Monday, November 10, 2014

Information Nexus

1. Tim Lee on the tension between deregulation and government action to prevent anti-competitive behavior by monopolists

2. GiveWell begins an investigation of the merits of donating to Ebola charities

3. The rise of the lumbersexual

4. Excellent article on sports analytics in basketball. And football here. Where is the ultimate frisbee analytics movement?

5. "... rather than embracing the deregulatory tenets of Smart Growth, regulators in some cities have layered Smart Growth rules on top of their traditional zoning rules, creating a complicated web of regulations." Article

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The politics of mean reversion

The Upshot recently had a column discussing the role that occasional voters play in tempering the more partisan policy preferences of reliable voters. While I don't have strong views about the ethics of voting or nonvoting (although clearly its possible to vote well or vote poorly), I have a very hard time seeing the macro benefits of sporadic voting.

A popular idea in US politics is that we're too polarized. That's not really accurate: the electorate isn't more polarized, rather the institutional arrangements that translate votes into policy are badly skewed towards partisanship and gridlock. A key problem is that the basic system of accountability has degraded. Parties have become more ideologically coherent, which enables increasingly rational collecting strategizing. This is especially important in the senate, where any majority lacking 60 votes can be effectively blocked by the minority. The minority wins politically when the majority loses--and the minority has the institutional power to make the majority lose. Not exactly a recipe for dynamic government capacity.

Here's where sporadic voting comes in. To get anything done in this political reality, the mechanisms of government require a party to control 60 senate seats. But sporadic voters--who tend to be more independent--hold majorities accountable. In recent years the dysfunctional gridlock in federal government has led to a vast army of unsatisfied moderate voters ping-ponging back and forth between parties. Neither Democrats or Republicans ever quite assemble a coalition sizeable enough to truly implement their policy vision before being cut down by moderate voters for their ineffectiveness.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Research methods FTW

Much of the recent controversy over that NYC catcalling video was caused by uncertainty about the research methodology of their 'study'. This article articulates the issue nicely:
The Hollaback video also shows why “data” without theory can be so misleading—and how the same data can fit multiple theories. Since all data collection involves some form of data selection (even the biggest dataset has selection going into what gets included, from what source), and since data selection is always a research method, there is always a need for understanding methods.
Read the article here. It's highly recommended.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A cultural stickiness approach to gender inequality

Project Syndicate has an interesting short essay about the economics of gender:
The finding suggests that in plough-using societies, patriarchal values circumscribed female mobility, and allowed men – as a result of their greater economic contribution – to undermine women’s autonomy. Remarkably, these values, shaped many centuries ago, when certain physical attributes might have been important, have survived in modern societies, in which such attributes have become largely irrelevant.