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The Perils of the Low Information Voter

29 Sep

The bailout plan fails in the House. And hey, the Dow closes in -700 territory. So that’s exciting.  

On the political side, I can understand the behavior of representatives who claim to be receiving calls 100:1 against the bailout. They’re worried about protecting their seats and watching as their vote is painted as a taxpayer giveaway to billionares. But this is the one of the real-word consequences of the the “low information” voter.  The bailout is a complex and confusing morass that requires a lot of technical knowledge.  So we’re asking the voter–who hears “bailout” and “fatcat” thrown around like CNBC is covering a national game of Monopoly with the Fed playing the roll of Mr. Moneybags, complete with Depression-era monocle–to smile and put their faith in unelected technocrats. 

This is, in part, a trust and information problem. If more voters understood the problem, they might be inclined to support the bill. (I’ll also note that some of this blame could be shared by Congress and the Bush administration for not selling this better). If some voters had more information, they’d know enough to understand…that they don’t know enough. 

Instead, they call and complain to their local representative, allowing the House GOP to cry partisanship. Best comment comes from a friend in investment banking:

LOL. No! They’re [the Republicans] protecting the little guy by insisting on tax incentives for speculative investment. Wheeeeeeee! We’re all doomed!

Sentences That Worry Me

15 Sep

Perhaps if I had more experience with financial markets, I wouldn’t be as concerned, but as it stands this sort of thing doesn’t sound good:

$$$ With Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns gone, everyone is asking whether Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs will survive as independent investment banks.

And these from Felix Salmon:

If you’re looking for silver linings, it’s clearly the investment banks which are most worried right now, not the big commercial banks in Europe or even in the US (Wells Fargo). When Wall Street’s alpha males stop competing and start cooperating like this, you know you’re living in historic times.

Hopefully not too historic.

Sometimes I Read Things Out Loud

22 Feb

yak.jpgTonight is one of those nights. I’ll be reading poetry alongside talented fiction writer Rebecca McGill and the wry and incisive non-fiction stylings of Mike Scalise. It starts at 8pm at George Mason University: third floor, Meeting Room E in the Johnson Center. So if you’re around (and for some reason you read this blog), you’re welcome to come. I promise to read poetry about comic book superheros, famous physicists, and the occasional economist. So you know what you’re getting yourself into.

Yes, it’s probably as bad as it sounds, but look at this way: free drinks to lull the higher brain functions asleep while you listen to bad verse and funny stories.

You Know What’s Great About Price Controls? Oh Wait, Nothing

3 Sep

Zimbabwe is experiencing shortages of basic necessities and empty store shelves thanks to Mugabe’s decision to be the country with the world’s silliest economic policy. It’s simple really–just follow Greg Mankiw’s three easy steps:

Print a lot of money, control prices and wages, then watch the laws of economics take over.

Brad DeLong, Megan McArdle, and Hilzoy also comment on the “disaster-that-an-undergraduate-economics-major-could- avert”.

In related news, The Economist reports on the economic innovations of Venezuela:

Inflation in Venezuela increased by 1.1% in August as the government continued its spending programmes. Further, due to economic mismanagement, consumers are facing shortages of meat, flour and cooking oil despite windfall oil revenues. And big oil is feeling Chavez’s pinch as well, Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips are withdrawing after having to cede control of joint ventures.The bolivar, has fallen by 30% this year to 4,850 per dollar on the black market where the currency trades freely. The official rate, set in 2005, is 2,150.

First country to have its citizens carting wheelbarrows full of useless currency to the store wins.

Adventures in the Academy

30 Aug

Brad DeLong had an exciting first week class experience over at Berkeley:

“The 210a students are waiting for you.”


“Economics 210a. The students. They are waiting for you. In Evans 608-7.”

“But 210a is in the spring!”

“There are seventeen 210a students waiting for you in Evans 608-7 right now.”

It turns out that when we in the Economics Department moved 210a from the fall to the spring semester, we never told the registrar. So students who relied on the schedule of classes rather than the Economics Department gossip vine thought 210a starts today.

And one of Prof. Delong’s reader’s shares this story:

In my youth, at a certain midwestern university . . .

The building maintenance people had, weirdly, put a number on every single door in the new physical science building, not merely the classrooms . . .

The registrar’s office didn’t quite grasp what building maintenance had done . . .

And that’s how my Calculus I class came to be scheduled to meet in the men’s bathroom . . .

(Insert scatological and mathematically themed quip here.)


English Department Meeting Blogging

22 Aug

Brad DeLong freaks me out by noting “Objects in My Calender Are Closer than They Appear…”. How close, you ask? I’m at orientation for teaching George Mason’s composition program right now. Back to school. Get excited.

Apparently, I’ll be Feminist in the Post-Patriarchy

9 Aug

I ran across this post on Feministe while clicking through blogrolls¹. While the post is a fairly unremarkable reflection on dating a hetero guy (after years of relationships with female and transgendered partners) and said hetero guy’s open embrace of feminism, many of the commenters’–er–“skeptical” comments made me wince:

And yes, I’ve seen this. We’ve all seen it, repeatedly, if we’re honest. And maybe it’s just that that pathetically grateful relief that women can act out when we’re confronted with one man who seems even halfway not-a-shithead illustrates like nothing else just how very, truly fucked we are by this society. Christ, we meet one guy who WON’T defend gang-rape and might be talked out of thinking that all rape victims are lying, drunk sluts, and we fucking capsize ourselves kissing his goddamned ass. It’s that bad. IT’S THAT BAD. THIS SOCIETY REALLY IS JUST THAT BAD.

I know sometimes hyperbole tends to have it’s own momentum. But gang-rape-defending momentum? Who is seriously going to defend gang rape? Oh, you mean the Duke lacrosse rape case? Yeah, no–pick something else.

More on the topic of men as potential feminists or feminist allies: Continue reading