Author Archives: aje

Classroom technology

Here’s a list of some websites/apps that I recommend:

  • sli.do – very useful for quick feedback, generated wordclouds, and doesn’t require students to log in
  • Socrative – a nice way to present quizzes and measure student performance. Can be teacher paced so that you ensure all students have answered before moving on to the next question
  • Kahoot! – a fun quiz template
  • Typeform – a way to generate longer forms that are tailored to student responses

Here’s a list of some resources that have been recommended to me, but I don’t currently use:

Business Ethics

Coming soon

Cases

  • Healy, P.M., and Soltes, E., “Rajat Gupta”, Harvard Case no, 117004-PDF-ENG
  • Waytz, A., and Kilibarda, V., “Through the Eyes of a Whistle-Blower: How Sherry Hunt Spoke Up About Citibank’s Mortgage Fraud”, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern Univ. December 2014

Primary readings

Secondary readings

Behavioural Economics

This short course will survey the key findings of behavioural economics and explain how they relate to day-to-day management. Participants will receive a thorough understanding of how economic insights for decision making can be augmented with experimental economics.

The course will be interactive with numerous examples and opportunities to apply the concepts discussed.

After this lecture you should be able to: Apply a range of examples of behavioural anomalies to real business situations. Understand behavioural anomalies in light of an ecologically rational framework.

Pre reading: “Sun: A CEO’s Last Stand”, Business Week, July 26th 2004 (£)

Overview:

Additional content: Efficient Market Hypothesis* and Business Plan Ecology (and Capital Theory)

Recommended books:

  • Poundstone, William (2010) Priceless: The Hidden Psychology Of Value Oneworld
  • Kahneman, Daniel (2011) Thinking, Fast and Slow Farrar Straus and Giroux

Recommended articles:

  • Lambert, Craig “The Marketplace of Perceptions”, Harvard Magazine, March-April 2006 – A summary of chief insights from behavioural economics and neuroeconomics
  • Poundstone, W., (2011) “Prospect Theory” (Chapter 16) and “Ultimatum Game” (chapter 18) from Priceless: The Hidden Psychology of Value, One World – Good introductions to key concepts
  • Tabarrok, A., “A Phool and His Money” Review of PHISHING FOR PHOOLS: The Economics of Manipulation and Deception, by George A. Akerlof and Robert Shiller, Princeton University Press – A defence of standard economic theory against behavioural claims
  • Manne, H.G., (2005) “Insider trading: Hayek, virtual markets, and the dog that did not bark”, Journal of Corporation Law 31(1):167-185 – A defense of insider trading from the perspective of internal markets and corporate information flows
  • Smith, V. L. (2002) “Constructivist and Ecological Rationality in Economics” Nobel Prize Lecture – An explanation of the difference between constructivist and ecological rationality

 

Referee reports

A referee report is not meant to be a review or a reaction to an academic article, but an assessment. Your role as referee is to provide a judgement as to whether the article has been executed well, and whether it is convincing. You are providing a recommendation to the editor, and not a decision. As an input you may find this Research Assessment helpful.

If your recommendation is REJECT you should provide:

  • 2 clear paragraphs for the editor
  • 5 suggestions for the author

If your recommendation is R&R you should provide:

  • A clear explanation of what you consider to be the minimum requirements to get the paper over the line
  • Thoughts on how to improve the article beyond this
  • Note that you have the benefit of anonymity so you can be harsher than the editor and make their job easier. 

Standard structure:

  1. Brief synopsis – write a single paragraph (2 at most) summarising the article in your own words. Do not merely repeat the abstract. Either demonstrate that you understood the article or explain what your didn’t understand about it.
  2. Assessment – provide a summary of your opinion of the paper. Assess how the paper fits into the broader literature. Be clear on any points that you don’t feel qualified to judge.
  3. Areas/issues – provide detail on perceived weaknesses. Smaller issues (e.g. typos) shouldn’t form the bulk of the report.

Much of this advice is based on Ed Glaeser’s talk at the 2019 EEA Meetings.

Doing Business in Eastern Europe

Course outline: Doing Business in Eastern Europe 2019

Part 1: Pre class activities

Participants should read all of the following and submit a One Pager on one of them:

Part 2: Lecture and quiz

The lecture slides will be made available here.

powered by Typeform

Part 3: Class Assignment

Participants should select one of the countries under study and identify a potentially internationally competitive cluster. Using the format provided in the lecture, and the East Belarus mechanical engineering article as a guide, participants will submit a written report. The report should contain diamond analysis and cluster mapping.

The following clusters are not permitted:

  • Ship & Boatbuilding in Croatia
  • Romania Apparel Cluster

Useful resources:

Making videos

If an economics instructor requires students to submit work using PowerPoint, they can reasonably expect that those students will either possess the skillset required to do so, or recognise the need to develop it. And student’s wouldn’t feel that the choice of format is a source of disadvantage.

In a few years time the same will apply to the creation of a video. This page is a collection of resources to help novices create simple content.

Christmas Reading

Christmas is a great hook to think about economic concepts. For students, the urgency of course requirements lessons and it’s permissible to deepen your interests. For interested laypeople, time to read allows you to broaden your horizons. Perhaps you received a “pop economics” book as a present, or – like me – you look forward every year to The Economist’s Christmas Special. I wanted to share some of my favourite resources.

  • Firstly, Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok have this lovely video:

  • The classic application of economics analysis to Christmas is The Deadweight Loss of Christmas
  • For a fascinating account of what frankincense and myrrh are, and their role in the evolution of global trade, see Bernstein, W. (2008) “A Splendid Exchange” – pp. 58-67
  • Finally, don’t forget to do some charity work:
    • Christians should not celebrate festivals in a state of drunkenness and gluttony, or by dancing or merrymaking, but by tending to orphans and paupers, and by helping and giving to the poor and infirm… Woe betide those who have not observed the wisdom of the scriptures and who have idled, danced and indulged in wine”
    • Cyril of Turov (see Bazan, L., 2014, A History of Belarus, Glagoslav Publications, p.64)

Problem Solving and Decision Making

A 1-3 day course the leads participants through the 7 key stages of finding a solution using practical examples and plenty of team work.

Problem Solving and Decision Making is an intensive managerial programme that has proven successful in improving efficiency, performance and productivity. The course aims to provide practical skills and a management mindset rather than simply transfer knowledge. Participants are taken through the full problem-solving and decision-making cycle: from breaking down the issue, to prioritising and writing the action plan. They also practice communicating their proposal, an important and often overlooked aspect of the decision-making process. The course focuses mostly on experiential, proactive and practical learning: participants engage in individual and team problem-solving and decision-making, and receive constructive feedback to build on personal strengths and address limitations

Resources:

For more on the Pyramid Principle:

Media engagements

The chief goal of any academic is to have scholarly impact – to be published in elite journals and for your work to be read, shared, and cited. But it’s also common to seek wider impact, and publicise those findings and implications with society at large.

One problem is that our research topics are often driven by the existing literature. Therefore pursuing an academic career can easily become a slide towards wider irrelevance. As we focus on scaling the ivory tower, we lose track of what anyone else cares about. Before we realise it, the landscape looks like this:

Perhaps, if we’re lucky, we can identify the areas where media interest overlaps with our research interests. Therefore we can create a list of topics we feel qualified to talk about, and seek media engagements. We can be available for comment and publish op-eds on newsworthy issues. But be careful. We might have made scholarly contributions to the field, and we may well be experts, but those topics won’t map perfectly onto “my research”.

Once we abandon the solid grounding of our published competence, we’ve started a dangerous journey. There is a risk that we end up like this:

By being receptive to media engagements we are opening ourselves to the pull of opportunity. But what your PR company deem to be a “hit” (i.e. being quoted in an article in a magazine no one cares about) is not really a “hit”, and a desire to do this tempts us to stray outside our areas of expertise. If someone wants a comment we provide it – it builds the brand and it’s fun. The ego is nourished, we feel that we’re representing our institution, we’re being productive. However our titles and status carry authority, and the wider public are likely to confuse the light blue dot for a dark blue dot. I believe that it is unethical to utilise our credentials for matters outside of one’s expertise. (I could add links here, but I won’t…).

The holy grail, therefore, is to end up like this:

I think fame seeking academics have two potential strategies. However both of them carry risks.

  1. If you can’t beat them, join them. The first option is to move our research towards wherever the media interest lies (either by tweaking our current research projects in that direction; or by starting new research projects from scratch). However using current media interest as the guiding principle of your academic strategy has the potential to backfire. It takes time to gain academic legitimacy and what’s to say interest won’t move on? In addition, the media interest will draw in other academics to create a contested and competitive environment that is attracting opportunists. As I see more and more people jumping on the blockchain bandwagon I assume that they’re following this strategy (although this is a charitable interpretation because in many cases it’s probably a light blue dot rather than a dark blue one…). I’m wary.
  2. Hope the mountain comes to Mohammed. The second way to occupy the overlap is to get your head down, do quality work, rise to the top of your field, get widespread recognition, and become the go to person for that topic. That, in itself, can be newsworthy. Win prizes, break records, give talks at elite institutions.

Personally, I am not sure what to do. I’ve tried to be entrepreneurial by choosing a few topics that I think have the potential to become important, and I am working hard to improve the quality of my scholarly work. But I’m largely abandoning the aim of creating a media profile for my research.

Let’s be honest, the media generally do not care about academic research. When we issue press releases for a new publication it’s because we want to share it. However even if it’s published in an open access journal newspapers will rarely link to the actual paper anyway. Even PR companies have a tendency to act as gatekeepers for the actual paper, and promote the top line findings without allowing third parties to actually verify them. We have a crisis of scientific replication and yet there’s a complete disjoint between how research is presented and our ability to engage with it.

Journalists don’t care about your research, they care about their article. They are writing articles to a deadline and need to fill them. They need contacts who will be available and tell them what they expect to hear. Editors don’t care about your research. They care about copy. They need people who supply well written content on a theme they want to publish.

I am aware that my profession and institution are underrepresented by people who aren’t white males. And as a white male I should reflect on my role in that. As I lose the novelty of youth I question whether the best use of my time is supplying free content to unremarkable publications by crowding out other voices.

***

Pivoting away from attempts to promote our research profile, however, doesn’t mean wallowing in academic irrelevance, and it doesn’t mean giving up on communicating economic ideas. It just means a recognition that our biggest value to the media is almost certainly a result of our teaching knowledge rather than our research findings. This is because the pool of media interest in which we’re able to play in is much wider when we act as teachers rather than researchers.

This may seems as though I’m risking becoming a light blue dot. But wearing our teaching hats massively expands our scope of “expertise”, provided we recognise the topics will be broader. As the awesome Steve Horwitz recently said on Facebook,

Advice for young economists who wonder whether they have enough expertise on a topic to do media requests on it:

If you think you can explain your views to an Intro class, you can do media on that topic.

My caveat to that was:

you need to be able to explain it to an Intro class and it needs to be an issue that you would indeed explain to an Intro class

So rather than send our new PR agency a list of my research topics, I’ve sent the following:

  • Price gouging – if a firm raises prices during a natural disaster I’m happy to defend their choice to do so and explain why it actually benefits consumers
  • Creative destruction – if a firm goes bankrupt I’m happy to explain why this is crucial to a competitive market
  • Free trade – if there’s a story about tariffs I’m happy to explain how they harm consumers and make us collectively worse off
  • Offshoring – if a firm offshores production I’m happy to defend their decision and explain how this benefits workers in (typically) poorer countries
  • Corporation tax – I’m happy to defend cuts to corporation tax on the grounds that they boost wages of that companies employees
  • Tax avoidance – I’m happy to defend the use of “aggressive” tax avoidance schemes and explain why the problem is complexity in the tax code
  • Efficient Market Hypothesis – if an investment firm claims to be able to outperform a market index I’m happy to argue that this is bad investment advice

I also think it’s potentially legitimate to comment on hot topics such as:

  • The gender pay gap
  • Brexit
  • A specific companies strategy
  • Executive pay
  • Congestion charging

Provided you limit your comments to the simple application of the economic way of thinking. However I fear that this won’t be providing journalists with what they want (which is a hook, or something controversial), and there’s a very real danger that you do turn into a light blue dot. So I personally avoid these topics. Leave them for commentators and opinion leaders and academic experts in the field. Don’t wade in as one masquerading as the other.

Finally, Steve’s also right to point out that such media engagements are also advantageous for the institution. Indeed I’ve stopped seeing media work as part of my research profile. It’s actually organisational (and civic) citizenship.

Travel Guide to Minsk

I visited Minsk expecting a Soviet time machine.

I thought it would be like Moscow was in 1992.

But I was wrong.

Yes, it’s architecture and visible insignia reflect the fact that most of the city was completely rebuilt straight after the second world war. Military uniform is everywhere, tractors roam the streets, school children look immaculate. And the absence of a democratic transition casts an intriguing shadow of communist rule. But the city is vibrant, affluent, and spotlessly clean. It feels more like a Baltic city break than an Eastern European industrial wasteland.

Outside of Minsk there’s an efficient train network and the surrounding countryside is beautiful and famously peaceful. I strongly recommend a visit to Belarus, and hope these notes are useful.

Flights

Belarus has connections to most major European cities. The national airline, BELAVIA, do a direct flight from London Gatwick to Minsk several times per week. If you want to travel by train, there’s only one man to ask.

Arrival at Minsk airport

  • Customs officials will ask to see proof of Travel Insurance (and they may also request to see an associated membership card).

Accommodation

    • Using a travel agent used to be a necessity because they could provide a letter of invitation (which was mandatory to obtain a visa). I used MinskLuxx who have an array of city-centre apartments and helpful services.

Getting around

    • Taxis to/from the airport cost ~ €20. Licensed taxis have yellow plates and can be trusted, and Uber is also available. There’s also a bus service to the train station.
    • Trains are cheap and easy to use.
  • The Metro is simple to use and has a regular service. Each journey requires 1 token (60 Kopeks) which can be bought at the ticket office.

Things to see

Minsk itself is easy to explore on foot. I recommend the following:

Day 1:

    • City gates (outside the train station)
    • Independence square (and the shopping centre underneath)
    • GUM shopping centre
    • Victory Square
  • Gorky Park

Day 2:

    • Great Patriotic War Museum
    • Botanic Gardens
  • National Library

For more: http://www.belarus.by/en/travel/belarus-life/minsk-attractions and https://34travel.me/gotobelarus/en/post/minsk-english-guide.

Restaurants

There are clusters of cafes and restaurants in the following places:

  • The upper town (vulica Zybickaja) – this is the main tourist area and contains several bars and restaurants on the banks of the river. 442 is the best place to watch soccer and sample interesting beer. Cherdok do great burgers in a laid back setting. Malt & Hops have a long and classy bar serving beer and many malts. El Pushka is a fun and intimate tequila bar. Beer Cap is a classic Eastern European-style bar – an outdoor labyrinth with interesting beers and a range of customers.
  • Trajeckaja nabiarežnaja (the old town) – the only real area of pre-WW2 buildings, it has a nostalgic feel compared to the rest of the city.
  • Karl Marx street – a number of classy bistros and restaurants with sincere cooking.
  • Kastrycnickaja Street – former industrial units now famous for bright murals and hipster coffee.

For a distinctly Belarusian experience, Rakovsky Brovar is a large, popular brewery serving traditional food in a friendly atmosphere. And watching the world pass by at the bar at Centralny is one of Minks’s cultural highlights.

Typical prices (as of 2017)

Minsk provides a fascinating mixture of standard European ambience and a gripping historical context. Belarus is not quite Poland and not quite Russia – it is something else. Something tangible and settled. But forward looking and optimistic. It’s truly unique.

Also check out Joe Jenkins’ “Postcard from . . . Minsk” Financial Times, April 21 2017