Monday, December 12, 2011

Unmanned Commercial Air?

From Freakonomics. I can explain why I don't like this idea in one sentence: I want the person flying and controlling my plane to have his ass to lose just as much as I have mine - it's called incentive compatibility.

Links

Favorite shows by political persuasion (Entertainment Weekly). A little surprised R's dislike South Park so. It's pretty strongly libertarian, but I guess Jesus trumps liberty.
Job market advice for academics from UW (Econbrowser).
Moneyball (Grantland). Maybe they shouldn't of published all their secrets.
Higher speed limits? Probably not (MR). The first comment is amusing, albeit not very aware of forensic economics.
The video game business (Economist). I suspect gaming has been profitable through the recession because it is an inferior good.
A couple of more serious links on political unrest, recessions and inequality (Economist), and the impacts of offshoring on inequality and education (VoxEU).

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Higher Top Tax Rates = Higher Productivity?

From Piketty, Saez, and Stantcheva, via VoxEU:
...while standard economic models assume that pay reflects productivity, ...top earners might be able to partly set their own pay by bargaining harder or influencing compensation committees. Naturally, the incentives for such ‘rent-seeking’ are much stronger when top tax rates are low.... increases in top 1% incomes now come at the expense of the remaining 99%.
...there is no correlation between cuts in top tax rates and average annual real GDP-per-capita growth since the 1970s.
Of course, raising income taxes on the rich might lead to more income being diverted into stock options and capital gains, but would that be a bad thing? Wouldn't that increase total investment and strengthen incentives for managers?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NGDP Targeting, the "Volcker Moment", and Chuck Norris

Free Exchange points out that the tight-money policy of Paul Volcker in the early 1980s:
did not succeed by changing people’s expectations of inflation. It succeeded by crushing demand. As unemployment moved up the Phillips Curve, inflation plummeted. Only then did inflation expectations stabilize at a lower level.... The lesson of the Volcker disinflation is that changing expectations depends crucially on delivering on the target. Naming an inflation or money supply target is helpful, but insufficient unless the central bank demonstrates it is willing and able to achieve it. 
That statement reminded me of this post from Worthwhile Canadian Initiative:
Thesis. We teach the monetary policy transmission mechanism like this: the central bank pulls a lever, and that lever pulls other levers, which eventually move the target variable in the direction the central bank wants to move.
Antithesis. That's wrong. A credible central bank is exactly like Chuck Norris. It looks at the thing it wants to move, and the thing moves, and all the other levers fall into place where they should be. Causation runs backwards from the target variable. Credible central banks don't actually do anything. They just threaten to do things. But a credible central bank never needs to carry out its threats.
Synthesis. That's not quite right either.
1. Even Chuck Norris can't make the impossible happen. A credible central bank can move the economy just by saying that it wants the economy to move. But it must be a new equilibrium that it moves to. And maybe that new equilibrium won't be an equilibrium unless the central bank moves its lever. Chuck Norris can't clear the room if he is standing in the only doorway. He has to step aside to let people exit, even if he doesn't need to throw anyone out.
2. Chuck Norris wasn't always Chuck Norris. He had to earn his reputation. In the early days, or in unfamiliar territory, he actually had to carry out his threats. Till people learned the new regime.
Basically, in order for Chuck Norris to impact behavior, people have to think he'll kick their ass. The central bank (Fed) has to convince people that it's going to do what it says it intends to do when circumstances dictate. In other words, every now and then, Ben has to kick some ass. If you want higher NGDP, you can't make it happen by standing in the room looking tough. You have to actually break a few skulls.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Links on China and Trade

China's economy is slowing to a "mere" 9.1 percent growth, it's slowest in 20 years. Does this bode at all well for the US? Most theories of current accounts would say no. Also, although the nominal exchange rate with China is pretty level recently, the real value of the yen (after inflation) is rising. This suggests rebalancing, which is supported by the fact that China will soon have a trade deficit with the rest of the world (although probably not with the US). I wish politicians (and the public?) would pay more attention to these facts before forging ahead with proposed "retaliatory" (to what?) tariffs against China.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lots of Global Macro in the News

China (more here)
More on Italy, Greece, Spain, and the ECB crisis here and here.
If, say, you were a student and had to write a country paper report, I would say there is a lot going on with a lot of economies around the world to find an interesting topic. Just sayin.

Friday, October 14, 2011

How the Fed Came to Be (and Why it Must Remain Independent)

An interesting brief history of banking in the US, 1811-1913. More here.
Early efforts to reform the financial system were limited to the First and Second Banks of the United
States (1791-1811 and 1816-36, respectively). Both institutions were short-lived because of public misgivings
about concentrated economic power. A period of laissez-faire (or free-market) banking followed, rife with
flawed banking practices and instability. In 1863 and 1865, Congress enacted the National Banking Acts
to stabilize the financial system. Without a central bank, however, problems remained—financial crises and
banks failures continued to be frequent and severe. Two characteristics of the National Banking System (NBS),
created by the 1863 Act, exacerbated this volatility: (i) immobile bank reserves in a system lacking a lender
of last resort and (ii) an inflexible supply of currency. [Emphasis added.]
So, you might say, we should just put central banking under direct control of the government. How wonderful and democratic that would be! Do that, and I can almost guarantee higher rates of inflation as Congress has the incentive to use the money supply to "monetize" its deficits and debt.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Best Description of the 2011 Nobel Laureates' Work so Far

From Alex Tabarrok at MR. On Sargent:
[In response to the Lucas Critique] Sargent’s (1973, 1976) early work showed how models incorporating rational expectations could be tested empirically. In many of these early models, Sargent showed that including rational expectations in a model could lead to invariance results, nominal shocks caused by changes in the money supply, for example, wouldn’t matter.
I was never comfortable with the simple RE approach (and hated being forced to study it in grad school), which is why I'm glad AT mentions some of Sargents more recent work:
What will people do when they don’t know the true model of the economy? How will they update their model of the economy based on observations? In these learning models the goal is to look for a self-confirming equilibrium. The interesting thing about a self-confirming equilibrium is that people’s expectations and learning can converge on a false model of the economy!
On Sims:
In response [to the Lucas Critique], he developed vector auto regressions. In its simplest form a VAR is just a regression of a variable on its past values and the past values of other related variables. It’s easy to run a VAR on unemployment, inflation and output, for example.... Sims, however, took the models a step further by showing that you could identify fundamental shocks in these models by making assumptions about the dynamics or ordering of the shocks. ... With identification in hand one can then use these models to plot impulse response functions. How does a shock to oil prices work its way through the economy? When does GDP begin to fall and by how much? How long does it take the economy to recover? What about a shock to monetary policy? Sims (1992), for example, looks at monetary shocks in five modern economies.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Some Links

Is religion happiness insurance? (VOX) Does Dr. Frey's self-plagiarized work railing against self-plagiarism discredit him?
A counter-cyclical asset?(WSJ)
...recent data show diaper sales are slowing and sales of diaper-rash ointment are rising.
Does Republican tax profligacy in the short run signal support for higher taxes in the long run (or worse - that they care more about their own electability than about the public)? The conservative Tyler Cowen says yes.
candidates are more worried about having to publicly endorse tax increases than they are about the tax increases themselves. If that’s true, it is all the more reason to watch out for our pocketbooks; it means that the candidates are protecting themselves rather than the taxpayers
Cowen dislikes the Keynesian IS-LM model; DeLong does. Big surprise. My two cents: It's easy to toss peanuts and point out flaws in economic models because every model has flaws - flaws that are well-known even  to the people who come up with them. They have flaws precisely because they are models: they are abstractions from the real world. Like George E. P. Box said, "All models are false, but some are useful."

Democracy and Performance

Does regime type affect development or does development affect regime type? I'm more in the latter camp. Democratizations that preceded the development of economic institutions and economic development in Eastern Europe since 1990 have been fragile.

Taxing Financial Transactions

Throughout the financial regulation debate, I've always thought that there is a better way to reduce the scope for high-frequency trades in exacerbating a crash than by regulating the frequency (or volume) of trades themselves. If you want to reduce something in the least discriminatory and most transparent way possible, a tax is the way to go. A sufficiently small tax on financial transactions should limit the extent to HFTs magnify crashes while imposing the least amount of distortion in the market in general. Some better discussion here and here.
I feel similarly about campaign finance reform.

Genomes and Medicine

Patients can pay $200 to get a portion of their genome sequenced to identify certain behaviors, aptitudes, and susceptibilities. Better things coming down the line:
Today, it costs just $16,000; in a few years, it will cost less than $1,000–a 100,000-factor decrease in costs in less than two decades!
The FDA and Personalized Medicine

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Some links on rationality, choice, and institutions

Economics in the next ten years? (Economic Principals) Some highlights that I found interesting:
Sometimes more choice makes people freak out and thus less choice is sometimes better. What is the Right Amount of Choice? (Gruber)
Understanding institutions and culture will be increasingly important. (Acemoglu and Alesina; more here by Barro and McCleary)
Sometimes people and institutions make bad choices even when they're fully informed and are trying to make good choices. Why? (Cutler)
An interesting book on conflict, I'm thinking of adding to my wish list. (Garfinkel and Skaperdas)
Relatedly, an interesting piece on conflict and class. (Economix)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Some links

Politics and Well being (Economix)
College and the wealth gap (Freakonomics)
Spending less on charity (Economix) An argument for greater redistribution during recessions?

It's a liquidity trap

From Modeled Behavior:

In some cases people suspect that the Central Bank will vacuum up
every single dollar it dropped. In those cases, the dropping doesn’t
make anyone happier because they are just going to get hurt again by the
exact same amount.


This is a liquidity trap.

Hence, monetary policy won't work much, but fiscal policy has been limited by politics (in fact there has been no net fiscal policy - see here), so what can Ben do but try crazy things like the twist?



What Ron Paul and Michelle Bachman Aspire for the US to Become

From Bruce Bartlett (former Reagan tax adviser), countries with minimal government sizes: Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Chad, Republic of Congo, and Myanmar. Could probably add Somalia (no government) to this list, too.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Teaching Experiment

Tried a teaching experiment today covering consumer choice and behavioral economics. It was good for the micro class, but I was surprised how well it worked later the same day to illustrate some of the things that drive volatility in investment. (It was originally designed for statistics by Andrew Gelman)
Setup: everyone draws (randomly) a number (10 or 65 with equal probability) from an envelope.
Objective: see how people sometimes make "irrational" adjustments to their assessment based on useless information.
Instructions: Write down your number on a blank piece of paper that you can turn in (scraps are fine, and names are not necessary). Then, answer the following questions:


  1. Do
    you think that the
    percentage
    of countries, among all of those in the United Nations, that are in Africa is
    higher or lower than the
    number you drew?






  2. Give
    your best
    guess
    of
    the
    percentage of
    countries, among all of those in the United Nations, that are in Africa.


Invariably, those with the number 65 guess, on average, higher than those with the number 10. The idea is that their guess is "anchored" by the seemingly useless information that should otherwise be disregarded. The correct answer is about 2

Some Links on the Recession and Response

Expectations matter. Maybe the letters saying further action would be bad for the economy were self-fulfilling because of the impact of the announcement on expectations. On paper, Ben did the right thing. What's going on in investors' brains the last week or so is another matter.
Taxing the rich. Even if it doesn't raise substantially more income, and may have unintended consequences, redistributing from savers to spenders is probably helpful in the short run (and design matters).
Are pensions Ponzis? They need not be, but they do have Ponzi-like attributes, and it is tempting for managers to raid them (including - especially? - when they're run by "public servants").
Much ado has been made of recent upward revisions to Ireland's growth for last quarter, because they implemented austerity instead of stimulus. Problem: They're much farther behind their 2007 peak than the other developed countries that got hit.
The spending side: Biggest contributor to our deficit increase in the last 10 years; the biggest revenue contributor: the recession itself, followed by the 2001 & 2003 tax cuts.

FDI, Institutions, and Natural Resources

An interesting recent VOX piece on institutions and FDI. Here is a summary of how institutions impact FDI:
  • Investing in better institutions These are the investors from the South that choose countries with the best possible institutional environment and, in this case, appear not to be deterred by an “institutional distance”. Such large institutional difference is a driving force for the “asset-seeking” nature of FDI, as emerging investors acquire new technologies, brands, and intellectual property. Despite unfamiliarity, such an institutional environment is the most transparent for potential entrants due to the low corruption, sound property rights, and political stability.
  • Investing in similar institutions.These are the investors from the South that choose countries with a similar institutional environment, which helps explain the phenomenon of South-South FDI. When investing in the South, these investors have a comparative advantage due to their experience of working with poor institutions at home.
  • Investing in worse institutions. Although investors from developing countries often invest in countries with similarly poor institutions, they are usually deterred by institutions that are much worse than at home. Yet there is an important exception to this rule. The negative effect of very poor institutions is systematically outweighed by the appeal of natural resources, which appears to be a very important force behind FDI from the emerging economies. Specifically, we find that countries possessing natural resources that are worth more than $4,675 per capita (in the top 10% of our sample) will attract FDI from investors from the South despite a large institutional distance and having worse institutions. To name a few, this concerns countries such countries as Algeria, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Venezuela.
So basically, better institutions yield more FDI, unless you happen to have natural resources. I'm skeptical that there should be an interaction between BAD institutions, high resources and more FDI. In other words, I'm not sure that given the choice between two oil-rich countries, an investor would choose the one with lower institutional quality. If they would, then I would want to know what the incentive model is. I'm also going to guess that it depends on the dimension of institutions we're talking about here. A big oil company might like to invest in a less democratic country because in the medium term they may perceive it as a more stable haven for investment than a democracy whose policies may fluctuate with the whims of the so-called "median voter." That company may even like a little corruption in the government, since bribery may be a more efficient means for getting certain things done than following the letter of the law. Here I am more skeptical than in the case of democracy, since corruption tends to favor local interest groups over foreign investors, ceteris paribus. But I seriously doubt that a country with poor credibility, defined by the absence of expropriation risk, legal protection of property rights, and policy stability, would attract more FDI than a country with stronger credibility. Security (the absence of civil war and ethnic tensions for example) is likely to also help FDI, but probably in a secondary (or indirect) role vis a vis credibility.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Links I need to get out of my tabs

If the IRS discovered the quadratic formula
A couple of links on the Fed defying the Republicans' silly plea (Economix and Free Exchange)
Whole foods is messing with you (Fast Company)
Attracting students at full price (Inside Higher Ed) Bad for standards?
Public safety versus political rent-seeking (Marginal Revolution)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Some links on teaching and learning

Merit Pay and teacher assessment - details matter. (Freakonomics and Economix) (On that note, Roland Fryer got a "genius" grant. Part of his research shows that merit pay for students also depends on the details.)
Cognition and the McGurk Effect (Marginal Revolution)
Cognition and belief in God (Marginal Revolution)
Belief in God and faith in the free market (Free Exchange) (Not Related to teaching or learning, but on a free association from the previous link.)

Some links on trade and migration

America's Lost Decade and trade (Free Exchange)
The Great Relocation? (Marginal Revolution)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Links on the current (and future?) recession

The Beer Recession (Economix)
Growth and Jobs, a.k.a. Okun's "Law" (Free Exchange)
The "R" word on the rise (The Economist)
Technology and jobs: Short run vs. Long run (Free Exchange)
Housing prices versus rental prices. Somethings gotta give (read: Sell my effing house!) (Economix)
Debt and growth according to the IMF (BBC News) My view is that it's not so much debt as political risk. In the short run, the fundamentals of our (and Europe's) economy can withstand the current levels, burdens, and rates of growth in the levels and burdens, in the debt. I also don't see specific policy "A" or specific policy "B" as being the most important thing, so much as greater agreement, consensus and confidence that policies will be stable of the the forseeable time horizon. In the long run debt does matter, but anyone who claims to be serious about controlling it must admit that three things have to be on the table: (1) taxes; (2) defense; and (3) programs for seniors.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Macro model?

I'm wondering what, if any, economic model (macro or otherwise?) political conservatives are applying when they advocate for tax cuts as a remedy to the current recession.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Business in China (Economist) and government in India (Economist)

Liberal Media Bias

I've blogged about this before, and it seems at first the answer was yes. Is it more complicated? A new Vox post suggests that on average it is 'liberal' but not much moreso on average than the average citizen. Furthermore, it appears (from print media) that the bias is more leftward on social issues, and more rightward on economic issues.

Some links on jobs and macro

Denser cities? (Ryan Avent OpEd for NYT)
Free Exchange on Cowen's Austrian predictions in 2005. Apparently he predicted a crisis, but not the one we got. (Noriel Roubini predicted the same crisis using more Keynesian principles!)
GDP and GDI: Which is the better measure? They should be roughly the same, with the difference being "statistical discrepancy". Basically, it's a difference that comes from differences in sample collection: firms versus households. For some reason, GDI seems to pick up turning points in the business cycle better. (links here, here, and here) Bottom line: things are still bad, but not as bad as we thought, maybe.
Some thoughts on the CPI: How important is health care? (Econbrowser)
How much does growth trickle down? (Economix)
The ethics of unemployment. (Freakonomics)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Some links on immigration

Let them come. (Economist)
Tap their earnings back home. (Economist)Link

Links on Macro stuff

Alternative macro indicators? (Economist)
The twitter version of Bernanke's Jackson Hole Speech: (1) high unemployment; (2) disinflation; (3) urgency; (4) it's not just structural; (5) we've still got ammo; (6) we're reloading; (7) short run fiscal stimulus still needed; (8) long run fiscal austerity always needed. (Freakonomics)
The twitter version of the long-term deficit problem: (1) Bush tax cuts. (Economix)
Can a double-dip be avoided? (Economist)
Pay incentives on Wall Street: get ready to go through this again soon. (VOX)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Monday, August 22, 2011

Some Links

Michelle Bachman's solution to high gas prices: another recession?
This always bears repeating. We live in one of the most peaceful times of the modern era.
Get up or pay!
The revenue-neutral carbon tax.
Diaspora bonds? Color me skeptical. Previous attempts to use active policy to sop up more of emigrants' surplus have not been so successful.
Biggest parenting mistakes ever? Mine, I'm sure, are still to come.
News flash: cash transfers dominate in-kind gifts.

Republican Tax Increases

Alex Tabarrok is on the Republicans today for wanting to increase taxes. I'm not in full agreement with him about tax increases in general (he thinks they should not be increased in general, and that less government and low taxes are roughly synonymous), but I wholeheartedly agree with the notion that the temporary payroll tax cuts proposed by Obama should not be allowed to expire.
Some things that puzzle me about the issue:
1. Payroll taxes are regressive (they affect lower-income workers more). Why would they want to raise payroll taxes during economic recession?
2. Payroll taxes are a direct impediment to private sector hiring. Why would they want to raise payroll taxes during economic recession?
3. One could argue that they aren't technically raising taxes; they're allowing existing cuts to expire, but the Republicans have argued that allowing tax cuts for the rich to expire would themselves be tantamount to tax increases. Why would they want to raise payroll taxes during economic recession?
4. Republicans have argued against cap and trade (not technically a tax) as well as against carbon taxes, both of which have been supported by economists of both parties as good ways to deal with emissions (subsidies for clean technologies that Republicans support are not as good) on the grounds that any tax on energy would disproportionately hurt low-income working Americans. So.... why would they want to raise payroll taxes during economic recession?
Lining up for payroll tax increases also seems to be a political no-win for Republicans politically. It only seems to cement the narrative that they don't really care about the economy itself, but rather that they represent the rich (sometimes at the expense of the poor).

Taxing Trades (This is not about tariffs)

I've thought about blogging this for a few weeks now, especially with all the talk about banning high frequency trading. I figure, if you think something is creating negative externalities (like high volumes of high frequency trades) then a small tax should help mitigate it, without as much of a negative impact on efficiency as an outright ban or fixed quantity restrictions.
I would apply similar logic to political contributions, but I'm sure some lawyer would argue that this would be taxing (and therefore restricting) speech.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The solution is growth (Daron Acemoglu - HBR Blog)? Will growth curb the debt problem or will debt reduction stimulate growth?

A neat randomization technique to facilitate truth-telling (Freakonomics).

As Greenspan says - we'll never be "forced" to default. Greece didn't have this option. Whither Euro? (Financial Times)

The downside of self-regulating occupational licensing boards (Jay Parkinson)

More policy options that would be dominated by a carbon tax. (Freakonomics)

Another way of looking at the value-added problem in trade statistics. Not all of the "Made in China" product's value should be counted as China's exports? But where do the profits really end up? (NYTimes)

I'm guessing the blockquote here is toungue-in-cheek. (Caplan) I worry about students who only learn a particular algorithm for applying knowledge to specific situations. Those students will be easily replaced by computers. Learn to think.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Some Links: Porn is good.

So, it at least looks doubtful that porn increases sexual violence; it may reduce it.
A couple of links on migration:
Where is everybody? Some difficulties in migration research and some new data sources (VOX).
Less Mexicans migrating (PeopleMove)?
Is the market crazy? (Freakonomics) I don't think so. I'm not surprised at a decline in stocks with the uncertainty about the debt and, more importantly, about debt politics. Political uncertainty can be an important factor in economic performance, but over the long run superior property rights, contracting, and civil liberty will root out the short run uncertainty wrought by partisanship.
What are the Tea Partiers' interests? (Economix)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Playing by the real rules of Monopoly. (Game Night)
Emission trading begins to go international. (Economist) For any "cap and trade" scheme to be effectively binding, it must be globalized; else I still prefer a tax, for that and other reasons.
Gender bias and agricultural technology. (Economist)
Media - back to coffee houses? (Economist)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A sad outcome for property rights theories of environmental protection.

Quick summary: Tim DeChristopher, environmentalist and former economics major at Utah bids on oil and gas permits and wins some while pushing the prices of others up; gets sentenced to 2 years in prison.
I've long thought that if environmentalists wanted to reduce environmental damage, one they should do is bid on (and buy) some of the permits to extract resources or otherwise pollute the environment. If the government's position is that this is criminal behavior, then it strengthens the case for Pigouvian taxation.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Some Random Links

An interesting short piece on the Isreli-Palestinian conflict (Haushofer, et al.)
A shamelessly self-interested link - somebody buy our house!
Is there a great divergence? (Rodrik)
Summary of an interview by Felix Simon with Larry Summers. Sentences to ponder:
The Treasury bond rate, Treasury note rate for ten years is 2.85 percent. Nobody is failing to invest because 2.85 percent is too much. They are failing to invest because there are no customers in their store. They are failing to invest because their factories are sitting empty. They are failing to innovate because they’re not sure how large the market for the product will be.

We don't need a C.E.O. A country is not a business. We need a policy expert. (Economix)
Economics for kids? (Freakonomics)
Banerjee on Poverty. (Economist)
Debt impacts of new policies GWB vs. BHO.

Price effects of WalMarts versus Sam's Clubs

An interesting discussion on Freakonomics. Basically, what is happening is that when a WalMart enters a market, existing retailers compete, and prices fall; when a Sam's (or Costco) enters the same market, prices rise. Why?
Phillips makes the argument that it's a mostly a product differentiation issue, i.e. that the monopolistically-competitive retailers are competing by distinguishing on variables like appearance, cleanliness, service, and convenience. I don't buy it, because they already do that with a WalMart around.
Instead I think it has to do with the pricing strategy of the club stores vis-a-vis non-club stores, and which consumers are attracted to each (and revealed as such to the competitors). Club stores price discriminate. They charge a membership fee, and then charge lower prices on marginal purchases. Smaller grocers don't have the size or clout to charge membership fees. Thus, they attract much more price-elastic consumers. The remaining consumers are considerably less responsive to price. At the same time, these leftover consumers are revealed to value the intangibles like service and appearance more. Small stores are free-riding on the informative role of the membership fees.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Some links

Increasing taxes a little and funding health reform may do more good (at least in the short run) than cutting spending. Someone remind folks that tax revenues are already at 50 year lows as a percentage of GDP.
A similar (but maybe a bit less firm) conclusion here.
More similar conclusions from Krugman on modern Keynesianism (on VOX not his hackish blog).
A couple of cool statistics links:
Some institutional links:
Gender bias and agricultural technology
Why continuing to be a Royals fan (among other things) is good for me.
Exports are overrated?

Education and Democracy

The Economist (see also HERE) asks why there is no apparent causal (or even correlative) relationship between education and democracy. They claim, "It is possible, however, that education reinforces authority and the power of ruling elites; indeed, it may often be designed to do precisely this." This seems entirely plausible to me.

A working paper by Bang and Mitra shows that, once we control for certain other factors, the impact of education on growth is even ambiguous. What other factors, you ask? Gender equity/bias. One explanation here is that in countries that have high rates of education among men (but not among women) education is doing precisely what the Economist suggests - fortifying the established position of the traditional elites.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Is it time to rethink the way university lectures are delivered?

Maybe. I'm all for efforts to make the learning environment more interactive. I'm less certain that there's a single way to do it best, or that even doing it at all will be "efficient" for the bigger schools. A few things:
1. Students will benefit from being confronted with (and even struggling through) a multitude of diverse teaching styles. This might sometimes include "boring" lectures. They will face different leadership styles in their jobs and will should be prepared for the fact that the world doesn't revolve around them.
2. GIGO (garbage-in-garbage-out). Regardless of teaching style, students will ultimately get out of a class only what they put in.
3. Experiential learning is good for reinforcing theories and principles if used in a complementary fashion, but can't substitute for learning the theories and principles themselves.
4. Disfluency. In some ways making the material more quickly understood does not make the material better understood. Sure, it will be fun, and likely boost a professor's course evaluations, but there is research that shows a little bit of struggle (on the students' part) can go a long way.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

More Random Links

Can democracy precede (human, and hence economic) development? (VOX)
Just scroll down to the last graph. How long can the "big government" narrative be sold? Government isn't that big; transfers are just high because of the recession and taxes are horrendously low for the same reason, as well as the 2001 & 2003 tax cuts. (Menzie Chinn)
Some "odd"ities from InTrade. (Freakonomics)
"[H]ow many students struggle with elasticity formulas because they struggle to manipulate and understand fractions?" (Worthwhile Canadian Initiative)

A Mixed Bag of Links

HIV/AIDS on the decline: Education, drugs, and activism credited. (Economist)
Do law-abiding gun owners generate positive externalities? (Economix) I do not read this piece as an argument against most proposed restrictions, such as registration per se or waiting periods, or even bans on certain types of weapons.
Taxing pollution: The tax a sensible conservative should favor (Economist)
Tyler Cowen on Academic Publishing (Kosmos)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Some links on immigration and trade (and a couple on statistics)

So, what we can get from this is: (1) immigrants are favorably selected (relative to education levels in their home countries - nothing new); (2) this is not always a bad thing for the home countries in the long run. It does not lead to the conclusion that immigrants should be deliberately cherry picked by some artificial policy mechanism.
Banking in the US is finally catching up with resources already available to Africa.
Finance and trade: A historical perspective. (Vox)
Gambling: chance or skill? (Freakonomics)
Some interesting polling data on perceptions about homosexuality. (Economist/Democracy in America) Makes me think the "gay marriage trick" won't work in 2012 like it did in 2004.
Semi-random link on self-publishing a book. (Freakonomics)

Some links on institutions and failed states

The long-lasting effects of corrupt institutional history. (Vox; more here)
Oil (resources?) and democracy. (Vox)
Failed states, poor institutions, and poverty. (Freakonomics)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Some links on trade and immigration

Free Trade Agreements may be good, even if there is trade diversion. This is true, and we have known it theoretically for a while. This post summarizes some empirical evidence supporting it. (Jim Anderson, Vox)
US trade policy and Doha: Multilateralism is less important to US trade policy these days and bilateral agreements are starting to take precedence. Is this good? (Fred Bergsten, Vox)
US trade policy in the 21st century: strategic trade mistakes of the past redux? (Richard Baldwin, Vox, part I; here is part II)
Migration restrictions and the flow of immigrants. It seems plausible that one conclusion from this article is that immigration restrictions do almost nothing to curtail the quantity of immigrants, might even increase the number of immigrants in the US (by lengthening stays of would-be short term or seasonal migrants who now incur higher border crossing costs), and mainly serves to transfer rents to criminals. (Drew Keeling, Vox)
The curious case of the CIS. (Dilip Ratha, People Move)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Some links on trade and immigration

New regulations on remittances (WSJ)
What would really bring a dollar dive? (Chinn) (Answer: "a failure to raise the debt ceiling in a timely fashion")
Free trade agreements and democracy (Vox: Xuepeng Liu)
More on demographics in China and inter-temporal comparative advantage, sorta. (People Move)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Some links

There is no great stagnation. (Free Exchange)
Rule #1: Buy low sell high. Rule #2: You can't make up a per-unit loss with quantity. Don't forget rule #1.
Optimal punishment for bribery: giving a bribe is legal, soliciting is illegal. (Economist)
Optimal bribery for kids. (Boston Globe)
Rent vs. Buy (Economix)
Selling Government Land (MR)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Petition of the Candlemakers

From WSJ, via TC at MR:

Candles are one industry in which U.S. producers dominate their home market. The National Candle Association estimates the U.S. market is about $2 billion, with imports accounting for 20% or less of that. Imports have been low since 2004, when “the anti-dumping duties came into play,” said the association’s president, Frederic Contino. That’s when duties for Chinese-made candles entering the U.S. more than doubled to the current 108.3%.

Some international econ links

Trump's trade policy. WTF? More here.
TC on Stolper-Samuelson. I'd like to point out that S-S doesn't directly imply Factor Price Equalization. S-S just identifies the winners and losers; FPE is a stronger result that requires additional assumptions.
Closed borders, by one of my dissertation mentors.

Interesting

From Economix:
Very few countries default because they can’t afford to pay their debts, either to their own citizens or to foreigners. Defaults occur when the political process in a country determines that, for whatever reason, the government cannot raise sufficient revenue.

Interesting. It mentions the debt-to-revenue ratio as a critical factor in determining the sustainability (read: servicability) of our debt. Even with the tax-cut crazy republicans dictating the agenda, we're not at a critical level on that statistic.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Some Links on International Economics and other Random Stuff.

In factor endowments models of trade, we usually think of the quantity of land as fixed. Dubai tried to disprove this, but their man-made islands are now sinking. Nature seems to have a better way of proving me wrong. (NYTimes)
An interesting take on the trade deficit with China, which, by the way fits with a simple inter-temporal comparative advantage story. (Economist)
Female Migration and Development. (PeopleMove; also here)

Economists behaving badly. (Ezra Klein)
"Page Numbers are for Wussies." (Cheep Talk)

Friday, March 11, 2011

One Possible Take on the NPR Hoo-Hah

One take is that this is the gotcha moment where the right finally proved the liberal bias of NPR. Maybe.

But, as conservative Heather MacDonald points out:
I fail to see the relevance of an NPR employee’s off-air criticism of
the Tea Party to the question of NPR’s federal funding or its liberal
bias. Conservatives can easily prove liberal bias by analyzing the
content of the programming.
I have no doubt that there is a significant over-representation of
democrats and "liberals" among the employees  who work and report for
NPR, but that in and of itself does not imply that they are anything other than
professional and fair in their coverage of the news. In fact, on average, although there is liberal bias in the media overall, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting seems to be among the most scrupulously centrist news organizations out there, according to a study by Tim Groseclose and Jeffrey Milyo (2005, Quarterly Journal of Economics):
Our results show a strong liberal bias: all of the news outlets we
examine, except Fox News’ Special Report and the Washington Times,
received scores to the left of the average member of Congress.
Consistent with claims made by conservative critics, CBS Evening News
and the New York Times received scores far to the left of center. The
most centrist media outlets were PBS NewsHour
, CNN’s Newsnight, and
ABC’s Good Morning America; among print outlets, USA Today was closest
to the center. [Emphasis added.]
Furthermore,
Conservatives frequently list NPR as an egregious example of a liberal news outlet. However, by our estimate the outlet hardly differs from the average mainstream news outlet.
PBS NewsHour is a CPB production. So, (1) according to Ms. MacDonald personal political views of the executives shouldn't matter; (2) also according to Ms. MacDonald bias should be proven through an analysis of the content; (3) statistical analysis of the content shows little or no bias by several major public broadcasting programs. What does this mean of Mr. O'Keefe's video? One conclusion might be that it only weakens the case against NPR and CPB as "left-wing liberal media."  In fact, given the widespread (and probably correct) notion that public broadcasting mostly employs bleeding-heart liberal hippies, the fact that NPR's and PBS's content is demonstrably unbiased relative to other media (not to mention lack of influence by corporate advertisers) only strengthens the case for its continued public support.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Some Links on International Econ, and other stuff.

Trade, integration, and political reform in MENA (VOX)
Really? Do we have to block everything? How bout you pass the pro-market stuff, Republicans? (NYTimes)
More people latching onto Uwe Reinhardt's flawed characterization of international economists (World Trade Law)
JLR for now, Tata for later? (Economist)
Second-generation immigrants - problem? (Economist)
Finally, some music. A few seconds from every chart-topper since 1956 (ECC)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Crock Pot Pork Butt

Excellent crock pot pulled pork tonight:

15 oz can tomato sauce
15 oz can pineapple, crushed
3 Tbsp brown sugar
3 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 Tbsp dried minced onion
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
salt & pepper to taste
4-5 pound boneless Boston Butt pork shoulder, halved
15 oz can mandarin oranges
Combine 1st 8 ingredients. Add meat. Cook 10 hours on low. Add oranges in last hour. Pull apart with fork.

The liquid makes a nice carolina-esque vinegar-based barbecue sauce (if it weren't for the tomato sauce). The meat falls apart. This is a variation on a recipe intended for chicken, but the combination of flavors seemed perfect for pork shoulder. Plus, cooking chicken breasts all day in a crock pot usually means dried out chicken, so I went with a bigger hunk of meat.

Some Links, Including the Benefits of Holding "it" In

We make better long-run decisions on a full bladder. I can't wait to share this with my 75-minute classes. (APS)
Wage gaps and education. Some of this seems contrary to the recent evidence of stagnating education wage premia. (Krugman and Cowen - separately, of course!)
Given these structural changes, structural change is not welfare-neutral, even in the long run. (Rodrik)
Even (especially?) informed voters just really don't have beliefs about politics and policy that are consistent with reality. (Caplan)
Is controlled immigration better for welfare programs? This seems to assume a lot about the effectiveness of the controls.  (VOX)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Wage Struggles of Men (and a Link on Helping the Homeless)

Wage struggles of men? (Economix) Forgive me for being cynical, but looking at earnings per capita instead of earnings per worker and concluding that there is some sort of tide against men in the labor market seems hypocritical and sexist. A paper on the gender gap scarcely gets published unless it looks at female earnings on a per worker and per hour basis. This, of course is because many say there is "voluntary" selection into (and more importantly out of) the work force. How concerned should we be if more men are beginning to voluntarily select out of the work force (or begin working fewer hours), as more of their wives work full time? For thirty years women were told that their hours-worked choices were "voluntary" and the bar for showing evidence of a culture of discrimination was set almost impossibly high. Now that things are changing, why are we so quick to feel sorry for the men?

Direct transfers are often better than paternalistic in-kind ones (Jason Kottke)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

An Interesting Take

I hadn't seen much relation of the Wisconsin protests with international trade, but here's an interesting point from the international economic law and policy blog.
The right to collective bargaining is one of the so-called "core labor rights" that the U.S. uses for GSP conditionality, and the 2002 TPA required labor rights to be a negotiating objective in U.S. PTAs.  ...  Article 6 of the US-Jordan FTA, for example, ... requires that each party "strive" to ensure that its laws incorporate freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.
Will this make us hypocrites? I guess not if you consider the fact that we probably already are, but it won't help.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Links on Arguing for Free Trade and Other Stuff

A simplistic argument for free trade by NG Mankiw; a simplistic response from Uwe Reinhardt; a better response here and here.
The other stuff. Can't resist a few links on the union stuff.
Matt Yglesias on Swedish labor unions:
Swedish labor unions could use their dominant labor market position to increase workers’ compensation by making Swedish firms less profitable than non-Swedish ones, but that would be bad for everyone. What you get instead is a kind of Mirror Universe version of the Chamber of Commerce, a politically powerful institution interested in maximizing the income growth of the median Swede rather than the median Swedish CEO.

This only works because a really high percentage of workers in Nordic countries is unionized.
Menzie Chinn on the fiscal non-problems in Wisconsin.
Finally, Chinn on, well, let's say buyers' remorse:
"I am going to make an effort to speak for myself, and every member of the Wisconsin State Patrol when I say this ... I specifically regret the endorsement of the Wisconsin Trooper's Association for Gov. Scott Walker. I regret the governor's decision to 'endorse' the troopers and inspectors of the Wisconsin State Patrol."

That's Chinn quoting Tracy Fuller, president of the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Association. To this I say, "Really?" I mean they guy campaigned against public sector unions when you supported him. Then again, I can understand a little surprise at a politician who does what he says he'll do.
In other news, it seems as if the governor is testing the water for having the National Guard take over for the bastard union prison guards (at what cost I wonder?).