Interesting article from The Economist on debates about economic models and theories. The author notes a return to evolutionary economics compared to the neoclassical approach built around equilibrium models.

Rich Mogull writes at TidBITS (a blog focusing on Apple products and technologies) about Apple’s latest Platform Security user guide. He notes how the emphasis for increasing security is on vertical integration, which he defines as “the combination of hardware, software, and cloud-based services to build a comprehensive ecosystem.” This of course has other effects which he notes:

But with great power comes great lock-in. Relying on a particular vendor’s cloud service means that if the service goes down or the vendor decides to discontinue the service, you are the proud owner of a useless hunk of plastic and electronic components. While Apple isn’t going out of business anytime soon, we saw issues earlier this year when the company’s certificate server was overwhelmed and responded slowly to integrity checks, preventing some users from being able to launch apps.

Read the full article here.

Ben Thomas on writes why he considers Tesla a “meme company”:

It turned out, though, that TSLA was itself a meme, one about a car company, but also sustainability, and most of all, about Elon Musk himself. Issuing more stock was not diluting existing shareholders; it was extending the opportunity to propagate the TSLA meme to that many more people, and while Musk’s haters multiplied, so did his fans. The Internet, after all, is about abundance, not scarcity. The end result is that instead of infrastructure leading to a movement, a movement, via the stock market, funded the building out of infrastructure.

This article from The Financial Times titled “What the South Sea Company can teach us” explores the history book “Money For Nothing” by Thomas Levenson on The South Sea Bubble. From the following quote from the article, it seems that Levenson combines interesting perspectives on the history of science and economics:

What differentiates Levenson’s account from the many earlier ones is his background as a science writer and academic at MIT. His broad thesis is that by the turn of the 18th century the power of mathematics and habits of observation associated with the scientific revolution created new ways to think about the future. In effect, the likes of Newton and Edmond Halley, the astronomer, developed a formal framework for thinking about money, risk and uncertainty, which came to full fruition in the financial engineering that characterised the bubble year of 1720.

Helen Lewis writes at The Atlantic magazine about how “Pandemics affect men and women differently”.

The coronavirus crisis will be global and long-lasting, economic as well as medical. However, it also offers an opportunity. This could be the first outbreak where gender and sex differences are recorded, and taken into account by researchers and policy makers. For too long, politicians have assumed that child care and elderly care can be “soaked up” by private citizens—mostly women—effectively providing a huge subsidy to the paid economy. This pandemic should remind us of the true scale of that distortion.

A quote from the Freakonomics podcast “How the Supermarket Helped America Win the Cold War”:

[Peter Timmer]: I used to ask my class, I’m talking 1985, “Where is the world’s largest supercomputer?” And the correct answer was, “It’s at the Pentagon.” Okay. “Where is the world’s second largest supercomputer?” Bentonville, Ark. Home of Walmart. They used that computer to track every single item on every single Walmart shelf. That information technology is what revolutionized food marketing. And it was pretty much invented by Walmart.

The episode is terrific if you are interested in the history of food production, the creation of supermarkets and the use of science and technology to create an abundance of food.

Fareed Zakaria in an article from Foreign Policy on “The End of Economics”:

Let me be clear: Economics remains a vital discipline, one of the most powerful ways we have to understand the world. Economics remains a vital discipline, one of the most powerful ways we have to understand the world.But in the heady days of post-Cold War globalization, when the world seemed to be dominated by markets and trade and wealth creation, it became the dominant discipline, the key to understanding modern life. That economics has since slipped from that pedestal is simply a testament to the fact that the world is messy. The social sciences differ from the hard sciences because “the subjects of our study think,” said Herbert Simon, one of the few scholars who excelled in both. As we try to understand the world of the next three decades, we will desperately need economics but also political science, sociology, psychology, and perhaps even literature and philosophy. Students of each should retain some element of humility. As Immanuel Kant said, “Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.”

As an author from Wired tried to sell his personal data and found out it isn’t worth much, some economists made the following valid remark.

Yet data can be worth a good deal in the aggregate — just ask some of the major tech companies. The economics here are a bit like the economics of voting. If it were legal, and you tried to sell your vote and your vote alone, you might not get much more than 0.3 cents. That vote is unlikely to prove decisive. Yet average and marginal value do not coincide. If someone could buy a whole block of votes, which in turn could swing an election, the price could be much higher.

An interesting interview with Professor Mark Blyth on the “crisis of globalisation”. His view on commodification of our personal data seems a bit unsophisticated though: how would we actually be able to put a price on the use of our data, and wouldn’t this still leave all the power with the big companies to buy them off from us? But I agree that there is a general problem in governance.

[…] get people to individually license the use of their data to these firms. We auction off the digital spectrum to telephone companies. Why don’t we auction off our personal data? Basically give the data on a ten-year lease that’s revocable.

Another interesting point he made is about global international labour and its effect on wage inequality:

[…] labour’s ability to command its share of the surplus declines to zero. The strike becomes a meaningless weapon. Strikes decline to function—like to zero—in the western world. And you get prolonged wage stagnation, because essentially all the surplus goes to capital. There’s no reason for it not to. So labour’s ability to push up wages goes to zero.

Universal basic income would just do more harm I think and I also think this alternative of Universal Basic Services is what we really need:"Access to sufficient services to enable universal safety, opportunity and participation". Learn more about it here.