Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Gawande's HMS commencement speech

Here is Atul Gawande's recent commencement address at Harvard Medical School, courtesy of the New Yorker.

My favorite part is somewhat of a red herring: Gawande writes, "I do not believe society should be forced to choose between whether our children get a great education or their teachers get great medical care." But that choice, while typically not between the extremes evoked by his language here, is a very real one. Resources are scarce, especially public ones. How will we trade off the benefits of each use?

The rest of the address discusses new delivery systems of medicine in today's era of advanced technology, and the challenges Gawande argues are best faced by "pit crews" rather than individuals.

Monday, May 30, 2011

CSWEP wisdom

I read a recent post by Greg Mankiw that cited advice from Robert Hall for the post-tenure academic, and then I looked at the website for CSWEP, the Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession, which had included that article in its 2009 newsletter. What a treasure trove of plain-language wisdom! The current issue includes several articles on getting published in economics journals. I wish I'd read this several years back!

Letter to a WWII veteran

According to the VA's VetPop2007 forecast, which was based on Census data, there may be around 1.6 million veterans of the World War II era alive today, or about 10 percent of the original cohort of 15.7 million who served. Their average age is 87.

In honor of Memorial Day, here are some thoughts about military service I recently shared with a WWII veteran:

Dear Mr. ________,

Born in 1973, I and my birth cohort have never known service in the way yours did. We registered for selective service, but participation in our era has always been voluntary. For many of us service has been an unknown concept in the sense of not being well understood outside of movies, books, and grandfathers' stories. Geopolitics had seemed a more appropriate backdrop for understanding events during the Gulf War era than duty or necessity.

As a postdoctoral scholar at the RAND Corporation early in the new millennium I began to think about military service in greater detail, still as an observer. RAND conducts many studies for the Pentagon, and I met a colleague there who had written her dissertation on the lifelong impacts and meanings of military service. Seven years later, she and I and other collaborators are conducting research in this area. We hope our efforts can ultimately inform policy as well as knowledge about how challenges affect who we are. Among other things, we are members of an Institute of Medicine committee convened to assess the challenges faced by service members and their families in the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For a member of the All Volunteer generation, it is a good feeling to provide public service in this way, adapting knowledge as best we can about the experiences of earlier generations. In many ways, your service and that of younger Americans was doubly valuable. It made our world safer then, and it also helps make future service members, veterans, and their families safer. I have been honored to play a small part in this.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Romer on the exchange rate

Yesterday Christina Romer provided a very helpful overview of how exchange rates work alongside monetary and fiscal policies, perfect for any student of intermediate macroeconomics. But the piece de resistance was her recounting of how, during her pre-confirmation training, Larry Summers "boomed" the mantra regarding the strong dollar being the domain of the Treasury secretary.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Population pressures and development

A Times Room-for-debate considers world population prospects and the challenges facing development. In particular, David Bloom and Warren Sanderson (and surely the others as well) write about promoting fertility reductions.