Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Phickle Thoughts

Well, it's finally happened: some random employee in a store said "hello" to me and I just naturally said "hello" back, without wondering what the heck was going on. It's good to be back in Minnesota. It only took me 6 months to get back into Minnesota nice.
I've now seen a fair number of the movies that were nominated for Best Picture. So far, I liked A Serious Man the most. It was executed so tightly, nothing extra, nothing unnecessary. Very quality film making. District 9 and Inglorious Basterds were also pretty awesome.

Of course, I still haven't seen the winner, Hurt Locker. But if my cousin-in-law is to be believed, it's just so-so on the accuracy.
Summer in Minnesota is awesome. I'm so glad to be back. It makes the awful winter totally worth it.
My brother-in-law just graduated from high school. He's the youngest of 6 siblings, so it's a pretty big happening. We're just starting off with our family, so the idea of being an empty-nester is... well, it's strange. It's also kind of strange because my family still has a long way to go, what with my younger brother just wrapping up his first year in kindergarten. Yup, I said first year... nah, I'm kidding. He could probably jump to like, 5th grade already.
I just finished reading a pretty boring book, The Myth of the Rational Market. I was expecting more of an economic treatise addressing the ways in which the fact that humans aren't purely rational affects economic realities, and instead I got a history of finance and approaches to the stock market. The former interests me. The later... not so much. I did get a bit of the history of economic ideas and the way economist embraced the concept of rationality and how they are in the midst of a paradigm shift towards a system that recognizes people don't operate as rational consumers/investors.

It's a pretty important topic, especially given the strong libertarian movement in our country that rejects the idea that the government should be involved in directing our market activities and embraces the idea that the market "gets it right." Because even though that idea might be prevalent in our social discourse as things currently stand, it's falling out of favor pretty quickly in academia, and understanding where it came from in the first place helps reveal some of the fatal flaws behind that approach. Behavioral economics is probably the next wave in econ, and, more importantly, can help us understand where government can be useful in tweaking the market, in order to make sure that we really do "get it right."
Finally, I'm very much looking forward to the new Futurama episodes. Can I get a "Puny Earthlings!"?

I'm walking on sunshine


Mike said...

My faves of the Best Picture nominees were "Inglourious Basterds" and "Up in the Air". I didn't care for "A Serious Man", which is unusual since I generally consider the Coen Brothers the film equivalent of Midas. I think I just didn't "get" it. Maybe I need to watch it again.

For the record, I've never been a major economic libertarian (though very much a social one), but I'll offer my two cents. I think an element of government regulation can be a positive thing, but my best guess is the trouble a lot of people who aren't even hard-line libertarians have is that the government doesn't always seem to know when to stop. There are certainly some things -- *ahem* properly securing oil rigs and planning for spill contingencies *cough* -- that the market is not very good at encouraging (except perhaps retroactively, but that doesn't seem good enough). However, there are other things that the market is great about. For example, consider trans fats. People know they're bad for them, so the wise ones will choose alternate food sources and the market will balance out. A more positive course of action for the government, rather than outright banning them like NYC, would be to simply require companies to disclose which food products contain trans fats. This is what I mean when I say sometimes they don't know when to stop.

Anyway, I know for a fact truer libertarians can provide contrary opinions to some of the above, but I offer it for what it's worth.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Mike -

Yeah, I generally support the "government should use education, not prohibitions" position. Or heck, even the "least restrictive action possible" approach.

My major objection to the libertarian approach isn't that they oppose government action, it's that they take normative cues from a theory that has little or no basis in reality.

I mean, even most libertarians will give you your obvious market failure regulations, like with the oil spills... the even bigger danger is when they argue that the market is getting it right, and ignore people's expressed preferences for something different than what the market has resulted in.