One day in Montréal


Place des Arts:

Rue St. Catherine (or how it looked in the sunshine in 1959):

Notre-Dame Basilica:

A copy of the New Yorker costs an import price of eight dollars:

Old port:

Tom Wesselmann’s exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts:

Latin Quarter:

Rue St. Denis:

The magnificient Le Café Cherrier:

…and their warm chicken liver salad (thanks BBC):

Le Boris Bike:

And head back via Mont Royal and L’Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal:

To the rather serious-looking university:

Download his books on Kindle:

Public responsibilities of an economist

“I would sum up the public responsibilities of the economist as follows: 

– be brave about your conclusions when they are firmly based on empirical research; 

– be modest about your conclusions otherwise, and own up to the limits of our knowledge and the nature of uncertainty; 

– do not hesitate to engage in the discussion of controversial subjects, especially if there are myths to be punctured, or if others are engaging in the abuse of evidence to support their prior views;

– but if you are arguing on the basis of your political views rather than empirical research, or taking a view that supports a particular company or interest that has been funding your research, you have a duty to say so;

– above all, communicate better with non-economists and the general public, because good economic policies will not be implemented if they do not have popular legitimacy, and the public understanding of economics is low.

I end up with the sense that in what we collectively say about public policy, economists sound too certain where we ought to be humble about how little we know, and too hesitant where we ought to have more confidence. In both cases, we have been doing no service to economics. The imperative driving these behaviours is the wish to tell others engaged in policy-making what they want to hear. But if you want to be liked, you probably shouldn’t become an economist. ” — Diane Coyle, Tanner Lectures on Human Values, 2012.

Finally, Keynes’ magnificent vision of an economist has been clearly explained.

Robert Solow’s wit

“The truth is, I fear, that the [economic] profession’s disdain for the fix-wage assumption is much less respectable in origin. We have a sort of prior disposition to think that prices equate supply and demand. To say that a price does not do so under ordinary circumstances is seen as too crude, like eating peas with a knife. The accepted putdown is that the assumption of wage-rigidity is ad hoc. Perhaps it is, but if the hoc it is ad is the economy we live in, then there  must be worse sins. In  that kind of world, the assumption of flexible market-clearing does not even have the merit of being ad hoc. If the function of macroeconomic theory is to train our intuitions, [John Hicks’] path  seems like the right one. It will certainly not do for the intuition to react like a society dowager: if that is the sort of economy we have, let us not invite it to tea.” (pp. 17-18)

Solow, R. (1984), “Mr Hicks and The Classics”, Oxford Economic Papers, Vol. 36., Supplement, pp. 13-25.

Do defaults save Labour?

I was surprised (and, at first, impressed) by Ed Miliband’s proposal on the Andrew Marr Show to limit individual donations to political parties at £5,000. He also suggested that the cap should apply to trade union funding of Labour.

Currently, trade union members can also opt out of the £3 annual contribution to the Labour party. When Andrew Marr asked whether Miliband would support changing this to an “opt-in” system (whereby the default option for trade union members would be to give nothing), Miliband insisted that this was not important and focussed his answer on the issue of transparency instead.

But the default option is not a trivial matter. In a famous article in Science, called “Do Defaults Save Lives?”, two decision scientists Eric J. Johnson and Daniel Goldstein looked at how willing Europeans are to become organ donors after death. They showed that in countries where opting out of organ donation was the default option, consent rates were significantly higher than in the countries where opting in was the default. The lowest consent rate in an opting-out country was 85.9% (Sweden) and the highest consent rate in an opting-in country was 27.5% (Netherlands). In the UK, I am one of the 17.17% who opt into organ donation.

Miliband is playing clever politics by undermining the importance of default options because he probably knows that an opt-in system would decimate individual donations by trade union members to his party. Behavioural economics makes politics a lot more interesting.


The purpose of academic visits seems obvious: research flourishes during close interaction with colleagues in a scholarly atmosphere.

If you can’t get a grant for an academic visit, try the “Share Screen” function on Skype. It’s like arguing in front of a whiteboard or hunching over a piece of paper, but if you get tired, you can just put the phone down (and blame the connection).

So the real reason for academic visits should be relaxing dinners with your co-author.