Morning Ed: Economics {2018.08.18.Sa}


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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12 Responses

  1. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    Ec1: I can just imagine how the well heeled would game that. Not that it’s a bad idea.Report

  2. Avatar PD Shaw says:


    Money Won’t Change You. (video)Report

  3. Avatar atomickristin says:

    Ec2 – not necessarily gonna end badly. While it’s obviously questionable reasoning for GenZ to COUNT on inheritance to fully fund retirement, I have seen plenty of people from many generations (even the Greatest Generation) who used family inheritance or other financial gifts as a stepping stone to financial stability in middle age. People give their children houses/furniture/cars, leave money that’s used to pay off debts, even turn over family businesses and farms, and so on.

    Honestly, it’s much more unusual that this doesn’t happen than that it does. We tend to lose our parents around 40-50, right when retirement is looming, and that sudden influx of cash/belongings really does help set many people up for retirement better than they were able to on their own. An unexpected wad of cash gets people out from under mortgages, out of credit card and student loan debt and then they’re able to save a lot more for retirement than they were in the past. More money coming in, less bills to be paid, no more living paycheck to paycheck, so more money available for retirement.

    This one reads to me like an uncharitable “kids these days” kind of piece since all generations are benefiting from family inheritance and have been for quite a while now.Report

  4. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    Ec9: My BIL is a small rancher (some odd breed, grass-fed, delivered into the local markets for high-quality beef), with a sideline of not growing wheat or soybeans. He doesn’t complain much about the complexity of meeting the requirements for fallow land of various sorts, but talks about it more as just a matter of what has to be done to be in that business.Report

  5. Avatar James K says:

    Ec5: Oh boy, where to begin:

    1) There is no requirement for selfishness in the First Welfare Theorem. Rationality requires that people try to optimise their utility function, not what is in that utility function. Someone could have a utility function that depends on other people’s outcomes without it causing a problem.

    2) So you’re telling that when asked a question that amounts to “do you agree with X or are you a psychopath?” 97% of people agreed? What an utterly shocking and totally meaningful result!

    3) If people saying one thing and doing another surprises you, you may have some more reading to do before you’re ready to comment on economics.

    4) Leaving all of the above aside, the existence of altruistic values does not imply that corporations themselves should act altruistically. Would it make sense to mandate that everyone work 5 fewer hours per week, and spend that time doing charity work? Or does it make more sense to have everyone earn the money they earn now, and give to charity?Report

    • Avatar Dark Matter says:

      Exactly. The whole thing reads like a “false choice” presentation. Either we have Union Carbide style disasters or we have the social justice faction running corporations.

      Given the evidence of pervasive prosociality… many BP shareholders might have preferred slightly lower returns to the Gulf oil spill disaster

      Even if you’re a pure money-first-and-only psychopath, BP lost money in that debacle so it was a disaster by anyone’s standards.Report

    • Avatar pillsy says:

      Someone could have a utility function that depends on other people’s outcomes without it causing a problem.

      Someone could, but the article I read seemed mostly about people not having such utility functions, or at least making investment decisions that do not appear consistent with such utility functions. Of course, there are many reasons that people may say one thing and do another, and one reason—a somewhat plausible one in this case—is that they don’t really know how their actions play out in the grand scheme of things, or far downstream.

      Of course, people may also shade the truth (or fool themselves about their motives) when it comes to answering questions like, “Do you want slightly lower returns on your investments, or are you an amoral monster?” but if you want people to invest differently in order to change corporate behavior, figuring out ways to make them think about investment decisions in those terms is a good plan!

      Lastly, actual corporations do things like allow employees to take time off from work to volunteer. Not mandated, and much less than 5 hours a week, but it is a real thing, as are various other forms of “corporate altruism”.

      The last seems like the more serious flaw in the piece, in a way. In the general case, actual corporations are not obviously run in the ruthlessly profit-maximizing way the author suggests. Still, it seems to me that you are going to be stuck with agency problems one way or another, and it’s quite plausible that encouraging corporate managers to focus on maximizing profits may well get you worse ones than arguing that they should consider the interests of a wider range of stakeholders.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      Is Evonomics as poorly regarded among actual economists as I assume it is?Report

      • Avatar James K says:


        Honestly, I’ve never heard of it before.


      • Avatar Road Scholar says:

        It depends on what you mean by “actual” economists. If you look at the “About” section of the Evonomics site you’ll find that half or more of the contributors and executive board or whatever are economists, many of them Nobel winners. So I assume they’re okay with it. If by “actual” you mean “economists who agree with Brandon Berg” then probably not so much.Report