As the late economist and social thinker Mancur Olson taught, political bargains of the past are the burden of the future. The U.S., like California, is a country that has grown old thinking of itself as young. By now, we’re one of the world’s most aged experiments in representative government, and increasingly paralyzed by an accretion of calcified institutions like Social Security or California’s water politics.
I like 2 parts of this.
… Political bargains of the past are the burden of the future.
This is why Obamacare is so problematic. It wasn’t even a political bargain: it was approved by one party with zero crossover votes. Yet the burden will fall on all of us.
And that’s from someone who wasn’t averse to the idea of doing something about healthcare. I just didn’t think wanting to do something should turn into we did any old thing that sounded good at the time.
The U.S., like California, is a country that has grown old thinking of itself as young.
I don’t necessarily think of the U.S. as old. But are we the middle-aged guy who aches every time he plays basketball? Maybe so.
This is from his opinion piece “California’s Water Woes Are Priceless”. More broadly, the piece is about how water is short in California, yet its price is held artificially low, and everyone acts surprised. Duh.
He discusses the relatively common viewpoint that Germany has trade surpluses because the Euro is a weak currency.
Of course, people who are aware of the data, or who are willing to spend many seconds looking it up on the internet, know that Germany has run trade surpluses for a long time … when the Euro was weak and strong.
Then he ends with a pithy quote:
Is there any field outside of macroeconomics where the so-called experts make more elementary errors in opinion pieces?
Hmmm. Well I could think of a few social science fields where I think they’re just making it up as they go along, but as to actually making errors, I think he’s probably right.
The mere concept that “it was better back when” requires the assumption that people you know, love, and respect have f***ed up your little corner of the world. We need to start recognizing this as a neurosis that should be treated.
The greatest trick that Microsoft ever pulled was convincing the world that Excel was just a spreadsheet.
The thing is, most of the world doesn't even get that far ... they regard Excel as just a big calculator.
But Excel can be so much more. Here's a few of the odd things people have done with it: used it as a monopoly simulator, a former student wrote a working version of the game Battleship in Excel, an artist in Japan uses Excel as his medium for "painting", I've known many people who generate their DHTML for sophisticated web pages by recycling code through Excel, plan layouts for floor tiles, the largest master list of all bootlegged Eric Clapton concerts is kept in Excel, generate lists of rhyming words for poetry, design patters for weaving.
Personally, I've used Excel to import a publisher's metadata about testbank questions so that I can improve on their random question selection to make sure I cover all the topics, learning objectives, and AACSB categories with my tests. I've also used it to slice and dice a blog into a good looking hard copy. And I got myself into trouble with path names that exceeded Windows 255 character limit while doing an upgrade: I used Excel to offload all the full paths and identified both the problem files and the strings that were causing them to go over the limit.
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