Economists Watching Vaccines Every Day

EWVED could be our new name. Americans worked so hard to develop a vaccine (here’s Jeremy’s ode to development) and now we are seeing the distribution become painfully slow.

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Vaccine Innovation: A Marvel of Modern Science and Modern Markets

We’ve already talked about different methods for distributing the vaccine in the face of limited supply on this blog (see my post and Doug Norton’s post). But today I want to talk about something different: the speed at which this vaccine was developed. It is truly amazing.

Timeline showing a comparison of vaccine development timescales from Typhoid fever in 1880 to SARS-CoV2 in 2020.

This chart from Nature (adapted from the fantastic Our World in Data) dramatically shows just how quickly the COVID-19 vaccine was developed compared with past vaccines. What used to take decades or even a century was done in mere months (yes, even with all the regulatory barriers today).

Exactly how we developed this vaccine so quickly is a complex story that involves the advanced state of modern science, incentives offered by concerned governments, and the harnessing of the profit motive to advance the public good. We don’t know all the details yet, and likely won’t for a long time since, like a pencil, no one person knows how to make and distribute a vaccine.

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The Many Faces of Molasses

It started as a simple question: can you substitute blackstrap molasses for regular molasses in a gingerbread recipe?

In order to reduce our potential exposure to Covid, we are ordering groceries online and having them delivered. Whole Foods (owned by Amazon), delivers free to Amazon Prime customers like us. In our order the other day we included molasses. We are almost out, and I wanted to make a gingerbread recipe this holiday week. The bottle that arrived yesterday along with the rest of our order says “Blackstrap Molasses”. Hmm, I wondered, what is different about blackstrap molasses and can you use it in place of the usual Grandma’s molasses that we have always had in our cupboards?

Once I get reading on a topic, it is hard to stop. It turns out there is much to know about molasses (treacle, in the U.K.). We all know it to be a sweet, flavorful ingredient in baked goods, and in savory dishes like pulled pork and baked beans. Diluted molasses is touted as a hair de-frizzer and hair mask, and there are even claims it can help combat gray hair.

However, there is a decidedly unsavory side to its past. It played a key role in fueling the triangular Atlantic slave trade in the 1700’s and early 1800s. Plantations worked by slaves in the Caribbean would ship molasses to the American colonies, where it would be converted into rum. The rum was shipped to West Africa, to pay for more people to be captured and then shipped to the Caribbean plantations to grow more sugar and make more molasses.

Not to mention the deadly “Great Molasses Flood” in Boston. On January 15, 1919, a 50-ft high storage tank of molasses ruptured, and sent a 15-ft high wall of syrup racing through the street at 35 miles an hour. It crushed and drowned anything and anyone in its path. Buildings were collapsed, and 19 people died. It has a place in the history of litigation as the birthing the modern class action lawsuit.

But I digress. Back to the difference since between types of molasses. Sugarcane is squeezed to extract cane juice. Sugar, the main desired product, starts off dissolved in the juice. The cane juice is boiled to remove water, to precipitate the solid sugar crystals. The liquid that remains after the first boiling (and the removal of the sugar from that stage) is called first or light molasses. That is what has usually been sold in U.S. grocery stores.

That first molasses is subjected to a second boiling, to extract even more sugar. The remaining liquid is called second molasses, or dark or robust molasses. From all accounts, this is pretty similar in properties to the initial light molasses, just somewhat less sweet and more flavorful. Folks say that you can substitute dark molasses for light molasses in most recipes without making a big difference.

To extract the last little bit of sugar, the second molasses is boiled even longer and hotter. After the sugar from that stage has been removed, what is left is the so-called blackstrap molasses. Obviously, this product will have less sugar and less liquid, then the light molasses, with a higher concentration of the other flavoring components. The operational question for me is: Can I take some of that blackstrap molasses and simply re-dilute it with some sugar and some water to get the equivalent of light molasses?

Internet opinion on this matter is mixed. On the one hand, there are those who answer this question in the affirmative. They say that a half cup of blackstrap molasses plus half cup of light corn syrup (or half a cup of a water plus sugar mixture) can readily be substituted for a cup of light molasses.

On the other hand I read counsel such as this:

Blackstrap molasses is what results when regular molasses is boiled down and super-concentrated, This results in bitter, salty sludge that only has a 45 percent sugar content, as opposed to the 70 percent sugar level found in both light and dark varieties of baking molasses. Spoon University warns against using blackstrap molasses as substitute for true molasses in any recipe calling for the latter due to the fact that its bitter flavor will overpower the taste of whatever you’re making.

And this :

Do not use blackstrap molasses as a substitute for light or dark molasses. It has a strong, bitter taste and isn’t very sweet. It’s more likely to wreck your recipe than help it.

But still I (being a chemical engineer by trade) wondered if this “strong, bitter” taste is merely the lack of sugar, which could be cured by replacing the missing sugar. After all, unsweetened chocolate is unpalatably bitter, but we fix that by adding sugar.

I don’t claim the final word on this, but it seems that the severe third boiling that yields the blackstrap molasses does some chemical alterations. It is not merely a matter of removing sugar. It is all well when sugar is lightly heated to form light brown caramel, but when it gets pushed too far, some bitter, dark brown compounds can form. It is not clear that merely adding sugar can undo these flavors, considering that blackstrap still contains a lot (45%) of sugar.

Conclusion: Blackstrap molasses may be fine for your BBQ sauce and as a trendy, mineral-packed low-sugar sweetener for your yoghurt and tea. But that bottle of thick black goo on my counter is going back to Whole Foods, not into my gingerbread.

One Acceptable Truth or a Million Fantasies

Humans are soft, slow, and (to the best of my knowledge) make for fairly nutritious meals. Brains for tool-making, and the opposable thumbs for using them, are significant evolutionary adaptations, but it is our capacity to act collectively that placed us at the top of the food chain.

By the end of a standard undergraduate economics curriculum, one couldn’t be blamed for coming to the conclusion that the failures of collective action are the greatest obstacle to mankind – Oh what we could have accomplished if only we had ever found a way to just cooperate. Alas, all those externalities, Prisoners’ Dilemmas, free riders, easy riders, market failures, government failures, they just stopped us at every turn

I’m not doubting the pedagogical value of teaching any of these obstacles, I teach them myself, but I do believe that sometimes we spend insufficient time reminding students that humans have been doing nothing but solving collective action problems, with great success, for thousands of years. Every national government, book club, homeowners association, and sorority have managed to produce public goods. So has, of course, every military coup and angry mob (if only, sometimes, for fleeting moments), but collective action is collective action, regardless of how we may feel about the outcome.

More often than not the most interesting question to me isn’t can a collective action problem be solved, but rather i) how has it already been solved and ii) how is that solution going to be threatened or hijacked? When I look to the current political landscape and the only mildly-exaggerated state of political and social polarization, I see not just rivalrous ideologies, but alternative strategies for engendering and ensuring cooperation. On the left, I observe greater recent emphasis on purity – there is a narrow band of acceptable truth and any deviation from that, be it however accidental or benign in intent, can lead to significant punishments, including purges colloquially referred to as cancellations. On the right, I see required public professing of incorrect, often seemingly absurd, beliefs. I might talk about purity tests and purges on the left another times. What I’m interested in at the moment are the public untruths of current right wing identities (broadly conceived) and how they fit into the sacrifice and stigma theory, or club theory, of religion.**

I’ve written a lot about sacrifice and stigma theory. It has without a doubt become the hammer than has left me forever searching for nails. Originally put forth by Laurence Iannaccone in 1992, it is nothing short of brilliant to my mind. A tool for solving collective problems so profound that when it shows up we barely notice it, and where it shows up tends to be the most powerful clubs shaping our societies: the religious, martial, and extremist political groups that bend the arc of history.

Groups produce what we call “club goods” i.e. public goods only accessible to members of the group. What Iannaccone demonstrated was that a group could actually increase their production of club goods by burdening its members with completely unproductive costs. Why do religious groups require clothing, behavior, or language that could stigmatize their members in broader society? Why are members required to sacrifice their resources at the literal or figurative altar of the group? Because if you impair members’ private productivity, or if the fruits of that private production are skimmed away, they will invest more of their resources into the group. If all group members face these same altered incentives, guess what, you’ve solved the collective action problem!

When I see educated women and men declaring the earth is 5,000 years old, that evolution isn’t real, that climate change is a hoax, or that Donald Trump is a brilliant human being, what I see is public profession of beliefs that might limit social or even occupational opportunities and, in turn, further commit them to a specific subset of affiliations. In the constellation of beliefs that might end up as political shibboleths, of course, there stand to be some more costly than others. In fact, there might even be beliefs that impose negative externalities on others, such antipathy towards vaccines or mask-wearing during a pandemic. Excessive burden might hurt the group, of course – remember, club membership must to be a net gain to persist. In a polarized society, however, vitriol created in rival factions by the externality-generating belief could actually intensify the commitment of group members. The liberals hate real-Americans like me so much now, they’d never accept me as anything but a dumb redneck, so the rational thing to do is double down on my commitment to the only group that will have me. Beliefs that reduce private productivity, increase group productivity, and create long-run antipathy in rival groups can serve to create something incredibly valuable to the group: a captured membership. If there is one thing that is evolutionarily hard-wired into human beings it is the knowledge that isolation is death. A member so stigmatized by past public behavior that rival groups would never accept them stands to be very committed to the group going forward.

The vulnerability of sacrifice and stigma born of public adherence to false beliefs, however, is the capacity of leaders to incept preferred false beliefs into the dogma. This is one way that minority groups can become scapegoated, the carbon costs of fossil fuels denied, quack remedies pedaled, or the reliability of electoral institutions undermined. Religious texts exist (mostly) unedited for long periods of time for a very important reason: core rules of behavior, methods of tithing, and sets of beliefs must be inoculated against opportunistic actors who would hijack the club goods they produce.

Sacrifice and stigma through club-specific false beliefs is a dangerous strategy for political parties for the simple reason that without the constraints of fact or scripture, leaders will feel the pull of their own preferences. Far more dangerous however, is the megalomaniacal conman that any political party institutionally designed to demand cognitive dissonance of its members will eventually attract. Political parties need to solve collective action problems, yes, but they also need immune systems. One might point to social norms, both within and outside the group, as key means of protection. Recent years, however, would seem to suggest that norms are not sufficiently robust in the long run. The US court system has held up well, and has in many ways served as the nations constitutional immune system. Perhaps the major political parties should consider updating and reinforcing their own constitutions, and put in place mechanisms to protect themselves from the next inevitable invasion.

American political parties need to update and upgrade their immune systems.

Inspiring research:

Iannaccone, Laurence R. “Sacrifice and stigma: Reducing free-riding in cults, communes, and other collectives.” Journal of political economy 100.2 (1992): 271-291.

Aimone, Jason A., Laurence R. Iannaccone, Michael D. Makowsky, and Jared Rubin. “Endogenous group formation via unproductive costs.” Review of Economic Studies 80, no. 4 (2013): 1215-1236.

**Note: this is not to suggest that left-wing identity affiliations don’t utilize sacrifice and stigma mechanisms. There is no shortage of what I suspect are completely ineffective, but highly visible, ostensibly pro-environment behaviors that are demanded. But the “headline” mechanisms of herding left-of-center identities under the progressive banner look more like threats of exile than sacrifice and stigma.

Church Attendance and Covid

Today is the last Sunday of 2020. The disruption to employment and rise of remote work might be the bigger story of 2020. However, for a significant fraction of Americans, 2020 is also the year their ability to meet as an in-person church was curtailed. Gathering in a room with many people singing is an efficient means of spreading the virus. For some, church has been an online-only experience since March.

Social scientists are interested in religiosity. Christian devotion has often been measured by asking how many times a person goes to church.

My colleagues who study the economics of religion will have an important issue to study. How does the switch to online church in 2020 affect Christian engagement in the future? How will this affect our ability to track long-term trends on religiosity?

If it is true that large gatherings are safe in a year from now, it will be interesting to compare in-person church attendance in 2022 to 2019. If it turns out that attendance has decreased, then we would need to see a break in the trend to conclude that Covid is the cause. Here’s a graph of church attendance in an article from B.C. (Before Covid).

A book that was published in the 1950s made it sound like, even then, people who attended church weekly were in the minority. Joy Davidman published Smoke on the Mountain in 1953.

The inspiration for this post was reading this line about “remote” church experiences:

Others, instead of stirring their stumps, listen in comfortable living rooms to a sermon on the radio, arguing that it is “just the same.” They have forgotten that one of the first necessities of a Christian life is a congregation…

Overall, Davidman is disappointed in how few of her American countrymen attend church. Early in life, she was a militant atheist. She’s a Christian at the time of writing, but still somewhat militant.

Davidman frowns on radio church, when in-person church was available. However, virtual church today is closer to the traditional visual church experience. Going forward, it will be important to consider whether people who use the internet for church experiences should get counted.

Here are some examples of what churches have been up to, virtually:

Trinity United Methodist Church in Birmingham, AL 

Truro Anglican Church in Fairfax, VA 

Nativity, a Catholic church in Burke, VA 

Larger churches have been podcasting and Youtube-ing for years. One of the top productions is Bethel Church of Redding, CA. They even already had their own ecosystem, so shutting down in-person services for Covid probably coincided with an increase in viewership for them.

Scheduling The Day

What to do on the Monday before Christmas? My 5-y-o son was beginning a long winter break from school. Thanks to Covid, we were home all day. I wanted my son to do a few chores and some learning.

There were some fun activities I knew we would end up doing that day, such as playing chess and letting him watch some TV. One option would have been for me to order him around all day. If he balked at cleaning up his room, I could threaten to withhold TV. Instead, I made a jar of activities written on slips of paper.

He picked papers out one at a time. The only rule I imposed was that he would do that activity immediately. If he drew tidying his room, then we went straight to his room. Mixing in papers that read “30 minutes of TV” and “pick a snack to share” made the game seem fun. He would have ended up watching TV anyway. I included a paper in the bowl that said, “give Mommy a compliment.” Everyone needs some affirmation!

This tactic was so successful that it got me thinking about how adults, including myself, could benefit from something similar. Adults need structure. I contemplated whether I would want someone to put all my activities for the day in a jar. Something I have done and even paid for is to go to a gym and have a fitness instructor tell me what to do for an hour.

One reason the jar game worked is that my son could not do all the fun activities first before the more unpleasant tasks (i.e. math worksheet). Almost every successful writer says that they write first thing in the morning. They don’t procrastinate.

If you’d like to hear from a real live human who actually does the writing scheduling thing, you can listen to Jennifer Doleac’s recent interview on The Hidden Curriculum podcast. She really does the thing! No wonder she’s so amazing and professionally successful. (She’s also generous with her time and supportive of young scholars.)

I think many of us could think of an excuse for not scheduling every hour of our work days a week ahead of time, as she does. I feel like I have excuses, but I also bet I could get closer. A great book on productivity is Deep Work. Something I took away from that book is that, even if you can’t go full Doleac, every person can do better.

The author, Cal Newport, points out something we all know by now: constantly checking email and social media eats up your day and reduces productivity. After arguing that it’s optimal to block out hours for exclusive intense focus, Newport deals with the objection that some people need to be accessible to others throughout the day. A manager or teacher needs to read and respond to emails promptly. Newport’s response was something like “Ok. However, you can probably check your email LESS frequently than you currently do.”

The New Year is coming. Let’s try again. Let’s try harder. I want to waste LESS time than I currently do. And I’ll so some more of the surprise jar game with my son.

Logrolling: An Efficient Institution

Along with the colorful phrase “pork barrel” spending, logrolling is a term used to describe the process of vote trading in elected legislative bodies. The process has long been maligned by political scientists, pundits, and the general public. It’s also come up in the debate about the proposed Budget/COVID Relief Bill.

President Grant tried to stop logrolling. He failed.

What’s bad about logrolling? I think there are two general lines of argument. First, it just seems immoral. Citizens can’t legally trade their votes, and many see any attempt to do so as wrong. You get one vote, and one vote only. For someone to have more votes than others rubs our intuitions the wrong way, similar to the ability for wealthy individuals or corporations to essentially have more votes by influencing politicians through campaign contributions.

More pragmatically, logrolling gets a bad name because it could lead to wasteful spending, particularly the “pork barrel” type that Americans really hate (unless it is coming to their district, of course). If you vote for my bill, I will vote for yours, even though I might not care about your bill. Maybe even I think your bill is kinda bad, but I think my bill is really good, so I am willing to hold my nose and vote for your bill, if it gets me what I want.

Buchanan and Tullock (1962) turned this logic on its head. Logrolling is efficient because it allows members to express their preferences, specifically the intensity of their preferences. Moreover, it allows legislative bodies to get things done that are beneficial for society, even if none of those things would pass in a simple referendum.

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Where Does Money Come From?

Money can be simplistically defined as “A medium that can be exchanged for goods and services and is used as a measure of their values on the market, and/or a liquifiable asset which can readily be converted to the medium of exchange”.  Earlier we described the amounts of various classes of “money” in the U.S.      Here is a chart showing the amount of currency in circulation (coins and bills; lowest line on the chart) for 2005-2020, and also M1 (green), M2 (upper curve, purple) and “monetary base” (currency plus reserves at the Fed; red line).

To recap what M1 and M2 are:

M1: Physical currency circulating outside of the Fed and private banking system, plus the amount of demand deposits, travelers’ checks and other checkable deposits. This is highly “liquid” money, i.e. accepted and used for transactions in the private economy.

M2: M1 + most savings accounts, money market accounts, retail money market mutual funds, and small denomination time deposits (certificates of deposit of under $100,000).

 The funds in these additional savings and money market accounts can in general be easily transferred to checkable accounts, and thus could go towards making purchases if desired.

Physical currency is made and put into circulation by the government or quasi-governmental agencies (the Treasury mints coins, and the Federal Reserve prints bills). But what about all the other money (M1, M2, etc.), which dwarfs the physical currency? How does it grow?

Without getting into all the weeds, it turns out that the major driver of money creation in modern economies is the process of bank loans.  The vast majority of money in countries like the U.S. is not created directly by government or central bank operations, but is created in the private sector when commercial banks make loans.   When individuals or companies decide to take out more loans (including loans for cars, houses, or business investment), the effective money supply in the nation increases. This is true for other modern economies. For instance, the Bank of England states:

There are three types of money in the UK economy:

3% Notes and coins

18% Reserves

79% Bank deposits

A typical scenario of how bank lending increases money might go something like this: Fred would like to add an enclosed back porch to his house, but doesn’t have the money in hand to pay a carpenter to build it for him. So the base case is no payment to the carpenter and no porch for Fred. However, Fred realizes he can go the bank and get a loan to pay for the porch. So he obtains a $20,000 loan from the bank, which first shows up as a $20,000 credit to Fred’s checking account. The bank credits Fred’s account, and in exchange obtains a contract from Fred promising that Fred will pay it back, with interest.

Fred writes a check for $20,000 to the carpenter, who in turn pays $10,000 to a lumberyard for materials and keeps the other $10,000 as his fee. The lumberyard is able to pay its workers for that day, and order replacement lumber from a mill. The workers spent their pay on various items.  The carpenter puts $5000 of his $10,000 fee in a savings account, and pays the rest to a car dealer for a used car.

The initial loan to Fred set off a chain of spending and economic activity, which would not have otherwise occurred. Fred has his porch, the lumberyard workers continue to be employed and supporting their local merchants, the carpenter gets a second car, and this money keeps ricocheting around until it gets drained away into stagnant savings, or is used to pay down prior debt. Although they are not aware of it, part of the lumberyard workers’ pay for that day came out of the debt incurred by Fred.

The granting of that loan created $20,000 of spending capability, i.e. money.  As far as the economy is concerned, that $20,000 did not exist as effective money prior to the loan. Thus, the money came into existence simultaneously with the debt associated with the loan. Fred received the capacity to spend $20,000 today, but in turn accepted the obligation to pay back this money, with interest. It is assumed that Fred had a stable income, such that he would in fact be able to pay back the loan in the future.

In general, increasing debt increases the money supply, and paying down debt extinguishes money. For simplicity, suppose Fred repays the $20,000 loan (with $2000 interest added) in one big lump, two years later. In that year, he will presumably spend into the economy something like $22,000 less than he would have otherwise. Thus, his paying down of his debt will act as a decrease in the circulating money.

In normal times, as one person is paying down his loan (and thereby shrinking the money supply), someone else is taking out a new and even larger loan, so total debt and the amount of money in circulation stays about the same, or grows somewhat. A feature of the 2008-2009 recession, however, was a big drop in consumer demand for credit; folks decided to pay down debts and not borrow so much money to buy stuff. The effect was a big drop in spending and thus in overall economic activity (GDP) and in employment.

Where was that $20,000 before Fred borrowed it? We might think that it was sitting unused in the bank vaults, just waiting to be borrowed. That turns out to be an incorrect picture of the lending process.

Bank loans differ in key ways from, say, an interpersonal loan. If I lend you money, I might draw down my checking deposit and give you a check which you would deposit in your bank account. No new money is created. You may hand me an I.O.U. slip stating when you will pay me back and with what interest, but that would still be just the same funds being traded back and forth between the two of us. I would have to have the money in my account to start with before I could loan it to you.

Bank lending is different. A bank can lend money and hence create a new deposit, which amounts to brand-new money, even if the bank does not have that money to start with.  This is counterintuitive. In a later post we may flesh out this seemingly magical aspect of bank lending. See  Overview of the U. S. Monetary System for a more complete discussion.

Invasion of the Cooperation Snatchers

If you can tolerate a moment’s grandiosity, there’s no more important application of game theory than the evolutionary transition from prokaryotic cells to eukaryotic cells. All due deference to every game theorist ever, but the solution to the Prisoner’s Dilemma is literally in our DNA. One day cells were swimming around the primordial soup competing with each other in a zero-sum fight to the death for resources, the next they’re bonding together to form tissues to jointly acquire them. A couple billion years later and you’ve got hyper-specialization to the point of which cellular differentiation remains a bleeding-edge subject of biological research.

But this isn’t a post about the miracle of a body when it’s functioning perfectly. It’s about what happens when a cell goes rogue. When it defects on its neighbors and a cooperative strategy literal eons in the making. It starts gobbling up resources and reproduces at rates that threaten the whole enterprise, growing into a terrible little tumor of defection. The cooperative strategy in question moved passed simplicity countless generations ago: tissues employing Tit-for-Tat disaggregated back into the soup the first evolutionary round through. No, the strategy now is so fine-tuned it hasn’t had to deal with a major defector in eons of its collective evolutionary memory. If it is to succeed, it will have to selectively cut out those defecting cells without abandoning its core strategy, and do it fast, before it’s too late.

Which naturally brings me to the Republican party.

Political parties succeed based on two achievements. 1) They solve the collective action problem and, in doing so, achieve a scale of cooperation and exceed some critical mass threshold sufficient to self-perpetuate through the electoral process. The number of parties that can succeed at once, and the critical mass necessary to get to that point, are determined by the governing political institutions. 2) They maintain their cooperation at a scale sufficient to thwart the emergence of an alternative rival party.

Staying a dominant party is much easier than becoming one, but that doesn’t mean continued success is guaranteed. The weakness(es) of a party will depend on how it got there in the first place. The strategies for solving the collective action problem of this scale will be far more complicated than Tit-for-Tat or “Walk Away” and similar solutions distilled to the point of abstraction. They will involve all the solutions employed by cartels, religious groups, military forces, and every other collective dependent on high-levels of persistent cooperation. With that complexity comes weaknesses. Fault lines and backdoors that are typically guarded through a variety of social and legal barriers.

And they must be guarded, because the combination of scale and success will never cease to attract defectors. Those roaming cells, ostracized and cast out, always met with a wary eye, looking for a way in. Just imagine you are that rogue cell and you come across a population trained to always cooperate no matter what so long as it is deemed a member of the group. They seems so naïve! So vulnerable. But that’s how we succeeded! Always cooperate within the group. How big might your greed grow knowing you could defect and defect for all eternity, growing fatter and fatter off this suddenly maladapted globule of political ambition that can’t help but tear itself to shreds while giving you everything you ever wanted? It’s not just about the weakness of the party, but the kinds of agents these prospects are likely to attract.

In the coming weeks I’ll revisit this and ramble more about discuss some of the specific strategies employed by political parties, and the kinds of invasive agents and strategies they should expect. I’ll also speculate on how groups might institutionally respond and better protect themselves from both invading sociopaths, as well as their own hubris.

Inspiring articles:

Aimone, Jason A., et al. “Endogenous group formation via unproductive costs.” Review of Economic Studies 80.4 (2013): 1215-1236.

Aktipis, C. Athena, et al. “Cancer across the tree of life: cooperation and cheating in multicellularity.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 370.1673 (2015): 20140219.

Biden Signs Turn Into Christmas Lights

One of the many things I meant to do and did not have time for this Fall was a photo study of the political signs in my neighborhood. I did snap a few pictures, such as this one of a conservative house:

The next one is not a Biden/Harris sign, but they are supporting the Democrat senator Doug Jones.

The Biden signs far outnumbered the Trump signs. It’s a safe assumption that most Trump voters did not put out signs.

Tonight, you cannot tell which households supported which candidate. I think my election photo journalism failure might actually turn into a different story. Observe this street

Something CUTE that my Alabama neighbors do is put up an outdoor Christmas tree with white lights, like so:

When you drive down a street past dozens of these in a row, the effect is wonderful (and hard to capture adequately with my phone camera). It’s neither a political statement nor an anti-political statement. It’s a community that thrives despite their differences. This is something beautiful they do to enjoy together.

Like many neighborhoods, we also have “that house”:

File under “yes-in-my-front-yard”.