Lord Adair Turner delivers the opening keynote speech of the Rethinking Economics 2014 conference at UCL.
The 2014 Rethinking Economics NYC conference is an entirely student-run conference in New York City from September 12-14 at The New School, Columbia University and NYU.
It is organized by Rethinking Economics in partnership with The Modern Money Network.
Rethinking Economics is a global movement to create fresh economic narratives that challenge and enrich the predominant narratives in economics. The movement unites all who support new ways of thinking. We believe that the mainstream approach to understanding our economy, while definitely valuable, is far too narrow. We value pluralism: the belief that economics should be a more interdisciplinary subject that embraces useful ideas from various schools of thought and subject fields.
The Modern Money Network is a trans-disciplinary learning hub, dedicated to improving the function, design, operations and legal regulation of money. It is student-conceived and student-run, and combines insights from a range of fields, including law, political economy, finance, history, sociology, anthropology, technology and systems theory.
Tutti – più o meno – sappiamo che una volta approvata dal parlamento una legge è necessario stenderne il regolamento attuativo, compito affidato alla burocrazia ministeriale – funzionari e alti dirigenti. Senza regolamento, la legge rimane una mera affermazione di principi, un cattivo regolamento può rendere inapplicabile una legge e far impazzire i cittadini. Come molti giornalisti hanno ripetutamente messo in evidenza, citiamo per tutti il duo Rizzo-Stella, l’Italia è un paese soffocato da troppe leggi e dalla burocrazia ministeriale: non c’è stato da noi né un presidente Ronald Regan né un presidente Barack Obama, che – pur appartenendo a concezioni politiche diametralmente opposte – hanno promosso in modo bipartisan la semplificazione: “l’uso di un linguaggio comprensibile; la riduzione degli adempimenti burocratici; la stesura di riassunti leggibili per normative particolarmente complesse; e l’abolizione di adempimenti costosi e ingiustificati”.
Queste sono “spinte gentili” (nudges): approcci semplici e poco costosi che fanno riferimento ai principi della behavioral economics e fanno sperare in benefici economici e nel miglioramento della vita sociale, lavorativa e nella salute delle persone. Questo è esattamente ciò che serve al nostro paese per tentare di uscire dalla palude, per innescare quel cambiamento culturale di cui si parla molto ma per cui si fa ancora poco, perché manca un metodo basato su principi scientifici e quindi valutabili in termini di efficacia, sull’analisi costi-benefici, per fare in modo che, spiega Sunstein, “gli atti del governo si fondino su dati di fatto e prove chiare, non su intuizioni, aneddoti, dogmi o sulle idee di potenti gruppi d’interesse”.
Economic predictions depend on figuring out what generates economic activity. Since the turn of the 20th century, economists have struggled to grasp what drives various parts of the economy, from consumer goods to commodities to housing. Yet the underlying causes of financial events remain elusive.
Scientists at University College London, however, appear to be finally making some headway. A team of researchers at the Centre for the Study of Decision-Making Uncertainty led by professor David Tuckett, one of London’s leading psychoanalysts, is studying the psychological moods of market participants to decipher what drives economic activities.
The team is using a large database of financial news stories from the mid-1990s until today, scanning articles for various words and phrases. The selected terms are then divided into fear or anxiety words and optimistic or happiness words. The balance between these two divisions generates what the team is calling the animal spirits measure — a Keynesian term used to describe the psychological state of investors that drives economic activity in spite of market uncertainties.
When the system finds a lot of anxiety words in the financial press, the researchers say it is an indication that the market under study is about to sink. When the software returns a lot of optimistic keywords, the market might be on an upward swing. During a recent discussion, Tuckett refused to provide details on the specific words and phrases the researchers are targeting, but he noted that the terms were carefully selected on the basis of interviews and extensive psychological investigation.
While behavioral finance identifies and describes cognitive errors, it provides few remedies. In fact, when Daniel Kahneman was asked what could be done to overcome behavioral biases, he told delegates at CFA Institute’s 2012 Annual Conference: “Very little; I have 40 years of experience with this, and I still commit these errors. Knowing the errors is not the recipe to avoiding them.”
The major behavioral biases stem from a lack of conscious awareness of how our minds function. The good news is that attaining consciousness is a hallmark of a meditation practice. Moreover, a recent INSEAD/Wharton research paper demonstrated that a mindfulness practice is a successful antidote to “sunk cost” bias.
Here is a guide to behavioral finance’s major biases and how meditation may help to overcome them.
To make a decision, a system must assign value to each of its available choices. In the human brain, one approach to studying valuation has used rewarding stimuli to map out brain responses by varying the dimension or importance of the rewards. However, theoretical models have taught us that value computations are complex, and so reward probes alone can give only partial information about neural responses related to valuation. In recent years, computationally principled models of value learning have been used in conjunction with noninvasive neuroimaging to tease out neural valuation responses related to reward-learning and decision-making.We restrict our review to the role of these models in a new generation of experiments that seeks to build on a now-large body of diverse reward-related brain responses. We show that the models and the measurements based on them point the way forward in two important directions: the valuation of time and the valuation of fictive experience.
Much is known about how people make decisions under varying levels of probability (risk). Less is known about the neural basis of decision-making when probabilities are uncertain because of missing information (ambiguity). In decision theory, ambiguity about probabilities should not affect choices. Using functional brain imaging, we show that the level of ambiguity in choices correlates positively with activation in the amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex, and negatively with a striatal system. Moreover, striatal activity correlates positively with expected reward. Neurological subjects with orbitofrontal lesions were insensitive to the level of ambiguity and risk in behavioral choices. These data suggest a general neural circuit responding to degrees of uncertainty, contrary to decision theory.