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The Progressive Economics Forum

Archive for July, 2006

Adam Smith the anti-poverty activist

Princeton economist Alan Kreuger provides another take on the “Adam Smith did not wear the Adam Smith necktie” theme, from a 2001 New York Times column, that reviews “Economic Sentiments: Adam Smith, Condorcet and the Enlightenment” (Harvard University Press) by Emma Rothschild, director of the Center for History and Economics at King’s College, Cambridge: Emma […]

Lots of kindling

Are we headed towards a recession in 2007? Housing markets have begun to turn, interest rates are back where they were pre-9/11 and oil is near $80 a barrel. Nouriel Roubini puts the risk of a US recession at 50% for 2007. I like this approach – no one can predict the future so we […]

Debunking labour market “rigidities”

Neoclassical economics, when looking at the labour market, plots its supply and demand curves, with all of their loaded and unrealistic assumptions, and finds an equilibrium wage and employment. Then it finds that anything added on to this simplistic and flawed model – taxation, unions, minimum wages – perturbs that equilibrium. Therefore those things must […]

The WTO is Not Free Trade

Since I just mentioned Dean Baker’s Beat the Press blog, here is a short but sweet commentary on the loaded term “free trade”. Dean has been making this point for years, perhaps too often for my tastes, but it is a good one and worth repeating in the context of the Doha collapse: The WTO […]

Herding cats: St. John’s edition

Looking towards the Council of the Federation meetings in St. John’s later this week, John Ibbitson thinks he’s found the magic elixer to solve the alleged “fiscal imbalance”: This week, the provinces probably will suggest a compromise. The first component of any federal transfer would consist of an equalization fix, based on a report commissioned […]

Celebrating the collapse of the Doha Round

WTO critic Waldon Bello, with the Thailand-based NGO Focus on the Global South, writes: The collapse on Monday of the Doha Round of World Trade Organization negotiations in Geneva is one of the best things to happen to the developing world in a long while. In the past two weeks, in anticipation of the July […]

Bubble bubble toil and trouble?

The bad news is starting to come in from south of the border. For those interested in following bubblemania, I recommend The Vancouver Housing Market Blog. The LA Times reports: The chief economist of the California Assn. of Realtors has stopped using the term “soft landing” to describe the state’s real estate market, saying she […]

WTO talks collapse

What a difference a few years make! Five years ago it was looking pretty ugly on the international trade front. The FTAA had a full head of steam, and was Bush’s top foreign policy priority …  at least until 9/11 happened. The post-9/11 climate led to a full court press by the US and EU […]

Luck, ability and income tax policy

A old NY Times column by economist Hal Varian, recussitated by Brad DeLong: … Those who argue for a more progressive income tax emphasize equity: a tax dollar paid by a rich person causes less pain than a tax dollar paid by a poor person. Those who argue for a less progressive system emphasize efficiency: […]

The Economist takes on CGE modelling

When I was doing research on the idea of a Canada-US customs union, I came across a study (a PhD dissertation, actually) that was cited by proponents, claiming huge gains from a customs union. I looked into the methodology and found some serious shortcomings. CGE, or Computable General Equilibrium, models are a quasi-empirical approach that […]

Demographic apocolypse 2020?

Pierre Fortin, who I usually find to be an interesting economic commentator on public policy issues, makes the case for demographic apocolypse. i used to share that fear, but I’ve done some number crunching on this issue in the BC context (i.e. more seniors than the national average) and am not convinced that the problem […]

Development Round? What Development Round?

Joseph Stiglitz demonstrates the hypocracy of the Doha Round, and US and EU trade policies: America’s new trade hypocracy As the current “development round” of trade talks moves into its final stages, it is becoming increasingly clear that the goal of promoting development will not be served, and that the multilateral trade system will be […]

Housing the Homeless and Addicted

The New York Times reports on a Seattle initiative to provide homes for homeless alcoholics. They do not require sobriety to get a spot, a development that rankles moralistic conservatives. The reason is economics: it costs less to house them than what is currently spent on health care, detox and criminal justice. New York and […]

Softwood: The Final Capitulation

“Guys, stop it! You’re gonna embarass me at George’s birthday party.” PM Harper clings to a crappy deal over the objections of companies representing half the exports to the US. Closer ties to Bush under conservative continentalism have not seemed to win us any favours. Oh, and by the way, Prime Minister Accountability, would you […]

Bubble seeks air

This makes me nervous: Mortgages getting risky: CIBC HEATHER SCOFFIELD Globe and Mail Update TORONTO — Household credit is stable, but that statement masks the growing popularity of untraditional and risky mortgages, a new study by CIBC World Markets says. Household credit is growing steadily at an 11-per-cent annual pace, pushed by a 10.9-per-cent rise […]

Rethinking income security

The Caledon Institute weighs in on income security for working age adults. The abstract is below but this does not give any of the details. The authors do a great job of describing why the current patchwork mix of EI and welfare does not work well. Towards a New Architecture for Canada’s Adult Benefits Ken […]

Brad DeLong on the state of economics

From his Project Syndicate column: Most academic economics rely on concepts laid down at the beginning of the twentieth century by the British economist Alfred Marshall, who said that “nature does not make leaps.” Yet we economists find ourselves increasingly disturbed by the apparent inadequacy of the neo-Marshallian toolkit that we have built to explain […]

Softwood capitulation part 2

Columnist Paul Willcocks weighs in on the bad softwood lumber deal: VICTORIA – The softwood deal that David Emerson and Stephen Harper are pushing is so bad it’s hard to imagine what they’re thinking. The U.S. lumber industry wins; Canada loses. Canadian companies hand over $1 billion in to the U.S., with about half of […]

WTO: not dead yet

Will this be the end of the Doha Round? I doubt it. Deadlines come and go but negotiations still manage to go on. The Uruguay Round that led to the creation of the WTO went for eight years. The Doha Round (originally framed as the Doha Development Agenda, but that has long been forgotten) seemed […]

Alberta’s resource royalties

Just on the heels of posting a $9 billion surplus for the last fiscal year, largely on the strength of resource royalties, comes this fascinating article in The Globe, which echoes comments about low royalty rates that the Edmonton-based Parkland Institute has been making for years: Alberta eyes greater share of oil wealth Considers changes […]

Rethinking labour market “flexibility”

Jim Stanford looks at the OECD’s press for labour market “flexibility” in his Globe column: Traditional economics holds that a less regulated, more “flexible” labour market — freed from well-meaning but counterproductive government interference — will automatically find a better match between supply and demand, and hence reduce unemployment. This general view was roundly endorsed […]

Canada’s softwood lumber capitulation

I don’t generally like Gary Mason’s columns, but in this one he does a good job of showing how bad the softwood lumber deal is for BC: … The agreement would allow the U.S. to keep about $1-billion of the $5-billion in penalties collected on Canadian softwood since 2002, and limit shipments to the United […]