Saturday, August 15, 2015

Highly Linkable

Never eat a bad meal again says Todd Kliman. And don't miss this link in the article.

Scott Sumner on NYC's regressive property taxes and the residential building worth as much as many cities' entire residential markets.

Perhaps they should try rent control? Oh yeah, that is acutely harmful for the poor as well as Megan McArdle points out. In other news local area hospitals are considering blood letting as a cure for cancer.

Of course, public schools play a big role in distorting property values. The performance at NYC's private charter school Success Academy may bring some changes to that.

Think you understand Richter? Think again.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Tourist's Perspective

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.
--Mark Twain
Something I've been thinking about is how regular, routine life is a constant business trip for most of us. Yet it doesn't have to be. When we are truly on a leisure vacation, we can let go and detach. At least that is what we should be able to do.

Some are better at it than others. Some travel with a sense of obligation to see the things they are supposed to see and an expectation that the world owes them something. Those with this attitude tend to be miserable whether on the holiday road or not. For them the answer to 'how much does it cost?' is always 'how much do you got?'

Others take a healthier perspective viewing travel as a quest for fun. To unwind, explore, and grow--spiritually, mentally, physically. There is no reason to limit this quest and this mindset to the 10 days a year you sleep away from home. Sure the world can be hot and dangerous, but it is also amazingly rewarding.

I think taking on what I call the tourist's perspective opens up the world and frees one's mind. In that way anywhere we are becomes Disneyland for us. Chicago, for example, is a staged adventure set up for us, provided we don't live in Chicago or have significant ties to there. What I am suggesting is that we take that ethos and apply it to our constant travels through all of life. Chicago should be stunning to everyone including the most serious Chicagoan.

A good tourist is an observer who assumes the world is working fine without him; perhaps he can contribute and improve, but he treads lightly. When he sees something he doesn't understand, he first assumes it is correct and he is confused. He is a enthusiastic student and a reluctant teacher. The model is more like Anthony Bourdain rather than Christopher Columbus. Read this and understand that it is not just advice for how to see Europe--it is advice on how to see life.

In the tourist's mindset we don't take anything too seriously, we're more willing to compromise and roll with the punches, and we aren't possessive; of course, this may mean we don't take full ownership of our actions. Like anything, it can be taken too far. We cannot live life constantly under the credo 'What Happens In Vegas Stays In Vegas . . . and everywhere is Vegas'. But you have to have a credo, and something closer to the tourist's mindset should guide us at home and abroad. I say, go for it!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Highly Linkable

Been travelling, so been behind. Some links to begin the catch up:

A podcast about when a teenage founder of a fictional company gets bought out for real money by the adults he "fired" for being too adult.

Expensive wine is for SUCKERS!

A wonderful example of how exploitable scientific study can be especially in the realm of health--study shows eating chocolate helps weight loss!

Speaking of food, a conversation with food historian (and contrarian) Rachel Laudan. One slice,
It´s to restore some sense of the benefits of modern food so that we do not waste time and energy trying to turn back the clock but can continue to improve our food system and disseminate those improvements as widely as possible.
Russ Roberts on recently being on Paul Krugman's bad side--I'm fully with Russ, of course.

Small but important steps on the road to education freedom.

Funny thing happened while we were wringing our hands over colony collapse disorder--the market (already) adapted to it minimizing the problem. (HT: Arnold Kling)

John Cochrane addresses one of the most fundamentally important questions in U.S. political economy--how to attain sustainable 4% annual economic growth. I fully (wistfully) endorse his short list of policy solutions.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Choice: When Less Is More

Last week I attended the annual Morningstar Investment Conference in Chicago, Illinois. Of course, I didn't wear my sunglasses (a little inside money management humor).

Just a brief observation. At breakfast the second day I commented to my colleague who had made the trip with me, "Not to channel Bernie Sanders, but I appreciate the limited selection of this morning's breakfast. At free-buffet-style events like these too many choices allow my eyes to be bigger than my stomach--and I tend to over eat."

To be sure it wasn't Venezuela-level restriction. There were the typical bran, blueberry, and banana-nut muffins, a combination of egg with cheese on an English muffin by itself, with bacon, and with sausage, a little bit of fruit, and yogurt. All coupled with juice and coffee. This breakfast was thorough and well thought out.

So it wasn't vast choices I truly wanted to avoid. I just wanted someone else making them. I wanted curation, and to my estimation that is what I received. That said, as I approached a trash can to discard my empty plate, another attendee converged with me upon the same task only his plate was mostly full. Despite not knowing me, he made plain his opinion of the meal, "What a shitty breakfast!"

Capitalism can't win. If the consumer has to make the choices, they are overwhelmed (according to the likes of Sanders). If someone makes the choices for them, some leave unhappy--no doubt spoiled by the unrealistic cornucopia that other experiences in a capitalistic system have brought. One man's curated meal is another man's shitty breakfast.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Highly Linkable

Aziz Ansari says we're lookin' for love in all the wrong places and in the process channels his inner economist.

This is an awesome new project on Hayek by Don Boudreaux. Be sure not to miss the short videos.

Life is getting better, one thread at a time . . . Project Jacquard by Google.

Alberto Mingardi argues that locavorism is anti quality and anti quantity of life.

Charles Murray wants us to fight (federal) city hall. Arnold Kling dissents insisting exit rather than voice is the answer.

"Scott Alexander" breaks down the California water problem very well and offers some good ideas for solutions.

John Cochrane takes to task Richard Thaler and behavioral economics.

"Minimum wages are great . . . except for us," says LA County union leaders.

Scott Sumner explains how people get confused about monetary policy thinking of it as credit policy. No matter how much cash Apple acquires, it cannot conduct monetary policy.

Bryan Caplan has a simple request: unlock the school library.

I find counter-conventional wisdom delicious--in this case literally so. As illustrated in this Bloomberg article, barbecue impresario Meathead Goldwyn can tell you everything you are doing wrong on the grill (for me it was several things and counting). And he applies science and logic to the process. Bon Appetit!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Highly Linkable

We begin with some short videos:

The NFL Draft was last week. Brian Burke re-examined Massey and Thaler's landmark paper "The Loser's Curse: Decision-Making & Market Efficiency in the NFL Draft" applying the new CBA. The findings are interesting in that there continues to be little to no surplus value at the top draft picks with a lot to be had in the second and third rounds. This is not what the typical football fan (or GM) wants to think. Just to illustrate, look at what the Buffalo Bills did.

The supply of land (like all resources) is not fixed in the long run (and the long run does not mean a long time from now)--so explains Don Boudreaux.

Warren Zola asks, "What IS the NCAA's mission?"

Arnold Kling has a new meme: Teaching Emergent Economics. Don't miss the first one on trade as a technology.

Sumner argues that investing is not like guessing the winner of a beauty pageant as suggested famously by Keynes.

I love this technique, The Mellow Heuristic, Bryan Caplan argues using for adjudicating intellectual disputes when directly relevant information is scarce. I discovered it for myself and have used it since late childhood. 

Never shy of asking the tough questions, Robin Hanson asks us to rank the sacred.

Would you/should you/could you pay for a dinner reservation--so asks Tim-I-am Harford.

Finally, some counter-conventional wisdom (AKA, stuff people are getting wrong):

  • Alex Tabarrok exposes what business journalists and some economists don't understand about efficiency wages--their idea that paying workers more works magic.
  • Terry Burnham empirically challenges the idea born of Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow and echoed by Gladwell's David and Goliath that simply making problems harder to read improves test taker results.
  • Ken Popehat White breaks down what an emblematic McClatchy column on free speech gets wrong.
  • Alex Tabarrok appears again to show how Jon Stewart is wrong on many levels about education in Baltimore.
  • Scott Sumner says basically NOBODY understands the concept of "currency manipulation".

Why Are We Afraid Of Getting Smarter?

What I would watch for over the next 15 years are developments that enable humans to evolve more rapidly, in order to compete with machines.
That is from Arnold Kling discussing Vinod Khosla's essay about the next technology revolution.

Thinking about the singularity and perhaps it is a bad analogy, but will our future robot overlords be of the demeanor of teenagers or middle-aged adults ... or grandparents, and will they be male or female? Will they be an it or a they (a collective like the Borg or individuals)? Will they be Mr. Spock or Navin Johnson? In other words, how human will they be and how much will that hold them back?

Despite all the worry about the singularity, I come down firmly on the side that advances in AI, et al. will be used to radically improve humans. I foresee improvements by orders of magnitude to cognitive abilities in addition to health, strength, and other physical attributes as we advance scientifically and economically. Basically we are some future cyborgs' impoverished ancestors. And of course realize that from nature's point of view up to now we have been the super AI.

Also, to counter the doom and gloom regarding the loss of jobs taken by robots, I offer (in addition to this evidence): Some people predicted the device that is the modern smart phone, but who predicted the massive size of the app universe that serves it? Some predicted how computers would bring productivity enhancements and job replacement/elimination in modern business, but who predicted the magnitude or breadth of information technology jobs?

It is much easier to imagine the elimination of work through improvements. It is much harder to imagine what it takes to get there and what else is created along the way. It is simple to master a pencil and imagine how useful it is immediately upon first encounter. It is virtually impossible to fully comprehend what it takes to create a pencil or to conceive of the smallest sample of that which it can be used to design.

There is always more out there.