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  1. Economics Professors' Favorite Economic Thinkers, Journals, and Blogs (along with Party and Policy Views)

    • I was intrigued by your title, but the first line of the abstract is very disconcerting: “A sample of 299 U.S. economics professors, presumably random, responded to our survey…” In survey research, one can never merely presume that a survey sample is random. The implication in your abstract is that your sample has not been assessed for its representativeness of the population of all economists, either in terms of observable characteristics or selection on unobservables. This left me wondering whether I would learn anything useful about the population of interest, or only your sample of respondents, whatever subset of that population they may be. The abstract suggests the latter, so I decided my scarce time would be best spent reading something else.

    • Posted 14 Jun 2018 by Trudy Ann Cameron
  2. Dissing "The Theory of Moral Sentiments": Twenty-Six Critics, from 1765 to 1949

    • I neglected to give page cite for the Viner quotation (“I will endeavor…”); it is p. 201.

    • Posted 11 Jun 2018 by Daniel Klein
  3. Dissing "The Theory of Moral Sentiments": Twenty-Six Critics, from 1765 to 1949

    • Surely, many more “dissing” comments could have been included. It now occurs to me that I should have included the following from Jacob Viner’s “Adam Smith and Laissez-Faire,” JPE 1927:

      “I will endeavor to show that the Wealth of Nations was a better book because of its partial breach with the Theory of Moral Sentiments, and that it could not have remained, as it has, a living book were it not that in its methods of analysis, its basic assumptions, and its conclusions it abandoned the absolutism, the rigidity, the romanticism which characterize the earlier book.”

      The drift of Viner’s critical remarks are rather different than the dissing themes in the EJW piece. See notably Viner p. 216 (upper part of the page), and then p. 217 on TMS Ed. 6.

    • Posted 11 Jun 2018 by Daniel Klein
  4. Faculty Voter Registration in Economics, History, Journalism, Law, and Psychology

    • John Quiggin: Thanks for your comment on Pew. You have a good point about the importance of baseline numbers. Unfortunately the Pew survey is unclear as to who its survey respondents are. They indicate that they surveyed the membership of the American Assoc. for the Advancement of Science. The AAAS publishes journals, and it includes a large share of academics. Also, its membership includes many outside the hard sciences, specifically in the notorious field of psychology. Hence, the Pew survey isn’t useful as a baseline. I just finished a study in which I actually found a higher rate of D affiliation among hard scientists in elite liberal arts colleges than in the Pew survey, so there is something wrong with it. In fact. some of the past AAAS presidents have been psychologists. A good survey of nonacademic scientists would be a good baseline. When you find one, please let me know. Thanks. ML

    • Posted 17 Oct 2017 by Mitchell_Langbert
  5. The War on Cash: A Review of Kenneth Rogoff's "The Curse of Cash"

    • This article is more evidence that Jeff Hummel is one of America’s greatest living economists. (Too bad he doesn’t do more math so he can be more widely recognized as such!) A point that I wish he had elaborated upon was just how much repression would be necessary to end criminal activity by tamping down on substitutes for cash. Obviously, criminals are going to use the least costly method of payment and that may well vary by level. At the retail level, one can imagine that “dime bags” ($10 worth of weed or some other drug, which fluctuates in quantity/quality with supply and demand, much like the penny loaf used to) are replaced with “Camel bags,” or a sealed, excise stamped pack of Camel smokes. The Camels can then be false invoiced to a front and vended via debit card or whatever and come out clean.

      Better yet, a retail outlet could sell “tickets” to some fictional event with the understanding that certain “tickets” are actually prepayment for drugs, prostitutes, etc., which can then be tendered and destroyed by the seller. That’s what Idris Elba as Stringer Bell would have done (he was a student of Adam Smith fans of The Wire will recall). So now are you going to tamp down on all tickets too? And for those of you not conversant with drug deals (I only know what I’ve seen on The Corner, The Wire, Weeds, Breaking Bad, etc.) there is a moral hazard involved in cash deals too … the cash is tendered to A but B delivers the drugs at some other time and place. So the ticket ruse would not represent more moral hazard than market competition and info. can handle.

      Wholesale payments could be made in gold, esp. if its market price stays up. Yeah, there are added transaction costs here (like assaying the gold) but they’ll soon be minimized by competition. So then you have to tamp down on the precious metals and we’re looking at an authoritarian state, one that will stamp on civil liberties and punish everyone because a few people are breaking laws some of which maybe even shouldn’t be on the books in the first place.

      The government doesn’t have to supply cash but to outlaw it in all forms is a violation of natural rights that would have to lead to Revolution, just at the Financial Money Meter reproduced in my Hamilton Unbound (2002) predicted.

    • Posted 26 Aug 2017 by Robert Wright
  6. The War on Cash: A Review of Kenneth Rogoff's "The Curse of Cash"

    • As one of seven billion spenders, I use cash almost exclusively for daily shopping. I notice how much faster it is for checkout persons in stores to process my cash purchases versus purchases by those inputting various cards, sometimes unsuccessfully. Cash is recognized broadly; coins fit into parking meters, candy machines, and much else. The utility is here, now, and needs no year-long trial and error implementation. I like cash, I want to keep it, and where do I sign up for any coming save-our-cash war?

    • Posted 01 Jun 2017 by Marvin McConoughey
  7. Econ 101 Morality: The Amiable, the Mundane, and the Market

    • Note that an alternative to evolution as a source of innate morality is God. The implications are similar, for purposes of this article.

      You’d find this article interesting—- “Adam Smith and the Invisible Hand,” Helen Joyce, PlusMath.org (2001)
    • Posted 01 Feb 2017 by Eric Rasmusen
  8. Economists on the Welfare State and the Regulatory State: Why Don't Any Argue in Favor of One and Against the Other? A Symposium Prologue

    • Peter Schwartz discusses the relationship between the regulatory state and the welfare state in his book “In Defense of Selfishness”. There is an excerpt from the book in this blog article:

      http://peterschwartz.com/if-the-government-feeds-you-it-will-tell-you-what-you-may-and-may-not-eat/

    • Posted 19 Nov 2016 by Steven Rogers
  9. Liberalism in India

    • The article started well with a discussion of the political liberals of India.

      Thereafter it got derailed entirely, by including academics like Jagdish Bhagwati and Deepak Lal who are grossly illiberal and have actively supported socialist and arguably anti-Muslim BJP (in particular, both of these “liberals” rejected any interaction with actual political liberals and actively promoted, instead, the violently illiberal Modi during the 2014 Indian elections).

      It then discusses think tanks, some of which (like CCS) have been entirely and actively supportive of socialist parties.

      Worse, it entirely blanks out Sharad Joshi’s work for Indian liberalism, including through his Swatantra Bharat Party.

      And it entirely blanks out the work of SV Raju in taking the flag of Indian liberalism forward for over 50 years through Freedom First, including through his writ petition against the mandatory requirement for political parties to swear allegiance to socialism.

      And it entirely blanks out my work since 1998, including through the India Policy Institute, the Freedom Team of India, the Sone Ki Chidiya Federation and Swarna Bharat Party. My work has been 100 per cent devoted to political liberalism, towards which none of the post Rajaji alleged “liberals” cited this article provided either any intellectual or moral support – since they have been smitten by socialist political parties. And one should not forget the role of young political liberals like Anil Sharma and now, Sanjay Sonawani.

      One would have expected at least a modicum of research capability from the authors, given that I myself have elaborately written on wikipedia on this subject and run a political liberal blog which receives over a thousand unique visits each day. It is all there on the internet. However, these authors did not care to type their question into google.

      Overall, this article must be rated a C.

    • Posted 11 Oct 2016 by Sanjeev Sabhlok
  10. Faculty Voter Registration in Economics, History, Journalism, Law, and Psychology

    • Great study, The next step should be finding “WHY”?
      First of all, we know scientists and faculties are likely to be less religious and more atheists, what about atheists’ political leaning, how much of “atheists” explains the D:R distribution.
      Second, majority of the Faculties are “secondary value generation” which means they do not produce goods and services directly, rather, they are supposed to “enable others to create more value”. We also know people working in “secondary value generation” industries (I.e. journalism, acting, etc) are also more politically leaning to the left.
      Third, “narcissistic intelligence”, which means how much people consider their own political believes and their intelligence is superior than others, and what are the typical political learning for people with “higher than normal self-confidence in their own believes”.
      Fourth, “political openness” what is the likelihood of people with D or R political leaning hire peole who are not politically aligned with them.

    • Posted 07 Oct 2016 by AlanTan
  11. Faculty Voter Registration in Economics, History, Journalism, Law, and Psychology

    • Sean T. Stevens, in preparing a blog post for Heterodox Academy about the Langbert, Quain, and Klein article in EJW, scrutinized the article and caught a problem, and then kindly sent us a query about it.

      Sean noticed that in footnote 5 (p. 424) we list University of Florida and University of Miami as among those universities that, though ranked high enough by U.S. News to be included in our investigation, were not included because they sit in states not covered by Aristotle (the database used for the study).

      But Sean noticed that in footnote 4 (p. 423), listing the states not included in Aristotle, Florida is not listed. In fact, Florida is covered by Aristotle. In fact, those two Florida universities should have been included in our investigation.

      To rectify the problem, we need to investigate the two universities that have been mistakenly left out of our analysis, which covered 40 universities. Although our subscription to Aristotle had expired, Aristotle has generously restored to us temporary access, to rectify the problem. We are proceeding now and will report back on the findings; look for a notice here at EJW News.

      We are grateful to Sean for catching our error and bringing it to our attention!

    • Posted 04 Oct 2016 by Daniel Klein
  12. Faculty Voter Registration in Economics, History, Journalism, Law, and Psychology

    • What is the null hypothesis here? You appear to be assuming that absent the pressures you describe, faculty would resemble the US population. But it’s well known that, other things equal, those with more education tend to be Democrats.

      I suggest a better comparison would be with scientists, who have high levels of education but don’t in general need to make their political views known at work. According to a Pew survey of AAAS members from 2009, 55 per cent of scientists are Democrats and only 6 per cent are Republicans.

      So, a parsimonious hypothesis is that faculty in the disciplines you study are a representative sample of highly educated (PhD +) Americans in general.

    • Posted 02 Oct 2016 by John Quiggin
  13. The Impartial Spectator and Moral Judgment

    • I enjoyed your article, not least because it helped to familiarize me with a literature that I have read only a little of. As you know, I am not a Smith scholar. I have been drawn into TMS because of unanswered, or badly answered, research questions in the experimental (and behavioral) economics literature. For me TMS provides a comprehensive means of understanding the predictive and modeling failures (and successes) of economics since the 1870s fork in the road.
      On the distinction between empathy and normative sympathy. As I see it, we can only imagine what we would feel in another’s situation, never what that person feels. But through our interaction, when I conjecture and take action that misreads what that person feels, and receive corrective feedback, I am aware of error in the rules I follow when mapping propriety as a function of circumstances into an action. I modify my rule-following based on fellow-feeling, and thence my actions.
      As I see Smith on morality, it is social order. Smith and the Scots are trying to understand the invisible forces that account for it. Smith came to understand his own program better through the six editions of TMS over 31 years. Hence, the decline, but not complete elimination of the Divine—he knew that you can’t get purpose out of a better understanding of how things work; it does not pop out of the observations. This explains his discussion of how in “operations…of the mind” we often fail to “distinguish the efficient from the final cause.” He is trying to see how human society adapts, learns and becomes fitter, where it does, and where it goes wrong where it does not. It was an incomplete model, but a powerful thinking machine that was not a lost legacy in economics, but one never found. The success of WN swamped TMS, so who cared about human sentiment? I love the return to Smith and a focus on adjustment processes in rule space.

    • Posted 06 Jun 2016 by Vernon L. Smith
  14. The Impartial Spectator and Moral Judgment

    • I enjoyed your article, not least because it helped to familiarize me with a literature that I have read only a little of. As you know, I am not a Smith scholar. I have been drawn into TMS because of unanswered, or badly answered, research questions in the experimental (and behavioral) economics literature. For me TMS provides a comprehensive means of understanding the predictive and modeling failures (and successes) of economics since the 1870s fork in the road.
      On the distinction between empathy and normative sympathy. As I see it, we can only imagine what we would feel in another’s situation, never what that person feels. But through our interaction, when I conjecture and take action that misreads what that person feels, and receive corrective feedback, I am aware of error in the rules I follow when mapping propriety as a function of circumstances into an action. I modify my rule-following based on fellow-feeling, and thence my actions.
      As I see Smith on morality, it is social order. Smith and the Scots are trying to understand the invisible forces that account for it. Smith came to understand his own program better through the six editions of TMS over 31 years. Hence, the decline, but not complete elimination of the Divine—he knew that you can’t get purpose out of a better understanding of how things work; it does not pop out of the observations. This explains his discussion of how in “operations…of the mind” we often fail to “distinguish the efficient from the final cause.” He is trying to see how human society adapts, learns and becomes fitter, where it does, and where it goes wrong where it does not. It was an incomplete model, but a powerful thinking machine that was not a lost legacy in economics, but one never found. The success of WN swamped TMS, so who cared about human sentiment? I love the return to Smith and a focus on adjustment processes in rule space.

    • Posted 06 Jun 2016 by Vernon L. Smith
  15. Economic Enlightenment in Relation to College-going, Ideology, and Other Variables: A Zogby Survey of Americans

    • Gee, I wonder why this survey didn’t ask question about things like monopsony, the money multiplier effect of government spending, the free ride problem with public goods, natural monopolies, positive and negative externalities, etc. It is almost like the questions were cherry picked to get conservatives to do better than liberals! Was this funded by some right wing think tank?

    • Posted 16 Nov 2015 by wargames83
  16. Education Premiums in Cambodia: Dummy Variables Revisited and Recent Data

    • John, I do not believe you understand my point. Computed as discrete changes, which is what you do, the percentage difference of the premia (college versus high school) is not equal to to the difference of the percentage premia (college versus base minus high school versus base). You are implicitly using a false assumption; it is the same false assumption made by the Mexican government in the example I cited: that the difference of the percentage changes (+50 – 33.3) is the percentage change of the difference. It causes you to greatly overestimate the education premium.

    • Posted 30 Oct 2015 by Ronald Michener
  17. Ideology Über Alles? Economics Bloggers on Uber, Lyft, and Other Transportation Network Companies

    • Hmmm. I entirely agree with the premise of this article: Uber is obviously an economic improvement and all efforts of the incumbent cartel to stymie it should be resisted. Admirably, all of the economists polled, regardless of political orientation, agreed. And indeed it would be nice if some of the more progressive of them spoke up about this. And any article taking Krugman’s ideological blinders to task is worth reading.

      But all that said, it seems that faulting left-leaning economists for remaining silent about Uber on their blogs just goes too far. Maybe they are afraid of ideological reprisal and so keep quiet. That would be shameful.

      But maybe they just feel that they have nothing particularly important to add to the economist consensus on Uber? That seems quite possible. For among the silent, are such as David Friedman, Greg Mankiw, Robin Hanson, and Steven Landsburg.

      Would anybody suspect any of these of being afraid of left-wing political reprisals for as anodyne a policy as supporting Uber? Any of their readers can see them voluntarily waving much bigger red flags at Progressive bulls on a frequent basis.

      In fact, their silence is some evidence that they just agree with the pro-Uber consensus. For any of these worthies had convinced himself that for some curious, clever reason Uber was the rare example where they oppose liberalized markets, they would have been sure to blog about it.

      So, if we can attribute the silence of “conservative” econ bloggers to blameless reasons, why not give those on the other side the same courtesy?

      That said, influential progressive Econ bloggers should be particularly encouraged to voice their support for Uber, even they have nothing novel or clever to add. A few such posts would do a great deal more for the common cause, than a hundred eloquent posts by econ bloggers on the other side of the spectrum preaching to the choir.

    • Posted 24 Oct 2015 by Carl Edman
  18. Education Premiums in Cambodia: Dummy Variables Revisited and Recent Data

    • Thanks for your comment Ronald.

      You give me too much credit. The approach I used was not my technique, but the conventional approach used in the literature.

      As it happens, I agree with you that the conventional approach to reporting education level premiums can be misleading. I’ve made the same point elsewhere. Unfortunately for you and I… if we want to make comparisons with other estimates around the world or through history, then we need to use the same approach as others.

      Perhaps we can help change that convention over time. Good luck to us. But the point of this paper was more modest.

    • Posted 01 Oct 2015 by John Humphreys
  19. Education Premiums in Cambodia: Dummy Variables Revisited and Recent Data

    • In his 2002 book, Calculated Risks, Gerd Gigerenzer addresses the muddy headed thinking that results from innumeracy and illustrates with telling anecdotes. This (p. 210) is one of my favorites:

      In the late 1970s, the Mexican government faced the problem of how to increase the capacity of the Viaducto, a four-lane motorway. Rather than building a new highway or extending the existing one, the government implemented a clever, inexpensive solution: It had the lines on the four-lane highway repainted to make it six-lanes wide. Increasing the number of lanes from four to six meant a 50 percent increase in capacity. Unfortunately, the much narrower lanes also resulted in an increase in traffic fatalities, which, after a year, forced the government to turn the highway back into a four-lane road. Reducing the number of lanes from six to four mean a 33 percent decrease in capacity. In an effort at touting its progress in improving the country’s infrastructure, the government subtracted the decrease from the increase and reported that its actions had increased the capacity of the road by 17 percent.

      As amusing as it is to chuckle over the transparent flimflammery of the Mexican government, it is considerably more distressing to see one’s fellow economists taken in by the same fallacy. This is precisely what is happening in John Humphreys’ recent publication in Econ Journal Watch, “Education Premiums in Cambodia: Dummy Variables Revisited and Recent Data.” Suppose for the sake of illustration that male college graduates earn $4000 a year in Cambodia, high school graduates earn $2000 a year, and someone entirely uneducated earns $1000 a year. These numbers, it should be clear, are picked for ease of exposition, not for accuracy. Using the usual formula for percentage changes, one would say that university graduates earn 100% more than high school graduates ((400-200)/200 = 1). It would be fallacious to say that college graduates earn 300% ((400-100)/100 =3) more than the uneducated, and high school graduates earn 100% more than the uneducated ((200-100)/100) = 1), so that college graduates earn 200% (300% – 100%) more than high school graduates, yet this is precisely what Mr. Humphrey’s technique does. He computes a percentage premium of college graduates over the base category, and then subtracts a percentage premium of high school graduates over the same base category.
      References:

      Gigerenzer, Gerd. (2002). Calculated Risks. New York: Simon & Schuster.

      Humphreys, John (2015). “Education Premiums in Cambodia: Dummy Variables Revisited and Recent Data,” Econ Journal Watch, 12 (3), pp. 339-45.

    • Posted 30 Sep 2015 by Ronald Michener
  20. Ideology Über Alles? Economics Bloggers on Uber, Lyft, and Other Transportation Network Companies

    • I am and always have been surprised by the “cartel” view of taxis. No one calls the Maine lobster industry a cartel. Yet surely and appropriately it is. The lobster fishery is a common access resource. So, too, are the streets of a city. Part of the income enjoyed by lobster fishermen is a scarcity rent. So, too, is the price of a taxi and a taxi-cab medallion. Cities for many, obvious political-economy reasons are awful at managing common access to the streets. Nonetheless, the social value of Uber is not to lower the price of a taxi, which should be even higher in some cases, but to offer the consumer a more technologically efficient way of delivering the scare good

    • Posted 30 Sep 2015 by Michael Maloney

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31 May

The Educational Benefits of Obscurity: Pedagogical Esotericism
Dissing "The Theory of Moral Sentiments": Twenty-Six Critics, from 1765 to 1949
Economic Liberalism in Peru
Colonial Maryland's Post-1764 Paper Money: A Reply to Ron Michener
Reconsidering Colonial Maryland's Bills of Credit 1767–1775
Are Graphic Warning Labels Stopping Millions of Smokers? A Comment on Huang, Chaloupka, and Fong
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