Tag Archives: Economy

Do Kids Move Back in with Parents Because They’re Trained to be Helpless: Parenting Without Borders, Part 10

In the Introduction, we broached the idea that the way other cultures parent might be more “right” than the way that the culture in North America parents, as discussed in the book Parenting Without Borders. In Part 1, we looked at some of the different cultural thoughts around sleep. There was also that stunning example of how it’s normal for babies in Scandinavia to be found taking a nap on the terrace in the dead of winter! In Part 2, we explored “stuff” and how having more of it might not be best for our children. In Part 3, we looked at how different cultures relate to food in the context of parenting. In Part 4, we looked at how saying “good job” to our little ones might not have the effect we think it does. In Part 5, we talked about the virtues of allowing our little ones the space to work through problems on their own. In Part 6, we examined the importance of unstructured “play.”In Part 7 and Part 8, we explored what education is like in East Asia and Finland. In Part 9, we looked at cultural notions of kindness in raising kids. In Part 10, we’ll explore the possibility that parenting might be fostering a sense of helplessness in children today.

Yes, the title of this post is a tad clickbait-y, but after reading the final chapter in Gross-Loh’s Parenting Without Borders, I can’t help but think that the reams of university students who’ve landed in their parents’ basements upon receiving their diplomas has something to do with the way they’ve been reared. Of course, there are many other factors at play (including things like the economy and recessions, etc.), but I don’t think that this ideas is too fantastical.

Remember the anecdote from Part 9: “In 1970, the primary goal stated by most college freshmen was to develop a meaningful life philosophy; in 2005, it was to become comfortably rich.” Well, there’s also a big difference in the way that kids are treated at home (even within a given country).

In 1950, an eleven-year-old growing up in a one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn was responsible for waking up on time, making his own breakfast, and getting himself out the door. […] He also did the family shopping: going to a corner grocer to buy bread or rolls, or to pick up milk.

Contrast that with today’s America:

“I pretty much do all the chores in the house,” [says a mother of three pre-teens aged nine, eleven, and twelve].

According to the author of The Anthropology of Childhood, it’s “absolutely universal” for children to want to help adults in their communities. We think that sheltering kids from work will help them succeed in all those extracurriculars and allow them more time to complete all that homework. The issue here is that while kids want to help, we’re unintentionally squashing that motivation.

When we ignore our children’s eagerness to participate when they are younger, they internalize the idea that contributing is unimportant and they are helpless. They also begin to expect that things will be done for them.

This shouldn’t come as news to anyone who’s read the work of pediatrician Dr. Spock:

Chores, even if not perfectly done, help children gain good self-esteem and make them feel like they are contributing to the family.

And isn’t that what most people want for their kids, anyways? A well-developed sense of self-esteem and a healthy desire to contribute to the world around them? Simply asking children to do chores isn’t enough — it needs to be part of our expectations (or boundaries?). They key here is not necessarily that kids are learning how to contribute to the home, but that they’re learning to feel responsible for themselves. This fosters a sense of self-reliance, so that when they’re older, they know that they’ll be able to figure things out and maybe more importantly, that they’re responsible for figuring things out for themselves.

To illustrate the contrast in cultures, Gross-Loh shares a stunning example of a five-year-old in Japan [Emphasis Added]:

[They] prepare an entire meal for their parents at school and had them do everything by themselves, from paring the potatoes to cutting the meat and carrots for the stew with chef’s knives. Because the social expectation in Japan was that children were capable of acting responsibly and doing chores, the kids had daily practice in helping out at school. Our kids were getting clear and frequent messages about how highly and valued it was to be helpful, self-reliant, and responsible from just about everyone — teachers, friends’ parents, and even from their own friends.

How many parents in North America do you think would let their five-year-olds use a paring knife, much less a chef’s knife? Another poignant quote from the chapter: “When people talk only about what they’re protecting their kids from, they’re not thinking about what they’re depriving them of.” If we don’t give our little ones the chance to fail, how will they learn to succeed?

Brief related tangent — I came across a delightful article recently where a father’s daily question to his kids was, “What did you fail at today?” The idea behind it being that failure is a necessary part of growth.


Building on some of the points on autonomy and self-reliance in this chapter, Gross-Loh also explained the way we ask our children to do things matters. Think about how you like to be asked to do something. If someone is off-handedly demanding your attention while you (and they) are engaged in other tasks, are you interested in complying? Probably not. Now imagine you’re a 5-year old. Do you think you’d be more or less likely to comply?

How Does “the Economy” Work, Anyway?

This past winter, I wrote a post: “What is ‘the Economy,’ Anyway?” I was growing tired of hearing people talking about “the economy” being bad. Don’t get me wrong, people can talk about whatever they like, but in the context of the economy, I felt that the idea that folks saying it’s bad is a bit of a misnomer. And not because the economy is bad, but because it’s not always clear what someone means when they say that the economy is bad.

A couple of days ago, Ray Dalio, who “lords over the world’s richest hedge fund firm,” came out with a video that explains, ‘how the economy works.’ It’s 30 minutes long, but it’s animated, so hopefully it can keep your attention for the whole thing. Also, given what appears to be its intent (inform average citizens about how the economy works), it certainly seems easy to understand. Even if you don’t have a basic understanding of some economic terminology (assets, liabilities, productivity, cycles, recession, etc.), you’ll probably still be able to understand what Dalio’s saying.

Usually, I’d say, ‘if you have the time, you’ll want to see this.’ In this case, I’d advise you make time to watch this video. Even if you think that there’s some ulterior motive from Dalio, the basic information he’s offering about how the economy works is quite compelling. His reputation precedes him. As Steven Perlberg from Business Insider wrote, “when the man talks about markets, people usually listen.”

Dalio in his own words:

The economy works like a simple machine.

But many people don’t understand it— or they don’t agree on how it works — and this has led to a lot of needless economic suffering.

I feel a deep sense of responsibility to share my simple but practical economic template. Though it’s unconventional, it has helped me to anticipate and sidestep the global financial crisis, and has worked well for me for over 30 years.

Canada Needs to Diversify its Export Strategy

During my last semester as an MBA student, I decided to take a class in International Relations theory. It was certainly a challenging class, especially considering I’d never had a course in political science. There was a steep learning curve in the beginning, but I learn very quickly, so I was able to stay right on track with the material. The last paper I wrote for that course had to do with Canada and NAFTA. I don’t think it’s a good idea to share the whole paper (22+ pages), but I thought I’d include pieces of the conclusion. Any hyperlinks below were added via WordPress’s “recommended links” and weren’t part of the original conclusion. Enjoy!


At the outset, this paper attempted to shed some light on Canada’s relationship to NAFTA. After the literature review and subsequent analysis, there certainly seems to evidence that Canada made the choice that benefitted the country the most [economically] when it signed onto NAFTA. As the [academic] literature has shown, there will continue to be calls for the three North American countries to further integrate. This certainly may help all of the countries of NAFTA, but it is hard to say that with Mexico still far behind the US and Canada, economically. In time, one would expect that Mexico could become a global economic force, but for now, there is still much work to be done. As it stands now, Canada’s main purpose for being part of NAFTA seems to be because the US is involved. As a result, one would expect that Canada would continue to be part of NAFTA and continue to strengthen its relationship with the US. If NAFTA were just an agreement between Mexico and Canada, there probably would not be a NAFTA.

After analyzing the data, one of the most important takeaways is that Canada needs to continue to diversify its exports strategy. The vast majority of Canadian exports are to the US. In the beginning, this was probably out of convenience. The US market is much larger than Canada’s and it is right there. However, as events like the global financial crisis foreshadow the possibility of similar and bigger events, it is important for countries like Canada to ensure that they are not too invested in the success of one nation. If for instance something were to happen to the US such that it pulls them [the US] down into a recession like Japan saw in the 1990s, Canada would undoubtedly be affected. Although, some may argue that if this were to happen, the whole world would probably be pulled into a recession. However, as Canada demonstrated by its resilience during the financial crisis, it is possible to mitigate the effects of a catastrophic event. This is exactly why Canada needs to continue to seek out free trade agreements with other countries. The more free trade agreements that Canada can enter into, the more insulated it will be against a possible economic collapse in the US.

What is “the Economy,” Anyway?

Earlier this morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics published a bunch of figures, which collectively is known as the jobs report. The consensus around the numbers seems to be that the news is ‘positive’ for the economy. Hooray! Within the last hour, the Dow Jones Industrial Average broke 14,000 for the first time in almost 6 years. Hooray again! After hearing about these two bits of news, I went on a bit of a rant on Twitter about “the economy.”

At times, this can be a bit bothering — listening to someone opine about the economy when they’re not really specifically pointing to the part of the economy that’s disturbing to them. Part of me wonders if this is because the person doesn’t know what they’re talking about and they’re just repeating the headlines they’ve read in the paper that day or something they heard the newsman say on TV).

The economy is vast — really vast. Let’s just look at the definition on Wikipedia for a moment:

An economy consists of the economic system of a country or other area; the laborcapital, and land resources; and the manufacturingproductiontradedistribution, and consumption ofgoods and services of that area.

Labor, capital, land resources, manufacturing, production, trade, distribution, and consumption — that’s a lot of areas rolled into one! My guess is that when most people talk about the economy, they’re usually referring to that first part: labor. Their perspective on the economy is viewed through the lens of “do I have a job, do my friends have jobs, do other people have jobs, etc.” In this way, when unemployment is high, the economy is “down” or not doing so well.

The ironic part here is that today, with unemployment at 7.9%, the economy could be seen as doing quite well. I mentioned in the tweets above (and earlier in the post) that the Dow broke the 14,000 barrier for the first time in nearly 6 years. That’s pretty substantial as many other folks use the Dow as a proxy for how the economy is doing. “Is the stock market up, then the economy must be doing well…”

Just like unemployment is one facet of the “labor” area of the economy, the stock market could be seen as one facet of the “capital” area of the economy. Another important facet of the “capital” area of the economy: liquidity (cash).

A couple of days ago, Ezra Klein at the Washington Post had an important graph showing the rise in liquid assets over the last 20 years or so. The chart shows a steady (and quick!) rise in liquidity. In fact, liquidity has nearly tripled in the last 20 years! Why does this matter? Well, all that cash on the balance sheet of corporation’s doesn’t do any good for “the economy” nor does it do any good for the unemployment number of 7.9%. If it were up to me, I think that Congress needs to do something to incentivize the corporations for spending all that cash, which represents 11.3% of GDP! While I understand the Keynesian argument for stimulus spending, to me, it appears that coaxing all of that money back into the economy would be the most effective form of stimulus.


While it may seem that I’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent, I just wanted to illustrate that “the economy” can represent a number of things to a number of people. The next time you hear someone talking to you about the economy, double-check with them the part of the economy they’re referencing.

How The Heck Does The Economy Work, Anyway?

A few months ago, I wrote a post about an online video series I’ve been following by John Green on world history. A few days ago, I learned that two economics professors at George Mason University were starting an online course in the same vein as Stanford. As they’re economics professors, naturally, you’d expect that the course is on economics (it is). In fact, the two professors (Alex Tabarrok and Tyler Cowen) describe the course as:

This course covers theory and empirics and history for the economic growth of developing nations.

I have to say, I’m really excited for this course and I think you should be, too. Similar to my comment about our need to understand the implications of history and the past, I believe we also should have an understanding some of the basic underlying theory of the economy.

There are a few differences between John Green’s crash course and the course being offered by Prof. Tabarrok and Prof. Cowen. First, as I referred to earlier, the economics course is more in the same vein of MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). Second, there aren’t any fun animations from the Thought Bubble (at least I haven’t seen any, yet). Third, there are multiple videos per lesson. With John Green’s course, there was only one video per week on a given topic. With this course from Marginal Revolution University, there are usually multiple videos for a given lesson. For instance, for the lesson on People (as in, leading thinkers on the economy), there are over 30 videos. Finally, there are practice questions. Practice questions? Yes, practice questions. Meaning, the professors have included practice questions along with the videos to help the viewer interact with the material.

I’ve included the introduction video below.