In praise of short abstracts

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Data Art

Moritz Stefaner is an artist specializing in data visualizations. Here is a description of one of his data art projects (see also the video summary below): “Today, we collectively and continuously document our city experience on social media platforms, shaping a virtual city image. Multiplicity reveals a novel view of this photographic landscape of attention and interests. How does Paris look as seen through the lens of thousands of photographers? What are the hotspots of attraction, what are the neglected corners? What are recurring poses and tropes? And how well do the published pictures reflect your personal view of the city?” Check out Mr Stefaner’s “Truth & Beauty Operations” website here.

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In defense of the good faith standard in contract cases: a critique of Victor Goldberg

We need to update our priors again! We have been reading Victor Goldberg’s 2006 book “Framing Contract Law” and have already posted some positive reviews of various chapters of his book. (See here, for example.) One of the major themes in the book is Professor Goldberg’s disdain (if not utter contempt) for “the good faith standard” in contract cases. To summarize Professor Goldberg’s position, courts do not apply the good faith standard evenly, for “good faith” is too vague a rule to police contract disputes. Initially, we agreed with Professor Goldberg’s devastating critique of the good faith standard, but the more we think about his critique, the more we realize that it is Goldberg who is wrong, not the judges! It turns out many contract disputes involve some form of “post-contractual opportunism.” (Indeed, there is an extensive academic literature about this problem. See image below for an example.) So, as good Bayesians, we are updating our position on the good faith standard and our review of Goldberg’s book. To the extent that opportunism is a genuine problem in many contractual relationships (and the reported cases confirm this observation), the good faith standard (though vague) is probably a good second-best judicial solution in response to the problem of post-contractual opportunism.

Image result for post contractual opportunism

Credit: Carmella Merritt

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Bayesian litigation (our most recent scholarly paper)

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Our full paper is available here via SSRN.

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The economics of monarchy

Via The Economist (circa 2015):

Those who would like to scrap a popular monarchy need to be able to show that there is a significant demand for a change (which there is not) or that the institution does significant harm, which is just as hard to do. It is accused of being expensive, but offset against the few tens of millions of cost the fact that Britain’s royal heritage is a big part of its tourist appeal, not to mention the unquantifiable but surely substantial brand-management efforts that the Queen in effect performs on overseas trips. An alternative, elected head of state would not be cost-free either.

The monarchy is accused of entrenching elitism and the class system, but it is a fantasy to imagine that those things would vanish in a republic; they certainly have not in America, while the monarchies of Denmark, Sweden and Norway are among the most meritocratic and egalitarian in the world. It is accused of damaging democracy because (on paper) the Queen retains vast constitutional powers. But this ignores the fact that there is not the remotest chance that she or her successors would actually use them; if ever she or they did, then Britain could and indeed should consider becoming a republic.

On the other hand, it is just as plausible to assert that there are benefits to a monarchy, on top of the (hard to quantify) economic ones. At a time when most government institutions everywhere are unpopular and even hated, any part of the state which people still actually like is a rare plus, something not to be discarded lightly. And what would replace the monarch? An elected and therefore political head of state is sure to upset at least one large section of the electorate a lot more than an uncontroversial one who is above politics.

Admittedly, the value of continuity and tradition, and of a focus for Britain’s quiet brand of patriotism are difficult to assess. The reality is that the monarchy does not do much harm and does not do much good; but it is accepted and liked by most Britons. Getting rid of it simply isn’t worth the fuss.

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Six U.S. City-States

More details here, via Reddit: u/NewChinaHand

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How (not) to give an academic talk

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