Economics & Marginalia: December 2, 2022

December 02, 2022

Hi all,

If this week’s links seem a little threadbare, you can blame the pestilence that has been sweeping through my household the last couple of weeks (thankfully, pestilence is an exaggeration: no one’s dropped off entirely yet). I’ve been spared, but the reward I’ve won from my immune system (or more likely, random luck) has been to be the designated cook, cleaner, shopper and collector of used tissues, full bin bags and baleful stares from my unwell companions. It has left rather less time for reading than I would usually like, so this will be a short edition—though not, I hope, any less interesting for it. Anyway, between bin bag collections and soup delivery, here’s the best of the week.

  1. I normally start with economics, but it’s been a tough old week, and so I’m going to drag you down with me. Benn Stancil has performed an enormous public bad by creating a database of the exact age of 100 remarkable individuals when they achieved some landmark for which they are known. Let me tell you now: enter this spreadsheet (or the associated blog) and you are going to feel simultaneously old and unaccomplished. Malala? 17 when she won that Nobel. Milgram? 30 when he tortured undergraduates (to be fair, I tortured undergraduates using the only weapon I had available, pedantry, when I was just 17). George Harrison was 26 when he recorded his *last* song with The Beatles. Maybe Leonardo DiCaprio had early access to this spreadsheet? It might explain why he only dates 20 year olds.
  2. Back to the economics: I got very excited when I saw a post with the title ‘Sample Size Isn’t Everything’ on Development Impact, given my struggles with non-response to a survey I’m running right now (we’re getting there, just slowly); it turns out to be about specific types of uncertainty that farmers face, and how they make decisions, another one of DI’s wonderful job market paper summaries. Another good one from this week: on fecal sludge and the negative externalities of latrine building.
  3. I really like this piece by Suma Chakrabarti on reforming the World Bank. The main message is simple: the Bank is way too hard to work with if you’re a borrower, and that means it increasingly becomes a second choice for developing countries, when it has the potential to be so much more and so much better. It’s littered with great facts, but this one caused me to whistle:  “[When] the World Bank tried to reform its safeguard policies… Initial proposals … caused a huge outcry among civil-society groups… the new framework … will not be fully implemented until 2025, almost 15 years after discussions began – a case study in institutional sclerosis.
  4. What do you call the opposite of an academic crush? Someone whose work you just absolutely deride and read with ghoulish glee to see the latest barely-disguised speculation they’ve tried to publish as fact (you can guess which famed anthropologist who thinks cavemen were better off than we are is mine). Whatever it’s called Malcolm Gladwell is Andrew Gelman’s, and Andrew just eviscerates him here.  
  5. Some of my favourite economists have left Twitter for Mastodon, but I am still slow to fully transition because I’m finding it so hard to replicate my network. Tim Harford has thoughts on this very problem.
  6. Lastly, it’s hard to finish the links without reference to the incredible sporting events we’re seeing now. No, not the World Cup, as much as the look on Luis Suarez’s face right now makes me happy. I am talking about the cricket, with England and Pakistan apparently deciding to just bat until everyone gets a century; and Australia absolutely putting the boot into the Windies with Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne back to their absolute best. I bet Pakistan wish they had a Shoaib Akhtar to do something mad again: the Rawalpindi Express (still the greatest nickname in all of sports history) might not bowl anymore but his interviews are just as fun as his incredible run-up. I loved this one with the Guardian: “My doctor asked me recently: ‘Shoaib, you are in so much pain right now. Tell me one thing. Was it worth it?’ I said: ‘Doc, every minute of it. It was so worth it.’

Have a great weekend, everyone!



CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.