More in Global Economy


2 months

Economics of Climate Change: Three Recent Takes

Most economists took their last course in physical science many years ago, back in college days, and lack any particular in-depth knowledge of how to model weather or climate. But economists can contribute usefully to the climate change debate in other ways. At least some economists do have expertise in patterns of energy use, potential for substitution, and technology, and thus have something to say about likely future paths for the emissions of carbon (and other greenhouse gases), and what it might take to change these paths. And at least some economists have expertise in thinking about how changes to climate would affect economic and human outcomes, ranging from crop yields to human mortality. Here are a few recent examples.

2 months

Asset Prices and the Real Economy

Back in the late 1990s there was a mini-argument about whether something should be done about the run-up in the stock market. As a reminder, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was at about 4,000 in spring 1995, but reached 11,700 by January 2000. On one side, there was an argument that financial regulators or the central bank should do something to slow down or limit the rise. On the other side, the standard argument at the time (with which I agreed) was that: 1) giving government the power to decide an "appropriate" level for the stock-market seemed unwise for several reasons; 2) acting to choke off the stock market raised a danger of creating a near-term recession; 3) even if/when the bubble burst, the effects of a stock market collapse on the real economy would be muted. Indeed, the 2001 recession was fairly shallow and only eight months long, and while unemployment continued to rise for a time after the recession had ended, the monthly rate peaked at 6.3%.

2 months

A Primer on the Jones Act and American Shipping

The Jones Act pops into public consciousness every few years, perhaps most recently in fall 2017 when President Trump suspended the law for 10 days to help hurricane assistance in Puerto Rico. Colin Grabow, Inu Manak, and Daniel Ikenson offer background on the law and make the case for its repeal in in "The Jones Act: A Burden America Can No Longer Bear" (Cato Institute Policy Analysis #845, June 28, 2018). They begin:

3 months

Some Facts on Global Current Account Balances

I'm the sort of joyless and soul-killing conversationalist who likes to use facts as the background for arguments. In that spirit, here's an overview of some facts about global trade balances, taken from the IMF External Sector Report: Tackling Global Imbalances and Rising Trade Tensions (July 2018).

3 months

The Emergence and Erosion of the Retail Sales Tax

About 160 countries around the world, including all the other high-income countries of the world, use a value-added tax. The US has no value added tax, but 45 states and several thousand cities, use a sales tax as an alternative method of taxing consumption. John L. Mikesell and Sharon N. Kioko provide a useful overview of the issues in "The Retail Sales Tax in a New Economy," written for the 7th Annual Municipal Finance Conference, which was held on July 16-17, 2018, at the Brookings Institution. Video of the conference presentation of the paper, with comments and discussion, is available here.

3 months

David Ricardo's Comparative Advantage After Two Centuries

Two centuries ago in 1817, the great economist David Ricardo published his most prominent work: "On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation."Among many other insights, it's the book that introduced the idea of "comparative advantage" (especially in Chapter 7) and thus offered a way of thinking about the potential for gains from trade -- both between countries and within areas of a single country -- that has been central to economic thinking on these topics ever since. In Cloth for Wine? The Relevance of Ricardo’s Comparative Advantage in the 21st Century, Simon Evenett has edited a collection of 15 short essays thinking through how and when comparative advantage applies to modern economies. The book is published by the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) Press, in association with the UK government Department for International Trade.

3 months

Migration from a Global Perspective

International migration is one of the hot-button subjects everywhere. The World Migration Report 2018 from the International Organization for Migration (the UN Migration Agency) provides a wealth of facts and background not just about the economics, which is my focus here, but also about regional aspects of migration, international frameworks governing migration, media coverage of migration, how potential migrants perceive their choices, and more.