Friday, May 30, 2008

Econlinks for the weekend

  • Investigating the root of biases and stereotypes (this is beyond scratching the surface and shifting all debate on political correctness: yes/no, as too often done nowadays). So far this is really not modelled thoroughly within Economics and much of this review of research within psychology is super interesting (though it is very mixed...). Here's an interesting quote, just to give you an idea what this is about: "To what degree are our decisions swayed by implicit social biases? How do those implicit biases interact with our more deliberate choices? A growing body of work indicates that implicit attitudes do, in fact, contaminate our behavior. Reflexive actions and snap judgments may be especially vulnerable to implicit associations." Link also to the 1st bullet point above.

  • The new business gurus: I agree with Gardner and Hamel in top 5, but Thomas Friedman should be a very passing fad...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Balanescu Quartet's "The Model"

Although Kraftwerk's original version of "The Model" (lyrics in English or German) is very good as well, my take is that The Balanescu Quartet (finally they've got a nice website: congrats!) added that something extra to it. So I'd say I like their cover even better than the original (and this hasn't much to do with the fact that I've met Alex Balanescu twice at small concerts he gave in London when I was there etc, see also my previous posts mentioning the Balanescu Quartet e.g. here or here or here). Anyway, without further ado, here's the super nice rendition of "The Model", placing together David Byrne (of, e.g., Talking Heads fame) and The Balanescu Quartet.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Econlinks today

  • The promise of prediction markets, as policy forum article in Science; many Econ Nobelists and future Nobelists on that list of authors... This is a follow up of a statement signed by equally prestigious researchers that I talked about a while ago. Since in the US there are a series of legal issues in this context, I think it is high time prediction markets received a lot of attention in Europe, for instance.

  • Further on drinks: Wine drinkers of the world, Unite! A good article by Christopher Hitchens, in Slate. He's clearly read my mind and probably every serious wine drinker's mind...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Gone southeastwards

...though only as far as Budapest, which I am enjoying (as always; I love this city!) since yesterday evening. Among other things, I'll be presenting two papers (one is here, the other one available only as abstract for now on this page or in this conference handbook) at the Comparative Analysis of Enterprise Data (CAED) conference, cruise the Danube, drink top Tokaji wines and admire the beautiful Hungarian women around :-). This also means that I would be less active with blogging these days, but I'll catch up later.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Shatner's Rocket Man

The song of the weekend is John and Taupin's great "Rocket Man". And although I like a lot Kate Bush's version as well, nothing can ever compare to Bill Shatner's theatrical rendition of this masterpiece (superb youtube old videoclip, with an introduction by Bernie Taupin). Enjoy!

Quote of the week

Do not do unto others as you would expect they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.

George Bernard Shaw, Maxims for Revolutionists

Friday, May 09, 2008

My whereabouts

I'll be less active with blogging these days since I am attending the Society of Labor Economists annual meeting (at Columbia University this year). I'll present this (preliminary and incomplete; comments very welcome; check my website periodically for updated future versions). For the rest, the Big Apple still impresses me, though I've paid a lot on taxis already :-).

Long PS. Yesterday, completely not linked to the conference above (actually he did not know about it), I met, was introduced to, and exchanged a few impressions with Bob Solow and his wife, at a welcome party organized by Niels, who also happens to be one of my co-authors for the paper linked above. And a brief, fast opinion: Solow is a super nice guy, far more humble when compared to all the Nobel prizers I previously met and always eager to open new subjects of conversation --and no, it wasn't so much about economics, if that is what you think :-). So my NY experience didn't start too bad. BTW, if you didn't read Solow's work (which also, obviously, means that you are not an economist...), retain at least that I've been using his quote related to Milton Friedman quite a lot, most recently in an "economics-popularization" presentation I gave last year in Copenhagen (read about that event here, check out the presentation here, both in Romanian however) :-).

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Econlinks today

  • Problems of Interplanetary and Interstellar Trade. Indeed, somebody had to start researching on this topic, at some point :-). Here's the part I like best in the concluding remarks: "Perhaps, the establishment of a solar system monetary union would permit the free flow of capital [...]"

It was in Moldova that Weiner began to see, or, rather, failed to see, the building blocks that make a culture happy. "While I did meet some people I liked, Moldova is the least happy country on the planet," Weiner says. "People go to great lengths to see their neighbors fail. Completely seriously, it is a very morose place. I've never been so glad to leave a country."

A well deserved Pulitzer and pearls before lunch...

I must be the most ignorant person ever: I've only found out today (via Terry Tao) that this superb article by Gene Weingarten, "Pearls before breakfast", likely the best I've ever read in the Washington Post, won a well deserved Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing about a month ago.

And since the credit should definitely be shared with this phenomenon called Joshua Bell, here's the (short, but intense) musical piece I propose to you before lunch today: Josh playing an excerpt from "The Red Violin", composition by John Corigliano, who won with it an Oscar for Best Music, Original Score, in the movie "The Red Violin" (IMDb, RottenTomatoes). Here's one of the best scenes of this movie (with Josh Bell playing again in the background).

Monday, May 05, 2008

Carlsen consistence

He's just tied for first (well, he's been de jure third, if you take the tie-breaks into consideration, but that does not matter much) in the powerful Baku 2008 Grand Prix. This after he did also very well in the Amber '08 Blindfold and Rapid Chess Tournament, where in the Combined final hierarchy he tied for second. As I said before, the chess wunderkid is in the very top already (probably 4th world-wide in terms of ELO-ranking by now) and he's there to stay. Let's try a forecast: Carlsen Chess World Champion before 2012?

(New) Danish cuisine

Yes, yes, I confirm: top Danish cuisine is resurrected and its outputs are nothing but extremely yummy... The NY Times has also got only praise for it (with assorted photos here). I've also mentioned recently that Noma, the current very best among the Danish restaurants, went up on the world rankings, being now number 10 (2nd bullet point).

Now, while the article above focuses on the Copenhagen dining scene, I've already experienced some of the best places in Aarhus (still waiting for such an article reviewing in detail the best of the best restaurants in Aarhus). For instance, I've had all the liquid nitrogen sensation at Malling & Schmidt (where I also paid more than I had ever paid before in a restaurant, but those are details...) and the smoking of the salmon in front of you at Nordisk Spisehus (the cheaper version of Malling & Schmidt, though nothing short of spectacular in terms of quality of the meals).

All in all, it should be clear that the restaurants' quality became a chief reason to visit Denmark. And perhaps the Danes could aggresively market this dimension also in order to attract highly skilled migrants for longer periods? Maybe there is a chance that such great food would make some people forget about the ridiculous level of the taxes (1st bullet point) :-).

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Econlinks for the weekend

  • Relative social status seems to dominate relative material status: the neuroscience evidence. Of course I knew that all the time :-).

Quote of the week

Prima impresie spune o poveste spontana, in care de fapt se intretes propriile noastre viziuni cu ceea ce dorim sa vedem. A doua privire este mai atenta, ordonand detaliile dupa logica mediului in care ne-am format ochiul. A treia privire spune o cu totul alta poveste, eliberata de constrangerile prejudecatilor. Povestea mea este galbena si verde, abstracta si concreta, statica si dinamica, reala si virtuala. Ea danseaza la marginea celor ce exista pentru ca exista, a celor ce nu exista pentru ca nu exista. O tentativa de a desena parmenidian.

Read the previous quote of the week (many weeks ago...).

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The prophet Jeremiah is alive and well and teaching economics at Harvard

This is the best article related in a way or another to Economics that I've read so far this week: Roy Weintraub reviewing Stephen Marglin's new book "The Dismal Science. How Thinking Like an Economist Undermines Community", for Science.

I have to say that on a scale from 1 to 10, I'd give 11 to Weintraub's review (here's Roy Weintraub's site, by the way): a state-of-the-art example of how sarcasm and irony can be used to fight against nonsense. We love it! Next to the opening sentence of Weintraub's review, which is also the title of my post, I'd single out its superb ending:

"I note in closing that the lead dust-jacket blurb for this volume was provided by the noted economist and social theorist Bianca Jagger (sic). Whatever was Harvard University Press thinking?"

Indeed, a darkest black point for Harvard University Press and a brightest red point for Science.

PS1. I've also learnt, for the first time, that even in such places like Harvard, some dinosaurs still roam around...

PS2. Note that this was the second attempted murder of Economics and economists I've talked about today. Dangerous times ahead...

Killing Adam Smith... in Dilema Veche

Surely Adam Smith couldn't care less by now if anybody threatened to kill him, but here's a serious attempt to even burry his memory. Unfortunately (or fortunately, for the author), this short article, recently published in "Dilema Veche", is in Romanian. Its author is somebody whom some of my Romanian fellows call the greatest Romanian economist alive (though don't bother to search for his top journal articles, cited by all the economics academe; in Romania that was/still is hardly a prerequisite to such honours: we do not like to complicate things). Next to his extensive academic experience, he is also ex-Minister of Finance, ex-Chief Economist of the Romanian National Bank, ex-that and ex-this, ex-everything... the man has clearly got a lot of policy experience and, truth be told, he also did some good things. Even though that might be in the end for the worse: overall, Daianu comes forth as much more of a politician (read: Romanian politician) than an economist (in fact, he's an MEP currently, probably not very busy with serious economics research), as I see him. Though that is hardly an excuse for his confusion in this article, even with respect to assessing others' viewpoints (Greenspan, Krugman etc.), and for his conclusions that are almost foreign to economic reasoning (a simple libertarian-nonlibertarian economic split would have little explanatory power in accounting for that), and bordering dangerously on populistic arguments with null academic basis, e.g. the "moral compass" etc. While I'll let you enjoy dissecting this further on your own, I'll just wrap it up here: forgive him, Adam Smith, he does not know what he is talking about...

PS. If you really want to read a mature opinion about (re)regulating financial markets and what is needed (even that, only in light of what went wrong because of interfering with the free market, to start with...) and what is simply a lot of noise and naivité, try Becker's here (4th bullet point), for instance. You could also check out recent articles by Feldstein, Mankiw, Summers and a few selected others that know what they talk about, though I am too lazy to find the exact links for you now (check my previous posts in the economics category though, they link often to such viewpoints).