Rundles wrap up: resolute clarity


I’m like everyone else. The financial crisis has hit me directly, I worry about the direction of the country from both a fiscal and political point of view, and I’m unhappy with many, many things in government and society at every level but reluctant to pull the trigger on wholesale change.

It’s pretty bad when ideological gridlock is preferable to resolute action. I almost envy fanatics because they seem so sure; obviously, they have decluttered their minds of impure alternatives, while I find myself suffering migraines.

I’m looking for signs of clarity, and coming up with muddle.

What do we make of this: John Malone, the billionaire cable television magnate, in a recent interview said his wife is stashing her cash in Canada and that he, too, would consider Canada as a refuge, even illegally, because the banking and financial structure there is more stable. This is odd coming at a time when Mexican citizens are electing to come to the U.S., often illegally, and you have to assume they are doing it for financial stability.

Many people are suggesting that we build an impenetrable fence along our southern border to keep the undesirables out, but one wonders now if the Canadians are contemplating doing the same thing. Big border, but Canada at least appears resolute enough to make a decision without too much acrimony. How many illegal billionaires are too many?

I need a sign, or at least an epiphany. Should I apply for Canadian citizenship or buck trends, learn Spanish and move south? Each has its pluses and minuses.
Perhaps my problem is that I am seeking tangibility, something real that I can use as proof positive that making a decision – any decision – will come with no reservation. Make the selection, come what may. But how? Who to believe?

Recently I have come to realize that this is folly. To heck with reality and proof and ideology, even reason. I need something irrelevant.

Just a few weeks ago a Stanford University political economy professor and his colleagues released findings of a study that suggested a link between college football and political elections. Using data collected from 1964 through 2008, they found that wins by local college football teams in the two weeks before an election had the effect of raising the vote totals for incumbents by 1.05 to 1.47 percentage points, clearly enough to make the difference in a close race. The lead researcher, professor Neil Malhotra, said voter attitudes have to do with “mood,” that “well-being induced by game results” had the effect of raising voters’ spirits to the political status quo.

Amazing. I wonder whether this has an economic effect as well. Here I was trying to make an informed decision based on pro and con arguments and empirical evidence, and what I should really do is simply read the sports pages. Let’s see, I have a job interview scheduled for Wednesday morning, but the Rockies got shelled the night before. Do I cancel and look for another job, or hope the HR director is a Cubs fan?

What about buying a house or applying for a mortgage? Better to do it on a Monday after a big Broncos win, and if it’s the Raiders all the better?

Actually, I think I found the right answer in events surrounding the World Cup Football Championships. Paul, an octopus in an Oberhausen, Germany, aquarium, was given the choice between two tasty mussels perched on a rock with the competitors’ logos, and he successfully picked eight straight games, including choosing Spain over the Netherlands in the final.

So that’s it. I’m getting an octopus. I have two companies that have offered me a job, so I’ll let the cephalopod make my decision. Should I buy the house with the big yard or the one with the theater in the basement? I’ll suck it up and go to the mollusk.

Hey, in these times an octopus is at least as rational as a Democrat or a Republican, and probably more resolute that any Wall Street trader. It makes as much sense as watching pundits on cable TV.
And an octopus is more useful for smaller agenda items. What to make for dinner? Steak or calamari?
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