with 'economics' tag


freakonomics by steven d. levitt and stephen j. dubner is the most blogged about book of the year, so consider this my little pile-on. i finished reading the book yesterday, and i would have enjoyed it tremendously if i did not feel like i had already read it all via blogs. as it was, i merely enjoyed it a lot.

the book was, for a while, the most-requested book at the los angeles public library. when i first got on the waiting list for it, it was over 400 names long.

the mystery of capitalism: why capitalism triumphs in the west and fails everywhere else by hernando de soto can very nearly be summed up in two words: property rights. more specifically, the formal recognition of property rights that allows property to take on value above and beyond its physical manifestation.

one question it brought to mind for me is whether it is possible that our current copyright system, with no registration necessary, is really stifling the value of so-called intellectual property. what is something like the broken record by twink, if not something built in an extralegal framework? (assuming that they haven’t really tracked down the copyright holders of the “hundreds of vintage children’s records.”)

tyler cowen questions the economics of seduction, continuing the publicity snowball for the game: penetrating the secret society of pickup artists by neil strauss.

from an interview with neil strauss: “i learned that the more unavailable you make yourself, the more people would want you.” either there’s a point where that trend reverses, or there’s a whole lot of people out there who want me.

i’ll pretend it is the latter.

massive change by bruce mau and the institute without boundaries bears a certain resemblance to wired magazine in book form — very graphic, concise (and fairly shallow) text, and too-short interviews with some interesting people. lots of great photographs.

remember oil storm, the faux-documentary on fx? here’s the first sentence from the synopsis: “oil storm examines when a category six hurricane in the gulf of mexico slams into louisiana, crushing the city of new orleans and crippling the vital pipeline for refined oil that is port fourchon.”

um, yeah.

stephen metcalf, writing for the new york times magazine, covers gold bugs. the profile of clifford asness, a hedge fund manager, is fascinating, too.

but this article about the serial entrepreneurs in silicon valley just boggles my mind. if i’m ever worth $5 million (2005 dollars), you can count on me being done with working for a living. but i don’t see that happening anytime soon — the downside of not having the drive to go on to a second startup after hitting it big at a first is that you likely don’t have the drive for the first one.

prepaid plans and subscriptions as self-imposed consumption quotas

like i said, midas world is thought-provoking. and as i was juggling a few items in my long-neglected netflix queue, i started to wonder if you couldn’t think about monthly service plans as a sort of self-imposed consumption quota.

(downtown los angeles still badly needs a video rental store.)


midas world by frederik pohl (another book recommendation plucked from the fork archives) claims to be a novel, but is really a set of short stories that trace the history of the world after fusion power is invented and energy becomes plentiful. all of them are delightful and thought-provoking, but none more so than the first. with plentiful and cheap energy, the economics of the world have become inverted and it is only the rich who have time to work and be truly idle. the poor are consigned to unending consumption, fulfilling the rations they are assigned by eating beyond the point of enjoyment, living in gargantuan homes, and never really accumulating belongings. it is an inversion that seems completely absurd, until you remember the strong correlation between poverty and obesity in the united states. the idea that society is racing against itself in order to consume what it produces is an interesting way to look at the world.

robots, even seperated by decades from midas world, actually hits on a similar theme with its story of robots resisting an evil corporation that is eliminating the supply of spare parts so that they can sell shiny upgrades and consign old robots to the scrap heap. between this film and ice age, i think blue sky studios has established itself as a fairly close second-place to pixar in feature-length computer animation. like in pixar’s films, there is a strong story to complement the visual design and trickery. they’ve certainly proven themselves to not be a one-trick pony.

2 is the new 1

well, that’s a logical reduction of this article from the new york times about how $200,000 is the new $100,000 when it comes to salaries.

an interesting thing to think about is how you would change your spending if your income suddenly doubled. would you spend twice as much, or work half as long? (or somewhere in between?)

la weekly has a long article about ed reyes, los angeles council member, whose pet issue is affordable housing. (he had to take back what he said about fellow council member tom labonge.) i will fully admit that it’s not an issue that i’m intimate with, but seeing it phrased in terms like “developers must devote 12 percent to 15 percent of the project to affordable housing” make me think it is destined to fail. it does seem like a good way to encourage development outside of the city.

and on that note, the los angeles times recently had a story about los angeles residents buying out-of-state properties for rental, as a way of building up equity for purchasing a home in southern california. it makes a certain amount of sense, but of course you’re betting that your returns on the rental real estate will be better than what you could do with other investments. and as the article points out, you’re taking on the headache of out-of-state tenants.

there’s a new site opposing software patents in the european union called, appropriately enough, no software patents! the very clever might notice that the domain is registered in my name (along with the .org and .net variants), which is just a side effect of how the project got initiated within mysql (whose position on patents is online, incidentally). my involvement basically ended at registering the domain names, and they will be getting transferred to someone else soon.

ken layne takes an interesting look at the “peak oil” hypothesis and its ramifications.

everyone has already linked to the long tail already, but just on the off chance you missed it, here’s another link to it. there’s some really amazing insights in the article, and it is definitely not to be missed.

if you look at the interesting internet advertising plays out there right now, i think the most promising are those that try to bridge the tail of the advertising curve and the tail of the publishing curve. things like blogads that make it easy for a small advertiser to publish on a small publisher’s site. marketbanker is similar. google’s adsense runs the risk of lagging behind because it doesn’t allow a direct connection between an advertiser and publisher. there’s no incentive for me to drive potential advertisers on blo.gs to adsense, which i think is an inherent weakness in their architecture of participation.

i have an idea for a business that would sort of sit in this space. too bad i’ve already got a job.


$2.4 billion for milk. this is the sort of thing that deserves more in-depth reporting. is the money really going to small farmers? there’s nothing in the criteria for eligible dairy producers that indicates that is the case, although there is a cap on the amount of milk (2.4 million pounds) that will be price-supported annually. but from what i can tell, that is below the production of an average-size dairy farm.