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What We Read Today 17 October 2015

Econintersect: Every day our editors collect the most interesting things they find from around the internet and present a summary "reading list" which will include very brief summaries (and sometimes longer ones) of why each item has gotten our attention. Suggestions from readers for "reading list" items are gratefully reviewed, although sometimes space limits the number included.

This feature is published every day late afternoon New York time. For early morning review of headlines see "The Early Bird" published every day in the early am at GEI News (membership not required for access to "The Early Bird".).


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Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Migrant crisis: Slovenia army to help police (BBC News)  Slovenia's army will help police deal with thousands of migrants expected to arrive from Croatia in the coming days, Prime Minister Miro Cerar says.  He said the army would provide support in logistics, transportation, human resources and "some technical areas".  Around 2,700 migrants arrived in Slovenia on Saturday - some 600 have already travelled on to Austria.


  • Israelis kill Palestinians after alleged attacks (Al Jazeera)  Violence has been escalating in the Occupied Territories.  In the last month, seven Israelis have been killed in attacks, while 42 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire.  Today (Saturday 17 October) Israelis shot dead four Palestinians, whom they said had attacked them with knives in Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Hebron.


  • Syrian army, backed by Iranian fighters, advance south of Aleppo: monitor (Reuters)  Syrian troops backed by Hezbollah and Iranian fighters made advances on Saturday in their offensive to retake territory around the northern city of Aleppo from insurgents and jihadist fighters, a monitoring group said.  The campaign around Aleppo, which the army launched on Friday, is one of several assaults it has waged against rebel fighters since Russian jets began carrying out air strikes on Sept. 30 in support of President Bashar al-Assad.


  • Philippines braces for typhoon Koppu (Reuters)  Philippine authorities cancelled flights and urged people to move to safer ground as typhoon Koppu approached the main island of Luzon. Rough Cut video below (no reporter narration).


  • Inside the murky world of China's official economic numbers (The Telegraph)  Analysts have long dimissed Beijing's 'manipulated' growth statistics. But what do we really know about what's going on in the world's second largest economy?  The true state of China's economic fortunes remain a mystery to the world.  Monday will see the latest round of official quarterly GDP statistics from Beijing's National Statistics Bureau. Economists expect they will reveal another moderate slowdown in growth to around 6.8pc - the lowest rate of expansion since the depths of the financial crisis six years ago. But what is to be believed?   Willem Buiter wrote last month in September:

"There has been a long history in China of the official GDP data understating true GDP during a boom and overstating it during a slowdown."

Commercial banking constant for past 50 years, shadow banking growing (Stefanie Schulte, Twitter)

Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea

  • Reality cheque (The Economist)  As a designer of household surveys, 2015 Nobel Laureat in Economics Angus Deaton helped transform development economics from its sorry state in the 1980s, when it was stuck in a rut of murky data and unverifiable theories. He has explored how much more the poor eat when they get more income, how well insured they are when their earnings shrivel and, more broadly, the relationship between health and income growth. His thinking on the topic of inequality is typically textured. He frames it as a product of success—for there to be have-nots, there must be haves—but he is not a cheerleader for the elite. Rather, he thinks that digging into the data reveals how to help the millions of people who have been left behind to catch up.

  • Is Economics Research Replicable? – Usually Not (ValueWalk)  We have discussed this distressing research result before but we think not enough.  Here is another good discussion.  Here is part of the abstract:

We attempt to replicate 67 papers published in 13 well-regarded economics journals using author-provided replication files that include both data and code. Some journals in our sample require data and code replication files, and other journals do not require such files. Aside from 6 papers that use confidential data, we obtain data and code replication files for 29 of 35 papers (83%) that are required to provide such files as a condition of publication, compared to 11 of 26 papers (42%) that are not required to provide data and code replication files. We successfully replicate the key qualitative result of 22 of 67 papers (33%) without contacting the authors. Excluding the 6 papers that use confidential data and the 2 papers that use software we do not possess, we replicate 29 of 59 papers (49%) with assistance from the authors. Because we are able to replicate less than half of the papers in our sample even with help from the authors, we assert that economics research is usually not replicable. We conclude with recommendations on improving replication of economics research.

  • Jim Hurley: Economics, morality should be part of same discussion (Jim Hurley, The Union)  There is a basic conflict between individual freedom and abuse of asymmetric power.  The position of the conflict boundary is framed in morality and this author maintains that it is not possible to speak of libertarian laissez faire doctrine as “the only moral system”.  But, he says, we should be "talking about economics and morality in the same breath".  Here is an excerpt from his essay:

In a recent op-ed titled “Free enterprise, the only moral system,” Manny Montes quotes Milton Freidman, Nobel Laureate in economics:

There is no alternative way, so far discovered, of improving the lot of ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by a free enterprise system.

On this issue of free enterprise Mr. Montes follows up with:

Our government’s basic purpose is to protect our individual rights to live as we see fit in the pursuit of our happiness.”

But on this subject of free enterprise and living life as we see fit, another Nobel Laureate in economics, Paul Krugman, wrote in an op-ed piece, New York Times, May 21, 2007:

I blame the food safety crisis on Milton Friedman, who called for the abolition of both the food and the drug sides of the FDA. What would protect the public from dangerous or ineffective drugs? ‘It’s in the self-interest of pharmaceutical companies not to have these bad things,’ he insisted in a 1999 interview. He would presumably have applied the same logic to food safety (as he did to airline safety): regardless of circumstances, you can always trust the private sector to police itself.” 

  • Toward an Intellectual History of Uncertainty (Angus Burgin, INET PDF)  Economists discussing the problem of radical uncertainty commonly invoke Frank Knight’s classic definition in Risk, Uncertainty and Profit, but only rarely venture to explore the broader contours of his argument.  Knight's treatise is essentially a "treatise of social philosophy" than a "dissertation in economics", according to Burgin. Burgin says, while Knight talks about scholars having developed ever more elaborate a sophisticated histories of risk and probability, he also points out that there may be much to be discovered if we "turn our attention to uncertainties that elude quantitative methods altogether".

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