Globalized economy more sensitive to recessions: physicists

By applying the same rules that explain how genomes evolve, Rice University physicists have shown that the world economy is more sensitive to recessionary shocks and recovers more slowly from recessions now than it did 40 years ago, due to increased trade globalization.

Their findings are available online and will appear in an upcoming issue of the .

"Standard suggests that trade networks with a more modular structure tend to recover more slowly from recessions, but using evolutionary theory we predicted the opposite, and U.N. trade data indicate we were right," said Michael Deem, the John W. Cox Professor in Biochemical and Genetic Engineering and professor of physics and astronomy at Rice.

Deem and co-author Jiankui He, a graduate student in physics and astronomy, studied United Nations trade data from the past 40 years and found the global economy has tended to react more sharply to recessions and to recover more slowly from them as globalization has increased.

The concept of modularity is key to understanding their findings. In biology, a module is a structure that is part of a larger system but can also function partly on its own, in much the same way that a modular piece of furniture might function either by itself or as part of larger ensemble. In living things, modularity is rampant at every scale -- from the genomes inside cells to the organs in human bodies.

In 2007, Deem and former postdoctoral fellow Jun Sun offered an explanation for biological modularity. They showed that modularly arose spontaneously in systems where evolution occurred relatively slowly and where information -- like genes -- could be swapped.

"What we showed in 2007 was that under certain conditions, a changing environment leads to the development of a modular structure," Deem said. "We considered the world trade network to be an evolving system, and we know information in the form of business practices is readily swapped throughout the trade network. Since it matches the conditions for our theory, we hypothesized that it would also follow the same physical rules."

To test their idea, He and Deem had to create a mathematical description of the global trade network. Scientists often use a tree-like structure to study networks -- much like a geneologist might use a family tree to describe family relationships. By applying a tree-like geometry to the U.N. data, Deem and He computed a variable called the "CCC" that described the amount of modularity in the global trade network for any given year. In a "flattened" , CCC is low, and it increases as modularity in the trade network increases. Examples of increased modularity could include protectionist tariffs or regional trade associations, each of which acts to restrain trade between countries.

"Another of our predictions was that recessions would cause the world trade network to become more hierarchical, and this is something that was borne out by the data as well," Deem said. "With increasing globalization, we see the CCC trending down since 1969, but we also see it increasing, for a brief period, after each ."

Deem and He found the trend held true for three major recessions and four minor ones over the past four decades.

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Oct 18, 2010
Nationalized industry and/or public sector workforce, in the short and mid term, can act as resistant to the detrimenal effects of recession. Whereas both these are often considered heresy among the liberalize trade at-all-costs crowd, they provide stability and are not so easy to shed workers at the slightest whiff of a slowdown. There is less emphasis on tunnel vision on the bottom-line and shareholder return on investment.

Decades of pressure to decrease the public sector workforce - which in turn means decreased unionized labour - drives down wages, creates employment insecurity, under-employment and so on.

Allowing governments to surrender their ability to steer the domestic ecomony only means the handing over of economics to private, essentially unaccountable private tyrannies (multi national corps).

Long story short, 'Modules' are often the best way of weathering a economic recession without pouring billions into Unemployment payments etc.

Oct 18, 2010
Nationalized industry and/or public sector workforce, in the short and mid term, can act as resistant to the detrimenal effects of recession.
In the long term, though, it can breed resource allocation inefficiency (e.g. USSR.) The government's main purpose is to regulate and enforce a fair, lawful, and level playing field for private actors. It is not the government's purpose to be the employer of choice, or to otherwise distort the economy.
decrease the public sector workforce - which in turn means decreased unionized labour
I'm of the opinion that public sector workforce should not be unionized at all. Laws should set compensation for public sector employees, to be comparable with private sector employees performing similar jobs.

On the other hand, nothing should prevent private industry workers from unionizing. Nothing, that is, if the government weren't waging a war against all domestic workers by fostering free trade with slave-driving counter-parties.

Oct 19, 2010
It is widely known that UN data is heterogeneous and not reliable. There is no international standard for Government Accounts and so each one is custom. At best they are an approximation at worst fraud (Greece/Nigeria). You have to qualify aggregate stats by taking into account the +/- error in the data. Otherwise your conclusions could contain bogus precision.
CA's problem is that state expenditure is asymetrically elastic. It increases when there is a surplus but fails to decrease when there is a deficit. Unfortunately CA is the epicenter of the Housing bubble/crisis. The state made no contingencey plan for when HH disposible income drop to zero because mortgages/prices got so ludicrously high coupled with banks "self regulated" loans. Sadly most systemic problems are still manifest, the Fed government using taxes to cover up the mess and prolong the crisis. It is government interference that prolongs recession.

Oct 19, 2010
What you would have instead, google, is an event similar to Black Tuesday, where the whole market loses a third of its value over the course of a month, and eventually loses almost 90% of its original value, wiping out any investment and most of the savings of the middle class, while at the same time, since the bust involves housing, loses untold millions of construction jobs, in businesses of all sizes, not to mention jobs lost in banks and everywhere else in the economy. Pull the "band-aid" off quick, 'eh, and pay for our past (conservative led) profligacy. Except that band-aid is an arrow close to the vitals middle class income. I'd want surgeons who take their time to get it out, not a quick pull and hope, and would not expect a quick recovery in any case.

Oct 19, 2010
The current economic mess was CAUSED by the govt promotion of the real estate market yet Freddie and Fannie are still being subsidized.
Maybe had the govt done nothing, there could have been more short term pain, but now we have long term agony.
Hah, it's a momentous occasion. I actually find myself in agreement with marjon.

Well, partial agreement anyway. What marjon sees as 100% of the cause, I'd say is about 33%. Another 33% would've been the cumulative deregulation of financial industry, that began under Reagan and culminated under Bush II. And a final 33% would be the "free trade" idiocy that has bled our country dry of its productive industries.

Oct 19, 2010
Without government help, that started during the Bush presidency, the US would most likely be in a depression right now.
Newsflash: we ARE in a depression right now. The Fed is hiding this by pumping the markets with borrowed money: that's like paying your mortgage with your credit cards. Real smart, particularly in the long term...

All the while, the value of the dollar is being undermined, which directly hits retirees and savers, while encouraging unproductive speculation and deterring capital formation. Additionally, the dollar's status as the world's de facto reserve currency is under threat because of the Fed's shenanigans. Apropos, we're starting to see failed treasury auctions, which is the inevitable consequence of "quantitative easing" and, if allowed to escalate, will be the death knell for our federal budget and our way of life.

Oct 19, 2010

Oh, but we are in a depression, indeed. Real unemployment rates (using the same methodology that was applied during the Great Depression) are north of 20%, and rising. Incomes are stagnant or falling. Asset prices are deflating catastrophically. Industry remains decimated. The federal government is borrowing in excess of 10% of GDP per year just to prop up the collapsed economy in a quasi steady-state -- but such wanton escalation of national debt is simply unsustainable, and will not be tolerated much longer by international investors, particularly in conjunction with near-0% yields on treasuries while the dollar is being trashed by deliberate monetary actions. Yet the instant rates go up, the mirage of economic recovery will vanish in a blinding flash, leaving behind nothing but a rising mushroom cloud...

Oct 19, 2010
Yes, there is.
No there isn't.

Sorry I one'd you cause I'm used to giving out ones lately.

Oct 20, 2010
the need for more regulations and rules so we may live peacefully together.

One law making murder a crime applies to a population of 10 or 1 billion.

No it doesn't. You would get in a LOT more trouble if you killed a billion people.

Oct 20, 2010
I'm not really sure where to begin with you on this one, marjon, except to point out that the majority of those on probation, in jail or prison were there for non-violent drug-related charges. Most of the rest were burglaries and robberies, with a significant fraction of homicides. The real criminals, those banks, investment firms and ratings agencies that stole middle class America's retirement accounts, and precipitated this crash, they don't typically go to jail.

Oct 20, 2010
@marjon: Ahh, so there's no need for government when religion can substitute? That's nonsense. Unless you give religion real physical power (relinquishing government), those laws won't affect anyone. So what you're asking is for the government to relinquish any power it has to people whom you agree with, and who cannot be democratically replaced. Nice.

Also, I'm pretty sure that despite religion creating strong morals, only some 20% of prisoners claim to be atheist/agnostic. Just saying

Oct 20, 2010
By whom? Liberals still praise Stalin and Mao.
Why do believe it is the laws of the govt that keep people under control?
Yes I guess it WOULD depend on who was killing whom and who was left to write the history books.
The Founding Fathers considered faith and freedom as companions in several senses.
blahblah. You don't think they would be capable of saying one thing while having something completely different in mind do you? You know like the bible does? Lets start with 'one NATION under blahblah...'- What the hell does that mean? Germany is a nation. Israel is a nation. The US is no such thing. Smells like propaganda.
First, they believed that religion seasoned freedom with compassion for one's fellow man.
And religion reserved the right to define what the term 'man' meant, which has varied through the years depending on the agenda. Blahblah.

Oct 20, 2010
@marjon: Ahh, so there's no need for government when religion can substitute? That's nonsense
Indeed, but islamists and most religionist fanatics, including the biblical prophets, will tell you otherwise. Israel got their king- mayhem ensued. All because god didn't feel like arguing about it.
Also, I'm pretty sure that despite religion creating strong morals, only some 20% of prisoners claim to be atheist/agnostic. Just saying
Religions appropriated morals as a very slick way of promoting their particular forms of bigotry and violence. They claim to be the ultimate authority of right and wrong, which enables them to assign those labels to most anything.

Religious morality has been replaced by the rule of law, which is how it was in the first place.

Oct 20, 2010
Unless you give religion real physical power (relinquishing government), those laws won't affect anyone.
Religions do have a nasty habit of taking that power by enthralling the people and encouraging overgrowth, as is happening in Kashmir for instance. That's why we must be vigilant for people like christine oconnel and all the hairy pudels who infest this site.

Attack is the best defense. Never let a godly comment lay unanswered!

Oct 20, 2010
How well will that work if the govt must be constantly keeping the People in order?
In other words, the United States Constitution (with its checks and balances, and its three branches of government) is DOA according to marjon. Hey clown, if you're in America, would you kindly get the hell out of MY country? If you're not, stay the hell out...
BTW, there is no "separation of church and state" in the US Constitution.
No, there's just prohibition of religious legislation, and Congressional funding for religion. Oh, and also a guarantee of equal treatment under the law. So unless you're ready to officially welcome and represent every single religion on the globe, including all the extinct ones, and all the mutually-conflicting ones, then you'd better leave the hell alone. The government's job is to provide law and order, not to be your effin' church.

Oct 21, 2010
God warned Adam and Eve, they did not listen.
God warned His people what a government will do to them, they did not listen.
God was right.
And yet... if we factor into your equation the fact that god doesn't exist, then we may want to come up with alternate interpretations for these fairy tales, yes? In each case 'god' is instilling guilt for inevitable suffering.

People suffer not because their king is overtaxing them or sending them off to war, but because people fail to resist temptation, and thus DESERVE to suffer. Kings and governments are after all provided by god, but only because the people would not heed gods will.

So the stories cleverly take blame from govts and lays it back on the people, thereby strengthening the power of govts to cause suffering in Controlled and Planned ways, with less whining.

Oct 21, 2010
Of course suffering is inevitable, and people will always blame whatever govt is in charge for it whatever the form, as you so enjoy doing. But you and everybody else do it in an orderly fashion, because you're very well trained.

See, we have a new and improved System in place for people to feel guilty for their lot in life. It's called democracy. We didn't campaign hard enough for our candidate, or didn't vote at all, or voted for the wrong guy, and so we only have ourselves to blame. We voted a crook into office because we didn't vett him adequately. Etc.

Of course none of this is true; we vote for whoever we're told to vote for, but our glorious holy documents proclaim that freedom is god-given and if we screw up by not assuming the responsibility that accompanies it, again it is our fault.

Oct 21, 2010
This by the way applies to our investments, etc. If we were paying more attention to the markets we would have known when to sell, blahblah.

In order to get sheep to herd themselves you have to make them feel guilty for wandering off. This is called domestication.

Do you think People in Charge would ever let the course of civilization rest on the whims of an ignorant and unconcerned public? Of course not. Their concerns are always immediate; the vast majority of them care nothing about the future, or indeed have any concept of it. They will never vote to suffer now in exchange for a better future. Which is why democracy is a sham.

But Someone needs to care about the future or there will be none. Just like your Joseph and pharaoh, who saved Egypt from starvation and ended up owning it. Or Solomon who discovered the Secret of Empire in his lamentings of a meaningless future without him there to preserve it. Your fairy tales do have Meaning.

Oct 21, 2010
The globalized economy may serve as an analogy of monocultures in agriculture and forestry. These monocultures are more effective in production of wood and agricultural products - but they're more prone to pests invasions and natural disasters, like the windthrows.

Oct 21, 2010
Do you think People in Charge would ever let the course of civilization rest on the whims of an ignorant and unconcerned public?

The People in Charge won't, but your disdain for public are misplaced. You support their arguments for control.
They are not ignorant regarding what they need and want and are very concerned about getting what they need and want.
Like the french, who need and want to retire at 60 and work far less than 40 hours a week? Their politicians bought their votes with bribes, knowing they wouldn't be around to pay for them.

The majority WANT and they want it NOW. They elect people who will give it to them. That's why democracy is one step above and before despotry, as Aristotle? said, unless it is Controlled from behind the scenes. Which it is.

Oct 23, 2010
That's why democracy is one step above and before despotry, as Aristotle? said, unless it is Controlled from behind the scenes. Which it is.

See, I tend to agree with this in principle.

America today believes that "democracy" is the solution to everything, and arrogantly and hypocritically wants to force democracy even on nations who don't want it.

Democracy is only good if an overwhelming majority of people are good. Else, as the quote says, It's just two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for lunch.

Unfortunately for America today, those controlling things from behind the scenes, by all appearances, are idiots.

It was said just recently on one of the liberal news media, that the federal government plans to cut taxes, and spend another almost $4 trillion dollars worth of deficit spending through the next 10 years. How much more do they plan on driving inflation till even higher percent of wealth is in the hands of the rich?

$5 per gallon gasoline cometh.

Oct 23, 2010
The bailout money should have been spent on incentives to families and businesses to buy solar power, to build new roads and bridges, and other things that put real, average folks directly into a new job.

They should have let the corporate big wigs and financial sector collapse. After all, in the past, it was argued that the reason these people make all the money is because they are somehow better than the rest of us or smarter than the rest of us, so they "deserve" to be 1000 times as wealthy as a normal person. Well, if they were so smart, they shouldn't have screwed up so bad. They deserve nothing. They should have been left to rot just like all the families that had foreclosures. When you're dumb enough to pay 4 or 5 times what the real value of a house is, you deserve to lose it anyway.

Anyway, the stimulus should have been spent to do useful things that simultaneously created work for your average people, trade workers, etc. Instead, it was wasted on wall street thugs.

Oct 24, 2010
In free markets those who work hard to satisfy their customers succeed.
Except when their competitors collude to fix prices and drive them out of business, or offer their customers kickbacks, which is Inevitable. Which is why one solution
is to increase the power of the state.
-But youre right, corruption from that side is also Inevitable. In either case, sustained Stability is only possible
if an overwhelming majority of people are good.
-But good is not even the right word here. The point is, collapse is Inevitable without Control from behind the scenes. As collapse has not occured we may assume that Control does in fact exist.

'But otto, things are a mess! Do you really call this Control??' From a wider perspective what we see is a history of continuous consolidation, progress, techl advancement, and increasing opportunity. Chaos and peril may then be understood as Tools used to produce these things, and not indications of threats to them in any real sense.

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