Links, this time is different edition

November 3, 2014 Leave a comment

1) Horrifying Portuguese demographics

2) A Shari’a economic festival, in Indonesia and hosted by the Indonesian central bank

3) Shari’a government bonds look a lot like sixteenth century European pre-reformation land backed private bonds (when Greece had issued such bonds bondholders would, after the default, have owned quite some Greek property).

4) German retail sales are increasing and Germany is investing in its future

5) This is so different… Germany is the only 2008 Euro member where 2013 GDP per capita is higher than before the crisis (but remember: it took till 1953 until Dutch GDP per capita surpassed the 1929 level)


6) This year, Halloween costumes (which are increasingly popular in Europe) were scarier than ever

Categories: Uncategorized

Real world filters and economic models

November 3, 2014 1 comment

from Lars Syll

chameleon-ipad-backgroundChameleons arise and are often nurtured by the following dynamic. First a bookshelf model is constructed that involves terms and elements that seem to have some relation to the real world and assumptions that are not so unrealistic that they would be dismissed out of hand. The intention of the author, let’s call him or her “Q,” in developing the model may be to say something about the real world or the goal may simply be to explore the implications of making a certain set of assumptions. Once Q’s model and results become known, references are made to it, with statements such as “Q shows that X.” This should be taken as short-hand way of saying “Q shows that under a certain set of assumptions it follows (deductively) that X,” but some people start taking X as a plausible statement about the real world. If someone skeptical about X challenges the assumptions made by Q, some will say that a model shouldn’t be judged by the realism of its assumptions, since all models have assumptions that are unrealistic. Another rejoinder made by those supporting X as something plausibly applying to the real world might be that the truth or falsity of X is an empirical matter and until the appropriate empirical tests or analyses have been conducted and have rejected X, X must be taken seriously. In other words, X is innocent until proven guilty … Because there is a model for X, because questioning the assumptions behind X is not appropriate, and because the testable implications of the model supporting X have not been empirically rejected, we must take X seriously. Q’s model (with X as a result) becomes a chameleon that avoids the real world filters …  Read more…

Categories: New vs. Old Paradigm

Launch of the WEA Textbook Commentaries Project

An email this morning from Stuart Birks

This is a brief update on progress with the World Economics Association Textbook Commentaries Project. . . .

The current state of play is as follows. The October issue of the WEA Newsletter has just been made available on the web. Details will be circulated to WEA members shortly. The issue contains an announcement about the project and some other related pieces. It could perhaps be considered as a formal launch of the project to the wider community.

The Newsletter pdf is at:

The article on the project is also available at:

In addition, I have just presented a paper in Buenos Aires explaining some of the background to and reasoning behind the project. The paper is available at: I will be giving similar talks elsewhere in the next few weeks. I’ll be in the UK in late November-early December and could fit in one or two additional talks if there is interest.

The success of the project depends on the quality of the material provided and the extent to which it is used. It has been encouraging to see how willing people have been to make their writing available as well as to contribute directly. More commentaries are needed, including alternative ones to supplement or contrast with existing material. Note that the main objective for the WEA is to provide a platform that can be used by others. It is independent from any specific publisher or school of thought.  Read more…

Ethics, goals, and well-being

November 1, 2014 5 comments

from Neva Goodwin

Twentieth century economics supported, implicitly when not explicitly, the idea that neither ethics nor history nor the institutions of law or culture were of much economic importance – as long as these things did not get in the way of “free” market functioning. This case was pressed with special vigor from about 1970 to the end of the 20th century by economists from what was known as the Chicago School.

Even early on in this period there began to be concern that individuals acting solely to achieve their personal goals could not be counted on to operate a business in ways that would be good for the business itself. This real-world concern, combined with the dogma that people only act on the basis of self-interest, resulted in various efforts to motivate business leaders by offering rewards for specific markers of success (such as the price of the company’s stock). These efforts had the unintended consequence of escalating compensation of top management in the United States to levels that were many times greater than anything that had previously been considered normal (or were normal in other countries). They also resulted in an increasingly short-term vision on the part of business leaders. Very large scale frauds, Ponzi schemes, tax evasions, and environmental and human costs that businesses externalized during this period have made it increasingly evident that society cannot afford to encourage a culture of economic activity that ignores all normal human motivations except the selfish pursuit of personal gain.  Read more…

Should central banks target ‘Minsky price levels’?

November 1, 2014 5 comments

Most inflation targeting central banks target consumer prices. I have no idea why, I can’t find anywhere anything which explains why they do not target a broader set of prices. And just targeting consumer prices might lead central banks astray: when the ECB twice increased the interest rate in 2011 consumer prices where showing an increase slightly above the ECB target – but the price level changes of government consumption (primary education etcetera) and investment in fixed assets were at a historical low! Small wonder that the ECB had to lower interest rates later that year.


But there is more to this. Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized

Youth aged 15 to 24 not in education, employment or training – league table 41countries

October 31, 2014 Leave a comment

from David Ruccio

According to UNICEF, the latest crisis of capitalism has hit 15-24 year olds especially hard, with the number of young people who are not participating in education, employment, or training rising dramatically in many countries. In the European Union 7.5 million young people (almost equal to the population of Switzerland) were classified as NEET in 2013—nearly a million more than in 2008.

The largest absolute increases were in Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, and Romania, all with relative changes of around 30 per cent or higher.

Of the OECD countries that are not in the European Union, the United States saw the largest increase in the NEET rate (from 12 to 15 percent), followed by Australia (9.9 to 12.2 percent).  Here is the chart: Read more…

Categories: The Economy

The Swedish central bank: honest about the origin of its target

October 31, 2014 Leave a comment

Almost all inflation targeting central banks target the consumer price index – remarkable, as consumer spending is only about 50-60% of total spending. And western central banks generally have a 2% inflation target while the central banks of countries like Indonesia and India have targets of 4-5%. Are these policies based upon carefull deliberation, deep thinking and elaborate economic models? The Central Bank of Sweden (an early inflation targeter and an example for many other banks) is surprisingly honest: it was decided on the fly. They had to do something, the consumer price index was available and inflation was about 2% at the time. Also, the Zeitgeist made them forget about more realistic useful policies aimed at a much broader concept of financial stability, policies which at this moment are being re-discovered (see also this slack wire blogpost): Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized

Stress testing households and companies

October 30, 2014 Leave a comment

Last sunday, the ECB published the results of its stress test. Via Janis Varoufakis, the view of Klaus Kastner, a former banker: bankers did take it seriously but it’s not stringent enough. But too much has already been written about banks. Fortunately, central banks do not just publish data on banks but also on households and companies. What kind of financial stress do these data show?

1) The exemplary Irish financial statistics summary chart pack shows that the amount of non-performing mortgages is, though slowly declining, still very high.

2) Italian data show non performing loans, especially of non-financial companies, which despite an already high level are still rapidly increasing. Bad household loans are also increasing, though at a lower rate (look here, p. 30).

3) Spanish data (look here, especially p. 26-28) show a very considerable drop in credit advanced to non-financial companies while there seems to be quite a bit of debt restructuring. Despite this, the amount of non-performing loans is still increasing for all sectors of the economy (data: end of 2013) and the rate of growth of non-performing loans has been 20 to 40% for years in a stretch. interestingly, loans to Portuguese companies and households are much more ‘doubtful’ than loans to South-American countries.

Summary: financial stress for households and non-financial companies in Ireland is still high, in Italy and Spain it’s still increasing.

Categories: Uncategorized

Macroeconomic aspirations

October 30, 2014 7 comments

from Lars Syll

Oxford macroeconomist Simon Wren-Lewis has a post up on his blog on the use of labels in macroeconomics:

EPAreadlabelLabels are fun, and get attention. They can be a useful shorthand to capture an idea, or related set of ideas … Here are a couple of bold assertions, which I think I believe, and which I will try to justify. First, in academic research terms there is only one meaningful division, between mainstream and heterodox … Second, in macroeconomic policy terms I think there is only one meaningful significant division, between mainstream and anti-Keynesians …

So what do I mean by a meaningful division in academic research terms? I mean speaking a different language. Thanks to the microfoundations revolution in macro, mainstream macroeconomists speak the same language. I can go to a seminar that involves an RBC model with flexible prices and no involuntary unemployment and still contribute and possibly learn something.

Wren-Lewis seems to be überjoyed by the fact that using the same language as real business cycles macroeconomists he can “possibly learn something” from them.

Hmm …

Wonder what …

I’m not sure Wren-Lewis uses the same “language” as James Tobin, but he’s definitely worth listening to: Read more…

Housing market fundamentals

October 30, 2014 2 comments

The Great Financial Crisis taught most of us that private credit matters. Nowadays, for instance Tyler Cowen uses Steve Keen kind of explanations in stead of general equilibrium ideas: there is no great Pareto optimal intertemporal general equilibrium. The crisis also  taught most of us a (to quote Paul Krugman) ‘dirty little secret‘: monetary policy works via the housing market (hmmm… where do these bubbles come from?). Which makes sense: houses are our most important asset. And mortgages are our most important kind of credit.

Anthony B. Sanders has a nice graph which binds private credit and the housing market in the US of A together, using so called ‘deep’ parameters like the employment to population rate, home ownership rates, the rapidly rising share of 20-34 year olds living with their parents (not in this graph but already at 25% in the US of A) and comparable variables. Note that he does not need house prices or volumes of credit to show the housing bubble, which has origins dating back to 1995-1999. Fred Foldvary, who used to be a regular commentor on this blog and who repeatedly emphasized the ‘Georgist’ 18 year USA credit/housing cycle, would not be surprised. In a very real sense, QE served to mitigate the consequences of the debt build up followed by house price decreases caused by the housing cycle. Instead of QE the US of A government could, as  Rogoff argues, have written down more debt but Larry Summers does not agree (about debt in the Euro Area later today some links).


Aside: note the tight ‘Phillips curve’ co-movement between wage increases and the employment rate which seems to be stronger as well as more stable than the ‘unemployment-wage increase’ Phillips curces.

Categories: Uncategorized

Roaring 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s (2 graphs)

October 29, 2014 5 comments

from David Ruccio


In the United States, we’ve witnessed a return of the Roaring Twenties—for the past three and a half decades.

As Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman show, the share of wealth (defined as total assets, including real estate and funded pension wealth, net of all debts) held by the top 0.1 percent of families is now almost as high as it was in the late 1920s. Read more…

Students, INET and “Repressive Tolerance”

October 29, 2014 Leave a comment

As a follow-up to Rethinking Economics rejects INET’s “Core Curriculum” here is an excerpt from a Rethinking Economics blog post back in August by David Wells.

. . .  just before the final keynote address, a short video was played in which Robert Johnson, the President of INET, sent his best wishes to the conference and congratulated the organisers – but also suggested at one point that the students should be ‘guided’ by INET.

This is strange. Why should the students be ‘guided’ by INET? Why not the other way around? After all, it is the students who are the instigators of this revolution and who are at the front line, manning the barricades. INET are very active in their own way – the CORE curriculum project is especially interesting – and they supply invaluable funding, including for this conference*, but they are essentially secondary actors on the stage. The protagonists are the students, not just in the UK but all over the world: the ISIPE now has (at least) 65 member associations in 30 countries.

Read more…


October 28, 2014 5 comments

from Peter Radford

I will keep this short: I have been taken aback by all the talk about the apparent onset of something called secular stagnation. Today’s Financial Times gives us another dose of it in an article by Gavin Davies. The basic argument seems to be that since both population growth and worker productivity are declining somewhat in the biggest economies we ought expect those economies to grow more slowly than in the past. This shift downwards is a sharp break with what orthodox economists had assumed the norm to be: that economies would chug along nicely because productivity is driven by technology change, and because populations have been relatively stable.

The downscaling is said to fit with the empirical evidence, and in particular with the trends that seem to have set in since around 1980.

In other words, a sputtering economic performance over the past few decades is seen as proof that we now live in more constrained times, where limited growth puts a cap on our latitude in dealing with economic issues. People drawing this conclusion almost inevitably then jump into discussions of how this reduced latitude implies a more austere role for government, and – naturally – that everyday folks just will have to manage on less.

I have a slightly different perspective.  Read more…

Categories: The Economy

Links. Debt. And shrimps. And Mario Draghi.

October 28, 2014 Leave a comment

1) Carmen Reinhart and Christoph Trebesch argue that, looking at the record (which they established), redeeming government debt overhangs generally (no: often) increases prosperity.  Learn their Box 1 by heart! It’s another addition to our rapidly increasing knowledge about the history of ‘really existing capitalism’ (for the young ones: the phrase ‘really existing socialism‘ was used to describe communist systems and served to drive down the difference between rosy communist ideals and the often bland and harsh reality – the rosy ideal in this case being ‘general equilibrium’).

2) On Voxeu, S. M. Ali Abbas, Laura Blattner, Mark De Broeck, Asmaa El-Ganainy andMalin Hu show a decomposition of 100 years of government debt in 13 advanced economies. Who owned the debt, what kinds of debts were issued? Less and less of the debt is held by commercial banks and more and more by institutional investors (pension funds and the like) which leads to internationalization of the debt (though governments owe less debt denominated in foreign currencies – which in the Eurozone however does not matter as the Euro can, in a sense, be considered to be a foreign currency). The amount of debt on the balance sheets of central banks is nowaday way lower (as a % of total debt) than in the 1950-1980 period. Part of these debts were (and are) currency, the authors do not show the amount of this kind of ‘debt’.  Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized

Rethinking Economics rejects INET’s “Core Curriculum”

October 27, 2014 11 comments

Rethinking Economics Position on CORE Curriculum

London, UK- 16 October 2014 – The CORE Curriculum is not an answer to our demands for reform. CORE is more engaging in its teaching style, but falls short of creating broader content.

RE does not currently endorse any curriculum; instead, we have written our vision of a pluralistic curriculum (!our-vision/colf) and we support the ISIPE open letter, which we contributed to along with 65 student groups ( We encourage educators and curriculum writers to sign up to publically support these visions.

What we are looking for is curricula that embody the three pluralisms: pluralism in methodology, pluralism in schools of thought, and pluralism in disciplines. This means at least a key role for the history of economic thought in a way that encourages debate over different schools of thought.

Read more…

Links, the Levy Institute was right edition

October 27, 2014 1 comment

The Levy institute is a Post-Keynesian think tank. What did these economists, before 2007, write about financial stability and the role of the central bank? Should we have listened to the economist their warnings?

1) In 2006, Dimitri Papadimitriou, Edward Chilcote and Genarro Zezza warned about the detrimental macro-economic consequences effects of the unavoidable end of the (credit driven) US of A housing bubble. In hindsight: things turned out better than they expected because in the autumn of 2008 the current account deficit of the US of A declined, almost overnight, from -6% of GDP to -2% of GDP (a combination of lower oil prices and lower imports).

2) Also in 2006, Eric Tymoigne argued that central banks should watch asset prices more closely and should concentrate on their core business, i.e. financial stability, instead of focusing solely on low and stable consumer price inflation. In hindsight: this is exactly what the ECB is increasingly doing.

3) In 2003 L. Randall Wray and Dimitri Papadimitriou argued that deflation is not just about consumer prices or even the GDP price level (which also includes investments in new fixed assets, government consumption like expenditures on primary education and export prices)  but also and especially about prices of existing assets. We should however understand deflation as a (toxic) symptom – if we want to remedy the consequences of deflation we should look at its origins, i.e. severe and chronic lack of demand which can’t be easily cured by just flooding the economy with money. Profound social, political and economic changes may be necessary (like the post 1937 variant of the New Deal). In hindsight: read the whole thing.   Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized

Fred Lee

October 26, 2014 Leave a comment

from Lars Syll

Last night (Oct. 23) at 11:20 PM, CDT, prominent heterodox economist, Fred Lee of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, died of cancer.  He had stopped teaching during the last spring semester and was honored at the 12th International Post Keynesian Conference held at UMKC a month ago …lee

Whatever one thinks of heterodox economics in general, or of the views of Fred Lee in particular, he should be respected as the person more than any other who was behind the founding of the International Conference of Associations for Pluralism in Economics (ICAPE), and also the Heterodox Economics Newsletter.  While many talked about the need for there to be an organized group pushing heterodox economics in all its varieties, Fred did more than talk and went and organized the group and its main communications outlet.  He also regularly and strongly spoke in favor of heterodox economics, the unity of which he may have exaggerated.  But his voice in advocating the superiority of heterodox economics over mainstream neoclassical economics was as strong as that of anybody that I have known.  I also note that he was the incoming President for the Association for Evolutionary Economics (AFEE), and they will now have to find a replacement.  He had earlier stepped down from his positions with ICAPE and the Heterodox Economics Newsletter.  Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized

Fred Lee RIP

October 26, 2014 1 comment

from David Ruccio

I just received word that Frederic S. Lee, who taught Post Keynesian economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City for the past fourteen years, died last night. I first met Fred when he was at Roosevelt University, and we had been in touch (at conferences and presentations as well as through his articles and books on heterodox economics) many times since.

Here’s Fred’s autobiography: Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized

Fred Lee’s “Teaching Heterodox Microeconomics”

The following paper appeared in 2005 in what is now the Real-World Economics Review  It is worth reading today no less than it was then.

Teaching Heterodox Microeconomics

Frederic S. Lee   (University of Missouri-Kansas City, USA)

Microeconomics is an important, though not a very popular, field of research in heterodox economics. This is due, in part, to the underlaboring role of micro-entities, such as the business enterprises, costs, pricing, profit mark ups, wage rates, markets, and investment, in most of the research conducted by heterodox economists in macroeconomic theory, monetary theory, and economic policy. Given its theoretical importance, it is surprising that the number monographs devoted largely to delineating a heterodox microeconomic theory are so few.1 One reason for this is that some heterodox economists believe that it is necessary for all economic students to learn neoclassical microeconomic theory; and the learning of heterodox microeconomics is of second-order importance.   The unintended consequence of this attitude is that there is little interest among heterodox economists to delineate a comprehensive microeconomic theory. A second reason has to do with the role of microeconomic theory in heterodox economics. In particular, microeconomic theory is correctly viewed by most heterodox economists as providing a non-reductionist foundation to macroeconomic and monetary theory. And it is these theoretic areas that contribute most to macroeconomic policy issues in which they are interested. Given this macro-policy concern, there is little interest among heterodox economists to engage in the near thankless and largely obscure task of foundation building.

Read more…

Categories: New vs. Old Paradigm

“Fred Lee’s departing words of wisdom”

Categories: Uncategorized

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