Economics Roundtable

May 2014 Payroll Employment

After 76 months, we finally got back to the prerecession level of payroll employment.

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The best summary of the state of our economy is the graph (below) of employment as a fraction of population for people over 16 years old. The decrease is large, but the most troubling feature of the graph is the flat trend .

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Graph-of-the-Year Candidates

Donald Marron likes European interest rates. Click on the image to get a bigger version. Can you find three distinct subperiods?

Brad DeLong favors the U.S. gdp gap.

Remember M1?

Money Supply M1 growth is now over 20% per year over a 12 month lag. M1 growth has touched 20% before, but not with excess reserves of $1.6 trillion. Where is M1 headed?

Click on the chart for a larger version.


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Crooked Timber

"Out of the CROOKED TIMBER of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.”

November 19, 2015, 12:04 pm, 1579082

For most of my academic career, I’ve been working on (more precisely, trying to demolish) the idea of private investment in public infrastructure, exemplified by the Private Finance Initiative in the UK and the Public Private Partnerships program in Australia. Here’s my first published article on the subject, from ...

November 8, 2015, 8:04 pm, 1572806

I’m on to the macroeconomics section of my book in progress, Economics in Two Lessons. The key point of this section is that, whereas the academic economics profession has wasted most of the last thirty years on the project of founding macroeconomics on (some near approximation of) standard neoclassical ...

October 19, 2015, 12:04 am, 1559992

The real challenge is getting employers to take a more assertive and, though we dare not say so aloud, paternalistic role when it comes to non-elite employees.

Williamson is advocating that we transmute the public safety net (some portion of it) into a federally-subsidized archipelago of regimes of a private ...

October 17, 2015, 12:04 am, 1559610

Nuance is nearly always appealing to academics. For a long time, that was true of my approach to economic issues, particularly including income distribution. When presented with simplistic populist solutions to inequality like “Make the rich pay!”, I was inclined to responses along the lines of “It’s more complicated ...

October 11, 2015, 8:04 am, 1556446

Another excerpt from my book in progress, Economics in Two Lessons. There’s a partial draft here if you want to read it in context. I could spend a lot more time on the topic of advertising, but much of the ground has been covered in Akerlof & Shiller’s latest ...

October 6, 2015, 4:04 am, 1553681

I have a piece up on ABC (~ UK BBC, not US ABC) discussion blog The Drum, making the point that most of the market value of a Bitcoin reflects the electricity wasted in the calculations needed to “mine” it, with the obvious disastrous implications for ...

October 6, 2015, 4:04 am, 1553680

October 5, 2015, 4:04 am, 1553112


This, you might think, qualifies as another in the series “Short Answers to Silly Questions”. But a Brookings Paper study by William G. Gale, Melissa S. Kearney, and Peter R. Orszag reaches the opposite conclusion.

The study looks at increasing the top marginal tax rate (currently 39.6, applicable to incomes ...

September 25, 2015, 10:04 pm, 1549472

Here’s another draft extract from my book-in-progress, Economics in Two Lessons, looking at income distribution. The entire draft section on this topic is available here. And the introduction, describing the general approach of the book is here.

Praise is welcome, and useful criticism even more so. As a reminder, ...

September 24, 2015, 6:04 am, 1548440

The recent news about VW has made me question some pretty fundamental things. I think cheating on this scale required, not just massive amounts of fraud, but a massive amount of complicity. No one at a lower level in the organization would take on the risk of freelancing a ...