Monday, January 29, 2007

Is it getting hot in here, or is it just me?

A poll by TNS Canadian Facts reports that "two-thirds of respondents, or 68 per cent, said they were more concerned now than a year ago [about climate change], while 77 per cent said they were more worried about environmental issues than they were in 2004." In the same week, the Globe and Mail stated that the environment is the most important matter facing our country. Well, count me in; I'm more concerned; I think this is the most important issue. But I need some more answers ...

Dear Reader, I have two questions for you: What is your willingness to pay? And how much has this latest push to save this planet been driven this mild winter?

On the first question: Why don't these polls ask Canadians if they are willing to pay higher taxes, cut funding to other areas, or see a budget deficit to put an AAA Canadian Beef kind of plan in action? It is a good thing to demand a government to be more productive (we all try to do more with less), but is that enough? I am not sure I have an answer, but someone told me that Halifax is going to be underwater if something does not change fast. And, that - to be honest - scares me (whether it is true or not). So I think: more meat is needed.

Tell me: What happens if energy prices fall back to $30US per barrel WTI, Maritimers return home, everyone buys back their SUVs to drive in the snow when we get a "normal winter"? Will people stop caring about climate change as much? (and by 'people' I mean the 78% that cared more now than they did in 2004). Maybe there is no answer for this question and maybe I should not be asking it, but, do you think that if abnormal weather patterns pushed this issue into the open, then will a return of more 'normal conditions' would bring it back down?

If you want an economic solution to climate change, read this: Greg Mankiw's Pigou Club Manifesto . (A great idea that I will promote)

Love it or hate it. Let me know.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Teaching: people love crazy, right?

I had no idea that being the professor (or should I say "sessional instructor") could be so much fun. (1.) When you are in front of the class, everyone seems interested in what you have to say (never happened before). (2.) 'chalk and talk': getting more chalk on you than on the board. (3.) It is the only time I have heard a Bluenoser say: 'sorry for being late, sir'. (4.) I can now wake-up people on command: "On the test ...". (5.) Most importantly, I am being the most me I can be!

Let me focus on #5: Ya see, most of da time, talkin' 'bout economics, well ... gets me some blank looks and I feel the need to makeitquick (or I get the "please stop doing this again" look from Tasya). But in the classroom, it is all economics all the time! And, well, I love it; and everyone knows it; and I don't have to hide it anymore; at least in the classroom when it is my turn to teach.

This leads me to #6!

(6.) I am addicted to the smile that says: are you for real? (aka. do you love this stuff that much?) I know you are as surprised as I am that this happens.

I have seen this look a number of times already. It is like no other like it. And, for some reason, it most frequently occurs when I make joke, then pause, smile, then continue - no laughter, just the half baked smile that says: I am not smiling at what you said, I am just blown away at the fact that you said it. Don't get me wrong, this is a good thing. Being me is great - even if people think I am crazy. Because: crazy is loved. People love crazy people. That is, just as long as you are credible too.

So after a few class, I know my mission: be crazy and credible.
So, you try it. Be the most you, that you can be. Practice on your pet or your (our someone else's )children. Or rant to your plants (if they grow faster - you win!). Really.

My hands are where you can see them, and I am not going bald!

O'sure everyone loves the commercial that sings "hands in your pocket, hands in your pocket". Well, not me: I hate it.

As you probably know, each version of this commercial features scene after scene of a '50+-white male-suit wearing-balding-banker' who cannot remove their hands from peoples back pockets. I get it: all banks can be represented by image of a '50+-white male-suit wearing-balding-banker' and we should all see them as evil – they will steal from the rich, poor, young and old, and even your children if they can because they have no soul. Many of my friends and family have told me that they find this commercial so funny - I guess they must have seen the look on my face before they made the link: this will be you someday - ha ha ha. Not funny (me, a.k.a a central banker, and therefore a soon to be '50+-white-male-suit wearing-balding-banker' – too close to home).

Please consider this my formal request for this commercial to be taken off the air and destroyed because it promotes anger towards bankers. Furthermore, because it suggests that if we see a ‘50+-suit wearing-balding-white male’ that he will most likely try to put his hands in your pockets to steal your money. If we don't stop playing this commercial young children will someday be throwing stones at me.

Also, please consider this more formal request to never go bald.

Post-script: For a funnier take on this commercial: Come back to Halifax Rick, we miss you.

Friday, January 5, 2007

The Dollar Store, consumer surplus and economic joy

Does anyone else love the dollar store? Have you ever gone to one of those "Dollar Stores" and felt really good when you bought something for a dollar that you would of paid much more for?

Where does this economic joy come from? The answer is rooted in your 'willingness to pay'. When we buy something, we rarely ask ourselves (except when we are on ebay) what are we willing to pay for this item. For economists, a person's willingness to pay will determine if we purchase a item (everything from milk to haircut) and how we feel about the purchase price. In other words, if you had to buy a bottle of water at auction on a hot day, how much would you pay? The maximum amount you are willing to bid at auction is your 'willingness to pay'. Think of a really big sale ... need some help? Ok, consider the feeling when you buy a $2 pint of Alexander Keith's at happy hour - something I usually pay $4 for on Friday night. What is wonderful about a sale is that we purchase a good below the price we normal pay. And yes, the 'willingness to pay' price maybe different for every person. In economics, we frame this type of idea as consumer surplus.
This feeling, the one I get when I pay less for something that I was willing to pay, is felt each time I make a trip to the dollar store.