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What We Read Today 12 April 2015

Econintersect: Every day our editors collect the most interesting things they find from around the internet and present a summary "reading list" which will include very brief summaries (and sometimes longer ones) of why each item has gotten our attention. Suggestions from readers for "reading list" items are gratefully reviewed, although sometimes space limits the number included.

This feature is published every day late afternoon New York time. For early morning review of headlines see "The Early Bird" published every day in the early am at GEI News (membership not required for access to "The Early Bird".).


Every day most of this column ("What We Read Today") is available only to GEI members.

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The rest of this article is for members only. To become a GEI Member simply subscribe to our FREE daily newsletter.

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world





  • United Kingdom Election Preview (The Conversation)
  • Economics of the British elections (Al Jazeera) In this campaign for the May elections, the Conservative Party is trumpeting falling unemployment, higher wages and strong overall economic growth as a result of its five years in the coalition government. For an analysis of the data in this regard see discussion of Ed Dolan article below.



  • The economics of the robot age (Livemint) What does Modi's effort to increase manufacturing mean for India? Whether the future - the second machine age - is a dystopia or a utopia depends on ownership, not technology.


  • Canada's maple syrup cartel puts squeeze on small producers (Al Jazeera) Big Syrup is no joke in Quebec, which controls 71 percent of world's supply. If small producers do sell to the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers they face criminal charges. This seems criminal to the producers who can get much higher prices elsewhere.

Did Austerity Work in Britain? One Chart Tells It All (Ed Dolan, EconoMonitor) There is no support in data for the 'austerity-begets-growth' theory. This is showing data for the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries. See next article for a related analysis for the Eurozone only.


Devaluation through wages in the euro zone: a lose-lose adjustment (ofce blog)This is a discussion repeated from yesterday. In fact there is a correlation between changes in wages and changes in GDP. No cause and effect definitions have been attempted here directly but the authors do make the statement "... that compresses domestic demand and is not very effective in terms of competitiveness", which implies a possible relationship since they think that austerity drives economic compression.


What really causes economic downturns? (World Economic Forum) Economic models use normal distributions to define expectations of such things as GDP (a primary parameter connected with economic growth). The bell-shaped distributions are the classical Gaussian functions for random distributions of results around a mean. What this paper demonstrates is that GDP data does not follow the normal distribution at the extremes. In the graphs below the dashed red lines define where the expected data points fall for a normal Gaussian bell curve distribution of data. The graph on the left shows that this is where the middle 90% of the data points fall (IE, the data with 5% of lowest (most negative) data points and the 5% largest (most positive) data points omitted). The graph on the right shows the scatter plot for all 100% of the data points. We see that the lowest data points deviate further and further from expected values as the data moves farther our on the tail of the curve. Ditto for the largest values, also showing large deviations from the expected distribution curve values.

The tails are "fat", and would be what Nassim Nicholas Taleb would call "Black Swan Events" that are extremely unlikely and therefore when they occur are very unexpected and damaging. There is no argument that they can be damaging but this research shows that the "swans" are not "black" but simply a variation of the commonly hued fowl and they have only been deemed improbable by faulty analysis and by making bad assumptions.

Econintersect: Our observation is that the often expressed thought that mathematics misleads economists is again and again proven to be wrong. As in this situation it is almost always a case of economists misleading (or misusing) mathematics.


Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea

Economics professor: We're no closer to happiness than we were in the 1950s (Business Insider) Here is a paradox: At any given time the degree of happiness of an individual increases with income; Yet over time for a society degree the average of happiness fails to rise with increasing income after the very lowest income levels are exceeded. The professor has some reasonable explainations for this but Econintersect suggests that the very basis of the paradox is the false assumption that a society is a linear combination of individuals. Perhaps we should expand this discussion to examine what shortfalls the suggestion that this data demonstrates the fallacy of basing a macro description on a micro model. This is on the list for a future project.

Millions, including Sandy victims, facing higher premium rates for flood insurance protection (Fox Business)

How a bee sting saved my life: poison as medicine (mosaic) After 18 years suffering with Lyme disease, Ellie Lobel was ready to die. Then she was attacked by bees. Note: This editor has had recurring episodes of Lyme disease for more than 30 years but has been able to control symptoms when they have arisen with oral antibiotics. Some with the disease have not been able to control it with antibiotics. It is a tragedy that the U.S. Center for Disease Control officially denies the existence of the disease as a chronic infection.

FAA Speeds Up Small Drone Exemptions. But Why Not Just Issue Blanket Exemption? (Forbes)

General Electric stock rises strongly as company consolidates new direction (Australian Financial Review)

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