Afternoon Must-Read: Robert E. Rubin, Roger C. Altman and Melissa Kearney: How We Are Making the Poor Poorer Still
Evening Must-Read: Nick Hanauer and Eric Beinhocker: Capitalism Redefined

Things to Read on the Evening of December 12, 2013


  1. Vermont Is Kicking Everyone s Ass at Signing Up People for Obamacare Mother Jones Kevin Drum: Vermont Is Kicking Everyone's A-- at Signing Up People for Obamacare: "The number of people who have completed an application and been confirmed eligible to purchase private insurance via the exchange. They still have the final enrollment step left, but they've obviously navigated everything successfully.... The chart below shows the results for 49 states (there's no data for Massachusetts). States in red are running their own websites. States in blue are using the federal website. Vermont and Kentucky are way ahead of everyone else, and demonstrate how well the Obamacare rollout is doing in places where the website is working and the state government is doing a good job of marketing and operations."

  2. Dani Rodrik: Sub-Saharan Africa's Growth Performance Is Not Sustainable: "The underlying problem is the weakness of these economies’ structural transformation. East Asian countries grew rapidly by replicating, in a much shorter time frame, what today’s advanced countries did following the Industrial Revolution. They turned their farmers into manufacturing workers, diversified their economies, and exported a range of increasingly sophisticated goods. Little of this process is taking place in Africa.... In principle, the region’s potential for labor-intensive industrialization is great. A Chinese shoe manufacturer, for example, pays its Ethiopian workers one-tenth what it pays its workers back home. It can raise Ethiopian workers’ productivity to half or more of Chinese levels through in-house training. The savings in labor costs more than offset other incremental costs of doing business in an African environment, such as poor infrastructure and bureaucratic red tape.But the aggregate numbers tell a worrying story. Fewer than 10% of African workers find jobs in manufacturing.... Sub-Saharan Africa is less industrialized today than it was in the 1980s.... Farmers in Africa are flocking to the cities.... Rural migrants do not end up in modern manufacturing industries, as they did in East Asia, but in services such as retail trade and distribution. Though such services have higher productivity than much of agriculture, they are not technologically dynamic in Africa and have been falling behind the world frontier..."

  3. Nick Hanauer and Eric Beinhocker: Capitalism Redefined: "For everyone but the top 1 percent of earners, the American economy is broken.... Our economic policy discussions are nearly always focused on making us wealthier and on generating the economic growth to accomplish that.... Kuznets and other economists highlighted that GDP was not a measure of prosperity.... Moses Abramovitz cautioned that 'we must be highly skeptical of the view that long-term changes in the rate of growth of welfare can be gauged even roughly from changes in the rate of growth of output.'... Prosperity in a society is the accumulation of solutions to human problems... prosaic, like a crunchier potato chip, to the profound, like cures for deadly diseases. Ultimately, the measure of a society’s wealth is the range of human problems that it has found a way to solve and how available it has made those solutions to its citizens.... This all implies that we must find new ways to measure progress. In the same way that no good doctor would measure the health of a person by just one factor—her temperature, say—the economy shouldn’t be measured with just GDP..."

  4. Adam Ozimek: Tyler Cowen: The Future Of Work (And Life) Is Conscientiousness: "His most recent book Average Is Over. In what is both his most fun and also his scariest book yet, he emphasized conscientiousness will be more important in workers in the future: 'Team production makes the quality of "conscientiousness" a more important quality in laborers. Managers need workers who are reliable. If you have a team of five, one unreliable worker is wrecking the work of four others. If you have a team of twenty-five, one unreliable worker can negate the work effects of twenty-four others. managers will stay away from possibly destructive labor and they will put a lot of care into building and managing their teams.' This came to mind recently while reading an article from Derek Thompson at the Atlantic about the most used words in 259 million LinkedIn profiles in 20 countries. The most common word was 'responsible'.... More surprising is the 5th most common word: 'patient'.... Another word associated with conscientious is the 4th most common: 'effective'.... Like Tyler I’m not necessarily an optimist about all of these changes....If all of this future seems tiring or overbearing perhaps you can take comfort in the idea that behavior modification drugs will make conscientiousness a lot easier for you. My guess is most won’t find this comforting..."


  1. Stacy Dale and Alan B. Krueger (2011): Estimating the Return to College Selectivity over the Career Using Administrative Earning Data: "We... estimate the return to various measures of college selectivity for... those who entered college in 1989. We also estimate the return to college selectivity for the 1976 cohort of students, but over a longer time horizon (from 1983 through 2007) using administrative data. We find that the return to college selectivity is sizeable for both cohorts in regression models that control for variables commonly observed.... However, when we adjust for unobserved student ability by controlling for the average SAT score of the colleges that students applied to, our estimates of the return to college selectivity fall substantially and are generally indistinguishable from zero. There were notable exceptions... Black and Hispanic students and for students who come from less-educated families..."

Should Be Aware of:

  1. Mark A.R. Kleiman: Smart on Crime: "Many progressives not seeking office cling to the views that the politicians have had to abandon: that crime is mostly an imaginary problem, vastly overstated by conservatives to put racial fears in socially acceptable code... that the criminal-justice system functions primarily as an engine of racial and social-class oppression, as evidenced by the huge disproportion between the racial makeup of the prison population and the racial makeup of the country as a whole; and that enforcement should focus on white-collar crime.... Thus the debate over criminal-justice policy often seems to take place between the disciples of Michel Foucault and the disciples of the Marquis de Sade, with the Foucauldians winning the academic debate even as the sadists mostly get their way in the real political world. The resulting policies manage to combine enormous cruelty with unsatisfactory crime-control results: The United States leads the developed world in both homicide and incarceration, and both of those evils land most heavily on poor African Americans. We can and should do better... using punishment intelligently... as sparingly as possible but also as much as necessary..."

Michael Froomkin: Hoovernomics Explains the Economy | Stephanie Kelton: Guest post: The helicopter can drop money, gather bonds or just fly away | Michael Fletcher: Many blacks, Latinos have no retirement savings | Benjamin Harris: The Murray-Ryan Budget Deal and the Slow Death of Public Investment| Tom Scocca: On Smarm | Brian Beutler: Obama’s shutdown critics look like morons after budget deal |

Tom Coburn Endorses Health Care Exchanges | Kim Jong-Un Executes His 'Worse Than a Dog' Uncle In North Korea | My Terrible, Horrible, Frustrating ACA Adventure | **Dan Drezner:** "Doesn't the florid indictment of Jang's various perfidies highlight Kim Jong Un's fallibility in a rather uncharacteristic way?" | **Ed Kilgore:** The Disappearance of Marco Rubio | **Michael Derby:** Fed Scorecard: Where Do Officials Stand on Tapering? |