Saturday, February 16, 2008

Some Thoughts About School

Wow, writing papers is easier now than it used to be.
  • Blogging has taught me to spew out semi-coherent, pompous drivel with alarming speed.
  • You can find sources with ease now while sitting in your pajamas. Tools like Google Books and the various online repository of academic journals give you the ability to find the most obscure point you want to make almost trivial. It sure beats spending days searching through stacks at the library. Especially at a Big Ten university like I originally attended where searching the library meant traveling to 3 or 4 libraries across campus.
  • It's not nowhere near as much fun to procrastinate as it used to be. In the old days it was a choice between homework and partying. Now its a choice between homework and housework.
We are now at the part of the class where we are selecting the rest of our classes. I'm not kidding when I say you could have boiled this class down to a 2 day (16 hour) seminar. But then they couldn't have had $2500 of my money, so I guess it makes sense from their point of view.

Speaking of picking classes, this looks really interesting:
Chaos: the word is often used to indicate a state of utter disorder. Yet dynamical systems theory – the science of chaos – suggests that the connection between chaos and order is not a simple opposition. Chaos may, in fact, be the seed-bed for emergent order.
Guess who is teaching the class. This is a strange, strange world.

I have to somehow find immunization records. I thought I was exempt, but it turns out I am exactly eligible since this one class puts me at exactly half-time. What a pain in the ass. I don't even know where to find the stupid things.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Random Reactions

The media is so frustrating sometimes.
Sixty-one percent of the public believes the economy is now suffering through its first recession since 2001, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll.
Does the typical American even know what a recession is? Or that there is no possible way for them to tell whether or not we were in a recession by instinct?

We may be in a recession, or we may not - the opinion of the Average Joe is irrelevant to that fact.

On to another economically illiterate moron.
Venezuela - President Hugo Chavez on Sunday threatened to cut off oil sales to the United States in an "economic war" if Exxon Mobil Corp. wins court judgments to seize billions of dollars in Venezuelan assets.
Chavez is an idiot, there isn't anything that he can do to prevent oil from getting to the United States. Oil is a global commodity and it will flow to the highest bidder, regardless of the irrational desires of a power hungry dictator.


Economic Metaphors

I've long thought that semi-free market or partially controlled free-market reforms were worse than doing nothing. Just take a look at the California power (de-? re-? un-?)regulation.
In reality it was nothing close to a free-market - they simply shifted the command and control decisions to a different place and the results weren't pretty.

I have the same concerns with the health market - conservatives are going to be likely to insist that some semblance of so-called free market programs will be instituted, but without the full weight of prices and incentives bearing weight it is likely just to make matters worse.

The downside is that anti-market types will simply point and say "See, markets don't work" which simply isn't true. This is, of course, not true because the free-market wasn't there in the first place, but its hard to get that point across.

Now due to this post I have a good metaphor to describe what is going on.
This is a bit like taking antibiotics: if one only takes half of what the doctor prescribed, one may feel well in the short run, but when the decease comes back, it is stronger and the antibiotics have lost their effect
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Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Danger of Political Action

It's a point that some economists and many libertarians have been making for some time - it's impossible for politicians, or any individual for that matter, to accurately pick a winner.

This time the evidence comes in, quite persuasively, with ethanol subsidies.
The tax credit for ethanol is an example of a cost ineffective subsidy. The cost of reducing CO2 emissions through this subsidy exceeded $1,700 per ton of CO2 avoided in 2006 and the cost of reducing oil consumption over $85 per barrel.
...a growing body of scientific evidence suggests these gasoline alternatives will actually boost carbon-dioxide levels and thereby aggravate the problem of global warming.
So we have a solution that:
  • Costs a crap load of money.
  • Destroys forests.
  • Distorts the market by crowding out research for (potentially) better alternatives.
  • Increases the cost of food - disproportionally hurting the poor.
  • AND has the opposite effect as intended by hurting the environment more than the status quo.
I'm sure that I missed some other results as well. The question is whether activists and politicians will react to this evidence or fall prey to the perfect storm of environmentalists that have demanded that government "do something," rent-seeking corporations like ADM looking for hand-outs and populist pandering to farmers.

Something tells me that this will be rationalized away as the correct approach even though it clearly isn't.

HatTip: Marginal Revolution

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

I Think I'm Sorry, But Perhaps Not

I made the mistake of updating my Blogger template to the new "improved" format.

In the process comments disappeared and I can't figure out how to get the comment service to work. I also had to re-add all the stupid garbage I am required by the Honorable Amalgamation of Pontificating Blowhard Bloggers to add to the sidebar. This, in turn, has republished lots of post in some readers.

At the end of the day, if I have caused you much trauma - stick it. It happens sometimes.


Five Weeks In

I've completed five weeks of the first class in my second attempt to finish college. The good news is that DePaul uses quarters, the bad news is that homework sucks.

My original knee-jerk reaction that this first class was, essentially, a class to tell me what other classes I should take is basically correct.

Most of the homework is an exercise in completing the required forms and paperwork plus a lot of writing. I wouldn't call it a complete waste of time, but the same results could have been achieved with a weekend seminar and cost me far less than $2500, but them are the breaks I guess.

My other knee-jerk reaction, that my professor/advisor was so far left of me as to be in another time zone, while true, appears to be irrelevant at this point.

Part of me was anticipating long ranting diatribes about the evils of male hierarchy and how it has destroyed the environment and will lead to Armageddon - but that hasn't materialized. She has made some veiled political jibes, but I think the only reason that I noticed them was I wanted something to be pissed off about.

The advise that she has provided for being successful in the program appears to be well-reasoned and well-intentioned so I'll bite back my reservations and let it play out.

Probably the most important thing that I have learned so far is that when a professor asks for a 3 page paper, they mean 3 pages of double spaced writing - oops.


Monday, February 04, 2008

It's Easy to Tell the Future

Once upon a time, writing about Massachusetts' health plan, I wrote:

*Healthcare costs will increase due to overconsumption
*Healthcare quality will decline (again due to overconsumption)
*Insurance rates will rise - especially at the bottom where government is subsidizing costs for the poor.
*Mass budget will sky rocket since the whole thing is an unfunded mandate.
*Businesses will find additional reasons to not do business in Mass leading to higher costs across the board and higher unemployment.
Just a couple short years later we have:
  • Cost overruns of $400 million.
  • The state capping premiums
  • Reduction of consumer choice. (Which I will equate with a decline of quality)
I think that I'm an easy 4 out of 5? And what do proponents say?

At least there are less uninsured.