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6 months

A Plan to Fix Social Security

Some hard questions defy easy answers. What is the meaning of life? What happens right at the event horizon of a black hole? How can the US substantially reduce health care spending? But for other questions, the answers are fairly clear, and what is lacking is a willingness to choose. Fixing Social Security falls into this category. As I have argued from time to time in the past, the actuaries at Social Security regularly publish a list of possible tax increases and benefit cuts, and its not hard to put together a package that fixes Social Security. I sometimes say that if we locked a group of 100 randomly chosen people in a room, and said they couldn't leave until they had a two-thirds majority for a plan to fix Social Security, they could be out in time for lunch. 

6 months

Some Economics of Foot-Binding

When I have thought of foot-binding in the past, which wasn't all that often, I've tended to view it as just one of those grim social practices, built on a mixture of social positioning and sexism, which disfigured the bodies of women. That's not wrong, but it's an oversimplification. Why did such a practice arise at one time, but not another time? Why did it end? Why did it differ across regions of China? Why feet? Xinyu Fan and Lingwei Wu give a fuller sense of context in "The Economic Motives for Foot-binding," a version of which was given at the meetings of the Allied Social Science Associations in Atlanta in early January. 

6 months

Learning, Not Just Schooling

The World Development Report 2018, one of the flagship reports of the World Bank, focuses on the theme "LEARNING To Realize Education's Promise." The thrust of the report is that school enrollments are up dramatically in developing countries across the world, but in a disturbingly high number of cases, the larger numbers of children attending school are not leading to a similarly high increase in actual student learning.

6 months

Some Economics for Martin Luther King Day

On November 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a law establishing a federal holiday for the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., to be celebrated each year on the third Monday in January. As the legislation that passed Congress said: "such holiday should serve as a time for Americans to reflect on the principles of racial equality and nonviolent social change espoused by Martin Luther King, Jr.." Of course, the case for racial equality stands fundamentally upon principles of justice, not economics. But here are a few economics-related thoughts for the day clipped from 2018 posts at this article, with more detail and commentary at the links:

6 months

From Slowdown To Crisis: Liquidity and Low Rates, Wrong Solutions for the Wrong Diagnosis

The recent macroeconomic data of the leading economies point to a widespread slowdown. What is more concerning is not just a logical moderation in the path of growth, but the acceleration in the weakening of economies that were supposed to be stronger and healthier. It is even more concerning that this aggressive worsening of key leading indicators in China, the EU, and most emerging economies happens at the peak of the largest monetary and fiscal stimulus in decades.

6 months

Why More Americans Seem Stuck in Place

One traditional stereotype of the US economy is that it includes a high degree of physical mobility of workers and families: between states, between rural to urban areas, between suburbs and inner cities, and so on. In theory, this mobility offers possibilities for adjusting to economic shocks and for seeking out opportunities, which in turn part of what makes a fluid and flexible market economy work. But in fact, Americans are moving less. David Schleicher discusses the issue in "Stuck! The Law and Economics of Residential Stagnation," appearing in the Yale Law Journal (October 2017, 127:1, pp. 78-154). He writes (footnotes omitted):

6 months

Trump, Year Two: The Economic Record

When President Trump took office January 20, 2017, I asked "What if Trump Skeptics, Like Me, Turn Out to be Wrong? I wrote then: