Saturday, August 30, 2008

Some side thoughts.

Professor Brad DeLong asks why universities still have large lectures. My contribution: professors don't feel textbooks do an adequate enough job of explaining material. This is partly due to limited space in textbooks, which are a function of production costs. Authors have to find a balance between precision and clarity in the span of 800 pages. However, online textbooks don't have this restriction. An online textbook could be written to be very clear, with hyperlinks to rigorous mathematical proofs, or somesuch. Paradigms change slowly, though.

Bianaoh points me to the Dataverse Network, which seeks to make data and its analysis more accessible, while preserving credit. It strikes me as a great idea, and I hope to be able to use such tools in the future.

Cartoonist Scott Adams tells people what economists are good for. Convincing the public of anything unpopular is an uphill battle, Scott.

Lastly, something more related to the current economy. Current numbers with an historical perspective. The message: things have been worse, and we're still around. Cheer up, people.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cities, broadband, and globalization

This should surprise no one. As cities grow more dense and traffic gets worse, people turn to closer-to-home solutions for shopping. Sprawling cities get shopping centers, close to home, that support the majority of local shoppers' needs. It, of course, makes perfect sense. Some places even have everything self-contained in single, massive buildings--living space, work, and shopping all in one.

Have you ever been worried that municipal politicians are wasting your money? It happens at every level of government. How's that for dead weight loss?

Google talks about municipal broadband. As I said in my other blog, Houston's working on it! Apparently, other cities aren't having success, though.

PBS has a neat web page on globalization, though the economist in me always wants more data.

Monday, August 18, 2008

National and International Governments

According to a Reuters article:

McCain's top economic advisers said Obama's proposals would hurt small businesses and not foster job growth. Martin Feldstein, a Harvard professor of economics, said Obama's approach would backfire.

"Obama's plan will slow the economy, will depress the economy by raising taxes -- raising taxes on business investment, raising taxes on individuals. And that tax increase isn't going to happen immediately, but the fact that he promises that he will make that happen in 2010 or 2011 is enough to continue to depress the economy now," he said.

Now, Martin Feldstein is a smart guy, but I don't agree with him here. Given the fiscal lag, the relative lack of power a president has over the economy, and the fact that congress will alter any bill proposed, it'll be a long time before anything similar anyone's currently proposed economic plan will have an effect on the economy. Moreover, the Federal Reserve Board governors are betting on upside risks being greater than downside risks--so we may actually want a slow down of the economy when any kind of plan does eventually hit, in order to stave off inflationary pressures. Moreover, the results of the Obama plan may be mixed, as middle class consumers will supposedly be getting help (and thusly be buying more things, helping all companies).

This is a great idea that should've been done a long time ago. I saw it linked on some other site, but I don't remember which.

In UK, you can get money if you come up with a way to improve the lives of UKers with online applications or providing easy access to data. They "want to hear your ideas on how to reuse, represent, mashup or combine the information the government holds to make it useful."