Making them up as I go (2)

1. Tell the truth.
2. Entice, or fail.
3. To emphasize, summarize.
4. If it ain't short, it don't work.
5. Be clear.

And so I don't forget:
Don't explain. Just tell a story.
Don't argue. Just say things that make sense.
Expect people to be bored by the writing, and shorten it.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Loans and Lending in the Age of Illiteracy

If you look up loan and lend you'll find some gibberish about how those words are interchangeable now, but once upon a time they were not. You can lend me money or loan me money, these days it's all the same.

I need a word for the act of lending, and a different word for the thing itself, the loan. Everybody knows what a "loan" is: I don't think anyone would call it a "lend". We're not that far down the slope of the next Dark Age, not yet. So, loan is the thing, then, and lending is the act.

I'm perfectly happy to use lending (with an "ing") and loans (with an "s") to make my distinctions. I won't insist that "loan" must be a noun and "lend" must be a verb. Obviously, there should be some backflow from "loans" as thing to "loan" as noun, and from "lending" as action to "lend" as verb. But I won't insist.


This is not an econ blog so maybe you don't know. But maybe you do know the difference between "debt" and "deficit". A Federal "deficit" is one year's budgetary shortfall. The Federal "debt" is the accumulation of deficits.

I need the words "loans" and "lending" so I can make a similar distinction. The act of "lending" creates an addition to the accumulation that I am calling "loans".

The difference between the words "loans" and "lending" is more obvious than that between the words "saving" and "savings". But again, the distinction of meaning is similar. Saving (without the "s") is an act. Savings (with the "s") is an accumulation. The act of saving adds to the accumulation of savings.


In econ much is made of "stocks" and "flows" where "stocks" (not stock-market stuff) are accumulations, and "flows" are changes to the accumulations, additions to or subtractions from stock. The example always used is a bathtub: The water in the tub is the "stock". Water coming out the faucet is a "flow". Water going down the drain is a "flow".

Debt is a stock; the deficit is the flow.
Savings are a stock; saving is the flow.
Loans are a stock; lending is the flow.

It has to do with levels and rates of change. The water in the tub is at a particular level. Water goes into the tub at a rate, which changes the level over time. The stock is the level, and the flow is the rate.

With all the focus on the Federal debt and deficits these days, these decades really, maybe everyone already knows the difference between "debt" and "deficit". Great! Loans and lending, savings and saving, these are not such prevalent concerns, but the distinctions of meaning match those of debt and deficit.

Apparently I have no ending for this post.

Oh! Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

It just sounds better

From an ad for my senator: "... We make more than a half million guitar strings a day ..."

They say "a half million". But I hear "uh half million" and it sounds so dumb.

Anyway, the units are not half-millions. The units are millions. So you don't say "a half million". You say "half a million". That way the units are right.

Besides it just sounds better:

"... We make more than half a million guitar strings a day ..."

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Easy to fix

Reading How high debt leads to income inequality by Atif Mian and Amir Sufi. I thought I'd be interested in the economics. Instead I focus on this:
Money can’t make up for the loss of one’s home, but it ensures that a family can begin rebuilding their lives during such a desperate time.
"A family" is singular. "Their lives" is plural. How can I assume that Mian and Sufi's economic logic is sound when between the two authors they cannot tell one from more than one?

It's easy to fix. Just change "a family" to "families".

Economics is all about having the best story. Good stories need good sentences. Bad sentences are distracting.

Don't ask me why it's "economics is".

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Heart and Mind

Sentences in development:
I'm something of a monetarist at heart. To my mind, even if monetary balances are not the cause of recessions, they must nonetheless be evidence.
That doesn't work. Maybe this:
I'm something of a monetarist at heart. Even if monetary balances are not the cause of recessions, they must nonetheless be evidence.
Moving on.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Literacy skills

Found this in the new 70-page PDF from the Harvard Business School Survey on U.S. Competitiveness, Problems Unsolved and a Nation Divided:
Younger cohorts of U.S. workers have higher literacy scores than older cohorts in absolute terms, reflecting U.S. skills improvement over time. But workers elsewhere have improved even faster. American workers from earlier generations are more literate than their international peers of the same age, but younger U.S. workers are less literate than their peers.
Younger Americans are more literate than older Americans? That depends on your standard of literacy.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

If you say you "over-exaggerated"...

If you say you "over-exaggerated" it means you still think you should have exaggerated, but not quite so much.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Not for its economics

From The Economist:

David Ricardo showed in 1817 that a country could benefit from trade even if it did everything better than its neighbours. A country that is better at everything will still be “most better”, so to speak, at something. It should concentrate on that, Ricardo showed, importing what its neighbours do “least worse”.

If bad grammar is not enough to make the point, an old analogy might...

I thought that was nicely written -- or at least a nice escape from some fairly crude terminology.