Tag Archives: tyler-cowen

Tyler Cowen’s Ethnic Dining Tips and Rules: An Economist’s Take on Eating Out

When it comes to find­ing, order­ing, and eat­ing at eth­nic res­taur­ants there’s only one place to look for advice: eco­nom­ist Tyler Cowen’s Eth­nic Din­ing Guide. I’ve men­tioned Cowen’s guide before (if only in passing), but it’s time I ded­ic­ated a post to this treas­ure trove of din­ing advice and, espe­cially, the tips from Cowen’s Gen­er­al Remarks.

From an art­icle in The Wash­ing­ton Post, four strategies for find­ing good res­taur­ants and order­ing well (click through for details):

  1. For good value, avoid high-rent areas (those will be expens­ive or chains).
  2. Look for com­pet­i­tion (pos­sibly a sign of a large immig­rant pop­u­la­tion, provid­ing expert­ise).
  3. Know how to order ‘strategically’  from waiters.
  4. Be aware of the res­taur­ant cycle (from open­ing, to accol­ades, to mass pro­duc­tion).

Four rules-of-thumb for choos­ing from the menu (be aware of the excep­tions):

  1. Avoid “ingredi­ents-intens­ive” dishes, opt for “com­pos­i­tion-intens­ive” instead (i.e. con­tains sauces or com­plex ingredi­ent mixes).
  2. Appet­izers are super­i­or to main courses in some cuisines; be will­ing to have a ‘side-dishes-only’ meal.
  3. Avoid desserts, espe­cially Asi­an ones.
  4. Order for vari­ety, not quant­ity (order more than you think neces­sary).

And finally, from a recent art­icle by Cowen in The Atlantic, six rules for din­ing out:

  1. In the fan­ci­est res­taur­ants, order what sounds least appet­ising.
  2. Beware the beau­ti­ful, laugh­ing women (you’re there for food, not the scene/drinks).
  3. Get out of the city.
  4. Admit what you don’t know, and search/ask intel­li­gently.
  5. Exploit res­taur­ant work­ers (if you see expens­ive labour, think about what your return is… fam­ily-run res­taur­ants may offer the best return).
  6. Prefer Viet­namese to Thai, Pakistani to Indi­an.

Cowen can be a bit out­spoken on the top­ic of food, so bear in mind this com­ment:

It all makes per­fect sense if you like what Cowen likes, which is inter­est­ing food for a reas­on­able price without much ambi­ance. Which is not what every­one likes.

Wheth­er that’s what you like or not, you’ll still def­in­itely like Cowen’s book on the sub­ject, An Eco­nom­ist Gets Lunch.

‘Bit Culture’ and the Benefits of Distraction

The inform­a­tion con­sump­tion habits of many in the young­er generations–one fea­ture of the ‘Inter­net inform­a­tion culture’–has many mer­its, des­pite its many detract­ors. So says Ban Cas­nocha in an art­icle for The Amer­ic­an that acts as both a review of Tyler Cowen’s Cre­ate Your Own Eco­nomy and a fairly pos­it­ive and com­pre­hens­ive over­view of the “bit cul­ture” and its affects on atten­tion and learn­ing.

Cas­nocha begins with a look at his own media con­sump­tion habits (that closely mir­rors mine and, no doubt, many of yours, too) and a couple of the­or­ies for explain­ing this style:

The first is eco­nom­ic: when cul­ture is free and a click away, as it is on blogs and Twit­ter and the broad­er Inter­net, we sample broadly and con­sume it in smal­ler chunks: “When access is easy, we tend to favor the short, the sweet, and the bitty. When access is dif­fi­cult, we tend to look for large-scale pro­duc­tions, extra­vag­an­zas, and mas­ter­pieces,” […]

The second reas­on is the intel­lec­tu­al and emo­tion­al stim­u­la­tion we exper­i­ence by assem­bling a cus­tom stream of bits. Cowen refers to this pro­cess as the “daily self-assembly of syn­thet­ic exper­i­ences.” My inputs appear a chaot­ic jumble of scattered inform­a­tion but to me they touch all my interest points. When I con­sume them as a blend, I see all-import­ant con­nec­tions between the dif­fer­ent intel­lec­tu­al nar­rat­ives I fol­low […]

When skep­tics make sweep­ing neg­at­ive claims about how the Web affects cog­ni­tion, they are for­get­ting the people whose nat­ur­al tend­en­cies and strengths blos­som in an inform­a­tion-rich envir­on­ment. Cowen’s over­rid­ing point, delivered in a “can’t we all just get along” spir­it, is that every­one pro­cesses the stim­uli of the world dif­fer­ently. Every­one deploys atten­tion in their own way. We should embrace the new tools—even if we do not per­son­ally bene­fit— that allow the infovores among us to per­form tasks effect­ively and acquire know­ledge rap­idly.

On Being Wrong: Estimating Our Beliefs

Fol­low­ing the forced retire­ment of Helen Thomas fol­low­ing her con­tro­ver­sial com­ments on Israel and Palestine, Felix Sal­mon dis­cusses how being wrong–and more import­antly, the will­ing­ness to be wrong–is an admir­able trait that should be applauded.

In dis­cuss­ing this, Sal­mon points to a con­ver­sa­tion between Tyler Cowen and Wil Wilkin­son, where Cowen pro­poses:

Take whatever your polit­ic­al beliefs hap­pen to be. Obvi­ously the view you hold you think is most likely to be true, but I think you should give that some­thing like 60–40, where­as in real­ity most people will give it 95 to 5 or 99 to 1 in terms of prob­ab­il­ity that it is cor­rect. Or if you ask people what is the chance this view of yours is wrong, very few people are will­ing to assign it any num­ber at all. Or if you ask people who believe in God or are athe­ists, what’s the chance you’re wrong – I’ve asked athe­ists what’s the chance you’re wrong and they’ll say some­thing like a tril­lion to one, and that to me is absurd, that even if you think all of the strongest argu­ments for athe­ism are cor­rect, your estim­ate that athe­ism is in fact the cor­rect point of view shouldn’t be that high, maybe you know 90–10 or 95 to 5, at most.

Sal­mon con­tin­ues:

I try hard to believe […] that many if not most of my opin­ions are wrong (although of course I have no idea which they are), and that many of the most inter­est­ing and use­ful things I write come out of my being wrong rather than being right. This is not, as Wilkin­son noted to Cowen, an easy intel­lec­tu­al stance to hold: he calls it “a weird viol­a­tion of the actu­al com­pu­ta­tion­al con­straints of the human mind”.

via The Browser

Advice from Economists

Jim Rogers—co-founder of the Quantum Fund (with George Sor­os), eco­nom­ic com­ment­at­or, guest pro­fess­or of fin­ance at Columbia Uni­ver­sity and author of A Gift to My Chil­dren—provided a short inter­view with the FT dis­cuss­ing his thoughts on mak­ing that first mil­lion, on trav­el­ling, and some gen­er­al advice to the next gen­er­a­tion.

What is the secret of your suc­cess?

As I was not smarter than most people, I was will­ing to work harder than most. I was pre­pared to exam­ine con­ven­tion­al wis­dom.

  • Do not under­es­tim­ate the value of due dili­gence.
  • For [the next] gen­er­a­tion, Man­dar­in and Eng­lish will be the most import­ant lan­guages.
  • If you give chil­dren too much, you will ruin them. I want my chil­dren to be well-edu­cated and exper­i­ence the work­place. [On not passing much fin­an­cial wealth to his chil­dren.]
  • Invest only in things you know some­thing about. […] Stick to what [you] know and buy an invest­ment in that area. That is how you get rich. You don’t get rich invest­ing in things you know noth­ing about.

Fur­ther advice, this from Tyler Cowen:

I told [my step­daugh­ter] to take cal­cu­lus and stat­ist­ics; even if she hates them she’ll know what side of that divide she stands on.  I am encour­aging of learn­ing lan­guages, driv­ing mod­est Japan­ese cars, and order­ing the most unap­peal­ing-sound­ing dish on the menu of a good res­taur­ant.  On invest­ing it’s buy and hold all the way.  Use TimeOut guides when you travel and when you are eat­ing in third world coun­tries avoid walls.  I’m not a big fan of debt; debt is worth it only if you’re earn­ings-obsessed and I don’t recom­mend that for most people.  Don’t expect to be too happy, that is coun­ter­pro­duct­ive.  I’ve men­tioned that future job descrip­tions may be quite flu­id and unpre­dict­able from today’s vant­age point.  Being “good with people,” com­bined with smarts and a focus on exe­cu­tion, will nev­er wear out.

As with all art­icles that dole out advice, there’s some gold in the com­ments.

Jim Rogers inter­view via Tim Cold­well

Observations on Dining

Ben Cas­nocha com­piles a list of griev­ances and obser­va­tions on “res­taur­ants, tips, and bread bas­kets”. For example:

If I were a res­taur­ant man­ager I would spend 30 minutes with each of my waiters explain­ing the research around how to max­im­ize tips from pat­rons. For example, leav­ing a mint with the bill or draw­ing a smi­ley face on the bill have been shown to increase tip. Research also sug­gests that the tip amount is only mar­gin­ally con­nec­ted with the actu­al qual­ity of wait ser­vice. Bot­tom line is that many waiters miss out on easy psy­cho­lo­gic­al hacks that would increase their tips.

And this; one of the four rules-of-thumb from Tyler Cowen’s recently updated Eth­nic Din­ing Guide (via Kot­tke):

Avoid dishes that are “ingredi­ents-intens­ive.” Raw ingredi­ents in Amer­ica [and likely the UK, too] – veget­ables, but­ter, bread, meats, etc. – are below world stand­ards. Even most under­developed coun­tries have bet­ter raw ingredi­ents than we do, at least if you have a U.S. income to spend there, and often even if one doesn’t. Order­ing the plain steak in Lat­in Amer­ica may be a great idea, but it is usu­ally a mis­take in North­ern Vir­gin­ia. Opt for dishes with sauces and com­plex mixes of ingredi­ents. Go for dishes that are “com­pos­i­tion-intens­ive.”