Back-of-the-envelope low-quality musings: #takes

Longform stuff I've put time and thought into is at #effortposts.

To hear from academics and policymakers, #interviews.

Compiled scribbles on what I read can be found in #notes.

Topic-related tags include #economics, #coronavirus and #miscellaneous.

# Blog Archive

• 20 Jul 2021 » Tis Better to Have Grown and Inflated (Than Never to Have Grown At All)

By some accounts, inflation is “the largest risk in the near term US macro outlook”, and these sentiments have been echoed across the pond. As the former Chief Economist of Threadneedle Street wrote in a recent New Statesman oped,

• 12 Jun 2021 » The Fickle Finger of FAIT

Yeah, I don’t know what to say
Since a twist of FAIT when it all broke down
And the story of U.S. looks a lot like a tragedy now
- Taylor Swift in The Story of Us (maybe)

• 27 May 2021 » Output, Interest and Prices

NB: The accompanying twitter video summary is available here. This has been a long time in the making, and at around 14,000 words, it’s turned out way longer than I expected it would be. Apologies in advance for the wordiness, but it was hard to do justice to the...

• 08 May 2021 » Happy Birthday Hayek!

Today would have been Friedrich Hayek’s 122th birthday if he were still alive. Although many of his economic contributions have not necessarily lasted the test of time, one article he wrote which has is “The Use of Knowledge in Society”, which was featured in the American Economic Review’s compilation of...

• 23 Apr 2021 » A Primer on Money: Part I - The Fluttering Veil

This is Part I of my primer on money in macroeconomics. In order to begin to discuss its role, we need to understand the following four questions.

• 23 Apr 2021 » Money: A Primer in Five Parts

I like to think about macroeconomics as composed of the equilibrium real world, the equilibrium nominal world and the disequilibrium sticky world a la Scott Sumner. If you’ve followed the blog for a while, you will know that I’ve written a primer on long-run growth i.e. the equilibrium...

• 29 Mar 2021 » The Fallacy of Composition

Description: The goal is to bring you up to speed from knowing nothing about business cycle macroeconomics till you know everything you want to know about it at an intermediate macro level within a single post. We’ll mess around with the notion of goods and money market equilibrium to see...

• 29 Mar 2021 » One Year Later

“Every 1% unemployment goes up, 40,000 people die”. So said Ben Rickert in the movie The Big Short. Today is the 1 year old birthday of this blog (and incidentally my 19th) - as such, I thought I’d make it about the reason I started this blog i.e. my concern...

• 13 Mar 2021 » Great Expectations

A while back, I made a post on the debate over neo-Fisherism. I basically concluded that the problem with neo-Fisherism was one of disequilibrium dynamics i.e. we don’t get to the equilibrium consistent with neo-Fisherism. However, as I noted then, New Keynesian models suggest that we can get to...

• 08 Mar 2021 » Emergent Ventures

Delighted and honoured to be part of the 13th cohort of Emergent Ventures grant winners, alongside this group of incredible talented individuals: https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2021/03/emergent-ventures-winners-cohort.html. More information about Emergent Ventures is available here.

• 07 Mar 2021 » 73 for 73

Here at Cambridge there is a campaign called the “73-73 Challenge” - it is an initiative aimed at raising awareness for the 73% of students who have struggled with mental health during these pandemic times. As part of that, it encourages you to spend 73 minutes doing something fun -...

• 03 Mar 2021 » Ask Better Questions

This was founded out of an angry rant on a forum about competitive debating, where someone tried to dismiss the minimum wage discourse as being “redundant” due to it being easy to discuss the “limits of where the wage ought to be”. I think that reflects a lack of nuance...

• 14 Feb 2021 » It's a Love Story

As a rule, I try not to do Freakonomics-esque posts - but it is Valentine’s Day and Love Story (Taylor’s Edition) did just come out two days ago, so let’s examine what economic theory can tell us about dating, relationships and love! Firstly, we will consider what we want to...

• 04 Feb 2021 » Reg Y X

In a similar vein to my previous set of posts on growth, I’m planning to write something about money and monetary policy. The reason monetary policy matters is because we think it might affect real variables, but how can we verify this to be the case? This post is...

• 24 Jan 2021 » Comings and Goings: Migration as a Free Lunch

Within hours of being inaugurated, President Biden rolled back various immigration restrictions that had been put in by the Trump administration across the last 4 years, gesturing a significantly more progressive stance to the free movement of people into the US. Inevitably, this will reopen debates around the costs and...

• 07 Jan 2021 » The 117th Congress

Yesterday was supposed to be a gripping and transformational moment for American governance, because the Democrats had regained the trifecta of the House, the Senate and the Presidency for the first time in a decade. It was supposed to be gripping and transformational, because Senator-elect Raphael Warnock would be the...

• 31 Dec 2020 » It's the Money, Stupid

To end the year, I wanted to think about the ways in which we discuss short-run macroeconomics. With the academic literature, a common approach involves setting out microfoundations for various actors and solving their optimisation problems. This produces a set of aggregate relationships that describe some sort of dynamic stochastic...

• 19 Dec 2020 » Mr Medlock and the Classics

Disclaimer: This has been tagged as an effortpost due to the time and work put in. However, this is very much a work-in-progress that I will add to and edit over time - right now, it’s better described as a collection of twitter and blogpost links than necessarily a fully...

• 30 Nov 2020 » Culture Wars and Epistemic Modesty

A few days ago, there was a rather curious incident at my alma mater that popped up onto the national headlines: that of a teacher being dismissed, supposedly due to his views being out of line with the “radical feminist orthodoxy” (whatever that actually means). The reaction and backlash...

Today is the Equal Pay Day 2020 in the United Kingdom. It is so named, because by taking the full-time mean gender pay gap in 2020, we can find the day beyond which women are effectively working for free for the rest of the year. But every year, there are...

• 15 Nov 2020 » Why Bob Lucas Was Wrong

I spend a lot of time talking about monetary theory and policy - but should I? More specifically, how large are the potential welfare gains from an optimal monetary policy regime compared to where we are right now? And how does this compare with optimising other sorts of policies, whether...

• 02 Nov 2020 » The Neo-Wicksellians vs The Neo-Fisherites

It has been a decade since Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Narayana Kocherlakota fired the opening salvo for the neo-Fisherites with his Michigan speech. In this speech, he controversially argued that keeping interest rates low for a long period of time would lead to deflation in the long run. In...

• 18 Oct 2020 » Stagnation and Separation: Where Has All the Money Gone?

Watching the presidential and vice-presidential debates was a rather lackluster experience and in the words of Dana Bash, a “shitshow” - so this isn’t about that. But the debates were important in reminding me of what Biden has said for a long time, which is that this election is a...

• 01 Oct 2020 » The Hong Kong Hypothesis

For those who don’t know me, I’m from Hong Kong. I think it’s a great city, and one of the things that confirmed this for me was the fact that life expectancy in Hong Kong was the highest in the world. And so Tyler Cowen posed the question: why...

• 13 Sep 2020 » A Primer on Economic Growth: Part III - Mankiw, Romer and Weil

Note: There’s now a version in Stata here - and as per people’s requests, the Stata version involves testing MRW against newer data, rather than merely replicating their paper.

• 05 Sep 2020 » The Next Recession: Where Do We Go From Here?

Disclaimer: this has been tagged as an effortpost due to the time and work put in. However, do take the monetary and infrastructure prescriptions with a pinch of salt. There’s a reason this is still an open debate among people far more qualified than myself.

• 28 Aug 2020 » Calorie Labelling on Menus

My Exponents Magazine article on why Boris Johnson’s plan to put calorie labels on menus represents a historically ineffective policy with significant and acute risks for those facing eating disorders: https://exponentsmag.org/2020/08/24/the-flaw-in-boris-johnsons-plan-to-fight-obesity/.

• 23 Aug 2020 » Governments aren't Households

As the pandemic persists, the amount of government spending necessary to support the economy has only risen. In fact, government debt has risen over £2 trillion for the first time ever. Inevitably, many are concerned about the state of public finances and whether we are spending beyond our means.

• 18 Aug 2020 » The Economics of Grading

I think one of the interesting parallels that has come out of this Ofqual grading fiasco is that of the macroeconomy. Consider the grades one receives as currency, which can be used to “buy” various goods and services - in this case, a university spot or impressing future employers. The...

• 15 Aug 2020 » Ofqual and Offerholders

It has become abundantly clear that there are disparities in the A-Level results received by students from different schools or different areas - but the exact details are still murky. I think there are a few things we can clear up regarding what happened and what can be done.

• 05 Aug 2020 » $15 Minimum Wage? We Can Do Better One of the flagship policies in the Biden presidential platform is a$15 national minimum wage - indeed, many see it as one of the wins of the Sanders campaign in shifting the Democratic consensus. But increasing a specific wage is not a policy goal - and so the more...

• 29 Jul 2020 » All that Glitters is Not Gold: It's Consumption

I recently saw an Instagram post about billionaires - why they were inherently problematic, why they didn’t deserve it and just a litany of complaints about their wealth. And what it was gesturing at was the broad agenda we increasingly see of taxing income, corporations and wealth much more aggressively...

• 24 Jul 2020 » A Primer on Economic Growth: Part II - Electric Boogaloo

In Part I, we saw what growth can be modeled as - but we were left wondering where that comes from. In Part II, we will be examining several hypotheses on the fundamental drivers of economic growth - that is, how the factor accumulation and productivity gains arise in...

• 18 Jul 2020 » A Conversation with Professor Donaldson on International Trade

As a followup to the last post, Professor Dave Donaldson kindly agreed to speak on his work in trade economics. Professor Donaldson is a Professor of Economics at MIT and the winner of the 2017 John Bates Clark Medal, awarded by the American Economic Association to “the American economist...

We interrupt the regularly scheduled programming on growth with a quick lecture on the economics of free trade. Free trade refers to the unencumbered flow of goods and services between countries. Despite the academic consensus around its benefits, it is one of the most contested policy within the public sphere

• 10 Jul 2020 » A Primer on Economic Growth: Part I - The Theoretical Underpinnings

In Part I, we will consider three main paradigms about economic growth: Malthusian, neoclassical and endogenous. These models show the role of the factors of production in driving economic growth. They also demonstrate that the accumulation of these factors alone cannot be the drivers of economic growth in the long-run....

• 02 Jul 2020 » Growth: A Primer in Three Parts

In these turbulent and uncertain times, it is easy to focus only on the violent economic fluctuations within the business cycle. But there is also a bigger picture - the longer-run increase in economic output across history. Measuring growth is important, because it defines the standard of living available to...

• 28 Jun 2020 » Zoning Laws: Why They Suck, Why They Persist, and How We Can Fix Them

Zoning refers to policies that divide land into zones that are regulated for specific purposes. Zoning is used as a mechanism of urban planning to separate different uses of land that are seen as incompatible or to prevent activities that would interfere with and degrade existing uses of land.

• 18 Jun 2020 » Bostock for Bisexuals?

Decided a mere two days ago, Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia is one of the most important Supreme Court judgements for LGBT rights in the USA - it holds that “an employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII” of the Civil Rights Act...

• 02 Jun 2020 » Making Change on #blackouttuesday

As #blackouttuesday has become a widespread phenomenon across Instagram, it is worth considering things we can do beyond simply virtue signalling to make real change.

• 27 May 2020 » Eton and Endowments

There has been much furore regarding the role of private schools within the UK - at the centre of that has been the Labour Party’s “Abolish Eton” campaign. In particular, concerns have been raised over the charitable status and vast endowments available to certain private schools. Given its prominence, let...

• 14 May 2020 » A Conversation with Nobel Laureate Oliver Hart on Contract Theory

Professor Oliver Hart is the Andrew E. Furer Professor of Economics Harvard University. He specialises in contract theory and the theory of the firm, having served as the President of the American Law and Economics Association and as vice president of the American Economic Association. His work on contracts and...

• 02 May 2020 » The Medical Side of the Recovery

Towards the end of March, I wrote about the immediate economic circumstances caused by COVID-19 - where we stood and what we needed to do. Much of this short-run work has been done by fiscal leaders and central bankers. What isn’t yet clear in the United Staes and the United...

• 29 Apr 2020 » A Conversation with Professor Behrman on Economic Development

Professor Jere Behrman is the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Economics at the University of Pennsylvania. His work on the role of human capital in development has been incredibly influential, having served as the director of the Center for Analysis of Developing Economies in the past. It was a...

• 14 Apr 2020 » Coronavirus: The Great Unequaliser

I think it has become incredibly easy to view the coronavirus crisis in the context of aggregate statistics. Indeed, many have spoken about the coronavirus as an ‘equalizer’, with Madonna calling it ‘the great equalizer’ and Governor Cuomo saying that ‘everyone is subject to this virus. I don’t care how...

• 29 Mar 2020 » Where We Stand: Coronavirus and the Global Economy

The coronavirus is both a public health and economic crisis. The fact that it is acting as a demand-side and supply-side shock, coupled with the medical solution being antithetical to economic recovery in the short-run, means that its severity is difficult to be underestimated. It also means that there are...

• 13 Mar 2020 » Notes on the Global Financial Crisis by Andrew Metrick and Timothy Geithner

These are some notes from the Global Financial Crisis course taught by Andrew Metrick and Timothy Geithner. This is mostly for my future self to refer back to, although it is hopefully fleshed out enough to be helpful to someone else.

• 14 Feb 2020 » Hello, It's Me

This is the brief story of why this blog came to be - although it’s dated to Feburary 14th, I actually wrote this on December 31st as a reflection on the year.