Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Is Economics Hard?

Recently, there has been a discussion in the blogsphere, sparked by a short essay of Kartik Athreya: Economics is Hard, Don't Let Bloggers Tell You Otherwise.

Well, economics is hard, at least for me, and I believe for the baristas here too, who have spent days and nights trying to understand one chapter of, say, a standard micro or macro grad textbook.

Then, why the baristas here seemingly make economics fun?

Because it is indeed fun, and we want to share the fun to you all, including the non-economics students, by skipping most of those technicalities and jargons. We at the Cafe want to convey a simple message that you can use economics to see things differently. The most politically motivated purpose is probably just to warn you against ill-informed press corps.

I have no illusion that hanging out in the Cafe would substitute for a proper formal economic education -- but it is equally annoying to see some people believe he/she has mastered economics simply by reading one or two popular books by Stiglitz or Krugman. This is why sometimes we launch a sharp-tongued attack against his/her arguments (note: the argument, not personal)

Is econ hard? Yes. So are anthropology, political science, English literature, biology, and any serious attempt to understand things rationally and systematically.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Supposedly Summer Reading List

OK, most of you will be glued to TV watching the World Cup. Aco has been deriving some lemmas regarding optimal direction for penalty kick, taken from Levitt paper. I know, you may think we economists have funny way in seeing things, including football, but, sorry, just live with that, OK? You will get used to, as many of you already did.

In the meantime though, the Cafe is preparing to buy books for your summer perusal. Here is the list
1. Fault Lines, by Raghuram Rajan
2. The Company of Strangers: A Natural History of Economic Life, by Paul Seabright
3. The Upside of Irrationality, The Unexpected Benefit of Defying Logic at Work and at Home, by Dan Ariely
4. Zombie Anthology -- ask Ujang for detail
5. Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolves, by Frans de Waal

And, oh, I start to, -whaddayacallit?-, tweeting.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

What 15 bn IDR Can Make

If I had 15 billion IDR (1.62 mn USD) at my disposal, I'd buy a new espresso machine.

With that, I can make a new brewing called espresso aspiratiano a.k.a pork-barrel, sold exclusively to Indonesian lawmakers.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

There Is Something About Bagel

I was sitting in a bagel shop this bright mid-morning with Lintar. Overlooking an intersection in a typical suburb scene, you can always tell some of people's psyche from traffic and city landscape -- the way Sartre did on New York city some decades ago. Or, you can do it by observing simple things like a cup of coffee and donut, like what Umar Kayam did on the same city.

And if you come to think about it, I guess 95 percent of our life and thinking is spent for things that are trivial and, quite simply, light, in Kunderan sense. Like bagel with sun-dried tomato shmear -- or a lone old man sitting behind me with his iPad on, reading probably today's WaPo's gripping stories on retaliative killings in the southeast neighborhood.

All these make the idea of politics is getting harder to comprehend. It gets me thinking why people with vast resources in his/her hand are interested in politics. After all, a bagel and a cup of coffee cost you about two bucks and they can make your day.

Maybe, for them, it is a game worth playing and winning. But for what? Is evading tax a good game? Is crushing many people's hopes for a long-awaited reform a game worth playing?

Those politics and the following rhetoric also tend to suffocate. I am recently reading the biography of Marx (Karl, not Groucho, nor Richard). Putting him into perspective as a human being, albeit brilliant, really lifts up the heaviness of Marxist ideology. With politics, the complexity of a human's mind is wrapped into talking points and, in many cases, guns. Of course, this is not just the case for Marx, but also for many others brilliant minds whose thoughts are evolved into political movement.

Enough said. Moral of the story is that, perhaps, even Noam Chomsky and Gary Becker need to sometimes just have good bagel and coffee.

In the meantime, let the Cafe play jazz rock and roll to you, now. This time, double LP of Exile on Main St. by The Rolling Stones.