313 (18 April 2018)

[The Invisible Forces Weekly: Economics with a Broader View] 313 (18 April 2018)

Welcome to week 313!  After a one-year sabbatical from TIF Weekly, I am looking forward to the discipline of summarizing and expanding upon online articles that catch my attention each week.  Thank you for joining me on the journey.

The setup of TIF Weekly will largely remain the same.  What are intended to be relatively objective “briefs” are preceded by dashes (——-), whereas additional material or relatively subjective comments are preceded by asterisks (*******).  The links to articles preceded by [SR] require a subscription to be read in their entirety, although complete articles may be found by an Internet title search.

In the past I have made visible the links for each article, but I will no longer follow this practice, using “invisible” links instead.  This will result in posts that are neater and more compact.

(12 April 2018):Why undertakers are worried

——-“Every minute more than 100 people die.  Most of these deaths bring not just grief to some, but also profits to others.”  As population aging takes place in the United States and many other countries of the developed world, annual death rates will climb, thus making the death business more attractive to a wide range of investors.  “The dead-body business is seen as highly predictable, uncorrelated with other industries, inflation-linked, low risk and high margin.”  But “in some of the world a profound shift is under way in what people want from funerals.”  According to Sherri Tovell, a Windsor, Canada undertaker, “the modern undertaker’s job is increasingly one of event planning.”

*******The article clearly lays out the wide range of developments taking place in the funeral industry and why an increase in the death rate may not result in increased revenues for members of the National Funeral Director Association.  Simply put, a wide range of substitutes for traditional funerals have been developed and are increasingly being purchased by the bereaved.

(13 April 2018):Climate Change Is Messing With Your Dinner

——-“The world’s dinner tables are seeing the impact of climate change.  As cold regions become warmer, and warm places hotter still, farming and fishing are shifting.  An evolving climate means big changes for people who grow, catch and rear for a living, and everyone else who buys and eats what they produce.”  Through it all, there are winners and losers.  “As temperatures rise, the best growing conditions for many crops are moving away froom the tropics, and from lower lying land to cooler climbs.  Fish and other underwater catches, too, are migrating to colder seas as their habitats warm.”

*******This article examines the impact of climate change on a small number of objects of human desire, for example, wheat, wine, coffee, lobster, and the like, as well as the predictable impacts on price, lower prices when supply increases and higher prices when it falls.  In addition, it says a little bit about the people who will be impacted by climate change; people in tropical and equatorial regions seem to be in for the worst of it.  What is especially useful, though, is its effort to say something about how quality will be affected by climate change.  This is done most notably for the nutrient levels of rice, wheat, and corn, which have been shown to have lower amounts iron, protein and zinc when CO2 levels increase.

*******The methods used to arrive at predictions are multiple, but one that is increasingly being used due to rapid growth of computational power is agent-based modeling.  There is a nice discussion of it in an article in Science, “Free agents.”  Investing ten minutes reading the article will give you a sense of the promise and the substantial development costs of modeling social behavior “from the bottom up.”  The Santa Fe Institute now offers a free tutorial on agent based modeling, using the NetLogo programming language as its vehicle.  You can learn more about it here.

(17 April 2018):2018 Pulitzer Prize Winners: Full List

——-The 2018 prizes “encompassed, among other topics, stories of abuse in the workplace; construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall; and a profile of Dylann Roof, who was charged with killing several people in a Charleston, S.C., church.”  For Local Reporting, the staff of “The Cincinnati Enquirer” won for its “multimedia narrative of seven days inside the city’s heroin epidemic, a period in which 18 people died and at least 180 overdoses were reported across the area.”

*******The Pulitzer Prize was first awarded in 1917 and has undergone changes over time due to the “flexible will” of Joseph Pulitzer.  It is instructive too look through the list and see the variety of topics (and papers) that were thought to be Pulitzer worthy.  A look through the list will surface work that encompass all of the invisible forces: hand, handshake, and foot.  The work of “The Cincinnati Enquirer” is an exceptionally clear case.  The book by Jack E. Davis, The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea, sounds intriguing.  The Gulf referred to, by the way, is the Gulf of Mexico.  Evidently, the book by Davis is the first “comprehensive history” of “the world’s tenth-largest body of water.”  Another book that bears notice is Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America, by James Forman, Jr.

May you have a good week!  Bruce

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