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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Pound foolish–but not penny wise

The Trump Administration released its $4 trillion budget on 23 May. Like the president himself, the budget promises a lot, delivers very little, and is full of misinformation. The administration promises to eliminate the federal government’s budget deficit within 10 years, while at the same time offering tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. To get a sense of the scale of this task, consider the current fiscal position of the US government.

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Britain votes…again: three crucial questions

Last month, Prime Minister Theresa May announced that Britain would hold a general election on 8 June. The election raises three crucial questions. First, why did the Prime Minister call an election now? Under British law, she could have remained in office without facing the voters until 2020 and, in fact, had promised on multiple occasions that she would not call early elections.

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The Honourable Members should resign

On 16 March, less than nine months after the public voted to leave the European Union (EU) in a hotly contested referendum, Britain enacted a law authorizing the government to begin the process of negotiating “Brexit,”— Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. Although there was much talk of “Bregret” following the referendum, recent polling suggests that British attitudes have not changed much since June.

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Accounting, Donald Trump style

Firms and individuals depend on honest accountants. Managers make decisions on the basis of information they provide. Investors decide whether to buy, sell, or hold on the basis of their pronouncements. And the advice of an accountant can make the difference between collecting a fat refund and going to prison for tax fraud. Honest accounting is as important for countries as it is for firms and individuals.

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On the economics of economists

We economists spend a lot of time writing about the job market. Can the unemployment rate drop any further? Will the number of unemployed people increase when the Fed starts to raise interest rates? And will wages begin to pick up if the unemployment rate does drop?To pursue these questions, economists construct theoretical models of the labor market, gather hiring and wage data from a variety of industries and regions.

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Globalization’s prospects, 2017

2016 was a rough year for globalization. And 2017 may get even rougher. By globalization, I mean the growing interconnectedness between economies through cross-border flows of goods and services, money, and people. The world has undergone two “eras of globalization” during the past century and a half. The first occurred during the 40 years or so before World War I.

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What to expect from Trumponomics

Candidate Donald Trump’s policy proposals ranged from the bizarre to the truly frightening. Remember his “secret plan” to defeat ISIS? Turns out it consists of working with our Middle Eastern allies and tightening border security. Now that the election is over, a number of pundits predict that Candidate Trump’s extremism will give way to a more moderate, pragmatic President Trump. We can only hope.

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The rise of passive-aggressive investing

Some good ideas take a long time to gain acceptance. When Adam Smith argued forcefully against tariffs in his 1776 classic The Wealth of Nations, he was very much in the minority among thinkers and policy-makers. Today, the vast majority of economists agree with Smith and most countries officially support free trade. Index investing, sometimes called “passive investing,” has taken somewhat less time to gain acceptance.

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One concerned economist

A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail inviting me to sign a statement drafted by a group calling itself “Economists Concerned by Hillary Clinton’s Economic Agenda.” The statement, a vaguely worded five paragraph denunciation of Democratic policies (and proposed policies) is unremarkable — as are the authors, a collection of reliably conservative policy makers and commentators whose support for Donald Trump appear with some regularity in the media.

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Hamilton’s descendants

Inspired by the 11 Tony awards won by the smash Broadway hit Hamilton, last month I wrote about Alexander Hamilton as the father of the US national debt and discussed the huge benefit the United States derives from having paid its debts promptly for more than two hundred years. Despite that post, no complementary tickets to Hamilton have arrived in my mailbox. And so this month, I will discuss Hamilton’s role as the founding father of American central banking.

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Alexander Hamilton and the public debt

have not yet seen Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit Broadway show Hamilton. I feel badly about this for three reasons. First, Miranda is a 2002 Wesleyan graduate, a loyal and generous alumnus who gave a great commencement speech in 2015 and remains solidly committed to the university. Second, the music and lyrics are, quite simply, amazing. Third, as an economic historian, it is heartening to see one of America’s economic heroes make it to Broadway.

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The Corn Laws and Donald Trump

One of the issues that distinguishes Donald Trump from mainstream Republicans — aside from his bigotry towards Mexicans, women, and Muslims—is his opposition to free trade, which has been a staple of Republican ideology since shortly after World War II.

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Sanders’ contradiction on trade and immigration

It is hard to imagine two politicians that are further apart ideologically than Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Nonetheless, these two presidential candidates have a lot in common: their outsider status, their unrealistic fiscal plans, and a desire to punish foreigners for America’s economic problems.

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The overwhelming case against Brexit

On 23 June, British voters will go to the polls to decide whether the UK should remain in the European Union (EU) or leave it in a maneuver the press has termed “Brexit.” As of late April, public opinion polls showed the “remain” and “exit” sides running neck– and — neck, with a large share of the electorate still undecided. The economic arguments for remaining in the EU are overwhelming. The fact that the polls are so close suggests that a substantial portion of the British electorate is being guided not by economic arguments, but by blind commitment to ideology.

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The wrong stuff: Why we don’t trust economic policy

In the 1983 movie The Right Stuff, during a test of wills between the Mercury Seven astronauts and the German scientists who designed the spacecraft, the actor playing astronaut Gordon Cooper asks: “Do you boys know what makes this bird fly?” Before the hapless engineer can reply with a long-winded scientific explanation, Cooper answers: “Funding!” If an economist were asked, “Do you know what makes this economy fly?” the answer, in one word, would be “trust.”

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Location, location, location: Why the HSBC headquarters stayed in London

Last month HSBC, one of the world’s largest banks, decided not to move its headquarters from London to Hong Kong.The revelation that a company is staying put is usually not earth-shattering news. Nonetheless, HSBC’s decision made headlines in Asia, Europe, and the US for three reasons. First, HSBC is the world’s fifth largest commercial bank: it holds more than $2.5 trillion in assets and is exceeded in size only by four state-owned Chinese banks.

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