viernes, 24 de julio de 2015

Wages vs Jobs

Krugman´s view
Hillary Clinton gave her first big economic speech on Monday, and progressives were by and large gratified. For Mrs. Clinton’s core message was that the federal government can and should use its influence to push for higher wages.
Conservatives, however — at least those who could stop chanting “Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi!” long enough to pay attention — seemed bemused. They believe that Ronald Reagan proved that government is the problem, not the solution. So wasn’t Mrs. Clinton just reviving defunct “paleoliberalism”? And don’t we know that government intervention in markets produces terrible side effects?
No, she wasn’t, and no, we don’t. In fact, Mrs. Clinton’s speech reflected major changes, deeply grounded in evidence, in our understanding of what determines wages. And a key implication of that new understanding is that public policy can do a lot to help workers without bringing down the wrath of the invisible hand.
Many economists used to think of the labor market as being pretty much like the market for anything else, with the prices of different kinds of labor — that is, wage rates — fully determined by supply and demand. So if wages for many workers have stagnated or declined, it must be because demand for their services is falling.
In particular, the conventional wisdom attributed rising inequality to technological change, which was raising the demand for highly educated workers while devaluing blue-collar work. And there was nothing much policy could do to change the trend, other than aiding low-wage workers via subsidies like the earned-income tax credit.
You still see commentators who haven’t kept up invoking this story as if it were obviously true. But the case for “skill-biased technological change” as the main driver of wage stagnation has largely fallen apart. Most notably, high levels of education have offered no guarantee of rising incomes — for example, wages of recent college graduates, adjusted for inflation, have been flat for 15 years.

sábado, 6 de junio de 2015

Greece last act

NEW YORK – European Union leaders continue to play a game of brinkmanship with the Greek government. Greece has met its creditors’ demands far more than halfway. Yet Germany and Greece’s other creditors continue to demand that the country sign on to a program that has proven to be a failure, and that few economists ever thought could, would, or should be implemented.
The swing in Greece’s fiscal position from a large primary deficit to a surplus was almost unprecedented, but the demand that the country achieve a primary surplus of 4.5% of GDP was unconscionable. Unfortunately, at the time that the “troika” – the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund – first included this irresponsible demand in the international financial program for Greece, the country’s authorities had no choice but to accede to it.
The folly of continuing to pursue this program is particularly acute now, given the 25% decline in GDP that Greece has endured since the beginning of the crisis. The troika badly misjudged the macroeconomic effects of the program that they imposed. According to their published forecasts, they believed that, by cutting wages and accepting other austerity measures, Greek exports would increase and the economy would quickly return to growth. They also believed that the first debt restructuring would lead to debt sustainability.
The troika’s forecasts have been wrong, and repeatedly so. And not by a little, but by an enormous amount. Greece’s voters were right to demand a change in course, and their government is right to refuse to sign on to a deeply flawed program.
Having said that, there is room for a deal: Greece has made clear its willingness to engage in continued reforms, and has welcomed Europe’s help in implementing some of them. A dose of reality on the part of Greece’s creditors – about what is achievable, and about the macroeconomic consequences of different fiscal and structural reforms – could provide the basis of an agreement that would be good not only for Greece, but for all of Europe.
Some in Europe, especially in Germany, seem nonchalant about a Greek exit from the eurozone. The market has, they claim, already “priced in” such a rupture. Some even suggest that it would be good for the monetary union.
I believe that such views significantly underestimate both the current and future risks involved. A similar degree of complacency was evident in the United States before the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008. The fragility of America’s banks had been known for a long time – at least since the bankruptcy of Bear Stearns the previous March. Yet, given the lack of transparency (owing in part to weak regulation), both markets and policymakers did not fully appreciate the linkages among financial institutions.
Indeed, the world’s financial system is still feeling the aftershocks of the Lehman collapse. And banks remain non-transparent, and thus at risk. We still don’t know the full extent of linkages among financial institutions, including those arising from non-transparent derivatives and credit default swaps.
In Europe, we can already see some of the consequences of inadequate regulation and the flawed design of the eurozone itself. We know that the structure of the eurozone encourages divergence, not convergence: as capital and talented people leave crisis-hit economies, these countries become less able to repay their debts. As markets grasp that a vicious downward spiral is structurally embedded in the euro, the consequences for the next crisis become profound. And another crisis in inevitable: it is in the very nature of capitalism.
ECB President Mario Draghi’s confidence trick, in the form of his declaration in 2012 that the monetary authorities would do “whatever it takes” to preserve the euro, has worked so far. But the knowledge that the euro is not a binding commitment among its members will make it far less likely to work the next time. Bond yields could spike, and no amount of reassurance by the ECB and Europe’s leaders would suffice to bring them down from stratospheric levels, because the world now knows that they will not do “whatever it takes.” As the example of Greece has shown, they will do only what short-sighted electoral politics demands.
The most important consequence, I fear, is the weakening of European solidarity. The euro was supposed to strengthen it. Instead, it has had the opposite effect.
It is not in the interest of Europe – or the world – to have a country on Europe’s periphery alienated from its neighbors, especially now, when geopolitical instability is already so evident. The neighboring Middle East is in turmoil; the West is attempting to contain a newly aggressive Russia; and China, already the world’s largest source of savings, the largest trading country, and the largest overall economy (in terms of purchasing power parity), is confronting the West with new economic and strategic realities. This is no time for European disunion.
Europe’s leaders viewed themselves as visionaries when they created the euro. They thought they were looking beyond the short-term demands that usually preoccupy political leaders.
Unfortunately, their understanding of economics fell short of their ambition; and the politics of the moment did not permit the creation of the institutional framework that might have enabled the euro to work as intended. Although the single currency was supposed to bring unprecedented prosperity, it is difficult to detect a significant positive effect for the eurozone as a whole in the period before the crisis. In the period since, the adverse effects have been enormous.
The future of Europe and the euro now depends on whether the eurozone’s political leaders can combine a modicum of economic understanding with a visionary sense of, and concern for, European solidarity. We are likely to begin finding out the answer to that existential question in the next few weeks.

Joseph Stiglitz


jueves, 4 de junio de 2015

Middle Income Trap

SANTIAGO – Aside from an established tradition of bad macroeconomics, what do Greece and Argentina have in common? One answer is that they were the world’s longest-held captives of the so-called middle-income trap – and remain within its reach to this day. With countries in Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin American fearing that, having reached the international middle class, they could be stuck there, Greece and Argentina shed light on how that might happen.

A recent paper by economists from Bard College and the Asian Development Bank categorizes the world economy according to four groups – with the top two categories occupied by upper-middle-income and high-income countries – and tracks countries’ movements in and out of these groups. Which countries were stuck for the longest period in the upper-middle-income category before moving to high income? You guessed it: Greece and Argentina.
Correcting for variations in the cost of living across countries, the paper concludes that $10,750 of purchasing power in the year 1990 is the threshold for per capita income beyond which a country is high income, while $7,250 makes it upper-middle income. (These thresholds may sound low, but the World Bank uses similar cutoffs.)
By these criteria, Argentina became an upper-middle-income country all the way back in 1970, and then spent 40 years stuck in that category before reaching high-income status in 2010. Greece joined the international upper middle class in 1972, and then took 28 years to reach the top income group, in 2000.
No other country that became upper middle income after 1950, and then made the transition, took nearly as long. In fact, the average length of that transition was 14 years, with economies such as South Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong taking as little as seven years.
Data in the paper stop at 2010, but the story may well be worse today. According to IMF figures, Greece’s never-ending crisis has cut per capita GDP (in terms of purchasing power parity) by 10% since 2010, and by 18% since 2007. Indeed, Greece may have dropped out of the high-income category in recent years.
Argentina’s per capita income has risen, albeit slowly, during this period, but the country was never far from a full-blown macroeconomic crisis that could reduce household incomes sharply. So it seems fair to conclude that both countries are still caught in the middle-income trap.
What kind of trap is it? In Greece and Argentina, it is both political and economic.
Start with the politics. In their book Why Nations FailDaron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson argue that societies with political arrangements that concentrate power in the hands of a few seldom excel at innovation and growth, because innovators have no guarantee they will keep the fruits of their labors. And, to the extent that outsiders cannot generate wealth, they have few resources with which to challenge the power of insiders; as a result, exclusionary political arrangements are mostly self-sustaining.
That is a useful account of why there is a poverty trap – which is the question the book seeks to answer – but it does not clarify why there is a middle-income trap. Greece and Argentina are, after all, democracies, however imperfect, and so are most of the countries in Latin America or East Asia that worry about being stuck at middle-income level. The Acemoglu-Robinson account of a single small elite pulling all the strings needs to be replaced by a different narrative, in which an array of politically powerful groups exercise veto power over decisions that affect their economic interests.
Think of powerful business groups vetoing moves to improve tax collection or strengthen competition policy. This helps explain why the Greek and Argentine governments are perennially in deficit (until borrowing options dry up and adjustment is inevitable), or why prices – and profits – are high in sectors (for example, transportation and telecoms) that provide would-be entrepreneurs with crucial (but often unaffordable) inputs.
Or think of public-sector unions vetoing changes in benefits for their members. That goes a long way toward explaining (add a bit of ideology to the mix) why the current Greek government has gone to the brink of default before agreeing to restrain public-sector pensions, as its European Union partners demand. It also helps explain why both Greece and Argentina have sizeable governments (public spending accounts for 46% and 39% of GDP, respectively) but puny public investment and outdated infrastructure.
This is not a case of too much democracy, as conservative commentators sometimes claim, but of too little. Underdeveloped democratic institutions allow for decisions that are individually rational but collectively shortsighted and harmful.
And bad politics makes for bad economics. To go from middle-income to high-income status, countries have to redeploy resources to high-productivity, knowledge- and skill-intensive sectors. That is a transition that Greece and Argentina, with their financial instability, poor infrastructure, and weak education systems, have never made.
Greece exports refined petroleum products, olive oil, raw cotton, and dried fruit. Argentina exports corn, soybeans, fruits, and wine – as well as cars and auto parts to the rest of the regional Mercosur trade bloc, where it enjoys ample tariff protection against third-country competition.
According to the Atlas of Economic Complexity, developed by Ricardo Hausmann and colleagues at Harvard University, the 2008 gap between Greece’s income and the knowledge content of its exports was the largest in a sample of 128 countries. By 2013, Greece ranked 48th in the Atlas’s index of complexity of exports – by far the lowest of any developed country in Europe – while Argentina ranked 67th.
Sluggish exports mean slow growth, which in turn places limits on social mobility and the expansion of an entrepreneurial middle class. That helps preserve the political power of entrenched veto-wielding players, closing the trap. Perhaps a weighty tome entitled Why Middle-Income Nations Fail will tell the story in full. Societies will then understand why high-income status eludes them – and what they might do differently.

Andres Velasco

martes, 26 de mayo de 2015

Game Theory

IT SOUNDS like a sports fan's dream. In Stockholm on October 11th, three men shared a $1m prize for their skill at analysing games. They are not television pundits, or armchair critics of Manchester United or the Miami Dolphins, but economists. Two Americans, John Harsanyi and John Nash, and a German, Reinhard Selten, have won this year's Nobel prize for economics for their studies of "game theory".

Game theory may sound trivial. It is not. In the past 20 years or so it has revolutionised the economics of industrial organisation and has influenced many other branches of the subject, notably the theories of monetary policy and international trade. These days, no economics students can hope to graduate without knowing the rudiments of it.
Odd though it may seem, until game theory came along most economists assumed that firms could ignore the effects of their behaviour on the actions of others. That is fine when markets are perfectly competitive: what one firm or consumer does can make no difference to the overall picture. Fine, too, when unchallenged monopolists hold sway: they have no rivals to worry about.
But in many instances this assumption is wrong. Many industries are dominated by a few firms: by building a new plant or cutting prices (or threatening to cut them), a firm can affect how its rivals behave. And it is not just in industrial economics that such calculations matter. Some countries may impose (or threaten) trade sanctions against others in an attempt to prise open protected markets. A government may put up short-term interest rates when inflation is low to convince financial markets that it is serious about fighting inflation; with luck, the markets will then require lower long-term interest rates.
These examples are, in a way, just like games: no football coach plans an attack without taking into account the defenders' likely response. Modern game theory was fathered by John von Neumann, a mathematician, and Oskar Morgenstern, an economist, who published "Theory of Games and Economic Behaviour" in 1944 (an anniversary which was not lost on this year's Nobel-prize givers). Messrs Harsanyi, Nash and Selten have honed it into the sharp tool economists use today.
In the early 1950s Mr Nash produced a compelling way of working out how games will end up when players cannot commit themselves, or do not want to collude with each other. A "Nash equilibrium" occurs when no player wants to change his strategy, given full knowledge of other players' strategies.
Take one famous example of a Nash equilibrium. An industry has two firms (1 and 2). Each of them can choose a "high" or a "low" price. If they both choose high prices, they make hefty profits, of $3m apiece. With low prices, they make only $2m each. But if one sets a high price and the other a low one, the low-price firm makes $4m; the high-price firm gets a mere $1m. Although the firms would do best if they both set high prices, they will not. If firm 1 sets a high prices, firm 2's best choice is to undercut it: it would earn $2m instead of $1m. The same goes for firm 1: it too sets a low price. So they both choose low prices—and they make only $2m each.
The incredible game theorist
But Mr Nash's work needed refining. First, it applies to games played only once, or in which players move simultaneously. But virtually all interesting economic games involve continual interaction between players. Mr Selten extended the Nash equilibrium to such settings. From that emerges the importance of credibility: there is no point in one player following a plan which other players know will have to be changed at some point.
For example, a monopolist might try to keep a would-be rival out of its market by threatening a price war if the rival steps in. Such a war might mean that the entrant would make a loss. But it would be costly for the monopolist, too. If the price war costs a lot, the monopolist would do better to share the market with the new entrant. In that case, the threat of a price war is not credible: the entrant can go into the market, knowing that the incumbent would be foolish to fight back.
Second, it is not realistic to assume that the players know what is in each other's minds. As Adam Brandenburger of Harvard Business School puts it, "games are played in a fog." Mr Harsanyi cut through the mist, by showing that games in which players are not well informed about each other can be analysed in almost the same way as ordinary games.
When some players have information that others do not, their strategies can alter their reputations to their advantage. A government that shoves interest rates up to signal its anti-inflationary credentials is one example. Or take a monopolist that would like to stop entry into its market. It can do so if would-be rivals fear that it likes fighting price wars, in spite of the cost. By fighting anyone who does enter, the monopolist can built a reputation as a price warrior and put other entrants off. And oligopolists may be able to keep profits up by setting high prices and nurturing reputations for being friendly to their rivals.
Yet some economists are still wary of game theory, despite the insights it has brought. That is partly because the theory is difficult: it demands lots of tricky mathematics. That, however, is merely a reflection of the complexity of the world. But there is a more telling objection—namely, that game theory is just that: theory.

martes, 19 de mayo de 2015

Gobierno Abierto y Estado Abierto por un mejor gobierno para todos

Un gobierno abierto para tener mejores políticas publicas y mas confianza en el estado

Changing the Culture of Government -Open Government Partnership

Open Government

 open governments for better public policies and development