Thursday, May 31, 2012

Warsh on Mundell

David Warsh on Robert Mundell and the history of the Euro and, more broadly, of international macro.

I did not realize that many economists had opposed the Euro at the time.

Includes a bonus shout-out to my former UWO colleague Russ Boyer as well as the sad notice of the passing of public finance economist John Quigley at Berkeley.

Movie: Hysteria

Hysteria is at times hysterically funny (you know that pun was ... er ... coming), at times sweet, and at times a bit preachy.  Was it really necessary that every straight male character other than the romantic lead be either evil or stupid?  A bit more show and a bit less tell would have made this a great movie rather than just a good one.

Oddly, the NYT reviewer doesn't like it because it promotes getting off but not intimacy. Really? I am with Woody Allen on this one. And I think the NYT reviewer would benefit from a few more paroxysms.


Misguided higher education policy of the day

Arkansas waives tuition for students over 60 at its state universities.

Asks noted economist and higher education researcher Sarah Turner of the University of Virginia:

"In a public higher education system facing substantial crowding, why would a state increase the subsidy to the population with the fewest years to recoup an investment in higher ed?"

In a time of budget austerity, nothing signals a state government that is serious about its budget like a new subsidy of the consumption activities of old people ...

Hat tip: Sarah Turner

Assorted links

1. xkcd on the important difference between percentages and percentage points

2. Not so much free speech on American Airlines.

3. Unusual museums.  Why are so many of them in England and the US Midwest?

4. Ewe, that's gross.

5. Why people mock the United Nations.

Hat tip on #1 to Congressional wannabe Dan Marcin, on #2 and #4 (the pun, too) to Charlie Brown and on #5 to the agitator.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tiki revival

The Atlantic on the revival of polynesian bars.

My favorite will always be the late and much lamented Ciral's House of Tiki in Hyde Park near the University of Chicago. Great wings, surly servers and decor seemingly unchanged from the 1960s.

Movie: War Horse

War bad. Horses good. Repeat.

Recommended only if your idea of fun is reading Hallmark cards for two hours.

But, in what is surely a moment of weakness, A.O. Scott disagrees. The one point where we agree is that Spielberg does do an amazing job of capturing the flavor of an older style of irony-less moviemaking for the masses from the 1950s and 1960s. I don't miss that style.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Movie: Men in Black III

Men in Black III is great summer fun. Josh Brolin, in particular, shines as the young Agent K. And A. O. Scott, despite a bit of grumpiness, agrees.


Life in Capitol City

I don't usually link to things that have already been linked to at Marginal Revolution, but this is just too on point not to link to.

Having said that, I'll have to try a speakeasy on a future visit.

The cultrual reference in the title is to this.

Keeping up tradition at the LBJ School

This is priceless.

Presumably those responsible have been sacked.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The economics of hope

The Economist's "Free Exchange" column summarizes some recent research by Esther Duflo and others on the potential importance of the mental state of the very poor to their willingness to undertake investments.

I would argue that economics does a relatively poor job of integrating how agents think about actions from top - the role of beliefs expectations in macro fluctuations - to middle - the role of beliefs in political behavior or in consumption choices - to bottom - as in the studies of the very poor described in the economist piece. Getting better at this, even if the price is having to work with scholars outside of economics, would make economics a stronger discipline and increases its ability to effectively explain real-world behavior.

To be sure, some work along these lines is going on under the rubric of behavioral economics, but much more remains to be done. The good news is that behavioral economics has been getting less faddish and more serious over time, at least such is my perception from a modest distance. You can no longer just mumble something about "hyperbolic discounting" and get published in a top journal (or should that be one particular top journal?). That's a good thing.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Sex, drugs and rock-n-roll

So it turns out that one can, or at least some Dutch researchers can, get a publication in the journal Pediatrics by showing that the correlation among teens in behavior in the sexual, pharmaceutical and musical domains that does not please their elders is positive. Who would have guessed?

Kudos to the Daily Mail for noting that correlation is not causation.

Hat tip: since it is in the Daily Mail, you already know.

Senior job market gossip ...

... from David Warsh at Economic Principals, with a special emphasis on economic history.

Reality TV humor

Joel Slemrod wins the Daniel M. Holland medal

Though you would not know it from the website of the National Tax Association, I have it on very good authority that my colleague and chair Joel Slemrod has been awarded the 2012 Daniel Holland medal, which honors lifetime achievement in public finance.

As described by my esteemed public finance colleague Jim Hines:
The Daniel M. Holland Medal has been awarded annually since 1993 for "outstanding contributions to the study and practice of public finance."  It is really a great honor, reflecting lifetime achievement in public finance.  Past winners include Richard Musgrave, Martin Feldstein, Harvey Rosen, Alan Auerbach, and some others - such as Arnold Harberger - who were not former Harvard students but who nonetheless had distinguished careers.
Jim has a sort of crush on Harvard, but we like him anyway.

And, more importantly, and more on point, hearty congratulations to Joel for this well deserved honor.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Republicans and the American Community Survey

Some Republicans in the house are trying to reinforce their image as ignorant, anti-intellectual bumpkins by pushing legislation that would eliminate the American Community Survey.

Consider this tidbit of sadness reported in a New York Times column:
“We’re spending $70 per person to fill this out. That’s just not cost effective,” he [inaptly named Congressman Daniel Webster] continued, “especially since in the end this is not a scientific survey. It’s a random survey.”
In fact, the randomness of the survey is precisely what makes the survey scientific, statistical experts say.
Note that "statistical expert" here refers to anyone who took even one undergraduate statistics course.

Data are a public good. Government is supposed to provide public goods. Indeed, even the very limited government that Republicans claim to, but never actually, support, should produce public goods. Might I humbly suggest that Mr. Webster and his colleagues focus their attention on things the government should not be doing - e.g. the export-import bank, the war on (some) drugs, agricultural price supports - or that it does very badly - e.g. Social Security, Medicare, performance management for government primary and secondary schools - before going after the actual public goods?

Hat tip: Adriana Kugler

My old friend SoLE

The Society of Labor Economists (SoLE) now has a Facebook page, which Maggie Newman, the power behind the throne of both SoLE and the Journal of Labor Economics (JoLE), keeps updated with interesting material related to (surprise!) labor economics.

Go there and be the society's friend.

Hat tip: Maggie Newman (of course!)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

T-shirts in the old city

These shirts are for sale at several of the market stalls in the old city of Jerusalem (where I took this picture a couple of days ago).

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Assorted links

1. Bicycle air bag.

2. SNL veteran Jon Lovitz [!] complains about taxes.

3. Markets in everything: rent a home in Ann Arbor on a football weekend.

4. What televangelist Jim Bakker is up to these days.

5. How to win at Battleship.

Hat tip on #1 and #4 to Charlie Brown; #2 via instapundit

Prelude to a bank run?

Greeks have started to withdraw their Euros from Greek banks in fear of (in expectation of?) a Greek exit from the Euro and a subsequent conversion of Euros to much less valuable drachmas. I am in Europe this week and some variant of this BBC story has been on both BBC news and the (much more serious than the US version) European version of CNN every hour or so. The stories are interesting in that they are quite relevant but also themselves likely to help create an eventual bank run by affecting individual expectations and thereby encouraging individuals at the margin of withdrawing their funds to do so sooner rather than later.

Exciting but unhappy and disappointing financial and political times, especially on this side of the pond.

JP Morgan blows $2bn

A fine column by Robert Samuelson that makes it clear why this whole media festival is nothing but (presumably) politically motivated spin that plays off the fear and financial ignorance of many voters.

And, really, $2bn is pocket change, both at JP Morgan and inside the beltway. This whole episode is roughly the equivalent of a middle class person losing a quarter in the back seat of a taxi.

Hat tip: my grad school colleague Karl Snow

Friday, May 11, 2012

Reach for the (academic) stars ...

The Wall Street Journal writes on the market for top academic economists, including Michigan's pursuit - a coordinated effort of the Ford School and the Department of Economics - of "Bustin" = Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers.

Hat tip: Mel Stephens

Thursday, May 10, 2012

How many academic administrators does it take to

... run a university.  In the University of California, apparently quite a lot.  Yikes.

And the sad part is that not only do they drain resources directly, but extra bonus administrators tend to signal their imagined usefulness by finding ways to consume faculty time on tasks other than teaching and research.

Via marginal revolution.


A fine graphic summary from Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

Liberalism (in the classical sense) was properly cosmopolitan and thus not very patriotic. Socialism, back when it was serious, was internationalist, and recognized that nationalism (and its public relations arm, patriotism) were tools used to distract the citizenry from what the politicians and their friends were doing with their tax dollars (and their sons).

I love Americans in all their cussed individualism - I am one after all - and I love the ideals that motivated the founding fathers of the United States. But when the country leaves the ideals (as it so often does), I stick with the ideals.

I do worry, though, that a country that unilaterally disarms by turning off the nationalism is likely to be overrun. In that sense, it may be a necessary, but hopefully transitory, evil, like using oil and coal for energy.

Why I love the Economist

From the Economist's email news summary (which is drawn from the summaries at the start of the print version) a couple of weeks ago:
Barack Obama paid a surprise visit to Afghanistan where he signed a co-operation agreement with Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, which offers support after American troops leave the country in 2014. Soon after Mr Obama left Kabul a bomb killed seven people. 
Mr Obama's trip was also part election politicking. He went to Afghanistan amid a political row in America on the first anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden by American special forces that was sparked by Mr Obama's public doubts as to whether Mitt Romney would have been as committed to hunting down al-Qaeda's leader. Republicans moaned that Mr Obama was turning national security into a partisan issue, something which is usually considered their department. 
The think that makes the Economist different is that it does not just recycle press releases or act as a de facto campaign publication. Instead, it actually points out the rubbish that spews forth with such enthusiasm from both the red and blue teams.

Post office follies

The postal service has some value as a poster child for why the government should not run companies.

The most recent example: they apparently cannot even manage to close a single office.

Reducing hours is something, but of course leaves all the fixed costs intact and keeps the postal service from making some money selling off the land and buildings.

Someone should summon the ghost of Mancur Olson, who popularized the idea of small, well organized groups with lots to gain triumphing over large, poorly organized groups whose members, individually, have only a little to lose.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Movie: Marvel's The Avengers

A.O. Scott is right on target in his review: less genre convention and more Josh Whedon unleashed would have made this a better movie.  As it is, it is redeemed by Robert Downey Jr. and the beautiful Scarlett, though she seems often to be facing away from the camera. Just an odd coincidence, I am sure.

Recommended if you are in the mood for summer fluff.

Lewis Prize to Michigan Grad Student!

The Society of Labor Economists awards its H. Gregg Lewis prize every two years to the best article in the Journal of Labor Economics over a two year period.

This year's co-winner is UM economics graduate student Bill Lincoln, for his paper (co-authored with William Kerr) entitled "The Supply Side of Innovation: H-1B Visa Reforms and U.S. Ethnic Innovation."

Want to know more?  You can read the statement of the prize committee, the published (gated) version of the paper and/or an ungated version of the paper.

Congrats Bill!

Hat tips: Maggie Newman and Martha Bailey

Congrats to economist Robert Moffitt ...

... on his election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

EMU kicks out 23,000 students for bad grades

And then says "just kidding."

Perhaps this is some sort of psychology experiment? If so, their IRB is a bit more lax than ours ....

And that dress ... and the necklace ... and the brooch ... oh dear.

Hat tip: Charlie Brown

More on the Marcin congressional campaign ...

... from  I am impressed that Dan got Ann Arbor's mayor to show up at his campaign event.

And a correction in the comments ... my penalty for reading too quickly.  And here I was liking John Heftje, if only for a moment.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Plagiarism at Arizona State

What should happen if a professor plagiarizes from wikipedia and a newspaper article?  Seems like something should happen. When my students do it - and, sadly, a few of them have - they get punished in the course but not kicked out of school.

Via: instapundit