Wednesday, September 20, 2006

the demand for designer shirts

I tutored that little skater boy again today. It's funny to look at economics from the perspective of someone who is just starting to learn it, because such a person's ideas about how economics works are based so much more on the real world (as opposed to actual economists, who love our nice little models and could give a shit how the real world works...just kidding...sort of). The problem isn't extrapolating from the real world, it's extrapolating incorrectly from the real world. I was trying to explain to him why as price goes up, the quantity demanded of a good goes down. This seems patently obvious to me, and I would think it would be so to anyone: the more expensive something is, the fewer people are going to want to buy it. But skater boy was thinking about things like iPods and designer shirts, which are both expensive and highly demanded (well, I don't know about designer shirts, but iPods have a pretty high demand). He's thinking that more people want the designer shirt than want the WalMart shirt, so demand goes up as price goes up. So I tried to explain that the designer shirt has its own demand function, totally separate from that of the WalMart shirt. And that the 20 gig iPod and the 60 gig iPod each have a separate demand function. On top of that, I was trying to explain that since the supply curve and the demand curve are on the same graph, the horizontal axis, which measures quantitiy, is measuring both quantity supplied and quantity demanded, and even though you're moving up the demand curve, quantity demanded is going down, because the curve has a negative slope. I guess it really is all very confusing the first time you're exposed to it. I think I got a B in principles of econ when I took it at Willamette.

I'm feeling mentally much better today, and going to see my psychiatrist was productive. But alas, it appears that I'm getting a cold, so that kind of blows. I'm sucking down the zinc to try to make it go away as quickly as possible. I feel bad because I've cancelled on McDreamy twice now in less than a week, and I may have to cancel again tomorrow because I'm all germy.

Well, its time to go to bed, because I have to get up at the butt-crack of dawn (also known as 7:15 a.m.) so that I can proctor Dr. J's micro exams for him.


nathan said...

It sounds as though your student is confusing "demand" with "desire." This is an easy mistake to make, since the words can be regarded as nearly synonymous in the English of the everyday. Or, at least, the words carry a high degree of semantic overlap in terms of how they are used in casual conversation. But within the highly specialized discourse of econ, the meaning of "demand" is precisely defined and highly restricted. And this phenomenon (which might be regarded as a lexical phenomenon) is, of course, the difficulty of learning a new discipline...

Rebel said...

^^ Hey - this makes sense. Because I have a high desire for both designer clothes & an iPod... but I'm not out there demanding them, because they are just too expensive.

That said.... the irony. Oh, the irony! Shouldn't you just "suck it up and take some dayquil"? That seems to be the advice a wise woman had when the guy she wanted to go out with had the sniffles. :P

Seriously, if you're sick, stay home - no need to spread your germs. Take care.

Anonymous said...

Or, in my case, if you're sick, go to Paris. Then you'll never fully recover and still be sniffling a week and half later! I demand and desire my health to return! At least it was 82 degrees today!!!! (Don't be too jealous, it's supposed to cool off considerably this weekend...) B

Anonymous said...

"proctor". that's just such a funny word. makes me think of the proctologist. :O
anyway, glad you're feeling better. i'm still feeling a bit weirdly shitty (see comment to last post, which i actually just posted a minute ago).

jenn said...

N- yes, I think you might be right about him confusing "demand" and "desire". I never thought I would become so ingrained in the thinking of my field that other definitions of "demand" wouldn't even occur to me, but there you go. Having lost my ability to communicate fully with normal people, I guess I'm officially a real economist now. =)

Rebel- Believe me, I *would* take some dayquil and suck it up, just like I'm about to do to go meet with M and E about how to code our data. But McDreamy doesn't seem eager to be around my germs (which I respect and support) and the "suck it up and take some dayquil" comment to which you are referring was spurred by literally *weeks* of "I want to see you again but I'm still sick" on the part of The Scientist (with whom, ironically enough, I was supposed to get together this weekend but now have to cancel on). In general, I agree: if I'm sick then I and my germs should stay at home as much as possible. But I think the onus is on the healthy person to decide if they want to risk exposure to the sick person (given that the sick person has fully disclosed their illness).

B- it's pretty warm here too, but it's bugging me because I feel like if I have a cold, it should *be* cold. But I'm sure if it were cold I'd be complaining too. Oh, and my fever went away and now I'm just snotty and sore-throaty and headachey. Yucky, but an improvement.

MJ- Well, I prefer minor physical ailments to mental ones, so despite being sick I'm actually feeling better overall. And the word proctor does crack me up too, but the only other word I could think of (granted, I didn't think very hard) was "administer", which sounds equally funny to me (as in, "I went to the proctologist and he administered an enema prior to my colonoscopy"). I guess I could just say, "Sat in the classroom reading The Economist while the students took their exams, and provided clarification to said students when they were confused about one of the questions on the exam."

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