Saturday, 24 May 2008

Anti-Pigouvian Nation

While almost the whole world are talking about carbon-emission tax, Malaysians are harping on petrol subsidy. Talk about being behind the curve.

But then again, what do we expect from our politicians, from both sides, who are getting more and more populist and are more concerned about trivialities and power-grabbing?

Hate hate exams.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Malaysian Economics Commentators

I was lamenting the other day about the lack of public intellectuals in economics in Malaysia. You know, those who write good op-eds, weekly columns, blogs and so on, on Malaysian economic issues.

We do have some interesting non-economics public intellectuals, especially lawyers, but I still can't find our versions of Martin Wolf, Willem Buiter, John Kay and Tim Harford of the FT, or top econobloggers like Mark Thoma, Tyler Cowen, and Kling and Caplan, or famous blogging academics, like Dani Rodrik, Brad deLong, Greg Mankiw, Becker and Posner, and Paul Krugman. And of course, the occasional articles from Project Syndicate or the fantastic VoxEu.

We do have some op-eds in the Edge I guess, which is good. But they are mostly financial market-oriented which are rather CNBC or Bloomberg-ish.

Why is this so? It could be due to the lack of demand for them - who wants to read about economics in Malaysia right? But I think Say's Law might be relevant in this situation.

Or maybe there are some economics commentators in Malaysia, and it is just that I do not know of them. In this case, can anyone point me to them?

Thank you thank you.


P.S.: Hate exams.

Monday, 19 May 2008

The Crimson Pig

From Tyler Cowen - My Favourite Things Japan, Cinema Edition:

8. Anime: Grave of the Fireflies is a knockout, an anime movie for people who hate anime (and war). Make sure you use the subtitles, not the dub. I love all Miyazaki, maybe my favorite is Princess Mononoke, just don't expect a coherent Pigouvian vision from it. Other times I think Totoro is his supreme masterpiece. Pom Poko, from Studio Ghibli, is essential viewing as well. (emphasis added)

This is exactly how I feel about Miyazaki, although I have to say I have three modes instead of two Princess Mononoke when I am all epic-feely, Totoro when I am reminiscing innocence and Porco Rosso when I am feeling romantic. Can’t seem to rank them; the order changes depending on my mood.


P.S.: Grave and Ponpoko are not Miyazaki’s, but great nonetheless. The latter has the most catchy theme song... itsudemo darekaga... :D

Monday, 12 May 2008

Bias and Orthodoxy

In shower today, I was wondering how prior beliefs of researchers could shape the development of a particular branch of economics literature. Potential bias not just of the empirical data-mining sort, but also in selective paper publications by major journals and the reluctance of younger academics in pursuing heterodox perspectives.

Then I found this good econoblog-post, on minimum wage:

Economic fundamentalism and the minimum wage
By Kathy G.

... Indeed, Krueger and Card have written a paper that provides strong evidence that “specification searching and publication bias” have led to an overrepresentation of studies that find that the minimum wage has a statistically significant disemployment effect. The ideological character of much of the economics profession in the United States suggests that there are rewards for producing scholarship that confirms the idea that the minimum wage causes unemployment, and punishment for scholarship that finds otherwise.

David Card, a highly regarded economist at Berkeley (among other honors, he won the John Bates Clark Prize, a prestigious award given every two years to the most outstanding economist under 40), has produced many of the best studies taking issue with the old conventional wisdom about the minimum wage. But he stopped studying this subject, to a large degree because the reception his research got was so hostile in some quarters of the economics profession. He said:

I’ve subsequently stayed away from the minimum wage literature for a number of reasons. First, it cost me a lot of friends. People that I had known for many years, for instance, some of the ones I met at my first job at the University of Chicago, became very angry or disappointed. They thought that in publishing our work we were being traitors to the cause of economics as a whole.

“Traitors to the cause of economics as a whole”! Those are strong words, especially coming from someone who seems, on the basis of interviews at least, to be a fairly mild-mannered, non-drama-queen kind of guy. And if someone who’s a tenured full professor and one of the leading lights in his field took so much heat that he abandoned this line of research, what do you think the chances are that aspiring Ph.D.s and ambitious young assistant professors are going to touch this issue with a ten-foot pole? ...

Now now, why did I choose a counter-orthodox dissertation topic again?


P.S.:- No, my dissertation is not on minimum wage. And no, this is not a post in support of minimum wage in Malaysia. In fact, I am against it, at least in the guises proposed by some (e.g. RM1200 for a country with a per capita income of RM1800 is really not ‘minimum’). Especially since I believe the imposition of such policy would hurt rather than help the lower income group more.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Light Bulbs

From The New Yorker, Gladwell's latest:

In the Air: Who says big ideas are rare?

by Malcolm Gladwell, 12 May 2008

… The statistician Stephen Stigler once wrote an elegant essay about the futility of the practice of eponymy in science—that is, the practice of naming a scientific discovery after its inventor. That’s another idea inappropriately borrowed from the cultural realm. As Stigler pointed out, “It can be found that Laplace employed Fourier Transforms in print before Fourier published on the topic, that Lagrange presented Laplace Transforms before Laplace began his scientific career, that Poisson published the Cauchy distribution in 1824, twenty-nine years before Cauchy touched on it in an incidental manner, and that Bienaym√© stated and proved the Chebychev Inequality a decade before and in greater generality than Chebychev’s first work on the topic.” For that matter, the Pythagorean theorem was known before Pythagoras; Gaussian distributions were not discovered by Gauss. The examples were so legion that Stigler declared the existence of Stigler’s Law: “No scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer.” There are just too many people with an equal shot at those ideas floating out there in the ether. We think we’re pinning medals on heroes. In fact, we’re pinning tails on donkeys ….