Wednesday, October 5, 2011

That is what it is

General Martin E. Dempsey assumed command as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff last week.  During Dempsey's term, a significant challenge will be how to best care for the military and protect the United States' national security interests with drastically fewer Defense Department dollars.

Economics could be the most important subject to master in the coming decades.  General Dempsey seems to think so.  As reported in the Dallas Morning News (October 3, 2011) - - Dempsey to Study Up on the Economy.  Dempsey traveled to West Point and the social sciences department to get a crash course on economics.  Dempsey had the following comments:

"I have to confess, I paid no attention to this [economics] as a cadet and have done nothing to increase my awareness of economic issues between age 22 and 59," he said.  "And here I am, back as the prodigal son, saying, "I should have paid attention."  The economic factors exist.  They will inform my tenure as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  To use the old cliche: That is what it is."

Dempsey is not alone.  We, especially engineers, need a crash course on economics.  Economics will impact all of our tenure.  I would recommend the following two guides as a start.  Start with a complete understanding of bonds - - bond yields, yield calculations, and the yield curve.  Remember that 99% of economics is common sense - - when data show diaper sales are slowing and sales of diaper-rash ointment rising (which they currently are) - - you don't need to go to West Point to figure out which way the economy is headed.  

Guide to Economic Indicators: Making Sense of Economics 7th Edition by The Economist

Guide to the 50 Economic Indicators That Really Matter by Simon Constable and Robert E. Wright of The Wall Street Journal

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