From the Gallup organization (not quite economics, but interesting nonetheless):
Mississippi is the most religious U.S. state, and is one of eight states where Gallup classifies at least half of the residents as “very religious.” At the other end of the spectrum, Vermont and New Hampshire are the least religious states, and are two of the five states — along with Maine, Massachusetts, and Alaska — where less than 30% of all residents are very religious.
The New York Post’s John Crudele thinks we have inflation and that it’s all to be blamed on the Fed (here’s the article):
The actions taken so far by the Fed should have gotten the economy booming. Interest rates this low should have caused a resurrection in the housing industry. And companies should be more than confident enough to hire tons of workers.
Instead, all that Bernanke has really accomplished — aside from getting stock prices higher — is to raise inflation levels. It’s funny but no matter how hard I look I don’t see any mention of inflation, and especially rising gasoline prices, in Bernanke’s speech yesterday to the Conference.
Yet inflating gas prices — and other signs of Ben-flation — are what’s clearly causing the most disruption in the household economy today.
I suppose evidence does not really matter, but here it is anyway. According to the Cleveland Fed, 10-year expected inflation rates are averaging 1.4 percent (here’s a description of the model they use).
The University of Michigan’s inflation expectations index is a bit higher at 3.3 percent, but even that does not quite get us into galloping inflation territory:
Other measures of expected inflation tell the same general story but even if the expectations are somehow wildly underestimating future inflation, there is no indication of Ben-flation in the actual historical inflation data. I’m starting to wonder if those who have been sounding the alarm on inflation have missed the decimal point…the latest year-over-year change in the all-items CPI was 2.9 percent, not 29 percent:
And wage growth (a big part of firm costs) remains practically nonexistent:
Yes, we all know that gas prices have recently spiked (here is James Hamilton’s “rational reason for high oil prices”) but it is bizarre to blame that recent jump in the price of one particular commodity solely on Fed policy that started 4 years ago. And if Ben-flationary practices are the true culprit, why did oil prices drop by 70 percent between June 2008 and February 2009, just as all the monetary aggregates were skyrocketing?
Here is an interesting resource from Simon Johnson and James Kwak, authors of the new book White House Burning: The Founding Fathers, Out National Debt and Why It Matters To You
Greg Mankiw has annoyed some folks enough that there is actually an “Anti-Mankiw” blog. Predictably, it is generally a diatribe against Mankiw and against markets, the latest of which is on the topic of exploitation. The basic idea is that markets are somehow inherently evil partly because they exploit people.
The authors suggest we work backward to understand this exploitation:
Instead of beginning with the idea that everything should be marketized, begin from the idea and theory that nothing should be marketized, and then ask what would qualify something to be marketized.
They go on to attempt to make a historical anti-market argument, but it is strange logic indeed. Here’s what they say:
In fact, if you think historically, this is actually the way in which the debate occurred — we didn’t start out with a fully marketized society and we only got there from peeling off various layers of social-institutional control!
I agree that we did not “start out” with a “fully marketized society” (although I’m not quite sure I understand what that means); rather, we had a slow and unsteady emergence of markets. That’s because folks gradually figured out that by trading with their neighbors, they could improve their lot in life, and that’s what market economies have done. Would the trade privileges of Elizabethan England – granted to the wealthy merchants at the expense of the laboring poor – have been a better place? Would it have been less “unfair” or less exploitative? Or, hit the rewind button a bit longer and consider the feudal society of medieval Europe. Less exploitative than modern market capitalism? Hardly. Industrialized economies, as the economic historian Greg Clark has pointed out, do indeed save their best gifts for the poorest.
But more than that, as Deirdre McCloskey has been arguing for years, markets nurture our virtues. Commerce, in her view, helps to develop our ethics (she reminds us of something Chief Rabbi of Great Britain Jonathan Sacks once said: “It is through exchange that difference becomes a blessing, not a curse.”). According to McCloskey, “Even an ethics of greed for the almighty dollar, to take the caricature at face value,” is not as bad as the opponents of capitalism would have us believe. ”…It is better than an ethics of slaughter, whether by patrician sword or plebeian pike.”
From Greg Mankiw: