What Trait Affects Income the Most?

January 5, 2021

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. If the history of science has taught us anything, it’s that we can’t trust our preconceptions about how the world works. All human societies have developed stories about their place in the cosmos. Almost without exception, these stories were wrong. True, we’ve killed many of the old … Read more

Productivity and Income … Again

December 17, 2020

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. Today I’m going to revisit a topic that a month ago I committed to stop writing about — the productivity-income quagmire. Neoclassical economists argue that income is proportional to productivity. The problem is that they have no way of measuring productivity that is independent of income. So … Read more

Debunking the ‘Productivity-Pay Gap’

November 9, 2020

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. Have you heard of the ‘productivity-pay gap’? It’s the (apparently) growing gap between the productivity of US workers and their pay. Here’s what it looks like: Figure 1: The Productivity-Pay Gap. Source: Economic Policy Institute. In this post, I debunk the ‘productivity-pay gap’ by showing that it … Read more

The Free Market as a Double Lie

October 21, 2020

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. As social animals, humans live and die by the success of our groups. This raises a dilemma. What’s best for the group is often not what’s best for individuals within the group. If you’re surrounded by a group of trusting individuals, it’s best for you to lie … Read more

The Challenges of Doing Revolutionary Science (Part 2)

October 9, 2020

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. In this two-part post, I’ve been reflecting on the challenges of doing revolutionary science. (See Part 1 here.) I’ve argued that revolutionary science — the practice of questioning the core principles of an accepted theory — is difficult for a simple reason. To do it, you must … Read more

The Challenges of Doing Revolutionary Science (Part 1)

October 1, 2020

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. Science is miraculously improbable. To work, it must fight against a deep human instinct — our desire to conform. As social animals, humans are built to do as others do. Why? Presumably because it’s advantageous. In our evolutionary past, conformist groups beat out non-conformist groups. And so … Read more

What if the Government is Just Another Firm? (Part 2)

September 25, 2020

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. Governments are different than firms, right? Perhaps not. In Part 1 of this series, I argued that when it comes to size, governments behave like they’re ‘just another firm’. In this post, I’m going to extend the evidence. I’ll first show you that as economies develop, governments … Read more

What if the Government is Just Another Firm? (Part 1)

September 17, 2020

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. I have a confession. I’m a political economist by trade, but I spend most of my time reading outside my discipline. I read about physics, cosmology, biology … the list goes on. Basically, if it’s not political economy, I read it. Usually this reading doesn’t relate to … Read more

Understanding Income: You Can’t Get There from Here

September 5, 2020

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. You can’t get the right answer when you ask the wrong question. This truism, I’ve come to believe, explains much of what is wrong with economics. When it comes to studying income, economists ask the wrong question. Economists, I argue, have mostly asked: is income fair? The … Read more

How Do You Spot a Crank?

August 19, 2020

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. I confess that I have a recurring nightmare. In it, I realize that everything I’ve ever written about economics is wrong. Neoclassical economics is not, as I’ve repeatedly claimed, a pile of bullshit. In this nightmare, neoclassical economics is correct. And as a strident critic of neoclassical … Read more

Some Sunshine on the Ontario Job Hierarchy

August 11, 2020

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. Income, I’ve come to believe, is shaped largely by rank within a hierarchy. If you’re at the top of a hierarchy, you’ll earn a handsome sum. But if you’re at the bottom of a hierarchy, you’ll earn a pittance. As a hard-nosed scientist, I’m always looking for … Read more

Death Anxiety and the Political Economy of Power

August 11, 2020

THINKING ABOUT DEATH I’ve been thinking a lot about death recently. No, it’s not something that came about because of the global pandemic and my new daily ritual of checking graphs on COVID-19 death tolls around the world. It started a few years back when I became interested in the philosophy of consciousness and thinking about consciousness served … Read more