“Left Youtube” is overusing the labour theory of value

While I have been MIA over the last four years a lot has changed on the internet and in terms of economic and social discourse.  The weird infatuation of the alt-right with “globalists” and nonsensical economic arguments is particularly upsetting – and I’ll be discussing how the decline in persuasiveness of economists has helped these types of people fill the void in the future.

My concern four years ago was that the non-rationalist identity politics of the left would open this type of negative nationalistic politics on the right – or would at least be used as a foil for it.  The refusal to actually state our assumptions and values is a failure irrespective of the intentions we hold.  In that way, when exploring Youtube I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the leftist video blogs – and their willingness to fully articulate their views.  Key examples of this are Shaun, Contrapoints, and Philosophy Tube.

However, these channels are distinctly “anti-capitalist” in terms of wanting sizable change in the status quo.  I am a mainstream economist that believes in incremental change.  A full discussion of this would be interesting – but give me time.  But to do so we need to get something clear about the labour theory of value that I am hearing them describe – it doesn’t make sense as a justification for anything let alone as a “theory of value”.

Note: The actual labour theory of value has been defined many ways – and the most profitable Marxian interpretation I’ve seen is trying to understand LTV as part of a subsistance wage argument on factor income shares.  That isn’t the focus here.

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Wellbeing conference

Via Motu on Facebook I saw the following.

I had no idea this was going on … even though I saw the flyers all around university advertising it.  I’m working quite long days at the moment so my mind isn’t really all there 😛

However, this looks cool – I’m going to see if I can find some of the related literature and write about it at some point.  I really enjoyed the summary piece by Arthur Grimes in that link, so go take a look at that!  So much to unpack in that, so I’ll leave it for another time 😉

Geoff Simmons, Politics and “career suicide for an economist”

Disclaimer:  I used to work in the same space as Geoff, and I know him as a guy who is genuine, wants to improve social outcomes, is a mad good communicator, and who works hard on the issues.  But none of this would prevent me from disagreeing with him if I did (such as my comments on food here and here and here and here), so I swear there is no bias involved 😉

In a cool interview over at interest.co.nz Geoff Simmons outlines what is going on with the TOP party, which he has just become leader of.  For the sake of clarity I think he’ll be an excellent leader for this party.  What I want to concentrate on is this quote though:

How can the public know I am serious about the long haul? When Cortez took on the Aztecs, he trashed his ships to make sure his men had no choice but to fight with everything they had. The reason I bring up that story is what I am doing right now is pretty much career suicide for an economist. There’s no going back.

Haha, this is good – I like the nifty description of a commitment mechanism.  But I’d like to ask a couple of questions about it.

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Top 10: What has been happening in NZ?

I have spent most of the last four years trapped in a small space, pouring over legislation and microdata to figure out details of the New Zealand tax-transfer system prior to 2014 – with short breaks to deliver some lectures at Victoria University.  I learnt a lot, but I had no chance to keep up with the New Zealand economy.

So now I’m back, and I have questions.  This is what I bring up in my Top 10 over at interest.co.nz that went up this weekend.

So what are the key issues I’m struggling with:

  1. Why is the participation rate so high – this helps to describe it, but why? [Related facts:  It has been full time work climbing, with increasing participation by those over 65 AND rising female participation]
  2. Why has the NIIP liability position improved to the degree it has – this helps to describe it, but why?
  3. How are we seeing “late cycle” without input price pressures? [Note:  The RBNZ does not see this as late-cycle judging by this]
  4. The OCR looks low for “late cycle” – what is this due to?  I’m going to split this in two:  What part is due to real economy issues, and what part is due to changes in bank regulation/macroprudential policy?

Related questions – which are likely answered by the answers to the questions above are:

  1. Why is labour productivity so low?
  2. Why is the part-time employment as a percentage of employment so low?
  3. Why are house prices so high?
  4. Why is there no product price pressure – especially non-tradable prices?  This describes some – but why are non-tradables doing this now?
  5. Why is the terms of trade rising to the degree it is?

As you can tell reading this, I genuinely don’t know anything … but as someone who has a pretty clear view on macroeconomics and a good grasp on the NZ data and data history prior to 2014, I haven’t found any accessible answers to these questions easily.  So I am hoping you can help me here 😀

 

Economics is not consequentialist

A lot of people won’t care about this post – and the ones that do will care a bit too much.  So I will keep this relatively short.  But just believe me that this post is the first in a series of three that will eventually get to the point 😉

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Automation of an economist

While undertaking some research on income inequality I could no longer help Infometrics Ltd out with forecasting.  But before I left I caught economist Mieke Welvaert working on blueprints for my replacement.

Although I’ve defended these robots in the past (here and here) it has always been with respect to being compensated for my human capital losing value.  I’ll be sure to tell you all how that is going in future posts 😉