Tag Archives: larry summers

Glass Ceilings Could Be Shattered With Glass Bathroom Walls

It’s a known fact that finance is a male-dominated industry.  There’s Buffett, and Soros, and Madoff, and the banker on Deal or No Deal: all men.  In the sausagefest of finance, the only female presence is the wife, the mistress, or the diversity-hire (who, even if she is competent, will be forever tarnished by the suggestion of affirmative action).

Of course, this goes beyond finance — there are far more male CEOs, politicians, movie producers, and leaders not only in the United States, but in the rest of the world.  There are no women in the Forbes 50 richest Americans who made her money outside of inheritance.  Even though women make up half of the world’s population, most of the power is held by men.

Social scientists have long theorized about the existing power gap between men and women.  Some explanations are cultural.  Some are steered in tradition.  And some resort to “biological differences.”  That is, women build consensus; men build tall buildings to showcase their phallic power.

My theory is simple: it’s partly biological, and partly environmental.

I believe that men are more powerful because they pee standing up.

Think about it.  From a very young age, men are trained to pee into a urinal.  They are brought up in a world with literally no walls: there is very little privacy between them.  And if you head into a stall, everyone knows what kind of business is going on.  The result?  Reduced inhibitions from a world with no boundaries, and greater camaraderie with your fellow man.

Meanwhile, there are metaphoric and physical walls that separate women from each other.  The physical act of releasing waste is incredibly private.  Outside of her feet, you don’t tend to see other women in the act of peeing.  I even cringe when I write “releasing waste” — because unlike men, most women don’t feel as comfortable talking about these things.  At least not with strangers.

So, from this theory, men are more comfortable in their own skin, more sociable with strangers, and more likely to take risks.  Women are walled in, siloed, and discomfited by others knowing all of their business.  It’s no wonder why men enjoy finance: they’re used to whipping ’em out and measuring ’em, whereas women don’t/can’t really do that.

Of course, like any good theory, there are its notable exceptions.  I’m guessing that Oprah would have no qualms about peeing in front of other women.  And there are incredibly awkward yet successful men who don’t fit the mold.  In 2006, I got rejected by then-college-president Larry Summers when I asked if I could “lei” him at a campus BBQ/luau — I was holding a lei of flowers… He just turned around and walked away.

Doesn’t seem like a guy who’s comfortable in his own skin… Perhaps some of these things, we simply have to blame on inherent biological differences.

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The Friend Bullseye

On this blog, we have talked about how important our friends are.  Well…actually, we have discussed categorizing our friends in a modern-day feudal system made up of serfs, peasants, and nobles.  Given that references to the Middle Ages may seem somewhat archaic, I have revised our friend-stratification strategy.   Introducing, the Friend Bullseye:

friendbullseye

As an example, I have taken on the patriotic duty of filling this out for President Barack Obama.  There were a few question marks on Barry’s bullseye: For example, is Tim Geithner a “work friend”, a “convenient friend”, or just a poor-performing “acquaintance”?  What about Sarkozy, whose overtures to Obama may signal a one-sided man crush? Where does Sarah Palin fit in (especially since Batshit Crazy is already taken)?

I find that filling out the Friend Bullseye can be a rather illuminating exercise.  Further, the bullseye can also serve as a gift-giving guide–the closer the friend is to the center, the more money you should spend on birthday gifts: inner ring $75, middle ring $50, outer ring $25… and if a friend misses the board completely, then a Facebook message shall suffice (or at least a Cabinet post).

So, get out your pencils, scour your old yearbooks, and start stratifying your friends.  Not only can this help you determine Christmas-gift-worthy friends, but you’re giving yourself a head start on the vetting process for 2012.  After all, buried deep in our pasts, we all have at least one Batshit Crazy friend that we’ll have to overcome in our run for the presidency.  Sarah, we’re looking at you.

obamabullseye1

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All Gaga for Obama

In celebration of Obama’s first 100 days, and also given the popularity of Lady Gaga, I decided to try a bit of songwriting for the President.  The following should be sung along to Lady Gaga’s Poker Face (play the song in a new window – with lyrics | instrumental):

Barack (0:24):

I gotta clean up what they did back in ’08
Corrupted and got busted with a messed up SEC (Oh Dubya)
So now the country’s sufferin’ and the times are hard
With Ponzi schemes and broken dreams and guys without a job

Oh, oh, oh, oh, ohhhh, ohh-oh-e-ohh-oh-oh
I’ll get it right, or we’ll pay the price
Oh, oh, oh, oh, ohhhh, ohh-oh-e-ohh-oh-oh,
I’ll go at it hard, show them who’s in charge

obamaeconomy

With Larry
And Timmy
These are the
Obama days
(Gotta stop the Dow from dropping)
Plus Citi
Bernanke
The Fed completes the
Obama days
(Government is going shopping)

Chorus (1:12):

Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days, Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days
Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days, Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days

Barack (1:21):

I’m gonna roll with Joe a hard pair we will be
Republicans can teabag all they want with Dick Cheney
Afghanistan will see me coming on the front,
And baby when it’s war if it’s not rough it isn’t fun,

Oh, oh, oh, oh, ohhhh, ohh-oh-e-ohh-oh-oh
I’ll get Iraq, show them what I’ve got
Oh, oh, oh, oh, ohhhh, ohh-oh-e-ohh-oh-oh,
I’ll get a bomb, show them that it’s hot

karzaizardari1With Karzai
So close by
These are the
Obama days
(Karzai is grumpy, likes nobody)
Talking peace
Zardari
These are the
Obama days
(Waterboarding’s not his hobby)

Chorus (2:09):

Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days, Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days
Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days, Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days

Barack (2:24):

gm-ceoI’ve got my hand in GM’s pocket
Squeezing hard to keep ’em knockin’
‘Cause I’m trying
To go on and end this downspin we’ve been rockin’
With my bailouts and my guarantees
I’m fixing these securities
I promise this, I promise this
I’ll bring back life to AIG

aigsoccerWith swine flu
Coming through
These are the
Obama days
(Bacon’s not for everybody)
Arlen who
S’my new boo
These are the
Obama days
(Specter’s got a new buddy)

Chorus (2:59):

gagaobamaCan’t beat my
Can’t beat my
No one can beat my
Obama craze
(He’s got me like nobody)
Can’t beat my
Can’t beat my
No one can beat my
Obama craze
(Eight more years of peace and harmony)

— Repeat x2 —

Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days, Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days
Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days, Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days

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Random Thoughts on… Moral Hazard

An argument for studying economics is that one will leave school with an extensive knowledge of concepts and theories that are applicable in the real world.  An argument against studying economics, however, is that these theories are typically limited to a world where we assume all participants make rational decisions.  Given that Kath and Kim is still on the air, universal rationality is doubtful.

One economic concept, however, has stuck with me after college.  Moral hazard occurs when “an individual or institution does not bear the full consequences of its actions, and therefore has a tendency to act less carefully than it otherwise would,” thus “leaving another party to bear some responsibility for the consequences of those actions.”  For example, there is a moral hazard associated with life insurance.  After purchasing insurance, individuals may decide to take greater risks with their life.  twilightThey may be keener to go skydiving, try bungee jumping, or enter a crowd of teenage girls in line for Twilight.  After all, these individuals are now insured, so we can rationally understand (from the individual’s point of view) why they would be more likely to participate in dangerous activities.  However, from the point of view of the insurer, braving crowds of crazed middle schoolers pining after vampires is not recommended. 

We face moral hazards every day.  On an individual level, athletes anecdotally have had a drop-off in production following the signing of a guaranteed, long-term contract.  We act differently in a hotel room than when we’re in our own homes.  In my intro economics course, Larry Summers summed it up in a guest lecture: “You don’t wash a rented car.”   

In that same line of thinking, government bailouts may cause big companies to take more risks, with anticipation of being saved if they fail.  This can lead to even more trouble, as evidenced by the mortgage crisis (mortgage lenders that securitized their junky loans, backed by Fannie and Freddie, became more lax in lending).  Part of the Fed’s rationale for letting Lehman Brothers go under was because it feared creating a moral hazard if it had stepped in again, especially after its role in the Bear Stearns deal. 

impalaBut still, it’s hard to quantify the size of a moral hazard.  And there are times when the negative risks of the moral hazard outweigh the potential benefits of, say, a government bailout.  In the case of the auto industry, I’m not sure what would be best.  All I know is that I’ve been driving a rented car for the past ten months, and I’ve gotten it washed.  Twice.

 

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