Showing posts from May, 2013

Harvard's Niall Ferguson Apologizes for 'Stupid' Keynes Remarks

Harvard's Niall Ferguson Apologizes for 'Stupid' Keynes Remarks

This fall, I will be teaching a class on communication for future economists. One of the exemplars of public economists I plan to include in the course materials is Niall Ferguson, author of several texts on economics for general audiences.

And, yet, like many scholars I respect, he says some dumb things. Trying to explains Keynes via his sexuality or lack of a family is pretty stupid. At least Ferguson admits his mistake. Maybe a long list of economists could learn from this example.

However (you knew that was coming), cultures and experiences do shape our political views and our economic biases. At the time of Keynes, government was solidly anti-gay rights. Consider the fate of Alan Turing, sadly. But, Keynes did have faith in government. I wonder why…

Charles Lane: Big bloat on campus - The Washington Post

Many economic policies are driven by the emotions of political populism: the policies feel "right" or "good" as long as you don't ponder them too deeply. Then again, there's evidence that some people would still support bad a policy because economics takes a backseat to various emotions.

"Medical insurance" is no longer… insurance. It is indirect payment, and that's a problem. The other major example of indirect payment in our society is college tuition, with federally subsidized loans and grants creating an indirect market, as well.

In both of these markets, healthcare and education, government policies have distorted costs, contributing to rising costs and declining value.

Consider the following column and what it illustrates about the cost of higher education.
An F for effort on holding down tuition
By Charl…

Intro to Econ: A Summer Project

Though few visitors post comments to this blog, I do receive the occasional email question. Often, these questions involve definitions and concepts that should be included in a basic economics survey course. I'm uncertain how many high schools or colleges require economics, and a single-semester Econ 101 might be so compressed that it only creates more confusion and misunderstandings.

This summer, I'm hoping to begin an irregular series of posts, "Intro to Econ." It has also been suggested that I create a page that lists some of the common terms used on this and other economics-related blogs. That seems like a reasonable suggestion. Yes, there are introductory texts and lexicons, but I like the idea of a witty guide to the jargon of economists, businesspeople, and politicians.

I have a long list of blog topics, some dating back several years. The Intro to Econ would be yet another batch of posts to write. At least I'm never short of ideas.

The posts should b…

Internet Sales Tax Coming Too Late for Some Stores

As I wrote in a few days ago, the Internet sales tax mandate is coming. It's stupid, and it will only benefit the larger retailers — especially Amazon because Amazon offers "retail services" to other businesses. Amazon Web Services, Amazon Merchant Services, and so forth, mean that Amazon will not only survive a tax mandate, but Amazon will thrive with Internet sales tax mandates.

Either politicians and business groups are stupid and/or naive, or they know perfectly well that Amazon and other larger retailers will do fine.

Consider the following New York Times and CNBC special report:
Internet Sales Tax Coming Too Late for Some Stores
Published: Saturday, 27 Apr 2013 | 12:00 AM ET
By: David Streitfeld

Anita Demetropoulos, a Maine shopkeeper, figured she would never see the day when her most relentless competitor, Amazon, would be forced to collect sales tax.

Now that Congress seems ready to do that, she is no longer sure it matters. Even in…