315 (2 May 2018)

Welcome to week 315!  The articles below caught my attention this week.  What are intended to be relatively objective “briefs” are preceded by dashes (——–), whereas additional material or relatively subjective comments are preceded by asterisks (********).  Article titles preceded by [SR] require a subscription to be read in their entirety, although complete articles may be found by an Internet title search.

Please feel free to share this information with others.  If you have questions or comments, please send them my way.

(26 April 2018):A market-design economist wins the John Bates Clark medalThe Economist

——–The John Bates Clark medal is given each year to an outstanding economist under 40.  This year Parag Pathak received the medal for his work on market design, e.g., “creating mechanism to allocate resources without money, such as school places in Boston.”  According to the American Economics Association, Pathak’s work on improving pupil allocation has “influenced the lives of over 1m public school student.”

********As a graduate student, Pathak worked with Alvin Roth, who later won a Nobel Prize for his work on market design.  The complete AEA award announcement for Pathak can be read online.

(29 April 2018):In Fire-Scorched Oklahoma, Help Comes One Bale at a TimeThe New York Times

——–“The hay began arriving before the fires were out.  It came stacked on pickup trucks and strapped onto semis.  From a few counties away.  From halfway across the country.  For ranchers whose grazing land was destroyed by wildfires that tore across western Oklahoma this month, the cylindrical bales were an economic lifeline, a way to feed cattle marooned on grassless patches of charred red soil.  The hay was also free, provided not by lawmakers in Washington or Oklahoma City, but mostly by strangers in other corners of rural America.”

********This is one of the most thought-provoking articles I’ve read in a while.  Some of those donating hay did so because they had recently suffered the ravages of a wildfire, I suppose it is one variation of the expression “giving back” that is frequently heard, a sort of “do unto others as others have done unto me.”  The views expressed about asking and not asking for help are interesting, as is the importance of giving help without being asked.  All these point to deep-rooted attitudes formed by social and historical factors that affect what people do in times of crisis.  Most of all, though, I have been challenged to think of the role of time in relation to loss.  People who suffered loss long ago are not as likely to be the recipients of generosity as those who just incurred it.  It is as if some type of “discounting” of suffering is at work.  Although discounting is generally seen as a matter of time, no doubt there is “spatial discounting” also at work.  Spatial discounting, it turns out, is of increasing importance in public and environmental policy.

(2 May 2018):The World’s Largest Brewers Have a New Weapon: Weak BeerBloomberg.com

——–“To boost sales in Australia, a land where the ability to drink large quantities of ale can be a badge of honor, brewing giants Anheuser-Busch InBev NV and Kirin Holdings Co. think they’ve found a new weapon: weaker beer. . . . a new era of healthier, image-conscious drinkers is cutting back on booze, forcing brewers to roll out weaker versions of everything from Stella Artois to local tipples such as James Boag and Hahn.”  According to global drinks analyst Jonny Forsyth of Mintel Group Ltd., “The mentality now is not to get drunk, but to drink.”  He notes that social media has played a role in this shift to weaker brews.  “Younger consumers weaned on smartphones are becoming wary of having embarrassing drunken photos of themselves appear on Instagram or of not looking their absolute best of Facebook the next day.”  This is not only an Australian trend, as “Around the world, brewers are turning to lighter liquids as beer consumption falls.”

********The expression “session beer” comes to mind, something I first read about some years ago in an article by former Asheville Citizen Times reporter Tony Kiss, aka, The Beer Guy.  Perhaps Tony was ahead of his time.  Evidently the so-called “midstrength segment” is expected to help “draw more young women to beer as well as bring back older drinkers who’d become fed up with the physical effects of full-strength ale.”  As Forsyth says, “That’s the way the market’s going.”  In craft beer, too, there is an increasing demand for “lighter and healthier drinks.”  It will be interesting to see if this shows up in Asheville . . . How could it not?

********Just as a note, Bloomberg.com is changing.  It now has a different appearance and more written content, and it is introducing a metered paywall.  Now one “can view 10 articles each month at no charge, as well as 30 minutes of Bloomberg TV livestream daily.  After 10 articles, we [Bloomberg] will ask you to become a digital subscriber.”  I do not welcome this development, but I can understand it.  In this form Bloomberg begins to be a closer substitute for The Wall Street Journal.  Something I will consider in the year to come.

May you have a good week!  Bruce

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