Friday, March 31, 2006

Money in the bank

By exporting & lending to the US cheaply (and the American consumer willingly), China has amassed nearly 1 trillion in dollar reserves.

From The Economist (March 2006):

China surpassed Japan as the world's biggest holder of foreign reserves. The news came amid more politicking over China's currency policy, which American politicians regard as a cause of their trade deficit. Charles Schumer, a senator who has been shrill in his attacks on Beijing, dropped plans, for the moment at least, to slap a 27.5% tariff on Chinese goods, partly in response to signals from China that it would allow its currency to float more freely.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Tides Turning

A new book, Tides Turning, predicts that climate change is likely to be abrupt and cataclysmic—and that these sudden shifts could cripple national economies.

Newsweek has an interesting interview with the book's author here.

Implicit in this article, and mainstream economists are the first to admit, is the idea that there’s tremendous uncertainty and an unknown territory when it comes to modeling and estimating the costs of pollution, climate change, and natural disasters.

Yet sometimes in the assumed belief that free markets address most issues big and small, we fail to realize that in reality there are significant limitations and staleness with the economics discipline and free markets, particularly when dealing with uncertainty in complex, open systems with unknown transaction costs.

This is despite Nobel economist Ronald Coase’s work decades ago on transaction and social costs, that is, when property rights are fixed and defined, it was possible to “internalize externalities” like pollution. While it was a good starting point it was only for closed systems (two parties) with known transaction costs.

Unfortunately, meanwhile many have come to assume that mother nature is a trash collector that works for free, when it’s that we just don’t know how to accurately measure such externalities so it’s as if such costs don’t exist, even when it does and is often quite visible for show like Katrina.

To get a good sense of the limitations with Coase’s theorem as it applies to externalities like pollution, see A Critique of the Chicago School of Economics: Ronald Coase and the Coase Theorem

Sunday, March 26, 2006

V for Wow

My wife and I saw V For Vendetta last night and it was absolutely magnificient. Highly recommended.