Occasional Link Round Up

By popular demand*, on account of Google Reader messing with its sharing features, I bring you another installment of the occasional link roundup. The categories, as usual, are determined entirely ad-hoc.

Best of the Econ Blogosphere
The past couple weeks, the econ blogosphere has been afire with discussions of central banks targeting nominal GDP (NGDP) in flavor of inflation. If you are interested, check out the Economist’s blog, or Brad DeLong, Christina Romer in the NYT, etc. I have to follow this stuff professionally, but so far the whole debate has not produced a post interesting *and* comprehensible enough to highlight here. Instead:

  • A Topological Mapping of Explanations and Policy Solutions to our Weak Economy. (via RortyBomb) A very helpful mapping of the otherwise messy current policy debates. The key diagram is here:
    via RortyBomb

  • Has the US Defense Department killed a million Americans since 2001? John Quiggin puts opportunity cost logic to work to a very serious end.

    So, since 9/11, US defense spending has been chosen in preference to measures that would have saved 1.5 million American lives. That’s not a hypothetical number – it’s 1.5 million people who are now dead but who could have been saved. I think its fair to say that those people were killed by the Defense Department, or, more precisely, by the allocation of scarce life-saving resources to that Department.

  • Best of the PoliSci Blogosphere

  • Larry Bartels is blogging on The Monkey Cage, which is super exciting. Here’s his post on economic forecast models and Barack Obama’s election chances: The President’s Fate May Hinge on 2009.
  • Andrew Gelman has an excellent critique of a recent economics journal article on traffic congestion. The paper finds that adding lanes to highways doesn’t alleviate congestion, more people drive to fill up the roads, so we shouldn’t bother adding more lanes to fight congestion. Gelman out econs the economists, and replies:

    To which I reply: Sure, if your goal is to curb traffic congestion. But what sort of goal is that? Thinking like a microeconomist, my policy goal is to increase people’s utility. Sure, traffic congestion is annoying, but there must be some advantages to driving on that crowded road or people wouldn’t be doing it, right? (Just to be clear: I’m serious here. This is not intended to be some sort of parody of economic reasoning. I do believe that people venture out in traffic for a reason.)

  • Best of the Stats Blogosphere

  • Andrew Gelman’s Statistical Lexicon. Gelman gets two this week because he’s that good. This is an older entry, updated frequently, with handy links to explain Gelman’s statistical pet peeves. Highly recommended for all social scientists: reading these posts will make you feel smarter and spot all manner of statistical chicanery. For example, “The statistical significance filter: If an estimate is statistically significant, it’s probably an overestimate.”
  • Best Long Essay on Politics and Economics

  • The Romney Economy (via NYMag). A long essay on Romney’s history in business, and how Bain Capital reshaped corporate America. Features quotes from prominent economic sociologists! Don’t delay, read it now!
  • Best Commentary on Commentary

  • The AV Club’s Nathan Rabin visits the Jersey Shore academic conference:

    Perusing the schedule for the recent Jersey Shore Academic Conference at the University of Chicago, a strange thought hit me: I worried that I didn’t know enough about the theories of French philosopher Michel Foucault to be able to really understand a series of talks about Jersey Shore.

    The post ends with a little meta-restraint that is beautifully put:

    The Jersey Shore conference was devoted to obsessive, intense, highly informed analysis and commentary about something most people find utterly unworthy of thought, let alone intense or rigorous intellectual contemplation. There’s a phrase for that outside the Jersey Shore Academic Conference: It’s called The Internet, or more specifically, The A.V Club.

    At the end of the Jersey Shore Academic Conference, the question wasn’t, “Are we thinking about Jersey Shore too much?” It was, “Dude, are we thinking about Jersey Shore enough?” An academic conference about the Jersey Shore Academic Conference would be taking the whole thing a little too far, though.

  • Tales of Google NGrams

  • “Very Unique” is on the rise. Sorry.
  • Strangest #OWS-related link

  • Best Econ Humor

  • Greece Offers to Repay Bailout With Giant Horse (via the Borowitz Report). Onion-style, the title really says it all.
  • Best Interdisciplinary Humor

  • How Academics Call Something Boring (via SMBC). Suggestions for Sociology include: “That’s common sense,” “That’s just journalism,” or my favorite, “That’s descriptive.”
  • Best Nerd Humor

  • Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 8 plots. A twitter feed with amazing fake plots for the unfilmed 8th season of TNG. A sample:

    ‎”Riker finds a spider in his shower, immediately detaches the saucer section.”
    “A sentient nebula chases the ship, which has nowhere to hide, because usually it would be in a nebula. Data adopts a dog, snake, and parrot.”

  • * Popular demand, in this case, means one person asked about it.

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