Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Economic Butterfly Effect

"The Market" is a complicated system.  The system's rules are often regarded as natural, even if they're arbitrary.  People have occasionally proven themselves bad at engineering complicated systems.  (Think Jurassic Park.)  People have lately proven themselves bad at pulling magical free money out of the market.  We've seen a lot of unintended and bad consequences from economic policies and financial innovation.

I don't see why it's obviously stupid to try and cut down on the population of dengue-carrying mosquitoes, but not obviously stupid to use the system of farm subsidies we do.  In either situation, there will be unintended consequences, but Paul Wolfowitz wasn't just suffering aphasia when he made up the term, "unknown unknowns."

I don't think either of these things is obviously stupid.  You see a lot of caution with regard to economic experimentation in the implementation of the PPACA.  On the one hand, it seems like the long phase-in of health care is a very bad electoral strategy.  On the other, if something horrible happens with a provision or two, we're not so far into it that we can't think of something else to try.

Oddly, I seem to be on the same page as Sen. James DeMint (R-SC) (Via Ezra Klein) with this issue of letting the system do what it does (when we can afford it).  As a statement against weird subsidies, I think that post is over-the-top but basically correct.  I just took out all of the unnecessary Obama-bashing, and added an analogy instead of a ridiculous shout-out to the artificial Christmas tree industry.  

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Language Evolves

One thing I love about the Internet is that it’s democratized writing, and no longer is it just people with the inclination and talent who wrestle with semantics and spelling.  Before chat and texting how often did you hear anyone complain about bad spelling or misused semicolons?  Adding more participants to the world of writing in English has improved it.  Some conventions we’ve been using are just stupid.

Some common misconceptions have almost completely gone away (like, "kerfluffle.") but others are being accommodated.  One can "rifle" through a pile of papers, but that's a really weird word for the activity.  A lot of people say "riffle."  And I've noticed people writing it that way.  While I have never used it, I think riffle is better - it's got a nice onomatopoeia thing going on, whereas the noun meaning of “rifle” is sort of distracting.

Another word I've seen this happen with is "ogle."  A lot of people say it like it rhymes with "goggle."  I think  "oggle" also makes more sense, intuitively.  As such, I have more than once seen the word "oggle" used.  

Another change that doesn’t seem to have completely broken through is with periods and other sentence-ending punctuation’s placement with regard to quotation marks.  When you’re quoting someone, it makes more sense to keep the original punctuation of the quote inside the marks.  If you’re asking whether someone made a particular statement, you should be able to add your question mark after the quote with its punctuation included.  Did Marci say, “This is not what I wanted!”?  

So these were some changes I think needed to be made.  I’m not on board with all of the ones I've seen.  One I simply cannot support is single-spacing between sentences.  It’s strange how much you internalize rules in writing before you can articulate them; I am occasionally very confused by someone using the wrong “their” or “your.”  

I’ve also noticed a huge amount of unnecessary comma use, which breaks some aesthetic rules of mine, and seems to break a logical rule that I haven’t pinned down yet.  For example, if someone says, “Whatever happens, happens,” I don’t think there should be a comma between the repeated words.  A comma should almost separate a question from an answer within a sentence.  There needs to be a kind of tension that the comma supports.  The aesthetic thing is that a comma interrupts the flow of the sentence, making it seem rambly.