Optionality Is Overrated

Optionality is overrated. From Tinder, to consulting for our most talented college graduates, to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, optionality is systemically overvalued.

One should be careful about choosing optionality as a replacement for thinking critically about your future. Making real decisions is scary, but you should always remember that not making a decision, is a decision. The option to do anything often means you end up doing nothing. 

There is a modern, rationalist critique of human reason that has pervaded the cultural milieu.  Humans are fallible, they are prone to all kinds of fallacies. At the end of the day, you can’t really know anything. In reality, this becomes an excuse for not thinking. 

No doubt, humans are prone to all kinds of fallacies and intellectual transgressions, but never let this fact about human psychology be a substitute to thinking about your future. You have power, you have agency. You are a child of God. 

Quick Thoughts From A Critique Of Interventionism by Ludwig von Mises

The central thesis behind A Critique Of Interventionism is that interference in the price mechanism by the government will not achieve its intended result, which in turn will lead to further intervention, and eventually a centrally planned economy. 

A good example could be anti-price gouging laws within a crisis. Economist Mike Munger gives a great example from Hurricane Fran in North Carolina. Hurricane Fran was quite destructive, and millions of people were left without power for weeks. My parents always tell a story about how much I hated not being able to watch Barney, and the Lehrer Report that came on after (yep, I was a weird kid). 

During the hurricane, three good ole boy entrepreneurs hatched a plan and decided to take a truck full of ice from Goldsboro, which had power, to Raleigh, which had none.

The boys arrived, set up shop, and started selling the ice at $11 a bag, the line stretched on for quite a while-people needed ice for insulin, for baby formula, and all kinds of essential goods. 

Not long after they set up shop, the police showed up, our heroes were arrested for price gouging, which in this case meant charging more than 5% over the normal going rate for ice. The trucks were taken to the impound lot, and all of the ice melted. 

Why is this a problem? Not allowing the price mechanism to work means that no one else would be willing to load up a truck with ice, make the 55-mile drive from Goldsboro to Raleigh during a crisis, and sell ice for $1.57 a bag instead of $1.50. 

The only way forward from here would be for the government to create its own ice company (more interventionism), convince Goldsborians to bring the ice anyway at a loss (you would have to coerce them), or to repeal anti-gouging laws. 

This is the slippery slope that Mises describes throughout A Critique Of Interventionism. 

The real problem, that is somewhat ignored throughout the book, are the public choice implications of interventionism. Bureaucrats and lawmakers are self-interested agents themselves, and it is a sullen fact of life that few people get hired to do nothing. It is almost a given that they will continue to intervene.  Intervention validates their very existence and is therefore very difficult to dislodge. 

The modern federal bureaucracy is functionally immortal. Unlike a private company, it cannot die if it is sick from institutional rot. Constitutions and separation of powers can prove to be a drag on intervention, but those are limited safeguards. 

This does not mean there is no cause for hope, however. The simplest policy intervention to “reset” modern bureaucracies, is simply to move them. This can have a strong effect, as oftentimes, most bureaucrats are unwilling to relocate for their jobs. Perhaps Kansas City would make for a great new capital city, but alas, only time will tell. 

 

The Stopwatch Never Lies: How I Solved My Procrastination Problem

Procrastination is a difficult beast to solve. I struggled with it a long time, especially as a young adult, until I changed my mental framing of the problem.

In general, most people vastly overrate their ability to do things later. Insight, opportunities, and good ideas are finite, and to be successful, you must aggressively pursue opportunities as soon as they become available. 

Whenever I come upon an opportunity, I tell myself “if this does not happen RIGHT NOW, it will never, ever happen.” If I’m already occupied with something (say, driving), I set a calendar reminder for later that night to go ahead and complete the task.  

This is the branching path I take, with greater preference given to getting the task done immediately, and if I physically cannot do that, the task is to schedule time to do it, as soon as I can. I try and set my personal discount rate to zero.

As Al Davis said, “The stopwatch never lies. Speed kills but absolute speed kills absolutely.”