Why Bitcoin and blockchain may stumble
By Alex Verkhivker – In mid-May, the Bitcoin Gold market suffered what’s known as a 51 percent attack. A market participant with sufficient computing power was able to take control of the underlying ledger and commit fraud, Quartz reported. Other cryptocurrencies have reportedly been similarly attacked.
Could this sort of thing sink cryptocurrency markets completely?
Even those who dismiss Bitcoin as a fad often praise blockchain, the open-source digital-ledger technology underlying it, as a breakthrough in electronic record keeping. The innovation of Bitcoin’s founder, Satoshi Nakamoto, was to create a process in which people have trust in a database that lacks a centralized authority such as a government, court, or bank; rather, records are verified by anonymous “miners,” who create a verified trail, or chain, of transactions.
When bitcoins are exchanged, information about the transactions is grouped together into a block. The miners race each other to solve a computationally intense puzzle, and the winning miner adds a block to the chain, while other miners verify that the new transactions are accurate. All miners keep a copy of the chain of transactions, making the blockchain a verifiable and trusted but ultimately decentralized database.
This process was a significant computer-science innovation, but how does it work economically speaking? In thinking that through, Eric Budish crafts a worrying argument about the future of Bitcoin. more>
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Tagged Blockchain, Broadband, Business improvement, Chicago Booth, Internet, Productivity, Technology
Is corporate market power really surging?
By Alex Verkhivker – In economic circles, an argument has gained traction that corporate market power is surging, resulting in skyrocketing markups, a falling labor share, and other negative consequences for consumers and workers. But some researchers are pushing back, emphasizing weaknesses in the argument and urging policy makers to be cautious before taking any actions.
Proponents of the market-power argument often rely on one of two methodologies, one that calculates and compares total revenues and costs at the economy-wide level and another that uses company-level data. University of Minnesota’s Loukas Karabarbounis and Chicago Booth’s Brent Neiman focus on the first of these two, in which the economy is considered a pie that is made of up three slices: the labor share (which goes to workers), the capital share (costs incurred to use factories, equipment, software, etc.), and economic profits. Economic profits are calculated by finding the difference between revenues and costs, including the cost of capital faced by companies to fund their assets used in production. more>
Actively managed, but more index-like
Chicago Booth – Analyzing 2,789 actively managed mutual funds between 1979 and 2014, the researchers find that fund portfolios have become more liquid over time, largely as a result of becoming more diversified. Both components of diversification—balance and coverage—have risen sharply, especially since 2000. The level of coverage rose faster than the level of balance as mutual-fund managers poured ever more names into their portfolios.
The research captures the rise of closet indexing among active-mutual-fund managers, a phenomenon that may be caused by managers hewing toward the benchmark they are trying to outperform. While diversification has some benefits in terms of risk management and liquidity, the close resemblance of active portfolios to passive indexes might leave some investors wondering why they’re bothering to pay for active management given the ubiquitous availability of cheap, passive alternatives. more>
By Michael Maiello – Yale University’s Bryan T. Kelly, Chicago Booth’s Dacheng Xiu, and Booth PhD candidate Shihao Gu investigated 30,000 individual stocks that traded between 1957 and 2016, examining hundreds of possibly predictive signals using several techniques of machine learning, a form of artificial intelligence.
They conclude that ML had significant advantages over conventional analysis in this challenging task.
ML uses statistical techniques to give computers abilities that mimic and sometimes exceed human learning. The idea is that computers will be able to build on solutions to previous problems to eventually tackle issues they weren’t explicitly programmed to take on.
“At the broadest level, we find that machine learning offers an improved description of asset price behavior relative to traditional methods,” the researchers write, suggesting that ML could become the engine of effective portfolio management, able to predict asset-price movements better than human managers.
Of almost 100 characteristics the researchers investigated, the most successful predictors were price trends, liquidity, and volatility. more>
Why corporate social responsibility can backfire
By Alina Dizik – As CSR has become ingrained in the workplace and even in some brands, researchers are finding drawbacks to how employees react to these initiatives.
More than 90 percent of the 250 largest global companies by revenue now publish detailed annual reports of their corporate-responsibility practices, according to KPMG’s 2017 survey of corporate-responsibility reporting.
So what are the problems?
For one thing, participating in a company’s CSR initiatives can lead to what researchers call moral self-licensing, where a positive action is offset by harmful behavior later on. In cases of moral licensing, company-sponsored social initiatives can trigger poor employee performance because doing good deeds in one area encourages the employee to behave unethically in another, according to research by List and University of Chicago postdoctoral scholar Fatemeh Momeni. more>