Friday, October 23, 2009

A Paul Solman 'Blast from the Past': 'Animal Spirits' and Consumer Confidence

From way back in the spring of 2001, Paul Solman filed this report for PBS's NewsHour on 'animal spirits' and consumer confidence measures.

I'm no Keynesian, but it was a great segment.

GDP Melee

From CNN:
Journalists scramble for a first glimpse of China's GDP report, interested in how much growth was from stimulus money.

(If only more students were this interested in learning about GDP.)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

'This American Life' Takes on Health Care Costs

In cooperation with NPR News, This American Life considers the explosion in health care costs in a first-time-ever two-part series.

The first week, "More Is Less," covers rising costs.

The second week, "Other People's Money," takes on the insurance industry--in a very entertaining hour. (In fact if you listen to just one, this is the one.)

And they do a nice job of getting at the source in nearly every case: fairly basic micro-decision-making based on the incentives and institutions at work.

So have fun listening as NPR spreads the blame around. Both may be streamed for free by following the links above.

NPR Reports on the Abuses of the Tax Credit for New Home-Buyers

Apparently about a half-billion dollars in tax credits for "new" homebuyers are fraudulent, according to the inspector general who oversees the IRS.

But it may not be that easy to catch the cheats: it requires a full audit, and the IRS has flagged over 100,000 suspicious returns so far.

A key piece of the puzzle: you don't have to prove you actually bought a house to claim the credit.

NPR's Morning Edition has a report:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Should We Tax Soft Drinks?

On a remarkable Diane Rehm Show from this morning, three panelists discuss the consequences--intended and otherwise--of a proposed tax on soft drinks. Absolutely worth a listen.

Ms. Rehm' guests:

Kelly Brownell
, director, Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

J. Justin Wilson, senior research analyst, Center for Consumer Freedom.

David Kessler, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and author of The End of Overeating.

What are the Odds of Success of a New Site about Odds?

From American Public Media's Marketplace:
Book of Odds logo
'Book of Odds' gives eye-opening stats

Want to know what the odds are you'll survive two atomic bombs? How about more specific odds about yourself? The new Web site "Book of Odds" allows you to get up and personal about your own statistics. Bob Moon talks to founder Amram Shapiro.

Note, though, that while historical statistics can be suggestive of future events, they are not the odds that some future event will or will not happen.

What Do Wise Dairy Farmers Do When Milk Prices Fall? They Find Cheaper Methods

American Public Media's Marketplace explains how, following the lead of a New Zealand dairy farmer who moved to Missouri because he wanted to let his dairy cattle graze on inexpensive farmland, the Missouri dairy community is changing the way they feed and raise their cows.

"TANSTAAFL" Makes It Into a Letter to the Editor

A nice note from my mother arrived in the mail today. I'm lucky: I have a mom that still goes to the trouble to write notes to me by hand, rather than email. I treasure each one.

In most notes she sends along clippings of articles she has run across that she thinks will interest me. She is a voracious reader--of everything. In today's envelope, along with a very nice note and another clipping, I found a letter to the editor she'd snipped from the Star Press of Muncie, Indiana.

Moms know their sons, don't they? If you have any doubt, check out the letter:
No free lunch

JIM ARNOLD • Muncie • October 4, 2009

It was early in my student career at BSU [Ball State] when I enrolled in Econ 101. The first day of class, our long-haired economics professor strolled confidently into the classroom and inscribed TANSTAAFL on the chalk board. TANSTAAFL, he claimed, was the fundamental theory of economics.

Being a little wet behind the ears, I fell for his spiel hook, line and sinker. I pondered the language of origin of this odd sounding word . . . .

(More -- Hat tip: Mom)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Econ Nobel 2009

The Prize in Economic Science in memory of A. Nobel has its first female winner this morning. John Lunn has a nice post.

By the way, neither of the co-winners--Ms. Ostrom nor Mr. Williamson--was on anyone's short list.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Video: The Fed Today

Though it predates the financial crises of 2008-09, this video from the Fed, hosted by Charles Osgood, is still one of the best video summaries available of the tools and responsibilities of the Federal Reserve System.

I still don't know why it has that animated eagle, though. Keep an eye out for it:

Does the Economics Nobel Need a 'Bailout'?

In a thoughtful piece in the Guardian, Jayati Ghosh ponders the merits of the economics Nobel, as well as the methods used in awarding the prize:

The economics award is usually the last of the Nobel prizes to be announced. Correctly so, for it was also the last to be created – and strictly speaking is not even a real Nobel prize. The five original awards, first given out in 1901 for literature, peace, medicine/physiology, physics and chemistry, were intended by Alfred Nobel to recognise contributions that enhanced the quality of human life, through scientific advance, literary creativity or efforts at bringing about peace.

The economics prize is not a prize of the Nobel Foundation; rather, it was created in 1968 by the Central Bank of Sweden as a "prize in economic sciences in memory of Alfred Nobel". However, it now has the same procedure of selection by the Swedish Academy, and the same cash award presented at a similar ceremony as the Nobel prizes.

There have been recurrent doubts about whether it conforms to the basic goals of the prizes as envisaged by the founder. Is economics a science, on the same lines as physics or chemistry? Does it unambiguously contribute to human wellbeing, like peace or literature? In any case, should economics be privileged over other branches of learning?


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Adam Smith Reflects on Obamanomics

Would Adam Smith be a fan of President Obama's economic policies? Using block quotes from Smith's An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Salon's Michael Lind "interviews" Adam Smith to find out.

I'm interested to know your reaction. If you read the short piece and have a thought or two, I'd love to know.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Announcement of the 2009 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel--Watch It LIVE

Watch the live web cast from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Stockholm, Sweden, on Monday, October 12, 1:00 p.m. CET, 11:00 a.m. GMT at the earliest. Following the announcement, an interview will be held with one of the Committee members about the 2009 Prize in Economic Sciences.

Thomson Reuters forecasts winners each year using citation records of economists' scholarly contributions. (But please, no wagering.)