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    Maxine's Essays

    • 21st Century Regress
      Sometimes it seems like the world is going to hell and there's absolutely nothing a girl economist can do about it.
    • What Exactly Are We Crowding Out?
      The current economic downturn isn't a random draw of a black ball from an urn containing white balls and black balls. There's no sampling distribution. Very specific policies and actions landed us here. Now we must decide not only what policies need to be put in place to prevent it happening again, but also what policies would best drive us out of the ditch faster and sustainably.
    • I Wish It Were Only Butter
      We should be giving up some butter if we must. We should not give up education or health investment (or infrastructure or the environment (hello, BP). They may be the only legacies of any value that we pass on to our children and grandchildren.
    • Rational Health Investment?
      The obvious "market solution" is to improve the long run return on investments in health among the disadvantaged through meaningful and effective publicly funded education. The obvious short run "market solution" is to reduce the costs of investment and the shadow price of health for the disadvantaged by providing health insurance cover and reduced out-of-pocket costs.
    • The Socrates Parameter
      To the extent that our limbic systems respond to such engineering by over-riding the judgment of our frontal lobe and to the extent that our frontal lobe is deprived of the information it requires to make a rationally self-interested judgment, we are not only pigs and fools, we are slaves.
    • The Economic Rewards of Virtue
      If individual virtue tempers our "piggy" desires and conditions our choices to something that is both individually and socially better, then the economic rewards of virtue as embodied in and promoted by societal norms and institutions are far greater than we have ever suspected. As economists, we would do well to recognize this when we teach U max.
    • The Market for Morals
      Markets then are places where more is exchanged than goods and services, labor and product, credit, and interest. They are places where we also develop the personal virtues of temperance and prudence and the social virtues of benevolence and justice. When they function well, they produce trust, loyalty, and sympathy among those who trade there.
    • Post-Modern Applied Economics: It’s the Error Term, Stupid
      Maxine believes it’s time to refocus attention and discussion on the error term. It is often where much of the action is in our models. It is where unexpectedly catastrophic events dwell resulting in fat tails. It is where our animal spirits manifest and cause us to do the right thing or the wrong thing or the thing everyone else is doing rather than the self-interested, fully-informed rational thing. It is where God and miracles and chance dwell.
    • Intergenerational Win-Win: Health Insurance, Education, Environment, Infrastructure
      So when we’re talking about fiscal stimulus packages and we’re borrowing from our grandchildren to finance them, we should be thinking about how to use stimulus monies to create value for those grandchildren AND stimulate our economy.
    • Short-term Private Payoffs, Long-term Social Costs
      The real health reform discussion, the one we should be having, is “What must we do to create a health system that is both efficient and fair?” The answer will almost certainly include relegating the private sector to markets where market forces or regulation are effective at aligning short-term private incentives and goals with long-term societal interests. If such markets are scarce or non-existent in health, then the private health sector will be of limited value.
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    Nice way of putting it. "the US Constitution protects me from the US government. As far as I can tell, there is nothing that protects me from large corporations, except the US government and the court system.


    Wonderful as always. I think you hit the nail on the head when you say:

    "there is nothing that protects me from large corporations, except the US government and the court system."

    I don't know why this is so hard for people to grasp or why they are so willing to imagine that vigilance against the undue concentration of power applies only to the power of the government. Why is paying the bills for the peoples' business considered so oppressive, but the burden of usury and price gouging that the government fails to prevent is considered the rightful domain of private sector actors. I'm afraid that the current mindset is that freedom is just another word for no one pays the bills.

    One thing that completely mystifies me is how the right has gotten away with claiming the mantle of constitutional authority and original intent for their notions of limited government. They call themselves the Federalist society for crying out loud. You can cherry-pick a few quotes from Madison which give the impression that their overriding concern was limiting the power of government. It is simply not true. Messieurs Madison, Jay, and Hamilton were arguing vigorously in favor of a more robust and centralized national government. The thinking behind their original reasoning should be getting more air-play. I don't understand why the “constitutionalists” are not confronted more directly on these claims.

    From Federalist 23:

    Every view we may take of the subject, as candid inquirers after truth, will serve to convince us, that it is both unwise and dangerous to deny the federal government an unconfined authority, as to all those objects which are intrusted to its management.

    For the absurdity must continually stare us in the face of confiding to a government the direction of the most essential national interests, without daring to trust it to the authorities which are indispensable to their proper and efficient management. Let us not attempt to reconcile contradictions, but firmly embrace a rational alternative.

    I'll vote for anyone who promises that I get to keep my guns, every knee bends at Jesus' name, foreigners fear us, and get blown up regularly by us, and they'll drive liberals crazy.

    I don't care if I go hungry, or my children never see the inside of a college.

    I'm sure you are aware of it:
    but this
    "Unless you are willing to believe that only a very few possess the skills and abilities necessary to produce universal opulence, you can hardly support a political philosophy hellbent on creating a society in which only a few reap the rewards of societal output while the rest of us bear the costs and fall behind."
    puts your case too weakly. Even if the skills were very concentrated, it still isn't enough justification for extreme inequality. Ever heard of producer surplus?

    I can't understand why Americans can't get to realising that their MOST pressing concern should be electoral reform. Look carefully at the Australian system and how it (comparitively) encourages moderation and punishes extremism.

    Re my first comment on producer surplus. I'm inclined to think that the size of incentives is relatively unimportant, it is the direction that counts. Some people really are satiable - so paying them more now, may mean they work longer now - but they will retire earlier.

    P.S. I actually LOVE that line about freedom just another name for nothing left to lose. In a certain sense, it is absolutely true. Possesion is (in a sense) slavery. But that also points out how complicated freedom really is. Trying to maximise freedom, as your only criterion for good (i.e. fanatical libertarianism), is a mug's game.

    re: "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose"

    I suggest you listen to the Janis Joplin version. :-)

    recently I read Upton Sinclair's Money Changers. how little changed in a 100 years!

    Thanks, I own my own copy.

    "Some of you will point out that elected US lawmakers of both parties appear to be wholly owned by corporations and finance. Even if you believe this, it hardly argues for shrinking government, thereby giving corporate and other interests even more unfettered power."

    False dichotomy. "Shrinking government" doesn't have to mean deregulation. To me it means government has less ability to pick winners in the marketplace.

    Don't know what you're at here, Maxine. The D's had two years, the presidency, large congressional majorities, and a terrific crisis to exploit, and what have we got out of it? I find it very significant that the principal Democrat argument right now is that the Republicans suck even worse.

    Maybe they do, but arguing over which party sucks slightly worse is pointless. YOU HAVE OTHER OPTIONS.

    That's the other false dichotomy: D & R. Vote 3rd party. Nobody reading this will, since Americans can't abide the thought of picking a loser. But if you DID, your candidate would lose but the duopoly would recognize that they've lost your confidence. A 3rd party revolt might actually shock the duopoly into some meaningful reform.

    that might make sense if it wasn't for the idiotic first-past-the-post electoral system.

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