A month with the MacBook Pro

This is a quick update to the the previous post about getting a new MacBook Pro. So far three things have happened that people considering the purchase might be interested in.

  1. The keyboard has only gotten better over time. So much better, in fact, that I’m typing more and for longer (I have pretty poor wrists) and I have not been able to use the removable keyboard and trackpad I had for my office, as they were no longer comfortable. As a result my large screen, wireless keyboard, and trackpad, are all sitting on my filling cabinet.
  2. The battery is definitely worse than my MacBook Air’s, but not enough to make me want to return it. I’ll get 7-8 hours if I’m really careful, or 5-6 if I’m not. This is a bummer because it means I must carry the charger around everywhere I go, which increases weight somewhat.
  3. There is, so far as I can see, no downside to the ‘dongle life’. I have one (the VGA adapter) and it handles everything I’ve needed so far. The Hyper one I bought to connect to my screen is sitting on top of the screen, on my filing cabinet.

Will robots eat your job? @ryanavent's snapshot of a global economy in flux

Review of 'The Wealth of Humans', By Ryan Avent, Penguin, €19

Will robots eat your job? Will your kids have higher standards of living than you, in an age where there are too many workers and too much savings, when technological change makes the jobs many people do obsolete? When their citizens see their jobs disappearing due to international competition or technological change, how will politicians react? Will we see an increase in globalisation or a series of Brexits to re-nationalise the global economy?

Ryan Avent’s new book The Wealth of Humans takes us through the arguments around the digital revolution, the development of the world economy and the very notion of work and wealth in a new post-scarcity age.

Continue reading "Will robots eat your job? @ryanavent's snapshot of a global economy in flux"

Agent Based-Stock Flow Consistent Macroeconomics: Towards a Benchmark Model

We've updated the paper, it can be accessed here. The abstract is below.

The global financial crisis has forced standard macroeconomics to re-examine the plausibility of its assumptions and the adequacy of the policy prescriptions flowing from those assumptions. We believe a renewal of macroeconomic thinking and macroeconomic modeling is possible by recognizing that our economies should be analyzed as complex adaptive systems. A coherent and exhaustive representation of the inter-linkages between the real and financial sides of the economy is vital as well. We propose a macroeconomic framework based on a novel combination of the Agent Based and Stock Flow Consistent approaches. This paper presents a benchmark model for this innovative approach. Our model depicts an economy with capital and credit in which different types of agents locally interact on different markets. We provide a detailed representation of individual agents’ balance sheets, ensuring the model accounting consistency at the micro, meso, and macro levels. We analyze the properties of our simulated economy under different configurations of agent heuristics, focusing in particular on the role of credit and investment. We explain in detail the logic followed to calibrate and validate the model. Results show that our benchmark model is able to reproduce many stylized facts observed in real world, thus representing a good starting point to test -- in the next works -- different economic policies and institutional setups. Finally, the relatively simple and flexible structure of the model opens up many possibilities for development of the framework along different lines, thus providing a fertile soil for new applications.

In Search of the Northern Refugees

PICTURE this. It is 3am on the 12th of July, 1972. 43 years ago. The gardens of the Benedictine Monastery of Glenstal Abbey in rural Limerick are quiet.

A bus carrying Belfast women and children arrives at the monastery, fleeing the conflict taking place on the streets where they live. They have few clothes or other possessions with them. So on they drive, through the dark, with nothing, to Glenstal Abbey, as their homes burn behind them and riots erupt on the streets their children played along. When they arrive, the locals will call them the Northern Refugees.

Imagine this. The monks get a phone call in the mid-afternoon of the 11th. The bus is in motion. They have less than a day to prepare the empty dormitories of the boy’s boarding school housed within the Abbey, order food, and figure out what to do with that many people for what might be up to a month. The monks have no idea what awaits them.

Remember this. The burnings of the North and the battle of the Bogside in 1968 and 1969 had taught a generation of Catholics and Protestants to leave their homes as tensions ran high between Catholic nationalists, Protestant loyalists and the RUC in the run up to the celebrations of the 12th.

The annual marches on the 12th of July by the loyalist Orange Order, celebrate 1688’s Glorious Revolution and the victory by William of Orange over the Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne. The celebrations had become touch points in a cycle of violence which would come to be known – much later – as the Troubles, an anodyne name for a turbulent and volatile period in sectarian relations.

Like many great movements of history, the Troubles began with civil disobedience in the late 1960s, and would end after protracted negotiations with the Good Friday Agreement. In the meantime ordinary people have to try and cope as best they could.

Escape was the most logical option. Escaping to a monastery in rural Limerick, not so much.

Think of this. The monks of Glenstal are, to put it mildly, not equipped to cope with the long term residence of several hundred women and children, the youngest of whom was only two weeks old at the time. Some of the children are sick.

A local nurse takes one child to her own home to give her mother a break and bring her back to health. The monks rise to the challenge of accommodating and entertaining them.

The Civil Defence unit in Doon drafted in help from the surrounding towns and packages of food, toys, clothes, even prams begin to rain down on the monastery from towns and districts including Murroe, Boher, Doon, Newport, Cappamore, Killaloe, Limerick, and Castleconnell.

The parents and children are stunned by the local generosity, later writing letters of thanks to the monks now recorded in the Annals of Glenstal.

Consider this. On the 8th of August 1972, the last of the refugees returned to their homes, some of which had been burnt during their time away. Perhaps the stay at Glenstal saved some of their lives. According to Bew and Gillespie’s Chronology of the Troubles 1968—1993, 1972 was the bloodiest year in the conflict.

In one day, July 21, 1972, as the children of the Northern Refugees played in the fields around Glenstal Abbey, within the space of 75 minutes, 22 bombs exploded in Belfast. The bombs of 21 July were planted by the Provisional IRA. The Shankill Butchers are believed to have killed their first victim, a Catholic, that same day. Ten days later the British army began one their biggest operations of the Troubles, Operation Motorman, when they cleared ‘no-go’ areas in Belfast and Derry. The period during, and either side, of the refugees stay in Limerick is a microcosm of the whole conflict.

It has been 43 years since the Northern Refugees went home. They have grown up through the period we now call the Troubles, and are most likely in their fifties and sixties now.

I’d like to tell their story for an RTE documentary I’m making. I want to understand what happened when they arrived here in Limerick a little better, and I want to hear their stories.

If you remember those times, or happen to know these people, please drop me an email at stephen.kinsella@ul.ie
Published on: http://www.limerickleader.ie/news/business/business-news/rte-to-tell-story-of-glenstal-s-succour-to-refugees-in-1972-1-7077778#ixzz3sJnFkhB7

Differences in Borrowing Behaviour between Core and Peripheral Economies — Economic Environment versus Financial Perceptions

Using the Eurosystem Household Finance and Consumption (HFCS) data, this paper identifies the key differences in borrowing behaviour between core and peripheral nations. As such, we focus on non-collateralized debt such as credit card loans, bank overdrafts and other forms of non-collateralized debt, which reflect daily borrowing behaviour more closely than does mortgage debt. We examine the differences in levels and prevalence of these debts, and break down these differences into two major components: financial perceptions and the economic environment. We aim to explain to what extent these influences contribute to the differences in debt ownership and levels of holding between core and peripheral countries in Europe. We found that differences in financial perceptions do contribute to the differences in debt in a significant way, while the economic environment contributes little to this outcome. Households in the European periphery are much more conducive to debt if they have the same financial perceptions as those in the core countries in Europe.

Download our new working paper here.


Today I spoke at the IIEA on the theme of Consolidating Ireland's Recovery – What Next?, with EU Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, Minister Dara Murphy and Bank of Ireland's Loretta O'Sullivan. The event was chaired by Dan O'Brien and was really informative. Slides and video will be up here in due course.