Learning Is Hard

Now that I am registered for a financial accounting course, I actually have to start studying again.  I bought the course textbook in its online version and have been going through the first chapter.  The downside to online textbooks is that I already spent 11 or 12 hours a day staring at a computer monitor (mostly for work), so my eyes don’t like the extra strain that an online book brings.  On the other hand, because I am a hand-written note-taker rather than a write-all-over-the-book kind of guy, the online format is cheaper and I don’t lose anything from it.

One thing that I’m not used to is having to do homework before the course begins, but that’s how it goes at the school I’m going to, apparently.  I only have to show up to class one evening a week, though, so I’ll be able to manage the combination of school and work.  It’d be easier if I weren’t working 50 hours a week, though…


(Mostly) Non-Economic Notes

I’ve been holding on to some of these for a few days, but most should be reasonably topical still.

Greg Gutfeld discovers Sarah Palin’s hidden past.  He probably made up less in that article than an average Andrew Sullivan article.

Jim Manzi has an interesting set of data on whether income inequality and Democratic party voting go hand-in-hand.  He notes that there is a negative correlation between voting for Republicans at the national level and a state’s Gini coefficient.  It’s hard to determine causality, though, as you have to figure that the Democrats draw their best from the “edge” rungs of society:  the very high and the very low.  Break down most socio-economic measures into quintiles (or further) and generally you will see Democratic voters at the top and bottom and Republican voters in the middle on things like education (number of years and final level achieved), income, wealth, etc.

Speaking of education, there is a recent article regarding the social value of education.  The standard trope is that education has positive externalities, and thus deserves public subsidization.  Steven Yamarik, however, disputes this notion.  I’d like to take a closer look at the model and results, so I might look into that when I get a chance.  Take a gander at Richard Serlin’s argument at the bottom for a critique.  My problem with his critique, though, is that he implies that what he considers external gains are not, in fact, internalized.  He’s absolutely right when he says that a better-educated populace is a more productive, innovative, and entreprenurial populace, and that I, by living in such a world, share from the benefits.  But at the same time, I am paying these people more in order to obtain services and goods from them.  Doctors receive more income than witch doctors, for example. College-educated individuals receive, on average, more than high-school dropouts.  This gives individuals a market-based incentive to obtain an education, and by creating incentives to grow intellectually, this internalizes the externality, at least for the most part.

Actually, I would argue that the difference between my thought and Serlin’s is that Serlin assumes constant returns to scale, whereas I’m with James Buchanan in leaning toward the thought that the world really does have increasing returns to scale.  This goes against one of the basic assumptions of neo-classical economics, but over time, I’ve grown toward that argument.  In this case, Serlin’s point would make perfect sense while still allowing an individual to oppose his follow-up argument (that government spending is necessary or desirable as a result of this externality).  You still get the market-driven incentives you would have with constant returns but you don’t have to try to explain away the fact that we, as individuals, are (ceteris paribus) better off living in an educated society or a market economy.

Obama recently had a rather disturbing ad regarding McCain and illegal immigration.  After the “McCain doesn’t know how to send an e-mail!” ad (which was wrong as well; it’s not that McCain doesn’t know how, but rather that he has physical difficulties in doing so), the Obama camp shows that they’re quite able to hit below the belt.

Speaking of the Obama camp hitting below the belt, the Jawa Report has evidence indicating that a Democratic PR firm was trying to astroturf by putting out a supposedly community-created attack on Sarah Palin.  Right now, one of the important questions regards the female voice actress used and what kind of relationship she (or her company) may have with David Axelrod.  The front page and another post have a lot more regarding this smear and they’ve been looking for people in the mainstream media to investigate further.  Good luck with that…

Obama really knows his Chicago politics.  You would think that a Presidential candidate who worked closely with an unrepentant terrorist would at least have a few reporters trying to get the story here…

Who’s to say that, after talking to everybody on television in 1929 as President (h/t to historical genius Joe Biden for informing us all of that one), Franklin Roosevelt didn’t buy up a lot of homes and make taxpayers a profit?

There are several reasons why I’d really like Obama to lose.  The top reason is that I strongly dislike his policies.  The second is that divided government is often times better than one party running things.  The third reason, though, is Obama’s unbridled arrogance.  I’d really like somebody figuratively to bloody his nose.  Losing a gimmie election should be enough for him to understand the aphorism that you don’t count your chickens until they hatch.

Mac Owens has an article on some of the worst generalship since George McClellan.

Brian Domitrovic, over at First Principles, has a nice article on why we should be thankful to William F. Buckley for giving good economists a chance during the dark days of Keynesianism.  I remember skimming through old issues National Review back in the ’60s one lazy afternoon and really enjoyed a three-issue back-and-forth between Milton Friedman and Henry Hazlitt on a negative income tax.  Even before the Wall Street Journal, NR was pushing low inflation and low taxes.

Russia appears to be pushing the envelope.  This would be a good opportunity to foster closer ties with Colombia and reasonably friendly Latin American countries.  It’s a shame that so many in Congress are opposed to CAFTA and reducing harmful tariffs, as those would be beneficial for relations in the region.  Oh, and naturally, expanding American influence further in central Asia and eastern Europe.  The Russians may be significantly more ruthless and have a freer hand with military action, but the US has more degrees of freedom (pun not intended), even without doing things like expanding NATO.

Terrorism isn’t dead.  Isn’t it funny how Germany has so many terrorists?  Why, they weren’t even in Iraq!

The title is bad, but the article is fitting:  Washington Mutual, the latest bank to go under, apparently spent more effort hiring for quotas than hiring for quality.  As a not-quite-aside, the accounting book I’m reading now has a section on “social responsibility,”* and presumably the author would have applauded Washington Mutual’s decisions.  Milton Friedman, of course, knew better when he said that the first and only function of a business is to make money.  If, after you receive your earnings from the company’s profits, you decide to perform actions which are “socially responsible,” that is your own choice.  But once companies have to deal with “social reponsibility,” they run into Tinbergen’s Law.  In this case, the two goals are the same as in my link.  Don’t be shocked…

* – I should note here FA Hayek’s statement about how appending “social” to a noun generally results in a meaning precisely the opposite of the unadorned noun’s.