PhD Comics… The Movie!

[Cross-posted from the New School Economic Revieworiginal here]

Following on from the Simpsons and Family Guy it appears that PhD Comics are planning a film… This may be just a gag but hey – if it is, I am not going to complain because the trailer is good enough as it is 🙂

PHD Movie Trailer from PHD Comics on Vimeo.

That might also explain their absence of comics recently…

15 TED talks for econ nerds

[Cross-posted from the New School Economic Revieworiginal here]

At least that’s what the headline says on this post by Liz Nutt over at the blog who kindly dropped me an e-mail pointing to it and encouraging me to re-post. I have to admit there’s a lot of good stuff in here, my personal favorites include Hans Rosling and Collier’s talk is worth a listen. Steven Levitt is a question of your tastes, and I am now off to learn about the economics of terrorism (the presenter has gotten some good reviews in the past) and the talk on Bernie Madoff.

Through these talks, you’ll get to hear some of the world’s foremost experts on behavior, economics, and politics discuss a wide range of issues, from inequality to consumerism– often with an interesting and unique take on the subject matter that’s perfect for stimulating your inner (and not-so-inner) geek.

Loretta Napoleoni: The intricate economics of terrorism: You might be surprised at the economic and political issues that go on behind terrorist organizations. In this talk  you’ll learn about the money laundering, dirty deals and political subterfuge that goes on all over the world, helping to fuel terrorist organizations.
Steven Levitt analyzes crack economics: Freakonomics author Steven Levitt presents some interesting data on the financial aspects of drug dealing in this talk, showcasing the dangers that go along with the work– sometimes with little or no reward for anyone outside of the top echelons.
Laurie Santos: A monkey economy as irrational as ours: Humans can behave pretty irrationally when it comes to money or just making decisions in general. Laurie Santos shows in this talk that we’re not the only primates that make silly decisions– some of our closest genetic relatives do so as well.
John Gerzema: The post-crisis consumer: In this talk, you’ll hear about a surprising possible upside to the recent financial crisis– more thoughtful consumers and businesses who are adapting to meet their needs.
Hans Rosling: Asia’s rise — how and when: Today, Asian nations like China and India are economic powerhouses, and could soon outstrip the US and many other nations– something researcher Hans Rosling demonstrates in an amusing and clear way in this talk.
Paul Collier on the “bottom billion”: Much attention is focused on the wealthy and successful, but what about the world’s billions of individuals living in poverty? This talk from Paul Collier discusses some ways that we can all work to help close the gap between the rich and the poor.
Nandan Nilekani’s ideas for India’s future: Discussing India’s recent economic success, author and IT expert Nandan Nilekani addresses what the country will need to do to maintain its recent progress in the coming years.
Martin Jacques: Understanding the rise of China: Economist Martin Jacques addresses the rise of China as an economic power in this talk, explaining how the country has changed, what has allowed it to do so and how it will continue to change in the future.
Amory Lovins on winning the oil endgame: Because so much of the world depends on oil it is an incredibly precious commodity, one that makes us very dependent on international trade and certain regions of the world. Here, Amory Lovins explains his plan to wean the US off of oil and start building a different kind of energy industry here at home.
Eleni Gabre-Madhin on Ethiopian economics: Ethiopia is currently the world’s largest recipient of food aid but Eleni Gabre-Madhin doesn’t think it should have to be that way. Instead, she lays out a plan to help revolutionize the economy of the country, creating wealth and large commodities market.
Kevin Bales: How to combat modern slavery: From an economic standpoint, slavery is a quick and easy way to make more money but from a moral standpoint, it’s simply reprehensible. Unfortunately, many businesses around the world still operate and profit from slavery– something activist Kevin Bales wants to change, making significant economic and political changes to limit the possibility of slavery around the world.
Misha Glenny investigates global crime networks: An expert on organized crime networks worldwide, Misha Glenny explains how these groups now make up 15% of the global economy– a frightening statistic for any law-abiding citizen.
Geoff Mulgan: Post-crash, investing in a better world: While the money has already been spent today, Mulgan presents an interesting option for those stimulus dollars that might have been a better solution in the long run: invest them into new, sustainable businesses, focusing on the future instead of the past.
Peter Eigen: How to expose the corrupt: Corruption is a pretty common thing worldwide when it comes to politics and business, but it’s not something that’s ultimately good for the citizens of any nation in the world. Here, Peter Eigen shares his mission to improve transparency and fight corruption.
Matt Weinstein: What Bernie Madoff couldn’t steal from me: Matt Weinstein lost his life savings to scammer Bernie Madoff, but in this lecture, he shares some of the lessons he’s learned from the experience and the wisdom financial disaster helped him to gain

Forget the Big Mac index, try penguin books instead

[Cross-posted from the New School Economic Review – original here]

Wandering about New Delhi I am always struck by the way that the markets are organised. Special areas are set aside in each residential quarter (or ‘colony’ in the vernacular) and people know what markets are good for what. So off we went to get some books at Aurobindo Market, and if you want price disparities, forget about the Big Mac index and have a look at the price of books. Books are homogenous products, they are easy to replicate (so piracy is usually easy) and global publishers sell the same good in all markets under the same rules (unlike McDonalds who will need to consider rent prices, franchise costs, hygiene regulation and local tastes).

I ended up buying a very large Penguin Classic, Kautilya’s The Arthashastra – think Macchiavelli meets Adam Smith but anno 300 BC in India, preceding and influencing Greek writers such as Xenophon. The total price was 599 rupees, or $13.36 US. That seemed a bit steep to me, but turns out that the same Penguin edition is $42.95 in the US. Of course $14 buys  you a lot more here than at Barnes & Noble on Union Square, but a quick check on the PPP rates suggested that what I paid for The Arthashastra was about $33 in PPP terms. It seems that Penguin is pricing this very academic book a little below par value for the world. But academic special interest books can be very expensive so I had a look at Stieg Larson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on the next shelf. 499 rupees, so $11.19, and how much for the same book on Amazon? $14.95 RRP, but yours on-line for $8.25… The nominal price on Union Square is lower than the price in Delhi??  The PPP price of this fiction work is around $27.

That only seems really mad if you consider that the average wage of well-paid, albeit low to medium skilled, labour in Delhi (lets take a driver) is around 10,000 rupees a month: So a paperback would constitute  5% of the monthly wage.  That is almost a full days wage to buy a book. Most New Yorkers can earn the price of a book in an hour or two. So where does that leave the market? Targetting a very small niche group for educational texts – with a global price point – and an even smaller niche for fiction and general reading material, which costs more than the global price. I am told similar patterns emerge for CDs, DVDs and other entertainment material. I wonder what the founder of Penguin Books would make of this, given that:

The first Penguin paperbacks appeared in the summer of 1935 and included works by Ernest Hemingway, AndrĂ© Maurois and Agatha Christie. They were colour coded (orange for fiction, blue for biography, green for crime) and cost just sixpence, the same price as a packet of cigarettes. The way the public thought about books changed forever – the paperback revolution had begun.

A pack of smokes costs above $11 in New York and 100 rupees in Delhi (although the local rolled variety are much less). Book prices have a long way to go in one of these locations, if Mr. Allens intentions are to be realised.

the website goes live

I have finally had some time and to coincide with the dropping of the previous webhost, this site is now operational with links to all the available papers, an updated CV and information. Will have to work on getting abstracts for papers onto here, but it now parallels all the information available elsewhere on the web – be it Linkedin, or other sources –  and it has all information.

I have a plan to cross-post my blog posts from around the web onto this stream as well, but lets see how that pans out. Not sure about the technology needs of that just yet…

First draft of the introduction page. Not sure how to organise all this yet…

getting into the cloud

Hmmm… I had a server backed by moneys and a big university and now plotting a move to this cloud world. Could be good for everyone involved really 🙂