Friday, March 30, 2007

Free Trade Causing a Shift in Society?
Alan Blinder is sure causing one heck of a stir in the econ blogosphere thanks to that WallStreet Journal article, but I can't imagine what for.
As far as I can tell, Blinder isn't opposing free trade; he isn't asking for temporary restrictions on it so that nations will have better time to adjust. He's just asking for a realization of some information that flies in the face of mainstream America's ideas about what our economy needs to flourish.

Most significant about that essay of his (second link) is the idea that many of jobs that we consider "safe" because they involve a high-skill level are, in fact, vulnerable because they will eventually be tradable services. The only jobs that will actually be safe are those that cannot be delivered via an internet wire (IE, personal services).
This, according to Blinder, suggests that we are at the very beginning of the "offshoring crisis." About a million service jobs have been outsourced so far. 40 million are capable of being outsourced. And we're already seeing a massive backlash against the way our society is structured...suggesting that life will be even more turbulent. Our entire society could be restructured. What's scary: just spending more on education won't help, simply because high-skilled jobs CAN and will be outsourced.

Personally, I think Blinder is a bit over-eager in his claims. The changing economy most assuredly supports greater inter-connectedness. It also, though, supports high-skilled jobs to such an extent that the colleges of the world won't be able to turn out enough of them, especially if they are gifted with a naturally high IQ. For example, even if India has gotten a smothering of new accounting jobs since 2000, wages for new college graduate accountants have gone up (partially because of Sarbanes-Oxley, passed in the wake of Enron). American l-12 education may be bad, but we still have the best college system in the world, and k-12 "education" in nations like China and India is even worse than what it is in America:

America needs a lot of work, and we're just beginning to see changes to our society, both from economic changes and from political changes:

Saying, though, that America is in grave danger sounds like alarmist talk, though.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Raising Wages for Low-Skilled Workers

Irrational argument for the day:
If you wanted to raise real wages for workers and thought GDP didn't matter, what would be the most rational course of action to take?

Why, it'd be kicking all women out of the labor market. Unlike the minimum wage, the new wage would be set by market forces. Unlike trying to restrict illegal immigrants, who are often hard to identify, a company would simply need to not hire women, which are much easier to sort out. Unlike trying to reform education, this is actually relatively easy to legislate (if not enforce).

Simply put, if our sole objective is raise wages for low-wage workers, there are a lot of crazy things we could do. Most of them that rely on simple legislation should be ignored, as, as previously stated, they are crazy.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Iran Situation

In the grand scheme of things, what is Iran really trying to get at in its recent move to capture British sailors?

Obviously, they aren't that afraid of the West, or else they wouldn't have made such an aggressive move. Iran is now closer to war than ever before, with the US navy scrambling to make ad hoc naval exercise as a show of force.

What Iran is doing, though, by capturing British soldiers on the eve of a critical UN vote, is sending a serious message to the West: we don't care about you, and we don't need you, and there probably isn't much you can do to stop us.

The fact of the matter, though, is that Iran's long-term game of antagonizing the West is self-defeating.

1. Iran has few active allies in this game. Only Syria, Hezbollah, and a number of Iraqi militias are willing to fight for Iran. Syria is, at best, an unreliable ally (as we saw it turn on Iraq in 1991), Hezbollah has been dealt a horribly bloody nose, and the Iraqi militia groups have been unable to force the US to leave as of yet.
2. Iran has no potential allies. While the number of PEOPLE that are outraged at US hegemony is high, the number of governments willing to actually fight the US order is zilch. China merely acts in its own self-interest in areas we care little about. Russia, while increasingly menacing and paranoid, is not enough to fight the West. And Chavez simply does not have the resources to wage a proxy war against the United States.
Furthermore, even if additional nations hopped on the anti-west bandwagon, there is no organization; communism had the monolith of the Soviet Union to guide its foreign policy. Iran IS the monolith of anti-US forces in the MidEast.
3. Iran is not served by an unstable Iraq, as the Iraq Study Group mentioned. While Iran fears the Middle East the United States may create, the alternative of an Iraq perpetually in war doesn't interest Iran much either. Unfortunately, that's what Iran is creating in Iraq right now.

In the short-run: There isn't any need to worry. The UK is drawing down troops, and the US "surge" is hardly enough to make invading Iran a cakewalk. An air strike, of course, is possible (and will probably be largely ineffective if it is targeting nuclear programs), but that is the extent of the West's willingness to fight at the moment.

What it means to be a 25 year old woman

My original intention was to start out this blog with an awesome first post calling for a testosterone packed, massive air campaign against Iran.
However, I found a program on Lifetime last night that was quite interesting. A number of 25 year old women were being interviewed about their lives and their future. Being the girl-oriented kind of guy I am, I paid attention hoping to gain some insights, and there were a few bits of information that, for lack of a better phrase, colored me confused.

1. Most of these women "want it all" and are absolutely convinced they can get it. What is it all? A husband, three children, and an amazing career. I was taken aback; 3 children in this era? Plus a career(NOT a job mind you!) and trying to maintain relationship at the same time?
Go Super-Mom!

2. Apparently, my generation is a bunch of job hoppers. We seek meaning and satisfaction in work, and if we aren't getting it...well, we don't tolerate failure and have a sense of entitlement as well, and we're just going to move on to the next job.
The range of the number of jobs was 3 to 7.

3. All of them thought being the boss, even it was just the boss of herself, was preferable to working for someone else. I'm assuming most guys feel the same way as well, though I personally have a bigger team spirit.

4. Ever heard of a quarter-life crisis? Women at the age of 25 get very worried; it's the median age of marriage and first child (shotgun weddings?). It's also a period in life where young people are supposed to be doing so many other things as well; these women want to be developing careers, going to grad school, traveling, and going to the gym.
Now, if I remember my lessons from psychology well, the idea of a mid-life crisis is entirely fiction: the level of happiness is pretty consistent throughout the life cycle. However, given the supposedly rising rates of teenage depression and suicide in America over the past couple of decades, I fear that this "quarter-life crisis" may be all too real for current young people, and is in part in place by the completely unrealistic demands young people (and these young women!) place on themselves.

5. The level of debt was massive. The range was between $15,000 and $60,000 among those who mentioned debt, the highest number belonging to a law student. Some of the women commented that they spent money on some pretty ridiculous things...there, is for instance, a pressure to constantly shop and keep up with the latest celebrity trends. "Keeping up with the Joneses" may very well result in massive debt for this generation.
I am, of course, unconvinced by any argument that Americans individually are not saving enough. For these women, it may in fact be rational to spend; they seem to be smart, sophisticated people in an urban environment with high future earnings. Borrowing against that for a better life NOW is perfectly reasonable.
However, one woman that was showcased knew almost nothing about financial planning...which suggests that we may indeed have a problem.

6. Celebrity culture IS the news. More people talk about Aniston and Pitt than Iraq.

7. These women are very socially conscious. They also have no inspiration in our current leaders, or any leader throughout their lifetimes.
I say nuts to that. Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II were all excellent Presidents who were far superior to Kennedy, who was specifically mentioned by one of the women as an example of an inspirational leader.

8. How do they want to be remembered?
"We care"
"We stirred things up"
"We set the bar high"
"We were risktakers""We had family and career"
"Followed our passions"
"We can accomplish anything"

Monday, March 19, 2007


Greetings all,
My name is Robert. As you may know from my profile or from your personal lives, I am a student of economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, also known as "UIC."

I've created this blog to give me an area to lay out and record ideas. It is not intended for mass readership; it is meant to be my personal library and a reference area for those people I regularly converse with. If people happen to read, though, that is certainly alright. After all, I wouldn't be posting if I objected to my ideas being public.

Posts will vary in nature. Most will probably deal with some sort of policy issue. Many will link to the other blogs that I read, and some will link to discussion forums.
However, some posts will be more mundane and will deal with issues that don't move nations or garner much press. For instance, I might talk about my educational experience, or perhaps something interesting I learned in my sociology class.

I think I'll take a lot of joy in writing this, and I hope that whatever person happens to stumble across this blog will enjoy reading it as well.