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Toll Roads

Filed under: Economics — Jared @ 2:20 pm

I’d pay tolls on Rt. 95 to have traffic suck less; I love finding economists that I actually agree with:

Free roads are anything but free



History of Money

Filed under: Economics, Informational — Jared @ 2:53 pm

Just read an interesting piece on the history of money (via GetRichSlowly). I especially like this little tidbit (from the end of the article)

The modern wisdom that a small rate of inflation29 is part of a healthy economy comes down to the need to make our silver behave a little more like barley.

Not trying to argue on the wisdom of economics (gotta finish reading Matt’s economics book before I even bother), but this was an interesting read.


Solving Poverty

Filed under: Economics, Politics — Jared @ 1:39 pm

I think Matt and I have come up with a pretty good solution for poverty – and one that’ll make him happy because we get to rid ourselves of the minimum wage. Matt, correct any mistakes I make:

We institute a publicly-funded job training program. The program is paid for by the state. It is an ITT-Tech style program (and probably makes use of pre-existing job training colleges, although we didn’t hash out those kinds of details) and prepares people for specific careers, like A/C repair, medical assistant, ect. We’ve all heard the commercials. At my insistance, anyone who is currently working full time to support themselves will be paid the hourly wage they are currently making for the hours they spend in school (instead of at work, theoretically). Eventually, most people have a skill more valuable than “Burger Flipper”, and the minimum wage is made obsolete.

What do you say? Spong/Rice for office in 2008?


Research, Economics, Walmart

Filed under: Economics, Politics, Science — Jared @ 1:58 pm

Ars Technica put up a very good article by Hannibal talking about old-school vs new-school R&D. It reminds me of a discussion I had with Matt a few weeks ago, and why I don’t trust the free market to figure out everything on its own. The problem with allowing economics to get entangled in science is that much of the science worth doing isn’t profitable in the near term, if ever. Hannibal describes the old research style (and this jives with my understanding of history):

The great labs of this era—Bell Labs, Xerox PARC, and IBM’s labs—were places with massive budgets, where the world’s top scientists were invited to pursue “blue sky” research into areas with no immediately apparent commercial applications. The facilities were state-of-the-art, and there was no pressure from management or shareholders to do anything but science for science’s sake. To be able to fund such a lab was a mark of corporate prestige, and the labs themselves, along with their public counterparts like NASA, were major sources of national pride. For a company like Xerox or AT&T, what it meant to have a blue sky research lab was very much like what it means for a city to host a winning sports team; it was a source of pride and an anchor of collective identity. So much like the science that they produced, these labs were ends in themselves.

Emphasis mine. He goes on to explain that the information revolution we currently enjoy has cashed in on much of this research, and that the fast paced economy of today makes “blue sky research” way more difficult to fund; shareholders want profit today, not a possible benefit to society twenty years from now.

Before I get comments or e-mails, let me explain something: I’m not against a pretty free market. Matt put up a post about Walmart that I agree with. I happen to dislike Walmart for a number of reasons (their treatment of employees is legendary at this point), but I wouldn’t suggest we dismantle them because they destroy little businesses. Business is rough, wear a helmet. On the same token, I wouldn’t suggest that we try to prevent the short-minded thinking that goes along with today’s economy. I don’t have any idea if our economy is sustainable (I leave that to the economists out there), but I know that it does drive things cheaper. And with the Internet and sites like, it is getting easier every day to hold companies responsible to their customers.

That aside, I think there is huge value in science for science’s sake. I’m not unbiased; I am a scientist after all, and if I could make a decent living in academic science (which you pretty much can’t at the moment), I would be there. But I think it is worth doing all of that research just so that we can learn more about ourselves and the universe we live in. Forget all of the capitalization potential in such research; who really doesn’t want to understand the world we live in better? The problem with such research is that it’s expensive, and someone needs to foot the bill. Private money for such ventures is not in oversupply, so where to get the funds? The only place I can think of is public money, but if we can’t agree to fund Embryonic Stem Cell research (which could, some day, relieve countless people of varying suffering), I have doubt as to our ability to do that at this point. Hopefully an oversupply of private money will appear at some point, with the realization that the research done with those dollars will likely yield results in the decades after they are spent.

And if a few companies can take that research and actually cure cancer with it? All the better.


The Diamond Invention

Filed under: Cults, Economics, Politics — Jared @ 1:39 pm

Interesting read. I haven't read all of it yet, and I knew that there was a lot of sketchyness around diamonds, but it's definately interesting to read about.


Ah, the good old days…

Filed under: Economics — Jared @ 9:08 pm

Matt has been re-tooling his blog. I wish I had the energy for such shenanigans, but I'll have to settle for WordPress' built-in setup. But I was reading through his archives (inspired by the new setup) when I came across this post about gas prices. Oh, how I fondly remember the days when $2.34 was an outrageous amount for a gallon of gas. Le Sigh.


If Only…

Filed under: Consumer Activism, Economics, Politics — Jared @ 2:13 pm

I really wish this signalled some sort of crumbling of the Bush administration, but I'm not all that optimistic.

Oh yeah, and the outgoing CEO of Exxon is getting a retirement package worth $141,000 dollars per DAY he worked?? Are you kidding me? At that rate the man could give away $3.5 million per month, and would probably not see much of a difference in the quality of his life. I cannot think of anyone in human history that has done anything to justify compensation of that magnitude. Not one person, ever. If you can think of someone, please point it out in the comments.

It's official. Capitalisim is broken. I can't believe that this is what the free marketeers that helped shape our country were aiming for. Greed is one thing, but this is crazy. Time for the governemnt to step in, and mandate some social responsibility into these insane companies.

$3.00/gallon my ass.

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