Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Random Links

Some random links:

Fly Nude

Donate Sperm, Australian women need it.

Keynes did his share of getting freaky.

John DiNardo is not Freaky, just Grumpy.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Porn, Rape and the Internet

Todd Kendall's paper suggests that this latest maneuver by the Chinese authorities will simply lead to more rape.
BEIJING, Jan 23 (Reuters) - China shut down 44,000 Web sites and homepages and arrested 868 people last year in a campaign against Internet porn which will continue until the end of this year's Beijing Olympics, Xinhua news agency said on Wednesday.

China launched a crackdown on online pornography and "unhealthy" Web content after Chinese President Hu Jintao said the country's sprawling Internet posed a threat to social stability.

Rights groups have said the campaign has been used as a thinly veiled pretext to crack down on dissent and round up online dissidents ahead of the Olympics.
Xinhua said authorities had also investigated 524 criminal cases involving online porn and "penalised" another 1,911 people.

Some 440,000 "pornographic messages" had also been deleted, the agency said.
China has attempted to stifle online criticism of the ruling Communist Party and discussion related to sensitive topics such as Tibet and Taiwan by ordering Web sites to register with authorities.

Authorities registered 199,000 Web sites last year, Xinhua said, but refused 14,000 for failing to get official registration or to apply for official approval.
China employs tens of thousands of human Internet censors and a vast network of filters to control online information.

The anti-pornography campaign would continue until September, Xinhua said, "after the Beijing Olympic Games end".
As long as the story is somewhat true, and access to porn is at least modestly reduced then this should serve as a useful experiment to identify the impact of porn on rape.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Cost Reductions in Porn

There are markets for sex and there are markets for watching sex. Why has it taken so long for an entrepreneur to utilize the former as a labor input to the latter? Bloomberg has the story:
If you want to watch Nick having sex with a prostitute, he's happy to let you.

The 36-year-old bank-security technician drove eight hours from his home in Metz, France, to Big Sister, a Prague brothel where customers peruse a touch-screen menu of blondes, brunettes and redheads available for free. The catch is clients have to let their exploits be filmed and posted on the Internet.

``Sex is no taboo,'' Nick says, though he asked that his last name not be used. ``You have to free your mind.''

Big Sister is marrying 21st-century technology with the world's oldest profession to profit from the public's appetite for ever-more graphic reality TV. Since 2005, more than 15,000 men have taken up the offer of free sex in return for 15 minutes, or less, of fame, according to the brothel. Big Sister is now expanding into the U.S. with a local version of its Web site.

Sex and Distance

I blogged about Glaeser's new paper on the impact of communication technology on distance over at 7 Rivers Region Econ. But here I wanted to note Tim Harford's excellent example involving the market for sex.

But I think the truth is more profound than either of those glib explanations: Technology makes it more fun and more profitable to live and work close to the people who matter most to your life and work. Harvard economist Ed Glaeser, an expert on city economies, argues that communications technology and face-to-face interactions are complements like salt and pepper, rather than substitutes like butter and margarine. Paradoxically, your cell phone, email, and Facebook networks are making it more attractive to meet people in the flesh.

The most obvious example is online dating. With sites like BBW (Big Beautiful Women) Datefinder and Senior People Meet, it's a lot easier to find like-minded flames. But that's not much use unless you live within driving range of your 98 percent-compatible love connection. The kind of contact that follows online winking is far from virtual.

It follows that matchmaking is most effective in densely populated areas, where there are plenty of fish but an awfully big sea. If you live in Los Angeles, online dating is the killer app. If you live in a small town, you've likely already met all your potential mates at church or a bar.

Of course, the rest of life isn't like courting. Or is it? In big cities, our communication tools are especially helpful because they keep us from getting lost in the crowd (which is not something you worry about in a one-street town). There are even services that tell you where your friends are by locating their cell signals.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Sex Ratios

Unbalanced sex ratios lead to interesting behavior. It is the one reason I'm happy to be teaching at UW-La Crosse, rather than UW-Platteville.

From the Economist:
So many more women on the beach than men

AS ONE observes the economical use of fabric to contain flesh as it wiggles from one posto to the next on Rio de Janeiro's Ipanema beach, thoughts turn immediately to demography. Like other countries where the population is ageing, Brazil has more women than men. But in Rio the imbalance is particularly marked: for every 100 females in the city there are only 86.4 males, according to IBGE, the national statistics agency. That is far lower than the 95 males per 100 females that is the average for Brazil's big cities. What is going on? And does this explain the size of the bikinis?

The answer lies partly in three forces that have shaped Brazil over the past few decades. First, like the rest of the country, Rio has undergone an extraordinary transition in its birthrate. Although the Catholic church and the government discouraged contraception for decades, Brazilian women decided to have fewer babies. Many opted for sterilisation. One study suggests up to 40% of women aged 15-49 have been sterilised. “You find some families where three generations of women have been sterilised after childbirth,” says José de Carvalho, a demographer at the Federal University of Minas Gerais.

As a result the fertility rate dropped from 6.2 live births per woman in 1960 to around two today, while people are living longer. In the past ten years, life expectancy has risen from 68.9 years to 72.4 years. An older population means more women in relation to men, because women tend to live longer.

Second, during the past 50 years millions of women have moved away from rural areas and towards cities, where they often find jobs in domestic service. This has further skewed the sex ratio in cities compared with the countryside. Copacabana, just down the beach from Ipanema, is one of the most imbalanced places in the whole of the country, thanks to a heavy concentration of the (disproportionately female) over-65s and their maids. The third factor is violence. Rio's murder rate, at 40 per 100,000 people, is shockingly high, and most of the victims are young men.

Evolutionary biologists would draw a straight line between the declining number of potential mates, the need for female cariocas to go to greater lengths to win them, and those small bikinis. But that seems far-fetched, given that much of the imbalance is down to simple ageing. Rio's grannies, who are the most affected, are—by and large—a demure lot. The problem of the bikini is going to require some further study.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

CEO of Princeton Department of Economics

So I'm watching Bernanke testify in front of the House Budget Committee, and during the Q&A a congresswoman on a vitriolic tirade against securitization asked Bernanke what he was doing when he was CEO of Goldman Sachs? Bernanke responded that she had the wrong guy. She said well where were you then? He said he was CEO of Princeton's Economics Department. I love it.

I wish this was the worst buffoonery demonstrated by by the questioners, but sadly it was not.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Distance and the City

Via the Economist Blog, channeling Ed Glaeser and Gaicomo Ponzetto.
The past forty years have seen a remarkable range of urban successes and failures, especially among America’s older cities. Some places, like Cleveland and Detroit, seem caught in perpetual decline. Other areas, like San Francisco and New York, had remarkable success as they became centers of idea-based industries.

In this paper, we suggested that these urban successes and urban failures might reflect the same underlying technological change: a vast improvement in communication technology. As communication technology improved, it enabled manufacturing firms to leave cities, causing the urban distress of Detroit or Manhattan in 1975. However, declining communication costs also increased the returns to new innovations, and since cities specialize in idea-production, this helped invigorate some cities.

The model suggests that future improvements in information technology will continue to strengthen cities that are centers of innovation, but continue to hurt cities that remain oriented towards manufacturing. Certainly, there is every reason to think that the free flow of people and capital across space will only continue to increase the returns to new ideas.

The important question for the future of cities is whether urban areas will continue to have a comparative advantage in producing ideas. The great challenge to urban areas therefore comes from the possibility that innovation will also leave dense agglomerations. While this is possible, there is a remarkable continuing tendency of innovative people to locate near other innovative people. Silicon Valley, for example, is built at lower densities than New York, because it is built for drivers not pedestrians, but it is certainly a dense agglomeration. As long as improvements in information technology continue to increase the returns to having new ideas, then the edge that proximity gives to innovation seems likely to keep such agglomerations strong.
Rather ironic isn't it? Improved communication technologies leads some people to locate CLOSER to each other. They do - if I understand the argument - precisely because they are better rewarded for their ideas since improved communication technologies increases the size of the audience for those ideas. Yet those same ideas are easier to generate when physical proximity is close.

I don't believe this bodes well for our region. As a professor of mine used to say: La Crosse is centrally isolated. It will be hard for knowledge workers in our region to avoid the pull of the magnets of Chicago and the Twin Cities.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Extra-marital Sexual Relations

I'm beginning work on extra-marital sexual relations. Some call it cheating, though among swingers it appears consensual. This couple apparently hadn't discussed it, but much to their surprise they both appeared to engage in it.
WARSAW (Reuters) - A Polish man got the shock of his life when he visited a brothel and spotted his wife among the establishment's employees.

Polish tabloid Super Express said the woman had been making some extra money on the side while telling her husband she worked at a store in a nearby town.

"I was dumbfounded. I thought I was dreaming," the husband told the newspaper on Wednesday.

The couple, married for 14 years, are now divorcing, the newspaper reported.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Induced Demand

Here is an excellent description of how females can induce demand for nude pictures.
A friend who spends his life negotiating with the agents of glamour models explained to me the principles of “boobonomics”. Let's assume a pretty girl, who has been snapped in her bikini for a local newspaper, seeks a big-time career. Her agent phones a men's magazine and proposes for a given sum, say £3,000, that she pose in lingerie.

If she's a hit with the readers, her agent will then suggest that for a greater sum, say £5,000, she will pose topless, but with her nipples concealed by her cupped fingers (“hand bra”). Subsequently her fee will rise for each coy permutation: “hair bra” or “girl-on-girl bra” (two models face to face shielding each other's breasts). Eventually, once this dance of the seven thongs has been exhausted and readers are believed to be slavering with anticipation, the agent will propose that for a huge sum say £50,000 the girl will finally reveal all.

But the harshest principle of boobonomics is that after this shoot, the value of the girl's assets which is what they are in a technical, business sense collapses. From this point she will only receive £20K for full topless, a sum she only recently received for showing far less. Her product life cycle is reaching an end. Now, however, agents have a new strategy for reviving the brand, rather as when Kit Kat launched peanut or orange-flavoured variants. He proposes that his client have a breast enlargement: would the magazine be interested in the first pictures, you know, when the scars have healed? The going rate for new knockers will never match her initial “reveal”, but raises her value momentarily to, say, £35,000. Jordan, the Milton Friedman of boobonomics, has amassed a great fortune increasing her breast size by increments in three operations.

Teen Sex

I continue to be amazed at the predictive power of age of first intercourse for so many other things, like strip club attendance, sexually transmitted disease, number of partners, cheating in marriage, etc. However I'm quite sure it is not the age of first intercourse which causes these other things, but rather it is correlated with the true unobserved variable that does cause the other thing. Call it sensation seeking...or whatever you want, but it is clear there are large differences in teenagers in terms of these variables. Above you find the percentage of teenagers at Wellsley that are still virgins by major. Clearly there is some sorting going on, maybe partially driven by IQ. The chart comes from this excellent post.
And this post follows on with still more interesting data. Finally this could also say something about risky behavior among teens.