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Doing Something About the Financial Crisis

My good friend Scott has some good advice on what to do about the financial crisis: vote with your dollar and take your money out of the banks that helped get us into this mess.

Both of my banks (JPMorgan, formerly Washington Mutual, and U.S. Bank) have recieved TARP money, so I will be moving my money out of these banks and into a well-run bank, perhaps Charles Schwabb, following Scott’s lead.

On Broken Windows

The Broken Window is both a fallacy and a truth. In economics, it refers the Parable of the Broken Window, also called the Broken Window Fallacy, and it deals with hidden opportunity costs.

The basic idea is that it is temping to think that a hoodlum breaking a baker’s window stimulates the economy because the baker must go buy a window from the glazier, who then can go buy additional things from others in the community and so on.

However, the fallacy part of it is that forcing the baker to buy a window has the hidden cost of the baker not buying whatever it was that the baker might have wanted to buy in the first place — perhaps a suit. So the extra money to the glazier actually comes at the expense of the tailor, and on top of it, the baker is out a window. So when hidden opportunity costs are accounted, the net effect of a broken window is negative, not positive.

There is also the broken window theory of crime, which basically states that criminal activity tends to congregate towards lesser-maintained areas of a city, perhaps because the look of dereliction makes a criminal feel less likely to be caught. A recent article that I picked up of via Bruce Schneier’s Security Blog discusses a recent student on the broken window theory. The conclusions are interesting:

The results, just now circulating in law enforcement circles, are striking: A 20 percent plunge in calls to police from the parts of town that received extra attention. It is seen as strong scientific evidence that the long-debated “broken windows” theory really works—that disorderly conditions breed bad behavior, and that fixing them can help prevent crime.

[…]

Many police departments across the country already use elements of the broken windows theory, or focus on crime hot spots. The Lowell experiment offers guidance on what seems to work best. Cleaning up the physical environment was very effective; misdemeanor arrests less so, and boosting social services had no apparent impact.

Nevertheless, I still wonder whether the broken window theory is actually a type of fallacy. For example, it is true that a single person can stand up at a sporting event to get a better view, but this does not generalize well: if everyone stands up, it is decidedly not true that everyone gets a better view. Does the same apply to broken windows? In other words, does fixing broken windows in one area correspond to a single person standing up at the sporting event? If all broken windows were fixed, would crime actually diminish or would it sustain at current levels?

Regardless of the answer to that question, I think the last sentence — and especially the last clause — is worth repeating:

Cleaning up the physical environment was very effective; misdemeanor arrests less so, and boosting social services had no apparent impact.

Sorry social scientists.

Snow in Seattle

There is snow in Seattle — there has been for several days now. I’m very thankful for a warm house in which to stay sheltered from the elements. Driving around is an adventure — I used a curb to stop myself from plowing into a car (albeit very slowly) today, and I had to have my dad and next-door neighbor help me out of my parent’s driveway after visiting. Nevertheless, my day wasn’t nearly as exciting as those who ended up overhanging I-5. I comitted the cardinal sin of failing to bring my camera with me this morning, so I don’t have any good pictures of my own to share — enjoy this shot by Flickr user sea turtle, though!

When Live is not Live

NBC seems to have taken a liking to labeling all of its Olympic coverage as “LIVE,” which is particularly mystifying considering that the gymnastics competition which is “LIVE” now was already won by China, as reported by the Seattle Times over 40 minutes ago.

Why is NBC lying?

For the ever-so-slightly higher ratings they expect the “LIVE” tag to gain? At what cost?

Ride Civil this Friday

Just a friendly reminder that Seattle’s Ride Civil bike ride is this Friday, on the coolest date all year (08/08/08). The gathering will begin at the Westlake Center at 5:30, leaving around 6:15. I’m planning on showing up there around 6:00, leaving Amazon about 15 minutes before that for a leisurely, law-abiding ride up to the Westlake Center.

Don’t forget your helmets, bikes, or hand signals.

The more the merrier, so plan on showing up and invite a friend!

With Scrabulous Gone…

…Facebook is dumb again.

The correct move for Hasbro and Mattel, if they want both control and goodwill, would be to buy out Scrabulous. With their lawsuit, they may gain control, but they will not gain my goodwill. In other news, these forever-long copyrights are out of control.

I hereby state that I will never play the officially sanctioned online game.

Kiro News. Eleven O’clock.

Can anyone record it?