Making them up as I go (2)

1. Tell the truth.
2. Entice, or fail.
3. To emphasize, summarize.
4. If it ain't short, it don't work.
5. Be clear.

And so I don't forget:
Don't explain. Just tell a story.
Don't argue. Just say things that make sense.
Expect people to be bored by the writing, and shorten it.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

WHEN and THEN it is

some phrases on phrasing

so i am talking about inflation in the 1970s
and the policy response to inflation
and how policy sometimes creates a recession

and i get to the point where i say
if policy creates a recession
then the resulting unemployment is due to policy

but i go back and change
"if policy creates a recession" to
"when policy creates a recession"
because the words are stronger

by logic i should say
"if this, then that"
but now i have when and then

we did get recessions in the 70s
so 'when' is not wrong, but
IF this THEN that is BASIC

it bothers me a little
evidently, for i am writing
but i'm sticking with when and then

Thursday, January 26, 2017

"Narrative Economics"

From Narrative Economics and the Laffer Curve by Timothy Taylor:
The point of Shiller's talk is that while a homo sapiens discussion of the empirical evidence behind the Laffer curve can be interesting in its own way, understanding the political and cultural impulse behind tax-cutting from the late 1970s up to the present requires genuine intellectual openness to a homo narrativus explanation--that is, an understanding of what narratives have force at certain times, how such narratives come into being, why the narratives are powerful, and how the narratives affect various forms of economic behavior.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Fiscal versus Physical, and something else

Fiscal: TWO syllables. FISS-CUL

Physical: THREE syllables. FIZZ-UH-CUL

Too many football players say the word physical with only two syllables. Too many economists say the word fiscal with three syllables. These people are specialists. How can they confuse those words? How dare they!

Here's another one:

Systemic: Three syllables. To me the word means within the system.

Systematic: Four syllables. To me the word means regularly and repeatedly, as if the result of a basic misunderstanding.

If a problem is "systemic" (three syllables) it means the problem is within the system.

If a problem is "systematic" (four syllables) it means the problem is that you misunderstand the system.

In the realm of economics, the difference between "systemic" and "systematic" is particularly important: Is there a problem with the economy, or is the problem that we misunderstand the economy?

Unfortunately, economists too often use the word "systemic" when they mean (or should mean) to say "systematic".

Conveniently, their mistake leads them to think that there is a problem in the economy instead of in their thinking.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The narrative

I remember being in, I dunno, grammar school, and learning the words noun and verb and adverb and adjective and like that. Noun and verb I got, the thing and the action. As for the rest... I got the idea that you stick an extra word in there to modify the noun or modify the verb and that's cool, that makes sense, and that's as far as I got. I know that there are adverbs and I know that there are adjectives, but I'd have trouble picking them out. I bring this up because...

I don't know what a "narrative" is. Well it's a story I guess. But I don't have a feel for what the word means.

But just now I was reading Tim Duy and writing, and I read:
I have been puzzling over this from Paul Krugman:
Donald Trump won the electoral college at least in part by promising to bring coal jobs back to Appalachia and manufacturing jobs back to the Rust Belt. Neither promise can be honored – for the most part we’re talking about jobs lost, not to unfair foreign competition, but to technological change...
Is this the right narrative? ... Try to place [it] in context with this from Noah Smith:
Then, in the 1990s and 2000s, the U.S opened its markets to Chinese goods, first with Most Favored Nation trading status, and then by supporting China's accession to the WTO. The resulting competition from cheap Chinese goods contributed to vast inequality in the United States, reversing many of the employment gains of the 1990s and holding down U.S. wages...
Let me suggest this narrative: Sometime during the Clinton Administration, it was decided that an economically strong China was good for both the globe and the U.S. Fair enough. To enable that outcome, U.S. policy deliberately sacrificed manufacturing workers ...
A "narrative" is a story. I see it: Krugman is telling one story, and Tim Duy is telling another. I get it now.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Loans and Lending in the Age of Illiteracy

If you look up loan and lend you'll find some gibberish about how those words are interchangeable now, but once upon a time they were not. You can lend me money or loan me money, these days it's all the same.

I need a word for the act of lending, and a different word for the thing itself, the loan. Everybody knows what a "loan" is: I don't think anyone would call it a "lend". We're not that far down the slope of the next Dark Age, not yet. So, loan is the thing, then, and lending is the act.

I'm perfectly happy to use lending (with an "ing") and loans (with an "s") to make my distinctions. I won't insist that "loan" must be a noun and "lend" must be a verb. Obviously, there should be some backflow from "loans" as thing to "loan" as noun, and from "lending" as action to "lend" as verb. But I won't insist.


This is not an econ blog so maybe you don't know. But maybe you do know the difference between "debt" and "deficit". A Federal "deficit" is one year's budgetary shortfall. The Federal "debt" is the accumulation of deficits.

I need the words "loans" and "lending" so I can make a similar distinction. The act of "lending" creates an addition to the accumulation that I am calling "loans".

The difference between the words "loans" and "lending" is more obvious than that between the words "saving" and "savings". But again, the distinction of meaning is similar. Saving (without the "s") is an act. Savings (with the "s") is an accumulation. The act of saving adds to the accumulation of savings.


In econ much is made of "stocks" and "flows" where "stocks" (not stock-market stuff) are accumulations, and "flows" are changes to the accumulations, additions to or subtractions from stock. The example always used is a bathtub: The water in the tub is the "stock". Water coming out the faucet is a "flow". Water going down the drain is a "flow".

Debt is a stock; the deficit is the flow.
Savings are a stock; saving is the flow.
Loans are a stock; lending is the flow.

It has to do with levels and rates of change. The water in the tub is at a particular level. Water goes into the tub at a rate, which changes the level over time. The stock is the level, and the flow is the rate.

With all the focus on the Federal debt and deficits these days, these decades really, maybe everyone already knows the difference between "debt" and "deficit". Great! Loans and lending, savings and saving, these are not such prevalent concerns, but the distinctions of meaning match those of debt and deficit.

Apparently I have no ending for this post.

Oh! Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

It just sounds better

From an ad for my senator: "... We make more than a half million guitar strings a day ..."

They say "a half million". But I hear "uh half million" and it sounds so dumb.

Anyway, the units are not half-millions. The units are millions. So you don't say "a half million". You say "half a million". That way the units are right.

Besides it just sounds better:

"... We make more than half a million guitar strings a day ..."

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Easy to fix

Reading How high debt leads to income inequality by Atif Mian and Amir Sufi. I thought I'd be interested in the economics. Instead I focus on this:
Money can’t make up for the loss of one’s home, but it ensures that a family can begin rebuilding their lives during such a desperate time.
"A family" is singular. "Their lives" is plural. How can I assume that Mian and Sufi's economic logic is sound when between the two authors they cannot tell one from more than one?

It's easy to fix. Just change "a family" to "families".

Economics is all about having the best story. Good stories need good sentences. Bad sentences are distracting.

Don't ask me why it's "economics is".