Asset price bubbles

by John Q on October 16, 2008

As the various asset price bubbles of the past decades or so inflated, and in some cases burst, there was vigorous debate about what, if anything should be done about them. The two main camps were those who advocated doing nothing (most notably Alan Greenspan), on the grounds that monetary policy should be focused solely on inflation, and those who thought that the settings of monetary policy should take asset prices into account. The first group won the debate at the time, at least as far as actual policy was concerned, with consequences we can all see. Most proponents of Greenspanismhave now conceded defeat

In a paper in the (institutionalist) Journal of Economic Issues, which came out in 2006, Stephen Bell and I took a different view of the debate. We argued that there was little scope to respond to asset bubbles by changing the settings of existing monetary policy instruments, and that “any serious attempt to stabilize financial market outcomes must involve at least a partial reversal of deregulation.” Among other things, we pointed out the fact that given a presumption in favour of financial innovation, asset prices bubbles were inevitable, and that ‘In the absence of a severe failure in the financial system of the United States, it seems unlikely that ideas of a ‘new global financial architecture’ will ever be much more than ideas.’

You can read the full paper
Bell, S. and Quiggin, J. (2006), ‘Asset price instability and policy responses: The legacy of liberalization’, Journal of Economic Issues, XL(3), 629-49.


The Wikipedia deletion game

by Eszter Hargittai on October 16, 2008

Can anyone help me understand why some people are so vehemently opposed to certain people (or topics) having entries on Wikipedia? Why do people get so worked up about the mere existence of certain entries? Currently, an entry for Joe the Plumber is being debated. Does it really dilute the value of Wikipedia to have entries like that? I remember when some people contested my entry (I wasn’t the one to put it up), it felt like some amateurish tenure review, except with not quite the same consequences. Would anyone care to defend the practice? I’m eager to understand the motivations better.

Is fixing health care enough?

by Eszter Hargittai on October 16, 2008

The responses to my recent post about Breast Cancer Awareness Month were interesting. One commenter suggested that instead of addressing specific issues or charities, it would be better to “focus our energy on political action for good national health insurance“. I’ve seen this argument made before, specifically about breast cancer awareness. While you certainly won’t get any arguments from me against better health insurance (I hate hate hate hate the system in the US and I’m among the privileged who at least has health insurance), I’m not convinced that that’s the only issue at hand when it comes to achieving adequate levels of awareness and preventive care.

First, should we give up on incremental action in other realms until the overall health care system gets figured out? Second, even if we do achieve major gains on that front, will that really take care of all associated concerns? Unlikely. One way to approach this is to see whether people in countries that have good universal health care are all educated about various illnesses and preventive measures. The answer is likely no, which suggests that there is room for awareness campaigns. [click to continue…]

The Moral Sense Test

by John Holbo on October 16, 2008

My friend Eric Schwitzgebel (philosophy prof. at UC Irvine, but once upon a time we played quite a bit of poker, once a week) craves responses to an online survey he devised with Fiery Cushman (a psychologist at Harvard). It’s ‘the moral sense test‘. I gather it is intended to investigate whether respondents with academic philosophical training respond differently to a suite of moral dilemmas (you know, the usual sort of potted philosophy cases) than do others (you know, the man on the street, mere mortals, Joe the Plumber).

I realize that trollycar-style ethical theory is regarded by many with a certain degree of skepticism – nay, it is the tipmost taper on the candelabrum of ‘not very punk rock’. Please feel free to use the comment box to express such sentiments, as your intellectual conscience and spleen dictate. But it strikes me as rather a good idea to investigate the sociology of philosophy, as it were, by checking to see to what degree academic philosophers’ ‘intuitions’ are, indeed, shared by non-philosophers. So I’m John Holbo and I approve this experiment.

UPDATE: Since we are discussing the survey in comments, you might want to take it before reading comments, if you are going to take it at all.