Saturday, August 26, 2006

How Do Things Work

Sam, GGM and I have been arguing about change. I argue change can and should come rapidly. Sam and GGM argues change can only come incrementally.

We agree the world faces problems. We agree on world's imperfection. But how do we change the world?

My problem with incremental change is it denies the ideal. People get so caught up in the intermediate steps, in their own actions, they forget the big picture. WTO negotioators forget free trade's universal benevolence in favor of political bickering.

It is Hayek's "good intentions." The WTO is a small step forward. But it does not solve problems. Good intentions pave the road to hell.

Well I have lost the motivation to properly finish this post. Small steps might eventually get us there, but I doubt it. With big steps, we might overstep or blow our load too early. I do not what way is better, but I do not think the answer lies in science, NGOs, or government.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Tribute To

Best sentences I read today

From a Vernon Smith article, "Theory, Experiment and Economics," in the Journal of Economic Perspectives (Winter 1989):

"However, if one wants to gain a greater understanding of economic phenomena, the most productive knowledge-building attitude is to be skeptical of both the theory and the evidence."

"Simultaneously, data should be ever more demanding of the empirical relevance of theory and of the theorist's expertise in working imaginatively on problems of the world, rather than on stylized problems of the imagination. "

"Words, pictures, and formulas cannot convey a lifetime of experiences under the able tutoring of one's experimental subjects."

Random Thought On Economics

Campbell's Select Microwavable Soups provide a quality product at a low price. Tonight I had Italian Wedding soup. It was tasty. I am sure real Italian Wedding soup would taste better. It would have fresh ingredients and less salt, but will I enjoy that much more?

I ate an imported mango today. I let it ripen up for a few days. It was close to heaven. It was nowhere near a tree-ripened Filipino mango, but again, I am not in the Philippines.

What does this say about where the quality of food is going? Of course it is increasing, but will the best fresh food exist in a few years? Will I ever pay for real Italian Wedding soup or tree ripened mangoes?

Advice For Graduate Students

When a graduate student gets depressed, he should read something a fellow student has written, something from someone he considers a rival. If it is good, the depression will at least temporarily turn into anger and desire, especially if it is well done and the reader sees some of himself (but not enough) in the paper.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

They Were Not Perfect, But They Believed In Something"*

*A preacher describing the founding fathers.

You have to believe in something. You have to believe in yourself.

Yesterday Sam got a Chinese fortunate that said character is built upon courage. He disagreed with the fortunate, but the Chinese are wise.

I have been lost in a dense fog for a year. I have no idea who I am, what I want, or why anything matters. I go back and forth between being moderately and mildly depressed. Everything I have done has been half-ass. From the outside, it is a sad situation. From the inside, it is frightening. It feels like I am locked in a closet. Every now and then, I see the light, but the light does not stay.

My fear, my depression comes from fear, from the lack of courage. I do not have the courage to look into the mirror. I do not have the courage to get out of bed. I do not have the courage to distinguish between right and wrong.

Very few know who they are, what they want, or why anything matters. But they find the courage to act. Action requires courage. Blind action, action for action's sake accomplishes nothing. But sometimes, you have to weigh the odds and roll the dice.

Rolling the dice takes courage.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Crazy Way

My Dad used to say, "There are three ways: the right way, the wrong way, and the the Agnew way."

Agnew was a hard-headed store manager that treated his employees like an overseer. He could not see his employees as people. He thought everyone who worked for him was stealing money from his wallet. He was an asshole.

But the Agnew way was really a mix between the wrong way and the right way. Agnew understood discipline. He understood what it took to be successful. He understood how to work. Both my Dad and I learned a tremendous amount from him.

So I am adjusting my Dad's saying, "There are three ways: the consensus way, the dumb way, and the crazy way."

Doing things the consensus way is easy. It requires no thought, no questions. You do what everyone else is doing. There is a good chance the consensus way is the right way.

Doing things the dumb way is stupid. It requires doing something you know is wrong. Most people do not do things the dumb way. (Note: The dumb way is sometimes refereed to as the American way, the Chinese way, the Albanian way or the WannabeBastiat way.)

The crazy way is the fun way. It requires taking a chance, being a man, courage. It requires flipping the finger at consensus at the risk of doing something dumb.

Sometimes the crazy way leads to progress. Sometimes it makes you look like a fool.

Maybe it is not so bad to be absolutely fucking crazy.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Zhe Mad Dogs, Zhe Englishmen, And Joe Cocker

The poetry of Leon Russell sung by Joe Cocker:

Woman of the country now I've found you
Longing in your soft and fertile delta.
And I whisper sighs to satisfy your longing
for the warmth and tender shelter of my body.
Oh you're my, yes you're my Delta Lady
Yes, you're my, me oh my, Delta Lady.

Please don't ask how many times I found you
Standing wet and naked in the garden.
And I think of days and diff'rent ways I held you,
Held you closely to me, yes our heart was beating.
Oh you're my .....

Oh, and I'm over here in England;
But I think of you, think about you ....
Because I love you,

There are concrete mountains in the city
And pretty city women live inside them.
And yet it seems the city scene is lacking.
I'm so glad you're waiting for me in the country.
Oh you're my ....

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


I was sitting on the toilet reading Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom when I started to think:

I do not matter. My significance in only in my head.

I either overtip or undertip attractive female waitresses. When I am thinking with my dick I overtip. When I am thinking with mind I overcompensate for my superficiality and undertip.

Being happy does not come from the lack of stress, but the ability to react to stress.

We had this saying at Bridgewater, "If he is so damned good, why he is playing D-III. " That is an important statement to keep in mind in life.

I care about things no one else cares about. The only thing I care about is myself. No one else gives a damn.

Whit Stillman's wisdom rings true:
Man at Bar: The acid test is whether you take any pleasure in responding to the question "What do you do?" I can't bear it.
Nick Smith: Rick Von Slonecker is tall, rich, good looking, stupid, dishonest, conceited, a bully, liar, drunk and thief, an egomaniac, and probably psychotic. In short, highly attractive to women.

Society does not stand on trust. Society's foundations are incentives, the whip, sexual desire, religion, and courage. Trust comes secondary.

I will not be afraid. Being afraid is being stupid. I will not be terrorized.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

"The Pretender" Tries To Work

He could not be friends with anyone, especially superiors. He was much too arrogant to like somebody that was his boss. He was so afraid to disappoint or fail them. He lay in bed in the morning dreading failure. His stomach ached with failure. He wanted to medicate the pain; he wanted to pacify his mind; he wanted to run to keep from hiding. He wanted.

And that was it. He wanted. He tried to deny wants for so long. He had learned expecting little rarely disappointed. It was the way he lived his life. He scratched his head. He rubbed his face. He decided to let it go, but he could not. He could only pretend.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Things I Learned This Week

1. I am bald. Every time I get a haircut, I get balder. There is nothing I can do about this. It is something I must accept.

2. Everyone should read an English grammar book once a year. English is a complicated but great language.

3. A sexy woman is more dangerous than a good woman. But a woman who is both sexy and good can kill a man without touching him.

4. I am crazy, absolutely fucking crazy. This is another thing I have to accept.

5. All there is in life is right now. The past and future do not matter. (Thank you C.S. Lewis and Jeff.)

6. You cannot be angry all your life.

7. A woman's scent is enough.

8. Everything is going to be okay.

There is this guy who comes to the gym that looks like a cross between Gary Busey, Nick Nolte and Robert Redford. He is 60 years old and carries himself like Gary Busey, Nick Nolte, or Robert Redford. He thinks he is hot shit and gives the impression he might just be.

Today he walks into the gym with a woman half is age. She is somewhat attractive. She looked like the intellectual type. I doubt if anyone had ever told her she was beautiful before the old guy did. They are holding hands and kissing. I am getting sick.

At first I convinced myself the whole thing was a crock. He did not love her. He loved screwing a woman half his age. She thought she was in love, but she was fooling herself. She had fallen for his sophistication and how he always knew what to say.

While we are changing, he starts whistling. Here is a whistling 60 year old man completely naked. After the horror of being in a room where a naked old man was whistling subsided, I decided maybe he was in love. And even if was not, he must be happy.

I thought about the somewhat attractive intellectual changing in the women's locker room. After I quickly forgot the image of her naked body to prevent embarrassing myself, I decided she was probably happy too.

What more can anyone ask for?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Meant To Do This Yesterday

Here is a post from another blog.

The blog's title describes my current stance on economics.

I am a rationalist. I believe in reason. I believe in science. I believe in the scientific method.

But statistics is not science. Economics is not science. Calculus and a special kind of statistics (econometrics) does turn philosophy into science.

Rigor can be overrated. Making something more difficult than it can be is the opposite of science. A basic premise of science is parsimony. Alfred Marshall threw this out of the window. Economics has not recovered.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Things Happen

A colleague got shit on yesterday. Instead of flying off the deep end, instead of blaming the world, instead of tapping out, he decided things happen for a reason. I disagree with his "covered with shit" decisions, but he made me think.

I went to church tonight. It was an uplifting experience.

We started off with a hymn that contained the refrain "I want to be a worker... in the vineyard of the Lord." I want to work. I need work like oxygen. Work is the poor man's Prozac. But you have to do the work you love. It cannot just be a diversion from depression. It has to be fulfilling. It has to build and maintain your confidence. It has to be something you can do well. It has to be you.

The sermon had a two-pronged message. First, do not let the things that do not matter interfere with what matters. As Bruce Hornsby said, "job is to shed light, not to master." Just because a letter is missing does not mean something is of no value. Just because I am not going to be great, does not mean I should kill myself.

The second message (adapted for my audience) was everything is not an empirical question. Free trade is good. Subsides are wrong. That tariffs and subsidies exist says nothing. You cannot win an argument with statistics. Just because something exhibits a chance regularity pattern does not say anything about causation. Evidence cannot trump common sense.

Here is my Email to another colleague who was close to the shitted on colleague:

"The most successful people in academia are assholes. To be a good graduate student, you have to always put yourself first. It isn't about principles or intellectual integrity. It is about taking care of yourself and not worrying about what makes sense.

The only thing I have learned from economics is economists are not needed."

I believe everything I said in that Email. But that says nothing about what I should do. It says nothing about right and wrong.

Things happen, maybe for a reason, maybe not. But it is up to you to decide what to do after they happen.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Best Article I Have Read Lately

Jason Whitlock does it again. He is one of the few guys at ESPN who understands the fine line between professional sports and professional wrestling. He even sounds like a libertarian every now and then.

Mike Lupica and Mitch Albom are sports snobs who are jealous they were not gifted with 4.3 speed or any athletic talent. They take their inadequacies out on athletes.

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Allman Brothers' "Soulshine"

by Warren Haynes
(c) 1995 Sony Music Entertainment Co.
Transcribed by Sean Carpenter

When you can't find the light,
That got you through the cloudy days,
When the stars ain't shinin' bright,
You feel like you've lost you're way,
When those candle lights of home,
Burn so very far away,
Well you got to let your soul shine,
Just like my daddy used to say.

He used to say soulshine,
It's better than sunshine,
It's better than moonshine,
Damn sure better than rain.
Hey now people don't mind,
We all get this way sometime,
Got to let your soul shine,
shine till the break of day.

I grew up thinkin' that I had it made,
Gonna make it on my own.
Life can take the strongest man,
Make him feel so alone.
Now and then I feel a cold wind,
Blowin' through my achin' bones,
I think back to what my daddy said,
He said "Boy, in the darkness before the dawn:"

Let your soul shine,
It's better than sunshine,
It's better than moonshine,
Damn sure better than rain.
Yeah now people don't mind,
We all get this way sometimes,
Gotta let your soul shine,
shine till the break of day.

Sometimes a man can feel this emptiness,
Like a woman has robbed him of his very soul.
A woman too, God knows,
she can feel like this.
And when your world seems cold,
you got to let your spirit take control.

Let your soul shine,
It's better than sunshine,
It's better than moonshine,
Damn sure better than rain.
Lord now people don't mind,
We all get this way sometimes,
Gotta let your soul shine,
shine till the break of day.
Oh, it's better than sunshine,
It's better than moonshine,
Damn sure better than rain.
Yeah now people don't mind,
We all get this way sometimes,
Gotta let your soul shine,
shine till the break of day.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Lyrics That Caught My Ear

"Well my idea of a good time
Is walkin' my property line
And knowin' the mud on my boots is mine"

From The Marshall Tucker Band's "Property Line"
I did not know Marshall Tucker were libertarians.

"When you hang up that phone
Well you cease to exist"

From Fleetwood Mac's "Welcome to the Room Sara"

"If you wrote all the woman's names down I know
And let me pick one out
I don't think there'd be one in the whole bunch
Aw I'd give a hoot about"

From The Marshall Tucker Band's "This Ol' Cowboy"

I am not trying to be a misogynist here.

Relationships cause so much enjoyment and so much pain. Think about how much energy "love" creates and how little anyone knows about "love."

Friday, August 04, 2006

Columbia Market

Rest stop in some Carolina
Old Man doesn't drive but
Doesn't sleep either
Big Man drives
But wants sleep

Time to switch
Old Man will take us in

Red Columbia lights
Sleeping town
Old man revs the engine at every stop
Big man wakes up
"Best deals made before daylight"

Old man looks at every stall
Big man looks too
Neither happy but finally satisfied

Hot as hell
Breakfast in the diner
Old man knows everything
Big man knows almost everything
All I know it is hot

Almost home
Still hot
But we are almost there
Mama missed the exit
But Big Man Doesn't
151 never seemed so long

Truck is empty
Sleeps comes easy

15 years later
I miss those long hot days
I miss the Old Man
The Big Man has become old
All I wanted was to be a man
Now all I want to be is a child
Sitting in the middle
Between the Old Man and the Big Man

But the one thing I learned
From the market
You cannot be a child
When you are tired
When it is hot
You have to keep searching
For the best deal

Eventually you have to load
Get back home
And sell

The market
Will always be hot
You will always be tired
But the best deal awaits

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Quote And Questions

"Some of this bullshit is pretty cool." ~Bono speaking about the Zoo TV tour

I have forgotten how fun the bullshit can be.

As an economist do I have to champion the market?

As a libertarian do I have to champion the market?

What is happiness? Is it personal or social? Can I be happy if someone I know is not?

What is good management? How important is performance? Is it all about presentation?

If I was the last person left on Earth, would I be able to survive? Would it be worth it? How would I know I was the last person on Earth?

What is more important arithmetic or calculus?