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Archive for July 19th, 2010

Quick Hits

Like links, but more spontaneous and with more block-quoting…

Nancy Folbre writes that another economics is possible:

But I think conventional economics also plays a role, reinforcing cynical views of human nature and discouraging efforts to develop cooperative enterprises.

Textbook economics treats individuals as selfish optimizers, unconcerned about the welfare of others. Only recently have economists begun to explore the importance of fairness, reciprocity and altruism, and to consider the possibility that incentives to behave selfishly can undermine both moral norms and altruistic preferences.

Textbook economics also largely ignores worker-owned businesses and consumer cooperatives, although these are geographically widespread in the United States.

Steven Greenhouse reports on a worker-friendly garment factory in DR.

Industry experts say it is a pioneer in the developing world because it pays a “living wage” — in this case, three times the average pay of the country’s apparel workers — and allows workers to join a union without a fight.

“We never had the opportunity to make wages like this before,” says Ms. Castillo, a soft-spoken woman who earns $500 a month. “I feel blessed.”

The factory is a high-minded experiment, a response to appeals from myriad university officials and student activists that the garment industry stop using poverty-wage sweatshops.

Great, but wouldn’t it also be nice if the workers just owned the place?

Richard Green says that economics deserves more credit for teaching skepticism.

We worry about mis-measurement of variables, omitted variables, selection, reverse causality, and distributions all the time. We think hard about things we don’t observe–in my context, when I think about measuring house prices, I worry about the fact that we only observe houses that actually sell.

Maxine Udall rightly says in the comments:

I think the problem Taleb may be alluding to is some of the above combined with an absence of theoretical skepticism which is exacerbated by an absence of grounding in the history of economic thought. It causes well-trained economists to misunderstand metaphors like the invisible hand (which in turn produces a near religious faith among some in markets’ abilities to discipline the immoral and amoral). It also causes some to ignore or minimize the likely impacts of moral sentiments on market transactions and economic policies, particularly as they relate to fairness. And it may be why a few have recently confused accounting identities with causal relationships.

Indeed- it’s about asking the right questions, too.

And, finally-

I read Karl Marx, and I liked iiit (h/t DR):

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Top-Secret America

Must-visit: The Washington Post’s extensive investigation on the emerging fourth branch of government.

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