Is there economic hope for men?

by on June 29, 2015 at 1:29 pm in Economics, History | Permalink

Allison Schrager has a new piece on that topic in Playboy, and with a new (old) idea, here is one part:

Harvard economist Lawrence Katz thinks that when the economy shifts, those who lose out experience “retroactive unemployment” in pursuit of jobs that no longer exist; however, he anticipates a bright future for men in the new economy. As an expert in the ways technology affects the middle class, Katz predicts the rise of the “new artisan” as a substantial trend in middle-class employment.

His theory holds that technology will commoditize and cheapen products in all industries but that artisanal workers will offer a superior interpersonal experience coupled with unique goods and services, commanding premium prices in turn. Men, he notes, are especially well suited to such roles. “These kinds of jobs go back to colonial times,” Katz says. “Individuals brought their own ingenuity and creativity to provide small-scale, high-quality products. In the 19th century they were displaced by mass production, but technology is already bringing a resurgence of this type of work.”

…If Katz’s prediction about new artisans comes to pass, the ways men and women fit into the economy will come to complement each other. Their roles will change, in some ways becoming more traditional and in others less: Women may be likelier to spend their careers in nine-to-five corporate positions, enjoying the regular hours, benefits and predictable pay those jobs entail. Forty-nine percent of women already work in firms with more than 500 employees, compared with 43 percent of men, and their share of the corporate pie is growing. That certainty will empower men to take on less predictable but possibly higher-paying work in self-employment.

A world in which men strive to learn new skills and take on riskier, entrepreneurial household roles may even prove more fulfilling than office work—but this requires changing our definition of a “good job.” Expecting men to be better-educated, office-work-oriented breadwinners is an outmoded idea. The artisan of the future will still be skilled and possess just as much potential to provide for his family. The technological revolution is yet another turn in the cycle of economic progress, and workers of both genders must learn to adapt. The end of men is not nigh; the end of our dated notion of work, however, is.

I believe the link would count as “safe for work,” but do note you may get a Playboy pop-up as I did, and there are sidebar ads, no full nudity but still this is Playboy beware if need be.

Monday assorted links

by on June 29, 2015 at 12:34 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Claudio Borio slides on persistently low interest rates (pdf).

2. One problem with self-driving cars is that they don’t (yet?) drive badly enough.

3. Why are Americans more sympathetic to Greece?

4. Portuguese yields appear quite stable.

5. Betting markets say 74% Greeks will accept the Eurogroup deal on the referendum.

Tweets to ponder

by on June 29, 2015 at 10:58 am in Current Affairs, Economics | Permalink

The main euro Q is whether the problem is Greece (so kicking them out solves problem) or is misaligned exch rates (so someone will be next)

That is from Austan Goolsbee.

The Chinese stock market is tanking again, down more than seven percent today, seventeen percent or so over the last three days.  Read David Keohane.

Puerto Rico isn’t going to pay up, and they announced this through the NYT.

Utrecht is going to experiment with a basic income scheme.

Central Russian officials crack down on yoga to limit the spread of occultism.

If you put Greek total debt in perspective, it’s smaller than that of many other EU nations, including Portugal.  And that is as a percentage of gdp.  Furthermore most of the remaining Greek debt is held by public sector institutions.

The difference of course is that Greece is being run by The Not Very Serious People.  Portugal is often described as the next weakest link in the eurozone, but Portuguese politics are not nearly so…vivid.  The amount of fiscal consolidation they have done is more or less accepted by the public.  That makes Portugal more likely to survive, and it also makes the EU more willing to bail out Portugal, and extend any bailout if needed.

The performance of Syriza won’t encourage European voters to take chances on other less tested, left-wing parties, and that also militates against contagion.

(In the meantime, I don’t understand why Anglo-American left-wing intellectuals have been egging on the Syriza performance.   Even if you think the current mess is mostly Germany’s fault in normative terms, the marginal product of the Syriza government still has been catastrophically negative.  It wasn’t long ago that Greek banks were raising fresh equity and were said to have recovered.  Here is Krugman’s defense, I find Anders Aslund more persuasive, furthermore Grexit would mean more austerity not less.)

For contagion, here are a few possible problems:

1. If Greece does reasonably well after Grexit, many others will ask why should they not follow suit and that could turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.  I’ll bet against that, but it’s worth mentioning.  It also would take a while to develop.

2. As Greece exists, the ECB has to express  a strength of commitment to the other debt-ridden nations.  Delivering the right message is tricky here, because for legal and public opinion reasons the ECB cannot make the kind of unconditional commitments the Fed can.  So markets might become unhappy with the decline in creative ambiguity at the ECB.  I believe the ECB can finesse this one — in essence the message “we’ll help any EU government which is more responsible than Syriza” is fairly credible and in fact is already being signaled by the Eurogroup.  So I’ll bet against this problem too, but still it could happen.

3. If only for geopolitical and also humanitarian reasons, the EU cannot wash its hands of Greece, even if Greece leaves the EU.  But deciding how to deal with Greece might bring considerable disagreements among the remaining eurozone nations, as might the attempt to spell out exit procedures.  Festering, emotional issues are not good for dysfunctional political unions, and a lot of the “hold the line” solidarity might melt away with Grexit.

4. There might be a very slow form of contagion as the reversibility of the currency union becomes better and better known and people start seeing it as little more than a currency board arrangement.  As with #3, that could become an ongoing problem, still it doesn’t quite seem dramatic enough to produce rapid contagion.

Here is my previous post on the topic.  Robin Wigglesworth surveys a variety of differing views on contagion and other short-run effects.  I wrote this post last night, so if I am wrong it might already be evident by now.

Sunday assorted links

by on June 28, 2015 at 4:10 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. If you would like another point of view, here is Krugman’s defense of Tsipras.

2. Joshua Gans on the sharing economy and compensation mechanisms.

3. The best economics podcasts?  What is missing?

4. Google Street View Oceans.

5. Alex redux on the dangers of space travel; I agree with him.

by on June 28, 2015 at 2:22 pm in Web/Tech | Permalink

That is a new start-up.  The purpose is to help your “sharing economy” reputation be portable across a number of sites, for instance Airbnb, DogVacay, Uber, Craigslist, and so on.

In my column from yesterday I speculated:

At the moment, one problem with many online ratings is that the information isn’t all publicly useful; for instance, a good Uber rating remains within Uber and cannot easily be exported to market a driver for other jobs or opportunities. Perhaps in the future workers might have the option of being certified by Uber or other services in a more general and publicly verifiable manner. That could make such services useful for upward mobility, and it might make their credentials competitive with those of some lower-tier colleges and universities.

I wish them luck…

1. GDP growth of 7% w/profit growth of 0.6%=really bad managers or 2. GDP growth not really 7%. Choose 1 or 2

That is from Christopher Balding.  Let’s not forget that the Greece story may end up as relatively small by comparison.

In our textbook, Tyler and I write:

Farmers use the subsidized water to transform desert into prime agricultural land. But turning a California desert into cropland makes about as much sense as building greenhouses in Alaska! America already has plenty of land on which cotton can be grown cheaply.  Spending billions of dollars to dam rivers and transport water hundreds of miles to grow a crop which can be grown more cheaply in Georgia is a waste of resources, a deadweight loss. The water used to grow California cotton, for example, has much higher value producing silicon chips in San Jose or as drinking water in Los Angeles than it does as irrigation water.

In Holy Crop, part of Pro-Publica’s excellent, in-depth series on the water crisis the authors concur:

Getting plants to grow in the Sonoran Desert is made possible by importing billions of gallons of water each year. Cotton is one of the thirstiest crops in existence, and each acre cultivated here demands six times as much water as lettuce, 60 percent more than wheat. That precious liquid is pulled from a nearby federal reservoir, siphoned from beleaguered underground aquifers and pumped in from the Colorado River hundreds of miles away.

…Over the last 20 years, Arizona’s farmers have collected more than $1.1 billion in cotton subsidies, nine times more than the amount paid out for the next highest subsidized crop. In California, where cotton also gets more support than most other crops, farmers received more than $3 billion in cotton aid.

…If Arizona’s cotton farmers switched to wheat but didn’t fallow a single field, it would save some 207,000 acre-feet of water — enough to supply as many as 1.4 million people for a year.

…The government is willing to consider spending huge amounts to get new water supplies, including building billion-dollar desalinization plants to purify ocean water. It would cost a tiny fraction of that to pay farmers in Arizona and California more to grow wheat rather than cotton, and for the cost of converting their fields. The billions of dollars of existing subsidies already allocated by Congress could be redirected to support those goals, or spent, as the Congressional Budget Office suggested, on equipment and infrastructure that helps farmers use less water.

“There is enough water in the West. There isn’t any pressing need for more water, period,” Babbitt said. “There are all kinds of agriculture efficiencies that have not been put into place.”

The consumers, most of all.  But how about amongst the workers?  I think you have to slot French taxi drivers under “don’t benefit.”  And otherwise?  That is the topic of my latest New York Times column for The Upshot:

On the positive side, the so-called sharing economy allows workers to use their time more flexibly. Drivers can earn money without working full time, and without having to wait around at taxi stands for the next passenger. The workers can use their newly acquired spare time for other purposes, including studying for college, teaching themselves programming or simultaneously offering themselves out for different sharing services: If no one wants a ride, go help someone with repairs around the house.

In short, these developments benefit those workers who are willing and able to turn their spare time to productive uses. These workers tend to be self-starters and people who are good at shifting roles quickly. Think of them as disciplined and ambitious task switchers. That describes a lot of people, but of course, it isn’t everybody.

That’s where some of the problems come in. Uber drivers are much more likely to have a college degree than are taxi drivers or chauffeurs, according to the Hall and Krueger study. It found striking differences between the two groups: 48 percent of Uber drivers have a college degree or higher, whereas that figure is only 18 percent for taxi drivers and chauffeurs.

Only some workers benefit when each hour, or each 15-minute gap, is up for sale. One way to put the general principle is this: The more efficient market technologies become, the more important are human capabilities and backgrounds in determining who prospers and who does not.

The piece offers other ideas of interest, including about education.  For instance, corporate investments in worker training may decline as the likelihood of freelance work rises.  That too favors self-starters, who can learn on their own.  Do read the whole thing.


The source is here.  One television source is claiming 400 millions euros have been withdrawn from ATMs since the referendum was announced.

Saturday assorted links

by on June 27, 2015 at 12:03 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. In fact, people get annoyed pretty easily at a whole lot of different things.  What would Bryan Caplan say?

2. Hadrian, the robot bricklayer.  And commercial jetpack coming for 150k.

3. FT lunch with Piketty.

4. An insider’s guide to better eating in Chinese detention centers.

5. Google Sheep View.

6. Swedish scientists build artificial neurons to connect with organic neurons.

7. “Please, someone, buy me…

That is the new IEA book from Nima Sanandaji, freely available here (pdf), introduction by Tom G. Palmer.  Here is one short bit:

The descendants of Scandinavian migrants in the US combine the high living standards of the US with the high levels of equality of Scandinavian countries. Median incomes of Scandinavian descendants are 20 per cent higher than average US incomes. It is true that poverty rates in Scandinavian countries are lower than in the US. However, the poverty rate among descendants of Nordic immigrants in the US today is half the average poverty rate of Americans – this has been a consistent finding for decades. In fact, Scandinavian Americans have lower poverty rates than Scandinavian citizens who have not emigrated. This suggests that pre-existing cultural norms are responsible for the low levels of poverty among Scandinavians rather than Nordic welfare states.

The book has many other points of interest.

Hugo Dixon has a good analysis:

My instant reaction to Alexis Tsipras’ decision to call a referendum on whether to accept creditors’ terms on Jul 5

1 Tsipras is effectively calling for Greece to quit the euro. Even if that’s not the question, that’s what it will amount to.

2 All sides have mishandled negotiation but Tsipras has mishandled it particularly badly.

3 Tsipras didn’t even complete the talks and wring out the last concessions. There was one more day to go.

4 Greece obviously won’t be able to pay the IMF on Tuesday.

5 Greece won’t be able to get extension of bailout which runs out on Tuesday, as referendum is following Sunday. Ie bailout expires.

6 ECB highly likely to stop emergency liquidity to banks. if capital controls not imposed on Monday, there will probably be bank run.

I would put it this way: when you call for a referendum in this kind of setting, you suffer all the costs of having to take a stance, and yet give up all of the potential benefits of control.

There are already reports of long lines at Greek ATMs.  What’s the chance the Greferendum even ends up happening?  As I’ve said before, the only thing worse than the Very Serious People are the Not Very Serious People.

This is exciting and very positive news.  Most of all, it is a breakthrough for those people who can now marry, or exercise the choice not to marry.  There are two other aspects of the decision which I like.  First, it keeps current the idea that the United States still is a world leader when it comes to liberty.  Second, it encourages the idea that there are significant freedoms still to be won.

Which freedom will be next?  Here is my earlier piece on Andrew Sullivan as the most influential public intellectual in recent times.  Andrew even wrote a new post for the occasion.