by Tyler Cowen
on August 12, 2012 at 6:10 pm
1. The culture that is Japan there is no great stagnation.
2. Tyler Cowen’s unusual final exam.
3. Is labor productivity lower than we think?
4. Why has Sweden had a good recovery?
5. Facts and fictions of D.C.’s gentrification.
“America’s productivity is rising on the backs of scared office workers.”
And the Republican Party and the libertarians say those office workers are not yet sufficiently afraid and advocate policies designed to increase the level of insecurity and fear.
If “America’s productivity is rising on the backs of scared office workers”, then what is going to happen to the US birth rate? It is already ~9% lower in 2006 in 2011.
This country really is turning Japanese!
Honestly, are there a lot of people for whom fear plays zero part in motivation? Maybe someone with tenure who can’t be fired. Clearly, these are the most productive people on the planet.
Re. 2. One of my profs in grad school recounted a class that he had taken with Lionel McKenzie at the U. of Rochester. McKenzie came into the GE theory classroom and said, “tell me something interesting about economics that I have not already thought about.” Apparently that was a very stressful question, as McKenzie was crazy smart and had thought a lot about economic theory.
If you want to add another level of stress, have them grade their own exam too.
What Tyler does when he is hung over the night before a final exam?
Thanks for #5. I’ve been in the area since 1978 and it’s good to see things moving forward in the manner they are.
So do we see productivity losses as households deleverage?
I believe a good part of the Sweden/UK story is found in Keynes prescription of running surpluses in good times and deficits in bad times. UK seems to have that mixed up. To a lesser extent, the US did too, thanks to George Bush.
“The big question is whether the government could get away with fiscal delay, in the markets and with ratings agencies.”
This is a pretty good example of where I can no longer follow along with the austerity argument. Everything else in the article makes perfect sense up to that point. But bond yields for the US and UK are at record lows. I fail to see any evidence of these bond vigilantes who will swoop in and punish countries for “fiscal delay”. The only place where this occurs is in the Euro zone where they’ve given up control of their monetary policy.
The “write your own question, write your own answer” idea is very interesting.
Compare and contrast the use and benefits of this type of exam in economics, psychology, medicine, physics and mathematics. I am particularly interested in what variation in grades awarded there would be within groups of assessors marking the same paper. I suspect that there would be most agreement amongst mathematicians as to what constitutes a good answer to a hard question, least amongst economics professors but I have no data.
Tyler, since you now have one question like this on most of your exams, don’t your students now know to prepare for it?
If students prepare, they have signalled that they know how to succeed in the world after college, which knowledge might be far more useful than knowledge of economics.
I’d heard Sweden HAD engaged in currency devaluation (Lars Svensson actually managed to get negative interest rates), so I was surprised to hear David Smith use that as a contrast with the UK. He didn’t even give any numbers for Swedish inflation. Of course, he’s wrong that there’s nothing further for monetary policy to do when interest rates are low, it seems he’s never read Sumner. It’s especially bizarre that he associates low inflation with high consumer spending. Inflation is the result of too many dollars chasing too few goods, if consumers aren’t spending money that should hold back inflation. Conversely, if inflation is expected that puts pressure to buy goods now before the price goes up and your money is worth less.
2. How clever.
While I would give TC the benefit of any doubt about this exam, the fact is that most professors are awful test writers who haven’t got a clue how to examine the material actually taught. They write bad multiple choice tests because they’re too lazy to grade, and write bad essay tests because they are too lazy to write well.
The novel testing scheme described here might work…once. Thereafter, it leaves students deeply confused about what and how to study. That doesn’t even begin to address the impact it has on the students’ other three or four final exams.
I don’t know about GMU, but where I went to school and where I taught, such a professor would be standing in the Dean’s office the next morning getting a lecture about arbitrary and capricious examination and grading.
The most novel exam I took was for a Biology class. On the first day of class, the professor ave us the actual final exam worth 100% of the course grade. He warned us that while we might be able to pass it by studying on our own, we weren’t likely to get a good grade. He said that if you’re smart enough to ace the exam without coming to lecture, then he didn’t want to waste your valuable time. After looking at the difficulty of the exam, almost every student showed up to class every day. Most of us learned molecular and cellular biology very well. 30 years later, I can still describe the phases of mitosis in detail with illustrations. I’d have a slightly tougher time describing glycolysis and the Krebs Cycle. I remember more about Biology than I do about Patent Law.
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