Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Friday, June 24, 2005

Re-Tagged in Book Tag

I have been re-tagged in book-tag, this time by Mapmaster of London Fog and by Sparky at SCSU Scholars. I wouldn't ordinarily consider re-playing, but for three reasons I'll play again.

First, it is intriguing that in one variation of the game, people ask how many books do I own, whereas in the first version with which I was tagged, the question was "How many books have you owned?" Mapmaster tagged me with the former; Sparky with the latter. The evolution has been fun to watch.

Second, there are some bloggers who need to be tagged.

Third, after reading other people's answers, and after reading more books, I have different answers.
  1. a. How many books have I owned? I don't know. We buy them, we read them (or not, sometimes), we give them away. Probably between 4,000 and 5,000.
    b. How many books do I own? I haven't done a count, but a rough estimate is about 700. We have moved several times in the past decade, and I gave away tonnes of books before each move. Also, at one time I was seriously considering early retirement [aka offering my tenure for sale to the university], and I started paring down my economics library.
  2. The Last Book I Bought. It just arrived. A used copy of A Lifetime Burning in Every Moment from the Journals of Alfred Kazin (highly recommended to me by BenS, purchased from From the blurb:
    The son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, Alfred Kazin was born in Brooklyn. His memories of his parents and childhood, movingly evoked in these journals, serve to bracket a life spent in a different world altogether. ... Kazin candidly reflects on his four marriages, his feelings about the Holocaust, his criticism of American society, the pleasure and stimulation of reading good writers..., his need to pray, his travels abroad and within the United States, and more. I'll start it "real soon now".
  3. The Last Book I Read. Flatland by Edwin Abbott [The copyright is expired, so you can find it on the internet, too]. It is a speculative novel, first published in 1884, about a hero who lives in what he and his fellow citizens perceive to be a "universe" of just two dimensions. The hero miraculously visits lineland, which is composed only of one-dimensional beings and finds it impossible to convince them there is another dimension. Then he miraculously is taken on a tour of space-land, where there are 3-dimensions. He is completely awed by the experience and is completely unable to explain the third dimension to his fellow citizens.
    Earlier, I wrote about how the possibility that we live in a 4-dimensional 'brane of an 11-dimensional universe has had a big impact on me. I can see a lot of parallels between our lives in this setting and the lives of the Flatlanders. I didn't much like the superficial socionomological commentary, but the mathematics and dimensional philosophical problems were fascinating.
    Before Flatland, I read
    Trade-offs, by Harold Winter, which I reviewed favourably.
  4. Five Books that have Meant the Most to Me. This is pretty similar to my previous answer. The first three are the same, but the last two have changed.
    The Economic Way of Thinking (Canadian Edition) by Paul Heyne and John Palmer. Paul's U.S. edition had a big impact on me. It was a real treat to do the Canadian adaptation.
    Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman. It helped me understand economics better than a four-year undergrad degree did.
    Industrial Concentration: The New Learning by Goldschmid, Mann, and Weston. This book played a major role in converting me from the Bainsian paradigm to the Chicago/UCLA approach to industrial organization.
    The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene. As I have said several times, this book (and the associated DVD series from PBS's Nova) have nudged me away from being a committed atheist by raising very intriguing questions about the nature of the universe. For more on string theory and Brian Greene, see this interview in Seed Magazine.
    How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff. I know it's trite and trivial, but we bought several cases of this book and gave them to journalists back in the days when we ran a two-week course to teach them some economics. I wish everyone could develop just a bit more intuition about probabilities and statistics.
    5b. Okay, I'm cheating. The Joyless Economy, by Tibor Scitovsky. It is quite dated, now, but it opened my eyes to the possibility that the rational maximizing paradigm cannot quite explain everything about human interactions. It made me feel uncomfortable.
  5. And now I'm supposed to Tag 5 people. Here are the new tag-ees [apologies if you were already tagged and I missed your answers; "no tag-backs!"]
    1. Craig Newmark of
    Newmark's Door. Craig introduced me to blogs, and his is the first one I read each weekday morning.
    2. Skip Sauer, co-blogger and founder of
    The Sports Economist.
    3. Kevin Brancato, co-blogger and founder of
    Always Low Prices [and major blogger of Truck and Barter]. He just finished his PhD defence, and it will be interesting to see what else he has been doing with his time (besides working and blogging).
    4. Tom Hanna of
    Tom's Rants.
    5. Stephen Ayer of
    Disinterested Party.
    Update: I just realized that Phil Miller of Market Power hasn't responded to my first tag. Maybe he'll respond if I re-tag him.
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