Interdum stultus opportuna loquitur...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

NonRant: Just Because...

Note - from June 24th 2009, this blog has migrated from Blogger to a self-hosted version. Click here to go straight there.

From time to time people take time out of their busy schedule to provide feedback on the musings of Your Beloved Correspondent. I am unsure as to why nobody does so through blog comments, but when folks have a response that is not specifically a 'counter-musing' - i.e., that doesn't address a matter in contention - it makes more sense to send private e-mail.

On the rare occasion that I get several e-mails on the same theme, it's usually worth clarifying the issue with a broadcast to Planet Rant.

Today's clarification stems from eight e-mails, which all referred to the little link I put in to the Treasury paper the other day. To paraphrase, folks wanted to know why, if I had contributed (even just a little) to Treasury's macro-modelling program, and done consulting to over half the ASX100 (mostly on GST and Tax Mix change, but also on credit risk modelling), had authored brainy papers with other brainy people on the treatment of expectations in financial markets, had taught Investment Theory to Honours students, and had taught groups of financial planners about stuff that they already ought to have known, and had led a pretty clever team of investment analysts... (breath)..

In short, if I had done all that stuff, how come it's not more widely known?

Now I am the last handsome lad who could be accused of modesty (having, as I do, a lovely bum as well as a mighty brain), I replied. It's definitely not modesty. If anything, it's ego.

How so? I hear you muse.

Simple; I don't want people to think that they ought to gander at my musings on the basis of this or that thing that I did a decade and a half ago; or because I can do sums, or because I won some academic prizes and scholarships, or because our team helped some bunch of bureaucrats understand the shortcomings of their own macro model.

I would far prefer if folks thought I was just some lug in the wilderness who - by dint of the diligent application of a sound set of analytical principles - is right somewhat more often that he is wrong.

If truth be known, I would love it if folks thought that I was born with said analytical principles embedded in my handsome bonce - but no: they were learned by paying a bit of attention to some very clever folks; chief among them Peter 'Dicko' Dixon (the Economic Yoda), Micheal Malakellis (brother of Spiro and Tony of Geelong and Sydney Swans), and Matthew "d'Artagnan" Peter (quite possibly the most interesting of the three). Alan Powell is also somewhat responsible, but Dicko, Malakellis and Matt must bear most of the blame.

Of course if you spend the best part of a decade in any institution - be it Boggo Road or Monash University - there are bound to be other influences. The late Professor Ross Parish is the man who made Economics my passion - within half an hour of the first time I heard his voice: given that I had returned to UNi to become an Accountant, Prof Parish is actually the wellspring of my entire life after 1992. Loads of clever lecturers taught me loads of brainy techniques, but the analytical framework is due mostly to Matt and Micheal (I know that looks like it's spelt wrong - my own brother spells his name Michael rather than Micheal).

And it was Dicko that taught me to be no respecter of persons or reputations - if someone says something stupid, say so.

I am reminded of a seminar in which Dicko pointed out- to the Head of the Global Trade Analysis Project at Purdue, who was visiting - that in a global model, you can't have an investment shock through a one-off exogenous increase in the capital stock. Hertel had modelled the investment shock as a one-off bump in capital stock. As Dicko said at the time - unless capital falls out of the sky, that can't happen: the appropriate way to model the thing ought to have been through a one-off change in the required rate of return... which would generate additional capital formation over time, but would not have anything LIKE the same expansion path as the way Hertel had done it.

It is unlikely that anybody else (except maybe Parmenter) would have been prepared to embarrass a visiting doyen - and besides not many genuinely talented economists would think about global supply constraints in the model's closure, even though it's basically common sense once you hear it said.

My time hanging around Dicko et al was filled with discussions where things were said which were obvious the moment you heard them, but that you would never have thought up yourself in a hundred years of research. They were the result of decades of diligent research, and no-holds-barred commitment to genuine ideals of excellence (before it became a management buzzword).

So that's why I seldom mention it, and I don't have any HTML shrine to my former life - it would require me to share the credit for my brainitude, which is the exact opposite of what is meant by Vanity Publishing.