Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Economics of George Orwell

Diane Coyle has a nice review of Richard Thaler's new book, Misbehaving. Diane's review is, for the most part, appropriately laudatory. But she does voice a concern that I share. Here is Diane...
"Behavioural economics is now one of the most popular areas of the subject, ... but the new embrace by economists makes me uneasy. This is not just because of the well-known debate about paternalism (as discussed by Gilles St Paul in The Tyranny of Utility or Julian LeGrand and Bill New in Government Paternalism: Nanny State or helpful Friend?) It is because the sight of economists delighting in a new tool to engineer society is alarming –"
I agree. Here is a quote from my review of Akerlof and Shiller's 2009 book Animal Spirits, another piece that draws on behavioural economics to engage in social engineering. Akerlof and Shiller want to replace rational choice with behavioural economics. And here is what they mean by that...

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Multiple Equilibria and Financial Crises

In May of this year, Jess Benhabib and I organized a conference at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco with much help from Kevin Lansing at the Fed. Many thanks Kevin!

Kevin has just sent me a link to a website put together by the Fed with links to all of the papers, including slides of presenters and discussants plus a video of Karl Shell's dinner talk on the history of sunspots. The conference was sponsored by the NBER, UCLA and NYU. Many thanks to all who helped make this possible. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Running a Surplus in Normal Times is Keynesian

In a recent letter to The Guardian, a coterie of mainly English academics has criticized George Osborne's Mansion House speech in which he proposed to run a budget surplus in normal times. 
Mansion House
According to the letter writers, 
The chancellor’s plans, announced in his Mansion House speech, for permanent budget surpluses [my italics] are nothing more than an attempt to outmanoeuvre his opponents (Report, 10 June). They have no basis in economics. Osborne’s proposals are not fit for the complexity of a modern 21st-century economy and, as such, they risk a liquidity crisis that could also trigger banking problems, a fall in GDP, a crash, or all three.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

How to Fix the Banks: Revisited

The bankers are angry. They feel the regulations designed to prevent another meltdown are cramping their style. Their bonuses are down. I agree. Red tape is not the way to save the banking system.

The banks engaged in a freewheeling orgy of unregulated risk taking for two decades. And when the world crashed: they expected, and received, bailouts. But we don't need to bash the banks to save the system.

As a society, we do not have a stake in saving HSBC. We do not have a stake in saving Barclays, or RSBC, or Lehmann Brothers, or Bank of America. But we do have a stake in saving the banking system. Here is a link to a piece I wrote in 2009 on how to do that.