Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What a Great Name for a Future Keynesian Economist

Tyler Cowen reports that a PhD student in economics at George Mason University is named Rong Rong.

The Cowen disclosure comes about because Cowen was having trouble shopping in a Chinese grocery store in Falls Church, Virginia:
I decided to consult a Chinese graduate student at George Mason University, where I teach. Rong Rong is studying for a PhD in economics and is from a region near Shanghai. She has a friendly manner and is possibly the sharpest student in her cohort. Rong Rong told me to try the double-mushroom soy sauce, which she claims tastes just like what her mother serves in China.

I asked Rong Rong if she had trouble finding items in Great Wall. The answer was no, although she did admit to being confused at Giant, despite almost five years living in the United States. She found Giant's cereal aisles the hardest to master, and even though her English is very good she can't read all of the labels nearly as fast as I can or recognize from a glance what an item is going to taste like.
Here's Cowen on what he found overall by shopping at the Great Wall grocery store:
Once I started shopping at Great Wall, I began to eat more greens, and to enjoy them more. I never had to tell myself they would ward off cancer, make the earth a better place, help me lose weight, or ease animal cruelty. I wanted to eat them, and the purchases felt virtually free of charge, given the low prices. I could try any new and unknown green without investing much money.

There wasn't much of a learning curve--I made this shift by my second or third visit of the experiment. If nothing else, I would steam some greens whenever I was making dumplings. Each time I visited, the main question was which green I'd try next and whether I could remember the ones I'd already sampled (often I couldn't). Each of these leaps into the dark was delicious; that I wasn't once disappointed is remarkable...

The second notable section of Great Wall is the seafood, which has a far more extensive choice than would an American supermarket. One day I counted 51 bins for distinct seafood items, including crabs, clams, octopus, mussels, and fish. The seafood section is crammed to accommodate this variety, with fish tanks running both below the main counter and on the wall behind the workers.

Just about all of the space is used to store and present creatures living and dead. The impression is one of a cornucopia of items that are too bony, with too many scales, or too reeking of the sea to satisfy most American appetites.

I asked Rong Rong about the fish, and she expressed some disappointment, at least compared with China. She's used to live fish in tanks, and she didn't always find the displayed dead fish tasty when she cooked them.

At Great Wall, many of the fish need to be scaled. There are some filets, but most of the seafood is whole--bones, eyes, and all. I often prefer whole fish, especially if it's accompanied by a good sauce, but I know I'm the exception to the rule in this country.

It's a splendid section for constructing a seafood stock, but I never got the hang of how to convert the dozens of choices into easy-to-make, easy-to-eat meals. Bringing home a bunch of small whole mackerel made me long for the good canned product at Whole Foods. Eating a steamed small mackerel with chopsticks isn't much fun for me. I like the taste--it just feels like too much work.
The rest of Cowen's column is here.


  1. Really? Resorting to making fun of a Chinese girl's name?

    1. Her name is not as funny in of itself, but when coupled with Keynesianism, it's hilarious.

    2. Maybe she can be the next Fed Chairman. Only problem is, two Rong's don't make a right.

  2. God, Cowen's scribblings read like he's got a learning disability.

    And I don't get the Keynesism reference, I'm afraid. Ms. Rong is typical of non-natives trying to assimilate to a much foreign country.

    Cowen on the other hand, comes off as a cliched, sheltered, stupid American. I mean, for someone who's such a self-proclaimed "foodie" some of his comments are downright out of the "just get me to a McDonald's" crowd.

  3. George Mason University also offers a Phd program in Austrian Economics, so it is not fair to immediately assume that she is going to become a keynesian economist. Also, it is not fair to make fun of people who want to study and become a trained economist, whether they follow the keynesian, monetarist or austrian approach. It's important that we respect all schools of thought, even though, we might consider them wrong. In my opinion the Austrian School is the best school in explaining the cause and effects of recessions and depressions through the Austrian Business Cycle theory.