Summary & Sunflowers

This post serves simply to recap where this blog is and where it is going.  Recently, I have posted less frequently and I have focused on summarizing or criticizing books about political economy.  I have found myself moving closer to “political critiques” which is exactly what I am trying to avoid in this blog.  I consider these posts to be the easiest to write and also the ones that offer the least substance.

Even though these posts are funnier to write and attract a larger audience, they are less challenging.  This blog is focused less on readability and more as an academic tool for myself.  It is to force me to stay sharp and to remain updated on a few areas of interest.  Therefore, I will start to push myself to write more about academic papers that are heavy on theory, statistics, and econometrics.  Although I am not “as qualified” to critique an expert’s work, it is less about them and more about me (yes, selfish).  Agreeing with main points or finding holes in their theory with keep me “sharp”.  Hopefully someone will also criticize me in the future.

At this point I also probably have at least one “draft” post for every “published” post.  That means that on the back side there is an archive of documents that I cannot publish simply due to time constraints.  I hope that some of these time constraints will disappear.  I also plan on upgrading from a blog to a website very soon.  This will imply more organization of both the posts and the articles.


Now it is the summer in the United States.  For those who do not know me, I started experimenting with a vegetable garden last year.  Every year, I introduce different crops and I rotate where they are planted.  Due to the rain this year the garden is thriving.  It has also made me realize something about people.

This is the second year I have grown sunflowers.  However, this is the first year I grew them in three distinct batches.  All three batches came from the same batch of seeds: last year’s sunflowers.

One group (Group A) sprung up naturally from the compost pile in the left third of the garden.  Group A was the second of the three groups to germinate and came about as a surprise.  Currently, they are blooming and are the tallest.  The fence in the picture below is six feet tall (or two meters).  Use this as a reference.

07.26.14 Sunflower Group A

The second group (Group B) is the “organized” group.  I planted them close together in a row.  The plants of Group B have stems that are supported with Cuban string beans vines that also benefit from the relationship.  Group B has about one week left to blossom.  This group is also noticeably smaller than Group A.  See the individual picture and the comparison between Group A and Group B below.

07.26.14 Sunflower Group B

07.26.14 Sunflower Comparison – Group A and Group B

The last group (Group C) was also planted at the same time as Group B.  Like Group B, these plants are close together.  The difference is that they are planted in pebbles (or small rocks) and are watered only when it rains.  The fence in the background is the same size as the one before.

07.26.14 Sunflower Group C


Even this may seem interesting, or boring, I find similarities between how these plants grow and how people grow.  We do not choose where we begin, but we do have the option to move (unlike the plants).  However, like the plants, we thrive or suffer from many factors both within and outside of our control.

Group A provides for plenty of space between each plant.  These grow the quickest, are the tallest, (and will probably bloom the biggest).  Their location is not ideal because it makes it difficult for me to weed and tend to the rest of that garden section.  Regardless their growth actually benefits other plants that also self-generated (not planted by me).  These are spices, mints, and strawberries that soon appeared in the shade of the sunflowers of Group A.  This growth was all organic.  They also insulated the blueberries and the sweet peas from the sun.

Group B also provides support for other organisms (the beans), but this assistance is in another form.   Their existence was planned and their location is beneficial to me, not necessarily to them.  Eventually they will be overtaken by the Cuban string beans.  Group B will then become basically a support system for the beans.

This group, unlike Group A, was planted close together.  Each plant grows to a good size, but it will never reach its full potential.

Group C is in the worst situation.  They are planted close together, like Group B, and so have to fight for nutrients.  Some plants grow quicker and block the light of the smaller ones.  They could also grow larger, if they had the root system necessarily to permeate beyond the pebbles.  Larger roots could be encouraged through watering more often, providing Miracle-Gro® or by weeding more frequently.

The plants of Group C are not any different genetically; they have the same parents as plants in Group A and B.  Unfortunately their nurture was different.  Unlike people, they cannot move themselves to another location with better irrigation, light, or soil.  They will remain small, but will eventually flower.  However, their flowers will also be very small and will produce smaller seeds.

From the planner’s view, Group C was still successful, since they served a purpose.  The sunflowers over the rocks blocked out the weeds.  Regardless, Group C’s existence was beneficial almost entirely for the planner.   (I don’t have to weed.)

Sometimes when macroeconomics is planned from the top down it is not always clear who benefits from various policies.  Even if everyone benefits, all actors benefit in different proportions.  Group C “received life”, but they also enjoy a stunted existence.  They are probably 1/10th the size of the plants in Group A.

The ambiguity regarding who will benefit from policies is resolved by local governance.  Unlike the sunflowers, if people make educated decisions about the policies that effect them, there is a greater chance that these policies will be beneficial.  The more removed the constituent is from the policy maker, the greater the chance that the policy will be beneficial only in the eyes of the planner (as seen by the experiment of Group C).

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