No, Productivity Does Not Explain Income

January 17, 2020

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. Did you hear the joke about the economists who tested their theory by defining it to be true? Oh, I forgot. It’s not a joke. It’s standard practice among mainstream economists. They propose that productivity explains income. And then they ‘test’ this idea by defining productivity in … Read More

Rethinking Causation in the Social Sciences

January 11, 2020

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. For the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking about causation in the social sciences. As with many instances of reflection, this was prompted by rejection. A political economy journal recently rejected a paper that I had submitted. The paper (available here) studied the correlation between hierarchical power … Read More

Problems With Measuring Inequality

January 4, 2020

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. Economists often talk about income inequality the same way a doctor would talk about a child’s height. Just as a doctor would say “Sylvia continues to grow taller”, economists say things like “US income inequality continues to grow”. (Full disclosure, I’m sure I’ve said similar things). On … Read More

The Legacy of Aaron Swartz: The Fight for Open Access

December 23, 2019

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about Aaron Swartz. Swartz was an internet pioneer who, in his teens and early 20s, made huge contributions to computer culture. Among other things, Swartz helped develop RSS (which organizes web feeds), Markdown (a simple language for … Read More

What If Scientific Impact Could Be Negative?

December 16, 2019

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. Scientists live and die by their scientific ‘impact’. For the uninitiated, ‘impact’ is a measure of a scientist’s contribution to their field. While there are many measures of scientific impact, almost all of them focus (in some way) on citations. So if more people cite your papers, … Read More

Bichler and Nitzan, ‘Making America Great Again’

December 11, 2019

ABSTRACT Trump has promised to Make America Great Again. As a self-proclaimed expert on everything of import, he knows exactly how to increase domestic investment and consumption, boost exports, reduce the country’s trade deficit, expand employment and bolster wages. And as America’s leader-and-policymaker-in-chief, he has taken the necessary steps to achieve every one of these … Read More

Fix, ‘An Evolutionary Theory of Resource Distribution’

December 9, 2019

ABSTRACT This paper explores how the evolution of human sociality can help us understand how we distribute resources. Using ideas from sociobiology, I argue that resource distribution is marked by a tension between two levels of natural selection. At the group level, selfless behavior is advantageous. But at the individual level, selfish behavior is advantageous. … Read More

Fix, ‘Personal Income and Hierarchical Power’

December 9, 2019

ABSTRACT This article examines the relation between personal income and hierarchical power. In the context of a firm hierarchy, I define hierarchical power as the number of subordinates under an individual’s control. Using the available case-study evidence, I find that relative income within firms scales strongly with hierarchical power. I also find that hierarchical power … Read More