Assorted links III

  1. The Alsup Aftermath

    A few weeks ago, I had an unusual — and challenging — assignment: providing a one-hour “tutorial” on the basic science of human-induced climate change to a Federal District Court in San Francisco. Judge William Alsup had requested this tutorial to bring him up to speed on the fundamental science before proceedings begin in earnest in a case brought by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland, on behalf of the people of California, against a group of major fossil fuel companies, addressing the costs of climate change caused, they argue, by products those companies have sold.

    The most interesting part for me was learning that the basic story I’d heard about the greenhouse effect is so simplified as to be basically wrong. The actual mechanism of warming is examined in more detail here.

  2. Mental Health

    “[M]ental and substance use disorders account for around 7 percent of global disease burden in 2016, but this reaches up to 13-14 percent in several countries.”

  3. Basic income and a public job offer: complementary policies to reduce poverty and unemployment

    The paper’s a bit meandering, but I think the core idea—that a universal basic income and a job guarantee aren’t mutually exclusive or even particularly competitive—is valuable and true. The most import sources of conflict are probably finite supplies of political capital and the enormous complexity of implementing one of these policies, yet alone two.

  4. Earmarks: Better Government through Honest Graft

    Related to the early post here on the tyranny of the majority.

    Under simple majority rule, a largely indifferent majority can approve a result that is intensely opposed by everyone in the minority. If out-and-out bribery were permitted, it would be relatively easy for the minority to bribe the majority faction to defeat the hated policy, and, since the minority does really hate the original proposal, both they and the majority would be, on balance, better off in the post-bribe situation. The original result of majority rule was not Pareto optimal. It was economically inefficient.

    In the real world, it is not necessary to buy votes, either of individual voters or their representatives. What we actually see as a part of normal democratic practice is a process of vote trading, sometimes called “logrolling.” Voter 1 cares deeply about issue A but not about issue B. It is then rational for voter 1 to trade his vote on B for voter 2’s vote on A. As a result, everyone is better off. Dennis Mueller, Geoffrey Philpotts, and Jaroslav Vanek demonstrated in a 1972 paper in Public Choice that the analogy between the efficiency of ordinary markets and the efficiency of vote trading in the political sphere is almost perfect.1 In nearly all cases, a system of logrolling will take a society to a state very close to Pareto optimality.Earmarks are merely a special case of logrolling. They enable political minorities (even a minority of one) to have an impact on policy, despite an apathetic or even hostile majority.
  5. Why is the replication crisis centered on social psychology?

    Interestingly, most of the reasons advanced here aren’t about social psychology being ‘worse’ than other fields (e.g. more corrupt, less competent) but ‘better’ (e.g. more open with data, replications are easier). The one explanation offered contrary to that pattern is “psychology studies often (not always, but often) feature weak theory + weak measurement”.