Mirror, Mirror tell me what I see

There is a scene in the fairy tale Snow White where the Queen goes to her private chambers and summons up a mystical spirit from behind her mirror and then utters this famous question: “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the most beautiful of all?”

Even when I was younger I thought it was odd that a mirror was turned into an object of wisdom. I suppose while some women vie for power through their beauty, so an object that reflects one’s image can be a useful tool. Women use mirrors to primp in their bedrooms, in the bathroom, in the foyer, and even in the car visors. (Seriously– how often does one have to check on their makeup!)

But now I wonder if this is a tale about two does competing for a buck but rather of the blindness we all have to ourselves and our circumstances.

The premise that most people struggle with self-perception is not unreasonable. It’s not like we are walking around like the emperor without his clothes. But that’s because we’ve used our preception of feedback from those around us to navigate more successful reponses. Clearly it is better to have honorable and trustworthy friends than flattering advisors.

Slowly, over time, people can pull away from those who want to provide the direct and reliable feedback. This can be especially true if this is delivered in the form of a reminder, that perhaps the time has come to respond with a little work in kind. It is easier to replay the hands in a slightly different fashion so as to change the score tallied up for the rubber. And the player who can lay out each players cards and reroll the game becomes inconvenient.

So people turn away and cancel those who are inconvenient to the perceptions.

A mirror is meant to bring the reality of the moment back into view. We can all imagine that we have not aged, yet creases at our brow lines are hard to ignore when they reflect back at us. Perhaps the mirror in Snow White is not a call to compare beauty but a forecasting of a change that is already in play– an advanced warning of what is to come. But try as she might, the Queen fails to suppress the natural unfolding of events.

Thank you gifts and taxes

Getting closing gifts for my customers has been pushed down the todo list for a couple of weeks now. So today was the day that I was going to make some purchases. I stopped at a corner liquor market for one client and then onto Ingebretzen’s for another who I knew would appreciate a gift with a Nordic flare.

It was just a couple of years ago that the store celebrated its hundredth year on this busy street in Minneapolis. It originates from a time when Norwegians and Swedes were the disadvantaged new immigrants, scraping by without two dimes to rub together. You wouldn’t know it from the gifts stacking the shelves at the shop now. They are abundant and exquisit.

There is an immediately identifiable flare to Scandinavian housewares. It might be the heavy dose of primary colors with an emphasis on marine blue for dishware and cherry red for accent pieces. The elves and gnomes are peeking out from all the margins as if to give the Viking miniatures their fair due. Carl Larson captured the portraits of fair-haired women in particular; you can always find a sleeve of his notecards for purchase.

A lot of people bee line straight for the deli counter. One yelp reviewer went for the “Six types of herring.  Swedish Meatball Meat.  Julekage.  Limpa Rye.  Scandinavian sausages and cheese.  Store made Lefse.  Candy, Fish, Crisp Breads, Lingonberry jam.” Another noted “I also found lingonberries in syrup, lingonberry jam, lefsa, tisanes, sweaters . . . so much more.”

I had no problem picking out a little memento and card for my client. I also knew my mother would appreciate the little lamb. After my card was run for the purchases I noticed the Uf Da pins and had to add it to my gift. A pleasant sale lady with gracious hair had been talking with me through my perusings. I asked her if I could pay the two dollars in cash for the pin. “Well, there’s tax,” she said just about spitting the words. “That tax,” again, the vehement words contrasting against the gentle woman.

As long as the talk is theoretical, anything is possible and everything is agreeable. Once the toll is in place to pay, then people’s feelings are more apparent.

Non-profit housing provider speaks the truth

In a recent article, Aeon’s Laura Russ offers insightful takeaways from this unique market on what operators face today in the Multi-Housing News, Laura Russ lays out the uncomfortable truths.

  1. Rent control works against capital improvements. “The strict rent control policy enacted in St. Paul, coupled with the eviction moratorium and the overall economic volatility that followed the post-pandemic boom, have all made it harder for Twin Cities multifamily operators to manage their properties, particularly for those active in the affordable housing arena.”
  2. Managment of affordable housing is the long haul pull, as opposed to the initial heady deal making. “I think, in general, there is an underappreciation of the management and operation of affordable housing. The fee structure incentivizes getting the deal done over the long-term success of the property as an ongoing community.”
  3. Crime in a rental community acts as a tax. “For example, security issues are a big topic at many of our properties right now. Essentially this adds a ‘tax’ onto our properties because of the increased spending required. Some local policies have made it harder for us to remove residents who have engaged in dangerous behavior which is sometimes required in order to protect the rest of our residents.”
  4. Administrative overhead caused by detailed laws takes money away from keeping property affordable. “Again, these types of policies have a lot of unintended impacts. The main one is that it is taking a lot of time and money for lawyers and accountants to understand and interpret the rules that are not well understood often even by the cities themselves. This takes away from what we would rather be doing which is producing and running housing.”

Read the whole article.

Emerging words

A friend of mine once said that once a writer puts a work out into the world, it takes on a life of its own. The words are on the pages. The pages are bound. The stiff cover boards keep them all orderly and together. But the intent of the work, how people wrap their thoughts around it, who quotes it to make what type of argument– all that shapes the work into something new.

You might say that the work is emergent. It is a becoming.

Of course, many things that are written for fleeting entertainment won’t gain significant independence. But those words that stay true, that trigger some type of response in the face of reality; those words that inspire the reader to share something they feel valuable. Those are the books which gain a following, are massaged for all their meaning and evolve into something new again.

All levels of trade

The Haj by Leon Uris is a book full of political economy and social trades. I bought it years ago from Bev’s Book Nook in town but have never gotten around to thumbing through its pages.

The author hooks you in early and the text is easily absorbed. In other words it’s a perfect long weekend read.

One caution though- you do need to tamper down an obvious bias.

Business and Social Pressures

Target is not so woke anymore. The popular retailer closed a store in the Uptown area in response to crime. Recently, the company also removed some of its LGBT garments from its stores in response to hostility from some shoppers. In both cases, the Minneapolis-based chain said its first responsibility is first to the safety of its workers. Loyalty to company first, greater society second.

Target was the first retailer to rebuild (in record time) its store on Lake St. The structure was looted and burned during the riots three years ago. Local residents disproportionately benefit from discount stores. But as the shoplifting continues and vitriolic reactions from various factions have become the norm, it seems the business is wearing thin on taking moralizing stances.

In the 1950s firms incorporated a social angle into their business. A good-paying job with benefits was designated to male employees as it was assumed that those salaries funded the needs of a family. Paid family leave wasn’t necessary as it was understood that the second adult in the family was available to care for children or aging family members- at least in theory.

A paid family leave bill just passed in MN placing the burden of family support on businesses of all sizes. This model of giving paychecks directly to workers who choose to care for family in lieu of work will have pros and cons. Instead of being part of a family unit where one person provides caregiving and the other(s) focuses on earning wages, you can ‘have it all’ as they like to tell working women.

The disadvantage to atomizing this process, of detaching it from the family unit, will be the absence of feedback loops. Through a filtering system of interaction with other group members, and a give-and-take on who gets the support when a balance of aid is achieved so it is dispensed to those who need it most. Setting up formal rules eliminates the judging and metering of volunteer care. If the benefit is there, the logic is to take it.

Businesses can and do get involved in social trade. But where they excel is at unfettered trade to promote mutual well being.

Different skills, different pay

On our walk yesterday we caught a crew doing some aerial work. A helicopter transported a worker to a spot on the power lines to install a colorful ball, presumably for visibility. Dealing with heights, leaning out of a moving aircraft, and touching power lines isn’t an everyday activity. Some people might like the adrenalin of it all, but most would agree that this job deserves bonus pay.

Activists like to paint a simple picture. There are rich people, think corporate types, who are greedy and make a bundle. Then there is a mass of inadequately, poorly treated people who don’t earn enough to pay their bills. With only two groups to consider, it’s an easy call to impose taxes on the former in order to strategically (there are incentives for e-bikes!) tranfer money to the later.

The thing is, life isn’t that simple. There are hundreds if not thousands of jobs that deserve more pay because only a few people are crazy enough to ride helicopters up to power lines. These guys still wear steel-toed shoes and most likely hang out at the same water holes as the rest of the crew. They are not greedy. They found a special talent- and thank goodness for that because we all benefit from the colorful balls which keep the lines up and running.

A simple Taxi/Uber model

Once there was a service called a taxi. For a fee, passengers could hire a ride from here to there. This was an organized commercial venture with firms and drivers and passengers arriving at an acceptable balance of profits, fares, wages, and benefits. There was a govorning role in place as well, one developed over time.

Then came the internet and individuals outside the taxi service business could offer people rides. Without the formal structure and regulation, thus fares were considerably cheaper. This was good for the consumer, especially those of modest means. This internet-based method of connecting those with cars to those who needed rides seemed like a win-win for everyone.

Then drivers (who did this for a living instead of simply being in the neighborhood) found they needed better working conditions. The conditions that were most probably in place in the taxi industry that was disrupted. Labor activists jumped in to help guide a political process. Drivers donated extra voluntary time. Paths were forged with local politicians. A bill is written and passed. The celebration that followed looked like this.

But the stark numbers reality of the push to revert back to the original model has been ignored in favor of winning. The old model is considerably more expensive to the consumer. Without a need for the internet service, Uber and Lyft claim they will leave the market. Should the drivers prefer the original taxi model, that is fine. But it is a mistake to ignore the reality of the other parties. The Governor overrode the unanimous preference of his party in order to study the matter further.

I’ve got to give the Gov credit for putting economics over politics on this one. Or did he? If the ones being hurt by the labor regulations had been higher-income folks, I’m sure he would have signed off.

Warhol’s taking from a Prince

A photographer comes out ahead in this story of copyright infringement.

Andy Warhol’s posters of Prince, some shaded purple and others orange, may have been works of art, but they infringed the copyright of the photographer who captured the original image of the musician, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

LA Times

It’s nice to see a win for photography over other forms of art. Often it feels as if taking a photo is something anybody can do. And thus it is a maiden-in-waiting to the fine arts. But capturing a framing, a look, or a feel is what differentiates a snapshot from something interesting. Warhol took advantage of Goldsmith’s perception of our famous Minnesotan.

Have a look and you be the judge:

Sooty air

Come night, come darkness, for you cannot come too soon, or stay too long, by such a place as this! Come, straggling lights into the windows of the ugly houses; and you who do iniquity therein, do it at least with this dread scene shut out! Come, flame of gas, burning so sullenly above the iron gate, on which the poisoned air deposits its witch-ointment slimy to the touch! It is well that you should call to every passer-by, ‘Look here!’

Bleak House- Charles Dickens

Thinking In Space

People think differently. I don’t mean they think about an issue differently. What I’m getting at is how brains navigate concepts and concerns differently.

Some people have photographic memories and can picture a page out of a book. When they want to think of a definition or the historical background on an issue- poof- the image appears to aid them. But this is not the same as a visual way of thinking. For some people, their thoughts can capture events and spaces in real-time, as they transpire. Take the skills necessary to be an air traffic controller (pre-computers), This type of mind is skilled at keeping track of moving objects in three dimensions. Pretty cool.

It’s really noticeable how differently people think if you are using a map to navigate a city. A linear thinker takes directions one turn at a time. There is no overlay of the cityscape into quadrants to have a general sense of where one should be. As long as they follow explicit directions, all is well. But improvising or getting back on track after an error is too difficult without help.

At the same time, a sense of distance and duration is simply missing. Offhand comments which imply a schedule can be met or a stop can be worked in (it’s the anything is the possible world!) can be aggravating for the minds which navigate in three dimensions. It’s better if those with a sense of direction take the wheel.

What shapes the nature of a good?

How many ways are there to determine whether an action or good is public or private?

  1. By ownership. If the good is owned by a community, like a park, then it is public. If it is owned by an individual, as a homeowner owns their home, then it is private.
  2. By its use. If the park is used by drug traffickers, and the average citizen is too afraid to use it, then the park is owned by the criminals. If an owner of a car rents it out on Turo and pockets the funds then the car is privately owned.
  3. By a moral standard. A worker has a private claim to a product their hands helped to create. It is a public good to pay parents-workers to stay home on paid leave with their infants.

Are there more?

Publicized goods

A publicized good is any whose ‘public’ character results only from a policy decision to make some (otherwise private) good freely and universally available. This fact poses complications for the PGA, insofar as the set of possible publicized goods is quite extensive indeed.

Concerning publicized goods (or, the promiscuity of the public goods argument)

I thought people had come to the realization that just about every good can be made private in the sense that others may be excluded from its use. So to develop a new term to explain that the good which could be private is now going to be called publicized to indicate it is provided by a government entity seems a bit roundabout.

What about goods provided by NGOs? Or non-profits? Or associations?

It seems more orderly to identify a good’s nature by how it is used. THis of course would need to be accompanied by a descriptor of who in the group has access to it. I think this would enhance analysis as it would start to delineate ingroups and outgroups in the analysis.

Different Platters, Different Rules

The political types down at the state capital are scrambling to finish the bills they want signed before the end of session. One such document involves a mandate for hospitals to form boards of nurses who in some way dictate the required staff levels in Minnesota hospitals. The largest hospital in MN, and most famous, said not so fast. Mayo Clinic threatened to take a sizable investment elsewhere should this come to be.

Last week, I predicted here that this wrinkle would be ironed out.

But what’s interesting is the justification that the speaker of the house used to explain why Mayo is getting a carve-out in the bill. In an interview yesterday Hortman tells Esme Murphy that the hospital operates at a different level than others in the state as they cater to famous dignitaries from around the world. The implication is that the demands of competing worldwide for care are a valid substitute for regulatory intrusion from a board of nurses.

I wish this type of platter identification (the medical provision at a worldwide level, versus a metro level, versus an outstate level, to give a few possible divisions) was used more widely in the analysis and provision of public goods.

Work that gives and Work that takes

You know how in different parts of your life you interact with people differently? When you are settling in with your kid to go over homework you have a different approach than when you go over an employee review at work. Or, how you resist and then conceed to taking an older parent to their doctor’s appointment, whereas at work you would fear that taking on a coworker’s responsibilities would lead to a pattern of being taken for granted.

One might say that the different types of work we do– depending on whether it is driven by public needs, like caring for a family, or done for private ambitions like earning a paycheck– have different traits. I think we’ve come along far enough to acknowledge both are work, paid or unpaid. Both generate value. But the workers who perform the various acts become accustom to the various formats.

A few days ago, Arnold Kling wrote on his substack In My Tribe

But I would like to see women better assimilate to the institutional values that are worth preserving. A few years ago, I wrote

1. The older culture saw differential rewards as just when based on performance. The newer culture sees differential rewards as unjust.

2. The older culture sought people who demonstrate the most competence. The newer culture seeks to nurture those who are at a disadvantage.

3. The older culture admires those who seek to stand out. The newer culture disdains such people.

4. The older culture uses proportional punishment that is predictable based on known rules. The newer culture suddenly turns against a target and permanently banishes the alleged violator, based on the latest moral fashions.

5. The older culture valued open debate. The newer culture seeks to curtail speech it regards as dangerous.

6. The older culture saw liberty as essential to a good society. The newer culture sees conformity as essential to a good society.

7. The older culture was oriented toward achievement. The newer culture is oriented toward safety. Hence, we cannot complete major construction projects, like bridges, as efficiently as we used to.

I agree that a worker should take on the role that the job requires. But before judging the new culture too harshly, let’s see how the traits of the new culture fit into another activity. Say the work done to have a successful Little League team.

  1. The old way of doing things was to say winning the game was all that mattered. The proof of performance was simply in the W’s. The new way is to point out that when a stronger league plays a weaker league and always wins, then perhaps it would be better for everyone is the leagues were redrawn.
  2. The old culture was to say if X neighborhood Little League wins because they have the best coaches, better parent turnout, and reliable transport to practice and games, then their success is just the way it should be. The new way might be to say, it would be more interesting if the other neighborhood leagues could beef up their competency a bit and challenge the stronger leagues. Can they get some sponsors? Who can be put in touch with who to strengthen the network and bring the others along?
  3. The older culture thought that promoting one or two-star players on a team was all that mattered. The new culture wants to rotate the player a bit to build exposure to the kids as they age. Building up one or two shining lights might make the other kids quit.

I think you get where this is going. There is a type of work where workers are always shoring up the weaker players on a team or in a league to make the sport more interesting. Some people think developing a deep set of players means the teams will be able to compete more broadly in the long run. But you really need both. You need the individuals to want to be the superstars and enjoy and thus work hard to get to the tippy top. And you want to do activities that help a broader public.

It’s just that women were brought up and trained to be the latter type of worker. So it shouldn’t be surprising when they show up in the private sphere with some of those traits. As the reshuffling of workers continues to transition from separating workers by domestic obligations to partitioning based on professional ambitions, these inherited work traits should dissipate.

Song of hope

Hope is the Thing with Feathers
Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words

-And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.

Top-down money vs Bottom-up

This exchange on Twitter is provocative. Here the implication is that top-down money is bad and bottom-up money is good. When an overlord government pushes an ambition down onto a community things will go sideways. When a community builds up the aspirations from the bottom everything will come up gardens and rose beds.

I’ve been living here for years and unfortunately I can confirm this process as I saw it as it developed. Unfortunately a large part is also due to the bad policies where a lot of stuff is handled by the state rather than local, which prevented Rome to develop as an alternative commercial hub outside tourism. Today in Rome you have a delude of top-down money (coming from the EU) to transform it even more in a Museum, and very little bottom-up money (local commerce outside tourism). With the consequence that locals are getting pushed more and more outside the city (as they can’t afford it any longer due to price spikes due to touristification) and local communities are getting slowly dismantled (new local towns are rising well outside the city).


I guess it’s easy to think of examples of both. When the freeway system was developed, thick swaths of housing, usually disadvanteged housing, were taken down and paved over. This top down money destroyed communities. Yet it is common for the bottom up money to restrict any building other than the status quo.

Maybe the good and the bad of top-down and bottom-up money can be more clearly seen if we divide up the player into different groups. The freeway system was and is an undeniable benefit for a great number of people. The ability to travel more efficiently for work and recreation continues to be a boon for many people. Yet for the small communities which were crushed, the creation of the roadways was definitely bad.

Similarly, when a community consistently maintains a certain level of housing through construction restrictions it is good for them. They are in fact reacting in a way that many would want to react for the small cluster above who were poorly impacted when the freeway system went through. Yet here it is viewed as negative because as they protect their nook in a greater metropolitan area, density is disproportionately falling to nearby neighborhoods.

I would argue that there’s a balance in there where the private needs of a small community are blended with the needs of the more expansive overarching community. Whether action is taken through top-down money or bottom-up money, there is a calculation that steers towards a balance in the obligations.

What money can’t buy

Thanks to the Beatles we all know that money can’t buy you love. Money can motivate a salesperson to sell a few extra units. Money can persuade a road crew to finish a paving project ahead of schedule. Money can motivate a team in getting their product design finished and into production. But for as well as money does at motivating some things, it isn’t great at moving the needle on others.

People aren’t that interested in money when it comes to losing weight. Nor does it turn a drinker into a teetotaler. And I dare say it does not ebb the urge of a bully to be kind.

Somethings people must decide they want for themselves and then take the initiative to set themselves on that course. How the people around them behave, however, has a direct impact on how all this works out. Reminders of tradeoffs, actions to eliminate possibilities, and support when on the right course may all factor into how the company one keeps makes life a little easier.

Oddly, even though money is ill-suited as an motivator, the final outcome of success aided by community support does generate increased financial well-being. When people around you work at helping you be your best, the benefits realized can be financial. Better health through weight reduction translates into less time off work. Killing an addiction eliminates the bill to buy product.

The flow can be from cash to capital or capital to cash.

Book shopping at Estate Sales

My grandmother introduced me to junk sales (her term). She loved to erratically make a turn off a country road following the direction indicated by a garage sale sign. She had all sorts of rules. As we’d walk up the gravel driveway she’d coach- “You always want to find something you can buy. They’re trying to get rid of things after all.” She was in pursuit of old furniture mostly. When everyone had gone home from weekends at her lake place, she’d set herself up with a refinishing project. The pleasure of seeing the knotty grain of oak under twenty layers of paint gave her immense satisfaction.

Estate sales work a bit better with today’s technology. Estate companies post pictures of the finds to be had so at least you know in advance what is on the property. I love to go to the ones with books. Sometimes it’s a bust, but often there are interesting finds. Old copies of the classics can even be rewarding. This set of Dante’s Devine Comedy was illustrated by Barry Moser. Not only are the drawing nifty, but I learned he is well known for his illustrations of Alice in Wonderland.

Some homes have quite a bit of original art. Since there are few art galleries in our area, this is a casual way to get up close to originals. Google Lens helps identify pieces. This is necessary when signatures are little more than scribbles. I quite liked the green abstract which is an engraving by a Brazillian artist Arthur Piza. He wasn’t too hard to find as he had a long career which resulted in a large portfolio.

I’m still working on the original oil of the white-washed buildings. I thought I had it narrowed down to another Brazilian modernist, but now I can’t find the links. If there’s anyone out there who can lend a hand, jump in on the comments.

People doubt Exit- they shouldn’t

The Mayo Clinic, the state’s largest private employer, put its foot down on Friday over legislative overreach at the MN state capital.

In an email to DFL legislative leaders and Walz’s office on Wednesday, a Mayo Clinic executive said the non-profit is reconsidering its plans for new facilities and infrastructure that are “four times the size of the investment in U.S. Bank Stadium” — a $1.1 billion project. And their decision is “time sensitive” and will be made in a matter of days.

“Because these bills continue to proceed without meaningful and necessary changes to avert their harms to Minnesotans, we cannot proceed with seeking approval to make this investment in Minnesota. We will need to direct this enormous investment to other states,” Kate Johansen, vice chair of external engagement, wrote in an email obtained by the Reformer.

Minnesota Reformer

Throughout the spring legislative leaders have been warned that continuing to push a progressive agenda, where the expense from social arrangements is sloughed off business, will cause people and entities to exit the state. This letter provides a tangible example.

Mayo is a powerhouse in MN and thus it is unlikely that this flare-up will go unresolved. But what about all the little businesses and people who decide they’ve had enough and pack their bags? It would be handy to pin down some indicators for people’s movement. Ones that are representative but not alarmist.

Advice to Students from Albert Einstein


A talk to a group of children. Published in Mein Weltbild, Amsterdam: Querido Verlag, 1934.


I rejoice to see you before me today, happy youth of a sunny and fortunate land.

Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthu siastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world.

All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfuls hand it on to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve in-mortality in the permanent things which we create in common.

If you always keep that in mind you will find a meaning in life and work and acquire the right attitude toward other nations and ages.

Ideas and Opinions by Albert Einstein 1954

Daycare math

I’m really having a hard time with the math behind current policies around daycare. If you’ve ever paid for care so you can work a forty-hour week, you know it’s a bundle. Yet there’s a push to have care workers unionize because they are paid too little, making that bundle turn into a load. And to divert that from circling back to being a burden on the working mother there will be a credit for the child which will come out of some tax to the people. Which all sounds like a double surcharge in administrative fees so someone else can care for a child of another who is paid a similar wage, all of whom are deemed to be paid too little.

The Night Agent- Series Review

I’ve had a dry spell in finding a series that holds my attention. I like to take in a show during that time of the evening, right after dinner, when you just want to relax and not think about much. But you need a story, some intrigue and some action. The Night Agent is coming through on all accounts.

Sure the power structure is familiar. And the who’s-the-good-guy and who’s-the-bad-guy back and forth is a staple. But the characters are engaging. The two lead actors have strong rapport which is important. Instead of just one assassin with a gun, there is a couple (a twofer). Washington DC as a back drop is sympathetic.

It’s a little heavy on the women-in-power theme. Thankfully not enough to make me look elsewhere for an hour of intertainment.

Do store closures matter?

There have been some notable retail store closures this year in the metro. On May 15th the Target on Lake St in Uptown is shutting its doors. This is one of their smaller stores and the housing nearby is quite affluent. I’d peg this loss more as an inconvenience than a hardship.

A few weeks ago the large Wal-Mart in Brooklyn Center closed. The corporation cited safety concerns for their workers but undoubtedly the rampant theft which has festered in this commercial node for quite some time was also a factor. Let’s assume that this last point has been aggravated by the failure to prosecute youth shoplifting. The recent philosophy here seems to look the other way on small crimes to stop the school-to-prison pipeline.

Pushing the costs of theft off onto corporations is simply a social tax. To save some wayward youth from entering the system, retail stores like Walmart take a little hit.

The problem with this occurs when the business removes itself from the mix. By choosing to exit the market, now it is the customers of the store who suffer a loss. According to the US Census, the per capita income in Brooklyn Center is just under $26K. Some were interviewed when the store announced its closure. Wal-Mart’s lower prices will be a greater loss to them in relative terms. So the calculation changes. The expense of higher crime is privatized across neighbors who don’t have a lot to start with.

The poor get poorer.

Shifting social costs through mandates onto business is precarious. Not because the costs are not real. Not because the businesses don’t have funds. The reason is that the nature of creating and maintaining value in social circles is different than in business. You don’t run your family like a business. Businesses are not the most efficient mechanisms for fulfilling social demands.

(Just for fun let’s think in terms of publicness and privateness. If the flow of benefit is Pub-to-Priv use this term, or Priv-to-Pub for the other way around. Changes in the judicial process give a Pub-to-Priv flow to youthful delinquents. Businesses internalized the public cost as a private expense. Then, at a certain point, exits do to the high costs.

Now the Pub-to-Priv transfer can be described as the loss of public safety transfer at a private cost by all the shoppers who now pay a surcharge at more expensive stores. To solve this, we would need to have some idea of the long-term benefits to the wayward youths. Lifelong criminals are an expense. Does this strategy work and is the benefit of keeping the youth out of a life of crime greater than more expensive groceries?)

Mises talks of publicness and privateness

In fact, however, the case is quite otherwise. Liberalism is not a policy in the interest of any particular group, but a policy in the interest of all mankind. It is, therefore, incorrect to assert that the entrepreneurs and capitalists have any special interest in supporting liberalism. Their interest in championing the liberal program is exactly the same as that of everyone else. There may be individual cases in which some entrepreneurs or capitalists cloak their special interests in the program of lib-eralism; but opposed to these are always the special interests of other entrepreneurs or capitalists. The matter is not quite so simple as those who everywhere scent “interests” and “interested parties” imagine. That a nation imposes a tariff on iron, for example, cannot “simply” be explained by the fact that this benefits the iron magnates. There are also persons with opposing interests in the country, even among the entrepreneurs; and, in any case, the beneficiaries of the tariff on iron are a steadily diminishing minority.

Liberalism, The Classic Tradition

Do politicians owe us their time?

So many political debates are about who is getting what and at whose expense. Last week, a change in charges on government-insured mortgages went viral. Buyers with high credit scores were scheduled to pay more in fees and those with poor credit scores pay less. Even if the most qualified buyer paid less overall, it felt like a redistribution from those who have played by the rules to those who haven’t.

Some issues are not financial but legal. Abortion became a pivotal issue in the last election and Minnesota politicians addressed revisions to state laws in the first round of their term’s decision-making. But how many people are affected by this issue? Here is some data from the CDC.

In 2020, 620,327 legal induced abortions were reported to CDC from 49 reporting areas. Among 48 reporting areas with data each year during 2011–2020, in 2020, a total of 615,911 abortions were reported, the abortion rate was 11.2 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years, and the abortion ratio was 198 abortions per 1,000 live births.

From 2019 to 2020, the number of abortions decreased 2%, the abortion rate decreased 2%, and the abortion ratio increased 2%. From 2011 to 2020, the number, rate, and ratio of reported abortions decreased 15%, 18%, and 9%, respectively.


The percent of women between the ages of 15-44 who choose this action is 1.14%. What is that, roughly .23% of the total state population? I realize this is a galvanizing issue for a core group of voters, but how much time should be spent on a (very) small group of constituents?

When politicians work to provide goods and services to one group they are using their publicness to transfer assets (including rights) to small constituencies who then privatize those benefits. This is a good thing when it is balanced. Is it out in right field that the total number of hours worked in a state capital building shuffling out resources in some way should square with the demands, to different degrees, of the whole? There is a publicness and privateness to every action a legislature enacts. Parsing out who, what and time frames is the trickier part.

It seems like AI would be ideal at keeping track. It’s a counting function’s dream to scan through texts and pull and sort by topics. The harder part will be to determine the first, second and teriary impacts. But nothing can be worse than the reactionary, cater to the loudest-activist, system of legislation that seems so popular today.

Publicness and Privateness, what does it mean? Oh my

In 1985 Tyler Cowen, a Harvard graduate student, wrote a paper entitled: Public Goods Definitions and their Institutional Context: a Critique of Public Goods Theory. He proposes a new perspective on how we think about public goods and private goods. Remember, this was back in the day when the government provided public goods to constituents, and what private parties did amongst themselves and in the business world was mediated through a market process. It was one or the other.

The traditional definition of public goods focuses on the nature of the object or service in play. Does the lighthouse exhibit public qualities or private qualities? But Cowen proposes a new view.

The purpose of this paper is to tinker with the definition of public goods and show that nearly every good can be classified as either public or private depending upon the institutional framework surrounding the good and the conditions of the good’s production.’

One way that a good can slide between public to private is in the manner of its use. Roads serve as a great example. As long as only a few cars are on the road, the pavement appears to be public by nature. But once congestion ramps up, then the use of the road by a bunch of people may cut into another person’s personal time. The larger group of motorists impose a private cost on each other as they are no longer able to access the road without competition.

Furthermore Cowen points out.

Roads may also be more “private” if they are used for activities other than driving. To the extent that roads are used for parades, bicycling, or even littering, they are private goods.

The parade may preclude cars from the road, bicycles may obstruct a lane, and litter may decrease the marginal value of driving to everyone who dislikes litter.

Here I think it is important to note a feature that isn’t really specifically noted in the paper. He alludes that there are distinctions between consumers but doesn’t exactly set them aside. For folks who work third shift and are always commuting against traffic, the congestion never causes a privateness to their use of the road. On the other hand, the privateness of public road use is clearly seen when commuters, for a fee, can privately access an express lane in order to avoid congestion.

All the snow is just leaving the ditches here in Minnesota. And as the white stuff melts away, a crop of litter is strewn here and there. It’s too late to know who threw that Chick-fil-A wrapper casually out their car window. The garbage is a public expense to the city. Slowly neighborly people show up with empty plastic bags and walk through the soggy grass filling them up.

The trash that appears following a parade or a fundraiser walk around a scenic lake is another matter. This can be tied to an event and thus a group of people who have gathered on a certain day for a particular purpose. The detractors use the trail which skirks Lake Harriet for private use and produce a negative externality to others out on a Saturday stroll.

It’s important to keep track of the groups to meter out compensation. The chain of lakes in Minneapolis attracts events every summer weekend. The private use of public space generates trash, congestion, and parking inconveniences. For this reason, groups accept the requirement of a fee, paid to the city, for the use of what otherwise is considered a public asset. Although the fee is set by a park board or a city, the process includes thinking through who is coming into use the facilities and what other surrounding cities charge.

So the degree of publicness and privateness can be used to identify means of compensating factors. But at the core of determining publicness and privateness one must identify the groups, and whether the activities are public or private from their perspective.

What is surprising to me is that this is not a mainstream concept. Tyler Cowen is a famous economist who laid out this definition almost 40 years ago. Samuelson’s definition is often shown to have lapses in consistency- and yet it is still the textbook response. I guess tradition is hard to shake.

MN Quality of Life

Ever since Governor Wendell Anderson appeared on the cover of Time holding a (only one?) northern on a stringer, Minnesotans have carefully monitored the good life in Minnesota. Sure the winters are brutal, but we know how to make the most of things and live well.

Minnesota Compass, a data compilation service run by The Wilder Foundation, came out with a 2023 report this month entitled, More quality of life indicators trend worse than better in Minnesota.

Some of the insights are not surprising. Student achievement at the 3rd grade level is down whereas obesity is up. These seem easy to tie to the lockdowns. But a larger share of babies were born at a low birth weight is a bit distressing.

Violent crimes are at the highest level in a decade- there’s been plenty of coverage of this as it mainly involves youth. Youth volunteerism is reported as down whereas the homeless numbers are on the rise.

On a positive note the homeownership gap is closing. And this is a good thing.

April is poetry month

In Summer there were white and damask roses, and the smell of thyme and musk. In Spring there were green gooseberries and throstles [thrush], and the flowers they call ceninen [daffodils]. And leeks and cabbages also grew in that garden; and between long straight alleys, and apple-trained espaliers, there were beds of strawberries, and mint, and sage.

 Beatrix Potter (1866-1943)

Can’t shake generational values

Housing decisions are often nudged along by several factors. In my grandparent’s case, it was a health scare and the desire to lessen their home maintenance chores. Since they owned a large acreage on the edge of town, they were able to construct a new property without moving very far. They parceled off and sold their 1930s, white two-story, four-bedroom home and turned the builders loose on a plot looking over corn fields.

They had entered the autumn of their lives on solid financial standing. They both drew upon reliable pensions and had accumulated a decent amount of real estate. You would never know it. If the VW hatchback needed repair, it would be the talk of our summer visit. Lengthy discussions ensued every time the sale of a lake lot (they owned perhaps a dozen) was in the mix. He plotted a pheasant hunt in S Dakota; she was a regular visitor to her ancestral home in the Lake District.

When they built their retirement home in 1977 it was done with careful precision to make the room size fit around their furnishings with not an inch to spare. When you pushed out your chair from the cherrywood dining table you either hit the wall divider with the kitchen or the casement windows looking out to the deck. Grandma’s bedroom ended up a bit tight as she decided to sneak in a small writing table which was always stacked with books, journals, articles, and correspondence.

The split entry design was selected as it is the best style to maximize finished square footage. Daylight windows kept the lower level bright and liveable. There was a contingency plan to convert the ground floor into an apartment- “If we ever need to take in a renter.” Almost fifty years had passed since the beginnings of the Great Depression and yet financial risk still played front and center in their minds.

It seems laughable now. And that’s the point I want to make. Some events are so significant they impact a generation of people for their whole lives. And the depression did that. And whenever an analysis is in play, a quick rundown of contextual analysis of the actors involved is indespensible.

How daring should you be on your first day at work?

Mike Thompson, the new cartoonist for the Start Tribune, was undoubtedly testing his employer’s tolerance for disruption. His Sunday cartoon was all the twitter this weekend. Racist! Was a common refrain. Offensive! For those more atuned to definitions.

The truth is harder on some than others, was another retort.

No announcement of his eminent demise- so hopefully he will get to keep his freedom of carricature.

Inside Man- Movie Review

How can you go wrong with a movie starring Denzel and Jodie? You won’t with their performances in this bank heist thriller. You see much more of Denzel- and man, he is great, so talented. Jodie’s role is shorter but key to the story and she plays it well. There are many more interesting characters throughout the film and at the end the credits roll in conjunction with a clip- so you can actually place the name with a face.

The plot is good too. It starts a little slow and part of you worries that it is only a slight variation on a bank heist you’ve seen before. But wait. There’s more depth to this story.

Spike Lee directed this 2006 movie. He has a natural way of handling the NY vibe. He slides in some social commentary in a class act sort of way. Not at all it in the hit-you-over-the-top-of-your-head-with-a-beer-bottle way that is done today. I’ll have to revisit some more Spike Lee movies.

Goldberg vs. Kelly

The upshot of this lawsuit is that welfare is property. Welfare is not a gift or a benevolent token- it is property no different than a car or a house. Albeit the property is held in the network of social connectedness of the people and the state. Here’s a summary of the case.

Goldberg v. Kelly, 397 U.S. 254 (1970), is a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution requires an evidentiary hearing before a recipient of certain government welfare benefits can be deprived of such benefits.[1][2]

The Goldberg decision set the parameters for procedural due process when dealing with the deprivation of a government benefit or entitlement. The Court held that a person has a property interest in certain government entitlements, which require notice and a hearing before a governmental entity (either state or federal) takes them away. Government-provided entitlements from the modern welfare state increased substantially in the United States during the 20th century. The Goldberg court decided that such entitlements (like welfare payments, government pensions, professional licenses), are a form of “new property” that require pre-deprivation procedural protection and so did away with the traditional distinction between rights and privileges.

US Supreme Court Washington DC circa 1970

So to put it another way, if you are a member of a group (most probably a formal one) and you fall into a set of circumstances that have been determined to engage a resource, upon taking possession of said resource it becomes your personal property. The community held capital is internalized by the individual. Doesn’t it seem like capital which is put to use in social groups would have a name something like social capital?

If everyone in the group understood it in these terms, it seems that more people would value being a member of a group that had the capacity to make good on such promises. Often people focus on private property as a measure of wealth and well-being. But isn’t the right to tap a resource particularly when one is on the outs a valuable asset as well? There’s a case to be made for a state that has a generous capacity.

Messing with pricing

One of the main reasons buyers make large down payments it to get lower mortgage rates. With this new rule, buyers now have an incentive to make lower down payments. Plus, its easy to screw up your credit score to qualify for a lower rate. So it's taxpayers who'll foot the bill.

Originally tweeted by Peter Schiff (@PeterSchiff) on April 20, 2023.

Note: I think there is a role for government mortgage provision. But playing with a pricing system which affects everyone in order to help a pocket of people with poor credit shows incredible hubris. Plus it will make everyone worse off simply so some people can feel like the are doing something.

What’s in a Name

A lot apparently. Common sense values, health care, and clean energy have morphing definitions depending on whose lips they leave. Welfare was meant to describe the well-being of the citizenry. But then it became associated with the assistance paid to the poor. The word was further tainted by derogatory titles like Welfare Queen.

Welfare was meant to evaluate how well a group would end up after a selection of choices. Ceratinly the idea behind the war on poverty in the 1960s had its roots in increasing welfare, particularly to the most disadvantaged. Monthly subsidies were an answer. Yet.

In the United States, “aid to children,” or “relief” had become Aid to Families with Dependent Children, and then the comfortingly opaque acronym, AFDC. In the 1960s AFDC was usually called “welfare,” but to many of the recipients, the very name felt like a bad joke. “Welfare means health, comfort, and happiness,” as Johnnie Tillmon, a mother who received welfare payments, put it in 1969, “and we on welfare don’t have none of that.” Policy makers on both sides of the Atlantic felt the hypocrisy of the name shifts, and sometimes insisted, purely for honesty’s sake, on applying the old labels.

Great Society- A New History, by Amity Shlaes

Financial measures are a necessary component to getting people back on their feet. But to be well means to have good health, to exercise, to pursue a vocation, to eat well, to sleep in peace, and to be able to provide the same to those who depend on you. I think what is called wrap-around services is now in place to address provisions to some of these other forms of well-being.

But the word welfare will forever carry negative connotations.

Every Person to connect with Nature Every Day

That’s the vision for the Three Rivers Park District. Minneapolis has its own parks district, but the suburban areas surrounding the city are united in maintaining a mega district. In all there are 27,000 acres of parks and trails which host over 7 million visitors a year.

To grow that number to include even more guests, the administration did some outreach to find out why people did not make use of the beaches, playgrounds, open prairies, cross-country ski trails, mountain bike courses, sliding hills, nature centers, and so on. At the State of the Parks Address and Expo today, the speaker presented these results:

Saying one doesn’t have time is really saying there are other demands for activities they find more worthwhile. But then, if they are not aware of all the there is to do, how could they properly evaluate their opportunities. Like with so many things, there needs to be a connector person who makes and introduction and smoothes over those first uncomfortable moments of not quite know what to say or do.

The parks are free from entrance fees, so there are not barriers there. The distance to he parks is a careful concern when for the parke people especially as they plan new connector trails. Their research gives them a pretty good idea how far folks travel to enjoy the open spaces. This leads them to craft corridors for spacially distributed access.

From their 2040 System Plan:

As Emily Dickinson said, ‘Nature is what we know – Yet have not art to say – So impotent our wisdom is To her simplicity.’

Feeling French today

“…But…to sing,
to dream, to smile, to walk, to be alone, be free,
with a voice that stirs and an eye that still can see!
To cock your hat to one side, when you please
at a yes, a no, to fight, or- make poetry!
To work without a thought of fame or fortune,
on that journey, that you dream of, to the moon!
Never to write a line that’s not your own…”
― Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac

Author and playwright Edmond Rostand (1868-1918) lived at Villa Arnaga in Cambo-Les-Bain.

Not only self-interest but community interest

The precise dimension of human behavior that I concentrate on here is the location of the effective mix between the two motivational forces of economic self-interest and what I shall term “community.” I do not want, and I have no need, to identify with any particular variant of non-self-interest: fellowship, brotherhood, Christian love, em-pathy, Kantian imperative, sympathy, public interest, or anything else. I want only to recognize the existence of a general motive force that inhibits the play of narrowly defined self-interest when an individual recognizes himself to be a member of a group of others more or less like himself.

What Should Economists Do? by James Buchanan

The hubris of the Great Society

In The Great Society, Amity Shlaes tells how the Johnson administration attacks societal issues on all levels. The US government had the power and financial backing to go big and throw policy solutions at social problems on a grand scale. They wanted so badly to plan from above that they didn’t look for solutions from below.

The chapter on housing is particularly telling. Massive complexes were vigorously built to house the poor. Is it not ironic that the tower structure at Pruitt-Igoe was chosen under pecuniary pressures (pg 240)? Yet no parks were allowed. No fathers were allowed (pg 241). When solving a social sphere problem, the men in charge used business school analysis.

They went big and failed big not only in the provision of housing but also in the decision to demolish existing housing. In cities across the US, and certainly here in Minneapolis, large tracts of single-family home neighborhoods were bulldozed. Locally this happened for the installation of I35 and I94. Along I94, which connects Minneapolis and St Paul, an African American neighborhood called Rondo was greatly diminished.

Here again, I have no doubt the logic was based on finances. Dilapidated homes are plagued by expenses from defrayed mechanical maintenance. Since home resale values in these areas were undoubtedly low, the dollars and cents reasoning said to tear them down.

What The Great Society tore down, however, were networks of relationships between people who were already isolated from the greater group. They were the relationships that provided care for the old and the young. They were the connections between the workers who get extended family a job; or the mom who takes in a niece. Only later will Jane Jacobs becomes famous for documenting the interpersonal work exercised between neighbors.

It seems the people in charge in the 60’s simply thought that with enough cash and good intentions, they could conquer any social ill (as some people still think today). Schlae provides so many examples of grand schemes which fell flat. Missing is a system that balances needs and resources while being sensitive to incentives.


I can’t say that I’ve ever been to a supper club before. Years ago I went to the Dakota which was a jazz club over into St. Paul as you leave Minneapolis. It was more of a bar that specialized in live music than a club. But a supper club, that’s different. It conjures up movie clips of mafia-looking men with women companions in tight dresses and hair-sprayed updos. The smoke is thick. The stage lights are bright.

At Crooners, which is in an unromantic suburb to the north of the downtowns, the stage lights are also bright. But not a whiff of smoke is present to offend. The tables are tight and the table lights are dim. The audience is slightly staggered upwards as the seating moves to the rear of the room. It’s just the little nudge you need to still have a decent view of the stage.

Agile wait staff maneuver through amongst the guests. They must undergo training to elevate their voice level just to the point of being audible but no more. Many people were enjoying drinks and appetizers. We ordered dinner. Might as well be fed then come home to the chore of cooking.

The atmosphere was a big plus but we came for the music and it did not disappoint. Jazz is like a whole bunch of musical voices barking at each other just to come together in these tremendous cacophonous surges. There are quiet moments too. The pianist had a wonderful soft accompaniment to the bass player. I’d give the trumpets the prize for having the most fun. And the saxaphonists and the trombones came through with tremendous solos.

It was fun! Here’s a taste.

Work done to preserve

Beware when you throw sand in the face of a man with an impeccable reputation because he can gather a posse and chase you down. At least that is what this reporter did. He is well known to be level-headed and professional yet he was censured while working a press conference at the MN capital.

A fellow education journo reports.

Believe it you must! There is work done every day to preserve systems of exchange. This kind of work is the type which is done to shore up loosing something of value. As opposed to the work paid for in dollars which is work done to make or gain something.

But both are forms of work.

Claims without substance?

This tweet garnered bicycle enthusiasts’ expected collective (scornful?) sigh. The Prof is out of touch and out to maintain the status quo. The activists are on the right side of history and will ride in on mechanical transportation, victory torches ablaze. But in the article, both parties are guilty of obstructed views.

First, consider the professor’s opinion that emissions increase when traffic quieting and bike lanes are installed. One would think there is research on this. It makes sense that when vehicles take longer to arrive at their destinations they emit additional pollutants. But intuition is not a substitute for facts. Even a report from taxi drivers verifying additional time taken to deliver passengers through said areas would be helpful. I judge claim number one as a fail. It makes sense to me but no proof is offered.

There is an indirect claim in the number of emails generated for support of bike lanes. The coalition is noted to have sent out a total of 93,000 emails. I’m not buying that there is a live citizen behind each of these carpings to elected officials. I have an inkling that a scan of the electronic documents would reveal automated generation. For claim number 2 in the matter of mobilized residents I give a fail. Spamming of office holders also takes their time away from other issues.

Another pressing issue that falls in the same interest group of concern for the climate is the decrease in transit ridership. The serious drop in locals who use light rail and busses is real and documented. It’s all green lights for claim number 3. And hence this would be one of the areas that should attract time and attention.

Safety is always on the top of people’s priorities. I’m not sure I follow the cliams being made about mortality and walkers. Pedestrian deaths were at an all time high in 2021 but compared to what and are the numbers still quite small? That said I’ve seen and heard about a lot of accidents regarding older riders in particular and their road experiences. Encouraging recreational weekend cylists to tackle roadsharing with four thousand pound chunks of metal seems a bit precarious. Claims about safety strong but not intirely thorough.

I know people who bike to work year around. They love it. It gets their day started with a vigorous activity that gives off energy throughout the day. It can’t possibly be that difficult to track two-wheeled commuters. A city can also use counters to enumerate the activity on trails and roadways at times to give estimates. The demand for bike lanes can be measured in better ways than spam. An same goes for pollution. Reader at intersection in before and after scenarios is easy enough.

If officials want to make sensible decisions they’ll need to look to everyday folks. Will a core group utilize the infrastructure or is it an appeasement to people who want to feel they are making a difference?

Ice Out

The icy grip of winter is being melted away by an 88 degree day here in Minnesota. The surface of the lakes turn black right before the ice goes out. A steady south wind generally helps the chunks turn to mush.

This is a celebratory time in Minnesota. Soon there will be outdoor concerts at the Lake Harriet Bandshell.

Buying Attributes

In this working paper, Sherwin Rosen suggests that workers purchase non-pecuniary attributes when they agree to be hired.

II. The Theory of Equalizing Differences
The theory of equalizing differences is fundamentally a theory of valuation of job attributes. In this account I specialize the job attribute to a consumption item, so the problem is basically one of a tie—in in which the worker sells the services of his labor but simultaneously purchases the characteristics of his job, viewed as on—the—job consumption. In this model work attributes are fixed for a given work situation, but vary from job to job. The basic problem is to match each worker’s preferences for on—the—job consumption versus market consumption to the proper work attribute; that is to say, to assign each worker to a firm which offers the desired job characteristics.


The first non-pecuniary attribute used as an example is dirty versus clean work- meaning the environment of the workplace. The next centers around safety. The next equal treatment dispite racial background. Of course education lines up with this set. Workers are paying for a menu of public goods.

Up goes the apple cart

The political hot potato this week involved a county attorney, two teenagers, and the death of Zaria McKeever. Mary Moriarty lived up to her campaign promises and cut a deal with two teenage brothers in their involvement in the murder of a young woman from a northern suburb of Minneapolis. She felt that trying the 15 and 17-year-old as adults would lead to a traumatic prison experience. Instead, they would serve two years.

The family of Zaria felt otherwise. And fortunately has the where-with-all to exert political pressure. After appealing to the attorney general, the Governor stepped in and had the case taken away from Moriarty.

The county attorney has never shied away from her view that criminals are the victims of societal pressures. And that was a popular view a few years back. But now that the victims are in front of her, real, alive and and in no way superior- maybe she’ll see the harm that was done to them.

Good Friday quote from Flannery O’Connor

I think there is no suffering greater than what is caused by the doubts of those who want to believe. I know what torment this is, but I can only see it, in myself anyway, as the process by which faith is deepened. A faith that just accepts is a child’s faith and all right for children, but eventually you have to grow religiously as every other way, though some never do.

What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe. If you feel you can’t believe, you must at least do this: keep an open mind. Keep it open toward faith, keep wanting it, keep asking for it, and leave the rest to God.

The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor

Wildfires and house prices

There’s no keen insight in the realization that homes on lake shore will command higher prices and those on an airplane flight path will be discounted. But there’s strength in the notion that, through math, you can ascertain a level of certainty about relationships. By stacking a whole set of prices up against numeric representations of features like crime, school districts, and transportation access, a methodology called Hedonic Regressions will generate a sense of the significance of the tie.

This paper about wildfires provides an easy-to-read example of how it works: Wildfire risk and housing prices: a case study from colorado springs. The method has been around since the early seventies, as mentioned in the paper.

The hedonic price method was originally developed by Rosen (1974) and since has been used to estimate the effect of a wide variety of environmental amenities on residential property prices. Typically, house price is regressed on a series of variables that describe the physical characteristics of the house (e.g., area of the house), the neiborhood (e.g., school district), and the environmental amenity under study. Household utility may, therefore, be ‘expressed as
U = u(X, Y, a),
where X is a vector of house characteristic variables, Y is a vector of variables describing clzaracteristics of the neighborhood, and a denotes the environmental amenity under study .

The authors observe that home prices are affected by proximity to wildfire risk. They note some other interesting factors. When a website provides more risk information, the relationship strengthens. More knowledge impacts the market. Also as time passes, and the memory of the fire retreats, the impact on prices also dampens. This all illustrates a milling and churning of a market process.

Many papers have been written since this one about the environmental effects on house prices. Pollution is a big focus. Proximity to road arteries as well. This use of hedonic methodology only scratches the surface of gleaning information from consumers’ choices.

What people don’t buy about prices

When people shop in North America they usually go to a store, pick out an item, walk over to the cash register and pay the bill based on the price noted on the item. One might get the idea that the price is fixed. Yet the consumer knows they could get the same item for less if they drive a bit further to the big box store. They know there will be surcharges if they go to specialty grocers or convenience stores, whereas there could be sales at outlet malls.

And still, they don’t really feel like a participant in the market. They don’t feel that price is the result of their choices in concert with all the other participants.

A sense of market pricing dynamism emerges in the home-buying process. In a low inventory market, as the one we are now experiencing, a well-appointed house will draw more than one suitor. Buyers must put their best foot forward and compete on price and terms in with a blind bid. At first buyers are conservative with how much over asking price they are willing to write. Most participants in the market will go through several attempts in a multiple bidding process to know how high they must reach with the price (and terms) in order to win out over the other buyers.

But that’s not the interesting part. What is fascinating is to sit with a seller as the offers arrive. Most always they are very close. Remember these buyers do not know each other. They may have viewed many different houses before they chose to write an offer on the home in question. Yet when it comes time to put pen to paper, to commit earnest money, and to agree to pay for an inspection, buyers in a blind bid situation will often produce very similar offers. The knowledge acquired through the process of shopping has made buyers attuned to how much they need to pay and not more.

There is an important virtue in this that is underrated. Trust. People don’t like to feel duped. They are less likely to deal in a market they feel is staked against them. When open market transactions lead to unrelated people making the same concessions they feel like they can trust the system. If they don’t pay X, someone else will.

Buying and selling homes is a rare occasion for most people. It isn’t very often that they feel the camaraderie of other market players. Today is about trusting prices. Tomorrow I bring you the math of attributes.

Today’s chat with ChatGPT

The query revolved around unpaid labor. Starting in the 70s, the people who wrote about such things were those who wanted recognition for the value of the work done in families, otherwise referred to as care work. The assumption of the time was that family work was done for families and hence had no commercial value. Although people have always judged how families treat each other and what they do for each other (or don’t do), one was not to put a dollar figure on such things.

It was around this time that the power struggle for command and control of the family became front and center. Which is really too bad. Instead of solving for efficiency, all bared arms for control. Instead of singing duets and pleading for what the other held, ultimatums lead to dissolutions. For decades. Which makes it unsurprising that I have not heard of Virginia Held. Her book written in 1970 sounds promising,  The Public Interest and Individual Interests, but hard to get.

In The Ethics of Care as Normative Guidance: Comment on Gilligan (Journal of Social Philosophy), Held says some interesting things. You can see how she is starting to carve out two spheres, to distinguish between the realm of commerce and that of social support while still holding them under the light of a comprehensive economic system.

Or consider the portrayal of economic man, with its assumptions dominating our market-driven society, that we always and everywhere pursue our own interests and can at best bargain with others to limit the ways in which we do so as we
rationally calculate our utilities. Feminists have shown the distortions in these assumptions: without caregivers acting in ways that contradict them, no infants would ever grow up to be Hobbesian men or rational calculators. In the context of
caring for children, what is sought is mutual well-being, not maximization ofself-interest, and wielding superior power is usually beside the point.

But eventually the ‘should’ words start to show up. They always make me cringe. It’s the point where an author often leaves reality for some preferred world.

Care should not be understood as self-sacrifice. Egoism versus altruism is the wrong way to interpret the issues. Yes, the interests of a given caregiver and care receiver will sometimes conflict, but for the most part we do not pit our own
interests against those of others in this context. We want what will be good for both or all of us together. We want our children and others we care for, and those who care for us, to do well along with ourselves, and for the relations between us
to be good ones. The dominant assumption that the issues being considered are always about the self versus others or the self versus the universal “all others” needs to be revised in this context and then extended.

The work done for families or your associational life or your church is absolutely done out of self-sacrifice. How much of a stake people will invest in their cause is precisely where to look to get a sense of the strength of the ties. It’s a shame that out of a desire for recognition and status the attributes of social efforts were stuffed into the private sphere framework.

Yet, Virginia Held is someone I’ll keep in my index card stack and pursue further.

Where’s Biden?

According to MPR, the President will be in the Twin Cities tomorrow.

It’s good of him to remember former Vice President Mondale. The MN politician’s longevity in office and consistency of performance is remarkable. It was not unusual for him to appear at a talk in a large venue, even in his later years. Walter Mondale did well by Minnesota.

Industrious do-gooders

The ladies were as desperate as the gentlemen; indeed, I think they were even more so. They threw themselves into committees in the most impassioned manner, and collected subscriptions with a vehemence quite extraordinary. It appeared to us that some of them must pass their whole lives in dealing out subscrip-tion-cards to the whole Post-office Directory – shilling cards, half-crown cards, half-sovereign cards, penny cards. They wanted everything. They wanted wearing apparel, they wanted linen rags, they wanted money, they wanted coals, they wanted soup, they wanted interest, they wanted autographs, they wanted flannel, they wanted whatever Mr Jarndyce had – or had not. Their objects were as various as their demands. They were going to raise new buildings, they were going to pay off debts on old buildings, they were going to establish in a picturesque building (engraving of proposed West Elevation attached) the Sisterhood of Mediaval Marys; they were going to give a testimonial to Mrs Jellyby; they were going to have their Secretary’s portrait painted, and presented to his mother-in-law, whose deep devotion to him was well known; they were going to get up everything, I really believe, from five hundred thousand tracts to an annuity, and from a marble monument to a silver tea-pot. They took a multitude of titles. They were the Women of England, the Daughters of Britain, the Sisters of all the Cardinal Virtues separately, the Females of America, the Ladies of a hundred denominations.

Bleak House by Charles Dickens


By Amy Lowell

What is poetry? Is it a mosaic
Of coloured stones which curiously are wrought
Into a pattern? Rather glass that’s taught
By patient labor any hue to take
And glowing with a sumptuous splendor, make
Beauty a thing of awe; where sunbeams caught,
Transmuted fall in sheafs of rainbows fraught
With storied meaning for religion’s sake.

Virtuous markets, theft, or corruption?

The last book we tackled in the No Due Date book club was Do Markets Corrupt our Morals by Virgil Storr and Ginny Choi. I really appreciate the way the book is laid out. Instead of referencing the work of others in an offhand way, expecting the reader to know the inferences intended, the authors pulled lengthy quotes. Then there is further clarification of the material. To make it even easier to follow up, bibliographies are listed at the end of each paragraph.

This makes for a useful book. One worth hanging onto.

One of the questions the book seeks to answer is why there exists an ongoing criticism of capitalism when the data seems to indicate that open and free economies generate positive returns for societies. No need for uncertainty here. If nothing else, the authors confirm through thoughtful data and analysis that economies consisting of open and free trade, with higher levels of transparency and clear property rights, out perform every other system. And yet, the nasty, opportunistic men and women of the market live out vivid roles in the minds of the public.

Storr and Choi start off Chapter 4 with a virtuous market story. An enslaved person, Boatswain, is a skilled craftsman. His owner is progressive enough to allow him to market his skills in the greater Bahamian marketplace and for Boatwain to retain some of his earnings. Here, market forces encourage the relinquishing of a social norm so that the greater community benefits, Boatswain internalizes profits and undoubtedly his owner is relieved of some maintenance expense. All parties win.

Let’s look at a few not-so-appealing market stories. Bernie Madoff was a financier of considerable skill. He also had access to individuals with large amounts of resources with seemingly no direct demands upon them. So Mr. Madoff creates a story to draw those funds out and into his pyramid scheme. Perhaps hubris kept him going. Perhaps he began to believe his own deception. Regardless of the human foibles that perpetuated the deception, when he fell, the destruction was deadly.

But also let’s consider the market for public funds. The state of Minnesota has an 18 billion dollar surplus at the moment. There is talk of large amounts of money being directed into non-profits in a disadvantaged part of the metro area. The fear is that the dollars will not have a sufficient market disbursal system and there will be pressure on the 501c3 people to internalize the liquid assets.

Or consider a situation where two markets exist in close geographic proximity. When a group of ex-pats from a wealthy country takes up residents in a country of substantially less means, it is not long before a submarket is created. Members of the host country develop surcharges on goods in open markets. There are fees imposed at gatekeeping opportunities. This extraction of funds from one group to the next is called corruption. But could it be that this is a market force for the wealthy to support the less wealthy?

Bernie Madoff was simply a sophisticated thief. But he used a network, not simply business means, to accomplish his ruse. The demand for public money in the second scenario is justified, but the mechanisms for distribution are lacking. On many past occasions, this scenario has ended with an appropriation of funds. The last situation generates the example of a secondary market, or a black market, springing up when two distinct groups, with divergent standards of living, coexist nearby.

So I agree with the authors that the Bernies of the world get an outsized airing in the media. People love a good scandal. But I also would like to suggest that some other scenarios which appear to be theft are the result of weak, unidentified, or poorly implemented markets.

Apps to remember

Two new apps have come in handy in the last year.

WhatsApp is a texting mechanism with the option for video calling. It works really well internationally.

Splitwise helps keep track of bills being split between multiple parties. It was super helpful on the trip to London.

Will ChatGPT live up to the hype?

Tyler Cowen is making a big deal about ChatGPT and other similar sounding boards over at Marginal Revolution. I can see why now that I’ve tried it. Applied to my circumstances, it could have changed the trajectory of my adult life had I had access to its output thirty-odd years ago.

While still in my twenties it was hard to miss the observation that funds intended for the destitute were often siphoned off by intermediaries. The people at the top wanted to respond to a call to DO SOMETHING. (sometimes they were obliged to respond as in the lawsuits directed at banks for avoiding neighborhoods). But as someone who sat on the bank floor and disbursed money to the folks deemed responsible for the distribution, it was only a matter of time before a story of theft ricocheted back through the community.

I was reminded of stories from my childhood where gifts of equipment or food were made to foreign governments with the best of intentions. But the equipment was unable to be kept serviced and unusable tractors sat in fields where farmers tilled the earth with oxen. And unfettered dollars simply drifted away into this politician’s pocket or that one’s.

There must be an academic community, I thought, interested in these types of urban questions. Why poor neighborhoods stay poor despite all their various subsidies seemed like a pressing issue. I started perusing the urban studies sections of bookstores, but the selections were limited. It was on trips to progressive cities like Portland where Powell’s bookstore actually offered more than a few titles. It lived up to its moniker the largest independent bookstore.

Yet I still didn’t find what I was looking for because all these texts had a political bent to them. It goes something like this. Strong men/women ruin everything by building too much (sprawl), building too dense (greedy), and charging too much (gentrification). You can see the contradictions here. The lack of the (hopefully) now obvious premise that to get one thing you have to give on another. Choices are connected and results are not to be gained from fiction in our imaginations.

Freezeframe. Had I met a ChatGpt at this point I would have found Thomas Sowell much more quickly. It was a handful of years through distractions of work and young children before I stumbled upon his writing, I was in my thirties by then. His work encouraged and interested me in what I now know to be public choice. With Chat, I would have met Hayek and Mises and the slew of the Austrians within the year. Instead, it has taken twenty. Or maybe more. Time is a drifty thing.

I also would have figured out that the notion expressed here of a social value being an intrinsic part of price was a philosophical take and not an economic one. I had no time for philosophy as an undergrad because none of the writers wrote for an undergraduate audience. They were too difficult to read and rarely tied their thoughts to real examples. Had I had Chat I could have discussed this shortfall and become informed on the author’s references. With Chat all sorts of missing pieces could have been colored in.

All I’ve ever wanted to is to able to show that when the current politicians dump a whole bunch of the $18B surplus into North Minneapolis they will create more moral hazard than the public good. That the flow of dollars is only one part of a transaction and that social ties are the other. To ignore the very real choices of the intermediaries, whether they be the 501c3’s or the local politicians, flushing a whole bunch of cash through their channels without a marketplace connecting to the very real needs of disadvantaged people is hopelessly flawed.

James Buchanan got that. ChatCGT would have told me with a well-directed question or two.

As usual, Tyler is right. The AI tool eliminates geographic distances. No need to run to Portland to the big boy bookstore. No need to read volumes of philosophers you can’t follow. Just ask a question or two and the service will scan the material and report back. The interactive feature of Chat is much more powerful than a Google search where information is offered up with no context.

It was more than likely through Google or Amazon that I was introduced to Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments, a confirmation there were inklings long ago of the tie between markets and morals. Yet the notion that a decline in home values follows persistent crime, that a home in an outstanding school district will cost more, and all the other public good impacts on real estate, required some building blocks to explain. One missing piece to the puzzle (undoubtedly the most significant) is the divergent nature of work. For the ingroup, participants give in order to shore up. For the outgroup, participants request unfettered payment in order to gain and grow.

Two different types of work. One done for the public interest of your family, community, interest group, or passion. One done for a wage from your employer, investment earnings, a business. Two types of payment. One is connected through networks of reciprocity while the other is unfettered and free to flow. But just to make everything a little crazy- the two human actions do not occur in isolation but in unison. Sure there are some transactions we have with our children which are almost entirely personal. And there are transactions of financial instruments that are almost entirely pecuniary. But not.

Real estate is interesting because many interest groups are tied by proximity. So the sale of real estate is the perfect vehicle for analyzing the outcomes of human action in both the public and the private spheres. Even ChatGPT knows this. Check out yesterday’s post. It will thus be through the analysis of housing prices in relation to the efforts people invest in private and public functions in their neighborhoods which will tell how well the politicians are doing with all that public money.

Jack Nicholson in The Last Detail

If you are a fan of Jack Nicholson you will love vintage Jack in this 1973 film. He’s very young and handsome. And all the traits that make him uniquely famous dance across the screen. The story line is a little slow. The footage of America in the 70’s, however, is interesting throughout.

The Last Detail is a 1973 American comedy-drama film directed by Hal Ashby, from a screenplay by Robert Towne, based on the 1970 novel of the same name by Darryl Ponicsan. The film stars Jack NicholsonOtis YoungRandy QuaidClifton James, and Carol Kane. It follows two career sailors assigned to escort a young emotionally withdrawn recruit from their Virginia base to Portsmouth Naval Prison in Maine.

The Last Detail was theatrically released in the United States by Columbia Pictures on December 12, 1973. The film received positive reviews from critics, who praised the performances of Nicholson and Quaid, as well as Towne’s screenplay. It was nominated for two Golden Globe Awards, three Academy Awards, and four British Academy Film Awards (winning two).


No groceries nearby

We will soon be hearing about food deserts (once again) due to three grocery stores vacating a segment of the city. The latest to close is the Wal-Mart in Brooklyn Center.

Walmart’s decision to leave, another blow to a neighborhood with a large Black population,  comes on the heels of Aldi closing a store in North Minneapolis and a nearby Walgreens closing shortly afterwards.The Brooklyn Center location, which has been in operation since 2012, is one of 10 stores nationwide the retail giant is closing, according to USA TODAY.

Sahan Journal

A shopper asks:

“Why are they closing a Walmart in a Black neighborhood?” Kennedy said as she loaded rolls of paper towels and laundry detergent into her minivan.

She works in a group home close to Walmart and shops there for the low prices and wide array of products.

“I bring them here, it’s closer to the home and reasonable,” Kennedy said.

The Sahan Journal did not cover the reasons for the departure from this location but other news sources did.

Brooklyn Center police said Walmart made 6,177 calls for services in the last five years. That’s double the number of calls compared to surrounding businesses like Super 8 and Cub Foods with 3,270 and 3,038 calls, respectively. All three businesses top the city’s list for calls for services.

For further context, police say just six miles away, the Walmart in Brooklyn Park had 1,679 calls for services in the last five years.


City officials vow to fill the anchor store with another merchandiser. But wouldn’t it make more sense if the municipality focused on public safety and let the stores focus on business?

Justify the supply

This comment confirms that it us still difficult to evaluate providers of public goods services. Why are there not more indicators? Why is the analysis kept under wraps? Where is the clearinghouse of market process that ruffles through the producers and shows the market who is getting business done?

Because without these feedback loops it is too tempting, as the Rev references, for people to privatize public funding.

Spring by Christina Rossetti

Frost-locked all the winter,
Seeds, and roots, and stones of fruits,
What shall make their sap ascend
That they may put forth shoots?
Tips of tender green,
Leaf, or blade, or sheath;
Telling of the hidden life
That breaks forth underneath,
Life nursed in its grave by Death.

Blows the thaw-wind pleasantly,
Drips the soaking rain,
By fits looks down the waking sun:
Young grass springs on the plain;
Young leaves clothe early hedgerow trees;
Seeds, and roots, and stones of fruits,
Swollen with sap, put forth their shoots;
Curled-headed ferns sprout in the lane;
Birds sing and pair again.

There is no time like Spring,
When life's alive in everything,
Before new nestlings sing,
Before cleft swallows speed their journey back
Along the trackless track,--
God guides their wing,
He spreads their table that they nothing lack,--
Before the daisy grows a common flower,
Before the sun has power
To scorch the world up in his noontide hour.

There is no time like Spring,
Like Spring that passes by;
There is no life like Spring-life born to die,--
Piercing the sod,
Clothing the uncouth clod,
Hatched in the nest,
Fledged on the windy bough,
Strong on the wing:
There is no time like Spring that passes by,
Now newly born, and now
Hastening to die.

Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894) is remembered as one of the Pre-Raphaelites – a group of 19th century artists and writers who took inspiration from works of art produced in the Middle Ages. Her brother, the painter Dante Gabriel, was one of the most prominent of this group.

Public goods prices are up

Private goods prices are down.

Does this mean that analysis has focused on half the market while the other half runs unattended?

Plz show me the need

The Dem trifecta in Minnesota’s state offices is leading to a flurry of bills being passed. The latest is free school lunch for all k-12 students. A well-posed media shot of the Governor being body-embraced by a cluster of elementary school kids is as tart as an artificial sweetener.

We know the school kids aren’t banging down the doors for a bureaucratic response to their midday meal, so who’s asking for this culinary delight? The neediest kids were already receiving free breakfast and lunch at their public schools. From what I can follow on social media, the desireability of universal provision of food will first off not necessitate the requirement of some to ‘ask’ for a meal through the paperwork. And secondly, it will catch the kids whose parents fail to fill out the paperwork.

MN is a pretty well-off state. The poverty rate for children is 12%. From personal experience, I can attest that well over 12% of school kids are receiving free and reduced lunch. In other words, there was already a largesse to feeding the kids. Yet- to look at the celebration in St. Paul one would think this is a breakthrough of some sort.

Some politicians are asking for the ground rules on when and how the government should take from some and give to others. A new legislator, Walter Hudson, from an NW exurban area posted this recently.

It seems like a legitimate question.

Although everyone can feel good about putting food in the mouths of babes, if those babes don’t need the food more than some other babes need mental health assistance, housing, or some other basic need, then the tradeoffs determined by politicians are failing the system.

There’s a deeper answer to Hudson’s question. Where in the interlinked transactions of public dollars flowing to private citizens can we identify comparative needs? Where do we see the production value of public dollars invested?

Food for thought

To cap off coverage from the trip to London, here are a few of the culinary treats we had in London.

High tea at Fortnum and Mason

Fortnum and Mason, a department store in Piccadilly, is like a fancy wedding cake with decorations at every level. Prim and proper is exactly how you feel once you’ve reached the fourth floor, up a double staircase with gorgeous dark wood banisters. The piano player may already be laying fingertips onto the ivories, depending on when you arrive for afternoon tea or how long you’ve lingered enjoying the treats. A skeleton holder of stacked plates filled with goodies will arrive at your table. The sandwiches each have their own delicate flavor. The scones are best with tea. The aroma of the libation is so sweet you wonder if every other tea will pale into a substandard replacement from now forward. Caution- the bill is not for the faint of heart.

The India Club restaurant is tough to find. The number over the unassuming door is 143 on the busy Strand. Two flights of narrow steps will lead you to an unassuming entrance to a lovely rectangular dining room. The space is tight. The tables are small. The atmosphere is gigantic. The evening we went for dinner all the tables were edged shoulder to shoulder with a younger vibrant crowd. The noise was that comfortable hum of humans enjoying their evening. Most importantly, the curry was rich in flavor.

Cubana Restaurant Waterloo is located in a space that looks convincingly like worn unattended buildings which I imagine to be in Havana. The place is unique. Several levels create private spaces for folks to enjoy their meal and their company. The wait staff looked the part and were effusively attentive (did I say good-looking?). The pulled pork gave off a rich smokey vibe. It is as delicious. The plantains too- which is surprising because I usually steer around them. Not this time. You have to take the whole place in while you clear your plate!

Newton’s resting spot in Westminster Abbey. His visage taken from a death mask.

—Letter to Henry Oldenburg (18 Nov 1676). In H. W. Turnbull (ed.), The Correspondence of Isaac Newton, 1676-1687 (1960), Vol. 2, 182.

“I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”

Standing at the Sky’s Edge- Theater Review

Just a mile or so down the banks of the Thames from Shakespeare’s Globe theater is the modular National Theater. The 1127 seats of its Oliver stage were filled last night for the performance of Standing at the Sky’s Edge. And it is no surprise. The performance was outstanging.

I knew it was a production full of music but did not anticipate the number and sheer quality of fantastic voices. There are solos, there are duets, and there are full troupe choruses to remarkable ends. The orchestra/band is elevated, making for an excellent view from our balcony seats. And the performers were adept at switching up the genre from melodic to rock and role with an electric guitar solo.

Here’s a bit from the Guardian:

But it blooms into a glorious love letter indeed, revealing a big, booming heart and astonishing sound. Hawley’s music and lyrics stand front and centre of the production, characters often making first entrances through song and occasionally breaking out of a scene to perform a number, microphone in hand, as if at a gig.

The cast is uniformly strong and their singing outstanding. Faith Omole’s voice has the deep, rich timbre of Amy Winehouse’s while Maimuna Memon’s songs blast with emotion. Ensemble numbers bring shivers. Feet tap, spines tingle. We find ourselves swaying in our seats. Together with its lovely movement, the show becomes unstoppably winning, ineffably exuberant.

Step out of the theater and take in this wonderful view from the South Bank over to the lit dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Don’t doubt Schumpeter

According to Schumpeter, the “gale of creative destruction” describes the “process of industrial mutation that continuously revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one” (Capitalism,Socialism and Democracy)


In the City of London, the remains of Roman walls juxtapose modern high rises. The destructive forces of the great fire of 1666 and the Blitz opened up windows into archiology of the ancient past. This was followed, over many generations by an energetic rebuilding.

The results of the ancient side-by-side with the modern are quite spectacular.

Thoughts about morals and markets

Most objections to markets of private goods are that, in their exuberance, they roll on by some social concerns. The industrious plant pollutes; the labor market does not support all families; the tech firm runs the table to accelerate advancements in their field. It’s thought that markets allow the power of the purse to trample on the wants of the people.

So– the people make rules.

And that is where you see the counterarguments to the objection to markets. Even though we don’t think about it, marketplaces are formed by rules. Markets are a combination of people taking action, the objects in trade, and the marketplace where it all occurs.

New rules mean a new marketplace. And in that new marketplace, with either informal norms or formal rules around the social concerns mentioned above, a new set of prices evolve. In a bubbling and ever-unfolding process, the markets renew to the will of the consumers.

The morals of some groups will keep their marketplaces at arm’s length. The Amish live a lifestyle that remains separate from mainstream America. Some people will never buy crypto or derivatives as their uncertainty about the products gives rise to a fear of being duped.  Others may only allow family members to care for their children.

But the argument that the combination of people, with all their human inclinations, along with the variety of goods and services they wish to voluntarily exchange, and the meeting place where buyers and sellers are brought together is inherently a moral abyss seems unsubstantiated.

The living room

How are memories illusive and vivid at the same time? An image of the room. Scented air through the window. A beep at a distance for the gardener to open the gate. Reading. Evening fires in a hearth. Classical music from a turn table. Count the instruments says a voice.

Can you picture it? I ask my brother. Yes, absolutely.

Markets missed and recovered

If you were to ask people what disappoints them about markets they would say that markets carry out their business without feeling, that they focus on pecuniary profits in the short run and forget about the little guy.

It’s true. The beauty of unfetter trade is based on the ability of unrelated people to transact without forethought to social obligation. That is the feature which makes them powerful elevating nearly all of humanity to some higher level than a century ago. So what kind of quandry are we in if the secret power is the not so secret downfall?

No quandary, just a shift. Pecuniary markets handle private goods in a fine fashion. There are markets for goods carrying a varying degree of social innuendo. Here you pay to belong. You exit when you want out. You give of your time and money to foster the nurturing of the social objective. It is still through discovery and evaluation of choices that consumers choose their municipalities, their school districts, their transit option.

People are disappointed when they look for the public market amongst private goods. It’s not there. So they cry foul!

For example, the job market spans a wide range of pay from part-time coffee pourers to financial wizards a la Warren Buffet. Clocking in at a Starbucks three mornings a week might be just what a retiree wants. The money makes it worth getting up a little earlier. But they are really interested in the job to get out of the house and interact with various people in a pleasant setting. One might even go as far as to say having this minimal low stress obligation is good for their health.

It wouldn’t work well if the only employment option was a latte mixer. And this is where the trouble starts. Some individuals are only able to pull down basic jobs, and others feel this is not right. They create a rule that every head of household is entitled to employment at a living wage. In this reframing it is decided that society, or the greater group, owes the working family a living wage.

And voila, a social market is created.

Get the info before consent

Sometimes you don’t know what you consented to when you joined the team.

More fines, more hoops, less fees

It’s rather perplexing how the liberals feel about landlords. If in doubt check out this new round of rules and fees being proposed at the Minnesota Legislature.

The bill would also restrict landlord entry and apply fees to landlords for subsequent violations. It was approved and referred to the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee.

The bill offers few exceptions while outlining well-defined penalties.

The types of fees that would be banned include those for move-in, move-out, vague administration practices, lease processing, amenity and access to rental portals.

“HF315 would prohibit those non-optional fees for non-optional services,” said Rachael Sterling, a housing attorney at HOME Line.

“This is different from a pet fee or parking fee a tenant can elect to add to their monthly costs,” she said.

Violators would pay either three times the amount of each unenforceable fee or $500, whichever is greater. In addition, the court could award reasonable attorney fees to tenants.

Landlords entering residential properties could be limited to a four-hour window between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. and be required to give at least 24-hour notice. Instead of a civil penalty of $100, minimum penalties would have to match or exceed one month’s rent and reasonable attorney’s fees.

MN House

Are there really that many landlords entering units before 8am and after 8pm? Because it seems to me that most business people would prefer to be at home during these hours. The move-in move-out fees could be reflective of a condo building’s rules to charge accordingly. But I’m splitting hairs.

In the bigger scheme of things, I’m just not sure why progressives don’t jump into the rental business, buy some buildings and rent them out? Every time there is a market downturn I hope that one of these groups sweeps up a bunch of properties and rents them out.

It’s the car manufacturers fault

Yesterday the mayors of both Minneapolis and St. Paul, Frey, and Carter, stood up with attorney general Ellison to demand that two car manufacturers recall their vehicles. Why? Because they are not contributing to the public good.

In the past few years, the public’s peace of mind has been greatly unsettled by the propensity of young folk to steal cars. Carjacking they call it. Usually, the roughians just flat-out taking the keys off a mark. The Minneapolis crime map conveys the message.

Crime map Minneapolis for the last 7 days

The mayors are responding to a terrific increase in the number of car thefts in 2023.

In a message released Friday, the police department said there were more than 700 car thefts in January, along with 33 carjackings and “260 Thefts from Motor Vehicle.”

Bring Me the News

And then the politicians called on Kia and Hyundai to recall all their vehicles that do not have anti-theft technology. Because- “They have an obligation to keep people safe. I have an obligation to people in this city,” said Frey.”

I think both mayors have congratulated the capitalist system in a backhanded way. Manufacturers, in the process of reading their consumers, voluntarily introduced anti-theft technology to their products. Since business is a competitive process, this will undoubtedly become a standard feature.

Markets solve the problems people demand from them. They work for the public good as well as the private good.

The romance of remote work is over?

My college senior has already decided he would prefer a job with a minimum of two days a week in person. For the past year and a half, he has been employed as an IT intern doing web design. This work has all been done remotly. Covid pushed all these jobs out of the brick and mortar buildings.

But if a 21-year-old is anxious to be back in person, maybe work life, commutes, and happy hours will return. It’s just not that interesting, he says, to sit by himself at the computer all day.

A bird came down the walk

Emily Dickinson 
A bird came down the walk:
He did not know I saw:
He bit an angle-worm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw.

And then he drank a dew
From a convenient grass,
And then hopped sidewise to the wall 
To let a beetle pass.

He glanced with rapid eyes
That hurried all abroad-
They looked like frightened beads, I thought;
He stirred his velvet head

Like one in danger; cautious, 
I offered him a crumb, 
And he unrolled his feathers 
And rowed him softer home

Than oars divide the ocean,
Too silver for a seam, 
Or butterflies, off banks of noon,
Leap, plashless, as they swim.


Daycare math

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration plans to leverage the federal government’s expansive investment in the semiconductor industry to make progress on another goal: affordable child care.

On Tuesday, the Commerce Department will announce that any semiconductor manufacturer seeking a slice of nearly $40 billion in new federal subsidies will need to essentially guarantee affordable, high-quality child care for workers who build or operate a plant.


I’m not sure that ‘leverage’ is the proper word choice here. Subsidies for the chip manufacturers became a clear public necessity during the COVID crisis. Certain goods are so essential to US productivity that the risk of being cut off by a foreign supplier justifies the expense of keeping US chip manufacturers in business. Step one of resource flow for a public benefit affirmed.

With hopes and dreams of getting a twofer, the administration believes that by demanding daycare be provided– no no ‘affordable’ daycare be provided– the numbers will simply do double backflips and be leveraged. But all that will happen is that the subsidy calculated to support chip production will be diluted to subsidize both chip production and daycare. And maybe that’s what they want.

Say people feel that a daycare worker should be paid the same as a factory worker. Now say each daycare worker is assigned four children. Add to that an administrative overhead and a building maintenance fee. If a family has two kids in daycare, the second worker that goes to work at a factory is only taking home, a third to a quarter (?) of their wage after daycare expenses. And daycare is closed on certain days. Daycare is at a distance from home so there are logistical issues of transport. Kids have to stay home from daycare when they are sick. Such are the hidden expenses of daycare.

Don’t get me wrong. I support daycare and both my kids went to daycare. I’m just saying to get the numbers to work in this scenario, the daycare would need to be significantly subsidized to make it the better choice for the worker. Or, the worker would have to be paid a professional wage. And if an administration thinks that this is a good use of public funds, then keep track of it as a separate line item. Then we can calculate which expenditures alleviated risk and which expenditures supported women in the workforce.

Hoping and wishing the math were different won’t make it so.

You People- Movie Review

There’s a new romantic comedy out with some heavy-hitting actors like Eddie Murphy, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jonas Hill, David Duchovny, Nia Long and newcomer (at least to me) Lauren London. The film tackles all the social awkwardness around race relations when Jonas falls for Lauren and vice-versa.

It’s a Romeo and Juliet romance where the families serve to pull the lovebirds apart. One such scene occurs around the dinner table. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jonah’s mom, starts down the whole ‘our parents came to this country to work’ reasoning for success, and Nia Long, Lauren’s mom, challenges her with the benefits of heredity in the family profession.

As expected, Jonah’s father is a podiatrist, as was his grandfather and his great-grandfather. But what does the implication of this occupational lineage? In what does it offer an advantage? In a competitive situation, having access to information at any time or season has clear advantages. This may be knowledge about educational issues, school entrance requirements, course work, or internship insights. And not only can one tap a family member at any time, but there is also a stronger guarantee than with any other group that their response will serve your best interests.

This unconditional support is further enhanced through connections to others in the field who may serve to advance the student’s objectives. Favor trading within a group happens naturally. So a lineage of family members with contacts throughout the profession offers access to others who will also work on the child’s behalf. This reaching out to lend a hand may also occur with a sense of nostalgia- Remember when we were only twenty and had not a cent in our pockets?

It’s important to pull these tasks apart and take them on an individual level. Understanding how institutions work if it’s deemed important to get some outside blood into highly competitive professions.

As far as the movie goes- it was humorous, and that’s saying a lot given how worn out the black/white/wokeness dialogue has become in recent years. It made me laugh and I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say the girl gets her guy in the end.

V Ostrom quotes Tocqueville

Tocqueville has suggested that the danger of democratic despotism engendered by the search for simple solutions in a centralized state can be avoided if a democratic people give proper attention to political science as a “science of association.” He views a science of association as being “the mother of sciences. in democratic countries: “The progress of all else depends upon the progress it has made” (Tocqueville, 1945: 2: 110). A science of association will enable men in a democratic society to “comprehend the utility of forms” (Tocqueville, 1945: 2: 325) for putting the doctrine of self-interest to proper use as a rule of action for organizing and sustaining collective enterprises (Tocqueville, 1945: 1: 10). Tocqueville observes, “If men are to remain civilized or to become so, the art of associating together must grow and improve in the same ratio in which the equality of conditions is increased” (Tocqueville, 1945: 2: 110). A science of association is a necessary ingredient for advancing civilization in democratic societies and is the basis for Tocqueville’s conclusion: “A new science of politics is needed for a new world’ (Tocqueville, 1945:1: 7).

The Intellectual Crisis in American Public Administration, (page 93), Vincent Ostrom

Remember when

I’m old enough to remember when I couldn’t pull together an evening meal. Pre-family, cooking is a secondary concern. There’s always takeout. And so much of one’s activity swirls around getting food with others. But once you have children in your household, then the daily routine of dinner is the mayflower pole that keeps everyone from flying off into hangry-land.

First, it’s the juggle of monitoring what everyone will and will not eat. Then there’s the learning curve of which groceries last and which perish. In addition to maintaining an inventory of groceries in the cupboards as well as the fridge, one must meter out prep and eat times to sync with everyones’ after school-activities. There were disappointments. There were complaints. And that’s how you get better.

For a bunch of years now, there’s been no thought involved. Perhaps a little discussion, “Do you want Marry Me Chicken or stuffed pork chops?” But the deroulement of the whole thing just happens. Senses, especially the sense of smell for foods underway, are much sharper. Listening to a podcast, unloading the dishwasher, and checking on the mail all can be dovetailed into the process that just seems to happen.

What I want to take from this is the memory of how hard it was to learn all those steps. Because then, when I see another, who could use a bit of a nudge, a kind word, a bit of encouragement, I’ll remember all those little steps and how long it took to master the basic task of dinner.

Notes from Housing Court

When landlords and tenants get into a tussle, they end up in housing court. From the bleachers it appears the dominant activity addresses evictions. But a tenant may also ask the court to hold their rent in escrow until their complaint against their landlord is heard. That way they are not viewed as delinquent yet they are still denying the landlord access to their monthly income.

A typical rental turnover includes a tenant giving proper notice to a landlord regarding an intent to move. This is usually thirty or sixty days. The window of time allows the owner to reveiw the present condition of the unit, determine whether it needs any freshening up, and either proceed with improvements or decide to rent it as is. During the tenants remaining occupancy, the place is shown to prospective tenants and most often a new lease agreement is drawn up to match end to end with the term of the existing lease.

And then, there are times when this is not the case.

The tenant stops paying rent on the 1st. By mid-month it may be clear for a bunch of reasons that the teanant will no longer being paying rent. At this point the landlord needs to give them a two week notice of their intent to evict. Once that timeframe is completed, the landlord goes to housing court to file a complaint. In days of yore the courts were committed to processing the complaints in 6-14 days. In a post Covid, post eviction moratorium world, the wait is six weeks.

Keeping count of the cash flow reveals the landlord misses three months of rent in this last scenario- or a quarter of their annual income on the unit. One might point out that they keep the delinquent tenant’s deposit. True. But a delinquent tenant who won’t vacate a property more than likely has left the unit in rough to very damaged condition. These are folks who are often experiencing a few bumps in their lives.

On the one hand activists want landlords to house people with flaws on their rental applications. On the other hand when a landlord takes a hit on a scenario such as this one, and internalizes the loss of a quarter of annual income, it would be reasonable to expect the public to at least acknowledge the sacrifice. Instead the activists vocally promote the idea that all landlords are opportunistic wealth hoarders.

Wouldn’t it be cool if one could demonstrate who bears the social costs of things?

Buchanan and accounting

I want to argue that our failure to allow for any accounting of the sort of choice behavior involving investment in becoming something different has inhibited our ability to understand as well as our willingness to try to understand some of the problems of our time, both individual and social. By implicitly refusing to consider man as artifactual, we neglect the “constitution of private man, which roughly translates as “character,” as well as the “constitution of public men,” which translates into the necessary underpinning of a free society, the “character” of society, it you will.

Natural and Artificial Man, James Buchanan 1978

Because, as Buchanan concludes in the last line of his lecture, “He wants liberty to become the man he wants to become.

Stacking priorities and coordinating benefits

Local legislators at town hall forum 2/17/23

Two legislators and one Minnesota senator gave a town hall talk last Saturday. With majorities in both the MN House and Senate, a swarm of bills has been flying through committee and onto a vote. Let’s have a look at them.

Education: The schools are still (and always) underfunded. They need dollars. The plug’s been pulled from the bathwater as there was no depth offered to describe relative priorities, to meeting public expectations, to backing winning strategies.

Abortion: Many didn’t believe abortion was on the ballot until the votes were counted. And sure enough, the topic occupied the first hours of the legislators’ work. The right to an abortion all the way through the third trimester was codified into the MN constitution (not sure what they mean by codify, it’s their word). Winners: feminists and women of childbearing age. At risk: unborn babies and paternal rights. Losers: Religious ideology

The Surplus: The promise to return a portion of the surplus to the taxpayers is echoing more and more faintly. It really never was a return but a redistribution where people of lesser means received the most, middle income some, and wealthy folk nothing. Instead, the audience at this town hall was told of failing bridges and infrastructure. When you want to spend bring up the tangibles. There is more resistance to human services than to maintaining nuts and bolts public hardware. No offer of project eval or expenditure return on public use. The pols always declare the need, and steer clear of distinctive comparisons or hierarchical demand for public dollars.

Universal School Lunch: One might wonder if it is the best use of funds to pick up the lunch tab for those who can and might still provide their children’s meals.

Paid Family Leave: I’ve never heard a peep on how it was determined that enough folks were locked out of taking care of a few personal errands during work time to make a law worthwhile. Nor is there a whisper regarding whose pocket this human resource benefit will come from. I’m sure some people live in this uncomfortable pinch between time and money. Making a universal law benefit is great if most people need it. If it is given to everyone when one a handful are struggling, you have to wonder whether the donations to public funds would be best employed in another manner.

This is where I have to give my legislator credit. Here the school districts are being given additional funding only to have it taken from them to cover the paid family leave. Schools are public only in their function to educate children. Public institutions are employers as well. The legislator acknowledged she was hearing from her friends at the MN Teacher’s Union. Turns out that publically funded entities are employers too.

Which highlights the importance of coordination. Elected officials are only exposed to very limited voice. There’s got to be a better format to express the desires of the constituents in the manner public funds are allocated.

St Olaf in film

St Olaf may be well known as a premier liberal arts school in the upper midwest, but that recognition doesn’t always translate to destinations further afield. So when Betty White claimed it as her alma mater in the Golden Girls sitcom there was a seven-year span of possible name-dropping. To say nothing of the glow of being associated with the comedic charmer, the bright as a penny, the class act who was Betty White.

Apparently the local college in the town know for cow colleges and contentment also made an appreance in the Cohen Brothers’ (Raising Arizona, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, True Grit) film A Serious Man.

Was it the beautiful Hogwartian campus? Was it the Lutheran chapel with Scandinavian overtones? No, it was a lecture hall and a mega-sized black board chock-full of physics equations. I came across this interesting tidbit when I was trying to track down a former St. Olaf biology professor, Jim Cedarberg. He helped the stage set fill the board.

Written by Mike Roe, a St. Olaf Alum.

The college will never be known for its sports records. It will always be lauded for the St. Olaf Choir. And now it has appeared in two cinematic ventures.

You gotta pay to play

You’ve probably been trapped in a regretful conversation. One where there’s a dominant voice (usually male) telling everyone how he saw this stock as an up-and-comer or that business venture as a sure thing. Blaghty blagh blagh. The way the words drop out of his mouth, he should be a highflyer. But alas no. Despite the wealth of information he is willing to impart about the market, he never actually makes a move and puts his money on the table.

And then you have the travel bug. Oh- you should really go sailing amongst the Greek Isles and watch the sunset between Ionian columns. Or go kayaking in the Galapagos; snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef, or horseback riding on a dude ranch in Wyoming! Come to find out, the travel bug never leaves the the winged back chair by the bay window in her living room. This wealth of information has yet to be experienced.

In the real estate business, everyone wants to anti up their advice to the prospective buyer or seller. At the job, their coworkers share all their experiences with ardent fervor- yet they moved over ten years ago. The neighbors warn the clients to look for this and be careful of that because the last time they were involved in a real estate transaction those were the going concerns.

As much as information gathering is part of the process of buying or selling a home, this type of chit chat is only vaguely helpful. The knowledge that guides a market participant to a successful outcome is obtained from parties, such as themselves, who are in an imminent position to complete a transaction. Those willing to pay have processed the particulars of their present market and thus have pertinent knowledge.

Tip #1 to the new Realtor

Never run half of a couple out to homes. Both will be making the final decision, hence both have to churn through the process.

It’s usually the woman. She has all the energy and ambition to drive around to eight homes over a two-and-a-half-hour window and consider their features. And then the spouse says that this suits him fine as she’ll make most of the calls. But this is almost always not true.

Both parties have their thing. One may care about the size of the center island and whether there is a pantry, but the other will absolutely not budge on the size of the lot. By looking at homes without a generous amount of verdure, Mrs. Buyer is getting a false sense of her choices. By disregarding one of the couple’s requirements, improper knowledge is gathered.

New realtor, do not be fooled! Mr. Buyer must join the hunt. In addition to holding some firm, albeit limited, requirements his impact on the decision is significant. Moreover, the process of looking, evaluating, of seeing which homes sell and which ones drag on the market creates an internal registry of pricing. People will not sign their names to one of the largest purchases of their lives without a sense of price.

So what I’m really saying to those of you just joining the profession, is that where a couple is concerned, the decision maker is the couple. It is not the addition of buyer one and buyer two. Through the discovery process of finding their new home, both individuals will find out their partner’s preferences as well as their own. And the final decision will include some combination of compromises between the two.

Alcoholic breath and cabbages

One of Professor Hayek’s most renowned essays is titled “Why I Am Not a Conservative.” I am tempted to emulate Hayek here and entitle this postscript essay, “Why I Am Not an Economist.” To anyone who reads the methodological urgings contained in the essays of this volume, written over almost two decades, and who simultaneously looks at what passes for “economics” in the professional journals of 1980, there is only one evident conclusion. The author of the essays is almost the only one in step or else he writes under some delusion that he is something that he is not.

If not an economist, what am I? An outdated freak whose functional role in the general scheme of things has passed into history? Perhaps I should accept such an assessment, retire gracefully, and, with alcoholic breath, hoe my cabbages. Perhaps I could do so if the modern technicians had indeed produced “better” economic mousetraps. Instead of evidence of progress, however, I see a continuing erosion of the intellectual (and social) capital that was accumulated by “political economy” in its finest hours.

3D homes in the Lone Star State

Lennar, a national home builder, has been experimenting with 3D-built homes in the Austin area.

GEORGETOWN, TX – November 10, 2022 – ICON, the leader of advanced construction technologies pioneering large-scale 3D printing, and Lennar, one of the nation’s leading homebuilders, announced today that construction is underway on the largest community of 3D-printed homes and reservations will begin in 2023.

Situated north of Austin in the city of Georgetown’s master-planned community of Wolf Ranch by Hillwood Communities, a Perot company, the 100-home community combines innovative robotics, software and advanced materials to create homes that are technologically advanced, environmentally sustainable and architecturally striking. Each Lennar home in Wolf Ranch is co-designed by the renowned architectural firm BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group. Prices are anticipated to start from the mid-$400,000s.

Things must be going pretty well as it is now being reported that Elon Musk’s Boring Company will be partnering with Lennar to build a community of 110 homes near its plant in central TX. Austin Business Journal reports.

Elon Musk has already transformed a rural swath of Central Texas with facilities for Boring Company and SpaceX. It looks like the billionaire wants to erect houses next, and a public official says Musk has enlisted one of the nation’s largest homebuilders to help. 

He’s not the first businessman to participate in helping workers find shelter. But it is surprising how few companies try to entice their employees to live close to work through subsidies. When you think about all the activities which take place close to home, wouldn’t the saved time of no commute contribute to a less stressed and more timely workforce?

Just think of the employee loyalty that would develop by bringing the most promising entry-level workers into a neighborhood they otherwise couldn’t afford.

The right fit for the itch

On Economists Writing Everyday yesterday, Zachary Bartsch posted how he came to support a tax to pay for mosquito spraying for nearby neighbors. His neighborhood has always been sprayed, but given the mosquitos’ lack of interest in our municipal lines, he surprised himself with a collective mindset.

At first, I wanted to write a blog about the collective action problem and how one can be comfortable with oppressing the will of electoral minorities. I expected to make a Kaldor-Hicks argument in favor the potential gain of the majority. Among free-marketers, that would be the edgy thing to do. But I realized that this referendum was fundamentally about changing our set of property rights. It’s an externality story. I am now required to pay for mosquito mitigation on my land in order to prevent the harm to my neighbor. 

Some might take this as an endorsement for more government. But it’s not. It is the private benefit gained from increasing the treatment area for the pests that gives dynanism to the collective product. Money (or resources) will flow to the issue as long as there are individual gains as well as the group gains.

Hence finding the right public subset to fit each public good problem is necessary for achieving the best use of resources.

Attention to process

When you meet with a seller to talk about selling their home they are always keen to find out your opinion of the price of their home. The price is straightforward. The price is simple. But price alone lacks depth and understanding of the marketing process. More importantly, understanding the process leads a seller to gain a stronger price from the market.

I showed this home today. If you are not from the area, especially if you live across the world somewhere, you may not appreciate the updated fixtures found in these photos. The home is thirty-four years old which means it has hit a threshold for many if not all cosmetic finishes as well as most all of the mechanicals. For instance, the windows and siding have been redone. This project is a sizeable expense. This home also has a new kitchen and all the baths have been updated.

Nicely appointed homes will attract a large pool of buyers. This is favorable for a seller as more demand for property results in the best financial outcome. Hence the process of prepping a home for sale includes tackling refinishing hardwood floors, replacing ugly old appliances, and verifying the mechanicals are tuned and humming. Often couples get into a tussle about how much take on. One is watching the checkbook and shaking their head to and fro. The other is nodding yes, yes, yes. Can you over-improve? Definitely.

The home above has been improved to the point of reaching the highest segment of price in comparison to their nearby neighbors. The market may give the seller the best price in the neighborhood without giving the seller the price necessary to cover the expense of the updates. In other words some renovations result in a bigger bang for your buck upon sale.

Paying attention to the condition of the structure of a home before going to market is just one aspect of the process of marketing a property. Other angles also affect the final price the seller pockets at the time of closing.

Giving credit

I don’t know this Henrick guy, but I’m a fan. He gives his wife credit for helping him flourish.

There was a time many moons ago (or about 50 years) when men were obliged to take credit for all and any efforts their wives made on their behalf. To be generous would be to say that the men’s world was so competitive they had to take credit to beef themselves up next to their peers. Another view would be to say that since the man’s job brought home the financial means of support, then he deserved credit for the job while the stability of family life went to the spouse.

The thing is, no one likes to be underappreciated. Most everyone wants to feel a little warmth from the spotlight. And failure to bring the spouse on stage when credit deserved sharing led to a furious few to dismantle the marriage contract.

Industry news from NAR

The National Association of Realtors does a profile of home buyers and sellers once a year. As long as you keep in mind that the numbers are aggregated over our rather large country, there are still insights to gain. For instance, 49% of buyers say that the quality of the neighborhood is the most important factor in determining location. But quality is a subjective measure, at least as stated here. So, as long as the buyer is buying into more neighborhood amenities than they previously had, they will have a favorable view of their new neighborhood.

People also like to live near ‘their people.’ This makes sense on so many levels. It is easier to get together over a beer and a BBQ on the weekends. It’s easier to drop off the kids if you are in a pinch for a sitter. It’s easier to run a traveler to the airport or the elderly to a doctor’s appointment. People want to live near their people.

The Covid effect shows up in this next slide. Due to the opportunity for remote work, buyers had the opportunity to move further away from their present location. The distance people moved from their old house to their new house jumped from 15 miles in prior years, to 50 miles in 2022. The cabin is no longer a getaway- it’s the main residence.

Market discovery process (channeling Kirzner)

I had to call a buyer this evening and tell them theirs wasn’t the winning bid on a house. It’s never fun to be the one to deliver the news that pulls the plug on all the plans they’ve been dreaming up.

Bidding on a home is just one of the steps toward market discovery. The stages might start innocently enough by browsing real estate sites during a slow time at work. Even though this low-touch method provides limited information, some bigger-picture decisions may start to formulate. Such as the realization that certain areas are simply too expensive, or others are too far from work.

Next buyers get in their cars and go tour homes during open houses. Or sometimes they start right away by meeting a realtor at properties. This step is more structured as basic parameters have been set both in the physical nature of the home but also in price. As the process continues, a third decision criterion emerges. It concerns the number of repairs or upgrades the buyers are willing to take on.

At some point, the buyer will find a home that interests them enough to make an offer. If they are the sole bidder then the discovery only involves the expectations of the seller. If there are multiple bids on the property, such as in this recent situation, then the offer process is much more thorny. Being the highest offer can be a means of winning the house but not necessarily. Terms matter as well.

In this case, there were eight bids in total. Usually, at this level of interest, at least one party that goes for broke, bidding high and giving up the inspection contingency. This market participant requires a tolerance for higher risk. It’s by going through the process that buyers discover their tolerances for not only price but terms of the purchase. Or they adjust them to compete in the market.

Jilted by the Grammys

Diana Ross was nominated twelve times for a Grammy but never received one. Her first nomination was in 1964 for Baby Love. Between 1970 and 1982 hits like Upside Down, Love Hangover, Stop in the Name of Love, and Touch Me in the Morning were all overlooked.

Criminals and organ donation

In Massachusetts, criminals will be able to trade organs for a reduction in their days served.

Bill HD.3822, which would establish a “Bone Marrow and Organ Donation Program,” was introduced late last month by state Reps. Carlos González and Judith García, both Democrats. If successful, it would allow those incarcerated in the Massachusetts Department of Correction (DOC) to get their sentence reduced anywhere between 60 days and 12 months in exchange for their bodily offering, which may include a liver or kidney, among other vital body parts.


Trading body parts is a sensitive topic. Even though plenty of ill people could need these healthy replacements to survive, a kibosh is put on this activity in the marketplace of unfettered exchanges. No cash- but trade is acceptable. A chain of trades is set up for kidney match-making for example. It’s a slower process than money for product as a sequence of events between unrelated people needs to be coordinated.

Instead of trading between family members who need a transplant, in this story, the incarcerated can trade off their debt to society. Ideally, the donors would not only be looking for their early release but have some personal interest in supporting the exchange. The intrusive nature of a medical procedure imposes a cost that must be balanced in some way.

In the Valley at Estevan Sask.

The wilds are calling me,
Calling from afar;
The sounds are following me
From the windy bar
By the silent-flowing stream,
Where new mem’ries are.

The morning is calling me,
Dreaming of the dew;
The sunlight is following me
The green woods through.
And the valley was radiant
With heaven and you.

And you are calling me
When shall I go?
By the pale glimmer of morning,
Or sunset’s full flow
Of radiancy streaming
The valley below?
RF Adams

I didn’t know this about beautiful British Columbia

British Columbia is the epicenter of a crisis that has seen more than 10,000 overdose deaths since it declared a public health emergency in 2016. That represents about six people dying each day from toxic drug poisoning in the province of five million people, topping COVID-19 deaths at the onset of the pandemic.


The action taken to mitigate this tragedy:

Ottawa — A Canadian province on Tuesday decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cocaine, heroin, fentanyl and other hard drugs in a radical policy shift to address an opioid overdose crisis that has killed thousands. Adults found with up to 2.5 grams of these drugs, rather than face jail or fines, will be provided with information on how to access addiction treatment programs.

Police will also not seize their drugs.

I hope it works. But addiction is a powerful force.

A view and a ride

I’ve never met anyone who has regretted a visit to Banff National Park. Just an hour and a jig west of Calgary, Alberta making it easily accessible via an international airport. Regular bus service transports worldwide visitors up to the spectacular peaks. The mountain range is stunning. Summer, fall, winter, or spring, nature will impress you by washing the skies in pale blue and then fluffing out a smattering of white clouds through the valleys.

We generally come in the winter to ski at Lake Louise. Two hills in the areas, Sunshine and Mt Norquay combine their ticket sales under Ski The Big Three. But we stick to Louis. Even in years such as this one where the snow is scarcer than they would like and the tips of boulders are peaking through some of the moguls. How can anyone pass up that view?

A nice Brit took this picture of us today. He threatened to walk away with my phone and laughed at his ruse (and clearly gave me back my phone). On some of the runs, you can see Chateau Lake Louise and the lake beyond. Both it and the Banff Springs Hotel were built by the Canadian Pacific Railroad in the 1920s to encourage tourism into the park. In recent years the park attracts about 4 million visitors a year. Many stay in the town of Banff which is about forty mintues east of Lake Louis.

For us, one key component is the ease of transport. It’s easy to get up to Banff with all the ski/board equipment. The airporter drops riders off all along Banff Ave and up on Tunnel Mountain. Likewise, comfortable coaches pick up from strategic spots amongst the lodging choices to get skiers up to their hill.

If you need a connector shuttle, the city of Banff has several routes running through the town of 8000. This one is waiting out a six-minute pause before his next circle starts. He’s pulled up into a large camping area that is packed with people and their RV’s and campers in the summer months.

Whether you need a ride up to the park from the airport or around the ski hills or through the quaint and historic town of Banff, they have you covered in the most convenient ways.

A new mood at the airport

It started on the cab ride. It might have been because our driver found out that I had lived in Ethiopia for three years. He was eager to fill us in on his birthplace right by the magnificent rock-hewn churches of Lalibela. And then we heard about his immigration to the US when he was eighteen and his marriage and the new twins that were added to his brood of three to make a household of seven.

I admit I encouraged the conversation by recalling sites we had seen in Dire Dawa, Harrar, and a memorable trout fishing trip in the Bali Mountains. He was delighted by my renditions of tenastiling and endeminau. He told us he had taken his kin back home to show them from where they came. His daughter Abigail was not impressed. She missed her toys.

But it wasn’t just him. People seem to enjoy talking to each other again. The Delta worker at the check-in counter was all smiles. And the guy in front of me to get food had a strategizing session with the restaurant worker about what size beer he could down and still comfortably make it to his gate. From the eye gestures it seemed as if te only had to cross the corridor. He settled on a small draft.

Sure- it’s late afternoon on a Saturday and the passenger levels are low. But if this is an outcome of the post-covid world, I’ll take it. Let’s put an end to brief electronic messages and enjoy the spontaneity and warmth of human conversation.