Monday, October 15, 2007

Discover Your Inner Economist

Tyler Cowen's Discover Your Inner Economist is an entertaining and enjoyable read but I can't claim having discovered something completely new that would help me live a better, more productive life. There are some great reminders though :

1. Don't sign up for an annual gym membership because you'll end up spending more per visit. Most people lack motivation to show up five times a week which is what it takes to make the annual membership lucrative. But people like deceiving themselves and gyms make their money as a result of such wide-spread self-deception.

2. When it comes to relationships, playing hard to get most often does not work because anyone who had read books of The Rules genre can imitate that behavior. Cowen notes he is being playing hard to get with Salma Hayek for a long time but it has not yielded any dividends up to now. I love that example.

3. Calcutta sweets are among the best in the world. Even without having stepped outside Calcutta in their whole lives, most Bengalis take this to be self-evident. It is nice to see Cowen's endorsement.

4. The best ethnic restaurants are in strip malls away from downtown that are not home to any big box stores. He suggests making a meal of the appetizers and side dishes at ethnic restaurants. I almost always do that because it gives me a chance to try several things at the same time.

5. Make people aware of the dollar value of a meeting and then ask the question "Have we achieved anything in the past hour that would justify $1500 of the company's money ?". I love this one. Some system and rigor around this would be great. Incentives for getting more done with fewer meetings, reporting on total cost of meetings and conference bridge lines on a weekly basis, setting goals for reducing costs - the possibilities are endless. I am up for anything that would free up my calendar and allow me to get some work done for a change.

6. Musical taste has a lot to do with class and upbringing. There is such a thing as a musical cosmopolitan. Preferring Radiohead and Coldplay to 50 Cent is not different from favoring one designer label over the other. Uber-premium aficionados will probably seek out highly obscure indie bands. Cowen correctly points out that if a genre is strongly disliked by some people, it will be strongly liked by some other people. In explaining the love of new in music, He says "Music is about identity. It is also about a differential identity. The problem with old music is simple. Somebody else has already liked it."

7.Some best sellers are unreadable simply because I the reader is not the intended audience. Makes me feel better about giving up on Camille Paglia's Sexual Personae. It's on Cowen's list of unread books too.

8. Obsession with degree, title and alma mater is proportional to lack of significant accomplishment thereafter. This jives with experience. Those who have reached a certain level of professional success don't talk about where they went to school or what degrees they have earned. Their achievements thereafter are big enough to overshadow such things. However, those who fail to live up to the promise of their academic pedigree flaunt it at every opportunity.


Suchi said...

Sounds very promising.
But re point #8, isn't obsession with professional achievement thereafter just a replacement for "obsession with degree, title and alma mater"?

In my experience, if you flaunt something too much, you're either insecure or immature.

ggop said...

I read Marginal Revolution, looks like I will scout my used book store for a copy. Thanks for the reco.
The bit about Tyler playing hard to get with Salma Hayek cracked me up.