How Labor Hours can add up to Value

Someone once said the value of a product was linked to the number of labor hours that went into its production. But then a whole bunch of people said no, no, no that’s not how it works. Can both views be correct under differing circumstances?

There are circumstances where a certain number of work hours are needed to pull off an event. Years ago the Junior League of Minneapolis opened up a showcase house in a tony area of the city for an annual fundraiser. A friend was involved so she’d recruit a bunch of college friends to help fill the volunteer shifts needed to support the three-day event. Tickets were sold to the public. The public got to traipse through a well-appointed property and imagine what it would be like to live there.

Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit organization that builds homes for people who otherwise couldn’t afford them. It was founded in the mid-70s and brought along by former US President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalyn. Volunteers at all levels of the trades donate their labor to the project. A slew of community members also pitch-in and paint or doo site clean-up. The soon-to-be homeowners are also expected to build sweat equity. This contribution isn’t measured by their skill level or their education level but by a set number of hours.

The various branches of the US Armed forces will finance a young person’s college education. There are the academies of course like West Point and Annapolis. But there is also an ROTC program where you matriculate at one of the many colleges across the country where the program is offered. In exchange, the graduate commits to several years of employment with the military. The repayment does not depend on the specific rank or ability of the serviceman. It simply is paid in time.

It seems that in creating value for community endeavors, people simply need to show up. In these circumstances, whether the participants are paid as an attorney or a painter in the private market, the work they do in this sphere is not priced out that way. A positive outcome, or the capacity for a successful project, is based on the reliability of the number of hours that can be filled. So maybe there’s some truth to both philosophies after all.

Emily Dickinson talks of snow

It sifts from Leaden Sieves -

It powders all the Wood.

It fills with Alabaster Wool

The Wrinkles of the Road -

It makes an even Face

Of Mountain, and of Plain -

Unbroken Forehead from the East

Unto the East again -

It reaches to the Fence -

It wraps it Rail by Rail

Till it is lost in Fleeces -

It deals Celestial Vail

To Stump, and Stack - and Stem -

A Summer’s empty Room -

Acres of Joints, where Harvests were,

Recordless, but for them -

It Ruffles Wrists of Posts

As Ankles of a Queen -

Then stills it’s Artisans - like Ghosts -

Denying they have been -

Cicero and levels of obligation

I’m dabbling in the Selected Works of Cicero. This Roman was a gifted writer, statesman, lawyer, and orator from the first century BC. In his practical guide to how to live a good life, I like this quote:

But the field in which a man’s obligations are most liable to confusion is friendship. For if, on a friend’s behalf, you omit to do all that you properly could, that is to fail in an obligation; yet if you help him in some improper fashion, then that too is failure. However, this whole problem is governed by a short and simple rule. Apparent advantages for oneself, such as political success, wealth, sensual gratifica-tion, and so on, must never be given preference over friendship. On the other hand no man of integrity will, for the sake of a friend, act against his own country, or his honour, or his oath.

A Practical Code of Behavior: On Duties III, Cicero

In this short passage, he makes clear that the ties of friendship demand a preference for cooperative behavior versus extractive action. If you allow your friend to fail then you have failed. One is not to internalize “political success, wealth, sensual gratification” at the expense of friends. In this space of friendship, the interactions are reciprocal, carried out with loyalties over long periods of time.

However- other relations may supersede the obligation of friendship, and those are loyalties to ‘his own country, or his honour, or his oath.’ This leads us to understand that Cicero speaks of multiple public obligations. The ties to friends may compete with ties to the state or to one’s allegiance to another cause. From an inward-facing perspective, the relations are communal in nature, yet as an outward-looking collective, voila, the groups compete.

The competitive nature of private actors is understood. But when people come together with a common interest, that grouping also competes.

Forum Romanum. Somewhere in there is Cicero’s house.

It makes more sense on Platters

Yesterday in the NYT Ross Douthat makes the case for ineffective altruism. Prompted by the recent demise of, what a new follow on Twitter amusingly called the bushied hair young man, Douthat compares the utilitarian goals of the EA folks to other philanthropists in his region of the US.

Now that it seems the bushied hair young man had less than honest intentions in aligning himself with the EA movement and used their goodwill as a cover for his very selfish motives in the creation of his crypto space, it’s easy to see where some would question who the objectives of these do-givers.

Part of Bankman-Fried’s fame lay in his proselytizing for a particular theory of philanthropic moralism — effective altruism, or E.A., an ideology with special appeal in Silicon Valley that’s reshaped the landscape of getting and giving in the past several years.

People who came into a bunch of money through technology are given a seemingly analytical means of redistributing some of their good fortunes to those in need of malaria nets and clean water. And these are worthwhile philanthropic activities. But cynicism can creep in.

The global perspective implied by E.A. analysis can create a Mrs. Jellyby temptation, where “telescopic philanthropy” aimed at distant populations is easier than taking on obligations to your actual neighbors and communities. (Picture effective altruists sitting around in a San Francisco skyscraper calculating how to relieve suffering halfway around the world while the city decays beneath them.) 

Douthat talks a lot about the value of the various types of donations he uses in his article. The Harkness family were heirs to a great fortune which they distributed to three main causes in the early twentieth century. They supported the fine arts, health care, and educational institutions. Certainly, all these fields provide public goods where positive outcomes can be measured over generations.

No doubt an especially zealous analyst could trace the benefits of Harkness’s medical donations in positive “utiles” for people treated for disease over the past century. But the most visible monuments to his philanthropy are beautiful buildings, libraries, dormitories and the like, in cities and college towns across the Northeast — some connected to art for art’s sake, others connected to his interest in the proper formation of educated elites.

But then one family member is thought to be eccentric to have directed most of her good fortune to the ballet. How inefficient of her! Or was it? If this woman had devoted her life to ballet, had seen how devotion to a fine art builds confidence in young dancers, and witnessed the benefits of a community of performers, it makes perfect sense that she would direct resources to this tight-knit group. Perhaps she did not have talent or time, why wouldn’t she make use of the fact that she had money?

And perhaps it does make sense that the youthful somewhat transient super-rich from Silicon Valley would prefer to support causes in exotic destinations than the homeless they drive past on the way to work. If they acknowledge the raggedy guy on the corner, then they may feel they have to donate their time and do something for him or her. Perhaps they should join the city council. But they don’t have time for that. They don’t even have time to have their own family. So sending greenbacks across the globe is a better fit for their resources.

Who’s to say why the Harkens selected their passions. But there is probably a story there that created a need they wished to fill. If you divvy out each of these philanthropic pursuits to occur in a platter of social activity the demand and calculation of value do make sense. The resource transfer is useful to a greater public. Except for bushied hair guy. He was internalizing it all for himself.

Intelligence for me but not for thee

It’s fun to hear about Hayek’s life in this interview from 1978 with Armen Alchian. For instance, A young Hayek almost ended up accepting employment as a dishwasher when he arrived in New York for a research assistant job. His prospective employer had asked his university not to disturb him. On the eve of Hayek’s debut in suds and china, the university professor had resurfaced and was in touch

But the beginning of this segment is hilarious. Alchian inquires after Vera C Smith, as she apparently was Hayek’s student. He asks about her relationship with another economist Frederick Lutz, concerning their romance in particular. Had Hayek played matchmaker. Furthermore, Alchian notes, that Vera must have been quite attractive as a younger woman (yikes). Hayek confirms but qualifies her beauty by saying she wasn’t very ‘female’ as she was very bright- “She had too much male intelligence!” HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Sigh- there was a time three decades or more ago when I would have found this depressing. Times are changing.

Real Estate Reporting

I feel bad for journalists who write about real estate. It must be so boring. Prices are going up. Prices are going down. Prices are going up a lot. Prices are going down a lot. In an effort to help invigorate their job, here are a few other aspects to real estate they could look into.

  1. The number of prospect buyers bidding on a property.
  2. The number of homes buyers consider beofre making a purchase.
  3. The amount of financing concessions being provided by sellers.
  4. Which party is getting priority pic on closing date.
  5. Is an inspection being performed.
  6. Amount, if any, of concessions following inspection.
  7. Which area in the local markets is performing the best.
  8. Is there a drop in activity as a certain ring suburbs- say the third tier subrubs.
  9. What type of activity versus inventory are second homes commanding.
  10. Cash versus financed buyers.
  11. Generational differences between structure preferences.
  12. Demand for townhomes versus single family versus townhome.
  13. The price spread between new construction and existing.

I could go on but I think you get the picture. There’s so much more interesting data to consider in real estate than aggregate prices across a country of 313mil people.

Wrong products in wrong markets

Our book club, NoDueDate, has been reading the historical novel Red Plenty, written by Francis Spufford. With well-documented historical references (which the reader can follow in the Notes at the end) the author details how a planned economy painfully fails its participants.

The following exchange occurs at the first business lunch between Chekuskin, a middle man between business and the black market, and a business executive. He’s explaining how his services may come in handy. But the naive Stepovoi points to the Soviet’s central Plan to verify his firm’s goods are all in the pipeline.

‘You’re right, you’re quite right. Indeed they do have to give you the goods. But when, that’s the question, isn’t it? You want them now, toot sweet, because your line is waiting; but why should they care? They’ve got a whole fistful of purchase orders to fill, this time of year, and why should they care about yours? What makes you so special that they should want to serve you first, or at least, serve you soon?’
‘You do?’ said Stepovoi.
‘Correct, old son. But there’s a little more to it than that.

Red Plenty, Chapter- Favours 1964

What Chekuskin illuminates in this brief conversation is that the terms of delivery are at least as important as having access to the goods. A manufacturer is hard-pressed to meet the Plan’s production goals if not adequately supplied with the inputs necessary to run their lines. Yet the bureaucracy has little incentive to respond promptly, to bow to the producers. The power to give and take lies within their books. The firms are at their mercy.

Some goods respond well to a network of supervision. Products that can cause bodily harm, such as drugs, benefit from bureaucratic supervision to ensure their safe consumption (the degree to which is of course always under debate!). People want to know the bridges they drive their cars across won’t collapse and that the food we eat at restaurants won’t give us food poisoning. These types of goods and services interface with the public to a degree that makes a bureaucratic overlay advantageous to the enjoyment of the products.

The widgets needed in the manufacturing example given in Spufford’s story are at the opposite end of the public versus private function gradient. The fixer, Chekuskin, is successful because the products he pushes here and there are completely interchangeable. They are not enhanced by a social overlay. They are fungible. And that is why they are ideal for a capitalist pricing system. Let the price procured from a dynamic trading system of all the suppliers and all the buyers at any point in time, and the resource will gravitate to where it is needed most.

Some goods tend toward the private, and some towards the public. But when they are forced into the wrong market, corruption inevitably occurs to allow an interface with a shadow market.

Predicting the Tip

Over twenty years ago, Malcolm Gladwell became famous for elucidating tipping point scenarios. He showed us how trends become the rage, how neighborhoods fall to the criminals, and how suicides fester amongst the youth. He identifies some of the players who accelerate changes in social behavior: connectors, mavens, and salesmen. But he doesn’t come up with social indicators which would serve as signals for an up-and-coming tip.

Could there be the equivalent of a canary in a coal mine to prompt some warning? Last Wednesday the market thought FTX, the crypto giant, to be solvent. Ho hum, another day in the money. By Friday, bankruptcy proceedings eliminated large financial obligations. There’s a tip for you.

Is part of the problem that we wish not to see the signs? A neighborhood can be ignored as uninteresting, perhaps a little lower class, but fine for some. Some years go by and snarly graffiti, an assortment of tattered garbage spewing about and a gaggle of baggy clothed people around a bus stop trading something, make you turn your car around and drive right out of the area. You can’t nail down the date, but the neighborhood tipped right out of mainstream acceptable.

With so much on the line, whether billions managed by kids less than a decade into adulthood, or acres of real estate deemed unacceptable as affordable housing, you would think a set theory could ferret out some helpful indicators to warn of an impending tip.

The Sins of your Network

Raj Chetty of Havard University has done lots of research showing how a child’s outcome in life patterns after their parents and their neighborhood. He is not the first to note the effects between parents and their offspring. James S. Coleman also gained fame from tracking the human capital a parent bestows upon a child. This transference of resources more often than not germinates into flourishings of success throughout the child’s life.

What about in the other direction? If a person is corrupted in some way, do those flaws tie back to the parents? I don’t think I need research or data to make the claim that a kid from a tougher neighborhood has a harder time securing that first job. Employers will think twice before taking responsibility for an employee whose father, brother, or uncle has been in trouble with the law.

And then there are assumptions made when you turn over a whole bunch of your money to a perceived financial wiz kid. What portion of that decision was influenced by the fact that his parents are both attorneys with one of the most reputable universities in the world? Certainly, it must have played a part in calculated decisions to do business with a mere fledgling of a business person. The thought process goes something like, ‘they’d never let their own kid do something completely illegal, would they?’

No matter the exact portion of the impact on each of these economic actions: to hire, to invest. The point is that there is some numerical representation that pegs this social impact.

Round the Wicket?

I was right down to the minute as I sailed into city chambers for our park’s commission meeting. Thinking it was going to be a sleepy November meeting, I was surprised to glide past a crowd seated on the standard upholstered blue chairs in the audience. Our city tends to over-deliver on parks and trails, so there is little controversy to draw a crowd to the assembly.

Present in the audience were activists in action. The representative for the group told us there’s a need for a cricket pitch in our city. And the arguments which followed were all worthy. A growing group of Asian residents was interested in a sport from their home country. It was their passion. Neighboring cities had put the necessary fields, so as a matter of pride it would be nice to play on some home turf. There were fields for baseball, soccer, and football, there’s no good reason to exclude cricket.

Cricket in Minnesota? It had never occured to me before. Our state does indeed have a Minnesota Cricket Association with, according to our presenter, several hunderd members. And as reported here, private individuals have gone to great length and expense to build up the infrastructure for the sport.

It is so easy to forget how many different activities and interests are present in a community, among people who live nearby. Here is an organized and engaged group who have claims to the public field– as do the Little Leaguers and Youth Football Associations. Wouldn’t it be nice though to have a little more information on all these different sets of people? What kind of numbers are we talking about for the people who devote their time, energy, and resources toward soccer, pickleball, or cricket? How many labor hours churn through to support the activities?

It just seems like, for analysis purposes, it would be handy to have a handle on the set of people who desire the use of a good for a certain function.

Only the Animals- Movie Review

This movie is such an interesting melange. I was a little concerned in the beginning that it was one of those french films that is just a little too off for my tastes. The excellent Laure Calamy kept me engaged with her oh-so-typical french expressions and mannerisms. So charming. The tale starts from her perspective. And then we see it retold three more times from other vantage points, a technique that forces the viewer to confront how naturally narcissistic we all are.

The other actors do a superb job. There’s depth to the dimwitted farmer who misses his mother. There is grit and passion in the cuckolded husband who seeks love in the wrong places. There is a cruel frivolousness to the wealthy woman out for a fling. And then to keep us all alert, the frames cut over to West Africa where another crew of actors plays their parts.

It’s a little dark, and a little creepy in parts– but rich in affairs of the heart. And you’ll never guess the ending.

To sleep or not to sleep-

Sleep is an important part of a healthy way of life. Yet some people find it difficult to fall into slumber. In the sixties, people turned to sleeping pills until they got hooked on them. Today people with dark-circled eyes seek help at Sleep Centers. Some are prescribed a sleep apnea machine. Does this look restful?

If you’ve raised a child you know something about bedtime. There are lots of activities involved. There’s walking to sleep, rocking to sleep, singing softly to sleep. There is equipment involved like mechanical swings. They sometimes do the trick! And accessories like a swaddle wrap that hugs the baby tight and securely. Or environmental enhancers like block-out shades which extinguish any peep of sunlight. Don’t forget noise machines.

I personally relied repitition and routine. Give the signals, and then go through with the motions. Let them play in a nice warm bath- then PJs and bed! And the routine changes over the years. When they are young it’s holding and rocking. Then it’s bedtime stories and lights out. As the years go on, the mom job is to check that the phones are put away and the homework isn’t left until the last minute.

If you think through all the efforts put towards your kid’s night sleep, how many comparable attempts are made by adults before they go hook themselves up to what looks like a medieval torture tool?

I don’t think it would be helpful to try to swaddle oneself up into a man-size cocoon, but a few weeks of yoga relaxation techniques might be worth a go. Warm baths and clean sheets can make anyone content enough to drift off into a sweet slumber. A client told me that gold is the preferred wall color for a restful night. Not sure how much it contributes, but the color seems to make me happy.

I mean how many things have people tried on their own before they run in for a professional cure to their sleepless nights?

Feedback from the people

The talk leading into this election was very favorable for the Republicans. Down ballots challenges were expected to be successful in at least two races. To be sure, this would have been unusual as Democrats have filled those seats consistently for decades. And the results were in fact very close. (MPR)

Despite all the turmoil over the past several years the incumbent party was given the benefit of the doubt and supported by the majority. This seems to have taken everyone by surprise. Several messages were voiced loud and clear by the electorate. And the threat of losing prompted a lot of promises. Time will tell if the action follows the words.

Dewey knew how it worked

But while associated, behavior is, as we have already noted, a universal Law, the fact of association does not of itself make a society. This demands, as we have also seen, perception of the consequences of a joint activity and of the distinctive share of each element in producing it. Such perception creates a common interest; that is concern on the part of each in the joint action and in the contribution of each of its members to it. Then there exists something truly social and not merely associative.

But it is absurd to suppose that a society does away with the traits of its own constituents so that it can be set over against them. It can only be set over against the traits which they and their like present in some other combination. A molecule of oxygen in water may act in certain respects differently than it would in some other chemical union. But as a constituent of water it acts as water does as long as water is water. The only intelligible distinction which can be drawn is between the behaviors of oxygen in its different relations, and between those of water in its relations to various conditions, not between that of water and the oxygen which is conjoined with hydrogen in water.

The Public and its Problems, John Dewey (pg 188)

We are each part of at least a few, and sometimes many, associational relationships. Each one is distinct from the others. There may be competition for labor and resources between the associational obligations, even though, within the group, each agent’s actions are associational in nature.

Why we work without pay and give without immediate exchange

To date, one of the most viewed posts on this site is The Crafter, The Contributor and The Covid Tracker. The three examples show how people are willing to devote their labor to causes and groups which they value.

Similarly, we are prompted to give resources in the same manner. Advertisements from all sorts of worthy enterprises show up in the mail. This calendar has been floating up and down through the mail in my home inbox. A convenience return envelope is provided at the seam. Which begs the question: When do people feel compelled to donate to an organization?

More than likely regular donors have a personal connection to the non-profit or public service provider. Perhaps their family members were firefighters and thus there is an inside knowledge of the vital need for a capable response to, in this case, a raging fire. These networks of individuals extending out and away from an organization also have a sense of the character of the people who are involved in such missions, their intent, and their dependability.

It just so happens we had a terrible drought in Minnesota this past summer. Un-irrigated lawns are brittle and brown. My dog Pépé loves hunting through the dry broken stalks of grass. He posed on our walk yesterday at the edge of a corn field.

The wind was incredible today gusting up to thirty miles an hour. Its blustery force lifted top soil right off the harvested fields creating a silty thickness in the air. Bits of hay swirled all around. When a white pickup stormed up behind me on the two-lane country road I eased over to the shoulder and slowed to make it easy to pass. A half a mile along on scenic county road 35 I caught up to an firetruck running its flashing lights.

Only a few more wide turns in the road and the object of concern revealed itself. A thick grey cloud of smoke pealed away from, what at first, seemed like a homesite. Another curve brought a new perspective. The dancing flames were feeding off tall dried grass in the acreage between the asphalt road and a smattering of buildings. Two fire trucks had already arrived. A few of the firefighters, geared up in protective wear, were busy with their equipment. The wind was fanning the mounting flames.

The road led me past the grass fire. At least four more fire trucks passed me as I drove on. Needless to say, I’ll be sending in my donation to the local fire department, staffed by community workers who show up when needed on a windy day.

Podcast Review- Hannah Arendt: Between Worlds

I’ve really enjoyed this podcast series hosted by Samantha Rose Hill. Often a philosopher’s material is difficult to get one’s head around, especially on first readings. A podcast can provide overviews that enlighten you enough to know whether you want to further invest in its understanding. Hill is well-versed in the material. She speaks clearly, and consistently, and references back to where you can look further in the author’s work,

But it is the structure of the episodes that adds so much to the material. Hill brings in a variety of specialists from different disciplines to talk through how Arendt plays in their corner of the world. This makes the material so much more valuable. By coming at the topics from all angles, by shining lights in various crevices of thought, fine differences enhance the understanding of sometimes difficult conceptual applications.

Here are a few topics in the series.

Say it with me- Real Estate is local

The best-known idiom in the real estate market is Location, Location, Location. As the phrase implies, where the building is situated has an outsized impact on the value of the parcel. Fifth Ave will command higher rent than Main St, USA.

Another adage bestowed on new buyers is to buy the smallest house on the block. A close relative to Location, Location, Location, this bit of advice recommends that being the most modest amongst your neighbors will buoy up the value of your home. Simply being in proximity of the stronger, the better, the more elevated will bode well for your acquisition.

What national companies like Open Door are discovering is that understanding the fine shades of difference between locations is more difficult than one would think. It’s not so easy to see the 5th Avenues, the Main Streets and the posh versus the modest, when seen from afar.

And that leads to an asymmetry of information which puts any outsider to a costly disadvantage.

Some #’s on Catalytic Converters

A few posts ago I used the example of a catalytic converter to distinguish between the use of an object and its function. This automotive accessory is used to remove particulates from emissions from the combustion exhaust. In 1975 it became a mandatory car feature and hence functioned as a political solution to pollution reduction.

Recently catalytic converters have been the target of local criminals who brazenly remove them from cars left out at night. Through a network exchange the stolen item is easily traded for cash. Fortunately there’s been a recent ‘takedown’ of nationwide catalytic converter theft ring included seizures in Minnesota.

The DOJ announced the successful operation on Wednesday, saying it is seeking the forfeiture of $545 million in the case, as well as the arrest and charging of 21 people from five states in connection with the scheme.

Bring me the News

The network across states allowed a teenager in the Twins Cities to swipe the apparatus, sell it to a fence who passed it along to “a trio of family members who ran an unlicensed business from their home in Sacramento, California, buying stolen catalytic converters from thieves and shipping them to an auto shop in New Jersey for processing.”

The number that I think would be interesting to know is how much the kid on the street is getting for breaking the law. What type of gain is needed for a youth to be tempted into illegal activity? All they give us is:

RXMechanic reports the scrap value of more valuable catalytic converters ranging from $300 and $1,500, with the DOJ saying that depending on the vehicle and the state, they can fetch around $1,000 on the black market.

The market price for youth conversion to criminal activity seems like a useful number. What share of that would be necessary to keep the kid on the right side of the law through some type of employment? Many argue that the lack of policing and consequences for illegal activity has also encouraged theft. But how do we know without keeping track of these numbers?

When a catalytic converter functions as unfettered cash to an urban teen, what is the buyout to preserve the innocence of youth?

Who pays to verify?

Twitter is all a fluster about the new management’s impending rule that one will have to pay to have a blue check next to their name. The blue checks have been a status symbol. To have a check means you’ve arrived at being someone recognizable. To get a check you need to get checked out, and verified that you’re not some Russian bot.

Stephen King says he is having nothing of it. The highlighted tweet has now accumulated half a million likes. The blue check fee is now floating out at $8/mo. Mr. King has not left Twitter yet. So you can see, the situation is still in flux.

But who should pay to verify? Who should be the watchdog of group action? There are government agencies such as the attorney general and the state auditor. I bring those two up in particular as it appears they will both be voted out of office next week. Is someone who received a salary for a surveillance job as good as someone who takes a private hit due to group member’s action?

Many groups self-regulate through an associational process. First off the keenest view of the situation is seen by those who stand shoulder to shoulder in the same environment. Their judgment of the legitimacy of a complaint is going to be more reliable. Their ability to get the right information to the right people is more probable.

But the most significant incentive is the maintenance of the reputation of the profession to the outside world. A degradation of stature would be internalized by each member. Thus the expense of voluntary surveillance of one’s group is borne out of the risk of loss should a ne’re-do-well drag the team into the mud.

I believe this supports Musk’s instincts to charge those who play to pay.

Why do Dems keep saying they did *everything* right?

The extent of the fraud in Feeding our Future is truly shocking. Not one state employee visited the sites which purported to be feeding thousands and thousands of underserved kids. As this reporter states, it didn’t even take a site visit to uncover fictious addresses.

The lack of interest in the missing $250 mil by a certain party is a testament to its ability to control the narrative. Otherwise, surely reasonable people would have to admit the complete disinterest in where all these funds were going is extremely suspicious.

Was it the attorney general’s responsibility to find a legal means to stop the disbursement of funds? Was it the state auditor’s responsibility to review the number? Was it the state demographers’ responsibility that the number of kids being fed far exceeds the number of kids of this grouping in the state?

Are Minnesotans going to buy the story that *all is well* in the North Star State?

OMG! Give it to Goodwill

There’s a debate in our household about hanging onto stuff. My husband feels that the stacks of clothing on the shelf in the walk-in closet may be useful one day. A pair of jeans is useful, for someone. But I argue that the dozen or so new pairs of pants purchased in the past decade leave the old ones out of date and ill-fitting. And thus the function of the neglected garment has changed. An old pair of Dockers no longer serves as the vehicle to looking business casual appropriate. It now serves as clutter, or dare I say garbage.

The use of an object is different than its function. If I can separate him from a few of his items, they then become a donation to Goodwill. They may serve as a tax deduction. And when Goodwill processes them and sells them they become income for the non-profit. The flow of ownership changes in this scenario is driven by the positive values at each trade. But functions can have negative values too. Clothing may be too torn, dirty, or tattered. Then the Goodwill would bare the expense of disposing of them (although this may not be the best example as I’ve heard there is a market for rags).

So to review, an object or good can have a use or several uses. A bench can be sat on, lied on, and stood on. Perhaps a skateboarder could even use it as a prop. In that case, the function of the bench is a skateboarder’s sliding support. Notice what happened. By focusing on the function, we’ve denoted a group of people who would use the object in this fashion. Now having skateboarders transform public spaces into skateparks is not always welcome. So we have another group of people who feel a loss by the transformation of a public space.

Voila! Tagging a function to an object delineates groups of people who trade for its use, depending on how its value affects them. We are shown the marketplace.

use, function, design, and lower crime

When I was out walking the pup today, I was thinking about things in terms of use, function, and design. Take for instance a park bench. You can sit on it, stand on it, or lie down across it. But its function, when used as a seat on a beautiful fall afternoon, is to enjoy the oranges and reds of the fall foliage. It may also function as a platform if there was a concert in the park and one wanted to see it over people’s heads. Lastly, it may function as a place to take a rest, especially for the homeless.

Now think about a catalytic converter. Its use is to reduce airborne pollutants produced by gas fueled vehicles, that could be harmful to people and the environment. In 1975 its function was a decisive step toward a cleaner environement as it enabled compliance with the EPA’s new mandates. Today, as the tweet below indicates, its function is currency for youth who have learned how to remove and trade them.

When the public surrounding a park decided to discourage the homeless from sleeping on park benches, they tackled the issue with design. And came up with this.

Isn’t it the function which determines an objects value? A bottled beverage at the check out at a grocery store may run you $2.25 even though right down the aisle you could grab a six pak for $4.59. The function of the first one is a refreshment.

The function of the stolen catalytic converters is a fungible commodity. I think Rev Christopher is asking for an economic design that would break up the market so that his youth would no longer have incentives to carjack and steal. Who’s up for the challenge?

Books with Maps

I love books with maps. This one is on the inside cover of Dancing at the Rascal Fair by Ivan Doig. He writes about settlers in Montana at the end of the nineteenth century. Scotts were partial to the state as its vast, remote beauty reminded them of home. At the center of the tale is a reluctant school teacher who, out of necessity, accepts the position of corraling the kids into an atmosphere of education, and plays out all the ways in which the education system reaches into family life. It’s a lovely book by a poetic writer.

The mastery of Hannah Arendt

I came across this documentary when I searched for Vita Activa. My aim was to find more discourse on Arendt’s philosophical concept of action. The title of this documentary is woefully misleading as throughout the whole two-hour show not once is this phrase mentioned. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the film. I did. Arendt is someone I’ll keep after.

Quotes from her writings are laced throughout the movie but seem a little like window dressing for the story of the twentieth-century Jewish experience. That alongside her romantic experiences takes precedence over a comprehensive overview of her thought and how the mechanics of it fit together. This was where I was hoping to learn about Vita Activa. Now I will be forced to read The Human Condition when I thought I could watch a film instead!

One reviewer of her capstone work made my day on Good Reads. Here are comments from Andrew:

Also, she seems to intuit that her ideas are complex and not immediately penetrable; some of the concepts in the first chapters that leave you scratching your head she knowingly addresses in more detail later on, without calling too much attention to the repetition and further elaboration. It’s as if she knew you wouldn’t have any idea what she was talking about the first time and wanted to inconspicuously help you, avoiding any embarrassment on your part.


Undoubtedly she learned this skill to avoid any disturbance of intellectual hierarchy in her circle of peers. Props to Andrew.

Who knew? Sherlock in MN

Minnesotans are known for having an affinity for books, book fairs, bookstores, and well-equipped libraries. Hennepin County Library system ranks up in the top ten of the many lists proclaiming the largest collections or circulation numbers. As does the University of Minnesota’s library. But who knew that the U held the ‘the world’s largest gathering of material related to Sherlock Holmes and his creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle?’

The Collections consist of over 60,000 items including books, journals, and a wide variety of other forms through which the transformation of the Holmes character from the printed page to a cultural icon can be traced.

Please note: The collection itself is housed in our secure underground storage area and is generally not available for viewing on a tour. If you are interested in seeing particular items from the Sherlock Holmes Collections please consult the online catalog or other finding aids to locate particular items of interest.

University of MN Libraries

The story behind how this came to be is spelled out in an article in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine. As with many good collections it started with a few passionate people.

“But you have to go back to 1948,” he says, to a now legendary lunch of five faculty members, all deans or department heads, all deep Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts, at Coffman Union’s Campus Club.

Then there was an addition to the collection here, and the coup of a very valuable collection in 1978.

The next domino was landing eccentric Santa Fe collector John Bennett Shaw’s massive Holmes collection. Unlike Hench, Shaw was a Holmes completist—rare posters, license plates, street signs. After the U landed Shaw’s stash in the ’90s, the floodgates opened.

All of this is located in the sub-basement of the Andersen Library on the U of MN Twin Cities campus. After nearly eighty years of collecting and maintaining the collection, you might even say it’s turning into an institution.

Minneapolis downtown library

Hayek said there were groups

I was recently reminded of this quote from Friedrich Hayek. He describes how our actions are ruled by two different spheres of order. The manner of our obligations to our children does not extend past the front doors of our house. An acceptable reprimand in a workplace between boss and employee may be considered uncaring in a network of friends.

Part of our present difficulty is that we must constantly adjust our lives, our thoughts and our emotions, in order to live simultaneously within different kinds of orders according to different rules. If we were to apply the unmodified, uncurbed, rules of the micro-cosmos (i.e., of the small band or troop, or of, say, our families) to the macro-cosmos (our wider civilisation), as our instincts and sentimental yearnings often make us wish to do, we would destroy it. Yet if we were always to apply the rules of the extended order to our more intimate groupings, we would crush them. So we must learn to live in two sorts of world at once. [italics original]

The Fatal Conceit (page 18)

The value we create through our network of friends or commitments to associational fellowship operates in a different sphere from the unfettered obligations of commerce.

When I went to my copy of the book I started reading from the top of the page. Before Hayek gets to acknowledging that the two spheres of activity must work together or they will crush each other, he depicts a bunch of different players other than individuals.

Moreover, the structures of the extended order are made up not only of individuals but also of many, often overlapping, sub-orders within which old instinctual responses, such as solidarity and altruism, continue to retain some importance by assisting voluntary collaboration, even though they are incapable, by themselves, of creating a basis for the more extended order.

The Fatal Conceit (page 18)

The simplistic model portrays the selfish man using the capitalist system to maximize his interest in a zero-sum game. The state watches the public good and provides products and services to that end. But Hayek suggests that economic players can be groupings established through solidarity and altruism. These are abundant and overlapping.

Think of a formal grouping that provides public services to its members, such as a teacher’s union. When the union negotiates it is acting in a competitive ego-centric way against the public. It is a private player. Yet ever member of the union shares equally in the spoils of the union’s efforts and hence obtains a public good. It is the manner of the activity defined by the boundaries of the group which makes a wage increase public or private.

This morphing of the nature of a good through action within defined boundaries presents challenges to an accurate accounting of the whole system.

Today’s walk on a windy fall day.

Why we’ll need more liberal arts people

The last twenty years have been good to tech nerds. When the floppy-looking Bill Gates came out with the personal computer many people might have thought it was a one-off success. Meanwhile, the smart money left engineering, got an MBA and a job in finance. It was the 90s and it seemed like the right thing to do.

Fast forward fifteen years and money was multiplying faster than starter yeast for Amish friendship bread in Silicon Valley. Apps, games, and whatever else they do with code were the gold that the smart techs were mining. And mining with a moral superiority that what they were bringing into existence was changing every facet of the economy. Those were glory days for math majors and engineers.

Mathematical techniques also became central in economic papers. Fancy statistics and linear regression models are used to demonstrate relationships between parties and their use of resources. Fast forward to the last five years and there’s this amazing mix of massive amounts of data, computers that can handle it in a timely manner, and mathematical tools to replicate theories.

But you don’t have people educated in the classics to help parse all the people represented in the data. Even recently I saw an analysis of real estate by zip code – zip code! I encourage you to drive the parameter of an area in your city identified by zip code. Do you see consistency in the properties which would suggest similar set? In my experience urban neighborhoods are not delineated by zip code or census track.

Going forward, the methods used to sort groups to obtain useful insights could be aided more by liberal arts majors than math majors.

From Minnesota Twitter

I happened to catch media-personality Jason DeRusha’s post in time to listen to former Governor Pawlenty take over his three-hour time slot on talk radio. The two-term governor seemed to be having a good time interviewing and surprising people across the airwaves. I don’t see how anyone can say that the political nuance of an interviewer doesn’t make a difference.

My latest favorite Twitter follow is a Reverand out of North Minneapolis. He calls it the way he sees it, pulling no political punches. Here’s an example of calling out the bread-and-butter politicians.

And in local sports, the Timberwolves basketball season got underway with a win a couple of nights ago. Fans are in that hopeful stage of the season, excited about the potential of a winning record. We’ve had some amazing talent come through the Target Center, but have fallen short on team dynamics. Maybe this is the year? Viking football superstar Dalvin Cook and friend in costume were on the floor- wish I could afford those tickets!

Curious about books

I picked up this roman at a sale some time ago. I was, and still am, intrigued by the little note tacked onto the first endsheet. The enscriptions reads “Vente les 25 et 26 Janvier 1928, Hotel ? salle 8…” The penmanship is exquisite.

There is no doubt that this was a mass-produced book, part of a series of popular books. And I have looked into books enough to know that most do not garner any type of monetary extravagance. But I do like this book. The pages are cut to different sizes, the binding looks primitive and the marbling on the cover is a sign of a book of yesteryear. The drawings are also delightful.

And I suppose that is the reason we like to collect things, whether objects or ideas- because they delight us.

Building booms have their own timeline

Local urban geographer Bill Lindeke does a nice job describing how a building boom finally came to fruition along the first light rail line in Minneapolis. When the Blue Line went in eighteen years ago, there were heightened expectations that new construction would line up along this aging railway corridor from downtown Minneapolis out to the airport. But it took time.

That was 18 years ago. And ever since, for the most part, the pace of transit-oriented development has seemed glacial. According to Metropolitan Council studies, more than 12,000 new apartments have been built along the Blue Line since its opening. But if you glance at a map, the vast majority of this construction has been downtown, or else subsidized in some way. For most interstitial stops along Hiawatha, south of downtown, there’s been very little new housing construction. Even the rosiest development booster would have to admit it’s been a slow climb.   


What I remember from selling single-family homes is there was an increased interest in those within a handful of blocks from a rail stop. The houses along there are modest for the most part, and the prices ran with the metro average, so younger people latched onto the opportunity for great access to downtown Minneapolis. No need to drive to work and pay exorbitant parking. No need to drive to your favorite ballgame or watering hole. Just hop on the rail line!

The premium in the sales prices of these homes could easily have been verified by anyone with an excel program. With proper splicing of access to various public amenities, regression analysis can parse down the amounts paid for all sorts of public amenities. Improved access to transit is certainly on most consumer’s minds. Still, the price push wasn’t enough for new construction.

“It really boils down to rent levels in every neighborhood,” Sweeney said. “Historically, rents in (Longfellow) were too low to justify much new construction. Few projects worked here (and so) while there were a few things built 10 years ago, you didn’t see a large boom. But area rents have grown, which allows new construction to be feasible.”

Sweeney is the developer who has put up two new apartment buildings along the Blue Line in recent years. Policymakers and pundits want to theorize about housing solutions, but people like Sweeney and the investors who support his group are the ones who have to be able to make the numbers work. A bonus for transit infrastucture is just one component of price.

Another valid issue discussed in the article is the various timeline for the pace or even appearance of new construction in older areas. The story tells of a tipping point for this neighborhood. Still to be discussed is a more thorough overview of the neighborhood components that green light building.

A Gentleman in Moscow – book review

I can’t recommend this book enough. It is beautifully written- throughout. It has a lovely and entertaining storyline. There are many layers to it yet you don’t have to live in each one. Choose! It’s part of the book.

If you like to learn about history but not through school books, you will come away with an education. There are references to Rousseau and Montaigne, Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy yet not in a pedantic way.

Mostly it is about a gentleman who is dedicated to his ideals, the love of his country, and the devotion to his friends and heritage.

Live and Let Live?

Restrictions on how and what is built where is an ongoing conversation in any city planning department. Too many rules limit the number of available dwellings, pushing prices to new heights. Too few rules might infringe on the use and enjoyment neighbors are promised when they acquire their homes.

In Japan, teeny tiny apartments are being built to allow more people access to the hot areas of town. These micro apartments are smaller than a ten-by-ten-foot room which is considered a small bedroom in our neck of the woods.

With its high property prices and the world’s most populous metropolitan area, Tokyo has long been known for small accommodations. But these new apartments — known as three-tatami rooms, based on how many standard Japanese floor mats would cover the living space — are pushing the boundaries of normal living.


The article mentions that these units are not at the bottom of the market. They are stylish and new. They are attracting a younger set of renters who see themselves in a higher-end neighborhood and have yet to experience a larger apartment, and thus (perhaps) don’t feel the loss of space. It’s the match of neighborhood amenties, quality of interior finishes and price that make these small spaces work.

And they are situated near trendy locations in central Tokyo like Harajuku, Nakameguro and Shibuya, which are generally quite expensive, with luxury boutiques, cafes and restaurants. Most of the buildings are close to subway stations — the top priority for many young people.

Over two-thirds of the buildings’ residents are people in their 20s, who in Japan earn on average about $17,000 to $20,000 a year, according to government data. (Wages in Tokyo are on the higher end.) 

On the other extreme of the housing restriction stories, is the conclusion of a longtime feud between a Marin County (CA) man and local regulators. He’s being evicted, in part, for operating a creative sustainable toilet that has been in use for the past fifty years.

…, he’s built a sanctuary to showcase his ideas about environmental sustainability: the Shower Tower, the Worm Palace (crucial to his composting toilet), the Tea Cave (where he has stored more than 50,000 pounds of rare, aged tea), the Tea Pagoda (where he’s hosted tea ceremonies for friends and dignitaries for more than 40 years) and so many more.

He calls it The Last Resort and he never had permission to build any of it. “I’ve been a scofflaw all my life,” said Mr. Hoffman, 78. “I have to recognize that.”


The battle between this outsider artist and the government has been going on for more than a couple of decades. Ten years ago the NYT ran a similar piece. He has a contingent of supporters and recently had a shot at maintaining the property through a historical designation. But now his eviction seems imminent. Meanwhile, new construction in the San Fransisco Bay area is being stymied by regulation-induced high prices.

This brings up the point that in some areas of the country the use of an outhouse is completely acceptable. On large acreage properties in the wide open plains, there’s no harm done in digging a hole and erectly a one-stall shack with a bench and a door with a half moon. The value or harm of regulations that allow super-small apartments or unstructured sewage disposal is entirely dependent on the group structures and commitments of nearby neighbors.

The essence of things

The rational man model is has been under attack for a while. Many have noted that what is rational becomes as slushy as ski hill in spring. Instead of shuffling all things non-rational (according to whom?) to a field of behavioral interpretation, let’s think about the essence of a transaction.

The marketplace is made up of trades. One individual or party commits labor or resources (or both) in exchange for something of value, often money. Where that settles is called the price. At that fixed point in time, at least two parties were able to come together and voluntarily agree to an exchange. The price is interesting because when people and parties repeat these activities more frequently when they can look to a history of price to feel reassured that they aren’t getting duped. Being called a fool is a significant deterrent to economic activity.

So it seems to me once there is a consistent (or statistically significant as the mathematicians like to say) price, there is a market.

Markets refer to the grouping of people or parties who are able to participate in these deals. Before you think that is anyone who chooses to stroll into the central open air market in Marrakesh, consider that not everyone can get to town. And even some of the richest citizens of the world- US women- as early as forty years ago, did not have their own bank accounts, were not on the title of the homes where they raised their children, and had no personal wealth. Barriers to markets are eveywhere in many forms.

But back to the essence of a transaction. If you are lucky to travel abroad to that exotic marketplace with covered stalls and trays piled high with brightly colored spices, you will find that as a foreigner, the price to you is not the same as the price to the countryman. A tourist will pay a surcharge if you are deemed rich enough. When you buy girl scout cookies the surcharge is a donation to scouting programs. A purchaser of organic fruits and vegetables once expressed the surcharge as a tax he willingly paid to support the farmer’s efforts. The price for the spices in the market, the cookies, or the fruits is made up of two essences: the private market one and the social surcharge.

What about the other way around. Say you hire a kid from a disadvantaged family. He doesn’t show up on time, you have to smooth things over with your customers due to some communication problems, and you’ve got to devote more time than usual to training. This employment arrangement also has two essences. The primary essence may still be to perform a job for a wage. Yet the secondary essence is done presumably to lend a hand to someone who might otherwise fall to the wayside and is accounted for in the loss of the extra time necessary to manage the employee. The second essence is social.

I’ll stand by the claim that each and every transaction has two essences. Sure- some are hard to distinguish because the product or service at hand is so well suited to the private market. And some transactions are mostly provided through public intermediaries due to the heavy social implications endogenous to the trade. There are no market failures. But that’s for another post.

MN Election Update

With four weeks to go until election day, the campaign ads are becoming increasingly frequent. What is different this year is that every level of office, down to the Secretary of State (an administrative position), is coming up with the funds to run TV ads. And then there are counter ads. And the news media jumping in to evaluate whether the ad and counter ads are accurate.

A television ad produced by an independent expenditure group takes aim at Republican Kim Crockett in her bid to defeat Democratic Secretary of State Steve Simon.

The ad makes some truthful claims about Crockett’s stand on a couple of key election issues but also significantly misleads viewers by claiming she “proudly calls herself your ‘election denier-in-chief.’”

The ad starts with a narrator promoting Simon, saying “Secretary of State Steve Simon makes it his job to defend democracy.” That’s followed up with audio from Simon himself saying, “I have pledged to do everything to always protect the freedom to vote.”

The ad then quickly pivots to attacking Crockett, including a grainy black-and-white video of her speaking at a forum in June.

“Kim Crockett proudly calls herself your ‘election denier-in-chief,’” the ad says, with the last part of the quote making it appear Crockett is calling herself that nickname.


Because this ad includes a mix of misleading and out-of-context material along with truthful claims, it gets a “C” on the 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS “Truth Test.”


The state auditor’s race is also getting more play on the local public affairs program, Almanac, as several DFL candidates have refused to participate in long-held debates. This position is in place to enable an outside audit of various forms of government. Ryan Wilson is the GOP challenger and Julie Blaha is the DFL incumbent. There is some question as to whether she should have stepped in and audited the disbursal of $250 million in federal funds in the Feeding our Future fraud scandal.

But by far the biggest race in terms of ad expenditures is the competition for the seat held by congresswoman Angie Craig (DFL) in Minnesota District 2. This is the second challenge by Tyler Kistner who narrowly lost the race two years ago. During the Vikings game or the news, there are sometimes three ad installments per commercial break. Angie is back-roading in a Jeep looking down to earth and Tyler shows off his beautiful young family. The race is often cited among the top ten most competitive races in the country.

Perhaps energy generated from this political tete-a-tete is stirring up the rest- but whatever the reason Minnesotans are getting an earful about each contest from the Minnesota Governor to the Minnesota Attorney General, the Secretary of State, the State Auditor, and even on down to the County Attorneys. Tradition has it that a last-minute bombshell always explodes in the weeks leading up to November 8th. I can only imagine what that will be.

On the Mall in DC


A fall that follows a long hot summer produces the most spectacular blaze orange and crimson colors amongst the tree canopies. There’s no escaping its beauty. Old elms arch over city streets littering the sidewalks with reds, yellows, and amber. Scallop-edged crowns of maples, oaks, and birches bunch up along the freeways. It’s a time of year when you don’t have to go looking for nature, as it has already found you.

My grandmother used to love taking walks in the woods. Perhaps it is because she grew up on the wide open prairie, plowed under into farmland. The woods held all sorts of delights, mystery, and adventure. She’d have us kicking through the leaves looking for mushrooms. In the spring the trillium was the first to bloom and later, under very special circumstances, we may find a Jack-in-the-Pauper. Follow a trail after a chipmunk and you may look up to see a doe, frozen in its tracks, hoping you’ll not notice it amongst a stand of popular.

I think my grandmother would have enjoyed this poem by Mary Oliver.

How I Go Into the Woods

by Mary Oliver

Ordinarily I go to the woods alone,
with not a single friend,
for they are all smilers and talkers
and therefore unsuitable.
I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds
or hugging the old black oak tree.
I have my ways of praying,
as you no doubt have yours.
Besides, when I am alone
I can become invisible.
I can sit on the top of a dune
as motionless as an uprise of weeds,
until the foxes run by unconcerned.
I can hear the almost unhearable sound of the roses singing.
If you have ever gone to the woods with me,
I must love you very much.

Changing Intermediaries

There was a time when concerns about the future of communities arose when changing preferences shifted people’s activities. When the lanes were no longer booked on Thursday evenings for leagues and bowling balls were being sold at garage sales, predictions of cultural decline became fodder for those who watch such things.

But about the same time, church basements were seeing a lot less of the ladies who know how to fill the fifty-cup aluminum coffee maker. As new generations come through communities, their preferences change. The inclinations to be supportive of a community or devote time to causes or charitable endeavors do go up in smoke in some sort of generational existential crisis. They simply find new marletplaces.

The volunteer firefighter model is on its way out. Half a century ago perhaps as much as a third of the firefighters were volunteers. Becoming part of the force was a competitive process. It was a position that held prestige. The men would hang out at the station house in shifts waiting for the next deadly blaze. Now most firehouses are staffed by paid employees or transitioning to such an arrangement.

2nd St and 5th Ave Minneapolis

One could speculate that why men don’t want to pile in and hang out in the cramped quarters of an aging firehouse. But I think it is a mistake to assume the men of today lack an impulse for civic duty. They are most probably exerting efforts elsewhere in their family or work structures. Many workplaces now offer opportunities to partner with non-profits. Many non-profits offer opportunities to become involved.

Environmental Initiative is an intermediary which is driven by a desire to improve the environment.

Currently, it is estimated that 25% of passenger vehicles cause 90% of vehicle air pollution. Older cars often have outdated or broken emission controls and exhaust equipment. By partnering with garages to repair broken emissions systems, Environmental Initiative is cleaning up some of the highest polluting cars on the road while reducing barriers to reliable transportation. 

Partner garages provide low- or no-cost repairs to emission control systems. This allows car owners to reduce their car’s emissions and prioritize paying for other repairs necessary for the safety and drivability of their car.

This type of interface between people who have skilled labor, and most probably some idle time, and those who voluntarily support a cause, like pollution control, is an excellent matching game. There is an arbitrage opportunity between the former group which loses little by helping and the latter group which will be vigilant to the appropriate disbursement of reimbursements.

Rush Hour – Movie Review

This 1998 Jackie Chan comedy is packed with good stuff. I’m not sure if I lost a lot of time getting to know the masterful Chan or if the serious lack of jest and comedy in today’s world makes him all the more valuable, but I really liked this movie. It is funny and smart and strong.

Within moments of the opening scenes, there is a flurry of completely inappropriate word choices. Wokeness be damned! Both actors (Chris Tucker is an excellent sidekick) are gifted in comedic gestures and facial expressions which simply amplify the use of cancellable verbal offenses. It’s so delightful.

Chan is endearing as he draws a laugh through self-deprecation and physical faux pas– but don’t let his warm-up show fool you. His use of trips and slaps and fake punches is there to set the bubbly laughter adrift in his audience. Once everyone is relaxed and ready to let go of a noisy guffaw, giggle or snicker, then Jackie Chan will show off his real moves. And they won’t let you forget the strength of this martial arts performer.

He also holds the film together with a credible yet not wholly predictable plot and lively scenes across neighborhoods, Burroughs, and architecturally interesting buildings. I loved the clips from pre-China Hong Kong.

A lack of Voice

Long (long) time host of the Twin Cities public affairs show, Almanac, is quite upset about the Governor’s lack of interest in a televised debate. Something about tradition and, ummmm, hearing the voice of our leaders, seems to strike a cord.

The twitter population seems to agree.

Will the political strategy to keep his voice quite be an asset, or play as a liability? All will be revealed in November.

Update on AI pricing of Homes

Speaking of this last unit, Zillow bought it for $700K in Nov 2021, and withdrew the listing at $625K last month. Then they sold it to Opendoor for $354K. I haven’t pulled comps, but it’s not hard to imagine a fat discount that’ll look good on paper for Opendoor in the future.

And here’s a piece I wrote about their exit. Their failure wasn’t about market conditions, but strategy. In other words, this wasn’t about them foreseeing the future and knowing the market would change due to rates being at 7%.

Originally tweeted by Ryan Lundquist (@SacAppraiser) on October 5, 2022.

What happened to the US Post Office debate?

This is a rather fancy post office.

There was a time when the demise of the US Postal system was all but certain. Typically criticized for being poorly run and expensive, it was thought that private competitors like UPS and FedEx would take over transporting packages, and electronic means would replace printed letters. Surely there has been a reduction in the number of personal letters (which is truly a shame) but advertisers still choose the postal service as a way to get into consumers’ households.

When I’ve gone into our local branch to purchase stamps or mail a package there are more frequently than not a few people in line. Some are clearly running a business from home and have a stack of packages needing attention. I suppose people stop in for items needing to be tracked. And then there are passport services too. I personally like the custom stamps. (Perhaps this is a hangover from stamp collecting as a child.)

Back when there was talk of starting to close down some of the branch locations, contention flared at the suggestion that their post office would be the one to close. Buildings of all shapes, sizes and styles dot the entire US. In a way, the structures reflect the character of the neighborhood. The only compromise that was reached, that I can think of nearby, was a reduction in the overall space that zipcode’s branch occupied in the building. A religious community took over the back of that structure. They administered Covid shots during the pandemic.

As I’ve proposed here at home-economic, some goods are more naturally considered public and some private. Postal delivery service appears to fall in the first category. Whether people feel the public should have access to reliable and secure delivery of letters and parcels, or- they are nostalgic for the discovery of a crisp white envelope in their post box, for the time being, the US Postal Service is still a going concern.

Of Our New Day

We were in Northfield this afternoon for parent’s weekend at St. Olaf College. After lunch at the Reunion on Main Street and a walk along the nature trail behind Skogland, we went to listen to the Family Music Performance. The freshmen male choir, directed by Tesfa Wondemagegnehu, formed a half moon on the risers first, and they did not disappoint. I had several friends in choir back so many years ago now, that these new fresh faces simply met their level of excellence.

Having no expectations for the St Olaf Band, however, led to a delightful sense of discovering something exceptional. The variety of instruments and tones and tempos! Well, listen for yourself.

Have you lost that feeling?

It’s hard to extrapolate feelings out of numbers. Novelists have the luxury (and the skill) to fine-tune phrasing in a way that demonstrates how the same scene can in fact be different. Take this passage for example:

Yes, that was it-the change was there. Before the war at a luncheon party like this people would have said precisely the same things but they would have sounded different, because in those days they were accompanied by a sort of humming noise, not articulate, but musical, exciting, which changed the value of the words themselves. Could one set that humming noise to words?

Virginia Wolf- A Room of One’s Own

But when you see numbers, tabulated-out in sales figures of Rolex sales, income disparities between adjacent countries, or tallies of police arrests- you don’t feel anything. Of all the inputs that go into economic analysis- resources, labor, utilities, transport, and so on, there is no mention of an emotional quantifier.

Yet isn’t at least a portion of why people buy a Rolex due to a feeling? A luxury good makes one stand up a little straighter and beam a little brighter. A luxury good encourages others to treat you with a little more attention. A luxury good may be the ticket to gain entry into a new network of associates. There’s a swarming effect to luxury goods where people are drawn to the aura of the wealthy establishment. At least Kim Kardashian has a billion reasons to think so.

And then there is the opposite effect. The feeling of neglect and secondary status is always in the mix when economic results are released and compared to a strong neighbor. The numbers may divvy out the details of who stands where with what, but the gnawing feeling of being two steps back and half a year behind comes to the surface in casual conversation. “Oh- they are just so brash down there!” Implying, of course, a certain nobility in lower production, further justifying complacency.

Analysis of the cost of policing goes into rows and columns as easily as any set of numbers. But the emotion of seeing your middle school buddy handcuffed and walked out of school doesn’t show up in any way in the numerical representation. How many officers are needed in a community that has memories of one type of public safety is going to be different from another. The expense to leverage community participation in crime-solving is also going to vary. Like groups need to be compared to like groups.

And similarly, when solutions are presented and discussed, time and time again by people outside a community, especially those with elitist inklings, eye-rolling follows disjointed analogies.

The mayor of Minneapolis is Jacob Frey. Keith Ellison is MN’s Attorney General. Also pictured is St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter.

How to heat a house

The measure used when transacting in wood is called a cord- or 128 cubic feet.

Up north (as we call any rural community vaguely north of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro) it is common for homeowners to heat their homes with wood. There are stoves built to burn the split logs slowly and maximize efficiency. Sometimes the black cast iron fireboxes are in the lower level of the dwelling, or sometimes out in the yard with a venting system drawing the hot air into the home.

No matter what or where, there’s a lot of work involved. Fallen wood in a forest may be there for the taking but the labor involved in sawing the timber into eighteen-inch lengths and splitting it into manageable widths is persistent labor. Then there is the hauling and stacking. It will make a Lumber Jack (or Jill) out of you.

The backup system in most homes is baseboard electric. Often people use some combination of the two, loading up the fire before bed and then counting on the baseboards to kick in toward dawn. The remote nature of rural living makes it difficult for utility companies to run natural gas lines along all the roadside ditches. Natural gas is the most prevalent form of fuel for homes in the metro. It is also the most economical, whereas electric heat is the most expensive. Propane is a less common option and has its own set of drawbacks.

It would be wonderful if battery technology was advanced enough to capture and store energy off solar panels. The energy would flow right through the existing baseboard network. But in a part of the world where the temps can run below freezing for several weeks at a time, it simply isn’t possible to rely on solar energy. As populations grow, gas lines are appearing in populated areas. Splitting wood is a young man’s game and when given the option, most consumers are ready to convert to gas.

A sliver from *To Sir Henry Wotton*

Be thou thine owne home, and in thy selfe dwell;
Inne any where, continuance maketh hell.
And seeing the snaile, which every where doth rome,
Carrying his owne house still, still is at home,
Follow (for he is easie pac’d) this snaile,
Bee thine owne Palace, or the world’s thy gaole.
And in the worlds sea, do not like corke sleepe
Upon the waters face; nor in the deepe
Sinke like a lead without a line: but as
Fishes glide, leaving no print where they passe,
Nor making sound; so closely thy course goe,
Let men dispute, whether thou breathe, or no.

John Donne

Update on the housing market

As one can imagine the sharp increase in mortgage interest rates is having an effect on the housing market. For the average buyers who have between 5-20% to invest as a down payment, their monthly obligation has probably increased by about 20%. Yes- that’s a lot. Hence the decline in mortgage loan applications.

So far, however, the change has only resulted in a deceleration in the number of buyers but not in the price of housing. For the past couple of years, buyer demand has outstripped inventory causing virtually every sale to garner between three to twenty offers. This is not hyperbole. The steady jump in the cost of housing is verification of a sellers’ market.

A few months ago, a fresh listing would still attract a strong first buyer, one who perhaps even wrote an offer above the list price in an effort to pre-empt the market. As news gets out that the market is shifting, buyers are starting to slow down and finally we are seeing inventory staying on the market more than a few days. This has advantages.

For the time being the new dynamics are attracting a new set of buyers who never were interested in the rat race of competing for a home. Making a decision within hours of viewing a home, foregoing an inspection, or offering non-refundable earnest money is not for everyone. Today’s buyers have the leisure of coming back through for a second showing, of looking into possible home improvements, of lining two options up side-by-side to see which one they prefer.

I expect this will be the status quo through the holidays. Thanksgiving to Christmas is always a slower time as many people are tied up with family obligations. Come early 2023, we’ll see how the interest rate environment is impacting price.

Serendipity and the creation of books

The ‘Withdrawn from Hennepin County Library’ sticker on its cover is a dead giveaway that I must have picked up Encounters by publisher George Braziller at a library sale. The short format tales of interactions with authors are fun and informative. Braziller’s small independent publishing house brought Orhan Pamuk’s The White Castle to an American audience- this book I can highly recommend. But I also enjoyed the stories of books coming together as a deroulement of chance encounters. In this example, an artist is paired with a poet.

Will Barnet

One of the magical aspects of publishing is the serendipitous way by which books are created. I learned this important lesson while working The World in a Frame. The book brought together two strands of George Braziller’s publishing program-literature and art-and was created on the heels of several books that Braziller had published in the mid-1980s,

The year 1986 marked the centenary of Emily Dickinson’s death. To mark the occasion, Braziller published a short introduction to her poetry, Emily Dickinson: Lives of a Poet by Christopher Benfey-then an up-and coming and now a formidable and well-established scholar. Benfey’s book offered an overview of Dickinson’s life, a well-crafted synthesis of the main themes in her poetry, and a thoughtful selection of her most well-known and loved verses.

Soon after the Dickinson volume was published, I visited Will Barnet, a well-known American artist, in his studio in the National Arts Club building in New York. While looking at his paintings, I noted that his work evoked nineteenth-century New England, which was not surprising in that Will had grown up in Massachusetts. Will, in turn, mentioned that he loved the poetry of Emily Dickinson and would like to have a copy of the Benfey book. The next day, I sent him a copy. A few weeks later, he called to let me know that he had created a series of drawings inspired by Dickinson’s poetry.

Back to his studio I went to look at the drawings. They were extraordinary.

Encounters, by George Braziller

Lately, I’ve been listening to Econ Talk on my daily three-mile walks which correspond conveniently to the duration of one episode. This one caught my eye today Janine Barchas on the Lost Books of Jane Austen and I was not disappointed. If you enjoy books, Jane Austen and a knowledgeable acedemic with a pleasant timbre you will find the hour well spent.

It was her explanation of how she fell into writing the book that I loved the most. Experience has taught me that many of life’s best outcomes occur haphazardly. And this seems to have created the interesting research she presents here. An antithesis, I know, from the advocates of- Plan your day! Schedule your every move! Make a ten-year plan! Some things come about when they are meant to be.

Regional trail system connecting through Wayzata

Econ or Poli-Sci?

I recently saw this quote on Twitter: Economics is the study of human behavior under constraints. This makes sense to me if the individual and the clusters of individuals operate under maximum freedom. But the reality is that virtually all people have some sort of, or many layers of, political structures also setting constraints. Where econ stops, and where poli-sci begins is deviding line to consider.

For instance, if you were trying to figure out the choice parameters for automobiles in the Amish community you may come to the conclusion that they don’t have a preference as you cannot come up with any data. Yet the political constraint of only being allowed to drive a horse and buggy is the political constraint which explains the lack of opinion. Complete exclusions from some choices are entirely political and hence do not provide economic insights through the actor’s behaviors.

Gorgeous blooms are still to be seen at the Lyndale Rose Garden in Minneapolis

The Staircase- Series Review

The Staircase is an HBO series based on the real-life story of the death of Kathleen Peterson (Toni Collette) and the subsequent trial of her husband Michael Peterson (Colin Firth). Before you commit to the viewing time be forewarned that this series will play in the shadowy crevices of your brain. The film brings out the fears and uncertainties of relationships and the strength of their bonds. Your mind will be mulling over the hour-long episode well into the following day.

Full disclosure, I’m a fan of Toni Collette; and Colin Firth for that matter. They do not disappoint. But there are far more producing and editing tricks done with this story which leave the audience in a persistent state of questioning. The splicing of events as members of the family review and question past occurrences reminds of us of the complexities of kith and kin. Timelines with a six-year distance between them are run simultaneously. The overlay of the documentary being filmed and produced in real-time creates a window upon the world effect. (Here’s the link to the documentary.)

There are several interesting collisions between the intended use of the justice system and economic incentives. One is pretty typical. An agency authorized to review forensic material for jury trials is not operating at an arm’s length from the prosecuting office. An outside organization proves the bureau both fails to report pertinent information as well as distorts its level of experience. Another ho-hum, let’s protect our buddies, incident occurs when a homosexual lover threatens to provide a complete list of his liaisons should he be called upon to testify. Something about the word systemic comes to mind in the ability of the district attorney to waive away this witness.

But the more intriguing, or perhaps nefarious, turn of events occurs amongst the kids. Of the five college-age children in the Peterson household only one, Caitlin, was Kathleen’s biological offspring. She is also the only child who broke with the others in their unwavering support of Michael’s innocence. After testifying against her step-father she successfully sues him for claims to a large insurance settlement and other assets. It seems like a jury should receive some sort of incentive disclosure eventhough this may seem cynical.

This series will remind you that life is complicated. But you may not be satisfied that you have been given any answers.

Why object to Immigration?

Ron DeSantis of Florida put immigration back on the front page of most newspapers a few weeks ago when he chartered a couple of planes to fly Venezuelan migrants to Martha’s Vineyard. Of course, he is not the first to shuffle off those in need of social services to other locals. The Governor of TX also recently bussed migrants to the home of Vice President Harris. But for decades those in need have shown up in Minneapolis having been given a one-way bus ticket from Chicago.

Immigrants have a place in America’s history and they continue to bring fresh economic energy with them when they arrive. Their work is visible across neighborhoods as roofers and painting contractors and nail technicians. Still- there’s an underselling of the work and services needed to bring new families into the American way of life. Who is going to be sure they have proper clothing for winter? Who can help set them up with services? Who can they call for advice on all those things a 20-something person would ring up their folks for reliable answers?

Even though the state provides another set of goods, there’s a certain type of capital needed to ease immigrants into their new communities. When a church sponsors a new family, the parish members fill the orders for all those material goods and services. Let’s say circulating capital is that which is needed to support the community interfaces between the new and existing polities.

Some communities claim they have no spare reserves. There are communities like Martha’s Vineyards who have reserves but not the structured intermediaries to deliver services. Then some communities welcome those in need despite lacking the circulating capital to maintain their existing community (this undoubtedly produces the most expensive outcome).

Hopefully we can come up with a better way to ease newcomers into American life than relying on the showmanship of politicians.

A quote about structure

The cause of freedom is not the cause of a race or a sect, a party or a class ~ it is the cause of humankind, the very birthright of humanity.

Anna Julia Cooper

There are certain causes, or sympathies- as Adam Smith calls them in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, which hold the universal attention of all men and women. Unlike the interests of a particular community, church, county, or region, the longing for freedom settles in at the first order of sensibilities. And when left to fruition, leads society to the most favorable outcomes.

Anna Julia Haywood Cooper (August 10, 1858 – February 27, 1964) was an American author, educator, sociologist, speaker, Black liberation activist, and one of the most prominent African-American scholars in United States history.

Born into slavery in 1858, Cooper went on to receive a world-class education and claim power and prestige in academic and social circles.[2] In 1924, she received her PhD from the Sorbonne, University of Paris.[3] Cooper became the fourth African-American woman to earn a doctoral degree.[a][4] She was also a prominent member of Washington, D.C.’s African-American community and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.

Cooper made contributions to social science fields, particularly in sociology. Her first book, A Voice from the South: By a Black Woman of the South, is widely acknowledged as one of the first articulations of Black feminism, giving Cooper the often-used title of “the Mother of Black Feminism”.[5]

From Wikipedia

Is there more to it than mincing words?

When I was in college I steered clear of philosophy. The intricate hairsplitting was more than a little off-putting. Plus the numbers and problems in my math classes were more fun than words, or at least more reliable. It is only now, later in life that I see the need for it. I still am partial to philosophers who talk through examples instead of building some analytical castle in the sky. That’s why I like Bertrand. He said:

Philosophy, like all other studies, aims primarily at knowledge. The knowledge it aims it is the kind of knowledge which gives unity and system to the body of the sciences, and the kind which results from a critical examination of the grounds of our convictions, prejudices, and beliefs.

Bertrand Russell, The Problems of Philosophy (Urbana, IL: Project Gutenberg, 2004)

Descriptive words can paint out the details of your examples, but precisely defined words are necessary to hone the edges of the properties which settle in together and erect a model of activity. And words are slippery things often showing up in other ways at other times. It truly is a project to draw it all out for people to follow.

It seems there is a renewed interest in the discipline. Instead of being the butt of any graduation party, “What are you going to do with a philosophy major? Become a barista at a Parisian cafe?” People genuinely express a desire to understand foundational principles in order to participate in the public conversation.

It would have been helpful through the years to have a little sidebar in that History of XVII Century Thought book or an Anthology of Literature from the Caribbean outlining a view of the philosophy of the day. Most centuries had predominant views on how to think and reason. If these would have been laid out alongside a history of events, I might have started getting the picture earlier that there was more to philosophy than tedious quibbling over definitions.

An outing to the Caspian Sea

For a handful of decades, no one in my family paid any attention to the carrousels of slide trays that held film of trips we had taken in my childhood. Finally, I convince my mother to package up the thousands of images and have Costco scan them for easier viewing. Some were in sequence and some were not. This, along with my parents failing memories, added complexity to determining exactly where the pictures were taken.

It didn’t take too long to figure this one out. I vividly remember visiting the Caspian Sea. The name alone is romantic and adventurous. When we got there the pebbly beach felt remote and austerely beautiful. The drive from Tehran is only two to three hours, and crosses a dry and rocky mountain range.

Perhaps it is difficult to imagine now, how easy it was to travel through this part of the world in the early 70s. Aside from having to watch for the cabbies rounding up their fares, I have no recollections of difficult or unpleasant encounters on these sojourns. Hopefully one day the world will right itself again and people will be able to appreciate the sites there are to see in this part of the planet.

For more recent photos of this area, along with some video footage through the mountains check out this link: Adventure Iran, Tehran to the Caspian Sea.

Booo, traffic is back

One upside during the pandemic was the light traffic on the roads. For two years it was completely unnecessary to think through whether rush hour would delay one’s arrival. There was no need to buffer in extra time, no need to avoid travel at certain hours of the day. It was a public service windfall.

We have no toll roads in Minnesota, so roads are a classic, open to everyone, public amenity. (Well- there are a very small number of gated communities, where austere gates carry signs stating ‘Private Drive’ even though said gates are wide open to entry.) When lots of people are using the roads, it costs me money in extra use of my time. More or less the opposite dynamics to a private good.

Roads can also externalize negative private benefits when they are in ill repair. Hitting a large pothole even at moderate speeds can throw your alignment out of place. And this is why people get on the phone with their city council person and demand to see sand and tar trucks out filling holes in the neighborhood. Not everyone gets their cars damaged, and not everyone needs to call the city council person. But if the average guy/gal provide the feedback, and expectation are pursued, then the whole benefits.

Before dismissing local politics as boring, think for a moment at how many levels these tasks of feedback and correction occur. Property owners take care of their driveways, sometimes under duress from neighbors. Associations, cities, counties, and townships all have ownership and maintenance responsibilities. Then there are state highways and the Federal Interstate system. Motorists may not give a second thought to the land under the pavement they are passing over. But there is competition for resources between each system.

I recently overheard a conversation where it was pointed out that the county snow removal vehicles were parked in our city. This is a windfall. Their trucks must plow a few hundred yards of city streets before getting to the county roads. Although both the city and the county provide a public service, each acts as a private competitor when interacting with one another.

So even though roads are public goods, they can cost me privately in time during congested periods and repairs due to poor maintenance. They also function like a private good (in the sense of competition for resources) between the levels of government responsible for the system’s interconnected parts. And there are lots and lots of levels of economic interaction to keep it all in good repair.

Plunder! Feed the Children Edition

Supply of public funds without demand is the simplest way to attract profiteers to the public trough. Whether aid is given freely overseas, or in Minnesota, if specific recipients are not identified, the money is readily diverted to real estate, expensive trips, fast cars and lots of luxuries that poor children will never enjoy.

Today’s report from the US Department of Justice’s website:

The Department of Justice announced today federal criminal charges against 47 defendants for their alleged roles in a $250 million fraud scheme that exploited a federally-funded child nutrition program during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These indictments, alleging the largest pandemic relief fraud scheme charged to date, underscore the Department of Justice’s sustained commitment to combating pandemic fraud and holding accountable those who perpetrate it,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “In partnership with agencies across government, the Justice Department will continue to bring to justice those who have exploited the pandemic for personal gain and stolen from American taxpayers.”

“Today’s indictments describe an egregious plot to steal public funds meant to care for children in need in what amounts to the largest pandemic relief fraud scheme yet,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “The defendants went to great lengths to exploit a program designed to feed underserved children in Minnesota amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, fraudulently diverting millions of dollars designated for the program for their own personal gain. These charges send the message that the FBI and our law enforcement partners remain vigilant and will vigorously pursue those who attempt to enrich themselves through fraudulent means.”

“This was a brazen scheme of staggering proportions,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger for the District of Minnesota. “These defendants exploited a program designed to provide nutritious food to needy children during the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, they prioritized their own greed, stealing more than a quarter of a billion dollars in federal funds to purchase luxury cars, houses, jewelry, and coastal resort property abroad. I commend the work of the skilled investigators and prosecutors who unraveled the lies, deception, and mountains of false documentation to bring this complex case to light.”

What is more egregious yet is the local woke protected the plunderers. When the good employees at the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) tried to cut off the non-profits from obtaining further funding, they were sued for discrimination and excessive oversight. And it worked! Funding resumed.

When MDE attempted to perform necessary oversight regarding the number of sites and amount of claims being submitted, Bock and Feeding Our Future gave false assurances that they were monitoring the sites under its sponsorship and that the sites were serving the meals as claimed. When MDE employees pressed Bock for clarification, Bock accused MDE of discrimination and unfairly scrutinizing Feeding Our Future’s sites. When MDE denied Feeding Our Future site applications, Bock and Feeding Our Future filed a lawsuit accusing MDE of denying the site applications due to discrimination in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act.

There is little outrage amongst a certain party regarding this announcement today, as far as I can tell. Perhaps they are being good party participants and keeping their opinions on the qt. But surely they can’t think this outcome is helpful for race relations.


Owls make the most interesting sounds. Only a few call out anything close to the well-reported Hoo Hoo. If you are out for an evening walk and hear something you can’t identify it could very well be an owl. Some cheap, some warble, some chatter. Some sound like a chipmunk barking out, or a cat in a duel. Here’s a short video with the more common North American breeds.

This next video is more lengthy and contains breeding and migration patterns. Many of the breeds are international dwellers, their nesting areas spanning more than one continent.

File under ‘how to be a good listener.’

Yglesias Tip Toes across Platters

In the old days, or in the movies, the good and bad guys are contrasting characters in nefarious plots. Activists love the straightforward dichotomy of the winners and the losers as it facilitates their theory of choice. If you want to benefit the world, you’re with us; if you want to harm the world you’re with them. You are either on the inside or you are excludable. You are blessed or descending into the bowels of the earth.

In the most recent free newsletter from Slow and Boring, Let Joe Manchin have his pipeline, Matt Yglesias lays out economic arguments for allowing the completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline despite the negative externalities it will generate. He tiptoes through a dizzying array of players and their platters, in the operating systems of cooperative endeavors. He concludes that there should be less focus on chum (I like that word) and more focus on the stuff that matters.

The stuff that matters appears to be the more socially favorable outcome once the pros and cons of the action are tallied up. Instead of hype, Matt wants an accounting.

Here are all the groups mentioned in roughly the order they appear: Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), Biden Administration, West Virginia, Virginia, Joe Manchin, green activists, Senators, democrats, Keystone XL pipeline, left writers, center-left writers, Barack Obama, Labor Unions, Rail Lines, activist organizers, protestors, Putin, Russian Oil Producers, LNP gas export facilities, the United States

There are a bunch of ways to sort these players. Elementary school math with Venn diagrams comes to mind. All the oil producers which operate on a for-profit basis, MVP and Keystone XL, and LPN export facilities form a group. Then you have the political people who are meant to act on behalf of their constituents like the two Presidents, the Senators, and Joe Manchin in particular. Clearly, there is different weighting on the impact of these decisions based on who they represent. This brings us to the states themselves, specifically West Virginia, Virginia, and a bunch of unnamed states affected by Keystone. And there are the people who advertize for the various positions, the writers (both left and center-left), and protestors. I would put the activist organizers in the same bin as the labor unions because their function isn’t to care about the issue as much as to energize those who will resist. Putin and Russian oil producers are in a group to themselves as they are not nested in any way with the others.

It is impressive to touch on so many levels of tradeoffs and draw the reader to the intended conclusion: Joe Manchin’s pipeline project will cause less environmental harm than economic good. The social externalities are less than internalized social benefits.

Not everyone can successfully call out those who oversell the need– in this case for climate caution. It is something only someone of his stature could accomplish. Since there is no numerical system of coordination, supply is determined by trusting the voices of those close to the action to describe the need. Food shelf providers give feedback on the demand for food. School counselors give feedback on the need for social services. Hospitals give feedback on the number of uninsured patients.

I’m all for calling out the beefed-up hype and manufactured objections to socially valuable industry. Hold the Chum! And give Yglesias the proper accounting he demands!

Proust’s slendid portrayal of the ordinary

I know that sharp coastal folk wonder what we have to do here in the Midwest, so far away from the action of the world. But it seems Proust understood that thorough details of la vie quaotidienne provide excellent insights into how and why our lives unfold.

For, upon a permanent foundation of eggs, cutlets, potatoes, jams, biscuits which she no longer even announced to us, Françoise would add-depending on the labors in the fields and orchards, the fruit of the tide, the luck of the marketplace, the kindness of neighbors, and her own genius, and with the result that our menu, like the quatrefoils carved on the portals of cathedrals in the thirteenth century, reflected somewhat the rhythm of the seasons and the incidents of daily life-a brill because the monger had guaranteed her that it was fresh, a turkey hen because she had seen a large one at the Roussainville-le-Pin market, cardoons with marrow because she had not made them for us that way before, a roast leg of mutton be cause fresh air whets the appetite and it would have plenty of time to “descend” in the next seven hours, spinach for a change, apricots be cause they were still uncommon, gooseberries because in two weeks there would not be any more, raspberries that M. Swann had brought especially, cherries, the first that had come from the cherry tree in the garden after two years in which it had not given any, cream cheese, which I liked very much at one time, an almond cake because she had ordered it the day before, a brioche because it was our turn to present it.

Swann’s Way

Pheew, captured all in one sentence!

A man behind a beast

Bangladeshi working with oxen

It might be easy for someone from the west to categorize the man in the photo. It might be easy to assume that, despite perhaps a potential for the intellectual heights of a professor, his opportunities in life are limited by his environment. But this view may lack clarity.

To feel sorry for a man in a photo based on presumptions of status and reach is more than likely an imprecise calculation. The man of letters may acknowledge the third world inhabitant has the capbilities of being his peer, yet considers his voice to have 20x’s the impact. But the numbers don’t support this.

The population density in Bangladesh is 1265 people per sq kilometer where as in the US it’s a meer 37. So say an influencer in the US thought they had the ear of 85,000 people. Since the population density in Dhaka is 23,234 per kilometer, the man in the photo would only need to circulate through 3.66 square kilometers to touch a similar audience. This is the spatial equivalent of a handful of city blocks.

In fact, if social capital is defined by the number of people in a network, than this man must be quite well off.

Furthermore, capable people who do the work of city councils or community organizing could very feasibly act in ways that impact and improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of their fellow city dwellers. A small elevation of sanitation standards would provide significant and immediate health impacts. Should the man in the photo have the capabilities, he most certainly could and does do work to ameliorate the circumstances of those in close proximity.

Perhaps the distance between the reality of his economic and social circumstances are more than geographic, it is hard for the westerner to see him in his proper function. But without this insight, it is erroneous to pronouce this man’s life-work a market failure.

Seasonal Motivations

Some people suggest that self-interest is what drives people’s decision making; some people say it is sympathy. But I’m here to tell you that the weather can spur folks into action as well. Once the night temperatures start to dip into the 50s you can safely turn off the central air and fling open the windows. The sedum will bud into a rosy hue and a scattering of yellow leaves will look pasted onto the edges of leafy canopies.

All these indications of a change in the seasons serve as a whistle call to make like the squirrels and start storing nuts away for the winter months. People assess their outdoor spaces, deciding what needs to be painted or put away before the snow flies and the theromostat readings drop well below zero. Tires are kicked and inspected for baldness as soon their treads will be the determining factor for a quick stop on an icy road.

I suppose all these initiatives could be categorized as actions out of self interest. But the seasonal shift indicates another consistent and repetitive aspect that initiates action. Time comes into play in all sorts of ways in our economic efforts. Some endeavors are seasonal, some are generational, some apply a quarter of a centruy at a time. It almost seems like there should be a disclaimer, like a bond maturity: this deal has a time horizon of X.

Villainous Homes

I went to our library’s used book sale on Saturday and came home with an armful. I’ve learned that half of what I enjoy is about browsing the titles, appreciating what people are reading, and seeking out the unusual titles that aren’t being heavily marketed by the big bookseller.

And then there are the books that must be bought at reatil because they are so new. Like this one:

The author, Christine Madrid French, has an article in Vanity Fair if you want to get a scent for the trial she follows in her book.

Alfred Hitchcock was one of the first major directors to leverage this architectural zeitgeist, co-opting the essential features of modernist design and turning those characteristics into totems representing the calculated fervor of a malevolent genius. Drawing from early films such as Metropolis, Hitchcock also reconstructed the essential character of the screen villain, abandoning the crazed henchmen of the 1920s and instead casting dashing, charismatic people who wielded wit and charm as their weapons. In North by Northwest, Hitchcock’s team revealed these two new archetypes fully fledged for contemporary moviegoers, pairing a modern villain with a mid-20th-century modern building. This cinematic-architectural marriage of patron and design was so successful that it has been fully typecast as a storytelling device. In the years afterward, production designers, screenwriters, and directors recruited actual houses to play the part of the villain’s lair, drawing from a proliferation of modern designs in Southern California created by architects such as John Lautner, Richard Neutra, and Frank Lloyd Wright. Other creators designed fantastical modernist hideaways that existed only on film and in matte paintings.

I only recently watched North by Northwest and loved the shots in the VanDamm House. But I never thought about the setting’s influence of the audience’s view of the villain. French’s insights give the brain a little massage.

In North by Northwest, the modernist design effectively merged the malevolent identities of the structure and the villain. Film critics such as Raymond Durgnat interpreted the Vandamm House as a sentient being; he described the building as “an alien, malign, disaffected intelligence.” Likewise, he interpreted the position of the home, on a plateau above the carved stone faces of Mount Rushmore, as one that “expresses visual domination and panoptic control” over the nearby “devotional shrine of American democracy.” Author Steven Jacobs, who created a set of blueprints of the house based on extensive archival research, observed that “both love of the arts and a predilection for modern architecture are persistent Hollywood signifiers of menace and malice.” Jacobs conflated the style and location of the building with the power of the villain within. He posited that this iconic residence ultimately represented a “progressive quest for power and wealth,” a quality attributed to capitalists and likewise to criminals.

For this book, I’ll willingly pay full price.

Meet Roxanne

Roxanne and her helper replace the work of five able bodied men. You go girl.

I’ve been one to poo poo the whole AI is going to conquer the world of workers thing. When they come up with a way for robots to do all my housework, I’ll be a beleiver. Until then, AI is just an upgraded piece of machinery.

But then I met Roxanne. She a deminuitive type, but does she pack a punch. Come ball season she can paint the lines on the fields in perfect geometric patterns, all with the aid of GPS and the guy holding the tablet. They say if you compare satellite pictures from manually painted fields to AI painted the differences are striking.

She’s a bit pricy. And she’s high maintenance. But the parks department is so bummed when she is out of commission they’ve stored up the parts for the most common repairs. Not only does she do the work of five men, she’s a lot of fun.

What do workers want

There’s a worker shortage.

The city I live in is getting by with less than 50% of the seasonal staff they typically have for the summer months. Once the weather gets nice in Minnesota there are acres of parks to mow and canopies of oaks, elms, and maples to trim. On eighteen year old who applied said he would consider the job if he was given a city car to drive home in the evening.

But the most perplexing trend, for those of us of a certain age, is the no response option. Applicants set up times for interviews and simply don’t show. No call; no attempt to reschedule; no ‘I changed my mind.’ Perhaps for the seasonal part-time workers that is understandable (perhaps). But apparently no shows for interviews even happen for fulltime, full benefits jobs with a major suburban city.

Another manager in a different field said she had fourteen openings to fill so she scheduled an afternoon of interviews. Not one applicant showed. There she sat, spinning a pen between her fingers.

The ‘no communication’ modus operandi started about the same time texting became a popular means of conversing. It’s like a wave of people who might as well have yelled down the corridors of society “we don’t want to talk to you” changed how we make plans. Or like some grouchy teenager proclaiming indignantly, “We don’t want to have to listen to what you have to say.”

Texting is a great way of cutting the personal out of the conversation. No chit-chat. No opportunities to ask a few extra details. The fumbling around of thumbs on tiny screens makes for short replies. Plus you are not on the spot to get back to someone. You can control when and how you choose to respond as you can leverage the uncertainty of whether you’ve received the message.

As these folks age, maybe they’ll notice the benefits of being civil. Maybe they’ll consider the fluidity of the process of general customer service is beneficial to amicable relations. Maybe they’ll notice when you open a dialogue, you might actually learn something else that is useful.

Rent Control Revised

After a voter referendum last fall, the most rigid rent control in the US went into play in May in the city of St. Paul. Four short months later, most stakeholders agree, that rent control is a deal killer for housing providers.

Want housing? Then let people who know how to provide it do their thing.

Identifying Circulating Capital

In years gone by, every political season was adorned by a scandal involving the spouse of a candidate charging a bunch of clothing and personal effects to an inappropriate account. The reasoning was the spouse had to maintain a certain status exemplified in their presentation. One could say the the candidates spouse, and family for that matter, required circulating capital in support of the candidate in image and appearance.

Circulating capital is a businessy term which is defined by Webster Marriam as:

capital consumed in the process of production (as fuel, power, and raw materials) —contrasted with fixed capital

In loose language it pays for the maintenance and utilities to keep the lights on, the machines oiled, the pathways shoveled, and so on. Since the business world has replaced this concept with the term working capital, perhaps circulating capital could capture the more socially relevant maintenance items.

One might say that the resistance of workers to go back to a brick-and-mortar workplace is due to the increase in circulating capital required to do so. The reversion to pre-Covid times may involve purchasing some new dockers, reacquainting oneself with the bus routes, and debating the tradeoffs between a bag lunch or Subway. There’s no question that the circulating capital will suck some profits out of the paycheck.

Another reason to bring back the term is that it is all but ignored in many important marketplaces. The circulating capital required to maintain a houseful of kids in their education and recreational programming is significant- ask any parent. The circulating capital required to provide housing to folks on the margin is substantial ask any half-way house provider. The circulating capital required to keep a small theater group performing is substantial, ask their donors.

It would be helpful to know some of these numbers.

Sculpture, Minnesota Style

Paul T. Granlund (October 6, 1925, Minneapolis, Minnesota – September 15, 2003, Mankato, Minnesota) was an American sculptor. His creative career spanned more than 50 years and more than 650 different works. Most of his work is figurative and made from bronze. His patrons included colleges, hospitals, Lutheran churches, and other institutions.[1]

Granlund received his Bachelor of Arts from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota in 1952 and his Master of Fine Arts from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan in 1954. Awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study sculpture in Italy the same year, he later returned on Guggenheim Foundation fellowships in 1957–1959. During the 1960s and ’70s, he was a faculty member at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.[3] He also chaired the sculpture department for 14 years. [4]

Granlund was the sculptor in residence at his alma mater, Gustavus Adolphus College, from 1971 until his retirement in 1996, and maintained a studio at the institution until his death. Over 30 works are on campus, including the friezes and doors of Christ Chapel.[5]


What Tradle can Teach you

There usually comes a point in my day when I need a little diversion. Wordle and Tradle can provide just the right type of distraction. The first game is simply about discovering as many letters as possible in the fewest attempts. Then it is easy to guess the answer. But the second asks for an interpretation of the products represented in the colorful boxes as well as a sense of geography.

When this image popped up today was evident by the number of boxes and colors of boxes that it represented a complex economy. I first mentioned tradle a few months ago, that screenshot captured a simple image of perhaps a couple dozen boxes. Forty percent of the trade was gold. Without even looking at the dollar value of the transactions, it is evident one will find the answer among the poorer countries which rely on the export of natural resources.

There are still quite a few of these to choose from and so it is necessary to look further amongst the few products that are traded like palm oil or fish fillets to narrow down the choices by geographic differentiation. Still- it is a challenge. There are more remote islands than you would imagine. And while certain clues might signal the far east, you might find the answer in west Africa.

When a colorful image reminiscent of a Piet Mondrian tableau pops into the browser window, you know you are hunting with a higher level of sophistication. It is no longer simply about resources and geography. Now your guesses are dependent upon what type of education system could produce a savvy workforce. In which countries are laws in place and honored for patents? Where are the transportation networks to get all the pieces and parts to all the right industries?

And as you move through your guesses and bounce through the various country options, voila- you start to learn the level of infrastructure various countries have to support the industries listed in the colorful squares.

The Presidio- Movie Review

Just yesterday I dropped off my daughter at her choice of college, which happens to be my alma mater. The day felt like a time warp. Memories, long pushed aside by a busy life, kept setting up film screenings in my head. As I blathered on about some irrelevant fact or another, she gave me the most endearing look of tolerance. Remembering the past as the present unfolds does the trick of revealing the granular difference of what seems like just a few years.

The movie Presideo, an action thriller from 1988, had me drawing similar comparisons. The shots of San Fransisco are so good. What you see is a city growing past a rough go through the 70’s. There are many street scenes, the cityscape with night lights, a bustling China Town and various residential options. I couldn’t help but thinking how wonderful it was to visit San Fransisco through the 90’s. And now, 20 years on, it’s back to a struggling mess.

The famous military base, The Presidio, was dismantled in 1994. Perhaps there was some motivation to preserve a sense of it in the film. The theme of the old guard military of mid-century, represented by Sean Connery’s role, and the younger generation runs throughout. The aging military man strides around in full uniform while Mark Harmon and Meg Ryan both slip in and out of bomber-styled jackets.

True to this genre, there is only one (ok- two if you count the GI who gets shot in the movie’s opening scene) female role. As usual, the lead lady is irresistibly attractive, funny, daring, and rebukes only in a way that everyone knows is temporary. Meg Ryan shines with grown-up Shirley Temple curls gently swirling around a beatific smile and large doe-like eyes. At least if there is only to be one woman, the producers picked one above the grade.

It’s certainly not the movie of the century but it does offer strong entertainment value. The car chases are genuine and done back in a time before AI, so they really set them on fire. And you will smile when Harmon looks at his pager with delight, pulls over to the curb, and pops into the near phone booth to call his buddy. Aside from a few brief lapses in acting, the actors do a great job. And the plot has a twist to boot. The past can still keep you on your toes.

Political Scorekeeping

It seems like we are in for more of the same tactics in the runup to the elections in November. So far we have:

  1. Demand to release tax returns- to which the response was that no one cares
  2. Demand to debate- to which the response was end of Oct, too late for many voters
  3. Fear of loosing right to choose- apparently not within the capacity of the position
  4. Fear of extremism– an open-ended fear in search of a monster

It will be interesting to see how it all works out.

The Scottish philosopher is a little harsh on landowners

The interest of the first of those three great orders (…the rent of land…), it appears from what has been just now said, is strictly and inseparably connected with the general interest of the society. Whatever either promotes or obstructs the one, necessarily promotes or obstructs the other. When the public deliberates concerning any regulation of commerce or police, the proprietors of land never can mislead it, with a view to promote the interest of their own particular order; at least, if they have any tolerable knowledge of that interest. They are, indeed, too often defective in this tolerable knowledge. They are the only one of the three orders whose revenue costs them neither labour nor care, but comes to them, as it were, of its own accord, and independent of any plan or project of their own. That indolence, which is the natural effect of the ease and security of their situation, renders them too often, not only ignorant, but incapable of that application of mind which is necessary in order to foresee and understand the consequences of any public regulation.

Wealth of Nations, Rent of Land : Conclusion, page 248

A National Lottery?

Recent payouts by the federal government whether during the COVID pandemic or more recently via student loan forgiveness, feel a little bit like a lottery system. In a wild spree of funding the feds have been savvy to include a wide net of beneficiaries. As long as everyone is getting a taste, there are fewer objections to the outlays of cash.

I remember reading how one single mom was genuinely grateful as she was planning on spending her COVID money on passports for herself and her children. She explained that the $130 per person fee was otherwise a luxury she couldn’t justify. But with the windfall, she would find a way to take her kids on a trip abroad. As a steadfast supporter of travel, I admire her decision. Her kids will learn more through travel than through many other educational venues.

People also spent their dollars on home improvements. Appliances are still on backorder, depending on what country they originate from. Another couple I know excavated their aging sewer line. These are all great purchases. When you improve your home you are partly just transferring money from a savings account to an equity-in-my-home account. The other portion, not retained in your home’s value, you will appreciate every day when the whisper of your new Bosch dishwasher does not interfere with your favorite NetFlix series

The lottery system creates mad money- you won’t starve without passports or silent dishwashers, but they sure are nice to have.

But this leads us to question whether the American people are really that bad off in the first place. That’s what we are being told. Many voice excessive rents, struggles, and need. But if the need was that great, wouldn’t there be a desire to get desperate funds to desperate people? Wouldn’t the power players try to direct the most funds away from those who can and towards those who have none?

I’m not here to minimize the fact that in America we have people who are destitute. We do. And we should help them. I just think we are being oversold on the level of need. And the proof is in the papering of ‘relief’ funding across all age groups and income levels. People who earn 100K are not needy. If you want to run policy like a lottery- just call it what it is.

Norms of today; Norms of yesteryear

Minneapolis is lucky to have a long-standing history of parks and trail system support. Early in its history, the city set up a connected park system throughout its neighborhoods. The green space ropes together a string of lakes which often have a walking path encircling their parameter. But despite being glorified for prescient action in the development of a great city- city leaders of yesteryear have failed the environmentalists of today.

Now wild rice is something to be preserved! Enshrined! Even though it is cultivated for commercial sale around the state, and grown wild under a protected status near and on Indian reservations. It’s a little hard to believe that even with this new status, the city consumer of parks and trails would be better off with a slothy body of water in lieu of what Lake Nokomis is today.

I’m not sure how far the revisionists would like to go with their return to nature. Perhaps there will be a push to revert all yards to prairie grasses. Or dig up all the asphalt roads and return them to cart trails. Nor am I sure how this shaming of the present and glorification of the past is helpful.

Unclear duties

Another type of duty shifting happens when regulations, or rules, are made official across a group. We all want to be able to go to the Minnesota State Fair and eat from as many of the food booths as our gastronomical ambitions allow. It would be unfortunate to find out after the fact that the mini donut vendor did not change out their frying oil promptly. Even the most non-regulatory types would agree that purchasing food without the risk of food poisoning is a good thing.

If food prep regulations were weighed out, it is clear that having the rules in place allows for more people to be freer to sample the Fresh French Fries and Sweet Martha’s Cookies and Turkey on a Stick. Having the rules in place gives people confidence in interacting not only with people they know personally, or they’ve heard of from friends, but with any food truck or pop-up vendor operating with a license. The rules push the duties of edible foods on the small vittles providers because this allows for greater freedom, not less, overall.

The Minnesota State Fair is the best in the Midwest.

This feature works really well when populations are nested one inside the other. Although there may be small differences between counties, the rules reflect what is expected at the state level. And it is fairly reliable to maintain the same consumer expectations as one crosses state lines as everyone is nested in a federal suite of rules. And although there is sometimes pushback, like when the health department wants to show up at a church basement waffle breakfast for their parishioners, the system, in general, reflects efficient coordination.

Who gets to assign the duties becomes a bit more opaque when bundles of economic activity operate separately from one another. For instance, do European consumers of garments manufactured in Bangladesh owe the workers an EU evaluation of their working conditions?

Within one’s own trading system one relies on the press and complainants to expose wrongful work practices. Then consumers can make choices with consideration of brand reputation. When markets operate at a distance, it is unclear which market has a duty to established norms.

Shifting Duties

The LA city council would like to force local hotels into giving up their unrented rooms to the homeless. Every day the hotels are to report to the city the number of vacancies they have and allow the homeless to take over the room. It seems like some dream of authoritarian control over private property for the public concerns is budding in the sunshine state.

Mind you the hotelier will be paid. But everyone knows that the complexity of homelessness is not a billable problem, it is a social problem. What is really happening here is an attempt to externalize the caregiving of a disenfranchised segment of the population onto small business people.

Where else do we see political muscle transferring duties between groups?

  1. The rent control measures in St. Paul come to mind. The risk of market fluctuations in rental prices is transferred from the lessee to the lessor, from those who do not own real estate to those who do.
  2. The student loan debt release plan transfers the private debt of past and present students to the US taxpayers.
  3. Our city adopted a new model for firefighters where all are paid and none are volunteers. The duties change direction here as the transfer is from the public to the private job market.

Fresh Sweet Corn

When sweet corn is in season we stop by our favorite farm and pick up a dozen or two. Pull into the semi-circular drive that swings past the farm buildings to the garage and an elderly farmer in overalls appears to serve you. He often had an assortment of vegetables as well. Three medium tomatoes might run you $1.50- the corn is pegged at $5/dozen.

I realize that eating corn off the cob is not done everywhere, so here’s how it goes. You shuck the coarse leaves encasing the cob, pull back and remove all the silky threads spinning through the shiny kernels and plop the cob into boiling water for eight minutes. Remove from the pot carefully, place the prongs into the tender ends, and butter up the golden and white nubby corn. This guy grows the best ‘peaches and cream’ variety. A little salt and you are in for a delight.

It used to be that every farm in the Midwest had a setup as our corn guy (pictured here). A great big red barn anchored by a massive blue silo. Now simple rectangular sheds have won over the landscape due to their lack of maintenance. Economics! The adversary to nostalgia. Although the dollar amount of subsidies that go to farmers indicates that there is in fact a price for hanging onto the past.

In the 80s and 90s immigration of the younger outstate population in the urban areas lead to a fear of the loss of the family farm. Dilapidated farm sites were pulled down and plowed under to lay in more valuable crops. A sense of abandonment rippled through the local communities. Then corporate buyers appeared to be buying up the open landscape. An era of homesteading and a farmsite on every 80 acres and gathering at the local churches and corn feeds every fall seemed to be all but gone.

As a result, a suite of subsidies has evolved over the years to help the farmers. And there have been many that have been in line with other types of backstops in the system to avoid failures and their subsequent negative impacts. I asked a farmer in one of the really good years how he felt about the subsidies. He responded that it was a little ridiculous to be on the receiving end of government aid given how well the year had gone, but, “if we let them go we’re not sure they’ll be there in the bad years.” People are fearful that the mechanics of support are not nimble enough to be able to respond in a price and practice sensitive motion.

Corporate America was not successful in becoming the majority owner of the great American breadbasket. “There is a popular myth out there that today’s modern food production system is being run by corporations or industrialized agriculture. But, the truth is that much of our food is grown and raised on farms by families. Iowa has roughly 88,000 farms and 129,000 farm operators. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2012 Census of Agriculture, more than 97 percent of Iowa farms are owned by families.” This data may be a little old but still is true. Families still own farms, they just look a little different.

All this is to say that nostalgia does have a price. And the mythic corporate boogie man is always the fall guy for the uncertainty of change. And lastly- we’d all be better off and trust the system if a coordination of services were dependent on an enumeration of the cascading costs and benefits in the system instead of a bureaucracy.

Sonnet 60

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
Nativity, once in the main of light,
Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown’d,
Crooked eclipses ’gainst his glory fight,
And Time that gave doth now his gift confound.
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth
And delves the parallels in beauty’s brow,
Feeds on the rarities of nature’s truth,
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow:
And yet to times in hope my verse shall stand,
Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.

—William Shakespeare

Rest in peace dear Margaret.

A boy from Bayonne

Frederic Bastiat is known for a set of essays, the most recognized is entitled, What is Seen and What is Not Seen. At time of writing, the french nineteenth-century statesman and philosopher is in the latter part of his life and is inspired to record some economic thoughts in a wry and witty manner. The language is vivid and descriptive and the text takes on many forms including dialogue and LaFontaine-like fables. He playfully names his actors M. Prohibant, M. Jacques Bonhomme, and M Blockhead.

En pays basque

His objective is to open the eyes of his fellow statesmen to take into account of the entire cycle of economic impact in the system; to note what is seen but also what is unseen. Much of his inspiration comes from the waste he sees in a heavily bureaucratic tariff industry which seems to have sprung up at crossovers between countries or every city gate. This gross abuse of skimming a bit off the top of every transaction, and the bloated civil service that supports such things, is easily exposed as inefficient.

The Collected Works of Bastiat is over 500 pages, so, for as much as there is to say about the restraints of free trade, it is only a segment of the entirety. It might be the portion that free traders have used to identify the author as their own. But the boy from the Paye Basque offers so much more. In fact, it is against his professed philosophy to pluck out but one section of the analysis and not look under the cushions for the rest of the loose change.

Bastiat does not deny the core services of government “the army, the navy, law and order, public works, the university, the national debt, etc..”(pg43) He decries all abuses of taking private profits whether through commercial fraud or abuse in the public sphere (pg123) or through the church (pg123). He denounces the fraudulent taking in any sector as “Plunder!” It is not simply across the custom’s desk that he sees waste in the system.

Through the volume and variety of writing he devotes to flushing out various aspects of exchanges, he seems to want to expose much more to the systems he sees than simply the revulsion of protectionism. For instance, he talks about the different natures of work. There is work where the value is determined in the end product, not the hours spent. For that reason ‘make work’ by the government is unproductive and should be replaced by unemployment insurance (pg160). He opposes postal rates which vary by distance, which suggests that he feels postal service is a public good to be provided at a reasonable cost no matter where you are, as told in the story of the Salt, the Mail and the Customs Service.

We could talk more about how he describes the various levels of markets (not ‘your’ market, ‘our’ market he tells the paysanne!) There are markets off the rail stops, there is the vaste city market of Paris, there are the other European markets, and just bursting on the scene is the market in Algiers which is a net loss, as it is pulling taxes out of the system (184).

Bastiat has a lot to say. His text deserves a more thorough read. He is trying to locate the whole elephant and would like everyone to stop advocting for the one angle he or she is clinging to.

Some people make the trip to the Twin Cities

Len Kiefer is the Deputy Chief Economist at Freddie Mac. He tweets out wonderful visuals.

Ingredients for a good restaurants

My husband and I enjoyed dinner at Blackboard, a restaurant located at the intersection of two country roads in Ottertail County. If I’m going to pay someone else to cook for me, then I prefer something I wouldn’t make myself. The walleye was scrumptious and fit the bill. I’m pretty open to the ambiance in the sense that I am more than willing to go to a dive restaurant or a street vendor if they have the goods. But this place is quaint and cozy. We sat indoors in a space that glinted and winked at you to make you feel special. The outdoor seating looked wonderful as well.

The setting of Blackboard is a little unusual as it is truly on backroads. There are many lakes in the area and lake homeowners need restaurants. It also has the good fortune of being trimmed in by a thirty-two-mile bike trail connecting it to several communities as well as Maplewood State Park.

They have live music on Thursday evening. We’ll have to go back.

Structural comments by Bertrand Russell

This passage is taken from Portraits from Memory by Bertrand Russell, published in 1953. He is reflecting on a change in societal structure since John Stuart Mills wrote his famous treaty On Liberty which was published almost one hundred years earlier in 1859.

What has changed the situation since Mill’s day is, as I remarked before, the great increase of organization. Every organization is a combination of individuals for a purpose; and, if this purpose is to be achieved, it requires a certain subordination of the individuals to the whole. If the purpose is one in which all the individuals feel a keen interest, and if the executive of the organization commands confidence, the sacrifice of liberty may be very small. But if the purpose for which the organization exists inspires only its executive, to which the other members submit for extraneous reasons, the loss of liberty involved may grow until it becomes almost total. The larger the organization, the greater becomes the gap in power between those at the top and those at the bottom, and the more likelihood there is of oppression. The modern world, for technical reasons, is very much more organized than the world of a hundred years ago: there are very many fewer acts which a man does simply from his own impulse, and very many more which he is compelled or induced to perform by some authority.

How about today? Are we more individualistic and atomized? Or associational and organized?

No Time to Die- Movie Review

If you are a 007 fan, you will be pleased with the last appearance of Daniel Craig as the debonair James Bond. Staying true to the brand, it shows off all the great features of a sprint to save the world from treacherous evil. Car chases in fabulous cars across European mega-scapes. Amazing stunts. The intrigue of who is double-crossing who.

A notable change from Bond movies of decades ago is the number of interesting female characters. There used to be the devoted secretary playing support worker and the super attractive girl plunged in the midst of the action. That was it. For decades. This film has a spectrum of female characters from somewhat comedic, to tough but still female, to gorgeous and even motherly.

Settle in for a long film, it’s worth it. I found it fresh yet true to everything I love about Bond movies.

Mn reports crime

This thread, from a former east coast journo who moved to MN to raise a family, has a lot of good information yet lacks some important details.

In this first map visualization, we see the measure is listed in increments of 100 violent crimes/100k people. The top level, 400, is denoted in black. Ingraham observes that two of the four top counties are in outstate MN as opposed to the Twin Cities metro area. However, if you look at the data you’ll notice that Hennepin and Ramsey counties are reporting over 500 violent crimes per 100K (ie they should have their own category) and the spread between the leader and Mille Lacs county is 25%. That’s a lot.

One negative point for visual misrepresentation. Playing on the general public’s weakness with numbers is not nice.

A few other observations that Ingraham highlights appear more oriented toward a political message than supporting his thesis that there is more nuance to crime than the urban areas have it and outstate doesn’t. A more thoughtful approach might be to point out that some of the higher rates of crime are in countries with larger cities like Duluth, St. Cloud, and Morehead. Or that the Iron Range has desperately needed jobs from mining and the lack thereof has placed a community into a slow slide to desperate times.

The best item of news in this thread is that Minnesota takes crime reporting seriously.

This story was only possible because Minnesota does some of the best crime data collection in the country. Serious thanks to@MnDPS_DPS and all the local agencies responsible for that.”

The threat of personal injury is, for most people, the most important factor in helping to navigate their choices on where to live, work and recreate. Accurate data which could be used to compare people’s choices, given levels of crime, is very valuable.

The culture that is CDG

Charles de Gaulle is a busy airport. Sitting about sixteen miles to the northeast of Paris’ city center, it is a hub for Air France and inter-continental air travel.

In 2019, the airport handled 76,150,007 passengers and 498,175 aircraft movements,[4] thus making it the world’s ninth busiest airport and Europe’s second busiest airport (after Heathrow) in terms of passenger numbers. Charles de Gaulle is also the busiest airport within the European Union. In terms of cargo traffic, the airport is the eleventh busiest in the world and the busiest in Europe, handling 2,102,268 metric tonnes of cargo in 2019.[4] It is also the airport which is served by most number of airlines with more than 105 airlines operating to the airport.[5]


Bozeman Montana also has an international airport- the busiest in the state. Avid skiers who call Big Sky their main mountain account for a portion of the 1.8 million passengers who passed through the boarding gates in 2021. At BZN it wouldn’t be uncommon for a perky flight attendant to look out into the line of passengers waiting to go through security and beckon passengers on a flight with an empending departure to cut the line. The other passengers wouldn’t say a word. It is perfectly acceptable to not let a fellow traveller miss their flight!

That’s not quite the way they roll at CDG. First off the lines are horrific. A snaking string of figures and baggage step through the cordoned passageways. An agitated passenger, boarding pass in hand, attempts plunging on ahead. They are concerned they will miss their flight! The attendants look away. They will only step in for the elderly or those with babes in arms.

Is OK to push ahead in CDG when polite line waiting is the only way to go in BZN? Can a person maintain their moral standing when various environments dictate different rules? Or do you just accept that sometime you’ll miss your flight?

Twin Cities market, in a snap

Full Report

Aggregate numbers in real estate are best at showing large-scale trends, and that’s why I like this snapshot summary of some home sale indicators. The impact of the mortgage interest rate fluctuation a few months ago did indeed take the edge off the bidding wars that had become the norm in the past two years. Prices are rising, but at a far lesser pace. Inventory is gaining a bit of traction- even though there are still far fewer properties for sale than in past. Days on market have ticked up just a bit so buyers can take a breath before having to write an offer.

As long as rates don’t squeeze the life out of the market, the new dynamics are favorable to the home selling process.


It’s a great word. It has panache and motion. It is much better than corruption which is the word I use in Categories Explained. But I think I’ll switch to plunder, as Bastiat uses it in the way I do, and he got there first.

In the second series of Economic Sophisms, he devotes the first chapter to “The Physiology of Plunder.” Here he states that “Plunder consists in banishing by force or fraud the freedom to negotiate in order to receive a service without offering one in return.” But I am most interested in the plunder of a fraudulant nature, the theft that occurs when moving resources from one sphere to the other.

He has a lot to say about the extraction of services by the church in return for a designated spot in heaven. He acknowledges that the priest who is the instrument of religion will be “gentle, tolerant, humble, charitable…” And yet some priests are “turned in many ways so as to draw the greatest benefit for themselves.” Representatives of the public good are privately pilfering from group resources, so it would seem.

There is plunder in the commercial sector when flawed products are sold, or measures shortened. Lawyers and doctors can skim off the public goodwill by offering “disastrous advice.” And he spends a lot of time navigating the ins and outs of plunder in the name of the government.

I look forward to reading further to see how he parses all these transactions out into a structure.

Nature- by Emily Dickinson

'Nature' is what we see— 
The Hill—the Afternoon—
Squirrel—Eclipse—the Bumble bee—
Nay—Nature is Heaven—
Nature is what we hear—
The Bobolink—the Sea—
Thunder—the Cricket—
Nay—Nature is Harmony—
Nature is what we know—
Yet have no art to say—
So impotent Our Wisdom is
To her Simplicity.
Crow-Hassan Park Reserve- Three Rivers Parks

What would a philanthropist want to know?

How to giveaway money is a tricky business. There are lots of worthy causes. Although I have yet to face this problem, it is fun to speculate on what a philanthropist would want to know to make a giving decision. Given the potential depth of this inquiry, this is just a starting point.

To manage expectations, I think a donor would like to understand how the funds will help. One way to get a handle on this is to consider at what level the investment will carry through a system. Bed nets for instance are life-saving one individual at a time. It is a one-to-one transaction and eventually the net needs to be replaced.

Then there is support given to ongoing activities. Many people like to give to their alma matter. Some choose to provide an annual scholarship thus contributing to a well-educated society. The efforts now affect a network, and the importance of the individual agent fades as the success of the group dominates. The analysis turns to whether the food shelf is serving the group of people in need, or whether the neighborhood clinic is improving local health outcomes.

And finally, there is the most adventuresome type of giving, the dollars spent to create something new altogether. It may be a novel medical treatment or a library system.

By 1920—less than 150 years after Benjamin Franklin first donated what would become a town’s first public library collection—there were more than 3,500 public libraries in the United States. This rapid expansion of the US public library can be traced back to another American man’s donation—steel magnate Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie’s funding had built about half of these 3,500 public libraries, earning him the nickname, the “Patron Saint of Libraries.”

Carnegie Libraries

These are far more risky investments as you can’t be sure that the new drug will work or that the libraries will be maintained. But in the instance of success, the public good is significant.

Reading Bastiat

We are reading The Collected Works of Frederic Bastiat for the No Due Date book club, and it is quite a volume. The sheer size of the tome is daunting, and a translated text written a few centuries ago requires a careful read. Bastiat loves to reference which makes for a collection of footnotes (interesting to be sure) at the lower edge of every page. The pace is slow.

What makes it fun are the successive anecdotes which call out for a subtitle: The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same. His primary objective in the first section is to point out the fallacies of protectionism. He talks of fears. The fear the rich will become richer and the poor will become poorer. The fear machines will replace workers. The fear workers will not receive their due for their labor. The fear that trade produces war, not peace.

There’s a section from chapter 22, Metaphores, where he discusses the impact of inflamatory language, in particular the use of the word ‘invasion.’

Take the word invasion itself.

A French ironmaster says: “May we be preserved from an invasion of iron from England.” An English landlord exclaims: “Let us reject the invasion of wheat from France!” And they propose that the barriers between the two peoples be raised. Barriers constitute isolation, isolation leads to hatred, ha tred to war, and war to invasion. “What does it matter?” say the two sophists, “is it not better to be exposed to the risk of invasion than to accept certain invasion?” And the people believe them and the barriers remain.

And yet, what analogy is there between an exchange and an invasion? What similarity can be established between a warship which comes to vomit shells, fire, and devastation on our towns and a merchant ship that comes to offer us the opportunity of exchanging goods for other goods freely and voluntarily?

Words that vomit misrepresentation. Too funny.

Bastiat (1801-1850) was born in Bayonne which is within ten miles of where this photo was taken.

Primaries- how to get on the ballot

It’s primary season in the US, which is when the field of candidates for office gets narrowed to one per party. Given that there are mainly two political parties in the US, the primary vote is an important separator of who is endorsed by a major party and who is left out of the main foray of political business. If you do not receive the endorsement of your party, you may still run as an independent. Though the chances of success as an independent are pretty low.

Tonight’s big surprise was Don Samuels’ challenge to Ilhan Omar. Although a long-time political figure in local politics, Samuels has only 697 Twitter followers compared the Omar’s 3 million. Yet he was able to muster enough support to leave the race at a 2 percent spread.

New York Times ‘Live Updates’

The message is clear. Voters are questioning the progressive agenda, leaving the door open to those who would like to take a new course of action.

Commissioner of Community Safety

MPR reports:

“We’ve been talking for two and half years about reimagining public safety, creating a continuum of public safety, bringing all aspects of our public safety responses together in one department, and today that has happened,” Jenkins said. “After much consternation and vitriol, we have reached that day.”


I like Andrea Jenkins, who is now President of the Minneapolis City Council. In some ways this trans woman is the most conservative amongst the group of thirteen. She has also held consistent views over the past two years.

Cedric Alexander will be the first ever Commissioner of Community Safety. Here’s where he accentuates the necessity of public participation in the work if keeping the streets safe:

“We need to move policing forward and rebuild relationships in the community,” Alexander said. “We need to redesign our approach to public safety so everyone is working together.”

DQ’s then and now

The first DQ restaurant was in Joliet, Illinois. It was operated by Sherb Noble and opened on June 22, 1940.[6] It served a variety of frozen products, including soft serve ice cream.[7]

The soft-serve formula was first developed in 1938 by John Fremont “J.F.” “Grandpa” McCullough and his son Alex. They convinced friend and loyal customer Sherb Noble to offer the product in his ice cream store in Kankakee, Illinois.[8] On the first day of sales, Noble sold more than 1,600 servings of the new dessert within two hours.[9] Noble and the McCulloughs went on to open the first Dairy Queen store in 1940 in Joliet, Illinois. It closed in the 1950s, but the building at 501 N Chicago Street is a city-designated landmark.[10]

Since 1940, the chain has used a franchisesystem to expand its operations globally. The first ten stores in 1941 grew to 100 by 1947, 1,446 in 1950, and 2,600 in 1955.


Missing markets in Art?

I get into a fair number of homes in the luxury market. And while many of their kitchens are outfitted with Wolf ranges and Sub-Zero fridges, most of the walls are unadorned with anything of value. Is it not odd that people who have $70K to spend on an outdoor space with a patterned limestone paver seating area don’t want to look at original art, even if it is not a Monet or a Pollock?

As I recently found out, there very few art dealers who work in the $5-$50K price ranges for original oils, watercolors, collages, or sculptures. The local craft fares display art in the under $1000 range, most items falling under $500. And from what I remember pre-covid, there were plenty of purchases being made. Browsers were also interested in ceramic wall hangings or display pottery.

But what about the middle? – the artwork that deserves to fetch more than a few hundred bucks, yet isn’t of the Sotheby’s caliber? There must be such things. There must be artists whose lives and careers gave importance to their life’s work. And similarly there should be a class of individuals, the ones wealthy enough to spend $60K on an appliance package, who would find pleasure at seeing their walls displaying something more beautiful than an item from the HOM store.

If someone knows of such a market- please leave me some breadcrumbs in the comments.

Bastiat talks about Gutenberg

Frederic Bastiat makes the observation that even though Gutenberg reaped private benefits from the printing press, the more than enormous value of this technology was (and still is) reaped from its transformation into a public good.

Found on page 33 in Economic Sophisms and “What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen” (July 1845)

TicToc shows Trucker saving the day

There’s got to be a better name for this than civic duty. Work for the community, work for free but not for nothing, work to the embetterment of my neighbors? Work3? Something?

It appears this trucker may have had a hand in stopping a pursuit of carjacking suspects a short tiime ago in north Minneapolis 👇

Got a Tok, too, if that’s your thing:


Trucker pins suspect vehicle in Minneapolis pursuit! The four kids book it from the car but were all eventually apprehended. #pursuit #trucker

♬ News Report Two – SMUSICBOX

Originally tweeted by MN CRIME | Police/Fire/EMS (@MN_CRIME) on August 4, 2022.

Supply side problems?

Girlfriend of Daunte Wright sues Kim Potter, Brooklyn Center

The girlfriend of Daunte Wright is suing former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter and the city, claiming she has suffered physical and psychological injuries as a result of the fatal incident.

According to the lawsuit filed Friday, Alayna Albrecht-Payton was sitting in the passenger seat the day Wright was shot and killed during a traffic stop.

Wright’s family previously won a lawsuit filed against the city and police department for $3.25 million, marking the largest settlement for a city outside of Minneapolis in Minnesota’s history.


Netflix Series Review: Capitani

My favorite part of watching foreign Netflix series is the change of scenery. I’ve never been to Luxembourg, and probably won’t go anytime soon as it is not very high on my must-see destinations. So taking in a show can temporarily put you en scene. Capitani is a police drama which is heavy on intrigue and light on violence. There is a nice balance of male and female characters. Everyone has a past. The youth can’t be trusted. All these factors keep the audience guessing.

The first season takes place in a rural setting. Capitani happens to be close by when a call comes over the radio to investigate the death of a fifteen-year-old girl. In season two the setting shifts back to a more typical urban underbelly. Whether Capitani is still a renegade police officer is something you will have to discover.

Book Review: American Spy

A new perspective on the spy novel can be found in Lauren Wilkeson’s 2019 novel American Spy. All the twists and turns and double-crossing agents can be found between the pages of this author’s first attempt at the espionage genre. But what makes it delightfully new is the perspective of a female African American. To be clear it is not a book on race or feminism. The story is true to the suspense thriller but her relationships, her family’s background, and her sense of identity when abroad feel fresh and authentic. It’s well worth the read.

Found at my favorite thrift store.

Syncing Incentives

Bangladesh has quite a story to tell. When I lived there as a child fifty years ago (give or take) it was an impoverished nation with few industries. At the time jute production was the most vital employer. And even today the total area under cultivation for the fiber in Bangladesh is 559,000 hectors.

Jute production circa 1970

Since then the country’s gross domestic product has surged from $4.27B in 1960 to $416.26B in 2022. This ratcheting up of financial success is all good. But ideally, a country with poor infrastructure, health, and environmental concerns would also like to make progress in public spheres.

Syncing the incentives between those with an abundance of social capital, like foreign investors, and local enterprises enjoying early success, is the puzzle destined to produce positive synergies. Who can provide what and when, and under what circumstances would they be willing to engage such resources is the type of knowledge that would be useful.

Australian woman rediscovers the advocacy of housewives

So I can only imagine their collective horror when a few years ago, in my 30s, I shacked up with a farmer schoolteacher (a male one), had two children in quick succession and sank into a quagmire of domestic drudgery in regional NSW.

There, I joined my local branch of the Country Women’s Association (CWA), arguably the nation’s most powerful and conservative women’s group.

I hesitated to mention my new membership to my staunchly feminist mother.

But it turns out that the CWA may have more in common with women’s lib than I’d imagined.

The whole article can be found here.

News clip about the Country Women’s Association celebrating its centennial.

Undoing monopolies

About 500 nurses at the Mayo Clinic’s hospital in Mankato, Minnesota, will no longer be represented by the Minnesota Nurses Association after voting 213-181 to decertify their labor union, according to a release.

Monopolies are helpful when there is an imbalance of power or when large infrastructure needs to be pushed through to completion. Ideally, a period of control is released after a time so that the actors can go back to making the best individual decisions to accomplish a blend of their private and public goals. After a 70-year stint, nurses at the Mayo Clinic will return to negotiating for themselves.

The decertification process was supervised by an outside agency.

The effort to dissolve the union was driven by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a “highly powered, well-funded outside national organization bent on undermining worker power and collective bargaining rights,” the MNA said in the release.

That Right to Work group says its goal is to provide “free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses,” according to its website.

Sustainability is in fashion

The use of the word sustainable has been popular for at least a decade now. It has the same understood meaning as green or eco-friendly. Although the dictionary definition states “able to be maintained at a certain rate or level”, Wikipedia captures how it is most often used:

Sustainability is a societal goal that broadly aims for humans to safely co-exist on planet Earth over a long time.  Specific definitions of sustainability are difficult to agree on and therefore vary in the literature and over time.[2][1] Sustainability is commonly described along the lines of three dimensions (also called pillars): environmental, economic and social.[1] This concept can be used to guide decisions at the global, national and at the individual level (e.g. sustainable living).[3] In everyday usage of the term, sustainability is often focused mainly on the environmental aspects. 

Crop rotation in agriculture is an example of a sustainable practice. By changing the demands on the soil each year, the nutrients are not diminished at the same rate and hence the land will be productive over longer periods of time. Recycling metals in lieu of further extraction through mining is a sustainable practice. Adding insulation to your attic and sealing out the gaping holes around your cannisters lighting is a sustainable effort to conserve energy.

What is interesting is that the word suggests that some of what we do is for the here and now and some of what we do is for future generations. In adapting practices where a little effort or resources are forgone in the short run, wAs this guy ith an anticipated gain in the long run, we acknowledge that there is a bimodal function to our action. There is what is chosen for oneself and what is chosen for a societal goal.

And this is a good thing as this is how we solve problems. As this guy suggests, we will always be able to feed the world.


We’ve been in an age of novel voices. You can tweet your opinion; you can mass message through email; you can tik toc your way into an endless loop of your voice. But other than the medium through which constituents communicate, what kinds of voices are there?

There are the ‘call it from the rooftop’ voices. In times of dire need, like during a pandemic, it seems necessary to advertise the benefits from vaccines, for instance, by broadcasting loudly across all channels.

Then there are times when a quiet voice is desired. If the point is to encourage a timid participant to step forward and share their stake in the issue at hand, perhaps starting the conversation in a quiet voice will bring them along.

And what about the aggressive voice? Is there a place for it in the mechanisms of our social life? It seems so. Although an extended visit is usually counterproductive.

Albert Hirshman described a dynamic to the entrance and exit of people in and out of groups of their choosing in Exit, Voice, and Loyalty. But a lot more could be said about the methods and manners in which this all occurs.

Moonlight, Summer Moonlight by Emily Brontë

’Tis moonlight, summer moonlight,
All soft and still and fair;
The solemn hour of midnight
Breathes sweet thoughts everywhere,

But most where trees are sending
Their breezy boughs on high,
Or stooping low are lending
A shelter from the sky.

And there in those wild bowers
A lovely form is laid;
Green grass and dew-steeped flowers
Wave gently round her head.

No worries about commodification

Perhaps one reason we have yet to enumerate the benefits of work done outside the job market, in the name of family or association, is that people fear the commodification of services meant to be done in loving care. A pecuniary take on the expense of raising a child or caring for an elderly parent or time devoted to helping a loved one fight an addiction, feels crass. An overt utilitarian calculation of every moment of every life sucks the soul out of good intentions.

Try to quell those fears with this thought. The impact of an individual is of no import in group dynamics. Value at an institutional level is the sum of the work over the whole group- hence there is no individual slicing and dicing of dollars to devotion.

Let me explain. If only one parental coupling in a school district tries to initiate a PTA there will be little value in it. These types of community investments only occur when a sizeable number of (individually motivated) decide to participate. So it really doesn’t matter if it is so-and-so’s mom or the Jones or the grandparent of Tommy, Johnny, or Sue. The institution of parental support within a school will be generated after a certain number of family members show up and give of their time and expertise.

Sometimes it does not matter who the individual is as no one can predict when the need for a community response will arise. The best way to deter crime is to stop it in the moment. Call the authorities, be a witness, and pull together a watch group. The act of doing any one of these things is not priced out individually, it only matters what the capacity of the group is to voluntarily respond, as needed, to crime prevention.

Watch Clint Eastwood in Grand Torino. He did not commodify himself. His contribution was calculated at the margin, and the return was significant.

Eye candy for book lovers

Magers & Quinn Booksellers rambles through an older brick building on Hennepin Ave in Minneapolis. The rows of shelving are weighted with a significant variety of material. There are dead-end aisles which serve as hideouts where time is suspended as readers thumb through their possible selections.

The display tables are sprinkled haphazardly throughout the store’s floorplan. Upward facing book covers are effectively eye catching. And the poetry display is adjacent to the mysteries- so convenient.

If you are a book lover, it’s worth a visit.

Who is keeping count?

The National Association of Counties is offering a matchmaking tool which helps link housing strategies to governments based on their situations.

This joint effort between the Brookings Institute and the Aspen Insitute Financial Program looks promising. But what I wanted to note here is the category of the cost that is attributed to housing in the core counties of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro. Both Hennepin and Ramsey counties are highlighted in green which is labeled as low-to-moderate cost. I agree with this representation.

Ten days ago the New York Times ran an article entitled The Housing Shortage Isn’t Just a Coastal Crisis Anymore. For this article the shortage of housing is scarlet hot red.

Since scarcity and prices are tied together, one of these two representations is inaccurate. The New York Times article relied on data from and organization I scoured the site for background on how they calculated their underproduction of housing but was unable to locate a reference to methods.

It just seems like there should be a reliable count of the number of dwellings in a city consisting of those in use, minus those being demolished plus those near completion. Otherwise, it seems that data generators are being hijacked for political reasons.