Monday, August 4, 2008

Assorted Five

Five readings on currencies and monetary policy

Inside the Economist's Mind: A Book Review
Nobel Prize winner Robert Lucas recalls that when he was a little boy, in the 1940s, his father asked him if he thought there were any differences in the quality of the milk delivered by the five or six dairies that sent truck to their neighborhood. The young Lucas replied that the milk was probably quite similar. His father then told him "that under socialism only one truck will deliver to all the houses on each block, and the time and gasoline wasted in duplicating routes will be used for something else."...

Friedman pooh-poohs the notion that he wielded great policy influence on U.S. presidents, saying that they "would have acted as they did if they had never seen me or heard from me." He also dismisses as grandiose the view that he had a well-thought out agenda for restoring the luster of capitalism and free markets: " ... people have a tendency to attribute to me a long-term plan; they think I must have planned this campaign. I did no planning whatsoever. These things just happened in the order in which they happened to happen. And luck plays a very large role, a very large role indeed." Samuelson also talks about his "incredible luck" in stumbling upon economics at a time when the subject had "myriads of challenging open problems ...I once described this as being like fishing in a virgin Canadian lake. You threw in your hook and out came theorem after theorem."

And speaking of fishing, one other common trait of these eminent economists seems to be that they like to fish. The book has several interesting photographs, quite a few of which show these economists with the fish they have just caught. Perhaps fishing is an activity that involves practical problem-solving and yet allows time for deep thinking about abstract economic matters

Economic Forecasts: Too Smooth by Far?

Gelman's Great Book

Map Your Neighborhood, by the Numbers
A new Web site allows home buyers, real-estate developers, nonprofit groups and any other interested parties to map neighborhoods for free using a wide range of data, such as per-capita income, education levels and unemployment. PolicyMap is a clever tool that makes government statistics more useful and accessible, though it also highlights some limitations in the U.S.’s numerical self-knowledge.

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