Assorted links

by on August 28, 2012 at 2:17 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. A new discussion of the world’s most walkable cities.

2. Drone University.

3. New and much longer list of economists for Romney.  (I am happy to run the same for Obama, by the way.)

4. The world’s longest bus.

5. The case for optimism about the Philippines.

Joe Smith August 28, 2012 at 2:23 pm

The language in the letter being signed by the economists for Romney is completely inappropriate for any professional. No professional with any integrity would adopt such language within their professional area.

JWatts August 28, 2012 at 2:43 pm

I find the language pretty mundane for that type of document.

Joe Smith August 28, 2012 at 3:01 pm

Then you don’t know, or don’t care, what it means to be a professional – and neither do any of the economists who put their names to that letter.

JWatts August 28, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Everyone’s entitled to their opinion and I don’t see anything in that statement that would violate the code of ethics for engineers. Perhaps it’s different for Economists. Did you happen to have a specific complaint?

Joe Smith August 28, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Romney’s plan is incomplete – he says he will close loop holes and raise significant extra revenue through the resulting base broadening. He refuses to fill in the gaps in his plan.

I am not an engineer but I am a professional. If an engineer said: “this building will definitely stand up”, and puts his stamp of professional approval on it without even checking if the plan is complete I assume that would violate the code of ethics for engineers and that is what these economists have done. They have said, in strong language, that the plan will work without even knowing what the plan is. If I engaged in such conduct, it would put my professional license at risk.

BroadDeLarge August 28, 2012 at 4:02 pm

You’re a lefty and you’re IRATE that several hundred economists and multiple Nobel Prize winners are stating their favor for a candidate you don’t like. Cut the concern trolling bulls***.

MD August 28, 2012 at 4:06 pm

You go by the pen name “BroadDeLarge” and are upset that somebody is playing troll?

Joe Smith August 28, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Dear Broad

I am actually center right and a fiscal conservative. I am not “concern” trolling. I’m calling “bullshit” on the economists who put their name to that letter. I personally think the Romney/Ryan plan is essentially a fraud and would be a disaster for 99% of Americans.

JWatts August 28, 2012 at 4:41 pm

” I’m calling “bullshit” on the economists who put their name to that letter. I personally think the Romney/Ryan plan is essentially a fraud and would be a disaster for 99% of Americans.”

Just because you disagree with the aforementioned Economists endorsing Romney’s economic agenda hardly qualifies them as unprofessional or lacking integrity. The only substantive charge you’ve made is that Romney’s plan is, in your opinion, incomplete. That’s hardly unusual at the Presidential level, where most such agendas are fairly broad.

AAB August 28, 2012 at 7:36 pm

Joe Smith has fallen afoul of the old No True Professional With Any Integrity fallacy.

Michael August 29, 2012 at 1:28 am

“You’re a lefty and you’re IRATE that several hundred economists and multiple Nobel Prize winners are stating their favor for a candidate you don’t like.”
———
Probably the most famous of those nobel laureates is Ed Prescott, and let’s face it, he’s crazy. That may be too mean a phrasing. He very well could be suffering from senility or something like that. But seriously…that wacky paper he gave in Montreal a few years back where he blamed things that happened BEFORE Obama was elected on what amounted to a “fear that Obama might win the election” shock? Or those emails he wrote back in 2008?

“Infrastructure investments are best made at the local and state level. The Army Core of Engineers and the levies in New Orleans were Bama in action.”
….
“The corrupt rich lawyers and Wall Street bankers support Obama. Obama caters to the special in interests. That is why the CEO’s of the big companies support him and the people oppose him”
….
“Facts are facts and you choose to ignore. Scientist collusions follow from their assumptions. It is not a matter of religious belief. Are you Russians goiung to getogether with the Germans again and split up Poland again? You invade Georgia. ”

Edward C. Prescott
P.S. With people like you I understand why Ruyssians can not governed themselves.”
———
He sounds like my surly elderly Tea Party cousin in Texas. You don’t walk away from any discussion with him regarding Obama thinking that it was a level-headed economic analysis. You walk away thinking, “ok, you’ve always been difficult and a little odd, but you’re just plain ol’ crazy now.” OF COURSE Prescott signed. But did Fynn Kydland?

And, well, Cochrane, Fama, Holtz-Eakin, Taylor, Lucas, etc…those are the well-known Republicans. I don’t even have to read the list or even know what Romney’s plan is to know that their names are on the list and so are Charles Calomoris, Greg Mankiw, etc. Just like I wouldn’t have to read a list on the other side of the aisle to know that Krugman, DeLong, etc. signed on.

Now if I saw a name like Sargent, Hall, Gali, Christiano, Rogoff, Heckman, Blanchard, Obstfeld, Eichengreen, Sims, Calvo, etc. or some other name I don’t immediately associate with the GOP, then I’d say, “hey, maybe I should pay attention.” And notice that you don’t see the names Cowen or Tabarrok on that letter either…

Let’s face it, there are partisan economists just like there are partisan plumbers. When those well-known ones sign a partisan letter, it doesn’t mean all too much. It’s the other names you look for.

Rahul August 29, 2012 at 7:26 pm

I think the partisan point is spot on. Kristin Forbes is the only MIT faculty member on the list. She was also a Bush CEA member and I’d bet she’s angling for a job in the new administration. To add to the list of the ‘missing’ v conservative and v thoughtful Raghu Rajan isn’t on there.

Orange14 August 28, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Yes the language is much more mundane than the position paper that Taylor, Mankiw and Hubbard issued several weeks ago which was laughable in it’s sophmoric approach to things. Really, these folks should really think about what they are signing onto, particularly in these days where everything is on-line and remembered for a long time.

MD August 28, 2012 at 3:42 pm

I don’t know, it seems pretty unlikely that anyone would ever suffer for coming out in favor of policies that directly benefit the most wealthy and powerful. Generally, one benefits from aligning oneself with the wealthy and powerful. The poors don’t fund endowed chairs at universities.

Cliff August 28, 2012 at 9:33 pm

I guess that’s why all academics are liberal and anti-conservative bias among academics is rampant

canadur! August 28, 2012 at 10:03 pm

exactly. People with tenure can say all kinds of crazy things, see Niall Ferguson and the innumerable hoard of money he made being a professional-saying-crazy-things-for-rich people.
and the people without tenure have nothing to lose since if they arent on a tenure track in their mid 30s they are never going to be on one so as might as well double down on Team Republican and hope you get a position at the AEI or some Koch Funded institute.

MD August 29, 2012 at 2:07 am

Oh, Cliff! If you look directly overhead and behind you, you will see that point that you missed.

Henry August 29, 2012 at 3:14 pm

“The language in the letter being signed by the economists for Romney is completely inappropriate for any professional.”

Yes that was my feeling as well… seems like written by the deacon and deliberately dumbeb down for the old ladies in front row,,, gee there are Nobel prize recipients..

Baphomet August 28, 2012 at 2:24 pm

James Buchanan? I cannot recall ever seeing his name in this kind of context before, but perhaps I have not been paying attention.

Rich Berger August 28, 2012 at 2:25 pm

3. I am looking forward to the comments on this one.

Andrew' August 28, 2012 at 2:36 pm

2. Drone University, but I repeat myself…

Thor August 28, 2012 at 9:46 pm

Also, you are soooo longwinded!

Rahul August 28, 2012 at 3:03 pm

#4 What’s the economy of scale in having one 256 seater bus over, say, three 82 seaters? Driver pay? Engine cost?

Doesn’t flexibility outweigh that economy?

axa August 28, 2012 at 3:14 pm

great service (available seats) at peak hours =)

Foobarista August 28, 2012 at 4:08 pm

I liked the bit about it being a “train on wheels”. Last I checked, trains already have wheels (unless they’re some types of maglevs).

Andrew' August 28, 2012 at 5:02 pm

I’ve always said “trains are just buses on rails without tires.”

Rahul August 28, 2012 at 5:07 pm

Expensive buses…..

The Original D August 28, 2012 at 5:13 pm

Trains have cooler horns.

Orange14 August 28, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Is Romney’s campaign that insecure that he needs a list such as this one? Furthermore, there are some on this list that really should be ashamed of the roles that they played when they occupied high policy positions (Senator and Mrs. Gramm, Glenn Hubbard, Greg Mankiw, & John Taylor), complicit as they were in various decisions that resulted in the financial crisis of 2007. It’s always laughable when Myron Scholes endorses anyone or anything given how Long Term Capital Management brought down a house of cards and should have been a cautionary tail. Perhaps the lack of a comparable document from Obama supporting economists is a sign of the President’s maturity.

ad*m August 28, 2012 at 3:44 pm

“a list such as this one”. Man, don’t get me started:

http://www.barackobama.com/rabbis

Andrew' August 28, 2012 at 3:53 pm

Orange14,

It would be simpler if you just told us your pet theory of the financial crisis. Mine is simply a debt peak, which certainly doesn’t bode well for the policies of Obama or anyone from the establishment for that matter.

Orange14 August 28, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Agree in part about a debt peak but of course this had been repeated in way or another over the past 30 years. This was more devastating because of the absence of any underwriting standards by the vultures in the mortgage originating industry. When we bought our house in 1985 standards were strict; less than 20% down and you had to get an ARM with PMI. Credit reports were scrutinized with care and so on. The synthetic financial instruments did not exist at that time which offered new ways to leverage things. Senator and Mrs. Gramm believed in total deregulation of financial instruments and Mrs. Gramm was a member in good standing on the Enron BOD, remember that company? I could go on but it gets tiresome and sad that we ended up here. I don’t see anything in the Republican platform that speaks to any reasonable way out of this mess. Certainly more tax cuts and further deregulation (whatever that means) will do nothing at all than lead us over the precipice sooner.

Andrew' August 28, 2012 at 5:01 pm

“this had been repeated in way or another over the past 30 years”

That’s why my suspicion is that the catalysts for the crisis were somewhat arbitrary and symptomatic rather than causal. For example, deregulation would probably be fine except that it would only be conceivable during a time of extreme complacency.

Orange14 August 28, 2012 at 6:05 pm

I think I agree with your suspicion here. The problem is how to strike a balance between over- and under-regulation. Clearly letting banks and other financial institutions run amok is not the way to go and locking down their ability to intelligently deploy capital isn’t either (although in light of recent bank history maybe ‘intelligent’ is a misnomer).

Mike August 29, 2012 at 4:38 am

Aren’t all “financial instruments” by definition “synthetic”? If you have witnessed them in their natural habitat, please let me know where I can find some lying around.

Derivatives tied to tulips led a huge financial crisis in the 1630s, so I’m pretty sure that what we experienced was not an entirely novel phenomenon. Perhaps the Keynesian tinkering of monetary policy led to the glut of capital that bankers were able to put to use to make money? When the cost of capital is negligible, a lot of normally worthless projects–such as lending to people with bad credit, no down payment, etc–can become profitable.

Andrew' August 29, 2012 at 6:55 am

Mike,

I think the point is they are “new” and unproven over the test of time. Not referring to Orange in particular, but appreciate instances where progressives who make essentially conservative arguments.

I would propose a different hypothesis. The problem was not that they were new or synthetic or even unproven, but that they were symptomatic of a world squeezing the last bit of alpha out of an overbought economy grown complacent by an extended moderation and a lack of recognition of TGS and the music finally stopping WRT monetary stimulus, asset price support, and cheap commodities along with the disruption of globalization causing everyone to run to find their debt chair.

Orange14 August 29, 2012 at 8:06 am

They are synthetic in terms of the same asset being bundled in different securities several times over. Certainly we have had asset backed securities for a long time and there is a successful history in their use as both a means of improving the overall financial transaction process. For example with mortgage backed securities of the plain vanilla type these help spur loans and provide a decent investment vehicle that would be otherwise unavailable (e.g., I’m not in the position of directly underwriting a housing loan but can invest in mortage-backed bonds). To cite one example of something bad that in part brought down the house of cards, consider that credit default swaps were allowed to run rampant. What should have been a simple insurance product ended up being a leveraged gambling instrument that was not controlled. Bets could be made about the solvency of an institution many times over and the counter parties ended up on the hook (and of course they were incredibly stupid to accept multiple CDS from the non-parties). Now maybe you would argue that this is OK and we should let such behavior be swiftly punished. I suspect that had we gone down this road that the financial melt down would have been many times worse. My preference was for the Swedish approach to take these bad banks and institutions such as AIG and put them out of business in an orderly manner. I think it’s criminal that most all of the CEOs walked away with mega-money and are unrepentant to this day.

BroadDeLarge August 28, 2012 at 4:03 pm

lol

Andrew Edwards August 28, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Wouldn’t the basic assumption here be that tribal or mood affiliations are driving substantially all of this? Seems strained to interpret anything special from the fact that they are economists. I just kinda read it as “affluent white males kinda generally support who you’d expect them to, but with some exceptions, in about the proportion you’d expect”.

The only real question is why it would be worth posting.

msgkings August 28, 2012 at 4:53 pm

+1

dan1111 August 28, 2012 at 8:32 pm

Political campaigns are all about gathering supporters and endorsements. Claiming that this is evidence that Romney is “insecure” is just bizarre. Romney is so insecure that he wants votes–imagine that!

Cliff August 28, 2012 at 9:35 pm

Financial crisis of 2007!

MPS August 28, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Isn’t the list of economists for Obama implied? As in, all the economists who aren’t on the list for Romney.

mulp August 28, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Actually, most of the economists on Romney’s list have been on Obama’s list. Thus the total failure of the tax cut and block grant to States stimulus policy. Obama has signed more tax cuts in his first term than Reagan in his entire 8 year term, and more than GW Bush. Who on Romney’s list doesn’t promise tax cuts won’t create jobs. In fact, the argument seems to be the failure of Bush to create jobs was he didn’t cut taxes enough, and the worse failure of Obama who cut taxes more than Bush is he has failed to cut taxes enough.

If you look at the economist backing Ron Paul, I’m sure they are as opposed to Mitt Romney as they are to Obama. I’m hearing the Republican progressives calling for strong trust busting to break up the banks from the libertarian/Tea Party factions, going back to the Republicanism of the late 19th century. No calls to bring back the ICC yet, but we have not seen the roads privatized yet.

Andrew' August 28, 2012 at 4:33 pm

Surely there must be more than one economist backing Ron Paul.

Orange14 August 28, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Are there any ‘legitimate’ economists who support going back onto the gold standard? I think that’s the sole requirement to support Ron Paul.

Andrew' August 29, 2012 at 7:15 am

Yes, a lot. But Ron Paul supports competing currencies. There is also not one single “gold standard” plan, so you’d have to ask the economists what they mean by a gold standard.

George Selgin slapped my hand, but my view is that the way the government screwed up the last gold standard was by fixing the money supply to the supply of gold. That is not a manifestation of freedom, that is a government intervention.

Bender Bending Rodriguez August 29, 2012 at 4:51 am

Obama has signed more tax cuts in his first term than Reagan in his entire 8 year term, and more than GW Bush.

One of the largest tax cuts he’s signed off on is the same one he and his minions demonize as the “Bush tax cuts”.

Kevin August 28, 2012 at 5:40 pm

Since when are Florence and Venice walkable “cities”? Can I nominate Disneyland?

Thor August 28, 2012 at 9:48 pm

I hear Venice is one of the world’s most swimmable cities…

Brian August 29, 2012 at 1:36 am

“Venice is one of the world’s most swimmable cities”

Only for the staunchest fans of cholera.

Arthur August 28, 2012 at 6:03 pm

These kind of busses exist in São Paulo, Brazil as long as I remember. A quick search in the internet shows that aparently they started in Curitiba, Brazil.

Interestingly although the german bus is longer, the brazillian ones can carry more people.

Chris Long August 28, 2012 at 6:43 pm

re Romney – what’s the predictive power of these economists in relevant situations? The null hypothesis is zero, but I’m open to the presentation of contrary evidence.

Max August 28, 2012 at 7:32 pm

With buses like this who needs expensive light rails?

Ajay August 28, 2012 at 8:44 pm

Professor Cowen, if you had to choose, Romney or Obama?

Dkay August 28, 2012 at 9:18 pm

I’m more interested in what percentage of Economists this represents. There are a lot in the profession, so even a large number on the list is likely to be a huge minority of professionally trained Economists. It it’s only 1% or serious Economists, would that change anybody’s mind? Maybe it’s more, I honestly don’t know. But just a list of names isn’t really helpful. Unless 98% are milquetoast, and 1% are on each side of the politics. . .

Steve Reilly August 28, 2012 at 9:19 pm

Obama “enacted and proposed significant tax increases for all Americans”? All? Please. These guys should hand back their Nobels if they think that.

oki August 28, 2012 at 10:06 pm

you’ve missed the new Republican talking point. The Healthcare Act = the worlds greatest tax increase because Judge Roberts’ maneuver to undermine the commerce clause while preserving the Health Act to prevent some sort of crises with the democrats is a tax hike. The fact that taxes havent actually moved up an inch from the lows of the George W years is just an inconvenient little ‘fact’ for the faith based community of Republicans.

Michael August 29, 2012 at 12:40 am

The Obamacare tax hikes like limiting HSA and flex spending, combined with taxes on prescriptions and medical devices most definitely impact all Americans.

http://swingrightrudie.blogspot.com/2011/01/when-president-obama-was-running-for.html

JWatts August 29, 2012 at 11:02 am

Obama has signed into law tax hikes on:
Tobacco products
Multiple healthcare related taxes (Obamacare)
A surtax on investment income
Tax hike on HSA accounts (removed the deduction for over the counter medicine)
Tanning Salon tax

So yes, Obama has passed tax hikes that will effect nearly all American’s. Obamacare isn’t being funded off of pixie dust and dreams.

A Berman August 28, 2012 at 9:40 pm

The existence of a list of economists supporting Obama’s economic plan implies an economic plan. Modus tollens: no such list of economists exists.

GiT August 28, 2012 at 10:16 pm

But… let P = there exists a list of economists supporting a plan and let Q = there exists a plan which they support.

There exists a list of economists supporting Romney’s economic plan (P). Romney has no economic plan (~Q).

so P & ~Q

Accordingly

~(If P then Q)

So

~(If ~Q then ~P)

maguro August 28, 2012 at 10:22 pm

I thought the plan was to tax the rich bastards, then piss their money away on bogus green energy projects.

dead serious August 29, 2012 at 10:03 am

On net, probably more noble than the R plan to bleed the middle class dry fighting wars in far away places and further enriching kleptocrats.

Ray Lopez August 28, 2012 at 10:17 pm

@5: Philippines as a hotspot due to youth. That’s what I say for sure. However the article ended on a somewhat down note for me–do you really think call centers will left a country out of the doldrums? Maybe you have to start somewhere: ” After completing a two-year information technology course and passing an exam in English proficiency, she started handling customer service calls for a United States mobile phone company. She earns a comparatively high salary for an entry-level job, and her employer offers incentive bonuses, free meals and shuttle service”.

Ricardo August 28, 2012 at 11:06 pm

The Philippines has a similar age structure to Laos and Cambodia. Youths in the Philippines are better educated, though, and their English skills open up a whole range of opportunities to work in the BPO industry or to move abroad and become a remittance sender.

Sean August 28, 2012 at 11:55 pm

#4 I see Phil Gramm, the same guy who pitched me bull-sh*t “dead teachers” insurance policies while he was at UBS. Certainly the paragon of intellectual honesty, professional integrity, and personal virtue.

The Republican party continues its march to amoral irrelevance.

KenF August 28, 2012 at 11:58 pm

+1

Mike M August 29, 2012 at 12:28 am

To the troll who complains that Romney’s economic plan is incomplete, is a plan whose entire content is “Yes, we can” something you define as complete?

As to the list of economist’s supporting Obama’s economics, that’s easy: Krugman (and his brown noser-in-chief, Brad DeLong).

GiT August 29, 2012 at 12:46 am

If the criteria for something not being an economic plan are “People disagree with it, think it’s incoherent, and think it won’t work”, then neither candidate has a plan.

If the criteria for something being an economic plan are “Has a set of policies addressing the economy”, then both candidates have a plan.

If you think “your” candidate has a plan, and the other doesn’t, you are a partisan troll.

http://change.gov/agenda/economy_agenda/
http://www.mittromney.com/jobs

Rich Berger August 29, 2012 at 8:23 am

That was pretty funny – who knew they were still maintaining an “Office of the President-Elect”. It brings back memories of the seal that they made for the “President-Elect”, and the grand dreams they had back then with solid majorities in both houses of Congress. The days of “I won”, which have dissolved into…failure. Nobody could have predicted that.

Mike M August 29, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Git? Is that really how you wish to be addressed?

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/GIT

Well, OK. I guess git fits!

PS How did that Obama plan work out for you?

Alan August 29, 2012 at 5:47 am

Knowing what I do of economists, both in terms of their contributions to human happiness and on personal acquaintance with some, I would vote for the candidate with fewer endorsements by economists.

Tom August 29, 2012 at 8:58 am

This list is predictable and not impressive. I’m wondering if anyone knows of a list of who policy analysts support or law professors as these professions are more in line with what a President actually does.

RPLong August 29, 2012 at 9:35 am

#3 – Even more professors from my alma mater on the list this time, heh heh… We need a list of “Economists Cognizant of the Fact That No President Will Ever Improve Economic Conditions.”

IVV August 29, 2012 at 11:01 am

#1 x #4: What does this bus say about Dresden’s walkability? The tourist city center is extremely walkable, and it’s a bit of a hike from the Hauptbahnhof to the Neustadt station, but doable. But why bother, with the public transportation?

Taeyoung August 29, 2012 at 11:46 am

I’m kind of shocked the list of walkable cities doesn’t include Tokyo. I guess it’s not that accessible to tourists, because most people don’t speak any English, but within the central 23 wards, you can walk basically everywhere if you want to (although most people would just take the subway).

If you limit it to the historic city centre, Seoul should also be up there, since one can easily walk the entire area covering Seoul Station, Kyongbok and Changdeok Palaces, Insadong, Myeongdong, Bukchon, and even the cable car to Namsan and Seoul Tower.

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