IPA’s weekly links

Guest post by Jeff Mosenkis of Innovations for Poverty Action.

  • Rachel Strohm has a new subscribable newsletter, “Africa Update,” which will have the kinds of links she offers on her blog.
  • Kenya’s high court has ruled that a third of parliamentarians must be women.
  • Daron Acemoglu has put up a 569 page PDF book of his political economy class notes.
  • Taxes are here, so this is your reminder that in other countries the government figures out your taxes for you and just sends you the bill. Here’s a comparison between Sweden and Wisconsin. But a Stanford professor spent a year and $30,000 of his own money hiring a lobbyist to try to get California to adopt a European-style pre-filled system. The pilot program was universally loved by participants but quashed thanks to lobbying by Intuit (maker of tax prep software) who argues that making taxes easier “minimizes the taxpayers’ engagement.”
    • Interestingly, anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist makes the behavioral economics argument against it. He argues that putting tax prep on automatic would make it easier for the government to raise taxes. Print story at Priceonomics, and podcast version from Planet Money.
  • David Evans has a thoughtful blog post about what researchers owe study participants, citing the case of Nairobi sex workers, long of interest to HIV researchers. Researchers often come in and collect data with complex IRB consent forms and vague assurances that the participants are contributing to a greater good, but they rarely see any direct benefit. The Nairobi workers are following the example of the San people of southern Africa (another longtime target of researchers), and writing their own code of ethics for outside researchers to follow (h/ts also Seema Jayachandran & twitter discussion here).
  • It’s worth knowing the name of Vasili Arkhipov (above). The Russian submarine officer is credited with preventing World War III at the height of the cold war because he refused his captain’s order to fire their submarine’s nuclear torpedoes. Or as Robert Krulwich summarizes: “You (and Almost Everyone You Know) Owe Your Life to This Man.” The rest of Arkhipov’s story is also interesting, he would eventually die of complications from the radiation exposure he received while saving his previous submarine from a nuclear meltdown.

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