Author Archives: yvris

Naomi Klein, Friedman, Pinochet and the earthquake

Long time after the last post, but I just came across this today and it looked interesting! Looks like the Chicago boys are everywhere (and will not stop bothering us) even after all these years.

Enjoy!

http://www.naomiklein.org/articles/2010/03/chiles-socialist-rebar

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Is less more? Degrowth Economics

This summer I was reading the newspaper in Greece and I came across an article about an economist named Serge Latouche, Emeritus Professor at the University Paris-Sud. Latouche talks about the need of a society of degrowth instead of growth, as the way the economy is currently organized is wasting resources and cannot be sustainable. He argues for a society in which people will work less and consume less products but of better quality; in which people will rediscover the gift culture besides commodities and products. Happy that I finally found that my views are also supported by university professors, and tired of being called a primitivist every time I expressed them, I kept the article aside and rediscovered it somewhere in my diary last week. This lead me to some more online research and here are the results, I hope you enjoy!

Would the West actually be happier with less? The world downscaled

What if the very idea of growth—accumulating riches, destroying the environment and worsening social inequality—is a trap? Maybe we need to aim to create a society that is based on quality not quantity, on cooperation and not competition.

PRESIDENT George Bush told leading meteorologists last year: Economic growth is the key to environmental progress, because it is growth that provides the resources for investment in clean technologies. Growth is the solution, not the problem (1). That is not only a rightwing position: the principle is shared by much of the left. Even many anti-globalisation activists see growth as the solution for the world, expecting it to create jobs and provide for a fairer distribution of wealth. […]

After several decades of frenetic wastefulness storm clouds threaten. As our climate becomes increasingly unstable, we are fighting oil wars. Water wars will no doubt follow (5), along with pandemics and the extinction of essential plant and animal species through foreseeable biogenetic disasters. In these conditions the expansive and expanding growth society is neither sustainable nor desirable. We must urgently consider how to create a society of contraction and how to downscale as serenely and convivially as possible.

The growth society is dominated and often obsessed by growth economics. It makes growth for growth’s sake the essential aim of life, if not its only aim. This is unsustainable because it pushes the limits of the biosphere. Calculating the impact of our lifestyle on the environment in terms of how much of the Earth’s surface each person’s consumption uses reveals a way of life unsustainable in equal rights to natural resources and those resources’ capacity for regeneration. […]

TO RECONCILE the contradictory imperatives of growth and environmentalism, experts think they have found a magic formula, ecoefficiency—the centrepiece of the argument for sustainable development and its only credible aspect. The idea is progressively to reduce the intensity and impact of our use of natural resources until it reaches a level compatible with the Earth’s recognised maximum capacity (7). […]

THE problem is that values currently dominant, including selfishness, the work ethic and the spirit of competition, have grown out of the system, which in turn they reinforce. Personal ethical choices to live more simply can affect trends and weaken the system’s psychological bases, but a concerted radical challenge is needed to effect anything more than limited change.

Will this be dismissed as a grandiose utopian idea? Is any transition possible without violent revolution: or rather, can the psychological revolution we need be achieved without violent disruptions? Drastically reducing environmental damage does mean losing the monetary value in material goods. But it does not necessarily mean ceasing to create value through non-material products. In part, these could keep their market forms. Though the market and profit can still be incentives, the system must no longer revolve around them. Progressive measures, stages along the way, can be envisaged, though it is impossible to say whether those who would lose from such measures would accept them passively, or even whether the system’s present victims—drugged by it, mentally and physically—would accept its removal. Perhaps this summer’s heatwave in Europe will go further than any arguments to convince people that small is beautiful.

from: http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/27/081.html

and here’s an article about how degrowth could be applied: http://mondediplo.com/2004/11/14latouche

Proponents of contraction want to create integrated, self-sufficient and materially responsible societies in both the North and the South. It might be more accurate and less alarming if we replaced the word degrowth with “non-growth”. We could then start talking about “a-growthism”, as in “a-theism”. After all, rejecting the current economic orthodoxy means abandoning a faith system, a religion. To achieve this, we need doggedly and rigorously to deconstruct the matter of development. The term “development” has been redefined and qualified so much that it has become meaningless. Yet despite its failings, this magical concept continues to command total devotion across the political spectrum. The doctrines of “economism” (1), in which growth is the ultimate good, die hard. Even counter-globalisation economists are in a paradoxical position: they acknowledge the harm that growth has done but continue to speak of enabling Southern countries to benefit from it. In the North the furthest they are prepared to go is to advocate slowing down growth. An increasing number of anti-globalisation activists now concede that growth as we have known it is both unsustainable and harmful, socially as well as ecologically. Yet they have little confidence in degrowth as a guiding principle: the South, deprived of development, cannot be denied at least a period of growth, although it may cause problems.

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Economics In Bed

When I decided I would study economics 9 years ago,  what I liked about this science was that “the fundamental laws of economic science, in fact, were the laws of life”. The term “economic imperialism” that we did in class has made me think a lot since that week’s assignment! I believe we can talk about “economic imperialism” when we apply economics’ scientific methodology into other fields; yet when it comes to the reasoning and not the equations or models, I would not distinguish economics from everyday life. The way we function in our relationships and in our non-economic decision making is the same one as in our economic thinking: seeing the pros and cons, gains and losses and picking the one that would make us feel best. Not in a way that other people would describe as rational, but in a way that always seems rational to us, where “prices” would be replaced by “value” (how we value things and situations) – always a subjective definition of course!

Yet I do strongly believe that there are certain aspects of life that economics should really be out of! Still, we might enjoy some posts like this one 🙂 ( http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2005/05/why_dont_people.html )

Why don’t people have more sex?

We need not just reasons, but rather gains-from-trade-defying reasons.  I can think of a few:

1. The long-run lifestyle costs of being “more open to sex” involve a loss of integrity and control.  (OK, but I know many married couples, not all of whom hate each other, who don’t seem to have much sex.)

2. The average utility of sex is high but the marginal utilities are falling off a cliff.  You just don’t want any more.  But how many people are at this margin?

3. Freud was right and we are all repressed.  The will is not unitary and the utility-maximizing part is not always in control.

4. There has been a market failure, but the Internet is remedying it.  People are having more sex and this will only go up.

5. Sex stops being fun when you do it to close a gap between your marginal utilities.  It requires spontaneity or some other quality inconsistent with the classical model of the consumer and the equation of marginal rates of substitution.

6. Sex isn’t as much fun as the studies indicate.  Perhaps people lie about their quality of their sex or remember only the better experiences.

7. People want their sex to consist of peaks, rather than seeking to maximize lifetime utility.  Tom Schelling once told me this is why he did not listen to Bach more.

8. The market-clearing price for more sex is positive, and people feel shame about paying too explicitly; see also #5.

9. We are biologically programmed to “stick to our guns,” rather than just kiss and make up; read more here.  Or perhaps your wife has read my earlier post on why it is hard to avoid torture.

10. People are having sex in other ways.  Maybe that is really good too.

11. Everyone else is having sex all the time — Michael Vassar simply doesn’t know about it.

12. You’re all addicted to reading blogs.

My wife’s question: “Should you be flattered or insulted that you are considered an expert on this?”

Although I find that prostitution is a very very sensitive subject, I’ll publish this link not because I agree with what the writers say in the article but because I find interesting the economic approach: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/Story?id=1919192&page=2

Is sex a female resource and could sexual interaction be viewed as a marketplace? This article really made me want to shout “Come on people! Leave some things alone! Don’t kill the magic! Don’t rationalize and economize everything!”. Yet I still find it more interesting to read about this than, let’s say, finance 🙂 so here goes:  http://www.csom.umn.edu/Assets/71503.pdf

In this article sex is considered the good, and the probability of getting a sexually transmitted disease is its price. Interesting what it might say about people’s sexual preferences! http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/11/magazine/11wwln_freak.html?pagewanted=all

and the last one for today: when it comes to risk taking can hormonomics explain why men are from Mars and women from Venus? Or are we all from planet Earth in the end? http://www.hhs.se/BusinessAndSociety/press/pressreleases/Pages/economicbehavior.aspx

Man, interesting topics people find for research sometimes! So much for late-night posting.. hope you found something interesting at least.  🙂

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Economics and music

Ok being a musician I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me until tonight to search for something that would combine my two fields of study 🙂

So here is an economic analysis of the music of the classical and romantic era (book review):

http://eh.net/bookreviews/library/0893

and here are some views on the economics of the music industry after the digital revolution, in micro-economics and financial terms:

http://www.bubblegeneration.com/?a=a&resource=musicrisk1

This is from Freakonomics ( http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/02/20/more-economics-music/ ); a song that a procrastinating economics student wrote instead of studying for his exam:

Girl, being with you has always been so tough
With each passing minute, your marginal cost goes up
But my love is inelastic and it all belongs to you
I’m the only love producer, and my good is for you to consume

Because girl your marginal benefit far outweighs your marginal cost
Without our equilibrium baby, you know I’d be lost
Trapped inside this market I need you, to buy my love
Girl without your complementing goods, I’m not enough

Now you say that I’m producing, below my ATC
But I’m optimizing quantity baby, why can’t you see?
We could share this surplus, each and every day
If you would just buy my love, I’ll make my fixed costs go away

Baby I want to keep you for the long run, Oh yeah
I think our supply and demand, will become one…

Because girl your marginal benefit far outweighs your marginal cost
Without our equilibrium baby, you know I’d be lost
Long run equilibrium is no place for me
I need the profits of our love, to grow exponentially.

And as a finishing touch to this post, enjoy some songs of two of my favorite bands 🙂

Money, its a crime.
Share it fairly but dont take a slice of my pie.
Money, so they say
Is the root of all evil today.

with some of Britain’s economic history in the 60’s (under the Labour Party government of H. Wilson):

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Santanomics: the weird economics of giving

What was the last gift you gave someone? And have you ever thought why you enjoy making gifts? (if you do! I personally really like it; in fact I buy more things for other people than I do for myself).

It’ s not Christmas yet but while searching around I found this interesting article. It’s about gifts from the point of view of an economist and in my opinion it has been quite influenced by Marcel Mauss’ work. Since utility is associated to what people get in general, I would be really interested to find out what economists think about altruism – in fact I am going to make my research right after posting this! In the meanwhile, enjoy:

http://money.uk.msn.com/guides/christmasmoney/article.aspx?cp-documentid=4750416

EDIT: Hmmmmmm…! 🙂 Here’s a nice idea for my final essay! Or maybe even for my thesis (no, I cannot be noted for my objectivity!)

http://eng.anarchopedia.org/index.php/altruistic_economics

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The crisis of credit visualized

These seem to be quite popular on youtube… I am wondering how far from the truth they are. (I still have not given up the idea of the evil genius!)

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Scrooge McDuck and Money

we’ve all loved them…

And some views on capitalism as understood through Scrooge McDuck, taken from http://www.fowlblog.com/2009/09/american-capitalism-as-understood-through-scrooge-mcduck/

(I personally don’t really like the article, but I thought I should give the “other view” an opportunity 😉 )

One of the most defining characteristics of the United States society is our commitment to capitalism, and no duck embodies this American drive for wealth and achievement more than Scrooge McDuck.

Scrooge McDuck emerged out of the war-galvanized American ideals of the late 1940s.  He embodies all the economic opportunitites of capitalism, and the ensuing responsibilities and hazards brought on by wealth and achievement.

His name Scrooge is an obvious reference to the cold-hearted miser Ebeneezer Scrooge of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  When one examines his fictional background, immigrating penniless from Scotland, and becoming and American rags-to-riches success, it evokes the notion of fellow Scotsman and robber baron Andrew Carnegie.  Thus in Scrooge McDuck we see that every American is afforded and opportunity to succeed, but we also see the dehumanization that takes hold when greed and materialistic gain is at the root of endeavor

[…..]

However, our hatred for the capitalistic magnates is conflicted with our enthusiastic joy in the inherent and universal opportunity which capitalism and Scrooge McDuck present to one and all.  This is evident when Scrooge McDuck offers sound economic theory and puts it into practice.  As most of us carry a deep disdain for anyone higher on the capitalistic ladder than one, few of us would give up our own economic freedom which has enabled the financial success of Scrooge and others.  Thus we humbly acknowledge and respect his economic outlook, just as we currently do with capitalistic sages such as Warren Buffet and Bill Gates.

In summary, Scrooge McDuck represents the American love-hate relationship with capitalism.  We hate him for his success, and he hates us back.  We take solace in knowing that even though he swims through money like duck in a pond, he is at times overcome with misery in light of the gravity of his economic alienation.  Furthermore, we cannot deny that even though we hate his success, we would never deny our love for the opportunity to achieve a similar level of financial success.  Thus we always respect the economic wisdom of economic titans such as Scrooge McDuck.

🙂

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