Category: Economics Resources

2015 American Economic Association Meetings

Every January, thousands of economists gather for the American Economic Association meetings, to present papers, discuss ideas, and hire new faculty members (!).   Leave it to Nate Silver and his Five Thirty Eight website to send correspondents to cover the proceedings and reports back on what they consider to be the interesting sessions.  These reports include session summaries of Behavioral Economics and Public Policy: A Pragmatic Perspective;  The Economics of Secular Stagnation; and A Discussion of Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the 21st Century”.  Here is what the last one looks like:

Session Title: A Discussion of Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the 21st Century”

Presenters: David Weil, Alan J. Auerbach, N. Gregory Mankiw, and Thomas Piketty

Key takeaway: Thomas Piketty, the French economist whose book Capital in the 21st Century — which documented a surge in economic inequality — was a surprising best-seller last year, stood by his work despite some academic economists questioning his statistical analysis and policy recommendations.

Discussion: In his book, Piketty argues that inequality rises when the rate of return on assets (“r”) is higher than the economy’s growth rate (“g”). To him, this is, the principal cause of the current high levels of inequality. He wants to tax wealth to reduce this inequality.

The other economists on this panel had some problems with Piketty’s data, but even more so with his analysis of rising inequality. Specifically, they thought Piketty overestimated “r” in not adjusting for other variables such as taxation and risk.

They further argued that even if he was right, they disagreed with his suggestion for a global wealth tax. Instead, they would favor a progressive tax on consumption — for example, an 80 percent tax on yachts.

Piketty responded that it’s hard to define and measure the consumption of the extremely rich. As he remarked, “billionaires consume more than food or clothes — they consume power, politicians, journalists, and academics.” He argued that a wealth tax has practical advantages over a progressive consumption tax: it’s easier to implement because wealth is easier to define.

Not surprisingly, the Five Thirty Eight correspondents gravitated to some of the high-profile sessions where some of the bigger names in the profession participated.  The  secular stagnation session, for example, includes Greg Mankiw, William Nordhaus, Larry Summers, and Robert Gordon, each “famous” in his own right.

If the titles above have piqued your interest, you can go to the AEA website and check out webcasts of selected sessions, including each of the sessions listed above.

 

Life is Priceless: Only if You are an Incurrable Romantic

In this New York Times blog posting, Uwe Reinhardt, one of the most eloquent economists I have ever heard speak, tweaks Congress for its ignorance of the notion of opportunity cost and for a lack of understanding of the fundamental principles of policy making.  Furthermore, he provides a link to a marvelous discussion between Milton Friedman and a University of Chicago student that took place as part of the Free to Choose series in the 1970s.

Truth And Consequences 512

How (Not) to Lie With Benefit-Cost Analysis

In the current issue of The Economists’ Voice, the former Chief Economist for the US General Accounting Office Scott Farrow  addresses the uses and abuses of Benefit-Cost Analysis (BCA), also known as Cost-Benefit Analysis.  He highlights some common abuses and ways to avoid them.  Below you will find a few samples.  His short article (only 6 pages) contains many more.

Lie #1. Be selective in your impacts and values

Response:  Ask “Are there major elements missing, or too many present in this analysis?”

Lie #2.  Confuse the baseline

Response: Ask “What is the basis of comparison?  Is that reasonable and is it (almost always) the same for both benefits and costs?”

Lie #3.  Count jobs entirely as a benefit

Response: Ask “Are new jobs just being taken away from other location that is included in our calculation?”

I encourage you to read the details and not to forget the advice of British economist Alan Williams who concluded in a marvelous paper in 1972 entitled “Cost-Benefit Analysis: Bastard Science? and/Or Insidious Poison in the Body Politick? that

CBA is not the way to perfect truth, but the world is not a perfect place… I prefer the philosophy embodied in the answer Maurice Chevalier is alleged to have given to an interviewer who asked him how he viewed old age: ‘Well, there is quite a lot wrong with it, but it isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative.’

Lawrence Today Links

The new Lawrence Today showed up in my mailbox today, and as promised I have provided another few hundred words on the dynamics of the college wage premium.  You can click here to read my post on what exactly “composition-adjusted log real wages” means, along with a discussion about the trajectory of U.S. wages over the past 50 years.

For those of you interested in learning more about Michael Lewis’s Moneyball, my short review is here via the Economics Department Newsletter (if you are interested in getting on the distribution list for the newsletter, let one of us know). Here on Briggs 2nd and across campus we’ve talked quite a bit about Moneyball. For a taste, here are some discussions about how Moneyball might apply to higher ed, whether Major League Baseball is competitive, and why we should perhaps require kindergarten transcripts.

If you are looking for something that might pique your interest in economics, here are some suggestions:  First, one of our all-time most popular topics for classroom discussion is the problem of moral hazard.  I would also recommend the posts on the dynamics and continuing evolution of the publishing industry (who knew that an Oprah recommendation actually decreases overall book sales?).  Finally, if you are looking for something meatier, check out our (well, my) book recommendations.

Thanks for stopping by.

Water Policy for People

In this TEDx talk ,  economist and aguanomics blogster David Zetland contrasts key differences between “push” systems in which water policies control people’s use of water with “pull” systems that are decentralized and encourage water trades to both improve efficiency and equity.  The technology of the talk isn’t terrific, but the ideas are worthy of attention.

CTL Workshops

Rockin the XY Plane

Here it comes, our tri-annual message on CTL Workshops:

If you think a Cartesian coordinate is a what you wear to go with your favorite sweater, it might be time for you to bone up on your quantitative skills.  And, right on cue, the CTL if offering a series of quantitative workshops — 90 minutes to a better, more quantitatively adept you.   The topics are basic algebragraphs, and word problems, and there are two chances for each.

Workshops are in Briggs 420 and run 90-ish minutes.

Graphing            

  • 5:30 PM on Wednesday, January 11th
  •  7:30 PM on Monday, January 16th

 The graphing workshop will cover the following topics:

  • Graphs of linear equations, quadratic equations, exponential functions, trigonometric functions and more…
  • Significance of slope in various applications
  • Displacement of graphs

Word Problem   

  • 5:30 PM on Thursday, January 12th
  • 7:30 PM on Tuesday, January 17th

The word problem workshop will cover the following topics:

  • Problem solving strategies useful in working with quantitative concepts
  • How to extract useful information from a problem and how to relate similar problems
  • Hands-on experience working on interesting and challenging word problems

Algebra              

  • 5:30 PM on Friday, January 13th
  •  7:30 PM on Wednesday, January 18th

The algebra workshop will cover the following topics:

  • Basic algebraic operations and the law of exponents
  • Binomial multiplication and factorization
  • Important algebraic identities
  • Techniques for solving quadratic and fractional systems of linear equations
  • Basic concepts and identities of trigonometry

Sustainable China

As many of you know, Lawrence received a grant from the Luce Foundation to explore a program we call Sustainable China: Integrating Culture, Conservation, and Commerce.  Thursday and Friday we will be hosting two visitors from the Karst Institute at Guizhou Normal University in Guiyang, China.  They will be giving a  talk on Friday afternoon at 3:10 in Steitz 102 and are available for Q & A after the talk.  Please below for details or green posters in various spots in Briggs Hall.

Sustainable China:  Integrating Culture, Conservation and Commerce

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ren Xiaodong

Professor at the Institute of South China Karst and Director of the Community-Based Conservation and Research Development Center at

Guizhou Normal University

“Integrated Management of Nature Reserves in Guizhou Province”

Professor Ren will discuss efforts to incorporate a variety of stakeholders in the management of the Chishui Nature Reserve.  The reserve is a national treasure as well as the source of water for the Moutai Liquor.

Zhou Zongfa

Vice Dean Institute of South China Karst and Professor in School of Geography and Biological Science at Guizhou Normal University

“Use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for the study of Karst and Caves in Guizhou Province”

Professor Zhou will address how GIS systems help identify the characteristics of sedimentary rocks in China which will assist decision-makers in evaluating the effects of and planning for future economic development in Guizhou Province.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Friday, September 30th

3:10pm

Steitz Hall 102

Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air

Sustainable Energy - without the hot airEsteemed alumnus Thomas Baer has been making the rounds on campus, visiting the I&E class and delivering a nice Science Hall Colloquium earlier today (here’s his bio).  Dr. Baer gave a rundown of his perspective on renewable energy technologies, particularly solar energy, and even more particularly solar energy made with silicon.

I’ll spare you the details of the role of photonics (since I didn’t quite understand those details), but I will second his recommendation of David MacKay’s excellent Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air. I bought several copies of this and generally loan them out to anyone interested in energy policy.  Indeed, I was working with another colleague on developing a course around the book prior to moving to Lawrence a couple of years back.

If you haven’t borrowed my book already, you can download a copy here.

Calculus Review

For those of you who need a little refresher, tell them the good people on Briggs 2nd sent you.

CTL math tutors will be holding several calculus review sessions designed for students who want to “brush up” on critical skills used in classes including: Calculus II and III as well as various chemistry and physics courses.  Workshops will cover the basics of integrals or derivatives and will be held in Briggs 420 at the following dates/times.  If you have questions, please contact Julie Haurykiewicz, CTL Director.  Thanks!

Derivative Reviews:

Wednesday, September 28 at 9 p.m.

Monday, October 3, at 8:30 p.m.  The integraDerivatives

Integral Reviews:

Thursday, September 29 at 8:00pm
Tuesday, October 4 at 7:00pm

The Health Care Arms Race

Are you a fan of Dr. Seuss?  If so, you must see this new video on health care costs done in the style of the good doctor.  If not, watch it anyway.  It displays what happens when supply drives demand, and demand is fueled by third party funding.  Yes, those of you in Money and Monetary Policy will recognize the OPM principle at work:  people spend Other People’s Money much differently than they do their own.  Another principle is also involved.  The creation of jobs for jobs sake is not sustainable.  “Oh, The Jobs You Create” becomes “Oh, The Debt You Create.”  Enjoy.

The Center for Teaching and Learning Workshops

Here it comes, our tri-annual message on CTL Workshops:

If you think a Cartesian coordinate is a what you wear to go with your favorite sweater, it might be time for you to bone up on your quantitative skills.  And, right on cue, the CTL if offering a series of quantitative workshops — 90 minutes to a better, more quantitatively adept you.   The topics are basic algebra, graphs, and word problems, and there are two chances for each.

Workshops are in Briggs 420 and run 60 minutes.

Algebra

8:00 PM on Tuesday, September 20th and 6:00 PM on Monday, September 26th

The algebra workshop will cover the following topics:

  • Basic algebraic operations and the law of exponents
  • Binomial multiplication and factorization
  • Important algebraic identities
  • Techniques for solving quadratic and fractional systems of linear equations
  • Basic concepts and identities of trigonometry

Graphs

8:00 PM on Friday, September 23rd and 5:00 PM on Tuesday, September 27th

The graphing workshop will cover the following topics:

  • Graphs of linear equations, quadratic equations, exponential functions, trigonometric functions and more…
  • Significance of slope in various applications
  • Displacement of graphs

Word Problems

6:00 PM on Thursday, September 22nd and 8:00 PM on Wednesday, September 28th

The word problem workshop will cover the following topics:

  • Problem solving strategies useful in working with quantitative concepts
  • How to extract useful information from a problem and how to relate similar problems
  • Hands-on experience working on interesting and challenging word problems

Microfinance Resources

I know next to nothing about microfinance (there’s more than 20 types of microfinance?!?), though there seems to be plenty of student interest in the topic.  If this applies to you, you might check out this week’s EconTalk podcast features Duke political economist Michael Munger chitchatting with Russ Roberts — about an hour of fun, and a pretty good overview.

For those of you interested in more formal (and cite-able) economics resources, here are a few starting points.   First, if you aren’t sure what it is, check out this review piece on micro-credit at The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics.

Next, it’s always a good idea to go through the Journal of Economic Perspectives.  Indeed, there are two very solid pieces bookending the past 15 years — “The Microfinance Promise” from the late 1990s, and the more contemporaryMicrofinance Meets the Market.”

And, finally, for a book-length treatment, try The Economics of Microfinance, available over at The Mudd.

CTL Workshops

Our tri-annual message on CTL Workshops:

Dude!

If you think a Cartesian coordinate is a what you wear to go with your favorite sweater, it might be time for you to bone up on your quantitative skills.  And, right on cue, the CTL if offering a series of quantitative workshops — 90 minutes to a better, more quantitatively adept you.   The topics are basic algebra, graphs, and word problems, and there are two chances for each.

Workshops are in Briggs 420 and run 90 minutes.

Continue reading CTL Workshops

Center for Teaching & Learning Workshops

If you think a Cartesian coordinate is a what you wear to go with your favorite sweater, it might be time for you to bone up on your quantitative skills.  And, right on cue, the CTL if offering a series of quantitative workshops — 90 minutes to a better, more quantitatively adept you.   The topics are basic algebra, graphs, and word problems, and there are two chances for each.

All the workshops are in Briggs 420.  Good luck!

Algebra (and Trigonometry)

7:30 PM on Wednesday, January 12th and 6:00 PM on Monday, January 17t

  • Algebraic operations and the law of exponents
  • Binomial multiplication and factorization
  • Algebraic identities
  • Techniques for solving quadratic and fractional systems of linear equations
  • Basic concepts and identities of trigonometry

Graphing

7:30 PM on Thursday, January 13th and 6:00 PM Tuesday, January 18th

  • Graphs of linear equations, quadratic equations, exponential functions, trigonometric functions and more…
  • Significance of slope in various applications
  • Displacement of graphs

Word Problems

7:30 PM on Friday, January 14th and 6:00 PM on Wednesday, January 19th

  • Problem solving strategies useful in working with quantitative concepts
  • How to extract useful information from a problem and how to relate similar problems
  • Hands-on experience working on interesting and challenging word problems

Roubini Global Economics (RGE) Available

The Roubini Global Economics (RGE) University Program has just launched and is now available to Lawrence University at www.roubini.com.  We are one of the first schools to get on board with this program so that is our good luck.

You will need to log in, at which point you can check out the Site Navigation Guide for the University Program (you’ll need to be logged in to see this page).  We are quite fortunate to have access to the Roubini research, and I know you will find this useful as you root around in there.

Nouriel Roubini is an economics professor at New York University and something of an iconic figure, known as Dr. Doom.  Even The Daily Show taps into Roubini’s notoriety.

So, please check out the resource and let us know what you think.  We have surprisingly good access to the RGE University Program, and they are anxious to hear your feedback.

Economics Resources

As I head into mid-term here (yes, the first 300 exam is a week from today), I note that I am even more behind than usual.  Part of this is due to overreaching on my professional commitments.  Part is teaching Freshman Studies and wading through The Republic with the rest of the bunch.  Part is the preparations for the upcoming Schumptoberfest Creative Instruction weekend (we have some space for those of you who missed before).  And, drinking tea and who knows what all else.

So, for those of you looking for content, you might check out the Links section down the right-hand margin. One of those links is the RSS feed for recent economics acquisitions from The Mudd.   There are some great items there, including Nouriel Roubini’s new book, as well as some treatments of development in East Asia and Brazil.

You might also check out the link to my recommendations.   The list includes some of the blogs I frequent, resources available at The Mudd (including some excellent databases), and a list of some other handy sites.   It’s a lot easier to find good stuff if you look in the best places first, that’s for sure.

If there are some other resources you think I should add, please let me know.

Stuck in the you know where

Out with the Old, In with the New Palgrave

Do you think the liquidity preference is the choice of beverages at our weekly Econ TeaBA? Or perhaps you are under the impression that a LaGrangian multiplier is a French calculator?  If so, you might consider checking out The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics online.  The dictionary is a great resource for quick, readable, often authoritative pieces covering everything from Moses Abramovitz to Frederik Ludvig Bang Zeuthen.

But don’t take my word for it, here’s the advertising from the publisher:

This new edition retains the inspiring tradition of bringing together the world’s most influential economists writing in their own voice on their areas of expertise, but in its online incarnation it has married this tradition with the benefits of a dynamic, updated resource serving the information needs of a new generation of economists.

Seriously, this is an excellent resource, and you should utilize it.   It’s brought to us by the good folks at The Mudd.

The Liberal Arts and UCLA Economics

Again, welcome back to those returning to campus.  I’m looking forward to getting back myself and cranking up the 300 class.  Meanwhile, a few weeks ago we instituted a segment titled “free market Monday,” which will emphasize the ideas of some seriously pro-market economists.

In that spirit, here is a piece of interest from the latest edition of Econ Journal Watch — an interview with William Allen (of Alchian and Allen fame) about his path to a professorship UCLA, as well as the heyday of the UCLA economics department under the leadership of Armen Alchian (of Alchian; Alchian & DemsetzKlein, Crawford, & Alchian fame, among others).  Allen begins with a shout out to the liberal arts, as he extols the virtues of his time at Iowa’s Cornell College:

[E]specially for one who is headed for graduate work, there is much in favor of first attending a small liberal arts college. At Cornell, there was a great deal which could be learned about the various aspects of the world and its evolution in the mandatory year-long freshman courses in English, history, and the social sciences. The learning was facilitated by classes of small size taught by non-T.A.s, and by much interaction with fellow students in the dorms and dining halls. And one can be captain of the tennis team without being a professional jock.

I’m not sure that the mandatory nature of the courses was the linchpin of his undergraduate education (at least I hope not, since my alma mater has no such requirements), but certainly writing and discourse are important.  Indeed, one of my professors in graduate school said that liberal arts students seemed to have a better feel for what an interesting question is.

Continue reading The Liberal Arts and UCLA Economics

CTL Workshops

Are you confused about matters quantitative?  Well, do we have good  news for you.   The Center for Technology and Learning (CTL) is offering its annual workshops in algebra, graphing, and word problems.  The workshops are in Briggs 420 and run 90 minutes.

Algebra Workshop

  • 7:30 PM on Wednesday, Sept 15, OR
  • 6:00 PM on Monday, Sept 20

The algebra workshop will cover the following topics:

  • Basic algebraic operations and the law of exponents
  • Binomial multiplication and factorization
  • Important algebraic identities
  • Techniques for solving quadratic and fractional systems of linear equations
  • Basic concepts and identities of trigonometry

Graphing Workshop

  • 7:30 PM on Thursday, Sept 16, OR
  • 6:00 PM on Tuesday, Sept 21

The graphing workshop will cover the following topics:

  • Graphs of linear equations, quadratic equations, exponential functions, trigonometric functions and more…
  • Significance of slope in various applications
  • Displacement of graphs

Word Problem Workshop

  • 7:30 PM on Friday, Sept 17, OR
  • 7:00 PM on Wednesday, Sept 22

The word problem workshop will cover the following topics:

  • Problem solving strategies useful in working with quantitative concepts
  • How to extract useful information from a problem and how to relate similar problems
  • Hands-on experience working on interesting and challenging word problems