The money illusion section was very good, none of the other economics books I've read have given it as much as attention as it gets here.
I also reallThe money illusion section was very good, none of the other economics books I've read have given it as much as attention as it gets here.
I also really liked the chapter on the asymmetrical behaviour of compensation in economic down-turns vs. up-turns, again because the subject wasn't given significant text in other books. The book doesn't explore the solution space much- my first thought is that an progressive proportion of wages should be in the flexible form of stock options in the employers company heavily mixed with index funds for the employer's industry and also index funds for the entire market, with restrictions on sales or transfers within some time window of say anywhere from 5 years to retirement age of the employee. The employer would promise employees numerical unit contributions of those funds per year rather than be locked into dollar amounts, accomplishing the desired effect of reducing compensation in recessions without worker antagonism. Higher progressive income tax on dollar compensation coupled with lower taxes on options compensation might accomplish this.
The chapter on the TARP (the bank bailout) is full of unexplained jargon and not very useful, also the chapter on affirmative action doesn't cohere well with the rest of the book. The title of the book isn't well justified in the text, and each usage of the term 'animal spirits' is clunky- simply calling some undesired effect to be due to it and therefore the author's solution is the only one that will work isn't very convincing. It would lose marketability but I wish I would hear an economist talk about linearization- various economics theories of the past are actually linearized approximations of actual behaviour, but behaviour outside of the valid linear range is either undefined (and maybe undefinable) or bears more research....more
The book gets off to a very bad start with a lot of self-promotion on all the superior aspects of economists over other members of society. But this wThe book gets off to a very bad start with a lot of self-promotion on all the superior aspects of economists over other members of society. But this work dates from 2003, most economics books published after 2008 have a much more humble tone. Fortunately Naked Economics rapidly improves.
Midway through the book there is a discussion of efficient markets theory and the superiority of index funds over mutual funds or personal stock-picking/day-trading. But Wheelan and another economics book I've read recently which promotes index funds miss important aspects of their nature. Index funds are free riders on the informed stock picking happening in the background that is the pre-requisite of efficient markets theory. The dumbed down version of efficient markets theory says markets are efficient period, not that that they are efficient because there are many people working hard for their own benefit to make them efficient. It's the equivalent of political contexts where one takes for granted that the system self-corrects and getting oneself involved isn't necessary, even though the self-correction consists individuals getting involved.
Rarely any scheme that attempts to model the aggregate actions of others incorporates the effects of the adoption of the scheme on a large scale. If all stocks were picked in the fashion of index funds then the market would not be efficient at all- and there could be interesting scenarios to explore there. But the market wouldn't move instantly from efficient to un-efficient after passing some threshold of index funds vs. picked funds. We instead would see that mutual funds start to perform a little better than index funds, and there would be a movement back towards picked funds and the system balances out. As it stands now we're probably a long way from that cross-over point.
Elsewhere in the book there is a recurring and unresolved tension between representative government and free markets. Wheelan offers up some easy examples of what government should do and what free markets should, and what they shouldn't do, but there isn't an overall coherent structure that makes deciding the murkier cases easy. It's likely anyone with an extremely simple and dogmatic approach is probably going to do a lot of damage if given the opportunity to implement it.
A great celebration is made of the ability of markets to deliver on the preferences of individuals making transactions, but then Wheelan immediately disparages some applications of preferences- preferring not to buy products derived from inhumane working conditions is one of them, even if the alternative is giving the workers no work at all. Wheelan doesn't understand that the difference between harm caused by one's own action and the harm caused indirectly by inaction- all else being equal the former is much worse.
The arguments for free trade are interesting, but Wheelan doesn't recognise the work of preferences on a national scale. Free trade works great when paired with with free immigration (why should workers be tied to the countries of their birth like serfs?) and overarching institutions that protects certain values and rights- like for example the free trade and freedom of movement enjoyed by the inhabitants of the 50 United States. But I can see how pre-conditioning progress on one front of international relations on progress on every other would mean no progress at all. ...more
I had the most difficulty following Churchill's description of the U.S. Civil War- in European wars it's easier to tell one side from the other by theI had the most difficulty following Churchill's description of the U.S. Civil War- in European wars it's easier to tell one side from the other by the sound of the name, but in this case I would have liked more frequent contextual clues to what side a Longstreet or Jackson or similar was on....more
It's sort of inspirational to see that mostly bland short stories could launch a career eventually resulting in the more spectacular Lady of Mazes orIt's sort of inspirational to see that mostly bland short stories could launch a career eventually resulting in the more spectacular Lady of Mazes or the Virga books....more
I've started following Brin on google plus and every post he makes reminds me of his books I haven't read. This and Glory season are among the more obI've started following Brin on google plus and every post he makes reminds me of his books I haven't read. This and Glory season are among the more obscure, I also need to pick up Earth and The Postman.
Practice Effect is light humorous fantasy, sometimes it is hard to distinguish any of those element from bad writing but it also has a few interesting ideas and is not very long. ...more
The best Culture novels devote the fewest words to the Culture itself, but there is too much Culture in Surface Detail. The humor and info dumps wereThe best Culture novels devote the fewest words to the Culture itself, but there is too much Culture in Surface Detail. The humor and info dumps were irritating at times, though I can appreciate the presence of the humor because it counter balances the more serious subject matter.
For some reason the long and highly unique ship names are undistinguishable for me, I recall Excession had a lot of ships in it also and suffered because of it.
The supposed lack of money in the Culture is not really explained, it makes sense that all ordinary human needs are taken care of by future high technology but individuals and groups at some point will want to undertake projects that might tax even the Culture. What if one wanted to create art works the size of planets, visit other galaxies, or something else extremely grand in scale- what means of allocating resources are available? Is the only approach to get approval from the central decision making bodies?...more