Monday, March 31, 2008

No news

Amazing how completely lacking in necessary comparative statistics this article is. Not that is isn't reporting something that isn't true...but one should make one's case as strongly as possible.

Shouldn't one?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Development Tourism?

Here, wonderfully earnest and curious Christ Blattman discusses the practice of short-term trips to developing countries often made by students and professionals.

Many of his arguments are sensible. What if all that money had gone to paying for cleft lip surgery, or what if the student had spent that time learning a truly valuable skill and then applied it somewhere as opposed to existing in a state of uselessness for some time?

All of these make sense. But there might be something to be said for the value of the exposure and the experiences. Perhaps they make an impact and help the students/professionals contribute to later actions taken on behalf of the developing world. Maybe such exposures ensure that their work, thought not awful, will be better, more topical, specific and effective than it would otherwise be.

But perhaps not.

Also, this is an interesting brief of the economic advisers to the presidential candidates. Let it be noted that Gene Sperling went to the UoM.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Thoughts after a night of foosball.

Unfortunately, none of the thoughts are related to foosball (we won!).

This is a very intelligent description of trade, what its importance is in relation to those issues we (liberals) are often concerned about (inequality, social justice) as well as a little dose of international relations near the end.

His thoughts at the end are strongly reminiscent of this book by a Harvard professor that I found to be inestimably wise.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

One nation...

Two worlds.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

A moment to breath..and recommend

For those who take a fascination in humanity's attempts to understand itself through computers, this provides and interesting read. Apparently, Netflix established a one million dollar prize to anyone who could improve upon its movie recommender program by 10%.

What's interesting is that amongst the group funded by giants like AT&T one of the top ten contenders is an unemployed psychologist working out of his home. Take note that the direction of his solution draws from behavioral economics.

Also, I went to a fantastic lecture on optimization. Essentially, finding the best solution from a set of possibilities as judged by an explicit criterion (or set of criteria). The speaker began by discussing the emergence of optimization during the Renaissance. Then it was conceived of as being a principle of nature. God created the world, the world is perfect and so its physical operations are determined by the principle of optimization (more explicitly, by the idea that nature is structured so as to follow and produce the best of all possible outcomes).

An interesting illustration was with theories of light and its movement. Initially, it was thought that light always traveled along the shortest path and this is true for the case of reflection (this can also be understood as saying that the incoming angle with respect to the reflecting surface equals the reflecting angle). However, it is NOT true for refraction.

But, Fermat showed (and this wasn't experimentally verified until 200 years after him) that light maximizes SPEED, not distance in the case of refraction. How does light KNOW to act in such a way (to optimize something)?!?!

Well, it doesn't (neither case turns out to be true in the situation of light reflected in a closed circle). And the transition from thinking of optimization as a condition and definition of nature into thinking of it as an analytic tool follows the rise of the Enlightenment. However, it still leaves us in the interesting position of assuming optimizing behavior not only in individuals (which turns out to not be so problematic) but also among groups. Which turns out to be VERY problematic.

I'll discuss why in the future.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


School has been miserably busy. I'll be back soon.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sad news.

My soccer team, the Knights of Cydonia, is 0-2.

And unless we can figure out how to keep our defenders from deciding that they want to be forwards and convincing our forwards that shooting at the other side's goal is a good thing, I don't expect our record to improve significantly.

Hopefully, school will settle down and I'll be able to write some more. Things have been very busy, in an excellent way. I'll try and be back with some thought-provoking links soon.

Until then...wish me luck.

Monday, January 28, 2008


This article's central thesis seems to be that the $200 computer needs to be more shiny.

Oh, and that Western philanthropists want to enslave the developing world with their own computer programs. And that being a Western philanthropist is arrogant.

Oh, and that spending an afternoon playing with a computer can be turned into an article.

The astounding mediocrity of the Sunday Times Magazine almost makes me want to stop getting the paper.

I haven't been blogging. Back to school. I'll try to return as often as I can.

Although, I am still doubtful if anyone actually reads this....

Friday, January 18, 2008

What I learned today:

That even North Dakotan politicians can have a sensible trade policy!

Unfortunately, the article is locked. Just take my word.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

It is kind of odd...

It never even occurred to me that when people in other countries went on strike they wouldn't walk in circles.

Monday, January 14, 2008


A quote from my less-than-liberal friend:

"Monica Lewinsky was the only agent for growth that ever entered the oval office in the 90's during Clinton's reign. "

At the least, clever.

How little we know file...

This time, about female circumcision. This also counts as more evidence that zero-tolerance policies are bad policies in every sphere.

Classes (updated)


-Introduction to Mathematical Economics
-Modern Economic Growth
-Applied Linear Algebra
-Theory of Statistics 2
-Series, Sequences, Foundations

It's going to!


Friday, January 11, 2008

A, B, C...

We all hear about outrageous CEO pay, etc but nuanced discussions are rare. Here there is a fantastic review of how financial managers pay is seriously disconnected from the construction necessary to produce any rational, desirable outcome.

What is especially distressing is how severe the lack of respect for simple statistics must be for the managers to justify to themselves the bonuses for what seem to be impressive performance.

I had a productive trip to Illinois to visit Elise's father! Not only did I get to familiarize myself with the history of Lincoln's chosen hometown (and his fascinating rise to the presidency), but I read a LOT!

I finished this. Fascinating book. It's quite a feat to weave the follies and tragedies of a nation with the intensely personal aspirations, noble ideals, and ultimately inevitable faults of one individual. The folly of Vietnam is well-established and could hardly bear more discussion. BUt we will definitely have to deal with how quickly its lessons were forgotten.

Questions of morality abound. When in war, how does one make moral judgments? Do the criteria change? Is it inherently utilitarian? Are there any moral actions that don't fall inherently under pacifist ideas?

I am fascinated by the idea that it is a soldier's (especially an officer's) moral duty to destroy as completely as possible the enemy's forces for to do otherwise would only extend the evil that is war.

If a soldier were to deny his "duties" and refuse to fight he would be refusing to commit what cannot be called anything else than "legalized" murder. But if, in doing so, he was contributing to the destruction of his companions and family (or similarly delaying the war's conclusion) would he be guilty of other crimes?

Can two people innocent of any crime toward each other be justly compelled to do each other harm? I would say no. But I also suspect that there are clear cases where we would prefer the victory of one side. This can only be justified if war is, at times inevitable.

Is it? These are all difficult questions. I think I would like to write a more detailed post about them. Hopefully this post will serve as a catalyst to that impulse...

I also read the Purgatorio. One more. And then I can figure it all out...

Thursday, January 3, 2008

As it turns out...

You may not be happier as you become wealthier, but you are more satisfied.

I appreciate the distinction made between happiness and satisfaction: "Conditions that make people satisfied with their life do not necessarily make them happy."

This would seem to put development in particular and growth in general in a pretty safe spot (morally speaking).

The interesting thing I would like to explore is what consequence this has in how policies should be designed that are attempting to address poverty (both in the rich and poor countries). A focus on increasing wealth is distinctly different from a focus on creating opportunities for satisfying activities.

The whole site is neat. Thinkers discussing what they have changed their minds about.

Could use some more of that...

Also, this guy has an awesome name.

Well, that's kind of odd...

So much for the imperviousness of the market to the schemings of an individual.

Though at the most he has disturbed everyone's sleep.

And here is a sexy little paper about where the U.S. has gotten its improved environmental record in terms of industrial emissions since the 70s and whether or not the gains have come from shipping the polluting industries overseas.

The issue of the environment and economics is one I must explore more. As a liberal, I can't help but notice that there seems to be a tension (at least as seen from some of the more trendy parts of my intellectual party) between trade and growth (and its benefits) and the harms exacted upon the environment.

I am not convinced that the tension is critical, but certainty is something else.

Here is an interesting paper to read to get a better perspective of the interaction between transportation inspired by trade and the costs to the environment.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


Both in substance and style.

New Year, I guess...

Feels the same.

The Kingdom of Chavez is still headed for the crapper. How long can one manage to run a country playing off of people's misperceptions of how things (like the economy or international relations) actually work?



Starting to do research for my senior paper (I can at least deceive myself that I am on schedule). My goal at this point is to figure out if the question in my head can be narrowed down to an interesting, researchable (and already un-researched) question.

My question (well, one of many): What are the credit market similarities (if any) between developing nation poverty traps and poverty traps within the developed (I hate that world, how is anything ever determined to be developed) nations.

My motivation? Here. I just hope that there is something both rigorous and useful at the bottom of it all. Those two seem difficult to find traveling in tandem.