Monthly Archive for September, 2010


I just got this email from the careers service here at LSE (emphasis mine):

A Conservative MP is looking for support in his role on the Public Accounts Select Committee.

The position is paid £7.85 p/h and will be for approx 15 hours per week.

The successful candidate must have excellent financial understanding in order to examine and analyse accounts.

The candidate should be inquisitive and have an interest in challenging public accounts.

The candidate should also be able to draft their findings into concise briefings and press releases.

To apply please send your CV and covering letter (1 page max) to XXXX by email ASAP

£7.85 per hour?  Are they kidding?  They’re sending this to every economics Ph.D. candidate at the London School of EconomicsWhat the f*** are they thinking?  (the first person to say “non-monetary incentives” gets a clip ’round the ear)

Update 23 September 2010: Professor Frank Cowell, over on facebook, points us towards:

Gneezy, U. and Rustichini, A. (2000) “Pay Enough or Don’t Pay at All“, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 115, pp. 791-810.

Here’s the abstract:

Economists usually assume that monetary incentives improve performance, and psychologists claim that the opposite may happen. We present and discuss a set of experiments designed to test these contrasting claims. We found that the effect of monetary compensation on performance was not monotonic. In the treatments in which money was offered, a larger amount yielded a higher performance. However, offering money did not always produce an improvement: subjects who were offered monetary incentives performed more poorly than those who were offered no compensation. Several possible interpretations of the results are discussed.

France is set to ban the burqa and niqab

The French Senate has passed the bill after the General Assembly (lower house) did in July.  From that HuffPo piece in July:

Officials have taken pains to craft language that does not single out Muslims. While the proposed legislation is colloquially referred to as the “anti-burqa law,” it is officially called “the bill to forbid concealing one’s face in public.”

It refers neither to Islam nor to veils. Officials insist the law against face-covering is not discriminatory because it would apply to everyone, not just Muslims. Yet they cite a host of exceptions, including motorcycle helmets, or masks for health reasons, fencing, skiing or carnivals.

I’d really like to read a literal translation of the bill.  I’m curious whether it effectively also bans this sort of thing or this sort of thing.  Do French citizens have a right to privacy?  Wouldn’t this bill violate such a right?

“The writing style is academic and upset most of the time.”


Then again, Urlai also thinks that I’m over 66 years old.

Basel III will help fix the Euro

The Basel III compromise is out.  Via Free Exchange, you can read the text here.  Or you can just look at the BIS’s handy-dandy little chart:

Let me quote Ryan at Free Exchange:

The minimum common equity requirement has been increased from 2% to 4.5%. Common equilty is what is called “core” Tier 1 capital. Regulators have agreed on an additional 2.5% “conservation buffer”. Most large banks will likely maintain such a buffer, as falling below it will lead to additional regulatory scrutiny. The likely impact, then, is a pretty substantial increase in the common equity reserves banks need to hold.

What he said. Anyway …

The asterisk on the countercyclical buffer has this note against it: “Common equity or other fully loss absorbing capital”.  Here’s some more detail, from the press release itself:

A countercyclical buffer within a range of 0% – 2.5% of common equity or other fully loss absorbing capital will be implemented according to national circumstances. The purpose of the countercyclical buffer is to achieve the broader macroprudential goal of protecting the banking sector from periods of excess aggregate credit growth. For any given country, this buffer will only be in effect when there is excess credit growth that is resulting in a system wide build up of risk. The countercyclical buffer, when in effect, would be introduced as an extension of the conservation buffer range.

In other words, the countercyclical buffer is expressly designed to allow for different rates of credit expansion across different countries.  This is excellent news for the Euro area, because (as I mentioned previously) it explicitly allows — heck, even encourages! — individual member countries to re-assert some control over monetary policy.  Remember that the level of credit in an economy is not just affected by demand for the stuff (which is itself influenced largely through interest rates), but also through the supply of the stuff, which falls under the umbrella of macro-prudential regulation (since, it is assumed, banks will generally supply all the credit they can subject to the restrictions of capital adequacy regulations).  The former may remain the remit of the ECB, but the latter can be economy-specific.

This is arguably desirable because, since the Euro-area economies are not perfectly synchronised, we have for many years seen monetary policy be overly tight for low-inflation countries like Germany and overly lax for high-inflation countries like Spain.

To some extent, one might view Germany’s reluctance to accept tighter capital requirements as evidence that they have been tacitly using this logic all along:  that is, they were already compensating for the (to them) overly-high interest rate with relatively lenient policies on the supply side.  To a German’s mind, it may therefore appear that with these higher minimum ratios, a neutral position for the German economy will require lower interest rates on average than previously prevailed.

The risk, from the Germans’ point of view, is that in a Eurozone world with higher capital ratios but lower interest rates, countries like Spain may be tempted to avoid making use of the countercyclical buffer and so may still end up with faster-than-ideal credit expansion.  How to convince the central banks and/or regulatory authorities in Mediterranean countries to be financially conservative, even when their governments aren’t, is clearly the next challenge.

Teaching, teaching

It’s the new academic year.  I’m once again teaching (not lecturing!), this time in EC400, the pre-sessional September maths course for incoming post-graduate students, and EC413, the M.Sc. macro course.

I’m also a new (Teaching) Fellow in the school, which means that a) I’m now a formal academic advisor (my advisees are yet to be determined); and b) I’m technically part of the academic staff at LSE (even though I’m only part-way through my Ph.D.).  That last point gets me access to the Senior Common Room (where the profs have lunch) and into USS, the pension scheme for academics at most UK universities.

Here’s what’s amazing about USS:  It’s a final salary scheme!  I’m honestly amazed that there are any defined-benefit schemes still open to new members.  Well, there you go.  I’m in one now.