My Blogging Debut

I’d like to thank Mark for inviting me to join the team.  I’m an environmental and urban economist at UCLA.   A couple of random thoughts.

1.   Harold Pollack’s post about “Dog Bites Man” interested me.   I know economists who signed the petition to revoke “Obama Care” and I also know economists who signed the petition to keep it going.   Harold is right that a large majority of the leading “ health economists” did sign it and I believe in comparative advantage.   

I am a big believer in experimentation.  We know that the current incentives in health care do not provide doctors or patients with sufficient incentives to invest in preventative care.  I am hoping that “Obama Care” will encourage experimentation to help us learn about what are potentially cost effective ways of “bending the curve”.  Moving forward, I want to see academic economists be much more honest about what we know and what we don’t know and for us to suggest research designs that would provide the evidence to improve our body of knowledge.    For example, under President Obama’s new rules of the game could Medicare choose different incentives regimes for doctors (hopefully randomly assigned) and then examine outcomes and treatment choices to see how doctors respond to these new “rules of the game”?

2.  Switching subjects,  many of my friends who are not UC faculty members “worry” about the fate of our excellent public university system. I appreciate their concerns!  Yesterday, Meyer Luskin’s 100 million dollar gift to UCLA was announced. A large % of this gift is geared towards the UCLA School of Public Affairs (SPA).  SPA has an excellent faculty and Mr. Luskin’s gift signals a confidence that UCLA’s best days are ahead of us.  With all of the fiscal uncertainty, I can honestly say that this good news lifted my spirts and I even gave a good lecture for once in my California Sustainability Challenges class.   I’m hoping that Mark and Andy will blog about how they envision the growth of our SPA School and how we will build on Meyer Luskin’s wise investment.  I have a fiscal plan for saving the University of California. I will reveal it soon and it doesn’t involve UCLA basketball ticket prices.

UPDATE:  I can already tell that I’m going to enjoy responding to the comments posted to my entries.   First, let me remind everyone that economists are a diverse group.  There are the University of Chicago economists and the nice “new age” economists such as Larry Summers.  

Author: Matthew E. Kahn

Professor of Economics at UCLA.

10 thoughts on “My Blogging Debut”

  1. Welcome.

    So….Economics: Math or Alchemy?

    Your response determines whether I read your posts.

  2. oh goody, we get to talk about water, energy and California more. (I went over to UCLA's website and read your bio.) What do you think the odds of getting the Peripheral Tunnel built are?

  3. I'm fairly certain there's no such thing as a "University of Chicago economist." There are people at that institution who call themselves economists, but they barely acknowledge empiricism or modeling, much less do they ever deign to test a model against new data after it's been constructed. Randian talking points uttered into the ether, dressed up in math they don't really understand, all to tell us that commodity bubbles can't ever happen make those University of Chicago folks anti-intellectual hacks, not economists.

  4. Larry Summers was alway very nice to me, but this is the first time I have ever read the words "nice" and "Larry Summers" in the same sentence. Same for "new age" ("new" and "age" maybe as in "Larry Summers is one of the new generation of economists who became very famous at a very early age.")

    R. Johnston. You are quite right. Now that Austan Goolsbee left U Chicago to supply Obama with Randian talking points, there are no economists left at U Chicago.

    Look it's a big place (the business school — the economics deparment is tiny). Some of them do very good empirical research. Some have very open minds about theory (I didn't say they were the same ones). Steve Kaplan made a very important contribution to understanding the huge increase of incomes of the super rich (it's the financial sector stupid) *and* signed the crazy anti ACA letter.

    Oh and the lunatic anti-empiricists are often very good at modeling. They just have total contempt for mere data which aren't good enough to confirm their hypotheses/articles of faith.

  5. Bruin Alum: alchemy! With some doing occasional research into the real world. Probably only after they get tenure.

    Wimberley: do you mean, would they get invited to Davos? I'm thinking no.

  6. Welcome,

    An age ago, I left the following comment on a post at this site:…

    (Malcolm Kirkpatrick, December 5, 2010 at 9:56 am)

    The government of a locality is the largest dealer in interpersonal violence in that locality (definition, after Weber). Why suppose that organized violence (the State) is the appropriate remedy for every social ill? A thought experiment. Compose answers to the following questions:…

    1. From State operation of what industries does society as a whole benefit? You may suppose either a dichotomous classification:

    A = unlikely candidate for State operation, B = likely candidate for State operation

    or a continuum:

    (highly unlikely) -1________.________+1 (highly likely).

    2. Now consider the further question: What criteria determine an industry’s categorical assignment or position on the continuum?

    Does society benefit from a State presence in the medical treatment business? The education business? The nutrition business? Mail and parcel delivery business? Broadcast news business? Why not government shoe stores, etc? What general principals relate to a determination, for any industry, of its classification or position on the continuum, and how do these imply a State presence in the education industry?

    No one attempted an answer. Care to take a stab at it?

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