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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

Noah Smith Compares 2010s America to 1990s Japan

2 days ago

21/So I don’t want to overextend the analogy here.

In economic terms, and sometimes in social terms, 2010s America has followed in the footsteps of 1990s Japan. But in political terms we’re responding to our slowdown in a different and decidedly more frightening way.

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Elizabeth Thomas: Can Time-Restricted Eating Prevent You From Overindulging on Thanksgiving?

3 days ago

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, you might be worried about overindulging on turkey and pumpkin pie. Elizabeth Thomas, MD, assistant professor of endocrinology in the University of Colorado School of Medicine and CU Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, discusses how time-restricted eating can help you manage during the holidays.
What is time-restricted eating (TRE)? How is it different than intermittent fasting?
Time-restricted eating (TRE) refers to a dietary strategy in which food intake is restricted to a window of time (usually 6-10 hours) during the day, with no food intake during the remaining hours of the day and night. It does not necessarily require caloric restriction, though many people do reduce their caloric intake when following TRE.
On the other hand, intermittent

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Japan’s Mysteriously Low COVID-19 Death Rate

4 days ago

*:not([hidden]):not(style) ~ *:not([hidden]):not(style){margin-top:1rem;}]]>By Rupert Wingfield-HayesBBC News, Tokyo *:not([hidden]):not(style) ~ *:not([hidden]):not(style){margin-left:0.5rem;}]]>image copyrightGetty Imagesimage captionPer capita, Japan has more elderly than any other country in the world *:not([hidden]):not(style) ~ *:not([hidden]):not(style){margin-top:1rem;}]]>Why haven’t more people in Japan died from Covid-19? It is a macabre question that has spawned dozens of theories, from Japanese manners to claims that the Japanese have superior immunity. Japan does not have the lowest death rate for Covid-19 – in the region, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Vietnam can all boast lower mortality. But in the early part of 2020, Japan saw fewer deaths than average. This is

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The Moral Duty of Uplift (in David Brin’s Sense)

5 days ago

In David Brin’s Uplift trilogy, “uplift” is the ancient galactic tradition of identifying species that have the potential to be transformed into intelligent species (that is, technologically sophisticated species that can, say, build spaceships), and bringing about the genetic modifications through genetic engineering and breeding needed to enable that transformation. The Great Filter (see 1, 2) may have made us the only intelligent species in the visible universe—though if the universe is as big as standard cosmological theories suggest, the part of the universe too far away to be visible is so vast that it almost surely contains other

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Lisa Marshall: Frequent, Rapid Testing Could Turn National COVID-19 Tide within Weeks

6 days ago

IMAGE CAPTION: A CU Boulder student provides a saliva sample for a rapid COVID-19 test. CU is among several institutions developing new tests which can provide faster-turnaround results.   
Testing half the population weekly with inexpensive, rapid-turnaround COVID-19 tests would drive the virus toward elimination within weeks—even if those tests are significantly less sensitive than gold-standard clinical tests, according to a new study published November 23 by CU Boulder and Harvard University researchers.
Such a strategy could lead to “personalized stay-at-home orders” without shutting down restaurants, bars, retail stores and schools, the authors said.
“Our big picture finding is that, when it comes to public health, it’s better to have a less sensitive test with results today than a

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Nicholas Gruen on Virtue, the Truth, and Problem-Solving Citizen Juries

7 days ago

Designing institutions to force (or nudge) entirely self-interested individuals to achieve better outcomes has been the major goal posited by policy analysts for governments to accomplish for much of the past half century. Extensive empirical research leads me to argue that instead, a core goal of public policy should be to facilitate the development of institutions that bring out the best in humans.
Elinor Ostrom, Nobel Lecture, 2009

SINCE ADAM SMITH, economists have marvelled at competition’s capacity to improve our world – not by fostering virtue, but by harnessing the opposing self-interest of buyer and seller in a market.[i] As Smith himself famously suggested, instead of trusting his consumer wellbeing to the benevolence of the butcher, baker or

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How the Nature of the Transmission Mechanism from Rate Cuts Guarantees that Negative Rates have Unlimited Firepower

8 days ago

Copyright Miles Kimball, 2020. You may freely use this diagram for any purpose as long as you include a reference and link to this blog post.

Negative rates make all the old issues in monetary policy new. Monetary economists didn’t have a consensus on the transmission mechanism for interest rate cuts when rates were in the positive region, but almost no one doubted that rate cuts were, indeed, stimulative in the positive region because there was so much experience showing that they are. Predicting what will happen in the negative region makes monetary theory important. This post lays out the relevant theory. If you disagree, please identify the

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Paul Graham on Keeping the Aggressively Conventional-Minded at Bay

9 days ago

July 2020One of the most revealing ways to classify people is by the degree
and aggressiveness of their conformism. Imagine a Cartesian coordinate
system whose horizontal axis runs from conventional-minded on the
left to independent-minded on the right, and whose vertical axis
runs from passive at the bottom to aggressive at the top. The
resulting four quadrants define four types of people. Starting in
the upper left and going counter-clockwise: aggressively
conventional-minded, passively conventional-minded, passively
independent-minded, and aggressively independent-minded.I think that you’ll find all four types in most societies, and that
which quadrant people fall into depends more on their own personality
than the beliefs prevalent in their society.
[1]Young children offer some of the

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Inducing Autophagy

10 days ago

Roughly speaking, autophagy is the cannibalization by a cell of defective or questionable molecules to make new, higher-quality molecules. Autophagy is now thought to be quite powerful in reducing disease risk, because it provides quality-control for key types of molecules in the body. This is like saying that your car is likely to break down less if it gets regular servicing—including, crucially, the replacement of parts that are wearing out with new parts. Low nutrient levels encourage autophagy. One way to induce autophagy is to do a total fast from food for an extended time, only consuming water and plain tea or coffee. But suppose you have

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The Federalist Papers #21 A: Constitutions Need to be Enforced—Alexander Hamilton

12 days ago

Enforcing constitutions is quite a tricky business. Some sort of judicial apparatus is usually required, combined with judicial independence and respect for the courts. The difficulty of enforcing a constitution is illustrated by the fact that many countries that have copied the US Constitution in large measure have at one point or another ended up with dictatorships. In the US, the reason I don’t worry much about our lapsing into dictatorship is because, as I understand it, our soldiers are taught that their primary duty is to uphold the constitution and only at a lower level than that to obey an particular commander in chief. To put a point to

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Brian Flaxman: Campfire Tales of Courageous Heroes Setting Millions of Campaign Funds Ablaze; Chapter The First

15 days ago

I am pleased to have another guest post by Brian Flaxman. Although on other occasions he has expressed his concern with the effects on money on politics, today’s post is about times when large amounts of money didn’t have much effect on politics. (His two views can be reconciled: because of the effect of money on name recognition, money could make a big difference in obscure races one never reads about in the national press, but have little effect on marquee races.) In addition to his post below, don’t miss these earlier guest posts of Brian’s:Hear ye hear ye. Grab some mead and gather ‘round for our celebration of the conclusion of another

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Jane Brody on Intermittent Fasting

17 days ago

“Intermittent fasting” is a bit of a redundant phrase. Logically, non-intermittent fasting would mean constant fasting, which is something likely to lead to death after many months of it have burned through all of your fat reserves. Because almost any reasonable use of fasting is therefore “intermittent fasting,” it is not, in practice, anything more than a synonym for “fasting.” Jane Brody, in “The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting,” uses “intermittent fasting” to refer to limiting one’s daily eating window to no more than 8 hours (say eating only between 11 AM and 7 PM or only between noon and 8 PM) so that one has on average a 16-hour stretch

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It Isn’t OK to Be Anti-Immigrant

19 days ago

Short of murder, rape, torture, slavery or unjustified imprisonment, one of the worst things a government can perpetrate or condone is confining people to desperately poor parts of the world where they are doomed to poverty, when being allowed into rich parts of the world—even if totally denied any safety-net aid—they would be lifted to a dramatically better standard of living. Treating people as malefactors because they desperately want to come to a reasonably-well-run country such as ours is cruel. There may be morally adequate policy reasons to limit the number of people who can come to our nation at any one time, but if so, we should feel

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Gary Cornell: We are Unlikely to Have a Vaccine that is Proven Effective for Seniors for a Long Time Unless Dramatic Action is Taken Now!

22 days ago

I’m glad to be able to feature Gary Cornell again here. Some of the earliest blog posts on were guest posts by Gary Cornell. Here he is again with a post about how the work being done to develop vaccines for Covid-19 is not targeted at the subset of the population that most needs vaccines: older folks. Here is Gary: The risk of both hospitalization and death from Covid 19 increase greatly with age. Approximately 80% of the deaths from Covid 19 are people over 65 ( The unfortunate truth is that a vaccine that is proven highly effective for

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Human Skulls, Ancient and Modern

24 days ago

In last Thursday’s post, “A Modern World of Endemic Jaw Dysfunction” I claimed that human jaws (especially the upper jaw) are typically now malformed because of the softness of our modern diets. Today, let me back that up by what James Nestor says about this in his book Breath. (Every quotation below is from that book, with different passages separate by several blank lines.) Key points:First, the skulls of those who ate traditional diets are well-formedA few months before the Stanford experiment, I flew to Philadelphia to visit Dr. Marianna Evans, an orthodontist and dental researcher who’d spent the last several years looking into the mouths of

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Eliana Dockterman: Women Are Deciding Not to Have Babies Because of the Pandemic

25 days ago

Shelby Parker planned to get pregnant this year. The timing seemed right: She was working as a middle school teacher in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, a job that provided benefits for her whole family. Her husband, who drives a truck for FedEx, had just gotten a promotion. Their 21-month-old daughter was nearly ready for preschool.
Now Parker, who is 29, is contemplating not trying for a second child at all. The state, deprived of tax revenues because of business closures resulting from the coronavirus, slashed its budget and cut public-school funding by $300 million. The school has warned teachers that there may be a round of layoffs before the end of the year. As the pandemic rages on, she and her husband worry that she could end up out of work. If that

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The Federalist Papers #20: The Weakness of the United Netherlands up to the 18th Century is Evidence for the Weakness of Confederations—Alexander Hamilton and James Madison

26 days ago

In the Federalist Papers #19, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison point to the German Empire, Poland and Switzerland as examples of the weakness of confederations. (SeeThe Federalist Papers #19: The Weakness of the German Empire, Poland and Switzerland up to the 18th Century is Evidence for the Weakness of Confederations—Alexander Hamilton and James Madison.) In the Federalist Papers #20, they turn to the United Netherlands [often called by modern historians “The Dutch Republic”]. The United Netherlands had at least two features that put it in a more favorable situation for cohesion than many confederations. First, it had a hereditary ruler who

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Halloween Around the World

27 days ago

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Halloween? Is it pumpkin patches, trick-or-treating or costume parties? Most of us are probably familiar with the traditions of celebrating Halloween here in the U.S. But did you know that Halloween is one of the world’s oldest holidays? Even more surprising, not everyone celebrates it the same way. Here are some fun facts on how other cultures celebrate Halloween. 
In Mexico, instead of dressing up in costumes and carving pumpkins, Nov. 2 brings Día de los Muertos – the Day of the Dead. The celebration is designed to honor deceased loved ones and ancestors. It is tradition for families to build an altar in their homes and decorate it with flowers, photographs and their loved ones’ favorite foods. Candles and incense are

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Kevin Bryan: Operations Research and the Rise of Applied Game Theory—A Nobel for Milgrom and Wilson

27 days ago

Today’s Nobel Prize to Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson is the capstone of an incredibly fruitful research line which began in the 1970s in a few small departments of Operations Research. Game theory, or the mathematical study of strategic interaction, dates back to work by Zermelo, Borel and von Neumann in the early 20th century. The famed book by von Neumann and Morganstern was published in 1944, and widely reviewed as one of the most important social scientific works of the century. And yet, it would be three decades before applications of game theory revolutionized antitrust, organizational policy, political theory, trade, finance, and more. Alongside the “credibility revolution” of causal econometrics, and to a lesser extent behavioral economics, applied game theory has

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Dan Benjamin, Mark Fontana and Miles Kimball: Reconsidering Risk Aversion

29 days ago

Some of my most important work has been directed toward measuring risk aversion. This is important for many reasons; giving good advice or setting good defaults for long-term asset allocation decisions is one of them. Dan Benjamin, Mark Fontana and I explain that in the first footnote in our new NBER Working Paper “Reconsidering Risk Aversion”: When financial advisors make their portfolio-allocation advice contingent on an individual’s risk attitudes, they typically measure the individual’s relative ranking in the population, e.g., using a qualitative scale. According to economic theory, however, what is needed is the numerical value of the

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James Surowiecki: Forget Shutdowns. It’s ‘Demand Shock’ That’s Killing Our Economy

October 28, 2020

Money Talks is a column that explores what happens when business, the economy, and culture collide.On July 11, the American economy hit a key milestone in its recovery from the coronavirus: the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World reopened. The world’s most popular theme park had been shuttered since March 16, and the expectation was that Disney lovers from across the U.S., frustrated after months indoors, would flock to Orlando. And in the weeks leading up to the reopening, Disney had more than enough reservations to fill the park to its new, limited capacity. But as reopening day approached, the number of Covid-19 cases in Florida began to rise, and in response people started doing something Disney visitors almost never do: cancelling their reservations. In the three months that have

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A Modern World of Endemic Jaw Dysfunction

October 27, 2020

The book Breath by James Nestor is a revelation. It is well worth this third blog post on the book. (The other two are flagged at the bottom of this post.) A fact James Nestor points to is the dramatic change in human skulls—and particularly upper and lower jaws—over the course of the last few centuries. There are plenty of human skulls around from a few hundred years ago as evidence; this fact is not in dispute. Since gene frequencies are unlikely to have changed substantially in such an evolutionarily short time, the leading theory is that softer food is the cause. The introduction of agriculture brought an earlier change in human skull form,

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Todd May: A Kinder, Gentler Atheism

October 26, 2020

SectionsSkip to contentSkip to site indexIn five previous interviews in this series we’ve explored the Buddhist, Jain, Taoist, Jewish and Christian views on death and the afterlife. But what about those without any religious faith or belief in God? Why not, some readers have asked, interview an atheist? So we did.Today’s conversation is with Todd May, the author of 16 books of philosophy ranging from recent French thought to contemporary ethics. His books — including “A Significant Life,” “A Fragile Life” and, most recently, “A Decent Life: Morality for the Rest of Us” — investigate meaning, suffering and morality. His work has been featured in episodes of the television show “The Good Place,” where he served behind the scenes as a “philosophical consultant.” This interview was conducted

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My Life will be Good When …

October 25, 2020

As a simplification, in economic theory one often writes utility as a function of market consumption and leisure. Following Gary Becker, one also might add in other arguments such as the quality of one’s relationships. (See for example Gary Becker’s book A Treatise on the Family.) But it is very easy to have an excellent situation in one’s outward circumstances, yet to totally spoil your enjoyment of that situation by unfavorably contrasting your actual situation with some imagined better situation and then directing mental barbs at one’s actual situation. I’ll bet there is often an edge—or a dangerously sharp point—to the thought “My life will be good when ….”Conversely, though it might be hard to understand, there are people whose outward circumstances look miserable who wring a

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Karen Nimmo: 8 Traits of Enviably Peaceful People

October 24, 2020

I want more peace.I want to stop the noise.I want to get rid of my anxiety.I want to be able to feel fully relaxed.Therapists hear these lines every day. And in a jacked-up world, one that’s wrestling with a global health crisis and all its brought with it, we’re hearing them more often.Anxiety is rife. That’s fair: there’s a lot to worry about. But how do we address it? How do we help people turn the worry dial down and find a comfortable way to live amidst the noise?If you ask people what they most want from life — beyond winning the lottery — they say a sense of peace. To feel okay with themselves, their people and their place in the world.It sounds like a simple ask — but it’s not, especially with uncertainty rattling all around us. Here’s how the truly peaceful do it.“Peace is the

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How to Reduce Date Rape

October 22, 2020

Malcolm Gladwell has two big themes in his book Talking to Strangers. The first theme is that we are very bad at telling whether someone is lying or not. Many of us think we are good at it, but we are not, not even professionals whose job it is to tell when someone is lying. Scarily, some people just naturally look like they are lying even when they aren’t, while others naturally look like they are telling the truth when they are really lying. Unfortunately, but also possibly flattering myself, I suspect that I personally am in the category of people who look like they are lying even when they are telling the truth. (For example, I am not great

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Have We Gone Too Far with Sunscreen?

October 20, 2020

Link to the article shown above

Deaths from heart disease are orders of magnitude more common than deaths from skin cancer. So it makes sense to do things that reduce heart disease risk even at the cost of some increase in skin cancer risk. Sun exposure seems to have exactly this tradeoff: a modest but important reduction in heart disease risk accompanied by a modest increase in skin cancer risk. But the modest increase in skin cancer risk corresponds to a much, much smaller number of deaths. Some experts claim that the reduction in heart disease risk from sun exposure can be fully replicated by drugs that reduce heart disease. But that seems

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