Some Housekeeping Notes on Blog Changes

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 3/11/2009 08:29:00 PM
Longtime readers probably know by now that I freshen the blog layout once in a while. At least for me, blogging gets somewhat boring when you look at the same interface day in and day out. Your truly maintaining an ugly blog? Never! Accordingly, here are some changes I've made:

1. While doing an image search, I found this absolutely gorgeous rendition of a hulking container ship. Named after the US Navy's former naval base in the Philippines, Subic, the vessel pictured here is almost 1200 feet long and carries a mind-boggling 12,800 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs). You see, after the Yanks left, the famous Korean shipbuilder Hanjin established a shipyard there. This seafaring leviathan is one of its proud manufactures. (It is called a "post-Panamax" vessel in that it will only be able to traverse the Panama Canal after the canal's widening is completed.) I sure hope its scheduled delivery date next year isn't delayed by global slowdown for I would love to see this sea monster in the flesh. The sheer size of the thing has made cropping the image a challenge for me. As you can see above, I have elected to crop the image from the deck down. Newbies who glance upon it will probably wonder what it is, but let it be our inside joke :-)

2. I kept seeing this thingy called "Followers" on my Blogger account's start page. I didn't know what it was until very recently. It turns out various others on Blogger can nominate themselves as followers or readers of your blog. Out of politeness, I have included the IPE Zone's fellow Blogger users who have signed up, unbeknownst to me. Accordingly, there is a new widget on the blog's left column entitled "In the Zone" for those who are keen (or at least pretend to be) on my ruminations.

3. I felt that the blog subtitle deserved a change. In my initial effort, it read "Tales of Power, Money, and Occasional Violence". While this subtitle was certainly descriptive of the blog's subject matter, it sounded a bit, well, mundane. So, the next subtitle which you probably still recall went, "Sunspots, Walrasian Auctioneers & Impartial Spectators". I hope you caught these references, but if not...

Sunspots refers to the theory of William Stanley Jevons (one of acknowledged progenitors of the marginal revolution) that sunspots affect the business cycle by causing changes in agricultural output. Suffice to say, this was never conclusively demonstrated. However, sunspots are still invoked when extrinsic random variables instead of economic fundamentals are said to influence market outcomes. More than a century before Nicholas Nassim Taleb's schtick, you had Jevons.

Walrasian auctioneers refers to Jevons' fellow marginal revolutionist Leon Walras' idea of how markets cleared. Just as a thorny plot situation in Greek drama is resolved by bringing out a deus ex machina (God from the machine), so is the thorny plot behind "market clearing" resolved by a fictive device. Here, an auctioneer aggregates supply and demand across various economic agents to effortlessly find the clearing price. In practice, of course, this almost never happens as required conditions of perfect information and perfect competition are very rare. Nevertheless, your basic supply and demand curves are constructed with the notion of a Walrasian auctioneer firmly ensconced.

Impartial spectators refers to Adam Smith's notion in The Theory of Moral Sentiments similar to one's conscience or Freud's idea of the superego:
When I endeavour to examine my own conduct, when I endeavour to pass sentence upon it, either to approve or condemn it, it is evident that, in all such cases, I divide myself, as it were into two persons; and that I, the examiner and judge, represent a different character from that other I, the person whose conduct is examined into and judged of. The first is the spectator, whose sentiments with regard to my own conduct I endeavour to enter into, by placing myself in his situation, and by considering how it would appear to me, when seen from that particular point of view. The second is the agent, the person who I properly call myself, and of whose conduct, under the character of a spectator, I was endeavouring to form some opinion. The first is the judge; the second the person judged of. But that the judge should, in every respect, be the same with the person judged of, is as impossible that the cause should, in every respect, be the same with the effect.
Even now, orthodox economists like William Easterly have difficulty grasping the connection between political economy and its denuded progeny, economics--though Amartya Sen knows better. In several ways, IPE is more of a throwback to political economy than an offshoot of economics (which it often finds fault with).

I really loved that subtitle, but it has to go as new and casual visitors probably found it non-intuitive. Not all readers are as stuffy about political economy as I am. While IPE obviously builds on political economy, discussing the former can often be done without extensive knowledge of the latter. And so we have a new subtitle, "Attitudes of elegant despair on world economy". I believe that this statement accurately describes the blog content like the first subtitle while, at the same time, maintaining the elegance of the latter. See what you make of it!