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Timothy Taylor: Conversable Economist

Conversable Economist is an economics blog by Timothy Taylor, who is the author of several economics books. Timothy goes deep into details about a range of topics, backing his arguments up with statistics and data.

Autonomous Vehicles: Eeyore Speaks

Missy Cummings was “one of the first female fighter pilots in the US Navy and now a professor in the Duke University Pratt School of Engineering and the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, as well as the director of Duke’s Humans and Autonomy Laboratory.” She is interviewed by Michael Chui of the McKinsey Global Institute in “From fighter pilot to robotics pioneer: An interview with Missy Cummings” (September 22, 2021, audio and transcript). I was struck in particular by her comments...

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The Problem of Automated Screening of Job Applicants

There are plenty of good things that happen when firms post their job openings online. When a job is posted publicly, many more people have a chance to learn about it. Jobs are perhaps less likely to be allocated by a social network of who-hears-what-from-whom, opening up opportunities more broadly. Also, potential workers can search jobs and employers with their computer or phone, rather than needing to travel in-person from one potential employer to another, gathering up...

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Interview with Luigi Zingales: Social Media and Antitrust

Allison Schrager has a conversation with Luigi Zingales on the subject “Break Up Big Tech? A conversation about the future of the industry” (City Journal website, September 21, 2021). Zingales makes a number of interesting points, but here’s one of them: I think the problem is that we treat Big Tech as one big issue, and we say we need to break them up. Rather, what we should do depends on what we want to accomplish, and what sector in the industry we’re taking about. Let’s start...

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Economic Sanctions: A Reality Check

Economic sanctions is an attempt to carry out foreign policy using economic terms. It is a deliberately broad term. It includes decisions about not trading certain products with certain countries or companies, or seeking to freeze the bank accounts of countries, companies, or individuals. In political terms, one main attraction of economic sanctions is that it addresses a demand to “do something” in foreign policy in a way that doesn’t involve ordering soldiers into harms or imposing...

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The World Bank Kills Its “Doing Business” Report

The World Bank announced that it is discontinuing its its biennial Doing Business Report. The reason is that World Bank insiders, under pressure from national government, leaned on the researchers charged with compiling the report to change their findings–which they did. Details are available in a report: “Investigation of Data Irregularities in Doing Business 2018 and Doing Business 2020 – Investigation Findings and Report to the Board of Executive Directors” (September 15, 2021)....

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Mulling Pandemic Advice from September 2019

Two years ago in September 2019, before COVID was on everyone’s lips, the White House Council of Economic Advisers published a report called “Mitigating the Impact of Pandemic Influenza through Vaccine Innovation.” Even committed readers of government reports like me skipped over the report at the time. After all, I’d written about reports that discussed pandemic risks from time to time in the past (for example, here and here). Back in fall 2019, there didn’t feel like any pressing need...

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International Corporate Taxation: What to Tax?

There have been news stories in the last month or two about broad-based support across 130 countries for a minimum corporate global tax rate of 15%. The common assertion is that a minimum tax rate will be a powerful discouragement for companies that are trying to use accounting methods to shift their profits to low-tax countries. But the problem of international corporate taxation is considerably harder than agreeing on a minimum tax rate. Ruud de Mooij, Alexander Klemm, and...

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How Poverty Changed in 2020: Mixed Measures

Each year in September, the US Census Bureau releases a report on income and poverty measures for the previous year. Thus, Income and Poverty in the United States: 2020, by Emily A. Shrider, Melissa Kollar, Frances Chen, and Jessica Semega (September 2021) looks at changes for 2020. As one would expect, given the pandemic, the poverty rate in 2020 rose. This figure shows the poverty rate in the top graph and the number of people in poverty in the bottom graph. This figure shows...

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The COVID Instant Experts

One great thing about society’s reservoir of expertise that is housed in universities and colleges is that when an important new subject turns up, at least some of these experts will be able to respond to the crisis with research and insight. But this process of pivoting to the hot topic has a downside, too. For an especially hot topic, like the COVID pandemic, those who are experts in something altogether different may suddenly start delve into a new area–and the results will not always...

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When Business Leaders Endorse Stakeholder Responsibility, What Are They Really Saying?

For-profit companies are formally responsible to their shareholders–that is, to those who own stock in the company. I emphasize “formally,” because the influence of shareholders is wielded through a board of directors whose members are often nominated by corporate management itself, and there is a long-standing question of just how this supervision process works. However, formal responsibility to shareholders via a board of directors is quite different from saying that businesses...

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