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    February 2011

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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 am desolate. This is the second time I have been through this- losing someone I didn't know who I had come to think of as one of those particularly wise friends who always manage to give you a new perspective on things- one you feel no one else could have given you.

    I often wondered who Tanta was while she was alive, but for some reason it didn't occur to me that Maxine Udall was also a pseudonym. Now I find that, like Doris Dungey she had an active professional life- part of it spent not far from where I was at the time. Somehow the fact that I could have met her, perhaps even did without knowing it, makes it all the worse.

    Knowing how terrible I feel as one who knew her only through her writing I can only guess what her real life friends, family and colleagues must be going through.

    The first and only direct communication I had with her was on Dec. 23rd when I made a comment on Twitter after reading her "Tis the Season" that I was thinking about whether I had something to say on the subject. She responded, "If you decide you have something to say, pls make sure I hear it. Thx. :-)"

    I can't do that now, but when I've pulled myself together I will go back to what I was working on when I wrote that and try and make it into something she might have liked to read.

    My heartfelt condolences- and more than a little envy- to all those who knew her.

    What a tremendous loss.

    Alison was a huge influence on me. I looked up to her a great deal. Her voice and intellect--humane, nuanced, above all, wise--were singular and irreplaceable.

    I didn't know her in person--but often wished I did. Those that did were privileged to. My heartfelt condolences to her friends, family, and colleagues.

    That's so sad. She was such a terrific commentator. (It never occurred to me that Udall was a pseudonym either. I thought she was a grad student with a silly sense of humor, hence the whole "girl economist" schtick.)

    Oh my God! This is so shocking!

    I came to know her through her posts at TPM Cafe and (probably like everyone else) very quickly came to look forward to seeing her posts, her comments, and just generally to benefit from her quite sensible and reasoned perspective. By no means did you have to agree with her viewpoint completely to enjoy and appreciate her contributions and she was always, always, always eager to discuss things with those who commented, had questions, etc... I always thought that she would probably be a very fun person and a good friend to have and I feel certain that must have been the case. I'm so sorry to hear this news. My deepest sympathy to her family and friends. What a tragic loss.

    I had a look for background on Dr. Jones, and found her CV at Drexel - if links come through, it's here:

    What I found is as her voice would often lead you to see -- someone young as well as young at heart, really digging in to some tough things, and giving to them.

    This is very sad, to lose 'Maxine'. I hope she heartened others, who will continue on the roads she was coming to be on, because they are sure to be very useful to us.

    A quiet moment, then, and then a kind of smile for what we all pick up again, improved in it by what she did.


    I shall miss her wonderful writing.

    I've left a few comments on this blog, in my usual curmudgeonly critic-of-economics shtick, and on occasion, she responded, to her great good credit, with playful consideration. It was always easy to see, in her graceful prose and thoughtfulness, clear thinking and a caring heart.

    I am deeply saddened.

    The voice of Maxine is one the world needed a lot more of. There so few people who combine a deep appreciation of the power of commerce with moral indignation at its excesses. Taken in combination with her energy and deep academic knowledge, I think she was, regrettably, unique. I looked forward to her thoughtful and wise posts more than anything else in my feed reader.

    Given that I can feel a loss at such a remove, I can't imagine how much she brought to the lives of people closer to her. They have my sympathies during what must be a very hard time.

    If, down the road, someone has the opportunity to put together a broader picture of her work, both public and pseudonymous, I'd read it with interest and gratitude, so as to better appreciate the non-Maxine side of Dr. Jones.

    I recently discovered this blog, and enjoyed how she managed to make economic issues understandable to the lay person as well as bringing a moral perspective to issues of the day.

    My condolences to her family, colleagues, and friends. Her voice will be missed.

    Godspeed, Maxine/Alison.

    (And to her brother and father, my heart is with you.)

    My condolences to you, David and Meredith. Thank you for taking the time to inform us.

    She is already missed. I don't know what else to say...

    I'm so terribly shocked and saddened by this. I knew her only from her writing here, and had come to appreciate her original, thoughtful, and always sensible perspective on things. I loved the way she managed to weave personal narratives into her economic arguments without ever seeming self-absorbed. My deepest condolences to her family and friends.

    I doubt I will find another economist's blog that I will enjoy as much as this one. She will be missed.

    Wow. She was one of my favorite bloggers. I'm so sad for her real-life friends and family, because clearly she was a great woman.

    This is very sad.

    Though I only commented here a few times, I read her often. She's a great writer.

    She often wrote about her dad, and my sympathies go out to him, and everyone she touched.

    Thank you, Alison.

    I am very sad to read this.

    I have enjoyed reading Maxine's/Alison's blog very much over the past year. It has always been very thoughtful and informative to someone learning economics.

    Thanks and my condolences.

    I'm sorry and sad. I enjoyed reading her essays.

    My heartfelt regards go out to her family and friends.


    Maxine was instrumental in my decision to start a blog, and after ,she was always very encouraging and supportive. In a sense, the various voices in my head were conditioned by her kindness, if not specifically to seek her approval, at least to remain worthy of her support and friendship. I hope to continue on that way. I cannot imagine a better guide, editor, or friend. I will miss her.

    I wanted to add a little comment to the links on my blog the way they are to the right side of this page, but I was not able to work out the technical details. Under the link to Maxine's blog, what I intended to say was that she proves every day that good intentions and good economics needn't be strangers. She made that point as well as anyone I have ever read.

    It is tempting to imagine that part of the pain of her sudden passing is that I knew her in such a limited way for such a short time, but I know that had I known her longer or more closely, it would only heighten the terrible sense that she is too soon gone.

    My deepest sympathies are with Alison's friends and family.

    Thank you for everything. Peace be with you.

    I'll miss her.

    I only discovered this blog a few months ago, but it immediately launched itself to the top of my economics must-read list. She brilliantly balanced the understandings of economics with insights into actual human behavior.

    I'll miss her tremendously, and I'm glad you're leaving this legacy here for others to find, enjoy, and learn from.

    Let me add my voice to those who are saddened by this news. Like many here I knew "Maxine" only through this blog, and I wondered who the real life person behind this amazing writing was. I especially admired her ability to step outside the taken-for-granted assumptions of the economics profession and our society. Her discussions of the far reaching effects of "casino finance" were profound and important. I second William Pietri's suggestion that perhaps some sort of collection linking this blog and her professional work is in order.

    On a more personal note, my heart goes out to those who knew her personally-both the moral acuity of her postings here and the way she talked about her family make me certain she was as special a person in real life is she was out here in the blogosphere.

    Condolences from Brasil.

    I got to know this blog through Yves, and have found it so consonant with that site's thinking. So very sad that "Maxine" -- her voice -- is no longer with us. We have to pick up that voice, yes?

    I'm so sorry. My most sincere sympathies.

    "Her deepest hope was to challenge people to think in new ways about our society and how we live, and to bring her unique viewpoint to as many people as possible. I think she has succeeded."

    She has definitely succeeded. She was a brilliant writer and thinker. She will be missed.

    Ryan Anderson

    The comments to this entry are closed.

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