The arrival this week of Robert Shiller’s revised edition of his wonderful bookwas timely, because it came in the wake of Aditya Chakrabortty’s radio programme about the teaching of economics. One of the the bizarre claims made in the programme is that mainstream economics is fixated on rational choice models. Shiller’s work on finance, for which he received the Nobel Prize of course, serves as Exhibit One in showing this claim to be incorrect. (Tony Yates blogged about this and other issues with the programme.)
[amazon_image id=”0691166269″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Irrational Exuberance[/amazon_image]
The new preface tobegins: “One might think that years after the bursting of the speculative bubbles that led to the 2007-9 world financial crisis, we should be living in a distinctly different post-bubble world. One might think that people had learned their lesson, and would not again pile into expanding markets.” But no. Although the situation isn’t as fragile now as in 2000 (ahead of the 1st edition) or 2005 (2nd edition), Prof Shiller clearly thinks there is renewed potential for a crash somewhere. The bond market is clearly a leading candidate. One substantial addition to the book is a chapter on the bond market, which he believes has a high probability of currently being in a bubble, vulnerable to bursting. But it isn’t just bond markets that could be bubbly, but also equities: the ratio of real share prices divided by the ten-year average of real earnings in the US is higher than it has been at any time except 1929, 2000 and 2007.
Interestingly, the book suggests that the psychology of bubbles is not one of firm belief that a crash cannot happen, but rather one of inattention to evidence that it might or will do. This is in line with work Paul Seabright at the Toulouse School of Economics has beein doing on attention – or its lack. A second kind of addition to this 3rd edition is the integration of Shiller’s thinking on psychology since his bookco-authored with George Akerlof. Akerlof has continued to work on this too, including his very interesting work with Rachel Kranton on the role of identity in economic choices, in .
[amazon_image id=”069114592X” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0691146489″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Identity Economics: How Our Identities Shape Our Work, Wages, and Well-Being[/amazon_image]
is a classic and it is essential reading on economics and financial markets; for anyone who hasn’t yet read it, this 3rd edition brings the contextual information up to date and expands on the psychological insight of the original. I should add, Robert Shiller is the most prominent exemplar of economists using decision assumptions and frameworks other than ‘rational choice’ but he has plenty of company in the profession – in fact, it’s pretty mainstream nowadays.