Here’s a great example of where following the money can take you. Economists at the World Bank have looked at aid granted to poor countries. By comparing disbursement dates with statistics from the BIS, they found that part of the aid money ends up in offshore havens.
Unsurprisingly, people on Twitter took issue with the authors’ claim:
I find this polemic boring and unproductive.
Boring, because I explained the misconceptions surrounding “money from thin air” in Bankers are people, too. (If you have a copy of the book, see page 38).
It’s also unproductive, because a slogan is not an insight. VOX claims to provide ‘Research-based policy analysis and commentary from leading economists’. It’s a sad state of affairs if leading economists produce more heat than light by using slogans.
Scientists don’t argue about slogans. Insight follows from identifing the relevant mechanisms or from looking at empirical findings, not from these endless ‘debates’.
That’s why Bankers are people, too contains so many drawings of simple balance sheets and discussions of behavior and incentives. I wanted to be crystal clear, not become yet another vague economics guru.
How big is the economy? It’s a crucial question in economics. It’s also the title of a chapter in Bankers are people, too (pages 119-122).
Gross domestic product (GDP) is a measure for economic output based on market prices. This means that unpaid (e.g. domestic) work is not included in GDP, although we find it valuable.
As consumers, we also benefit from free digital services (email, messaging apps, maps, search engines…) that didn’t exist 40 years ago.
But how much do people value these digital services?
In How should we measure the digital economy, Erik Brynjolfsson and Avinash Collis try to measure just that. They introduce ‘GDP-B’, a metric which ‘augments’ GDP with the consumer wellbeing from free stuff. The whole article is worth a read.
For example, they argue that “Facebook alone has created more than $225 billion worth of uncounted value for consumers since 2004” and that “including the consumer surplus value of just one digital good—Facebook—in GDP would have added an average of 0.11 percentage points a year to U.S. GDP growth from 2004 through 2017.”
I recently started working at the Social and Economic Geography research group of Ghent University, in the team of professor Ben Derudder. We study financial networks in collaboration with the team of professor Sabine Dörry at the Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research.
But why am I at the department of geography instead of economics? In other words, what exactly is financial geography? I have to admit that I didn’t know until a couple of months ago.
This post is an attempt to describe what financial geography is, and what sets it apart from other fields that study finance.
How are economic statistics collected? Do economic models correspond to observable reality?
In a world where markets and politicians respond strongly to things like gross domestic product (GDP) figures and economic forecasts, these are important questions. Unfortunately, discussion often jumps directly to the interpretation of new data or the output of models. Students are rarely challenged to question what the data and the models represent.
The Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside Movement was a government policy in the People’s Republic of China during the 1960s and 1970s. From Wikipedia: “privileged urban youth [were] sent to mountainous areas or farming villages to learn from the workers and farmers there.”
A lot of economists and economic historians study aggregated data, e.g. gross domestic product, inflation, trade flows, or productivity.