Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | May 6, 2013

Papers and Publications that Attracted My Passing Notice

Green & Red Apples

1. Alex Tabarrok has a post about apple diversity in North America (“Apple Diversity has Grown”), which points to a 2012 paper by Paul Heald and Susannah Chapman, “Veggie Tales: Pernicious Myths About Patents, Innovation, and Crop Diversity in the Twentieth Century” (pdf). An excerpt:

Seventy-five percent of the apples we identified in 1900 and 1905 nurserymen’s catalogs were available in the same kind of catalogs inventoried in the Fruit, Berry, and Nut Inventory for 2000. The news is even better regarding apples from the 1800s identified by W.H. Ragan in Nomenclature of the Apple. Of the apple varieties offered by commercial nursery catalogs in 2000, 435 were listed by Ragan. In addition, the Fruit, Berry, and Nut Inventory for 2000 also describes as ‘old-timer’ or ‘heirloom’ 44 additional varieties not listed by Ragan. An additional 102 different Ragan varieties are available in the USDA orchard facility in Geneva, New York, where the public can obtain grafting scions for free. Since our upper estimate of the total number of commercially available varieties in 1905 is only 420, it seems quite clear that more historic varieties (approximately 581) are commercially available now than a hundred years ago.

(2012 Univ. of Ill. L. Rev. 1071) (citations omitted). In his post, Prof. Tabarrok goes on to make some points about the difference between geographic diversity and consumption diversity (or option availability), and about how trade can diminish absolute product diversity but still enhance overall welfare.

2. Janai S. Nelson, “The First amendment, Equal Protection and Felon Disenfranchisement: A New Viewpoint”: “felon disenfranchisement is…a legislative judgment as to which citizen‘s ideas are worthy of inclusion in the electorate. Relying on a series of cases involving state interests in protecting the ballot and promoting its intelligent use, this Article demonstrates that felon disenfranchisement is open to attack under the Supreme Court‘s fundamental rights jurisprudence when it is motivated by a desire to limit political expression based on its perceived content; in other words, when felon disenfranchisement is motivated by viewpoint discrimination.” I’m skeptical, but it’s an argument worth engaging. H/T to Rick Hasen at Election Law Blog. See also this post: “Prison-Based Gerrymandering.”

3. Are kissing cousins bad for democracy? “The data suggest that where consanguineous kinship networks are numerically predominant and have been made to share a common statehood, democracy is unlikely to develop. Possible explanations for these findings include the idea that restricted gene flow arising from consanguineous marriage facilitates a rigid collectivism that is inimical to individualism and the recognition of individual rights, which are key elements of the democratic ethos. Furthermore, high levels of within-group genetic similarity may discourage cooperation between different large-scale kin groupings sharing the same nation, inhibiting democracy. Finally, genetic similarity stemming from consanguinity may encourage resource predation by members of socially elite kinship networks as an inclusive fitness enhancing behavior.” The authors are Michael Woodley and Edward Bell. H/T to Chris Blattman. See also this post by Joshua Keating at Foreign Policy (which includes a Game of Thrones tie-in). (As Keating notes, Iceland is a bit of an exception, or perhaps a piece of evidence against Woodley and Bell’s thesis.)

4. “China’s Development Finance to Africa: A Media-Based Approach to Data Collection”: “China’s presence in Africa is, beyond dispute, large in both trade and what can be called official finance to Africa. But how large, exactly? A new database from the College of William and Mary brings additional resources to help answer the question. AidData’s Chinese Official Finance to Africa Dataset, Version 1.0 compiles media reports on 1,673 Chinese-backed projects across 51 African countries from 2000 to 2011 and offers a new tool set for researchers, policymakers, journalists, and civil-society organizations working to understand China’s growing role in Africa.” The authors are Austin Strange, Bradley C. Parks, Michael J. Tierney, Andreas Fuchs, Axel Dreher, and Vijaya Ramachandran. H/T: Erik Voeten at The Monkey Cage.

Oh, and by the way, China is apparently building a 1,400-seat opera house in Algeria. As a “symbol of Chinese-Algerian friendship.” A $40 million symbol. H/T: Marginal Revolution.

5. “An Equilibrium Model of the African HIV/AIDS Epidemic”: “Eleven percent of the Malawian population is HIV infected. Eighteen percent of sexual encounters are casual. A condom is used one quarter of the time. A choice-theoretic general equilibrium search model is constructed to analyze the Malawian epidemic. In the developed framework, people select between different sexual practices while knowing the inherent risk. The analysis suggests that the efficacy of public policy depends upon the induced behavioral changes and general equilibrium effects that are typically absent in epidemiological studies and small-scale field experiments. For some interventions (some forms of promoting condoms or marriage), the quantitative exercise suggests that these effects may increase HIV prevalence, while for others (such as male circumcision or increased incomes) they strengthen the effectiveness of the intervention.” The authors are Jeremy Greenwood, Philipp Kircher, Cezar Santos, and Michèle Tertilt. H/T: Chris Blattman.

Image Credit: Photo by ngader, September 2006, and used under a Creative Commons CC BY 2.0 license. Source: Flickr.

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