Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Off Work Economist

Good Morning World!

My name's James Hogan, and I'm a practising Economist in a New Zealand Government department.   Importantly, I'm on holiday.  So, in between building websites, cleaning the house, and landscaping the section, I've got some time to read and keep abreast of the News of the Day.  And like all bloggers, I've got my two cents to add..

My background is in applied economics and economics statistics.  For me the "oh wow!" moment in economics occurred at Statistics New Zealand when I was looking at Retail Trade statistics. 

I was looking at sales statistics from around the country within different cities and commodities.  Hundreds of thousands of people were out there buying what ever it was that they wanted.  They weren't talking with each other, they weren't communicating or on the phone about the latest and greatest offering from retailer Y selling brand X.  But what they were all doing was acting "the same".  Sales of durables increased and decreased in unison between the cities.  Changes in petrol sales were moving similarly between the different geographical areas. 

No one was co-ordinating the decision making of the hundreds of thousands of customers, telling them what to buy, and them all abiding by that common decision.  These separate, independent peoples were unconsciously acting in unison, to coin an oft-used phrase, as if all were being moved by an invisible hand...

Economics is real.  People act (or not act) in economic ways.  They respond to their economic opportunities in a way that both shapes their decision making and which, in turn, shakes the economic environment.  They are not aware (normally) of the impact their relatively minor impact has on aggregate change.  Seeing that actual aggregate economic behaviour was a powerful message for me.

In this blog, I hope to start pulling out real life examples of where these forces of change are occurring and what they mean using real life examples of what I'm seeing in publicly available statistics, the media and as implications from economic theory.  In between cleaning, and landscaping, and probably - if my partner has her way - painting the house.

I am employed by the New Zealand Government, so these represent my personal views only, and nothing which I reflect can be attributed in any way to the views of my employer.

Thanks for reading :)

James Hogan

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