The King of Beers

 

 

This post about higher prices on tortillas packaged as ‘wraps’, reminded me of some thinking I’ve been doing lately about beer.

 

First, I noticed that the stalwart beers are Bud Light and Miller Lite. They have been for some time, so this isn’t anything new. But, I think it’s interesting that they use the word ‘light’ to distinguish it, rather than ‘diet’.

 

“Diet Bud”, “Diet Budweiser” and “Diet Miller” just doesn’t have a very appealing ring to it. Yet, “Diet Coke” seems better. What about “Coke Light”?

 

Second, I’ve recently switched away from diet beers. I drink more regular beer now. It seems that a lot of the folks who drink diet beer are overweight, so something isn’t working.

 

A family member who rarely drinks non-diet beers had a Budweiser at my house recently. He said, “Wow. This is good beer.” I pointed to the label, and noted, “Of course, it’s the King of Beers.”

 

Ronald Reagan’s Hair for VP

 

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may recall that I am a huge fan of Paul Ryan’s hair. It’s very Reagan-esque.

And, while this isn’t a Reagan fan blog and I realize Reagan was a politician, the type of person I’ve programmed myself to distrust even when I think I like them, as politicians go, you could do much worse than Reagan.

Check this out:

As hair goes, Romney made an excellent choice.

I also think Ryan is one of the best politicians out there in being able to articulate a more liberty-minded version of conservative politics, which is another trait he shares with Ronald Reagan. I agree with much of what Charles Rowley writes here.

 

Why we do the things we do

This Marginal Revolution post reminded me of something I encounter frequently, even with myself. The post excerpts a study:

In fact our conscious brain has surprisingly little grasp of what makes us decide to do one thing rather than another.  A telling example of this ignorance has been provided by Joe LeDoux and Michael Gazzaniga, two neuroscientists who conducted a study of patients with a severed corpus callosum, the bundle of nerve fibers connecting the two hemispheres of the brain, leaving the two sides of the brain unable to communicate with each other.  LeDoux and Gazzaniga gave instructions to these patients, via their right hemisphere (hemispheres can be targeted with instructions shown to either the left or right visual field), to giggle or wave a hand, then asked them, via the left hemisphere, why they were laughing or waving.  The patients’ left hemisphere had no knowledge of the instructions given to their right hemisphere, but the patients would nonetheless venture an explanation, saying that they were laughing because the doctors looked so funny or waving because they thought they saw a friend.  However implausible the answer, the patients were convinced they knew why they were acting in the way they were; but they were deluded in thinking so.  Their self-understanding was pure confabulation.

I often find myself in discussions with folks who can’t override their urge to start jabbing their mouth and simply say, I don’t know, why do you think what you think?

I, too, often find myself doing things that I find odd and when I search for an explanation, I find that my first explanation is usually one that would satisfy an external observer. But, then I dive deeper and find other reasons that weren’t intuitive, but were probably more important than the externally acceptable reason.

I’m cheap. I was a loyal shopper of Walmart, until Target opened across the street from it. Then I found myself in Target more often. Why? I’m cheap. I’m supposed to like the lower prices. And, at the time, there was a visible difference in most prices.

So, on several trips to Walmart and Target I “observed” myself. I asked myself questions. What’s keeping me from going to Walmart? Why am I going to Target?

Many things popped up. The Target parking lot isn’t as packed. I don’t have to walk as far. Target’s parking was clean. The store was cleaner and updated. The product displays were always in good order and the products were well presented. I would have to wait a long time to checkout at Walmart. At Walmart, it seemed like they shoved the products on the shelves.Target had some different products that I would like to browse. I wasn’t scared of the folks who shopped at Target. The folks who worked at Target seemed a bit less tired and a bit more engaged.

I came to find that it just wasn’t one reason. There were many. Some would say it was the overall experience. Maybe some mattered more than others, but they all mattered.

Walmart recognized this, too. They responded by improving on many of these things and have won me back, sometimes.

The depth and breadth of these reasons surprised me. I didn’t put conscious thought into any of these things until I first noticed my behavior was odd (not always going for the lowest price) and then decided to “observe” my behavior.

That exercise alone humbled me into being more willing to say, I don’t know, recognizing that he world is complex and the simple answer is often not the whole story. That reminds me of a favorite Oliver Wendell Holmes quote:

I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity. -Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Supreme Court Justice, 1902 – 1932

Not sure I’d give my life for it, but it’s definitely worth more.

“Romney Hood” Straw Man

In logic lingo, a straw man fallacy is a false and easily defeated representation of your debate opponent’s position.

A real straw man is easy to beat in a fight. It has no muscles or awareness to counteract your advances. I could tell you that I beat up “Mike Tyson” if I named a scarecrow Mike Tyson and beat it up. You would be right to be skeptical of my claim. If you cared enough, you might ask me some follow-ups, like are you talking about THE Mike Tyson?

Similarly, a straw man argument is easy to refute. Creating a straw man version of your opponent’s position is a common and natural argument technique that we’ve all used or encountered since we started talking.

Common examples conservative-types encounter include you have no compassion. Or, you just don’t care about poor people. Sometimes it’s a little more subtle. I can see your point, buy my conscience won’t let me support your position. 

Obama’s recent characterization of his opponent’s tax plan as Romney Hood, or the opposite of Robin Hood, is also a good example of a straw man argument.

To make this characterization, Obama leveraged the analysis of a third-party that took liberties at guessing Romney’s full tax plan, identified actions they believe Romney would take when he discovered that his plan wouldn’t work and, assumed it wouldn’t work. In other words, Obama beat up Mike Tyson.

Beware of straw men during this election season.

Getting cause and effect backwards

This post at The Pretense of Knowledge about the cognitive dissonance anti-consumerist supporters of Keynesian stimulus (i.e. college hippies), reminds me of an often misunderstood cause and effect in our economy.

The underlying belief of government stimulus spending is that spending itself is wealth.

But, the cause and effect go the other way. Spending does not cause wealth, wealth causes spending. 

Before my early ancestor, Unk, initiated the first trade with your early ancestor Puhg, Unk had to first create something that Puhg wanted. Likewise for Pugh.

So, while Unk got really good at gathering apples (investing), enough so that he had more than he needed at the moment (savings), Pugh was honing his skills catching fish (investing again), more than he needed. Unk trade a few of his extra apples, that he valued less, with Pugh for some fish, which he valued a bit more.  Likewise for Pugh.

In the trade value was created for both Unk and Pugh.

Now supporters of Keynesian stimulus will tell me that government stimulus “spending” is really “investment”, just like the investment Unk made in improving his apple gathering productivity. The government “investment” improves “our” productivity.

And, in some cases, that may be true. However, I noticed on a recent trip through several states that many of the shiniest and most architecturally adventurous new buildings, many adorned with art, happened to be government buildings.

I noticed some new private buildings, too. They were more conventional, less flashy. Maybe government knows something the private building owners don’t. Perhaps they know that groundbreaking architecture and public art adds to productivity. Certainly there are some private buildings like that as well.  But, I wondered how “we’ve” become more productive with such an elaborate edifice for a public works building, in one case.

What ‘earned success’ means

What ‘earned success’ means to a…

…libertarian: You take risks and with quite a bit of luck, persistence and hard work you discover something that creates value by improving other folks standard of living so much that they willingly trade some of the value they have created (or been given) for it. Folks earn their success by providing for the needs and wants of others.

…conservative: Smart people take risks and with persistence, laser-like focus, the right connections and hard work build an empire. Conservatives tend to gloss over parts about luck and providing for the needs and wants of others.

…moderate: You work hard and become successful.

…liberal: You win prestigious awards, you are viewed as humanitarian or anything else deemed praise-worthy, like designing a really cool phone or giving a heart-felt portrayal of a monster of history on the big screen.

…progressive: Being picked as a winner by a progressive government. If you do what the that government deems as worthy, you’ve earned it. If government is not controlled by progressives at the moment, look to the next most progressive government to see what they deem as worthy.

That’s not ‘top-down’

I saw a Barack Obama campaign ad while watching the Olympics the other night.

He said we have a choice to make in a few months. It was something like a choice between cutting taxes for the wealthy and hoping that works its way down to the rest of us, which is more top-down. We tried that. It didn’t work. Or we can invest in education, research, etc.

I thought this was funny for two reasons.

First, spending ourselves silly hasn’t worked either.

Second, letting folks keep what they earned isn’t top-down. In fact, it’s the opposite. That’s bottoms-up. What he says he wants to do in the commercial — tax and spend and direct money into the things he sees fit like education and research — is ‘top-down’.

Politicians love to redefine words. They redefined “reduced rate of growth” as a “spending cut” long ago. If your raise wasn’t as much as last year, do you ask your boss why your salary was cut? Probably not. You would look stupid.

‘Top-down’ refers to a system that is micromanaged by the folks in charge. ‘Bottoms-up’ is the opposite.

Washington DC taxing away more of your earnings so bureaucrats can decide how to spend it (e.g. grant to crazy in CO) is top-down. Letting us keep more of our earnings so we can decide how to use it is bottoms-up.

So, not only did Obama get the definition of top-down wrong, but he immediately said he wants to do more of the very thing that he said we should stop doing. Hmmm.

Speaking of crazy in CO, I’ve heard the fact that he was receiving taxpayer dollars mentioned on the news. I haven’t yet seen any aspiring investigative journalists go after the folks who dispense those dollars to hold them accountable.

What if it turned out that the Koch Bros. were funding crazy’s research and education? A 24/7 encampment of reporters would camp at their doorstep asking how they could be so irresponsible and where’s their accountability and what they owe to make amends?

Why hasn’t anyone followed that same trail through the government? Who approved the subsidy? How often is it reviewed? Why didn’t he stop receiving it as soon as he notified the school that he dropped out?

Which makes a key point about Obama’s desired (but lets not call it) top-down management — it doesn’t work because there is no accountability.