Monday, October 26, 2009

Recession, tax revenue, the Economist, and Monopoly.

Glenn Rudebusch, at the FRB San Francisco, answers five key questions. The financial crisis is over. The recession is most likely over. We won't return to normal employment for some time. Inflation will not be too high. The Fed has an exit strategy to undo its recession-fighting policy actions.

Federal revenue as a share of GDP is at its lowest point since 1950. It's an interesting graph, and I want to see how the percentage federal revenue has fluctuated with GDP growth and also with the change in tax rates. The top tax rate was slashed a lot in the 60s, but you don't see much of a change.

The Economist's forecast. No big surprises, I think. Still, an interesting read. I might expect a slower increase of the federal funds rate than they do, though.

Free Exchange on the history of Monopoly, Anti-Monopoly, and Hasbro.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

EIA, map of job losses, new wave of research, and Caterpillar

Env-econ re: BCA vs EIA, OK?

This is a very interesting map of job losses and gains around the country since 2004. It'd be nice if it showed percentage loss/gain rather than net, but it's still illuminating, I think.

Will Google Wave change how research is done?

Caterpillar sees "encouraging signs" of economic recovery. The construction industry, many say, is a pretty good leading indicator.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Unemployment rates, Shiller on housing, urban data, and soccer.

The FRB Cleveland again, this time telling us about alternative unemployment rates.

Shiller, of the Case-Shiller housing index, tells us about the housing market. Seems like people are more rosy now about their long term investment prospects.

Matthew Kahn talks about possibilities with urban data. If we could look at power bills, we could determine whether people have high-power consumption items, of if they're just being wasteful. I'm sure there might be a number of interesting uses of the data, if privacy issues could be resolved.

The economics of soccer. How do I get to do that?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dr. Doom/Roubini, public health care, mancession, and Cash for Clunkers.

Dr. Doom's at it again. I don't share his opinion about the growth "since March." I think the bottom was a bit too low, and at least some of the later stock growth was corrective.

The Boston Globe explains how a public health care option would work in pretty easy terms.

Free Exchange picks up Chris Swann, saying that men aren't necessarily the hardest hit during this recession.

The FRB Cleveland shows us some of the effects of the Cash for Clunkers program. I'd like to see their numbers on slightly longer-term effects.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Cap and trade, data, open journals, and more econblogs.

Krugman explains the basics of cap-and-trade.

Here's a handy little tool from IBM to facilitate data visualization. Looks neat!

And, if you didn't know about this before, but there's an open-access Economics journal. There look to be some really neat articles in there.

In the same vein, here's an econblog aggregator to keep up with research and academic blogs. Thanks to RePEc.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Climate Change: A devil's advocate

Today is, apparently, Blog Action Day. A day where bloggers blog about one issue of global importance, to raise awareness and to further a dialogue.

This year, the issue is climate change. I've always had a very market-driven view of climate change. So, in effect, I don't really care. It'll work itself out.

The problem, I think, is that climate changes very, very slowly. This is good for us, since it gives us time to respond to problems. That is to say, climate "problems" are solved by technology.

Let's say the world gets too warm. First of all, it's not clear that warming is a bad thing. Warming encourages plant life. But, anyways, let's ignore the positive effects. What would we do? We'd create areas with more shade, use the extra sun to power solar energy cells, and use the power to create more freeon (or something).

Let's say the water level rises. We'll have elevated houses and buildings, and possibly start to travel by waterway. Or, we could create bubble cities a la sci-fi stories.

Let's say the entire environment becomes unuseable. That is, we can't go outside at all. Maybe we don't have an ozone layer anymore, maybe the storms are too strong, maybe the heat would kill us, maybe we'd be underwater--whatever. What then? We'd dig underground and create towers. We'd have wind and water turbines to take advantage of the chaos outside of our towers, and we'd cover the towers in solar panels. With that, we can create our own artificial light, and have towers of greenhouses to grow whatever plants we need to survive, and raise cattle there to graze on grass indoors, or something. We could grow whatever we needed to keep us healthy and have plenty of diversity in our diets.

This may seem far-fetched, but it's within the realm of possibility, and is likely even very feasible. As resources become more scarce, prices go up. This creates financial incentive for companies to invest in this sort of stuff--the technology is available, it's just a matter of the towers being too darn expensive. If there was enough demand to support it, though, this would become reality.

My point is this: though any kind of change is painful (see the most recent recession), climate change is not a deal-breaker. Climate change doesn't lead to the end of humanity as we know it. The human race would get along, still. And, who's to say such a futuristic world is better or worse? It's important to note that in this view of the world, our survival depends on technological advancement and development.

On the other hand, I think sustainability initiatives are great. I don't care so much about the environmental impacts of fossil fuels so much, but I don't think it's a good idea to rely on relatively volatile countries for vital energy. If OPEC decides to turn off the spigot again, that would really hurt us, and that's a pretty big weakness. But we're headed in the right direction.

Preservation programs can be pretty bad, though. When your neighborhood keeps out developers, that just hinders progress. We need to develop communities to be ready for the technological advances that need to come to prepare us for the future. Old neighborhoods in growing city centers can cause problems.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dow 10,000

The Dow ended above 10,000 today.

Any predictions for tomorrow? Let's hope it stays up.

Obama, unemployment, financial modelling, and a book

The New Yorker highlights Obama's economic staff. Romer, Summers, Orszag, Geithner, and Bernstein.

Also from the New Yorker, John Cassidy talks about the unemployment numbers and what we might expect in the future.

Mike Rorty makes a version of an argument that I made before. I'm eager to see what interesting papers will come out, though.

I recommend you read John Quiggin's book snippets. They're good reads.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Recession, employment, risk modelling, and multipliers

The IMF says that things aren't so bad anymore! They're seemingly less bad than previously thought. They credit monetary and fiscal policy, apparently (I wonder how that'll go in the macro debates?). Feel free to check out the video of the press conference and the actual report.

Robert Reich makes sure we know what the employment numbers really mean.

The Baseline Scenario tells us about the problems of risk modelling. VaR = bad? I think people are being too harsh, though a company shouldn't use one model and nothing else to evaluate risk.

Via Thoma, Krugman talks about multipliers. He says 1.5 is a good estimate for right now.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The 2009 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics

After a number of predictions, the Nobel Prize in Economics has been awarded to Oliver E. Williamson and Elinor Ostrom. Congratulations to them! Check out all of the reactions. It should also be noted that Elinor is also the first woman to win this prize.

Friday, October 2, 2009

G-20, telecommunications, saltwater v freshwater, further than Krugman

Can you name all of the members of the G-20?

The Economist has a chart of cell phone users and internet users in developing countries. Internet access via mobile networks seems like an expensive prospect to me, for Africa.I suppose it might be cheaper than any other way of accessing the internet.

Urbanomics has a pretty good summary of the econoblogosphere saltwater versus freshwater macroeconomics debates. The conclusion: saltwater seems to be winning. I wonder what percentage of economists fall into each category, and how man "moderates" there are.

Paul Rosenberg goes further than Krugman in his discussion of the problems of macroeconomics.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Modesty, Nobel Prize, AEA survey, and salaries.

Gilles Saint-Paul tells us that economists should remain modest. After all, it's not our job to forecast crises. But, should we be able to recognize bubbles when they're happening?

The Nobel Prize in Economics announcement is coming soon! Who will it be? I note heavy favoritism in that list towards American economists. I don't know why people seem surprised when I say the top economists are in the United States.

Do you want to know what sorts of things economists agree upon? Try out this survey of AEA economists. There were another two surveys done before the last presidential election which also give insight. I really would have liked to have seen questions on single-payer health coverage and the auto industry, though.

How much can you make with different graduate degrees? Look at the data for starting and mid-career salaries for different majors. Economists have their median salaries double from starting to mid-career. Nice!