EC42 basics – how to

develop a thesis topic.

The goal is to convince your stakeholders (parent, teachers, future employers) that you have learned a substantial amount of economics, although the gain is more yours than theirs.

The University of Michigan gives some pointers, the most important is that you have to do some hard reading.  Long, wide, and even deep.  See also the format of a student essay contest.

So, there, for the Christmas break, take some time to smell the academic coffee. Read.  Do it at Starbucks.  At Jollibee.  On the web.  But don’t strain your eyes.


Student Essay Competition

For EC42 students:

Just a link for now.

In this site, you can read prize-winning student essays. I’m guessing that the winners are essay-form versions of student dissertations.

You may get an idea on how to structure a topic and proposal for your own thesis from reading and learning from the student essays.

Some (maybe strange) economics questions


1. Can economics say anything about unforeseeable (uninsurable) disasters? I’m thinking about the idea that a butterfly moving its wings can cause a global tsunami.

2. Will robots cause permanent unemployment? Rephrase this question. In ancient history, the nobility didn’t do the work because they had vassals and slaves. Were the nobles unemployed? Was that a bad thing? Is employment/underemployment/unemployment an issue of quality of life?

3. What exactly is poverty? If stray dogs are poor, and pet dogs are rich, is it good policy to control the population of stray dogs? Or is it better policy to have feeding stations for stray dogs? Or is it an even better policy to mandate that those who have pet dogs also feed the poor and hungry humans nearby? After all, we seem to always say that humans have rights that animals don’t.

Philippines vs China


It seems that we can boil down the legal conclusion of the arbitral ruling as based on only two key questions.

One, what is an island? A rock is not an island. So there. Even if China builds up a rock, it still cannot become an island. It may be a feeler island, but still that’s not an island in the legal contemplation of international law. UNCLOS says that artificial islands are not properly islands. (Otherwise, any oil rig can claim to be an island!)

And there’s the economics of islands. Under UNCLOS (Art. 121(3)), only natural formations that can sustain economic life on its own, can have maritime zones, such as an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Two, what is an archipelagic state? It is one composed of many islands. PH is archipelagic. China is not. It appears that China conceded its status as a coastal (non-archipelagic) state when it signed the UNCLOS because the UNCLOS classifies countries in only two ways — archipelagic or coastal. The Tribunal ruling, in para. 573, categorically restates that China is a coastal state.

The answers to these two questions determine the EEZ, which is 200 miles from the coastline of a non-archipelagic state; and 200 miles from the archipelagic baseline of an archipelagic state. The baseline is a point-to-point boundary that encompasses or includes the islands of an archipelagic state.

An outlying island in the South China Sea, even if it could be claimed as territory of China, cannot result in an expanded EEZ based on archipelagic baselines because China is not an archipelagic state. (Consider the following related question: Can the US consider the waters between Hawaii and Los Angeles as “internal waters” using the archipelagic baseline approach? The answer is in the negative because, like China, the US is not an archipelago.)

The EEZ of an outlying island is 200 miles around that island because such an island is treated like any other land territory (Art. 121(2)). The EEZ cannot extend beyond the 200 miles (beyond this, there would be continental shelf (something else) or open international waters (high seas)). And an EEZ could be delimited if competing EEZ’s from other nearby states exist.

The ruling states that the disputed territories are not at all islands, and therefore cannot provide China an EEZ. Practically all the major disputed territories are inside the EEZ of the Philippines because it is an archipelagic state. Therefore, even ‘rocks’ can be useful to the Philippines, if they are located within the EEZ based on the archipelagic baselines of the Philippines. These useful rocks include Scarborough Shoal, Second Thomas Shoal, Johnson Reef, McKennan Reef, Hughes Reef, and Mischief Reef. Some of the disputed rocks are outsize the EEZ of the Philippines.

An important caveat is that territory and sovereignty are matters of international law not subject to the UNCLOS. Nonetheless, disputes relating to the EEZ are pointedly the subject of the UNCLOS.


EEZ means maritime zones (not necessarily territory in the usual ‘conquest’ or ‘historic’ sense) that we can, under international law and UNCLOS, consider as usable only by us. We can, by negotiation, lease or allow others to use the EEZ, but the extent to which the Philippine Executive can do this is governed by the 1987 Constitution.

NB: The map of PH EEZ is from Wikipedia.

PH EEZ Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 2.07.29 PM


Rappler and oblivion

I’ve tried to make sense of its business plan. Now and then they produce good work. The problem is in the in-between.

Click-bait for ads won’t work. Advertisers can monitor effectiveness.

Leading thoughts and brilliant conversation won’t either. They just leave you dangling, if you ask Simon and G.

Wannabe journalism cum political correctness is too a dead end. That would be too much on feelership. And also trying hard to mimic Huffington.

Can Rappler be a kinda FB for the in crowd? Not if it has to hang on FB to skate. The in-crowds can exist within FB as it is.

Could it be a pay-for-play version of Linked-In? For the PH market? Who will pay? Too thin.

Maybe some b-school type a la McKinsey is giving its investors advice. Only they’re not talking. If you had an undiscovered gold mine, would you?

I don’t know and know that I don’t. Maybe if they know, then they’d know. And I wouldn’t have to ask.

If only it could go to IPO, at least the early birds could do a ponzi dance. Good luck.

The shrinks might say cycling between bargaining and acceptance can take forever. But sooner not later the potato chips run out.

It is a puzzle.

The value of Facebook

Early on, I saved a small bundle on hard copy subscriptions. Realizing that mainstream media was into ACDC was a bonus.

Of course, there remain honest folk in mainstream media. The trick is to know.

Someone smart said we need mainstream media to sort out the trash. True enough. Mainstream has to maintain at least the credibility and gravitas of a piece on its face. The troll and clickbait sites are uncovered soon enough, unless you’re too willing to be trolled.

So, what to do?

Find good friends and enemies. Find good people to follow.

What makes for “good?” It’s when they point you to something credible, or hint that something is unduly biased. Those with opposing views are best because you have to work against your own grain.

In the end, free expression is just a clause that works when people think.

Futuristic Economics

In this lecture, we will mainly explore the question of how economists know what it is they know.

First, for reference, we have the following dictionary definitions:

Science: Knowledge gained through experience; Observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena. (Root: Latin, scientia, knowledge.)
Phenomenon: A fact perceptible by the senses.
Experiment: A test made to demonstrate a known truth.
Empirical: Based on observation or experiment.

Philosophy: The study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline.
Metaphysics: The branch of philosophy that treats of first principles.
Ontology: The branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being. It addresses the question of what kinds of things exist.
Epistemology: The theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope. Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion.

Religion: A cause or activity pursued with zeal or devotion.
Logic: The study of the principles of reasoning.
Art: Discipline that does not rely on the scientific method; creative or imaginative activity.

Second, some “tickler” questions, for which we will not necessarily have an answer:

What is thought or thinking? If it is defined as “mental activity,” where does this activity take place? If it takes place in the brain, can animals with brains think? What about plants? Can they think?
Can a machine think? Can it learn? For example, Facebook and Google collect data about how their users behave. Do the algorithms inside the servers of Facebook “think”?

Okay. Let’s get down to some business for today. Continue reading “Futuristic Economics”