Archive for September, 2009

Oh noes! Teh Internets makez u gulible

September 28th, 2009 48 comments

Another “Internets makes you stupid story” from the Brisbane Courier-Mail (irony detector overload alert !!).

The original source is something called the Levitt Institute and the Courier-Mail story is a pretty fair summary of the Levitt Institute report, which is here (PDF). I’ll leave the deconstruction as an exercise for readers, with a bonus mark for the question “Which basic concept of classical hypothesis testing is ignored in this study of ‘ability to detect erroneous information'”

Update xxx ????? sex ????? ?? ??????? Sucked in! It turns out the whole thing is in fact a hoax by Andrew Denton’s new show.. Sad to say, with the irony detector already blown, it’s hard to tell the difference between genuine and fake stupid. ??????? ?????????

Categories: Metablogging Tags:

Monday Message Board

September 28th, 2009 107 comments

Its time once again for Monday Message Board. Post comments on any topic. As usual, civilised discussion and no coarse language.

Categories: Economics - General Tags:

Text and writing

September 25th, 2009 29 comments

Tigtog at LP points to a study showing that involvement with Facebook, MSN and so on has increased the textual skills of young people, including not just “good writing” but the ability to adapt style to an imagined readership that varies in different context. I was banging on about this last millennium.

Tigtog finishes with a really last-millennium question? “Does anybody here still do lots of handwriting?”.

For those who don’t recall, “handwriting” was a method of producing text, popular in the second millennium, in which, rather than using a keyboard or pointer to produce letters, you used an ink-dispenser to draw each letter in succession. There was a version of this called “cursive” or “script” in which, rather than drawing the letters separately, they were all run together. This was much faster to produce, but, as I recall, almost impossible to read unless done by a real expert. I can still do a very inexpert version of the letter-by-letter method, which was called “printing” (nothing to do with real printing, but the result, done well, looked a bit like printed text).

Categories: Life in General, Media Tags:

The irrelevance of the financial sector

September 25th, 2009 220 comments

Here’s my piece from the Fin on Thursday

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Categories: Economics - General, Metablogging Tags:

Weekend reflections

September 25th, 2009 21 comments

It’s time again for weekend reflections, which makes space for longer than usual comments on any topic. As always, civilised discussion and no coarse language.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

Uncertainty and climate change

September 25th, 2009 35 comments

I was at a conference on uncertainty and climate change in Berkeley last week, and gave the wrap-up panel discussion with Geoffrey Heal. We’d discussed a wide range of uncertainties and ambiguities, from future emissions scenarios to model uncertainty to perception and communication issues, and we were asked to comment on how, with so much uncertainty, economists can make useful recommendations.
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Categories: Environment Tags:

More bookblogging

September 20th, 2009 156 comments

I’m starting now on what will I think be the hardest and most controversial chapter of my book – the argument that the search for a macroeconomic theory founded on (roughly) neoclassical micro, which has been the main direction of macro research for 40 years or so, was a wrong turning, forcing us to retrace our steps and look for another route. As always, comments and criticisms accepted with gratitude.

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Categories: Dead Ideas book Tags:

Access Economics and CEDA on carbon taxes

September 17th, 2009 34 comments

I’ve seen a number of reports of statements by CEDA supporting a carbon tax as an alternative to emissions trading. This seemed surprising, since the two are basically equivalent. Given that the ETS is almost in place, suggesting such a variation seemed rather pointless.

But I’ve now received an email from CEDA which appears to explain everything. The real distinction is not between a tax and a trading scheme but between a tax levied at the point where carbon is used and one where final products are consumed. Since Australia exports a lot of embodied carbon, the tax on final consumption would raise a lot less revenue, and cause a much smaller economic shock.

In fact, modelling by Access Economics (PDF) suggests that the loss of income under a consumption-based carbon tax would be about half that from a production-based tax or ETS

So what’s the catch ?

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Categories: Economic policy, Environment Tags:

The macro wars

September 17th, 2009 202 comments

Paul Krugman’s piece on “Why did economists get it so wrong” has attracted a vitriolic response from John Cochrane, reproduced here. Krugman’s piece was strongly worded, but the reply ups the ante, and I expect further escalation. Economics conferences in the next few years are going to be interesting events.

Given that, as Krugman himself notes, disagreements between economists were notably mild until the crisis erupted, what is going on here?

I’m visiting Berkely at present and just had a chat with Brad DeLong. These are some of the thoughts I had about the great macroeconomics wars as a result.

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The race for a low carbon economy: A form guide

September 12th, 2009 127 comments

If, as I think is now possible, the Copenhagen summit leads to an agreement to reduce CO2 emissions substantially in the next decade and to very low levels by 2050, we will need to replace, or do without, a lot of energy currently derived from carbon-based fuels. It’s probably a good time to take a look at the main contenders for achieving this. Here’s my form guide. (I’m not going to give lots of links – Wikipedia is, as usual, a good place to start).

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Categories: Environment Tags:

Weekend reflections

September 11th, 2009 166 comments

It’s time again for weekend reflections, which makes space for longer than usual comments on any topic. As always, civilised discussion and no coarse language.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

Bookblogging: a snippet

September 9th, 2009 46 comments

A little bit I plan to include in the chapter on the Great Moderation, linking on to a critique of post-70s macroeconomics. As always, comments and criticism gratefully (and, mostly, I hope, gracefully) accepted

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Categories: Dead Ideas book Tags:

Three Cheers for Judith Troeth

September 8th, 2009 56 comments

In my last post, I was thinking about the fact that one Liberal willing to cross the floor and combine with Labor, the Greens and Nick Xenophon, would be enough to pass an improved emissions trading scheme. Now, this pattern of votes has combined to repeal the Howard government’s hateful practice, inherited from the Keating Labor government, of charging immigration detainees for their own imprisonment. The sole Liberal was Judith Troeth, and she deserves our heartfelt congratulation.

Alleged Christian Steve Fielding voted, not merely to pass by the other side like the priest and the Levite, but to join the thieves who beat and rob the needy stranger. I incorrectly stated that Steve Fielding voted against the bill. He spoke against, but voted for.

Categories: Oz Politics Tags:

Improving the CPRS

September 8th, 2009 48 comments

It seems virtually certain that the CPRS legislation will be reintroduced to Parliament later this year, and highly likely that it will be passed with the support of some or all Liberal Senators. The alternative, a double dissolution fought on an issue where the party is split down the middle, would be catastrophic, good reason for any party with an interest in long-term survival to avoid it. I’m guessing the Liberal Party still fits that description, or at least that enough of its members do to provide a Senate majority.

In these circumstances, it’s unlikely that we will see improvements on the current proposal, in fact the opposite. It makes tactical sense for Labor to offer the Libs some further modest concessions, enough to get their support while splitting off the Nationals and leaving the delusion, delay and do-nothing faction among the Libs deeply unhappy.

Undaunted, I’m going to suggest some ways in which the scheme might be improved.

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Categories: Environment Tags:

Monday Message Board

September 7th, 2009 30 comments

Its time once again for Monday Message Board. Post comments on any topic. As usual, civilised discussion and no coarse language.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

Hansen on climate change over centuries

September 5th, 2009 152 comments

Following my recent post, a number of commenters suggested that I ought to respond more directly to the arguments of James Hansen and others for a CO2 target of 350 parts per million, as opposed to the 450 ppm that forms the basis of much current policy discussion. I’m using this paper as a basis, and take the following two points as its central claims

* To avoid unacceptable risk of passing a point of no return beyond which explosive feedbacks (icecaps melting etc) are inevitable, we should aim to reduce CO2 concentrations to 350 ppm by 2100. This is below current levels and won’t be achieved simply by ending net emissions
* We can achieve part of this (maybe a reduction of 60 ppm) through reforestation, biochar and similar measures
* Further reductions will require expensive technological solutions, estimated cost $200/tonne or $20 trillion to remove 50 ppm. Given a maximum point around 450 ppm and 50 ppm from reforestation, that’s about the amount required.

What then should we do? In particular, how much should we be willing to pay now, to avoid high costs in the second half of this century?

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Categories: Economics - General, Environment Tags:

Various links

September 4th, 2009 6 comments

A few things where I’ve had a direct or indirect interest

* This study of media bias by econobloggers Andrew Leigh and Joshua Gans has unsurprisingly attracted interest from the media and econobloggers (Andrew gives some links). The striking (if not particularly surprising) finding is that the ABC as a whole is to the right of most newspapers. One aspect of it was how much the media cited public intellectuals identified as partisan by the fact that they were commonly mentioned in favorable terms in Parliament by one side, but not by the other. Interestingly, I didn’t pass this test. I had about 30 favorable mentions, of which about 30 per cent were from the Coalition.

* My Senate submission on deposit guarantees got a good run in this SMH piece, which opens with a look at the incidence of John Dillinger’s bankrobbing exploits, as described by Johnny Depp. Since been romantically linked with Angelina Jolie, I’m keen for more brushes with fame.

* Back when I was doing my Pure Maths degree, I studied fixed point theorems. One implication of the standard Brouwer fixed point theorem is the hairy ball theorem which implies, among other things, that there must always be a place on earth where the wind isn’t blowing. I said at the time that I aimed to get a research grant to test this theoretical result in practice, by travelling round the world and moving on whenever the wind blew. Today, my fellow-student and major source of technical advice for this blog, Martin Ellison, advises me that I’ve missed my chance. These guys have found the spot, in remotest Antarctica.

Categories: Economic policy, Media, Science Tags:

Weekend reflections

September 4th, 2009 27 comments

It’s time again for weekend reflections, which makes space for longer than usual comments on any topic. As always, civilised discussion and no coarse language.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

Gov 2.0

September 3rd, 2009 2 comments

Gov 2.0* is an interesting exercise in trying to use new communications technology (Web 2.0) to promote the public good. Blogger and economist Nicholas Gruen is running the show (or playing a big role anyway) and is looking for tenders on a variety of issues. Take a look.

* To anticipate the standard joke, I’ll be waiting until the 2.1 release.

Categories: Economic policy, Metablogging Tags:

Bookblogging: The end of the Great Moderation, What next?

September 2nd, 2009 50 comments

In any book on policy thinking, the easy bit (not all that easy!) is to write about what’s wrong with existing ideas, in my case the zombie ideas I’m writing about. The chapter plan for my book includes, in each chapter, a section on “What next”. As regards the Great Moderation, which was essentially an interpretative claim about the data, it’s not really clear what to include. I’m leaving the details of macroeconomic thinking and policy for another chapter and writing about how society should handle risk. Comments and criticism appreciated as always.

I’m in the process of setting up a site at where the whole draft will be presented in wiki format. But I’ve been travelling and haven’t managed to get it going yet.
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Categories: Dead Ideas book Tags:

China, again

September 1st, 2009 11 comments

My piece in last Thursday’s Fin is over the fold

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Categories: Economic policy, Environment Tags: