American labour market – The Economist

‘And you thought the economy was safe in their hands’

Originally posted on An Unusual Economist:

One of the dominant issues of this election campaign is the fitness of the contending leaders to manage the economy. Quite rightly people complain of this being a boring election campaign, as the big issues that concern us are largely ignored. Given the superficial nature of the campaign what is never mentioned is the incompetence politicians of all parties have demonstrated when managing the economy. Although my essay is about the UK, the issue of economic mismanagement is a characteristic of all governments of the Western world, there are no politicians of the calibre of Franklin Roosevelt or George Marshall. Instead we have a Rand Paul, David Cameron and Angela Merkel none of whom have an understanding of the current economic crisis.

When I was a teenager the recurrent problem was the balance of payments deficit, there were continuing runs on the pound sterling and the government was constantly having…

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However low interest rates might go, the IRS will never act like a bank


Good piece

Originally posted on Quartz:

A revolution has come to Europe–the revolution of negative interest rates. 10-year Swiss government bonds now have a negative yield. Short-term funds kept at the Swiss National Bank now pay -.75%: that is, private banks have to pay .75% per year to the Swiss National Bank to tend their Swiss francs. Denmark now pays -.75% for short-term funds while Sweden is at -.25% and the Eurozone is at -.2%. How low can interest rates go?

Ben Bernanke has started a blog, now that (in his words) he is free from “being put under the microscope by Fed watchers.” In the first few posts, he got into a debate with Larry Summers about what it means that interest rates are so low. Paul Krugman joined in with his own post “Liquidity Traps, Local and Global.” These three—a former Fed Chairman, a brilliant former Treasury Secretary…

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Rognlie vs Piketty: Which Capitalism To Blame

Originally posted on Abolitionist Dynamite :

This article caught my eye. The author, Greg Ferenstein, concludes “it might be wiser to redirect anger towards those who get in the way of new housing, rather than rely on taxes to solve our problems.” Yes, and no.

Back up. What’s the general idea? Well, Matthew Rognlie found that “recent trends in both capital wealth and income are driven almost entirely by housing.” This is not entirely in contrast to the findings of Piketty, rather derived from Piketty’s data: “Also using Piketty and Zucman (2013)’s data, I find that a single component of the capital stock—housing—accounts for nearly 100% of the long-term increase in the capital/income ratio, and more than 100% of the long-term increase in the net capital share of income.”

This shouldn’t be a surprise. Individuals who are forced to spend almost all of their income on housing can’t save any money. We’re talking about people forced…

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Cancer drugs: Why the high and rising prices?

Originally posted on Health Business Blog:

Cancer drugs. Good stuff cheap? Cancer drugs. Good stuff cheap?

When Americans talk, pharmaceutical companies listen. And what they’ve heard is that initiatives to contain or regulate medical costs get labeled as “rationing,” a word with very un-American connotations.

While politicians wring their hands, pricing strategists at pharma and biotech companies take action by charging high and rising prices for products for life-threatening illnesses. Cancer is Exhibit A, with many drugs costing more than $100,000 per year of treatment. A JAMA Oncologypaper reviewed wholesale prices for cancer drugs approved over the past five years and found that prices are not correlated with a drug’s novelty or efficacy.

The authors conclude:

“Our results suggest that current pricing models are not rational but simply reflect what the market will bear.”

Now it’s possible that there is a greater correlation between actual negotiated prices and novelty or efficacy that isn’t showing up in the researchers’ data on wholesale prices. Still, the main conclusions…

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Robert Reich: America is headed full speed back to the 19th century

Originally posted on Jo Weber Economist & Social Media Expert:

Robert Reich: America is headed full speed back to the 19th century

Robert Reich

The former secretary of labor on the dangers of the sharing economy and our growing intolerance for labor unions

My recent column about the growth of on-demand jobs like Uber making life less predictable and secure for workers unleashed a small barrage of criticism that workers get what they’re worth in the market.

Forbes Magazine contributor, for example, writes that jobs exist only  “when both employer and employee are happy with the deal being made.” So if the new jobs are low-paying and irregular, too bad.

Much the same argument was voiced in the late nineteenth century over alleged “freedom of contract.” Any deal between employees and workers was assumed to be fine if both sides voluntarily agreed to it.

It was an era when many workers were “happy” to toil twelve-hour days in sweat shops for lack of any better…

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Brad DeLong and the true nature of neoclassical economics


Another clear piece from Lars, drawing on previously published work

Originally posted on LARS P. SYLL:

I think that modern neoclassical economics is in fine shape as long as it is understood as the ideological and substantive legitimating doctrine of the political theory of possessive individualism. As long as we have relatively-self-interested liberal individuals who have relatively-strong beliefs that things are theirs, the competitive market in equilibrium is an absolutely wonderful mechanism for achieving truly extraordinary degree of societal coordination and productivity. We need to understand that. We need to value that. And that is what neoclassical economics does, and does well.

Of course, there are all the caveats to Arrow-Debreu-Mackenzie:

adb_poster_red_kickitover1   The market must be in equilibrium.
2   The market must be competitive.
3   The goods traded must be excludable.
4   The goods traded must be non-rival.
5   The quality of goods traded and of effort delivered must be known, or at least bonded, for adverse selection and moral hazard…

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