In a twist on the “Life After Lawrence” meme, Professor Merton D. “Marty” Finkler officially retired yesterday, after serving on the economics faculty for more than 30 years. Professor Finkler is the consummate economist, always interested in talking about economics and ideas whether in class or at the ball game. He also has a remarkable versatility, from his principal field of health economics to his core (and terrifying?) macro theory course to urban economics to sports economics to environmental economics and on to China. It certainly is not possible to replace his expertise, at least not with one person. Fortunately, he will continue to teach and engage with our students as an emeritus professor, beginning this fall with his Investments class.
Here he is pictured in his new hood (!), along with our faculty and one of our more photogenic students. His Honorary Degree citation is below the break.
Congratulations to our 2016 graduates, many of whom walked the stage yesterday. We were happy to see so many of you and your families at the Saturday reception. We trust we will hear back from you at some point (and not just because you are applying for graduate school and need a recommendation(!)).
The Economics Department distributes (?) a number of awards each year, and here are the particulars:
The Iden Charles Champion Award in Commerce and Industry (Paper Prize)
Mishal Ayz, Astoria, NY, “A Game Theoretic Analysis of International Justice Disputes.”
Perrin Tourangeuau, Denver, CO, “Why Forests Fail: Exploring the Relationship between Institutions and Forest Management Outcomes in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.”
The William A. McConagha Prize for excellence in economics (Seniors)
Ruby Dickson, Louisville, CO
Zachary Martin, Brookfield, WI
Perrin Tourangeuau, Denver, CO
The Philip and Rosemary Wiley Bradley Achievement Scholarship in Economics (Juniors)
That’s the title of a June 2016 Journal of Economic Literature piece, available at a website near you. Typically, this wouldn’t warrant a response from the Lawrence Economics Blog, but typically you don’t see accolades like this directed towards one of our own:
One of the classic papers written on the economics of religion, Azzi and Ehrenberg (1975), summarized the literature on what the empirical correlates of religiosity had discovered about the United States until then.
Wow, classic papers! If you see Professor Azzi, be sure to ask him about the genesis of that paper.
Sriya Iyer. 2016.“The New Economics of Religion.”Journal of Economic Literature, 54(2): 395-441.
Corry Azzi and Ronald Ehrenberg. 1975. “Household Allocation of Time and Church Attendance.” Journal of Political Economy 83 (1): 27–56.
You may have heard that an economist was taken off an airplane for working on equations that employed Greek letters. It turned out to be an Italian economist working out a differential equation. The Buttonwood column of the Economist provides some advice for those who might not know if they are sitting next to an economist (or who the two people pictured above are.)
For starters, here’s one clue.
He keeps telling you that “there is no such thing” as a “complimentary refreshment service.”
In a recent opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, Princeton economist and former vice-chair of the Federal Reserve, Alan Blinder attempts to add constructive insight to the political discussion regarding international trade. Below you will find the Five Big Truth he cited. I encourage you to read the details.
Most job losses are not due to international trade.
Trade is more about efficiency – and hence wages – than about the number of jobs.
Bilateral trade imbalances are inevitable and mostly uninteresting.
Running an overall trade deficit does not make us “losers.”
Trade agreements barely affect a nation’s trade balance.
This fall, Professor Finkler will be offering 421 Investments on Tuesdays 9:50-10:50 and Thursdays from 9:00 to 10:50. For those of you considering taking the course with a Tuesday conflict, this may open an opportunity for you.
It is that time of year where the days get longer, aided by a single leap and bound. This Saturday into Sunday, much of the US will push its clocks forward by one hour. Despite the “Daylight Savings” moniker, there is no actual daylight saved — it just shifts an hour from the morning to the evening. The consequences of this likely will affect whether some people live through the rest of March or not, as I pointed out in the New York Times Room for Debate section a few years ago. My contribution has to do with the changes in pedestrian fatality risks and total fatalities associated with the time change. I also wrote a more general piece for the Appleton Post-Crescent. Below is my semi-annual rehash of a previous post…
So, what does a time change look like? Glad you asked: The figure from the sunshine authority, Gaisma.com, shows daylight patterns for our own Appleton, Wisconsin. Each day starts with midnight at the bottom and goes to the top, and the months go left to right. The blue line is the dawn and the red the dusk.
The switch to DST in March and the switch back to standard time in November are clear — they are the discontinuities (the “breaks”) in the sunrise and sunset curves. Because we “spring ahead” one hour, the sunrise time on Sunday morning will be one hour later than it was on Saturday. An early morning walk that was in that daylight on Saturday will be in the dark on Sunday. To have a sunrise at the same time as Saturday’s, we will have to wait until early April. The opposite happens in the evening. Sunset will be one hour later starting on Sunday. There will be less light in the morning, but more light in the evening.
Light and visibility are extremely important determinants of traffic safety, particularly for pedestrians. Paul Fischbeck and I looked at data from 1999-2005 on fatalities and travel patterns, and determined that the morning risk increases about 30% per mile walked, while the afternoon risk falls close to 80%.
The figure below shows pedestrian fatality risks from 1999-2005. The blue and maroon bars show fatality risks per 100 million miles walked in March and April, respectively. Note that for the 6 a.m. time slot the risks increase about 30%, whereas for the 6 p.m. time slot the risks take a sharp nosedive. At midday the risks stay right about the same (we found no statistically significant difference in risks for that time period). Overall, total pedestrian fatalities decrease in the Spring both because risks fall more in the evening than they rise in the morning, and there are many more people out later in the day.
These data are rather crude in the presentation, as they do not focus specifically on the days leading up to and immediately following the time shifts, which is how researchers typically isolate the effects of the time change.
Bradley W. Bateman, President of Randolph College, Keynesian scholar, and frequent visitor to Lawrence, has a piece up at The Atlantic Monthly today on the surprising religious past of American economics.
A big part of the story is the leadership of Richard T. Ely, an extremely controversial figure who spent more than thirty years of his career at the University of Wisconsin directing the School of Economics, Political Science, and History.
Of course, the religious roots were not long-lived, as President Bateman notes:
It is, of course, hard to recognize this earlier type of economist in today’s profession. Like the university, the discipline of economics was secularized after 1920. Around this time, the discipline of philosophy came to be dominated by logical positivism—essentially, the idea that the scientific method is the only way to arrive at true, factual knowledge—and this school of thought greatly influenced American economists as the landscape of their own discipline was changing. They developed the idea that their new analytical focus was value-free—a premise still taught in most introductory economic textbooks.
But, of course, is not, which is important to recognize.
The study of economics does not seem to require any specialised gifts of an unusually high order. Is it not, intellectually regarded, a very easy subject compared with the higher branches of philosophy and pure science? Yet good, or even competent, economists are the rarest of birds. An easy subject, at which very few excel! — John Maynard Keynes
I came across this gem at Brad Delong’s website, where he is having a dialog with Paul Krugman about the use of graphs in Econ 101, and specifically whether Production Possibilities and Edgeworth Boxes should be introduced at the introductory level.
This is certainly a conversation we are having on our floor. I think we generally introduce PPFs, but not the Edgeworth Boxes in our introductory courses, and our Econ 300 students get the Ysidro Edgeworth treatment. I guess I’m all ears if you have thoughts on the topic.
As for the more obnoxious point that economics is a seemingly lightweight subject that few are good at, huh. Keynes continues:
The paradox finds its explanation, perhaps, in that the master-economist must possess a rare combination of gifts. He must reach a high standard in several different directions and must combine talents not often found together. He must be mathematician, historian, statesman, philosopher-in some degree. He must understand symbols and speak in words. He must contemplate the particular in terms of the general, and touch abstract and concrete in the same flight of thought. He must study the present in the light of the past for the purposes of the future.
That’s from his obituary for Alfred Marshall, author of the incredible Principles of Economics, the profession’s first textbook, and namesake of Marshallian Demand! Truly a pioneer and an intellectual giant, regardless of what Keynes says here.
It’s nice to see someone say something nice about economists, even it if is an economist, and even if it was 90 years ago.