Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity


Views from the Center


Hi all,

How do parents of young children get anything done? Even in a two-parent household, the nursery/home-with-fever cycle is relentless (and, in the case of our little one, a little too heavy on the home-with-fever side of the cycle for my liking). Anyway, by my count I’ve got a few hours before I’m struck down by whatever bug my little petri dish is currently incubating, just in time for the weekend. Let’s hope I finish the links before it hits. Even more necessary, because the last link features a grown man (yes, me) screaming like a small excited child at the prospect of the new Spiderman movie, and a superhero who is a Bollywood star (rather than a Bollywood knock-off of a superhero) prompting a lot of Bollywood clips.

  1. The best thing I read all week was this superb Robert Skidelsky piece about three unconventional economists who tried to broaden, rather than restrict, the domain and audience of economics: Thorstein Veblen, JM Keynes and Albert Hirschman. It’s a long read, so pour yourself a tea, but it’s worth every second. It’s nominally a series of three linked book reviews, but really its best read as Skidelsky writing about how the poverty of modern economics can be contrasted to some of the most colourful thinkers of the past. It’s both good at explaining their ideas and locating them in their context, and full of little gems of information—Hirschman, for example never formally trained in economics. I find that particularly interesting because his primary appeal for me is in asking the most interesting questions and focusing on the most important issues, rather than any specific empirical or methodological finding.
  2. It’s CGD’s 20th birthday, which has prompted a lot of nice sentiments on Twitter; this timeline gives a pretty nice view of exactly how many important ideas it has been associated with. It coincides with a really interesting profile of our founding President, Nancy Birdsall, who has been such an influence on us all both intellectually and through her mentorship to so many. It’s a great place to work, where ideas and argument are genuinely valued.
  3. I linked to Nancy last week talking about her ambivalence about Covid booster shots in rich countries given the lack of access in developing countries; she is not the only person ambivalent about them: this 538 discussion between Maggie Koerth, Betsy Ladyzhets and Chadwick Matlin is too, though based on the science. For a mildly dissenting view (though still arguing for the urgency of more doses for both rich and poor countries now) see this thread by Amanda Glassman.
  4. The DI job market paper continues to uncover gems: this week the topics covered range from the effect of jobs on intimate partner violence in Rwandatax administration systems in Buenos Aires, and the impact of forced removal and return of Mexican migrants to the US (including the finding that such returns *increased* migration flows to the US due to the labour market impact of the returnees, a finding I found quite striking, especially given the generally small wage effects typically found in the migration literature).
  5. And while we’re talking about the labour market, I really enjoyed this episode of Planet Money, on the quit rate in the US—why it’s offers such a good insight into what workers think about the labour market and what that might mean for the rest of the economy (transcript).
  6. Tim Harford has a surprising take on the Doing Business indicators: that they were both useful and that the brouhaha over manipulation was overplayed. I’m sympathetic to his big point that almost all data of consequence is subject to political pressure (I’ve been in the room while the senior officials in one country I worked in literally made up new growth projections for the benefit of a visiting IMF mission, talking amongst themselves in a language they—incorrectly—assumed none of the foreigners in the room understood). But his argument that the point of the DB indicators was to stimulate action to change ranking position (and so it was a success) only holds if you think what they measured was conceptually sound and a good reflection of what actually happened in the economy. The case against both is strong, and was always the best argument against the whole enterprise.
  7. Lastly, that high pitched squeal you heard is my reaction to the new Spider-man trailer, confirming that Doc Ock and Willem Dafoe (much scarier than the Green Goblin) are back, and no firm denial that they will bring back DareDevil and thus make me a very happy child-man indeed; and the news that the recently released Eternals (which looks like trash and I will be avoiding until it’s free-to-air) features Kumail Nanjiani doing a Bollywood number. I have no idea what it looks like, but it has a lot to live up to. Bollywood dance numbers have set the bar for choreography from the classics to the modern; and here’s a bonus, just because it’s great.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


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CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.