Sunday, April 21, 2013

Tufte’s Short Post # 24: The country is having an attack of collective laziness

The country is having an attack of collective laziness. You have to soft sell this point, but it is always worthy of mention. Time use studies indicate the decline in paid work is not matched by an increase in unpaid work or investment (charity, exercise, going back to school). Instead, most of it has gone into leisure pursuits. The world would be a better place if this was voluntary instead of involuntary leisure. On the other hand, we might feel better about the state of the economy if we counted leisure in real GDP, and pointed out to people that there’s a tradeoff between goods and leisure going on. This is provocative because it runs in parallel to some other aspects of the economy: a) lack of financial liquidity, b) high hedonic value attached to virtual goods and services that is difficulty to monetize, and c) our own time and effort is getting more difficult to monetize (so more leisure is actually a choice to be lazy because turning your time into liquidity has gotten tougher). All of this is supported by the low willingness to move to where the jobs are over the last 5 years.

There’s an arthouse film called Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould. You’re getting Twenty-Six Short Posts from Dr. Tufte. :) These are on why it’s difficult to understand the current macroeconomic situation.

Joe Baker is not a macroeconomist, but we all do a little bit of everything at SUU, so he has to teach principles of macroeconomics sometimes. The other day he asked for pointers about summing up for his students why we can’t quite figure out what’s wrong with the economy. I came up with 26 reasons, most of which have been discussed in class, and all of which are now required.

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