Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Assault of Thoughts - 3/30/2011

"Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking" - JMK

-David Beckworth on the three monetary systems operating during the Civil War.

-Roger Farmer talks more about a new paper of his that Stephen Williamson discussed recently. I find Farmer to be one of the most interesting modern Keynesians. He's very much in the style of this George Evans video that Thoma shared earlier, which relies on expectations in a multiple equilibrium environment. Plus Farmer pays attention to gross flows and labor market dynamics. He's definitely a guy I want to spend more time reading in grad school.

-Greg Mankiw and Mark Thoma call this figure "striking". Is it really? I'm not so sure. We know unemployment tracks output, we know shifts in output are primarily driven by investment volatility. I would be surprised if we didn't have this strong of a relationship.

-Matt Yglesias discusses a new survey on why women leave engineering careers. This is of interest to me given the NBER work that I'll be turning to soon. The paper is primarily about the sufficiency and responsiveness of labor supply, but of course to talk about that intelligently we have to address labor demand questions - you can't say if supply is sufficient or responsive if you don't talk about who labor is being supplied to. One of the points we cover is "replacement demand" for engineers, and we focus on two sources of replacement demand: the retirement of older cohorts and people with engineering degrees not retiring, but leaving the field. So this sort of work is especially interersting to me.

-Bad economics of the mini-war in Libya. I was bothered by two things in this post - see if you can identify them.


  1. Thomas Sowell wrote an excellent chapter in his book Applied Economics on what inhibits women from joining rigourous hard sciences such as microbiology or astrophysics.

    These professions require a woman to give up family life and work 75 hours a day during the prime years of her young adult life - she has to handle long hours of research, taking lectures, grading assignments, publishing articles, and every such disparate thing possible.

    Sowell noted that this was not a problem. If women want family life, he argues, why not let them have it? There are a minority of women who don't marry or have children before 30 and do thus have longer hours available for such work. Indeed, such women work as long or even longer than the average male in their professions.

    Sowell's bottom line? Nobody likes work. Neither men nor women. Since men can't get pregnant, it's only a little less painful for them.

    The way I see it, on the other hand, where there was no solution, there was no problem.

    And the way Yglesias sees it, it is a sign of a "dysfunctional social norms", and presumably ones that he wants to see changed. Ironically, I would call this attitude...paternalistic?

  2. The biggest problem with the war in Libya is that it is unconstitutional.

  3. Gary - generally I agree, although with the experience of Iraq behind us I'm still concerned about the risk that constitutionality will be the least of our concerns in Libya.

    Prateek - Thanks for the Sowell point - I'll look at that. I'm not sure I would dismiss it so simply as Sowell does, nor would I be as declarative as Yglesias. And ultimately I need to spend time looking at the actual report before I cite it myself, because Yglesias may not even be hitting on the main point. This is a touchy area - I think social norms do play into it, but I'm not sure how much... will post more on this in the next couple days perhaps.

  4. Prateek:

    There was a FEE lecture some years back on this very point; the title was something like "Is The Market Racist or Sexist?"



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