Sunday, June 21, 2020

Partial List of Wisdom From Classic TV

"Just the facts ma’am" - Removing emotions and focusing on facts is critical when gathering initial information; like in researching this to relearn that he never actually said it.

"What'chu talkin' 'bout, Willis?" - Question authority, question received wisdom, question those who would sell you a bill of goods.

Father Knows Best - There is wisdom to be learned from one's elders, but also (as the show's ironic title continually demonstrated) the elders are always learning too as they very often do not have all the answers (especially in this case the father who didn't always know best).

"Nip it in the bud!" - Overzealous policing is best controlled by judicious, thoughtful leadership and a soft touch.

"Kiss my grits!" - Stand up for your rights and your point of view.

"Hey, Alex" - Wisdom and beauty come in surprising packages.

"Heyyyy" - Sometimes it is best to say little, be cool, and walk away. Also, it is both desirable to be able to and to avoid jumping the shark.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

What I Got Wrong

And what I got right... an analysis of my Trump predictions. 

I made a list of predictions at the very beginning of the Trump presidency. One year later I did an early analysis of them. Now that we are nearing the end of the first (only?) term, I thought I'd look back to see how my predictions fared. 

I was optimistic in three areas: taxes, regulation, and presidential power & authority

On taxes I was doubly right on the surface--the Congress was the key and they have gotten better. Specifically, we got the corporate tax reductions/improvements that Obama wanted but couldn't negotiate along with improvements for deductions (standard deduction increased making future itemized deduction eliminations more likely and SALT was limited making state and local taxes more burdensome thus more resented). Now, one could very correctly counter that the HUGE increases in fiscal spending fully supported by Trump during and especially before the pandemic are simply future tax burdens. This mitigates strongly against my prediction. 

On regulation I was mostly right if not a bit underestimating of the chances of progress

On presidential power & authority I was mostly wrong so far, but that prediction is a long-game idea that remains to be seen. Perhaps we have indeed grown and are continuing to grow more skeptical and reluctant on this front. Still, I see a conservative base that believes ever more in the legitimacy of strong central power and the left is still AWOL on the issue. I get the strong impression that the left still clings to the nonsensical unicorn theory of "if we just get the right person in charge, all will be well . . ."

The recent pandemic and subsequent police abuse protests stand as testament as the left criticized Trump for not being enough of a strongman and then the right rallied around the police state. And consider the reverse of the optimistic take. What if in 50 or so years people look back at things Trump said and somewhat of how he acted and take it way too seriously--like serious at all? For instance when he says I have absolute power, what if people in the future look back to that as a serious proclamation that a president claimed and wasn’t completely challenged on? 

On the initially overlooked judicial and U.S. attorney appointments I was right one-year in to be optimistic overall. Many have been very good to great like the high-profile case of Gorsuch. 

I was pessimistic in ten areas: tradeimmigrationnationalismwardrug policygovernment meddlingfree speechinternet freedomsurveillance state, and gender issues/tolerance

On trade (it took a while) and immigration I was very pessimistic and right on the mark. Being right about these and others is so very depressing.

On nationalism, gender issues/tolerance, and add to that the missing elements of social division and discord (especially the racial element) I was unfortunately wrongly not pessimistic enough--to be clear I would ideally have been wrong for being too pessimistic. He is a mass polluter in this realm. I fear this has knock-on effects for future "outsider" presidential candidates in that we will overvalue pleasantry over policy by mislabeling those who question the establishment as yet another divisive person.

On wardrug policy, and government meddling my initial (one-year in) analysis was that I had been not pessimistic enough. I think the following years have proved me more correct originally as the wrong positions of the Trump administration softened. 

On free speech, internet freedom, and surveillance state we have the reverse case where matters over gotten worse as of late. My predictions are moving from appropriately pessimistic to another unfortunate case of not pessimistic enough. We'll see...

I'll leave it to the reader to assess how my initial overall prediction has held up:
The Trump years (and they will be years despite the hope of so many for impeachment or that he would divorce America to be president of some younger Eastern European country) might be an odd combination of dramatic progress and colossal retreat. I think the eventual decisive factor will be how strong and righteous Congress is. I believe the case for optimism has a greater magnitude than the case for pessimism, but the negative sensitivity is high--meaning prospects are skewed with more downside risk than upside potential while the balance is still to the upside. 
For my grade on the last part (the balance or risk being to the upside), stay tuned for a provocative post comparing our presidential candidates. 

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Things That Can Both Be True - Mind-Blowing Partial List

Beware of false contradictions. It can be the case that:
  • One is against the drug war (wants to completely legalize all drugs) and is against the use of most currently illicit drugs.
  • One believes that prostitution should be legalized and that prostitution is morally wrong and culturally damaging.
  • One finds many of the actions and policies of the Trump administration have been bad and many of the actions and policies of the Obama administration ON THE SAME ISSUES were bad. 
  • One wants the best for low-wage workers and one is against the minimum wage. 
  • One desires a strong, vibrant job market and one views jobs as an economic cost rather than a benefit. 
  • One believes the government-commanded lockdowns were absolutely bad policies and voluntary social distancing is absolutely good behavior in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • One thinks the United States of America is a great country and the U.S. government with the support of the people of the United States has done many very wrong things. 
  • One believes a highly successful person worked very hard while being very smart and they benefited greatly from luck. 
  • One sees college education is very valuable to college graduates and it is not the best option for a very large percentage of college attendees.
  • One thinks college education is valuable to society and society would be better off with a lot less college education.
  • One strongly supports freedom of speech and strongly disagrees with the specific speech that freedom of speech is protecting.
Updated to add:

  • One believes that the use of fossil fuels meaningfully contributes to a negative effect on climate change and that the use of fossil fuels has been a wonderfully positive thing for humanity and the Earth.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Bargains Not Available

Just a little exercise in futile thinking (aren’t we all doing a bit of that nowadays?). I would swap these if I could

My rough rules on these were that they have to be relatively equal in stature and be games that I experienced—either agony of defeat or thrill of victory. 

I would lose this . . .                                                        To win this . . .
OU vs KU 1995                                                                  OU vs KU 1988
OU vs OSU 1988                                                                OU vs Boise State 2007
OU vs Texas 2018                                                              OU vs Georgia 2017
OU vs Texas 1996                                                              OU vs Texas 1984
OU vs Nebraska 2010 & OU vs Alabama 2014                      OU vs Florida 2009*
OU vs Auburn 2017 & OU vs Texas 1993                              OU vs LSU 2003*

*As they all could be argued, I would admit these are the most arguable as unfair trades.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Partial List of Meaningless, Vague Phrases

I like foreign films. 
I am listening to the experts.
I want to work for a non profit. 
I support worthy causes. 
Failure is not an option. 
The cost going forward doesn't matter because if we retreat now, we will give up everything we have fought for up to this point. 
The team had the "momentum". 
I support sustainability.
This is no time to panic. 
My country right or wrong.
It is what it is.
Rules are rules.
Those who have been successful should give back to society.
We are prepared to do whatever it takes.
I buy American-made goods. 
This time is different. 
We've been here before. 
We should listen to the science. 
If it saves just one life...

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Partial List of The Best Ways to Die

Perhaps apropos in a time of pandemic. Meant not to discourage or disparage. We all will do this eventually.

  • As a martyr
  • In a noble sacrifice
  • For a crime one didn’t commit
  • By plunging into a black hole
  • In vain fighting for a great cause
  • During a peaceful sleep after a life well lived

The Competitive-Efficiency Paradox

A more competition-friendly society will be more efficient (extract more wealth from a given level of resource consumption) which will make it wealthier which will allow it to have more inefficient production. For example, my ability to more cheaply purchase furniture from the finest woodworking craftsmen in the world allows me to myself dabble in woodworking at an uncompetitive, amateur level.

There are two sources of this effect:

  1. My own wealth growing--call this the personal-income effect.
  2. Society's wealth growing--call this the production effect.

I am generally concerned here with the second of these; although, the first is a derivative of the second thus it is in play as well. There are countless examples throughout culture and industry.

Think about this in capital markets. In the past few decades retail-investor trading costs in stocks have plummeted to now be explicitly zero. (Note: if your broker is still charging you a commission for trades, you might need to explore your options.) This massive reduction in cost has allowed a lot more trading to happen--both more traders especially amateurs and more frequent trading. Did this result in increased price-discovery efficiency? Probably some up until a point. But the next new person trading AAPL (Apple Corporation's stock) probably is not bringing new insight into the market. More likely that person is lowering average accuracy ever so slightly. Otherwise, why weren't they trading before this point There is probably enough liquidity in Apple stock so that is not a benefit of an additional trader's trades either.

Here we are suggesting another aspect of this paradox: without easy market entry/exit, we cannot maintain competitive markets. Yet, the next entrant into a highly competitive market is probably likely to be uncompetitive. Ban additional trading or traders for Apple stock and you will unravel quickly the efficiency we have come to enjoy in this highly-competitive market.

Back to the original paradox, is there more efficiency or less? To resolve the problem we should consider it as a continual process as opposed to being linear and finite. We should also expand our understanding of what ends we are achieving. The socialist's fallacy would be to look at two firms both producing cereal and declare this inefficient. "Obviously we could eliminate the duplication as well as the advertising costs by combining the firms," they would proclaim. But this would break the very process that allows for the desired efficiency (higher and higher production at lower and lower cost).

Imagine how disastrous a true socialists should view a marketplace like Etsy. Here the line between hobbyist and profitable craftsman is magnificently blurred. Magnificent because it is the essence of a culturally and materially rich society where experimentation is both allowed and enabled. A society that embraces competition necessarily invites dynamism. This is a foundational principle and an essential characteristic of growth. It is Schumpeter's creative destruction. It is a gift not a curse.