Thursday, July 28, 2005

Ya soy postmo!?

Estoy de acuerdo con prácticamente todo lo que dice este individuo--significa eso que ya soy un economista-sociólogo post-mo?  
Quiza voy a comprar su librito ( para chorearme a mi grupo de introducción a la economía...
An end to grand designs - modernism and post-modernism
Firms are not the product of grand designs. The same is true of economic systems. Attempts to establish economic systems on the basis of abstract blueprints in Eastern Europe, Russia and the third world have led to lamentable failures. In the last decade this has been as true of the blue prints of the right as it was previously true of the blueprints of the left.

In other disciplines, the modernist view that systems and knowledge can be derived from entirely general first principles has come and gone. In architecture, for example, the twentieth century view that 'a house was a machine for living in' - entirely rational, functionalist - has given way to post-modernism. Architectural rationalism discarded much that was valuable, but tacit rather than explicit, in the classical tradition and the emphasis on functionality in modern architecture proved ultimately not even to be effectively functional. (You can read more in an article I wrote in the Financial Times on 29 April 1998.)

Yet economics and business are today the last bastions of modernism. There is still a firmly rooted belief that there are right ways of organising firms and economies, not just for here and now, but as universal maxims: and that in matters of business and economics sensitivity to culture, context, tradition and history are unaffordable sentimentality.

I disagree profoundly with this modernist position. Social phenomena can never be successfully understood or analysed in this way. There are many perspectives - literary, anthropological, economic - on the ways in which we behave and in which our society is organised. Each of them has a measure of truth, neither is the whole truth. See FT article 7th March 2001

Markets are embedded in a social context
That modernist view is today most clearly found in views on the design of economic systems. Broadly, the 'Washington consensus' is that well-defined private property rights, active capital markets, and free internal and external trade, are necessary and sufficient for economic success. This is part of what Fukuyama, borrowing Nietzsche's striking phrase, called the end of history. In the combination of late 20th century American progressive opinion, lightly regulated capitalism and liberal democracy we have arrived, once and for all, at the right answers.

I believe that this description of how market economies function is certainly superficial, and even wrong. I share the commitment to market economics and market economies. But I see the social context of markets not as a sideshow but as an integral part of how these markets work. And I believe it is the absence of an appropriate social context that provides the explanation of why the 'Washington consensus' has so often failed, just as socialism failed: because they relied on principles deduced in abstraction from the reality of the environment within which it was intended to function.

This social context is essential because
- modern economies need and process complex information. Asymmetry of information in transactions is handled by a range of rules, conventions and relationships between traders
- small group interactions frequently have pathological properties which need to be handled by contracts and conventions, by participation in hierarchically structured organisations, and by the development of sustained relationships
- many markets for risks do not and cannot exist: since the cost of insecurity to individuals may be very high, social as well as economic institutions for risk sharing and risk pooling are needed and are found in all societies
- property rights are not, in any but the simplest of economies, obvious or natural: they are social constructs and there are many different possible property rights régimes.

Reasoning of this kind denies the possibility of a single model, or blueprint, for economic systems. Properly functioning businesses, and markets, are particular products of specific social contexts and cannot easily be created outside of these contexts. See "The Good Market" from Prospect Magazine for an elaboration of this kind of thinking. A much more extended account will be found in my next book.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Bicis baratas vs. la muerte de un sueño

Los globalifóbicos tienen "el melodrama" de su lado. Si no me creen, chequen
nada más este título:

"The Last Bicycle Tire Plant:
Mexican Factory Workers' Dream Dies on Altar of Free Trade"
by Gordon Lafer

La última fábrica de llantas para bicicleta en México era una cooperativa.
Otras fábricas cerraron tiempo atrás ante el influjo de llantas y bicis
chinas mucho más baratas. Para el autor, este hecho es un ejemplo más de que
el mundo está cada vez peor y que todo es culpa del FMI, BM y otros

Mi "reacción insensible" es: ojalá la cooperativa hubiera respondido antes a
las señales del mercado... O, buscándole el lado amable, quizá este mismo
fenómeno ha permitido que Santa Claus o los Reyes regalen más bicis a más
niños desde NAFTA a esta parte. En cualquier caso, mi visión no tiene
melodrama y por eso Coldplay no hace canciones sobre bicis baratas.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

China libre (de blogs)

Recuerden esto la próxima vez que un despistado les diga que el "milagro chino" es superior a las políticas neoli fallidas.   No deja de ser curioso que que los pundits culpen con más énfasis a las "corporaciones americanas" por su "perversa complicidad" que a la dictadura por ser lo que es--es la misma disonancia de los globalifóbicos que ven más culpabilidad en el BM y FMI que en los bejaranos y priístas del mundo.

Confirmed: All Typepad blogs blocked in China

Censored_w_ciscoAsiapundit first sounded the alarm. Now it's confirmed. All Typepad blogs, including this one, cannot be seen in China. (Note that Blogger has been blocked in China for some time.)  I asked some people in China to attempt accessing this blog and a long list of other random Typepad blogs (including ones that never discuss China), without using a proxy. None could be accessed.  Now all Typepad blogs wanting to be seen in China will have to migrate to another blog hosting service or onto an independent server. Meanwhile, Asiapundit has created a series of graphics like the one on the right which you can put on your blocked blog to help create awareness of the problem.

The Chinese government is mainly to blame for this, but it's important to consider the way in which U.S. technology is being used to stifle free speech in China - and the extent to which U.S. companies are responsible for this usage. This includes not only Microsoft, but also Cisco Systems and others. Here is what Reporters Without Borders had to say about Cisco's complicity in a recent report:

The architecture of the Chinese Internet was designed from the outset to allow information control. There are just five backbones or hubs through which all traffic must pass. No matter what ISP is chosen by Internet users, their e-mails and the files they download and send must pass through one of these hubs.


Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Jared Diamond - Collapse

Jared Diamond estudia las "grandes preguntas" del surgimiento y colapso de
las civilizaciones... con la ventaja de que no ser ni historiador, ni
politologo ni economista. Su último libro ha sido criticado en diversos
frentes, pero creo que aún así contiene elementos valiosos.

Easter Island, C'est Moi
By Terrence McNally, AlterNet

In his Pulitzer-prize winning book, "Guns, Germs, and Steel," Jared Diamond
examined how and why Western civilizations developed the technologies and
immunities that allowed them to dominate much of the world. Now in
"Collapse: How Societies Choose To Fail Or Succeed," Diamond probes the
other side of the
equation: What caused some of the great civilizations of the past to
collapse into ruin, and what can we learn from their fates? From the
Polynesian cultures on Easter Island to the flourishing American
civilizations of the Anasazi and the Maya, and finally to the doomed Viking
colony on Greenland, "Collapse" traces the fundamental patterns of

TERRENCE MCNALLY: What called to you about the new book, "Collapse"?

JARED DIAMOND: What called to me was a romantic interest going back to when
I was in my 20s and began reading Thor Heyerdahl's books about the
settlement of Easter Island and the great stone statues and how they were
erected and why they were overthrown. It's a question that's been on my mind
for a long time.

Twenty years ago we really didn't know why the islanders ended up in this
barren landscape overthrowing their statues. It also wasn't clear why the
Maya had abandoned their great cities. But thanks to recent archeological
excavations we now have better understanding of these collapses. It's now
possible to write a unified book on collapses.

TM: You put forth a five-point framework of factors that tend to contribute
to collapse. Could you tell us what they are, in terms of one of the actual
cases in the book?

JD: Let's take a full five-factor collapse that involves a European society
(collapses happen not just to exotic people like Polynesians or Native
Americans, they happen to blue-eyed, blonde-haired Europeans like
Norwegians). The Vikings settled Greenland around C.E. 1000. They built
cathedrals and stone churches. They were literate, they wrote Latin and they
wrote in runes. But after about 500 years they were all dead. Still, the
Norse lasted longer in Greenland than Europeans have lasted in North America

Number one: human environmental impacts. Many societies unwittingly destroy
the environmental resources on which they depend. The Greenland Norse
chopped down their forests in order to clear land for pastures and to have
firewood and construction timber, but that resulted in erosion that
gradually removed land that could have been used for productive pastures.

Number two: climate change. Today we're causing climate change, but in the
past the climate has naturally gotten colder or hotter or rainy or drier. In
the case of the Greenland Norse, it got colder. If it's colder, you grow
less hay to get your cattle through the winter and your cattle start dying.

The third factor was enemies. Most societies have enemies, and can fight off
their enemies until the society gets weakened for whatever reason. The Roman
Empire weakened and then was overrun by barbarians. In the case of the
Greenland Norse, as they weakened, their enemies, the Inuit or Eskimos,
probably played a role in exterminating them.

Factor number four: friends. The Greenland Norse depended upon Norway for
essential resources, particularly iron and timber, and for cultural
identity. Norway began to decline, and the trade from Norway to Greenland
was impeded by sea ice.

And number five: every society responds or fails to respond to its problems.
The Greenland Norse failed to respond successfully.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Economics is becoming cool

"And as its focus broadens, there are even some signs that economics is becoming cool."


The Hot Major For Undergrads Is Economics,,SB112052978616277054-vbmCp8DGminE3fKhMa5zouOt0R4_20060705,00.html

July 5, 2005; Page A11

What's your major? Around the world, college undergraduates' time-honored question is increasingly drawing the same answer: economics.

U.S. colleges and universities awarded 16,141 degrees to economics majors in the 2003-2004 academic year, up nearly 40% from five years earlier, according to John J. Siegfried, an economics professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., who tracks 272 colleges and universities around the country for the Journal of Economic Education.

Since the mid-1990s, the number of students majoring in economics has been rising, while the number majoring in political science and government has declined and the number majoring in history and sociology has barely grown, according to the government's National Center for Education Statistics.

[Growth in economics degrees]

"There has been a clear explosion of economics as a major," says Mark Gertler, chairman of New York University's economics department.

The number of students majoring in economics has been rising even faster at top colleges. At New York University, for example, the number of econ majors has more than doubled in the past 10 years. At nearly 800, it is now the most popular major.

Economics also is the most popular major at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., where 964 students majored in the subject in 2005. The number of econ majors at Columbia University in New York has risen 67% since 1995. The University of Chicago said that last year, 24% of its entire graduating class, 240 students, departed with economics degrees.

The trend marks a big switch for the so-called dismal science, which saw big declines in undergraduate enrollments in the early 1990s as interest in other areas, like sociology, was growing. Behind the turnaround is a clear-eyed reading of supply and demand: In a global economy filled with uncertainty, many students see economics as the best vehicle for a job promising good pay and security.

And as its focus broadens, there are even some signs that economics is becoming cool.