Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Orange Juice

Ok, I may have talked about this before, but why does orange juice still come in paper cartons with the screw cap on them? I mean, the original purpose of the carton was obviously that it could be opened and resealed, now with the screw cap, the paper carton is obsolete. And juice has been sold in the plastic cartons for years, so it isn't that the alternative technology isn't there. I have some possible explanations:

I. Some people would be confused if the orange juice was no longer in the paper carton. These people would likely have been weeded out by natural selection by now.

II. The carton has an aesthetic quality that people like. Nostalgia maybe.

III. The carton imparts an added flavor that is part of the orange juice for those who are used to it.

Ok, I really feel like I have talked about this before. I know I have talked to my girlfriend about it... lucky girl, huh?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Sailer Vs. Levitt

I've been reading all of the arguments of these two back and forth. I won't pipe in on my opinion, but I will say that Sailer misrepresents Levitt on his blog without linking to the original Freakonomics post, whereas Levitt, whenever he quotes Sailer, links to the original debate. What the hell kind of arguing is that?

Monday, May 16, 2005

Ipods, PC's, Video Games

I was talking with some guys at work today about how our generation and younger (25 yrs and below) will probably play video games for the rest of our lives. I then came home to find that my roommate had modified his x-box so that old super nintendo games could be downloaded and played. My other three roommates are hard to find nowadays, because of a new massively multiplayer online game called Guild Wars.

So I'm thinking: has the marginal utility of leisure increased as technology has made entertainment so much cheaper and better? None of my roommates (including myself) have full time jobs and two of them are no longer students. We could certainly be much more productive, and perhaps a few generations ago we would have entered the work force by now. If technological progress and human capital drive growth, then how do we train engineers to create proper infrastructure if it is much more enjoyable to fight hordes of undead in cyberspace?

I probably sound more worried about this than I really am. I doubt that everyone is as much of a slacker as the lot of us are- somebody has to be winning these achievement scholarships to the Ivy Leagues.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

How Had I Not Read This Before?

I just happened across this argument (http://www.janegalt.net/blog/archives/005244.html) that gay marriage will weaken marriage in general because of the marginal cases in which individuals don't get married because they find gay marriage wrong. The problem is that Galt (the writer) uses the following examples to illustrate how marginal analysis works:
1. Income taxes decreasing economic activity
2. Welfare benefits leading to more single mothers
3. The relaxation of divorce laws causing increase in divorces

These are all excellent examples of how marginal analysis is needed to fully predict what will happen when a policy is enacted. However, these are all examples where the parties involved have DIRECT financial incentives to change behavior! Marriage, however, is quite different- me getting married does not take away from the total allowed marriages available, thereby raising the cost of you getting married. Therefore, we have less reason to believe that allowing gay marriage will have any where near as large of an effect on marriage as what Galt's examples would at first lead us to believe.

Marginal analysis might still suggest that some people will choose not to get married because of personal prejudices, but I do not worry about this. I have two main reasons:

1. A couple who does not marry when they face absolutely not direct cost must not value marriage very highly. They are therefore more likely to get divorced, which has high costs for both the couple and third parties (potential children, legal system burden, etc.)
2. Setting policy to save one group only psychic costs while inflicting more direct financial costs on another is dangerous. Surely there are some marginal cases where white supremicist couples decided not to marry because interracial marriage is legal, and yet we do not throw out civil rights advances that have surely offset whatever losses are experienced by the racist couple.

As long as I'm talking political about an old comment (how did I not read this before?) I'll go ahead and say my stance- any two consenting adults should be able to sign a contract that allows them legal rights equal to the legal rights given to any other two consenting adults under a similar contract. Legally, marriage should be nothing more than a contract. It is not the government's place to worry about the sanctity of marriage (or anything else). That is the business of religious groups.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Morality/Taboo Quiz

This thing seems to be all the rage on the econ blogs. I followed the link from MR and got these results:

Your Moralising Quotient is: 0.07.
Your Interference Factor is: 0.00.
Your Universalising Factor is: 0.00.

Take it here: http://www.philosophersmag.com/bw/games/taboo.htm

Monday, May 09, 2005

Krugman's New Article

Krugman compares the tax cuts for certain incomes (60,000 per year vs. 1 million per year) and he fails to put things in present value terms. I understand his reluctance to lay out a lot of assumptions about interest rates and life expectancies. However, I am getting that such things make a big difference when I calculate- I have a person who invests their entire tax cut at a rate over about 4.2% better off even with the S.S. cuts. We can, of course, argue about whether 4.2% is feasible, but putting things in to present value would help. Here are the numbers:

Person making 60,000, interest at 4.2%, tax cut of 1000 for 40 years (I would like to meet the 25 year old making 60k, but still). This person would get a social security cut of 6500, I assume they live another 25 years from retirement (until 90). I get:
PV of tax cut = (1000/.042)*(1-(1.042)^-40) = 19217 ish
PV of S.S. cut = (6500/.042)*((1-(1.042)^-25)*(1.042^-40) = 19178 ish

So under these assumptions above the person is better off if they invest the 1000. Will they do so? I don't know. Is the person making a million bucks a year even better off under the above interest rate assumptions with the tax cuts and benefit cuts proposed? Of course they are, I don't deny that Bush's policies help rich people a whole lot (look at the guy's background, what do you expect!?!) I just think that Krugman should note that his 1000/yr tax cut vs. 6500/yr S.S. benefit cut does not necessarily mean that the $60k/yr middle income person will end up worse off.

Counter-Intuitive Logic

I was reading through the first chapter of the topology book I got and it was going over basic logic and set notation. I started thinking back to when I took logic in the philosophy dept. and the things that seemed strange to me:

1. The use of "or" mathematically. In everyday language, "or" almost always means A or B and not both. People usually adapt to this one quickly though.

2. The truth values of if-then statements. My favorite illustration of this is the following statement: "Every single congressman I know has killed at least one prostitute in a coke induced stupor and had to have it cleaned up by the mafia." Logically, this is: "for all x, x being a congressman that I know"-> "there exists a prostitute y such that x has killed y in a coke induced stupor and x has had the mafia clean it up." This is a completely true statement, since I don't know any congressmen, but filling in the right name for x would show up on a blog somewhere.

3. The whole necessary vs. sufficient game. I have to say that I don't like when people use this in a non-mathematical or scholarly situation. Grad school websites love to do it when talking about admissions requirements. Although I would like to see it incorporated into Valentines Day advertisements: "Getting your wife a diamond is a necessary condition for the really freaky business, getting her a Tiffany's diamond is sufficient (assuming, of course, that you ask for the freaky business in a piecewise smooth manner!)"

So anyways, I like logic a lot. If there was a market for logicians, I'd be all over it. Though, really, maybe a federal grant could be found to support logical evaluation of the media and politicians... er... probably not.

Friday, May 06, 2005

I Suck With Websites

So I wrote this little two page note on a game theory paper called the traveler's paradox, but I don't know how to post it on here. I slipped it under the door of the one game theorist who teaches at BSU, but he hasn't gotten back to me, so I thought maybe somebody who has taken game theory could help me out. First, however, does anybody have suggestions on how to post it?

Also, a great post on torture over at marginal revolution: http://www.typepad.com/t/trackback/2388722. My question is how do the torturers behave?

Without knowing how much information the prisoner has, how far do you go? It seems to be an optimal stopping problem: you choose the amount of information you want before hand and keep going until you get that info. Notice here that the prisoner could be lying, but you stop once you hear the required words. If this is how a prisoner thinks the captors behave, I would go with MR's first option as being the prisoner's optimum (since this prisoner is a willing confessor).

The above seems like a poor solution, since the captors do not differentiate between good and bad information. Now what if you wish to maximize the ratio of "good" information to "bad" information. Furthermore, suppose that you expect that the probabilities of getting "good" and "bad" information as a function of time are both increasing, but what can you say about their ratio? It seems that here you would get torture even if the captive told the truth right away.

It seems that to discuss the captor behavior one needs to differentiate between different types of prisoners: Cooperative and Uncooperative. Then differentiate between types of information: True or False. Then the problem is to determine probabilities of getting C-Prisoners and U-Prisoners. Then we might assume that P(TrueC-Prisoner)>P(TrueU-Prisoner) and think from there about the above ratio problem... I have all summer to mess around with these things, though, so I'm going to go to bed now.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Stick a Fork In Me!

Just not in my ear... that would kill me. Seriously though, I am done. I just found out that I got a 96 on my Calc III final, making my final grade a 95.25%. Sounds pretty good, until you consider that the prof was sadistic and required a 95% in order to get an A. Two points the other way and I would be super pissed right now. Ok, I don't like to talk about grades, just that this has been a pretty good semester, in that I had three math classes that I really liked and I appear to have done well in them.

On the economics front, everyone should read Richard Thaler's paper on the NFL draft. It is available on nber.org. My one complaint is that he (and other papers on sports) assume that having good players is the ultimate goal of a team. I would argue that the ultimate goal of a team is to make money. If a team was to attempt to change to a discount hunting strategy they may get better value in their players, but it may also signal to fans that the owner is not serious or a cheapskate, which could spell trouble for ticket sales. Also, when discussing the surplus value of players, his analysis only looks at their on field value. We all know, however, that some players have a celebrity that likely adds to ticket sales. To a certain extent, early drafted players come in to the league with high notoriety. Anyway, I really love football, and it makes me excited when economists talk about it!

Finally, go see Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I saw it last weekend and now I have to read those books this summer!

Monday, May 02, 2005


Well, I just walked in to take my Calc III final... then someone from my class walked by looking at me like I was stupid. Evidentally the final is tomorrow. And here I worked my ass off all weekend and I'm left with another day. I wish I could just go up to his office and take the stupid thing.

In other news, I am glad that Bush has finally come out and said it: social security will have to be cut and people will have to retire later. Really, in my opinion, the retirement age is the most antiquated part of the program. We need to have a bracketed system in which white collar workers don't get full retirement benefits until later, because so many older people stay productive for much longer than they used to. And of course the distribution of the cuts can be debated... I guess I'm a bit removed from this debate because my parents make about $15,000 per year between them, so as long as dirt ass poor people don't get benefit cuts, that is fine with me.

And did anybody watch Family Guy last night? Holy crap that was funny. It was as if they have been saving all of the events to make fun of over the last couple of years and they tried their best to cram all of the jokes into one episode. Ok, andy out.

Sunday, May 01, 2005


So, I ask this kid I tutor what kind of music he likes. He says:
"Keith Urban, Alan Jackson... you know, white people music."

I nearly shat myself. Not because of the racist tone of "white people music", but more because labeling these groups "white people music" implies that white people have such poor taste.