Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Political Institutions, Economic Liberty, and the Great Divergence

Political Institutions, Economic Liberty, and the Great Divergence. Gary Cox. Journal of Economic History, September 2017, Pages 724-755,

Abstract: I argue that Europe's political fragmentation interacted with her political innovations — self-governing cities and national parliaments — to facilitate “economic liberty,” which in turn unleashed faster and more inter-connected urban growth. Examining urban growth over the period 600–1800 ce throughout Eurasia, I show that inter-city growth correlations were positive and significant only in Western Europe after 1200 ce. Within Western Europe, I show that growth correlations were greatest in the most fragmented and parliamentary areas, individual cities became significantly more tied to urban growth when their realms became parliamentary, and spillover effects (due to competition between rulers) were significant.

Why Did Drug Cartels Go to War in Mexico? Subnational Party Alternation, the Breakdown of Criminal Protection, and the Onset of Large-Scale Violence

Why Did Drug Cartels Go to War in Mexico? Subnational Party Alternation, the Breakdown of Criminal Protection, and the Onset of Large-Scale Violence. Guillermo Trejo and Sandra Ley. Comparative Political Studies,

Abstract: This article explains why Mexican drug cartels went to war in the 1990s, when the federal government was not pursuing a major antidrug campaign. We argue that political alternation and the rotation of parties in state gubernatorial power undermined the informal networks of protection that had facilitated the cartels’ operations under one-party rule. Without protection, cartels created their own private militias to defend themselves from rival groups and from incoming opposition authorities. After securing their turf, they used these militias to conquer rival territory. Drawing on an original database of intercartel murders, 1995 to 2006, we show that the spread of opposition gubernatorial victories was strongly associated with intercartel violence. Based on in-depth interviews with opposition governors, we show that by simply removing top- and midlevel officials from the state attorney’s office and the judicial police — the institutions where protection was forged — incoming governors unwittingly triggered the outbreak of intercartel wars.

High sex ratios in rural China: declining well-being with age in never-married men

High sex ratios in rural China: declining well-being with age in never-married men. Zhou X, and Hesketh T. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2017 Sep 19;372(1729). pii: 20160324. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2016.0324.

Abstract: In parts of rural China male-biased sex ratios at birth, combined with out-migration of women, have led to highly male-biased adult sex ratios, resulting in large numbers of men being unable to marry, in a culture where marriage and reproduction are an expectation. The aim of this study was to test the hypotheses that older unmarried men are more predisposed to depression, low self-esteem and aggression than both those who are married, and those who are younger and unmarried. Self-completion questionnaires were administered among men aged 20-40 in 48 villages in rural Guizhou province, southwestern China. Tools used included the Beck Depression Inventory, the Rosenberg's Self-esteem Scale and the Bryant-Smith Aggression Questionnaire. Regression models assessed psychological wellbeing while adjusting for socio-demographic variables. Completed questionnaires were obtained from 957 never-married men, 535 married men aged 30-40, 394 partnered men and 382 unpartnered men aged 20-29. After adjusting for socio-demographic variables, never-married men were more predisposed to depression (p < 0.05), aggression (p < 0.01), low self-esteem (p < 0.05) and suicidal tendencies (p < 0.001). All the psychological measures deteriorated with age in never-married men. In contrast, married men remained stable on these dimensions with age. Never-married men are a psychologically highly vulnerable group in a society where marriage is an expectation. Since the highest birth sex-ratio cohorts have not yet reached reproductive age, the social tragedy of these men will last for at least another generation.

Modern Clinical Research on LSD

Modern Clinical Research on LSD. Matthias E Liechti. Neuropsychopharmacology (2017) 42, 2114–2127; doi:10.1038/npp.2017.86

Abstract: All modern clinical studies using the classic hallucinogen lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) in healthy subjects or patients in the last 25 years are reviewed herein. There were five recent studies in healthy participants and one in patients. In a controlled setting, LSD acutely induced bliss, audiovisual synesthesia, altered meaning of perceptions, derealization, depersonalization, and mystical experiences. These subjective effects of LSD were mediated by the 5-HT2A receptor. LSD increased feelings of closeness to others, openness, trust, and suggestibility. LSD impaired the recognition of sad and fearful faces, reduced left amygdala reactivity to fearful faces, and enhanced emotional empathy. LSD increased the emotional response to music and the meaning of music. LSD acutely produced deficits in sensorimotor gating, similar to observations in schizophrenia. LSD had weak autonomic stimulant effects and elevated plasma cortisol, prolactin, and oxytocin levels. Resting-state functional magnetic resonance studies showed that LSD acutely reduced the integrity of functional brain networks and increased connectivity between networks that normally are more dissociated. LSD increased functional thalamocortical connectivity and functional connectivity of the primary visual cortex with other brain areas. The latter effect was correlated with subjective hallucinations. LSD acutely induced global increases in brain entropy that were associated with greater trait openness 14 days later. In patients with anxiety associated with life-threatening disease, anxiety was reduced for 2 months after two doses of LSD. In medical settings, no complications of LSD administration were observed. These data should contribute to further investigations of the therapeutic potential of LSD in psychiatry.

Self-Consciousness or Misattribution Effect in the Induced Hypocrisy Paradigm?

Self-Consciousness or Misattribution Effect in the Induced Hypocrisy Paradigm? Mirror, Mirror on the Wall… Audrey Pelt, and Valérie Fointiat. Psychological Reports,

Abstract: In a forced compliance situation, Scheier and Carver have shown that making high private self-consciousness salient through exposure to a mirror inhibits the arousal of dissonance and the subsequent attitude change. Based on these results, the aim of our study is to examine an alternate theoretical interpretation of the absence of attitude change. From our point of view, the mirror could have the status of a misattribution cue, thus maintaining the arousal. To test this hypothesis within the induced hypocrisy paradigm, participants first completed the private self-consciousness scale. Then they took part in one of the following conditions: (1) no mirror/no hypocrisy, (2) no mirror/hypocrisy, and (3) mirror/hypocrisy. Behavioral change and psychological discomfort were measured. Results indicated that participants in the mirror/hypocrisy condition were the most inclined to change and reported the greatest psychological discomfort. These results revealed that participants experienced dissonance when exposed to the mirror and support the hypothesis of misattribution.

Misattribution of musical arousal increases sexual attraction towards opposite-sex faces in females

Misattribution of musical arousal increases sexual attraction towards opposite-sex faces in females. Manuela M. Marin et al. PLOS One,

Abstract: Several theories about the origins of music have emphasized its biological and social functions, including in courtship. Music may act as a courtship display due to its capacity to vary in complexity and emotional content. Support for music’s reproductive function comes from the recent finding that only women in the fertile phase of the reproductive cycle prefer composers of complex melodies to composers of simple ones as short-term sexual partners, which is also in line with the ovulatory shift hypothesis. However, the precise mechanisms by which music may influence sexual attraction are unknown, specifically how music may interact with visual attractiveness cues and affect perception and behaviour in both genders. Using a crossmodal priming paradigm, we examined whether listening to music influences ratings of facial attractiveness and dating desirability of opposite-sex faces. We also tested whether misattribution of arousal or pleasantness underlies these effects, and explored whether sex differences and menstrual cycle phase may be moderators. Our sample comprised 64 women in the fertile or infertile phase (no hormonal contraception use) and 32 men, carefully matched for mood, relationship status, and musical preferences. Musical primes (25 s) varied in arousal and pleasantness, and targets were photos of faces with neutral expressions (2 s). Group-wise analyses indicated that women, but not men, gave significantly higher ratings of facial attractiveness and dating desirability after having listened to music than in the silent control condition. High-arousing, complex music yielded the largest effects, suggesting that music may affect human courtship behaviour through induced arousal, which calls for further studies on the mechanisms by which music affects sexual attraction in real-life social contexts.

Overhearing the suggestion that the sheriff had caught the guy significantly increased false identifications

Eisen, M. L., Skerrit-Perta, A., Jones, J. M., Owen, J., and Cedré, G. C. (2017) Pre-admonition Suggestion in Live Showups: When Witnesses Learn that the Cops Caught ‘the’ Guy. Appl. Cognit. Psychol., doi: 10.1002/acp.3349

Abstract: Participants (N = 189) witnessed the theft of a computer and were immersed into what they were led to believe was an actual police investigation that culminated in a live showup. After the crime, an officer responded to the scene to take witness statements. Minutes after his arrival, the officer received a radio dispatch that could be heard clearly by the witnesses. The dispatch either stated that the Sherriff had ‘…caught the guy…’ or ‘…detained a suspect who matched the thief's description…’ and instructed the officer to bring the witnesses to identify the suspect. The witnesses then met with two deputies who conducted a live showup with an innocent suspect or the actual culprit. Choosers were more confident than rejecters across all conditions. Also, overhearing the suggestion that the sheriff had caught the guy significantly increased false identifications, and boosted witness confidence in these errors, but did not affect accurate suspect identifications.

A female Viking warrior confirmed by genomics

Hedenstierna-Jonson C, Kjellström A, Zachrisson T, et al. A female Viking warrior confirmed by genomics. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 2017;00:1–8.


Objectives: The objective of this study has been to confirm the sex and the affinity of an individual buried in a well-furnished warrior grave (Bj 581) in the Viking Age town of Birka, Sweden. Previously, based on the material and historical records, the male sex has been associated with the gender of the warrior and such was the case with Bj 581. An earlier osteological classification of the individual as female was considered controversial in a historical and archaeological context. A genomic confirmation of the biological sex of the individual was considered necessary to solve the issue.

Materials and methods: Genome-wide sequence data was generated in order to confirm the biological sex, to support skeletal integrity, and to investigate the genetic relationship of the individual to ancient individuals as well as modern-day groups. Additionally, a strontium isotope analysis was conducted to highlight the mobility of the individual.

Results: The genomic results revealed the lack of a Y-chromosome and thus a female biological sex, and the mtDNA analyses support a single-individual origin of sampled elements. The genetic affinity is close to present-day North Europeans, and within Sweden to the southern and south-central region. Nevertheless, the Sr values are not conclusive as to whether she was of local or nonlocal origin.

Discussion: The identification of a female Viking warrior provides a unique insight into the Viking society, social constructions, and exceptions to the norm in the Viking time-period. The results call for caution against generalizations regarding social orders in past societies.

My comment: This is a first... Until now, female warriors were, we think, archers mounting horses.

Enjoying the Quiet Life: Corporate Decision-Making by Entrenched Managers

Enjoying the Quiet Life: Corporate Decision-Making by Entrenched Managers. Naoshi Ikeda, Kotaro Inoue, and Sho Watanabe. NBER Working Paper No. 23804, doi 10.3386/w23804

Abstract: In this study, we empirically test “quiet life hypothesis,” which predicts that managers who are subject to weak monitoring from the shareholders avoid making difficult decisions such as risky investment and business restructuring with Japanese firm data. We employ cross-shareholder and stable shareholder ownership as the proxy variables of the strength of a manager’s defense against market disciplinary power. We examine the effect of the proxy variables on manager-enacted corporate behaviors and the results indicate that entrenched managers who are insulated from disciplinary power of stock market avoid making difficult decisions such as large investments and business restructures. However, when managers are closely monitored by institutional investors and independent directors, they tend to be active in making difficult decisions. Taken together, our results are consistent with managerial quiet life hypothesis.

My comment: We all try to work less, and we all are risk-averse...

Using Tax Data to Measure Long-Term Trends in U.S. Income Inequality

Using Tax Data to Measure Long-Term Trends in U.S. Income Inequality. Gerald Auten and David Splinter. Draft Paper, Annual Conference, ASSA Annual Meeting, 2017.

Abstract: Previous studies using U.S. tax return data conclude that the top one percent income share
increased substantially since 1960. This study re-estimates the long-term trend in inequality after
accounting for changes in the tax base, income sources missing from individual tax returns and
changes in marriage rates. This more consistent estimate suggests that top one percent income
shares increased by only about a quarter as much as unadjusted shares. Further, accounting for
government transfers suggests that top one percent shares increased a tenth as much. These
results show that unadjusted tax return based measures present a distorted view of inequality
trends, as incomes reported on tax returns are sensitive to changes in tax laws and ignore income
sources outside the individual tax system.

Land-Use Restrictions -- deregulating to 1980 levels would raise labor productivity by about 10 pct, & consumption by about 9 pct

Tarnishing the Golden and Empire States: Land-Use Restrictions and the U.S. Economic Slowdown. Kyle F. Herkenhoff, Lee E. Ohanian, Edward C. Prescott. NBER Working Paper No. 23790,

This paper studies the impact of state-level land-use restrictions on U.S. economic activity, focusing on how these restrictions have depressed macroeconomic activity since 2000. We use a variety of state-level data sources, together with a general equilibrium spatial model of the United States to systematically construct a panel dataset of state-level land-use restrictions between 1950 and 2014. We show that these restrictions have generally tightened over time, particularly in California and New York. We use the model to analyze how these restrictions affect economic activity and the allocation of workers and capital across states. Counterfactual experiments show that deregulating existing urban land from 2014 regulation levels back to 1980 levels would have increased US GDP and productivity roughly to their current trend levels. California, New York, and the Mid-Atlantic region expand the most in these counterfactuals, drawing population out of the South and the Rustbelt. General equilibrium effects, particularly the reallocation of capital across states, accounts for much of these gains.

Knowing this:

"...deregulating [land use in] all of the regions to 1980 levels would raise labor productivity by about 10 percent, and consumption by about 9 percent in the neoclassical economy, and would raise labor productivity by about 16 percent, and consumption by about 11 percent in the economy with the externality."

, we keep shooting ourselves in the foot.