Supply, demand and roommates

OPINION

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September 30, 2012|By Stephen Markley, @stephenmarkley | For RedEye

When you get a new roommate, you enter an entirely new social compact. You must negotiate new compromises and re-invent living habits. Also, if he happens to be a center-right economist, you'll have to do a lot more reading.

My new roommate Pat has a master's in economics, so we spend a lot of time evaluating economic policy decisions.

"C'mon, man, targeting nominal GDP is the way to go," I'll say after we've stayed up till 2 in the morning discussing the Fed's recent actions.

"Sure, dude," he'll say, "and I think you'll even find monetarists like Lars Christensen and Scott Sumner saying it makes more sense to target NGDP, but I nevertheless find using inflation to grow the economy troublesome, bro."

Therefore, not only do Pat and I have to figure out who's going to pay for the new TV (him), in what order we'll watch episodes of "Parks and Rec" (start at Season 4, work backward) and who's going to clean all the hair out of the bathroom drain (still undecided), but we have to find common policy ground on a nightly basis while sticking to the preferred nomenclature of 20-something guys.

"Even if I believe strongly in the power of markets, I think it's pretty clear that unrestrained markets can have some disastrous failures, bro," I'll say. "Climate change, high finance, education ..."

"Whoa, dude, competitive markets in education are where it's at."

"Nah, doggy, look at Finland. Pursuing equality leads to better educational outcomes than competition."

"Cooperation and competition are not mutually exclusive. Plus, in the case of Finland you gotta look at scalability issues, brah."

I find economics fascinating. I once got fanboy excited when I thought I saw "Naked Economics" author and failed congressional candidate Charlie Wheelan on the Brown Line. Literally, the coolest thing to happen to me in 2012 was when former chair of the President's Council of Economic Advisors Austan Goolsbee accepted my Facebook friendship. (I took a picture of the screen and posted it on my wall, which led to a social media infinite regress that may soon open a black hole.)

With Pat as my roommate, however, I can't just dabble. I'm basically studying for a master's myself now.

"Inherent volatility follows opacity and leverage when it comes to banking, dude," I'll warn him. "Financial crises will follow."

"Easy, bro, now you're starting to sound like an Austrian. Business cycle much?"

"No way! You gotta read your Hyman Minsky, playa. The financial instability hypothesis, my man."

This is why I love having a roommate, even at this late stage of emerging adulthood when I've long left behind my tolerance for dishes overflowing the sink and a broken toilet that has to be flushed by sticking one's hand deep into the tank: You never know where any given late-night conversation may lead. It keeps you on your toes.

Plus, even if you get tired of the old Keynes vs. Hayek debate, you can always talk about chicks.

"Dude, that girl just shot down my 'I write for RedEye' line. C'mon!"

"Demand for hot women is inelastic, bro. Just between you and Ernest Wilkins, RedEye writers have already hit excess supply."

RedEye special contributor Stephen Markley is the author of "The Great Dysmorphia" and "Publish This Book."

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