Sunday, July 19, 2009

Economic View: Financial Invention vs. Consumer Protection

Robert J. Shiller in the New York Times:

JAMES WATT, who invented the first practical steam engine in 1765, worried that high-pressure steam could lead to major explosions. So he avoided high pressure and ended up with an inefficient engine.

It wasn’t until 1799 that Richard Trevithick, who apprenticed with an associate of Watt, created a high-pressure engine that opened a new age of steam-powered factories, railways and ships.

That is how innovation often proceeds — by learning from errors and hazards and gradually conquering problems through devices of increasing complexity and sophistication.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Video: Robert Shiller Interview

From Reuters:

Part 1/2

Part 2/2

Bob Shiller didn't kill the housing market

From Fortune:

It's noon in New Haven, and Yale economist Robert Shiller and I are leaving his office to walk down the block for pizza. It was a damp morning, but now the sun is breaking through the clouds. "Do we need an umbrella?" he asks. I say I don't think so. But a few steps outside his office, he turns around to get one. "It's better to be safe," he says.

That's Bob Shiller for you. He's a worrier. Well, more than that. He's obsessed with taming risk. And that means all kinds of risk -- from the chance of stray showers to a danger that's on everyone's mind these days: falling home prices. Shiller's name will forever be linked with the worst housing bust since the Great Depression and the economic slump it caused. He first warned of a housing bubble back in 2003 when bankers were merrily minting mortgage-backed securities. And it is the widely cited gauge he helped create -- the S&P/Case-Shiller home-price index -- that has heralded, in grim monthly installments, the devastating collapse of the residential real estate market.

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