Monday, December 31, 2007
You're the last person I'm talking to, so you'll probably get the best interview, darling. I don't want to change the world. For me, happiness is the most important thing and if I'm happy, then it shows in my work. In the end, all the mistakes and all the excuses are down to me. I like to feel that I'm just being my honest self and as far as I'm concerned I just want to pack in as much of life and fun, having a good time as much as I can within in the years I have. Well there you are, you have it on tape. Use it. Well that's then nearest I've come to a lot of passion in terms of interviews. How much more have you got? Come on, I'm getting bored.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
No one, it turns out, does Internet auction fraud like the Romanians. [...]when it comes to online auctions, particularly for big-ticket items such as cars that can yield $5,000 a scam, Romanians own the game. Romanian police estimate that cyber-crime is now a multimillion-dollar national industry, as important to organized criminals here as drug smuggling or human trafficking. [...]The Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center, ranks Romania fifth in its table of naughty nations. But most experts agree that doesn't give Romanian criminals their due. Much of the cash being made on auction fraud reported as originating in the U.S., Canada, Britain, Spain or Italy is actually being picked up in those countries by Romanian money mules. An EBay fraud ring busted last year in Chicago, for example, has been traced to Pitesti, Romania. [...]EBay, which doesn't even operate a site in Romania, won't talk dollar figures but acknowledges that the country is the No. 1 source of "professional fraud." On a November 2006 visit to the Romanian capital, Bucharest, FBI Director Robert Mueller said the vast majority of Internet fraud committed on "one prominent U.S. online auction website is connected to Romania or Romanians."
Read more here.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
- How to avoid recession in USA: Greg Mankiw's answer. Gary Becker and Richard Posner advocate a similar perspective (the argument is centered, of course, on the subprime housing mess). Former Fed boss Greenspan already said that one should do absolutely nothing and wait for the bubble to break on its own, just as the people above (e.g. in Mankiw's words: "Sometimes, bed rest and wait-and-see are the best we can do"), see my previous post on that. This also takes me to a link by Mankiw on 'bad press for Ben Bernanke ", the new Fed chair; while I think some of that criticism is valid, I'd say there is really no reason to panic and that one should trust the Fed and its chief governor, with handling this. After all, the great Milton Friedman already said Ben Bernanke is a great choice and is expected to do a good job (& remark here: this youtube clip linked above is almost one hour long wisdom from Friedman; no second of that is expendable).
- "Morality matters for economic performance": A very interesting summary of recent research plus the agenda for further research in the context, by Guido Tabellini, on voxeu.org. Tabellini already presented (part of) this in the 2007 EEA-ESEM conference from Budapest (more precisely, as the EEA Presidential Address, from the 30th of August), for those of you who have also been attending.
- "Lawsuit investment" as the new hype: "Juridica will make investments in ongoing legal claims, mostly in the US, and loans to law firms to finance their costs in pursuing claims."
A report from India tells of a firm that rents out wedding guests, so that the wedding and the party do not look empty. The "guests" will wear either traditional Indian dress or Western clothes, depending on what the customer dictates. They are told to dance and make small talk, and show a knowledge of the marrying couple,without letting on that they are hired. The firm's owner, a Mr. Syed, told one newspaper: "The breaking up of joint families and lack of affection among relatives also creates a demand for paid guests". The Best Guests Centre, at Jodhpur in Rajasthan, is looking to expand. To each his own: I would pay some people to stay away from my wedding.
Friday, December 21, 2007
No one believes me, but comedy is better than muscles, money or looks. If you can make a girl laugh out loud, you're in there. It's almost like the pressure of the laugh makes her panties fall off.
- Larry Summers on the state of the US economy, a 19th of Dec speech (PDF, 8 pages). The gist is that he recommends fast and aggresive monetary and fiscal stimulus (the latter, mainly through tax cuts), just like (but more detailed than) Martin Feldstein, see my previous post on that. There are some very good ideas in Summers's proposal, though a few of his recommendations are falling too far on the 'leftist' side, to try a catch-all term (and I bet that many US economists would also agree). An example of the latter is for instance a proposal to increase the portfolio limit of the government sponsored enterprises, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
- L'embarras du choix: Romanian 'manelists' might have to choose between hot women and hot cars :-)
- Since tomorrow is the Global Orgasm Day (see also my last year's posts about that, here and here), I'll pick an assorted topic among the more exotic entrepreneurship cases discussed in Tyler Cowen's book, 'Discover your inner economist" (last one was in this post). Today about the hymen re-attachment hype:
For her 17th wedding anniversary Jeanette Yarborough wanted to do something special for her husband. In addition to planning a hotel getaway for the weekend, Ms. Yarborough paid a surgeon $5000 to reattach her hymen, making her appear to be a virgin again. "It's the ultimate gift for a man who has everything" says Ms. Yarborough.
This is reported to be one of the plastic-surgery industry's fastest growing segments, and yes, that is in the United States.
- An excellent article by Aaron Edlin on Microsoft's latest OS.
- I think Szekelys should indeed follow Andy's free advice on marketing Dracula. Somehow connected, see also an older post of mine touching on Stoker's book (including a link to the whole book online).
Thursday, December 20, 2007
As a protest vote, Ron Paul seems fine, but hearing him or reading about him just makes me depressed. A good rule of thumb is not to get too excited about any candidate whose actual election would make the Dow lose thousands of points.
For the whole context, see Tyler Cowen's excellent recent post. I would have actually phrased it more bluntly: Ron Paul is a lunatic with several very good ideas. Cowen's post on MR also contains a link to an "alternative" view of Alina Stefanescu, post which, otherwise interesting, is at best very naive. I do mention this because, for some reason, somebody in the roblosphere seems to have associated me (my blog), at some point, in a totally different context, with her (her blog). Now that I've actually read one of her posts, I confess that I find the comparison above utterly uninspired, to say the least...
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
PS. Feel free to elf yourselves, all of you. Many thanks to Neto for the tip! :-).
Monday, December 17, 2007
Sunday, December 16, 2007
I start my class every year by saying, “These are models. And the reason we call them models is that they’re not 100 percent true. If they were, we would call them reality, not models. They’re simplifications.” But the acid test is, how good are the simplifications for your purposes? And for almost all purposes, market efficiency is a very good approximation.
Friday, December 14, 2007
When we use the tools that economics give us, we need to be sure that the complexity of the models we use match the complexity of the real world situations. Economics embodies a different and valuable approach to public policy, one that strives to apply rigorous scientific standards to what can often seem like fuzzy questions. And when economics solutions fall short of the ideal, it is a signal that the specific methods employed are flawed, not that economic science as a whole needs to be scrapped.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
- An article by James Surowiecki on the subprime crisis and the "band-aid" Paulson (partial), J.P. Morgan-like, solution. This while Greenspan thinks the bubble should first break on its own (and certainly differs here from Martin Feldstein, who advocates for a fast, two-act intervention, see my previous post on that)
- Here's a very interesting post of Andrew Gelman (based on this co-authored article of his) on whether the Democrats should move, as an electoral strategy, more to the left on the economic policy axis. His answer says that no, au contraire, they could gain if they moved moved a bit to the right (indeed, how on earth could the Democrats move more to the left than where they are already, economic-wise?!) , but certainly keeping to the left of the Republicans. The analysis is quite insightful, but I think it ignores other dimensions that would/will play a big role in the electoral strategies; i.e, the left and right discussed herein are purely the economic ones, while probably the Democrats can win much more from positioning strategically on the political axis, where most Republicans are not what they should/could/ought be (beats me why...), libertarians that is... (e.g. think for instance of the 2-dimension political compass I've talked about a while ago). Also, linked to left-right economics opinions in the USA (and, in fact, in general), see a concise analysis from Greg Mankiw: he tackles the divergences in this context among the experts, so to speak...
- Meet the Isaac Newton of biology (so says Esquire, but read on: they might well be onto something here), also known as Dr. Franziska Michor. Blonde, 25 years old, very good looking (that is already my opinion, not Esquire's). That she's got an impressive number of top publications, a PhD on the 'evolutionary dynamics of cancer' from Harvard at 22, or that she was a theoretical biologist at the Institute for Advanced Studies at 19, is certainly meritorious :-). But what's really killing is that she's also got a licence to drive 18-wheelers (part of a family-induced education that included two other essential chapters: cake baking and ballroom dancing): we love it, we love it!
Taphephobia (or "taphophobia", depending which spelling convention you follow) is the fear of being buried alive. A Chilean cemetery will build an alarm into a coffin for only $462. In 1995 entrepreneurs marketed a $5000 Italian casket with an emergency signal beeper and a two-way microphone/speaker to the outside world. The accompanying survival kit includes a torch, an oxygen tank, and a heart stimulator; don't ask who will administer the latter.
Saturday, December 08, 2007
m-am îndrăgostit de un argument
era blond, livid şi psihologic
în prag de seară primăvara
Thursday, December 06, 2007
- very sad for this country's people, but otherwise a very concrete first level econ lesson for everybody. One can only hope that any other government passes 'introductory economics' before experimenting with policies (samples of which, for the same country, were featuring on my blog a while ago as well)...
- female leaders and what comes and what doesn't, with that (with further links to very interesting recent PDF articles within the text)
- from the 'exotic entreneurship' stories cycle, another example mentioned in Tyler Cowen's very well written book, Discover Your Inner Economist (see also my previous example from there). Today: "the crying bar" (since I have some relatives that own a bar in Romania, this might be particularly of interest as business strategy for them; it's high time we copied the Chinese:-)):
" The truly regretful in the Chinese city of Nanjing can visit a "crying bar". There's a sofa, some tables, and a great deal of tissue paper. For about $6 an hour, customers can sit and cry. The owner, one Luo Jun, claimed he hit upon the idea from customers of a previous bar. They wanted to cry, but they had no venue for this desire. The crying bar solves their problem by making the show of maudlin emotion socially respectable and indeed socially expected. I hope I don't see you there"
- very wise words from Tom Sowell on "that top 1%"
- What are the odds of a recession in the USA (& related items)? Answers are given by a. Larry Summers in a short 'debate' with John Snow: Summers calls the shots, Snow very much agrees to everything (11 minutes .mp3); b. Martin Feldstein, who comes forward with a 2-part strategy expansion: combine lowering interest rates further by the Fed + a bold fiscal stimulus; c. Eddie Lazear, debriefing the newly released economic forecast of the White House; d. finally, two very funny chaps on YouTube who make clear the subprime problem (and its solution!) for everybody. Hat tip for all a.-d. links here to the one and only Greg Mankiw.
Monday, December 03, 2007
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Ok Seb, okok! I've got to admit it. You've earned it deserve it u'r da man, I owe you this one! :) [...] Nico, at your service...
Ok Seb, okok! I've got to admit it. You've earned it deserve it u'r da man, I owe you this one! :) [...] Nico, at your service...
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
- Becker and respectively Posner, on tax evasion. Why is tax compliance higher than one would expect (with a reservation here: it also follows from Posner's argument than in fact tax evasion isn't necessarily lower than rationally expected...) and is that mainly due to the rational fear of punishment or to the taxpayers' feeling of moral duty/ fairness etc? For me Posner wins this argument (they do oppose each other on the essence herein, which after all rarely happens on the Becker-Posner blog...): it is much more the deterrence effect of the fear of punishment plus the costs associated with getting to know how to evade the taxes 'properly', than a feeling of moral duty or fairness, particularly when no other individual is directly involved; after all Posner's got the comparative advantage in this area and it is very very difficult to beat that...
- From now on (until I'll exhaust all notable examples), I'll present within the 'econlinks' posts my favourite examples of 'markets in everything' from Tyler Cowen's recent book, "Discover Your Inner Economist"-- one of my best reads this year (that does not mean that its chapters cannot be ranked: there are very good and also not so good, parts). Check for instance some quotes from it previously taken over for my quote-of-the-week rubrique, here or here. For today about the drinking-and-dialing-problem and equally exotic market solutions to prevent it (and from a more personal perspective, I think there is scope for a drinking-and-emailing-problem resolution as well :-)).
We have all known people who make phone calls when they shouldn't, especially when they are drunk. A survey of 409 people by Virgin Mobile found that 95 percent had made drunk calls, mostly to ex-partners (30 percent), 19 percent to current partners, and 36 percent to others, including their bosses. Fifty-five percent of those people looked at their phones the next morning to see whom they had called-- similarly, someone is waking up in the world this minute and checking to see who it is he or she is sleeping with.
To alleviate the drinking-and-dialing problem, a phone company in Australia started offering customers blocked "blacklist" numbers, which they select before going out to drink. In Japan they sell a mobile phone with a breathanalyzer, to see if you are really fit to drive home, or for that matter to make a phone call. If a bus driver fails the test, his location is sent immediately to his boss by GPS.
- Some wisdom from the one and only Milton Friedman. More actual than ever (in fact I recalled this old interview with Friedman after mentioning the very recent one with Richard Freeman in a previous post and disagreeing with some details in Freeman's address). The most spontaneous and brilliant economist you've ever heard, I promise. So listen and relisten and... relisten. To all of it. And learn. About 30 min clip on YouTube.
- And finally, I will be a millionaire (albeit in DK Kroner, but after all one has to start somewhere) for the next two years. I have been awarded (mange tak!) a prestigious (and generous, academe-wise) independent postdoctoral research grant of The Danish Social Science Research Council (Forskningsrådet for Samfund og Erhverv) for my project "Wages, Productivity and Firm Sizes in Imperfectly Competitive Markets", submitted for the grant applications' contest last August. So yes, you can congratulate me :-). And no, they won't let me buy Belgian beers for all that money. Though I guess that some top wine for research inspiration is allowed :-). Cheers!
I would add that even when one thinks/is convinced s/he cares about inequality (I know some people that claim that loudly...), that is not direct, it is not unconditional, it is always a cover for something else, e.g. something likely to be on Gintis's list above...
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Friday, November 23, 2007
- Remember my post about names in Denmark? At that time I could not find which were really the most frequently used first names. But Denmark Statistics even has those available. So "Jens" (male) and "Anne" (female) are the most common first names in Denmark, to date. In terms of recents trends, the most popular names given to newborn children in 2006 were "Lucas" and "Sofie", respectively. PS: read also some relevant comments to an older post of Dan, with several interesting links concerning (though some of that is about futuristic trends:-)) names elsewhere in the world.
- Here's a short video about one of the most famous labor economists of the moment, Richard Freeman. (wmv file, about 55 MB). The clip is with relationship to his winning this year's IZA Prize (after he won a bunch of other relevant prizes during the years). IZA award statement, Freeman's website at Harvard (or the one at NBER). And yes, the hat is part of Richard Freeman's personality (by the way, did you know that before JFK all US Presidents had hats? I didn't. Freeman makes that clear in the video linked above:-)).
- WineSpectator's top 100 wines for 2007 is now also available (PDF). See also my previous post about the winner and top 10 of this year. I am happy to say that, at a first glance (did not go thoroughly through the list yet) I have tried at least 7 wines in top 50 (but none in top 10). Among those, number 26, "Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi, Brunello di Montalcino Castelgiocondo, Ripe al Convento Riserva 2001" is the one I prefer (2001 is by far the best year for that wine). Try it out. And if you really want the sublime experience, do this while indulging in an Italian classic dish: "lepre in salmì".
- Yes, Bloomberg goes ahead with the "cheap talk for better grades" plan (see my previous post on this) in New York, which is partly due to the initiative of Harvard's Roland Fryer. Excellent, let's see if incentives of this kind elicit better students' outcomes. Ex ante it is not clear how this will work, hence the more interest around these types of studies ( for instance, in a different but related context, recent research by Edwin Leuven, Hessel Oosterbeek and Bas van der Klaauw at SCHOLAR, University of Amsterdam & Tinbergen Institute, suggests that financial incentives do not work as intended (at least not for everybody), ie. extrinsic rewards might be detrimental for intrinsic motivation).
Monday, November 19, 2007
While I'd advise any empirical economist (or better: any economist that is currently/ plans in the future to also do some empirical work) to read the paper, I'll put forward below some possible omissions in Prof. Hamermesh's article, which would have been particularly interesting for me:
Sunday, November 18, 2007
How can my muse want subject to invent,
While thou dost breathe, that pour'st into my verse
Thine own sweet argument, too excellent
For every vulgar paper to rehearse?
O! give thy self the thanks, if aught in me
Worthy perusal stand against thy sight;
For who's so dumb that cannot write to thee,
When thou thy self dost give invention light?
Be thou the tenth Muse, ten times more in worth
Than those old nine which rhymers invocate;
And he that calls on thee, let him bring forth
Eternal numbers to outlive long date.
If my slight muse do please these curious days,
The pain be mine, but thine shall be the praise.
- On (speed) dating preferences (in USA): some old stereotypes reconfirmed but also some news. Here's the full paper (Fisman et al, QJE 2006) on which the Slate article linked above is based. What's intriguing is that another (very interesting) research based on speed dating (not published yet) done in UK finds some opposite results, though it also agrees in others. See here that paper (Belot and Francesconi, mimeo Univ of Essex) and/or a summary of their findings.
- Car preferences of faculty at Harvard. They could not detect the owners of the Porsches, but the BMWs belonged mostly to the Econ faculty (also: "Of 18 respondents in the economics department, eight said they owned luxury cars—one of the highest percentages")... Now compare that with the Subarus owned by most faculty at other departments and tell me which Dep there has taste:-). Via Greg Mankiw.
- Some (Japanese) econometricians have time to combine their haiku and econometrics knowledge :-). Here's one superlative result of that endeavour: "Econometrics Haiku" by Keisuke Hirano.
- A rather oldish article from The Economist; the best I've seen so far in describing what the recent hysteria over Romanian immigrants in Italy amounts to.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Monday, November 12, 2007
Sunday, November 11, 2007
And who are the peple who like just about everything, from Chinese pipa music to Bach to Algerian Rai to Stockhausen to bebop to 1920s blues? They are either musical professionals or nerdy upper-middle-class professionals, usually with some experience living abroad. That's me. Sadly I am no less predictable than the Grand Rapids stoner.
Read previous quote of the week.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
- "Cheap talk" incentives for better grades. You never know, it might actually work; let's see if Bloomberg actually implements this.
- Ed Glaeser with a very interesting piece on gender differences in aggresiveness and policy ideas. And yes, as things currently stand, Greg Mankiw might be very right that Glaeser just said goodbye forever to the Harvard Presidential chair :-).
- Surprinsingly, by the slimmest of margins, I am not a quant... (thanks to Greg Mankiw for the pointer)
- Colbert dropped his bid for the White House (though he only announced it some days ago): "Although I lost by the slimmest margin in presidential election history — only 10 votes — I have chosen not to put the country through another agonizing Supreme Court battle[...] It is time for this nation to heal" ; nevertheless, he claims it is not over :-)
- Heel goed, Wendy (interview on YouTube, in Dutch)! My friend and former Tinbergen Institute colleague Wendy Janssens is very briefly describing the research undertaken in her PhD thesis (with focus here on the importance of social capital in a development program from India). The latest prize her thesis won is the "Societal Impact Award" for 2007 (this after she won already the Amsterdam Institute for International Development/World Bank dissertation award) . Gefeliceteerd en ad majora!
Thursday, November 01, 2007
- My friend and former Tinbergen Institute colleague Otto van Hemert made it on the Marginal Revolution blog, where Tyler Cowen introduces his latest (co-authored) research on subprime mortgages in the USA (skimmed through the paper for now, will have to find more time to read it thoroughly). This surely should give him some attention beyond the academe :-).
- "After nearly 15 minutes of soul searching" he "heard the call" and decided to enter the Presidential election for the USA: "Nation, I will seek the office of the president of the United States. I am doing it!". So, Americans, vote for Steve Colbert!
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Read the quote of the previous week.
Friday, October 26, 2007
1. I cherish my consumer surplus. I value most of the stuff I buy way more than what I have to pay for them; vanilla ice cream makes me happy beyond belief, and the same is true for the music of Dream Theater and the (soon to be purchased) Apple iphone. And what am I asked to pay for them? Peanuts.
2. I cherish my producer surplus. I am getting paid way, way more than the salary that would make me indifferent between supplying labour and staying at home.
3. I never have regrets: I did the best I could given the information available to me at the time. Judging I could have done better using information I acquired at a later date makes as much sense as regretting the existence of gravity. On a related topic, I understand the irrelevance of sunk costs.
4. While I do care for my welfare in relative terms, my welfare in absolute terms looms large in my utility function - and, boy, look how its value has been growing.
5. The selfishness of my fellow human beings does not make me anxious or depressed. Adam Smith (or was it Mandeville?) taught me that humans, selfish as they are, can make happy societies. And perhaps more to the point, they can make me happy.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Sunday, October 21, 2007
- Preston McAfee brings a second noteworthy innovation to Economic Inquiry (I also blogged about the first one since he came as editor to that journal): "We now have a miscellany section. Miscellany operates like the JPE section of the same name, publishing humor and curiosities. Humor is purely a taste determination and being funny for an academic is like being tall for a dwarf. Submissions for the miscellany should indicate so on the manuscript. A good idea is to title the paper "Miscellany: The Simple Economics of Complexity." " The quote was from the the page on the policies of the Economic Inquiry. See more on this from the new editor of the Economic Inquiry humor section (with hints of how humorous that would be).
- Greg Mankiw with some super interesting links to new papers on our genetic sense of fairness (the papers he is talking about are published in the PNAS and respectively, Science).
- The Right vs. Left Brain test (via Tyler Cowen on MR). I have to confess that I only see the ballerina spin clockwise, no matter how hard I try to spot also the reverse spinning (apparently most people can only see the anti-clockwise spinning: that is very curious for me). Right hemisphere use and risk taking behaviour it is, then (the rest of the characteristics associated with one or the other type are pure speculation, I'd say).
- The economics of gold digging, via Steven Levitt. The most interesting part is Levitt's discussion of the initial female Craiglist post and the succesive male answer. In particular the following Levitt quote should be saved for future reference; it suggests there is still hope in this profession, despite the initial odds :-)
"I wouldn’t expect male economists to marry very well. Firstly, they tend to think like the guy who wrote this letter. Secondly, they tend to be nerds. Thirdly, they make very little money when they are young because they get so much education, even though their lifetime income is quite high. Yet I think it is fair to say that the economists I know have married stunningly well (myself included). We’ve all been puzzling over this fact for the fifteen years I have been in the profession. As of yet, no one has come up with a good explanation. I doubt it could be perfect foresight on the part of the women we marry."
Monday, October 15, 2007
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Let's see how good of a forecast this is; in any case I am 100% sure that I will be able to refer back to this prediction for any future year, sooner or later they'll get the Nobel :-).
Saturday, October 13, 2007
It looks like Elhanan Helpman & Gene Grossman have the best odds overall; indeed international trade seems to be a/the hype lately (and indeed Helpman and Grossman deserve the Nobel, sooner or later). Though my personal wish is that Dale Mortensen wins it this year (he will for sure win it in one the coming years, most likely joint with Peter Diamond and Chris Pissarides, for developing the search models; but why not just now?), especially since he just gave me excellent comments & critique at this (ex post very good!) "Labour Market Dynamics Growth" conference in Sandbjerg from where I returned yesterday-- and that despite the fact that I made a mess out of my presentation :-). Dale for Nobel!
Saturday, October 06, 2007
Thursday, October 04, 2007
- Vote (ex post I wouldn't bother...) for the free market hall of fame. Could have been done much better, the way they did this is a shame, really. And some of the results so far reinforce that...
- A September '07 profile of Robert Barro, yet another (potential) physicist turned (macro)economist :-).