Fight of the century

The second in the Hayek/Keynes rap battles, Fight of the Century is a worthy successor to the original. This time, they get more philosophical. Here are some of the better lyrics I think.

KEYNES
we could have done better, had we only spent more
Too bad that only happens when there’s a World War
You can carp all you want about stats and regression
Do you deny World War II cut short the Depression?

HAYEK
Wow. One data point and you’re jumping for joy
the Last time I checked, wars only destroy
There was no multiplier, consumption just shrank
As we used scarce resources for every new tank

Pretty perverse to call that prosperity
Rationed meat, Rationed butter… a life of austerity
When that war spending ended your friends cried disaster
yet the economy thrived and grew ever faster

This is one of my pet peeves, people talking about how WW II stopped the depression. Folks lived pretty poorly, there was massive rationing and all of the work went into things that were going to be blown up. It wasn’t exactly productive labor in the long run.

KEYNES
You too only see what you want to see
The spending on war clearly goosed GDP
Unemployment was over, almost down to zero
That’s why I’m the master, that’s why I’m the hero

HAYEK
Creating employment’s a straigtforward craft
When the nation’s at war, and there’s a draft
If every worker was staffed in the army and fleet
We’d be at full employment with nothing to eat

REFRAIN

HAYEK
jobs are the means, not the ends in themselves
people work to live better, to put food on the shelves
real growth means production of what people demand
That’s entrepreneurship not your central plan

Once again, people tend to lose the plot when it comes to jobs. It’s easy enough to create jobs if you’re not worried about what the people are doing in them. Never mind the waste of resources (including their time) involved and how they could have been better used elsewhere.

KEYNES
My solution is simple and easy to handle..
its spending that matters, why’s that such a scandal?
The money sloshes through the pipes and the sluices
revitalizing the economy’s juices

it’s just like an engine that’s stalled and gone dark
To bring it to life, we need a quick spark
Spending’s the life blood that gets the flow going
Where it goes doesn’t matter, just get spending flowing

HAYEK
You see slack in some sectors as a “general glut”
But some sectors are healthy, and some in a rut
So spending’s not free – that’s the heart of the matter
too much is wasted as cronies get fatter.

The economy’s not a car, there’s no engine to stall
no expert can fix it, there’s no “it” at all.
The economy’s us, we don’t need a mechanic
Put away the wrenches, the economy’s organic

Exactly! The economy isn’t a thing, it’s a process, it’s us. Try to control it, and you try to control us.

 

KEYNES
so what would you do to help those unemployed?
this is the question you seem to avoid
when we’re in a mess, would you just have us wait?
Doing nothing until markets equil-i-brate?

HAYEK
I don’t want to do nothing, there’s plenty to do
The question I ponder is who plans for who?
Do I plan for myself or leave it to you?
I want plans by the many and not by the few.

As succinct a summary of free market ideals as there is. A point that isn’t made enough is the fact that central planning is a few people making decisions for many. No one has the knowledge to do that well.

We shouldn’t repeat what created our troubles
I want real growth not just a series of bubbles
Let’s stop bailing out losers and let prices work
If we don’t try to steer them they won’t go berserk

KEYNES
Come on, Are you kidding? Don’t Wall Street’s gyrations
Challenge your world view of self-regulation?
Even you must admit that the lesson we’ve learned
Is more oversight’s needed or else we’ll get burned

HAYEK
Oversight? The government’s long been in bed
With the Wall Street execs and the firms that they’ve led
Prosperity’s all about profit and loss
When you bail out the losers there’s no end to the cost

the lesson I’ve learned? It’s how little we know,
the world is complex, not some circular flow
the economy’s not a class you can master in college
to think otherwise is the pretense of knowledge

Zing! People that think they know what’s best are the ones that want to make decisions for everyone. The thing is that those are the same people in the pockets of industry.

KEYNES
You get on your high horse and you’re off to the races
I look at the world on a case by case basis
When people are suffering I roll up my sleeves
And do what I can to cure our disease

The future’s uncertain, our outlooks are frail
Thats why free markets are so prone to fail
In a volatile world we need more discretion
So state intervention can counter depression

HAYEK
People aren’t chessmen you can move on a board
at your whim–their dreams and desires ignored
With political incentives, discretion’s a joke
The dials you’re twisting… are just mirrors and smoke

the market’s a process where we can discover
the most valuable ways to serve one another
we need stable rules and real market prices
so prosperity emerges and cuts short the crisis

A perfect summation of a type of economics that is gaining traction. It makes sense to me, and it surprises me how many people are willing to allow a handful of people make decisions for them. Russ Roberts and John Papoula have done an amazing job making economics more accessible to everyone and laying out the major issues involved. I wish there was more education like this…

You can see the video here:

 

Baseball playoffs

Got into a discussion with some friends about the playoffs in baseball. One thought that there should be more wildcard rounds, I’m totally against that. Baseball is unique among sports when it comes to the length of their season. The MLB season is 162 games plus the playoffs and the world series. 162 games! The idea behind having such a long season is to separate the good from the not as good teams. It’s clear who the best teams are at the end, it seems patently unfair to allow a team that did not do as well over that time frame to usurp the team that did well in a 5 game series. Anything can happen in a series that short. You can take the best team in the league and play them against the worst in a 5 game series and we don’t know who will come out on top.

It’s best to look at the season as a 162 game playoff series. What I would like to see is two divisions in each league. The winners of those divisions play a best of 7, or even 9, to determine who goes to the world series. 4 teams, 1 round of playoffs, we would definitely see who is the best.

“But then only the rich teams would make the series!” that’s a common feeling, but it just isn’t true. There are plenty of rich teams that haven’t done well, like the mets, the Cubs, and even the Dodgers, and teams in smaller markets and/or with smaller budgets that do fine like the Rays and the Angels. The fact that the Yankees or Red Sox haven’t won every world series and the fact that teams like the Royals and A’s have won it tell us that it isn’t just budget that determines success. It helps to be sure, but a well run team is far important than the amount of money they have.

To me, 162 games should mean something. Playing 162 games just to possibly be bounced out by a 4th place team in a best of 5 series just doesn’t seem right. If they are going to change the playoffs, there should be fewer rounds, not more.

So now we’ve seen the birth certificate

I hope this will put the issue to bed. What really gets me about the entire affair is that the people pursuing this were so disingenuous. What is even more amazing is how ineffectual everyone was in calling them on it.

It was pretty clear that the birther thing was really all about being sore losers with some nasty racist and class undertones. When people would try to point this out, the birthers would simply shrug and essentially say, “Hey, rules are rules! Don’t blame us if he’s not eligible.” When prompted with this, eyes were rolled and disparaging things were said, but no progress was made.

I am sure the vast majority of people that were in the birther group were perfectly happy sitting idly by while far more important rules were being flaunted. Things like denying habeus corpus, the authorization of killing Americans abroad, and then there is the bombing in libya. It’s funny how the rules involving those things are just ignored.

Actually I know why those things were ignored even though it would have been the perfect comeback to birther nonsense. It’s because neither side thinks much of the rules. People defending the president couldn’t bring these things up, and the birthers don’t actually mind that aspect of his presidency.

Rules are indeed rules, it would be nice if anyone would notice ones that matter.

 

New website!

OK, after many fits and starts, I finally overhauled my website. This exercise has reinforced my understanding that I am not very good at website design… It’s not quite finished, I need to add some more content, but that will come as I feel like it. It’s still a really simple site, that’s by design. My main goals were to update the look a bit and get rid of the clutter that no one ever looked at, including me. I still need to put up my econ papers, those actually got a fair number of views and they are what drove more outside visitors to my site as opposed to family and friends. Please let me know if there are any obvious bugs or problems!

Silver prices

Silver is now trading at $45 an ounce. I started buying it when it was $17 an ounce, that was just a year ago. What is causing the enormous rise in prices? For an answer, all you have to do is look at the spectacle of the budget drama. The government was almost shut down, insults were hurled, programs were threatened, and in the end a compromise bill was passed and everyone patted themselves on the back for how responsible they were. As it turns out, most of the so called cuts were really just accounting shenanigans. The vast majority of the cuts were simply funds that were previously earmarked but couldn’t be spent for various reasons. In the end, the compromise cut a whopping 1/10 of 1% off of the current budget. And that took effort!

Since then, the president has gone on to explain how we need to keep spending money and S&P has judged that there is a good chance that federal debt will lose its AAA rating before too long. So, it really shouldn’t be too hard to figure out why people are buying metals. The government as a whole can’t, and more importantly won’t, meaningfully trim things back even to what they were in 2000 (a most barbarous time I’m sure). There are no more safe haven currencies to store cash values in, so people are turning to what people have used for money for all of recoded history, metals. Get it while you can I say, there is little hope of things getting better any time soon.

Goodbye my Sarah Jane

Elisabeth Sladen died yesterday at the age of 63, yet another victim of cancer. She played the role of Sarah Jane Smith, a companion to the third, fourth, and 10th doctors. She had also travelled with the 11th. Of all of the companions that have come and gone over the years, she is usually remembered most fondly. I’ve certainly never known anyone that actually disliked the character.

She was the first of the newer style of female companions. Before her, the girls were mostly there as plot devices. They mostly got into trouble and screamed a lot. Lis Sladen paved the way for real characters for women in the show. More importantly, she was very likable and easy to cheer for. I’ve never heard a negative thing about Elisabeth Sladen, never heard the stories of pettiness, backstabbing, and ego that seems to be par for the course with many actors.

I’m assuming that she had a rather fast acting cancer since absolutely no one saw this coming. She was still filming as recently as December and had agreed to do some more audio plays for Big Finish this year. I think it was the abruptness of it all that is causing so much grief among fans, I know it is for me. Earlier this year, another beloved actor from Dr. Who, Nicholas Courtney died. He was older and in poor health, I doubt many were surprised when he passed away. But Lis Sladen? Impossible, she looked great, she had been working, and you could tell there was so much more for her to do. We’re going to miss you Lis…

More iPad apps

A few more apps I’ve become smitten with… First up is something that sounds trivial, but it really works well. I’m using the FIOS remote app. It lets me view the program viewer, chose the channel, and gives me a duplicate remote control on the iPad. This is nice because I’m using a tiny 13″ TV right now and it’s awfully tough to read the stupid TV guide onscreen. In addition, the regular remote control seems to have an incredibly narrow angle of view. I have to aim carefully in order to change a channel. The iPad app uses wifi, so it works no matter where I am in the house. Plus, it’s really quick.

OK, that one is handy, this next one is amazing. Its name is Awedetorium.

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This is an app that really takes advantage of how you use the iPad and it fits in really well. It is a music discovery app, all of those tiles you see are different bands. When you tap on one, the image fills the screen and a song from them starts playing. While it plays, the app will pop up all sorts of factoids about the band.

 

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Along the bottom, you’ll see some controls that will allow you to buy the song, favorite it, and even show you a video (the main image is a still one). The main screen with all the times can be scrolled though, there are hundreds and hundreds of bands on there. I’ll be browsing though this for a long time. I’m also under the impression that they keep adding new songs and bands to the the app. I’ve come across all sorts of music on there, country, folk, noise, hip hop, and lots and lots of rock. Best of all, it’s a free app! I am constantly amazed at the quality of apps I can find, even for free.

 

Using the iPad

As I use the iPad more and more, I find myself using the internet less and lass and using apps instead. In other words, instead of going to Google Reader to read my RS feeds or to Facebook to keep up with stuff, I am using the programs Reeder and Facely to access those things. The apps seem more natural and better integrated than the web experience.

 

I have also found myself getting sucked into whatever I am doing on the iPad more than I did on the computer. The iPad does an amazing job of isolating the current task and eliminating distractions. I’ve already mentioned how much nicer it is to read on the iPad, RSS feeds and email are a pleasure. Now I find myself doing other things like listening to music in a much more intensive way.

 

OK, I know that I tend to listen more intently than most anyway, but this is taking it to another level. When I use the iPod app on the iPad, my music will stream wirelessly from my computer to the iPad. I have headphones on (currently using a pair of VModa crossfade LPs), the album artwork for the song I’m listening to pops up, and with a tap, I get the lyrics as well. Listening to the music while reading the lyrics is a very different experience, the more obscure or opaque the lyrics the more clarity is gained. Even with straightforward lyrics (Red Football by SInead O’Connor for example), there is more impact. Yes, this can be done looking at the web while itunes is playing on the computer, but the way it is presented on the iPad is totally different. There are no banner ads, google ads, or various other distractions, just the album artwork and the lyrics.

The same goes for all of the other apps as well. The Economist magazine, Omaha Steaks, the games, etc, are all a more focused experience on the ipad. I think this is great, it is a way of working that I haven’t really done since college. Of course back then I tended to single task on the computer because there wasn’t anything else to do. Or to see, come to think of it… it was all command line interface back then.

I’m still using my computer. There are times I want to have everything going on at the same time. Plus, I’m still looking for a good blogging program. I am looking forward to a new computer sooner than later. Part of it is for using it as a computer of course (Can’t wait to do the real work on my website on a real screen) but part of it is for the iPad as well. The streaming capabilities will be much better on the new computer… Plus, I’ll be able to use the iPad as an input device as well. As cool as the Magic trackpad is, I gotta think the iPad is going to take multi gestures to the next level.

There’ll be more apps and thoughts about the iPad from me soon…

If you love America, you throw money in its hole.

Why is it that the Onion is what we rely on to uncover what’s really going on? This piece is amazing. They manage to skewer  most of the political spectrum with this bit. Even when you have someone on a discussion show try to argue in favor of personal choice, they are still as insane as everyone else on the show. The rest of them really are how I see Keynesian talking heads, they have never made any sense to me. Some of my favorite quotes include the title of this post and “… if I did (receive money) I would throw it in the hole, because I am a patriot!” And there’s the priceless “It’s like they say, you have to throw money in a hole and set it on fire if you want to make money.”