Rohit's Realm - Economics

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May 22, 2003

Investing in Death

SUMMER HAS FINALLY ARRIVED! And it did not begin to rain immediately after my last final! I'm so happy, it is unbelievable. Anyway, today, as I was walking to the South Side in the morning, I saw lots of folks wearing graduation gowns and all that other good stuff. At Telegraph, I saw so many flower vendors and the lines forming for parents and family types to buy flowers for their graduating students, it was ridiculous.

I wanted to go up to them, and say, do you realize that by buying all these flowers at such a goddamn expensive price, you are just investing in death?! That's right. I think buying flowers is one of the biggest wastes of money possible. Seriously, why the hell would you spend $40 on dead plants? Why? It makes absolutely no sense. FORTY DOLLARS is a lot of money, dammit! Think about it: forty dollars is a nice meal at a decent restaurant for one or two people, depending on how fat you are. Forty dollars is a week's worth of McDonalds, if you chose to eat it twice a day. Hell, with forty dollars, I could buy a month's worth of mac and cheese. (The fact that I would want to kill myself in a week is entirely besides the point.)

December 16, 2004

Marrying for Money

As regular readers of can attest to, I have in the past often made remarks regarding the purported financial benefits of marriage. However, considering that I will be starting a real job in about six months and I am in the mood to procrastinate, I thought I would spend some time investigating what, if any, financial benefits (obviously, there are no others) I could derive from marrying strictly for monetary reasons.

December 22, 2004

Adopting for Money

As promised in my previous entry, I will discuss the goldmine of tax deductions I discovered while attempting to determine if marrying is worthwhile monetarily (it is not, by the way). While the rumor that marriage could save money turned out to be a big lie, I discovered that you get deductions for each dependent you can claim.

May 02, 2007

An Economic Analysis of Interpersonal Relations

As long time readers will, no doubt, recall, more than three years ago, I presented a now infamous (and copiously referenced) analysis of interpersonal relationships, asserting that all such relations can be defined solely on the basis of convenience, exploitation, and self-aggrandizement. In essence, I was taking a sociological perspective on relationships, which I further expanded on with my manifesto on Facebook friends, or more generally, relationships on social networks, one year later. Today, I would like to take a different, more rigorous approach to the same problem, i.e., how do we taxonomically distribute the various interpersonal relationships in our lives? Considering this is an economic analysis, there can be only one criterion (as I am sure most of you can guess): value.

September 20, 2007

Tying the Noose: Criteria for Marital Bliss

Though I have not yet attained the age where relatives routinely harass me about asinine topics such as settling down or, worse, finding love, it seems that no conversation these days, whether it be with friends or strangers, is complete without a discussion of one's status, e.g., married, single, in an (open) relationship, hooking up, and so on, and so forth. It almost seems as though the older we get—and the more our thoughts and interests diverge—the more we cling desperately onto the rather banal topics of conversation that everyone can relate to (e.g., money, cash, hoes) for fear that without these topics, we might have nothing to say to one another at all. And while I have no qualms about answering the question, whether the answer be single or otherwise, in recent times, I have noticed that the former answer seems to generate rather inexplicable angst amongst the self-avowed (and necessarily self-deluded) hopeless romantics of the world.

To disabuse these misguided readers (and/or friends) of this angst, I will now present my personal criteria for successfully tying the noose—I mean, knot—so that they might finally understand that though my life will likely never be one of happiness or fulfillment, it will certainly be one of legacy and wealth. [...]

October 24, 2007

Et tu, E-$? (Part 2)

Given the unprecedented number of e-mails I received over the past week, I do not deem it too far fetched to suggest that many readers are likely anxiously awaiting this article to see how the saga with my recently engaged friend E-$ would turn out. Please forgive my most egregious delay in responding—a combination of mind-numbing work, crushing grief (Cal lost again!), and unexpected intoxication rendered me incapable of synthesizing coherent thoughts for the better part of this past weekend (the insinuation being, of course, that had those events not occurred, I might have synthesized said thoughts cogently—a dubious proposition at best). Anyway, I last left you, dear readers, in a state of shock, having just hung up on my friend. The next day, I called her back, finally prepared to challenge her, not with anger, but with reason. [...]

November 26, 2007

Suffer the Subprimers

For all but the most blissfully unaware of readers, the current brouhaha in the financial markets stemming largely from the continuing collapse of the subprime mortgage market should not be news. Markets first seized up this summer following stagnating house prices across the country and higher than expected defaults. Since then, much blood has been let: several companies that were major originators of such mortgages have gone belly up; thousands of jobs have been (or are soon to be) cut; and in the last month or so, two CEOs of large (investment) banks (Stan O'Neal, Merrill Lynch; and Charles Prince, Citigroup) have been pushed out amidst historical writedowns associated with subprime losses.

With shit hitting the fan so fast and so hard, it seems nothing—perhaps not even the U.S. economy at large—will come out unsullied. As with any mess of this proportion, our faithful representatives in Washington D.C. have only recently arrived upon the scene, mostly to point fingers at one other ex post facto, or, in the alternative, at evil-doers of one sort or another. And almost without fail, their solution has been to punish corporations that made such loans, and force those who hold the debt now to alleviate the stress on homeowners. An article in today's Wall Street Journal highlights pressure exerted upon one such company (Citi) to help out borrowers facing large and untenable interest rate resets, and thus, a rather significant risk of losing their homes. For some reason, very few people seem to be concentrating on the misdeeds of the borrowers rather than those who gave them the money; at the risk of sounding like the unsympathetic bastard that I likely am, I will take up this position that no one seems willing to defend. [...]

December 09, 2007

Why Emotional Unavailability Does Not Matter

Though my (perceived) emotional unavailability is likely the most often cited reason for the (necessarily catastrophic) end of nearly all my relationships over the years, I must admit that I have never truly understood what that phrase meant, nor, for that matter, been particularly concerned by my ignorance. First, I have noticed that simply using the mention of the phrase as a cue to stop listening is generally a good idea, and why disrupt a system that works, right? Second, and perhaps more importantly, when it is generally brought up, i.e., at the end of one failed entanglement or another, I am generally well passed the point of interest, and any reason the other party raises is accepted with a nod of the head, and a sympathetic look; comprehension is hardly required. Two recent discussions of emotional unavailability (both my own, and that of others), however, encouraged me to publish about it today. In this article, I will argue, first, that emotional availability as it is generally understood, is completely unnecessary for relationships, successful or otherwise; and second, even assuming that it is important for a relationship, that it is certainly not as fundamental a barrier as self-described hopeless romantics (i.e., idiots) make it out to be.

February 03, 2008

Economic Incentives for a Life of Crime

Beagle Family

As my dramatically diminished frequency of posting in the new year should suggest, I have been immersed in a lot of unpleasantness in recent weeks. Between increasingly frantic attempts at securing employment for the summer and reuniting with the maladjusted boys of 1524, I hardly had any time before last weekend to work on the quarter's only assignment for Legal Research and Writing, viz. a legal memorandum on intrusion of privacy worth 45% of the grade for the year. Needless to say, I overshot the word limit by over 1,800 words—this blog should be evidence enough of my inability to check the penchant for spewing incoherent nonsense—and had to spend all of last Sunday cutting out entire paragraphs, sentences, and towards the end, prepositions, articles, and other structures vital to sound writing. As hour after tedious hour of reading the same incomprehensible gibberish for expendable words and thoughts passed, I could not help but fall into a state of despair and existential angst (not an infrequent occurrence), pondering the same questions that have haunted me for years on end: (1) What am I doing with my life? and (2) Why did I not choose to pursue a life of crime?

April 26, 2008

Much Ado About Chicago Law's Classroom Internet Ban: A Faux-Empirical Study

It has been a month since Spring Quarter classes commenced at The Law School, and more importantly, since the policies outlined in the now infamous e-mail read 'round the world went into effect. Of course, here I refer to the e-mail from the Dean which informed us, much to our chagrin, that the beloved Internet which had once been provided in its full edu-network glory—for educational purposes only, of course—would no longer be available to us in the classroom.

Worse still, this was not a result of the so-called democratic process, where poor and starving law students, induced by promises of free food from sub-par establishments in the greater Hyde Park area arrive to do whatever it is they need to do to get said food, but instead, an onerous mandate from the administration. People had complained, they said. Learning would be enhanced, they told us. In the end, our experience will be better without classroom Internet, they assured us. Somewhere, a University of Chicago Nobel Laureate rolled over in his grave. Paternalism, the bane of libertarians, conservatives, and Federalist Society members near and far, had supposedly arrived at the once stalwart home of the free market economy. Oh, the irony.

May 05, 2008

Stable Marriage and Information Failure in the Social Marketplace

Standing around at a bar last Friday night, sipping a dirty martini and semi-engaged in a lackluster conversation with some random woman I had met approximately ninety seconds earlier, I felt my thoughts drift almost involuntarily from trying to figure out whether she was attractive or I was hallucinating, to the Stable Marriage Algorithm and pervasive information failures in day-to-day existence. This is only one of the many reasons why I do not have a girlfriend.

May 31, 2008

In Pursuit of Happiness: Gunner Credits in Law School Classrooms

With the last day of classes for my (much-dreaded) 1L year having come and gone, I thought it appropriate to return to a topic I first addressed around the time I started law school, namely the tendency of certain self-entitled, self-indulgent, self-aggrandizing law students to waste valuable classroom time waxing philosophic on tangentials of little or no consequence while enraged classmates seethe silently, vainly searching for dull razors with which to slit their own wrists. Well, maybe that last part about the razors is just me (and perhaps, it is not limited to the classroom), but let us not dwell on such trifles. The point is that, often, these so-called questions—most of which are actually statements—serve little pedagogical purpose and as such, are a serious source of inefficiency. What is to be done about this awfulness that permeates law school classrooms near and far?

Well, if there is anything I have learned in my time at The University of Chicago, it is that, on balance, markets are good, regulations are bad, and in some circumstances, it might be acceptable to sell babies. Thus, an administrative mandate that, for example, banned all raising of hands, would not be useful since it would prevent both value-added and deadweight comments from occurring. Luckily, we need not turn to the evils of God-less socialism just yet; there is a market-based solution to be had: gunner credits.

July 07, 2008

Double the Tax Break, Double the Fun

The Wall Street Journal today reports on the 2008 U.S. presidential candidates' economic plans (subscription required). I could probably attempt to say something substantive about these plans, I suppose, but let's be real: given my worthless existence, chances that I add value to anyone's life by my verbose and futile pontification are so low as to not warrant such an endeavor. Instead, I will focus on a specific quote from the article, viz., Mr. McCain's plans include doubling the child tax deduction from $3,500 to $7,000 'for every dependent.'

October 01, 2008

Outsourcing My Personal Existence

Amidst the breathless chatter in recent weeks about banks failing, markets melting, and capitalism ending (¡Viva la revolución!), a vastly more important story has been relegated to consummately irrelevant blogs such as this one: my own life is falling apart. And while long-time readers may be excused for pondering what makes this news of any import whatsoever, considering, first, that I lead a largely marginalized and trivial existence, and second, that my life is always in some state of catastrophic collapse given its necessary futility, the unprecedented levels of anxiety, self-doubt, and despair that have consumed me in past month nonetheless convince me that something out of the ordinary is afoot.

I am sleeping little, accomplishing less, and ending each day further behind than I started it. To speak in terms of a particularly vivid (and thoroughly disgusting) analogy from years past, the levels of shit in my clear box are increasing much faster than I can shovel them out. This acceleration is, of course, unsustainable in the long term. And while the ultimate solution remains an option (as it must), I am not persuaded that the tragicomedy of the situation has reached levels such that facilitating my own demise would yield maximum irony. Something, however, must be done. Last year I spoke of outsourcing my digital existence. Today I propose something far more drastic.

December 21, 2008

Death and Taxes

The deafening silence on this blog over the last month has been most unbearable, and for this reprehensible failure—one of many over the past month, rest assured—I sincerely apologize. Rather than dwell on the past, however, in this entry I look to the (equally dismal) future. In doing so, I hope to move closer to resolving a central paradox that has haunted this blog for much of its six-plus year existence, namely the simultaneous assertions that love is futile and marriage is a value-maximizing transaction. How can this be?

December 25, 2008

In Defense of “Unfriending”: Asset Liquidation on Social Networks

Yesterday's Journal had an interesting page one article (subscription required) on a subject that, I suspect, will hit a little too close to home for far too many otherwise self-assured twenty-somethings: getting unfriended on social networks such as Facebook or LinkedIn (or, I suppose, MySpace, if it was frequented by anyone but degenerates and pedophiles). The article, as its title suggests, takes the position that an unfriending1 is (or ought to be) perceived as some sort of personal affront or rejection, perhaps even rising to the level of getting dumped by a significant other. I, however, am not convinced. Though I too have experienced unfriending in the past, certainly not each instance invoked the same level of emotion—nor should it have. Considering the wide variety of individuals, ranging from value-added to deadweight, that compose one's relationship portfolio these days, a reasonably well-connected individual cannot be expected to react equally to her vague acquaintance and her boyfriend of five years dumping her on Facebook on the same day. How, then, might we go about understanding this very real phenomenon and the emotion, great or little, that it evokes? Recent events in the financial world, I believe, provide a nice parallel from which we may derive some lessons.

October 17, 2009

Contemplations on Corporate Crime

For anyone who has been with me (and the wretched conglomeration of loneliness and despair known as the Realm) long, the knowledge that I am irrationally obsessed with criminality and lawlessness should not come as a surprise. Indeed, I have on two previous occasions forayed into the emerging field of lawlessness and economics (L&E for short), first in 2004 by considering the possibility of a career in selling smack, and then in 2008, by pondering the viability of an otherwise upstanding young gentleman1 as myself pursuing a life of computer crime. Today, I expand on these seminal works through a groundbreaking analysis of yet another excellent opportunity for those with lots of good ol' American ingenuity, few morals, and an uncompromising work ethic, namely financial crime.

November 26, 2009

Structuring Personal Transactions: A Case Study in Marriage

Marriage Deal

I like to think of personal interactions as corporate transactions. It's less emotional that way. Bid, negotiate, sign, withstand regulatory scrutiny, and close (or in my case, fail at one or more of the above). Who wouldn't rather talk in terms of intercreditor agreements than feelings, right? But, as much as that should be obvious to all except the most steadfastly stubborn, alas, it is not. For the sake of those for whom silly emotions still rank supreme, I now undertake a brief example of how this brilliant approach to life can reap rewards far greater than delusional obsession with sentiments.

The easiest place to begin is with the most costly personal transactions in which people engage—marriage. Now, as long time readers are well aware, I have often focused on this topic, first in considering ways to (legitimately) avoid taxes; then in discussing criteria for tying the proverbial noose; and finally in categorizing potential partners in terms of tax benefits. Today I take it to the next logical step: having established criteria and categorized partners, how does one structure said entanglement to maximize one's personal utility?