Quotulatiousness

May 31, 2017

Introduction to Consumer Choice

Filed under: Economics — Tags: — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 30 May 2017

Everyday, you make tons of decisions about consumption. Your choices about what and how much of a good to buy are influenced by the laws of supply and demand. These choices are nearly endless. For example, at Starbucks, each drink is highly customizable. In fact, they offer over 80,000 combinations!

When you buy a good or make a decision about how to use your time, you’re getting some sort of value, like a sense of happiness or satisfaction, out of it – economists call this “utility.” The increase in that value from buying an additional unit of a good or service is its marginal utility. When you make these decisions, you’re thinking at the margin, even if you don’t realize it.

Think about how wonderful a shot of espresso, or your beverage of choice, is first thing in the morning. You probably derive quite a bit of utility! But how about a second, third, or even fourth shot of espresso? With each extra shot, you probably get a little less utility. At some point, the cost will outweigh the marginal utility.

When you add up the satisfaction you get out of all of the shots of espresso, that is your total utility. Since each additional shot of espresso has a little less utility, economists refer to this concept as diminishing marginal utility.

This is true for all goods and activities, but the amount of utility and marginal utility depends on the individual. For example, let’s say that Starbucks drops the price of shot of espresso. This can change the quantity demanded on aggregate because for some people, the drop in price will make the marginal utility they derive from an extra shot now worth the cost. But perhaps that’s not true for you and your consumption will not change.

Are you starting to see how you instinctively think and act at the margin in your daily life?

Up next, we’ll explore other factors beyond price that affect your habits as a consumer, such as preferences and income.

Stormtrooper gear

Filed under: Business, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In The Register, Gavin Clarke talks about “inexpensive” replicas of the original Star Wars stormtrooper helmets and other gear:

Original Stormtrooper Hero Helmet from Shepperton Design Studios + originalstormtrooper.com

Two years ago, the helmet of an Empire Strikes Back stormtrooper fetched $120,000 (£92,736) at US auction.

An Imperial TIE fighter pilot’s helmet, said to be one of just 12 made for A New Hope, went the following year for £180,000 ($233,244) – something the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow presenter Fiona Bruce dismissed as a “piece of plastic”.

Big money indeed, but the record to date for stormtroopers, the most widely recognised symbol of the Empire, is held by A New Hope sandtrooper helmet, named the Stop That Ship Helmet for the scene it briefly appeared in – the Millennium Falcon blasting out of Mos Eisley under fire. That helmet sold at auction in April for $190,000 (£145,675) in the US.

Yes, four decades after A New Hope debuted in the US – 25 May, 1977 – props built for just £20 a pop are fetching the price of a three-bed semi in the West Midlands.

What’s helping drive up the price is scarcity: just 50 stormtrooper uniforms were made for A New Hope. Those that survived the shoot now reside in private collections.

[…]

So, where does a 30-something who wants a piece of the legend go? Not the mass market of sub-£1,000 suits that targets the fancy dresser.

No, they tap a cottage industry of British specialists – Ainsworth’s Shepperton Design Studios, Edwards’ CfO, and RS Prop Masters in the UK.

This trio is busy vacuum forming sheets of white ABS plastic using curved moulds to a 1.5mm thickness, cutting out and assembling around 30 pieces per suit, making straps, body suits, eyepieces, mics, boots and blasters. Prices run from £1,200 – around $1,550.

And in case you were wondering, there are few concessions on size or girth. The original stormtrooper was 5ft 10in and 110lbs. He remains so. The most you can expect is a little extra plastic around the overlapping at the edges if you’re a little large for a stormtrooper.

“JFK before the speechwriters got to him is far more interesting”

Filed under: History, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Mark Steyn celebrates what would have been JFK’s 100th birthday by looking at the pre-Camelot JFK’s life:

Jack’s early life was certainly privileged but not idyllic. The family patriarch, Joe, is an easy target: an enthusiastic adulterer at home, and abroad, as US Ambassador to the Court of St James’s, an equally enthusiastic appeaser. His wife, Rose, reacted to his infidelities by retreating into her social life. The distance she put between her and her husband also left her nine children (four of whom she would outlive) beached on the other side of the divide. She regarded them, as one biographer put it, as “a management exercise”, and she believed in mostly hands-off management. Jack was a sickly child who spent months in hospital, but his mother was too far away to visit. Maternal affection was confined to a postcard from Paris, a ship-to-shore telegram from the Queen Mary. For the rest of his life, Kennedy disliked being touched or hugged even in the course of his many fleeting, transient sexual encounters.

Sex was fine. Anything more he found awkward and difficult. He showered up to five times a day. You can do your own analysis; everybody else does. “If he were my son,” declared a master at Choate, “I should take him to a gland specialist.” “He has never eaten enough vegetables,” decided Rose.

Duty is more easily borne when the the world’s eminences are your dinner companions. You meet the seigneurs, and you get to enjoy a little of their droit de, too. A former lover of Prince George, Duke of Kent introduced herself to young Jack as “a member of the British Royal Family by injection”. The line seemed fresh to him, as it might not have a quarter-century later were random showgirls and mob molls running around Vegas and Malibu introducing themselves as members of the Kennedy family by injection. He signed his letters from Harvard, “Stout-hearted Kennedy, despoiler of women.”

On the other hand, not many 24-year-olds get to shoot the breeze with Lord Halifax, British Ambassador in Washington, at the height of the Second World War about where the man he served as prime minister had gone wrong. “Halifax believed,” wrote young Kennedy after their conversation, “that Chamberlain was misled and defeated by his phrases, which he did not really believe in, such as ‘Peace in our time’.” By the time Kennedy got into the phrase-making business, he left it to the professionals to craft all that sing-songy seesawing jingles people seem to think meets the definition of powerful rhetoric: Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind. Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate. Mankind must put an end to cheap applause lines, but let us never fear to invert them formulaically yet portentously.

The JFK before the speechwriters got to him is far more interesting. “We are at a great disadvantage,” Kennedy the gunboat skipper writes from the Pacific. “The Russians could see their country invaded, the Chinese the same. The British were bombed, but we are fighting on some islands belonging to the Lever Company, a British concern making soap… I suppose if we were stockholders we would perhaps be doing better, but to see that by dying at Munda you are helping to ensure peace in our time takes a larger imagination than most men possess.”

The Wood Whisperer 269 – Pet Steps

Filed under: Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 16 Sep 2016

For FREE plans and additional details, head to http://www.thewoodwhisperer.com/videos/pet-steps/

Welcome to the Honda Ridgeline Saturday Project series produced in partnership with Honda. Each project is designed to be approachable using basic tools and materials. And to show you how versatile the all-new 2017 Honda Ridgeline can be, we’ll build each project right in the bed of the truck!

Sometimes our pets need a little help getting to high places like the family bed or the inside of a vehicle. This easy-to-build set of Pet Steps can also serve as a ramp and even stores flat when not in use. Made with simple materials and basic tools, anyone can knock this project out in a weekend. The inspiration for this design came from various sources on the web and was brought to life by my buddy Scott Seganti.

QotD: Capitalism

Filed under: Economics, History, Quotations — Tags: — Nicholas @ 01:00

Queen Elizabeth owned silk stockings. The capitalist achievement does not typically consist in providing more silk stockings for queens but in bringing them within the reach of factory girls in return for steadily decreasing amounts of effort…. [T]he capitalist process, not by coincidence but by virtue of its mechanism, progressively raises the standard of life of the masses.

Joseph Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, 1942.

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