Archive for January, 2004

all settled in

Tuesday, January 27th, 2004

Well, it’s all over. I finally got into several classes. Good bye development…, you’ll have to wait to grad school. All in all though its hard to go wrong with game theory and more statistics.

Quote of the Day

Tuesday, January 27th, 2004

Just had to post this:

Henny Youngman’s penetrating insight: “What good is happiness? It can’t buy money.”

Taken from a review by Davis Wessel of Gregg Easterbrook’s book ‘The Progress Paradox’.

State of the Second Day

Wednesday, January 21st, 2004

Becareful what you wish for.

Yesterday we were wishing we could get into the development class somehow. By the will of Allah, and the fact I was getting an office chair provided by DSPS – so I really wasn’t going to be taking a seat away from a CAL student, I did.

So I went bought a really expensive 2 part reader. The first two articles seemed a little light. I don’t need 30 pages to tell me corruption problems in Sub-Saharan Africa are partially to blame for stagnant and declining economic growth. THIS I KNOW ALREADY. And even if you didn’t the Economist has a really nice section this week on just that topic in 1500 words or less. Flipping through 600+ pages I came across 10 equations – and this being an upper division course at UC Berkeley, the finest university on the West Coast!

So now I’ve got a really nice reader and I’m hoping to get in to Advanced Micro…

State of the First Day

Tuesday, January 20th, 2004

Some days more just seems to happen. We returned to lectures and after a full day of begging to be let in to a class, any class, your just whipped. I’m thru with the ‘core’ theory for economics, macro – micro -econometrics, but I really want into development. Due to my concurrent enrollment status, it doesn’t seem too likely, but its kind of hard to say this is what you want to do for the rest of your life(which I think it is) -if you can’t even take as an undergraduate course.

The simplicity of dealing with higher education administrations. Why the theory of markets is completely forgotten in admissions procedures I can’t understand. They need money – and I need a course – seems like there should be a simple solution.

And to come home and be treated to a State of the Union adress, just really made my day. I actually scored the president much higher than I thought he would get. Granted there was alot of responses to issues the democratic canidates have surfaced in the last few months, but I tried to be objective in that George scored a + or a – for each paragraph of speech between the clapping. Overall he got 3 fewer pluses than minuses(49%), which was better than the House and Senate minority speakers(28% and 40% respectively).

Does that mean I’m turning elephant? Hardly- I have too much concern for social welfare and a large safty net, things I feel markets aren’t good at providing. But it does leave me in the precarious position of not being able to blindly support the democrats though.

Are we really all that?

Sunday, January 18th, 2004

John Makin at the American Enterprise Institute believes the economy couldn’t be in better shape.

“Old habits die hard. Often, criticism leveled at policymakers is well founded. I certainly have offered up my share. But as 2003 ends and 2004 begins, we find ourselves at a point where the performance of the U.S. economy is about as good as it gets. The stock market is up 20 percent this year, inflation and interest rates are low, productivity growth is high, and U.S. exports are rising strongly. The biggest danger going forward arises from ill-founded criticism aimed at policy measures employed to achieve this excellent outcome and the (fortunately low) chance that policymakers will heed such criticism.”

What not to do while laid up

Saturday, January 17th, 2004

I have a really bad back. Sometimes it decides to punish me for several days on end. Usually this is the time for me lie around the house and get a fair bit of reading done. Today I was forced to miss a joint party of two friends of mine, so I was fealing espically blue. In Berkeley, we have a new (well 1 year old) pharmacy which carries everything from a well stocked library to free tai chi classes. While there I decided to open up an account with their movie rental unit, this pharmacy was started by the guys who began Real Video so its a pretty good – though small – DVD collection. Since I was going nowhere I though it would be a nice idea to not only get the remake of Dune, but the sequal to it Children of Dune. The original film by David Lynch and its absolutely excellent. I own it. I can say with complete authority the remake by the SciFi channel is utter garbage. The two movies together run for over 6 hours. If you EVER have 6 hours free, no matter how bored you are, try to find something other to do than watch these films…. nothing could be worth the horror of how butchered a classic can be in the hands of cable tv.

Girls for Sale

Saturday, January 17th, 2004

If there is even needed another case for globalization and development, Nicholas Christof writes a very moving article about slavery and prostitution in the east (click on continue reading link below for full article). For a while I have been making the argument that the American boycott of goods and hence closing of Asian sweatshops was not the smartest thing. Nike doesn’t use forced labor in its overseas factories, workers are willing to work there because its a better option than others they currently have. According to the Institute for International Economics foreign companies pay about double the local manufacturing wage in low-income countries. Another NYT columnist, Paul Krugman, made essentially the same point more elegantly than I could put it:

“In 1993, child workers in Bangledesh were found to be producing clothing for Wal-Mart and Sentor Tom Harkin proposed legislation banning imports from countries employing underage workers. The direct result was that Bangldeshi textile factories stopped employing children. But did the children go back to school? Did they return to happy homes? Not according to OXFAM, which found that the displaced child workers ended up in even worse job, or on the streets – and that a significant number were forced into prostitution.”(Hearts and Heads, NYT, 4/22/01)


Slavery vs. the Cell Phone: Epilogue to the previous piece.

What’s it Worth?

Saturday, January 17th, 2004

In a service based economy, higher education is not necessarily a smart thing.

Burgers or Beans

Saturday, January 17th, 2004

The ever serious minds at the Economist have released the latest in the Big Mac Index. Of note is they are starting a Tall Latte Index; Starbucks is now serving in 32 countries round the globe (the mega chain opened its first shop in France on January 16th, 2004). Both indecies use purchasing power parity (PPP) as a way of comparing bundels of goods in seperate countries. The idea being that in the long run exchange rates will move to equalize the prices, a nifty way for telling which currencies are over or undervalued.

Jeremy Avnet knows an excellent reason for the problems caused by all those Big Macs eaten around the world.

Consumer Debt at 2 trillion

Wednesday, January 14th, 2004

John Irons of ArgMax thinks this is not good. I would have to agree…

Washington Post
U.S. Consumer Debt Grows at Alarming Rate
Debt Burden Will Intensify When Interest Rates Rise

By William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 12, 2004; 12:46 PM

Feeling besieged by all those post-holiday credit card bills? Struggling to dig out from an avalanche of debt?

You are not alone.

According to the latest figures from the Federal Reserve, America’s consumer debt has topped $2 trillion for the first time, continuing what debt experts view as an alarming surge in recent years.