Posts Tagged ‘growth’

robots and jobs

Friday, July 6th, 2018

Tim Harford, the FT’s ‘undercover economist’ has written a superb column explaining why it makes no sense to tax ‘robots’. In part this is because robots do not exist, at least not yet. What threatens employment is automation of specific tasks, not whole jobs. Should we, then, tax automation, which drives increases in productivity? Mr Harford thinks that this is a bad idea, though he acknowledges “In a world of mass technological unemployment we are certainly going to need to tax something other than labour income alone”.

He illustrates his point brilliantly with the example of spreadsheets, an accounting process that a few decades ago was very labour-intensive. (more…)

superstar firms and unemployed workers

Sunday, May 21st, 2017

Tim Harford, ‘undercover economist’ for the FT, has written a very interesting column on the unintended consequences of technological change. Increased productivity should be welcomed by all of us. The problem is that some of us suffer, while others gain. An equitable distribution of gains will not happen with markets alone. Government action is needed. (more…)

official statistics and China’s GDP growth

Monday, April 24th, 2017

China’s official GDP estimates are distrusted by many, who think that the government is overstating the country’s true rate of economic growth. Columbia University’s Xavier Sala-i-Martin teamed up with two economists from the New York Fed (Hunter Clark and Maxim Pinkovskiy) to examine satellite data on variation over time of nighttime light emissions – a proxy for GDP growth. They find that the official statistics on average do not overstate China’s growth rate; in fact, in recent years they understate it.

For analysts of the Chinese economy, questions about the accuracy of the country

rise of the robots

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

Technological change in general is a good thing. After all, it means that we can produce more output with fewer hours of work, giving us more leisure and more goods to consume. Nonetheless, for some individuals, the change can be stressful. Workers may find themselves unemployed, or underemployed, unable to adjust to a changing job market. Leisure is not very pleasant when it comes in the form of involuntary unemployment with less income. (more…)

in praise of messiness

Saturday, October 8th, 2016

Undercover Economist Tim Harford explains why highly performing office workers tend to be messy pilers rather than neat filers.

Filers like to establish a formal organisational structure for their paper documents. Pilers, by contrast, let pieces of paper build up around their desks or, as we have now learnt to say, implement an LRU-cache.

To most of us, it may seem obvious that piling is dysfunctional while filing is the act of a serious professional. Yet when researchers from the office design company Herman Miller looked at high-performing office workers, they found that they tended to be pilers. They let documents accumulate on their desks, used their physical presence as a reminder to do work, and relied on subtle cues

Bourgeois Dignity

Sunday, July 31st, 2016

An unusual feature of Deirdre McCloskey’s book, Bourgeois Dignity, is the chapter headings which provide a concise summary of the argument of the book. Few books have impressed me so much.

The volume contains 450 pages of text, so each chapter is roughly 10 pages long. In addition there are 42 pages of endnotes, 41 pages of references and a useful 37-page index.

You can read the entire first chapter (pp. 1-9) here. Below is the complete table of contents.

1

low interest rates

Sunday, July 31st, 2016

Nominal interest rates on secure debt, such as long-term government bonds, are now very low, even zero or negative in some countries. Economists prefer to look at real interest rates (nominal rates less inflation), which are more informative. After all, nominal rates might be very high, but if inflation is even higher, the return is negative for those who purchase bonds.

Cuban-American economist Carmen Reinhart looks at real interest rates in advanced economies over time, and finds that bouts of negative real rates have been common for more than a century. What is novel is deflation (falling prices), which requires negative nominal rates to produce the negative real rates central banks seek in order to stimulate growth.

[The chart below] shows that the 2010-2016 period is not the first episode of widespread negative real returns on bonds. The periods around World War I and World War II are routinely overlooked in discussions that focus on deregulation of capital markets since the 1980s. As in the past, during and after financial crises and wars, central banks increasingly resort to a form of

perverse effects of education

Sunday, July 31st, 2016

I have completed McCloskey’s remarkable book, and will continue to post short excerpts that caught my attention. Here is the first of several to follow.

Each of the book’s short chapters made me think, and some made me wish that I had written the words, or at least something similar. This excerpt is from chapter 43, the only chapter of the book that contains a formal model of economic growth. As McCloskey explains, on p. 411, “The ‘mathematics’ is merely a metaphorical language that economists understand, and which allows me to chat with them … without excessive confusion.”

[The effect of education] can be and often has been perverse, corrupting good bourgeois boys by educating them to believe that the bourgeoisie have no dignity at all, or corrupting good bourgeois girls to become state bureaucrats devoted to believing that bourgeois liberty is to be stamped out. Marx took a PhD degree in philosophy at Jena in 1841. The leader of the Shining Path Marxists in Peru was a professor of philosophy. A high percentage of the officers in Hitler’s SS had advanced degrees in the humanities. German engineers built the gas chambers. Excellent computer engineers enforce the Chinese censorship of the Internet.

Deirdre N. McCloskey, Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can

liberal policies and economic growth

Friday, July 29th, 2016

For your enjoyment, here are more excerpts from Bourgeois Dignity.

Dignity and liberty still work. …. Shenzhen in mainland China, a suburb of Hong Kong, went from being a small fishing village to an eight-million-soul metropolis in two decades. it didn’t happen without some nasty rent-seeking by party officials and their friends, true. But out of such creative destruction are average incomes raised, to the benefit eventually of the poorest. Such a shift required a shift in rhetoric: stop jailing millionaires and start admiring them; stop overregulating markets and start letting people make deals, corrupt or not.

…. You can still hear people … [declare] confidently that the market of course needs to be closely regulated, or that trade needs to be fair, or that immigration must be restricted, or that jobs are to be created by governmental programs, or that businesspeople routinely cheat, or that markets are chaotic, or that the more complex an economy is, the more it needs government regulation, or that banking or financial speculation is robbery, or that governmental bureaucracies are always fair and efficient.

science and economic growth

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

Like imperialism and trade, science was more a result of economic growth than a cause.

All this remains to be shown …. But understand the main point here: even today … a great deal of economic growth in a country has little or nothing to do with science. The spread of economic growth to places like Brazil or Russia or India or China uses some science-based technologies, such as cell phones, but uses also a great many merely technology-based technologies free of much input from science …. And the international spread of growth has intensively used the social “technology” of bourgeois dignity and liberty.

Deirdre N. McCloskey, Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern World (University of Chicago Press, 2010), pp. 360-361.

Surprised? (I was.) Not convinced? Before rejecting McCloskey’s thesis read all ten pages of chapter 38 (“The cause was not science”), pp.355-365 or, better yet, read the entire book.