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i feel like the executive summary from the third "Turn Down the Heat" piece did an excellent job of explaining and summarizing all the areas that we have talked about in our class that are severely effected by climate change primarily in terms of fisheries, forests, and biodiversity. The article also did an excellent job of explaining the cascading effects that climate change has as temperatures increase from pre-industrial levels to our current level of 0.8 degrees above, how 2 degrees above is a reasonable target to stabilize around, and how approaching 4 degrees above could prove to be catastrophic. In tandem with the summary of issues and why the rising global temperature matters I think the article did an amazing job of explaining the finite impacts of climate change by breaking the world down into geographic regions and explaining the individual issues that would arise in the specific areas. By doing that the issues felt a lot more realistic and i genuinely felt more invested in the outcome.
Toggle Commented Mar 29, 2017 on ECON 255 for Thursday at Jolly Green General
After reading the articles i felt like i finally got a general grasp on how the decision between taxes and cap-and-trade policies can have different effects when used with carbon. But the point that bothered me the most form the Murray and Rivers article was that the term "carbon tax" immediately causes a panic in the minds of both politicians and citizens. Just because the policy has the term "tax" in the title people immediately overlook that carbon taxes could represent a cost-effective approach to reducing emissions and in reality they put at most a negligent fiscal burden on society, or in some cases actually help the economy. After reading both articles it seems apparent that making the tax revenue neutral and lowering income taxes we could see this double dividend hypothesis occurring in real life which after repeatedly hearing about it in our class I would love to see it implemented as a test to see if its a genuinely possible outcome. Personally If implemented while keeping all of the main points of concern that the authors mentioned in mind I think it could be an extremely helpful and beneficial policy.
Toggle Commented Mar 22, 2017 on Econ 255 readings - update at Jolly Green General
After reading the article I genuinely see shale gas as great example of a transition away from coal that can be answered if it is productive or harmful with the response "It depends". Reading the article I kept seeing the headlines of each section on negative impacts and was waiting for the paper to mention an extremely negative impact of the giant shift to shale but for each externality if they were handled properly all the negative sides were pretty negligent on a personal level. But because of this focus on private costs when talking about the externalities is where I'm genuinely concerned. With their magnitude and social costs associated with fracking most likely being larger than the private costs I think more research needs to be done on the externalities and whether or not the costs created by those externalities on a social level are worth less than the economic expansion.
After reading "Fueling our Future" I was left with an odd feeling of optimism and uncertainty. The idea that we could reach a sustainable level of CO2 emissions by sequestering it through man made means sounds amazing at first, both in an environmental and logistical light . But as Shaw goes on to explain that our sequestration mainly involves burying or placing the CO2 we create and capture through newer more updated ways of burning coal in underground reservoirs or under sediment in the sea concerns me. Despite him saying the solution is scientifically sound and wouldn't have a large impact on the ecology of the sea I feel deep down that there has to be a problem or issue that will arise that we are overlooking. This solution sounds too good to be true even if its just a plan that could help slowdown the effects of global warming. I know he talks about how this would only get us to a moderate level of PPM in the atmosphere and would still cost a moderate amount (%1 of GDP) but I feel like we would enter a moral hazard situation to where we would have an extreme incentive to sequester almost all of carbon into the sea instead of investing more money into new forms of energy that are scaleable and have very little impact on the environment.
Toggle Commented Mar 8, 2017 on Econ 255 for next week at Jolly Green General
After having to do a report on Mountain Top Removal last year in my environmental science class I was sort of hoping i would be done with the topic and could go back to pretending that one of the main sources of energy for our school was obtained in a much more sensible way but sadly the topic keeps coming back up. I had already had a general understanding of the topic but seeing all the costs highlighted in such a finite and data driven manner genuinely hurts to read. Its probably because the towns that are near MTR are where the true cost of coal and cheap energy can be seen with my own eyes. Knowing that the health, community, and ecology of the surrounding areas were being destroyed at a cost of $74.6 billion for a benefit of just $8.08 billion overs those years completely baffles me due to the fact that it makes little to no economic sense.
The fact that half of a nation's economy can be based around something and yet only hotel/guesthouse owners are the only people that believe that something is integral to their lives is astounding. On that fact alone the article did an astounding job of showing how vitally important it is to make sure that the public has adequate access to education and scientific research about the things around them as well as the benefits that they receive from the resources around them. However, the fact that "persons are well aware of the problems but they persist with destructive practices because they lack viable livelihood options" makes little to no sense to me. The government of Tabago should try everything in their power to minimize these actions or even reward people for not doing these things in the form of incentives. I genuinely think the personal benefit people are receiving from these costly actions are rather small and could easily be prevented and in agreement with the text i think "the benefits that accrue to persons via a particular behavioral change should be conspicuously highlighted as opposed to just eliciting what behavioral changes need to occur."
I think the article did a wonderful job of showing us how non-market valuations can be used to find a more accurate valuation of goods that we benefit from that don't have an inherent price, like the coral reefs that the article talked about. I also felt like the article did an excellent job in showing that conservation is a "good economic policy, and that investments in natural capital and biological assets may be as important to economic growth and development as investments in physical and human capital". But I still think that despite the research showing how beneficial conservation is the fact that the inherent cost of exploiting the resources is small upfront and the benefit of conservation is only reached in the distant future that it would remain difficult to convince many companies in these developing economies to support conservation without incentives or subsidies. I think this is the case because most scuba businesses would have the fear that higher prices to scuba dive in order to increase the quality of their service in the future would be extremely detrimental to business and cause their customers to flock to their competitors. However since most scuba divers who are experienced are willing to pay a bit extra for conservation of the reefs and increased chances of seeing sea turtles I think there could be an optimistic outcome if there was a balance between the increase in price, the increase in subsidies, and agreements between a large number of scuba companies.
After reading the tragedy of the commons article I sort of entered an ethical dilemma because of the quote "Individuals locked into the logic of the commons are free only to bring on universal ruin; once they see the necessity of mutual coercion, they become free to pursue other goals". The quote, after reading over it a couple times, eventually won me over into agreeing with it. At first i was against it due to the fact that I struggled to imagine a forest I couldn't hike in, an ocean i couldn't fish in, or generally not having access to many of the common areas that I enjoy. but I realized that i also occasionally take them for granted in my treatment of them. But it is precisely the fact that I have a tendency to undervalue the things i have free access to that convinced me i should support coercion in preserving the commons. Like the social contract people form when they create a society, coercion to help preserve the commons sacrifices a marginal amount of personal freedom for the greater good of everyone and creates a situation where the preservation of the commons is much more likely to occur
The World Bank's article called "Turn Down the Heat" reminded me of my environmental science class that i took last year with Professor Green. Our class had a couple seminars on the repercussions of our high consumption and a few evening talks about Climate Change. This article reminded me specifically about how disconnected we are with the actual consequences that come about from our constant use of fossil fuels and general waste. As we developed into the nations we are today we paid little to no attention to our environmental impact and have ultimately left the world scarred by our actions, but now that were at our current situation were left with a choice. We can continue down the path that we are currently on and ultimately destroy the earth even more or we can try and change our ways. But with the externalities being so negative and only the lesser developed parts of the world really feeling the negative impact it is extremely unlikely that we will start the turn around on the level that we need to anytime soon. In our environmental science class, we also discussed the attitude that many developing nations, like China, have when it comes to consuming on a similar level to the developed nations. They feel that it doesn't make sense that the Developed Nations were able to reach their level of success by taking full advantage of the earth and exploiting their resources in any manner they saw fit but the developing nations have to avoid using the same methods. We discussed how this created a situation where the Developed Nations are going to have to assist or bear a large portion of the cost of implementing newer more environmentally friendly means of advancement (like green technology) within the developing nation or otherwise they will likely have to face the developing nations using the old environmentally hazardous ways. Ultimately the actions of both the developed and developing nations will be determined by how much of the externalities people are willing to pay for despite the negative effects not directly affecting them in the short run.
I feel like this paper was a great embodiment of the phrase that professor Casey keeps saying in class, "It depends". Whenever we want to know if a certain variable has a positive effect the phrase always gets tossed out. Because in reality, nothing is as straightforward as we would like and most every situation is dependant on other factors. Like in this article they took the idea that trade openness was alway beneficial for reducing poverty and proved that in reality it depended on the depth of financial markets, the level of education, and strength of government institutions. In life we like to think that we can find a simple answer to most of our problems but in reality we need to take a deeper look as to why things work in situations and see what each situation depends on. Like in the article they mentioned "While on average trade does not seem to be associated with lower poverty, this observation hides important non-linearities and an interesting pattern of policy complementarities." When looking at trade liberalization from both sides there were a variety of things that were overlooked because the researchers just wanted an answer to whether or not trade reduced poverty and in turn the researches forgot to look at the situations in an individual level to see what factors determine the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of trade.
Toggle Commented Nov 30, 2016 on Reading for Thursday at Jolly Green General
Bauchet's "Latest Findings From Randomized Evaluations of Microfinance" clarified one of the questions that always bothered me when the topic of poverty came up, Why don't poor households save more and invest in the future? Before reading the article I, like many of the supporters of Microfinance, thought that simply giving people access to capital markets and ways to get loans would guarantee prosperity and a positive outcome. But as Bauchet points out purpose and details matter a lot when it comes to how low-income borrowers make decisions, and trying a one size fits all solution where you throw money at a problem will ultimately not workout. It reminded me of our discussion from class a while back when we talked about how low-income families are extremely risk averse due to the fact that a short period without a source of revenue can be life or death for them. This fear of disrupting income often makes them look for low risk consumption now instead of investment for the future. This combined with the loan providers wanting to minimize their risk creates a situation where both groups are at odds with one another and require a new approach to the system in order to see the effects people expect from Microfinance. Rationally it makes sense to then work our way from the one size fits all approach to looking for a more individual approach that ensures both sides are happy and benefiting, but in order to do this new services and products need to be created that are customizable enough so that it works. Otherwise the limits on poor peoples decisions will be to much for a substantial impact from micro financing.
Toggle Commented Nov 14, 2016 on Readings for this week at Jolly Green General
After reading the article I was really taken back by the overwhelming effects that malaria had on developing nations that I didn't think about. Rather than thinking about just the direct cost of the illness in treatment and prevention I was blown away by how much more off an impact the disease had in creating a poverty trap for low income households due to their increased likelihood for infection in the areas where poverty is concentrated. Although I assumed malaria was a major problem i severely underestimated the mortality rate that the disease posses which helped me overlook the effects that malaria would have on families in poverty, especially when it came to children. The high infant mortality rate caused by malaria would definitely be a strong link to the high fertility rates in order to ensure that a certain number of children survived. By overlooking the increased fertility rates I also overlooked malaria causing inflated population growth rates due to risk averse families and reduced investment in the human capital in children in areas with high infection rates for malaria. These costs seem somewhat obvious in retrospect compared to the damage malaria can do to cognitive development, learning, fetal development, and behavioral problems that can also appear. The article really helped me realize the widespread effects that Malaria can cause in developing nations and how it can really help perpetuate a cycle of poverty by damaging human capital and investment in alarming ways.
Toggle Commented Nov 2, 2016 on Readings for Thursday at Jolly Green General
During the article "Women Empowerment and Economic Development" I was reminded of how strong some gender norms and biases are in society and how widespread the effects can be, even if we don't consciously know their effects. While at Washington and Lee I helped one of my friends with a psychology experiment that was similar to one of the studies in the article. Instead of sorting male and female names by their association to the terms "career" and "family" and then doing the opposite, In the experiment that I helped with, the students had us sort toys and items we would associate with boys and girls and then swapped and had us do the opposite of what we would associate them with. After I started sorting things by the opposite of my gender association was when I realized how much harder it was to not put the truck under the boys section or the easy bake oven with the girls. Even though both things can be very gender neutral my subconscious bias was extremely hard to go against and made me question how much of my daily decisions are made using this bias and what negative consequences have occurred because of this bias/association. The fact that changing my usual assumption was a lot harder than i expected concerns me because if such a small transition between gender associations of toys was so hard I couldn't imagine the difficulty of convincing half a society that the other half can be associated with the same careers, jobs, opportunities, or authority. The sheer increase in difficulty and size let me better understand why there has been some difficulty in elevating women's role in many developing countries.
Toggle Commented Oct 19, 2016 on Reading for Thursday at Jolly Green General
I really enjoyed Rodrik's challenge of the one-size-fits-all policy that neoclassical economics followed religiously. By using the progress of East Asia and South America to challenge the Washington Consensus Rodrik made it obvious that many previous assumptions about economic growth that I had were false. After reading the article I realized that it was foolish to think that an economy was able to be fixed by following a rigid set of plans to create growth. Rodrik really highlighted the fact that non-standard practices can lead to sound economic principles and that neoclassical economics doesn't determine the form that institutions will take. Both of those points went entirely against what I had been taught and what I believed about how to reach economic prosperity. I believed that certain things were always positive in an economy and would always lead to positive outcomes without paying attention to the surrounding economic or political situation. I completely overlooked the fact that so much more was necessary to determine whether or not an economy would begin to prosper and I never realized how hard it is to determine what will be an effective path to change. The article really challenged some of my thoughts about planning economic development.
Toggle Commented Oct 5, 2016 on Reading for Thursday at Jolly Green General
In "The Fall and Rise of Development Economics" I started looking at the models that I've continually been shown since my high school economics class with a new perspective. I've looked at the information and answers that come from the standard models in econ as a very defined set of solutions that are always correct and as eternal as gravity. But looking back on the answers that some of the models have presented it is now obvious that some of them are based on a decent amount of simple assumptions that might not always be right. This doesn't inherently make them wrong or make them lose their credibility but instead highlights that "if the model is a good one, it is an improved insight into why the vastly more complex real system behaves the way it does". In a world that is so infinitely complex and hard to understand, these models can give a lot of us solace as well a basic understanding of how to approach many problems. Thanks to Krugman's insights in the article I can also understand why certain people like Hirschman would refuse to use these simplistic models to get a basic understanding. In Krugman's words "model-building, especially in its early stages, involves the evolution of ignorance as well as knowledge; and someone with powerful intuition, with a deep sense of the complexities of reality, may well feel that from his point of view more is lost than is gained." For some people, these models and their short scope of accuracy might not be worth the depth that is lost by using them but in my eyes, the gained insight is entirely more useful than long-winded metaphors. In general, the article really made me think more about why we use models and what exactly is their cost and benefit.
In the "Tradition, Culture, and Democracy" section of the first chapter I was surprised when Amartya Sen said that development was essentially an option that people should be able to decide upon. To me that question seems to have an absolute answer of yes but once she started elaborating on how communities affected by development need to be able to have a voice in deciding if they want to end their traditions and proceed towards modernity something clicked inside me. I thought about how development itself isn't just a forward progression of technology and societal advancement but is instead expanding the freedoms that people have and enjoy.If progress is instead thrust upon a community then they truly aren't developing but are just being dragged along. it reminded me of my environmental science course that I took at W&L where we learned about amazonian tribes that were being forced into modernity by encroaching cities and governments who destroyed their traditions and sacred lands in an attempt to "help" make the native people modern. in actuality, the tribe's people ended up in abject poverty with little freedom to make decisions. Without the freedom to decide the situation essentially did nothing to help out the tribes and in the end there was no development. Therefore if development is expanding freedom it really does seem obvious to focus on trying to make it so people have access to as many freedoms as possible instead of focusing others ways to "develop" nations or areas.Because without participation, a central factor for development, nothing positive will be accomplished for the people who most need development.
After reading "The Economic Lives of the Poor" my view of the day-to-day struggle that the extremely poor have to face changed. Before reading the article I believed that people who live on 1 or 2 dollars a day lived an extremely monotonous day. A day that was pretty much decided by how much they could spend on food and shelter and that they had little control on what they could change. But after reading the article it made me realize they actually have an almost painful amount of choices that they have to make each day that can really add up, in either a good or bad way (usually bad). Essentially the environment that the extremely poor live in ultimately decides what economic choices that they have by constraining them to a list of often questionable options. But within these constraints, we still see many of the things that we see in our lives including saving for goals, spending on social events and entertainment, moving for jobs and opportunities, and investing. The article made me realize that no matter our wealth or position in life we all are tasked with similar choices, only certain people might have less variety due to the environment that they live in.
Toggle Commented Sep 14, 2016 on ECON 280 Reading for Thursday at Jolly Green General
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Sep 14, 2016