Recently, I've been listing to podcasts of lectures given at the London School of Economics (LSE) and I found a series that were particularly interesting. However, before I address them, I want to discuss the LSE podcasts in general.
First, on the positive side, the speakers I’ve listened to are all top-notch authors, economists and politicians, many of whom we in the United States may not have an opportunity to hear. The format allows the speakers to speak for a period of 50 minutes to an hour, and then covers questions from the audience. As a result, many of the podcasts are well over an hour in length and very informative.
The problem with the podcasts is that, because these are formal lectures and presentations, the speakers (particularly the authors and academics) may use slides or other audio-visual aids which unfortunately aren't included or even accessible on the web site. As a result, some points may be lost. Additionally, the sound quality of the LSE podcasts has been, at least among the ones I've listened to, of uneven quality.
That aside, the series of three podcasts that covered the Lionel Robbins Lectures in November 2007 were particularly interesting to me. The presentations were on the Psychology of Saving and Investing and were delivered by Dr. David Laibson, Professor of Economics at Harvard University. He presented a very comprehensive look at the sometimes contradictory ways we reach financial decisions. He referenced behavioral studies, as well as field studies and offered interesting ideas on why we look at the future the way we do, and how this may affect our choices. More importantly, he presented a very strong argument for using certain defaults to encourage participation in financial plans. And he raised very real concerns about the normative vs. positive aspects of using defaults in this way.
I'm not sure there's a lot here to share with students in the average high school personal finance or economics course, but I do think there's some very interesting background that will deepen your discussions, and offer explanations for financial behavior. I highly recommend them. I would also be very interested in your thoughts on them.
This post references the following Keystone Economic Principles:
1. We all make choices.
2. There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.
3. All choices have consequences.
4. Economic systems influence choices.
5. Incentives produce "predictable" responses.
7. Economic thinking is marginal thinking.