Retraction Watch on Förster (Blog)

Retractionwatch has two pieces out on alleged data irregularities in work published by social psychologist Jens Förster. They cite an unnamed (!) (LOWI?, UvA?) report dated 2012: These papers report 40 experiments involving a total of 2284 participants (2242 of which were undergraduates). We apply an F test based on descriptive statistics to test for linearity of means across three levels of the experimental design. Results show that in the vast majority of the 42 independent samples so analyzed, means are unusually close to a linear trend.

Planet Money on TTIP

Planet Money has this slightly naive, but not entirely one-sided piece on TTIP and nontarrif trade barriers: Today on the show: why can’t you build a car that can be driven anywhere in the world? There might be a lot to dislike about how TTIP is negotiated (closed-doors, special interest, anyone?) Still, I don’t get the fundamental outrage against Investor State Dispute Settlements (ISDS). This, as in car safety regulation, is always the logic of economic integration, and it’s beautiful thing: trade makes us all richer, but sovereignty moves to a higher, international level.

Planet Money on the History of Light

Planet Money has this great story on the history of (artificial light): The history of light explains why the world today is what it is. It explains why we aren’t all subsistence farmers, and why we can afford to have artists and massage therapists and plumbers. (And, yes, people who do radio stories about the history of light.) This, and Frédéric Bastiat’s “Candlemakers’ Petition” is for the luddite in all of us.

Radiolab on AUMF

Radiolab on the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF): Over the last decade, those 60 words have become the legal foundation for the “war on terror.” If you consider the individual-level decision making of the US government on which suspected terrorist to kill, and whom not to kill, it sounds an awful lot like a criminal case (which would be a good thing) – only it’s not.

Rabbi Hartman on Hope, Power, Moral via Tippett

Rabbi David Hartman on power: I remember the Quakers coming to see me. They wanted to know about my views of power, you know, Quakers. So I said, if you have power, you can have a moral argument. If you’re powerless, there’s no moral argument. So if we want to engage the Palestinians in a moral argument of how to live together, then we can only negotiate if we’re strong.


Asana, maker of e-mail free collaboration software and “work graph”, on its future: Imagine this: the year is 2016. It’s the beginning of the day and you’ve just arrived at work. You sit down at your desk (assuming that having a desk is still a “thing”) and open Asana. What do you see? I’m the biggest fan of e-mail-free-collaboration; but to be fair, Asana also has an ulterior motive here.

Edmund Fawcett on Liberalism

Edmund Fawcett in a letter to the Economist: Liberalism is a doctrine of limits. One of its lessons is that not all political goodies—freedom, equality, prosperity, for example—need be simultaneously achievable. In the democratic marketplace, that lesson is a hard sell. Ought not The Economist, which is impeccably liberal, be more forthright and tough it out? Yes, exactly, this is the kind of ethical / axiomatic acuity that we need in our polity: to understand another (in this case, liberal) person’s argument on their own terms, including their tradeoffs.

The Economist Free Exchange on Bitcoin

That may be for the best, given another Bitcoin quirk. The currency’s “money supply” will eventually be capped at 21m units. To Bitcoin’s libertarian disciples, that is a neat way to preclude the inflationary central-bank meddling to which most currencies are prone. Yet modern central banks favour low but positive inflation for good reason. In the real world wages are “sticky”: firms find it difficult to cut their employees’ pay.

The Economist obituary on Mike Parker

The Economist obituary on Mike Parker: Of the more than 1,000 types he developed, his greatest success was Helvetica. It was he who adjusted it, or corralled it, to the needs of the obdurate, cranky, noisy Linotype machines which then printed almost everything in America. Originally it was the brainchild of a Swiss designer, Max Miedinger, who devised it in 1956. In contrast to the delicate exuberance of 16th-century types, Helvetica was plain, rigidly horizontal—and eminently readable.

The Economists's Crony Capitalism Index

The Economist on its crony capitalism index: Inventing a better widget, tastier snack or snazzier computer program is one thing. But many of today’s tycoons are accused of making fortunes by “rent-seeking”: grabbing a bigger slice of the pie rather than making the pie bigger. In technical terms, an economic rent is the difference between what people are paid and what they would have to be paid for their labour, capital, land (or any other inputs into production) to remain in their current use.