Recently, I had this moment of enlightenment as to why I am drawn to behavioral economics and podcasts like Marketplace and Freakonomics. This goes back to high school where I was struggling to understand macroeconomics and microeconomics principles in the Economics elective I chose to take as a senior.
Why was I struggling? It boils down to the assumptions about related to Homo economicus which were that humans are portrayed as acting rationally, with little self interest to achieve a specific goal. Sure I understand this concept now years later. But seriously in high school, I was super confused. I couldn’t grasp the idea that microeconomics is based off individual’s rational decisions. And since macroeconomics is built on microeconomics foundation, understanding economics in general was difficult. I questioned the very foundation of microeconomics! What I knew at the time is that humans don’t always act rationally. Humans will make decisions considering both the most rational choice as well as their own self interests. And that was the world view that I had at the time. The questioning clearly affected my academic performances.
Good thing there were two psychologists who started questioning this supposed rationality of Homo economicus. These psychologist changed economics when they won a Nobel prize in 2002. Technically only Kahneman won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences as the other collaborator had died. But their work spawned a new field of economics called Behavioral economics. More recently in 2017, Richard Thaler, also an influential behavioral economist, won the Nobel prizes for his research work. The work done these academics in behavioral economics has had a bigger personal impact in people’s lives than the rational Homo economicus.
As for my class, I ultimately ended up just memorizing everything. Was that the most rational thing to do? Yes… probably… if only to get an A. Clearly behavioral economics hadn’t quite yet made their way into high school economics textbooks.
Netflix has a neat feature that allows users to download a limited number of episodes of selected shows for offline viewing. I took advantage of this and downloaded AMC’s Breaking Bad. Netflix has all 5 seasons to watch and more importantly for download.
On a recent trip to Asia, I started watching these episodes and downloading them at the hotel wifi for future offline watching. I finished the final episode before returning to US.
My thoughts on this show is mixed. I thought the first 3 seasons went very well. The final 2 seasons seems to be dragging out a “good thing” by meandering through these plausible storylines. The character development was varied depending on the character throughout the seasons.
Walter White’s transition from a high school chemistry teacher into a meth cook is an interesting study into his psychology. As the series progresses, his psychological state begins to drastically change as his demeanor and ambitions grows bigger while fear and paranoia grips his every day life. He has a quote “I feel alive” that sums up his adrenaline filled days of meth cooking, conspiracy and thug/underworld life (for lack of a better word). As the series progresses his ambitions start to get the better of him. Mike towards the end of the show pointed out how good it could have been if it were not for his “pride.” As correct as Mike is, I think it was more than pride that fed into his hubris and eventual downfall.
Jesse Pinkman could have been developed even further. His character doesn’t grow nearly as much as White. Throughout every season, I found him going from one emo state to another emo state. He feels like a tragic hero that the writers used to dump all the horrible results on while Walter White gets away with just about everything. Ultimately, he was not ready to be the partner White needed him to be. He never was developed to be as ruthless as White but more of a sniveling underling that was in way over his head.
Although this show is 10 years old, it’s worth watching all 5 seasons. Just be prepared for some exasperating moments.
You’ve heard of “Block Chain Migration” in the news recently.
But, can technology utilize a “Blockchain” and confirm immigration status? Once the blockchain has confirmed/validated, you’re granted legal status!
Do you think this is possible?
Planet Money is one of my favorite podcasts that I listen to. They talk about money, economics and financial related news tidbits. They recently spun off a mini-podcast called The Indicator which does a deep dive into one particular aspect in Planet Money that they think deserves a more thorough analysis. Recently they put out a podcast talking about the Beige Report (wiki). I had no idea there was such a report that is put out by the Federal Reserve. Nonetheless, the reporters at Planet Money did their best to humor and enlighten the significance of the report with three snippets. The full transcript of the snippet can be found here. Below is the snippet that I found most interesting.
SMITH: And Boston had this great aha moment for us that they wrote about in “The Beige Book” which might explain why wages have been rising so slowly even though unemployment is so low across the nation and in Boston.
VANEK SMITH: And this is a big economic mystery that everybody’s talking about right now. I mean, unemployment’s so low people are trying to hire like crazy, and that could help be explained by this moment in “The Beige Book.” They’re talking about a manufacturing company. And they say, quote, “another industrial firm had 20 unfilled openings in a plant with a hundred employees and said they were making up for it with significant overtime. When asked why they didn’t increase wages to fill the openings, the contact said they would have to pay all the existing workers more, which would be uneconomic.”
SMITH: So they’re making everybody work overtime…
VANEK SMITH: Yeah.
SMITH: …Because they’re afraid of giving everyone a raise. So they can’t raise wages on just the new people that they desperately need.
VANEK SMITH: Yes, exactly.
SMITH: Which is fascinating because, I mean, this is something that data doesn’t often capture. We like to think that there’s this direct relationship between wages and employment. But of course there’s all these weird things in the economy – contracts and special cases…
VANEK SMITH: And office politics.
SMITH: …And office politics that just makes it hard to give new people raises.
After hearing the episode, I’m a bit shocked at the rationale. Why would hiring new workers who would have higher wages force a company to give everyone a raise? That reasoning doesn’t make sense to me. And more importantly, wouldn’t that just mean the wages you’re paying now are actually not high enough?
Aziz Ansari (wiki) has recently been in the news as part of the #MeToo (wiki) movement. Before this event, he’s originally a stand up comedian who transitioned into TV show fame. Some of his stand up routines on Netflix (here, here) are pretty funny. I’ve read his book Modern Romance which held a few hilarious dating anecdotes that are relatable to the singles dating life.
Master of None is his latest TV show on Netflix. Ansari recently won a Golden Globe for Best Actor in TV Series, Musical or Comedy. As one of the series on my “To Watch” list, I started watching sometime last month and finished watching it yesterday. As I watched the show, I began to realize that I was more interested in the dating and relationship stories between Rachel and Francesca. I think what makes this such a great show is the relatability of the characters and their backstories. The Thanksgiving episode is a great example and is one of the better episodes from both seasons. It’s well written and well directed and shows the evolution of Denise and her family’s acceptance of Denise as a lesbian.
Towards the end of season 2, I related to Ansari’s character of how he felt and with his emotions with relationships. I understood just how Ansari’s character felt as I had felt the same way many times in the past. That physical pain and heartache in the chest, the constant thinking in my own head space, and the irrational decisions were all relatable emotions and attributes. The last two episodes of season 2 made me reflect on my emotional, physical and rational state when I was experiencing these emotions. Watching these episodes made me sad that the relationships never worked out. Unlike the happy ending in season 2, the potential for a positive relationship wasn’t even an option in my case.
This show is worth watching. The cast and storytelling are relatable in this modern day.
David Letterman has a new Netflix show. It’s not quite the same late night talk show format in his previous career but I think it suits him fine. The first guest of this show is none other than Barack Obama.
There’s so much Letterman can talk about with President Obama but there’s clearly not enough time given the show’s format. Obama speaks eloquently about a number of topics from family, Obama’s use of social media, the financial crisis, and even the current political system. I find myself entranced at their conversation… so much so, I listened to it a 2nd time to digest the parts that I missed the first time.
I truly think 1 hour is nowhere enough time to cover all the topics that are of interest to Obama and in some ways interest to the US population in general. I really look forward in seeing what Obama can do in the future to make his legacy even more enduring.
The 538 political podcast have been putting out a special gerrymandering episodes for listeners. Gerrymandering is in my opinion one of the bigger political issues of that may need to be “solved” in order to minimize the partisan political bickering that seems to dominate the news.
I highly suggest listening to these podcasts because it dives into the intricacies of trying to establish “fair” political districts for communities to send their representatives to Congress. And it’s more complicated than I had previously imagined.