ASSA 2015

Last weekend, I sat in at the annual meeting of the Allied Social Sciences Association. Having many meetings organized by the American Economic Association, my intention remained to be the continued exposure to the professional field of economics.

Now, that sounds rather dry, I realize, but I insist that this post has relevancy to any and all who may read it.

Briefly, the purpose of this annual meeting is for professional and academic researchers to present their work (projects they have been working on for years or have recently started), and also for attendees to network on a hyper level. Getting a glimpse at what topics are consuming the resources and attention of these esteemed and influential individuals, institutions, and universities is an incredibly illuminating glimpse of what issues are concerning the greater population.

Naturally, inequality was strongly featured, Piketty was present both in body and also in every discussion about inequality. There was quite a bit of focus on climate change, such as “documenting the costs”, recording the effects, developing policies to put in place… Even 6 years on, the burn of the stock market crash and it’s devastation on numerous economies lingers, so plenty of attention was focused on better financial policies, the players that had a hand in the crisis, and especially resolutions for the Euro Crisis. There was even a smattering of health care related meetings. And finally, very importantly, there was a great deal of attention focused on China and developing economies.

There are plenty of attitudes that shape the public’s perceptions of Economists. Perhaps they’re useful, perhaps they’re speculators who cannot legitimately be regarded as authorities.

dilbert cartoon

It’s quite understandable that suspicion often follows the presentation of economic thought and expression. There are even a few movements that, from the inside, are trying to remove the questionable, gospel-like notions that define the economics we are familiar with today. But an attempt to completely discredit the economist profession is intensely foolish. A selection of those hundreds of research papers shared among that “club” of economists in Boston last weekend can have a profound effect on the way our world operates. The process of policy making is just so shadowy that it is not common knowledge what kind of information is used to shape the rules that dictate our lives. Let’s just make it clear: it’s research like what was shared last weekend that informs written policy. Numbers and data rule our world now.

Brief comedic interlude:

 

I am going to end with this, a quote from the opening of Common Wealth (a book I picked up from the conference, published in ’08). I didn’t set out to use this post as a forecast, but it is the beginning of 2015 after all, might as well take some time to address our futures:

“The twenty-first century will overturn many of our basic assumptions about economic life. The twentieth century saw the end of European dominance of global politics and economics. The twenty-first century will see the end of American dominance. New powers, including China, India, and Brazil, will continue to grow and will make their voices increasingly heard on the world stage. Yet changes will be even deeper than a rebalancing of economics and politics among different parts of the world. The challenges of sustainable development – protecting the environment, stabilizing the world’s population, narrowing gaps between rich and poor, and ending extreme poverty – will take center stage. Global cooperation will have to come to the fore. The very idea of competing nation-states that scramble for markets, power, and resources will become passé. The idea that the united States can bully or attack its way to security has proved to be misguided and self-defeating. The world has become much to crowded and dangerous for more “great games” in the Middle East or anywhere else.”

good night and good luck

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