Monthly Archive for June, 2008

Information and Learning in Markets

I’ve got my hands on a copy of Xavier Vives‘ new book, “Information and Learning in Markets.”  It’s a graduate-level textbook on mechanisms for information aggregation and I have to admit – my inner nerd is pretty excited at the prospect of not understanding most of it.


Dear Michael Medved (who wrote the article and who graduated from Yale) and Professor Greg Mankiw (who linked to the article and teaches at Harvard),

I’m willing to accept that Michael’s argument represents some of the reason why Harvard and Yale graduates represent such a large fraction of presidential candidates if you are willing to accept that it is almost certainly a minor reason.

Ignoring your implied put-down of all of the other top-ranked universities in the United States, not to mention the still-excellent-but-not-Ivy-League institutions, the first thing that leaps to mind is the idea of (shock!) a third event that causally influences both Yale/Harvard attendance and entry into politics.

Perhaps the wealth of a child’s family is a good predictor of both whether that child will get into Harvard/Yale and also of whether they get into the “worth considering” pool of presidential candidates?

Perhaps there are some politics-specific network effects, with attendance at your esteemed universities being simply an opportunity to meet the parents of co-students?

Perhaps students who attend Harvard/Yale are self-selecting, with students interested in a career in politics being overly represented in your universities’ applicant pools?

Perhaps the geography matters, with universities located in the North East of the United States being over-represented in federal politics even after allowing for the above?

For the benefit of readers, here is the relevant section of the article:

What’s the explanation for this extraordinary situation – with Yale/Harvard degree-holders making up less than two-tenths of 1% of the national population, but winning more than 83% of recent presidential nominations?…

Today, the most prestigious degrees don’t so much guarantee success in adulthood as they confirm success in childhood and adolescence. That piece of parchment from New Haven or Cambridge doesn’t guarantee you’ve received a spectacular education, but it does indicate that you’ve competed with single-minded effectiveness in the first 20 years of life.

And the winners of that daunting battle – the driven, ferociously focused kids willing to expend the energy and make the sacrifices to conquer our most exclusive universities – are among those most likely to enjoy similar success in the even more fiercely fought free-for-all of presidential politics.

Needing a visa to visit America

Australia, like most of Western Europe and a few other countries, is on America’s “visa waiver” programme, which lets people travel to the USA for up to 90 days at a time without first applying for a visa, although the US can still deny entry to anybody that doesn’t answer the immigration official’s questions to their satisfaction.

By comparison, Australia requires that all visitors from everywhere except New Zealand have a visa. It’s a staggeringly simple and not overly expensive process that can happen online, but it’s a visa-requirement nonetheless.

It looks like the US is moving to an Australian-style system. They’re still calling it a “visa waiver,” but the requirement that I register before entering the US and that they reserve the right to deny my registration seems a lot like a visa to me. From the article:

Passengers travelling to the United States from countries whose citizens do not need visas must register online with the US government at least 72 hours before departure [from January 2009]

Although the new rule requires 72 hours advance registration, it will be valid for multiple entries over a two-year period. The rule will only apply to citizens of the 27 visa waiver programme countries

A Homeland Security official said the new measure would require the same information that passengers now have to include on the I-94 immigration form they must fill out before entering the US. He said Australia has been using a similar system for several years.

Presumably this means that the US will be more likely to start adding the newer members of the EU to the “visa waiver” programme.

Where is Obama’s big speech on sexism?

I can’t write much at the moment – exams – but it just occurred to me to ask:  Where is Obama’s big speech on sexism?

Why didn’t he give a month ago?  In particular, why didn’t he give it before the DNC made their decision on Florida and Michigan?  Giving it after Hillary bows out will look like what it will be – a naked political attempt to convince her most ardent supporters to turn up on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November.  If he’d given it two months ago, it would have had at least a chance of being seen as an honest, even gracious attempt to reach out to the Hillary-voters and convince them that he believes in fighting all forms of bigotry.