Thursday, February 9, 2012

What Do Economist Think About That?

Oscar Wilde once said "If you laid all the Economists in the world from head to toe, they still wouldn't reach a conclusion". I am not going to get into which economists Wilde may have been interested in laying,although Keynes was known to play for Wilde's team at times, if you know what I mean. What I am going to do is show you a place where you can find what an assortment of academic economists from the country's better universities think about various subjects in public policy.

The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, which has produced many great minds, such as those of Art Matin and Steve Ross, has a project called the Initiative on Global Markets, or IGM Forum for short. They have assembled a panel of Economists who blog about various subjects. They also regularly poll the panel on various subjects of public policy. You can find their web site HERE. If you go to the tab that says Economics Experts Panel you will find a list of questions, and the data on whether this group agrees or disagrees with a statement. Below that you can see how each member voted, and some often amusing comments.

Bored yet? Yes, I'm an Econ geek but I found this fascinating. I think if Mr. Wilde were around today he would find it surprising, as these folks seem to be in agreement on a lot of topics. They hate the idea of returning to the gold standard, and they hate the war on drugs. They think China is keeping it's currency undervalued. They think taxing things that we'd like less of, like traffic congestion and carbon, is a far better way to approach the problem than a bunch of rules. In fact, there are few things on the list on which there was a great deal of disagreement. Too bad Hakek and Keynes aren't alive to create a lively argument.

The panel they have seems to fairly represent the conservative schools like Chicago and Stanford, and the liberal ones like Harvard. It's a small but distinguished group.

The question now is, why are you still reading this. I gave you a link to a fabulous source of interesting information. Go check it out. It may change the way you think about things.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

My Fun With Mormons

Everyone but Newt Gingrich knows that Mitt Romney is going to win the GOP nomination, despite the endorsement of Trump (can Obama get any better news?). Which means that we will hear a lot of discussion over the next 8 months about whether Mormons are Christian enough to be considered real Christians by the real Christians, you know, the ones who love Jesus but ignore everything he said. In other words, the Republican base.

As you probably know, I am an athiest. So, you are probably now expecting me to make fun of Mormons for their funny underwear and other beliefs. And, of course, it's all silly, but I can do that about any religion. And if you are Christian, you know that is not what Jesus would do, so why would you want me to?

No, I am going to tell you about my first encounter with Mormons.

Growing up and living in the Northeast until I was 37, I never had much exposure to Mormons. I knew they didn't drink or swear, 2 things at which I have always excelled. So, I had a negative image of Mormons as a bunch of stuffy, unfun, boring people. Certainly not the kind of people I could hang out with, or have fun with. You know, like Mitt Romney.

In 1989 my college friends Art, Steve, Gordon and I went on a rafting trip on the Salmon river in Idaho. I will leave out the details about how awesome and life-changing this trip was for me, but, well, it was awesome and life-changing.

None of our group had spent any time around Mormons, and I think it is safe to say that my friends had the same image of them that I did. And, when we booked this trip, we had no idea that the company was owned by a Mormon named Verle, and that 3 of our 4 guides would be Mormon college students. So, here we find ourselves on this trip with the owner, 3 Mormon guides, one of the guides Mormon Mom, and another woman who was also of their tribe. Nightmare right?

No, it was not. The Mormons on this trip were FUN!!! We had 5 fantastic days on the river with these people. And we drank beer and smoked pot at night, and invented new ways to combine obscenities when we fell out of the boat in a rapid. But the Mormons were cool about the whole thing. More than cool, they were fun. Good guys. We all got along great. At one point, the mom was undecided about whether or not she should hop out of the boat to cool off in a calm part of the river. So I just pushed her in. That night we had a "talent" show, and she asked me to help her tell a story. I quickly discovered she wanted my "help" as a way of pummeling me and getting revenge for pushing her in. Pretty cool!

Does that mean I will vote for Mitt? No, it doesn't. But there is a lesson in there for all of us. Don't judge a whole group of people based on your own ignorance. People are people. Some are nice, some aren't. No matter what else they are.

And now you are probably wondering if the Mormon guides wore their special Mormon underwear on the river. Sorry, some secrets can not be revealed.