This guy must be my long-lost brother!

Economist Kevin A. Hassett offers an only slightly tongue-in-cheek economic analysis of halloween.
For instance:

The first law of economics [is] that lump-sum transfers are more economically efficient than in-kind transfers. If you are going to give a gift to somebody, you should just give them the money. They will be a better judge of the best way to spend it.

At Halloween, each house on a typical American block picks out one type of candy, and they give that exact same candy willy-nilly to everyone who shows up at the door. It’s an economic nightmare.

If you can’t change the Halloween gift-giving habits of your typical American family, he also offers a workaround:

Many schools prohibit children from taking Halloween candy onto the premises. That is exactly the wrong policy. Schools should encourage all children to bring their entire haul to school, and allow them a lengthy period to trade candies among themselves. That way, the Take 5s and the 100 Grand bars will find their way to individuals who cherish them.

I love it. I can’t wait for his Valentine’s Day analysis.

Gloom and doom

I try to keep up with basic US economics, and I am very concerned that the US (and thus much of the world) is going to face a severe recession in the next few years. There are many causes, but the primary one is the international monetary house of cards that has allowed Americans to maintain our current lifestyle.
We Americans buy lots of imported goods from the likes of China and oil from the likes of Saudi Arabia. In turn, these countries buy bonds to finance our federal deficit spending. The federal government then devalues the dollar in order to make imported goods cheaper and to keep the whole process going.
But as the value of the dollar falls, so does the value of foreigners’ investment in US federal bonds. These supplier countries begin taking such measures as buying less American debt, pricing their goods in other and more stable currencies. It’s a balancing act for them: on the one hand, they want to limit their losses on dollars; on the other hand, they need to continue to enable Americans to buy their goods.
It’s not a cycle that’s infinitely sustainable. At some point, it all comes crashing down. The question is only when and how quickly.
UPDATE: Even the CEO of Wells Fargo bank said recently: “We have not seen a nationwide decline in housing like this since the Great Depression.”

If I had a dollar…

…for every time I’ve helped someone sort out domain registration and web site hosting issues (explaining how name servers work, how to get the domain registrar to change name servers, etc.), I’d have, well, at least $20. What a pain for a non-geek to manage. (I just did it again, if you couldn’t figure that out)

Wired’s Saddest Cubicle Contest

Wired News ran a contest for the saddest cubicle. Check out the winners. This reminds me of when I worked for AT&T in New Jersey back in 1996-97. AT&T had a hiring freeze on, so I was hired as a contractor from a non-personnel budget. Furthermore, this was right after the AT&T/Lucent split, and the group I was working with was working in an overcrowded building that had gone to Lucent.
Due to all of these factors, my AT&T manager couldn’t request an office for me. I worked for several months in a data center. Go to the basement, unlock the door to a huge, roaring data center at 65 degrees. Walk through it to one corner that had been walled off. Inside was a small testing lab that was somewhat warmer and somewhat quieter. That was my office. Lovely.