The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

This week's Economist

Mondays are Economist days over here. I've got myself into a rhythm of travel, school, work, and keeping sane that requires me to put things in small boxes of time; on Mondays I read the latest Economist. This week had two unusually interesting (and short) articles in the "Finance and Economics" section[1].

First, a report that numeracy predicts mortgage defaults better than any other variable:

Even accounting for a host of differences between people—including attitudes to risk, income levels and credit scores—those who fell behind on their mortgages were noticeably less numerate than those who kept up with their payments in the same overall circumstances. The least numerate fell behind about 25% of the time. For those who did best on the test, the number of payments they missed was almost 12%. A fifth of the least numerate group had been in foreclosure, but only 7% of those who were more numerically adept had.

Surprisingly, the least numerate were not making loan choices that differed much from their peers. They were about as likely to have a fixed-rate mortgage as the more numerically able. They did not borrow a larger share of their income. And loans were about the same fraction of the house’s value.

They've even got a handy quiz of the type the researchers used. Two pages on, in the "Economics Focus" column, the newspaper reported on the FCC's decision two weeks ago to treat ISPs as common carriers for their last-mile service. This is a big deal:

A medieval innkeeper, for example, often offered the only lodging in town; a boatman could cross only with the king’s writ. Second, the state sometimes offers favours of its own to transporters—public lands and roads, say, or the seizure of private property to make way for new infrastructure—and expects a certain level of public service in return. Third, transport is essential to commerce. It represents an input cost to almost all businesses, and to restrict access or overcharge is to burden the entire economy.

All these arguments applied in spades to 19th-century rail. Like a medieval town’s sole inn, a railway line is a perfect example of a natural monopoly: it is tremendously expensive to build and it is difficult to justify more than one set of tracks on any route just to guarantee competition. ...

Telecoms operators argue that America does not need common carriage for internet access, because the country’s unique network of local cable monopolies competes against its last-mile copper-wire monopolies. ... The FCC’s current plan—to ask last-mile providers to subsidise rural service, and to ensure equal treatment of packets of information—is a mild intervention by global standards.

Time now to review, once again, the team's finance assignment due tonight, and then collapse in a heap. The Daily Parker will probably continue to have slightly less velocity than usual for a week or so as I twist myself into a small knot of anxiety over my finance midterm. If only it could be as engaging as a class as it is in a newspaper.

[1] Yes, the topic interests me in the abstract, but at the same time I can't wait until the end of doing concrete finance—e.g., working out CAPM calculations—once my finance class ends next month.

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