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Economics – Holiday reading

December 22, 2014 Leave a comment

I will be disappearing for a couple of weeks to the beach where there is no internet access. Therefore here are some books that might be worthwhile reading over the festive season – reviews are from Amazon.com. I will be back again on 5th Januray – have a great xmas and new year.

Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt
by Michael Lewis
Flash Boys is about a small group of Wall Street guys who figure out that the U.S. stock market has been rigged for the benefit of insiders and that, post–financial crisis, the markets have become not more free but less, and more controlled by the big Wall Street banks. Working at different firms, they come to this realization separately; but after they discover one another, the flash boys band together and set out to reform the financial markets. This they do by creating an exchange in which high-frequency trading—source of the most intractable problems—will have no advantage whatsoever.

GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History
by Diane Coyle
Why did the size of the U.S. economy increase by 3 percent on one day in mid-2013–or Ghana’s balloon by 60 percent overnight in 2010? Why did the U.K. financial industry show its fastest expansion ever at the end of 2008–just as the world’s financial system went into meltdown? And why was Greece’s chief statistician charged with treason in 2013 for apparently doing nothing more than trying to accurately report the size of his country’s economy? The answers to all these questions lie in the way we define and measure national economies around the world: Gross Domestic Product. This entertaining and informative book tells the story of GDP, making sense of a statistic that appears constantly in the news, business, and politics, and that seems to rule our lives–but that hardly anyone actually understands.

How to Speak Money: What the Money People Say–And What It Really Means
By John Lanchester
To those who don’t speak it, the language of money can seem impenetrable and its ideas too complex to grasp. In How to Speak Money, John Lanchester — author of the New York Times best-selling book on the financial crisis, I.O.U.—bridges the gap between the money people and the rest of us. With characteristic wit and candor, Lanchester reveals how the world of finance really works: from the terms and conditions of your personal checking account to the evasions of bankers appearing in front of Congress. As Lanchester writes, we need to understand what the money people are talking about so that those who speak the language don’t just write the rules for themselves.

Why Nudge?: The Politics of Libertarian Paternalism
by Cass R. Sunstein
Based on a series of pathbreaking lectures given at Yale University in 2012, this powerful, thought-provoking work by national best-selling author Cass R. Sunstein combines legal theory with behavioral economics to make a fresh argument about the legitimate scope of government, bearing on obesity, smoking, distracted driving, health care, food safety, and other highly volatile, high-profile public issues.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

How to Speak Money – a new book from John Lanchester

September 14, 2014 Leave a comment

Will Self called John Lanchester’s previous book on money and banking – the bestselling ‘Whoops!’ – as ‘the routemap to the crazed world of contemporary finance we’ve all been waiting for’. If ‘Whoops!’ was the routemap, then his new book ‘How to Speak Money’ is the phrasebook. It shows you that it’s possible to learn to speak the language of money. Possible, desirable and perhaps even necessary if we’re to avoid feelings of complete helplessness and bafflement when confronted with the big financial forces that shape our lives.

Diane Coyle – Keynote Address

July 3, 2014 Leave a comment

GDP CoyleJust attending the New Zealand Association of Economists 55th Annual Conference and it was great to hear Diane Coyle present as one of the Keynote speakers. I was originally alerted to her work by Geoff Riley – an economics teacher at Eton College and co-founder of the Tutor2u website – while I was on a Fellowship. He recommended her book ‘The Soulful Science’ back in 2007. The book aims to show how the discipline of economics has changed over the last decade and brings together economic growth and human behaviour.

Her talk was based on the research into her new book GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History. She goes right back to the Domesday Book which was a manuscript record of how much each landholder in England and Wales had in land and livestock, and what it was worth. This was completed in 1086 on orders of William the Conqueror. Further mentions of Adam Smith and Karl Marx and what they tended to focus on as an economic indicator. Interesting to note that Holland has included prostitution in its GDP calculations and that the Italian statistical body recently announced that it will include prostitution, drug trafficking, and alcohol-and-tobacco in its calculation of GDP. However Italy is just complying with international accounting standards and reporting illegal economically productive activity is required under European Union rules. But as it is part of the informal economy how do you actually measure drug deals, prostitution etc and therefore its contribution to a country’s GDP?

There is also the intangible economy – how do you measure the output of Vodafone v Skype? Also how are sustainability, variety and innovation measured? If her talk was anything to go by her book seems well worth it.

Categories: Growth Tags:

Diane Coyle in Auckland

June 30, 2014 Leave a comment

NZAE ConfThis year the annual conference of the New Zealand Association of Economisst takes place at the Auckland University of Technology from the 2nd – 4th July. One of the keynote speakers is Diane Coyle from the UK who runs the consultancy Enlightenment Economics. She also has a great website called ‘The Enlightened Economist’ in which she reviews economics and business books. She is the author of several books, including recently:

GDP: A Brief and Affectionate History (Princeton University Press, 2014 forthcoming),
The Economics of Enough (Princeton University Press 2011)
The Soulful Science (2007),

She also edited ‘What’s the Use of Economics: Teaching the Dismal Science after the Crisis’ self-questions economics by economists of a discipline that did not anticipate the crisis and has barely changed since despite its self-evident shortcomings.She was previously Economics Editor of The Independent and before that worked at the Treasury and in the private sector as an economist. She has a PhD from Harvard.

Below is a link to the conference website:

NZAE Annual Conference

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Flash Boys – Michael Lewis’ new book

April 6, 2014 Leave a comment

Here is a video from a PBS interview with Michael Lewis talking about his new book “Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt.” Much of the stock market trading that occurs today is done with computer servers, completing hundreds of millions of orders in a system known as high-frequency trading. Author Michael Lewis has made this practice the subject of his latest book.

Click below to view an adaptation from The New York Times magazine.
The Wolf Hunters of Wall Street

Diane Coyle in Auckland

January 24, 2014 Leave a comment

NZAE ConfThis year the annual conference of the New Zealand Association of Economisst takes place at the Auckland University of Technology from the 2nd – 4th July. One of the keynote speakers is Diane Coyle from the UK who runs the consultancy Enlightenment Economics. She also has a great website called ‘The Enlightened Economist’ in which she reviews economics and business books. She is the author of several books, including recently:

GDP: A Brief and Affectionate History (Princeton University Press, 2014 forthcoming),
The Economics of Enough (Princeton University Press 2011)
The Soulful Science (2007),

She also edited ‘What’s the Use of Economics: Teaching the Dismal Science after the Crisis’ self-questions economics by economists of a discipline that did not anticipate the crisis and has barely changed since despite its self-evident shortcomings.She was previously Economics Editor of The Independent and before that worked at the Treasury and in the private sector as an economist. She has a PhD from Harvard.

Below is a link to the conference website:

NZAE Annual Conference

Categories: Eco Events Tags:

Smarter Spending

January 21, 2014 Leave a comment

Happy MoneyA recently released book that I read in the holidays entitled “Happy Money” provides new research into the science of spending. The authors (Liz Dunn and Mike Norton) explain how you can get more happiness for your money by following five principles:

1. Buy Experiences

Owning material things from expensive homes to luxurious cars turn out to provide less happiness than holidays, concerts and special occasions.

An exercise that they suggest is to think of purchases you’ve made to increase your happiness. Consider one purchase that was a tangible object that you could keep – iPhone, clothes etc. Then think of a purchase you made that gave you a life experience – holiday, concert or a meal out. Remembering the experience brings to mind friends and family, sights etc. Which of these purchases made you happier?

2. Make it a Treat

For residents in a city with famous tourist sites there is the inclination to never visit them as they are always there. When something is always there people are less likely to appreciate it. However limiting our access to something may renew our capacity for pleasure. Rather than giving up something completely the authors advocate turning our favourite things into treats – afternoon Cappuccino. This also applies to driving a luxury car – research has shown that driving a luxury car provides no more happiness than an economy model.

3. Buy Time

By getting other people to do those dreaded tasks money can transform the way we spend our time, freeing us to pursue our passions. A lot of people fail to use their money to buy themselves a happier time. When people focus on thier time rather than their money, they act like scientists of happiness, choosing activities that promote well-being. For companies this principle entails thinking about compensation in a broader way, rewarding employees not only with money, but with time.

4. Pay Now, Consume Later

Today with the availability of credit access to goods is instantaneous. However by putting this powerful principle in reverse – paying first and taking delivery later – you can buy more happiness as delaying consumption allows spenders to reap the pleasures of anticipation without a short period of happiness. Holidays provide more happiness before they actually occur. Research shows that waiting for something – a chocolate – makes it taste better when we get it.

5. Invest in Others

Bill Gates and Warren Buffet pledged the majority of their wealth to charity and they are very happy with that decision. New research shows that spending on others provides a bigger happiness boost than spending on yourself. Investing in others can make individuals feel healthier and wealthier.

Categories: Behavioural Economics Tags:
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