Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Saturday, October 27, 2007

From Our Own Correspondent

I listen to the radio about 8 hours a day and FOOC is my favorite radio show. Twice a week ,BBC journalists all over the world tell their personal experiences. Last week, Alan Johnston told his 114 day ordeal in Gaza. Podcast it and take a look at the website that celebrates 50th year of the show.

Friday, October 26, 2007

World Congress of RSAI - Reminder

Deadline approaching for the 2008 World Congress of RSAI in Brazil

Submit your paper at

The 8th World Congress of RSAI will be organized by the Brazilian Regional Science Association (ABER – Associação Brasileira de Estudos Regionais) and will be hosted by the Faculty of Economics, Administration and Accounting of the University of São Paulo, Brazil (, on March 17-19, 2008.

It will have the same format as the regular RSA meetings, with regular sessions, R-sessions, panels, etc.

Papers from all fields in regional science are welcome.

Submit your paper at

RSAI World Congress 2008 Local Organizing Committee

Friday, October 19, 2007

Bad Geography and Development in Africa

In a QJE forthcoming paper, Nathan Nunn has shown the legacy of slave trade in the current development of Africa. Now he goes one step further. With Diego Puga, the brilliant New Economic Geographer, he has written a paper that argues that the rugged terrain "afforded protection to those being raided during the slave trades. Since the slave trades retarded subsequent economic development, in Africa ruggedness also has had a historical indirect positive effect on income". The title of the paper is: "Ruggedness: The Blessing of Bad Geography in Africa".

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Why do we like beer?

Because the guys that couldn't stand alcohol died of dysentery a long ago. This is just one of the things that I've learned in "The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World". The logic goes like this: polluted water is a major threat to human beings, so...
"In a community lacking pure-water supplies, the closest thing to "pure" fluid" was alcohol. Whatever the risks were posed by beer (and later wine) in the early days of agrarian settlements were more than offset by alcohol's antibacterial properties. Dying of cirrhosis of the liver in your forties was better than dying of dysentery in your twenties... To digest large quantities of (alcohol), you need to be able to boost production of enzymes called alcohol dehydrogenases, a trait regulated by a set of genes on chromosome four in human DNA. Many early agrarians lacked that trait, and thus were genetically incapable of "holding their liquor". Consequently, many of them died childless at an early age, either from alcohol abuse or from waterborne diseases... Most of the world's population is made up of descendants of those early beer drinkers, and we have largely inherited their genetic tolerance to alcohol."

BTW, I strongly recommend the book. It provides an amazing account of the role of scientific preconceptions, and it tells the story of the map that started Spatial Analysis. Spoiler: it is a myth that John Snow discovered the source of cholera after drawing his famous map. In fact, he draw it to convince the others that water, and not, miasma was responsible for the spreading of the disease.

I am not sure, but I think this is Art

Solow Growth Model on-line

Brad DeLong has uploaded to google docs his famousspreadsheet that represents the Solow model.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Predictably irrational

It seems that the 2008 blockbuster book will be Predictably Irrational. After all 4 Economics Nobel prize winners - and the mother of the author - strongly recommend the book.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Doing Business 2008

Brazil occupies a grim 122th place. But the map is really cool!

New Input Output Table for Rio Grande do Sul

Great news for those interested in the economy of Rio Grande do Sul. Alexandre Porsse has released the 2003 input-output table (in Portuguese).

Monday, October 8, 2007

A conceptual framework for interpreting human history

The forthcoming book by Douglass North, John Wallis and Barry Weingast is available on-line.
In one week the primitive accumulation of pdf files has added 1700 pages to my pile of must read pages.

Via Na Prática.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Acemoglu and the Hawking's Value

If you have read any economic blog this week, you know that Daron Acemoglu's book is available on-line. I am sure that its 1,169 pages are excellent and that it will become the standard graduate textbook on economic growth.
However, I can't help thinking about its Hawking's Value (as I've decided to called it). HV goes like this:

HV=number of copies sold or downloaded*(a/b)

a=number of pages of the book;
b=average number of pages actually read and understood.

For instance, Hawking's Brief History of Time sold 10 million copies of 200 pages each, but the number of pages actually read were, say, around 1 (one). Therefore it has a HV= 2,000,000,000, the highest in history . Back to Acemoglu's book: how many pdf files will rest unopened/unread in our hard disks?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

R 101

If you want to learn R, take a look at this R video tutorial.

Via Andrew Gelman and friends.

Income per capita by country 1-2003

GDP per capita when Jesus was walking around? Check out the new version of the Maddison's database: World Population, GDP and Per Capita GDP, 1-2003 AD.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Duílio meets Deirdre

I met Professor Duílio Berni about 10 years ago and he quickly became my intellectual lighthouse. We do not share research interests and I have the feeling that I understand only half of his main points. But every talk with him gives me food for thought for at least one year and the books that he suggests are mind blowing. (Having him as my neighbour in London was one of fondest memories of my sabbatical year).
I've never met Deirdre Mcloskey, but she taught me how to write and research. Her Economic History papers are even better than the methodology ones that made her famous.
Reading Deirdre's blog I had the surprise of finding a question posed by Duílio. He wants to know the reference of the following Deirdre's quote:

"Replete of prices and profits, acres and hand, economic science is the most measurable of all social sciences”.

What a amazing quote! Deirdre did not provide the answer and told Duílio to look for it in her on-line papers.I suspect that there is a non-zero probability that, in fact, Duílio wrote it, but it would be great if somebody could help him find it.

Update: Deirdre's blog is not working today (2nd October). Not my fault, hopefully.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Reports of my dissapearance have been greatly exaggerated...

I'm back. I've underestimated the time and energy necessary to get my life back on track in Brazil. From now on, I will try update the blog daily.
So, let's start with an upbeat post. Scott "Dilbert" Addams, the genius, wrote a sort of eulogy for economists:

"I studied economics in college. One thing I’ve noticed is that other people who have studied economics tend to think a similar way. Some of the similarity is probably because it takes a certain kind of person to be interested in economics in the first place. But I’m convinced that the study of economics changes brains in a way I can identify after about five minutes of conversation. In particular, I think the study of economics makes you relatively immune to cognitive dissonance.

The primary skill of an economist is identifying all of the explanations for various phenomena. Cognitive dissonance is, at its core, the inability to recognize and accept other explanations. I’m oversimplifying, but you get the point. The more your brain is trained for economics, the less it is susceptible to cognitive dissonance, or so it seems.

The joke about economists is that they are always using the phrase “On the other hand.” Economists are trained to recognize all sides of an argument. That seems like an easy and obvious skill, but in my experience, the general population lacks that skill. Once people take a side, they interpret any argument on the other side as absurd. In other words, they are relatively susceptible to cognitive dissonance."