Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


I've just read
The Fly Swatter: How My Grandfather Made His Way in the World, the biography of Alexander Gerschenkron written by his grandson. It is an excellent book. Even the cover is great: a portrait of the economic historian drawn by Leontief.
During this week I will post a few stories and quotes from the book. Just a taste of it: Gerschenkron played chess (and lost superbly) to Marcel Duchamp and Vladimir Nabokov named a character after him (for very mean reasons) .

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Heights and Human Welfare: Recent Developments and New Directions

Richard Steckel, one of the founding fathers of Anthoropometric History, has written a new survey.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Brad Delong: American Economic History Podcast

Here. I've listened to previous Prof Delong podcasts and I can assure you: they are great! Erudite, witty, and insightful.
The best things in life are free...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008


I am going to be off-line until Dec 29. Happy Holidays!
(I left a few scheduled posts)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Science, Financial Crisis, and Paul Romer

Paul Romer:
"...after Citibank made some bets that turned out badly in the Latin American debt crisis of the 1980s, its CEO John Reed helped mid-wife the Economics Program at the Santa Fe Institute. He wanted the new theoretical insights about financial crises that the new complexity scientists promised. Ever since, the complexity scientists have been telling us that markets are self-organizing systems. For the life of me, I can't see how this puts us way ahead. Didn't seem to help Citibank either, which I've noticed is back in the headlines.
I agree with the closing suggestion, that air transport is a good place to look for lessons about avoiding crashes. No matter what we do, we will still have financial crises, just as we still have plane crashes. But judging from our success in making air travel safer, it seems reasonable to bet on an institutionalized commitment to systematic data collection as a way to reduce their frequency and severity. As a traveler and an investor, I feel much safer in the hands of experts with good data than tourists from other scientific disciplines bearing new models.


Talkin' about science, there is a bonus.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ideapad S10 e Ubuntu Netbook Remix

One month ago I bought a Lenovo Ideapad S10. Beautiful, light, small, and fast. I am a very happy owner. The obvious limitations are the size of the screen and keyboard. They are perfect for smurfs, but normal human beings suffer a lot after 3 hours of use.
It came with Windows XP so I was not in a hurry to run Ubuntu. Yesterday, I took a break and installed Ubuntu Netbook Remix, ie, Ubuntu for tiny notebooks. It is perfect and almost solves the screen issue.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

Every flight on Earth

24 hours in 72 seconds. (Imagine the size of the W matrix!)
Suggestion: plot Eltis' data on trans-Atlantic slave write. I'll write to Prof Rege right now!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bayesian econometrics

O Introduction to Modern Bayesian Econometrics by Tony Lancaster is a great book . It provides the first steps on the subject, and it comes with the S-Plus (or R) and BUGS code to follow the book. HT to Márcio Laurini, the über-econometrician.

Long-run spatial inequality in France: Evolution and determinants

Guess what? The regional inegalité is inverted-U shaped. Readhere.

Industrialization in Latin America

Or..."Was It Prices, Productivity or Policy? The Timing and Pace of Latin American Industrialization after 1870" by Jeffrey Williamson and Aurora Gómez Galvarriato.

Brazil, Mexico and a few other Latin American republics enjoyed faster industrialization after 1870 than did the rest of Latin America and even faster than the rest of the poor periphery (except East Asia). How much of this economic performance was due to more accommodating institutions and greater political stability, changes that would have facilitated greater technology transfer and accumulation? That is, how much to changing fundamentals? How much instead to a cessation in the secular rise in the net barter terms of trade which reversed de-industrialization forces, thus favoring manufacturing? How much instead to cheaper foodstuffs coming from more open commercial policies ('grain invasions'), and from railroad-induced integration of domestic grain markets, serving to keep urban grain prices and thus nominal wages in industry low, helping to maintain competitiveness? How much instead to more pro-industrial real exchange rate and tariff policy? Which of these forces contributed most to industrialization among the Latin American leaders, long before their mid 20th century adoption of ISI policies? Changing fundamentals, changing market conditions, or changing policies?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More or Less

Tim Harford, my favorite writer of "economics for the masses" books, presents a new series on statistics and math on BBC radio 4.