“A mixed economy is not an economic abomination or even a regrettably unavoidable political necessity but a natural absorbing state,” and other notes on “Whither Science?” by Danko Antolovic

So. I got this email one day, promoting a book that came with the following blurb: Whither Science?, by Danko Antolovic, is a series of essays that explore some of the questions facing modern science. A short read at only 41 pages, Whither Science? looks into the fundamental questions about the purposes, practices and future of science. As a global endeavor, which influences all of contemporary life, science is still a human creation with historical origins and intellectual foundations. And like all things human, it has its faults, which must be accounted for. It sounded like this guy might be a crank, but they sent me a free copy so I took a look. I read the book, and I liked it. It’s written in an unusual style, kinda like what you might expect from someone with a physics/chemistry background…
Original Post: “A mixed economy is not an economic abomination or even a regrettably unavoidable political necessity but a natural absorbing state,” and other notes on “Whither Science?” by Danko Antolovic

Using Stan to improve rice yields

Using Stan to improve rice yields Posted by Andrew on 7 November 2017, 9:03 am Matt Espe writes: Here is a new paper citing Stan and the rstanarm package. Yield gap analysis of US rice production systems shows opportunities for improvement. Matthew B. Espe, Kenneth G. Cassman, Haishun Yang, Nicolas Guilpart, Patricio Grassini, Justin Van Wart, Merle Anders, Donn Beighley, Dustin Harrell, Steve Linscombe, Kent McKenzie, Randall Mutters, Lloyd T. Wilson, Bruce A. Linquist. Field Crops Research. Volume 196, September 2016, Pages 276–283. Many thanks to everyone on the development team for some excellent tools! I’ve not read the paper, but, hey, if Stan can improve U.S. rice yields by a factor of 1.5, that’s cool. Then all our research will have been worth it.
Original Post: Using Stan to improve rice yields


Kevin Lewis points to a research article by Lawton Swan, John Chambers, Martin Heesacker, and Sondre Nero, “How should we measure Americans’ perceptions of socio-economic mobility,” which reports effects of question wording on surveys on an important topic in economics. They replicated two studies: Each (independent) research team had prompted similar groups of respondents to estimate the percentage of Americans born into the bottom of the income distribution who improved their socio-economic standing by adulthood, yet the two teams reached ostensibly irreconcilable conclusions: that Americans tend to underestimate (Chambers et al.) and overestimate (Davidai & Gilovich) the true rate of upward social mobility in the U.S. There are a few challenges here, and I think the biggest is that the questions being asked of survey respondents are so abstract. We’re talking about people who might not be able to name…
Original Post: Whipsaw

Delegate at Large

Delegate at Large Posted by Andrew on 29 July 2017, 9:42 am Asher Meir points to this delightful garden of forking paths, which begins: • Politicians on the right look more beautiful in Europe, the U.S. and Australia.• As beautiful people earn more, they are more likely to oppose redistribution.• Voters use beauty as a cue for conservatism in low-information elections.• Politicians on the right benefit more from beauty in low-information elections. I wrote: On the plus side, it did not appear in a political science journal! Economists and psychologists can be such suckers for the “voters are idiots” models of politics. Meir replied: Perhaps since I am no longer an academic these things don’t even raise my hackles anymore. I just enjoy the entertainment value. This stuff still raises my hackles, partly because I’m in the information biz so I…
Original Post: Delegate at Large

Died in the Wool

Garrett M. writes: I’m an analyst at an investment management firm. I read your blog daily to improve my understanding of statistics, as it’s central to the work I do. I had two (hopefully straightforward) questions related to time series analysis that I was hoping I could get your thoughts on: First, much of the work I do involves “backtesting” investment strategies, where I simulate the performance of an investment portfolio using historical data on returns. The primary summary statistics I generate from this sort of analysis are mean return (both arithmetic and geometric) and standard deviation (called “volatility” in my industry). Basically the idea is to select strategies that are likely to generate high returns given the amount of volatility they experience. However, historical market data are very noisy, with stock portfolios generating an average monthly return of around…
Original Post: Died in the Wool

How does a Nobel-prize-winning economist become a victim of bog-standard selection bias?

Someone who wishes to remain anonymous writes in with a story: Linking to a new paper by Jorge Luis García, James J. Heckman, and Anna L. Ziff, an economist Sue Dynarski makes this “joke” on facebook—or maybe it’s not a joke: How does one adjust standard errors to account for the fact that N of papers on an experiment > N of participants in the experiment? Clicking through, the paper uses data from the “Abecedarian” (ABC) childhood intervention program of the 1970s. Well, the related ABC & “CARE” experiments, pooled together. From Table 3 on page 7, the ABC experiment has 58 treatment and 56 control students, while ABC has 17 treatment and 23 control. If you type “abecedarian” into Google Scholar, sure enough, you get 9,160 results! OK, but maybe some of those just have citations or references to…
Original Post: How does a Nobel-prize-winning economist become a victim of bog-standard selection bias?

NIMBYs and economic theories: Sorry / Not Sorry

This post is not by Andrew. This post is by Phil. A few days ago I posted What’s the deal with the YIMBYs?  In the rest of this post, I assume you have read that one. I plan to post a follow-up in a month or two when I have had time to learn more, but there are a couple of things I can say right now. I. Sorry I apologize unreservedly to YIMBY supporters who know, or think they know, that buiding more housing in San Francisco will decrease rents there or at least will greatly reduce the rate at which they rise. I characterized the entire YIMBY movement as being at least partly motivated by a desire to stick a thumb in the eye of the smug slam-the-door-now-that-I’m-inside NIMBY crowd, rather than by a genuine belief that loosening…
Original Post: NIMBYs and economic theories: Sorry / Not Sorry

Higher credence for the masses: From a Ted talk?

The Four Most Dangerous Words? A New Study Shows | Laura Arnold | TEDxPennsylvaniaAvenue I brought this link forward in some comments but wanted to promote it to a post as I think its important and I know many folks just do not read comments.As I once heard claimed in a talk on risk communication – “No one has as much credibility as a mother voicing concerns about her children – No one!” Now, academics have been voicing concerns about the quality of published studies and claims for a long time, me in 1989, others inspired by Fisher in 1959 and CS Peirce in 1879. Recently there has been an exponential explosion in the voicing of concerns about  the quality of published studies – but it does not seem to be reaching the masses. Academics must not have much credibility with…
Original Post: Higher credence for the masses: From a Ted talk?

What’s the deal with the YIMBYs?

This post is not by Andrew. It is by Phil. There’s at least one thing people in San Francisco seem to agree on: the rent is too damn high. The median rent is between about $3000 and $3500 per month…for a one-bedroom apartment. High-tech workers and upper-echelon businesspeople can afford a place, but baristas and hair salon workers and teachers and shop clerks etc. etc. have real trouble. Of course there is plenty of development pressure, and new high-rise apartments are going in that have hundreds of apartments each, typically with a rent of $4000 – $8000 per month. If you let a developer build “market rate” apartments, that’s what they’ll build. Suppose San Francisco adds 10,000 market-rate units. Some will be one-bedrooms, some two- or three-bedrooms, and some will be occupied by singles, others by couples, etc. But for…
Original Post: What’s the deal with the YIMBYs?