Friday, December 23, 2005
Las preguntas centrales fueron estas, seguidas de mis respuestas sintéticas:
1. De llegar al poder, ¿qué tan serio es el compromiso de AMLO con la legalidad?
AMLO se concibe a si mismo como un "luchador social" que ha usado con éxito tanto medios legales como extra legales--ojo, no digo ilegales sino movilizaciones y marchas--para lograr sus supuestos objetivos de justicia social. Gran parte de su credibilidad pública esta basada en esta muy estratégica imagen.
El sistema legal en México es frágil, y muchas veces injusto. Por ser frágil, el presidente tiene amplios márgenes de maniobra para usar la ley como instrumento de política. Por ser injusto, es electoralmente rentable para un candidato prometer luchar por la justicia antes que por la legalidad. Esto implica una disyuntiva riesgosa: hacer política con la ley o mas allá de la ley.
A menuo AMLO parece enviar el mensaje de que, de llegar al poder, usará su honestidad valiente y sus ideales de justicia para resolver los problemas del país independientemente de los límites de la ley. Para cualquiera que entienda algo de estado de derecho, esto es un serio riesgo de regresión.
2. ¿Es posible que AMLO sea una especie de Hugo Chávez mexicano?
Ésta es fácil: No. México es 1) una economía diversificada muy ligada a los E.U., en vez de monoexportadora como Venezuela; 2) el poder político en México está más descentralizado: los partidos son fuertes y la separación de poderes es joven pero parece más sólida que allá. La combinación de ambos factores impone más contrapesos al presidente en México que en Venezuela (One hopes!)
3. ¿Son suficientemente sólidas las instituciones mexicanas para hacer contrapeso al voluntarismo de AMLO?
Opino que si. Aunque la democracia mexicana es joven, los usos y costumbres de sus actores políticos y sus instituciones son suficientemente sólidas (ojo, no digo que sean socialmente eficientes). ¿Sería deseable tener mejores instituciones? También, pero ese es otro tema.
4. ¿Tiene razón AMLO en decir que por "el bien de todos primero los pobres", y que la corrupción es el principal problema público de México?
No conozco a ningún político que opine que la pobreza y corrupción no son un problema nacional grave. El problema es cómo se pretende atender tales problemas. Ambos requieren reformas serias--es decir, políticamente costosas. AMLO no parece querer decirnos qué tipo de reformas impulsaría ni cómo lo haría. Cuando tuvo amplia mayoría en la Asamblea del D.F., no pareció haber impulsado grandes reformas: más bien se mantuvo lejos de temas controversiales y politicamente costosos.
La plataforma de AMLO es básicamente ofrecer un mayor esfuerzo redistributivo, pero no quiere hablar de la reforma fiscal necesaria para financiarlo, por ejemplo. Detonar un mayor crecimiento económico generaría beneficios sociales más amplios que la mera redistribución. Pero eso requiere muchas y muy bien pensadas reformas. Un voluntarismo redistributivo, por más honesto y valiente que sea, no será suficiente si AMLO no sabe mucho de políticas públicas eficientes.
The Other American Exceptionalism
By Gerard Alexander
Not so long ago, American conservatives seemed to be converting the world to their ideas. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, country after country abandoned socialism for free markets, embracing such Reaganite themes as incentives, individualism, and responsibility. It looked as though the sun would never set on the friends of American conservatism. Yet today, American conservatives have never felt so alone.
This is not a matter of how many people around the world like American conservatives, but of how many are like them. To be sure, many political movements don't have counterparts in other countries. But Europe and America are politically kin, and when in the 1980s Ronald Reagan took his stands for markets and against the Soviets he found ready and stalwart allies in Margaret Thatcher, Helmut Kohl, and other indigenous conservatives. Yet all we hear of these days is the "exceptionalism of modern American conservatism." What happened to Europe?
Finding an answer begins with a comparison of contemporary American and European conservatives, especially concerning their basic assumptions—or operating principles—about economics, foreign policy, crime, and morality.
Market vs. State
American conservatives believe that a healthy modern economy is so complex and innovative that most economic decisions have to take place in the private sector, where scattered information is located, and risk may be rewarded or punished. Government is best at enforcing rules of the game and engaging in limited redistribution. When it does much more than that, it creates inefficient regulations and bureaucracies prone to expanding rather than learning.
This basic assumption runs deep in American life, not merely because we've spent too much time in post office lines—everyone on earth has done that—but because we're in a position to compare the post office to responsive, dynamic private businesses of all kinds. Many Europeans think similarly, especially business leaders, free-market activists, policy wonks, center-right politicians (including, apparently, the German Christian Democrats' Angela Merkel), and the occasional center-left leader such as Tony Blair or Gerhard Schroeder.
But most Western Europeans fear that markets will fail to meet their needs and satisfy their interests. They maintain a faute de mieux faith that government is the indispensable actor in economic life. Even when compelled by economic crisis to trim taxes, privatize, and curb spending—that is, even while recognizing implicitly that these measures attract investment and encourage growth—European leaders rarely offer principled criticism of government intervention, much less positive rhetoric about the marketplace. (Jacques Chirac's center-right cabinet is now privatizing state entities, not because private ownership is more efficient but primarily to cut the deficit and pay down the debt.) The European Union's proclaimed drive to become internationally competitive is top-down and government-centered. Not surprisingly, "Thatcherite" and "neo-liberal" continue to be labels insultingly applied and hotly denied. All this is true even for several right-wing "populist" parties, such as France's National Front, which calls occasionally for tax limitation but more often emphasizes protectionism and a welfare state generous to native-born Frenchmen.
These views have not been dislodged, even by serious economic problems. And Europe's economic problems are serious. The unemployment rate is stuck at around 10% in Germany and France, and if anything this underestimates the true figure--even more unemployment is concealed through extensive job-training and early-retirement schemes. The fact that many continental European economies have such mechanisms for sidelining less-skilled workers makes it all the more striking that labor productivity still generally grows faster in the United States. For decades, France and Germany had narrowed the gap in labor productivity with the U.S., but in the past 15 years their progress slowed and then reversed.
The result is that average U.S. per capita income is now about 55% higher than the average of the European Union's core 15 countries (it expanded to 25 in 2004). In fact, the biggest E.U. countries have per capita incomes comparable to America's poorest states.
If you like this much, you should read the whole thing.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Political business cycle, where are you?
How Do Budget Deficits and Economic Growth Affect Reelection Prospects? Evidence from a Large Cross-Section of Countries
by Adi Brender, Allan Drazen #11862 (EFG) http://papers.nber.org/papers/W11862
Conventional wisdom is that good economic conditions or expansionary fiscal policy help incumbents get re-elected, but this has not been tested in a large cross-section of countries. We test these arguments in a sample of 74 countries over the period 1960-2003. We find no evidence that deficits help reelection in any group of countries -- developed and less developed, new and old democracies, countries with different government or electoral systems, and countries with different levels of democracy. In developed countries, especially old democracies, election-year deficits actually reduce the probability that a leader is reelected, with similar negative electoral effects of deficits in the earlier years of an incumbent's term in office. Higher growth rates of real GDP per-capita raise the probability of reelection only in the less developed countries and in new democracies, but voters are affected by growth over the leader's term in office rather than in the election year itself. Low inflation is rewarded by voters only in the developed countries. The effects we find are not only statistically significant, but also quite substantial quantitatively. We also suggest how the absence of a positive electoral effect of deficits can be consistent with the political deficit cycle found in new democracies.
The bizarre world of the free trade vs. free migration asymmetry in historical perspective
A Dual Policy Paradox: Why Have Trade and Immigration Policies Always Differed in Labor-Scarce Economies
by Timothy J. Hatton, Jeffrey G. Williamson #11866 (DAE ITI LS) http://papers.nber.org/papers/W11866
Today's labor-scarce economies have open trade and closed immigration policies, while a century ago they had just the opposite, open immigration and closed trade policies. Why the inverse policy correlation, and why has it persisted for almost two centuries? This paper seeks answers to this dual policy paradox by exploring the fundamentals which have influenced the evolution of policy: the decline in the costs of migration and its impact on immigrant selectivity, a secular switch in the net fiscal impact of trade relative to immigration, and changes in the median voter. The paper also offers explanations for the between-country variance in voter anti-trade and anti-migration attitude, and links this to the fundamentals pushing policy.
Let the kids monitor their teachers... with disposable cameras!
Monitoring Works: Getting Teachers to Come to School
by Esther Duflo, Rema Hanna #11880 (CH ED) http://papers.nber.org/papers/W11880
In the rural areas of developing countries, teacher absence is a widespread problem. This paper tests whether a simple incentive program based on teacher presence can reduce teacher absence, and whether it has the potential to lead to more teaching activities and better learning. In 60 informal one-teacher schools in rural India, randomly chosen out of 120 (the treatment schools), a financial incentive program was initiated to reduce absenteeism. Teachers were given a camera with a tamper-proof date and time function, along with instructions to have one of the children photograph the teacher and other students at the beginning and end of the school day. The time and date stamps on the photographs were used to track teacher attendance. A teacher's salary was a direct function of his attendance. The remaining 60 schools served as comparison schools. The introduction of the program resulted in an immediate decline in teacher absence. The absence rate (measured using unannounced visits both in treatment and comparison schools) changed from an average of 42 percent in the comparison schools to 22 percent in the treatment schools. When the schools were open, teachers were as likely to be teaching in both types of schools, and the number of students present was roughly the same. The program positively affected child achievement levels: a year after the start of the program, test scores in program schools were 0.17 standard deviations higher than in the comparison schools and children were 40 percent more likely to be admitted into regular schools.
Social interactions and social capital are NOT declining
The Demand for Social Interaction
by Henry Saffer #11881 (HE) http://papers.nber.org/papers/W11881
In this paper social interaction is modeled as a consumer good. Social interaction may provide an externality in the form of social capital, but the primary reason that individuals engage in social interaction is that these activities directly yield utility. It is important to note that some measures of social interaction show declines while many do not. A model of household production is employed to derive the demand for social interaction. The model shows that the demand for social interaction is a function of its price, the price of other goods and income. The role of children and marriage in social interaction can also be explained in the model. The theory is tested with data from the General Social Survey (GSS) and the results show that social interaction can be explained as the consequence of utility maximizing behavior by individuals. Increases in education generally increase memberships but reduce visiting with relatives and friends. Increases in income generally increase memberships and some forms of visiting. The model predicts 70 percent, or more, of the time trends in social interaction. These results are in contrast to social capital theorists who have focused on the declines in social interaction and who have attributed these changes to factors such as increased community heterogeneity and increased television viewing.
Monday, December 19, 2005
1. Stanford Prof. Susan Athey's advice on applying to economics grad school.
2. Guide to applying at www.econphd.net (with lots and lots of additional info)
3. And a nice Q&A from Davidson College:
Why go to graduate school in economics?
How long does it take to get a Ph.D. in economics?
What is a typical course of study?
What can you do with a Ph.D. in economics?
Should I get a Master's degree in economics?
What is the Diploma in economics?
What about a Ph.D. in public policy?
Should I go directly to graduate school?
How much does graduate school cost?
What is the average salary?
How hard is it to get into a top program?
What are the admissions committees looking for?
Where should I apply? And to how many places?
What are my chances of graduating with the Ph.D.?
Where have recent economics Ph.D.'s found jobs?
What you need to be doing now?
David Romer's Rules for Making It Through Graduate School
and Finishing Your Dissertation
- Don't clutter up your life with other activities; just write.
- Don't carry out a thorough and comprehensive search of the literature; just write.
- Don't attempt to make sure that every page you write shows the full extent of your professional skills; just write.
- Don't write a well-organized, well-integrated, unified dissertation; just write.
- Don't think profound thoughts that shake the intellectual foundations of the discipline; just write.
- If you don't have a paper started by the spring of your third year, be alarmed.
- If you don't have a paper largely drafted by the fall of your fourth year, panic.
- Have three new ideas a week while you are getting started.
- Don't try to game the profession, work on what interests you.
- Good papers in economics have three characteristics:
- A viewpoint.
- A lever.
- A result.
Friday, December 16, 2005
The Exceptional First Amendment
Harvard University - John F. Kennedy School of Government
KSG Working Paper No. RWP05-021
As is increasingly apparent, the United States is a free speech and free press outlier. With respect to a large range of issues - defamation, hate speech, publication of information about ongoing legal proceedings, incitement to violence or illegal conduct, and many others - the United States stands alone, not only as compared to totalitarian states, but also in comparison with other open liberal constitutional democracies.
The reasons for this divergence are common, but among the explanations are the complexities of the trans-national migration of legal and constitutional ideas, differential commitments to libertarian visions as a matter of basic political theory, differences in the constitutional text, differences in political and legal history, differences in the role of various interest groups, and differences in views about constitutionalism and the role of the courts. This paper attempts to explore in an explanatory but non-evaluative way the causes of American free speech exceptionalism.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Among intellectuals, are academic experts any better than political pundits or journalists? In academia, competition may filter out the worst forecasts and the more biased forecasters--but that is a BIG maybe. In politics, on the other hand, persuasion, rhetoric and symbols matter much more than logical consistency or evidence. Again, Tetlock says no.
This is from The New Yorker (5-dec-05):
EVERYBODY's AN EXPERT by LOUIS MENAND
Prediction is one of the pleasures of life. Conversation would wither without it. “It won’t last. She’ll dump him in a month.” If you’re wrong, no one will call you on it, because being right or wrong isn’t really the point. The point is that you think he’s not worthy of her, and the prediction is just a way of enhancing your judgment with a pleasant prevision of doom. Unless you’re putting money on it, nothing is at stake except your reputation for wisdom in matters of the heart. If a month goes by and they’re still together, the deadline can be extended without penalty. “She’ll leave him, trust me. It’s only a matter of time.” They get married: “Funny things happen. You never know.” You still weren’t wrong. Either the marriage is a bad one—you erred in the right direction—or you got beaten by a low-probability outcome.
It is the somewhat gratifying lesson of Philip Tetlock’s new book, “Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?” (Princeton; $35), that people who make prediction their business—people who appear as experts on television, get quoted in newspaper articles, advise governments and businesses, and participate in punditry roundtables—are no better than the rest of us. When they’re wrong, they’re rarely held accountable, and they rarely admit it, either. They insist that they were just off on timing, or blindsided by an improbable event, or almost right, or wrong for the right reasons. They have the same repertoire of self-justifications that everyone has, and are no more inclined than anyone else to revise their beliefs about the way the world works, or ought to work, just because they made a mistake. No one is paying you for your gratuitous opinions about other people, but the experts are being paid, and Tetlock claims that the better known and more frequently quoted they are, the less reliable their guesses about the future are likely to be. The accuracy of an expert’s predictions actually has an inverse relationship to his or her self-confidence, renown, and, beyond a certain point, depth of knowledge. People who follow current events by reading the papers and newsmagazines regularly can guess what is likely to happen about as accurately as the specialists whom the papers quote. Our system of expertise is completely inside out: it rewards bad judgments over good ones.
Tetlock picked two hundred and eighty-four people who made their living “commenting or offering advice on political and economic trends,” and he started asking them to assess the probability that various things would or would not come to pass, both in the areas of the world in which they specialized and in areas about which they were not expert. Would there be a nonviolent end to apartheid in South Africa? Would Gorbachev be ousted in a coup? Would the United States go to war in the Persian Gulf? Would Canada disintegrate? And so on. By the end of the study, in 2003, the experts had made 82,361 forecasts. Tetlock also asked questions designed to determine how they reached their judgments, how they reacted when their predictions proved to be wrong, how they evaluated new information that did not support their views, and how they assessed the probability that rival theories and predictions were accurate.
(...)The respondents were asked to rate the probability of three alternative outcomes: the persistence of the status quo, more of something (political freedom, economic growth), or less of something (repression, recession). And he measured his experts on two dimensions: how good they were at guessing probabilities (did all the things they said had an x per cent chance of happening happen x per cent of the time?), and how accurate they were at predicting specific outcomes. The results were unimpressive. On the first scale, the experts performed worse than they would have if they had simply assigned an equal probability to all three outcomes—if they had given each possible future a thirty-three-per-cent chance of occurring. Human beings who spend their lives studying the state of the world, in other words, are poorer forecasters than dart-throwing monkeys, who would have distributed their picks evenly over the three choices.
(...)Specialists are not significantly more reliable than non-specialists in guessing what is going to happen in the region they study. Knowing a little might make someone a more reliable forecaster, but Tetlock found that knowing a lot can actually make a person less reliable. “We reach the point of diminishing marginal predictive returns for knowledge disconcertingly quickly,” he reports. “In this age of academic hyperspecialization, there is no reason for supposing that contributors to top journals—distinguished political scientists, area study specialists, economists, and so on—are any better than journalists or attentive readers of the New York Times in ‘reading’ emerging situations.” And the more famous the forecaster the more overblown the forecasts.
Myths and Realities of American Political Geography
Edward L. Glaeser and Bryce A. Ward
The division of America into red states and blue states misleadingly suggests that states are split into two camps, but along most dimensions, like political orientation, states are on a continuum. By historical standards, the number of swing states is not particularly low, and America's cultural divisions are not increasing.
But despite the flaws of the red state/blue state framework, it does contain two profound truths. First, the heterogeneity of beliefs and attitudes across the United States is enormous and has always been so. Second, political divisions are becoming increasingly religious and cultural. The rise of religious politics is not without precedent, but rather returns us to the pre-New Deal norm. Religious political divisions are so common because religious groups provide politicians the opportunity to send targeted messages that excite their base.
Monday, December 12, 2005
|Bienestar social||Menos privilegiados, desigualdad de ingresos||Más privilegiados, ingresos promedio|
|Igualdad y justicia||Igualdad o justicia de resultados||Justicia procesal, igualdad frente a la ley|
|Igualdad y libertad||Prioridad igualdad sobre libertad||Prioridad libertad sobre igualdad|
|Igualdad y riqueza||Atender desigualdad y pobreza primero, crecimiento después||Creación de riqueza primero, redistribución después (lifting all boats)|
|Papel del estado||Redistribución vía intervención gubernamental e impuestos||Aceptar desigualdades del mercado, oposición a redistribución e intervención estatal|
|Mayor estado / más intervencionista||Estado pequeño y menos intervencionista|
|Confianza en la eficiencia de monopolios estatales.||Confianza en la eficiencia de oligopolios privados.|
|Promover igualdad social, protección de minorías y grupos desprotegidos. Estado asistencialista y regulador de fallas de mercado.||Opuesto a violaciones de la ley/estado de derecho, regulación excesiva, eficiencia gubernamental dudosa.|
|Naturaleza humana||Naturaleza humana sociotrópica y maleable||Naturaleza humana egoísta e inmutable.|
|Colectivismo, conciencia de clase o grupo conducen a la acción colectiva||Individualismo, la acción colectiva no es compatible con incentivos individuales.|
|Estado y religión||O estado O religión / estado laico||Estado Y religión|
|Cambio||Cambio e innovación radical||Conservadurismo y cambio gradual|
|Visión del mundo||Actitudes cosmopolitas, tolerancia, diversidad y minorías, multiculturalismo||Valores tradicionales / conservadurismo moral|
|Internacionalismo||Narrow intereses nacionales|
|Sinónimos||Socialdemócratas, progresistas, liberales (USA)||Conservadores, libertarians|
Saturday, December 10, 2005
by Jerry Hausman, Ephraim Leibtag
Consumers often benefit from increased competition in differentiated product settings. In this paper we consider consumer benefits from increased competition in a differentiated product setting: the spread of non-traditional retail outlets. In this paper we estimate consumer benefits from supercenter entry and expansion into markets for food. We estimate a discrete choice model for household shopping choice of supercenters and traditional outlets for food. We have panel data for households so we can follow their shopping patterns over time and allow for a fixed effect in their shopping behavior. We find the benefits to be substantial, both in terms of food expenditure and in terms of overall consumer expenditure. Low income households benefit the most.
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
- Remember that all ideas are brilliant until put down on paper.
- Tell us what you know, not what you think --- you haven’t earned that right to tell us what you think yet.
- If a reader thinks your paper is unclear, by definition it is unclear.
- Writing is research, don’t sit and read forever without trying to construct an argument.
- Read everything, but don’t do literature reviews.
- Concentrate your criticisms on “sins of omission” not on “sins of commission” ---- nobody likes writers who only criticize the works of others, you have to pursue opportunities that are being missed and be constructive not merely critical.
- Focus your research energies on your passions, pursue truth as you see it with abandon, but also learn to tame your passions and convictions with reason and evidence.
- Originality in scholarship is similar to originality in music --- you don’t come up with new notes, you simply arrange them in a novel fashion. Don’t expect to discover new concepts in economics, but take concepts and mix them or apply them in novel ways.
- As hard as you are currently working, someone is out there working harder and at a higher ranked school --- recognize the competition you have entered and learn to compete effectively by pursuing your comparative advantage and out working your competitors.
- Try to make sure that you write your ideas down, present them to your professors and peers, and learn to revise your argument. Your ability to improve between drafts of your papers will determine how far you go in this business. The best people have the greatest improvements between drafts. Those who are impervious to comments and don’t revise effectively will have a tough time. Of course Mozart might have gotten it right on the first take, but few of us ever do. Write, edit, rewrite, write again. If you are going to be a professional academic economists you are going to be a professional writer and speaker, learn your craft and take pride in it."
Sunday, December 04, 2005
--10% con base en los votos de los ocho tucomistas
--40% con base en 1400 notables encuestados (dicen que como la mitad contestó--un muy alto nivel de abstencionismo, considerando que los notables son gente informada, cívica y patriótica).
--50% con base en una encuesta a 6000 no notables o meros mortales.
Esta votación es un híbrido curioso de votos anónimos pero no idénticos: el voto de un tucomista valía más de diez veces más que el de un notable, y el de éstos a su vez valía mucho más que el de un mero mortal. ¡Ni siquiera Big Brother hubiera cocinado tal fórmula!
Dice "Transparencia Mexicana" que de acuerdo a sus muy transparentes cómputos ganó Montiel.
Y claro, en aras de la transparencia no se puede saber el nombre y número de los notables que SI contestaron, ni los porcentajes de ganadores y perdedores tanto entre notables como entre meros mortales. No vaya a ser que, sabiendo tales porcentajes, los tucomistas decidan romper su pacto o le vendan sus market share a Madrazo.
Preguntas del ácido: ¿Si tuvieras que elegir entre eliminar a los notables o a los meros mortales, a quién descartarías? ¿Madrazo vs. Montiel?