links for 2007-05-13
Charlie Stross: Tomorrow's Future Today!

Would Somebody Please Keep Ben Stein from Calling Himself an Economist? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

That is my one prayer today: that somehow something will keep Ben Stein from saying that he is an economist--that would brighten my day considerably.

Here's the latest:

Assorted Mysteries of Economic Life - New York Times: [W]hy is unemployment so low when the economy is supposedly slowing rapidly? If gross domestic product grew at only roughly 1.5 percent in the first quarter of 2007, why is unemployment at barely 4.5 percent?...

The confusion between levels and changes is breathtaking. Unemployment is rising whenever GDP growth is slow (or negative). Unemployment is falling when GDP growth is high. But no chain of reasoning known to humanity would produce the expectation that slow GDP growth is associated with a high level of unemployment or that fast GDP growth is associated with a low level of unemployment. None. The fastest GDP growth on record since the Korean War came at the very start of 1983, when the unemployment rate was the highest it has been since the Great Depression.

It's a misconception like... like... like this: "Dear Dr. Gridlock: I took my foot off the accelerator three second ago. Why is the car still going 60? Why doesn't the car instantaneously stop when I take my foot off the accelerator?"

So if only Ben Stein would stop calling himself an economist, it would brighten my day, so I pray for it.

Note that I no longer prayer for competent editors at the New York Times who would exercise even a little quality control. Of that I have despaired.