středa 30. listopadu 2005

Karel Englis Prize

Yesterday, at the annual meeting of the Czech Economic Society, I was awarded by the Karel Englis Prize. Any author below 30 years was eligible to send a paper on an economic policy topic; mine has been fiscal governance. I'll be pleased to read any of your comments to the paper!

pondělí 28. listopadu 2005

F1 vs. WRC II.

The dichotomy echoes also in Macro vs. Micro. In F1, you want to see the macro picture, since cars are too fast. In WRC, you want to see the race from within the cabin, where all the natural beauty passes quickly around. F1 team - like Macroeconomists - have a grand strategy, a few variables to control, and derive large implications from hypotheses. They construct models to be immediately tested.
A WRC driver - like a Microeconomist - pays attention to details, allows to be inspired by any observation, considers hundreds of behavioral modes and tactics, and doesn't make clear implications from ideas he suggests.

Yes, you guess right: I am a Microeconomist, an Orienteer, so I like WRC more than F1. Anyway, as a Renault-owner, it was of course my duty this year to watch how Renault goes for individual and team victories...

neděle 27. listopadu 2005

A Bloody Sport

Orienteering is fun. But the fun has often consequences. I've just come across a few pics from a spring event showing that in forest, you must always keep fighting. See more on my photopage.

sobota 26. listopadu 2005

F1 vs. WRC I.

F1 is clean, ultra-fast, focusing on standard and repeated tasks to be done as efficiently as possible. It's about large investments into each component, it's about systematic development of particular and very narrow human capital. Before the race, you always know the few names who can win; the others are simply backbenchers. Equipment splits the racers into separate clusters. F1 is also a typical artificial sport; you can't use the car in normal traffic.
WRC is dusty, rough, focused mainly in dealing with hundreds of small problems, where a driver has to cope with any detail at any time. It is about good car too, but also about persistent driving, large intuition, and ability to forecast potential problems. The race is open; favorites change with weather, place, and season. WRC is a typical outdoor sport; the car is infinitely closer to showroom cars than F1.

Why I'm writing about this? I find this dichotomy everywhere. The best case is Athletics vs. Orienteering. On one hand, an average athlete is fast, much faster than an orienteer. Yet, the orienteer is far more universal. An orienteer can run in marsh, on mountain hills, on rocks, in any terrain. A good orienteer can navigate through anything anywhere at any time, day or night, any season of the year. The athlete needs the track, or at least good roads, while the orienteer needs only public land. Athletics is about large and long-time investments into a few elite runners; in Orienteering, time is certainly necessary to get experience, but it is not prohibitive. Athletics is an elitist sport; if you are below average, you sooner or later leave because the sport is a loss of time for you. Orienteering is democratic; anyone from 5-95 can participate and enjoy competition. The final difference, between artificial vs. outdoor sport, is pretty obvious.

pátek 25. listopadu 2005

D Day (Delicious Day)

On Saturday, I did my best to prepare something sweet and delicious. A good try, isn't it?

čtvrtek 24. listopadu 2005

Mr. Tau (Canadian Post Post Scriptum)

Those nurtured by Czechoslovak TV can easily remind of Mr. Tau, a middle-class-looking hero of a comedy TV series in 1980s. He was even able to walk on a wing of a flying airplane! I am pretty sure that the constructors of Boeing and Airbus know him too, since they put warnings on an airplane wings: "Don't walk outside this area." Just look carefully on your next flight. No wonder if you meet Mr. Tau on the wing.

pondělí 21. listopadu 2005

Winter est arrivé!

Just a few snapshots from the weekend. BTW, you can see my "ship" on the second one.

neděle 20. listopadu 2005

Globalization (Post Scriptum from Canada trip)

Proliferation of air traffic is one of the most visible signs of globalization. I realized that on Ruzyne Airport when I couldn't find my transatlantic flight on screens, for too many preceding flights had to be shown. So, I sadly had to look for the check-in area just on my own, which was a bit confusing and a little stressful, in economic terms costly. Therefore, I urge those who want to regulate globalisation to take up my case and make it a case of globalisation externality. The policy slogan could be: Crowding is inefficient and must be wiped out by proper regulation. We are here for that.

Now for real Post Scriptum: I hope nobody is taking this fake-economics post seriously...:-)

pondělí 14. listopadu 2005

The Blue Angel

The best gift I received on the occassion of my Friday Name Day was a blue-eyed angel visit. The cute angel is called Jachymek and I confess that all people love him since the very first encounter. Most time - when growing teeth don't hurt and mummy is close - Jachymek is smiling, enjoying himself (and his cars) and playing with us with a great sense for play. Also, he's just learnt to bark, can imitate a kittie's "yauu", and climbs stairs as fast as Reinhold Messner. His recent achievement is 'silly walk', and now he loves to rush through the house just to enjoy the newly acquired motion and speed. He's making some progress in speaking, but, for some reason, he consistently refuses to repeat "prosim, prosim" (please). Maybe it's difficult to pronounce; for a baby like him, "bagr" (digger) and even "batyskaf" (bathyscape) are far easier to tell...
More pictures on my fotopages.

A capable gourmet

Sharper Views or Sharper Tools?

When teaching Economics, you constantly struggle with the issue of relevance. You feel that your lectures are not up-to-current research, but your students complain about abstract models lacking links to their own real-world observations. I am trying to tackle this trade-off at my best, since in most cases, it is possible to make any topic more interesting (topical, understandable) as well as more rigorous. Sometimes it is beyond my capabilities, however, and then I'm seeking a constrained optimum, a balance between attractivity and rigorousness. My approach is that in the optimum, my supply is more rigorous than what is subjectively optimal for the demand side. Why?

I hold that academia is here not to 'cultivate public opinion', nor listen to the 'heart beat of the present day'. We are here to give students instruments which provide results with certainty. In the after-school life, the students will use non-certain language and non-certain instruments every day, because the world prefers cheap uncertain instruments over costly certainty. Because of that, I see the purpose of teaching twofold: firstly, we should decrease the costs of certainty by making modelling and testing easier to comprehend, and secondly, we should let the unaware students that certainty is available, and that it is costly.

In a pub debate on Thursday, someone raised a concern that Master students have no arguments and opinions on pending issues such as EU-China economic relations; another friend complained that we don't teach them to argue. I don't see either a problem. If we allow students just argue, we replace straightforward reason by unfounded judgements, let values - not clear facts - dominate the problem, and after all, we will have to resort only to simplistic applied economics. Some schools tend to use this model of teaching. We at IES don't. If we did, we would devalue the research aspect of the institute, which would be - I believe - a kiss of death for prospective elite economists raised at IES.

neděle 13. listopadu 2005

Nordic Odyssey

Jirka Marek, our companion on summer trip to Norway, has just completed an itinerary where he comments on lots of interesting things. It could be especially useful to all those who seek practical experience from Norway. The full text in Czech is right here and a few pictures are located here.