Thursday, January 29, 2009
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Circle and spin,
moon round the earth, earth round the sun,
the sun to another, another to one.
From the premier gyration, when the first circle began,
has anything at all revolved around man?
Or was his deified lot made trivial by Copernicus?
The bodies circle and spin while time runs straight.
Is time just the length of the circle unwound?
Is anywhere save for the end of time
the beginning of the circle found?
Is the circumference of this life
and the area it contains,
lonely abstract circles in space,
or equally vital links of a chain?
The meaning of his lot is all man desires to know.
Yet a question of meaning is a question ill posed.
For an answer exists, an answer sufficing.
Yet so does another, and another and another…
Our discontents arise not from the failure of logic to elucidate,
but rather the difficulty of deciding which answer to eliminate.
We are ships with sails aplenty,
yet no rudder to steer.
The winds they blow in circles
like the thoughts of the sailor.
So rather than leaving waters far as unknown,
we conjure tales in waters near.
This you read though, this is no tale.
This is a map of waters sailed.
The rhyme is of no need, nor the tale need told.
The rhyme is but to beautify a sailor’s tale of old.
The story of what we are,
is a story of how we began.
Behold these words of rhyme:
The tale of Animal Man.
To what divine purpose or will
Sets the sheep to graze, the wolf to kill?
Destines the proud eagle to majestic solitude?
Fuels the perpetual lion/hyena feud?
All life is sown from the same powerful strand.
One force to survive, one force to breed,
they are the maker of our story, the writer of our history.
Two forces--one artist--of anatomy and disposition;
fighting the world outside with armies of the universe within.
I urge you the reader, just consider this:
Nature is not what should be, but rather about what is.
Sentence the deranged and perverted to shame.
Burden their thoughts, their soul with blame.
For murders of anger and passions uncontrolled;
for sins of the flesh may their souls be sold.
Compare them to you and your virtue refined,
then all nature must be judged by the same fine line.
What is the difference between a whore
and the other multiple-partner carnivores?
Was it not inherit in nature’s design,
for the purpose of preserving the family line;
for the woman to desire numerous men,
so one man sterile cannot set her genes to an end?
Defend the whore? The reader proclaims!
Use sources of lust and passion to justify her ways?
By this we can forgive every murder and rape,
every wrong deed executed following urges innate!
But I know of no grounds to crown or crucify.
I do not defend or judge. I only explain why.
With no system to judge in judging I refrain,
but judging and punishing are not the same.
To judge is to lift the throne of vanity up high.
To punish is to care for others, to prevent future crime.
Left to themselves, some are violent inclined.
The punishment is to keep Animal Man from hurting his kind.
Proudly we sit, on the throne of experiments and equations.
Mocking forms stuck at lower elevations.
To the moon goes man, and beyond soon.
Any place of entry nature has refused;
we march, we conquer, nature has no defense;
for the energy of ingenuity and the congruency of common sense.
So easy it is, when we have conquered distance,
squeezed the length of miles into a minute,
to arrive at this absurd, universal truth:
That creatures of earth were made for our use.
That the cat who chases its tail in futility,
does so for our amusement, solely for our utility.
How shocked he would be if it were known,
that if man had a tail he would chase his own.
Lacking a tail, an analogy may be made,
to the “tales” man composes to fend off dismay.
To make a day worthwhile and life a blessing,
man assigns a meaning, a story, a purpose to everything.
Does man fall into despondency when tragedy ensues?
No, man finds in calamity a lesson to use.
Does man feel helpless at the approach of his death?
No, he simply assumes after this world there is still one left.
Does man grow weary waiting for God to orate?
No, he says it must be God works in a mysterious way.
Imagination is a brilliant filter of misfortune.
When the wheels of tragedy are set into motion,
never will it outrun man’s magic potion,
the magic of believing any farcical notion.
Nature’s engineering feat that exceeds all else,
is the ability of man to deceive himself.
Give thanks to the heavens for putting imagination in place.
Otherwise man would learn to spite his meaningless days.
As man takes grapes, takes it to make wine,
a thought can turn earth absurd to earth sublime.
Does man even care his beliefs are sophistry alone?
No more than the cat cares the tail is its own.
As the fish, to ignorant to conceive of dry land,
the geniuses buckle in defining Animal Man.
Is a brief moment’s movement, a movement of mine,
if by conscious contemplation in movement I decide?
Or the instinct to blink before a particle hits the eye,
that proceeds deliberation, was it an action of mine?
The instinct or the deliberate? What constitutes that which is me?
Or am I perhaps not a whole, but two separate entities?
Or many more? What is the whole?
What is the whole if parts act solely on their own?
If my cells so loyal turned to cancer unrestrained,
is it cancer that will kill me, or am I to blame?
If the reflex to kick at the tap of the knee,
were outlawed universally by sacrosanct decree,
and I kicked, who would stand trial; who for mercy should beg?
Animal Man whole? Or the nerves in my leg?
If sentence was given, a sentence of death,
the mind is tortured for the actions of the leg?
Consciousness is only the deceiving face of being,
the only part of self-reflection able to be seen.
So much more, alas, the majority rests inside,
part directed by nerves, part by the mind clandestine.
They handle the parts of life most dear and felt:
Animal Man pushes his soul away from himself.
Man claims the irresistible impulse of falling in love,
is rational to playwriting gods above.
Yet he fooled himself! Love cannot be a rational choice.
Love is a prison rationality would avoid.
But love must exist, for the offspring rationality must fall,
and so the hidden irrationality is rational after all!
Lastly, for who do I pray, what really am I,
when I am a voyage of a thousand guides?
On the whole I am my story, in part what I feel,
yet I only know the latter, and never grasp the real.
And the story saddest among all the rest,
is that Animal Man has never met himself.
Classes the classes! the inequalities persist!
Is status cloaked by manner or displayed by dress?
By effort? By chance? Is the difference justified?
What trait ensures one will serve he who dines?
And how does the politics elected to correct inequality,
only results in profits for the elected party?
What are we to do? What can be done?
Is every man different, or is every man one?
It is not our society has missed the value true:
We do not value the man, but rather what he can do.
And so if man is paid according to talent displayed,
the value of a intrinsic man is not captured in his wage.
So where is the value of man, by what is his measure?
Perhaps by religious principles one can deem man the better?
Then the measures would be infinite, no ranking is feasible,
when beliefs scatter in the head like the earth scatters with people.
Besides, the sum of man’s morals always add to zero.
One-half man the villain, one-half man the hero.
but though inequality is widened, it is solely man’s fault.
The poor reproach the gods for poverty dateless,
regardless the gods have never doled wages.
It is man’s preference that poverty, inequality persist,
as man walks the earth, naming all that is his.
When the final roll is called and all men are dead,
will the meat of the fat be given to the underfed?
When destiny greets man at his most feared stage,
at the stage of death, will the greeter compensate?
Does fate ensure at last that all men are equal,
equally rotten corpse of no life, sight, or feel?
Is the imbalance of fortune really a terrible realization?
Is the panhandler made worse by a king’s coronation?
Whitman might say the value of living is the power of your story.
That a novel can bestow the poorest of men with earth’s greatest glory.
Life would feel ever so futile, were story after story to repeat.
Injustice, with all its harms, ensures Animal Man’s story is unique.
Children pull their hair in search of gray roots,
then when gray shows they long for youth.
Remembrance is the deep moaning cello string.
The precious pasts rides patiently on future’s wings.
Yesterday held so dear, tomorrow so faithful.
Yesterday, tomorrow enter. Today is never welcome.
Memories are life’s chronicle in order of emotion,
some ready to be relived at the slightest of notion.
Other insignificant moments are quickly set aside,
forgotten, sacrificed, for the critical to reside.
If the inconsequential are cast into the mind’s abyss,
can we really then say this half of life was lived?
If not, then half of what we are is not our half to claim.
If not, the book called life must then be renamed.
Changed from a meticulous recording of history,
to a summary highlighted by the limits of memory.
Every day changed by new moments lived.
Every day Animal Man changes what he is.
The present is a trudge towards the top of a mount.
One side clearly seen, one blocked by the ground.
At the present, yesterday is a chaotic order of events,
in the grand scheme, happenings with no consequence.
Today does not justify the disagreeable days of past.
But his unshakable faith assures him tomorrow will at last.
The future is a chest of treasures to be bestowed,
compensations of blessings to coat memory’s sores.
Promises, promises of fortunes profuse,
a dollar for each inconvenience, a million for each abuse.
Future promises in extravagance, doles the highest wage.
And why not? The future, lying ahead, never has to pay.
The arts are man’s; no other species’ to perform.
In arts the world is imitated, transformed to adorn.
In taking the earth so vile and unjust--
a sphere that bundles a birth with a curse--
and casting this play in a more suitable setting,
the absurd becomes necessary, a curse becomes a blessing.
Before language, music must have been sung,
for nature seems to bundle a song with a lung.
From a baby cub’s cry to her mother’s roar,
pitch alone is a language for this expressive carnivore.
In screams of danger and calls for breeding,
nature found in music an expression of feelings.
Few Americans can discern a Frenchmen’s conversation.
Borders divide countries, but language divides nations.
Yet a Frenchwoman knows an American baby’s bawl,
and French symphonies tell stories throughout America’s halls.
Before language was made so intricate and diverse,
this primordial tongue of emotion was the language used first.
Though birds may sing they do not create;
when man composes a new world is made.
The world is but a story that cannot be revised,
except in the variform siblings the arts comprise.
The arts are a cult with the greatest of persuasion,
inciting with frail promises and the most clever of puns.
Animal Man stands like sheep waiting for his shepherd;
he says, “ The grass here is good, but there must be grass better;
whoever leads must knows where it lies;
this leader’s trail, his wisdom, must be canonized.”
Walking in faith sets Animal Man into a lull,
and dying to learn the trail was a circle.
When Animal Man cannot discern the purpose of his place,
he will cast away logic and with faith replace.
Animal Man will worship gods benevolent or wicked,
anything making this world seem different than it is.
The arts are like gods, they are different points of view,
to bury realities deep, and replace with truths new.
Circle and spin,
man round his thoughts,
his thoughts round desire.
finding little down on earth,
he reaches to spheres higher.
Man round his stories,
dizzy about his art.
For smarts without purpose,
is a shadow of the dark.
to be born is but to die.
She lowers his tomb slowly,
to be born is but to die.
But man listens little to nature’s plan,
for man can make his own.
intended as nothing more than a tool.
But it proved all too useful in a land of despair.
In the end he became what was not intended.
In the end he became a god of his own world.
In the end man sees the world not as it is,
but as what it can be.
Animal man rearranges the stars from where they are,
to their every possibility.
Jake Bodin, 2007
Monday, January 26, 2009
by F. Bailey Norwood
(mostly finished, still working on typos)
The Price of Everything, by economist Russell Roberts, is a teaching novel, an attempt to entertain while you educate. It is a magnificent description of the role price plays in society; a role crucial for our well-being, a role that is poorly understood. Sterilized water is also crucial for our well-being. In the past, we understood it poorly. Our ancestors drank beer instead of water throughout the day because they knew beer was safer. If they had understood that it was the boiling process of brewing that made the water safe, they could have obtained safe water without going to the high cost of brewing, without staying tipsy all day. In similar respect, Dr. Roberts hopes to understand our understanding of prices, so that we can utilize prices to better serve our needs, much as today we consume safe water at a ridiculously low cost.
Our world spins off the extraction of nonrenewable resources. The profuse layers of coal beneath our feet heat our home, and the coal is removed from machines that consume oil from far-off lands with an alien culture and value system. These subterrian jewels provide energy, and that energy helps computers run and ambulances bolt. There are only so many of these dirty jewels, and while mankind will someday develop alternatives, the date of that event is kept secret by Providence. Thus, we have to be careful how much we use today, if we are to ensure our children will have some reserves to fuel their ambitions. These nonrenewable energy sources are rationed by price. Higher prices force us to conserve and lower prices say its okay to consume. Energy is an essential input into every good and service, and is built into their prices. Higher fuel prices imply higher transportation prices which imply higher Wal-Mart prices -- teling us that we must conserve more, back away from Wal-Mart, and be happy with what we have. Discoveries of new oil deposits allow us to consume more today without sacrificing our children's reserves, and the lower oil prices imply lower Wal-Mart prices, and that is how we know to consume more. The price of oil is the signal telling us how many toys we should consume today, in order that our descendants will also have these same toys.
If the price of everything depends on the price of energy, and if the price of energy is not set correctly, neither is any other good set correctly. Ask yourself: how could the energy price be set correctly? When will alternative energies be developed? We do not know. How many more oil deposits will be found? We do not know. How reliable and useful is shale oil? We don't know. Markets ramble about, attempting a guess at these questions, but it is just a guess. The guess is destined to be wrong, but the direction of the bias and the magnitude is unknown.
As energy prices are most certainly incorrectly set, so are all other prices. Prices are built on a shaky foundation of crude predictions about crude oil, and other predictions which are either wrong or extremely wrong. As our crystal ball into the future only shows a second crystal ball, the price of everything is almost certainly, despite its benevolent intention, the price of nothing.
But then, the price of energy does mean something to each individual, though not the same for each individual. I knew whether I was willing to drive into Oklahoma City on September 20, 2007 when the price of gas was over $3.00 per gallon. I know whether I am willing to drive tomorrow, at whatever price it will be tomorrow. My family will make some decision about the next car we purchase, and it will take into account gas prices.
Famed oilman T. Boone Pickens also knows what the price of oil means to him. It probably doesn't impact his driving, since he has a private jet. Billionare Pickens does own oil fields though, and knows where more oil may lie. Mr. Pickens also invests in wind energy, and knows where more wind can be found. As oil prices change, he will know what to do with his investments. He may feel uncertain, but he will make a decision.
Society as a whole, if such thing exists, is incapable of deciphering the signal sent by oil, natural gas, and coal prices. Each individual within that society does know what to do with energy prices though. Prices are not a public message; prices whisper something different into each person's ear.
If something can be studied, it exists. If price has any tenable meaning, it can be studied by economists. Our world consists of nominal prices, but to study them across region and time requires that we convert them to real prices. That picture of George Washington on a green bill is much less persuasive today than in past years. The journey from nominal to real prices requires the use of price indices, like the consumer price index. Wade Brosen is an esteemed economist at Oklahoma State University. I once asked Wade: when one studies price relationships, such as how beef prices behave in relation to corn prices, what price index should be used? He replied that your choice of price indice is important, because the analysis results are not robust to changes in index, but it is not at all clear which indice one should use.
Despite the intelligient economists and vast amounts of money reserved for creating price indices, they are rough approximations of real prices - very rough. As economists continue to deify price, never is price -- real price -- ever seen. The skeptic must wonder, then, if the price of everything is a thing at all.
The Christian God has not been directly seen by his people for thousands of years. Yet his followers are no less doubtful than those who did cast their eyes on that which is alpha and omega. The reason is that his followers do in fact "see" God in their own way, whether it be a sequence of events interpreted as a sign or a surge or emotion as service. Tis the same for price. People claim to have seen it, but they can never show it to you.
Economics is a study of wealth. The first economics book, published in 1776, is titled The Wealth of Nations. Naturally, economists like to measure wealth, and we do so using Gross Domnestic Product (GDP). The GDP calculation is simple: take every good and service consumed, multiply it by its price, and sum this product over all other consumer goods and services. Price, here, ensures we make a fair comparison. A car is more valuable than a candy bar, so one car is not added to one candy bar for a wealth of two. Instead, the price of the car is added to the price of the candy bar, for a wealth much different and more appropriate measure of wealth. If price fails in the GDP calculation, the GDP measure fails. Price does indeed fail to reflect value.
The government makes many purchases that enter into the GDP calculation. The government also makes many purchases that have no value to society. The Iraq War, as of 2008, provides no value to Americans, and much loss to some Americans, even their lives. Yet every bullet and every bomb counts as GDP; it counts an amount equal to its cost. Surely, that price does not always indicate value; it overestimates value. The total cost of the Iraq War may exceed $1 trillion. The exact cost is difficult to estimate and relies on controversial assumptions. Yet whether it is $1 billion or $1 trillion, the value of the war is much less.
In other instances price underestimates value. No one purchases a good for which they value less than its price. Otherwise, why would they make the purchase? In these cases, price underestimates true value. Approximately one-third of all goods and services are purchased by the government, and are vulnerable to being over valued by price, and two-thirds are purchased by private citizens, and will be under estimated by price. Given there is no reason to suspect the over- and under-predictions would cancel each other out, GDP is not a measure of total wealth.
Yet GDP remains a fixture for news stories and is tracked by economists like the surgeon tracks heart rates. The measure fails for the simple reason that there is no single heartbeat for society at large. Our hearts beat at our own unique time and place. No surgeon would propose using one heart monitor for two people. No measure of wealth exists for you and I collectively. Our hearts beat separately nevertheless, and we take delight in the thrill of our toys and the security of our financial instruments. We measure wealth because we are interested in wealth. Since we never know whether our measurements are correct or incorrect, our subjective delight in summing the numbers is the only reason we should calculate GDP.
Nonmarket valuation is the economic field of measuring the value individuals place on goods for which no price can be directly observed. When the Exxon oil tanker dumped gigantic volumes of oil into the Prince William Sound, the courts were interested in knowing the price U.S. citizens were willing to pay to have this oil cleaned. One can check the price of milk at the grocery store, but no such price tag exists for this good. Instead, the price must be measured through methods such as mail, phone, and in-person surveys of individuals across the country.
Many economists spend their careers learning how such survey questions should be asked, and the one lesson that keeps repeating is that any change in the survey question or setting in which the question is asked changes the answer. If a pretty girl administers the survey, the answer changes. If the person is asked their age before the price they are willing to pay, the answer changes. These survey administrators will tell you, in secret, that it often feels like there is no real "price" to measure at all.
The Heisenberg uncertainty principle in physics states that the mere fact of measuring the position of a particle makes the momentum of the particle harder to measure. The measurement alters the state of the object being measured, and the same thing happens with people. When you ask a subject the value they place on a good, you simultaneously change the value they place on the good, and every variation on how you ask the question changes the value in a different way. Indeed, it has even been shown that merely asking someone whether they would consider purchasing a good increases their propensity to purchase the good. Listen carefully, because that was a profound point: asking people about their preferences changes their preferences!
So what is this value if it is so susceptible to changes in context? How can one measure value when the measurement changes the value?
The answer is that you don't. Ask a survey question and one will receive a survey answer. Yet there is no survey question about price that reveals information about the price. Of course, a price does exist for the person. If the price of milk reaches $4.00 per gallon, Mary may discontinue its consumption while John may simply reduce consumption by one-half. Both Mary and John have a maximum price, and they probably know what it is. They just can't tell you what it is.
In a competitive economy, prices contain a wealth of information; they benevolently help us determine what we should and should not do. This is often noted by economists. Indeed, it is their mantra.
What is not often noted is the fact that this information is not written in a universal language, and that attempts to speak of prices negotiated by other individuals destroys that information prices contain. A single price reflects the property, expectations, and desires of millions of individuals, and that single price means something different to each face among these millions. It is this facet of price that is so wonderous and unintuitive.
Price is a necessarily personal number. It cannot be spoken of in news stories clearly or deciphered intelligently in magazines. It degrades from an institution to a blot of ink when it enters an econometric equation. Communist and socialist systems have failed heroically in every documented attempt manipulate prices. This failure is often attributed to the fact that governments do not have the competence or information to adequately set prices. The failure is more than this though. The problem is not just that a few individuals cannot set the many prices for the many people, but that when price is assumed to convey the same information to each person, that number ceases to be a price at all.
I believe that air is real matter, just like at rock, but I know it is to elusive to catch and hold in my hand. Similarly, I know that prices are the most important numbers for a societies with a penchant to truck and barter. Yet I have no desire to control the prices negotiated by others. This includes the rent between tenants and landlords, as well as the interest rate negotiated between banks. The inability of me to see, conceive, or understand the prices set by others implies that it is none of my business. Thus, I let prices be. Unless you are able to grasp the air and hold a unique collection of air molecules in your hand, you have no more business than I controlling prices.
For the buyer and seller, the price of everything is, well, the price of everything. To the outsider, the price of everything is the price of nothing.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Friday, January 16, 2009
Thursday, January 15, 2009
This is how lobbying for free political money works: you hire lobbyists to fight for the money, and if you spend the most lobbying money you get the money, otherwise you do not receive the money. Either way, you still have to pay your lobbyists. So rent-seeking is just like the auction described above.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Monday, January 12, 2009
Friday, January 9, 2009
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Today at Oklahoma State University she gave a spectacular seminar on the results of her interviews. If you want to become a great teacher, view this video of the seminar to learn how!
BTW: I have written eight blog entries in a series about the research, the first entry being here.
BTW, again: You may see that a scene jump to another scene abruptly. Parts of the video were edited out for reasons I choose not to say.
Please visit the Feedstuffs Companion homepage and view other recently published articles by outstanding undergraduate students.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
The Best and Worst Jobs
Of 200 Jobs studied, these came out on top -- and at the bottom:
|The Best||The Worst|
|1. Mathematician||200. Lumberjack|
|2. Actuary||199. Dairy Farmer|
|3. Statistician||198. Taxi Driver|
|4. Biologist||197. Seaman|
|5. Software Engineer||196. EMT|
|6. Computer Systems Analyst||195. Garbage Collector|
|7. Historian||194. Welder|
|8. Sociologist||193. Roustabout|
|9. Industrial Designer||192. Ironworker|
|10. Accountant||191. Construction Worker|
|11. Economist||190. Mail Carrier|
|12. Philosopher||189. Sheet Metal Worker|
|13. Physicist||188. Auto Mechanic|
|14. Parole Officer||187. Butcher|
|15. Meteorologist||186. Nuclear Decontamination Tech|
|16. Medical Laboratory Technician||185. Nurse (LN)|
|17. Paralegal Assistant||184.Painter|
|18. Computer Programmer||183. Child Care Worker|
|19. Motion Picture Editor||182. Firefighter|
|20. Astronomer||181. Brick Layer|
Monday, January 5, 2009
- Improving Your Chance for Success
- Poetry by Jake Bodin: Animal Man
- Margaret's Melody
- A Theory of Tuition Freezes
- The Price of Nothing
- The Beauty of Pollution
- A Libertarian's Dream
- My Country, My Country For Some Oil!
- Thoughts From A Journal Editor
- I Held A Tullock Lottery
- Applying Economics to Water Pricing
- Teaching Your Students Rent-Seeking
- How Much Do We Really Know?
- Where Goodness Lies: An Open Letter to Students
- Why We Teach Agricultural Economics
- Just Because Bill Gates...
- Insane Locovores
- Uncertainty Prolongs Recessions
- A Notable College Career
- Back to Destructive Economics
- Switch To Google Chrome
- Video: How To Be A Great Teacher
- Katy Brookman Wins Feedstuffs Scholar Award!
- Amazing Fact
- Health Care Rationing
- Inside the Financial Crisis
- Becoming an Actuary
- Stimulus Perspectives
- Teaching Seminar - The Making of a Great Teacher
- The Suffering of Cage-Free Eggs
- History of Humans and Livestock
- ▼ January (31)