A week of links

Links this week:

  1. Lectures on Human Capital by Gary Becker. (HT: Eric Crampton)
  2. We learn more from success than failure. A bit semantic, and where is this government agency with a learn-from-failure culture? But worth the read.
  3. The 2014 Nanny State awards.
  4. Robert Sapolsky on the Christmas truce of 1914.
  5. People like gifts that they want.
  6. Greater contact between racial groups increases bias? (HT: Razib Khan)
  7. Another arena where a bit more science might help – the justice system.
  8. The Accidental Lobster Farmers (HT: Tyler Cowen).
  9. Nothing like an article confirming my priors – LaTeX is a productivity sink (HT: Alex Tabarrok). A common comment I receive from economists on my papers is “Did you do this in Word?” The funny thing with LaTeX is that most people don’t change the default font – if you did that, people might not know it was prepared with LaTeX.


  1. The implication would be that LaTeX exists either simply to make academics feel special, or else to signal that the author is a “serious academic” through the use of a software tool not much found outside academia? In which case the fact that it is worse in practice may of course increase its signalling value.

    Not being an academic, I don’t know much about LaTeX, but I do know of a similar shibboleth in another field. In scriptwriting, my brother-in-law always recommends that aspiring scriptwriters buy some $200 software called “Final Draft”. This is not because it is better than word – nobody seems to have done any tests – but because anyone seeing two scripts or proposals on their desk will immediately assign more credibility to the version produced in Final Draft.

    1. It’s a particularly good signal for differentiating between the mathematicians and those who prefer words. There costs are particularly serious if you want to quickly crank out some text.

      More funny than LaTeX itself is the LaTeX presentation program ‘beamer’. It takes the worst features of PowerPoint – pushing people toward text and math heavy slides – with a default purple hue that offends even the colourblind. You are not truly part of the group until you can perplex a room full of smart people with beamer.

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