In an article about the use of evidence in policy-making in development, a group out of HKS includes this intriguing bit: "decision-making depends not only on the quality of evidence that is presented, but also on the context in which this evidence is received. In cases where the policymaker holds strong beliefs and is inclined to discount evidence, an intervention to soften the policymaker’s priors may be more useful than generating rigorous evidence.” This probably applies more widely, not just to policy-makers.
Martin Sandu in the FT: “If the five-year plan was the Soviet bloc’s grand lie, here is that of capitalism: that the market values of financial and other assets accurately reflect the economic value they represent. … the wealth that people thought they possessed did not in fact exist. ... The disorientation and distrust that have followed in both markets and politics was just what one would expect when millions realise they have been living a lie."
New Piketty-Zucman paper, with Novokmet, on Russia (pdf): “There is as much financial wealth held by rich Russians abroad—in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Cyprus, and similar offshore centers—than held by the entire Russian population in Russia itself.” I’m not sure why they include the Soviet era in their time series - what does the top 10% income share represent in a centrally planned economy with no private property? It doesn’t seem comparable to the top 10% post-communism.
A new paper in Science on the payoffs to Stasi spying: "economic espionage boosted TFP growth in East Germany, helping it close the gap with West Germany by some 8.6% in 1989 ... The effect was especially pronounced in the computing and electronics sector, where espionage reduced the gap between East and West by almost 26%. … According to the new study, the payoff [to spying] may have been as high as €4.6 billion for East Germany in 1988, compared with annual spying expenditures of about €6.4 million."
The Monkey Cage reviews Jennifer Tapan’s book on child malnutrition: "in 2011, undernutrition accounted for over 3 million deaths in children under the age of 5 — accounting for 45 percent of worldwide infant and child mortality."