29 September 2010

Personalities and Economists

This is not for Javi.

For me, I like the know the personality of the economist when I'm
reading one of his or her papers. The personality helps my memory,
which needs all the help it can get. The trouble is, it's hard to find
out about personality.

Here's one guy at Columbia University (http://ping.fm/YYWe6
Indexmuppet.htm) who shows his personality on his web-page. He's from
Spain (a country on the Iberian peninsula). He likes football. He has
a list of quotes when a person predicts failure for something and it
turns out to be a raging success (e.g., Bill Gates: "Why would anyone
ever need more than 640K of RAM?"). Fun, fun, fun.

Another place to look for personality, in the US, is the website
ratemyprofessors.com. Here are his students describing the guy:
http://ping.fm/P5sxE A red pepper
indicates the professor is hot, meaning he or she is good-looking.

28 September 2010

This article (http://bit.ly/9DxQoq) is about people who are not good
at something (like humor) but are not aware of it.

In medicine, there is a condition called anosognosia, meaning the
patient is ill but is not aware of it. For instance a person might
have had a stroke, but, because of the location of the stroke, they
don't realize they've had a stroke or that they have weakness,
although it's abundantly clear to everyone else.

The question is: what are you not good at, but don't know it? or, do
you know what you don't know?
I heard Jake Adelstein (http://bit.ly/cgTxVY) interviewed today on a
BBC radio show. He is an investigative reporter, involved mainly
looking into organized crime in Japan. He says that, in Japan,
organized crime is supported, or at least not discouraged. The idea is
that you WANT to have monopolies in crime.

WHAT!? Well, economically, the idea is that, with monopolies, you get
companies that don't reach and don't particularly try to reach the
production frontier. You get fewer entrepreneurs, fewer SMEs, and less

I do recall Baumol (http://bit.ly/beE8yC) wrote that entrepreneurs
will innovate. In good economic times, they'll work on things that are
good for society; but, in bad economic times, they'll work on things
that are bad for society. You just can't stop them.

Well, if you support organized crime, the idea is that the organized
crime bosses will drive the entrepreneurs away from doing things that
are bad for society.

At least, in theory.

I wonder what are the unintended consequences of this?
The big news this summer was the HP Board's summary dismissal of CEO
Mark Hurd over what seemed a minor issue involving an inappropriate
relationship with a female contractor, a former soft-core porn
actress. Hurd received a golden handshake and was dismissed. His many
supporters pointed out that Hurd was a numbers guy (not a people
person) and that HP had done well in his tenure. Hurd then went on to
accept a job at Oracle. That move led to a lawsuit by HP. On it

Here (http://bit.ly/9DcyiD) is a blog posting regarding HP's earnings
claims during and just after the Hurd era, showing that HP did not do
well financially and how the numbers people tried to cover it up.
This (http://ping.fm/iUyuR) is a famous
documentary. Barbara Kopple films a coal miners' strike in Kentucky in
1973. I hope people outside the US can watch films on hulu.
This article (http://bit.ly/aU74r6) concerns the performance of
various wines in wine competitions. They found "that winning a gold
medal was significantly influenced by chance alone." I am not sure
what's the take-home message from the article, so obviously more work
needs to be done in this area. Here are some possible take-homes
(obviously an incomplete list):

1) If it tastes good, it is good. Don't worry what the experts say,
because they can't agree.

2) The wine experts, enthusiasts, and snobs (i.e., my brother-in-law)
have no idea what they're talking about, and they're fooling
themselves if they think they do. This is another example of the
Kruger-Dunning effect.

3) It's like the Coke-Pepsi taste tests. The message is: you're buying
the name on the label. The name is part of the tasting experience.

4) People couldn't tell the difference between neat alcohol mixed with
grape juice and a high-quality wine.