Tuesday, October 13, 2015

updated with more comedy

Angus Deaton has won the non-Nobel Prize in economics.
Chris Blattman describing why he deserves it.
Sudden falls in coffee and oil prices destroyed poor countries in the 1970s and 1980s, especially in Africa. Deaton had done some of the best work, both on the behavior of commodity prices their effects on growth and also on the reasons they caused macroeconomic chaos. He also peeked into what the effect was on coups and political instability. In later years, hundreds upon hundreds of scholars would start using data from many countries to analyze why wars and coups happen. Deaton was one of the very first.
Deaton and Miller: "International Commodity Prices, Macroeconomic Performance, and Politics in Sub-Saharan Africa."
The exports of many Sub-Saharan African countries are concentrated in a relatively small number of primary commodities, commodities for which world prices are volatile and values of which have dropped to histor-ically low levels in recent years. Fluctuations in commodity prices in-duce fluctuations in real national incomes and pose problems for macroeconomic management. These problems are often badly handled, and several observers implicate the commodity-price booms of the 1970s in the debt crises of the 1980s (Krueger, 1987; Greene, 1989; Sachs, 1988). Sachs, for example, notes that when commodity prices are rising more rapidly than the rate of interest on international loans, countries can service debt through fresh borrowing while simultaneously reducing the ratio of debt to exports. In the 1970s, this opportunity was seized by several developing countries that had previously had little or no access to private international capital markets. When the boom in commodity prices came to an end, some of these borrowers found themselves unable to service their accumulated debt. 
Krugman from his free-trader years on comparative advantage. Follow the links. See also Dani Rodrik making the same absurd argument.

Any engineer knows that efficient systems are fragile and that stable systems have high levels of redundancy.
The exports of many Sub-Saharan African countries are concentrated in a relatively small number of primary commodities, commodities for which world prices are volatile and values of which have dropped to historically low levels in recent years.
Awards for discovering the obvious and re-inventing the wheel. Maybe that's too glib. I might be missing something.

More on economics: Quiggin.
Similarly, advertisements work because watching an ad increases the desirability of buying the associated product. This may be because the ad attaches desirable qualities (such as sophistication or sex appeal) to the product or because it engenders dissatisfaction with the alternatives we are currently consuming.

In terms of opportunity cost, it does not matter whether an ad works positively or negatively. Either way, the opportunity cost of alternative products is increased relative to the value of the product being advertised. In the standard terminology of economics, a successful ad is complementary (in consumption) with the product being advertised.

In terms of our happiness, though, there’s a big difference. The net effect of advertising is almost certainly to reduce our satisfaction with the things we buy, because most of the ads we see are designed to make us switch to something else. And of course, the things that are not advertised, such as quiet leisure time with family and friends, where no goods and services are required and no money is spent, are downgraded even further.
The dentist who fired his assistant because she was too sexy might at least have a point.
Coming to the same conclusion as it did in December, the all-male court found that bosses can fire employees they see as threats to their marriages, even if the subordinates have not engaged in flirtatious or other inappropriate behavior. The court said such firings do not count as illegal sex discrimination because they are motivated by feelings, not gender.
For obvious reasons, Quiggin's arguments here are the same as his arguments against art.

Bloviating moralists to the rescue.
Corey Robin defends art.
The problem with our public intellectuals today—and here I’m going to address the work of two exemplary though quite different public intellectuals: Cass Sunstein and Ta-Nehisi Coates—has little to do with their style. It has little to do with their professional location, whether they write from academia or for the little magazines. It has little to do with the suburbs, bohemia, or tenure. The problem with our public intellectuals today is that they are writing for readers who already exist, as they exist.
He's right in his way; he's wrong that it has nothing to do with style. And it's a bit pathetic that he doesn't see how much he's placing himself as a superior alternative. But is he saying that Sunstein and Coates "pursue no beckoning light"?

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