lavendersparkle: (queens')
I've just read a paper called A pluralist approach to microeconomics from the book The Handbook of Pluralist Economics Education. I read it because I make pin money supervising undergraduates for the compulsory microeconomics classes in first and second year. Like most supervisors, the courses I teach have almost nothing to do with my research. Also like many economics supervisors, I believe that a lot of what I teach is complete bollocks, with either no applicability to the real world or completely misleading conclusions. When I started I didn't mind so much. I figured out quite quickly that I should really view the undergraduate course as some very long in depth transferable skills course. Economics graduates are very employable, not because they have any particular knowledge about how the economy works, but because it's one of the few degrees which combines some quite advanced mathematical and statistical skills with written communication. Economics degrees also value a particular kind of brightness, which can be useful in some jobs. I was happy with all this until the financial crisis increasingly made me worry that a part of the problem might be that we'd been sending out economics graduates armed with nonsense ideas of the economy for decades. I started to feel complicit. Now, I still recognise that I'm being paid t get them their highest grade possible in their exams. It would be unfair to them not to do that and I remember as an undergraduate getting frustrated with supervisors thinking "Yes, I know this model is nonsense but I need to understand it to get through the exam". Still I wanted to slip in a bit if dissent, some things which, if they have the inclination, they can follow up in their own time to give a different picture of the world. Something to make them feel a little uneasy about smug pronouncements about efficiency. So I'm making notes on useful things to bring up in supervisions. I thought I'd put them here so anyone else interested can see them.

Perfect competition
Keen did a computer simulation to show that Friedman's claim that however firms actually chose how much to produce, the competitive process would ensure that they produced where price was equal to marginal cost. In the simulation with 10,000 firms he found that they actually the competitive market produced the same as the monopolist if all of the firms followed a simple strategy of randomly increasing or decreasing quantity supplied a bit and then keeping going in the same direction if it increased their profits. The reason for this result was found in Stigler (1957) "Perfect Competition, Historically Contemplated" in which he showed through simple chain rule that the demand curve faced by a competitive firm is not horizontal but rather the market demand curve. Keen provides an appendix on how to calculate the true profit maximising choices by competitive firms not acting strategically.

Market Demand curve
The assumption that the aggregate market demand curve is downward sloping like individual demand curves requires the assumption that an extra unit of purchasing power would be spent the same way no matter to whom it was given. This would require both a) that all Engels curves were straight lines and b) that all consumers had parallel Engels curves. If either of these assumptions do not hold (as they don't) well behaved preferences and individual demand curves can result in non-downward sloping market demand curves because price also influences the income distribution of consumers.

He then suggests a game to raise questions about the capitalist system and models. He talks about the importance and availability of data on firms. Firm size in the US has a scale free distribution. Only 11% of US GDP is produced in conditions of rising marginal cost (Blinder et al 1998). Most firms are price setters. Most sales are for 'intermediate goods'. 85% of sales are to existing customers. Most firms operate at roughly constant average cost.

Revealed Preference
Sippel 1997 "Experiments on the Pure Theory of Consumer Behaviour" found that even in a relatively simple set up SARP was violated by over 75% of participants and GARP by more than 50%.

He suggests Schumpeterian analysis of competition and Kalecki and Sraffian analysis of price setting as alternative approaches to microeconomic issues which could be discussed.

Game Theory
Points out that if duopolists do not know each other's cost structure and choose quantities by trial and error they may end up in cooperative outcome.


Aug. 11th, 2009 12:28 pm
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
I think I may be becoming a Post Keynesian, or rather a Keynesian, as I've been won over by his own writings rather than those of his followers. I've never previously had much of an interest in macroeconomics. I think this may be because the macroeconomics I was taught tended to be tosh. It would be an insult to the intelligence of a small child to try to get them to buy the idea that the economy is always efficient and all unemployment is voluntary, so trying to convince Cambridge undergraduates of such things is ridiculous. Of course we need to know of such theories so that we can accurately mock critique them.* One of the thing which annoys me is how badly the few ideas of Keynes we were allowed to hear were distorted in the retelling. I clearly remember a lecturer claiming that Keynesian economics were silly because it claimed that people always saved a fixed proportion of their income. This is completely false. Having just finished reading The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money I can tell you that he doesn't claim that. He makes the quite reasonable claims that a) people tend to consume more when their income is higher and b) richer people tend to save a larger proportion of their income than poorer people. He also includes a complex of analysis of what factors, economic, cultural, social, influence people's decisions to consume and save. I'm not sure whether they just simplify everything because all economics has to be in terms of equations to be allowed in an undergraduate lecture course or they are purposely misrepresenting Keynesian economics to provide a straw man.

*One of the most amusing things about these models is the ways they try to find 'empirical evidence' for their theories. Not put off by the argument "but there is such a thing as involuntary unemployment", a fact which is felt particularly pertinently by my third year undergraduates, they tend to do this thing where they set up a stochastic mathematical model, run it a shit load of times, and then proudly declare that, once they calibrate their variable correctly, that the mean and standard deviation of various economic variables is the same as that for the real economy. If I were a journal editor I would publish their paper next to one in which a stochastic mathematical model of how the flying spaghetti monster controls the economy manages to come up with the same mean and standard deviation for pertinent economic variables.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
I went to a conference a couple of weeks ago and it inspired me to read The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. I tried to read it a few years ago and gave up around chapter 4 or 5 which involves defining lots of different types of cost and is a bit muddling if you never make it to the bit where you see how these different types of cost fit into the rest of the theory. This time I've nearly finished it and I've very much enjoyed it. Like Shakespeare, it feels a little bit like reading a lot of quotations because I've heard bits of it quoted before.

I think it makes a lot of sense. I've never previously had much interest in macroeconomics. Now I think that this was partly because the economy had been pootling along happily for years and how things work is less interesting when they don't need fixing. I think the major part of it is that a lot of macroeconomics I was taught was just so blatantly nonsense that I just couldn't bear to clutter my mind with it. I'm finding that The General Theory is a lot better at explaining how it all works and what's gone wrong. It also seems a lot more intelligent than the stuff I was taught as an undergraduate, not in a physics envy way, more in a coming to a complex nuanced understanding of an issue way. I feel like bits of the book manage to reasonably successfully refute economic theories which were developed after it was published.

Anyway, interesting stuff.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
I really should have learnt this but I'm still not quite sure. What do you do when you want to change the case of the letter which begins a quotation in a paper, either because the quotation originally started a sentence but you want to insert it into the middle of a sentence or vice versa? As I see it my options are:
a) leave the quotation as is even though it makes my sentence grammatically incorrect.
b) just change the case so that my sentence is grammatically correct.
c) change the case but do something involving brackets to indicate that I've done this.

If it helps, I'm trying to write this paper in Harvard System of citations.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
My paper got accepted for the interdisciplinary conference. I'm also planning to go to another conference this summer but not present. This is making me think that I should get some business cards. I'm thinking of getting some mini moo cards because:
they are cheap.
they are cool and funky.
I can have lots of different pictures put on the backs.

They are smaller than traditional business cards but I think now-a-days you only really need name, institution, email and faculty homepage on the card, which they've got room for.

I thought I'd make some with blank on the non writing side so that I could jot things down on the other side. I thought I'd get some with my photo on the other side to help jog people's memory about who I am when they get home from the conference. I could get some with a few cute images that represent my subject area. I'd also like to get some 'Elders of Zion' ones just for fun. Definitely not to hand out at conferences.

What do you think?

.doc rant

Feb. 23rd, 2009 12:17 pm
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
Why the fuck to people still email out papers in .doc format?

I am by far not the most computer savvy person in the world. I don't know how to use Latex (or how to type a Greek letter chi) and if I had a PC I'd probably write most stuff in Word. However, I understand that not everyone has Word or even the particular version of Word you have and if you are an academic I'm pretty sure you have some kind of pdf writing on your computer. So fucking use it rather than making me open your stupid .doc file in NeoOffice, in which all your formatting is going to get fucked.

Here endith the lesson.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)

It only took a week once I found which bits of the great university bureaucracy I needed to poke. Of course, it took over a week to find out which bits needed poking.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
A week ago I lost my wallet. Well I think I both lost and had my wallet stolen as I returned the the checkout in Tesco where I must have left it as soon as I realised I didn't have it and it wasn't there and it hadn't been handed in to lost property. One of my problems is that I can't remember exactly what was in the wallet. Here's what I think I've lost:
The wallet itself. Not too much of biggy. It cost me £5 from New Look, the zip was beginning to get a bit dodgy and I've replced it with another wallet from New Look which only cost £4.89.
About £15 in cash Could be worse. Alec's been wandering around with about £50 in his wallet.
My blood donor card This annoys me because I think you have to be extra evil to steal a wallet belonging to someone who regularly gives blood.
Photo card of my driving licence For ages I refused to carry this because I was worried I'd lose my wallet, but in the end I gave in because I was fed up with Tesco cashieres refusing to believe that I'm not 17.
Various photocopy cards Easy to replace for a couple of pounds.
First aid instruction card Now I will be no help at all if someone collapses in front of me.
British Library readers card I'll need to get that replaced at some point but there's no hurry, I only really got it so that I could work there and live with Alec last year.
My University Card Huge hassle. I looked up on the website how to replace it. It gave me the contact details for someone in my department. As my card still had my old name on it I thought I may as well have the new one issued in my new name. The chap at my department said that due to this complication I should email the card department. They said I had to email the records office. The record office have sent me an automated response which wasn't relevant to my situation. I haven't received a proper reply yet. Oddly enough being a PhD student without a UL card is a problem. I can't get into the UL. I can't borrow books from other libraries. I can't get the discount on the bas from my flats into town. Even more frustrating is that for some reason I need to reregister with the UL, for which I will need my card, which I don't have. I can't renew my books until I've done this. Argh.

I am also developing a cold.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
Maybe I shouldn't let this influence me, but I think that part of the reason I'm moving into heterodox economics is because heterodox economists are just a lot cooler. For example, take this paper, written by an Austrian economist An-arrgh-chy: The Law and Economics of Pirate Organisation.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
There are several words which are used the majority of the time by people who do not really understand what they mean.

Fascist is one of these words. My little dictionary which came with my MacBook says about Fascism:
The term Fascism was first used of the totalitarian right-wing nationalist regime of Mussolini in Italy (1922–43), and the regimes of the Nazis in Germany and Franco in Spain were also fascist. Fascism tends to include a belief in the supremacy of one national or ethnic group, a contempt for democracy, an insistence on obedience to a powerful leader, and a strong demagogic approach.
The majority of people who use the word fascist in discussion use it to mean 'bad', 'very bad', 'nasty', 'authoritarian' or 'right-wing'. It would be better if people used terms such as 'authoritarian' if that is what they mean because that would make the meaning of their statement clearer, and would make them sound less like a idiot who spews hyperbole rather than constructive discussion.

A similarly misused term is 'enlightenment'. Last night I went to a talk in which the speaker seemed to think that 'enlightenment', 'scientific', 'progressive', 'objective', 'truthful' and 'good' were essentially interchangeable concepts. My PhD involves looking at ideas from philosophy of science and this has given me a bit of an appreciation of the problems with just accepting an enlightenment world view. 'Enlightenment' worldviews have been used to justify atrocities and oppression. Enlightenment worldviews have been used to promote the interests of white, upper-class, men by labelling their attitudes as rational and objective, thereby dismissing the views of non-'white, upper-class, men' as irrational and subjective. Such issues may not be inherent in an enlightenment philosophy per se, but if you're going to refer to he enlightenment you should at least be aware of these problems.

And another thing, several times I've had the experience that I'll be discussing an issue with a man and he will either notice that I'm female or hear me say something vaguely feminist and, instead of engaging in the substantive points of my argument, they start saying things which they think will appeal to the idea they have of what feminists think. Sadly most of them seem to think that feminists are extremely stupid or poorly informed, so the things they think will appeal to feminists tend to take the form of 'group X disagree with my view and are sexist' as if they expect my little lady brain to go "Really? I never knew there was sexism in Saudi Arabia. I will now agree with everything you say so that you can protect me from teh evil Mohamedians."
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
May first year report was passed without the need to resubmit and I've been approved to continue to the second year of my PhD.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
I handed my first year report in last Wednesday and since then have been manically getting wedding stuff sorted. Most of the invites are now in the post. I have bought the bridesmaid's dress and finished booking the honeymoon. Alec and I started the wedding registry but, having spent 6 hours going around John Lewis sorting it, will need to go again next Friday to finish it off.

On that topic I need advice. I'm tempted to ask for some expensive luggage. I've always bought cheap luggage in the past on the grounds that that way I haven't lost much if it falls apart after a couple of trips. However, if more expensive luggage will last longer it may be better value in the long run. I sort of need a new suitcase for the honeymoon and John Lewis do a thing where you can mark some things on the list as stuff you need early. What do you all think?

[Poll #1214815]

If it makes a difference, I'm thinking of getting one of these cases in pink.


Mar. 30th, 2008 10:40 pm
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
With my shiny I can spend a lot more time working in London. This offers a good opportunity to see people who live and/or work in London. So, anyone fancy meeting up for lunch in London in the next few weeks?
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
"As the author or co-author of some one hundred large volumes of writings, he could hardly fail to have formulated some sentences that are correct."

From "Where Marx was right: towards a more secure foundation for heterodox economics" by M. C. Howard and J. E. King

Update post

Nov. 2nd, 2007 09:42 am
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
I thought I should post about what I've been up to over the last month or two.

First things first, I passed my MPhil. The dissertation that I was worried about actually got a mark of 60 which was more than what they required to allow me to hang around for another three years (as long as I do OK in my first year report). I'm going to graduate on the 10th.

In sadder news, Alec isn't doing his PhD, at least not this year. What was most frustrating was that it all fell through about two weeks after term started so there was about a month of thinking it would happen, then thinking it wouldn't and Alec had to move into a college room and then was worried that he'd be liable for a full terms rent. Luckily Murrey was wonderful again and has instructed the admin staff to only charge Alec for the time he lived in his room.

On the plus side, Alec had a job sorted in London and it is a good job. He is being the ministerial apprentice for aa Anglican church in North London. It's a sort of 'seeing whether you want to be a vicar' type job and Alec feels that he would like to get ordained and is hoping to come back to Cambridge next year to begin training at Westcott House. Another good thing about the job is that it's near Jewland so I can buy Jewish supplies whilst visiting. Two weeks ago I hired a transit van and drove Alec and all his stuff down to Muswell Hill. The church are supposed to hire a flat for him to live in but in the mean time he is living with a family who are very involved with the church. When he is moved into a flat I will probably spend my weekends in London with him. Being a PhD student makes it quite easy to spend the weekend away from Cambridge. It's a bit awkward visiting whilst he's living with a family. I visited last weekend because one of my brothers got married on Saturday and the wedding was in Hampstead. The first week after Alec went was horrible and I was miserable. This week was better. I think it's because visiting got it into my head that he's not very far away and that I can visit. I'll see him next weekend when he comes back to Cambridge to graduate.


Oct. 4th, 2007 11:33 pm
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)

Well, I thought I should update as I haven't in ages. First of all, a huge thank you to [ profile] james_r for being a star and helping me move after my plea for help.

Last week was mainly taken up with moving and other getting settled faff. I also got a PhD supervisor who is very nice and has given me some reading to do to help me narrow down what my PhD is actually going to be on.

This week:
On Monday I went to a meeting for new Economics PhD students to find out what I'm supposed to do this year to not get kicked out.

On Tuesday I went to the first ontology group seminar of term. This group is the baby of my supervisor and we were mainly discussing what money is and the work of John Searle.

I spent an awful lot of Tuesday and Wednesday mooching around the societies fair. Mark was manning the Lib Dem stall all Tuesday so I worked the last two hours on Tuesday with him and then we went to dinner with Alec. As Mark went to 'batties @ Life' on Tuesday night and was supposed (supposed being the appropriate word as opposed to actually did) to be going to Southampton Wednesday morning, I took the cashbox to the societies' fair on Wednesday morning and pootled about the societies fair for an hour or so. Most people tend to be rather frantic when going around the societies fair but being an old hand and not having much else to do I wondered around looking at each stall and seeing who I bumped into. I happily chatted to stall holders of societies I wasn't interested in joining. I found it fun to wonder up to the stalls of societies that a knew a member of seeing whether the people manning the stall knew them. I found out from the council stall where to recycle my old socks and happily wandered about with both a "A woman's place is in her union" and a "Pro-woman. Pro-child. Pro-life." sticker.

On that subject I chatted to the people manning the pro-life soc stall (in fact I even sort of chatted to a punter on their behalf about UK abortion law). To be honest they seemed a bit lack luster. When I asked them what they were up to this term they said they might have a speaker near the end of term. At one point I saw them just playing hangman on their stall. I'm still trying to resist the urge to just take over the society and turn it around. I think that doing this would be a bad idea because:
I am a grown up grad student and should be working rather than pissing about with societies.
I am not 'pro-life' enough for them because I think that abortion and euthanasia should be legal in some situations.
I may want to move into feminist economics and don't want potential collaborators to see me as an even anti-choice pariah.
I'm not very like the the rest of the membership because I am a big feminist leftie and they seem to be mainly conservative nice Catholic girls.

One thing that I think is that their approach is all wrong. They concentrate on campaigning about legislation whereas I think the most effective thing they could do would be to work on convincing students not to have abortions by providing information on alternatives and discussion of the ethics of abortion. On that topic I bumped into one of my med student friends whilst I was at the pro-life stall and he said something about thinking he shouldn't be at the stall because he's doing the ob gyn stuff this year. I suggest maybe he could just not do the baby killing and only do the saving baby stuff instead but he said that he was going to study the baby killing. I now have the urge to lend him a book I have exploring the moral philosophy of abortion. It's not a propaganda book. It goes through the main moral philosophy arguments made about abortion and their strengths and weaknesses. I think the author comes down on the side of 'It's OK sometimes'.

I'm surprised that more people aren't anti-abortion or that people think it's so odd that I am against abortion. Then again I saw a few approving looks at my pro-life sticker so maybe we're just all in the closet.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
"The Internal Revenue Service of the United States of America has published a study considering the tax collection problems that will arise in the event of nuclear war. It concludes that taxpayers inconvenienced by the hostilities will have to be excused interest and penalties should they file their returns late."
From the journal Taxation


Jun. 13th, 2007 01:01 pm
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
My exams are over. Some went well. Some went terribly. I'll have to wait to see how it all came out in the wash. I now need to start researching for my dissertation which will be due in at the end of August (assuming I didn't completely cocked up my exams).

On Monday I held afternoon tea which was lovely. I tried several new recipes and all were merrily eaten by guests. I've finally come done form the adrenaline from my exams so am beginning to pay back my huge sleep debt. I have tidied my room and cleaned the kitchen. I suspect the mess was caused by the American as he seemed quite penitent the next day when he saw that I'd cleaned everything myself (it took three hours). So far the kitchen has remained clean and tidy. I'm hoping that wiping surfaces when I see a bit of mess and keeping all the clutter neatly stacked in one corner will encourage others to keep things clean.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
Today's exam was easy peasy squeezy, which was good. It was so that several people left before the end and I wasn't rushed for time despite starting one question only to decide after half an hour that I actually wanted to answer a different question.


lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)

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