“the history and politics of public finance” grad student workshop at ssha

Are you a graduate student interested in the history of public finance and all things tax-related? Are you free on Wednesday, November 16th? If so, you should apply to the 8th Annual Graduate Student Workshop on The History and Politics of Public Finance, taking place the day before the Social Science History Association’s annual meeting in Chicago. It’s a great event, and a wonderful group of scholars. The details are below. There will also be many panels related to public finance at SSHA, organized by the new Public Finance network. Non-graduate students interested in participating in those should contact the organizers as well.

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“the big short” and the most ironic quote misattribution ever

I really enjoyed The Big Short. It’s totally entertaining, and captures some hard to explain and very interesting dynamics in the lead-up to the housing crisis and the eventual bursting of the bubble. That said, the movie had some significant issues. For example, it overstates how few people saw the crash coming. Many people were aware of the housing bubble, but only a few were able to figure out how to make money off of it – and just had bad it was going to get. Michael Grunwald has a new piece that does a nice job pointing to three other problems: the movie overstates the importance of complex derivatives, understates the role of stupidity vs. evil, and downplays the significance of post-crisis reforms.

These are all good points, though not completely without controversy. I think an economic sociology class that spent several weeks on the crisis could usefully watch this movie and read some of the criticisms and have a very healthy discussion of crises, responsibility, and how we narrate the past (and maybe maybe throw in a discussion of sexism in both the financial industry and in Hollywood).

All of that’s really just setup though, to my biggest pet peeve about the movie. Continue reading ““the big short” and the most ironic quote misattribution ever”

they like us, they really like us! hoff and stiglitz on sociology

Karla Hoff of the World Bank and Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia have a new working paper out, Striving for Balance in Economics: Towards a Theory of the Social Determination of Behavior. The paper is an attempt to convince economists to go beyond the psychologically-informed actor of behavioral economics and embrace an “enculturated actor”, rooted in research from social psychology and even our own sociology. I found the table on page 10 especially useful as a summary one could share with students of the contrast between the “standard” economics of perfect rationality to the now-traditional behavioral economics actor of imperfect rationality and the enculturated actor informed by sociology.

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new dissertation fellowship from the center for engaged scholarship

A correspondent passed along this call for a new year-long dissertation fellowship from the Center for Engaged Scholarship. Application due January 31, 2016. Details below the cut.

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affirmative action can’t make itself unnecessary

I spent this morning reading the oral arguments in the second round of Fisher v. Texas, the most recent Supreme Court case on affirmative action in admissions. It’s fascinating to see how the debate plays out, and how it picks up right where the debate in Grutter ended in 2003, with nothing fundamentally resolved.* One issue keeps frustrating me that I haven’t seen discussed in the secondary coverage. Several times the conversation turns to the claim made in the Grutter decision that affirmative action might only be needed for another 25 years. We’re halfway through that, the Justices note, and Scalia asks bluntly: “do you think all of this won’t be necessary in another 13 years?” But here’s the thing: affirmative action can’t make itself unnecessary.

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