1. Public Religion Research Institute: Survey | Do Americans Believe Capitalism and Government are Working?: Religious Left, Religious Right and the Future of the Economic Debate
Domestic shale oil production could shoot up to 5 million barrels per day by 2017, making the United States the top oil producing country in the world, according to a researcher at Harvard Kennedy School.
... In 1968 Paul Ehrlich’s doomsday tome The Population Bomb predicted mass starvation and civilizational collapse in much of the world due to overpopulation. But the more serious problem – particularly in traditionally higher-income countries – today is actually too few, not too many new people. The pivot to seeing this as the problem has come through something very basic: pension math. Across the developed world, public pension systems built on the assumption of continued population growth are now facing an actuarial day of reckoning as the bills come due while birth rates have plummeted.
A society needs a total fertility rate – that is, the average number of children born to each woman – of 2.1 just to maintain its population without immigration. Some European countries like France (2.03) and the UK (1.98) are in reasonably good shape, but they are the exception. The total fertility rate in Greece is 1.43, in Germany 1.36, in Spain 1.36, in Portugal 1.30, and in Poland 1.30. Much of southern and central Europe hovers near the so-called “lowest-low” rate of 1.3 in which the population is naturally being cut in half every 45 years.
Simple birth rates alone have caused some to posit a societal going out of business sale in Europe. However, just as extrapolation of high population growth rates in the past led to wildly alarmist claims that proved false, so today we must be careful about not proclaiming Europe is doomed. But with the population on tap to be halved every generation, the runway to turn things around is difficult to conjure. And while we’ve seen many countries make the shift from high to low birth rates, there isn’t a huge track record of success in the other direction. ...
The article includes this interesting graph:
6. Forget Microlending. India Needs Basic, Competent Credit Reporting - Businessweek
Development economists talk a lot about credit. Figure out a way to get it to people in a developing economy, rather than just large companies or the state itself, and you can encourage small-scale risk-taking. Microlending offers very small loans to individuals, often $100 or less. The idea won Muhammad Yunus a Nobel Prize in 2006. More recently, microfinance and mobile banking have offered ways to save and insure on a small scale, allowing people take risks with their own money. Speaking in Mumbai earlier this month, K. C. Chakrabarty, deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of India, offered an additional way to expand credit: better credit reporting. No shepherds with phones, no happy mothers of four with new sewing machines. Just credit reporting, plain old attention to detail, and administrative competence.
The article includes maps showing life expectancy across several metropolitan areas. Here is the one for my hometown, Kansas City.
The gap in life expectancy between black and white Americans is at its narrowest since the federal government started systematically tracking it in the 1930s, but a difference of nearly four years remains, and federal researchers have detailed why in a new report.9. The Unsettling Link Between Sprawl and Suicide
A new scientific working paper (spotted by Tim De Chant of Per Square Mile) contends that as population density decreases, the suicide rate among young people increases. This effect becomes particularly pronounced below 300 inhabitants per square kilometer — roughly the density of San Diego County.
Scientists have analyzed page edits in 10 editions of Wikipedia to determine the topics most often fought over by editors of the open encyclopedia. The most debated topics included many religious subjects, like Jesus and God, according to research done by Taha Yasseri, Anselm Spoerri, Mark Graham, and János Kertész.
Rather than merely citing pages that changed a lot, they identified pages involved in "edit wars," that involved editors making changes that were almost instantly undone by another contributor. This proved the best method of finding controversial pages, as pages often updated could simply belong to a rapidly changing field or topic. However, pages with words and phrases constantly removed and reinserted indicated a passionate disagreement surrounding the issue at hand.
The most controversial pages across all ten editions of Wikipedia were:
- Adolf Hitler
- The Holocaust
Other controversial subjects were Jesus, the Prophet Muhammad, and Christianity.14. The curious case of the fall in crime
... Cherished social theories have been discarded. Conservatives who insisted that the decline of the traditional nuclear family and growing ethnic diversity would unleash an unstoppable crime wave have been proved wrong. Young people are increasingly likely to have been brought up by one parent and to have played a lot of computer games. Yet they are far better behaved than previous generations. Left-wingers who argued that crime could never be curbed unless inequality was reduced look just as silly.
There is no single cause of the decline; rather, several have coincided. Western societies are growing older, and most crimes are committed by young men. Policing has improved greatly in recent decades, especially in big cities such as New York and London, with forces using computers to analyse the incidence of crime; in some parts of Manhattan this helped to reduce the robbery rate by over 95%. The epidemics of crack cocaine and heroin appear to have burnt out.
The biggest factor may be simply that security measures have improved. Car immobilisers have killed joyriding; bulletproof screens, security guards and marked money have all but done for bank robbery. Alarms and DNA databases have increased the chance a burglar will be caught. At the same time, the rewards for burglary have fallen because electronic gizmos are so cheap. Even small shops now invest in CCTV cameras and security tags. Some crimes now look very risky—and that matters because, as every survey of criminals shows, the main deterrent to crime is the fear of being caught. ...