Weekend reading

Social media is not a good place to lose your cool
  1. Corruption facilitates smuggling rosewood from Madagascar to China 
  2. Can China “police the commons” with top-down, data-driven methods (rather than encouraging bottom up community self-policing?)
  3. China’s “Belt and Road” program is not just about logistics, but collecting a group of countries that is economically indebted and politically subservient. The irony is that China was abused in the same way in the past (Opium wars, etc.) 
  4. These guys are giving a second chance to the people Trump wants to ruin
  5. Cyber warfare inflicts massive collateral damage (an update on my fears)
  6. Great visualization of US/USSR(Russia) arms sales ($ for death) since 1950.
  7. How to be a “good” troublemaker.
  8. A great essay on jobs that are “useful” (creating value) vs jobs that are “bullshit” (transferring value).  Which is yours?
  9. John Oliver does economics proud explaining Trump’ ignorance on trade.
  10. How are we evolving with and changing Nature?

Weekend reading

  1. An appeal to the Dutch to accept migrants, brown, black and white.
  2. How feminism made me a better scientist.
  3. Economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of SF estimate the financial crisis “cost every American $70,000.” This result is based on the permanent loss of production — roughly equivalent to the type of loss from war.
  4. LA’s palm trees are not native. They’re marketing.
  5. A Japanese working class woman writes about her life.
  6. US Wildfires are getting worse, on several dimensions
  7. I used to say that climate change would mean faster atmospheric circulation, as a means of distributing warmer air from the equator to the polls, but faster polar heating means that circulation is slowing down, bringing a different problem of stronger stationary weather. #cantwin!
  8. The US criminal “justice” system is awfully close to a mafia designed to rip off the poor. This article mistakes that system for “neoliberal capitalism” when it’s really just the State taking advantage of its citizens, i.e., corrupt politics.
  9. The legal case against advertising makes similar claims to my social case against it.
  10. Cool shit: Schrodinger’s hula hoop and the ultimate “interactive wall”

Weekend reading

  1. The Street Debater (the “yes-no-on-Brexit”-scale in the photo) gives beggars a way to engage passers-by on topics. Much better than a sign and a hat, and the design is open-source to download.
  2. Dog cloning: rich people and entrepreneur-scientists are pushing technology and ethics to the limit. Human baby cloning? When, not if.
  3. Students from poorer backgrounds can’t just use “grit” to succeed. What they need is agency, which is in short supply in the US.
  4. Americans view “economic health” through the lens of their political affiliation, a tendency that’s common in poorer corrupt countries. Bad sign.
  5. Good competition helps everyone; bad competition harms the powerless.
  6. The end of the liberal order means a return to the power politics, exploitation and conflict of the 19th century, except this time, it may be the (formerly) colonized dealing the pain and taking the gain.
  7. A fascinating discussion of autism between 1.25 autistics.
  8. John Oliver on Astroturfing (i.e., the lie behind “Americans for Prosperity”, “Latinos for water,” et al.) and the identity politics of mayonnaise (!)
  9. The real people of IAmsterdam, a city whose charms continue to seduce me.
  10. Americans “pay” an average of $1,600 per year in “the costs of sprawl.” The  worst offenders are in band from Arizona to Florida. High housing prices in SF and NY may reflect their low “costs of sprawl.”

 

 

 

 

Weekend reading

  1. All too true.
    A useful look into the statistics on cancer and how the “war on cancer” is going…
  2. Great podcast/interview with an economist who writes for The Economist on trade and tariffs. 
  3. Mr Money Mustache explains cost accounting, i.e., why avoiding is better than renting which is better than buying.
  4. China’s ban on “contaminated” recyclables (see my prior post) wrecks ambitious plans of American cities that didn’t count on paying much to recycle.
  5. Some useful insights on improving airline efficiency (I wasn’t so convinced by the big data sales pitch at the end).
  6. Physicists provide insights into GDP growth by ignoring misleading details and sticking with basic theory.
  7. Private entrepreneurs are helping Yemenis get drinking water as their government and public systems fail.
  8. Youval Hariri: “As a species, humans prefer power to truth” so some of us “speak truth to power” people have a hard job…
  9. Residents of Amsterdam’s Red Light District fight for priority over tourism.
  10. Americans view “economic health” through the lens of their political affiliation, a tendency that’s common in poorer corrupt countries. 

H/T to MV

Living with Water Scarcity in Farsi

Iran also faces dehydration problems!

I published Living with Water Scarcity in 2014 and made it free to download shortly thereafter. In 2015, I published  Vivir con la escasez de agua, the Spanish version of the book, which was translated with the aid of volunteers and is also free to download.

Now I am very pleased to announce the Farsi-version of my book [PDF], which was also translated by volunteers. I hope  this version makes my political-economic ideas on water management more accessible to Farsi-speakers in Iran and elsewhere.

For the introduction, I wrote:

Dear Reader,

You are now holding the Farsi translation of my book, Living with Water Scarcity, which contains — I hope — many ideas that may be useful to you and your communities.

I was born and raised in California, an American state whose weather and water patterns sometimes resemble those of Iran. California’s agricultural industry specializes in fruits, vegetables and nuts (almonds and pistachios).

I didn’t know very much about water management in California before studying for my PhD in Agricultural and Resource Economics (University of California Davis, 2002-2008), but I quickly learned that California has many problems. Farmers use 80 percent of the water but they always want more, so they have dried out rivers and emptied aquifers. In cities, there are problems with breaking pipes and poor water quality because too little money is spent on maintenance. Many cities have too little supply for local demand but price their water so cheaply that people waste it. Some cities are spending billions of dollars on desalination plants to get more supply while farmers flood desert fields with water that costs less than one percent of city prices. Politicians and water managers have talked about solutions for decades, but most of their ideas involve taking more water from ecosystems rather than reducing demand to sustainable levels. Climate change (which I call “climate disruption”) is making everything worse.

I’ve never visited Iran, but I have visited many countries in the region, and I am eager to learn more about your people, your land and your culture.

I am also eager to learn more about water in Iran: where it is, how you use it, and how you will live with water scarcity in the next 100 years.

In preparing this introduction, I did a little reading to learn more about water in your country. I already knew about qanats, but I was surprised to read that some of these systems are still working after 2,500 years. Sadly, I also learned that many qanats have fallen into disuse as communities have lost the traditions of collectively maintaining and repairing damage. One reason this has happened, I read, is that it has been easier and cheaper to pump water directly from the ground — a system that seems better in the short run but takes so much water that some land is forever dead.

I also read that farmers use around 90 percent of Iran’s water, with the rest going to municipal and industrial uses. These basic statistics make me wonder: who gets how much of that water? I suspect that larger industrial farms use more water. That’s what happens in California.

Those human uses add up to 100 percent, which makes me wonder how much water is left for the environment? I read that your Lake Urmia [see cover image above] is dying as its water is taken and its rivers dry out. Did you know that California used to have the largest freshwater lake in the western United States? Farmers dried out Tulare Lake with the help of government subsidies and laws that let them take as much as they wanted. Today, those same farmers are using groundwater so fast that their land is dropping by 10cm per year in some areas.

I read that some Iranians think that new dams and longer canals will bring enough water to allow “business as usual” to continue. In my experience those costly solutions don’t help because they increase water stress and risk for communities losing their water without encouraging sustainable use in the places receiving it.

As an economist, I know that my ideas (raise prices to reduce use, for example) are not very popular because nobody likes paying more for anything, but I am sure that you agree that it’s better to pay more to get a reliable supply instead of paying less to get nothing at all. Price increases, of course, have different impacts on rich and poor, so it’s important to try to protect the poor from those increases, just as it’s important to protect them from shortages.

Climate disruption will complicate all water management as it brings higher temperatures, stronger storms, and longer droughts. I moved to the Netherlands because the Dutch are good at managing their abundant water, but we are now struggling with a drought that is killing crops, drying rivers and increasing costs. Even here, it takes work to manage water for the benefit of all, today and in the future.

The bottom line is that increasing water scarcity means that people need to change their laws, habits and institutions of water management. This book will give you some ideas of how to do that.

I hope you enjoy it, and please do contact me (in English) if you have ideas, news or information that will teach me about your unique country. One day, I will visit.

Khoda hafez [Goodbye :)]

David Zetland Amsterdam (25 July 2018)

Weekend reading

  1. China’s Big Brother surveillance has locked down its Uighur people
  2. Some American governments are slowing retreating from the coasts, as climate change makes “rebuild stronger” impossible.
  3. Academic economists are catching on to the idea that people work for reasons besides money. Read this, this and this.
  4. Taking experiments outside the lab and into policy testing
  5. Gender quotas for politicians are strengthening in Latin America. I endorse this policy as a means of improving women’s rights and policy in general.
  6. Climate change’s non-linear impacts: collapsing Australian ecosystems and (holy shit) the misery of whales (and other species) suffering from constant human impacts. 
  7. Sci-hub circumvents paywalls, making academic research available to everyone. Aaron Swartz fought for this.
  8. Institutional innovation under climate change: A global survey of 96 cities
  9. Using blockchain to track and reward farmers for sustainable practices
  10. The Economist goes back to its liberal roots to defend society against the tyranny of the majority. First up: John Stewart Mill, who supported women’s suffrage (etc.) 50 years before it became fact. My favorite is his defense of free trade (and migration): “It is hardly possible to overrate the value, in the present low state of human improvement, of placing human beings in contact with persons dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar.

Weekend reading

Stop plastic pollution (bag deposits will help)
  1. Great TED talk on how fast technology is eliminating any pretense that we will have privacy (e.g., pitching adverts to you with “spokespeople” whose faces are copied from photos of your Facebook friends).
  2. In the 1870s came rail and steamship technology, which brought economic gains (via larger markets) and social oppression (via colonialism).
  3. How Amsterdam’s government doubled down on failed decisions regarding its metro.
  4. The Dutch are dealing with their “9/11” differently. They know the Russians are responsible, but they cannot invade. It will be a patience game.
  5. Russia tried to shut down Telegram and kneecapped itself. (Read this to learn of how little privacy Russians have online: your name and address costs only $0.01.) I use Telegram because I trust its encryption more than I trust WhatsApp (owned by Facebook) with anything. Telegram is a Russian app, btw 😉
  6. Watch this video on the challenges entrepreneurs face in Senegal (typical for developing countries). Want more? Watch Poverty Inc.
  7. Mr Money Mustache explains cost accounting, i.e., why avoid > rent > buy.
  8. Behavioral economics starts to grow up (less hype, more balance)
  9. Work norms in America are killing people.
  10. A very long introduction to the claim (and probably fact) that “Egalitarian cities, even regional confederacies, are historically quite commonplace,” i.e., egalitarian life did not end when hunter gatherers moved to cities.

H/T to CD

Weekend reading

  1. This is indeed what cyber warfare will look like. Stay tuned, but people may not know its happened until years after it’s too late.
  2. Transwomen are to women…” and an economist on how s/he transitioned and knew she “succeeded”: men ignored her ideas.
  3. This Argentinian hitchhiked across 90+ countries to meet people and understand our common humanity.
  4. Alcohol is not good for sleep and melatonin for sleeping.
  5. A math-economist on markets and complexity.
  6. Zuckerberg won’t fire himself on handling the world’s “social network utility.” It would be better if he did and Facebook was reorganized as a non-profit that served its users instead of its advertisers (and Russians).
  7. “The brilliance of the Russian move is to make domestic failure into foreign policy success. No one in Russia thinks that Russia is a success in conventional terms. What their leaders want them to believe is that everyone else is also a failure.
  8. Manipulating Amazon’s book rankings (and revenues), a romance.
  9. Rural Arizona flounders as its farmers pump aquifers dry and residents “cope,” unable to find consensus or pass a law on sustainable use.
  10. The Dutch governing coalition says it “needs 2 years” to write a law for deposits on bottles and cans (as a means of reducing litter), in the meantime “hoping industry can fix this.” What a failure of public service.

H/T to DL

Weekend reading

  1. The Netherlands is in drought >> 
  2. Are Americans buying big houses to show off (and risk) their wealth?
  3. A long but insightful look at US-China relations — and how Trump’s personality is undermining America’s future.
  4. A libertarian leaves China after 9 years. Read this essay on rule of law bureaucratic dictatorship.
  5. A podcast with Richard Thaler, a behavioral economist who was in the lead to push back against the “mathurbation” version of economics that doesn’t work in reality
  6. American intellectuals trying to break out of the D-R axis
  7. A very nice podcast on bringing civility back to American discourse
  8. The academic left that downplayed Cambodia’s genocide
  9. How the Dutch use sand dunes to filter their drinking water
  10. What’s the value of crypto? Read this interview with Vitalik Buterin, creator of the ethereum protocol.

Weekend reading

  1. Gendered path dependency hinders corporate performance
  2. We are moving from “endless” to scarce sand for the same reasons as the increase in scarce water: growing demand and mismanaged supply.
  3. Ex-EPA head Gina McCarthy talks about environmental policy, how the Trump team is doing it wrong, and why America is still in Paris. Watch “Environmental policy and the assault on science” (she starts at 6:45).
  4. A brutal, but fair, critique of a Dutch policy failure (taxes on expats)
  5. This essay on a struggle with student debt is heavy on pathos but not logos, as the author’s debt is the result of “pay whatever it takes for the degree(s) in English literature.” The Baby Boomers found themselves through sex,  drugs and questioning authority; their children are finding themselves indebted to authorities issuing certificates of knowledge.
  6. Melatonin is useful for sleep but don’t overdose.
  7. Speaking of [this blog], here are a few things economists agree on.