Thursday, May 29, 2014

Economics is So Cool!

I heard on the Wisconin radio station I listen to that the number of students on free and reduced lunches at public schools increased. Additionally, I'm halfway through reading Capital in the Twenty-First Century, the book all the economics wonks are talking about. I will add, I carted that book over to Nepal, but didn't have the downtime to finish it there.

Economics never interested me until a few years ago. I didn't understand it or appreciate it. Ever since my unemployment it has colored my view on many things. For example, some government programs are based on anecdotal (short term, snapshot, small scale...) evidence rather than long term widespread evidence. In my opinon, that means not the most effective use of our limited tax dollars. As I work my way through Capital, I know what his conclusion is, and I can't come up with any decent disagreement. Also, the book focuses in large part on just part of economics, money and inequality, rather than many of the microeconomic issues that may be more applicable to our daily lives.

While we wring our hands and fear the world devolving into dystopia, there are solutions out there. Planet Money created a "presidential candidate" in 2012. A party with a platform that would never get elected, at least in the next 20 years. Another example, the idea and evidence of a basic income is interesting to say the least. Maybe this is all theory, and there are certainly flaws, and economists still argue about the evidence, but as we gather more data the opportunity exists to make the systems better.

I've always had the view, if one of us succeeds, we all succeed. Wether it is a high school classmate getting into MIT or doing a medical internship at the Mayo clinic or a family member getting engaged, we are succeeding. One lesson we can all take away from economics is the vast wealth we have now versus our ancestors. The price of lighting a house has become nearly insignificant in the western world (skip to table 1.4). Maybe my interest is economics is one way that I can emperically see how blessed I am.

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