Wednesday , February 19 2020
Home / J. W. Mason: SLACK WIRE


Josh Mason, an Assistant Professor of Economics at City University of New York, blogs at The Slack Wire. This economics blog primarily revolves around macroeconomics issues and economic history, which Josh captures extremely well. He does an excellent job of analyzing economic news.

Teaching notes on capitalism

I just put up a some new notes on my teaching pages, a brief handout on capital and capitalism. The goal of this isn’t, of course,to give a comprehensive overview of what capital means or what capitalism has been historically. I just want to introduce students to the basic terms and concepts that they’ll encounter in the sort of Marxist and Marx-influenced historians I assign in my economic history class — Sven Beckert, Immanuel Wallerstein, Fernand Braudel, Ellen Meiksins Wood, Eric...

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2019 Books

Books I read in 2019. I’m sure I’m forgetting one or two. Novels and stories Transit. This is a lovely short novel by the German communist Anna Seghers, which I stumbled across on my parents’ shelves. Set, and written, in World War II France, it tells the story of various refugees waiting in Marseilles to work through the interminable bureaucratic process of acquiring the exit and transit visas they need to leave the country. It’s a beautiful evocation of the mix of unsettledness and...

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Utz-Pieter Reich on the Nominal and the Real

What oft was thought, but ne’er so well expressed: The lack of realism in microeconomic value theory has been overcompensated by an unquenched desire for `real’ figures. Idealism in the concepts of theory has resulted in a plethora of empirical concepts for real value, and the development of index number theory is thus characterised by an inventive sequence of euphemistic terms. We have an `ideal’ index, a `true’ (cost of living) index, an `exact’ index, a `superlative’ index and, last but...

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What Should be Universal and Free?

In the US, as in many  countries, local governments often provide fire protection. In general — there are exceptions, but they’re still rare enough to make news — this is a free service, available to everyone who lives in whatever jurisdiction provides it. No one has to sign up or pay for coverage. To most people, I suppose, this is a normal and reasonable thing to do.  One effect of fire protection is to stop peoples’ homes from burning down. As it happens, rich people are more likely to...

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Are We Mismeasurng Productivity?

(I am an occasional contributor to roundtables of economists in the magazine The International Economy. This month’s topic was: “What are the policy implications if productivity growth is being under-measured in the official data?” My answer is below.) How many hamburgers equal one haircut?  In itself, the question doesn’t make sense. They’re just different things. What we can compare, is how much they cost. This is true across the board: The only way we can convert all the endlessly...

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Considerations on Rent Control

(On November 13, I was invited to testify before the Jersey City city council on rent control. Below is an edited version of my testimony.) My name is J. W. Mason. I have a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, I am an assistant professor of economics at John Jay College of the City University of New York, and I am a Fellow at the Rosevelt Institute. My goal today is to present some general observations on rent regulation from the perspective of an economist....

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CBO Interest Rate Forecasts, 2011-2019

This is just a brief addition to the previous post. I should have included this figure, which shows the CBO’s 10-year forecasts for the interest rate on the 10-year Treasury bond, compared with the actual interest rate. Forecasts by year made. Source: CBO 10-Year Economic Projections, various yearsOne obvious point here is that, for most of the past decade, the CBO has been projecting a return of interest rates to “normal” levels, which has stubbornly failed to take place. If we compare...

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The CBO Just Handed Us Two Trillion Dollars

Anyone who follows the DC budget game at all knows that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is supposed to be its referee. Any proposal that involves new spending or revenue is scored by the CBO for its impact on the federal debt over the next ten years. That score normally sets the terms on which the proposal will be debated and voted on. This ritual is sufficiently established that most spending proposals are described in terms of their cost over the next ten years – the CBO’s scoring...

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In The American Prospect: The Collapse of Austerity Economics

(This review is coauthored with Arjun Jayadev, and appears in the Fall 2019 issue of the The American Prospect. The version below includes a few passages that were cut from the published version for space reasons.) Review of Albert Alesina, Carlo Faverro and Francesco Giavazzi,  Austerity: When It Works and When It Doesn’tWith Arjun Jayadev A decade ago, Alberto Alesina was one of the most influential economists in the world. His theory of ‘expansionary austerity’ – the paradoxical notion...

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