Assorted links

by on July 17, 2011 at 7:04 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. What’s up with Incan khipus?

2. Italy vs. Japan, a good puzzle.

3. Do people mean what they say?

4. Markets in everything (beware: the link has a photo of a woman in a bikini).

5. One look at the Khan Academy.

Andrew' July 17, 2011 at 7:11 am

5. How are we going to measure this?

Andrew' July 17, 2011 at 7:17 am

2. Thank God. A PK joint that didn’t make me do a full body purge. I probably didn’t understand it.

Rahul July 17, 2011 at 8:50 am

Re 5:

Gary Stager, a longtime educational consultant and advocate of laptops in classrooms, thinks Khan Academy isn’t innovative at all. The videos and software modules, he contends, are just a high tech version of that most hoary of teaching techniques—lecturing and drilling.

What’s wrong with lectures and drilling? How does one teach something like multiplication tables, trigonometric identities, or integration-formulae, if not through drilling? In the craze for “innovative” teaching sometimes efficient time-tested methods end up being an unnecessary casualty.

AndrewL July 17, 2011 at 10:17 pm

I totally agree. Math is about technique, and learning the technique requires practice. It is the perfect subject to be teaching via lectures and practice, there’s nothing creative about math at the grade school level. Rather, all the math you learn in grade school is like a toolbox full of tools. You can use these tools to invent new tools, or build buildings.

Math should be easiest subject to teach: it’s so easy to track progress and there’s no ambiguity about it.

TGGP July 19, 2011 at 12:11 am
jk July 17, 2011 at 9:14 am

I do not ideologically agree with Krugman and his Keynsianism, but he makes interesting points. He finds connections that may not manifest themselves in a few years. He brought up Austria’s leveraged exposure to Eastern European banks, it was amusing to read the vitriol of the comments.

My only criticism of him is that he fails to mention when the supply-siders actually score points. I know all economies in the world are hybrids of some sort, but he never mentions how countries of Germany are doing good probably due to increases in productivity from labor regulation reforms and getting rid of the drag of minimum wage. Germany does not have a federal minimum wage! But yes, they do have high tax and unemployment regulations/”protections”.

Indy July 17, 2011 at 9:48 am

Italy vs. Japan: One thing to look at would be currency movements to reconcile the nominal interest rate difference with the real purchasing power difference. The yen is at an all-time high vs. the dollar having appreciated over 50% in the last 4 years. (And yet inflation in both countries is near 0% despite the huge adjustment in relative purchasing power? Isn’t that a bit odd?).

Since the crisis began in 2008 – the Yen has also appreciated 50% against the Euro – though much of that rise occurred in the last quarter of 2008. Everything given up in the Tsunami aftermath has been quickly regained.

If the market expectation is that the yen will retain it’s real, global-commodity-bundle purchasing power with very low default risk, but that the Euro will have to decline eventually, with an unknown but significant chance of random default-like event, then the split in interest rates seems perfectly reasonable.

celestus July 17, 2011 at 10:02 am

5. I’m not sure I get why the Khan Academy works so much better than a textbook (or Wikipedia for that matter) as far as math, but I guess some people learn better through lectures than through reading (or never do the reading).

His econ/finance stuff is pretty bad though- the first time I heard of the site I watched the video on “why the bailouts can’t possibly work” and was pretty disturbed. I just now watched his video on leveraged buyouts (he had no idea what he was talking about) and a couple hedge fund videos (some odd moments there as well).

Japan July 17, 2011 at 10:28 am

Here is what I posted.

The political economy of Japan is such that financial institutions recycle domestic savings mostly into JGBs. What you have to understand from the Japanese perspective is that they cannot comprehend how national banks would be unwilling to fund national deficits? You could see the enormous effort undertaken by ordinary Koreans during the Asian Financial Crisis, thing in these countries work differently. The profit motive in Japanese (Korean and Chinese as well) banking does not exist to the same degree as in the US or Europe. Banks are supposed to act in the interest of the nation, the interest of the nation being right now the avoidance of a default. Can you imagine the public pressure banks would be under in Japan if they failed to obey politics and divested the savings in a ‘foreign adventure’ and caused yields to spike? The decision making process is totally different in the US. US banks and funds see themselves as agents that tell the state ‘look, those deficits are out of proportion, we want a higher return as compensation for the risk’. In Japan it quite the opposite ‘ok, the nation is going through tough times, so of course we will do our best to support the nation’.

You just have to look at the way chaebols or keiretsu are and were financed to understand that Japanese banks will fund the nation’s deficits out of sheer duty.

Of course, there’s much more to it, but this aspect explains a lot.

Jamie_NYC July 17, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Very good comment, I agree completely. Krugman is clueless about how the real world works, as usual.

anonymous July 17, 2011 at 10:32 am

#3: as the article points out, we know that small changes in wording and framing can drastically affect the percentages of people who answer survey questions one way or the other. And then we promptly forget it.

For instance, we constantly hear of international surveys which “discover” that people in country X are more likely to ____ than people in country Y. These are certainly featured often enough in “assorted links” here, and on other websites. And people solemnly debate the sociological and cultural implications without ever stopping to think that the entire statistical effect could very likely simply be an artifact of translation.

The most recent example: the Kinsey Institute tells us (in their recent widely-commented “men like to cuddle” report) that both Japanese men and women are more sexually satisfied than Americans. Who knows, perhaps it could even be true. And yet a nuance here, a connotation there, the difference between “satisfied” and “content”, perhaps a subtle choice of wording that triggers a philosophical “count your blessings” moment of introspection, and that could account for the whole difference right there.

PLW July 17, 2011 at 10:58 am

Does anyone know of something like Khan Academy for Principles of Economics?

8 July 17, 2011 at 11:25 am

2. It’s only a puzzle if you think the real world should look like an economic model. There are a number of hedge fund managers who are taking the opportunity to go short Japan, due to the current low cost.

JonF July 17, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Re: beware: the link has a photo of a woman in a bikini

Mercy! Pass the smelling salts! Send the children out of the room! :)

Martin July 17, 2011 at 3:14 pm

2. Italy may be exposed to more outside risk than Japan, but the biggest difference is probably the culture of the two countries. The ability of the Japanese to make hard and responsible choices and the length they will go to avoid the humiliation of default is bigger than that of the Italians.

ChrisA July 17, 2011 at 9:38 pm

Japan vs Italy – simple. Japan can print its own currency, Italy can’t. Italy is on a quasi gold standard.

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