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Miles Kimball

Miles Kimball

Miles Kimball is Professor of Economics and Survey Research at the University of Michigan. Politically, Miles is an independent who grew up in an apolitical family. He holds many strong opinions—open to revision in response to cogent arguments—that do not line up neatly with either the Republican or Democratic Party.

Articles by Miles Kimball

Obesity Is Always and Everywhere an Insulin Phenomenon

11 hours ago

Milton Friedman’s dictum "Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon" has some complex ragged edges (in particular the variability of velocity), but it is an excellent place to start if you want to understand inflation and how to engineer disinflation. Similarly, the statement "Obesity is always and everywhere an insulin phenomenon" is an excellent place to start if you want to understand obesity and how to engineer weight loss.The upward trend of obesity is well-known; you can see some scary graphs in the slides for my talk "Restoring American Growth." In "Restoring American Growth" I point out the importance of the issue by this thought

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Greg Ip—The Fed’s Choice: Overheat the Economic or Give Up Its 2% Per Year Inflation Target

2 days ago

My post "When the Output Gap is Zero, But Inflation is Below Target" appeared on August 17, 2017. On September 13, 2017, I was pleased to see Greg Ip pick up much of the argument in my post in his Wall Street Journal article "The Fed’s Bad Options for Addressing Too-Low Inflation: The central bank’s choice: overheat the economy or give up its 2% target." In "When the Output Gap is Zero, But Inflation is Below Target" I write:Sometimes journalists discuss a zero output gap combined with too-low inflation as if such a situation were strange, but a range of different macroeconomic theories all have the property that a zero output gap is

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On the Virtue of Self-Distraction

4 days ago

There are downsides to being distracted. (See above.) But here I want to talk about the upside to being able to distract oneself when appropriate. A good example is the famous Stanford marshmallow experiment. Here is the current opening paragraph of the Wikipedia article on the Stanford marshmallow experiment:The Stanford marshmallow experiment[1] was a series of studies on delayed gratification in the late 1960s and early 1970s led by psychologist Walter Mischel, then a professor at Stanford University. In these studies, a child was offered a choice between one small reward provided immediately or two small rewards (i.e., a larger later

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Constance Grady: Bestseller Lists Explained

5 days ago

Over the past few weeks, scandal has rocked the august institution of the New York Times best-seller list. And it’s happened not just once but twice.
On August 24, an unknown book by an unknown author from an unknown publisher rocketed its way to first place on the Times’s young adult hardcover best-seller list. But as a scrappy band of investigators who congregated in the YA Twitter community discovered, it wasn’t because a lot of people were reading the book. Handbook for Mortals by Lani Sarem bought its way onto the list, they concluded, with the publisher and author strategically ordering large numbers of the book from stores that report their sales to the New York Times. Shortly thereafter, the Times removed the book from its rankings.
And on September 4, Regnery Books — the

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Hannah Devlin: A Modern Experiment Verified that Simonides of Ceos’s Ancient Technique of Building a Memory Palace Can Dramatically Improve Memory

6 days ago

A Sherlock-like ability to put a name to a face and other prodigious feats of memory are likely to be mostly down to hours of training and using the right mnemonic techniques.

A memory technique invented by the ancient Greeks can make dramatic and long-lasting improvements to a person’s power of recall, according to research that suggests many of us have extensive untapped memory reserves.
After spending six weeks cultivating an internal “memory palace”, people more than doubled the number of words they could retain in a short time period and their performance remained impressive four months later. The technique, which involves conjuring up vivid images of objects in a familiar setting, is credited to the Greek poet Simonides of Ceos, and

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Hilary Putnam on the Philosophy of Science

7 days ago

Thanks to C. Trombley for pointing me to this video.One of my best memories from graduate school (while getting a PhD in Economics at Harvard) was sitting in on a Philosophy of Science class by Hilary Putnam. Hilary Putnam argued that each discipline has its own wisdom that is much deeper than attempts to legislate methodology from on high. Indeed, when academic disciplines display a lack of wisdom, it is often because someone has tried with some success to enforce a methodology.

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Jeff Sommer: Why You Might Not Want to Take Away a Billionaire’s Money

8 days ago

February 19, 2017Jeff SommerSTRATEGIESThere is a problem with billionaires: They’ve got way more money than any human deserves.But if you were simply to take it all away from them, you would, in many cases, be doing more harm than good.In my teens, when I saw hungry people on the streets of New York I started to dream of expropriating money from the wealthy to feed the poor. My father, who rose from Depression-era poverty in Scranton, Pa., to modest affluence as a New York City businessman, tried to set me straight on the subject.“Think it through,” he said. “You might bring some justice to the world and you’d help some needy people. But you’d lose what people like the Rockefellers have done for the common man, the museums, the parks, the libraries, the schools, and the contributions to

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The Economist on Minimum Wages Versus Wage Subsidies

9 days ago

I am glad to have the Economist reinforce the arguments against minimum wages that I made in "Inequality Is About the Poor, Not About the Rich." Here is the Economist’s view:Yet however well people are taught, their abilities will remain unequal, and in a world which is increasingly polarised economically, many will find their job prospects dimmed and wages squeezed. The best way of helping them is not, as many on the left seem to think, to push up minimum wages. Jacking up the floor too far would accelerate the shift from human workers to computers. Better to top up low wages with public money so that anyone who works has a reasonable

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Alice Rivlin on One Way to Forestall Political Dangers to Technological Progress

10 days ago

We could soon be living in a world in which driverless vehicles or drones make all deliveries. Those vans and big rigs on the interstates will barrel along to their destinations without drivers; the groceries or prepared food you need for dinner or the prescription your doctor ordered will descend on your doorstep without a human delivery person in sight.
Driverless deliveries are a good example of a radical technological change likely to take over very soon. We are not talking science fiction here. Amazon has recently announced that it is focusing on driverless technology to improve its deliveries, and is already trying out drone deliveries. Waymo, Google’s self-driving technology company, has invited riders to participate in the first public self-driving trial in Phoenix, Arizona.

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On John Locke’s Labor Theory of Property

11 days ago

John Locke enunciates an intriguing principle to govern property rights in section 27 of his 2d Treatise on Government: “Of Civil Government” (Chapter V "Of Property"):Though the earth, and all inferior creatures, be common to all men, yet every man has a property in his own person: this no body has any right to but himself. The labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property. It being by him removed from the common

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Do Economists Tend to Marry Economists?

12 days ago

People typically gravitate towards others who can relate or live a similar lifestyle, which is often reflected in choice of occupation. If you’re into mathematics or science, you might have more to talk about with someone in a similar field. It’s why doctors often marry other doctors. Similar story with farming. Or the food industry.
How people with different occupations match up can say something about how personalities are compatible.
In the chart below, select an occupation to see who those with that occupation are more likely to match up with. 

This is based on data from the American Community Survey from 2015. I counted both married and unmarried couples for the analysis.
The visual was inspired by Adam Pearce and Dorothy Gambrell’s chart for Bloomberg, which looked at the five

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Greg Ip Defends the Dismal Science

14 days ago

Going forward, economists have the knowledge and tools to avert another financial crisis and to pull the economy quickly out of another potential Great Recession, or failing that to provide clear enough warnings and admonitions that the blame falls on those who don’t heed economists. But the failure to avert the last financial crisis in 2008 and the long-drawn-out aftermath of that financial crisis and the Great Recession have hurt the reputation of economists. However, some of the negative views of economists predate economists’ failure in 2008 and after. In his August 25, 2017 Wall Street Journal article "In Defense of the Dismal

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The Only Military Action the US Should Take Against North Korea Is to Shoot Down Every North Korean Missile in Boost Phase

16 days ago

Note: I learned a lot from writing this post and getting reactions along the way. Take a look and learn along with me. North Korea claims, fairly credibly, to have detonated an H-bomb. It has been testing and improving missiles with the goal of being able to make a nuclear attack against the continental United States. It has a history of violating any diplomatic agreement it makes. North Korea has a patron, China, protecting it, but seemingly unable to control it. And 25 million South Koreans, along with a large share of South Korea’s economy, are within easy artillery range in the Seoul metropolitan area. What can the US do to protect

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Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic Argues the Arrogance that Makes Men Worse Leaders Makes Them More Likely to Be Chosen as Leaders than Women

17 days ago

Executive Summary
Why are so few women in management positions? The popular explanations range from women just aren’t capable of being leaders to women just don’t want to be leaders. According to the author, however, the absence of women in leadership roles has less to do with women themselves and more to do with how we interpret leadership traits. Confidence – a trait more associated with men – is often misinterpreted as competence. As a result, charismatic, but incompetent men have fewer barriers to reach the top than women. Individuals in positions to promote and hire managers should think more critically about what seems like a leadership trait versus what is an actual leadership trait. They will find that arrogance and overconfidence – the characteristics that get men

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Claire Provost: David Hall’s Controversial Plan for a Mormon-inspired city in Vermont

18 days ago

A rendering showing food production in NewVistas, Vermont

The roads through rural Vermont wind past rolling forested hills and quaint small towns, including South Royalton – used as the quintessential New England village in the opening sequence of the TV series Gilmore Girls.
A short drive away, the Tunbridge World’s Fair has run almost continuously since 1867, with games, contests for best pig or pumpkin, and displays of old-time printing presses and candle making.
And not far from there, one stop on the area’s low-key tourist trail dotted with maple syrup farms, pottery workshops and picturesque covered bridges, is the birthplace of Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon church.
The site now hosts a museum, run by the church and staffed by cheerful missionaries. Outside, a

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Travis Bradberry: How to Act Like Someone with High Emotional Intelligence

19 days ago

When emotional intelligence (EQ) first appeared to the masses, it served as the missing link in a peculiar finding: people with average IQs outperform those with the highest IQs 70% of the time. This anomaly threw a massive wrench into the broadly held assumption that IQ was the sole source of success.

Decades of research now point to emotional intelligence as being the critical factor that sets star performers apart from the rest of the pack. The connection is so strong that 90% of top performers have high emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is the “something” in each of us that is a bit intangible. It affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions to achieve positive results.

Despite the significance of EQ, its

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Klaus Schwab: We Need a New Narrative for Globalization

20 days ago

The world is at a historic crossroads. Market extremism, often labelled neoliberalism, which has shaped our national and global policies for the past three decades, has become a toxic fuel for the stuttering engine for global growth. It has also generated polluting side effects that are no longer tolerated by large portions of society.

Yet market-driven globalization has lifted over a billion people out of poverty and has been an overall driver of improved standards of living. In its present form, however, it is no longer fit for purpose in our current – nor particularly our future – context.

What are the reasons?

First, the global economic system has moved from focusing on meeting the needs and aspirations of crucial segments of society who feel they are living in a

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Whole Milk Is Healthy; Skim Milk Less So

21 days ago

My maternal grandfather was a proud dairy farmer. In his honor, let me devote a post to the virtues of milk.Some people have lactose intolerance. But as the descendant of a long line of milk drinkers who evolved the ability to digest milk well in adulthood, I have no such problem.The dietary effects of milk are complex. Drinking milk causes a rise in insulin, which among other things is a hormonal instruction for the body to take sugar out of the blood and turn it into stored fat. On the other hand, through the hormone incretin, milk slows down stomach emptying and makes people feel full or satiated for longer, so they eat less of other

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Daron Acemoglu and Simon Johnson’s Plan to Save Our Republic

23 days ago

Daron Acemoglu and Simon Johnson’s recent Foreign Policy article has the grand title "It’s Time to Found a New Republic." Let’s take a look at what they propose. I’ll give my reactions.  Avoiding Internet MonopoliesDaron and Simon worry that big tech firms will establish long-lasting monopolies by their control of data. The suggestion of having users own their own data seems a good one:The conventional commercial doctrine is that data are proprietary to the companies that collect them. This needs to change profoundly and completely since the playing field can only be leveled by making data available to all potential competitors. One way of

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Leonid Bershidsky: Machines Can Replace Millions of Bureaucrats

24 days ago

When it comes to robots displacing humans from the job market, government bureaucrats are generally not what springs to mind. The recent McKinsey report on the future of jobs estimates the automation potential of administrative jobs at just 39 percent, far less than the 73 percent potential for accommodation and food services.And yet the public sector is one of the biggest potential arenas for such displacement — and one in which most people wouldn’t mind seeing more automation. The reason it’s barely happening now is largely, and predictably, an absence of political will.Since 2013, Oxford University academics Carl Frey and Michael Osborne have done seminal work on automation risks for jobs, quoted by most studies on the subject. Their 2016 work with Craig Holmes and a team

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John Locke: Rivalry in Consumption Makes Private Property Unavoidable

25 days ago

The French anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon famously wrote in his 1840 book Or, an Inquiry into the Principle of Right and of Government "Property is Theft!" John Locke countered in advance in sections 25 and 26 of his 2d Treatise on Government: “Of Civil Government” (Chapter V "Of Property") with this argument:For many goods, consuming them makes them unavailable for anyone else. Economists call this "rivalry in consumption." For the many goods that are rivalrous in consumption, the moment of consumption necessarily makes them private property.If everyone was prevented from consuming a good that is rivalrous in consumption, it does noone

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Andrew D. M. Smith: Linguistics, Too, Looks to Physics for Inspiration

26 days ago

July 17, 2017• Physics 10, 80A new model of language evolution assumes that changes in the spatial boundaries between dialects are controlled by a surface tension effect.J. Burridge, Phys. Rev. X (2017)Figure 1: These maps show a simulation of three language variants that are initially distributed throughout Great Britain in a random pattern. As time passes (left to right), the boundaries between language variants tend to shorten in length. One can also see evidence of boundary lines fixing to river inlets and other coastal indentations.These maps show a simulation of three language variants that are initially distributed throughout Great Britain in a random pattern. As time passes (left to right), the boundaries between language variants tend to shorten in length. One can also see

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Making Collective Choices: Quadratic Voting and the Normalized Gradient Addition Mechanism

28 days ago

Link to the video on the Becker-Friedman Institute site, with paths to related videosThis is a talk I gave April 7, 2016, at a conference on Quadratic Voting spearheaded by Glen Weyl. Just click on the picture. You can also see the other presentations at the conference by clicking on the link below the picture. Seeing the other presentations in the conference that you can access made me more interested in Quadratic Voting. Here is a link to the paper corresponding to this talk. Here is the official website of the published paper in the journal Public Choice. Below is the abstract of the published paper. Abstract:Quadratic voting and the normalized gradient addition mechanism are both social choice mechanisms that confront individuals with quadratic budget constraints, but they are

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