Tag: Economics Colloquium

Economics Colloquium in STEITZ 102 and Econ Tea, October 3 at 4:30

UPDATE: The talk is in Steitz 102.

The first Economics Colloquium of the year is our own Professor Marty Finkler talking about some of his recent work on the U.S. employment situation.     He will give a 30-40 minute talk, after which we will adjourn for Econ Tea in Briggs 217 at 5:15.

Please join us for Professor Finkler’s talk, and to meet our visiting faculty, Satis Devkota and M. Taylor Rhodes.

The abstract is below:


Employment and Monetary Policy: The Role of Relative Price Distortions

Merton D. Finkler
Professor of Economics
Lawrence University

The economic recovery from the recession of December 2007 to June 2009 featured real GDP returning to its pre-recession level while employment continues to lag behind to its pre-recession level.  One possible reason is that employment patterns contain both cyclical and structural components.  In this paper, changes in the price of labor, unit labor costs, and the cost of equipment and software are studied as key structural components. Separate regressions with changes in employment as the dependent variable are performed for goods producing, service producing, and manufacturing sectors.  In each case, explanatory power is increased with the inclusion of a representation of the cost of labor; thus, macroeconomic policy that seeks to stimulate employment growth should consider the effects of the chosen policy on the relative cost of labor and not just on aggregate demand.

Economics Colloquium, Tuesday at 4:30

On the Desirability of Unemployment Accounts

Christian Zimmerman

Assistant Vice President

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Unemployment insurance programs are often criticized because they encourage various forms of shirking: the unemployed may not try hard enough to look for a new job or may turn down reasonable job offers. Also, the taxes that finance such programs are thought to decrease the labor supply.  This talk will look at an alternative way of insuring against unemployment events through personalized unemployment accounts. We will discuss their advantages but also warn against potential pitfalls. The discussion will be backed up by simulations performed on the labor markets of Oregon, Austria and France.

Tuesday May 14

Steitz Hall 102

4:30 p.m.

Economics Colloquium

Mark Montgomery and Irene “Tinker” Powell will be on campus this week to deliver the next Economics Colloquium address, “Baby Markets: Thinking the Unthinkable in International Adoption.” The talk is Thursday at 4:30 in Steitz 102.  This is quite a topic, where the rules of the game have pretty significant distributional consequences, and it will be interesting to see how this sorts out.

Montgomery and Powell are professors at Grinnell College, and are well known for lighter work, including “Should Economists Marry Economists?” and their economics murder mystery, Theoretically Dead.*


Baby Markets: Thinking the Unthinkable in International Adoption

Mark Montgomery and Irene Powell

Grinnell College

Adoption laws, national and international, outlaw payments to families for relinquishing their children. This does not stop “baby selling,” but rather moves it into the hands of criminals. History suggests that restricting mutually beneficial exchanges can make worse the problems it is supposed to solve. Is it time to think the unthinkable in international adoption?

The talk examines how current adoption laws create incentives for fraud and other forms of abuse, identifies “moral hazards” abuse created by the legal structure of adoption, and explores how relaxing restrictions on compensating birth mothers would change incentives and behavior of birth parents, adoptive parents and adoption facilitators.



*As far as I know, they are both economics professors, though the Publisher’s blurb says one is a philosophy professor.  I suppose teaching labor economics long enough can turn anyone somewhat philosophical.

Mark (and Tinker) Your Calendars

Our next Economics Colloquium is April 18 and will feature Mark Montgomery and Irene “Tinker” Powell, Professors of Economics at Grinnell College.   We had originally scheduled this one for May 30, but we just can’t wait.


Baby Markets: Thinking the Unthinkable in International Adoption

Mark Montgomery and Irene Powell

Grinnell College 

Adoption laws, national and international, outlaw payments to families for relinquishing their children. This does not stop “baby selling,” but rather moves it into the hands of criminals. History suggests that restricting mutually beneficial exchanges can make worse the problems it is supposed to solve. Is it time to think the unthinkable in international adoption?

The talk examines how current adoption laws create incentives for fraud and other forms of abuse, identifies “moral hazards” abuse created by the legal structure of adoption, and explores how relaxing restrictions on compensating birth mothers would change incentives and behavior of birth parents, adoptive parents and adoption facilitators.


Economics Colloquium, February 5 at 11:15


Waiting for Godot, and for Corporate Social Responsibility?

David Gerard

Lawrence University

Milton Friedman famously wrote ‘The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits,’ and ever since (and probably even before) the economics profession has been scratching its collective head wondering whether this is indeed our professional consensus.  In this talk, I put on the ‘mainstream economist’ hat and give an overview of some of the central issues in organizational economics, and the implications of this literature on the balancing of corporate profits and other (potentially) desirable social objectives. 

The target length for the talk is 40 minutes.

Tuesday, February 5

Steitz Hall 102

11:15a.m. – 12 p.m.

Update:  Looks like we made the front page.

A Revolutionary Experience

Doug Allen from Simon Fraser University will be on campus on February 14 as part of the Senior Experience in economics.  In addition to The Experience, Professor Allen will also deliver a public lecture on his recent book, The Institutional Revolution: Measurement and the Economic Emergence of the Modern World.  The book is a collection of work that principally examines the ‘peculiar’ institutions surrounding the British aristocracy and other pre-modern European curiosities , including the sale of public offices and military commands to the practice of dueling to “settle” disputes.

Professor Allen’s talk will focus on dueling!

Here are a couple of the papers that serve as the foundation for The Institutional Revolution, available via the genius of Google Scholar.

Douglas W.  Allen and Clyde G. Reed (2006) “The Duel of Honor: Screening for Unobservable Social Capital,” American Law and Economics Review: 1–35.

Douglas W Allen (2002) “The British Navy Rules: Monitoring and Incompatible Incentives in the Age of Fighting Sail,” Explorations in Economic History, 39(2):113-232.

Douglas W. Allen (2009) “A Theory of the Pre-Modern British Aristocracy,” Explorations in Economic History, 46:299–313.

Douglas W. Allen and Yoram Barzel (2011) “The Evolution of Criminal Law and Police During the Pre-Modern Era” Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, 27(3):540–567.


Regulating Wall Street: Did We Go Too Far?

Lawrence alum Elijah Brewer will address the above question in the next Economics Colloquium.  It will take place next Monday, October 8th, in Steitz Hall 102 at 4:30.  We encourage all to attend.

Brewer characterizes what he will argue as follows:

The causes of the financial crisis of 2007-09 are many and varied. Indeed, the crisis may be viewed as the product of a perfect storm. This address will discuss many of the popular causes of the U.S. crisis and enumerate their more important sins. It then presents the traditional way we like to think about commercial banks, and how that had changed leading up to the financial crisis. Indicators of stress in the financial system, and commercial banks in particular, are presented. What you will see is that many of these indicators were flashing red well before regulators got their hands around the problem. I will argue that it was not the lack of regulation, but a lack of will by regulators to enforce the rules that were already on the books.  Thus, the government’s and Congress’s desire to regulate Wall Street is mis-placed. The banking industry does not need more regulation for the regulators to ignore when it’s convenient for them to do so, but we need a greater will by regulators to enforce the regulations that they do have. I will conclude by offering an assessment of the Dodd-Frank Act.

Budding Professors

My mentor and now colleague Mark Montgomery of Grinnell College has penned an essay on the social conventions of professors walking around with buds plugged in their ears.

It’s a cliché that people like me, whose computational experience began with punch cards, can feel overwhelmed by the explosion of electronic gadgets. But I find that the difficulties are less technical than emotional and social. Consider, again, my relationship to my beloved iPod. Is it OK for me to “wear” it around campus? Or does it undermine 165 years of institutional dignity for a gray-haired full professor to be seen strolling through the quads with two wires dangling from his head?

The article is in the Chronicle of Higher Education and, judging by the comments, is highly hilarious to our brethren.  What I respect about it  most, though, is that he manages to fit in a brief lesson on the economics of signalling near the end:

Ironically, I find that among the earphone-wearing public (that is, most people under 23), the iPod can actually enhance communication. With students I can use it to set the tone of a conversation before a single word has been uttered. Some examples: (1) One earphone removed and held poised an inch from my ear means I’m about to say: “If you want to discuss your exam grade, come to office hours.” (2) Both earphones removed, allowed to dangle: “Where is the assignment that was due on Monday?” (3) Earphones removed, wires wrapped around the iPod, device tucked in jacket pocket: “Why have I not seen you in class all week?”

Professor Montgomery at Schumptoberfest


For more from the good professor, see the essays at his website.

Professor Montgomery is tentatively slated to speak in our Economics Colloquium this coming year, so we look forward to that, too.  You can check out his research interests and publications here.

Keynes and the Crisis of the Welfare State — May 17 at 4:30 p.m.

John Maynard Keynes is the father of modern macroeconomics, and Keynesian economics and the welfare state have been inextricably linked in the public mind since the postwar era. Indeed, he is widely believed to have provided the analytical, economic underpinnings for the welfare state. Bradley Bateman, a recognized scholar of Keynsian thought, examines Keynes’s contributions with the backdrop of the recent financial calamities and the widespread fiscal crises of state and national governments.

Please join us for Professor Bateman’s talk, which is part of the Lawrence Senior Experience in the Department of Economics.

Wriston Auditorium
Thursday, May 17
4:30 p.m.

Bradley W. Bateman is the Provost and a Professor of Economics at Denison University. He is the author of Keynes’s Uncertain Revolution and co-author of Capitalist Revolutionary: John Maynard Keynes.


More at the Lawrence homepage.

Anglo-Dutch Auctions 300 years ago

On May 22nd at 4:30 in Steitz 102Dan Quint will speak on the subject in the title, closing this year’s inaugural Economics Colloquium series with a bang. He is Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. His work on auctions and bargaining has appeared in leading economic theory journals.His undergraduate degree is from Harvard University (Mathematics), and he received his PhD in Economics from Stanford University. Professor Quint will present his work on an interesting auction format used in eighteenth-century Amsterdam. He will focus both on the historical facts and the auction theoretic analysis. Abstract for his paper is below the fold.   Continue reading Anglo-Dutch Auctions 300 years ago

Economics Colloquium, May 15 at 11:10

Prospects for US Electricity Generation: Carbon Capture &/or Natural Gas


 David Gerard

Lawrence University

What will be the technology of the future for US electricity generation? Although  carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) has the potential for steep reductions in CO2 emissions, CCS faces many potential regulatory hurdles and public acceptance issues. Moreover, the technology is expensive – both in terms of additional capital costs and the additional fuel needed to capture, compress and transport the CO2.  I talk through some of my recently published work that assesses the decision to build new natural gas and coal-fired plants given future market and regulatory uncertainty, particularly uncertainty about future natural gas and carbon prices. I conclude that  CCS will not be commercially viable without beaucoup public financial support or outright mandates. I finish with some speculation on how the current fracking boom will affect energy and electricity markets. It appears that it will be natural gas all the way down as the principal source of new added generation capacity.


Tuesday, May 15

Steitz Hall 102

 11:10 a.m.

The talk will draw heavily on:

Fischbeck, P. S., Gerard, D. and McCoy, S. T. (2012), Sensitivity analysis of the build decision for carbon capture and sequestration projects. Greenhouse Gas Sci Technol, 2: 36–45. Available at  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ghg.1270/full

Morgan et al., (2009) “Commercial Considerations,” Chapter 9 in Carbon Capture and Sequestration: Framing Issues for Regulation. An Interim Report of the CCSReg Project. Department of Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University. Available at: http://www.ccsreg.org/pdf/CCSReg_3_9.pdf

Gerard D., Wilson E.J. (2009) Environmental bonds and the challenge of long-term carbon sequestration, Journal of Environmental Management, 90(2):1097-1105. Available at https://www2.hhh.umn.edu/publications/2159/document.pdf

Economics Colloquium, April 23 at 4:30

Dr. Kathleen Spees from The Brattle Group will be on campus Monday to deliver the third Economics Colloquium lecture this year, “Market Design from a Practitioner s Viewpoint:Wholesale Electric Market Design for Resource Adequacy.” 

The lecture is at 4:30 in Steitz 102.

Dr. Spees has broad expertise in technical and policy aspects of electricity markets, including reliability and pricing.  She earned  an MS in electrical and computer science and a Ph.D. in Engineering & Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon.  She completed a BS in mechanical engineering and physics from Iowa State University.

She will also give a talk to the ENST 151 class at 11:10, “Introduction to the Electric Power Industry.”   Please see Professor Gerard if you are interested in attending.

The abstract for the Economic Colloquium is below the fold:

Continue reading Economics Colloquium, April 23 at 4:30

Economics Colloquium

Some Misconceptions about Preferences

Dan Hausman, Department of Philosophy, UW-Madison

Dan Hausman

Herbert A. Simon and Hilldale Professor
Department of Philosophy

University of Wisconsin – Madison

Monday, January 9, 4:30 pm

Steitz Hall 102

In this talk, which is drawn from my book, Preference, Value, Choice and Welfare (Cambridge University Press, 2011), I argue that preferences in economics are and ought to be understood as total comparative evaluations. They are consequently more like judgments than feelings, and they are not mere matters of taste. They cannot be defined by choices (as revealed preference theorists mistakenly maintain), and they cannot be defined in terms of self‐ interest or expected benefit. In addition, in contrast to what many economists believe, I shall argue that economics already contains an account of preference formation, and that it can  and  should say more about how agents form and modify their preferences.

This article gives you a preview:

In particular, I shall discuss three mistakes concerning preferences that are common among economists and other social scientists. There are others, but this article will be long enough as it is.

  • Preferences are matters of taste, concerning which rational criticism or discussion is inapplicable.
  • Preference rankings are rankings of alternatives in terms of expected (self-interested) benefits.
  • Preferences can be defined in terms of choices, as in revealed-preference theory.

And in a recent interview, this is what Professor Hausman has to say about his book:

The book is about preferences, mainly as they are and ought to be understood in economics, but I also have some things to say about preferences in everyday language and action, in psychology, and in philosophical reflection on action and morality. In this book I clarify the notion of preferences that economists rely on and to a considerable extent defend the way economists use the notion of preference. But I am also critical of misconceptions concerning preferences that many economists and other social scientists hold. Continue reading Economics Colloquium

No Nukes is Good Nukes? Or, No Nukes is Bad Air?

The first Economics Colloquium is November 9 at 4:30 in Steitz 102.   Here are the details:

Paul Fischbeck

No Nukes is Good Nukes? Or, No Nukes is Bad Air?

Paul S. Fischbeck

Carnegie Mellon University

What if the U.S. phased out its nuclear power plants?   Where would the power come from? Would the reliability of the electricity system suffer? What about the effects on emissions of carbon dioxide and criteria pollutants?

Paul Fischbeck provides his approach to addressing these questions, along with some provocative results, in the inaugural lecture of a new Economics Colloquium series. He is professor in both the Departments of Engineering & Public Policy and Social & Decision Sciences at Carnegie Mellon, and an expert on quantitative risk assessment and the treatment of uncertainty.


Wednesday, November 9

Steitz Hall 102

4:30 p.m.