Sebastian Junger on Econtalk

EconTalk host Russ Roberts wrote a thoughtful blog post in response to the October Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. Rather than taking the opportunity to attribute the act of violence to a de jour of hot button issues like antisemitism or gun control, he chose to offer his own hypothesis for what drives these attacks, loneliness.

Having previously read Sebastian Junger’s book, Tribe, I found myself wondering how Mr. Junger would respond to the article. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Sebastian Junger was the guest on this week’s EconTalk episode.

While I highly recommend reading both the blog post and Tribe, I think the podcast can stand alone and is worth a listen.

Please use the comments section to share your thoughts or any content that you think adds to the discussion.

My Podcast Hit List

a16z: On Marrying Entertainment and Technology Marc Andreessen interviews Meg Whitman and Jeffrey Katzenberg. While I enjoyed learning about their new mobile video platform, Quibi, I found their discussion about the economics of television shows particularly interesting. I had no idea that production costs for a major network television show could approach $100,000/minute. I now understand why historically HBO, and now Amazon and Netflix, with their subscription models always seem to produce better content than the major television networks that rely on ad sales to fund programming.

Broken Record: Nashville Revolution: Bobby Braddock, Don Schiltz, and Don Henry. Malcolm Gladwell interviews three songwriters as they share their stories, talk shop and play some of their songs they’ve written over the last 40+ years in country music. As someone who doesn’t consider themselves a creative, I always find it fascinating when I get a glimpse behind the curtain and see the process of making art.

Please use comments to share any of your favorite podcasts that you’ve recently enjoyed.

Krugman, Krugman Everywhere

I had mixed feelings after enjoying Tyler Cowen’s podcast episode with Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman more than I expected. On one hand, I found Krugman’s insights to be very thoughtful and more nuanced than his opinions shared in his frequent New York Times Op-Ed column. From listening to him speak, it was clear he is very intelligent and still has the ability to think like an economist when he desires. I am also further disappointed that he uses his written platform for partisan pandering and increasing his popularity rather than stimulating intellectual discourse. Regardless of how you feel about Krugman, the episode is definitely thought provoking and worth a listen.

Bryan Caplan reacts to some of Paul Krugman’s comments in the above mentioned podcast in his recent article to discuss the idea that we, including Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman, hold markets to a much higher standard than we do our own government. He asserts that we criticize markets for imperfections but allow the government to operate as long as it avoids disaster.

I do not think comparing markets to government is entirely fair. Markets have the advantage of being able to make adjustments to real time information as changes are implemented, while government action requires voting, making decisions based on old information, and a significant time lag before implementation. Further changes require repeating the process all over again. Markets can behave more like an outfielder adjusting his course to chase down a fly ball while government action works more like an artilleryman where he has to wait and see where the projectile lands before being able to make adjustments for the next shot.

Please use the comments section to share links to any interesting podcasts/books you are currently consuming.

ECS on Tipping

As my mother's de facto tipping expert, I initially wanted to discuss tipping after listening to an EconTalk podcast with Anthony Gill on the topic last November but was unsure of what I had to contribute on the subject matter. However, after a lively group text about whether I tipped enough for a surprisingly cheap haircut at the VA barbershop, it was clear that we had divergent tipping practices and I felt compelled to share my thoughts.

When used optimally, tipping should be a reward for providing better than expected service. It can also be used by the customer to signal that she is willing to pay more for premium service. A couple of dollars in the tip jar while ordering at a food truck can go a long way towards making sure you get a stacked sandwich or larger than normal sack of fries. I am not sure when it became a social norm to use tipping to subsidize restaurants that underpay their staff. My preference would be to pay higher food prices and not be expected to tip for average service. Because people do not openly discuss their tipping practices, there appears to be significant variation in how individuals tip.

I have included some of my tipping practices below. Please comment to share your tipping habits or resources that have influenced your behavior.

  1. Takeout/fast casual: 10% or $1/entree
  2. Dine-In: 15% for bad service or 20% for everything else (% of total bill tax included)
  3. Haircut: $5 (haircut for me under 20 bucks)
  4. Alcohol: $1/beer or unmixed drink, 15-20% cocktail
  5. Coffee: $1 (I drink black coffee)
  6. Crowded Bar: tip upfront for anticipated number of drinks
  7. Bell Boy: $1-2/bag when I drop off my bags off
  8. Street Musicians: $1-2 if I stop to listen
  9. Extraordinary service- my discretion 

RealCrowd on Allocation Mix

Paul Kaseburg, Chief Investment Officer at MG Properties Group, shares how he thinks about allocation within the real estate asset class on a recent RealCrowd podcast. He spends a majority of the episode discussing strategies to increase diversification within a real estate investment portfolio.  I found his discussion of vintage diversification as a strategy to mitigate market timing risk particularly interesting.  Individual investors can leverage crowdfunding platforms to implement many of these strategies in their own real estate investments.

RealCrowd is a real estate crowdfunding platform for accredited investors. However, they do have a lot of free learning resources available to the public.

RealCrowd on Hard Money Lending

Broadmark Capital's Adam Fountain shares his insight regarding the role of hard money lending in Real Estate investing in this podcast episode. I found his strategies for mitigating risk particularly interesting.  

While most of us do not have the liquidity of a multi-million dollar fund to make multiple loans at the same time, there are still ways we can use diversification to reduce risk.  One strategy is to invest in a fund like Broadmark Capital. Alternatively, investors can use crowdfunding sites to purchase portions of debt offerings to spread their investment capital out over several loans. 

My personal strategy is to make multiple investments of equal amounts so that the total investment income will be greater than any single investment. For example, if my average return is 10% and my investment unit is $1000, I will make at least 11 investments of $1000 so that my investment income can make up for a failed loan. 

RealCrowd is a real estate crowdfunding platform for accredited investors. However, they do have a lot of free learning resources available to the public. 

Using Technology to Unlock Value in Real Estate

Listen as MIT's Steve Weikal and RealCrowd's Adam Hooper discuss some of the ways technology may impact Real Estate in the near future.  I found the sections regarding the Uberfication of buildings to increase usage of space during idle time particularly interesting.  They also discuss how implementing blockchain technology would help address many current challenges of researching title for real property.  Listen to the entire episode on the RealCrowd Website.

RealCrowd is a real estate crowdfunding platform for accredited investors. However, they do have a lot of free learning resources available to the public. 

EconTalk on Populism

While they get a little off topic, Professor Philip Auerswald and Econtalk host Russ Roberts discuss the recent rise of populist movements across the globe.  Professor Auerswald's asserts that the density of urban communities enables cities to evolve at a faster pace than their rural neighbors.  It will be interesting to see how society and its leaders address this growing divergence. Click here to listen to entire episode.