friend and co-author Kermit Daniel had his dissertation research on the married male wage premium written up in US magazine. Since that time, I have always had it as a goal to somehow get my research noted in some thoroughly non-academic outlet. Now it turns out that my friend Jens Ludwig has accomplished this goal as well, by getting his paper on the effects of the Moving to Opportunity housing voucher treatment on obesity into the London Daily Mail, which also provides an illustrative photo.

Oh, and if you read the article, don't take the comments by HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan too seriously. The overall big picture takeaway from MTO is that neighborhood effects matter surprisingly little.

Hat tip: Charlie Brown

Correlation and causation

A humorous take on the age-old problem.

Hat tip: Dann Millimet

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Revisionism on the marshmallow test

From the Daily Beast, the sad story of (some of) the details of the famous marshmallow test, in which whether or not four-year-olds could defer gratification for 15 minutes strongly predicted later SAT scores.

Looks like it was just an over-hyped micronumerous mess. Sort of Perry Preschool but with fewer data points.

If only someone at some newspaper (or blog or monthly policy magazine) somewhere actually knew how to read and critique studies, some of this collective foolishness could be avoided.

Hat tip: Dann Millimet

Gregg Bell on Keith Price

What struck me about this piece is just how much thought goes into what might seem like minor details about who rooms with whom for a month in August.

It is also full of reminders of the importance of the mental part of the game of football.

Jimmy Swaggart

Maggie McNeill retells the always rewarding story of televangelist Jimmy Swaggart.

Woody Allen in the NYT

An interview, joint with Ethan Coen, about their new one act plays.

Hat tip: Charlie Brown

Domestic partner benefits

Apparently, the dimwits in Lansing think that the economy in Michigan is doing just fine, so that they can ignore it and spend their time on really important stuff like prohibiting public employers from offering domestic partner benefits.

To the Republicans in the state senate who will now take up the issue, I say: relax, don't do it!

Diversity at Michigan

From a recent advertisement for a faculty position:
The criteria for diversity are extremely broad now, and include not only race, ethnicity, etc. but also economic hardship, first person in a family to attend college, women in the economic profession, and other backgrounds not well represented in our faculty. They also include people whose research and/or teaching is directed at increasing diversity and equal opportunity. Examples of appropriate backgrounds and activities are at
If you click through, it is pretty clear that it is really all still about narrowly defined demographic diversity, with just enough fuzziness to avoid legal troubles.

I don't have a problem with some amount of demographic diversity; I think it is good for students and faculty to meet faculty and other students who have had different life experiences and there is some support in the literature for the value of demographically similar faculty role models. But it sure would be cool to find some direct mention of intellectual diversity as well. One might imagine that it is a sort of diversity that would really matter at a university. And it would be nice if the whole process involved less misrepresentation (i.e. it is in fact logically impossible to combine affirmative action with equal opportunity) and obfuscation by the university.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

50 years of teaching economics ...

In the latest alumni newsletter from the University of Washington Department of Economics (where I did my undergraduate degree) comes the news that both Yoram Barzel and Judy Thornton are celebrating 50 years in the department. They both took jobs at Washington in 1961, the year before I was born. Suddenly I feel much younger!

I took courses from both of them when I was an undergrad. Judy taught a sort of advanced honors micro seminar course, which had just 10 students, among them my friend Ken Troske, now in the economics department at Kentucky. My main recollections from that class are (1) Judy was really, really enthusiastic about economics and (2) there was an amusing juxtaposition between the loud male (there were females too but they were not loud) students and small, relatively quiet Judy. But much was learned. Yoram taught an upper level undergraduate lecture course on his favorite topic: property rights. I remember thinking how cool it was to have an exam question that was something along the lines of "why does the hotel supply the towels but not the toothbrush?". Also in that class was my friend John Matsusaka, now in the economics department at USC. I recall him reading the student newspaper in the back row, but I also recall him getting a better grade than I did.

Congratulations to Yoram and Judy!!

What the occupiers know ...

From New York magazine, of all places, a pretty harsh testament to the ignorance of the Wall Street occupiers.  The answers to the tax rate and government expenditure questions are priceless, if predictable.

Key caveat: New York magazine declines to share the sampling scheme it used. Most likely, it was "demonstrators who look friendly and are willing to answer questions they might not know the answer to when asked by a magazine reporter". Now, one might argue that this sampling scheme should actually overstate the average knowledge of the occupiers if in fact people who know more are more willing to answer questions.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

Movie: Mozart's Sister

This is a quiet, beautiful movie. I could have watched with enjoyment even if there had been no subtitles, just to see the gorgeous scenes at Versailles, the amazing costumes and the delicious music. It is a bit slow in its pace which did not bother me but did bother my wonderful wife.

The NYT review is largely descriptive and so not very helpful. In contrast, the NPR review by Bob Mondello does a better job of capturing the spirit of the movie.


Addendum: the movie gave me a chance to remember my first trip to Europe, which included a visit to Versailles. It was one of those high school student tours, with about 40 kids from various local high schools along with some teachers and parents who got to take the trip for "free" in return for supervising all of us. The day of the trip to Versailles we had three choices regarding what we wanted to do. I don't recall the third choice, but the second was shopping. A very large group went shopping. I went to Versailles with two of the adults. It was one of the highlights of the trip for me.

Warsh on Sargent and Sims

A nice column from David Warsh on how this week's winners of the economics Nobel prize fit into the grand sweep of the history of macroeconomic thought.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Law and Economics 2.0

Chicago has decided to beef up its law and economics faculty. My memory from graduate school was that there was not much of a shortage. There was a law and economics seminar in the law school, and the industrial organization seminar in economics was called the "economic and legal organization" seminar or something along those lines. I had a friend in my class, whom I have unfortunately lost touch with, who did both a J.D. and a Ph.D. One of my favorite memories from graduate school is of sitting in the law and economics seminar and watching Epstein and Posner pass notes back and forth and giggle.

But now there is to be an institute and more faculty and a formal joint program and that all sounds very good. Chicago Law has slipped in the rankings in recent years and this seems like a good way to build on existing strengths to try and climb back up the league table, particularly as my sense is that some of the reason for the slippage was a decision to be less unique (or, put differently, more like everyone else).

Impressively, according to the dean of the law school
The investment will come at no cost to students, Schill said. The school simultaneously plans to add three clinics while expanding its research mission. "We can walk and chew gum at the same time," he said.
Perhaps one of the first activities of the new Law and Economics Institute can be to teach the dean about opportunity costs.

Those crazy city folk

What happens when a farmer in Northern Ireland meets pop star Rihanna.

Washington 52 [sic], Colorado 24

The numbers on the scoreboard turned at such a dizzying pace, Washington defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu could hardly keep up. "It was like a video game," said the Washington senior. "It was crazy."
The Huskies are in a new place now. "Foreign territory," coach Steve Sarkisian calls it.
Good times on Montlake as the Huskies put up more than 50 points for the first time since 2001. I can't remember the last time Washington dismantled someone like this.

The Seattle Times game summary article is here and there is also a remarkably positive column by the normally-a-bit-negative Jerry Brewer.

Next week, of course, the level of difficulty increases a bit when the Huskies travel to Palo Alto to play Leland's College. WSU, whose game, unusually, was available for me to watch yesterday, played them about even for the first half. So they are beatable. But can the Huskies beat them?  I will have to say, too, that I was wrong about the Cardinal. I thought they would fall apart, or at least sink from great to good, when coach Jim Harbaugh left for the pros, but they have not.

Michigan State 28, Michigan 14

It turns out that I was correct to worry about what would happen when Michigan finally played a good team. What happened in this case was that they lost to Michigan State up in East Lansing by two touchdowns. This piece does a good job of explaining why.

This game illustrates the downside to setting up a schedule with mostly very easy games at the front: it leads to a sort of nominal win-loss illusion that affects not just poll voters but also, I think the players and coaches. On other hand, Michigan is already bowl eligible. There are tradeoffs everywhere.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ignoble prizes

The 2011 Ignoble prizes have been announced.

My favorite is for the research reported in this paper:

"Dizziness in Discus Throwers is Related to Motion Sickness Generated While Spinning," Philippe Perrin, Cyril Perrot, Dominique Deviterne, Bruno Ragaru and Herman Kingma, Acta Oto-laryngologica, vol. 120, no. 3, March 2000, pp. 390–5.

Ya think?

These folks are having even more fun than economists do.

Movie: Higher Ground

A beautiful movie and a very nice review from A.O. Scott in the NYT.

I particularly liked this line from the review:
What faith and doubt have in common is that both are hard work, and the hard-won wisdom of “Higher Ground” is that human nature does not necessarily distinguish between saints and sinners.

Denard's day

The Wall Street Journal provides a book excerpt that details a day in the life of star quarterback Denard Robinson.

The bit that stood out to me was the "one hour meeting with a professor". Meetings with "normies" (what athletes call regular undergrads according to the article) do not last that long.

Hat tip: Charlie Brown

NYT in A2

The NYT spends 36 hours in Ann Arbor and does a fine job of hitting the high points.

I might have substituted Grange for Logan but Logan is very good. Grange is just a bit more original in what it is trying to accomplish. Or maybe it is just fresh in my mind from eating there last night.

On hotels, I prefer Campus Inn to the Bell Tower, but both are very nice.

It is worth noting as well, which the article does not, that every single place they mention is walkable from every other. That's pretty sweet.

Ranking busyness schools

Michigan's Ross School of Business comes in 30th place in the Economist's new ranking of busyness schools.

I will say that I have been generally impressed with the faculty I have dealt with at the Ross School. They are more like faculty at the Booth School at Chicago and less like faculty at Maryland's business school (or Western Ontario's business school) than I would have expected ex ante.

My casual sense from comparing this list to others that focus on undergraduate education is that non-US institutions are better at organizing world-class business schools. I am not sure why that would be; perhaps it has to do with the ability of business schools to pay internationally competitive salaries to faculty in a way that economics departments (to take a random example) in other countries often cannot.

In regard to Canada, I am surprised that York's business school is the only one to make the top 30. Back when I was at Western Ontario, they claimed to be in the top 10 outside the US. Evidently the Economist begs to differ, or perhaps they have lost ground over time. I would have thought that the Rotman School at Toronto would make the top 30 as well.

Oh, and I should give credit where credit is due: I got the "busyness school" thing from Charlie Brown.

Principal-agent problems: Iowa edition

Seems to me the real boobs in this story are the Des Moines police.

Time for some budget cuts ...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The meaning of Occupy Wall Street

A very fine piece from reason where the author actually goes and observed the Occupy Wall Street ongoing rally and talks to people. As usual, things are more subtle than what one might think from reading or watching many media outlets. Fox News was doing a full court press on the weekend on the theme that the Occupy Wall Street folks were completely and utterly different from the tea party, so much so that surely many viewers must have thought that they were protesting a bit too much. The emails, on the other hand, make it out to be the second coming of the 1960s or perhaps of 1917 (even better!). Neither, not surprisingly, is correct.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Reason HEART Tom Sargent

There is a bit more of the policy conclusions driving the economics rather than reverse than I care for in this bit of praise for Tom Sargent, but it is worth reading if only for the Krugman anecdote.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Economics Nobel

Congratulations to macro economists Tom Sargent and Chris Simms, who are the winners of the 2011 Nobel prize in economics.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Maybe my favorite SNL bit ever.

They say it's your birthday ...

So Friday was ECONJEFF's 49th birthday.

I share my birthday not only with my wonderful mother-in-law and one of my most excellent college roommates, the latter of whom was born on exactly the same day that I was, but also Vladimir Putin and Fox News.

Happy birthday to us all (well, maybe not Putin), and thanks to all my facebook friends who sent greetings (and to a couple of old school relatives who sent, of all things, paper birthday cards via the US mail).

Michigan 42, Northwestern 24

I watched the last half of this game in my room at the Inn at Harvard via my Vulkano cable-to-internet box as the Inn at Harvard, oddly, does not carry the Big Ten Network. Actually, the fact that the TV in the room at the Inn at Harvard always starts with PBS is a pretty good summary statistic for the hotel as a whole. I was staying at the Inn in order to attend the 7th IZA Conference on Labor Market Policy Evaluation.

In any case, Michigan looked mighty fine in the second half against an opponent stronger than anyone else it has faced this season. I still think they are over-ranked relative to their achievements to date, but I would agree now that they should be in the top 25. has extensive coverage of the game here.

Huskies at (almost) mid-season

A nice wrap-up of where things stand as of Washington's bye week from Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times.

Nobel predictions

It is Nobel time again.

My predictions for possible prizes in the near future, including this year:

Structural labor: John Rust and Ken Wolpin
Structural IO: some subset (possibly the whole set) of Barry, Levinsohn and Pakes
Larsometrics (i.e. GMM etc.): Lars Hansen
Institutional design: Al Roth
Set identification ("bounds") and peer effects and statistical treatment rules: Charles Manski

Farther in the future:

Field experiments in development: Esther Duflo

Various other predictions from the interwebs here and here (via Mankiw).

Nobel prize guessing humor from NPR (do they have a sense of humor?) (also via Mankiw).

I am puzzled by the predictions regarding Gordon Tullock and Jerry Hausman. Giving it to Tullock should have been done as a shared prize with Buchanan. Doing it now would be an admission of error. I think not. My sense is that Hausman has mostly consulted in recent years. There is nothing wrong with consulting but I don't think the Swedes will reward it.

For non-economists: GMM = generalized method of moments and IO = industrial organization.

Occupy Wall Street

From Remy, via Reason. Nicely done.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bastiat on unfair competition

Some things never change, and whining manufacturers (and the workers they employ) who want the government to protect them from competition is one of those things.

Here is the most excellent parody by French classical economist (and classical liberal - go team!) Frederic Bastiat of a petition from French candlemakers asking for assistance in fending off the unfair competition of the sun.

Honor and free trade in Congress

Support the Middle Class and Oppose Free Trade Agreements
From:The Honorable Michael H. Michaud
Sent By:
Date: 10/4/2011
Dear Colleague:

As Congress prepares to consider the pending free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama next week, I wanted to bring to your attention a recently published op-ed by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

As President Trumka explains, the pending trade agreements are bad for the middle class and will not create jobs. In addition, they are vastly unpopular with the American people.   Americans oppose free trade agreements for good reasons:  they have undermined the U.S. manufacturing sector; they off-shore American jobs; and they benefit multinational corporations at the expense of Main Street.

I encourage my colleagues to read President Trumka’s op-ed and join me in protecting the American middle class by opposing the free trade agreements when they come to the House floor.


Michael H. Michaud
This email was circulated by a Congressperson called Michael Michaud, who represents a district in Maine of all places. I did not know that manufacturing was a big interest group in Maine. I've deleted the promised op-ed from Richard Trumka as its contents are perfectly predictable. You can find it at the link.I have two comments on this rather dishonorable email from the honorable Michael Michaud:

First, we can look forward to Michaud introducing a constitutional amendment to change the commerce clause so as to allow the several states to erect trade barriers among themselves, thereby further increasing employment and providing extra super-duper bonus support to the middle class. Indeed, perhaps Michaud will be so clever as to not just stop at states, but to allow trade barriers among counties or even municipalities. Think how rich the middle class would grow! Imagine the fantastic employment levels to be achieved! And, perhaps best of all, think of all the good it would do for the longsuffering Maine orange growers! Don't they deserve some love?

Actually, the fact that we will not see Michaud introduce such an amendment solves the identification problem otherwise posed by the email from his office. To wit, we can be sure that he is a liar rather than a fool.

On a not unrelated matter, it always struck me as deeply inconsistent with the values of the revolution that led to the founding of this country to give people the title "honorable" merely because they manage to get elected to public office. Indeed, one might argue on empirical grounds that the nature of the electoral process  practically guarantees that, on average, elected officials will have less honor than the citizens who elect them. I say we should do away with these bizarrely inaccurate titles immediately, just as we did away with other titles lacking any basis in merit, like duke, earl or king, in revolutionary times.

Via Andy Roth and the Club for Growth trade email list.

Clever term: mosaic theory

I learned about mosaic theory as a result of being the "cognate" member of a dissertation in the Ross School of business. It appears to mean making something up based on random facts.  Nice name though, and apparently people publish articles about it.

Evolution and income

Chris Blattman posted this graph showing per capita income against "belief" in evolution a couple of weeks ago. I have a different interpretation of it than he does, one that is cued by the very term "belief in evolution". This graph does not show, I would argue, anything about income and scientific literacy. Most of those who report that they believe in evolution rather than creationism know no more about the matter (which is to say they know nothing about the matter) than most of those who report believing in creationism rather than evolution. They are just signaling either red or blue team membership or else their relative willingness to take things on faith from people dressed in lab jackets rather than people dressed in robes. I am not sure it is a bad thing to have some heterogeneity on that score, as the lab jacket types do not always get it right and, more broadly, will likely do better if they have some competition.

On being an Ann Arbor townie

The author of this piece on Ann Arbor townies has a broader definition than I would have, but it is a fine piece nonetheless. I would say that someone who teachers or is a student at the university cannot be a townie, even if, like one of my colleagues, she grew up here and has townie friends. But that is really beside the point. I think really the point is that an article called "On Being a Long-Time Ann Arbor Resident" would not sound as interesting.

J.P. Patches ...

... bids a public farewell to his fans in Seattle.

He was the star of the weekday children's program on KIRO in Seattle when I was growing up.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Movie: Moneyball

This movie is not as good as the NYT thinks it is, but it is still worth seeing.

My sense from the Wikipedia page for Billy Beane, the Oakland A's manager whose adoption of statistically guided baseball led to remarkable success on a low budget, is that most of the personal narrative in the movie has little to do with reality.

I am told the book upon which the movie is based is quite good.

And then there is the puzzle, identified by Greg Mankiw, as to why the nerdy assistant in the movie was transformed from a Harvard grad into an economics grad.

Recommended, but not as strongly as in the Times, and partly because it is fun to see good use made of simple statistical methods.

Washington 31, Utah 14

Well, how about this!  Utah was favored by 10 and loses by 17.

Washington is now 4-1 with two solid wins over Cal and Utah, as well as wins over weak Eastern Washington and Hawaii teams. The loss to Nebraska looks a little less excusable now after the Badgers wiped the floor of Camp Randall with the Huskers. They are creeping up the rankings toward the bottom of the Top 25.

The truly astounding score this weekend, though, is Wazoo defeating Colorado 31-27 in Boulder. Seems there is some life over in Pullman this year after all.

Not a good day for teams playing their first games in new leagues.

Addendum: I am informed by our local Cougar that it is "Wazzu" and not "Wazoo". I sit corrected.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The man of many blogs

I added Will Wilkinson's new blog, the Moral Sciences Club, to the list at the right and deleted his old blog, which was not getting many posts. He is also still one of multiple bloggers posting at the Economist's Democracy in America blog, also on the list to the right. Even when I disagree with him, I always find Will's remarks thoughtful and worth reading, in part because he reads well beyond the economics literature, but still gets economics.

Haiku summaries of economics papers

When I followed the link to this page of economics haikus from Cheap Talk, I was actually expecting it to lead to David Figlio, who also likes to summarize papers in haiku form.

I think that summarizing their own paper in haiku form would be an excellent exercise for our students who are on the job market: probably if you have trouble with such a summary, either your paper is not focused enough or you have not thought hard enough about what it means.

Michigan 58, Minnesota 0

This was so lopsided it became painful to watch after some point, which was the point where I started watching the Penn State at Indiana game, where I was cheering for Indiana. As usual, has extensive coverage.

I am not sure anything was learned from this game about Michigan's offense but, even conditional on the quality of the opposition, the defense played much better than it has before.

The schedule gets tougher for Michigan now with Northwestern up next weekend and Michigan State the weekend after that, in East Lansing.

Saturday, October 1, 2011