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Showing posts from August, 2014

Gambling Economy

It seems that there is a human weakness for gambling.  Maybe it’s the thrill of the action, maybe it is the temptation of getting some fast money without having to work for it, but whatever the reason it is clear that people like to gamble.  I was first introduced to gambling as a high schooler growing up (too) close to Yonkers Raceway.  A childhood friend of mine had a dad who liked to bet on the horses there, and I went with them once and was hooked.  My sophomore year in high school began with a teacher’s strike that lasted about a month and for many of those nights I found myself at the track, gambling $2 in a race with a total risk tolerance of about $10 for the night.  I learned about addiction to gambling though as I saw many grown ups there every night I came, including my friend’s dad.  And unlike me, it was clear that these grown-ups were gambling money that they could not really afford to lose.

Media Hype

I was recently on the big island of Hawaii with family and friends.  Our trip coincided with the dreaded twin hurricanes Iselle and Julio.  The first, Iselle, was threatening to hit land Thursday August 7th and the second on Saturday August 9th.

Now, I almost never watch television, and even less frequently the news on television, and even less frequently when in Hawaii, so I was completely unaware of the hype that had been building about the alleged danger that these two hurricanes posed to my family’s well being.  The evening before Iselle was to hit I received a beautiful text from my daughter Rebecca, who is working this summer in California, expressing concern for our safety.  I was very moved that she had taken to write me, and I assured her that things seemed to be well under control and that we would be quite safe.  The next day I exchanged similar emails with my sons, one of whom is studying in Japan this summer and the other who is working in New York City.  (There was some…

Inflation and Economic Vibrancy

It is conventionally believed that inflation is brought about by robust economic activity, and that it is a sign that things are going well.  In the U.S., and most of the developed world, we've been languishing with a very tepid recovery for the past 4 years, which has been accompanied by very low inflation statistics, as fed to us by our governments, and very low interest rates.  Our Fed Chairwoman and her fellow Fed Governors would like to see inflation rates increase in the U.S.

There is a belief among Keynesian economists that deflation, or an environment in which prices drop, might cause people to delay their purchases, believing that if they wait prices will be lower, and that these delays will lead to a veritable death spiral of lower sales, lower prices, and lower employment.  I believe that lower prices actually stimulate spending.  For me, cheaper prices motivate me to consider buying, and I’d bet this is true for most people.

Population

For so long I have listened to politicians talk about growth as though that was their major objective.  They promise more jobs, more companies, more housing, and more people, more, more, and more.  All of this is seemingly without any regard to the quality of life of the people that are already there.  And, the love affair with population growth is not confined to politicians.  Economists and demographers decry countries with low birth rates, such as Japan and most of Western Europe where the typical parents have less than 2 kids and thus are not “replacing” themselves, as being doomed to oblivion, and soon too.  I’m not so sure.