Entries by jamesz

Evidence-based economics

Charles Lambdin doesn’t think this book is right to reject evidence-based medicine. Lambdin thinks the best way to approach medicine is to treat it as a science and apply scientific methods. Where empirical research suggests that a particular treatment is appropriate then it should be used, not modified or discarded according to an individual doctor’s […]


Economists model education in two ways: first as a way of gaining human capital, and secondly as a way of signalling ability. Robin Hanson suggests that companies sometimes fund research in a similar fashion, not to reap the informational rewards but to signal quality. The idea of doing research to signal ability immediately made me […]

Why is torture such a dirty word?

I’ve been intrigued by the recent posts at Overcoming Bias on the topic of torture. The proposal is that torture could replace imprisonment for many offences. While my initial response was repugnance at the idea, that may reveal my biased perspective of imprisonment. As James Miller points out …both prison and torture impose costs on […]

The new SAP in Iraq

A commenter on the ‘Democracy and Growth’ post below said that he didn’t think “…growth was ever a putative justification for the invasion of Iraq”. While that may be the case, it didn’t stop the US from using post-war Iraq as a playground for a few ideologically driven economists. Using a regime that reminds one […]

Democracy and growth

One of my favourite development economists, Daron Acemoglu, has a new paper out. Acemoglu is generally of the view that a country’s level of wealth can be traced back to the country’s institutional development. In a fascinating earlier paper he argued that the institutions set up by European colonists are a major predictor of the […]

Econometricians will rule the world eventually

It sometimes seems that more interesting economic research is done by econometricians than theoreticians, these days. The way to make your name now is to have a knack for finding inventive experimental designs. Here is an interesting paper about the effect of cellphone use on car-crash rates. It uses the discontinuity in cellphone usage rates […]