Where is economics on the political spectrum?

There seems to be a lot of discussion surrounding economists position on the political spectrum. My answer to this would be that economists are not a political group or a club so economists themselves will be spread over the political spectrum.

However, I have to admit that the process used when discussing economic issues does lend itself (or suits people would already think like it) to a specific way of thinking. As a result, I’m going to discuss where I THINK my own views stand using the definitions of wikipedia. As I am not a political scientist this discussion will be quite useless – so if any political experts would like to help me out in figuring out where my views lie, please give it a go in the comments section.

Ok here we go.

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Agnitio on tour: Economic Musings from the US

I’m currently in the US on business/visiting family and thought I might share with our kiwi readers back home some interesting things (from an economics perspective of course!) that I have come across in my travels. I’ll post any other random things I come across while in the land of the free.

A few things have jumped out so far:

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The lemon hypothesis vs evidence

Back in 1970 George Akerlof wrote “The Market for Lemons”, where he described a game where if, buyers have less information than sellers, it is possible that mutually beneficial trade may not occur. (Wikipedia)

Now I’ve noticed a bunch of my favourite economics blogs discussing this paper by Arif Sultan, on empirical evidence and the “lemons problem”. (Blogs are Anti-Dismal, Division of Labour, and Marginal Revolution). The paper appears to say that, empirically, the quality of new and used cars is the same – something that would not occur in the case of a “market failure” based on asymmetric information.

Overall I enjoyed the posts offered by Anti-Dismal (descriptive) and the Division of Labour (stating it was an interesting result), but I think Marginal Revolution takes more out of the paper than it actually offers. Read more

Diminishing marginal utility, transfers, and prices

When justifying progressive taxes or any type of transfer people often use the idea of diminishing marginal utility. Now I am not against transfers, I think there are many good reasons justifying transfers, however DMU is not one of them.

We’ve discussed issues with this approach before here and here. Fundamentally these were:

  1. The utility from income differs between people and we can’t observe it. Furthermore, people with higher utility from income will work more – so if there is any “choice” in the work decision then DMU is not sufficient to ensure the optimality of progressivity.
  2. Liquidity constraints and the discrete nature of purchases ensures that even if we have diminishing marginal utility for individual products we cannot assume that marginal utility is falling in income.

Another possible critique of the DMU justification for transfers comes from prices. Read more

Save the people or save the world

An excellent, and often forgotten, point in favour of limiting our response to climate change is the opportunity cost of reducing carbon emissions. Opponents of a policy response often point to the monetary cost to the developed world. Proponents reply that you can’t put a monetary cost on saving the planet. As economists we should always try to think about things in real rather than nominal terms, so what is the real opportunity cost of climate change policy? It could be investment in the developing world, reducing the number of people living in poverty or controlling the African AIDS epidemic.

Are the costs of limited climate change enough to persuade you to sacrifice the lives of so many who will die if the funds that could be used to save them are spent combating global warming? Read more

We moved up in the world!

I’m not sure if anyone has noticed, but we’ve moved to a flashy new address at tvhe.co.nz! It doesn’t really make a lot of difference if you just read the blog, cos our old address points to the new one. BUT our resident statistician is mourning the nosedive of our Technorati ranking from ten bajillion down to 50 squillion, since nobody links our new address. So if we’re on your blogroll or you ever link to us please use the new address. It’ll give you warm fuzzies to know you made someone feel a little better today, and it’s easier than helping old ladies with their shopping 😉