Wednesday, June 25, 2014
The truth of the matter is that I probably wouldn't be writing this post at all and my blog would be sitting dormant for an even longer span of time. Except that, unexpectedly, a complete stranger requested that I blog something. So here it is.
A little context, I am an aspiring poker player. And to get better, I listen to The Thinking Poker podcast. And on a lark I happened to read the blog today where I saw this article. And having made an annual trip to Wisconsin for the last ten years (*), I thought I might share some of the things that make the drive much more survivable, and occasionally, pleasant. Here are the fairly quick thoughts that I had:
1) Break up your trip into 3 hour segments, with scheduled stops for at least 10-15 minutes to let the kids get pent up energy out. Regardless of your dietary requirements, McDonald’s playlands are blessings… except in Indiana where they’re apparently outlawed, since none seem to exist. Plan things like lunch and dinner around these stops.
2) Travel no more than 9 hours per day... meaning 9 hours on the road with kids belted in their seats. Stops will increase the total trip time. But doing this we can usually make about 500 miles a day.
3) At least once per travel day, give the kids some new thing to explore. Puzzle books and books on tape have worked for us. Self contained toys work also. Movies are an option but we try to limit those.
4) Have an ample supply of snacks. But ration them.
5) When you stop for the night, have options for the kids to do something fun. Looking forward to the evening’s activities is a benefit for both adults and kids. Swimming is (by far) our kids favorite.
6) Pack destination bags and overnight bags. The destination bags can remain in the vehicle not to be taken out until you get there. The overnight bags are the only things you should have to unload when you stop overnight. Eases the unpacking & repacking the vehicle when stopping.
The trip that we take is an 18 hour trip, and takes us 2 days each way. I’m not sure if these ideas can scale to a cross-country trip. But if I were going to make such a trip, I would start with this but then be flexible enough to decide if it’s wearing thin by day 4-5.
(*) Holy crap, we've been doing this for 10 years!?
Saturday, April 09, 2011
I recall both President Bush and President Obama arguing that the increased spending was a temporary measure required in a time of economic crisis. This is Keynesian economics. In the time of reduced aggregate demand, the government can temporarily increase its spending to restore aggregate demand until consumer spending comes back to normal. I don’t personally grok this argument. There are a lot of economists who disagree with it. Strongly. They suggest, instead, that increasing spending will simply prolong the problem, and they point to data that shows the great depression didn’t actually end until after WWII, some 15 years (or so) after it started.
But in this case, it matters little. The spending measures were made into law. And we can’t go back and change that.
Here’s the thing, though. If you buy the Keynesian argument that the spending increases were necessary and temporary, then shouldn’t we acknowledge the temporary part? You can argue that they may still be necessary. But if, as the administration proposes, the spending increases stay in place until 2021 (and beyond) on the idea that they’re still necessary that far out, doesn’t that give credence to the original criticism of the spending increases? That they’ve prolonged, and will continue to prolong the problem?
When I look at this chart, I can see no justification at all for continuing spending at these levels. If you believe these spending increases continue to be necessary, then how can you justify that they’ve helped. If they are no longer necessary, then how can you justify keeping them?
What possible reason could we have for not returning (eventually) to the spending levels that we had prior to the crisis?
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Saturday, February 05, 2011
- Someone behind the scenes had to ensure that the best, most clear possible message got out. Hence editors.
- It was too difficult to have a conversation. Responses and clarifications were expensive. Hence you spent a lot of time avoiding conversation with the media unless and until you were certain you knew what you were going to say.
It will likely take a while for all of us in society to get used to how to understand tweets. If you're popular you're likely to end up crossing what was a line using previous technology. Take photogate for example. But this line is less useful given today's technology. If you want more context of what was meant, just keep reading the twitter stream. More will come. And if you don't see it, you can ask. You don't have to rely on a reporter to ask the question on your behalf. You can ask yourself. You won't always get an answer, but you can still ask. And if enough people ask, you'll probably get that answer.
Monday, December 06, 2010
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
But I won’t vote. Here are my reasons:
- I think that being an informed voter is important. I think that being an ignorant voter is destructive. If you're not going to be informed, you can either vote randomly, which seems silly, or you end up voting your biases. Bryan Caplan has written a book called, “The Myth of the Rational Voter”. In it he documents how destructive it is to vote on bias alone.
- The benefits of voting are really quite minimal
- A sense of having performed a civic duty
- An infinitesimally small chance of influencing the results – put another way, odds are *incredibly* high that my vote won’t impact what happens in the election.
- The effort to become an informed voter is high. I really don’t know who the candidates are. I *am* an ignorant voter. I could become informed, but at what cost? Studying candidates requires time. Time that I’d rather use for:
- Being a better husband & father
- Being a better employee
- Studying economics – something that sharpens my mind
- Time contemplating God and his will for me
- Watching my favorite sports teams – something that may be of less social value than voting, but of much more personal value to me.
- Hanging out with friends. Ironically, some of whom will discuss politics.
- Being a better husband & father
So enjoy your votes everyone… but please only vote if you’re informed.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Now imagine that the input to that machine or the output from that machine changes. If the input decreases, but the output stays the same, we should be pretty happy. We have to work less to get the same level of stuff from the machine. Perhaps the input stays the same and the output increases. Again, we’re happy. We don’t have to work any harder, but we get more back from this wonderful machine.
On the other hand, maybe the input stays the same, but the output decreases. That’s sad news for us. We have to produce the same amount but we’re getting back less. Maybe the output stays the same, but now to get that output, we have to put more of our stuff in. Again, this is sad news for us. We have to work harder to get the same amount of stuff back from the magical machine.
So for us good news is when the machine is producing more than we are. Bad news is when we are forced to produce more than the machine does.
Now the magic in the machine doesn’t really have anything to do with it being placed in Iowa. The machine continues to work just fine if it’s in San Francisco. It’s a little less convenient for people from the east coast because they have to travel farther to get to it. But it turns out that we can easily put another one of these machines on the east coast, too. And another one in Texas.
And again what we want from these machines is for them to produce more than we do. If the machines produce more and we produce less, we’re better off. We’re richer because we expend less energy & resources while getting back more.
Now, of course these machines don’t exist. They’re fanciful chunks of my imagination. And (hopefully) now yours. But it turns out that I’m lying to you. Because the machines do exist. They’re called ports, and the mechanism by which they operate is trade. The port in San Francisco deals primarily with trade to and from the far east – primarily China. And the machine is no less magical once it’s called a port. It does exactly what it did when we were calling it a machine. We put stuff into it that we produce and, as if by magic, other stuff that we don’t produce comes out.
But here’s the key: the rules of the port the same as the machine. If we import more than we export, we’re better off. We’re richer. We don’t have to work as hard and we get back the same or more.
Remember this when you hear people bemoan the trade deficit. The trade deficit measures how much work we have to do in order to get back work and products from other people. We are better off when we work less and get more.
The criticism to this view is that “working less” masks what’s really happening – people are losing their jobs. And that’s true. Working less means people losing jobs. But while this is a problem, it’s less of a problem than you might think.
First, people who are unemployed today are dramatically better off than if they were unemployed 100 years ago. Part of this is a result of government unemployment benefits. But those benefits exist only because our society is so wealthy that we can afford to grab some money from the employed and give it to the unemployed. If we were not wealthy enough to afford this, no amount of government imposed rules could make it happen. You simply aren’t going to be able to make the desperately poor better off by taking money from the slightly less poor. To help the unemployed, you need wealth. The point is this: even the unemployed are reaping huge benefits from the trade deficit. Unemployment today is a ton better than it was even just 30 years ago.
Second, while unemployment does cause pain, necessity is the mother of invention. The unemployed are incented to find some niche of production that hasn’t been brought to market yet. So they go searching for something to do. Most will just go looking for another job. But the jobs available to them will have changed. There’s a likelihood that they’ll work in a different industry than they previously had. That different industry is almost certainly newer than the one that they left. It is this mechanism by which entirely new wealth comes into existence. New industry emerges from a new idea that had never existed before. And that new idea, if it’s a good one, makes us all better off.
Don’t be confused: I’m not trying to minimize the difficulty of people losing their jobs. I’ve lost mine before and it sucks. There’s no way around it. But it’s part of a process. And that process is the society of humans re-inventing itself over and over again. Each time slightly better than the last time. And those slight improvements accrue into big changes over time. So much so that, just like today’s unemployed are better off than (probably) everyone from 100 years ago, I would expect that 50 or 100 years from now, the unemployed will likely be better off than most (if not all) of the employed today.
And the key thing at the heart of all this: trade. The more free it is, the more we do, the better off we are. Trying to level the trade deficit will kill the goose that laying the golden eggs.
N.B. I can’t take credit for coming up with the idea of equating a machine with trade. I first read this idea from David Friedman, and more recently read about it from Matt Ridley in “The Rational Optimist”. The purpose of my post here is to solidify the lesson in my head. I’ve discovered that there are a lot of things that I may think I understand conceptually, but that I don’t until I’ve actually written it down. Feel free to point out any errors you find.