Saturday, July 30, 2011

Books: Recently Read and In the Queue

I haven’t read quite as much as I intended this summer (perhaps rereading the Deathly Hallows prior to the movie is partly to blame, but I digress). I have, however, been able to get through a few books and have started on several more.

Books I’ve read recently:

Up from the Projects: An Autobiography by Walter Williams. I found this very interesting. His insights on how easily he could get jobs back in the 1950s and that today’s youth (especially inner-city youth) don’t have these same options and how he tried to fight against colleges hiring him simply because he was African-American are worth reading.

Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets by Taleb. As far as authors as people, I think Taleb comes across as the most despicable person I can recall reading. He’s arrogant and condescending. That being said, he is also tough on himself, which makes it a bit easier to handle, and there are many good insights on gain by reading this book. Most of what he said, I knew, although a lot of what I knew came from being a poker player and not from my tasks as an economist. I think this is a book that all individuals, especially young people, should read. This book does a great job looking through many of the events that occur because of randomness but the media, economists, and society at large think occurred because of skill. It also does a good job addressing issues like survivorship bias and results-oriented thinking. I recommend the book, but would never let this guy near my children. He creeps me out.

Lost Vegas – by Paul McGuire. As a poker player, I found this fascinating. Dr. Pauly (as I knew him by reading his blog) used to work on wall street but started covering poker in 2005. He goes into great detail on his experience living in Las Vegas and all that goes along with it, along with details on the World Series of Poker and the professional poker players who are there (both those doing well and those who aren’t). If you like poker, gambling, or Las Vegas you should enjoy this book.

Mousetrapped – An interesting story from young Irish lady on working at Walt Disney World for about 18 months. Not the greatest book, but entertaining

The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. over the past several months or so, I’ve been reading the Narnia books to my kids. My son actually has read them already but wanted me to read them for our bedtime reading (I read to all three kids each night). We (me and my older son and daughter) started at book one (The Magician’s Nephew), and are now to the 7th and final book. I hadn’t read them before and am really enjoying them.

Books I have started:

The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World: Over 600 Secrets of the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom, by Susan Veness. As you might have figured out, my lack of poker playing has had to funnel itself into a non-work hobby somehow. So far travel has been the “beneficiary”, with some time being devoted to Disney books.

Basic Economics, V. 4 by Thomas Sowell. So far, outstanding. I plan on incorporating many of his examples into the courses I teach.

Books in the Queue:

Race and Economics: How much Can be Blamed on Discrimination, by Walter Williams

1920: The Year of Six Presidents, by David Pietrusza

Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, by Bryan Caplan

Friday, July 29, 2011

Is Obama uniquely unqualified to handle the debt ceiling discussions?

If the debt-ceiling discussion had happened with George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, or Gerald Ford; any of those presidents could have used a powerful rhetorical message that would have put pressure on Congress.  He could have said “it is morally wrong to put on nation at risk by voting against the debt ceiling”.  He could have also effectively used other rhetoric like “don’t play chicken” with the economy.

Obama can’t however, because he voted against raising the debt ceiling when he was a Senator.  I am not sure whether any other presidents ever voted against a debt-ceiling increase earlier in their political careers (Nixon and Kennedy were both Senators – not sure if they ever voted on the issue).  It is possible, however, that of all the presidents that have ever served, Obama is the single worst to handle this discussion/debate because of his previous voting record. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Interview on WITF NPR

Here is the link to the written story.  I don't know how to find the radio interview, but apparently it's out there somewhere.