Economics & Marginalia: December 16, 2022

December 16, 2022

Hi all,

As we approach the year’s end, the Links are going on a hiatus, until the first or second week of January—I’m heading up to Northumberland next week to have a Christmas in the wilds, with grandparent-childcare, vast amounts of wine and port and several books to take advantage of the familial support. I can’t wait, though the last minute Christmas shopping I need to do before then is a prospect about as enticing as a trip to a sadistic dentist. It’s been a busy year, with research projects taking off, multiple familial illnesses (including one the week of my biggest deadline of the year, which is an experience I hope I never have to repeat), and all sorts of terrible stuff happening out there in the real world: floodswars of aggressionElon Musk burying twitter in pettiness and self-importance (and given that these are the two basic currencies of twitter, it is incredibly impressive to be so petty and so self-important that you can tank the whole experience) and the loss of Mark Lanegan. I’m glad for the break, and ready for 2023 to be better.

  1. Not everything this year was terrible. Susannah Hares and I have written a review of the year, and because there was so much bad (there always is), we focused on three good news stories, because progress is much easier to ignore than idiocy and misery. 2022 saw the rollback of reproductive rights in the US, but their advance in a number of other places, including Colombia, as well as wins for human right—and specifically rights for homosexual people—in Cuba, Barbados and other places. There are also small signs that some countries at least are becoming more welcoming to migrants, we we recognise the boon they are, economically and culturally—even if in the UK we still have politicians who dream of their misery. And towards the end of the year, phase 2 trials confirmed the efficacy of the vaccine against Malaria. Progress comes, even when tides of rubbish threaten to hide it.
  2. Sometime progess is missed because it’s just not exciting enough. 2022 saw the death of Dilip Mahalanabis, a man who popularised a simple remedy (just water, salt and sugar) for dehydration that has saved an estimated 50 million livesTim Harford argues that these unsung innovations—like paper, like the tin can—can be incredibly powerful, but pass unnoticed for their more glamorous cousins, the printing press, and electric vehicles. Mahalanabis was a hero, but too unsung.
  3. This year has seen heroes, too: Vlodomyr Zelensky, for example. And this guy should join him: a bounty hunter who tracks down telemarketers in the US, and collects a share of the $500 fines they are subject to when identified. He has one rule in his work, recounted to Planet Money: he only hunts the A-holes, as he puts it. No charities, no hospitals. Just that irritating ****** who wants to find out if you’ve had a car accident recently, and by the way can I help you sue somebody? When the Jerry Seinfeld approach doesn’t work, call in the Bounty Hunter (transcript).
  4. Back to the more academic side for a moment: this write-up of new research by Mayara Felix is superb. She uses Brazil’s 1990s trade liberalisation to demonstrate how market concentration increased among Brazilian firms—and the mechanisms by which this affected workers wages. There were two competing forces: a change in the composition of the market, with workers moving to more productive, better firms; and a downward pressure on wages generated by increased market power of these firms, with the latter dominating, just.
  5. On the subject of heroes: if you’re a Stata user, this guy probably deserves that designation. Fahad Mirza collates 25 ways of visualising data beautifully in Stata, complete with code. Get him a cape.
  6. Two links on footballl, which is a central concern on my part-Argentine household with the World Cup final approaching: first  the qualitative: Branko Milanovic’s rather lovely reflections on being a football-obsessed child in socialist Yugoslavia. It reminds me in many ways of some memoirs of cricket fandom that I’ve read—the same sense of being removed yet closely connected to the stars we follow. And quantitative: 538 confirms the suspicion that had every Argentine tearing their hair out in the match against the Netherlandsthere is an absolute ton of extra time being played in this World Cup.
  7. Lastly, what could possibly get you into the spirit of the season more than the 101 greatest LA rap songs, complete with clips and links. As you would expect NWA and alumni feature heavily, includin in the top 10; Kendrick is probably underappreciated here, but mostly because his songs transcend LA. And if you need your weekend jam to get you in the mood for Christmas, I am here to remind you that Regulate—that 1990s anthem—is still an absolute banger. Finally, if you—like me—are about to enter a panic of book-buying to get you present-ready for the holidays, LitHub have you covered.

Have a great weekend, everyone!



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