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Archive for the 'Economics' Category

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

Why Henry George Matters in This Second Gilded Age — Edward T. O’Donnell

Henry George and the Crisis of Inequality

The following post is by Edward T. O’Donnell, author of Henry George and the Crisis of Inequality: Progress and Poverty in the Gilded Age:

What value does the story of Henry George, a self-taught economist from the late nineteenth century, hold for Americans living in the early 21st century? Quite a lot, if we stop to consider the ways in which contemporary American society has come to resemble America in the late-nineteenth century, a period popularly known as the Gilded Age. As in our times, that era was marked by a dramatic increase in income inequality. It also witnessed a sharp and disturbing rise in the numbers of Americans living in poverty, even as Wall Street boomed and overall productivity soared. The Gilded Age was also marked by a surge in the size and power—and political influence—of large corporations and banks. And the politics of late-nineteenth century American society were characterized by extreme partisanship and paralysis. Indeed, the parallels between then and now are so striking that many contemporary progressive reformers, activists, and commentators have taken to referring to the era in which we now live as the Second Gilded Age.

If we are indeed living in a Second Gilded Age, then we can gain important insights into potential solutions to our economic, social, and political problems by taking a close look at the first Gilded Age. In particular, it is instructive to examine the people who emerged in this period to demand reforms—many of which were enacted in the subsequent Progressive Era. Henry George was one of these figures and he gained an enormous following among a wide cross section of American society.

George was a little-known journalist living in California in the 1870s when, moved by the aforementioned troubling trends of the Gilded Age, he began to study economics and history with an eye toward writing a book. The result of this effort was a book published in 1879 titled Progress and Poverty. The book is still in print and available in many languages. As its title suggests, George focused on a vexing question: why amidst so much material and technological progress was poverty increasing? This was, George warned, “the riddle which the Sphinx of Fate puts to our civilization, and which not to answer is to be destroyed.”

The book became a best seller and launched George as one of the era’s best-known and most influential reformers. The solution George proposed—a “single-tax” on land values—appealed to some of his followers. But far more were drawn to and inspired by the broad claims he made regarding American’s republican heritage and values. And here we see where George speaks to the concerns of our age.

(more…)

Friday, April 10th, 2015

The Greening of Asia: Businesses’ Role in the World’s Biggest-Ever Environmental Clean-Up

The Greening of Asia

“The best way to move forward is in a three-way partnership, where government sets clear and forceful policies, business creates and invests in products and services to help clean up the environmental mess and civil society acts as an arbiter to see that governments and businesses do what they say.” — Mark L. Clifford

This week our featured book is The Greening of Asia: The Business Case for Solving Asia’s Environmental Emergency, by Mark L. Clifford. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page. Today, in the final day of the week’s feature, we are happy to present an excerpt from an article written by Mark Clifford in The World Financial Review in which he discusses how “[t]he challenge of improving Asia’s environment has been translated into business opportunities.”

The Greening of Asia: Businesses’ Role in the World’s Biggest-Ever Environmental Clean-Up
Mark L. Clifford

The East is Black. That, at least, is the conventional wisdom of anyone who has seen pictures of Beijing’s shrouded skies, India’s fetid rivers and the steel mills and cement kilns which blanket much of the countryside with a pall of smog.

Sadly, this dystopian image of Asia’s environmental misery is all too accurate. In China alone, 1.2 million people a year die prematurely from air pollution. Skies in some Indian cities are even dirtier. Large parts of the region are in danger of running out of clean water. Clusters of cancer villages testify to the human cost of fast economic development.

If this sounds like an environmental nightmare, it is. Asia is home to 4.3 billion people, six out of every ten people in the world, as well as to some of the fastest-growing economies. What’s been good for economic growth has come at a high cost for the environment.

Asia’s strategy seemed to be summed up as “get dirty, get rich, get clean.” (more…)

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

Mark Clifford discusses how companies are confronting environmental emergencies in Asia

The Greening of Asia

This week our featured book is The Greening of Asia: The Business Case for Solving Asia’s Environmental Emergency, by Mark L. Clifford. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page. In the video from ChinaFile below, Clifford discusses the many and varied responses of companies throughout Asia to the region’s environmental crises.

The Greening of Asia from ChinaFile on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

From Black to Green: Asia’s Challenge

The Greening of Asia

“Just as Asia’s developed economies in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore adjusted to higher wages by improving productivity and relying on better education and more innovation, so Asia will find a way to profitably do more with less in an era of resource constraints.” — Mark Clifford

This week our featured book is The Greening of Asia: The Business Case for Solving Asia’s Environmental Emergency, by Mark L. Clifford. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page. In Mark Clifford’s conclusion, excerpted below, he gives a quick overview of how various countries, cities, and businesses in Asia are responding to environmental challenges, and argues that “Asia will find a way to profitably do more with less in an era of resource constraints.”

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

Green Shoots Under Soot-Stained Skies

The Greening of Asia

“Asia is approaching a moment of systemic—in some cases, existential—crisis. How Asian countries react to the environmental challenges of pollution, resource shortages, and climate change will determine whether the region will continue along its unmatched path of growth or descend into an increasingly unlivable dystopia.” — Mark L. Clifford

This week our featured book is The Greening of Asia: The Business Case for Solving Asia’s Environmental Emergency, by Mark L. Clifford. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page. Today, we are happy to feature part of an excerpt from the book that originally appeared on the Asian Review of Books: “Green Shoots Under Soot-Stained Skies.”

Green Shoots Under Soot-Stained Skies
Mark L. Clifford

Beijing’s air is “crazy bad,” according to the U.S. Embassy: choking pollution regularly smothers the capital, reducing visibility to near zero, grounding planes, snarling traffic, and forcing city dwellers to don protective face masks while outside. A widely used air quality index, which in the United States rarely goes above 100 and exceeds 300 only during forest fires and other extreme events, approached the 1,000 level in Beijing in early 2013.

The effect, says a Chinese researcher, is to blot out the sun as effectively as a nuclear winter. Office workers in the capital’s skyscrapers cannot see the streets below, as a bitter, blinding pall settles over a city that hosted the 2008 “Green Olympics.” Beijingers call it “air-pocalypse” or “air-mageddon,” and they have become increasingly vocal about their frustration. “I especially want to know if the party secretary or the mayor are in Beijing these days,” a senior editor at People’s Daily wrote on his blog during record smog in January 2013. “If so, how do they guarantee they can breathe safely in Beijing?” (more…)

Monday, April 6th, 2015

Book Giveaway! The Greening of Asia, by Mark Clifford

The Greening of Asia

“In this well-researched and ultimately optimistic account, Clifford makes the case that environmental policies ‘can and must be fixed’ and gives us examples of companies that have worked to find private-sector solutions. In doing so, Clifford sheds much-needed light on the workings and future of the region’s efforts on the environment, and on the need for governments to set clear rules so that business can do its part to solve the region’s environmental crisis.” — Joseph E. Stiglitz

This week our featured book is The Greening of Asia: The Business Case for Solving Asia’s Environmental Emergency, by Mark L. Clifford. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of The Greening of Asia. To enter our book giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select our winners on Friday, April 10th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Friday, March 20th, 2015

A Genealogy of Morgan Stanley

Genealogy of American Finance

This week our featured book is Genealogy of American Finance, by Robert E. Wright and Richard Sylla, with a foreword from Charles M. Royce. Today, for the final day of the feature, we’ve excerpted a sample chapter focused on one of the Big 50: Morgan Stanley.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy!

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

Charles Royce’s Foreword to Genealogy of American Finance

Genealogy of American Finance

This week our featured book is Genealogy of American Finance, by Robert E. Wright and Richard Sylla. Today, we are happy to present Charles M. Royce’s foreword to Wright and Sylla’s book, in which Royce focuses on the importance of the Museum of American Finance both in the process of creating the Genealogy and in a broader cultural context.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy!

Foreword
By Charles M. Royce, CEO, The Royce Funds

I was introduced to the leadership of the Museum of American Finance through my friend and television personality, Consuelo Mack, who serves on the Museum’s Board of Trustees. During the course of my initial conversation with President David Cowen, I brought up an idea I have had for years, which is to trace the genealogies — or family trees — of the major American financial firms. I have been working in finance for more than 50 years and have witnessed first-hand many dramatic changes in the industry. So many firms that existed when I first began investing are no longer around.

Given that my firm looks for “value” in companies when we invest, I asked David if there was value in this idea. His response was that, indeed, this would be an invaluable research tool. This book is the first output of that discussion.

As the only independent finance museum in the nation, the Museum often fields calls from researchers inquiring about what happened to certain firms or banks — now defunct or acquired. Many times those questions have been difficult to answer. Moreover, the two main regulatory bodies, The Federal Reserve and the FDIC, do not have complete information and are, therefore, also unable to also answer those questions. According to the Museum’s exhibit team, an area of the “Banking in America” exhibit featuring an abridged genealogy of the Bank of America was the single largest piece of research that went into any section of the Museum’s permanent exhibits. This is largely because more than one hundred years’ worth of merger and acquisition data is so difficult to come by.

My conversations with David and the Museum team resulted in my commitment to underwrite a massive research project to compile these family trees and house them in a central location. It has taken well over a year of research — which included hundreds of hours of archival legwork — to compile these genealogies and make them publicly available.

I applaud Professors Wright and Sylla for their research and writing efforts, which have made this project a reality. As a Columbia University MBA, I am pleased to note that my alma mater has enthusiastically embraced this idea as well, and that this beautiful book has been produced by Columbia Business School Publishing.

Now, if the Museum receives a research inquiry about past financial firms, the staff is able to answer where that firm’s history fits into the modern financial landscape. Or, better yet, people can access the information themselves via this book or the Museum’s website.

This project sheds tremendous light into the dynamic nature of our nation’s financial history. One can never completely understand the future without a comprehension of the past. In an easy-to-read and understandable manner, this book gives a narrative history that is accessible to all — from the newcomer working at a bank to the finance professional, from the student to the scholar, from the practitioner to the regulator.

Please enjoy the book, as each chapter will transport you back in time to see the birth and growth of these 50 financial institutions.

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

An Overview of the Big 50 Banks

Genealogy of American Finance

This week our featured book is Genealogy of American Finance, by Robert E. Wright and Richard Sylla, with a foreword from Charles M. Royce. Today, we’ve excerpted “Overview of the Big 50,” a set of infographics provided by Wright and Sylla that give context for their discussion of the Big 50 Banks.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy!

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

A Brief History of Banking in the United States

Genealogy of American Finance

“To fully comprehend the history or genealogy of any bank or BHC, a general knowledge of US banking and business organizational history is required.” — Robert E. Wright and Richard Sylla

This week our featured book is Genealogy of American Finance, by Robert E. Wright and Richard Sylla, with a foreword from Charles M. Royce. Today, we are happy to present an excerpt from the book’s introduction, “A Brief History of Banking in the United States.”

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy!

Monday, March 16th, 2015

Book Giveaway! Genealogy of American Finance, by Robert E. Wright and Richard Sylla

Genealogy of American Finance

Genealogy of American Finance is a treasure trove of information on American banking and its history, in an unusual — and unusually useful — format.” — John Steele Gordon

This week our featured book is Genealogy of American Finance, by Robert E. Wright and Richard Sylla, with a foreword from Charles M. Royce. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Genealogy of American Finance. To enter our book giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select our winners on Friday, March 20th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

Thomas Hockenhull on the Ten Coins That Changed the World

In the following video Thomas Hockenhull, author of Symbols of Power: Ten Coins That Changed the World, discusses the book and the companion exhibit at the British Museum.

Friday, March 6th, 2015

Jeffrey Sachs Discusses Sustainable Development at Columbia University

In the University Lecture (see below) delivered at Columbia University, Jeffrey Sachs, author of The Age of Sustainable Development, discusses sustainable development as an emerging scholarly discipline and as an urgent policy imperative, and describes the evolving role of universities and other social institutions in addressing these complex challenges:

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Book Giveaway! The Age of Sustainable Development, Jeffrey Sachs

This week our featured book is The Age of Sustainable Development, by Jeffrey D. Sachs; Foreword by Ban Ki-moon.

In addition to featuring the book and the author on the blog, we will also be posting about the book on twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of The Age of Sustainable Development to one winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, March 6th at 1:00 pm.

The Age of Sustainable Development is my candidate for most important book in current circulation. Inspirational, encyclopedic in coverage, moving smoothly from discipline to discipline as though composed by multiple experts, Sachs explains why humanity must attain sustainability as its highest priority—and he outlines the best ways to do it.”—Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University

For more on the book, you can read an excerpt from the introduction:

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

Newly Elected Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on the Future Europe Deserves

What Does Europe Want?

“The experience of previous years leads to one conclusion: there is one morality in politics and another for economy. In the years since 1989, the morality of the economy has fully prevailed over the ethics of politics and democracy.” — Alexis Tsipras

Alexis Tsipras was just sworn in as Prime Minister of Greece, after his Syriza party and the Independent Greeks party came to an agreement resulting in a coalition government. The focus of Tsipras’s campaign was his pledge to oppose the austerity program imposed on Greece by European creditors. In “The Destruction of Greece as a Model for All of Europe: Is This the Future That Europe Deserves?,” his foreword to Slavoj Žižek and Srecko Horvat’s What Does Europe Want? which we have excerpted below, Tsipras explains his stance against austerity and looks to alternative visions of the future to provide hope for Greek citizens.

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

How Expectations and Uncertainty Affect the Economy — An Interview with Eric Barthalon

Uncertainty, Expectations, and Financial Instability

The following is an interview with Eric Barthalon, author of Uncertainty, Expectations, and Financial Instability: Reviving Allais’s Lost Theory of Psychological Time.

Question: What is your book about?

Eric Barthalon: Uncertainty, Expectations and Financial Instability is about what we call “expectations” and the pro-cyclical responses they trigger. I argue that, under uncertainty, we infer the future largely from our experience of the past, and I show how Allais’s lost theory of psychological time gives an operational and testable content to this intuition or hypothesis.

Q: What exactly do you mean by uncertainty?

EB: When we throw four dices repeatedly, we cannot tell the outcome of each throw, but experience as well as mathematics tell us very precisely what we should expect: there will not be many instances where the sum of the four dices is either 4 or 24; most of the throws will yield a result close to 14. This is a situation of “known unknowns” or risk, in which it would be insane to expect a throw to yield either a 2 or a 30, and—even if the first throws are not close to 14—it would be equally insane not to expect the average of the throws to converge toward 14. In such risky situations, our expectations should be identical to the model’s forecasts. This is the very definition of rational expectations. (more…)

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

Joseph Stiglitz and Others Help to Launch the Kenneth J. Arrow Series

Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture Series

Next week there will be two great events relating to the Arrow Lectures and our book series. Both events are free and open to the public:

On Monday, November 17th, Columbia University Faculty House will be hosting a book launch for The Kenneth J. Arrow Series to celebrate the books in the series, including the just-published Moral Hazard in Health Insurance, by Amy Finkelstein. The event will include a roundtable discussion with a remarkable group of economists and scholars, including Kenneth J. Arrow, Stanford University; Scott Barrett, Columbia University; Patrick Bolton, Columbia University; Bruce C. Greenwald, Columbia University; Geoffrey Heal, Columbia University; Eric Maskin, Harvard University and IAS; Bernard Salanié, Columbia University; José A. Scheinkman, Columbia University; and Joseph E. Stiglitz, Columbia University. This event will be moderated by Jan Svejnar, Columbia SIPA.

The 7th Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture itself will take place the next night and be delivered by Paul Milgrom, Shirley and Leonard Ely Professor of Humanities and Sciences, Stanford University, will focus on prices and resource allocations in computationally challenging environments. Discussants will include Kenneth J. Arrow, Stanford University; Jay Sethuraman, Columbia University; Joseph Stiglitz, Columbia University.

For more, here is Joseph Stiglitz on the creation of the Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture Series.

Friday, October 10th, 2014

Joseph Stiglitz and Bruce Greenwald discuss the idea of a learning society

Creating a Learning Society

In a recent event at the Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University, Joseph Stiglitz and Bruce Greenwald discussed the ideas from their recent book, Creating a Learning Society: A New Approach to Growth, Development, and Social Progress. You can read the Heyman Center’s description of the panel and view a video below.

It has long been recognized that an improved standard of living results from advances in technology, not from the accumulation of capital. It has also become clear that what truly separates developed from less-developed countries is not just a gap in resources or output but a gap in knowledge. In fact, the pace at which developing countries grow is largely a function of the pace at which they close that gap.

Thus, to understand how countries grow and develop, it is essential to know how they learn and become more productive and what government can do to promote learning. In Creating a Learning Society, Joseph E. Stiglitz and Bruce C. Greenwald cast light on the significance of this insight for economic theory and policy. Taking as a starting point Kenneth J. Arrow’s 1962 paper “Learning by Doing,” they explain why the production of knowledge differs from that of other goods and why market economies alone typically do not produce and transmit knowledge efficiently. Closing knowledge gaps and helping laggards learn are central to growth and development. But creating a learning society is equally crucial if we are to sustain improved living standards in advanced countries.

The Disciplines Series: The Idea of Development The Learning Society with Joseph Stiglitz and Bruce Greenwald from Heyman Center/Society of Fellows on Vimeo.

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Dean Starkman: Wrecking an Economy Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry

Dean Starkman, The Watchdog That Didn't Bark

“We know the banks are eager to put the scandal of the financial crisis behind them. What’s disturbing is that, in the name of deference, convenience, or something darker, the Justice Department is letting them do just that.”—Dean Starkman

In his book The Watchdog That Didn’t Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism, Dean Starkman charts the history of the financial press culminating in an analysis of the failure of mainstream journalism to cover the events and trends leading up to the 2008 financial crisis.

In a sense, he argues that the financial press abandoned its roots in investigative journalism and let mortgage lenders, banks, and Wall Street off the hook. Recently, in the New Republic, Starkman suggests that the government is doing the same after the fact. Despite some settlements paid out by the likes of J.P. Morgan and Citigroup, the Justice Department “has permitted the banks, for a price, to bury their sins.” Starkman writes:

It bears saying one more time: It’s a disgrace that the Justice Department has failed to bring a single criminal charge against any Wall Street or mortgage executive of consequence for their roles in wrecking the economy, despite having managed to make arrests in the comparatively piddling schemes of Enron and the Savings & Loan flimflam. (The latter resulted in more than 800 convictions, including those of many top executives.) These settlements are wan consolation. The sums being surrendered, for starters, are large only until compared with the $13 trillion or so the public lost in the financial crash—or, for that matter, with the banks’ own coffers. (Citi’s pure profit in the two years before the wipeout was more than triple its penalty.) Not to mention that the money won’t be paid by any parties actually responsible, but by the banks’ current shareholders, who pretty much had nothing to do with the misdeeds in question. And the bulk of the settlements will be tax deductible. For destroying trillions in wealth and thousands of jobs, banks will get a write-off.

(more…)

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Stiglitz and Greenwald’s Introduction to Creating a Learning Society

The Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture Series

“The fact that markets on their own are not efficient when innovation is endogenous raised the question which is at the heart of our lecture and the book to which it gave rise: What should be the role of policy in promoting economic efficiency?” — Joseph E. Stiglitz and Bruce C. Greenwald

This week we are excited to feature The Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture Series, edited by Joseph E. Stiglitz, and are giving away free copies of the first three books in the series (Creating a Learning Society: A New Approach to Growth, Development, and Social Progress, by Joseph Stiglitz and Bruce Greenwald; Speculation, Trading, and Bubbles, by José Scheinkman; and The Arrow Impossibility Theorem, by Eric Maskin and Amartya Sen) in our book giveaway! Today is the final day of the book giveaway, and we are featuring the introduction to Stiglitz and Greenwald’s Creating a Learning Society!