Arrived in my pile

by on June 24, 2014 at 2:20 pm in Books, Data Source, Economics | Permalink

Morten Jerven, Poor Numbers: How We Are Misled by African Development Statistics and What To Do About It.

This seems to be the place to start on this topic.

Peter de Keyzer, Growth Makes You Happy: An Optimist’s View of Progress and the Free Market.

Steven D. Gjerstad and Vernon L. Smith, Rethinking Housing Bubbles: The Role of Household and Bank Balance Sheets in Modeling Economic Cycles.  They present a bank balance sheet account of the Great Recession, with a good deal of background coming from the experimental economics direction.

In 100 Years, Leading Economists Predict the Future, edited by Ignacio Palacios-Huerta.

Robert Howse, Leo Strauss: Man of Peace.

1 affenkopf June 24, 2014 at 2:43 pm

In 100 Years, Leading Economists Predict the Future

If nothing else people in a 100 years will have great fun laughing at economists.

2 Alexei Sadeski June 24, 2014 at 3:36 pm

After a hard day’s work on the collective far, who has time to learn about economists?

3 Alexei Sadeski June 24, 2014 at 3:37 pm


4 Shane M June 25, 2014 at 1:47 am

I personally liked the phrase “the collective far” as description for the future. 😉

5 Rich Berger June 24, 2014 at 5:21 pm

The book title is actually “In 100 Years:…”. With Tyler’s post, I thought they were going to wait 100 years before making predictions. A lot safer.

6 Ray Lopez June 25, 2014 at 3:09 am

An engineer wrote a book 100 years ago–TC mentioned it in a previous blog–and it was pretty accurate to describe the present. Economists < Engineers in the prediction game.

7 Just Another MR Commentor June 25, 2014 at 5:34 am

Paul Krugman once wrote an article where he predicted the future in like 50 years or something, this was written in the 1990s and it holds up so far pretty well I think. He predicted that most people would be working in low/medium service sector jobs (like being a Vet’s assistant) whereas most of the high end jobs had become winner-take-all markets. His main example was university professors which he predicted would have to return to making their living from going on lecture tours like in the 19th century and only a few super stars would survive.

8 The Anti-Gnostic June 24, 2014 at 3:21 pm

Re: Poor Numbers…

One of the most urgent challenges in African economic development is to devise a strategy for improving statistical capacity. Reliable statistics, including estimates of economic growth rates and per-capita income, are basic to the operation of governments in developing countries and vital to nongovernmental organizations and other entities that provide financial aid to them.

I’d say get the potable water, waste disposal and insect control going first. Then you can worry about jobs for African and NGO bureaucrats.

9 david June 24, 2014 at 4:11 pm

not really – since the 70s there’s been plentiful experience of slum upgrading (i.e., focusing on running in a few taps of potable water, communal waste disposal, etc.) vs slum clearance (demolition and replacement with concrete structures with piped water and sewerage)

while the former is cheaper, more democratic, less oppressively disruptive (clearing slums is always a violent process), it is also worse for growth. it is hyper-malthusian – both population growth and greater internal migration toward desirable locales, since those areas can now support even higher densities. but the latter does require modernity and all of the attendant bureaucracy: nobody funds and builds hundreds of twenty floor public housing blocks without forming committees

10 So Much for Subtlety June 24, 2014 at 11:54 pm

I expect that some of this is caused by measurements. A Third World slum is more or less outside the formal economic and political system. The value of the housing is not captured by the state in any meaningful sense. They don’t tax it and they can’t measure it. But if they bulldoze those neighborhoods and replace them with concrete monstrosities, they bring them into the formal sector.

That said:

it is hyper-malthusian – both population growth and greater internal migration toward desirable locales, since those areas can now support even higher densities.

So people like the traditional but improved slum more? So much more that they are more willing to move there? And it adds value to their lives in that they can afford to have more children?

Imagine that. Sounds like a complete social disaster.

11 Nathan W June 25, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Clean water won’t help you get papayas to market if there is no road.

How to evaluate where to put the road? They will have to build it and maintain it. You can’t afford to maintain roads to nowhere.

This time around, at development, we are not required to take 1000 years or 10,000 years. With some direction and support it can happen in 50 years or 100 years. That means jobs for African bureaucrats. Just like a need for management in companies implies jobs for managers

Anyways, check MDGs for established goals. There are eight goals. Increasingly, development efforts are explicitly linked to these eight goals, and there is enormous consensus that all of these goals must be achieved in order to eliminate the worst forms of absolute poverty. Potable water shows up in there. Insect control may simply start an expensive arms race with nature, so it’s better to seek creative approaches to circumvent that likelihood.

12 Eddie S. June 24, 2014 at 4:02 pm

That Poor Numbers pre-order must have taken awhile to ship to you!

13 prior_approval June 25, 2014 at 1:03 am

I wonder – does this make you a loyal or a disloyal reader?

14 Naj June 24, 2014 at 4:56 pm

Tangentially related to the de Keyzer, book, I went to an AEI event today with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. After all the talk about how empathy and morality should basically come before everything and we are all humans facing different challenges, Arthur Brooks basically made the guy say, “but really, capitalism can make happiness and because work is great we should not have a minimum wage.” It was really amazing.

15 DK June 24, 2014 at 8:26 pm

Re: economists predict
This pithy and engaging volume shows that economists may be better equipped to predict the future than science fiction writers. Economists’ ideas, based on both theory and practice, reflect their knowledge of the laws of human interactions as well as years of experimentation and reflection.

LMAO. Wow, just wow. Does this blurb reflect what economists typically think of themselves?

16 Dismalist June 24, 2014 at 8:59 pm

Economic Statistics? Hong Kong has had hardly any.

17 Ray Lopez June 25, 2014 at 3:10 am

@ Morten Jerven, Poor Numbers: How We Are Misled by African Development Statistics and What To Do About It.

I think the Chinese numbers are equally bogus, and they measure progress in China’s coastal cities but not the hinterlands. After all, as the Argentinians know, accurate statistics are a state policy.

18 bmcburney June 25, 2014 at 12:47 pm

Just this morning we learn that 1Q2014 GDP came in at -2.9% after contemporary predictions/estimates ranging to 2.5% or even 3.0% and an initial “official” number (which, at the time, was unexpected!) of 1.0%. This is obviously distrubing in itself but the insousiance displayed by the economics profession and business commentators also seems a little unnerving. I am only an amature in this area myself but I would have thought that this would have generated somewhat more interest among the professional class of economy watchers/prosnosticators. Isn’t this kind of a big miss? What does this say about the reliability of our statistics and/or our use of them as a guide to current conditions? Was this just the weather? Obamacare? Ending extended unemployment benefits? How come nobody with an econ phd seems interested in this?

Before we spend too much time fixing the problem of unreliable statistics in Africa or China, perhaps some time should be devoted to this problem. Before we listen to economists’ ideas about the world 100 years from now, shouldn’t they demonstrate the ability to reliably “predict” last quarter’s gdp within, let’s say, two percentage points, before, let’s say, six weeks into the next quarter?

19 Brian Donohue June 26, 2014 at 8:58 am

Two words: Mark Sadowski

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