Hmmm.
June 23, 2006 7:02 AM   Subscribe

Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution asks: "Assuming you start from a multi-dimensional global utility maximum, which Lancastrian characteristics—with non-trivial shadow prices—would you like more of in a corresponding unconstrained equilibrium?"
posted by monju_bosatsu (35 comments total)

 
Let me be the first to say "huh?"
posted by Orange Goblin at 7:12 AM on June 23, 2006


I ask myself that all the time.
posted by Zozo at 7:14 AM on June 23, 2006


Chatfilter.
posted by sonofsamiam at 7:16 AM on June 23, 2006


Yes, please.

Wait, what was the question?
posted by pupdog at 7:17 AM on June 23, 2006


"What would you like to see unbundled?"

Internet Explorer.
posted by NinjaTadpole at 7:18 AM on June 23, 2006


I understand the question but why is this "best of the web"? Its just a chatty question, me thinks, a livejournal poll with some unnecessary obfuscation.
posted by vacapinta at 7:20 AM on June 23, 2006


I don't know about "multi-dimensional global utility maximum[s]," but I do know that Cowen knows his DC-area ethnic eateries.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:25 AM on June 23, 2006


I like cheese.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:25 AM on June 23, 2006


I plan to devote the next year of my life to understanding that sentence.
posted by Malor at 7:25 AM on June 23, 2006


Instead of being pedantic, why not provide links that will help the readers of the post understand some of the concepts involved in that sentence? And if those concepts are incidental to the point of the question, then this should be deleted for wankery of the first order...
posted by lovejones at 7:32 AM on June 23, 2006


Marginal revolution is a great blog but I've seen a couple things from MR posted here and they always seem to be the least interesting things.
posted by I Foody at 7:35 AM on June 23, 2006


But what would you like with your cheese, Mr. Davis? Soft pornography, deep kisses, baseball in the rain? This is the question. And, yeah, it's chatfilter.
posted by bonehead at 7:40 AM on June 23, 2006


I can speak in impenetrable jargon, too.

But I don't, because I like communication to be more than standing in front of people and masturbating.

I believe the question in the post translates to, "what do you want more of? By the way, I'm masturbating right now." Kelvin Lancaster and Gary Becker proposed, in the 1960s, that a useful method to determine and measure prices and the changes is them is rather than labelling something purely 'a telephone' (for example), you should instead take into account each unique characteristic that the telephone possesses, and then when there is "more" of that characteristic, the value of the phone has increased, so a corresponding raise in price is justified. These characteristics are referred to occasionally as Lancastrian characteristics; more information is at the Wikipedia entry on the Hedonic model.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics uses this method to calculate inflation. It's been claimed that Lancastrian characteristics are completely misleading wastes of time, considering that no one has the objective ability to measure these characteristics, whatever they are, and certainly not the ability to determine their objective worth.

(Also, things are bundled when they are discrete but unseparable Lancastrian characteristics. So 'unbundling' something, I guess, would be having it in its pure form. Like if you could have a box of the ability to cool food, instead of a refrigerator.)
posted by blacklite at 8:02 AM on June 23, 2006 [2 favorites]


Applause, blacklite.
posted by sicem07 at 8:18 AM on June 23, 2006


Removing those who have given up looking for a job from the unemployment figures is a successful example of unbundling...
posted by clevershark at 8:20 AM on June 23, 2006


Hedonic model:


posted by sonofsamiam at 8:23 AM on June 23, 2006


There you go... Hedonism Bot, a robot unbundled from the idea that robots should do useful things :-)
posted by clevershark at 8:25 AM on June 23, 2006


The Christian Right hates corresponding unconstrained equilibrium.
posted by doctor_negative at 9:17 AM on June 23, 2006


?
posted by winks007 at 9:57 AM on June 23, 2006


Unbind Desire from Motive (let's start with world leaders, and expand outward from their).

I'd also like to unbind laziness from attitude.
posted by ewkpates at 9:59 AM on June 23, 2006


Oh, and this is a great post. Blacklite should unbind from metafilter.
posted by ewkpates at 10:00 AM on June 23, 2006


I'd like to unbind good things from their harmful consequences.

Does that cover it?
posted by vacapinta at 10:03 AM on June 23, 2006


I can think of one person right now who I'd like to unbind from breathing.
posted by Skorgu at 10:19 AM on June 23, 2006


I'd like to unbind someone's posting rights.
posted by bonaldi at 10:28 AM on June 23, 2006


Blacklite should unbind from metafilter.

On the contrary -- blacklite's comment was the only redeeming thing about this post.
posted by gigawhat? at 10:31 AM on June 23, 2006


Mmmm, yes. Indeed. *puffs pipe*

Yes, yes.
*puff, puff*

Yes,*puff* well, this is all academic really.

*rests patched elbow of tweed suit on ivy covered ledge*
You see the assumptions underlying a model of a multi-dimensional global utility maximum can be quite empirically restrictive.
*puff puff*
What value are we to give *puff* to non-pecuniary characteristics to reveal preference data in the context of testing the competing hedonic differentials?
There can be no empirical data *puff* whether whatever utility-bearing attributes or characteristics have correlative value or a positive or negative influence on utility.
Indeed,*puff* do we have the opportunity for post-optimality analysis?


(Meh. I’d like communication unbundled from language. 'Cause I don't even know what the hell I'm talking about here)
posted by Smedleyman at 11:09 AM on June 23, 2006


Obscurely through my brain, like shadows dim,
Sweep awful thoughts, rapid and thick. I feel
Faint, like one mingled in entwining love;
Yet 't is not pleasure.
posted by xod at 1:46 PM on June 23, 2006


I understand the question but why is this "best of the web"? Its just a chatty question, me thinks, a livejournal poll with some unnecessary obfuscation.

Agreed. Flagged.
posted by Mr. Six at 2:32 PM on June 23, 2006


I always confuse Tyler Cowen with Tyler Durden.
posted by vitia at 2:51 PM on June 23, 2006


This here is just something I don't understand.
posted by lilbrudder at 3:57 PM on June 23, 2006


How I could just ... kill a man?
posted by namespan at 6:33 PM on June 23, 2006


"Assuming you start from a multi-dimensional global utility maximum, which Lancastrian characteristics—with non-trivial shadow prices—would you like more of in a corresponding unconstrained equilibrium?"

Being at a "multi-dimensional global utility maximum" means you have the best bundle of goods (or characteristics) available, given all the constraints of existence, availability, and otherwise your ability to procure/consume them. And by "best" I mean that there is no other available, procurable bundle of goods or characteristics that you would choose over it. "Utility", as understood by sensible economists, is an arbitrary number assigned to bundles to rank order them according to how they would be chosen - if you'd chose A over B, then A is given a larger number or "utility". The "global" qualifier is there because some people don't always like more of a good thing, or to mix good things together. "Shadow prices" are essentially the implicit amount you'd be willing to pay to obtain one more unit of a good or characteristic, holding everything else constant. Thus, a non-negative shadow price indicates that we're talking about something you'd like to have more of in a basic sense. I don't know why this Tyler person used "non-trivial" instead of "non-negative" - it doesn't really make much sense that way. By "unconstrained equilibrium", he just means that you're supposed to pretend that all those constraints on existence, availability and procurability of goods or characterists are no longer binding. Consider asking for a unicorn. There is normally a binding constraint on the number of unicorns you can buy - because there aren't any. Now imagine that there were some, and you could have as many as you wanted. You're thinking of an "unconstrained equilibrium" (though, there's no dynamic here, so I don't know why he's calling it an "equilibrium" - sloppy, really).

In other words: if you could have more of anything you care about - including individual aspects or features of an item that are normally bundled with other characteristics - what would you choose?

And, of course, as any economist knows, the answer is: everything. By definition. Ex hypothesi. If the shadow price is non-negative, that means you want more of it.
posted by dilettanti at 11:40 PM on June 23, 2006


namespan - heh heh.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:50 PM on June 23, 2006


Thanks, dilettanti. (And sicem07 and gigawhat?, while I'm here.)
posted by blacklite at 1:49 PM on June 24, 2006


I think that part of the fun of asking a question like that is couching it in grossly impenetrable jargon.
posted by tew at 2:49 PM on June 26, 2006


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