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Economics and Finance

Economics and Finance

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Basics and Extensions

Spreadsheets are used daily by millions of people for tasks that range from organizing a list of addresses to carrying out complex economic simulations. Spreadsheet programs are easy to learn and convenient to use because they have a clear visual model and a simple efficient underlying computational model. Yet although the basic spreadsheet model could be extended, improved, or otherwise experimented with in many ways, there is no coherently designed, reasonably efficient open source spreadsheet implementation that is a suitable platform for such experiments. This book fills the gap, teaching users how to experiment with and implement innovative spreadsheet functionality and introducing two software platforms for doing so. Along the way, it draws on and illustrates software technologies and computer science topics that range from object-oriented programming to compiler technology.

Spreadsheet Implementation Technology surveys a wide range of information about spreadsheets drawn from user experience, the scientific literature, and patents. After summarizing the spreadsheet computation model and the most important challenges for efficient recalculation, the book describes Corecalc, a core implementation of essential spreadsheet functionality suitable for practical experiments, and Funcalc, an extension of Corecalc that allows users to define their own functions without extraneous programming languages or loss of efficiency. It also shows the advantages of automatic function specialization and offers a user’s manual for Funcalc. The Corecalc and Funcalc software is downloadable free of charge.

Making Regulators Work for Us

The recent financial crisis was an accident, a “perfect storm” fueled by an unforeseeable confluence of events that unfortunately combined to bring down the global financial systems. Or at least this is the story told and retold by a chorus of luminaries that includes Timothy Geithner, Henry Paulson, Robert Rubin, Ben Bernanke, and Alan Greenspan.

In Guardians of Finance, economists James Barth, Gerard Caprio, and Ross Levine argue that the financial meltdown of 2007 to 2009 was no accident; it was negligent homicide. They show that senior regulatory officials around the world knew or should have known that their policies were destabilizing the global financial system and yet chose not to act until the crisis had fully emerged.

Barth, Caprio, and Levine propose a reform to counter this systemic failure: the establishment of a “Sentinel” to provide an informed, expert, and independent assessment of financial regulation. Its sole power would be to demand information and to evaluate it from the perspective of the public--rather than that of the financial industry, the regulators, or politicians.

Options and Games

Corporate managers who face both strategic uncertainty and market uncertainty confront a classic trade-off between commitment and flexibility. They can stake a claim by making a large capital investment today, influencing their rivals’ behavior, or they can take a “wait and see” approach to avoid adverse market consequences tomorrow. In Competitive Strategy, Benoît Chevalier-Roignant and Lenos Trigeorgis describe an emerging paradigm that can quantify and balance commitment and flexibility, “option games,” by which the decision-making approaches of real options and game theory can be combined.

The authors first discuss prerequisite concepts and tools from basic game theory, industrial organization, and real options analysis, and then present the new approach in discrete time and later in continuous time. Their presentation of continuous-time option games is the first systematic coverage of the topic and fills a significant gap in the existing literature.

Competitive Strategy provides a rigorous yet pragmatic and intuitive approach to strategy formulation. It synthesizes research in the areas of strategy, economics, and finance in a way that is accessible to readers not necessarily expert in the various fields involved.

Lessons from Nigeria

Corrupt, mismanaged, and seemingly hopeless: that’s how the international community viewed Nigeria in the early 2000s. Then Nigeria implemented a sweeping set of economic and political changes and began to reform the unreformable. This book tells the story of how a dedicated and politically committed team of reformers set out to fix a series of broken institutions, and in the process repositioned Nigeria’s economy in ways that helped create a more diversified springboard for steadier long-term growth.

The author, Harvard- and MIT-trained economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, currently Nigeria’s Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance and formerly Managing Director of the World Bank, played a crucial part in her country’s economic reforms. In Nigeria’s Debt Management Office, and later as Minister of Finance, she spearheaded negotiations with the Paris Club that led to the wiping out of $30 billion of Nigeria’s external debt, 60 percent of which was outright cancellation. Reforming the Unreformable offers an insider’s view of those debt negotiations; it also details the fight against corruption and the struggle to implement a series of macroeconomic and structural reforms.

This story of development economics in action, written from the front lines of economic reform in Africa, offers a unique perspective on the complex and uncertain global economic environment.

Lessons for Central Bankers

The recent financial crisis shook not only the global economy but also conventional wisdom about economic policy. After the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008, policy makers reversed course and acted on an unprecedented scale. The policy response was remarkable both for its magnitude and for the variety of measures undertaken. This book examines both the major role central banks played in the crisis and the role they might play in preventing or preparing for future crises.

The contributors, central bankers from around the world, focus on monetary policy, the new area of macroprudential policy, and issues of exchange rates, capital flows, and banking and financial markets. They look at the experiences of both developed and emerging economies, considering why some, including Israel and Australia, suffered only mild effects while others--Ireland for example--plunged into severe financial crisis.

A Long View

It is not so easy to take the long view of socioeconomic history when you are participating in a revolution. For that reason, Russian economist Yegor Gaidar put aside an early version of this work to take up a series of government positions--as Minister of Finance and as Boris Yeltsin’s acting Prime Minister--in the early 1990s. In government, Gaidar shepherded Russia through its transition to a market economy after years of socialism. Once out of government, Gaidar turned again to his consideration of Russia’s economic history and long-term economic and political challenges. This book, revised and updated shortly before his death in 2009, is the result.

Gaidar’s account of long-term socioeconomic trends puts his country in historical context and outlines problems faced by Russia (and other developing economies) that more developed countries have already encountered: aging population, migration, evolution of the system of social protection, changes in the armed forces, and balancing stability and flexibility in democratic institutions.
This is not a memoir, but, Gaidar points out, neither is it “written from the position of a man who spent his entire life in a research institute.” Gaidar’s “long view” is inevitably informed and enriched by his experience in government at a watershed moment in history.

Too Much or Too Little?

In assigning blame for the recent economic crisis, many have pointed to the proliferation of new, complex financial products--mortgage securitization in particular--as being at the heart of the meltdown. The prominent economists from academia, policy institutions, and financial practice who contribute to this book, however, take a more nuanced view of financial innovation. They argue that it was not too much innovation but too little innovation--and the lack of balance between debt-related products and asset-related products--that lies behind the crisis. Prevention of future financial crises, then, will be aided by a regulatory and legal framework that fosters the informed use of financial innovation and its positive effects on the economy rather than quashing innovation entirely.

The book, which includes two contributions from 2013 Nobe Laureate Robert Shiller as well as a discussion of Shiller’s “MacroMarkets” tool, considers the key ingredients of financial innovation from both academia and industry; and how future innovation-lined crises might be avoided.

Contributors
Josef Ackermann, Nicholas C. Barberis, John Y. Campbell, Karl E. Case, Robin Greenwood, Michael Haliassos, Otmar Issing, Alexander Popov, Robert J. Shiller, Andrei Shleifer, Frank R. Smets, Susan J. Smith, Maria Vassalou, Luis M. Viceira

Leading Economists Reassess Economic Policy

In 2011, the International Monetary Fund invited prominent economists and economic policymakers to consider the brave new world of the post-crisis global economy. The result is a book that captures the state of macroeconomic thinking at a transformational moment.

The crisis and the weak recovery that has followed raise fundamental questions concerning macroeconomics and economic policy. These top economists discuss future directions for monetary policy, fiscal policy, financial regulation, capital-account management, growth strategies, the international monetary system, and the economic models that should underpin thinking about critical policy choices.

Contributors
Olivier Blanchard, Ricardo Caballero, Charles Collyns, Arminio Fraga, Már Guðmundsson, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Otmar Issing, Olivier Jeanne, Rakesh Mohan, Maurice Obstfeld, José Antonio Ocampo, Guillermo Ortiz, Y. V. Reddy, Dani Rodrik, David Romer, Paul Romer, Andrew Sheng, Hyun Song Shin, Parthasarathi Shome, Robert Solow, Michael Spence, Joseph Stiglitz, Adair Turner

The Green Paradox and Beyond

Recent developments suggest that well-intended climate policies--including carbon taxes and subsidies for renewable energy—might not accomplish what policy makers intend. Hans-Werner Sinn has described a “green paradox,” arguing that these policies could hasten global warming by encouraging owners of fossil fuel reserves to increase their extraction rates for fear that their reserves will become worthless. In this volume, economists investigate the empirical and theoretical support for the green paradox.

Offering detailed and rigorous analyses of the forces and assumptions driving Sinn’s argument, the contributors consider whether rising carbon tax rates inevitably speed up climate change; the effects of the design of resource markets, the availability of clean substitutes, and the development of new technologies; and the empirical evidence (or lack thereof) for the green paradox result. They consider extraction costs; sustainability and innovation; timing, announcement effects, and time consistency in relation to policy measures; and empirical results for the green paradox phenomena under several alternative policy measures.

Contributors
Julien Daubanes, Corrado Di Maria, Carolyn Fischer, Florian Habermacher, Michael Hoel, Darko Jus, Gebhard Kirchgassner, Ian Lange, Pierre Lasserre, Volker Meier, Karen Pittel, Stephen Salant, Frank Stähler, Gerard van der Meijden, Frederick van der Ploeg, Edwin van der Werf, Ngo Van Long, Ralph A. Winter, Cees Withagen

This landmark graduate-level text combines depth and breadth of coverage with recent, cutting-edge work in all the major areas of modern labor economics. Its command of the literature and its coverage of the latest theoretical, methodological, and empirical developments make it also a valuable resource for practicing labor economists.

This second edition has been substantially updated and augmented. It incorporates examples drawn from many countries, and it presents empirical methods using contributions that have proved to be milestones in labor economics. The data and codes of these research publications, as well as numerous tables and figures describing the functioning of labor markets, are all available on a dedicated website (www.labor-economics.org), along with slides that can be used as course aids and a discussion forum.

This edition devotes more space to the analysis of public policy and the levers available to policy makers, with new chapters on such topics as discrimination, globalization, income redistribution, employment protection, and the minimum wage or labor market programs for the unemployed. Theories are explained on the basis of the simplest possible models, which are in turn related to empirical results. Mathematical appendixes provide a toolkit for understanding the models.

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