Sep 14, 2014

¿Por qué no hay tortillas en el bufé de Sarita?

Ayer fui con mi esposa a desayunar a Sarita. El bufé es muy bueno, y creo que es uno de los mas baratos en el mercado en ese segmento. Pero, sorpresa, no hay nadie torteando, y no hay tortillas. Lo que obviamente despierta la curiosidad de todo guatemalteco. Ronald Coase hubiera preguntado directamente . . . y asunto arreglado.  Pero un economista común y corriente empieza a elucubrar. Quizá la respuesta es mas sencilla, pero esta es mi hipótesis:

Si ofrecieran tortillas quizá la mara pediría los desayunos a la carta, que son más baratos—el precio puede ser menos de Q. 30, y comerlos con tortillas, lo que mejora significativamente la experiencia culinaria. Esto implicaría que quizá algunos clientes preferirían los desayunos individuales al bufé (cuyo precio es Q. 64), y esto podría reducir las ganancias del establecimiento. En otras palabras, las tortillas mejorarían la relación precio/calidad a favor de los desayunos a la carta.

Autor Luisfi, Wikimedia Commons
La hipótesis es entonces que en los lugares donde hay gente torteando no hay bufé y viceversa. Es decir, las tortillas y el bufés son productos substitutos. Y pensando en algunos lugares esto parece ser cierto. Por ejemplo en los restaurantes de Tecpán hay tortillas pero no hay bufé.  Como corolario, en los lugares que solo ofrecen bufé (no hay carta), en ellos sí podría uno encontrar tortillas.

Este es mi grano de arena en este intenso debate de gran importancia nacional.  

Sep 8, 2014

Slaves or Mercenaries: Milton Friedman and the Institution of the All-Volunteer Military

From an essay by John D. Singleton:
Milton Friedman was the leading public proponent for an all-volunteer military. This chapter traces his influence upon the national debate over conscription, which culminated in Friedman’s service on the Gates Commission. Friedman’s argument relied on economic reasoning and appeal to cost-benefit analysis. Central was his conjecture that the social cost of the draft, which imposed an “implicit tax” on draftees, exceeded that of the all-volunteer military. This was supported by the work of Walter Oi. Friedman’s position attracted support both within the conservative movement and from across the political landscape, allowing Friedman to form coalitions with prominent individuals otherwise in disagreement with his politics. With the social context ripened by the draft and the Vietnam War, Friedman’s argument echoed in influential circles, reaching policymakers in Washington and Martin Anderson on the Nixon advising team. The successful institution of the all-volunteer armed force reflected Friedman’s intellectual entrepreneurship.

Sep 5, 2014

Preferences for redistribution

From a paper by Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn:
I study the preferences for redistribution in Eastern Europe. After the collapse of communism c. 1990, preferences for redistribution did not decrease by 2000, and if anything, they increased. One explanation is the so-called “public values effect”: individual beliefs shape preferences for redistribution. East Europeans continue to believe that it is the responsibility of the state to provide for the poor, and hence, they prefer redistribution. Income and expected income also affect preferences for redistribution but to a lesser degree than relative income and income history. The ‘winners’ of the transition, i.e., those who are better off after the collapse of communism, prefer less redistribution.
From the conclusions in a draft:
. . . One would expect to see more "free market thinking," that is, less support for government intervention and more support for individual enterprise. After all, that's what East Europeans were striving for during the decades under the communist regime. p. 9.
Th draft and other interesting papers by Adam are here

Sep 3, 2014

Teaching Children to Save: What Is the Best Strategy for Lifetime Savings?

This paper, by Alessandro Bucciol & Marcella Veronesi, recently came out in the Journal of Economic Psychology. The abstract. 
We study the effect of alternative parental teaching strategies on the propensity to save and the amount saved during adulthood. Using a panel dataset from the Dutch DNB Household Survey we find that parental teaching to save increases the likelihood that an adult will save by 16%, and the saving amount by about 30%. The best strategy involves a combination of different methods (giving pocket money, controlling money usage, and giving advice about saving and budgeting). The effect of parental financial socialization is persistent with age, but decays at elder age for the propensity to save.
A draft is here.  

Aug 31, 2014

Modern Macroeconomics: Its Origins, Development and Current State

I am rereading the book Modern Macroeconomics: Its Origins, Development and Current State (2005) by Brian Snowdon and Howard R. Vane. 
A few points:
  1. This is one of the first, and few, macroeconomics books that dedicated a chapter to Austrian economics.
  2. More than a macroeconomics textbook, I see it as a history of macroeconomic analysis (in the Schumpeter way). It starts with the classical approach, then with the orthodox Keynesian model, then the IS-LM model for an open economy, monetarism and son on. 
  3. The history of macroeconomics analysis is a history of revolutions and counterrevolutions. There are as well schools of thought that developed parallel to the "mainstream."
  4. There is some chronological overleaping as well, for example the Mundell-Fleming model was developed by the time the monetarism revolution was starting in the early 1960s. 
  5. The history of macroeconomic analysis is fascinating and the book makes it clear that it is an evolving field, and very likely what is in vogue today might well not be discuss in a few years - some current theories will be incorporated into the "mainstream," but not necessarily

Aug 28, 2014

El Amanecer de la Libertad

He leído algunos capítulos del libro El Amanecer de la Libertad de Carlos Sabino. Es un libro muy interesante sobre el pasado de Latino América.
 
El autor cuenta sobre el movimiento pendular en la historia latinoamericana entre caudillismo y libertad. El afán de libertad conduce a respuestas dictatoriales que motivan, a su vez, movimientos de liberación. La obsesión por el poder y la perpetuación en éste, ha sido constante en el pasado de América Latina.

El libro, o por lo menos los capítulos que he leído, deja la duda de por qué el gobierno federal se mantuvo y tuvo éxito en Estados Unidos, mientras que en Centroamérica, por ejemplo, fracasó. Esto puede verse a la luz de lo que Barry Weingast ha escrito sobre todo en el tema de “federalismo auto-sostenible” (self-enforcing federalism). Donde expone que los estados en Estados Unidos tenían sus propias leyes que de una forma u otra servían de contrapeso al abuso de poder del gobierno central. Los pesos y contrapesos fueron muy importantes para garantizar el funcionamiento de una democracia en Estados Unidos. Generalizando, Weingast sugiere que fue la facultad de los individuos para coordinar acciones de defensa ante el abuso de poder lo que contribuyó al éxito del sistema político estadounidense. Como corolario, podemos pensar que nuestra dificultad de coordinar en contra del abuso de poder en Latinoamérica pudo, o puede, estar obstaculizando un sistema efectivo de pesos y contrapesos. Mas fundamentalmente, aunque no lo suficiente, lo que puede estar pasando es que los incentivos no están alineados para que las estrategias compartidas, las normas y las reglas permitan que coordinemos en equilibrios mas eficientes.

En Latino América, estos movimientos pendulares siguen viéndose, aunque las cosas han mejorado mucho. Sin embargo hay ciertas fuerzas que generan optimismo. La tan acelerada globalización y el flujo de información, como nunca antes visto, pueden ser ejemplos de esas razones.

En todo caso, el lector puede aprender mucho de este libro, que, sobre todo, es una fuente útil de estimulación intelectual.

Aug 25, 2014

Coase on economics expansion

In the essay "Economics and contiguous disciplines" (1978) Ronald Coase wrote about how economists were extending their analysis into other disciplines. He was a great writer, and had a good sense of humor. He said:
What is the reason this is happening? One completely satisfying explanation (in more than one sense) would be that economists have by now solved all of the major problems posed by the economics system, and, therefore, rather than become unemployed or be forced to deal with the trivial problems which remain to be solved, have decided to employ their obviously considerable talents in achieving a similar success in the other social sciences. However, it is not possible to examine any area of economics which which I have familiarity without finding major puzzles for which we have no agreed solutions or, indeed, questions to which we have no answers at all. The reason for this movement of economists into neighbouring fields is certainly not that we have solved the problems of the economic system; it would perhaps be more plausible to argue that economists are looking for fields in which they can have some success. p. 37 (in the book).
For him, "the expansion" of economics was a good thing if it contributed to understanding economic systems better. In fact, he argued that only very few economists would be successful at influencing the way other social scientists see their own fields.