Economics Society Technology

The Reconn Reader: Nov 9, 2018

Each week, I share some of the most interesting articles from the past seven days. Here is this week’s selection. -CA

Finland has just published everyone’s taxes on ‘National Jealousy Day’

So why make everyone’s tax bills – and earnings – public? It’s all to do with the government’s transparency laws. The idea is to help Finland avoid a growing gap between rich and poor, by forcing employers to balance pay. “We’re looking at the gap between normal people and those rich, rich people – is it getting too wide?” Tuomo Pietilainen, an investigative reporter at daily newspaper Helsingin Sanomat told the New York Times. “When we do publish the figures, the people who have lower salaries start to think, ‘Why do my colleagues make more?’ Our work has the effect that people are paid more.” (World Economic Forum)

When No One Retires

Some in the public and private sector are already taking note — and sounding the alarm. In his first term as chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, with the Great Recession looming, Ben Bernanke remarked, “in the coming decades, many forces will shape our economy and our society, but in all likelihood no single factor will have as pervasive an effect as the aging of our population.” Back in 2010, Standard & Poor’s predicted that the biggest influence on “the future of national economic health, public finances, and policymaking” will be “the irreversible rate at which the world’s population is aging.” (Harvard Business Review)

An Algorithmic Crystal Ball: Forecasts-based on Machine Learning

We pursue a new approach to forecasting by employing a number of machine learning algorithms, a method that is data driven, and imposing limited restrictions on the nature of the true relationship between input and output variables. We apply the Elastic Net, SuperLearner, and Recurring Neural Network algorithms on macro data of seven, broadly representative, advanced and emerging economies and find that these algorithms can outperform traditional statistical models, thereby offering a relevant addition to the field of economic forecasting. (International Monetary Fund)

How Oil Money Distorts Global Football

Five years ago, UEFA introduced Financial Fair Play, a set of rules designed to level the economic playing field in European football. But during his tenure as UEFA general secretary, Gianni Infantino went out of his way to ensure that Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain avoided harsh punishment. (Der Spiegel)

Does the U.S. Still Have a ‘Middle Class’?

There’s another problem: Class has always been about more than earnings. For many decades, social scientists and historians have debated how jobs, education, politics, consumption, and, yes, income come together with values, habits, geography, and social status to create class in America. In other words, the question is not who but what makes the middle class. Today there can be no pretending that middle-class status is anchored by a single economic reality. Instead, it is primarily an aspiration. (The Atlantic)

The Entrepreneur Keeping Marilyn Monroe Alive (Video)

They’re not “Dead Celebrities”, they’re icons. How Authentic Brands Group managed to own the rights to Marilyn Monroe. (Forbes)


The real question, though, is whether that power use matters. Krause’s paper tries to make the link between metaphorical bitcoin mining and actual, mining mining by comparing the energy it takes to get the equivalent of $1 worth of cryptocurrency and $1 worth of various valuable metals—gold, platinum, some rare-earths, and so on. The answer: It takes more energy to get a buck’s worth of bits. It was 17 megajoules for a dollar’s worth of bitcoin but just 4 MJ for a dollar’s worth of copper. (WIRED)

Sociogenomics is opening a new door to eugenics

Some in the field readily acknowledge the skeletons in the closet. “Eugenics is not safely in the past,” wrote Kathryn Paige Harden, a developmental behavior geneticist at the University of Texas, in a New York Times op-ed earlier this year. Harden lamented the rise of the so-called human biodiversity movement (referring to it as “the eugenics of the alt-right”), with its ties to white supremacy and its specious claims to scientific legitimacy. Members of this movement, she wrote, “enthusiastically tweet and blog about discoveries in molecular genetics that they mistakenly believe support the ideas that inequality is genetically determined; that policies like a more generous welfare state are thus impotent; and that genetics confirms a racialized hierarchy of human worth.” (MIT Tech Review)

One Day In Afghanistan

Three beheadings at a school, and an airstrike around 11.30pm were the last conflict-related violence recorded in Afghanistan on June 30; the culmination of a day of murder and maiming, shootings, explosions, air strikes and one unclaimed political assassination. For everyone except injured survivors, and the families of the dead, it was an unexceptional day in a war that much of the world appears to have forgotten. There were no major attacks in big cities, no key battles, no catastrophic air strikes, just the ceaseless grind of war. (The Bureau of Investigative Journalism)

Is All Still Quiet on the Western Front?

But why disparage all this mutual effort? If its object was to kill multitudes of human beings, let’s call it a triumph, as evidenced by the French National Necropolis at Fleury-devant-Douaumont. Driving down the hill, we came upon 15,000 white crosses flashing in the sun. I went out to wander those tombstones on the down-slanting grass where crimson-petaled rosebeds ran along each row. Up at the chapel, French soldiers in uniform stood gazing down across the stones, the occasion being a change of commander. “For us this is the most sacred site,” Bresson remarked. “If France could keep only one memorial to World War I, it would be this one.” (Smithsonian)

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