Fri, 27 October 2017
My guest today is Kevin Leyton-Brown, he is a Professor of Computer Science at the University of British Columbia.
Kevin's work involves not only computer science topics such as artificial intelligence, but also game theory, and the intersection between the two. Our topic for today is an app that Kevin co-founded called Kudu, which uses double auctions to help Ugandan farmers trade more effectively.
Kevin was interested in using his skills to help people in the developing world, so during a sabbatical seven years ago, he resolved to go to a country in sub-Saharan Africa to do just that. He settled on Uganda and, after living there for a time, noticed something peculiar about the market for agricultural goods there. In the city, you would sometimes find vendors selling goods at very high prices, and even running out. Meanwhile, in the countryside, vendors would have so much stock they would be selling at extremely low prices, even rotting before they could be sold.
Kevin, along with his partners John Quinn and Richard Ssekibuule, set out to help the locals seize these apparent arbitrage opportunities by constructing a platform to allow buyers and sellers in these markets to trade with one another at competitive prices. Most Ugandans have cell phones. Not fancy smartphones (as I wrongly guessed) but basic flip phones. So Kevin and his partners decided to set up a platform by which people could make bids and asks using a basic text-message system, and that system turned into Kudu.
The platform has facilitated $1.5 million USD worth of confirmed trades, and it has made the prices of agricultural goods much more transparent for everyone trading in these markets.
Sat, 21 October 2017
Returning to the podcast is David Henderson of Stanford University's Hoover Institution and the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey California.
Our topic for today is the German Economic Miracle. David wrote an article on it for the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. The article begins as follows:
"After World War II the German economy lay in shambles. The war, along with Hitler’s scorched-earth policy, had destroyed 20 percent of all housing. Food production per capita in 1947 was only 51 percent of its level in 1938, and the official food ration set by the occupying powers varied between 1,040 and 1,550 calories per day. Industrial output in 1947 was only one-third its 1938 level. Moreover, a large percentage of Germany’s working-age men were dead. At the time, observers thought that West Germany would have to be the biggest client of the U.S. welfare state; yet, twenty years later its economy was envied by most of the world. And less than ten years after the war people already were talking about the German economic miracle.
We discuss the West German economy, before and after WWII, and contrast it with the East German economy. We also discuss some of the interesting figures who played roles along the way: Ludwig Erhard, Wilhelm Röpke, Konrad Adenauer, and Walter Heller.
We wrap up by discussing the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics itself, which David created and has edited since its first publication in 1993.
Fri, 13 October 2017
My guest today is Jamie Pavlik of Texas Tech University.
Jamie has done a ton of research on corruption and development. She has examined corruption in the developing world, with multiple papers examining corruption in Brazil. She has also looked at international comparisons of corruption, and corruption in the United States specifically.
We discuss her work on corruption as well as some of the statistical issues with spatial econometrics.
Fri, 6 October 2017
My guest today is Thomas Sampson of the London School of Economics.
Our topic for today is the economic impact of Brexit. Long-time listeners will recall that I did an interview with Sam Bowman on Brexit immediately after the vote occurred. Think of this as a follow-up to that episode now that the dust has settled and we have a better idea of what Brexit is going to look like. Thomas has written multiple papers on the subject, including Brexit: The Economics of International Disintegration, which is forthcoming in the Journal of Economic Perspectives. Its abstract follows:
This paper reviews the literature on the likely economic consequences of Brexit and considers the lessons of the Brexit vote for the future of European and global integration. Brexit will make the United Kingdom poorer because it will lead to new barriers to trade and migration between the United Kingdom and the European Union. Plausible estimates put the costs to the United Kingdom at between 1 and 10 percent of income per capita. Other European Union countries will also suffer economically, but their estimated losses are much smaller. Support for Brexit came from a coalition of less-educated, older, less economically successful and more socially conservative voters. Why these voters rejected the European Union is poorly understood, but will play an important role in determining whether Brexit proves to be merely a diversion on the path to greater international integration or a sign that globalization has reached its limits.
Globalization and economic integration have been on more or less a constant rise since WWII, and Brexit is a rare reversal of this trend. Thomas argues that it is important to understand the causes of Brexit to see if this is just a temporary blip on the way to global economic integration or the start of a reversal of the post-WWII trend.