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Welcome back - you were missed!

Re: car title loans
They're everywhere in Canada too. All the payday loan places have them, just that they don't usually specifically say "car," just "title loans." Or at least in Alberta...I haven't done a lot of domestic traveling since becoming old enough to notice such things, so I suppose things could be different elsewhere. They definitely predate the crisis.

Anyway, interesting take on the situation to the south. Certainly to hear Americans talk on the internet, you'd think that the country is a complete disaster, which doesn't seem to be the case in the real world.

Welcome back Nick,

I was sorting through some boxes the other day and found an old textbook you wrote. What a small world.

"New car lots seemed a bit fuller than normal, and motels seemed a bit emptier"

How do you know what's normal in "Random City" USA?

"US roads and bridges seem to be in better shape than Canadian roads."

I lived in the deep south for a few years, they have the best roads in USA, but I disagree with that statement as a general rule. I remember one brand new highway that was built bumpy and annoying from day 1. Roads in the north east are even worse. Have you been to Boston? Their toll roads are better than Toronto's toll road, though. Regarding the lack of traffic jams, that could be the elusive evidence of recession you're looking for.

"And the quality of the housing did not generally match the higher apparent quality of the cars parked outside."

If only you could hear radio from 2006-7, every car dealer (and his mother) was offering free cars. Bad credit, no credit, divorce, bankruptcy, no problem! The credit bubble was so obvious it was absurd. You're definitely right that economists don't get out enough. I bet taxi drivers are better forecasters (don't take offence, just trying to be funny, for some reason I have to explain my jokes on this website or someone will yell at me).

"Adam Smith was right about the benefits of the division of labour"

You remind me of a time I orderer an Asian dish from an American restaurant. I learned the same lesson.

Thanks for the welcomes back!

I am maybe naive about car title loans. I Googled, and found plenty of evidence of car title loans in Canada (but had never noticed adverts for them before).

pointbite: yes, my impressions were just that -- impressions. And I don't have the time series for comparison. But it does make me wonder how much the "facts" as reported by economic statistics, seen through an economist's eyes, or newspaper stories ("Dog bites man is not news, man bites dog is news") match facts on the ground. Or how much macroeconomic events matter to the daily lives of normal people. Heresy!

4 years ago I spent a couple of weeks doing work for my employer in Savannah. Really loved the place. I was there in February so it wasn't hot at all. In July/August I imagine it's like living inside a dog's mouth. Probably why all the fantastic old homes in the downtown have beautiful shady court yards and gardens.

Savannah was beautiful. In a strange way, it reminded me of Quebec city. An old city, leading down a steep slope to the river. But it's also a modern industrial port city, with big ships coming in.

Welcome back Nick.

On Adam Smith and specialization, I just got back from Geneva. Had a meal at my favorite restaurant in the world, Cafe de Paris. It is a place with only one item on the menu, steak with frites. You get entrecote in a special butter sauce with french fries and a green salad to start. With only one thing on the menu that thing had better be good for the place to succeed. Well, it's always busy there!

There's a few other place that do this too, in London there is Relais de Venise which also serves only entrecote and is quite good. There is a place in Montreal called L'entrecote Saint-Jean which serves an entrecote in sauce similar to Relais de Venise (to my palette it's nowhere near as good as Cafe de Paris). But I think it is most certainly the case that you're best advised to go with the house specialty or, if you don't like the specialty, simply eat somewhere else.

Great post Nick! Thank you for sharing.

I would suggest that crossing from Calexico, southern California, into Mexicali, northern Mexico, or from southern Bolivia into northern Argentina, or from Morocco into Algeria would have presented much starker contrasts.

Southerners are cool, unlike the stereotypes entertained by northern elites. A few decades ago I discovered while travelling in apartheid-era South Africa that reputedly evil Afrikanners actually knew, understood and empathized much more with Black African nations (Zulu, Xhosa, etc.) than many of their British-origin white co-citizens.

With southerners, I guess it matters what you talk to them about.

Its like children, they are not stupid, they just have a different perspective.

Nick, It's always interesting seeing the place you live in described by someone from the outside. I often read European descriptions of American and think "yes, there probably is some place in America like that." I travel around China quite a bit and as soon I get there I feel it is much bigger and more diverse than outsiders imagine. So I can identify with your reactions on experiencing America first hand. That famous New Yorker cover describes much more than New York attitudes.

When I noticed the post title, I wondered if we share similar taste in both music and monetary theory.

Hi Scott: have you ever seen that "low-brow" US "reality" TV show, called "Wife Swapping", or something? It's not what you would expect from the title. It's about culture, not sex. They swap two women (wives, mothers) between two households. And they always choose two totally different households, culturally. And they don't use recent immigrants to get the cultural differences. I have seen a couple of episodes. Scenes like taking an orthodox Jewish New York woman racoon hunting with her new family in the Appelachians (or wherever). That's real diversity.

And small towns (and the countryside) are the reality, not just big cities, which is all we ever see on the media.

My musical tastes are all over the place (maybe like my monetary views?) A bit of blues, yes, but also punk, folk, metal, whatever.

And small towns (and the countryside) are the reality, not just big cities, which is all we ever see on the media.

Not where I come from (Australia). If anything the bias is the otherway around (country towns are OVER represented in the media).

No I haven't seen the show, but it sounds like fun. When I saw the title I thought of an old Dylan album (one of my favorites), but I guess Dylan was refering to blues musicians that came up highway 61 (if my memory is correct.)

Thank you for your kind words about the U.S.

But I don't think you can get a full picture on that kind of road trip. You're not likely to see the poor places from the highway, esp. because being homeless is against the law in many (?most) places in the U.S.

And you might see a nice looking motel, and not see that there are a dozen people living in one room.

When you eat at Waffle House, you don't realize that almost none of the employees can afford a car.

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