Showing posts with label eccentric. Show all posts
Showing posts with label eccentric. Show all posts

Monday, May 23, 2022

Partial List of Best Last Meals

Perhaps which one you choose says a lot about you. Perhaps what I list and the order I choose says a lot about me. 

I leave it up to the reader to consider why it is your last meal; be it choice (yours or someone else's) or unexpected circumstance.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Fighting Words

This is a partial list and probably just a glimpse of the many ways in which I am unelectable as a U.S. Presidential candidate. I feel like I am part of a small minority advocating that the world is round in the midst of a powerful and vocal majority who dismissively says "No, quite obviously, it's flat".

  • If you support government schools, you are part of the problem. Do whatever you can to get your kids out as well as help others to get out as well--especially the most needy, inner-city kids and others. Starve the beast. It does not serve its customers, children and their families.
  • Social Security and Medicare = Welfare. And it is unsustainable welfare at that.
  • (Related to the above) Baby Boomers need Millennials and immigrants (especially illegal immigrants) to bail them out of their financial peril. 
  • Most news is entertainment and most of that is proverbial porn. Watching and reading popular news sources is entertainment with negative intellectual value--it is making you dumber.
  • Support for the Pledge of Allegiance is virtue signaling, and recitation of it is an activity of un-American obedience.
  • The national anthem being played before sporting events is state worship of dubious origin, and the rationale given for its continuance is awkward at best. 
  • You don't own "your" culture. You are a part of a greater human culture and many, many subcultures. Hopefully you are contributing to them, and hopefully you are finding where they are and how they are changing beneficial to you. Regardless, to claim ownership is nonsensical
  • The push for National service is motivated in large part on resentment. People resent how good life is for the young, and how bright and relatively easy their prospects are; therefore, they want to instill hardship on them, and they believe the only way for them to develop character is for them to be placed into a form of involuntary servitude. 

P.S. For those scoring at home, that is 2.5 points for Bryan Caplan as a fellow traveller reference. Perhaps I should formally outsource my thinking to him? Hopefully I have not subconsciously done so.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

My Futile Desire For People To See The Truth

I strive for epistemic humility, and my practice is to consider the confidence with which I hold various beliefs. As such I truly don't hold strongly many views and am quite willing to change my mind. Once I have done the work, though, I am willing to hold a view strongly. And I love to hate conventional wisdom.

Hence, this partial list of things about which conventional wisdom is wrong and about which I very much want people to understand the actual truth. 

The formula for when conventional wisdom is held in error is a seductive, persuasive narrative coupled with readily accessible, salient anecdotes that are not indicative of the broader evidence because that broader evidence is largely obscured.

The following are all beliefs that I hold quite confidently after years of study, analysis, and thought (listed in no particular order). Note that I am still learning about these, questioning my priors, and remain willing to change my mind. It is just that the probability I assign to being wrong for these is now quite low.

  • The labeling asset prices as being "bubbles" (e.g., tulip mania, dotcom tech, housing markets--see above, et al.) is neither useful nor helpful. The term is loose, vague, and indeterminate. A classic case of seeming to say something, but being so obscure as to be unfalsifiable. It is the modern financial economics equivalent of blaming disease on the imbalance of humors.
  • The current and historical lack of parity in college football and other sports—my first great example of things not being what is so commonly believed in the conventional wisdom. Big firms like regulation and so do big sports programs. The NCAA benefits the blue bloods at the expense of the lesser schools.
  • The cause and nature of the Great Depression and the subsequent recovery (it wasn’t WWII).
  • The cause and nature of long-term economic progress as told by McCloskey, et al.; the true nature of economic inequality (consumption versus income); how good things actually are and how much they have actually improved.
  • The shallow and near emptiness of news journalism and that watching and reading the main-stream media is a form of entertainment done at the expense of one’s intellect.
  • The immorality of conducting and impossibility of 'winning' the drug war. One can extend this to all prohibitions on victimless crimes, activities and trades done by consenting adults that are labeled crimes not because of a violation of anyone's property or personal rights but because society has deemed it taboo, immoral, or otherwise contemptible (e.g., organ sales, prostitution, price gouging, etc.). 
  • The harm and unintended consequences of price controls in all there guises: minimum wages, rent controls, anti-price gouging laws, restrictions on compensating college athletes, et al.
  • The injustices that exist and persist in the world, how good it could be in terms of justice and wealth for all of us, and the multiplicative benefits of free markets and free minds.
  • The economics especially and general state of the science concerning environmental policy.
I should probably take a cue from Bryan Caplan and call “Impasse” more often. It would give my head a chance to recover from its battle with the wall. 

Sunday, October 11, 2020

The Electoral College by Private Land Mass

One of the ways voting used to be limited was property ownership. Specifically, there were property qualifications where only property owners with sufficient holdings (along with other qualifiers like race and sex--i.e., white males) could vote. 

This got me thinking: what if the U.S. Constitution's provisions for the composition of the House of Representatives and thus that portion of the Electoral College had been designed around private land ownership rather than population?

Sooo.... I created a model for how that might look today given the amount of private land ownership by state. Now, this would have created the strong incentive to maximize private land ownership resulting in a much different picture than that below. But working with the lay of the land today, the crazy result would obviously be a huge boon to large western states and residents in them. Notice how Alaska doesn’t get a big lift and Nevada actually shrinks as a result of how much of each state is owned by the government. 

To further the thought experiment, I applied Eli Dourado's election model to see how the current Presidential election might be affected. Spoiler alert: This looks very good for Republicans.

This is a rough model—so I very well may have made mistakes. (Sources are in the linked spreadsheet.)

Sunday, April 30, 2017

I'll Have What She's Having

This email from Marco Bresba to Tyler Cowen on food versus music as social status signature really resonated with me.

I have always been out of step with music culture. Growing up I was 1-2 decades behind my peers enjoying music from my parent's generation and the 1/2 generation between us. Because I never liked kid's music, though, I was an outsider in kindergarten (listening to adult music) and then an outsider in junior high and high school for the same reason. My horizons have very much broadened in the past two decades and I have friends, lovers, and (mostly) the Internet to thank for that.

People think of me as a foodie, a title I cringe at a bit when assigned to me. I am definitely 1+ standard deviations to the right on food knowledge, experience, and willingness. But at the same time, I know what I don't know and don't do.

My relationship with food and my fellow man is a perfect microcosm for how I see most issues. I agree with no one. On the one hand I try to hold back a knee-jerk, mocking disdain for those to the left of me on the distribution (to abuse that analogy a bit more). The complacency (and that is the perfect methaphor) aggravates my less-charitable self. Eventually I come around to my higher principles--de gustibus non est disputandum--and I seek to accept their mockery of my choices leaving an open door to help guide them along the journey should they choose enlightenment. And yes, I am being sarcastic about my arrived status because . . .

On the other hand I have a hard time hiding my inner-eye roll at those reaching mightily for ultimate food nirvana. My knee-jerk reaction to those demonstrating their fringe and elite status is to assume it is not genuine. I keep waiting for them to rediscover the hot dog, but only concede that it is a desired food once deconstructed from a food truck or simply for the sake of irony. This extreme is its own version of complacency. Rather than make choices for themselves, we have a group looking to peers for the next best (and approved) thing.

This is me at any dinner party. I am either the most avant-garde among a group of conventional wisdom followers (whose motto might be "Choose Sliced Bread, the best thing from here on out!) or I am the most conventional (small-c conservative) among a group of would-be trend setters. Like I say, my food tastes are a microcosm. For once conversation starts I will find myself uneasily choosing how much to politely disagree and hoping the others will appreciate that true respect comes not from acquiescence but from honest/divergent/challenging discussion.

Monday, June 2, 2014

How To Be Teflon

Everybody gets into difficult situations. EVERYBODY. Everyday. If you aren't getting in one today, good for you. Or maybe you're not trying hard enough. Or don't realize you're in one.

This is a guide to for difficult situations. Not a guide. A few ideas. They may be bad ideas. Apply at your own risk.

This isn't about being a Teflon Don. This isn't about committing crimes and getting away with it. It is about rising above a problem. Finding your way out of a difficult situation. Maybe that means a solution. Maybe that means a victory. Maybe that just means an escape hatch. They all look the same from the other side. I'm not saying this is what I'm always able to do. It is just what I try to do.


Suppose someone just challenged your solution, put down your proposal, laughed at your ideas. It was supposed to be a professional setting. Just like that you are on the emotional defensive. Stop right there. They have just paid you a flattering compliment. They've just said, "As good as that was, you are better. Show me better." Now do just that.

Who cares that they were crass, inconsiderate? We'll get to the insignificant moments shortly. Or maybe they are just bad communicators. Don't hold that against them. Show them the better way. Ask them what they want, what they think. Get them to tell you the way to communicate with them.

Most people lash out when they don't understand. Confusion sparks primitive emotions bordering on physical reaction. Defuse it by giving them control. Figure out what they need to know by letting them do the talking. Always be thinking about solutions and expect that other people are too.

What if you can't? If you and the other person are at an impasse? Back away. Put time between the two of you and the problem. Notice they aren't the antagonist. You aren't the protagonist. It is the two of you against the problem even if it doesn't, and it usually won't, feel that way.

What if you still can't? Oh, well. Walk away. Some people can't communicate. Or won't. Doesn't matter because . . .


Deep down the important people are always rooting for you. ALWAYS. And the people who aren't are insignificant. It is just like Thin Lizzy said, "If that chick don't want to know, forget her."

People we care about strive to 'get it'. That is how they show they care about us. And we reciprocate. Being a good friend, a good business partner, a good lover, a good person is about forgiveness, understanding, acceptance, and support. We're trying to make each other better while knowing we ourselves are highly imperfect. So imperfect that there isn't time to consider other's faults because . . .


What has happened is literally in the past. What comes next is what matters. You will be judged by what happened and what will happen and you can only change one of those things. It is you're next decision that matters. Make it right, or make a mistake, that's okay because . . .


Somewhere right now many people are making colossally bigger mistakes than you are right now. You've made bigger mistakes. You will make bigger mistakes. You learn, you adapt, you improve, you move on. Don't be stuck in the past with those who themselves can't escape it.

Don't focus on the mistakes; you're better than your last mistake. Much better. Now show it. Rise above it.

But how? What if it feels big? IT IS BIG. This mistake won't end well. Well, you're wrong. The Universe is big. You are small. Time is long. You are fleeting. And that moment, that mistake is but a flash that can be forgotten, undone, moved past, resolved because . . .


Most of life is in your own head. You sleep maybe one third of your life if you're lucky. And that time is just you and your dreams. You are alone with your thoughts perhaps another third of your time. The rest is also you thinking about what is happening around you while you intermittently interact with it.

This leaves very little time for you to actually act--be those actions successes or mistakes. And keep in mind you won't necessarily know the verdict right away if ever at all. Many actions we take are inconsequential. Many mistakes we make are as well. Some aren't, but you'll endure because . . .


You are the reason difficult situations were invented. Just so you'd have something to do.

Always be listening to your favorite music in your head. Give yourself a theme song. A whole playlist. As the situation dictates, switch to the perfect anthem.

Pretend the situation you're in is already scripted and you're just acting it out and you're the hero. Don't be cocky. Don't be arrogant. Just rise above. Let somebody else take the credit and the glory. The audience knows the truth. And they're rooting for you. Always.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Highly Linkable

Last Saturday, May 3rd, saw the passing of a giant in economics, Gary Becker. Becker was one of the first economists I got a regular exposure to via his column in BusinessWeek. I immediately found an intellectual home in his economic wisdom. David Henderson memorializes Becker here. Russ Roberts remembers him here. Cass Sunstein reflects here.

Assuming the standard arbitrary delineation of the economy into parts, there is perhaps now a new "largest" one.

Josh Barro puzzles over why anyone would want to be a homeowner. Steven Landsburg offers a good critique of Barro and a valuable overview of the issues involved. Megan McArdle counters to a slight degree. With a nod to Arnold Kling, there are major problems with leveraged homeownership as the primary middle-class asset: owning an asset that by its nature is depreciating--try as you might to fight the tide via HOAs and monitoring city council meetings, at the end of the day you're planting flowers as the local factory closes. King Canute could relate as the former actions are immaterial relative to the latter, exogenous, effects. And the latter doesn't have to be a local economic shock like a major employer leaving town. That is just a stand in for depreciation in general. There are two forms of depreciation: wear and tear and out dating. As you perfect taking care of the former, you risk maximizing the latter. At some point you have completely rebuilt an outdated house or you have chosen an expensive way and place to build a house brand new--an interesting spin on the Ship of Theseus paradox.

On a related personal note, I have two friends about to realize a big dose of depreciation in similar ways. One is going to nearly fully replace his heat/air system and the other is going to fully replace both sides of his two-unit heat/air system. The first is looking at about $5,000 in cost while the second will see about $13,000 in cost. All that just to get back to even so to speak--nothing different to show for the huge purchases.

Caplan is playing matchmaker between Western Civ and Open Borders.

Jeffrey Tucker says P2P will prove to be a death blow to the state.

Questioning the conventional wisdom in two examples: (1) saturated fat does not or at least may not cause heart disease, and (2) race perhaps is genetic and is not a social construct.

Humanity has officially jumped the shark. Of course, we knew Las Vegas would be in on it.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Those were the days . . .

Before it got any further belated, I wanted to give proper mention to what was a great TV show that ended this spring--"The Office". This is another show from my top 50 of all time and this one would make the top 10 I am guessing. Here are some thoughts:

  • "The Office" was path breaking (both the original British and the American versions). Like "Survivor" in the reality genre, it brought an idea mainstream (sorry, "The Real World" was about as mainstream as "Girls Gone Wild"). "Moonlighting" 20-years prior made use of the direct dialogue to the camera and then some, breaking the so called Fourth Wall. The idea of merging the reality concept with a scripted sitcom was brilliant allowing dynamic elements never before possible.
  • Incidentally, I think this show did more to accelerate the trend away from laugh tracks than any other. 
  • I felt this show had somewhat run its course when Michael, Steve Carell, left. But they were able to avoid jumping the shark ever so narrowly--aside from Nellie, the Cousin Oliver of Scranton.
  • I saw every episode of this show. Watching every moment, I regret nothing. That's what she said.
While this show ended continuing the trend of me losing more shows than gaining, there are several ideas recommended to me: "The Americans", "Breaking Bad", and a few others. My official TV advisor is reconstructing my portfolio. If I can simply learn to take his advice, perhaps I will stop making mistakes like "Up All Night". I stayed with that one far too long. I've started "Downton Abbey" and dabbled in "Mad Men". Both are shows followed and loved by my wife. I probably will catch up with both and continue along. 

At least one show will still be around that I had not counted on. The prototypical overachieving, underappreciated show "Community" received a reprieve from the gallows. I am afraid its ultimate, untimely fate lies there. I anticipated its demise and began thinking about a post using it as an example; it lives, but I will use it anyway. 

I used to lament how many shows I felt were very good that were cut down early into existence. Many didn't make it past a first season. While I won't work so hard as to try to recall them, the pain being too much, I will mention one of the most famous since it has been resurrected in a way, "Arrested Development". This show was similarly overachieving and under appreciated. It also was path breaking. Its return via Netflix says a lot about my more developed thoughts on TV show evolution. 

Remember how I said, "I used to lament . . ."; well, that is because it dawned on me one day that economics teaches us to roll with the changes rather than mourn for what will no longer be. Schumpeter's Creative Destruction is alive and well here. When a new show is ahead of its time or just not mainstream enough or simply not well marketed, etc., the death of the show does not mean the death of the creative, desirable, inventive elements that drew its too few fans in. Those same writers, producers, and actors are still out there trying again. The process of success and failure leads to better and better products down the line. Consider this as an anecdote against bailouts and the moral hazard that accompanies them. Better to let "Community" die, than to prop up its existence artificially. 

What's more, the overwhelming trend in this medium is to profitably broaden the scope and narrow the target audience. "Arrested Development" is back on but not on Fox, its original network. It is web based essentially. As the movement to a more and more decentralized and individualized market in television entertainment continues, more and more opportunities emerge. Consider this as an anecdote against monopolistic protections.

PS. "Futurama" would have been another example of a show resurrected. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Did you ever have to make up your mind?

My daughter asked me a random but intriguing question tonight in the form of a game. She said,
I'm going to name two things. Whichever one you choose, you have to give it up for life. The other you can have as much as you want. Coffee or Wine?
I approached this seriously. I was amazed at how difficult the decision was. I'm saying yes to one and letting the other one ride--FOREVER! Weighing my options involved considering substitutes. I chose wine meaning I give it up while keeping coffee. For me beer and liquor are better substitutes for wine than tea and other beverages are for coffee. This would no doubt involve changes. I'm glad it was only a hypothetical.

One thing interesting to me was how I chose the less regulated and more tolerated drug, caffeine, over the more frowned upon alcohol.

Also interesting is the fact that my reasoning guiding my decision is the same reason why the best restaurant choices are found in the biggest cities, why Lebron James makes more money than Russell Westbrook who in turn makes more money than the best school teacher in the country, and why Bayer aspirin costs more than generic aspirin--substitutability matters.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I say shame, shame, shame, shame, shame, shame, shame, shame on you

A while back a Scott Sumner post titled American Shadows got me thinking about current practices, policies, and conditions in our society today that will horrify future generations. I have been planning on doing a post on it along with a sister post about current practices, policies, and conditions that will make future generations laugh, roll their eyes, and shake their heads. This week Sumner had another post along the same theme re-inspiring me. I have decided to combine the posts and will add to these lists as new items occur to me.

I grant that a case can be made for an item to be included on the opposing list or both lists. To the extent that this is a prediction (my primary goal), these are all arguable. To the extent that this is a personal commentary passing judgment on our society (a secondary goal), these are all again arguable, but for different reasons.

These are in no particular order, and I am concerned here with western society in general and the United States in particular. Considering the entire world would be a much, MUCH longer list.

Current practices, policies, and conditions in our society today that will horrify future generations:

  • Immigration restrictions
  • Trade policies
  • Drug laws and enforcement tactics
  • Treatment of homosexuals and homosexuality
  • Methods of the FDA, et al. 
  • Abortion as birth control
  • Pain treatment and management intolerance and limitations
  • Law and mores that have kept "amateur" athletes less than fully compensated (the case for this item being on this list is made when viewed in light of injuries and opportunity costs (two separate issues) that compound into life-long set backs). On this front there was a step toward justice today.
  • Updated: Our tolerance for torture and other harsh treatments including prolonged, indefinite detention.
Current practices, policies, and conditions that will make future generations laugh, roll their eyes, and shake their heads:
  • Government-monopolized postal delivery
  • Government-run schooling
  • Gambling restrictions
  • Liquor laws
  • Blue laws in general
  • Tax policy (could easily warrant a spot on the first list)
  • Regulations that aid existing businesses or other powerful interests
  • Our views on many facets of science:
    • Genetic alteration of plants and food
    • Genetic testing and alterations in humans
    • Cloning
    • Stem cell research
    • Our fears and understanding of climate change
  • Updated: The silly ways in which we attempt to be good stewards of the environment such as obsessing about carbon footprints and shallow rationing devices to attain some mythical "sustainability" while ignoring the price system.
  • Updated: Our fears of robots, machines, automation, AI, et al. This quote from a recent Econtalk with Kevin Kelly fits: "Your calculator is smarter than you right now in arithmetic. It doesn't freak you out just because it's a different kind of intelligence." 
Additions to come I'm sure . . .

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Partial list of my favorite things . . .

Partial List of My Most “Controversial” Views
(in no particular order and subject to change)
  1.  Government should ideally exit fully from the activity of funding, administering, sanctioning or otherwise engaging in education. As a second-best solution, the government should only facilitate the funding of education by fixed-amount vouchers issued directly to parents and redeemable by any entity that can demonstrate to a non-government third party that they are an education provider. A qualified third party would be one that a significant number and variety of education providers themselves would recognize as being a legitimate if not desirable third-party evaluator.
  2. Free movement of people into and out of the United States of America should be allowed unencumbered and unlimited except for those who are known felons or who are carriers of highly dangerous communicable diseases.
  3. As a corollary to the previous, the free movement of goods, services, and investment should also be free of encumbrance except for the most extreme cases of vital national interest with great burden of proof put upon the justification for any such limitation. 
  4. The federal government of the United States should eliminate fully the income tax (both personal and corporate), all taxes on capital including dividends and capital gains (short and long term), all excise taxes, and all taxes on estates. There are two desirable replacements for the current tax structure: One is a payroll tax of a certain and consistent (i.e., flat) rate applicable to all employment arrangements whereby the tax is assessed on the fair market value of the total compensation (salaries, wages and benefits) earned by an employee. Another perhaps preferable solution would be a certain and consistent (i.e., flat) rate of sales tax applied to the purchase of all final goods and services. As a method to reduce regressivity, a federal tax rebate could be created whereby all adult citizens are issued a refund equal to the sales tax rate multiplied by the dollar value of the poverty level of consumption and all citizens claiming a dependent would be issued a refund equal to 25% of the sales tax rate multiplied by the dollar value of the poverty level. To aim further in adding progressivity to the system, a marginal 10% payroll tax could be applied to all total compensation above $100,000 with this threshold indexed to grow with inflation. 
  5. All narcotics and other drugs should be completely legalized.
  6. Nearly all if not all zoning laws should be discontinued and dissolved.
  7. Prostitution should be legalized.
  8. The state should cease and desist from all activities involving sex offense registries and notification requirements.
  9. Copyright laws and rules should be very significantly reduced in scope and scale.
  10. Patent protection should be considerably rethought with the aim to greatly reduce their anticompetitive and antidevelopment characteristics.
  11. There should be no occupational licensure enforced by law.
  12. Most not-for-profit, charitable activities are slightly counter-productive at best, highly destructive at worst.
  13. Price controls are an extremely poor solution that fails on efficiency as well as liberty grounds. They should be avoided to every extent especially in times of emergency and crisis. 
  14. Central banking should be replaced by free banking (first-best solution), replaced by a gold standard as described by George Selgin, et al. (second-best solution), conducted with fixed rules in a regime of NGPD level targeting as described by Scott Sumner, et al. (third-best solution).