Saturday, April 29, 2006

Success

I have read about early-life crises. Twenty-something who wake up and feel they have no direction at all. They wake up feeling alienated from the world. They wake up feeling everything they have been taught is a lie.

These questions can be seen in Stat Boy's post and my previous posts. I do not think I am in a crisis. I am just tired of struggling to figure things out.

I have spent half of my life redefining greatness. I have no idea of what I want. I know things I do not want, but elimination does not give any satisfactory answers until you eliminate everything else.

But here is my reply to Stat Boy: Success is not publishing meaningless papers in meaningless journals. Success is not being mediocre in a mediocre job. Success is not superficial. Success is deep. Success is waking up and doing what you want.

You have to know what you want before you can be successful.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

accountability

Does a publication make a man? It is production or rather a distribution of ideas or information? Is building a wall for our southern border a symbol of communism? Is it a barrier of ideals? You know what I heard today...when asked if my instructor teaches his private sector "boot camp" class any different than his USDA gym class, he said that the intensity is not much different but he holds the private sector more accountable for their actions. By this he said that "if they are late, they do push-ups" and "they monitor what each individual eats". what does this say about the perception of government "people"? If we cannot hold the person accountable, how can we hold an agency or dept. accountable for their actions? I found myself feeling shameful and pathetic. I gotta do some work.

Sam's State of Economics

Here it is.

I am glad Sam finally recognized the didactic value of economics, but his faith in statistics is depressing.

Here is my oringinal post.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Fairfax Road Time Check

There they sat
Riding home
Well,
A place to sleep
Was he in love?
Was she?
Did it matter?
They would sleep together
Was that good enough?
It was tonight

Increasing Returns To Scale And The State Of Economics

My father started working at a small town grocery store twenty-five years ago. He managed a produce department that sold around twenty in-season fruits and vegetables. He struggled to feed my mother, sister and I.

The town grew and became a de facto suburb of Charlottesville (and Washington and New York). At first $20,000 was a good week for the store. Today $20,000 is a mediocre day. My father now sells over a hundred products. Very few are seasonal. He also owns a video store, four vehicles, and has put two children through private colleges.

The causes of his success are numerous. My grandfather taught him a tireless work ethic. He was lucky. He was on the right side of pecuniary externalities. But some of his success has to do with increasing returns to scale. Some of it has to do with specialization and the expansion of the market. I asked him if he could have imagined his today twenty five years ago. He answered "no."

I asked a colleague who I respect if we could "model" my father's progression. She said, "Of course we can." I do not know if this arrogance is encouraging or discouraging.

To her the model was important. My father's story was not. His success had no economic interpretation without calculus. Economists should tell mathematical stories not anecdotal ones.

I see her as making the same mistake the Soviet Union did. I see her ambition standing in the way of an important insight. She will never fully understand the importance of increasing returns to scale, specialization, and human achievement without appreciating my father's story.

Models are an abstract teaching tool. They are not economics. They are not life.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A Seminar Or A Circle Jerk

I sat in a public room built by public dollars. I was surrounded by public servants given public missions. I listened to a public man spouting a private idea. An idea that privately aroused him and his public fellows. I saw the private stimulation.

I wondered how the public would have felt. Because I felt dirty.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Ultimate Frisbee

I have never played Ultimate Frisbee. I do not plan to play Ultimate Frisbee. I enjoy watching it as I go to class. So, I am going to propose a few rule changes.

1. The frisbee should be live (either team can gain control) after the throw-off has passed mid-field. This rule would add excitement and strategy to throw-offs.

2. Players who caught the frisbee should be able to run backwards (behind the line of the catch)and sideways (parallel with line of the catch) with the frisbee. Even basketball players are allowed to dribble. You cannot advance the frisbee with your feet, but some movement could create the separation needed to make a successful throw.

3. There should be a touchback rule. If a player drops the frisbee in the defenders' endzone (a catch would have resulted in a score), the defending team should be able to start outside of their own endzone (a fifth to a third of the length of the field). This rule could be extended to throw-offs making the throw-off even more exciting.

4. There should be a punt rule. A backed-up team should be able to throw the frisbee down the field. The punting team could not recover the frisbee until the receiving team had control. The number of punts per game could be limited.

This list is the second most pompous thing I have done, but I received an Email from James (Jim) Buchanan. So, my ego has been stoked for no justifiable reason.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Oscar Wilde's The Picture Of Dorian Gray

I read Dorian Gray in high school. I could not appreciate it. I started it again today. I like it much better now. I did not want to stop reading. Of course I only finished fifteen pages before duty (meaningless schoolwork) called, but I cannot wait to get back to Victorian England.

Sidenote: Neoclassical economics was created to justify Victorian England.

"...there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about." (page 4)

My rules of reading:

1. Minimize reading works written in your lifetime. You have lived it. There is no reason to read about it.

2. Read classics. Those who have read the classics separate themselves from those who only know the classics. (Those who do not know the classics are the luckiest people on Earth.)

3. Do not limit yourself. The scientist learns from fiction. The poet learns from science.

4. If you do not like something or do not have time to really read it, stop reading. Reading a bad book is masturbation without climax. What is the point? (My Dad says, "if it ain't worth a fuck leave it on the truck.") You can come back to good books (like Dorian Gray).

5. Always have books you want to read nearby. You never know when you will get a chance to read.

This list is by far the most pompous thing I have ever done. As James Buchanan said in the seminar last week, "Frankly, I don't give a God damn."

Saturday, April 22, 2006

A Way Of Thinking

My definition of economics is different than my colleagues.

I have been to seven seminars in seven days. I have heard seven different definitions of economics. I have not agreed with any of them.

Economics is a way of thinking. A way to see the world. It is not about numbers or money. It is about people. It is about right and wrong. It is philosophy not science.

Economics only sees individuals. Only indiviudals act. I wake up in the morning. I eat. I sleep. I die. Economics does not deny peer pressure or environmental effects, but indviduals decide to accept peer pressure and environments. Only an individual acts.

Economics sees the grandness of human achievement. Fifty years ago there were no laptops, no internet porn, no highly efficent cars. No matter what some of my colleagues say; there was nothing. Fifty years from now our children will say we had nothing. Economists recognize development depends on indiviudal achievement. They recognize the importance of innovative individuals who refuse to allow constraints to impede them.

Economics is not what economists do. One thing I have learned from economics is academic economists are not required. Good economists are philosophers. They teach well. They are entrepreneurs who understand humanity. They approach life with the economic way of thinking. They use reason to solve problems.

For economics to progress we have to teach the economic way of thinking. We cannot continue to do what other economists do. We have to solve problems not describe them. We have to destroy constraints not define them. We have to practice the economic way of thinking.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

"But Leave Your Mind Alone And Just Get High"*

I have been to five seminars in a week.

From the first one I learned marketing students do not know anything about selling. They use fake numbers, over-plan the unimportant, and then pray everything works.

From the second one I learned Masters' students cannot do good work. They have neither the skills nor the time. A Masters' thesis becomes one big compromise.

From the third one I learned one has to do his own talking. When you put it on someone else, things turn out badly. I also learned that playing to an audience will blow up in your face. There can be no compromise on basic ideals.

From the fourth one I learned there are two ways to look at a problem: You can blame other people. Or, you can look inside yourself and fix the problem. "Fix the problem then the blame," has been my Dad's motto for years. It is a good one.

From the fifth one (really a combination of all five) I learned economists have failed to teach anyone anything. Most people do not understand basic economic concepts.

*"Ain't Wastin' Time No More" by The Allman Brothers Band

I Love Economics

I really love economics. I love it so much that I cannot stand to see what it has become. I cannot stand to see how little we have taught the world. I cannot stand to see how little we have done to make the world a better place. I cannot stand the ego of economists.

The question becomes: What am I going to do about it?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Things I Have Heard From Economics' Graduate Students

After reading the story about the middle school teacher who had sex with a student 28 times in one week:

American student to Chinese student: "Have you had sex 28 times in a year?"

Chinese student deadpans: "I had more sex as an undergrad than now."
(This one was much funnier in person.)


Talking about an economics' professor:

Iranian student: "What was God thinking? What a waste of potential..."


Sitting in a seminar room:

Professor: "I still haven't graded your exam."

American student: "I survived a heart attack. I will survive your grade."

Sunday, April 16, 2006

"A Place That Has To Be Believed Before It Can Be Seen"*

Everlasting life is a great concept.

It made life easier and more difficult. It gave us an incentive to live and to die.

Heaven is a brilliant thought.

*U2's "Walk On"

Friday, April 14, 2006

What Is My Essence?

I love the daytime;
When it is raining

"Sleep comes like a drug"
Because of fatigue or boredom;
When it is raining

The lightening strikes
The thunder cracks;
When it is raining

I look out the window
I look for something;
When it is raining

I see God's tears
I hear God's screams;
When it is raining

I see rebirth and forgiveness
I see the winter coming to an end;
When it is raining

I see myself
I see the glory involved in living;
When it is raining

The rain stops
And I am still here

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Sarah Vaughan Singing "Send In The Clowns"

Every now and then something excites me. The feeling rarely lasts. But for a while, I feel alive.

I stole an average grade on a test. I ran across the drillfield. I had stole something. People run when they steal.

It was just an average grade but I felt like the world was okay.

The grade was not important. It was the realization that grades and professors cannot control my life. It was the realization that I am my only judge.

Before the class, I had basically wallowed in my loneliness (thanks for listening ML). I saw life as hopeless. I faked a few smiles and a conversation, but I was dead inside, completely dead.

But I will wake up tomorrow. I have no idea if this a good or bad thing, but waking up is better than the alternative.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Playing It Cool Or What Is An Aggregate Measure Of Risk Aversion?

Life was going good. I lifted lower body for the first time in a month. I had an idea. I had a good conversation. I had an interesting class. I wasted a couple of hours without guilt. I had two more intelligent conversations about life. Life was alright.

Then something stupid (so stupid I am not going to write it down) happened, and I wanted to cut someone from ear to ear. All the doubt, all the fear, all the guilt, all the "second hand" emotions came at once to expel my satisfaction. I had to throw something to keep from crying.

I rode the bus home. I was mad. Then I talked to my Chinese office mate, and I realized I had no reason to be mad.

Now all I can think is "do something." Do something. While I am figuring life out, I have to do something.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Love At The Draper Road Laundry

East Versus West
There you are:
A beauty who survived the East
There you are:
Allowing my eyes to feast
I wonder:
If this will be the only time
My soul will see the light
You shine
I wonder:
If you see me sitting here
Dreaming of an US
That cannot exist
Sun In My Eyes
Why do you hide?
Your hat pulled down
Blocking your beauty
But I see it
No matter your disguise
I see it
I do not know why you are scared
I wish I could relieve your fear
I wish I could tell you:
How beautiful you are
How that hat hides nothing

Monday, April 10, 2006

Young, Intelligent, And Beautiful

Graduate school (and college in general) introduces you to many young, intelligent, and beautiful people: driven people who want to make a difference, angry people who want change, privileged people who take care of themselves, and lost people looking for answers.

The problem is young and intelligent people do not enjoy being around other young and intelligent people. There are good conversations, but most of the time, there is a competitive struggle raging.

The struggle is always about sex, pride, or some other "second hand" emotion. It is never about anything important. There is no hunger in graduate school. There is no lack of shelter. There is no persecution. There is nothing worth fighting about in graduate school.

The struggle is contrived. It is not necessary. It makes life harder than it could be. Rand's "...there is no conflict of interests among men..."

I am not saying competition is a bad thing. I am saying competition should be internal and benevolent. I do not want to get a high grade because of my colleagues, but I want to get a high grade for myself. I want to succeed not in spite of my colleagues but for me. My colleagues' and my success is independent. Our relationship should be mutually beneficial not mutually destructive.

Young, intelligent, and beautiful people working together is a beautiful thing. It is what makes a difference, causes change, teaches one to take care of themselves, and answers questions.

(Why did I write this crap?)

U2's "Please" And"Stay (Faraway, So Close!)"

Please

So you never knew love
Until you crossed the line of grace
And you never felt wanted
Till you had someone slap your face
So you never felt alive
Until you almost wasted away

You had to win, you couldn't just pass
The smartest ass at the top of the class
Your flying colours, your family tree
And all your lessons in history

Please, please, please
Get up off your knees
Please, please, please
Please

So you never knew how low you'd stoop
To make that call
And you never knew what was on the ground
Until they made you crawl
So you never knew that the heaven you keep
You stole

Your Catholic blues, your convent shoes
Your stick-on tattoos, now they're making the news
Your holy war, your northern star
Your sermon on the mount from the boot of your car

Please, please, please
Get up off your knees
Please, please
Leave me out of this mess

So love is hard and love is tough
But love is not what you're thinking of
September, streets capsizing
Spilling over, down the drain
Shards of glass, splinters like rain
But you could only feel your own pain
October, talk getting nowhere
November, December
Remember, are we just starting again

Please, please, please
Get up off your knees
Please, please, please
Please
So love is big, it's bigger than us
But love is not what you're thinking of
It's what lovers deal, it's what lovers steal
You know I found it hard to recieve
'Cause you, my love, I could never believe

Stay (Faraway, So Close!)

Green light, Seven Eleven
You stop in for a pack of cigarettes
You don't smoke, don't even want to
Hey now, check your change
Dressed up like a car crash
Your wheels are turning but you're upside down
You say when he hits you, you don't mind
Because when he hurts you, you feel alive
Hey babe, is that what it is

Red lights, gray morning
You stumble out of a hole in the ground
A vampire or a victim
It depend's on who's around
You used to stay in to watch the adverts
You could lip synch to the talk shows

And if you look, you look through me
And when you talk, you talk at me
And when I touch you, you don't feel a thing

If I could stay...
Then the night would give you up
Stay...and the day would keep its trust
Stay...and the night would be enough

Faraway, so close
Up with the static and the radio
With satelite television
You can go anywhere
Miami, New Orleans
London, Belfast and Berlin

And if you listen I can't call
And if you jump, you just might fall
And if you shout, I'll only hear you

If I could stay...
Then the night would give you up
Stay...then the day would keep its trust
Stay...with the demons you drowned
Stay...with the spirit I found
Stay...and the night would be enough

Three o'clock in the morning
It's quiet and there's no one around
Just the bang and the clatter
As an angel runs to ground

Just the bang
And the clatter
As an angel
Hits the ground

Saturday, April 08, 2006

My Day

I am not cut out for a PhD in economics. I do not know what I am going to do about it, but realizing is the first step.

I ate at a Chinese buffet with three Chinese guys and and an Iranian. My grandfather could never have imagined that scene when he was killing NAZIs. He could never have imagined that scene when he was driving a truck to clothe my father. My father could never imagine that scene when I was born. He could never have imagined that scene when they told him I was too slow for kindegarten. You cannot predict (plan) life. My studies have been good for me.

I helped one of the Chinese guys move a bookshelf. I wish my father (or my sister or mother for that matter) was there to help me. Height and strength moves bookshelves better than calculus.

I ate a decent pizza and drinked good beer. I liked the beer better than the pizza. This preference scares the hell out of me.

I got an Email and a comment which showed I have to be more honest with people.

I have been listening to Billie Holliday. Now she was honest.

(The Braves have no pitching. Was Leo the difference?)

Friday, April 07, 2006

April 15

Rainy day
In the office
Thinking of you
In your office
Wishing the rain would go away
On this rainy day

The last time I saw your face
Was a dreary afternoon in the month of May
All I wanted was to get out of there
Run like hell to some place new
Not better, but new

I guess I never took the time to care about what you wanted
It didn't mean enough to me
All I wanted was to be free

I have no regrets
That time is over
All we have is now and tomorrow
Who cares what might have been?
All that matters is:
What will be?

I don't have time for fiction or history
But I love to read

Just sitting in the office
Thinking of you

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Why Do I Do So Many Stupid Things?

I was a dirty football player. I held. I cut blocked knees. I crotch blocked. I tripped defenders. I would do anything to keep the guy from tackling my running back, anything. I made a defender so mad in high school he started beating my helmet. I did not get mad; I just kept holding.

Sometimes you just have to win. It does not matter how.

There is good writing, and there is bad writing. I read ML's story. All I could say was, "wow." (It can be cleaned up a little, but the ideas come through so smoothly. She reminded me of Joyce's Portrait Of An Artist As A Young Man. I could not understand that book in high school, but I understood ML. Now I want to try Joyce again.)

I have never written anything that good. I have never written anything close to that good.

It depressed me. I tried to convince myself that I had just never written anything that pretty. I tried to convince myself I was not a positive writer. I tried to convince myself my rawness was my strength.

I cannot lie to myself. Just like when I was playing football, I was compensating for my lack of talent. Her story is better. But this fact says nothing about my worth as a human being. I can still bench press more than she can.

I am tired of compensating and pretending. I am a raw guy. I think.

Now, like in the split second when I decided to hold, I have to act. There are too few tomorrows. You never know when tripping makes the difference between winning and losing.

Sometimes you have to win.

Sharing

Nic the Greek said him and I eat too much because of sexual frustration. He has a point.

We also talked about all the things we have. He talked about his DVDs and guitars. I talked about my knowledge. We decided none of it was worth a damn unless we could share it.

The last sentence is sappy, but...

You have to be happy with yourself. You cannot live for someone else. But its nice to have someone to share with.

ML says it best here.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Read This

Read these three free chapters to Russell Roberts' The Invisible Heart: An Economic Romance.

Its not great fiction, but it is packed with ideas.

Spring Struggles

Spring of my 23rd year
All I know is fear

"What is the matter my son?
Why won't you allow yourself any fun?"

The struggle takes time
Patience is no crime

I dreamed I would wear a crown
But the truth is,
I am fucking clown:

Who gets no laughs
Who gets no applause

"Is applause what you crave?
There is no permanent fame
Only the grave"

A house and a wife
Yeah,
That would be a fun life

"The Pretender"
Must put on dark glasses
Must surrender to the masses

But,
I still like to see
I still want to be free

Monday, April 03, 2006

Some Things

I went to the race yesterday. As I was trying to get to my seat, three classmates from Bridgewater yelled my last name from the bleachers. I forgot how good it sounded to get called by my last name. It reminded me of my younger days. I should have went up and talked to them. I am getting old.

Chevrolet ran well. I regained faith in Junior. It was a good day. The only bad thing was "Weasel Dick" Gordon finished second.

The Braves do not have any pitching, but they won today.

After riding back with three colleagues, I thought of this F.A. Hayek quote:

"There is perhaps nothing more disheartening than the fact that there are still so many intelligent and informed people who in most other respects will defend freedom and yet are induced by the immediate benefits of an expansionist policy to support what, in the long run, must destroy the foundations of a free society."

The Constitution of Liberty (339)

Honestly, I do not think two of the colleagues care about a free society. They have been infected with irrational populism and socialism. They would have been good NAZIs or Russian communists.

Life and production not death and taxes:

Death is the greatest sunk cost. Death should not concern intelligent people.

Man created taxes. He can destroy them.

Man created this imperfect society. He can correct it.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Beauty And Beast

He hated riding the bus. It was the lowest form of transportation. People were packed in like livestock. Buses used the same roads that his car used to. They were old and nothing special. There was no allure to riding the bus. It was just a cheap way to get your ass from point A to point B, nothing more.

He won a seat for this morning’s ride. He was longing for something different, when the beauty sat in front of him. She got on at an unusual stop. He could not remember a female joining the fray at that particular juncture.

She was attractive. She knew how to take care of herself. She understood what it took. He smiled at her. She did not see him, because the bus was stopping again and the sudden stop combined with people moving eclipsed his face. The doors opened and the exchange took place.

A boy with unkempt facial hair and a disastrous pony-tail came aboard. The boy was a slob, a slob that did not know anything. He wanted people to perceive him as disinterested, but any man could see through his fa├žade. Disinterestedness meant you did not care about others’ perceptions.

The boy sat beside the beauty. It was time for another smile. But, the beauty began to talk to the beast. She seemed to be enjoying it too. She was enjoying it too much.

It made him angry. A beauty like her needed not converse with a dreg. The boy was insignificant. She was art waiting to be discovered. No, he did not want to discover her, at least not today, but she was being ruined by this worthless fool. His opinion of the boy did not change, but the beauty’s portrait was rapidly depreciating.

The bus stopped. It was his turn to leave the rest of the cattle and head for greener pastures, well, different pastures. It was the beauty’s turn also. The boy had to sit alone and wait.

He let the beauty go ahead of him. She smiled in appreciation; he smiled back.

What To Do

This morning I felt an urge to write. I started a story. I did not finish. I looked at the Ayn Rand Institute's Atlas Shrugged essay contest. I liked one topic, but I decided I am too old for book reports.

Then I found this post in ML's blogosphere. I am not commenting directly on the blog partly because I am misinterpreting the post, partly because I have no courage, and partly because I wanted to write something at length.

It angers me when "fair weather exercisers" do not put their weights back properly. It angers me they do not respect the weight room.

But the "fair weather exercisers" are not the problem in the gym or on the trail. When I lifted at Gold's, I payed $50 a month, but the weights were arranged properly. I saw fewer "fair weather exercisers." Of course there were some, but the $50 a month kept many away. (The explicit and implicit rules [big guys] of the gym forced the "fair weather exercisers" to respect the weight room.)

Now I do not pay any monthly dues. Every taxpayer pays the same. The "fair weather exercisers" pay the same as everyday exercisers. Their taxes have purchased the right to put weights wherever they please. Everyday exercisers cannot cancel their memberships. They do not have any mechanism to force respect. The "fair weather exercisers" are subsidizing everyday exercisers.

I am stealing from those people who do not use the weight room.

The trail is the same way. I have never been on the trail, but I have helped pay for it.

Here is a dialogue from Atlas Shrugged:

"Ragnar Danneskjold: I've chosen a special mission of my own. I'm after a man whom I want to destroy. He died many centuries ago, but until the last trace of him is wiped out of men's minds, we will not have a decent world to live in."

Hank Rearden: "What man?"

Danneskjold: "Robin Hood.""

The modern world is trying to be both the poor peasants and the evil Sheriff of Nottingham with government acting as Robin Hood. We take from gym rats and give to trail blazers. Then we take from trail blazers and give to gym rats. Then we take from the lazy and those who prefer private memberships and give to both the rats and the blazers. Even if it all evens out, it still does not make sense.

We as a society do not need trails and gyms. Some individuals within our society want trails and gyms. Only those individuals should pay for the gym and trails. Then they can enforce whatever rules they want. Then everyday exercisers could avoid "fair weather exercisers." Everyone would be happier.