benjaminkahn's blog

Adam Smith's first - and last! - book: what rational choice?

Penguin's 250th anniversary editionI was going to call this blog post 'Utility maximising agents in Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments' but realised that was much too dull - even if it accurately describes my bedtime reading at the present moment. The intention with this, and a series of blog posts, will be to share my on-going reading of the theory of moral sentiments, and this first post is about the first chapters on sympathy in particular. Read more

Piketty and thinking about economics

There is a new economics rock-star touring the US by all accounts, and his name is Thomas Piketty. More precisely, the star of the show is Picketty's Capital in the Twenty-First century which is a 700-page volume on wealth distribution in 30 countries over decades and centuries of data. Read more

I Have to Act Like an Adult in Hong Kong

The INET conference in Hong Kong is serious business. Students will be wearing suits for the first time since their cousin's wedding only to bump into senior public servants with buffed cuff-links who in turn are mingling with billionaires and Nobel Prize winners. It's seriously adult stuff.

It's just a shame that I will probably be too giddy to notice. In fairness I will try not to gush at people; like I may have done with Axel Leijonhufvud last year, or Richard Koo, or Robert Skidelsky, or... well... that's not really the point. Read more

Keynes's 10 Professors... and a Major

I  thought I was on to an inside reference when re-reading the General Theory when Keynes calls Marx, Edgeworth and others simply by name, but refers to "Professor Pigou" in several instances.  What devilish bit of British humour was I missing out on, had Pigou slighted Keynes in some talk and therefore the emphasis on his position as professor as Keynes disagree with him?   Read more

Holiday announcements... History at the ASSA

Mid August, with the Olympics over, Paralympics and Premiership starting (that's Soccer for the American readership), it is well and truly the quiet period for most of academia.

But now is also the time for conference announcements (for the next season) and I just discovered that the History of Economics Society will have four sessions at the 2013 year's ASSA, featuring fellow bloggers Tiago and Yann.  Read more

Division of labour was common knowledge by the 1770s

I always think of Adam Smith when I hear the term 'division of labour' - but I'm being cured of this by reading a bit more about Britains late 18th century in Jenny Uglow's The Lunar Men. A very good read on industrialists and doctors, it remarks on Matthew Boulton's (think steam engine / manufacturing) explanation to Lord Warwick (in 1773) that it is ithe seperation of processes which allow British manufacturers to compete with continental Europe. So Adam Smith's comments were not so much brilliant discovery, but rather explanation of well established fact: Read more

Life Among the Econ: Talking history with Axel Leijonhufvud

Like many economists, I have enjoyed Axel Leijonhufvud’sLife among the Econ” and nodded appreciatively when he described the social classifications of the Econ as “Grads, Adults and Elders” and chuckled when the young grad tries to impress the elders of the ‘dept’ through adept ‘modl’ building; so when the man himself was holding a glass of champagne and chatting with me at the INET conference, I had to ask how he got that paper started. Read more

Explaining 'New Economics' with Two Diagrams

I think I am on the track of what 'New Economics' is, and one could roughly sum up two days of presentations in two diagrams:

 vs.  Read more

How to spend the $75m Janeway and Soros just gave to INET!?!

Lunch was just interrupted Bill Janeway standing up to announce that this morning he decided to give $25m to INET and the board will fund-raise this up to $100m over ten years, but then George Soros added $50m in unconditional funding for INET... Not sure what more to say. Two days of talks about how Austerity doesn't work, and then this. INET staff, if you're reading, consider this the first grant application: The future of New Economic Thinking in Historical Perspective! Oh yeah, of course they finished by playing "the best things in life are free" and are now introducing Amartya Sen. Unreal.

Manufacturing jobs will disappear - no matter where you are

just as the agricultural share of employment has fallen from 40% in the 1920s to less than 2% of the workforce in Europe today, manufacturing's share of employment will fall to less than 5% of employment. That is not jyst for Europe, according to Adair Turner's excellent dinner speech, but that is across the world. He has pointed out that it is not an issue of international transfer of jobs (although it dominates headlines) but it is because of innovation which makes the productivity of (manufacturing) labour increasinglty higher. As that happens, less and less labour input will be needed to prodcue the tangile products we need - hey, even China's manufacturing workforce has been falling for a decade - and the logical conclusion of such a tendency is that we won't need as much labour. Read more