by Art Woolf
My weekly look at interesting sites, economic and otherwise, on the web.
1. For nerds and geeks: The current issue of the Journal of Economic Literature has two articles on the financial crisis. I haven't read them yet, but plan to. The JEL is behind the American Economic Assn's paywall, but you can read the two articles on the authors' websites.
The first, by Yale's Andrew Melnick and Gary Gorton, is a summary of what happened and is titled Getting up to Speed on the Financial Crisis: A One‐Weekend‐Reader’s Guide.
We select and summarize 16 documents, including academic papers and reports from regulatory andinternational agencies. This reading list covers the key facts and mechanisms in the build‐up of risk, thepanics in short‐term‐debt markets, the policy reactions, and the real effects of the financial crisis.
The second is by MIT's Andrew Lo. Instead of reading the 21 books he reviews, you can just read his review, titled Reading about the Financial Crisis: A Twenty-One-Book Review.
In this article, I review a diverse set of 21 books on the crisis, 11 written by academics, and 10 written by journalists and one former Treasury Secretary. No single narrative emergesfrom this broad and often contradictory collection of interpretations, but the sheer variety ofconclusions is informative, and underscores the desperate need for the economics professionto establish a single set of facts from which more accurate inferences and narratives can beconstructed.
2. What was it like for Capt. Sully Sullenberger as his plane hit a flock of geese and he had to make a split second decision to land in the Hudson? Watch it in real time. You couldn't do this in the pre-internet days.
3. An interesting post from James Hamilton on why gas prices differ by state.
...the average price in Illinois is currently 70 cents/gallon higher than that in Wyoming, and California motorists pay 86 cents/gallon more than the folks in Wyoming. Why is that?....
...the infrastructure for transporting refined products is somewhat better. The result is that Americans in the middle of the country pay more and those on the coasts pay less than they would if the product markets were completely isolated geographically. The equilibrium price differential is the one that equalizes the return from selling in different markets after taking into account transportation costs....
The flip side of this is that refiners on the East Coast find themselves at a huge disadvantage. Refinersies accounting for half of East Coast capacity are set to close. That means that if you live in New York and complain about paying more than drivers in the central United States, you could soon see that differential increase even more.
4. The 1940 Census manuscripts are going to be released in a few weeks, which means we will have access to the raw census forms (they are made public after 70 72 years). Here is a nice infographic from the Census Bureau comparing the U.S. in 1940 (the good old days?) to today.
5. Your income taxes are due in two weeks. The Economist notes that
PAYING tax always hurts. But America’s tax code seems designed to make it hurt as much as possible. It contains 3.8m words, and was changed 579 times in 2010 alone. Taxpayers must wade through a swamp of gobbledygook: tax compliance consumes 6.1 billion man-hours annually, according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). That’s the equivalent of 3m people working full-time, year-round—more than the entire federal workforce. Each year, Joe Taxpayer must sign a thick return that he cannot plausibly understand.
Instead of blaming the IRS, there are 536 real culprits.