Friday , November 22 2019
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Timothy Taylor: Conversable Economist

Conversable Economist is an economics blog by Timothy Taylor, who is the author of several economics books. Timothy goes deep into details about a range of topics, backing his arguments up with statistics and data.

Why Has China’s Trade Surplus (Just About) Gone Away?

China's trade surpluses exploded in size after 2001, when China joined the World Trade Organization and its exports soared. But those trade surpluses peaked back before the Great Recession and have dwindled since then to near-zero. Indeed, the IMF predicts that China is likely to have small trade deficits in the next few years. What happened? Pragyan Deb, Albe Gjonbalaj, and Swarnali A.  Hannan tell the story in "The Drivers, Implications and Outlook for China’s Shrinking Current Account...

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Enhancing Federal Tax Collections by $100 Billion Annually

Maybe instead of arguing over whether or how much to raise tax rates on those with high incomes, we could start by making more of an effort to enforce the actual existing tax laws? Natasha Sarin and Lawrence H. Summers explore what's possible in  "Shrinking the Tax Gap: Approaches and Revenue Potential" (Tax Notes, November 18, 2019).In the lingo, the "tax gap" is the amount of tax that is owed under existing law, but that for one reason or another goes uncollected. Sarin and Summer estimate...

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interview with Cass Sunstein: On Abrupt and Unpredictable Social Change

Consider some examples of social movements that led to rapid change: the French Revolution, Russian revolution/ collapse of Soviet Union, the Iranian revolution, the civil rights movements of the 1960s, the rise of environmentalist movement in the 1960s, Brexit, #MeToo, gay marriage, and others.  Robert Wiblin and Keiran Harris at the "80,000 Hours" website have a podcast interview: "Prof. Cass Sunstein on how social change happens, and why it’s so often abrupt & unpredictable" (June...

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China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Could It All Come Crashing Down?

Brad Parks at the Center for Global Development managed to find a nice way of boiling down the ways that China's Belt and Road Initiative could possibly become a failure and a burden in a short thought experiment ("Chinese Leadership and the Future of BRI: What Key Decisions Lie Ahead?" July 24, 2019). Here's how he describes one possible future a decade from now (I added a couple of paragraph breaks): It’s 2028. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been underway for 15 years, but the...

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Is Opposition to Immigration Primarily Economic or Cultural?

It's clear that there is a considerable hostility to immigration, both in the United States and across much of Europe. Is that opposition rooted primarily in economic factors or in cultural factors? What kind of evidence could help answer the question?One approach is to look at whether anti-immigrant attitudes are more common among occupations more threatened by immigrant competition or in local areas that have received more immigrants.  If so, this would support an economic explanation for...

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Can Job Training Work for Mature Adults?

Most workers learn additional skills throughout their work-life. In that sense, it's obvious that job training in some contexts works for adults. But for many of us, the additional learning happens in the context of remaining in the same job, or at least on the same broad career path. The harder question is whether it's possible to do the kind of job training with adults, perhaps adults who have just experienced a negative shock to their previous job, that jump-starts them on a career path....

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Is Trade Still a Viable Path to Development? World Development Report 2020

Many of the world's development success stories in recent decades followed a broadly similar pattern. The countries became more involved with the world economy, often by exporting manufactured goods produced by low-wage workers. The rise in exports brought economic growth and income to their economics, but perhaps just as important, it also helped to foster a range of managerial, financial and technological skills. In this way, exporting was a fundamental step on the path to economic...

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Some Economics of the Clean Water Act

Here's an uncomfortable set of facts about federal clean water policy in the United States: 1) People care about it a lot; 2) Over the years, total spending on clean water has been high; 3) Water quality has improved; and 4) The estimated benefits of clean water regulation in the US seem relatively low and in many cases even negative. My discussion here will draw on an essay by David A. Keiser and Joseph S. Shapiro, "US Water Pollution Regulation over the Past Half Century: Burning Waters to...

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The Declining Share of Veterans Among Prime-Age Men: The Centennial of Armistice Day

The armistice marking the end of World War I was signed on November 11, 1918. A year later--and 100 years ago today--the first Armistice Day celebrations were held at Buckingham Palace. The US Congress passed a resolution commemorating Armistice Day in 1926, and it became a national holiday in 1938. In 1954, after World War II, its name was changed to Veteran's Day in the United States.But as you may have noticed when attending an event where veterans are encouraged to stand and be...

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US Dependence on Imported Minerals

This figure shows the US reliance on imports for various minerals, from the US Geological Survey. I'm fully aware that minerals are not equally distributed around the world, and I'm a pro-trade guy, so I won't lose sleep tonight about these numbers. But during waking hours, I will wonder about whether the supplies from other countries are reasonably steady and reliable. I'll also wonder about whether global pollution is worse because US firms are importing minerals from countries with...

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