Sunday, July 20, 2014

A non result news filler piece of rubbish

Not one of the numbers in this story shows anything at all compared with the last poll. The margin of error is + or minus 3%. There is no story here – the numbers show neither disappointment nor triumph for Labour or anyone else. It is a non-story – a dead parrot:

The latest political poll contains more disappointment for the Labour Party.

The 3News Reid Research Poll out on Sunday has National also slipping slightly, but it remains more than 20 percentage points ahead of Labour.

The poll has National on 49.4 percent, down 0.3 percentage points since the last 3News poll.

Labour drops back to 26.7 percent, down 0.6.

The Greens are also down slightly, to 12.4 percent, and New Zealand First is just shy of the threshold to get back into Parliament, on 4.3 percent.

The new Internet-Mana party alliance is up to 2.3 percent.

The 3News poll surveyed 1000 people with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.

What is it that eludes the RNZ journalist and editor here? What is so difficult? Why is this so hard?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The medical fraternity–ignorant bleating

Yet another call for income and GST tax concessions on fruit and vegetables and increases on “sugary foods”from a medic (with superb medical qualifications)  demonstrates yet again substantial ignorance of:

  • substitution effects
  • elasticity
  • cross elasticity amongst products
  • supply and demand effects
  • subsidy capitalisation
  • net present values
  • income transfer effects
  • capture and rent seeking effects
  • prospect and endowment theory
  • anchoring and confirmation bias
  • comparative advantage – do try to stick to things you know something about

In short they know as much about the micro economics of human behaviour and it’s wildly dangerous but seductive cousin economic policy making, as I know about medicine and interventionist surgery. Close to nothing.

The difference is I, and most other economists, indeed most other self respecting scientists of any kind,  don’t bleat and advocate gratuitously about matters of which we are profoundly ignorant.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The last six months… book list

Brain Rules - John Medino... understandable neuroscience of practical use and the bones of cognitive behavioural concepts. All people in all cultures have a graveyard shift 1:00pm - 3:00pm.... get over it.... and don't do my job at that time.

Thinking Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman. Compulsory. 20 years of thought and experiment nailed and explained. What's behind almost all behavioural economics. Scholar, writer, scientist, entertainer... and humanist.

China versus the West - Ivan Tselichtchev. Non west global economics. Written while the pot was still boiling hard but still sets the framework usefully. Knock you dead stats but with feeling and insights.

The House of Rothschild – Nial Fergusson. (Two volumes). Jewishness, family businesses and banking over several centuries. How to fund a Franco Prussian war. Impeccable research. No magic in banking, or being Jewish and families are just as scary everywhere.

How to Think Like a Freak - Levitt and Dubner's 3rd. Strong as ever. Entire "wine buff" rubbish crushed with evidence. How to annoy David Cameron. Great economics. David Lee Roth uses revealed preference theory.

Dice World - Brian Clegg. Excellent journey into randomness and quantum physics without the grief. As arguably “the” critical phenomenon I spend a lot of time studying randomness – and our ability to accept it, manage it, even exploit it. Clegg assembles the vital where and why and some of the how.

Hitler - A. N. Wilson - weak and rather bigoted. He is still annoyed about Hitler - but also Churchill, possibly Thatcher. Achievements by those he despises really cause bother. Stick to Victorians, even Elizabethans.

Paradox: The Nine Great Enigmas in Physics - Jim Al-Khalili. Kim Hill rather knocked him over. Just satisfactory but Kim and Callaghan are better. Strong on the speed of light and why no SUV will ever beat it. Origins of physics envy slightly apparent.

Being Prez - The Life of Lester Young... David Gell. Far from the first but strong musical analysis and no pseudo white man's status seeking through fake "apologies". Contrast between musical and sonic authority versus insecurity is staggering.

Staying On - Paul Scott - death of colonialism by 1,000 cuts seen from an Indian minion's perspective. The long march into oblivion with nowhere to go back to. Something of an OE from the British end that wound up in a stranding.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Conan Doyle.... repeat read of one volume per year (4 Akl - Dud returns by Air NZ). This year.... how Conan Doyle makes induction meet deduction. Unbeatable logic and yet the guy became a spiritualist in later life.

Bird: The Life and Music of Charlie Parker - Chuck Haddix. Strong on the context of American life in which Bird featured. What Kansas City was about during prohibition - instructive on what such regulation does. Mayor Prendergast etc. Territory bands - and other bygones.

Eminent Hipsters - Donald Fagan. My Old School and other real stories from the Steely master...terrifyingly easy to identify with. Suburbs growing up in 50s, 60s, 70s. Surprising parallels with (my / our I suppose) NZ child, teen aspirations. Less obscure than most SD lyrics.

Antifragile - Nassim N Taleb. Strong summary from "Fooled by Randomness” to now (via Black Swans). Powerful concepts. Some irritating condescension but never a problem. His unique mixture of psychology and statistics which falls just this side of smart ass but close enough to challenge and inspire.

The Success Equation – Michael Mauboussin. Knowing which outcomes are determined systematically versus randomly is a critical skill. It is not easy. The notion that there is “a reason for everything” is wrong and dangerous. Mauboussin is amongst the very best in this space (and other investment areas) Anything he writes pays dividends when read.

How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes - Maria Kornikova. Cognitive behavioural processes in "that" framework. Clever and not forced at all. Watson gets thumped - and he is us. Links strongly (and deliberately) to Kahneman (above) and the guys in the band.

What it Takes - Charles Ellis..... what makes successful consulting, law, investment, healthcare enterprises fly by the guy who wrote "Winning The Losers Game". Not another business war story - Ellis is healthily cynical.... mixes the madness with the achievement. Vital for anyone with work life balance... lose it and succeed.

Hornet’s Sting – Derek Robinson. Class war through aerial war and Etonian madness with boys toys in WW 1. Very strong writing over a credibly spun anti-hero theme that spins into broader points beyond war. Also humorous in an Adderian fashion.