Friday, November 22, 2013

The Debt Limit

Obviously this topic is completely unreasonable to blog about in a few paragraphs, but I just wanted to throw up this fun video that was made a few years ago (2011) by a couple of Hollywood guys.

 Enjoy.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Economics in One Lesson... not so much

One of the classes I am now taking is Microeconomics.
While much of econ can be distilled to simple equations, it must be remembered that they are trying to explain human behavior using pretty fundamental mathematics.

Among the topics we are now covering is the influence of "social benefit". To explain this graphically, economists try to factor in the social benefit of a product by increasing its "cost". (For example, they would suggest that purchasing a hybrid car has an unaccounted for social benefit cost that is higher than its listed price. Thus while it may have an MSRP of $23,000, it has a social benefit cost of $27,000).

I was fine with the school attempting to preach this to me in class (although it was not without my intervention and statement of disagreement), but I started to get really annoyed when I saw this question on a recent quiz:

--------
Say that in the production of asphalt, manufacturers emit smoke that is harmful to both human and plant health.  If the market for asphalt is allowed to work with no government intervention, the result would be:

--------

Not only is this theory starting to affect my grade (a minor detail as I know what they want, and purposely answered it "incorrectly" anyway), but the question is phrased so that only government intervention can ever hope to contain an industry's perceived wrongdoing.

As subscriber to the free-market theory, this comes into conflict with my understanding and beliefs of economics for a wide range of reasons.

A few examples:
1) I would argue that "social benefit" is a skewed term. In the example of a hybrid car, it is slanted towards the (short-term) environmentalist's lens. Not only have there been many studies showing the increased environmental costs and carbon-footprint of hybrid cars, but simply comparing to gas-only cars, they are obviously more expensive to the consumer.

2) How does one calculate and/or measure "social benefit"?
Using this term as fact has profound implications on our economy and welfare. Government programs are initiated and funded using numbers that often can never be proven.

3) The theory assumes consumers are completely in the dark regarding social issues.
As in the quiz question, it assumes consumers are unaware of the dangers of the toxic smoke; therefore, they cannot take action to boycott and/or voice their opposition to the emission of smoke.

This is only a quick taste of what I believe is a very lopsided teaching of economics, but I needed to get the complaint off my chest.


To those who were wondering about the post title, I borrowed it from 'Austrian' economist, Henry Hazlitt.
If you're interested, be sure to read his book, 'Economics in One Lesson'. It is a great read, especially for those who have always found it hard to understand the logic of economics that is being taught in schools.

For those interested learning more about this alternative school of thought, I suggest checking out Mises.org (in particular, the daily articles).
To those less inclined to read, watch the show: Stossel, to get a taste.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Legality of Obama's "Fix" for Non-compliant Policies

After Obama retreated from his position and apologized for the broken promise of "If you like your plan, you can keep it", I had been wondering about the legality of the reversal and the continuation of non-compliant insurance policies.

Jonathan Adler, law professor at Case Western, then wrote this post on The Volokh Conspiracy, 'The Legality of the Latest ObamaCare Fix'

In short: No, it's not legal for the president to modify the law and allow the old plans to continue.

Long version: Technically, the law is not being changed; the executive branch is simply announcing that they will not enforce the law in this regard.
However, the administration wishes to reserve the right to change their minds at any time; thus the president's vow to veto any legislation that passes and officially changes the law to allow such plans to exist.

I do not know about the intricacies of the federal government, but I do think it's a bit conflicting of the Executive Branch simply decides not to enforce laws that it is Constitutionally (overused word these days, I know) obligated to.
Sort of violating individual rights, shouldn't it be necessary for the E-branch to enforce laws that Congress has passed? This is a large component of the Separation of Powers.

Either way, I think it's an interesting situation that the President has found himself in and am curious as to how this plays out further.

And if this Washington Post article is any indication, it should get a lot more interesting.
'The White House’s Obamacare fix is about to create a big mess' (Washington Post)

More reading:
'Obamacare fix could add millions of dollars in government costs' (CNN)
''Fixes' could end Obamacare as we never knew it' (Washington Examiner)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Musings of a Introvert

I thought article on HBR, 'Personal Branding for Introverts' by Dorie Clark, would be a good topic to start with on my new blog.

Being both an introvert and someone who holds networking and connecting with individuals in high regard, these two aspects are sometimes at odds.

However, I've found several techniques to be helpful, two of which Clark outlines in her article:
First, social media may actually be an area where introverts, who thrive on quiet contemplation, have an advantage. With a blog — one of the best techniques for demonstrating thought leadership — you can take your time, formulate your thoughts, and engage in real dialogue with others. Indeed, while extroverts desperate for their next fix are trading business cards at cocktail parties, you can build a global brand on the strength of your ideas. 
While I don't claim to be any sort of social media expert or utilize it at a fraction of its potential, I recognize the power of a well crafted internet presence.
Next, with a little strategy and effort, you can become a connector one person at a time. A friend of mine used to work at a large research hospital; it was a sprawling institution with countless divisions and initiatives. She made a simple commitment: each week, she’d ask a person from a different office or department to lunch. Often, she’d meet them initially at company meetings or through project work; if the suggestion to have lunch together didn’t arise naturally, she’d tell them about her project, and they were almost always intrigued enough to join her.
I've long known that I prefer one-on-one conversations and meals to large gatherings. While I knew this was much less efficient, I came to accept that this was how I was most comfortable and how I best connected with people.

If you're interested in learning more, I've heard that 'Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking' (Amazon) by Susan Cain is an excellent read and it is another book high on my reading list.

For a taste, here is a recent TED Talk by Cain: