Economics is hard

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.

I recently came across two great articles that dig into these issues. Continue reading “Economics is hard”

Down to the corporate side!

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.

Such a high level approach is valuable. However, the macro perspective by definition misses the details. A macroeconomist will typically explain productivity growth by referring to increases in (human) capital and total factor productivity. But how exactly do concrete changes lead to higher output? Continue reading “Down to the corporate side!”

If this was financial assistance, I’d hate to see the opposite

The European support program for Greece ends today. Some called the program a bailout, others assistance or solidarity. Whatever you call it, the outcome has been abysmal.

Greece fared worse than the US during the Great Depression. Emerging markets recovered faster from financial crises than Greece did. The only countries that have shrunk more than Greece in the past ten years are failed states like Libya, Yemen, and Venezuela.

“Congratulations” to all who were responsible for this “success”.

Can we avoid another financial crisis?

Can we avoid another financial crisis? Ten years after the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), we’ll hear the opinions of countless pundits about the likelihood of a new crisis. However, few commenters will be able to answer the question as profoundly as professor Steve Keen. Keen elaborated his views in the 2017 book with the appropriate title Can we avoid another financial crisis? Continue reading “Can we avoid another financial crisis?”

What has Big Tech ever done for me?

There’s a scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian in which rebels conspire against the Roman occupation. They ask themselves “What have the Romans ever done for us“.

Upon reflection, they realize that the Romans brought them sanitation, medicine, education, irrigation, public health, roads, a freshwater system, baths, public order, and peace.

I get the same feeling when I read articles about Big Tech. Continue reading “What has Big Tech ever done for me?”

Central banking analogies

Economists are fond of analogies to describe technical ideas.

Most of those analogies are confusing and/or useless. As I wrote in the introduction of Bankers are people, too:

Economists and journalists writing for lay audiences tend to use metaphors when explaining financial concepts. For example: ‘Cheap credit is like heroin. It’s addictive, and the economy can overdose from it.’ That may sound nice, but what does it even mean?

Continue reading “Central banking analogies”

Grazie mille, dottore Draghi!

ECB President Mario Draghi has answered a number of questions from the public. People could tweet #AskDraghi to join.

I’m honored that the ECB also picked one of mine πŸ™‚

The website Debating Europe has listed all the replies of Dr. Draghi.

I only wish the ECB President would have responded to this question as well πŸ˜€

The Magic of Money

This is a review of a book written over 50 years ago by a central banker.

Based on that introduction, even most finance geeks will probably think “boring!” or “irrelevant!”. Until you learn it has Nazis, hyperinflation and the Nuremberg trials in it. And those are not even the interesting parts. Continue reading “The Magic of Money”