Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A few links

I feel like I've been out for a while, but I'm slowly starting to recover from this weekend. Last week at work we were finishing up a large report for the Treasury Department, literally right up to the minute I was leaving for Boston, and then yesterday I took the GREs. I ended up getting a 790 on math and a 700 on verbal which is an improvement on both counts and will be competitive - so now I'm starting to decompress from all that... so how about a blog post?

- First, Mark Thoma points to a Kauffman survey of economics bloggers on various topics. The survey is interesting - it's important to scroll down to the bottom to see the politics and affiliations of the people surveyed. Obviously not necessarily representative, but it's interesting.

- Second, Jonathan Catalan writes about the "Impossibility of Complete Economic Erudition", and considers how long it would take him to really familiarize himself with Keynesianism, relating this to the Murphy-Krugman debate. This problem has bothered me a lot in the past as well. I guess I'd say a few things - first, I think the degree of erudition needs to be higher for a full blown debate than for, say a debate on a blog or a journal article. Nobody is coming to this blog to see an expert talk about ABCT. They are coming to see someone somewhat familiar with ABCT talk about it, and then see other commenters who are more familiar with it discuss it. In a journal article you have time to do the leg-work for your research, and ultimately you have reviewers to address any issues, and if there are still problems people can write replies. But in a debate people come to see experts grapple with the issues, and you need to know the issues you're talking about. I should note I think Jonathan has a pretty decent understanding of Keynesianism. He doesn't play the crude Keynesianism card the way Robert Murphy often does, and when he does it's easy to address in a civil way - just like he addresses it when I play the crude Austrian card. That's fine - and we can blog and write fairly successfully. But I don't think either of us would be in a position to debate each other on these issues. And as Jonathan alludes to, he's still learning ABCT and I'm certainly still learning Keynesianism. My grasp of old-school Keynesianism, which I usually pitch here, is still amateurish. I'm even less familiar with the newer material. But that's life - life is the time between the cradle and the grave that you get to spend figuring this world out.

- Evan shared this research with my from the University of Chicago, which suggested that future offenses cause more intense feelings than similar past offenses. The effect applied to good deeds as well. This is interesting from the perspective of the economics of time. Usually we think of discounting future occurrences - and people who think like me think we discount the future way too much, in a sub-optimal way (probably an evolutionary hold-over from when survival was a more day to day proposition for the species). But we don't think of past occurrences that much because we can't turn back the clock. Of course, I've referenced Jefferson and Paine's writing on here before with respect to the tyranny of the past. They were both worried about constitutions and congresses that could bind future generations. Of course, this research suggests that future generations might not mind all that much - which might help explain the persistence of a social contract pushed through in Philadelphia well over 200 years ago.


  1. "...which might help explain the persistence of a social contract pushed through in Philadelphia well over 200 years ago."

    I don't think that social contract exists anymore; it probably was overthrown by the election of 1800 or by the Civil War. It certainly came to an end during the 1930s.

  2. Many thanks - and of course I use "social contract" in a tongue-in-cheek way anyway. I don't think a "social contract" per se existed in 1787 either. I do of course think that what was passed, whatever you want to call it, persists. I suppose if you took a particular view of what that document meant then it wouldn't.

    Many thanks, for the congratulations.


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