Correction of the Lines


Jobs guarantees vs. basic income

In a characteristically lengthy and thorough post, SCOTT ALEXANDER of SLATE STAR CODEX argues for a basic income over a jobs guarantee, in dialogue with a post by SIMON SARRIS.

Here’s how Alexander addresses the claim that “studies of UBI haven’t been very good, so we can’t know if it works”:

“If we can’t 100% believe the results of small studies – and I agree that we can’t – our two options are to give up and never do anything that hasn’t already been done, or to occasionally take the leap towards larger studies. I think basic income is promising enough that we need to pursue the second. Sarris has already suggested he won’t trust anything that’s less than permanent and widespread, so let’s do an experiment that’s permanent and widespread.”

Link to the full piece on Slate Star.

For another angle on the same question, MARTIN RAVALLION recently published a paper at the CENTER FOR GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT looking at employment guarantees and income guarantees primarily in India:

“The paper has pointed to evidence for India suggesting that the country’s Employment Guarantee Schemes have been less cost effective in reducing current poverty through the earnings gains to workers than one would expect from even untargeted transfers, as in a UBI. This calculation could switch in favor of workfare schemes if they can produce assets of value (directly or indirectly) to poor people, though the evidence is mixed on this aspect of the schemes so far in India.”

Ravallion takes a nuanced view of arguments for the right to work and the right to income, as well as the constraints of implementation, and concludes, “The key point is that, in some settings, less effort at fine targeting may well prove to be more cost-effective in assuring economic freedom from material deprivation.” Full study available here. ht Sidhya

  • Simon Sarris responds to Alexander in the Slate Star comments: “The point of something like Basic Jobs is that giving people the option, but not the obligation, may result in better outcomes for some people at the margins. It’s not a panacea, it is definitely not a Utopian alternative to the largely Utopian plans of UBI because I do not think any Utopian plan as described is wise. It’s a suggestion of mere incrementalism, something to try on top of the hodge-podge of welfare that currently exists. A splint is safer than a spleen removal, as they say.” Link.
  • The NYTimes on Democrats’ embrace of basic jobs: “Behind the stampede is Democrats’ desire for tangible programs to offer to working-class voters, which they could contrast to Mr. Trump’s racially divisive immigration appeals to white workers.” Link.
  • Ed Glaeser and Larry Summers in the NYTimes on a wage subsidy: “Many economists have argued for a universal basic income or more generous earned-income tax credit. We would support an E.I.T.C. expansion. But the most direct way to encourage work is with a new wage subsidy that benefits workers and encourages companies to replace joblessness with employment.” Link.


A directory of the wide variety of agencies’ adjudication practices

In 2015, the Administrative Conference of the United States, in tandem with Stanford Law School, launched a thorough database of federal agencies’ administrative adjudication procedures. From the contemporaneous press release:

“Administrative proceedings are one of the most common ways in which citizens interact with the United States government. Just one agency, the Social Security Administration, conducted nearly 800,000 such proceedings in fiscal year 2013 alone.

Professor Asimow explained that the new database brings transparency to an area of the law that previously had not been mapped. ‘For example,’ he said, ‘the U.S. currently receives hundreds of thousands of claims from veterans as well as those facing deportation. The Federal Administrative Adjudication database enables individuals filing veterans or immigration claims – or claims with 85 other agencies – to understand who can represent them in these disputes, who determines the outcome and how they can participate fully in the process.'”

The database outlines adjudication practices across 133 agencies, and provides information on caseload statistics, type of adjudicator, cross-examination practices, discovery regulations, and much else.

Link to the database, link to the press announcement, and link to the report published based on the database, written by administrative law expert MICHAEL ASIMOW for the ACUS. 

  • A paper by Asimow from 2015 tackles the wide variety of adjudication procedures across different countries’ administrative regimes: “This Article proposes a methodology for classifying such systems. It identifies four key variables: combined-function agencies or separate tribunals, adversarial or inquisitorial procedure, judicial review that is either open to introduction of new evidence or closed to new evidence, and judicial review by generalized or specialized courts.” Link
  • An interesting 2017 paper by Nestor Davidson in Yale Law Journal addresses another gap in administrative law knowledge: local government agencies. “To read the voluminous literature on administrative law is to inhabit a world focused almost exclusively on federal agencies. This myopic view, however, ignores the wide array of administrative bodies that make and implement policy at the local-government level. The administrative law that emerges from the vast subterranean regulatory state operating within cities, suburbs, towns, and counties has gone largely unexamined.” Link.


  • From co-authors Arindrajit Dube, Jeff Jacobs, Suresh Naidu, Siddharth Suri, a VoxEU column on monopsony in online labor markets. “In many ways, [online labor markets] appear as frictionless settings with a large number of participants, where information about pay is easily observed and costs of switching across tasks seem to be low.… We can benefit from a clear proof that labour market power exists, especially outside of ‘company towns’ or specific, highly concentrated markets.” Link.
  • On state-level policy polarization. “Party control increasingly predicts socioeconomic outcomes in the polarized area of health care, but not in the nonpolarized area of criminal justice.” Link. ht Will
  • A NBER working paper by Alma Cohen and Crystal Yang looks at the sentencing effects of a political judiciary. “Exploiting random case assignment, we find that Republican-appointed judges sentence black defendants to 3.0 more months than similar non-blacks and female defendants to 2.0 fewer months than similar males compared to Democratic-appointed judges, 65 percent of the baseline racial sentence gap and 17 percent of the baseline gender sentence gap, respectively.” Link.
  • A new Data & Society report by Whitney Phillips on media coverage of far-right groups. Link. (And link to coverage in Wired.) 
  • “Moral rhetoric on Twitter may signal whether a protest will turn violent, according to a USC-led study.” Link. h/t   Margarita
  • A great post at the JStor Blog compiles some papers on the effects of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk on survey research practices. Link. One of the highlighted papers examines the representativeness of panels administered through MTurk, as opposed to in-person convenience samples or other Internet alternatives. Link. Another looks at the implications of crowd-sourcing for labor law. Link
  • From the American Association for University Women: a new report on the gender gap in student loan debt. Link
  • 300 years of pro-cyclical regulation, by Jihad C. Dagher of the IMF. “I examine the political economy of financial policy during ten of the most infamous financial booms and busts since the 18th century…. Financial booms—and risk-taking during these episodes—were often amplified by political regulatory stimuli, credit subsidies, and an increasing light-touch approach to financial supervision. Financial crises led to a massive regulatory backlash, which sometimes suffocated finance. The regulatory response can be best understood in the context of the political ramifications of such crises. Link. (And link to the paper under discussion.)
  • A post at EHS The Long Run on pollution and mortality rates in 19th century England. Link
  • On financial regulation and industrial policy in developing economies. “In the Pakistani case, the withdrawal of state control over the financial sector led to a deterioration of outcomes. This resulted in the allocation of credit away from the productive sectors; and in the health of the financial sector not improving as expected, with non‐performing loans and corruption remaining a problem, and banks actually becoming a greater burden on government finances.” Link.
  • Tracking the philanthropic spending on climate change. Link
  • A post at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that adopting a version of the Canadian Childcare Benefit in the United States would cut child poverty by more than half. Link
  • Jared Rubin reviews The Invisible Hand?: “Van Bavel’s framework can be conceptualized as an economics counterpart to Ibn Khaldun’s political cyclical theory of empires. The (somewhat neo-Marxian) argument suggests that economic decline is a natural consequence of the type of economic growth that happens via factor markets. In other words, the growth of factor markets is a self-undermining process. This is a fairly significant departure from conventional economic history accounts, which largely view the development of market economies as more of a linear process.” Link.

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