July 7th, 2013

A Purple Straw Hat

_Exorbitant Privilege_, Barry Eichengreen (kindle)

Subtitled: The Rise and Fall of the Dollar and the Future of the International Monetary System
Published 2010 by Oxford University Press

I read Krugman and DeLong's blogs, erratically, and one or the other or both of them referred to Eichengreen enough times to send me off to Amazon to see what he has written and think about buying/reading one or more. I'm glad I did.

Eichengreen is an extremely readable author. He is so readable, and so much of his historical overview is so evenhanded and neutral (and he is so careful to tell you when it is not) that it's pretty easy to start trusting him and then be surprised. For better or for worse, his understanding of the history of bills and notes is sufficiently at odds with my previous reading that it kept me on my toes, so when he started giving miserably awful advice about how much we should worry about the deficit and why, I chuckled, rather than feeling betrayed and angry, in much the same way that I forgive ridiculous behavior in characters in romance novels that I might not tolerate in any other context.

Also, I stuck around for _Golden Fetters_, altho I'm less convinced I'm going to finish it. Eichengreen is aware that prior to The Great War, the negative impacts of stabilization of exchange rates could be offloaded onto groups whose awareness of why their world sucked was limited/wrong and whose political capacity to respond was even more limited, which makes his characterization of the pre-WW1 period so jarring. He knows it only _looked_ better than the interwar period, but he persists in saying they were different and the way he words things is confusing. Also, sloppy language about precisely what is meant by gold standard in various periods (again, I blame my previous reading for my response).

Because I was reading Eichengreen in the evenings, after going on rides all day, there's some confusion in my head about precisely where (down to which book -- altho I think it was _Exorbitant Privilege_) Eichengreen asserted baldly that we'll never get a world currency without world government, it was really fucking hilarious that he wrote it, given that he put that _after_ a discussion of how the Euro came into being. Seriously: if you can have a Euro without a Euro-zone government, why could we not do the same thing globally? Just because it ain't pretty doesn't mean it won't happen. (<-- I am not saying it will happen. I am merely noting that the bald assertion is unconvincing to me.)

Despite all of that, Eichengreen is unbelievably enjoyable reading. I'll keep coming back for more, even if he keeps making me chuckle and shake my head occasionally, because overall, he's amazingly sensible and quite fair in his explanations in the historical portions of the books.
A Purple Straw Hat

Revisiting Predictions

A while back, I blogged about a strategy that lets me predict the future: just go small and detailed and contingent. So, in 5 years from now, I will either be five years older than I am now, or dead, type of thing. And you can do that for a _lot_ of things: in so many years, my children will be out of high school, etc. This isn't about that.

As I was reading Eichengreen's ludicrous proposals for what we should be worried about and what appropriate fiscal policy response would be in _Exorbitant Privilege_ and in particular his description of a hypothetical future world in which the US Dollar was no longer the/a dominant currency, and how we might arrive at such a place, I talked to R. a bit about why people screw up predicting the future. I mean, you can just _not predict_. R. notes that these kinds of predictions can move books, so that's not nothing -- ya gotta pay the bills, amirite?

But I still think it's worth pointing out the intellectual problem, if not the real world problem of predicting the future incorrectly in a way that will be detectable in the relatively near future when you will _still be trying to sell your ideas_ as plausible. If you're wrong, and people notice, I think you should worry at least a bit about the consequences of that.

OTOH, if everyone is wrong in more or less the same way, generally we all agree that no one is to blame and move on. Or moooooooove on, as the case may be.
A Purple Straw Hat

Playing Teletubbies

Before and after our trip, T. has been quite obsessed with the Teletubbies again (we have a lot of DVDs). That's fine -- I have no objection to the tubbies playing in the background. But he's added a new twist: we've each been assigned a tubby-role, and associated favorite thing. So A. is Po, and her favorite thing is her scooter. T. is Tinky-Winky, and his favorite thing is his "purse" (the show and I say bag, but T. insists on purse and is using his Minnie Mouse handbag as the prop). R. is Dipsy, and his favorite thing is his hat (pity we don't have that black and white thing from the show, which would be Awesome, but we're making do with one of R.'s many hats). I am therefore LaLa, and my favorite thing is a yellow ball -- T. got a therapy ball that we have which is yellow and quite perfect.

Fun! Weirdly good play style: interactive, propped and none of it suggested by us. The role assignments are gender/size/personality appropriate. One wonders what movies he'll cast us in in the future.
A Purple Straw Hat

Attachment Parenting and Organization

T. is a very organized little boy. He kind of always has been; they commented about it at the preschool right from the beginning. He loves routine and hates disruption to routine and would prefer to understand the routine better than others and tell them what to do. I mean, who wouldn't? It's tough to tell how much of this comes from me and how much from R. Our internal organizational drives are very, very different, and our strategies are somewhat different, but we both have a lot of the same stuff going on. On the other hand, maybe it's not our genetics at all, but just growing up around us.

Yesterday, T. started the Teletubbies game (continuing to play it pretty hard today -- he's also playing the piano along with music on the tubbies discs. Not the songs, just whatever keys he happens to pick, but it doesn't sound unpleasant. It's not bang-y or loud.). Today, he has decided he's going to adopt all my daily organizational habits. Around the middle of November of last year, I ordered a small valet/change tray with snaps on it. The idea was to keep pocket little from falling off the night stand and to ensure it re-entered the next day's pockets. This was around the time I started to really consistently carry a knife and flashlight and some time later I added the space pen.

Anyway. He wants a tray like mine. He wants lip balm in it, like I keep in mine (does not go back into my pockets, but does travel with me -- the tray is one of those stiffened leather things with snaps to make corners so it packs flat). He wants a space pen. He wants cough drops and "snack bars" (I often keep Ricola and a larabar in the tray, again, not into the pockets but I do travel with them). He was emphatic, so we made a list and put the order together today. It feels a little weird, but I bought both the kids wallets a while back when I realized they were going places Not With Me where some money would come in handy, and when they might need their swim and/or library card. They've had their own backpacks or outings bags since forever.

He _also_ wants my handbag which, fortunately, is still available and, as these things go, not totally ridiculous for a small child to carry around (lesportsac cleo, so on a kid it'll be like a messenger bag. The it's a small world style cannot be any odder than T. carrying around a Minnie Mouse handbag). I _think_ he wants the handbag because it went on all the rides with us at Efteling and maybe he's sort of hoping to get that feeling back (he did mention the ride connection, and the importance of not losing it or leaving it behind on the rides).