Wowsernomics: economics – religion or science?

October 30, 2008 1 comment

I can’t say that I agree with everything that Steve Keen says but I sure enjoyed his talk entitled “Wowsernomics – the madness behind modern economics theory, policy and practice”. Here he attacks neoclassical economics and it’s idea of equilibrium. He likens modern economics to religion. I agree with Steve Keen on that score – economics is like religion or ideology. i.e. you have to “believe” in one view or another e.g. you are either a lefty or a righty.

I am not certain that a theory of economics can be completely addressed mathematically i.e. how the human response can be modelled accurately. Much of economic policy is driven by politics. Before listening to this lecture I had assumed that economists’ used uncertainty in their models but apparently not. It would be great to see a computer simulation of the economy to see if it supports the Austrian view (something like the flocking algorithms that games programmers sometimes use).

I still don’t know what the idea of economic equilibrium is. The Austrian’s don’t seem to talk about it. The Mises Institute recently produced a Stabilisation is Chaos T-Shirt. They seem to be believe that the market “chaos” is superior to government stabilisation.

It’s a shame that some of the audio is cut off at the end. Some audience questions are missing 😦

The Search For Stability

October 24, 2008 Leave a comment

A series of lectures given by former RBA governer Ian Macfarlane given back in November and December of 2006. If economics and monetary policy is your thing it will make for interesting listening.

The Golden Age

From Golden Age to Stagflation

Reform and Deregulation

The Recession of 1990 and it’s Legacy

The Long Expansion

Challenges for the Future

Categories: Economics Tags: ,

Coming financial tsunami

September 24, 2008 Leave a comment

The credit crisis (which should be called a debt crisis) is hitting the news in a big way here in Australia again. People are tending to think that the crunch has “hit” already last week or perhaps that this is the “second hit”. However, I get the feeling that we are all on the beach watching the tide go way out. Perhaps we come across a few insolvent US investment banks in the wet sand. Don’t just sit there! Get off the beach and head inland at pace!

What does this mean for Brisbane property prices? I can only imagine that the recent news will at least give buyers pause. A sustained pause would be enough to melt away a few percentage points. I’ve seen recent commentary which puts the bottom of the market ahead in 2010. I figure that’s a little optimistic and that the property market slump will be somewhat more sustained than that – say bottom in 2012.

Hyperproductive Monadic Programmer for the 21st Century

September 15, 2008 5 comments

I recently attended the “Introduction to Scala” course at Working Mouse. The course was run by Tony Morris with the help of Tom Adams. I had feared that the course would be a introduction to Scala with Haskell-coloured glasses … and it was just that. However, it was just this that made it interesting. I already know Scala at a basic level so a truly introductory course would have offered little. I knew that Tony was into Haskell and on one hand I wanted to come away with an idea of what a monad was and on the other hand I didn’t want to learn Haskell with Scala syntax. Luck would have it that there turned out to be just two attendees – myself and John Ryan-Brown. Tony was able to accelerate through the introductory material with help from Tom Adams. This freed us up to begin working on monads and emulating type-classes in Scala. It was a really wonderful course that I can’t do justice to in this short post. I did come away knowing what a monad was (but now I’m not quite so sure). I did learn Scala through “Haskell glasses” but that was what was really wonderful about the course.

So what are monads? Well it appears to be an “ultimate interface” with 3 special methods – return (also called unit), bind and join (where join can be derived from return and bind). My current understanding is that monads are the “ultimate iterator” but I figured I’m supposed to understand that they are an “abstraction over computation”. This is going to take a while to sink in. Here are the signatures for the 3 special methods:

  return :: Monad m => a -> m a
  bind   :: Monad m => m a -> (a -> m b) -> m b
  join   :: Monad m => m (m a) -> m a

In terms of List, return is cons, bind is flatMap and join is flatten. I wasn’t familiar with flatMap but it’s a more general version of map. Map can be implemented in terms of bind/flatMap and unit/cons.

    List(1, 2, 3) map (n => n + 1)
    List(1, 2, 3) flatMap (n => List(n + 1))

Since then I’ve been learning a little more about Haskell and Category Theory. It’s really great to have a new avenue of things to study. Haskell certainly has come a long way since I looked at it last.

Oh and the title of this post… Well it’s kind of a bad joke from day 3. After 3 days of indoctrination I realised that it was leading to the conclusion that a new breed of programmer was required – the hyper-productive monadic programmer for the 21st century. This new breed of programmer would eschew side effects and even OOP in preference to algebraic data types, type classes, implicits, higher order functions, monads and higher kinds. They would impress their friends with deep knowledge of mathematical principles and have an IQ 50 points above decent developers of today. These programmers would be trained to be 10x more productive than their imperative colleagues (coding in Java and C#) – allowing some of us to retire for a better life (perhaps as an economist or financial advisor). All that remains is to work out how much of this is hyperbole and how much sound.

Auction clearance rate plummet

August 29, 2008 Leave a comment

News.com.au reports that auction clearance rates have plummeted across the nation. Brisbane has fallen to 23% from 48% last year. The direction of auction clearance rates is a well-known leading indicator for property prices.

Categories: Economics Tags: , ,

Certified ScrumMaster

August 29, 2008 Leave a comment

I finally got around to doing the Scrum course and became a CSM :). Many thanks to Jens Østergaard of Scrum.dk for making it a good two days.

Categories: Programming Tags: , ,

House prices set to slide in capital cities

August 5, 2008 Leave a comment

It’s unusual to hear gloomy news from domain.com.au but here it is: House prices set to slide in capital cities. Some highlights:

  • Credit growth slows to 15 year low
  • Michael McNamara of Australia Property Monitors predicts 10% fall in prices this year

Even the article Maybe not all doom and gloom (by McNamara) is certainly negative on the property market saying that you need a long term view as an investor and that short-term speculators don’t make much money using that strategy anyway.

In Up or down? Next three months are crucial, Tim Colebatch discusses the slowing economy and the possibility of cash rate cuts by December.

Lateline Business was certainly very negative on the economy. The RBA left the cash rate unchanged today and everyone seems very excited that the RBA governer, Glenn Stevens, said today that rates were likely to go down next. Well, that’s not quite what he said but it does seem a reasonable way to interpret his words: “with demand slowing, the board’s view is that scope to move towards a less restrictive stance of monetary policy in the period ahead is increasing”. I guess we must wait to be sure that inflation is under control after all CPI to June is running at 4.5%.

I was glad to see Steve Keen on Lateline Business last night who said “I don’t think there is any way of avoiding a recession” and it will not help even if the RBA were to reduce the cash rate. Steve mentioned that 40% of house prices were merely fueled by speculation and that “when this expectation goes, ultimately goodbye 40% of the current price of houses”.

Categories: Economics Tags: ,