• Cocktail and Dinner Party Economics
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  • Dinner Party Economics

Mission-ary Zeal

We work to preserve the value of money by keeping inflation low and stableThe Bank of Canada As I begin a new semester of Introductory Macroeconomics, I am again struck by how little students know about ‘the real world’ of economics and politics.  Only a graduate student auditing the course knew who Mark Carney or Ben Bernanke were when I asked approximately 600 students the question.  That is unfortunate because these are very powerful men who will shape a student’s ‘real world’ more profoundly than most of the profs they learn under. (But come to think of it, sometimes students don’t know the name of their prof either!)  My main goal this semester is impart macroeconomic ideas but it is also to acquaint them with the current players in the political-macroeconomic game. To make them aware of a very real world. At some point in the term I will give my sage advice  which is “Do not graduate in a recession if you can help it.”  Why you ask? Because of hysteresis. When in a business cycle  a student graduates will change their career path–along with the more obvious factors of the major they take,  the skills they acquire and the contacts they have. The timing of graduation is not a trivial matter.  Hysteresis can be very unlucky if you are an outsider and young graduates are usually outsiders to the labour market.  Furthermore, recessions can arise through the actions of the central bankers of the world (Carney or Benanke included) as they implement Monetary Policy.  Students should know who the key central bankers are, their MOs and plan accordingly.

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Just a Compassionate Minute

As on most days, I got my shoes shined four or five times.  Not that they needed it, but it gave me a few precious minutes with a child or an old man who needed a kind word and a few cents for their work.  My car likewise was washed numerous times each day with the filthy water that ran down the street gutters.  Each occasion gave me the excuse to joke with the child who graced me with his industriousness.  Taken from Just A Minute pg 207-208 by Wess Stafford President and CEO of Compassion International Book group is this Sunday night and I am ready.   Partly because there was a mess up with my car and I ended up sitting at the dealership for an extra hour and a half which enabled me to finish the book and not feel like I was taking valuable time away from marking final exams.  This book is inspirational in a Chicken Soup kind of way except all of the royalties go towards Compassion International’s work with poor children.  I happen to sponsor a child through them but I just send money.  I don’t write letters.  This book made me feel like I should write to my child and make it more personal. That the input of encouragement from a complete stranger is as helpful as a monthly cheque.  I will have to think about this some more. To the quote from the book at the beginning of this blog…I completely agree that the marketplace is a place to help people and seemingly frivolous purchases can do great good.  Thus I get a manicure weekly from a place where the language of choice is Vietnamese.  The world is a better place for them and for me.  I call this a gain from trade.    

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Numb3rs Game

We all use math every day; to predict weather, to tell time, to handle money. Math is more than formulas or equations; it’s logic, it’s rationality, it’s using your mind to solve the biggest mysteries we know.  Introduction to each episode said by Charlie Epps I positively loved the TV series Numb3rs.  I say loved because the series ran from 2005 to 2010 and is now sadly over. The premise of the show was that mathematics can be used to solve crime.  The lead characters were brothers Charlie (a math genius and professor) and Don (Lead FBI agent) Epps who worked together to solve crime using both of their skills. I have just finished re-watching all 6 seasons and was struck by how often they used game theory to find the villain in the piece.  One instance was particularly funny when Charlie shows the payoffs of a prisoner’s dilemma game to a group of suspects because he suspected that they don’t really understand the math to play the game correctly.  (The traditional version has the suspects  separated.)  Once the mathematics is made clear, they of course then confess. Numb3rs was the most popular show on Friday nights for the first 4 seasons with both mathematicians and mathphobes loving it. The mathematicians loved it because the mathematics is correct and interesting.  Mathphobes love it because it is easy to become committed to the cast of characters.   This show was typical of the new connection between academia and TV series,  the most recent of which is the hit series Breaking Bad. For Numb3rs, I regret to say that their number was up.

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