Friday, October 24, 2008

Dear Mr. President

Newsweek invites seven Nobel Prize winners in Economics to explain how they would advise the next president in fixing the economy.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Krugman and Zingales

From Bloomberg on the Economy.

Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman Sees a `Nasty' U.S. Recession.
Chicago professor Luigi Zingales Sees Debt-for-Equity Swap as Housing Crisis Solution.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Is Economics Dismal??

Not really...

Demand, Supply by educationalrap

Anna Schwartz says... WSJ's Weekend Interview, that "I don't see that they've achieved what they should have been trying to achieve. So my verdict on this present Fed leadership is that they have not really done their job."

In the 1930s, as Ms. Schwartz and Mr. Friedman argued in "A Monetary History," the country and the Federal Reserve were faced with a liquidity crisis in the banking sector. As banks failed, depositors became alarmed that they'd lose their money if their bank, too, failed. So bank runs began, and these became self-reinforcing: "If the borrowers hadn't withdrawn cash, they [the banks] would have been in good shape. But the Fed just sat by and did nothing, so bank after bank failed. And that only motivated depositors to withdraw funds from banks that were not in distress," deepening the crisis and causing still more failures.

But "that's not what's going on in the market now," Ms. Schwartz says. Today, the banks have a problem on the asset side of their ledgers -- "all these exotic securities that the market does not know how to value." "The Fed," she argues, "has gone about as if the problem is a shortage of liquidity. That is not the basic problem. The basic problem for the markets is that [uncertainty] that the balance sheets of financial firms are credible."

This [The new proposal] is the dirty little secret that led Secretary Paulson to shift from buying bank assets to recapitalizing them directly, as the Treasury did this week. But in doing so, he's shifted from trying to save the banking system to trying to save banks. These are not, Ms. Schwartz argues, the same thing. In fact, by keeping otherwise insolvent banks afloat, the Federal Reserve and the Treasury have actually prolonged the crisis. "They should not be recapitalizing firms that should be shut down."

A Must read.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Mathematical Pattern is the Theory of Everything?

Garrett Lisi, a theoretical physicist with no single academic affiliations proposed to the world a unified field theory combining the grand unification theory of particle physics with Albert Einstein's general relativistic theory of gravitation, using the largest simple exceptional Lie algebra, E8. Here is his original paper, and here is a summary of his work from NewScientist.

Although his theory is "simple" in some sense, it is never trivial. I admit I am ignorant in modern physics, but I believe this man has touched something serious or maybe fundamental. By watching the following two video clips (or watch it here and here), you can judge it yourself.

Best Investment Strategy

If you had purchased $1,000 of Delta Air Lines stock one year ago, you would have $49 left...

With Fannie Mae, you would have $2.50 left of the original $1,000...

With AIG, you would have less than $15 left...But,

If you had purchased $1,000 worth of beer one year ago, drunk all of the beer, then turned in the cans for the aluminum recycling REFUND, you would have $214 cash!!!

Based on the above, the best current investment advice is to drink heavily and recycle.

Hat tip to CARPE DIEM.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Krugman on Krugman

...about "How I Work". Here are some excerpts:

"...when I left graduate school I was, in my own mind at least, somewhat directionless. I was not sure what to work on; I was not even sure whether I really liked research. "

"We just don't see what we can't formalize...So there, right at hand, was my mission: to look at things from a slightly different angle, and in so doing to reveal the obvious, things that had been right under our noses all the time."

"I am a strong believer in the importance of models, which are to our minds what spear-throwers were to stone age arms: they greatly extend the power and range of our insight...economic models are metaphors, not truth...But always remember that you may have gotten the metaphor wrong, and that someone else with a different metaphor may be seeing something that you are missing."

"What I began to realize was that in economics we are always making silly assumptions; it's just that some of them have been made so often that they come to seem natural. And so one should not reject a model as silly until one sees where its assumptions lead...[And] the reason for making these assumptions is not that they are reasonable but that they seem to help us produce models that are helpful metaphors for things that we think happen in the real world...If a new set of assumptions seems to yield a valuable set of insights, then never mind if they seem strange. "

"...there is a strategy that both helps you keep control of your own insights, and makes those insights accessible to others. The strategy is: always try to express your ideas in the simplest possible model."

BUT, REMEMBER HIS LAST WORDS, "what works for one economist may not work for another." So, make your own judgement and make it right.

China Bailout America?

See this commentary on FT.

2009 ASSA Preliminary Program

See here. The following sessions sound attractive to me:

Beliefs and Disagreement in Organizations
Presiding: ROLAND BENABOU, Princeton University

ERIC VAN DEN STEEN, Massachusetts Institute of Technology--"Authority versus Persuasion",

AUGUSTIN LANDIER, New York University, DAVID THESMAR, HEC, Paris, and DAVID SRAER, University of California--Berkeley, "Optimal Dissent and Risk Management within Organizations"

ROLAND BENABOU, Princeton University, and JEAN TIROLE, Université de Toulouse--"Over My Dead Body: Bargaining and the Price of Dignity”

The Dynamics of Economic Institutions
Presiding: AVNER GREIF, Stanford University

MASAHIKO AOKI, Stanford University—"On the Mechanism of Institution-Belief Co-evolution"
SAMUEL BOWLES, Santa Fe Institute and University of Siena—"Institutional Dynamics: Persistence and Innovation"

GÉRARD ROLAND, University of California-Berkeley—"Institutions and Growth: The Chinese Puzzle"

ERIC BROUSSEAU, EconomiX, University of Paris X, and EMMANUEL RAYNAUD, INRA, SADAPT, University of Paris & Centre ATOM at University of Paris I —"Climbing the Hierarchical Ladders of Rules: The Dynamics of Institutional Framework"

Exploring the Sources of Innovation: Recent Developments
Presiding: TIMOTHY BRESNAHAN, Stanford University

PHILIPPE AGHION, Harvard University, MATHIAS DEWATRIPONT, Université libre de Bruxelles, JULIAN KOLEV, Harvard University, FIONA MURRAY, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and SCOTT STERN, Northwestern University--"On Mice and Growth: The Effect of Openness on Follow-On Research"

NICHOLAS BLOOM, Stanford University, MARK SCHANKERMAN, University of Arizona and London School of Economics, and JOHN VAN REENEN, London School of Economics--"Identifying Technology Spillovers and Product Market Rivalry"

KEVIN BOUDREAU, HEC-Paris, NICOLA LACETERA, Case Western Reserve University, and KARIM LAKHANI, Harvard Business School--"Incentives versus Diversity: Re-Examining the Competition-Innovation Link"

TIMOTHY BRESNAHAN, Stanford University, SHANE GREENSTEIN, Northwestern University, and REBECCA HENDERSON, Massachusetts Institute of Technology--"Diseconomies of Scope between Existing Businesses and Growth Opportunities: Evidence from the History of Computing"

A funny thing

...happened to Paul Krugman this morning.

The Prize Goes to...

Paul Krugman, "for his analysis of trade patterns and location of economic activity". Now he becomes the first person outside the field of literature to win both the Nobel and Pulitzer Prizes, the acme of achievement in BOTH academics and journalism!

His contributions and the scientific background of his work can be found here and here.

Here is another short but superb biography of Krugman.

I have already posted three other topics on him or his work:
Income gap: widened or not?
Krugman @ Authors@Google (on his book, The Conscience of a Liberal)
Michael Moore in Economics Profession

Congratulations, Mr. Krugman!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

More Nobel Odds...

From Ladbrokes:

Eugene Fama 3.00
Kenneth R. French 5.00
Robert Barro 7.00
Christopher Sims, Lars P. Hansen, Thomas J. Sargent 8.00
Martin S. Feldstein 9.00
Avinash Dixit, Jagdish N. Bhagwati 10.00
Paul Krugman 11.00
Elhanan Helpman, Gene M Grossman 15.00
Oliver Hart, Oliver Williamson 17.00
Chris Pissarides, Dale T. Mortensen, Paul Romer 21.00
Nordhaus, Weitzman 26.00
Bengt Holmstrom, Peter A Diamond 34.00
Dale Jorgensen, Jean Tirole, Nancy Stokey, Paul Milgrom, Robert B. Wilson, William Baumol 41.00

I am a little bit confused of Fama and French's odds. They did exactly the same work (loosely speaking, although Fama is more influential, agree?), then either they would win the title together or ONLY one of them would win. If it is the former case, then the odds should be the same; if not, one odd should be much larger than the other. Because Fama is more influential, French's odds might be much lower (around 40? Just guessing...) .

Interestingly, if Fama eventually wins "for his pioneering work in Efficient Market Hypothesis", then this would simply suggest that "markets" are predictable...mixed feeling?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Art of Strategy

Avinash Dixit and Barry Nalebuff have a new book, The Art of Strategy, in which they updated their ideas in their best seller and classic, Thinking Strategically (1991) with new stories and examples, like the Safer Duel and Shakespear's King Henry V, although the structure are more or less the same. Indeed, the theme keeps changing. Strictly selfish rationality has given way to a much broader perspective on human motives when considering the impact of psychological effects and the choice of information the decision makers use.

Today, Tom Keene of Bloomberg on the Economy has an interview with Prof. Dixit in which they discussed the evolved ideas in the new book, and their implications on our daily life and also on the recent financial downturn. They also talked about Thomas Schelling's systematization of Thomas Hobbes and David Hume's idea of credible commitment, and Schelling's notion of "brinksmanship".

Here is a synopsis of this book:

"Game theory means rigorous strategic thinking. It's the art of anticipating your opponent's next moves, knowing full well that your rival is trying to do the same thing to you. Though parts of game theory involve simple common sense, much is counterintuitive, and it can only be mastered by developing a new way of seeing the world. Using a diverse array of rich case studies—from pop culture, TV, movies, sports, politics, and history—the authors show how nearly every business and personal interaction has a game-theory component to it. Are the winners of reality-TV contests instinctive game theorists? Do big-time investors see things that most people miss? What do great poker players know that you don't? Mastering game theory will make you more successful in business and life, and this lively book is the key to that mastery."

Nobel Odds...

From PinnacleSports:

101 Martin Feldstein +753
102 Thomas Sargent +1186
103 Robert Barro +1305
104 Paul Romer +1350
105 Jagdish Bhagwati +1365
106 Paul Krugman +1626
107 N. Gregory Mankiw +4367
108 Any other person -136

Actually I don't bet any money on this, so there is no incentive for me to make difficult comparisons (it's soooooo unpredictable!!!!). Although the above list suggests the winner this year might be in macro, or in international trade, I still hope it will go to organizational economics in the end, maybe the combination of Oliver Williamson, Oliver Hart and Bengt Holmström, or Paul Milgrom and John Roberts, or Armen Alchian and Harold Demsetz. Just wait for another day!

Freakonomist Steven Levitt also has his own predictions in a recent post, however, I find the story he told is more appealing, "Some colleague of me said he identified a strong leading indicator of economists who think they are on the short list for winning the prize: getting a haircut the week before the Nobel is announced. He also claims to have many data points supporting his theory..." Interestingly, this colleague of his just had a snazzy new haircut!

Who is it? Not Eugene Fama (he need not to), then Lars Peter Hansen?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Call for papers

Two professors from my group, Nick Argyres and Todd Zenger, together with Teppo Felin of BYU and Nicolai Foss of Copenhagen Business School are going to co-edit a special issue of Organization Science (now ranks as the 4th most influential management journal according to JCR, even made it to the 3rd a year ago), on Organizational Economics and Organizational Capabilities: From Opposition and Complementarity to Real Integration. I am very exicted about this ongoing trend and just in the PhD seminar last week, we and Todd discussed this paper by Nick and him, "Capabilities, Transaction Costs, and Firm Boundaries: A Dynamic Perspective and Integration", which is exactly an integration of Transaction Cost View and Capability based View of the firm. I highly recommend this paper to those of you who are passionate about organizational economics, business strategy and their ongoing blending, although I am still not so convinced on part of the illustration of the Disney case. Here is the abstract:

A large literature has developed in recent years that attempts to compare transaction cost and capabilities explanations of firms' vertical boundaries. Much of this literature has treated comparative capabilities (buyers' vs. potential suppliers') as determinants that are independent of transaction costs, based on the idea that capabilities theories of the firm are distinct from the transaction cost theory of the firm. We argue that this approach is mistaken. We contend that capabilities and transaction cost determinants interact with each other dynamically, and that the two theories of the firm cannot be conceptually distinguished. We then seek to articulate an integrated perspective that incorporates both capabilities and transaction cost logic. Our argument carries implications for theories of the firm, and for empirical research aimed at testing those theories.

As to the special issue, papers can be both theoretical and empirical, and must be submitted between Oct. 1 and Oct. 30, 2009.

Hat tip to Nicolai Foss.

Please...Nobel for organizational economics!

...claimed by Peter Klein, co-blogger of Organizations and Markets.

"Coase, of course, whose 1937 paper is foundational to the field, has already won, as have Akerlof, Spence, Stiglitz, Mirrlees, Vickrey, Hayek, and others whose work has greatly informed the study of organizations. But, for a prize recognizing organizational economics per se, whom would you pick? Williamson, Holmström, Milgrom, Roberts, Hart, Tirole, Aghion? Perhaps Alchian, Demsetz, or Jensen. Maybe a personnel economist (Lazear) or someone in corporate finance or accounting (Bill Schwert, Stewart Myers, René Stulz, Raghuram Rajan, Cliff Smith, Milton Harris, Artur Raviv)? Or an entrepreneurship Nobel for, say, Baumol and Kirzner isn’t out of the question, but seems unlikely. "

Here is my view last year. What do you think?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Problems run deeper??

Martin Feldstein comments on the recent financial crisis and how the economy would suffer.

Ig Nobel 2008

The "18th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony" was held on 2 October 2008 at Harvard University. The winners of this year are:

Archaeology: Astolfo Gomes de Mello Araujo and Jose Carlos Marcelino, for showing that armadillos can mix up the contents of an archaeological site.

Biology: Marie-Christine Cadiergues, Christel Joubert, and Michel Franc, for discovering that fleas that live on dogs jump higher than fleas that live on cats.

Chemistry: Sheree Umpierre, Joseph Hill, and Deborah Anderson, for discovering that Coca-Cola is an effective spermicide, and C.Y. Hong, C.C. Shieh, P. Wu, and B.N. Chiang for proving it is not.

Cognitive science: Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Hiroyasu Yamada, Ryo Kobayashi, Atsushi Tero, Akio Ishiguro, and Ágota Tóth, for discovering that slime molds can solve puzzles.

Economics: Geoffrey Miller, Joshua Tyber, and Brent Jordan, for discovering that exotic dancers earn more when at peak fertility.

Literature: David Sims, for his study "You Bastard: A Narrative Exploration of the Experience of Indignation within Organizations". (Also see here.)

Medicine: Dan Ariely for demonstrating that expensive counterfeit drugs are more effective than inexpensive counterfeit drugs. (Also see here.)

Nutrition: Massimiliano Zampini and Charles Spence, for demonstrating that food tastes better when it sounds more appealing.

Peace: The Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology and the citizens of Switzerland, for adopting the legal principle that plants have dignity.

Physics: Dorian Raymer and Douglas Smith, for proving that heaps of string or hair will inevitably tangle.

Here is an overview.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Time Paradox

Philip Zimbardo, a renowned psychologist at Stanford describes how our individual perception of time shapes the choices we make.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

2008 Thomson Prediction in Nobel Prize in Economics

Thomson Scientific predicts the 2008 Nobel Prize this year. In economics, three groups of preeminent scholars seem to win the titile this year. They are:

Group 1
LARS P. HANSEN, Homer J. Livingston Distinguished Service Professor, Department of Economics, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL USA
THOMAS J. SARGENT, William R. Berkley Professor of Economics and Business, Department of Economics, New York University, New York, NY, USA; and Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford, CA USA
CHRISTOPHER A. SIMS , Harold B. Helms Professor of Economics and Banking, Department of Economics, Princeton Univeristy, Princeton, NJ USA
"for their contributions to dynamic econometric models"

Group 2
MARTIN S. FELDSTEIN, George F. Baker Professor of Economics, Department of Economics, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA USA; President Emeritus, National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA USA
"for his research on public economics, including taxation, social security, health economics and many other topics"

Group 3
ARMEN A. ALCHIAN, Emeritus Professor, Department of Economics, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA USA
HAROLD DEMSETZ, Arthur Andersen UCLA Alumni Emeritus Professor of Business Economics, Department of Economics, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA USA
"for their publications on property rights and their contributions to the theory of the firm"


Let's see!