President’s corner


There was once, as fables often start, a nine-year-old boy whose first words were “the toast is burnt”. The parents were, of course, delighted, but curious as to why he had not spoken. The boy explained “Everything was alright up to now.”

Despite rumors I am not that boy, but I could have been.

My point is for my own work (or the work of others) noting what is in error is progress toward a better understanding of whatever is under discussion. But I will try not to neglect showing appreciation for what is right.

Some comments (in Burnt toast mode)

On efficiency: Economists talk about efficiency a lot and often act as if “efficiency” is a self-evident and value-free concept in contrast with things determined by personal likes, etc. A problem I use on the first day of econ principles courses illustrates the point

Two Auto Engines A and B such that

Auto Engine A gets 17.3 miles per gallon, Auto Engine B gets 4.7 miles per gallon

Auto Engine A gets 1.4 horsepower per cubic of engine displacement and

Auto Engine B gets 5.1 horsepower per cubic of engine displacement.

The question is which engine is most efficient ? The answer is it depends upon what the goal is. Efficiency depends upon what criterion of evaluation is chosen: there is always a value judgment.

On nature/nurture: This is a long discussion which I will not attempt to even begin at this point except to say that depending what method is used and what is the basis of evidence used to answer the nature/nurture question will tend to determine where an individual comes down on this. There are competing disciplines (and so-called paradigms) which tend not to make much headway. But another time.

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