Weekly Top 5 Papers – September 10, 2018

1. ‘A Diamond is Forever’ and Other Fairy Tales: The Relationship between Wedding Expenses and Marriage Duration by Andrew Francis-Tan (National University of Singapore (NUS) – Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy)  and Hugo M. Mialon (Emory University – Department of Economics)


2. Liberal Radicalism: Formal Rules for a Society Neutral Among Communities by Vitalik Buterin (Ethereum Foundation), Zoë Hitzig (Harvard University – Department of Economics), and E. Glen Weyl (Microsoft Research New York City)

I see this paper as a set of proposals and a set of invitations.

First and foremost it is a proposal for funding public goods in a way that solves the so-called “free-rider” problem and yet maintains the benefits of decentralized decision-making. We propose a new funding mechanism for public goods, grounded in economic theory, which we call the Liberal Radical (LR) mechanism. Under LR, the funding received for a given public good is the square of the sum of the square roots of the contributions to that good. The paper contains several concrete proposals illustrating how the LR mechanism would work in real-world settings––software development, campaign finance, urban projects, and news media finance––and we outline how LR could change those systems for the better. More broadly, we propose a political philosophy based in LR that might help liberal democracies smooth out the enduring (and heightening) tensions between capitalism and democracy. This broader discussion is timely, as we see the rise of authoritarian populist alternatives to liberal democracy––on both the left and right––as a manifestation of these heightening tensions.

But, the paper is also a collection of invitations. We aimed to appeal to a wide range of readers––economists, political scientists, cryptographers, lawyers, philosophers, urban planners, computer scientists, politicians, artists, designers––in order to invite inclusive collaboration around our ideas, and to invite others in far-reaching communities to put forward their own innovative solutions to local, national, and global problems. We do not think that our proposals are perfect at this stage. In fact, there’s a lot of work left to do. And as such, the paper is an invitation to collaborate, innovate, and iterate on our proposals. It is through comprehensive, wide-ranging collaboration that we will refine our proposals into plans, and eventually animate our plans in a way that changes our social, political and technological systems for the better. –– Zoë Hitzig


3. How a Botched Study Fooled the World About the U.S. Share of Mass Public Shootings: U.S. Rate is Lower than Global Average by John R. Lott (Crime Prevention Research Center)

A paper on mass public shootings by Adam Lankford (2016) has received massive national and international media attention, getting coverage in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, plus hundreds of other news outlets spanning at least 35 different countries. Lankford’s claim was that over the 47 years from 1966 to 2012, an enormous amount of the world’s mass public shooters — 31% — occurred in the United States. Lankford attributed this to America’s gun ownership. Lankford claims to have “complete” data on such shooters in 171 countries.

Lankford’s study reported that from 1966 to 2012, there were 90 public mass shooters in the United States and 202 in the rest of world. However, he has neither identified the cases nor their location nor even a complete description on how he put the cases together. Using his definition, we find that Lankford’s data represent a gross undercount of foreign attacks. Our list contains 1,448 attacks and at the very least 3,081 shooters outside the United States over just the last 15 years of the period that Lankford examined.  We find at least fifteen times more mass public shooters than Lankford in less than a third the number of years. By our count, the US makes up less than 1.43% of the mass public shooters, 2.11% of their murders, and 2.88% of their attacks. All these are much less than the US’s 4.6% share of the world population. — John R. Lott, Jr., PhD.


4. Psychopathy by U.S. State by Ryan Murphy (Southern Methodist University (SMU))


5. A Brief Introduction to the Basics of Game Theory by Matthew O. Jackson (Stanford University – Department of Economics)


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