Category Archives: Humor

Ten Rules for the Internet Economist

Here are some general principles I’ve derived from my experience. These are all for fun,

  1. If someone uses the word “obvious” to describe their idea, there’s a high probability that it’s not so obvious;
  2. On the internet, nobody knows what they’re talking about when it concerns the volatility of gold stocks;
  3. The more certain about their conclusions someone is, the more skeptical you should be about those conclusion’s validity;
  4. (This one is for writers. Yes, I do need to follow my own advice more.) If you think your reader “didn’t get the point,” high odds say your post wasn’t as clear as you thought it was or you’re wrong — practically, no odds say your reader is wrong;
  5. If someone accuses you of indoctrination, it’s more likely that person is indoctrinated;
  6. If, in a debate, someone resorts to listing all the supposed logical fallacies you’ve made, walk away;
  7. There is more to economics than Keynes and Hayek;
  8. The more the author uses umbrella terms to describe ideas they disagree with — e.g. “Keynesian,” “statist,” “cult-like,” et cetera —, the more skeptical you should be of their conclusions;
  9. If someone accuses you of not knowing “basic” economics, it’s likely that they themselves don’t know “basic” economics;
  10. If someone asks you to go read something (unless it’s their own work), there’s a high likelihood that they don’t understand the argument well enough to restate it themselves.

Stupidest Man Alive

I apologize to Brad DeLong for taking the name of his “award,” but it’s for a good cause,

Harvard Professor and author Niall Ferguson says John Maynard Keynes’ economic philosophy was flawed and he didn’t care about future generations because he was gay and didn’t have children.

Tom Kostigen.

Edit 1: Actually, DeLong has already commented on this, tracing the claim to Gertrud Himmelfarb.

Edit 2: Nial Ferguson apologizes. I don’t doubt his sincerity, but what possible cost-benefit analysis could have led him to make those remarks when he did?



My introduction to classic rock was more-or-less preordained, since it is one of the three styles of music my listens to, and probably the principle one he forced on me by playing it on the radio whenever we drove anywhere (although, I never really caught on to this two other preferred styles: country and classical). But, sometimes in high school I took the jump from classic rock to some heavy metal (I suppose) when I bought my first Iron Maiden album. I think I was more generally moving to the music of the 1980s, including the different styles embodied by bands like Iron Maiden and The Ramones. I’m a 90s child, so it makes sense to fill in the gaps between what my dad listens to and the stuff I was exposed to through my friends (my first rock album from the 90s, I remember, was The Offspring’s Americana, which was released in the late 90s).

I immediately fell in love with Iron Maiden — although since then I never really dove into other heavy metal bands — and I decided to put it on in my dad’s music system. Suffice to say, he wasn’t into it and I don’t even think we got through the first song, “Run to the Hills” (the album was their greatest hits). To me, this music was close enough to classic rock to sound essentially the same. 80s heavy rock and metal isn’t exactly unknown to those who listen to classic rock radio stations: Def Leppard, AC/DC (the Brian Johnson era began in 1980), Whitesnake, et cetera. These were all bands that were founded in the late 1970s, but rose to fame in the early to mid-1980s, and Iron Maiden more-or-less belongs to this group (“hair metal”) — at worst, the band represents a transitional music from early hair metal to bands like Metallica. Long story short, I thought my dad would enjoy it. But, I was wrong.

I’m sure that to my dad this was borderline heresy. For him, Iron Maiden was nothing like the music he enjoys: AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, and other heavy rock that’s closer to the style of the late 1960s to the late 1970s. But, this is an interesting paradox. One person things that the styles are similar enough such that a person who enjoys one should enjoy the other. Yet, the other person thinks they are completely dissimilar, one being enjoyable and other not.

The reason this thought comes to mind is that it resembles the question of intellectual purity. Take the Austrian School, for instance. Some have argued to the effect that the Rothbardian tradition represents the “purest” of the school, and look upon Austrians who might take somewhat different positions as having deviated. On the other hand, many of those who have deviated consider their position to be similar enough to the rest of theoretical body of the school that for all intents and purposes they are also within the Austrian tradition. It’s ultimately all a question of relativity. Of course, in economics this kind of territorial demarcation is more damaging, since, unlike music, there really is an objective correct body of economic theory. In both instances, focusing on toeing the line stinks of conservativism, in the literal sense of the word: dragging one’s heels against progress. But, whereas in music it’s trivial since taste is subjective, when it’s done in economics it’s unscientific.

Note: This isn’t a criticism of the Austrian School or any particular self-declared camp within it. I could just as well have used “Keynesian School” and used “New Keynesians” and “Post Keynesians” as two warring camps (the latter being the most vocal, by a long shot, in arguing for intellectual purity in the tradition of Keynes). It’s just that I don’t know other schools as well, and since I’m an Austrian I think it’s in better taste to attack myself.

The Libertarian Economist in One Graph

This is meant to be quasi-facetious, but there’s also an element of truth in it. “Ignorance” is meant to be the opposite of “knowledge.” Finally, note the title of the post, the graph doesn’t argue that those with a growing “impulse to intervene” are “ignorant” — this is the libertarian economist in one graph. For all you sticklers, the elasticity of the curve is completely arbitrary.

Ignorance and Impulse to Intervene

Applying One’s Education

Traffic2000PosterOne movie I like to watch again, every once in a while, is Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic. Probably because I’ve been working with econometric tools recently, the scene where Eduardo Ruiz (actor: Miguel Ferrer) talks to the two DEA officers who arrested him at the beginning of the film, Montel Gordon (actor: Don Cheadle) and Ray Castro (Luis Guzmán), really stuck this time around. Ruiz is cooperating with Gordon and Castro, giving them someone higher up than him in the local drug trade and explaining how their business with the Tijuana Cartel works. He explains their strategy for getting a sufficient number of drug-laden trucks across the border to keep the business profitable: regression analysis. Not only do they find the statistical probability of being searched while crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, but they also know which variables, statistically, have the highest impact on that probability (allowing them to reduce the probability even further).

Moral of the story: even if you’re one of those kids (like me) who could live by putting off mathematics and statistics/econometrics until the end, always remember what you learn and sharpen your understanding. You never know when that stuff might come in handy, especially when you’re risking the rest of your life by running a drug smuggling business.

Terrorism? Only Nominally

Paraphrased from a multiple choice intermediate macro. quiz (I’m serious),

Q: Why do many governments not negotiate with terrorists?

A: If they do, it may be an incentive for more terrorism.

Follow up,

Q: How does this relate to monetary policy?

Possible A: The chairman of the Fed is a terrorist.

(N.B. The correct answer has to do with Fed credibility.)

On Zombies

I don’t own a television, instead preferring to watch everything through Netflix, so I might be a season behind, but everytime Netflix uploads the new season I like watching The Walking Dead. I’m not the biggest zombie movie fan. It’s not that I dislike them, but I don’t have the urge to go out and see them. So, my experience with zombies from different movies is limited to the typical, well-known films: 28 Days Later (and the sequel), some of the living dead movies, Army of Darkness (if that counts), et cetera. If you know of “realistic” zombie movies, let me know. But, there are some basic things that I wonder why directors don’t fit into their concept of zombie.

Of course, there’s a point where you have to admit that “it’s just a movie (or show).” At the same time, though, newer movies tend to incorporate more detail in terms of “realism.” I include realism between quotation marks, because making a zombie movie requires embracing the unrealistic scenario of … zombies. But, each new movie/show usually provides more details on the “biology” of zombies. For example, in The Walking Dead the cause is a virus, and they even go as far as to let us know that the virus reactivates a certain part of the brain — I guess explaining why zombies can only preform certain functions. In some movies, like I Am Legend, zombies can even think of complex strategies and feel emotion. There is certainly a drive towards realism.

Here are some of my “complaints”/suggestions,

1. Zombies should starve: I’m not a biologist, but usually if something is hungry it’s because it requires food for energy, and maybe other nutrients and vitamins that help the body preform basic functions. If the body doesn’t get required inputs, it shuts down. Depending on the animal and how well nourished it is, it takes a while to starve to death — a healthy human can survive for something like three weeks without food. But, the fact remains: no food, the body shuts down.

One could claim, I suppose, that since zombies preform less functions than humans they can survive for longer periods of time without food. That’s fine, but at some point they should still die. In most movies, zombies walk the Earth until someone shoots or hacks their brain. Instead, survivors who wait it out should find, after a while, that the zombie population is decreasing. An easy way to prolong the lifespan of zombies is to allow them to eat each other.

A cool alternative is to allow zombies to develop basic instincts on food reproduction. I’m not sure if any animals, other than humans, purposefully reproduce their food, but if not it could be a neat little cross between animal and human (which is basically what a zombie is, anyways). It doesn’t need to purposefully bred farm animals, but it could be rats. It could be that zombies breed rats and eat them. It doesn’t need to be complicated; it could just be an instinct not to eat from the pool of rats when their population is below a certain number.

2. More biology: I’m sure not that many people care about the details, so someone doesn’t necessarily have to spell it out in the movie/show; but, it’d be nice if someone sat down and actually thought out the details of how the zombie body works, at least somewhat vaguely. You have zombies which survive with huge, gaping wounds, or no legs, et cetera. If the zombie is walking, sensing, et cetera, it needs a bone structure, it needs a nervous system, it needs a circulatory system, et cetera. I’m not saying the next zombie movie director should hire a biologist to invent a new animal called the zombie, but some consistency would be nice.

A possible way to incorporate this, without going into detail on the nature of the zombie, is to make it so that the virus exists in various strands, each affecting instincts in different ways. Zombies that bite their victims in areas that will lead to death (like taking huge bites out of the stomach) are likely to be less numerous than zombies which bite in less crucial areas (arms, legs, et cetera). The reason is that if the victim doesn’t die, but instead regenerates, then these are the types of zombies that will “reproduce” the most. I’m sure there’s a lot of shady science involved here, but this is at least more acceptable than ignoring the problem. Besides, I’m sure that pseudo-science b.s. can find a way of justifying this approach.

3. The post-apocalyptic world should be incredibly wealthy: Broken windows and all of that! (I’m just kidding.)

I’m sure the internet is full of commentary on how to make zombies better, but the above is my $0.02. I think it’s pretty basic stuff that wouldn’t make the zombie too boring or complicated, but that an audience can really appreciate as more “realistic.” Then again, maybe the more realistic the zombie gets, the more likely an audience is to nit-pick the details: paradoxical?