Please note that my opinions are my own, and the opinions of the anyone or any institution quoted are theirs. The opinions expressed herein do not reflect the opinion of North Carolina State University, its board of directors, the College of Management or any other college, Student Media Authority, or WKNC Raleigh.

Monday, September 12, 2005

More Conservative by the Minute

Hastert was right. At least TRY to see it from his side. God, what is happening to my liberal sense of mercy and my bleeding heart?

"Nobody can deny New Orleans' cultural primacy or its historical importance. But before we refloat the sunken city, before we think of spending billions of dollars rebuilding levees that may not hold back the next storm, before we contemplate reconstructing the thousands of homes now disintegrating in the toxic tang of the flood, let's investigate what sort of place Katrina destroyed."

Any comments are welcome.

A More Dangerous Addiction: Taxes

Tonight I was introduced to a new concept, something that had previously not come up in any economics course I've taken so far.

Tax Addiction, when googled, returns the following article:
"If California lawmakers don't want people to smoke, why are they tying the state's budget to smoking? Democrats seek to close the state's $24 billion deficit through the servitude of smokers. Democratic Party leaders proposed this week a steep increase in cigarette taxes -- from 87 cents to $3."

Tax Addiction is simply a condition of federal governments that they tend to cycle taxes aimed at reducing negative externalities of consumption and production into their fiscal budgets from year to year, thereby sending a mixed message to constituents and those affected by the taxes directly.

On the production side: the U.S. government, through its arm labelled the EPA, mandates certain levels of abatement (that is, anti-pollution or pollution-reduction) that certain industries must follow or face per-unit taxes on products. A company will then reduce pollution of its own accord until the cost of producing the next unit of abatament (known as the marginal unit) exceeds the value of the per-unit tax. In this way the government intervenes to fix a market failure, namely to lower pollution.

With industry being what it is, and a large economy that easily processes hundreds or thousands of trillions of dollars each year, substantially revenue stands to be gained from taxing polluting industries. Oh, goody, more money for the government to spend. If I'm starting to sound conservative, its because I'm a conservative economist.

In much the same way, the government taxes cigarettes in an effort to reduce the number of smokers (particularly underaged smokers), and perhaps thereby reduce the number of smoking related deaths and/or lawsuits continually going through a revolving-door legal system. Tobacco is bad... boooooooo tobacco.

Oh, wait, they get tax revenues from that don't they? So they don't wish you to stop smoking cigarettes completely, they just want to make the few that remain on board pay like hell for a few of the cancer sticks. Because gub'ment needs da munny, hunny.

So, I now must disclaim: I do not endorse cigarette smoking, nor do I promote underaged drinking. But, if you wish to enjoy a fine pipe tobacco or cigar with an exquisite merlot, you will be tasting the best life has to offer and likely would have the best sensory experience a man or woman can obtain with legal "drugs." That doesn't mean you should smoke to get a nic rush or drink a keg of beer and get wasted. MODERATION is the key (see previous entry).

Which is worse: The smoker that "pollutes" the voluminous air that each of our cars graciously scurbs clean for us (snicker), or the government that vehemently opposes the devil-weed while quietly accepting a bribe to GRANT you a RIGHT?

Any strict constructionists care to comment?

A Story of the Penny

Once upon a time, very far in the past before the world knew what a "Federal Reserve Note" was, there was a boy that lived with his family in a small rural town.

The boy's family was by no means rich, but they weren't destitute ,either. I guess you could call his family a member of the original American middle-class, hard-working, strong-valued, and patriotic.

When the boy was young, his father would give him a penny every weekend to purchase a treat from the local confectioner's shop. The boy's favorite was bubble gum, which was fortunate because back then you could get five pieces of bubble gum for a penny. And why wouldn't you? It doesn't make much sense to cut up a penny into five parts so you could buy a single piece of gum, does it?

So the boy would wait all week and if he was a good boy, his father would take him to the shop and let him purchase his treat. Sooner than later he realized that he could get one candy bar for a penny and it would eaten before he got home. But, the magic of bubble gum was such that you could chew it forever and ever; or until you went to bed, whichever came first!

Now there was a second benefit from liking bubble gum; because it came so cheaply, the boy was able to have one piece of gum a day (excepting Wednesday and Friday, as he had decided the value in moderation some time after he realized there were seven days in a week and only five pieces of gum). So the boy enjoyed his treat for weeks at a time until he outgrew bubble gum, which fortunately came at a time when the confectioner had to close up shop. Something about a Great Depression... whatever that meant.

Well, the boy grew up into a fine man and had a family of his own. By this time in the man's life, he'd been through it all. In order to pull the economy back together, big Uncle FDR initiated a lot of bank reforms. A consequence was the removal of the gold standard of money and the introduction of "greenback" money. Now, when you tell people that a dollar bill is only worth a dollar because Brother Gub'ment says so, they get a little crazy. Bro. Gub'ment didn't do a great job of controlling the amount of these pieces of paper, so these things called markets started raising their prices until things were about like they were before the greenbacks.

By now the man's own son, another little boy that inherited his father's penchant for bubble gum, had gotten used to going to the local store with his father on weekend outings and purchasing a pack of gum. You could get five sticks of gum for a dime, or one for two pennies. Even better, if you bought five packs of five stickes (that's a total of twenty-five pieces of gum!) you could get it for four dimes (that's 20% off!).

The boy naturally thought this had to be the greatest achievement in human civilization. How fortunate he was to get something he wanted at a good price! His father harkened of times 'Back when [he] was a lad...' but the boy didn't listen much to that babble. So he bought five packs of gum each Saturday, but unlike his father didn't learn the value of moderation. The boy had twenty five pieces of gum to last him all week long! He could practically have a piece any time the mood struck him.

This led the boy to purchase more and more gum, until he could rest assured he was safe for a week, with a week's supply of gum in reserve. The boy became a model consumer and produced his own little consumers when he got older. Those little consumers produced more little consumers, and those little consumers produced you! You little consumer, you! Everyone was happy and finally, due to man's great achievement in the fields of marketing, gum technology research, and gum sales, anyone could have a piece whever they wanted. We're living the American dream!

The moral of this story: impulsivity. There are two fundamental differences between the world of the boy and his father; a basic dichotomy that had not existed previously but continued to perpetuate itself from time since. Impulse, desire, wants, and (to a very minute degree) needs fuel markets and capitalism. The boy was considerably wealthier than his father was at that age, but it wasn't just him. All the little boys were enjoying a higher standard of living than their parents, and that was a novel idea. Even two hundred years ago, economic growth was so slow compared to what it is now that one could be guaranteed a safe, unchanging way of life for their generation.

That is the case no longer. Standards of living continue to rise, and we shamefully want more and more. Should we feel ashamed, or is it only natural in a capitistic society? It depends on your own moral character at the basic level. Is greed a fundamentally evil thing or do you accept it as human nature?

Furthermore, is reckless purchasing power in todays world a sign of a darker future? Again, it depends on whether or not you feel justified in your purchases.

How often do you let little things that are good in moderation overwhelm you in excess? After all, you are the beginning and end of all that you experience.

So do you think things out and plan? Chew on that next time you reach for a pack of gum.

Cleaning Service?

I was out of toilet paper last night. So I was gonna get some today, but forgot. So imagine how surprised I was when I went to the bathroom and the Toilet Paper Fairy had put a fresh roll on the holder.

Emma's in Mars Hill, and I know my roomates wouldn't have done it.

The only thing that's weirding me out is that they didn't tell us we had room cleaning service.

That's my shallow thought for the day! :-)

Friday, September 09, 2005

Life Experiences, Lessons from a Cigar Smoker

Well I mean to write something last evening about this, but I didn't get around to it until now. I'm listening to Enya right now, which I've never done before, and its making me feel contemplative... all this coming from an one-time metal-head. Not sure if I should've disclosed that. Such is life.

And life is appearantly such that I don't know quite what I thought I knew. I guess this is the point when a post-adolescent begins to realize he doesn't know everything, though I'm not quite sure I ever held that opinion of myself. In retrospect, if I had held such an opinion, it makes me appear quite the jack-ass and only reinforces my newly-realized ignorance of life.

I hang out with people older than myself--considerably older--because I enjoy their company far better than my own peer group. Of course, I still have my peer group that I hang out with on a regular basis to catch up on things, chat, waste time, and enjoy each others' company; but there's just something inherently charismatic which I was previously unaware of in older people. After last evening at TofR, I realized that the charismatic appeal came from their life experience, which only naturally appealed to me because of my acadmic nature and love of knowledge.

Among other things, I've learned that it all comes down to number one. Whether its credit, debt, burden, strife, responsibilty, or wealth--I make it so. That's self-empowering in a sense but quite humbling in another. In fact, quite so humbling as to be my non-stop contemplative thought since about 11:30PM last eveing (it's now 12:30PM Friday). I can't put it any other way... I simply am still a novice when it comes to life. This only further affirms my complaint in my last entry. College is sheltering me, and I was looking forward to "hiding away" from reality another 2 years in grad school as a friend would put it.

I enjoy the pursuit of knowledge, but I MUST start living at some point. Academia is for the young and the retired, and for the select few that are TRULY teachers at heart. The earning potential I have being a 19 year old junior in economics is kind of staggering. I shudder to think how much money I could have made in the last few years, building up a nice 401k, some IRAs, or at least some social security "tenure." Of course I also recognize that the same is highly unlikely without being in school. We arrive at an interesting paradox where I realize now that I could have earned more out of school, but yet would have never been able to come to that realization without having been here and having the limited experience thus gained.

Enough pipes and cigars for me last night, don't need any more today. I don't know how much more contemplation I can take.

By the way, does anyone know of a way to take the arrogant tone out of my writings? I was just reading over some older posts in my other blogs... damn, how naive.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

They Remixed the Indy Sounds

Well, I laughed my ass off. Well, maybe I didn't laugh it completely off, but I laughed until it hurt all over. If you haven't seen the original cartoon, watch this atomfilm short and it might rekindle your memory or entice you to do some crafty googling to find the original. All the guys from back home probably know what it is...

Badada-bring-ing-dada-ding-ding--ding----ding-ding-bada-ding- ding-bring-ding-bada-bring-ing-ing-ing-ing-owwwwwwwwwwwwww.

Copy and paste:

Labor Day

Was quite uneventful except for the drive. Less the drama at home it was pretty much relaxing and greatly-needed. I visited friends I've been meaning to visit for along time and learned a few things about myself that I want to share.

I'm a hypocrite on many things. I've made peace with that.

I may listen and understand, but I don't state that enough with positive feedback. Instead I argue.

Analytical minds--that is, perfectionists--tend to overanalyze everything, including themselves. Wait, that's me too.

"Patience is a virture." And it is a virtue which I do not possess in great quantities, though that too I am working on.

I've also learned that sometimes the greatest feeling of complacency and contentment can be found on a cool breezy day when the sun is shining just enough to feel warm on your face; when the scent of the earth fills the air and the intoxicating aroma cleanses your body; when God's beauty is on full display and his truth hidden in science yet undiscovered; when everything seems right only for a moment, but that moment is eternal.

Prolixity & Verbosity: On the Merit of Succinctity

It is essential.

We all talk more than we should, but I've mentioned this before; in repeating it, I've just become verbose, thereby reinforcing what I recently stated.

Ohh, look at all the flowery language.

Damnit, I've said too much.

"Efficient words make lean thought; lean thought, more clarity." Again, feel free to use that, or comment. I needed to get that out of my head.

Oh, There It Is!

I’ve found my creativity. It’s stuck in a dusty closet somewhere in the back of my right brain. Someone forgot to turn out the lights and I saw it through the crack underneath the door. If it weren’t so damn crowded in my left brain, I would have gotten to it sooner.

I don’t know when I “lost” my imagination, my creativity, or my intelligent skepticism. That is, a skepticism contrary to the kind I’ve practiced lately (see below) in a kind of cynical—as opposed to academic—manner. Can anyone be blamed except myself? Well, other than pointing the finger at one of the few surviving members of my family, I’ll say that the senior high school- first year college atmosphere takes the majority of the blame.

I think sometime during the course of applying to college, or writing my first long research paper, I shoved my creativity into that closet thinking I could get to it easier at a later time, when I’d cleared out all that academic mess floating around. Well, I pretty much forgot about it though unconsciously I kept walking by that closet on a daily basis, reaching out for it without knowing. You can call them hobbies, passions, sports, or living life; I kept a barrier between myself and my imagination for a long time—

Because we all know that academia is very mature, and mature is cool. Right.

The reason for my infatuation with higher education? I don’t really wish to list all the details because I can’t really recall them all, but tonight I realized that I admire good, honest, intelligent, and charismatic professors. I’ve been lucky until now. Now I have the professors that know a lot of stuff but lack the character to present it in a digestible and interesting format.

But there I go bitching again—which itself brings up a good point: Do you notice that people get fired up over negative things more than positive things? I mean of course the news media does, but don’t we all prefer to have people listen to our problems than share positive experiences? Must just be my family.