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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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    I like David Dayen's coverage of this over at FDL. His interview with Prof. Christopher L. Peterson of the University of Utah: I suspect that Congress will not dismantle the US real property system; it has too many defenders, especially among conservatives. Unfortunately, it seem likely to me that they will not fix the system's problems, either. Maybe Elizabeth Warren will be able to exercise some influence here.

    I don't think land is capital in the sense of modern capitalism, though. Modern large-scale capitalism is the handmaiden of industrialism; the system whereby economic advantage is taken of industrial production. The Anglo-Saxon system of real property far predates anything recognizable as capitalism--even predates the word. That small land-holding capitalists are grist for the mills of large industrial capitalists is an observation that goes back to the 19th century, though I am not sure who it originates with. One of the things I find most discouraging is that the current crop of financiers are more anti-capitalists than capitalists; when it comes to actually investing in productive industrial capital, they'd rather...not.

    Thanks for the good link, Raven.

    Thomas Jefferson Said it best 200 years ago, "Banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies." But why stop with blaming banks?

    Americans are impatient with tediuos but necessary process. There used to be an elected office at most county courthouses, and it was called the Recorder of Deeds. The office was a check and balance removed from public life because it was tedious, and because the process worked so well for so long people thought it didn't need an elected official to manage it. Who wants to think about electing someone to manage the recording of their deed?

    Consider however, if this was still an office. Would there be a national recorder of deeds association? If so, these people would have had a collective heart attack about mortgage backed securities. But recording of deeds is now just a clerical function, and not considered something worth examining. What clerk will say boo about a policy issue affecting how they perform their job unless it will mean they will loose their job?

    We have our own impatience to think of here as well. We've changed as a culture and that change allows for banks, or any other corporation for that matter, to take us for a ride. Because we're willing let them instead of flaying the politicians who bail them out, we maybe deserve what we get. The same lazy and impatient attitude that allows an individual to accept the removal of a check and balance also allows for the same individual to accept massive system failure as long as it doesn't hurt that individual too much.

    Welcome to the party. Some of have seen this train wreck coming for three decades, from the moment that Reagan pronounced "government is the problem" You could feel the pendulum swing and gain momentum. By the middle of Clinton's term it was obvious that the corporatist beast was firmly in control. Back then I was dismissed as a liberal crank. Now people are starting to undersand that we allowed ourselves to be canibalized. The price for our acquiescence is steep and going to get steeper.

    BTW, Dayen has another article up on the moral hazards that makes foreclosure a first, rather than a last, option.

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