Showing posts from May, 2011

Converting Mamet: My Views Included, Too

David Mamet is one of my favorite writers, in any form, and one of the three or four greatest American playwrights. I own several collections of essays by Mamet and already have The Secret Knowledge on my wish list. Glengarry Glen Ross stands alongside Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman and Tennessee Williams' early works (Plays 1937-1955) as reflections of our aspirations and our failings. If I could sit down and chat with any living writer about the craft, it would be Mamet. And he'd probably say something along the lines of: Tell a good story.

That's why I like Mamet. He tells a good story, without pretense of "art" or blatant appeals to the "MFA elites" of the two coasts. Mamet's characters speak to the audience — and the audience is everyone. The characters speak in harsh, incomplete sentences peppered with profanity. His plays are a mix of passion, anger, and, sometimes, despair. Yet, they are also far enough from "reality" to o…

Why Politicians Should Read Kahneman

Daniel Kahneman is a Nobel laureate in economics, and a behavioral psychologist by trade. His specialty is "hedonics" — which is a fancy way of stating that he wonders what makes us happy (and sad) as humans. If you believe that economics is often the pursuit of happiness or pleasure, you can immediately see the importance of Kahneman's research.

Many of us find "pleasure" (emotional reward) in obtaining a perceived bargain, according to Kahneman and other researchers. Unfortunately, what we perceive as a bargain isn't always so. I've known "coupon clippers" who would buy items for "half price" — but these were items they'd never normally purchase. Our reward impulse is not logical and reasonable because it is an impulse, not careful consideration of the variables involved.

Economists used to believe in the "rational consumer" and the "rational seller." Both are statistically accurate in the macro, but at the mi…

My Economic Foundations with Book Links

I am a believer in "behavioral economics," and am convinced human nature is neither rational nor predictable at the individual level. The "Austrian School" of economics, which is closer to my views on economics than any other general school, suggests that mathematical models in economics generally overstate the predictability of humans. I am seldom stunned or shocked when economic predictions are "unexpectedly" off the mark. Too many economists are convinced they conduct "science" when they are closer to the randomness of human psychology. I dislike generalities, but mentioning the Austrian School helps place my views in some context.

Note: I have argued and will continue to argue too many "sciences" should have some other label. It would be best to simply call these disciplines "studies" than sciences. Economics is one such field. I love it, but is it science? Not like physics is a science. One reason the Austrian School is c…

Conservatives 'Give' Lower Grades? Nonsense!

Today, on Inside Higher Ed, I read the following nonsense disguised as a meaningful study:
Red Grader, Blue Grader
May 20, 2011
Republican professors and Democratic professors presumably produce different outcomes when they enter the ballot box, but what about when they record grades?

A forthcoming study finds that there may be notable differences. Democratic professors appear to be "more egalitarian" than their Republican counterparts when it comes to grading, meaning that more of the Democratic grades are in the middle. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to award very high grades and very low grades.

Another key difference is that black students tend to fare better with Democrats than with Republicans.This is utter and complete nonsense for a simple reason: the professors do not teach the same types of subjects. Numerous studies, including the one reporting these results, have found that self-identified "liberals" dominate the humanities, while "conservat…

Office of Management and Budget Employees to Push to Unionize - Political Punch

This is a bad idea on just too many levels:
Office of Management and Budget Employees to Push to Unionize - Political Punch
Asked for comment, Kenneth Baer, OMB communications director, told ABC News that the Obama administration “is a strong supporter of the right of workers to organize. It is up to the people working at any bargaining unit to decide if they want to join a union or not. Whatever the decision of these employees may be, we are committed to working together to serve the President and the American people.” Public sector unions are unlike unions in private industry. Union employees would be analyzing federal expenditures, which often involve unionized employees. The potential conflicts are numerous. Federal unions donate to political campaigns, electing the very men and women the unions then "bargain" with -- not a good system. At the turn of the last century, New York state had to limit the power of New York City politicians because union bosses and politicians ha…