Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Economics

Continuing my economics education, I've read a couple new books. They were both interesting and loaded with references, as you'd expect from authors of their standing.

"23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism" by Ha-Joon Chang, Professor of Economics at the University of Cambridge. For each of the 23 items, Chang first describes "What they tell you" followed by a longer section titled "What they don't tell you." I had some difficulty with this book because it is heavy with discussion of past (and present) economic theories. On the other hand, it's got plenty of real-life examples and illustrations from recent history. Below are Chang's list of 23 things. My favorite "things" were numbers 1, 2, 4, 7, 13, 15, 17, and 22.

  1. There is no such thing as a free market.
  2. Companies should not be run in the interest of their owners.
  3. Most people in rich countries are paid more than they should be.
  4. The washing machine has changed the world more than the internet has.
  5. Assume the worst about people and you get the worst.
  6. Greater macroeconomic stability has not made the world economy more stable.
  7. Free-market policies rarely make poor countries rich.
  8. Capital has a nationality.
  9. We do not live in a post-industrial age.
  10. The US does not have the highest living standard in the world.
  11. Africa is not destined for underdevelopment.
  12. Governments can pick winners.
  13. Making rich people richer doesn't make the rest of us richer.
  14. US managers are over-priced.
  15. People in poor countries are more entrepreneurial than people in rich countries.
  16. We are not smart enough to leave things to the market.
  17. More education in itself is not going to make a country richer.
  18. What is good for General Motors is not necessarily good for the United States.
  19. Despite the fall of communism, we are still living in planned economies.
  20. Equality of opportunity may not be fair.
  21. Big government makes people more open to change.
  22. Financial markets need to become less, not more, efficient.
  23. Good economic policy does not require good economists.



I'm now finishing "Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us" by John Quiggin, Professor of Economics at the University of Queensland. I liked this one a little more, but that's mostly because its written in a more consumable style (less dry and didactic than 23 Things).

Below is a rundown of the zombie ideas that Quiggin covers. For each one, he describes the idea and its original birth, its life, its death, its reanimation, and lastly "After the Zombies" where he looks at alternatives.

  1. The Great Moderation
  2. The Efficient Markets Hypothesis
  3. Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium
  4. Trickle-Down Economics
  5. Privatization

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Pleasant Drive


I took a pleasant drive last week out in the desert. It was nice to get away from the city. Oddly enough, the most expensive gas was in Pasadena where it was over $4 for regular. It was cheaper in Baker, where it's normally very expensive.

I drove some seldom used roads and two-tracks south of Halloran Summit and down past the old Mojave phone booth location. The sandy sections were surprisingly deep and really get your attention. Although the east-west powerline road that crosses the Mojave road had been recently graded.

I stopped to take this photo of Old Dad Mountain. There are two routes I still want to try hiking on that hill. Maybe next month. The weather should be perfect then.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Rattlesnakes

I got myself a book all about rattlesnakes. "Rattlesnakes of the United States and Canada" is a new book and has loads of color photos and descriptions of many different snakes. Mind you, I don't run into them very often. I'd just like to be a bit more informed, since the down side of being bit is often very devastating. If you don't believe me, just google rattlesnake bite and click images and you'll quickly see what I mean.

The snake I encountered last spring and posted here, was a horned sidewinder and only rates 3 skulls & crossbones.

On previous trips, I've run over several Mojave green rattlesnakes as they were sunning themselves laying across the dirt roads in the morning. Since that snake is MUCH more dangerous, I don't feel too bad about that. Those get 5 skulls & crossbones!