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7.28.2006
  Best movie I've "seen" in 6 months
Half Life 2 (easy mode)
 
7.25.2006
  Minimum wage and the magic number
If I work 20 hour weeks at minimum wage, I'd make just above the magic number.

(1000 hrs per year * 6.75 dollars per hour = $6,750)
 
  5000 is a magic number
$5000 per person per year, that is.

I was playing with Gapminder and noticed that a lot of the interesting relationships between levels of income and other development variables have noticeable kinks at about $5000 per capita. Fertility, for example, bottoms out at about $5000. The number of girls in school attains parity with the number of boys in school at about that income level and life expectancy might kink at five grand, too.

That analysis is across countries in the year 2000. 5000 is a magic number even when you look within a country over time. Check out Korea from 1975 to today (hit the play button to see a cool animation).

Apparently, then, 5000 is a magic number in development. Once countries hit that income level, good stuff seems to start happening. Reading Friedman's Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, I see that 5000 is a magic number for the environment, too:

Empirical investigation ... has mostly supported the conclusion that the consequences of economic development for ... pollution are ... negative up to levels of per capita income of between $2000 and $8000, but then become positive ... In cross-country comparisons, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide, smoke, and lead from automotive emissions all show increasing atmospheric concentration up to some income level, but a decreasing concentration thereafter ... [Similarly for] fecal contamination in rivers, ... lead, arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and nickel ... Deforestation at first increases with economic development ..., but there is even some evidence that it too reverses as living standards rise further.
(page 382, emphasis added)

Why would $5000 be the magic number?

Well, what do you get for 5000 bucks. I'll assume into existence a wife for myself (I can do that, I'm an economist). My wife and I make $10,000 a year. With that money, we can buy a $500 a month apartment in Atlanta Georgia. We could also budget about $50 a week for food and have $1500 leftover for other living expenses.

This isn't a great living. There would be absolutely NO luxuries. That said, its not abject poverty. Both my wife and I have a roof over our heads and food to eat. Because we don't have to continuously worry (too much) about the bare necessities, we're free to concern ourselves with things that don't involve the here and now. Besides consumption luxuries (honey, maybe we can have an ice cream next month if we start saving today) we might worry about aesthetic things like the look of our house or the garbage on the streets. We have time to worry about equal rights for girls and we might start to notice all the smoke billowing from the factory next door.
 
7.22.2006
  I heart economists, part 3
モノやサービスを売買する場合、買い手は売り手に対価を支払わなければならない。この対価は両者が互いに合意すれば、何でもよいが、通常は貨幣が利用される。一方、企業等の場合、生産に際し必要となる原材料の購入資金を第三者から借り入れ、完成品の販売代金でもって返済するというのが一般的となっている。こうしたお金のやり取りや融通にかかわることを一般に、金融という。モノの動きの裏側ではお金が反対方向に流れており、この点を捉えて、金融は経済の潤滑油と呼ばれる。多くの国においては、金融は銀行部門を通じて供給されており、経済発展のためには安定した金融制度の確立が不可欠となっている。その意味で、銀行あるいは銀行制度は経済の発展・成長のための基礎的条件(ファンダメンタルズ)を形成しているということができる。
 経済活動は金融取引によって支えられているが、空気や水のように、それが十分供給されておれば、問題とならない。しかし、現下の不良債権問題が日本経済に重く圧し掛かっていることからも明らかなように、その機能が低下すると、経済活動に支障が生じる。それゆえ、各国においては現在、中央銀行、預金保険制度など、金融取引の円滑化を目的として各種の安全装置が導入されている。
 このように一国の経済活動に対し重要な影響を及ぼす金融の意義、役割、機能に関する理論・実証的研究および歴史的研究が、私の研究テーマである。これまでは戦後に形成されたメインバンク関係と称される日本独特の金融取引慣行を対象として研究を進め、その成果を『日本の銀行と金融組織』(東洋経済新報社、 1994年)として公表した。そして、2001年5月には日本版ビッグバンに伴い日本の金融制度がどのような変貌を遂げたかを詳細に記述した『日本の金融制度』(東洋経済新報社)を刊行した。最近の研究テーマは、不良債権問題、銀行による与信機能の向上を促す方策など、金融面からみた日本経済再生策のあり方の検討であり、そうした成果の一部を取りまとめ、2002年1月には『ハードランディングを求める日本経済』(東洋経済新報社)を出版した。また、日本の貨幣金融史にも関心があり、江戸時代に流通していた藩札と称される紙幣の意義と役割に関する研究や、両替商を中心として高度に発達した江戸期・大坂における信用制度の意義と機能に関する研究にも取り組んでいる。
 このほか、金融に関する理解の促進を目的として、理論と現実とのバランスにも配慮した金融に関する教科書の執筆も手掛けており、これまでに『ゼミナール 現代の銀行』(池尾、金子との共著、東洋経済新報社、1993年)、『金融システム』(酒井との共著、有斐閣、1996年〈改訂版〉)、『金融政策』(酒井、榊原との共著、有斐閣、2004年〈改訂版〉)などを刊行した。


According to google, that's:
When mono and service is bought and sold, the buyer must pay the compensation to the seller. This compensation if both agree mutually, is good with anything, but the money is usually utilized. On the one hand, when it is enterprise and the like, you borrow the purchase fund of the raw material which becomes necessary at the time of production from the third party, have at sales proceeds of the finished product and it pays back have become general. Generally, you call that it relates to exchanging and accommodating your such money circulation of money. On reverse side of the mono movement the money is flowing to opposite direction, this point is caught, circulation of money is called the lube of economy. In many countries, circulation of money is supplied via bank section, for economic development establishment of the financial system which is stabilized has become indispensable. In that sense, it is possible the bank or bank system fundamentals for development growth of economy (fundamentals) to form.  Economic activity is supported by financial transaction, but like the air and the water, if that is sufficiently supplied, it does not become problem. But, in order to be clear even from the fact that inferior claim problem of on hand has started to overpower heavily in the Japanese economy, when the function decreases, hindrance occurs in economic activity. Consequently, in each country, various backstops are introduced presently, the harmonization of financial transaction such as central bank and deposit insurance system as a purpose.  This way the financial meaning which exerts important influence vis-a-vis the economic activity of a country, theoretical positive research and the historical research regarding role and function, are my research theme. So far, it advanced research the main bank concerns which after the war were formed and the Japanese unique financial transaction custom which is named as an object, it published the result 'the Japanese bank and financial structure' (the Toyo Economics new information corporation, 1994) as. The financial system of Japan accomplished some kind of transfiguration in 2001 May, 'the financial system of Japan which describes in detail and, attendant upon the Japanese edition big van' (the Toyo Economics new information corporation) it published. Recent research theme such as inferior claim problem was seen from the financial aspect and the plan which urges the improvement of the credit function by the bank, examination of the way of the Japanese economic playback was step which, you arranged the portion of the result such as that, 'the Japanese economy which requests hard landing' (the Toyo Economics new information corporation) you published in 2002 January. In addition, there is an interest even in the monetary financial history of Japan, it has tackled also the meaning of the credit system in the Edo period Osaka which advances high-level the clan note which has circulated to the Edo era and the meaning of the paper currency which is named and the research and money changer regarding role as a center and the research regarding function.  In addition, we managed also writing the textbook regarding the circulation of money which is considered even in balance of theory and actuality the promotion of understanding regarding circulation of money as a purpose, 'the bank of seminar today' (the pond tail, collaboration of funds, the Toyo Economics new information corporation, 1993), 'the financial system' (the collaboration of Sakai, the possession 斐 official building, 1996 ), 'monetary policy' (the collaboration of Sakai and the Sakaki field, the possession 斐 official building, 2004 ) and so on published so far.
 
7.15.2006
  Lightning
 
7.14.2006
  Tools stumbled upon (update)
About a year ago I posted on some cool tools I had recently run in to. On that list I still use TortoiseSVN as a subversion front-end. It's been great for storing class projects/homework and securing grades for the classes I've taught. I also use Latex a lot. Winamp I still use, but as I said below, I want to change but the community keeps sucking right back in. Audioscrobbler changed its name to last.fm and I still enjoy their service. Also, the prize for most elegant and practical tool used throughout the year goes to password generator.
 
  Winamp
Stuff like this is why I can't stop using winamp. I really, really want to use something else. The instability and, to be honest, the crustiness of winamp drive me up the wall.

But no matter what you want to do with your music, no matter how off the wall it may be, someone in the winamp community has built a plugin to make it happen. I'm always amazed.

This morning I woke up intending to go to the office to read/study. I like to leave the house to study, I feel more productive. One of the downsides of my campus office is I can't listen to music there (at least not *my* music). I said to myself, "wouldn't it be cool if I could stream my music over the internet." Well a few googles later, I found this. WAWI allows me to control the winamp client sitting on my desktop at home (where my music collection is found). In combination with the shoutcast server, I'm streaming my music.

If only Songbird, or something, could get such a community behind it.

(Ironically, the WAWI crashes out firefox. It seems stable in IE though.)

UPDATE: Right. To actually listen to the streamed radio, tune into the same URL as above but add one to the port. If nothing's playing, I'm not listening to anything. This all is for personal use, but I thought its a neat demonstration of what you can do. You can imagine a collaborative radio station where users have the permission to add songs to the play list, etc.
 
7.04.2006
  Foundations of neo-classical economics OR why I've just been baptized into a new religion
Early in my first quarter of macro, the professor stated divergent equilibrium paths of the economy can be dismissed because they wouldn't result in movement toward steady-state. At the time, it struck me as odd that we would dismiss these paths of the economy out of hand.

I asked something like, "What's the difference between an economy that takes a million years to blow up and one that's in steady-state?" Even after two quarters of macro and a quarter of general equilibrium, I never got a satisfactory answer to my question. Why must the economy be in steady state?

Christian Arnsperger and Yanis Varoufakis, writing in the silly named online journal post-autistic economics review, ask this question in a more broad discussion of the foundations of modern economics.

What does an intelligently dispassionate observer of neoclassical economics see? She sees an ever expanding technical literature, most of which she cannot comprehend. She sees an almost infinite series of mathematical models that explain diverse socio-economic phenomena as part of some equilibrium scenario which posits autonomous actors bringing on the phenomenon under study, often supra-intentionally, through choices that are rational given everyone's beliefs (even when the actions are self-defeating). She sees a series of career paths that are made generously available to those who participate in this global research project. She sees economists the world over being taken seriously only to the extent that they speak this particular 'language'. She sees the powers-that-be speak this very 'language'. Finally, she sees enterprising academics in other social sciences adopting this 'language', in a transparent bid to share into neoclassicism's discursive success. In short, the onlooker sees, correctly, power oozing out of the mainstream economists' theoretical practices.

There is only one thing she does not see: [discussion of foundations] ... methodological individualism: the idea that socio-economic explanation must be sought at the level of the individual agent ... methodological instrumentalism: all behaviour is preference-driven or, more precisely, it is to be understood as a means for maximising preference-satisfaction ... axiomatic imposition of equilibrium ... agents' instrumental behaviour is coordinated in a manner that aggregate behaviour becomes sufficiently regular to give rise to solid predictions.
 
 
It's easy to be snide ---– it's hard to understand how to act in the world.
Commenter rilkefan over at Crooked Timber
 
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