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What We Read Today 16 March 2016

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".).


Every day most of this column ("What We Read Today") is available only to GEI members.

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Topics today include:

  • Does Obama Have a Political Strategy with Supreme Court Nomination?

  • Social Security Change Could Cost Couples $100,000

  • Deadliest Time in Human History

  • Behavioral Economics and March Madness

  • Economic Literacy Can Counter Socialism (and Much More)

  • Green Economy

  • Carbon Enissions Did Not Increase in 2015

  • Kurdish Federalism a Sticking Point in Syria Talks

  • Lulu Returns to Government in Brazil

  • "Promise Them Anything but Give Them Our Page."

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Economists are out of touch with climate change (The Age)  If economists are to help us deal with global warming, they need to start studying science.  In the debate over climate change, there is one group from whom you don't hear much: economists. The failure of climate economics to make a difference in the public discussion about climate policy should be a concern for the profession.  Climate economists are just as worried as anyone about the prospect of global warming. A recent survey by the Institute for Policy Integrity found that most climate economists believe climate change is a grave threat. Most supported carbon taxes or cap-and-trade programs to limit emissions, even if these actions were taken unilaterally by the United States. The consensus view was that a catastrophic loss of global gross domestic product – a 25% decline or more – is possible under a "business as usual" scenario.  But much of this climate economics work deals with outdated and oversimplified climate science and data.  The author says it is time for climate economists to get real about interacting with climate science:

The disconnect between economics and natural science is certainly part of the problem. Economists are notoriously unwilling to cite research in other social science fields, and this insularity – sometimes called siloing – probably leads them to ignore the natural sciences as well. But many economic phenomena are critically dependent on natural phenomena, so neglecting science can make economic models spit out ludicrous results. Economic models, like any other, are subject to the problem of rubbish in, rubbish out.

  • Inclusive Green Economy:  Building Bridges to a Sustainable Future (United Nations Environmental Program)  A collection of papers which review dealing with climate change as an economic opportunity and offering solutions to some of the imbalances that have grown globally over the last century.

  • Surge in renewable energy stalls world greenhouse gas emissions (The Guardian)   Falling coal use in China and the US and a worldwide shift towards renewable energy have kept greenhouse gas emissions level for a second year running, one of the world’s leading energy analysts has said.  Preliminary data for 2015 from the International Energy Agency (IEA) showed that carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector have levelled off at 32.1bn tonnes even as the global economy grew over 3%.  Electricity generated by renewable sources played a critical role, having accounted for around 90% of new electricity generation in 2015. Wind power produced more than half of all new electricity generation, said the IEA.



  • Business Lobby: Election-Season Trade Opposition Will Blow Over (The Wall Street Journal)  A couple of major presidential candidates have made rolling back free-trade agreements the centerpiece of their campaigns, drawing widespread support across the U.S. But one of the nation’s top business advocacy groups isn’t worried.  The next president will support trade once elected, said John Engler, president of the Business Roundtable, whose members are chief executives at the country’s largest corporations.  Econintersect:  Reminds us of the story about two knights and a page surrounded by an overwhelming group of bandits along the highway.  Knight #1:  "What will we do?"  Knight #2:  "Promise them anything but give them our page."

  • A good night for Trump and a better night for Clinton (The Washington Post)  The math got better for both front runners.  On one of the most important days of the primary season, the two front-runners continued what has become an inexorable march to their party’s presidential nominations and a general election matchup that was unimagined when this campaign began.


  • Kurdish moves on federalism cloud Syria peace drive (Reuters)  Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Syria are expected to declare a federal system on Thursday, a move likely to further complicate peace talks in Geneva on ending more than five years of war.


  • Brazil's Lula Is Coming Back and Investors Don't Like It One Bit (Bloomberg)  Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s appointment as President Dilma Rousseff’s chief of staff is rekindling concerns about changes in economic policies, similar to those investors had before he was first elected in 2002. Speculation the nomination was coming had fueled a rout in assets the past few days; stocks, bonds and the currency extended losses after the announcement on Wednesday before recovering later in the day.

Other Scientific, Health, Political, Economics and Business Items of Note - plus Miscellanea

  • Social Security Change Could Cost Couples $100,000 (Financial Advisor)   A Social Security change that goes into affect at the end of April could cost some couples $100,000 or more in lost benefits, according to financial advisors.  Advisors say they have been contacting their clients since the change was announced in December to determine what the clients want to do.  The Social Security Administration announced in December that a strategy known as file and suspend would no longer be available after April 30. The claiming strategy is used mostly by couples and divorcees.  Under this strategy, the higher earner files for Social Security benefits when he or she reaches full retirement age but then suspends the claim. The spouse can then claim benefits on the other person’s record. The higher earner lets his or her benefits continue to grow until age 70, and in some cases, the spouse is also able to let his or her own benefits grow as well until age 70.  Anyone wanting to use this strategy to maximize benefits has until the end of April to apply. Couples already using this claiming option will not be affected.

  • What was the single deadliest hour in human history?  (Quora)  For more on this see Wkipedia:  Toba catastrophe theory.

I don't know about hour exactly, but the single deadliest event in human history that we know of occurred, by all indications about 70,000 years ago and practically wiped out humanity, as well as countless other species, vegetable and animal, when Lake Toba, the supervolcano in the now Indonesian island of Sumatra, well, supererupted.

  • The Toba eruption has been linked to a genetic bottleneck in human evolution about 50,000 years ago, which may have resulted from a severe reduction in the size of the total human population due to the effects of the eruption on the global climate.

    According to the genetic bottleneck theory, between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago, human populations sharply decreased to 3,000–10,000 surviving individuals.

    It is supported by genetic evidence suggesting that today's humans are 
    descended from a very small population of between 1,000 and 10,000 
    breeding pairs that existed about 70,000 years ago.

  • Economic Literacy Can Counter Socialism (The Daily Signal)  Read this carefully.  It sounds good until you see such statements as "a centralized system of resource planning may sound preferable to markets where individuals are free to participate in commercial transactions of their choice" and "It is important to be aware of economic truths underlying free market policies".  The article presents a false choice between a socialist utopia which doesn't work and free market ideal which doesn't exist.  True economic literacy not only counters socialism; it also counters oligarchy and plutocracy.  Unfortunately the author (from the Heritage Foundation) only has half the story.  Two videos in a lecture series by Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok are cited.  It is stated that the purpose of taxes is to raise government revenue,which is, arguably, incorrect - the purpose of taxes can be to control inflation or to redistribute income - and any government with a sovereign currency does not need revenue to get money, they can create it.  Using taxation to raise revenue is a choice - sometimes a bad choice.  They also use supply - demand graphics which are not applicable for macroeconomic functions.  But the discussions can be useful to understand how, in a very general way, taxation can affect behavior and how asymmetric information distorts markets.


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