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Tyler Cowen

Tyler Cowen

Tyler Cowen is an American economist, academic, and writer. He occupies the Holbert C. Harris Chair of economics as a professor at George Mason University and is co-author, with Alex Tabarrok, of the popular economics blog Marginal Revolution. Cowen and Tabarrok have also ventured into online education by starting Marginal Revolution University. He currently writes the "Economic Scene" column for the New York Times, and he also writes for such publications as The New Republic, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Newsweek, and the Wilson Quarterly.

Articles by Tyler Cowen

*Free to Move: Foot Voting, Migration, and Political Freedom*

17 hours ago

That is the new, forthcoming book by my colleague Ilya Somin, due out in May.  It is the best book on geographic mobility and exit that has been written to date, and thus I am happy to recommend it heartily.
Here Ilya provides basic information about the book.  Here you can pre-order it on Amazon.
The post *Free to Move: Foot Voting, Migration, and Political Freedom* appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

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How the coronavirus is changing the culture of science and publication

19 hours ago

A torrent of data is being released daily by preprint servers that didn’t even exist a decade ago, then dissected on platforms such as Slack and Twitter, and in the media, before formal peer review begins. Journal staffers are working overtime to get manuscripts reviewed, edited, and published at record speeds. The venerable New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) posted one COVID-19 paper within 48 hours of submission. Viral genomes posted on a platform named GISAID, more than 200 so far, are analyzed instantaneously by a phalanx of evolutionary biologists who share their phylogenetic trees in preprints and on social media.
“This is a very different experience from any outbreak that I’ve been a part of,” says epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

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Thursday assorted links

20 hours ago

1. Various Magnus Carlsen updates.
2. Mark Koyama reviews Walter Scheidel’s Escape from Rome.
3. “Two programmer-musicians wrote every possible MIDI melody in existence to a hard drive, copyrighted the whole thing, and then released it all to the public in an attempt to stop musicians from getting sued.”
4. Pandemics and the advantages of globalization.  And “A troop of special Chinese ducks is waiting to be deployed to neighbouring Pakistan to fight a swarm of crop-eating pests that threaten regional food security.”
5. If you lose Taiwan, you lose Japan.
6. What the Singaporean PM said about coronavirus.  And illiquid Hypermind betting market in coronavirus.
7. Gary Chamberlain has passed away.
The post Thursday assorted links appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

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Inequality protest sentences to ponder

1 day ago

In countries that did experience mass protests (Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia) on the other hand, inequality was either constant or continued to decline in the last few years for which data is available.
Here is the full World Bank blog post by Francisco Ferreira and Marta Schoch.  That is via Gonzalo Schwarz of the Archbridge Institute, Gonzalo just wrote this excellent piece on economic mobility.
The post Inequality protest sentences to ponder appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

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The economic impact of the Bernie Sanders agenda

1 day ago

From Casey Mulligan:
If fully implemented, but otherwise implemented wisely, Senator Sanders’ agenda for the economy would reduce real GDP and consumption by 24 percent.  Real wages would fall more than 50 percent after taxes.  Employment and hours would fall 16 percent combined.  There would be less total healthcare, less childcare, less energy available to households, and less value added in the university sector.  Although it is more difficult to forecast, the stock market would likely fall more than 50 percent…
Even if without any productivity loss or increased utilization in healthcare, college, and daycare, this means that the Sanders agenda would be expanding the Federal budget by 13.25 percent of baseline consumption.  Including 19 percent additional utilization of these “free”

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Wednesday assorted links

2 days ago

1. “Exploiting within-country and industry-level variation in regulatory burden, the analysis finds a large, positive effect of regulatory burden on corruption.”
2. “Resumes that list study abroad experience in Europe for one year are 20 percent less likely to receive any callback and 35 percent less likely to receiving a call back for an interview, relative to resumes that do not list study abroad experience.”
3. “…colleges that ultimately boost earnings also tend to boost persistence, BA completion, and STEM degrees along the way.” Lots more in that paper.
4. “Singapore Airlines is the first major carrier to serve produce harvested just hours before a flight.”
5. I wish to thank and praise my Lubbock hosts, the Free Market Institute at Texas Tech.
6. 2006 study of the possible economic

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My Conversation with Garett Jones

2 days ago

Here is the transcript and audio, here is part of the opening summary:
Garett joined Tyler to discuss his book 10% Less Democracy, including why America shouldn’t be run by bondholders, what single reform would most effectively achieve more limited democracy, how markets shape cognitive skills, the three important P’s of the repeated prisoner’s dilemma, why French cuisine is still underrated, Buchanan vs. Tullock, Larry David vs. Seinfeld, the biggest mistake in Twitter macroeconomics, the biggest challenges facing the Mormon church, what studying to be a sommelier taught him about economics, the Garett Jones vision of America, and more.
Here is one bit:

COWEN: But let’s say it’s the early 1990s. Eastern European countries are suddenly becoming free, and they ask you, “Garett, what

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Is common stock ownership really such a big deal?

2 days ago

We investigate the relation between common institutional ownership of the firms in an industry and product market competition. We find that common ownership is neither robustly positively related with industry profitability or output prices nor robustly negatively related with measures of non-price competition, as would be expected if common ownership reduces competition. This conclusion holds regardless of industry classification choice, common ownership measure, profitability measure, non-price competition proxy, or model specification. Our point estimates are close to zero with tight bounds, rejecting even modestly-sized economic effects. We conclude that antitrust restrictions seeking to limit intra-industry common ownership are not currently warranted.
That is from a new paper by

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How robust are supply chains?

2 days ago

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:
Consider the supply chain of the Apple iPhone, which stretches across dozens of companies and several continents. Such complex cross-national supply chains generate relatively high profits, giving them a kind of immunity to small disruptions. If there is an unexpected tax, tariff or exchange movement, the supply chain can generally swallow the costs and move on. Profits will be lower within the supply chain, but production will continue, as it is too lucrative to simply shut everything down.
Do not be deceived, however: Supply chains are not indestructible. If the new costs or risks are high enough, the entire structure will be dismantled. By their nature, supply chains do not fall apart slowly, because each part of the

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Environmental impact statements can do great harm

3 days ago

In pursuit of federal approval for the nation’s first congestion pricing scheme, the one officials suggested would launch in January 2021, the question was this: Should New York State and New York City conduct a quick “environmental assessment” or a full scale “environmental impact statement,” a process that could take years?
Federal officials didn’t provide a definitive answer in that meeting, nor have they since.
That haziness puts MTA officials, and the massive system-wide rehabilitation plan whose funding is reliant on congestion pricing, in a serious bind.
Here is the full story, via Austin V.
The post Environmental impact statements can do great harm appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

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Canine collar markets in everything

3 days ago

There are a lot of great options for dog collars on the market, but none of them will amuse you quite like the Cuss Collar from Mschf Labs. It’s a relatively simple product that combines a patent leather collar strap with an injection-molded speaker that does exactly what you think it does–it swears every time your dog barks. After all these years, it turns out Fido wasn’t saying things like “I love you,” “let’s go for a walk,” or “feed me,” he was saying things like “motherf#*ker,” “shit,” and all kinds of other expletives.
Here is the full story, via Michael.
The post Canine collar markets in everything appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

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Tuesday assorted links

3 days ago

1. “Specifically, physician salaries plus diagnostic tests comprise 4.04% of GDP in the US, compared to only 2.3% in the UK.”
2. “Tossing of the heavy wok at high speed may be one contributor to shoulder pain, which is reported by 64.5% of Chinese restaurant chefs.”  And the physics of perfect fried rice.
3. “The aggregate effect of [Amazon] star ratings on consumer surplus is roughly 15 times the effect of traditional review outlets.”
4. My podcast with Erik Torenberg and Jasmine Wang.  And John Cochrane seems to be starting a podcast.
5. More from Scott Gottlieb on FDA regulation of coronavirus testing.
The post Tuesday assorted links appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

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Lubbock, Texas notes

3 days ago

Hill BBQ is perhaps the best I have had — ever.  It is open Thursday and Saturday only, get the burnt ends and beef ribs.  Next in line is Evie Mae’s, better known on the barbecue circuit, but still mostly unsullied by tourists and so the lines remain manageable.
There is no real center of town, but you can visit the world’s largest windmill museum (it is windy there), a prairie dog park, and Robert Bruno’s self-constructed, funky Steel House on a nearby lake.  There are Confederate memorials remaining by the main courthouse.  You will see tumbleweed.  There is a strange man walking around town with a tricolor hat.
The economy is cotton, health care, and Texas Tech at about 40,000 students.  Buddy Holly was from Lubbock.
It still has a strong regional feel, much as say parts of the Dakotas

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Royal sentences to ponder

4 days ago

Meghan and Harry insist Queen Elizabeth doesn’t own the word ‘royal’
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle laid bare their hostility with Buckingham Palace — by insisting that neither Queen Elizabeth nor the UK Government owns the word “royal” internationally.
Hours after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex confirmed on Friday they would not go ahead with their planned “Sussex Royal” brand after The Queen put a stop to it, they posted an extraordinary statement on their website insisting they still had the right to the word “royal.”
The statement reads: “While there is not any jurisdiction by The Monarchy or Cabinet Office over the use of the word ‘Royal’ overseas, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex do not intend to use ‘Sussex Royal’ or any iteration of the word ‘Royal’ in any territory (either within

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That was then, this is now — pandemic response capabilities

4 days ago

From 2005:

Before adjourning last week, the US Senate passed and sent to President Bush a bill providing $3.8 billion for pandemic influenza preparedness and a controversial liability shield for those who produce and administer drugs and vaccines used in a declared public health emergency.
The preparedness funding and liability protection were part of the fiscal year 2006 defense spending bill passed by the Senate on the evening of Dec 21. The bill had cleared the House 2 days earlier.
The $3.8 billion for pandemic preparedness is a little more than half of the $7.1 billion Bush had requested in early November. House Republican leaders said last week the measure would fund roughly the fiscal year 2006 portion of Bush’s request.
As reported previously, the amount includes $350 million to

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Why are we letting FDA regulations limit our number of coronavirus tests?

4 days ago

Since CDC and FDA haven’t authorized public health or hospital labs to run the [coronavirus] tests, right now #CDC is the only place that can. So, screening has to be rationed. Our ability to detect secondary spread among people not directly tied to China travel is greatly limited.
That is from Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the FDA, and also from Scott:
#FDA and #CDC can allow more labs to run the RT-PCR tests starting with public health agencies. Big medical centers can also be authorized to run tests under EUA. For now they’re not permitted to run the tests, even though many labs can do so reliably 9/9 https://cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/lab/rt-pcr-detection-instructions.html
Here is further information about the obstacles facing the rollout of testing.  And read here from a

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Sunday assorted links

5 days ago

1. Do people still remember Ava Gardner?
2. Update on programming language performance in economics.
3. Update on pandemic bonds.
4. Black sign language.
5. “The business cycle trends in disability seem to confirm the least-charitable interpretations of the rise in disability claims.“
The post Sunday assorted links appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

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What should I ask Philip Tetlock?

5 days ago

I will be having a Conversation with him, no associated public event.  So what should I ask?
I thank you all in advice for your wisdom and counsel.
The post What should I ask Philip Tetlock? appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

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Health care economist sentences to ponder

5 days ago

Various ideas to cut costs in Medicare and Medicaid have been proposed in recent years. Health economists generally oppose those changes.
And this:
If health economists were in charge of the health system, not a lot would change, with some notable exceptions. Medicaid would not have work requirements (which would be unpopular among conservatives in some states), and taxes would go up for Medicare and for employer-based health insurance (which would make it unpopular among just about everybody).
Here is a much longer and excellent piece by Austin Frakt, surveying what health economists in the United States believe about health care policy.  Also do note that health care economists overwhelmingly tend to be Democrats.
What should we think about all this?  That we can trust these health care

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*Just Hierarchy: Why Social Hierarchies Matter in China and the Rest of the World*

6 days ago

That is the new book by Daniel A. Bell and Wang Pei.  It is perhaps not so novel to students of Jean Bodin and medieval political thought, or say Chinese history, but still the book crystallizes a moment and I consider its publication a matter of note.  Here is one short bit:
But which hierarchical relations are justified and why?  In our view, it depends on the nature of the social relations and the social context.  As a method, we are inspired by Michael Walzer’s call for a pluralistic approach to justice.  There is no one principle of justice appropriate for all times and places.  Our main argument is that different hierarchical principles ought to govern different kinds of social relations.  What justifies hierarchy among intimates is different from what justifies hierarchy among

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Saturday assorted links

6 days ago

1. Sino-African architecture.
2. Phasing out squat toilets in Tokyo (a few years ago they were 40% of the total).  And has Germany moved to a de facto UBI?
3. “‘Parasite’ Backers Gain $100 Million on Film Tackling Inequality.”
4. New Yorker covers Bryan Caplan on Open Borders.
5. Types of highway interchanges and their efficiency ratings.
6. Seeking to abolish the family?  Crazy and and maybe evil too, but interesting.
The post Saturday assorted links appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

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An argument for weaker copyright in books

6 days ago

From Barbara Biasi and Petra Moser:
Copyrights, which establish intellectual property in music, science,and other creative goods, are intended to encourage creativity. Yet, copyrights also raise the cost of accessing existing work – potentially discouraging future innovation.This paper uses an exogenous shift towards weak copyrights(and low access costs) during WWII to examine the potentially adverse effects of copyrights on science. Using two alternative identification strategies, we show that weaker copyrights encouraged the creation of follow-on science, measured by citations.This change is driven by a reduction in access costs, allowing scientists at less affluent institutions to use existing knowledge in new follow-on research.
The paper title is “Effects of Copyrights on Science:

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Claims about white people

6 days ago

Black women for instance, present a consistent pattern of improvement in happiness across decades, while White women display a persistent pattern of decline. In contrast, Black men experienced a discernable pattern of improvement in happiness between the 1970s and 1990s, followed by a leveling off in the early-2000s. White men experienced moderate gains in happiness between the 1970s and 1990s, but after the Great Recession/Obama Era, White male happiness followed a pattern of unprecedented decline, with the “happiness advantage” they once enjoyed (as a group) over Black men and women largely vanishing.
That is by Jason L. Cummings, via the excellent Kevin Lewis.
The post Claims about white people appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

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Does digital socialism have a future?

7 days ago

No, not a good future, according to Jesús Fernández-Villaverde:
Can artificial intelligence, in particular, machine learning algorithms, replace the idea of simple rules, such as first possession and voluntary exchange in free markets, as a foundation for public policy? This paper argues that the preponderance of the evidence sides with the interpretation that while artificial intelligence will help public policy along with several important aspects, simple rules will remain the fundamental guideline for the design of institutions and legal environments. “Digital socialism” might be a hipster thing to talk about in Williamsburg or Shoreditch, but is as much of a chimera as “analog socialism.”
The paper is an excellent response to a growing set of claims, I would add further material on the

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Friday assorted links

7 days ago

1. Martin Gurri watch, Scandinavian Airlines edition.
2. Profile of Zucman and Saez (NYT).
3. How the internet is changing chess (and by extension everything).
4. Dog surveillance.
5. De-convexifying the hotel checkout time (NYT).  Small steps toward a much better world…
6. Ten ways in which we are decadent?
The post Friday assorted links appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

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Very good sentences

7 days ago

Nearly all of the biggest challenges in America are, at some level, a housing problem. Rising home costs are a major driver of segregation, inequality, and racial and generational wealth gaps. You can’t talk about education or the shrinking middle class without talking about how much it costs to live near good schools and high-paying jobs. Transportation accounts for about a third of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions, so there’s no serious plan for climate change that doesn’t begin with a conversation about how to alter the urban landscape so that people can live closer to work.
Those are from Conor Daugherty in the NYT, via the excellent Kevin Lewis.
The post Very good sentences appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

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A central bank digital currency is not a good idea, redux

7 days ago

The introduction of a central bank digital currency (CBDC) allows the central bank to engage in large-scale intermediation by competing with private financial intermediaries for deposits. Yet, since a central bank is not an investment expert, it cannot invest in long-term projects itself, but relies on investment banks to do so. We derive an equivalence result that shows that absent a banking panic, the set of allocations achieved with private financial intermediation will also be achieved with a CBDC. During a panic, however, we show that the rigidity of the central bank’s contract with the investment banks has the capacity to deter runs. Thus, the central bank is more stable than the commercial banking sector. Depositors internalize this feature ex-ante, and the central bank arises as a

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The missionary roots of liberal democracy

8 days ago

I had not known of this important piece.  From 2012, by Robert D. Woodberry, at the National University of Singapore:
This article demonstrates historically and statistically that conversionary Protestants (CPs) heavily influenced the rise and spread of stable democracy around the world. It argues that CPs were a crucial catalyst initiating the development and spread of religious liberty, mass education, mass printing, newspapers, voluntary organizations, and colonial reforms, thereby creating the conditions that made stable democracy more likely. Statistically, the historic prevalence of Protestant missionaries explains about half the variation in democracy in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania and removes the impact of most variables that dominate current statistical research about

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Thursday assorted links

8 days ago

1. Toward a simple critique of applications and why most of them fail.
2. Additional results on migration and wages (The Economist).
3. “Higher salaries, legal protections and lack of discrimination said to be among the reasons most Palestinians would prefer to work for Israeli firms.”
4. The relentless bid? (from 2014)
5. Techcrunch covers Daniel Gross and Pioneer.
The post Thursday assorted links appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

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Willingness to be Paid: Who Trains for Tech Jobs?

8 days ago

Here is a new paper from Joy Buchanan, Emergent Ventures winner:
Having a larger high-skill workforce is good for economic productivity, so it is useful to understand how workers self-select into high-paying technology jobs. This study examines how workers on the margin decide whether to pursue tech jobs, including a precise control for the opportunity cost of time. The most important determinant of the reservation wage for college students to do computer programming is whether they enjoy it or not. Another subjective influence, whether subjects like math or not, predicts self-confidence. Most students, including females and minorities, are willing to learn a new computer programming language, for a sufficiently high wage. Neither randomly assigned encouragement nor extra information on

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