"The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."
1. Top Scientific Breakthroughs of 2010 (vie MR blog)
2. Via Philip Lane, the recent IMF Conference Call on Ireland. The terms of the IMF agreement look reasonable to my non-macroeconomic eye. The deal with the EU looks like it simply compounds every flaw in the system that allowed crazy non-Irish banks to lend money to crazy Irish banks for the purposes of property speculation, and bundles up the losses into a bill for the Irish taxpayer. This is definitely one for every person with an interest in the future of the country to quietly reflect upon once the Christmas celebrations are over and there is some quiet time before the New Year. Karl Whelan's B+F article is not a bad place to start. In a recent post, Karl waxes unusually aggressively about the nature of this agreement.
If, as it appears, the Europeans (rather than the IMF) were pushing for faster fiscal adjustment, more intense conditionality, no defaults on senior bonds and a high borrowing rate, rather than have no hand to play at all, the Irish side could still have adopted the Dirty Harry strategy: Go ahead punk, make my day.
3. NBER paper claiming that workplace smoking bans cause fires but that policies that increase the price of smoking decrease fires.
4. NBER paper on the economic value of teacher quality by Hanushek - Kevin may have already covered this. Teachers that I know rarely enthusiastically endorse education economics as a useful contribution, as a lot of the literature overturns some sacred cows such as class sizes. However, there is now much credible evidence showing that good teachers produce a sizeable economic and social externality. We should have a much bigger discussion in Ireland as to how to reward and enable good teachers, including figuring out how the good ones themselves want to be rewarded and treated. Good, energetic, intrinsically motivated teachers are definitely on my list of things to be grateful and thankful for this Christmas.
5. NBER Working Paper on Financial Literacy and Retirement Plans
The Role of Financial Literacy in Determining Retirement Plans
Robert Clark, Melinda Sandler Morrill, Steven G. Allen
Workers nearing retirement face many important, and often irreversible, choices. We collected detailed demographic and financial literacy data on over 1,500 workers nearing retirement at three large companies to assess how individuals are planning for retirement. Many respondents display limited knowledge and understanding of public and company-provided retirement benefits. Controlling for basic demographics and wealth, we find that misconceptions about eligibility ages and plan generosity influence workers’ expected age of retirement. Although retirement-related decisions will affect workers’ wellbeing for the remainder of their lifetimes, many do not possess enough basic financial knowledge to confidently make optimal choices.
6. Edgar Morgenroth links to John Bruton's piece on the recent IMF-EU deal. Edgar is a German-born economist who has lived in Ireland for several years so is in a better position than most to evaluate the deal without national blinkers. To a lot of the outside press, Ireland got a bailout and many of the journalists themselves had bailed out of the city even before the announcement. However, very little about this feels like a bailout. Irish economists have not been sentimental patriots during this mess and the most common criticism levied at them has been unpatriotically talking down the country. When people like Edgar, Karl Whelan, Kevin O'Rourke etc., all start saying that we are getting a really bad deal, it is well worth listening to them.