A ‘Top 10’ economics links for romance and matching

On Valentine’s Day I had the opportunity to write a Top 10 at 10 for the always good Rates Blog.  As it was Valentine’s Day I thought linking to some romantic economics might be a good idea.

As the sexiest economist competition started that day – I didn’t have the opportunity to point this out.  As a result, I’m doing it now!

Note:  If I had spotted it beforehand, this would have been in there.  Tim Harford is so good at communicating economic ideas!

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from all of us at TVHE.  As you may have seen, James has already sorted Christmas Cards for you.

Avoid time inconsistent social choices this Christmas.  I am not just talking about eating and drinking too much – also avoid telling that relative you don’t really like how you really feel!  And if you’ve been drinking, and don’t think you have the willpower to keep your mouth shut, just think about us.

What can I say, we’re economists and so we deeply care 🙂

On the comments of Pope Francis

I’ll admit a bias here – my middle name is Francis, so no doubt I am being overtly generous to his comments when I discussed them on Rates Blog last week 😉 .  Or potentially I’m am being harsh, because I am particularly unhappy that I ended stuck with a middle name I didn’t particularly want.

All kidding aside, the way different economists reacted to the Pope’s comments was fascinating for me – and also helped to reinforce the idea that often when we discuss things as economists, it can be hard to hide our normative assumptions.  As I pointed out here, I was raised with a fairly significant Catholic upbringing – and in the context of what I remember being told about when I was young his comments were not terribly strong.  I felt he was making some statements that were factually wrong, but it was on the basis that those within the Church actually believe in a more equitable distribution of wealth (even if it is significantly less wealth).

These normative value judgments about the distribution of income run past economics – economics is a descriptive discipline that allows us to fairly represent the trade-offs, not to determine what trade-off is right.  However, as an individual I would also note that the normative value judgments of the Catholic Church are hardly going to be representative of society as a whole – as a result, we do not need to say that the Pope is wrong with what he is saying in order to disagree with him.

However, as the end of my Rates Blog piece does point out, factually his two main “testable changes in society” are completely false.  Make of that what you will.

Is it a bubble?

I was at the Press Gallery Christmas function last night in Wellington. Great do. I have renewed respect for journalists’/government relations types’/politicians’ drinking ability.

At some stage I got cornered on what would happen to Auckland house prices. Having no good answer I resorted to the Keynes line that markets can remain irrational for longer than you can remain solvent.

This morning I thought I would have answered it more as The Economist writes:

“Manias can last much longer than investors think, as many contrarians discovered to their cost during the dotcom boom of the late 1990s. Nor do investors know whether a bubble will be resolved through a sharp fall in prices or a long period of stasis, in which inflation erodes prices in real terms.”

And the folly of forecasting asset prices is neatly encapsulated by Irving Fisher (Professor of Economics at Yale University), in 17 October 1929, soon before the crash:

“Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.”

Regional unemployment

The 2013 Census data is a treasure trove. A striking regional picture is the unemployment rate by territorial authority.

Urate by TA Read more

Macro data and are we doing better?

Statistics New Zealand launched their social indicators on 26 November 2013. It is a collection of data from the General Social Survey, which supplements various ‘hard’ economic data with ‘softer’ measures of perceptions.

I was part of a panel that spoke briefly at the launch. Donal at Economics New Zealand has written about it already.

The question posed to me was: Are we doing better? It’s a loaded question. It depends on who you ask and what dimension you measure.

Putting it in the context of the economic cycle, we can describe a recession where economic activity, employment and various other indicators fell. They have subsequently recovered. But the recession and the recovery were shared unevenly, across regions, industries, age, ethnicity etc: Read more