Hello World!

This site is an attempt to bring some of my different posts in different social media and blogs that I want to preserve in one place, and to present new material on economics, photography, and whatever else interests me.

Who am I? The signatures of the posts here say I am “cogiddo”. This is an amusing (to me, at least) bit of wordplay I invented years ago, inserting my initials “dd” into the “cogito” of the famous Descartes saying cogito ergo sum. The name you would know me by in real life, however, is Dimitrios Diamantaras. More information on the About page.

This post will stay in top position. Please scroll down for every other post. To see all my posts in the “Economics” category, you can visit this page; for “Photography”, this page, and so on. For a live listing of categories, expand the Menu by clicking/tapping on the “Menu and Widgets” link on the upper right.

Fascinating new book by Posner and Weyl

Want to create a more just society? Reform private property radically and change how we vote. This is the message of a new book that came out this month.

Eric Posner and Glen Weyl recently published Radical Markets: Uprooting Capitalism and Democracy for a Just Society, Princeton University Press, 2018. You can get a taste of what’s in the book by the authors’ May 1st piece in the New York Times. The Economist called the book “arresting if eccentric manifesto for rebooting liberalism” in a mainly positive review.

The average person who has taken at least one introductory economics course might well be bewildered by the main economic idea in this book. It posits that private property of assets is a deep-seated, powerful source of monopoly power that undermines competition in economic markets. So reform private property, they argue. How? Didn’t we learn in school that without well-defined and well-enforced property rights perfect competition cannot take root?

The idea is not to abolish private property, however. It is to reform it drastically. Each person would publicly state the value of every asset they own. They would then be taxed on this. A wealth tax, you say, big deal, nothing new. What’s to prevent one from undervaluing their holdings to lessen their tax burden? The other part of this tax proposal, that’s what. Once you have declared a value for each of your assets, you must be willing to sell it for that amount to anyone willing to pay it. Technology, perhaps in the form of a smartphone app, would take care of the technicalities; something like Uber for trading houses.

The proceeds from this wealth tax can be used for public projects, perhaps funding a universal basic income, while the tax system would allow the efficient allocation of assets. So far, so Henry George in a modern guise. (And I learned from this book something really new to me: that no less a well-regarded economist than Léon Walras had ideas similar to those of Henry George on taxing land.)

But that’s not all! Posner and Weyl also want to bring into the voting system ideas from the economics of mechanism design. In fact, I only bought the book after I read a short article by Weyl with Steven Lalley on this in the American Economic Review’s Papers and Proceedings for 2018 (an ungated version is here).

Imagine every citizen being given a budget of “vote-buying money”, just as much as every other citizen. They would then be able to spend some of this “money” to buy extra votes for elections that concern issues they care a lot, at the cost of having fewer votes to cast in other elections. The prices of votes wouldn’t be linear, but quadratic. That is, one vote would cost one vote “dollar”, two votes would cost four, three would cost nine, and so on.

Incredibly at first thought, a voting system like this market-inspired one has nice properties in theory. Markets in everything, indeed!

It is natural for this proposal to raise concerns about individual rights, as the review in The Economist points out. However, a radical proposal may well be what we need in our time of political polarization and economic strain for more and more people. I will happily read this book to the end and prepare something to say about it in my economic inequality course. You will probably hear from me about it again in this very website.

When your camera’s auto settings are challenged, you may get a dreamy photo

I aimed my Fujifilm X-T2 at some bright white flowers in blazing sunshine right in front of our house a few minutes ago, playing around to test the camera’s auto settings. I got this super-dreamy shot, created when the camera compensated strongly for the bright light. I also have a RAW version of the image that I can edit, but I kind of like the effect produced in this JPG, which was made in-camera.

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Playing with a new camera

I will be traveling to Paris in the summer. Of course, I want to bring along a good camera. My Canon 70D DSLR is a really good camera and one I have learned to use fairly well in the two and a half years I have owned it. It has one problem, however: as with all DSLRs, it is a bit on the heavy side. At the end of a very heavy (but also rewarding) semester, with the prospect of walking around Paris for hours on end making photos, I treated myself to a well-reviewed mirrorless camera, the Fujifilm X-T2. The camera arrived yesterday evening and today I found a short break from the drizzle that’s been going on for most of the day to walk around in our yard making some test photos with the Fujifilm. For now, all I am doing is letting the camera operate on its automatic settings for everything. Here is a sample photo, in the JPG version produced in the camera (I also record a RAW file when shooting, and I can see a substantial difference between the two, with the JPG version generally brighter and with less saturated colors; I do find the JPG version of the test photos I have made so far well-done).

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Time to revive this blog!

I have been remiss in posting here. The reason is the heaviness of the Spring semester that just ended. Well, that and a certain amount of inertia. It’s so much easier to just share something interesting or funny one sees on social media!

To start the ball rolling again on regular posts here, here is a photo I made a couple of afternoons ago at Lake Galena, PA:

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Saluting Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today’s remembrance of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., comes at a fraught time in the life of the U.S. I have been thinking for days about how to mark it, being acutely aware of my limitations as a writer in the face of this meaningful day. Finding this blog post was a gift. The writer is Daniel Little, a philosopher of social science. The point of the post is that the Civil Rights Revolution is the proper Second American Revolution. Please follow the link and read Little’s words. Let us all continue to think about how to keep the “arc of the moral universe” bending toward justice, to use Dr. King’s unsurpassed phrasing. Then let us act to bend the arc toward justice faster.

Economists are too aggressive and status-obsessed

Since mid-August, I have been following with interest a discussion about the sexism in economics. The discussion burst onto the public scene with a piece by Justin Wolfers in the New York Times, in which the research by Alice Wu was featured. Many economists have contributed reasonable opinions and I have seen discussions of how economists are just mean to each other, without the meanness being specifically oriented against women (but all too often it is, with a vengeance). Today, I want to point you to this great post by Claudia Sahm. She lists some of the nasty, negative, hurtful comments she has received, in almost all cases from an economist who outranked her and was not speaking anonymously. She asks that we economists start a conversation about the evil of an anonymous website being the main source of information about the economics job market, and then to consider the problems with anonymous refereeing in the publishing process. I share this here in the spirit of amplifying her message.

Economist colleagues, our profession is impoverished by our ridiculous aggressiveness and status-obsession. What will it take to make us behave better?