Showing posts from March, 2013

Lazy economics cont. - with graphs!

Okay. In my last post I outlined my criticism of Christine Li's argument for cash transfers to the homeless. That's where the substantive action is. This is going to be a really dry post. Apart from my main criticisms, I observed while reading the article that the written argument presents things in a way which isn't consistent with how economic analysis - at the same basic level which I think is inapplicable to problems like these - works. So I'm going to go through and try correcting the errors within the method - whilst maintaining that the method just isn't appropriate to the question at hand.

Let's go!

Lazy economics

Or, how to assume your conclusion and pretend you have unique insight into policy.
Christine Li promises to explain the merits of different approaches to helping the homeless "using basic consumer theory". Warning bells should be going off. In general, using basic economic theory is a good way of oversimplifying issues and getting wrongheaded conclusions. But homelessness? It takes a special level of gall to think that basic consumer theory would shine any helpful new light on something as complex and difficult and pervasive as hundreds of thousands people forced to live on the streets. And unsurprisingly, there's no such insight.
You can read the post for yourself, because it's short and any gloss I wrote would be uncharitable. The conclusion, though, is that it might be more beneficial for homeless people to give them cash transfers than in-kind benefits. This is not necessarily a wrong conclusion. But the argument has massive problems.