Three Pillars of Learning – Depth; What ideas are…

Three Pillars of Learning

– Depth; What ideas are important?

– Breadth; What connections are there between ideas?

– Process; How do people think about things? Models.

These pillars work with each other in a virtuous cycle of learning. Models of how the world works help you to understand it. Those models help to build deep understanding of a particular idea. The deep understanding means that you understand the model further, you generalize and then apply the model to other areas or fields. Because no model is perfect in a more general setting, applying the model more generally forces you to reevaluate the model and improve it or scrape it. The outcome is a better model and the cycle continues.

Graduate school is a social environment that allows this cycle to continue unhindered.

Questions To Ask When Thinking About Pursuing a Ph…

Questions To Ask When Thinking About Pursuing a PhD

“Research shows that up to half of the students who begin doctoral study never receive the Ph.D. One culprit in attrition is a poor match. Doctoral study may be a poor choice in the first place, or there may be a poor fit between the student and the program.”

Questions that need an answer:

1. Why a PhD?

2. Why economics?

3. Why Berkeley?

4. What advisors at Berkeley? Why?

EconLog, High income and Wealth: Library of Econom…

EconLog, High income and Wealth: Library of Economics and Liberty

I like this one… I’ll come back to it. Basically, what would be a just distribution of wealth? What would a virtuous distribution look like? Assume each, justice and virtue, are mutually exclusive (I’m not sure if that’s the right term… in other words, justice plus virture adds up to 100% of your morals, I guess). Square the virtuous and just models of wealth distribution with their respective importance.

Also, I want to look into the ‘Survey of Consumer Finances’ more… For my personal financial planning if nothing else…

Len Burman et al. on the Alternative Minimum Tax …

Len Burman et al. on the Alternative Minimum Tax

Interesting the politics of tax policy. You hear raise taxes, lower taxes, but in reality revenue needs to be had and services need to be paid for (especially new, expense entitlement programs, cough cough perscription drugs). This article talks about the AMT. If the politicians do nothing, more and more folks will be subject to the alternate tax and the politicians, in effect, have raised taxes and nobody can hold them responsible.

Another example is the hullabaloo regarding expensing stock options. Stock gains (aka capital gains) are taxed at a famous maximum of 15%. Income is taxed upwards of 35%. Assume the policy change encourages companies to switch from stock options to straight salary compensation and you’re talking a 20% tax increase on the margin!

Even better, wages are subject to workers comp whereas stock option compensation is not.

In any case, they’ve risen taxes with impunity. What a deal!

War Overview

War Overview

Good one!

Mr. Clueless reviews the arguments for war. His presentation seems a bit like post-rationalization, but its also probable that such a case would not have enjoyed so much political success… Side note: its strange that an argument made before a war is so much different then a case after and that these differences seem politically necessary. Point being: we would not have been able to go to war under the auspices of ‘rearchitecting the middle east’. It took the ‘they are going to kill us with bad weapons’ argument to get folks behind the war.

In the Bush administration and the larger neocon movement, am I witness to great leadership or to a Machiavellian political agenda to rule the world? The answer seems to depend on my mood more than the arguments one side or another makes! Most likely, this is due to the fact that both sides are right.

Tony Blair’s speech to Congress Blair for Presi…

Tony Blair’s speech to Congress

Blair for President! Seriously though, are there any cogent counterarguments to the points Blair articulated so well in his speech to Congress last week?

A quick review:

– terrorism is bred of poverty and illiberity

– terrorism plus destructive technology is a security threat to ALL the west

– the best way to combate terrorism is to spread liberty

– we mustn’t let terrorists get their hands on WMD

– the only way to prevent terrorist from getting WMD and to spread liberty are to be sure the world is in lock-step with us

Is there another way to look at the state of the world? If not, are the only arguments remaining to do with HOW to implement the last point?

Mankiw vs. Greenspan?

Mankiw is saying that growth, spurred by the administration’s tax policy, will increase the government’s top line and reduce the deficit.  Greenspan is saying that deficit’s are bad when the economy is at full employment.  It’s not clear that these two men would disagree with each other.  What counterposes their opinions?

The only difference seems to be the writers’ editorial bent.

Movie review: Flash Dance Dreams Alex is a wel…

Movie review: Flash Dance


Alex is a welder by day and she is a exotic dancer at night. As the movie opens, we come to understand that her dream is to become a classical dancer. As a kid, her Nana took her to ballet and her father taught her to see the music at classical music concerts. Now she is grown up and in a fork in the road of her life. Does she realize her dream or does she accept her position in life?

The film is filled with characters that have had their dreams crushed or have not realized their dream. Hanna wanted to be an ice skater, but that dream was crushed by one poor performance. Do you really only have one shot? Richy wants to be a stand-up comic, but will he realize his dream? He’s failed once before will he try again? Johnny never even had a dream.

Sometimes family or friends will get in the way. Their own crushed dreams will make them uninspiring, even without words. The blow can come in the form of a rolling of the eyes or just plain disinterest. Sometimes their own failures will cause them to conspire to make sure you don’t reach your dream. They might actively try to dissuade you to give up your dream. Some will want to see you put in your place (your place, of course, is no where near your dream). If you don’t resist their calls to remain were you are, then you will. What would have happened if Alex didn’t make Johnny let go of her in that alley?

In the end, the worst enemy of your realization of your dream is you. You’ll be afraid to bring your dream into focus and you won’t know what to strive for. Or you’ll know your dream, but you’ll be afraid to go after it. The hardest part will be to take the first step: to fill out the application, to lift the first weight, to take the test or to write the first line. Why did Alex leave the line to fill out the application to the ballet school? Seeing others fail before her needn’t have stopped her from taking that first step.

Some never take that first step and their dream fades away. Tina, another dancer at the club, doesn’t know why she didn’t grow beyond the night club. You could ask “why does this happen? Why do people lose sight of their dreams?” But the answer doesn’t matter. The most academic explanations involving Tina’s psychology or descriptions of her upbringing, will not change the fact that she never realized her dream. What really matters is that you don’t lose sight of your dreams.

Alex got some help, a “kick in the ass”, by Nick. He is her self-made, successful boss and owner of the steal factory. He has realized his dream and now he wants to see her realize hers. He nudged her into finally applying to the ballet school. Of course, luck plays its part and Nick, who happens to know the music conservatory director, makes a few phone calls to get her an audition.

The story in Flashdance is, at the same time, timeless and dated. Discovering and realizing your dreams is a classic story. For Alex, she was from humble beginnings and she had to break free from the boundaries of poverty. Her’s is the classic story of the American dream. Despite economic adversity, she worked hard and was passionate. She has no agenda and she pursued her passion for its own sake. With a little luck and determination, she made it to the audition.

Today, the story of the American dream has to be modified. Most people grow up with out the economic hardship that Alex had. For the average kid, everything is handed to them. They don’t have to struggle find the open door, many doors are open for them at birth. It’s easy to realize your dream, when you don’t have to strive for it, right?

Can the American dream be salvaged with such a lack of struggle?

Your dream, the American dream, is what defines your purpose in life. To have purpose is a struggle for everyone not just those in poverty. Where poverty denies you options, privilege saturates you with them. In poverty, the path you choose defines you. In privilege, you have to choose among your many options and you’re defined by what you chose and what you didn’t chose. In both poverty and privilege, your path is not set but it will appear to be. And in both you have to overcome the temptation to accept your standing in life and to discover your true ambition. From there, whatever your challenge, you need focus to become great.

Whether your obstacle is poverty, privilege or something else: “Take a deep breath and jump”. After that first step, what if you don’t make it? You will, I know you will.

Lyrics to the What a feeling.