Economics in Two Lessons, by Captain Haddock?

Last week, I did a couple of events in Melbourne for Economics in Two Lessons. One was at Readings in Hawthorn, where my old friend and colleague Al Watson kindly introduced me. The other was at the University of Melbourne, organized by the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, of which I’ve been a member for 40 years now.

Max Corden, Australia’s greatest living economist, was going to give the talk there, but was unfortunately taken ill. Another old friend and occasional collaborator, Nicholas Gruen stepped in and, among many other reminiscences, mentioned by (long ago now) resemblance to Captain Haddock, friend of the cartoon hero Tintin.

You can read the full talk at Club Troppo or in the more elegant venue of The Mandarin.

8 thoughts on “Economics in Two Lessons, by Captain Haddock?

  1. You should regrow the beard. Some of the finest economists going around are devotees of the beard: Paul Krugan, Joseph Stiglitz and Simon Wren-Lewis. Perhaps they should refer to “bearded” versus “clean-shaven” economics instead of salt water versus fresh water (the former would be less US-centric). Even Ben Bernake, who identified as an establishment Republican but engaged in some daring monetary policy, sported a beard. I wouldn’t describe those four as heterodox economists, as they very much practice and would identify as practising within standard economics, but they all share a willingness to defy the media and finance sector talking heads (which has long since departed from standard economics or anything that doesn’t fit their ideology). Is a beard evidence of being more non-conformist, more willing to go against the heard? Keynes had a moutstace (beards were not fashionable at the time) and Karl Marx had a very impressive beard. I can’t think of an economist working for one of the banks as having a beard. I am sure there are some, but I suspect most are clean shaven.

  2. The best economist’s beard was on the face of Karl Marx. Actually the beard is the most efficient coverage for the lower face. It is least cost and only requires a beard trimmer that does not have to be used every day. The beard versus clean shaven debate often confronts the increased productivity
    argument. If you have a beard then you can get into work earlier to increase your total output. The argument then can go one of two ways:
    1. You increase your productivity by the fact of this increase in output even if it is only at the marginal
    – I call this the beard marginal productivity argument:
    2. You do NOT increase productivity because it is a per unit of time and all you are doing is working longer again if only marginally – I call this the diseconomies of beard argument.

    It is up to the individual economist to do their own empirical research to determine their own educated opinion on this debate.

    My own empirical database covers a period of four decades. My opinion, based on this data, is that the second argument is correct. But I accept that this is not a general rule and cannot even be called a thesis.

  3. …although, to really go the Captain Haddock route, in addition to the beard you need to (a) have a “comedic” drinking problem and (b) do a pratfall every second page or so

  4. Nicholas Gruen said:

    On page 69, John outlines a puzzle in which you get a free ticket to an Eric Clapton concert and can buy a ticket to a Bob Dylan concert on the same night for $40 which you value at $50. You’re asked what the opportunity cost of this is. It’s striking that, typically, economists don’t know the answer:

    I got the right answer. Hint: it is equal to the patrons Bob Dylan ticket consumer surplus.

    Mind you, my psychic income from seeing Bob Dylan would be about one order of magnitude greater than Eric Clapton. So my opp cost would be miles higher.

    But we are presumably talking about choices sitting on on the same indifference curves. Aalthough only the Clapton good is tangential to Mr Tight Ass budget constraint.

    According to the internet 75% of econ PhDs got the wrong answer.. That’s pathetic, but young peoples IQ is dropping. And so many economists seem to be…a bit.slow on picking up social cues. (Bryan Callan, I am looking at you) So I guess I should not be surprised.

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