Thursday, April 16, 2009

NYT Video Article on the Effect of the Economic Crisis on School Music Programs

Here's a nice video from the New York Times on the effect of the recession on school music programs. In addition to the "standard" type of pressures the crisis puts on the school (e.g., cutting funds to extracurricular programs like music), there are also pressures on the individual musicians and their families regarding the costs associated with being in the music program. The "standard" cuts force additional expenses on the musicians and their families, like the cost of performing at Lincoln Center. I was particularly struck by the 16 year old who lives in her own apartment, works a job, and participates in the music program.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Career Advice from Obama and Bernanke

Here's something from the Wall Street Journal blog that undergraduates may want to consider, particularly those in business schools at their respective universities:

Both President Barack Obama and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke talked Tuesday about the recent attraction of finance as a profession for some of the nation’s brightest young people.

Obama, speaking at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., appeared to welcome the changing economy that means fewer people will be going into Wall Street jobs: “One of the changes that I would like to see — and I’m going to be talking about in this in weeks to come — is seeing our best and our brightest commit themselves to making things — engineers, scientists, innovators. For so long, we have placed at the top of our pinnacle folks who can manipulate numbers and engage in complex financial calculations. And — and that’s good. We need some of that. But you know what we can really use is some more scientists and some more engineers who are building and making things that we can export to other countries.”

At Morehouse College in Atlanta, Bernanke was asked by a panel of students about job prospects in finance. He answered by emphasizing the value of finance to an economy, mentioning, for instance, venture capital, but made clear that he thought too many recent graduates were lured to Wall Street by outsized salaries.

“It’s clear that some of the compensation and some of the risk taking was excessive and as we go forward there’s going to be a more vigilant regulatory system to make sure compensation systems don’t incentive risky behavior,” he said. “I think that in one way this is healthy…People ought to go into a profession based on what they enjoy” as well as what is valuable to them and valuable to society, he added, urging the students not to seek only “the highest possible income.”

”I’m not saying that smart people, talented people shouldn’t go into finance,” Bernanke said, “but you ought to follow your interest and the direction that you think will give you the most personal satisfaction.”

Art and Economic Crisis (Economic Photo of the Week for April 14th)

Over the weekend I was talking with several friends about the effects of economic crises on individuals' well-being (both material and psychological). As part of the discussion, we talked about what images are most salient to us when we think of depression and recession. During the oil crisis and recession of the 1970's, my friends and I agreed that the long lines at gas stations were the dominant image. However, this image (in and of itself) is predominantly one of effect of crisis on material well-being.

When we talked about the crisis of the 1930's (although none of us were around during that one), Dorthea Lange's photo was the image we thought captured the effects of economic crisis psychological well-being. Indeed, this is probably one of them most well-known and important images from the 20th century. It made us wonder what image will be in people's minds when they look back on the current economic crisis.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Even Monkeys Use Markets

This article in the latest issue of Nature find that male chimpanzees exchange food (namely meat) for sex.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Robert Lucas on the Great Depression and the current stimulus package

Here's a transcript of Robert Lucas' talk at the Council of Foreign Relations (March 30, 2009). This is a great overview of what he (and others form the Chicago school) believe about how the Fed should respond in such situations. In the talk he discusses what we did and should have learned from the Great Depression and discusses his views on the current economic situation, specifically regarding the stimulus packages.

A couple of my favorite parts of the transcript:

And one of the lessons of the Great Depression, which has been discussed in many of the sessions today -- this morning, is that a side effect of depression is a proliferation of ill-conceived, hastily put together policies that serve to postpone the recovery.

So I think this monetary response that we're in the middle of now, I think it is a response to the lessons of the 1930s. It's not the whole problem of the 1930s, because there are all kinds of policies that were crucial to that evolution, that monetary policy's not going to touch, and didn't touch in the 1930s. But, I think the monetary -- in terms of the stimulus response, if you could -- a stimulus to get -- help us accelerate the recovery, I think the current policy we're doing is the right one, and I just hope that we have the nerve to terminate it when it's done its job. Thank you.
(Mr. Lucas apparently trips on the stairs.)
SCHRAMM: (Off mike.) Are you okay?
LUCAS: Yeah.
SCHRAMM: All right.
LUCAS: It wasn't exactly a subtle step, was it? How the hell did I miss it? (Laughter.)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Harvard's most popular major

Q: What major do Harvard students choose most frequently?

Hint: It starts with "E"

For the answer, click here

Thursday, April 2, 2009

David Harvey on Democracy Now

Geographer David Harvey appeared on Democracy Now today to discuss the current economic crisis. While I don't agree with a lot of Harvey's arguments regarding how society and markets should be structured, this is a very interesting interview. In particular, I found the following points interesting:
  1. Harvey discusses the effect of the crisis on inequality, particularly as it affected African American homeowners. In his view, the mortage crisis resulted in an increase in inequality by disproportionally affecting lower income homeowners. Many of these homeowners are African American.
  2. Harvey has some very interesting view on the effects of gentrification in the economic crisis as it has affected individuals living in cities. He has always called for the "democratization of the city". The central idea is that all individuals in the city (regardless of social position or income) should be included in the process of urban planning.