Monday, January 14, 2019

Trade and Finance

Teaching a course on international economics (trade and finance) for international relations students. More on that later. Just wanted to post the exports to GDP ratio for the world.
This is to give students a sense of the increase in trade in the last few decades, and also the relative stagnation since the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. Note that while exports are about US$ 23 trillion in a year, the daily turnover in the foreign exchange market is about US$ 5 trillion, according to the last time I checked the BIS Report.

I put the US recessions bars too. Note that it seems that US recessions always have a significant impact on the expansion of world exports.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Heterodox Journals and Impact Factors

I blogged about journal rankings a while ago. As I said back then, journal rankings matter in decisions about grants and academic promotions, and there are biases against heterodox journals. So even if there are many problems with those measures (read previous post), they are still relevant. The Review of Keynesian Economics (ROKE), founded by Tom Palley, Louis-Philippe Rochon (now at ROPE) and myself, has now an impact factor of 0.738 in last year’s Clarivate Report (Thomson-Reuters citation index, previously known as the Science-Social Science Citation Index, SSCI), up from 0.515 in the 2015 report.

For comparison, well-established heterodox journals were somewhat below, with the Review of Radical Political Economics scoring 0.377 and 0.579 in the same reports, and the Journal of Economic Issues scoring 0.573 and 0.580. The Cambridge Economic Journal, and Metroeconomica also improved and went from 1.311 to 2.070, and from 0.984 to 1.379. Many good heterodox journals are not even indexed.

On the topic of the importance of rankings for tenure you might want to read Heckman and Moktan's paper "The Tyranny of the Top Five Journals."

Monday, January 7, 2019

Raúl Prebish’s Unpublished Manuscripts on the Buenos Aires Lectures on Economic Dynamics

By Esteban Pérez Caldentey

Raúl Prebish’s Unpublished Manuscripts on the Buenos Aires Lectures on Economic Dynamics edited by Esteban Pérez Caldentey (ECLAC) and Matías Vernengo (Bucknell University), have been published in the ECLAC Review, August 2018

Raúl Prebisch (1901–1986), the Second Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) which he joined in 1949 is mostly known for his long-run analysis and diagnostic of the development problem of Latin America, which he fully stated in “The economic development of Latin America and some of its principal problems” (1950), also known as Prebisch’s “Manifesto”.

However, prior to joining ECLAC Prebisch also devoted a great part of his time and career the analysis of business cycles in theory and in practice (he was the first Director General of the central bank of Argentina created in 1935 and Prebisch himself drafted the project for the bank). On the basis of his cycle analysis he began to develop a theory of dynamics which sought to introduce two elements that, according to Prebisch, were missing from the Classical and Keynesian analyses, time and space.

Prebisch argued that capitalist economies evolved and developed in growth cycles. From 1920 to 1944 his analyses of capitalism centered on Argentina and on the characteristics of its business cycle. He attributed the phases of the Argentinean cycle to external causes determined to a large extent by the policy and economic performance in developed countries (Great Britain and the United States).

Read rest here.

Link to CEPAL Review here.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The three caballeros: on populism and the economy

Cartoonish figures... and Disney toons too

With the incoming inauguration of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, the United States and the two largest countries in the Latin American region will have what the press has more or less universally and uncritically referred to as populist leaders in power. It has been very common in the press to compare Trump and Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) as right and left-wing populists. And although the term has not been applied as often to Bolsonaro, comparisons with Trump abound. Yet, while they do share certain characteristics, I would argue that populism is not one of them. The comparisons that make them all similar are at the end of the day caricatures.

Admittedly populism is a complicated and somewhat fuzzy term. It has a complicated history, and many in the developed world associate it with the old agrarian movements in Russia and the US, and can be seen as somewhat progressive. Alternatively, in Latin America it has been more often than not associated with the rise of Peronism in Argentina, and the affinities with Italian corporatist and fascist ideologies leads many to see it as somewhat reactionary movement.

The economic definition of populism, or what Dornbusch and Edwards called macroeconomic populism, is even more problematic. They basically suggested that running fiscal deficits would fit the bill. That makes the list of possible populist leaders almost all encompassing, and devoid of any relevance. I won't try to solve the question of what a good definition of populism is, but I'll try to explain why to emphasize the similarities between the three might not be completely accurate, and might distort understanding of what to expect ahead. Mind you, on some level, one expects that populism should deliver something for the people and should be the opposite of oligarchic regimes.

Trump and Bolsonaro are clearly associated with conservative ideas while AMLO might be seen as a lefty (note, however, that according to Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, the son of General Cárdenas and an icon of the left in Mexico, that is not correct; see here, in Spanish). While Trump was brought to power by the votes in the Rust Belt (in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) dissatisfied with Free Trade policies that have affected the region, in Brazil and Mexico a fight against corruption (real or perceived) played a more important role (something stimulated by US interests in LA). In Brazil, during the Workers' Party (PT) administration income inequality decreased (and real wages went up). A mediatic-juridical coup brought down the government, and Bolsonaro represents the continuity with the coup. AMLO represents the dissatisfaction not just with the economic woes of Mexicans, but with the failures of democracy (including the return of PRI, Institutional Revolutionary Party, after two governments of PAN, National Action Party).

In the case of Brazil, the formerly nationalist Bolsonaro has actually appointed an openly neoliberal Chicago Boy to the newly enlarged economic ministry. While Trump and AMLO are less keen on Free Trade, it is unclear that this would be central to Bolsonaro and the opposite might be true (Paulo Guedes, his economic minister seems to dislike MERCOSUL, but not free trade). Also, while Trump trade disputes with China can be seen as part of a reaction to the latter's challenge to American Hegemony, and both that and the increase in military spending might extend for a bit the slow recovery and the bubbleized American economy, the tax cuts and the resistance to any kind of expansion of social spending will imply that very little of the growth trickles down to the less privileged in American society. In the two LA giants, austerity will, most likely if they follow through with their fiscal plans, lead to slow growth. Worse, they will be unable to use the US/China conflict to gain advantage for national strategies of development, but for very different reasons. In Brazil because Bolsonaro (and his fanatic foreign affairs minister) suggest direct alignment with American interests. In Mexico, because the new UMSCA ties the hands of the government in many ways (something that AMLO seemed to welcome, or at least did not think he should fight it).

While Trump has at least promised an expansion of infrastructure spending (and the infamous wall of shutdown fame too), making him somewhat populist in Dornbusch's definition, both Bolsonaro and AMLO promise austerity and balanced budgets. While AMLO wants to raise  raised (h/t Guillermo Matamoros) the minimum wage, there is no indication that Trump or Bolsonaro think a minimum wage should even exist.

Trump for all his anti-establishment rhetoric is no threat to the American oligarchy (Pence is in the pocket of the Koch brothers, if anything else needs to be said). I had suggested a while ago that with Bolsonaro Brazil could follow the path of Mexico or of 19th century Brazil, "an oligarchic state... in which the rents of a relatively stagnant... economy were distributed among a few powerful families, while the vast majority was left out." At least AMLO is trying to break with Mexican oligarchic traditions. It might not be enough. Happy old year!

Trade and Finance

Teaching a course on international economics (trade and finance) for international relations students. More on that later. Just wanted to p...