A Renaissance in Economics The American President Ronald Reagan once quipped, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’” I get the same shivers when someone introduces themselves as an economist.
“LEGO® sets are not cheap toys. They are made to the highest standards and have the price to go along with it. However, in the past couple decades it seems that the price of LEGO sets has become outrageous. New sets can sell for up to $500 retail and old sets can sell for twice that in a secondary market. This is a children’s toy, right? There is no way LEGO sets have always been this expensive; it is just molded plastic. Let’s take a look at the history of LEGO pricing and try to figure out what is going on.”
House of Cards is a new original "TV" series that is not destined for any TV distribution channel. Instead, it was developed by, and is only available through, Netflix. Netflix posted the entire first "season," 13 1-hour episodes, on Friday. (Is this the new thing?) Some of us, cough, watched the whole thing. [more inside]
Last week a debate erupted in the US comedy community between stand-up comedians (like Kurt Metzger and Mike Lawrence) and the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater about the fact that at none of their three theaters pay any of their performers (including UCBEast in New York, which often has Saturday Night Stand-up shows). Other comics such as Chris Gethard eloquently came to their defense. This week two of the founders Matt Besser and Matt Walsh released an episode of Besser's pocast Improv for Humans that goes into details about the club's philosophy, including why they have never taken any money from founding and running the theater. [more inside]
Yesterday, the Nielsen Company released a report showing that same-sex partnered households in America shop about 16% more than the average US household. Broken down into categories, Nielsen observes that gay couples drink a ton, while lesbian couples eat an awful lot of cottage cheese.
Philip Pilkington writes for naked capitalism: The Origins of Neoliberalism Part I: Hayek's Delusion
Hayek’s entire ideology and career had begun to come apart in the 1930s. His theories were shown to be inconsistent in the academic journals of the time and the practical implications of those theories had shown themselves to be both discredited and dangerous. A man in such a position only has two choices: he can either completely re-evaluate his ideas which, if they were held with unshakeable conviction and constituted a core component of his emotional make-up, as seems to have been the case with Hayek, would have likely resulted in a mental collapse; or, alternatively, he can engage in a massive repression, shut out reality and construct around himself a fantasy world.[more inside]
"We decided to go on an adventure through the financial statements of one bank [Wells Fargo], to explore exactly what they do and do not show, and to gauge whether it is possible to make informed judgments about the risks the bank may be carrying. We chose a bank that is thought to be a conservative financial institution, and an exemplar of what a large modern bank should be."
Stimulus or Stymied?: The Macroeconomics of Recession: An American Economic Association panel discussion on the Great Recession between four leading economists - Paul Krugman (Princeton), Valerie Ramey (UCSD), Harald Uhlig (Chicago) and Carlo Cottarelli (IMF), chaired by Brad DeLong (Berkeley).
Unpacking the Beauty Premium, Borland J & Leigh A, unpub., 2013.
The first Australian study of the financial return to physical attractiveness finds its worth an astounding $32,150 in annual salary, with men of above average looks typically commanding $81,750 compared to $49,600 for men with below-average looks.
Men with below-average looks were 15 per cent less likely than normal to be employed and were typically employed for a 9 per cent lower wage. They were also less likely to be married and less likely to married to a woman of high income.
The full economic impact of Smaug can only be understood by recognizing that the dragon's arrival resulted in a severe monetary shock…
What's Going On In Japan? "Really Japan is quite a remarkable case, since neither fiscal nor monetary policy seems to be working to achieve the anticipated results. This year Japan will have a fiscal deficit of around 10% of GDP and gross government debt will hit 235% of GDP, yet the country is still struggling to find growth. Instead of reiterating old dogmas (whether they come from Keynes or from Hayek) more people should be asking themselves what is happening here. This is not a simple repetition of something which was first time tragedy and is now second time tragedy, it is something new, and could well be a harbinger for more that is to come, elsewhere. Oh, why oh why are economists not more curious?" [more inside]
Research Says: Studying Economics Turns You Into a Liar The researchers ultimately ran their test on 258 students from various majors, including business, economics, the humanities, sciences, law, among others. And there was a clear gap: even though a large portion of students lied from every field, economics and business students lied a much more often than everybody else. As shown in the table below, just 22.8 percent of them honestly reported the colors of the flashing circles, even when it cost them that extra euro. More than half of humanities students, on the other hand, were honest. Same went for law students, who appeared to play against type. (They also claim that the *study* made the difference and not just the type of student that signed up for that kind of study.)
"There are certain novels that can shape a teenage boy's life. For some, it's Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged; for others it's Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. As a widely quoted internet meme says, the unrealistic fantasy world portrayed in one of those books can warp a young man's character forever; the other book is about orcs. But for me, of course, it was neither. My Book – the one that has stayed with me for four-and-a-half decades – is Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, written when Asimov was barely out of his teens himself. I didn't grow up wanting to be a square-jawed individualist or join a heroic quest; I grew up wanting to be Hari Seldon, using my understanding of the mathematics of human behaviour to save civilisation." [Paul Krugman: Asimov's Foundation novels grounded my economics]
The Economics of Caring There's something deeply flawed about an economic system that measures utility but not the attachments we feel to another person, or to one's homeland.
There's been a lot of talk in the US media about the "Fiscal Cliff" and the "Grand Bargain" What are they?
The "fiscal cliff" is a confluence of three legal changes taking effect Jan. 1: the expiration of a payroll-tax cut, the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts, and the advent of mandatory spending cuts known as "sequestration."Fiscal Cliff 101: 5 Basic Questions Answered. What's Happening: Fiscal Cliff Explained [more inside]
Bruce Bartlett tells the story of how he lost faith in the Republican Party.
Her Majesty the Queen has been pleased to approve the appointment of Mark Carney as Governor of the Bank of England from 1 July 2013. He will succeed Sir Mervyn King. [more inside]
Has politics gone peer-to-peer? A rich 90-minute panel discussion with Steven Johnson, author of "Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked World", featuring Yochai Benkler, Susan Crawford and Lawrence Lessig.
Who's the Shop Steward on Your Kickstarter? "The true product for sale on Kickstarter is not your art project, but your community and networks. ... Our projects that facilitate the funding are a side effect, a cost of doing business—the business of drilling our relationships for all they are worth."
Are Social Impact Bonds a good way to invest in public services? "Imagine a contract where private investors are paid by the government if there's a decrease in homelessness or convicts re-offending. It's a an idea that's taking shape in the UK and some US states. And now the Canadian government is considering piloting social impact bonds. Critics say it's a way of governments shirking their responsibilities." CBC's "The Current" reports. [more inside]
Perhaps the most fruitful way to look at the debate between Morgenthau and Marshall that was carried on--largely below the surface, largely without explicit confrontation--at the end of WWII is that it was an attempt to figure out how to resolve call it two historical problems: the problem of European military culture, and the problem of modern industrial war. Economist Brad DeLong explains.
The Futurist Magazine along with The World Future Society predicts the future with a list of the top trends and forecasts for 2013 and beyond.
A massive shortage of gas all over New York and New Jersey is fueling hours-long lines stretching blocks or even miles. A big part of the problem has been power shortages to gas stations and refineries. Nevertheless, some argue that laws preventing gas prices from spiking in response to the disaster ("price gouging") are making things much worse, discouraging businesses from staying open in tough conditions and preventing entrepreneurs from profiting from any clever ways of increasing supply. Others admit gouging has some advantages, but still consider it ethically dubious. Gouging seems to be happening informally regardless.
From the mid 40s to the mid 50s Coronet Instructional Films were always ready to provide social guidance for teenagers on subjects as diverse as dating, popularity, preparing for being drafted, and shyness, as well as to children on following the law, the value of quietness in school, and appreciating our parents. They also provided education on topics such as the connection between attitudes and health, what kind of people live in America, how to keep a job, supervising women workers, the nature of capitalism, and the plantation System in Southern life. Inside is an annotated collection of all 86 of the complete Coronet films in the Prelinger Archives as well as a few more. Its not like you had work to do or anything right? [more inside]
In the spirit of the Nobel season, Yasha Levine discusses the history of the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel as a PR gimmick for laissez-faire economics, and how its existence is an affront to the Nobel legacy.
Are Healthy Foods Really More Expensive? (6.78 MB PDF) It turns out that it depends on how you measure the price. In a recent study by the USDA, some 4,439 foods were compared using the following metrics: the price of food energy ($/calorie), the price of edible weight ($/100 edible grams), the price of an average portion ($/average portion), and the cost of meeting the federal dietary recommendations for each food group. The study found that for all metrics except the price of food energy ($/calorie) healthy foods cost less than less healthy foods (defined as foods that are high in saturated fat, added sugar, and/or sodium, or that contribute little to meeting dietary recommendations).
“Economic theory has come to a dead end — the last real breakthroughs were in the 1960s,” says Yanis Varoufakis, a Greek economist recently hired by the video-game company Valve. “But that’s not because we stopped being clever. We came up against a hard barrier. The future is going to be in experimentation and simulation — and video game communities give us a chance to do all that.”
Buying useful things, like roads and universities and health care and solar energy and spaceships, should be better stimulus than fighting wars.
"Liberals have not always been very good at communicating why liberalism works. There’s many reasons for this, but part of it is that it can be hard to defend the obvious from an absurd and deceptive attack. For half a century you had to be a crank to oppose what Roosevelt accomplished; liberals got out of the habit of arguing for their beliefs. I hope this page will help. Liberals don’t need to apologize for their vision of how American society should work. Liberalism saved American capitalism and democracy, defeated Naziism, created a prosperous middle class, and benefited every sector of society, from the back streets to Wall Street. " Mefi's own Zompist (previously) on Why Liberalism Works.
The Golden Age, an essay by prominent Australian economist John Quiggin, reflecting on the current relevance and future possibilities of Keynes 1930 essay, Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren.
It seems as if stealing bikes shouldn’t be a lucrative form of criminal activity. Used bikes aren’t particularly liquid or in demand compared to other things one could steal (phones, electronics, drugs). And yet, bikes continue to get stolen. What happens to these stolen bikes and how do they get turned into criminal income?
The American people “should be enraged by the broken promises to Main Street and the unending protection of Wall Street” writes Neil Barofsky, former Inspector General of the Troubled Asset Relief Program in his new book, Bailout, about his time in that office. His trenchant criticisms of Washington egos, moneyed interests, and political games has some calling him an "idealistic alien" and others vehemently defending him. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner comes off particularly poorly in Bailout, unsurprising in light of his well-known feud with Barofsky over the efficacy of the bailouts. (previously)
The complete guide to America's jobs crisis and the failure of monetary policy using animated gifs
Trade-offs between inequality, productivity, and employment - "The poor do not employ one another, because the necessities they require are produced and sold so cheaply by the rich. The rich are glad to sell to the poor, as long as the poor can come up with property or debt claims or other forms of insurance to offer as payment..." [more inside]
"Today, the Chinese working class is fighting. More than thirty years into the Communist Party’s project of market reform, China is undeniably the epicenter of global labor unrest." — Eli Friedman from Jacobin
"Some date the crisis to August 9 2007, the day it became clear that Europe’s banks were up to their necks in US housing debt. The ECB flooded markets with €95bn of liquidity. It seemed a lot of money then. The term “trillion” was still banned by the Telegraph style book in those innocent days. We have since learned to swing with the modern dance music from central banks." [Five years on, the Great Recession is turning into a life sentence]
The comparative experience thus suggests that for inequality reduction, it is the quantity of taxes rather than the progressivity of the tax system that matters most. Affluent countries that achieve substantial inequality reduction do so with tax systems that are large but no more progressive than ours [America's]. [more inside]
Paul Ryan. Seven-term congressman for Wisconsin's 1st District. Chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee. Architect of the controversial Ryan Budget -- a "Path to Prosperity" [PDF - video - CBO] that would slash trillions from the federal budget, sharply curtail taxes on the wealthy, and transform Medicare into a private voucher system. Proponent (vid) -- and renouncer -- of Ayn Rand 's Objectivism. Social Security beneficiary. Hunter. Weinermobile driver. And as of this morning, the 2012 Republican candidate for Vice President of the United States of America. [more inside]
Financial Markets, Politics and the New Reality: "Louis M. Bacon is the head of Moore Capital Management, one of the largest and most influential hedge funds in the world. Last week, he announced that he was returning one quarter of his largest fund, about $2 billion, to his investors, [saying] it is impossible to make money when there is heavy political involvement, because political involvement introduces unpredictability in the market… Adam Smith and David Ricardo, who modern investors so admire, [never] used the term "economics" by itself, but only in conjunction with politics; they called it political economy… The investors' problem is that they mistake the period between 1991 and 2008 as the norm and keep waiting for it to return."
The current system of corporate governance is bunk. Capitalist corporations are on the way to certain extinction. Replete with hierarchies that are exceedingly wasteful of human talent and energies, intertwined with toxic finance, co-dependent with political structures that are losing democratic legitimacy fast, a form of post-capitalist, decentralised corporation will, sooner or later, emerge.An analysis of the management and organizational style of Valve Software.
Robert and Edward Skidelsky talk about their book "How much is enough." Mixing economics and philosophy will obviously cause a lot of debate, but they do raise some valid points.
Mitt Romney's cousin explains the history of the GOP and Mormonism through twitter (and other interesting things)
Miles Kimball tells the history behind the Mormon church's close ties to the GOP through his twitter account. [more inside]