June 15th, 2005

CDs

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster

I just watched Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, a documentary made during the writing of their album St. Anger. Even if it is long (2½ hours), it's an excellent movie. But not because it gave me any insight into Metallica's creative process or anything. It was something else.

First, I have to say I am more a casual fan of Metallica than I am die-hard. Much more casual. I don't think I heard of them before And Justice For All's One video made M.T.V. back in the day when M.T.V. played videos. The only album of theirs I've listened to in its entirety is the black album. So my opinion won't mean shit to the die-hard fans.

And my commentary on this isn't because the documentary revealed Metallica to be something I didn't think them to be. While many bands, particularly those in the metal genre, started off as hard-partying youngsters, as they age they are likely to morph into something else, at least behind the scenes. That much was apparent for Metallica when they all chopped their hair years ago and started having kids and whatnot. Fuck, even Ozzie with a brain like swiss cheese spends a large amount of his time like Martha fucking Stewart. That was the real reason for the popularity of his reality show, The Osbournes. It wasn't that he was fucking crazy. I think we all expected that after years of taking too many drugs and his legendary antics. What made that show what it was placing the crazy in what often appeared to be normal settings that many of us experience and then letting the insanity loose. But I digress. I expected Hetfield and Ulrich to be middle-aged behind the scenes.

So what revealed itself to me in the documentary? It was the utter inability of this group of men to live without a full time psycho-babble therapist in their midst. Even to the point that they were worried he thought he was in the band, and yet they still couldn't give him the boot. I've had my own experiences with therapy. There's good therapy, and there's meaningless babble. And watching 2½ hours of therapy sessions where everyone spouts mindless drivel disappoints me. It would disappoint me if it was my family, if it was my friends, my (nonexistant) girlfriend, or anyone I would think to be the no-bullshit intelligent type. And I always thought of Metallica as the no bullshit band. And I was wrong. They were disappointingly human in a way I did not expect. Men who could not be honest with each other after over 20 years together. They couched their statements to avoid blame. They manipulated each other. They chased off Jason Newsted, which though it might have been good artistically, was done primarily because Hetfield had to maintain the upper hand. These people were fundamentally dishonest with each other and afraid of themselves.

And that insight is what I gained from the documentary.

Editorial

Taxes

People who complain about taxes but want the government to do all sorts of things like have roads and police and unemployment insurance and make sure the drug companies don't kill you with bad medicine can all stuff a sock in it. There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. You don't know how good you got it. The I.R.S. took $140,000 out of my pocket this year. Then there's the property taxes I pay. And the motor vehicle tax. And the gas tax. And the sales tax. So don't come complaining to me about high taxes. I'm pretty sure I paid more than you did.

Yeah, I wish taxes were lower. But I'm happy to pay my part. You want low taxes, move to a place like Saudi Arabia or Grand Cayman or that abandoned oil platform that someone declared it's own country. You live here, you take the taxes with the citizenship and the residency. Think the taxes are too high, get enough people together and vote against them. Until then, complaining about unspecified waste and how there must be unnecessary government is just dumb. Specify what you want to get rid of, and then make a case for it that's good enough to convince people.

School

Eco 200: food aid

(individual) The nation of Somalia disintegrated in the early 1990s after the mlitary overthrow of its longtime dictator. Agriculture, commerce, and social institutions broke down, creating a threat of massive starvation.

  1. What would have been the quickest and most effective way for Western nations to alleviate the threat of starvation?

    Credit or money for the purchase of food or related items.

  2. Some relief agencies recommended that grain be taken from Western Europe's surplus stocks and simply dumped into Somalia in large amounts: left on the nation's long coastline, for example, and dropped from cargo planes in the interior. What do you think would have happened if this recommendation had been followed?

    The food would either go to people who lived very close by to the drop points. Those with the means to transport it (warlords, et. al.) would collect and hoard it. Others still would have no means of obtaining the food, because they still would have little to exchange for it, and they would have little means of transport to places that did have it.

  3. What do you think would have happened if, instead of sending grain, Western nations had used helicopters to scatter one-dollar and five-dollar bills all over the country? Would those bills have attracted grain from Europe?

    Yes. A fair amount of food would have been purchased and transported to Somalia. But a large amount of the money would also have gone toward protecting food from those with guns. Much of the money would necessarily have to be spent on paying for guns to prevent theft.

  4. Through what processes does cocaine move in large amounts from South American mountains to the streets of American cities despite the determined efforts of governments to prevent it?

    The price goes on the drugs goes high enough to cover the added cost of smuggling (compared to legitimate wares). The costs are higher, but the scarcity commands a higher price.

School

Eco 200: parking garages

(individual) When federal environmental rulings forced stricter limits on street parking in midtown New York, parking-garage rates rose. Why? New York's consumer affairs commissioner called for a crackdown on parking-garage gougers. What would happen if parking-garage rates were held down by law? Who do you think would end up parking in the garages?

Prices rose because costs rose. With higher costs, garage operators would turn to other uses of their property. With the remaining supply being less than before and demand not changing (at least not simultaneously with the enactment of the limits), prices will rise.

Those willing to pay the non-monetary costs would end up parking in the garages if prices wre held down by law. With prices constrained, garage operators would have little incentive to keep attendants there all day. Once the spots are all fill past a certain point, they can close the doors. So it's likely to be the people who are willing to get up really early to get their spot. And those willing to leave their cars there rather than give up the spot and lose it.

School

Eco 200: turkeys

(individual) If the supply of turkeys in a particular November turned out to be unusually small, do you think a turkey shortage would result? Why or why not?

There would be a shortage of turkeys available at previous years' prices. However, there is no shortage as consumers will turn to (easily substitutable) alternatives such as ham as prices rise. All who were wanting to pay the going rate would get one, and by definition, there would be no shortage.

School

Eco 200: camping

(individual) If you travel through the western United States in the summer, you are much more likely to encounter a shortage of camping spaces than of motel rooms. Why?

Much of the camping spaces provided are supplied by the government at only nominal cost to consumers. This will create a high amount demanded, as camping would then be cheap and enjoyable.

School

Eco 200: glaziers

(individual) A severe hurricane passing through a populated area will blow out a lot of windows and thereby cause a huge increase in demand for the services of glaziers. If glaziers respond by raising their hourly rates, the cost to homeowners of having their windows repaired will rise. But does a hurricane raise the cost to glaziers of repairing windows? Or are glaziers who raise their rates merely taking unfair advantage of the situation? The following questions might help you to think the issue through.

  1. Why are glaziers able to raise their prices?

    Glaziers can raise prices because the amount demanded has risen.

  2. Who is likely to put the most pressure on glaziers to raise their prices?

    People with broken windows. They will be willing to pay more to get their windows fixed first (presumably because the monetary and non-monetary costs of broken windows grow the longer the windows remain broken).

  3. In what ways will glaziers experience marginal opportunity costs?

    They leave money on the table by not taking the extra money.

  4. Why might glaziers be reluctant to raise prices?

    Because alternatives become more attractive. People might switch to unbreakable plastic windows, and the next hurricane then has no broken windows to fix.

  5. What might a glazier do to raise prices without angering people in the community?

    Charge for the spot in line (which is really what they are paying for anyway) but not the "labor" or "materials" other than "at cost." If folks were willing to wait forever, the prices would never rise as there is plenty of supply over time. There's just not that much supply available exactly when they want it.

  6. In what ways will rising prices make more glazier services available to people in the community?

    By attracting more glaziers to the area (and thus increasing the amount supplied).

School

Eco 200: physicians

(individual) Physicians who have borrowed extensively to finance their medical educations often enter practice with large debts that they must begin repaying.

  1. What differences would you expect to observe in the fees set by three young physicians just setting up practice if one financed his education by borrowing and must now make payments of $9600 per yer for 15 years, another had her entire education paid for by her parents, and the third when all the way through on government-provided scholarships and grants?

    I'd expect no difference at all, all other things being equal. The means of funding the education is a sunk cost by the point in time referred to in the question.

  2. Evaluate the argument, put forward by the business manager of a medical school, that the government could lower our doctor bills by paying for the entire education of physicians, thus making it unnecessary for physicians to recover the costs of their education (plus interest) by raising their fees?

    The argument has some merit, though not for the reason specified. At the point a prospective physician enters medical school, he will be evaluating total future revenue vs. total future cost. At that point the funding of school is not sunk. Tuition free schooling reduces the cost portion. So more physicians will enter the market and prices will eventually drop. However, the argument that they are recovering their fees is specious. At the point a physician sets fees, education is a sunk cost.

  3. The author of the above argument asserted that you and I will have to cover the cost of the doctors' loan repayments in our fees because these payments are a legitimate cost of doing business. Wht difference does it make whether particular payments are or are not a legitimate cost of doing business? Suppose all physicians practicing in an area had to pay $5000 a year to the local crime syndicate as protection money. Would these payments be a legitimate cost of doing business? Would they affect doctor's fees?

    They would affect doctor's fees only in that when costs rise above revenues, the doctor's will find other opportunities (relocation or other occupations). And so the supply of physicians will dwindle and prices will rise. All the costs are legitimate in that respect.

School

Eco 200: tutoring

(individual) The graph in Figure 5-4 reproduces the graph used in Chapter 3 (Figure 3-3) to show how supply curves are based on opportunity cost curves. It adds a demand curve, showing how many hours of tutoring students would want to buy at various prices.

  1. What will students have to pay for an hour of tutoring in economics? How many hours will they buy?

    It appears from the graph that they will purchase 18 hours of tutoring per day, at the price of $16 per hour.

  2. The opportunity cost to Marx of tutoring was given as $7.99—the wage he could get for fomenting revolutions. If you know this fact and consequently ask Marx to tutor you for $10 an hour, he will tell you that the opportunity cost to himself of tutoring you is $16. Is he right? Or is he just trying to exploit you?

    We know he's qualified to tutor and to foment revolution. His opportunities in fomenting pay $7.99, but his opportunities in tutoring pay $16. He's not exploiting you.

  3. If Merrill Lynch offer Ricardo full-time work at $27.99 an hour, he will no longer be willing to supply 4 hours of tutoring per day for $10 an hour. What will happen to the price of tutoring service as a result?

    Prices would rise to $20 per hour, and only 16 hours would be offered per week (down from 18).

  4. If the demand for tutoring service doubled (i.e., twice as many hours were demanded at each price as previously), what would happen to the price of tutoring services and to the number of hours supplied?

    The demand curve would move to the right and slope less severely. The price would rise to $26 and 26 hours would be supplied, unless one of the suppliers is willing to supply partial hours of tutoring. In which case, the price would drop to $24.01, and 27.99 hours would be supplied.

  5. If demand tripled, what would be the price and number of hours supplied?

    31 hours of tutoring would be provided, at a little bit over $30 an hour.

School

Eco 200: nationalized health care

(individual) Figure 5-6 portrays a supply curve of physicians' services and a demand curve for thos services. The market-clearing fee is $30.00.

  1. To what position will the demand curve shift if the government arees to pay the entire fee charged by physicians? What will consequently happen to the market-clearing price? (Hint: What quantity will people demand at a zero price?)

    6 million will be demanded.

  2. What will happen to the demand curve and to the market-clearing price if the government commits itself to pay one-half of physicians' fees? (Hint: When the fee charged is $30, what is the fee paid by consumers? What quantity will they want to purchase at this price?)

    4 million will be demanded, and the market-clearing fee will be $40, though consumers will only pay $20 of that.

  3. What will be the market-clearing price if the government pays 80 percent of the fee charged by physicians?

    5 million will be demanded, and the market-clearing fee will be $50, of which $10 will be paid by the consumer.