From the monthly archives:

November 2011

In my recent post on Macroeconomics I quoted a joke from my Microeconomics professor that “Economists Do It with Models”. He never implied it was his joke, and mentioned that he had seen it on the t-shirts of Economics students at either MIT or University of Michigan. So I knew it was a widely circulated joke among the economists.

This week I discovered that one of the economists has actually taken that joke to a whole new level, namely Top Level Domain name – www.economistsdoitwithmodels.com Great site all-around with a pinch of humor and healthy sarcasm (now that I typed it, it made me wonder if there is such thing –  “a healthy dose of sarcasm”.  I know people complain when I occasionally slip on my sarcastic side, but it maybe because I overdose ;-)  ).

Anyways, the site has a lot of quite insightful posts on economics and economists. I found specifically interesting one on whether the teachers in schools are overpaid, because it was closely related to the Negotiation simulation -Ridgecrest School District Dispute  I had in my MBA class just recently.

There are also links to other sites dedicated to Economics, both serious and “tongue-in-cheek” types. They will get you on the right foot in your research on modern economics topics.

The main educational value of the site, however, is in over four dozen of tutorial videos introducing the principles of microeconomics. Not surprisingly, the N. Gregory Mankiw’s textbook Principles of Microeconomics is used as a framework for the videos. If your Microeconomics professor drives you to boredom in his/her lectures so that you completely lose interest in the subject and cannot get it because of that, give a try to the Econ101 videos on that site. It might as well do the trick.

Speaking of the t-shirts that I mentioned at the beginning of the post. It seems that the author of the site created her own line of products around “Economists Do It with Models” theme. So if you really want to make a lasting impression, you can go beyond the mainstream t-shirts and caps and get  yourself appropriately imprinted briefs, available both for ladies and gents ;-) .

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This week in my part-time MBA class on Conflict Management and Negotiations we had an in-class presentations for the group negotiation simulation based on Ridgecrest School Dispute case. Essentially, the case is based on the dispute between the Board of Education and the Teachers Association (the teachers union) about the ways of closing the budget shortfall in the school district, while at the same time negotiating the salary increases and other benefits for the teachers. As you can guess, this was a recipe for quite a contentious situation.

The teacher’s assistant for professor sent an email on the day of presentations that the professor was not feeling well, so he would substitute for him for that night.When I read it, it was a bit of a turn off for me because the professor in this class is really highly engaging and rather entertaining. He has made his reputation in the business school and can get away with a lot of things that younger faculty or non-tenured professors would not dare to experiment. In that regard he reminds me a bit of my professor in Entrepreneurship class. He has also been involved in many real engagements as a consultant and has been sharing very interesting and unique first-hand experiences from those engagements.

One thing I did not take into account, that the instructor’s role in this particular class of group presentations was more of a moderator, but the class itself was mostly driven by the presenting students. In fairness, the teacher’s instructor did a fair job as a moderator too.

Anyways, the class turned out to be hilarious, thanks to reflections of some of the groups on how their negotiations had gone. Some of the presenters were quite  expressive in describing their side of the negotiation analysis. They mentioned the high tension during their negotiations complete with yelling, name-calling, walk-outs from the negotiation table, objects throwing, “bad cop-good cop” games, and other manipulative techniques they or their counterparts used. Their description of the high explosive negotiations was so colorful that some other groups had to apologize ;-) that theirs were more matter-of-factly and routine business.

Another point of bringing up excitement in those presentations was that both groups participating in the negotiation had to present one after another, so it gave a way for many intriguing situations of “we said – they said” and comparisons of the opponents’ interpretations and views on the same situations and flex points in their negotiations.

Our group’s recollection of the negotiations dynamics, by the way, was one of those matter-of-fact. We tried to be more realistic in our approach and focus on how we would do it if it were a real situation, not just a made up classroom exercise with opportunities on show craftsmanship.

There were two lessons I took out from that night. First, the astonishingly broad range of outcomes of the negotiations, even though we were all given the same background information and confidential instructions depending on the role of the group, based on the personalities of the people involved on each side of the negotiation table. The outcomes ranged from complete breakdowns, when the teachers decided on their own or were forced by the Board to go on strike, to a broad range of settlements with various levels of negotiated benefits, where either the Board or the Association had an upper hand in grabbing a significantly bigger part of the pie.

Second lesson was triggered by the question one of my classmates asked everyone at the end  of the class. The guy, who was the oldest one in the class, even older than me ;-), asked how many people had had mortgages and were laid off during their career. Needless to say just a few hands went up, less than five out of the class of over 50 students. It should be expected, given the fact that the majority of the class were people under thirty with up to five years of work experience.

The question was probably an expression of frustration born from the fact how easily some groups were firing droves of teachers or stiffing them out of the benefits. This question emphasized the fact that some groups chose more of a playful approach or were quite eager for replacing the objective utility implied in the case with the subjective utility of having an upper hand in the negotiation at any cost, even by destroying the very essence of the purpose of this negotiation. I don’t blame those groups, after all it was just an exercise,  but I found it really fascinating.

On the other hand, if those attitudes are not just conditioned by the limitations of the classroom exercise, but actually a reflection of the philosophy that will be extended in the real world, then it is more bothersome.

Then I remembered the national budget deficit and debt ceiling debate that took place in the Congress this past summer and realized that there are a lot of role models professing and practicing this kind of attitudes when the very crucial and real objectives are swept away and sacrificed in the interest of partisan interests and personal agendas to the detriment of the common good.

It makes me wonder how those congressman played their negotiation simulations while still in the classrooms.

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Just wanted to add another fun video to keep your interest in economics up and demonstrate that macroeconomics is not all that boring as the economists try to make it look to us – lay -men and -women.

I first saw this video about a year ago when I was taking my Financial Management class. At that time it was interesting to me, but mostly for the esthetic reasons, because it was really pretty well done. I remember the video had to do something with what professor passingly mentioned in the lecture, but it was not very much  elaborated on at that time.

However this year it makes much more sense as we just covered in class the Keynesian and (Neo)classical economic theory, aggregated demand, aggregated supply, IS-LM model, and many other equally as fascinating things. When I watched the video I remembered my professor’s in Microeconomics joke about “Economists do it with models”. The models in the video is what the economists would like it to be, but in reality, it is still more likely they will keep doing it with IS-LM models and such ;-)

And since we are on the topic of poking fun at economists, here is another joke on the subject:

TOP 10 REASONS TO STUDY ECONOMICS

1. Economists are armed and dangerous: “Watch out for our invisible hands.”
2. Economists can supply it on demand.
3. You can talk about money without every having to make any.
4. You get to say “trickle down” with a straight face.
5. Mick Jagger and Arnold Schwarzenegger both studied economics and look how they turned out.
6. When you are in the unemployment line, at least you will know why you are there.
7. If you rearrange the letters in “ECONOMICS”, you get “COMIC NOSE”.
8. Although ethics teaches that virtue is its own reward, in economics we get taught that reward is its own virtue.
9. When you get drunk, you can tell everyone that you are just researching the law of diminishing marginal utility.
10. When you call 1-900-LUV-ECON and get Kandi Keynes, you will have something to talk about.

This joke  I picked up from here. There are many more there on economists and economics. And, of course, these are my favorite jokes on MBA.

 

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Macroeconomics is one of the core classes I am taking right now – a little bit later in my MBA studies. The first part of Economics – Microeconomics – I took in my very first module when I just started my whole part-time MBA program journey back in fall 2009.

As everything with economics, regardless whether it is micro- or macroeconomics the subject is extremely interesting but rather challenging to initially grasp the concepts, especially for the poet types, like myself. One thing which I am happy about is that this fall term I strategically selected my classes. I wrote sometimes in the past that I would try not to have two quantitative classes going at the same time. This term is the pinnacle of that thinking and strategic planning. I have only two classes in my second module going right now. And only one of them quantitative – Macroeconomics.

This is extremely important to me, because I will not get too overwhelmed when the holiday season kicks in at the end of November. In previous two years I had three classes in the second module and felt like Grinch was stealing my Christmas. The other class this current module is Negotiations and Conflict Management, which is a lot of fun. Even though for some negotiations simulations we had to crunch the numbers, it has been “applied quants” and I did not have trouble with that.

Back to Macroeconomics. In my post Pre-MBA Reading List for Poets I recommended a book Principles of Economics by Gregory Mankiw to those “poets” who want to brush up or establish their grasp of the subject.

I got lucky in my Macroeconomics class this time because the required textbook Macroeconomics and the Financial System is by Gregory Mankiw, co-authored with Laurence Ball. Admittedly, it seems to have more advanced content than the other book I recommended. Still, it is a reasonably comprehensible book. Our professor also gave us links to some articles on the Mankiw’s blog. Turns out he is not only prolific textbook writer, but also a blogger. He posts almost everyday, unlike myself ;-(, and sometimes a few posts a day. Lots of good stuff that I am going to read to stay current right after I finish ;-) my Macroeconomics class. On Mankiw’s blog I found this hilarious video, Principles of Economics, Translated by Yoram Bauman poking fun at economists in general and referencing Mankiw in particular. I hope this will help you take the edge off if you are overwhelmed by your studies of Economics. For a real exam preparation I would still recommend Mankiw ;-) .

As I mentioned, Mankiw’s books are relatively easy read. But if you really want to have fun with Macroeconomics, try The Cartoon Introduction to Economics: Volume Two: Macroeconomics written by the guy featured in the video – Yoram Bauman. Whenever you feel like crying because you cannot understand economics in the class room, offset it (or should I say make a tradeoff, using economists’ lingo) with the laughter from his videos. You can find more of them on youtube or on his site – standupeconomist.com just by submitting your (dummy) email.

Have fun. I already had, and am getting back to reading Mankiw for my next Macroeconomics class.

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Consulting Club Networking Social at GWU

November 6, 2011

Just a couple days ago I was complaining about the lack of time and opportunities for part-time MBA students to network within the context of the business school. Apparently, having pumped myself up with discontent about this situation, I subconsciously was looking for opportunities to do something about it . Over a week ago I […]

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Social Networking for Part-time MBA Students

November 3, 2011

This past weekend I had a negotiation simulation with my classmate in Conflict Management and Negotiations class. As I mentioned in the past, this class requires some of the negotiations to be held out of the class, so we had a scheduled appointment on campus on Sunday. We had allocated an hour for the whole […]

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