Main | June 2006 »

May 2006 Archives

May 26, 2006

statement of purpose

I can't quite articulate why I started this weblog, other than the perennial "it seemed like a good idea at the time". For the time being, it is meant to be an online journal of my impersonal thoughts. It's no LiveJournal, no "what I did today", but more "what I've been thinking about today if I could find the energy to write it all down."

Expository writing is something that I'm fairly good at. Writing is something that I don't do nearly enough of. Maybe this is just a way of attempting to keep me in the habit, via the means that come most easily.

May 27, 2006

economics for everyone

A common sort of post for a weblog is the book review. I don't know how many book reviews I'll attempt, so this is more of a genre review.

A co-worker, who has been generous with his book recommendations, turned me onto a pair of books written by economists. The first one, which everyone had heard of, is Freakonomics. The second, which may be the better book, is The Undercover Economist.

Freakonomics has gained a lot of notoriety for the link it draws between legalized abortion and crime rates. I suspect it further alienates people with its analysis of "what makes a good parent." This is a shame, because the book as a whole has some extremely interesting food for thought, and the recent trend of "economists writing books about random things" is something that, based on what I've read so far, should be highly encouraged. Happily, this is where The Undercover Economist steps up as a less controversial (and less self-promoting) alternative to recommend.

Economics here is not just about finance, and it is certainly not about incomprehensible terms like "equities volatility exotics". It's about cost, and value, and the natural inclination of people to seek the best (time, monetary, happiness, etc.) value for the lowest (happiness, time, monetary, etc.) cost, given the constraints under which they are operating. This means that the things that are considered "good" to most of the Western world (e.g. an education) may be rendered utterly useless under certain constraints (e.g. living in Cameroon), and so all our attempts to improve the educational system in Cameroon, without attempting to understand or change their constraints, become a waste of time and money.

Freakonomics will only be read by a self-selecting group of people -- this is the consequence of its authors' decision to generate buzz by being controversial. The Undercover Economist is not controversial, so doesn't have much buzz. That gives me more hope that its premise will be understood. Then, maybe we could begin to do the right thing for people in Nepal and Cameroon.

About May 2006

This page contains all entries posted to collected eccentricities in May 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

June 2006 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Powered by
Movable Type 3.33