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Home 2017-07-28T13:07:05+00:00

The Zip-Line Network

By | September 19th, 2017|

What good is Facebook? Photo: Anthony7051. Source: Wikipedia Facebook is over 10 years old and claims more than 2 billion active users, posting pictures and updates about their activities and interests. It was originally based on a student directory, known as a facebook, because it combined personal photos with basic information for new students at college. Now people use it to connect with friends and [...]

No Shirt, No Shoes, No SSN

By | September 18th, 2017|

No Shirt, No Shoes, No SSN? Why do we have Social Security Numbers? Source: Social Security Administration Back in the 1930s, the government began a massive undertaking: issuing over 30 million Social Security numbers to American workers. Under the Social Security Act, the Social Security Administration had to track earnings accurately to administer benefits, and they couldn’t just use name and address. The Fred Smiths [...]

Expectations, Hexpectations

By | September 15th, 2017|

What can we expect from the markets? Photo: H Hatch. Source: Pixabay When we’re making plans, it’s important to have appropriate expectations, especially when it comes to our finances. Having a long-term outlook is crucial. People put their money to work for lots of reasons: saving for retirement or college, to create a legacy, or to generate income for current expenses. Whatever our goals are, [...]

Inflation Station

By | September 14th, 2017|

What’s going on with inflation? Dallas Fed “Trimmed Mean” PCE, Year-Over-Year. Source: St. Louis Fed Figuring out inflation is like asking about ice cream: there are a million flavors and variations. The Consumer Price Index uses a fixed basket of some 40,000 prices, surveyed monthly. The Commerce Department determines a deflator that shifts as the economy shifts. If the price of beef doubles and everyone [...]

The Seeds of Success

By | September 13th, 2017|

Does education determine our destiny? Harvard Yard. Source: Wikipedia September is the month of the “rug rat race,” a comical contest that pits parent against parent vying to get their children into the best preschools, the most competitive grammar schools, and selective traveling sports teams. A couple of economists have documented how much time parents are spending on ways to stimulate their preschoolers’ early academic [...]

The Competitive Edge

By | September 11th, 2017|

Why do good competitors try to become monopolies? Public Domain. Source: Wikipedia Most people enjoy competing. They know the thrill that comes from sprinting for the finish line, or fighting for critical new business. They also know that competing keeps them sharp and helps them improve what they do. If a business doesn’t serve their customers well, someone else will. Competition leads to happy customers [...]

Trade Uber Alles

By | September 8th, 2017|

How did Germany get so lucky? Source: Global Sourcing Blog China entered the World Trade Organization in 2001. This has an immense, positive impact on their exports. With trade came growth, and China’s growth meant low-skilled jobs were at risk. In the US, workers who lost their jobs had a hard time finding new employment, and often dropped out of the workforce. Our labor participation [...]

Symmetry Bias

By | September 7th, 2017|

Have you ever noticed how much we like balance? Da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man.” Source: Wikipedia We find symmetrical faces more attractive. Animals with asymmetric features – like flatfish with both eyes on one side of their heads – are disconcerting. We like music to have a sense of balance, with a theme, a variation, and a return to the original theme: A-B-A. Classical architecture appears [...]

Cutting into Dimes

By | September 6th, 2017|

Why is it hard to cut government programs? Photo from ‘March of Dimes Ball,” 1934. Source: FDR Library One reason is the "March of Dimes" problem. Back in 1934, FDR helped start the March of Dimes as a way to raise private money to fight polio. They were tremendously effective: during the post-war polio epidemic the March of Dimes helped over one third of all [...]