Monday, October 31, 2005

The economics of the firm made easy

While it may seem from my recent posts that I am only taking one class and that class is Greek, that is misleading. I am actually not even taking Greek (something that apparently came as a shock to my professor today when I asked if he wanted me to take the midterm), but I am actually taking introduction to microeconomics, a class which I am doing worse in than the Greek I am not really taking. I've decided that the reasons for this, besides my laziness and distraction, are the that econ involves numbers and not feelings, which are factors I am not well-trained to handle, and that it more specifically involves logic, a capacity which I do not, alas, possess. As I was considering this problem while not studying econ yesterday, I recalled my previous experiences in business and concluded that they are perfectly illustrative of just this mental failure on my part to grasp the logic of business.

First, there was the lawn care company my neighbor, Dale, and I started in second grade. We raked yards and shoveled walks, depending on the season. Our first error was advertising. We went door-to-door and offered our services to each individual neighbor. High opportunity cost, low return. To think what we could have done with some basic market research--Mrs. Kim had teenage sons that could be coerced into lawn care for free, Dale's perennially warring neighbors paid for professional service, etc. We could've immediately narrowed our potential clientele down to old people. Hell, even printing up a few flyers would've been more efficient. Our block only has a dozen or so houses. We could at least let the business come to us rather than trudging after it with all our lawn care gear.

Then we faced the problem of plant. We were a low-technology firm no doubt, but that in itself might have been acceptable had we not adopted such an inefficient method of production. We raked the leaves, then we jumped in them. Then we threw them at each other. Then we shaped them into a rectangular pile and pretended it was a ship and we were Pilgrims. Sometimes, the ship would catch on fire, and we'd have to carve out smaller lifeboats from the main ship to rescue each other. Or there would be Indian attacks on the high seas. Not only did we lack economic understanding, we also lacked basic historical knowledge. In any case, each yard took the better part of an afternoon to complete using this production method.

Then there was the issue of labor supply. There were Dale and I, aged 8. We were occasionally joined by another neighbor, Scott, also aged 8. Scott's younger brother, Craig, went wherever Scott went. Craig was only five and clearly an unskilled worker, but he could at least hold bags open while we stuffed the leaves in. We were stuck with him in any case by mandate of Scott's mother. However, Dale and I made the fatal error of forming a partnership with Scott and Craig despite their itinerancy and smaller capital investment in the firm rather than employing them at wages lower than our total profits. Paying a bag-holder a share equal to what we earned as rakers was ridiculous. We did realize that soon enough, and resolved the problem by refusing to pay Craig anything at all on the grounds that he was just a baby. Unfortunately, this led to labor unrest and subsequent striking and tantrum-throwing. Not only did we henceforth have to hold our own bags, but Scott got grounded by his mother for neglecting his brother, and our quantity supplied was less than the intersection of marginal cost and marginal revenue. Because of an inefficient factor market, our firm was forced to restrict output.

The biggest problem with our economic reasoning, however, was this issue of marginal cost, or any kind of cost at all. We failed to grasp the idea that we incurred any cost at all, even if that cost was only time that could be spent watching cartoons or shooting each other in the head with Nerf guns. Unsure what kind of market we were entering in lawn-care service and whether we should be price-takers or price-seekers, we decided that the logical thing to do about price was not to maximize profit but simply to undercut all possible competition. So we did. We charged five cents per yard for either raking or shoveling. FIVE CENTS. And we were really, really excited when, after three months in business, we were able to make enough net revenue to purchase one pack of gum to be split between all of us.

And that is why I am doing so badly in microeconomics today.

Sunday, October 30, 2005


Frodo, Solon, and Daniel Webster

Am I not the hottest bearded Athenian lawgiver you ever saw? But why am I so short?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The historical present

I hate the historical past. In most of my history papers, I use the literary present, and then go back and change all the "is" to "was" out of necessity. This never happens when I write historical geography papers. Historical geography does not deal in the history of ideas, and so it is finally and totally in the past. But ideas, you never know with them. How do we know for sure that Cleisthenes was obliged to be a democrat because of the circumstances of his election? If those circumstances happen again, then he is obliged. Now, ok, he is not going to happen again, so he is a was. But the idea is not a was. It has the potential to be an is. So who decides the tense? Cleisthenes or his idea? I think I decide the tense. And it is. Is. It is is. You know.

Is there some special secret to writing Western Civ papers? Because I think I'm doing something wrong here. Or maybe I'm just really scared of the professor still.

And, big pimpin' comes to the U of C, where it is roundly condemned, just like everything else. My favorite line: "When we see the word ghetto, we think black, but when we think of white trash, it's more of a class issue," Rodriguez said. Yes, white trash. White trash. WHITE trash. Definitely a class thing.

"I've had a long day, so now I get to eat cake out of a box and watch trash."

Monday, October 17, 2005

I bet your exterminator isn't as cute as mine

Last night, the cat killed a roach. Well, she almost killed it; it was still wiggling its limbs fruitlessly when we discovered her sitting on it, but I'll give her credit since roaches are tough fuckers and even a direct hit from Raid spray doesn't do them in completely. I was very proud. Formerly, she was just fuzzy, but now she is fuzzy and so utilitarian!

Also, Alex and I have decided to undertake further exploration of curious things, but on a more local level this time. We're planning to attend the next revolutionary Marxist reading group meeting, hosted by your friends and ours, the Youth Spartacist League. I'm not sure I'm going to have time to squeeze the required reading of Lenin, Spartacist Pamphlet #46, and the Worker's Vanguard #773 into my schedule, but I hope I will still be able to contribute helpful insights about the evil capitalist imperialist pigs if called upon to do so.

And tonight, in the further vein of curious things, the Objectivists bring in a speaker on Greece, Rome, and Homeland Security. Ah, college. Letting your imagination and your bizarre fucked up political philosophies roam free.

Saturday, October 15, 2005


So I turned in the history paper on Friday afternoon, and I just opened the file again on my laptop to save it to my computer when I noticed that I had failed to make some very key corrections before handing it in. Namely, in my draft, I referred to a source as "the Oxford History of BlahBlah," having forgotten the actual title. The next day, at the library, I looked up the citation and fixed it elsewhere in the paper, but it seems that I completely forgot to change it in that instance. And so I handed in a paper whose first sentence reads, "Jasper Griffin, in the Oxford History of BlahBlah, argues that myth is a vehicle that "defines by contrast the lot of real men"..."

Normally, I only blush when I am embarrassed in public, but the only public currently around is the cat, and I nonetheless resemble a tomato.

I'm definitely below this quarter's quota of accidentally insulting professors to their faces or via email, so I guess I had to find some alternate way to sabotage myself.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

In which I translate line 330d of the Republic into perfect English

Socrates: Much so, I said. But to me still tell this--what greatest you believe good to enjoy of much property to gain?

I have a bright future in languages.