Monday, December 06, 2010

Takeaways from Q & A with Tyler Cowen

If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you're aware of my affinity for economics professor Tyler Cowen. He covers everything from blogging, to the market, to reading suggestions. He was even nice enough to answer my question about the timing of the Industrial Revolution on his blog. At a teaching economics conference I even heard his co-blogger at Marginal Revolution, Alex Tabarrok, say that "before there was Google, there was Tyler". The weekly podcast Surprisingly Free recently did a Q & A with Tyler. Here are my takeaways:

Water transport is significantly cheaper than trade over land. Though slower, the natural resistance of water travel is simply less than land and air. This may helps explain why buying local may not be that great. I wonder what percentage of the buy local movement is about personal image.

One of the main reasons why there has been relative peace instead of war is that the technologies of peace have been cheaper than the technologies of war. This has not been true through most of human history. Nuclear terrorism may change this.

Trying to incentivize marital fidelity may actually ruin the cultural norm. Shame may be one of the best motivators. Especially the guilt children might put of divorcing parents.

People are more likely to think they are above average when they don't have to pay to prove it. This may be why many teachers don't support merit pay. That said, if the administration, board, or superintendent positions aren't based on merit, then maybe they can't reward merit.

Most economic principles are correct. There may be changes on the margins, but the textbooks probably won't change much.

If the average person doesn't fly much, then they may actually want too much airport security. They are hurt (indirectly) by terrorist attacks, but are barely affected by increased invasive pat downs. Tyler predicts, and I agree, that there may be small cosmetic changes to the current TSA policy, but that most of it will stay intact. Then once we have another attack, anyone still protesting will seem crazy.

One of the best ways to learn economics, like anything, is to do it. That means reading it and writing it. That means blogging.

The best non-fiction books are about the past. The worst non-fiction books are about the future. Worst case scenario: have a very incorrect understanding the world with a high degree of certainty.

In the past I've specifically voted for divided government. Historically this has been the best way to limit the growth of bad government. However, now that our country is on an unsustainable growth in spending, gridlock will bankrupt us.

When asked where Tyler would most like to live in the world he said where he is now. Shouldn't we all say that?

Knowledge is contextual. My job as a teacher is to give my students the context to learn long after final exams.

Tyler thinks marijuana legalization will never happen because of the concerned parent vote. I hope he's wrong.

Apparently my old friend and Clemson economics study partner Tate Watkins is helping to produce the Surprisingly Free podcasts. I must say I'm at least a little jealous.

Here's Surprisingly Free's first Cowen interview from earlier this year on the internet, the iPad, and Lost.

No comments:

Post a Comment

You are the reason why I do not write privately. I would love to hear your thoughts, whether you agree or not.