Category Archives: Humor

Conspiracy Theories are Socialist, Man!

An invisible-hand explanation explains what looks to be the product of someone’s intentional design, as not being brought about by anyone’s hidden intentions. We might call the opposite sort of explanation a “hidden-hand explanation.” A hidden-hand explanation explains what looks to be merely a disconnected set of facts that (certainly) is not the product of intentional design, as the product of an individual’s or group’s intentional design, as the product of an individual’s or group’s intentional design(s). Some persons also find such explanations satisfying, as is evidenced by the popularity of conspiracy theories.

— Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia (New York: Basic Books, 1974), p. 19.

The Austrophysicists, Post Astrophysicists, and New Astrophysicists

Stephen Hawking poses a paradox for astrophysicists: the accepted story about event horizons may not be true. I’m not going to pretend like I know what all of this is about. I just wanted to make a quick observation that relates this to economics.

If astrophysics had the same weight in public policy as economics, there would be a significant chunk of scientists — and an army of amateurs — yelling about anti-scientism, obvious errors nobody but them are aware of, and how clearly the facts are on their side. And, their readers would be misguided into believing that there are easy answers in astrophysics, even when the complexity of the problem grows. Anybody who disagreed with these easy answers would be clearly corrupted by politics, ideology, and money.

But, astrophysics, like economics, deals with complex problems, and complex problems have complex solutions. The problem and the solution are usually very difficult to grasp without abstracting from some aspect of it, and our research will, at best, offer incomplete answers. Scientists will come up with divergent theories, because of the way they interpret the problem and depending on what they abstract from. This is a reality we should come to accept; it’s a reality that the institutions of science try to grapple with. The more cynical scientists are typically those who don’t fully embrace this reality.

No Coasean Solutions for Strong Odors

A Southern California company that produces Sriracha hot sauce was ordered to shut its doors, after a Los Angeles County judge ruled in favor of residents who said the smell drove them to distraction.

The odor from the Huy Fong company was so overpowering that some residents suffered headaches, watery eyes and soar throats, CNN reported.

The city said it tried to reach an agreement with the company to install a filtration system that would confine the odors, before pursuing the court route. Huy Fung officials did not immediately comment but in a previous media report, said the filtration system the city wanted was prohibitively expensive.

Cheryl K. Chumley, Washington Times.

I propose a Sriracha tax.

Gender Regulation?

Some argue that financial crises are easier to mitigate if we increase capital requirements. Others argue that maybe financial crises would turn out differently if there were more women working in upper management in the financial sector,

Feminist economists have, for example, been looking at the causes of the current financial crisis and explored how far it would have happened if Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Sisters, arguing that although there are many myths and stereotypes about male risk-taking and female caution that need to be dispelled, there is evidence to show that companies that have larger numbers of women on their boards are more profitable.

 

Correcting the Inflationistas is Self-Defeating

If there is a shortage of money — a demand shortage — and prices are sticky (real cash balances don’t rise on their own), we resort to increasing the supply of money. But, some think that the process of manipulating the money supply is not always very straightforward. At one extreme, the zero lower bound, the conventional process by which monetary policy works is no longer available. This is because when non-money financial assets are earning zero interest, people will reorganize their portfolios to carry more cash, because other assets are no longer earning an adequate premium to compensate for their relative lack of liquidity.

One alternative, or “unconventional,” monetary policy is to target inflation expectations. The Federal Reserve can do this by someway persuading money-holders that the Fed is committing to some inflation rate. Inflation acts almost as a tax on holding money. If people expect the value of their money to fall by some amount (whatever rate of inflation they expect), this may induce them to exchange their dollars for other assets, whether financial or otherwise. In other words, inflation expectations reduces the demand for money, narrowing the demand shortage.

When the Fed originally began its quantitative easing program, there were a lot of people arguing that the end game would be very high inflation, or even hyperinflation. Many bloggers, such as Paul Krugman, have criticized these people heavily. Fed policy, at the lower zero bound, is not inflationary at all! But, isn’t this self defeating? Instead, Krugman, et. al., should flame the fires of inflation fear, letting inflationistas warn without opposition of the impending apocalyptic devaluation of the dollar. In fact, the Fed should hire inflationistas to write for them! That way, they’ll persuade the public and inflation expectations will go through the roof.

Stupid Mistakes

I make a lot of stupid mistakes. But, I’m not alone. Joseph Blatter, president of FIFA — essentially football’s/soccer’s international government —, has recently admitted that awarding Qatar the privilege to host the 2022 World Cup was a mistake. Why? Because he now realizes how damn hot it gets in Qatar during the peak summer months. One alternative is to host the tournament during the winter, but this will conflict with the schedules of the various European leagues.

I’ve made a similar mistake before. I live in San Diego, which has relatively mild year-round weather. In October 2011, I flew out to Toronto, Canada. I didn’t bother checking the weather — it didn’t even occur to me —, so I flew out in shorts and a t-shirt. Boy, was I in for a surprise.