Econstudentlog

What I’ve been reading

i) I’ve completed The Collected works of Leo Tolstoi, a book I’ve mentioned before.

The book has 728 pages and it also has a big variance in quality. It spans from boring to excellent, but even if the lit-profs would have you think otherwise, there’s no way around the fact that the years have been rather hard on some of it, particularly when it comes to the short stories (called ‘tales’ in the book). That said, I liked the abridged version of Anne Karenine as well as some of the novellas the best, and they are excellent; I think I shall have to get the full version of the former at some point, it’s amazingly well written.

ii) I’ve read some more of Origin… by Darwin, mentioned in the link above as well. I hate to read books online, so it’s going rather slowly, I’ve still only read a couple hundred pages by now.

iii) I’ve read the second installment in Peter Øvig Knudsen’s project Blekingegadebanden, Den hårde kerne. It’s a good read, but I don’t have the book with me at the moment so I don’t feel comfortable discussing it [danske læsere henvises til Jalving’s anmeldelse på berlingske].

iv) Leland Yeager, The fluttering Veil – Essays on monetary disequilibrium. It’s been on my shelf for more than a year, but I’ve simply not gotten around to reading it until now.

I thought it was a good read, but people who do not have some degree of training in economics and know a little about monetary theory will not get much out of it. I am probably myself in the lower quadrant of the skill-spectrum of those who stands to benefit from reading this book. Of course the book is a collection of essays, so there’s some variation as to how difficult/accessible the different sections are, but be that as it may, it still isn’t a book for the average 12.th grader.

As it is, I find that it would be much too far-reaching for me to make a long post about this book, and where I agree and disagree with Yeager, so it shall suffice for me to say that if you find monetary theory interesting, this is not a bad place to start looking a little deeper into it. On the whole though, I very much liked Yeager’s emphasis on monetary disequilibrium, as I have always found the ‘always equilibrium’/’instant clearing in the money markets’-assumption in most macro models, well, problematic. Besides from that I don’t have much to say, perhaps I’ll discuss a particular subject or two treated in the book later, but no promises.

July 25, 2008 Posted by | books, economics | Leave a comment

Financial illiteracy

From the freakonomics blog:

1. Suppose you had $100 in a savings account and the interest rate was 2 percent per year. After 5 years, how much do you think you would have in the account if you left the money to grow?

a. More than $102
b. Exactly $102
c. Less than $102
d. Do not know

2. Imagine that the interest rate on your savings account was 1 percent per year and inflation was 2 percent per year. After 1 year, would you be able to buy more than, exactly the same as, or less than today with the money in this account?

a. More than today
b. Exactly the same as today
c. Less than today
d. Do not know

3. Do you think that the following statement is true or false? “Buying a single company stock usually provides a safer return than a stock mutual fund.”

a. True
b. False
c. Do not know

[…]

Those three questions are the ones that Lusardi, along with Olivia Mitchell of Penn, have been inserting in a variety of major U.S. surveys. In a new working paper titled “Financial Literacy: An Essential Tool for Informed Consumer Choice?”, Lusardi writes that among respondents age 50 and older, only half of them got the first two answers right and only one-third of them got all three answers right.

I’d love to see some Danish numbers on this…

July 23, 2008 Posted by | economics | 1 Comment

Training Guide for Hate Crime Data Collection

While prejudice is an attitude, discrimination is a behavior. Generally, discriminatory behavior is the result of a prejudicial attitude. However, this is not always the case. One’s behavior is, in large measure, a product of one’s beliefs. Individuals generally act consistently with their inner values and convictions. However, there are other more external motivating factors which also influence an individual’s behavior. Some of these external factors result from particular societal influences distinct from one’s own beliefs. In other words, just as not every prejudicial attitude or belief results in a hostile action, not every discriminatory practice is the result of personal prejudice.

There are examples of racism and sexism that result not so much from an active, hostile personal prejudice as from specific institutional practices that discriminate. These exist even where there is no actual intent on the part of a specific person to discriminate against a group. Consider the law enforcement agency that has as part of its physical requirements, a minimum and maximum height requirement: no less than 5′ 10″, no more than 6′ 3″. If these height requirements were not specifically related to the normal, everyday demands of the job, but intended to exclude certain nationalities as well as women, they would be discriminatory: racist and sexist. Even if this discrimination was not intended, the allegation of discrimination could be made. And so racism could be defined in two ways: It is the individual’s prejudicial attitude and discriminatory behavior toward people of a given race, or it is an institutional practice, even if not motivated by prejudice, that subordinates people of a given race. Likewise sexism can be viewed in the same fashion. It can be either the individual’s prejudicial attitude and discriminatory behavior toward people of a given sex, or an institutional practice, even if not motivated by prejudice, that subordinates people of a given sex.

From this gem: Training Guide for Hate Crime Data Collection. Very enlightening.

July 20, 2008 Posted by | freedom of speech | 2 Comments

Bad news from across the pond

The federal government took control of Pasadena-based IndyMac Bank on Friday in what regulators called the second-largest bank failure in U.S. history.

That’s Friday a week ago, but I didn’t know about it, I must have missed it somehow – more here, via. Glenn Reynolds.

July 20, 2008 Posted by | economics | Leave a comment

Gore’s zero carbon idea

In a speech yesterday here in Washington, Al Gore challenged the United States to “produce every kilowatt of electricity through wind, sun, and other Earth-friendly energy sources within 10 years. This goal is achievable, affordable, and transformative.” (Well, the goal is at least one of those things.) Gore compared the zero-carbon effort to the Apollo program. And the comparison would be economically apt if, rather than putting a man on the moon—which costs about $100 billion in today’s dollars—President Kennedy’s goal had been to build a massive lunar colony, complete with a casino where the Rat Pack could perform.

Link, via CafeHayek.

I also really like Arnold Kling’s take on Gore’s idea: for the same folks that can give us a risk-free financial system, affordable housing, universal health care, and everyone getting a college degree, it should be a piece of cake.

July 19, 2008 Posted by | global warming | Leave a comment

A game

I have done it before, I shall do it again unless I am told otherwise. Original game in bold, annotations in italics:

‘Kunik’ (anonymous Polish player, server rating 2125) – ‘US’, friendly game of blitz, 3+0, Van ‘t Kruijs Opening:

1.e3…e5,
2.d4…exd4,
3.exd4…Nf6,
4.Nf3…d5,
5.Bd3…Nc6,
6.h3…Bd6,
7.Nc3

…Be6,
8.Ne2…Qe7
(I didn’t play the opening correctly here, having been taken completely off guard by that weird first move. If the queen is to move to the open e-file, it should do so with a check – instead, in the game I move my Queen to an open file after first having blocked the check myself with my own bishop. Stupid – to make matters even better, the bishop is obviously not needed on the e6-square, as white has chosen not to play c4 early on.),
9.c3…h6 (I very much disliked the idea of Bg5),
10.a4…a6,
11.b4…0-0,
12.0-0…Rac8,
13.Bf4…Qd7
14.Bxd6…cxd6
(Qxd6 is probably a bit stronger, but if that was my intention to begin with then why would I have moved the rook to the c-file? It seems to me that the weak c-pawn gives reasonable compensation for the double pawns)

15.Ng3…Ne7,
16.Rc1…b5,
17.axb5…axb5,
18.Qe2…Rb8,
19.Rfe1…Nc8,
20.Qc2…Nb6,
21.Ne2…Nc4,
22.Nf4…Rfe8,

23.Re2…g5?!
24.Nxe6…Rxe6,
25.Rce1…Rbe8,
26.Nd2…Rxe2,
27.Rxe2….Rxe2,
28.Bxe2…Qe6,
29.Kf1…Ne4,
30.Nf3…g4
(the computer suggests Ng3+ here, and it’s certainly better for black, ie. 31.Ke1 (forced, 31.fxg3??…Ne3+! and if 31.Kg8 the bishop is lost)…Na3, 32.Qd3…Nxe2, 33.Qxe2…Nb1, 34.Qxe6…fxe6

– this should probably be won for black)
31.hxg4…Qxg4,
32.Ne5??

…Qh4? (Qf5!! and it would have been game over, as the white Queen is lost no matter what white does, ie. 33.Nf3…Ng3+ or Bd3…Ne6+ – alas, I didn’t find this move during the game. Likewise, Ncd2+ would have won as white is forced to sac the Queen for a knight in order to avoid forced mate, ie. 33.Ke1…Qxg2, 34.Bd3…(Bh5…Qf1++)Qg1+, 35.Ke2…Qf1+, 36.Ke3…Qf2++)
33.Bxc4…dxc4,
34.Nf3…Qh1+,
35.Ke2…d5
(once again, the g3-check is strong),
36.g3…Qg2,
37.Ke3…f5,
38.Ne5…Nxg3!
(finally I found it!)

Time, 0-1 (I had 34 seconds left)

July 19, 2008 Posted by | Chess | Leave a comment

Well, it’s a theory…

One reason we might have a “health care crisis” and rising medical costs is that we turn away almost 97% of the applicants to medical schools.

Here’s the link.

July 16, 2008 Posted by | health care, random stuff | Leave a comment

Belief in belief

I started wondering if I’d ever linked to this post before or written about the subject, and I decided that I ought to correct the mistake in case I hadn’t.

The short story: Where it is difficult to believe a thing, it is often much easier to believe that you ought to believe it.

Daniel Dennett has termed the belief that believing in X is ‘good’, ‘proper’, ‘virtuous’… – ‘belief in belief‘. According to Dennett, most people in the West don’t believe in God, what they believe is that they ought to believe in God. They believe in belief. Follow the links for more.

Oh, and yes, I know that a lot of atheists believe in belief too, just with opposite signs (‘people ought not to believe in God’). But there’s no need to add this observation in the comments or discussing it there, that observation has no influence on the validity of Dennett’s claim.

July 14, 2008 Posted by | religion | Leave a comment

Hanlon’s razor

I’d never heard about it before, well not the name anyway, but it’s a good advice.

Hanlon’s razor: Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

I would of course add …or ignorance.

July 8, 2008 Posted by | random stuff | Leave a comment

Quote of the day

Even now the Cossack families claim relationsship with the Chechens, and the love of freedom, of leisure, of plunder and of war, still form their chief characteristics. Only the harmful side of Russian influence is apparent – by interference at elections, by confiscation of church bells, and by the troops who are quartered in the country, or march through it.

A Cossack is inclined to hate less the dzhigit hillsman, who maybe has killed his brother, than the soldier quartered on him to defend his village, but who has defiled his hut with tobacco smoke. He respects his enemy the hillsman, and despises the soldier; who is in his eyes an alien and an oppressor. In reality, from a Cossack’s point of view, a Russian peasant is a foreign, savage, despeciable creature, of whom he sees a sample in the hawkers who come to the country, and in the Little-Russian immigrants whom the Cossack contemptously calls “woolbeaters”.

From Tolstoy, The Cossacks.

When I read the above passage, the word ‘Iraq’ just popped into my head. I wonder why…

July 6, 2008 Posted by | books | Leave a comment

North Korea has a drug problem

This is news to me, even if some of you probably knew about it already. A long article with lots of interesting links is available here.

July 5, 2008 Posted by | North Korea | Leave a comment

And now for something completely different…

July 5, 2008 Posted by | music, random stuff | Leave a comment

What I have been reading

1. Darwin.

The amazing Darwin-site Tyler Cowen made me aware of a while ago now has a Danish translation of The origin of Species… online, just click the link.

2. Collected works of Leo Tolstoi.

After I’d read Dostoevsky’s Rodion Raskolnikov I became quite interested in digging a little deeper into the big body of Russian litterature, and here we are. Incidentally I doubt you would be able to find an edition of the same book I’m reading, even if you’d know where to look; it’s very old and it is not available on amazon. So far I’ve read a lot of short stories (first ~120 pages) as well as The Death of Ivan Ilyitch, Polikushka, Two Hussars and The Kreutzer Sonata. The book of course does not include War and Peace, but an abridged version of Anne Karenina is included in the work. There’s still a long way to go.

July 3, 2008 Posted by | books, evolution | Leave a comment