23 September, 2015

Plane reading, Sept 23 2015

Expert takes worth reading on economics, technology, and other interesting topics from the last week.  Plus recent news on Uber and on-demand/autonomous vehicles:

Economics and business in emerging markets

  1. Christopher Balding, on "official" China growth data being multiples higher than any individual component - suggesting manipulation and falsification
  2. Forbes, covering the growing concerns around Alibaba's fantastic numbers possibly being falsified (and governance structure)
  3. Barry Ritholz, on McKinsey Global Institute (via HBS) data showing shifting center of gravity of corporate revenue towards emerging markets 

Economics and Inequality

  1. NYTimes, on socioeconomic education gap being much wider and less successfully addressed than racial gaps
  2. Tyler Cowen, on implications of research suggesting even Democratic elites prefer economic efficiency to equality
  3. Gary Becker et al, on why persistence of economic status is higher at the top of income distributions due to fundamental (not structural) reasons, and "that government interventions intended to ameliorate inequality may in fact lower inter-generational mobility—even when they do not directly favor the rich."
  4. Larry Summers, headlining a letter from 267 economists to the UN on the need for "global policy makers to prioritise a pro-poor pathway to universal health coverage (UHC) as an essential pillar of development.
  5. Pauly et al, on "The Price of Responsibility: The Impact of Health Reform on Non-Poor Uninsureds" showing why ACA/Obamacare has such low takeup rates: it's a bad deal for poor, young people - even with subsidies
  6. Washington Post, on CDC research demonstrating that low income children actually eat less fast food, contrary to popular belief
  7. Tim Taylor, on the growing socioeconomic gap in life expectancy.  As an aside, this seems a much more rational basis for means-testing social security than the current rhetoric
  8. Tim Taylor, on the data showing that the "gender gap" in wages isn't men vs. women, it's structural mothers vs non-mothers.  With clear implications for the limits of policy to fix
  9. National Affairs on "The Scourge of Upward Distribution" - distinguishing between natural capital accumulation due to fair play, and "upward redistribution of rents" due to the rich misusing the state to set even more favorable policies

Economics and Global Warming
  1. VOX EU, on the surprising economics of climate change.  A century worth of change is equivalent to about a year of economic growth.  This falls disproportionately on low-income countries both due to locations at/near sea level as well as mitigation efforts rely heavily on reduction/elimination of coal currently relied upon for low-income economic development
  2. Mark Thoma, reporting on Stanford's discovery that perceived hiatus in global warming 1998-2013 was due to faulty buoys.  There was no pause in global warming
  3. Forbes, on a proposal to buy coal rights in order to keep it from being dug up and burned

Econonomics and Politics (aka public policy)
  1. Konisky and Teodordo, on enforcement of EPA/Clean Air and Water Acts.  "We find that, compared with private firms, governments violate these laws significantly more frequently and are less likely to be penalized for violations."
  2. Alon Levy, on Amtrak paying 2x market rate for latest trainsets in order to keep a couple hundred jobs in America (at a cost of a billion dollars).  Note, Alon's "Pedestrian Observations" is by far the best blog I've found on facts and economics of public transit
  3. Tim Harford, on the benefits of analysis using economic units, not political ones
  4. Justin Fox, on "behvioral economics" being little more than a rebranding of recent government discovery of well-known effective marketing techniques
  5. BeatThePress, narrating the discussion among economists of whether higher interest rates are good/bad for banks, and the resultant disagreement over whether bankers are "Evil or Stupid."  Here's the Chicago Fed on the topic.
  6. Don Boudreaux, on the Rodrick/Cowen discussion of economic distinctions between national and international trade benefits
  7. Tyler Cowen, on the strange economic assumptions underlying arguments for Catalonian independence from Spain
  8. Tim Johnson, on "the current perception of markets as being competitive arenas designed to maximise profits is misguided.  A truer conception of markets is as a response to radical uncertainty and that markets are forums, centres of discourse, where the aim is to reach a consensus on prices."
  9. Tyler Cowen, on a political consultant (reader) opinion that "CEOs and entertainers may be so much more talented at some aspects of charisma than politicians are that a C-list CEO or entertainer might still be more compelling than an A-list politician"

Economics and business

  1. Izabella Kaminska, on the economics of picking costs in online retail
  2. NYTimes, on the growing bartering economy in Greece
  3. Josh Gans, disrupting the MIT disruption of Clayton Christianson's Theory of Disruption
  4. David Warsh, reviewing a book he deems "the best account of what actually happened" during the banking crisis
  5. Mark Thoma, discussing a paper showing how reliance on citation counts skews research in economics (just like measuring any performance or quality proxy skews any organization)
  6. Wired, on Facebook's exploration of the use of VCG auctions in advertising platform to eliminate incentives to game their system - trading lower short-term financial performance for higher long-term platform health
  7. Times Higher Education, on Ernst & Young's elimination of degree classification ("grades") for recruits, after "having found 'no evidence' that success at university was correlated with achievement in professional qualifications."
  8. TechCrunch, on the implications of the exponential decline in solar cell costs.  Reading it clarifies why Elon Musk is as focused on home-sized batteries and solar installation as he is on electric cars
  9. HBS, on applied economics in dog rescue
  10. Slate, on wind subsidies resulting in a brief period of negative prices for power in Texas earlier this month
  11. QZ, on the economics of the dark web (drug dealing, market structure of prostitution, etc)
  12. NYTimes, on the economic condition of the Metropolitan Opera causing discussion of selling naming rights

Bitcoin, blockchain, and FinTech
  1. TechCrunch, on non-FinTech use of blockchain to certify documents
  2. Julian Noziet, on blockchain in FinTech including the FTs coverage of an initiative among 9 largest global banks to define a common interchange standard and protocol
  3. TechCrunch, reporting CFTC agrees with IRS that bitcoin is commodity, not currency
  4. Slate, on the rising number of Venmo and other mobile payment scams

Business and Technology

  1. TechCrunch, interviewing Sen John Warner on "When to W2 your 1099"
  2. Separate.us, a new company automating the divorce process.  For a "shocking exposé of the inner workings of the $50 billion a year U.S. family law industry... [and an overview of] the appalling waste, and shameless collusive practices seen daily in family courts" see the documentary/book "DivorceCorp"
  3. NYTimes, on the not-so-hidden risks of a billion-dollar private company valuation
  4. NYTimes, on the demise of Quirky, a crowd-based innovation platform
  5. Sam Altman, on the importance of understanding run-rate unit economics in business
  6. TechCrunch, on Groupon laying off 1,100 workers and shutting down operations in 7 countries
  7. Slate, on the shutdown of  subscription-based Kindle competitor Oyster
  8. DealBreaker, on Goldman Sachs recruiting via SnapChat.  Has snapchat jumped the shark?
  9. Jason Lemkin, on the value of financial operating models and need to start early and aim higher in order to hit sales targets in SaaS
  10. GrantLand, on wearable tech and injury prevention/detection in NBA
  11. Wired, on a spy agency contractor offering a $1m bounty for an iOS zero-day hack
  12. TechCrunch, on a framework for exploring personal discovery: feature, category, or new paradigm?
  13. Justin Crouse (Asana), on impact of iOS9 and ad-blockers beyond just ads.  The Verge calls it the "slow death of the web"

  1. Charles Greene, on the bad thinking unlerlying requests and responses to discounting of professional services
  2. BrainPickings, on techniques to avoid self-deception plus the "backfire effect" - the tendency of rational fact-based counter-arguments to further entrench mistaken beliefs
  3. PsychologyToday, on research into the so-called Protestant Work Ethic 
  4. CNN, on RaiseMe - a new platform for achievement-linked directed micro-scholarships
  5. Tim Harford, on multi-tasking in the 21st century
  6. WashingtonPost, on "Ruling the void" and UK election of Corbyn as Labor party leader.  Quotes Rudy Andeweg on an interesting implication of big money and entrenched parties, who says that “the party … becomes the government’s representative in the society rather than the society’s bridgehead in the state” 
  7. NYTimes, on Carnegie Hall trustees denying Ron Perlman's allegations of misconduct following his resignation as chair of the board
  8. Deadspin, on the privately funded "shadow government" of Kevin Johson, Mayor of Sacramento
  9. Tim Poisot - Step 2: Do the rest of the fucking analysis (on the need for clearer description of methods in research papers.  Applies to strategy)

Uber, on-demand rides, ridesharing, parking, vehicle autonomy etc.
  1. TechCrunch, on UberPool carpooling service test launch in China
  2. TechCrunch, on UberPool launching in India, alongside Ola's competing offering
  3. WashingtonPost, on new Washington DC airport tax for Uber and Lyft
  4. Pittsburgh Business Times, on a local investor ABG capital as new investor to Ola (India).  Note link is to google cache of article; original appears deleted
  5. Slate, on perverse impact of parking requirements in urban planning
  6. BigThink, on Volvo's autonomous dump truck initiative
  7. TechCrunch, reporting that Delhi has denied Uber permission to operate
  8. TechCrunch, on international partnership between Didi Kudadi and Lyft, including a $100m investment in Lyft by DK
  9. TechCrunch, covering multiple (conflicting) research on impact of surge pricing in Uber availability

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