Friday, November 09, 2007

Lighthouse

Sorry that posting has been light around here. You know I'm busy...and will be for the next couple of decades.

Also, I've been channeling my excess creativity towards improvising bedtime stories for Monkey as I put him to bed. Lately, I try to draw inspiration from something that came up during the day, come up with a twist to drive the story, and then try to remember to use lots of adjectives.

As an example that maybe only an economist might appreciate, my research at work has touched tangentially on public provision of non-excludable goods. A classic example attributed to Paul Samuelson is that of the lighthouse, which casts light that provides a benefit that seafarers would be willing to pay for...but it's hard to stop a scurvy sailor from gazing on your lighthouse if he's tight with the pieces o' eight. (The case for public financing of lighthouse may have been partially debunked -- by Coase himself? -- in that user fees assessed in nearby ports and harbors can fund operation.)

Anyhow, I told a lighthouse story. The lighthouse aided navigation around a port whose principal export happened to be the bestest toys for boys and girls ever! I tried to make the public good financing overcoming the market failure for non-excludable goods into the plot twist, but that (obviously) fell flat. The Monkey was still awake, so I veered into a story about the lighthouse keeper. The plot wandered, and then I fell asleep.

One story that I will recount here later was "The Hospital Story," which is how I explained the Monkey Mama's post-partum hospitalization to the little guy. The stakes were high, and he hung on every word. I think it helped him cope.

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