Archive for November 30th, 2018

Black Market Prices in Japan during World War II.

November 30, 2018

Interesting paper by Masato Shizume of Bank of Japan:

This paper constructs a time series of data related to black-market prices of five goods (rice, sweet potatoes, potatoes, chicken eggs and sugar) during World War II (WWII) in Japan. It is the first attempt to capture the actual price fluctuation trends for individual products throughout the period during and after WWII. To this end, I have employed the hedonic approach, which is a methodology used to adjust for the quality of goods including the characteristics of counterparties and places of transaction in constructing the price data, to obtain estimates that are as unbiased as possible.

The data reveals that 1) black-market prices of these goods soared during WWII to post 40-80 percent inflation on a quarterly basis toward the end of the war, 2) by the end of the war, black-market prices had already increased by over 50 times (in the case of sweet potatoes) or 700 times (in the case of sugar) compared with 1934 levels, prior to wartime inflation, indicating more severe inflation during the war than after the war, 3) the most severe period of inflation varied by product, peaking during the war for rice and sugar and after the war for sweet potatoes, potatoes and chicken eggs, and 4) black-market prices were generally higher in urban areas than in rural areas.

Hmm..

Advertisements

Why historians worry more about Trump than economists…

November 30, 2018

Whether it is interviews done by Tyler Cowen or his articles, they are usually worth reading.

His recent piece doing rounds on social media:

The dangers of the current political moment in the West — with its polarization, harsh rhetoric and growing hostility toward cosmopolitanism — are evident to historians and economists alike. But which group sees the situation as more grave? I suspect it is historians, and it is worth considering why.

To be sure, some of the disgruntlement of historians stems from their political orientation. Historians are relatively left-wing, so it is no surprise that they are hostile to an “alt-right” shift in the political discourse. During the 2016 campaign, the group Historians Against Trump received widespread publicity.

More fundamentally, however, historians stress the importance of contingency, that things really could have gone another way. The decisions of a solitary assassin or the outcome of a single battle can shift the course of history. Particular leadership decisions might have avoided or limited World War I. Or what if the Germans had not, in 1917, put Lenin on a train back into Russia? The Bolshevik Revolution might have been avoided and probably the entire course of history would have been different. A shrewder President Paul von Hindenburg might have prevented the rise of Adolf Hitler.

If you think about these questions enough, you can end up very nervous indeed. Historians have seen too many modest mistakes spiral out of control and turn into disasters.

Economists, in contrast, work more with general models than with concrete historical situations, and those models emphasize underlying structural forces. Economies have fairly set populations, birth rates, natural resources, capital stocks, savings rates, trading partners, and so on. So to an economist, the final outcomes are closer to necessary than contingent.

Economists also study “catch-up growth,” which holds that systems tend to be self-repairing. So if some resources are destroyed, GDP will fall but the system will produce new replacement resources more rapidly, just as a lobster might regrow a lopped-off arm. Catch-up growth tends to make economists less nervous about natural disasters or wartime losses, although of course we think it is better to avoid the resource destruction in the first place. Many of Japan’s major cities were bombed to oblivion in World War II, but in time they regained their former prominence.

Some economic models do emphasize contingency — for instance, how a small force could induce an economy to make a major shift from one equilibrium to another. To give an example, some amount of defense contracting in Silicon Valley later caused the area to blossom into a major technology center. But perhaps the same could have happened in some other regions of the U.S. And these economic models remain the exception rather than the rule, often criticized for the fact that, under some circumstances, they can predict almost anything.

Hmm..

 

Central Bank accountability and the importance of explaining its actions: Case of Mauritius

November 30, 2018

Central bankers are often cribbing about lack of independence but seldom mention whether they are accountable enough.

Yandraduth Googoolye, Governor of the Bank of Mauritius in this speech talks about accountability. More importantly, says criticism from media is welcome:

(more…)


%d bloggers like this: