Friday, October 25, 2019

What Do Weddings and College Football Have in Common?

Besides not going together as in: do not schedule your wedding in conflict with an OU football game and expect me to attend (the wedding).

Weddings, sporting events, and so much more are all subject to alternatives for the audience. And that competition is demanding that average is over.

Consider weddings first. They have to be getting more and more expensive and outlandish just to keep up--not just with each other but with the opportunity costs for the guests. The explicit cost of attending a wedding is time, travel, and gift. Since there is no admission fee to reduce, the only way a wedding can become more attractive is along the quality dimension (differentiation). In the extreme think about trying to get people to attend a Manhattan wedding. Of course it would have to be fabulous! The opportunity cost for guests would simply be too high to allow otherwise.

Now consider sporting events. They face opportunity costs from far substitutes (other leisure and non-leisure activities) and near substitutes (watching the game at home or a friend's house on a giant high-definition TV with no traffic, weather, cheaper food and drink, etc.). Sporting events do have admission fees which means these competitive forces are at work making college football et al. choose a strategy of differentiation (high quality, value-added experiences for select audiences) or low price (mass market to fill enormous venues). Over the long-term the latter strategy probably is suboptimal if not outright unfeasible given competitive pressures and expense demands. It might all become various first-class seating only at the highest levels of various sports.

Thinking back to weddings, people don't need the superficial opportunity to stay in touch that weddings once offered. Social media now provides this. With sports feeling like you are there and a part of it can be closely simulated through viewing on TV, interacting with others via social media or texting, and all the other media/internet follow up.

This goes a long way to explaining the wedding-industrial complex I pondered previously.

Like A Boss: Universal Rules For Looking The Part

Robin Hanson & Kevin Simler may understand this... 

Borrowing heavily from my memory of an article I believe I read in Fortune ("acting like a CEO" or something) about 15+ years ago. You can take this as advice, observation, criticism, or any way you like. I am not singling anyone out in particular, but if the shoe fits...
  1. Laughter is poor form. Shows a lack of control. At best smirk with a "hmph", which could be mistaken for a throat clear. If a slight chortle escapes, shake your head as if to deny the appropriateness of it. Any accidental laughter should leave witnesses unsure if you thought it humorous or thought it humorous that one would think it to be humorous. Never, NEVER giggle.
  2. Avoid any hint of sarcasm and give no indication of any appreciation or even perception for it. 
  3. Refrain from eating sweets in front of others. Act as if to show the slightest attraction to a dessert is to yield to all childish pleasures and reveal a total lack of control. 
  4. Your enthusiasm is just matter-of-fact support for those things self-evidently worthy of praise. You are a charter member of Team Winners. If "they" fail to succeed, it is simply due to some lack of confidence they shamefully did not possess--a concern you had all along. 
  5. In circumstances when normal humans are overcome with visible worry or anxiousness, you are overcome with calm. Emotions are for the weak. You are a stoic. 
  6. If asked to give a solution to a hypothetical problem, instead of a direct answer just reflect poignantly on how you would build a process for avoiding such dilemmas from the start. If asked to give advice, challenge the presumptions behind the question. Never waste an opportunity to obfuscate and go meta.
  7. Never bring your own copies of materials to a meeting. If it is important enough for you to need it, it is important enough that someone will provide it. 
  8. Play dumb if you can use that to your advantage to put an adversary or underling on edge. 

An Idea Ahead of Its Time Is a Bad Idea

Is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) simply way ahead of her time

If someone came back from the future to tell us that in her time (our future) fossil fuels had been successfully banned (first nationally and then worldwide), this would have to be taken as exceptionally good news. 

At the same time if we were to implement a first national and then worldwide ban on fossil fuels today, it would be colossally bad news.  

It is overwhelmingly likely that a ban on fossil fuels sometime in the future can only happen in a remarkably wealthy world. Ironically it will be built on the back of the use of fossil fuels that we will be wealthy enough to eventually ban them.

Religious leaders like AOC don't understand the subtle yet critical difference between our legitimate aspirations and our binding realities.

Politicians follow rather than lead. Perhaps we should be grateful for this when it holds true.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

How Good Will Trump Turn Out To Be?

Is the Trump presidency?
  • A bad aberration
  • A good aberration
  • An extreme version of the norm
  • Just the norm
Be careful how you answer. The is no individually complete and correct answer, and all of the answers have their own negative implications for the U.S. presidency.

Consider the list below an incomplete treatment of the effective progress report. By this I mean what is the practical result rather than how should Trump (and presidency) be rated.
  • His best accomplishments are greatly overshadowed by his bad policies leaving them largely unblemished by the Trump stain. Namely: deregulation (he might be the best deregulator since Carter), tax reform, criminal-justice reform, and court appointments (SCOTUS et al.; these various appointees will soon enough stand on their own records, and I believe they are largely good to very good). 
  • He is moving the Overton Window on questioning those in power while demystifying and deglorifying public office and the presidency in particular. 
  • He is tarnishing if not absolutely destroying the political positions of protectionism, strict immigration restriction, and general intolerance for others. Perhaps once he is done, the mere appearance of being against free trade, immigration, etc. will be political poison for fear of being branded another Trump. Obviously, this is an optimistic take.
  • He has been only as bad if not better than Obama and certainly better than Bush Jr. on war and conflict. 
  • On the other hand . . .
    • He is morally ugly, hateful, and gross.
    • His behavior is embarrassing and insulting.
    • He seems to inspire our lesser selves.
    • He is dangerous in different ways than the recent and possible alternatives--understand this to be far-left tail risk very much including war along many dimensions.
    • He risks giving free-market capitalism and traditional American (aspirational) values a lasting, negative connotation. 
Thinking about The Big Five, here is how I would rate the Trump presidency:
  1. Drug Prohibition - 1.75 out of 4 stars (this improves to 2.75 stars if he legalizes marijuana)
  2. Education - 2.5 out of 4 stars
  3. Immigration - 0 out of 4 stars
  4. Taxation - 3 out of 4 stars
  5. War - 2.25 out of 4 stars 
For a very good related post, check out Fake Nous.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Partial List - Turning the Other Cheek Edition

Partial list of things most humans are too intellectually or morally weak to do (by not doing):
  1. In the face of hostile foreign trade actions (tariffs, quotas, regulatory requirements, etc.), taking no action. 
  2. In the face of violent, atrocious actions in a foreign land, taking no action. 
  3. In the face of financial hardship of well-known large firms and other popular organizations, taking no action. 
  4. In the face of people engaging in activities that are peaceful (not harming others) but nonetheless self destructive, taking no action.
  5. In the face of opportunity to anonymously exploit a faceless entity for personal gain, taking no action.
If we were composed of stronger fibers, the desire to act would be appropriately tempered and "don't just do something, stand there!" would resonate.

[see the sister post "Do the right thing"]

Partial List - Do The Right Thing Edition

Partial list of things most humans are too intellectually or morally weak to do:

  1. When among a crowd engaging in bad behavior, walking away.
  2. When opinions of hatred and cruel intolerance are expressed, stating firmly but kindly that you do not assent and may in fact condemn such thinking.
  3. When points of view and arguments you disagree with intellectually are offered, constructively and honestly expressing a counter view.
  4. When hearing of dreadful behavior by one's government (one's own party or favored politicians especially), behavior one would never themselves engage in, peaceably but forcefully and actively condemning and denouncing the behavior. 
  5. When witness to unethical actions by one's employer or close associates, calling out the misdeed and refusing to participate in it.

If we were composed of stronger fibers, the desire to act would be appropriately stimulated and we would refuse to turn a blind eye.

[see the sister post "Turning the Other Cheek"]