431 Items

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

High Oil Prices Can Help the Environment

| Oct. 28, 2021

Prices of fossil fuels rose sharply in October. The European price for natural gas hit a record peak early in the month. The price of US crude oil is above $80 a barrel, the highest it has been in seven years. Prices for thermal coal in China have also reached record highs. Heading into the northern winter, consumers in many parts of the world are understandably worried.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

El Salvador Exemplifies the Surrealism of Cryptocurrencies

| Sep. 26, 2021

El Salvador this month became the first country to adopt a cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, as legal tender.  One says “the first” as if there will be others.  But the idea is highly dubious.

I will admit, like many economists, that I fail to see what problem cryptocurrencies solve. They aren’t well designed to fulfill any of the classic functions of money — unit of account, store of value, or means of payment – in part because they are so extraordinarily volatile in price.  This volatility is not surprising, since they are backed neither by reserves nor by the reputation of a well-established institution, such as a government or even a private bank or other trusted corporation.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

The G20 Agenda, As the Pandemic Continues

| Aug. 28, 2021

Italy hosts the G20 this year.  The 2021 Summit of the Heads of Government will take place in Rome in October. Officials of member countries, including the finance ministers and central bank governors, are preparing.

The G20 meeting will come at a time of great uncertainty as concerns the health and economic effects of the pandemic, midway through its 2nd year.  Although the mechanisms of international cooperation have been badly bruised by events of recent years, they are more important than ever, in light of the interconnectedness across nations that the pandemic so vividly demonstrates.

Of what, specifically, should international cooperation in such bodies as the G20 consist?  To begin with, by “cooperation,” I am not in this case referring to the coordinated setting of national monetary or fiscal policies.  For the most part, countries can, on their own, move those levers in the directions that are right for them.

Areas on which the G20 should focus include three: financial stability, trade, and vaccination.  This is in addition to other important areas, especially the existential issue of global climate change, which should and will receive a lot of attention.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

The Virus, Vaccination, and Voting

| July 26, 2021

Ever since the 1960s, we have heard the cliché, “If they can put a man on the Moon, why can’t they do X?” where X is usually some goal like eliminating hunger — technologically simpler than the scientific miracle of space flight, but harder to accomplish in practice because it involves human behavior.  In 2021, the salient question is, “If we can accomplish the scientific miracle of developing vaccines capable of ending the Covid-19 pandemic that has killed millions, why can’t we convince enough people to get vaccinated?”

In lower-income countries, jabs are often limited by the availability of the vaccines.  But this is not the case with countries as fortunate as the United States, where the problem is primarily vaccine hesitancy, or even outright vaccine hostility.

America's Republican Are Killing Their Voters

Luis Sinco Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Analysis & Opinions - Project Syndicate

America’s Republicans Are Killing Their Voters

| July 22, 2021

Despite mounting evidence that vaccination leads to lower COVID-19 mortality rates, many in the US remain skeptical, if not downright hostile. An analysis of the data that isolates the causal effect of voting patterns clearly shows the heightened danger Republicans face.