Revisiting the housing bubble

Timothy Lee has a good post on the revisionist history of the mid-2000s housing bubble in the US. I find the basic premise interesting and pretty compelling: what looked like a housing bubble might have just been prices responding to a mismatch between supply and demand. Lee further says this analytical error—seeing a bubble where …

The social science side of science

Derek Thompson in a very good piece about Fast Grants: A third feature of American science isthe experimentation paradox: The scientific revolution, which still inspires today’s research, extolled the virtues of experiments. But our scientific institutions are weirdly averse to them. The research establishment created after World War II concentrated scientific funding at the federal …

Technical leadership

Brookings categorizes a couple dozen countries by AI proficiency. The US is highest on technical measures but fails to reach the “leader” quadrant because it scores poorly on “people” measures like number of STEM graduates. You can quibble with the methodology, but I see it as in line with something Paul Romer noted last year: …

Data and theory in economics

Noah Smith on the Nobel for the architects of the “credibility revolution” in economics: Anyone who expects the credibility revolution to replace theory is going to be disappointed. Science seeks not merely to catalogue things that happen, but to explain why — chemistry is more than a collection of reaction equations, biology is more than …

A definition of culture

From an NBER review of the economics of company culture. The authors describe the varied ways “culture” has been defined, not just with respect to companies, and then offer this list: A sensible list of elements in that package, though neither nearly exhaustive nor likely satisfactory to all, is as follows, adapted from a variety …

Fixing the internet

The other day I rewatched one of my favorite talks about the internet, a 2015 lecture on algorithmic decisions by Jonathan Zittrain of Harvard Law School titled “Love the processor, hate the process.” Like all his talks, it’s funny, wide-ranging, and hard to summarize. But I think reflecting on it you can see him proposing …

On explanation

What makes a good explanation? It’s not straightforward to provide an answer. Wikipedia says: An explanation is a set of statements usually constructed to describe a set of facts which clarifies the causes, context, and consequences of those facts. This description may establish rules or laws, and may clarify the existing rules or laws in …

Durkheim on empiricism and economics

From 1938: “The famous law of supply and demand for example, has never been inductively established, as should be the case with a law referring to economic reality. No experiment or systematic comparison has ever been undertaken for the purpose of establishing that in fact economic relations do conform to this law. All that these …

The political economy of attention

A review paper from NBER hits on something I’ve been thinking about lately: how media and attention factor into political economy. How do groups of people coordinate to take political action? When are they able to overcome free rider problems? These are central questions in political economy, and one line of thinking says that smaller, …

Software, management, competition

Software startups often target applications that many companies share – accounting, human resources, communications, etc. Companies want to digitize by purchasing off-the-shelf software. No one creates software for processes that underly their unique competitive advantages. They buy excess capacity in departments that aren’t their core business instead. That’s one of many interesting bits from this …