Thursday, December 15, 2011


From November 23rd, 2011:

It had been a tough week, so when I sat in my final Friday lecture at 5pm, I had already been chewing on several ideas to reward myself. The lecture had seemingly lost some of its focus, so I lost my focus too, and started looking at railroad tickets.

The next morning at 5:35am I was on the bus, and by 6:58 I was on the Eurostar to Brussels. Two hours later I stepped out onto the European continent for the first time in my life, into a fantastic French-speaking world that had previously only existed in books, films and my imagination.






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Wednesday, December 14, 2011


It turns out comma splices somewhat lessen the pain of rejection.

Just received this one:

"Thank you for taking the time to interview with us, we enjoyed meeting you. We have, however, decided not to pursue your application further at this time."

Friday, October 21, 2011


I’m sitting on a beautiful bench with cast-iron hand rests in the shape of winged sphinxes, overlooking the Thames. The sun is above Westminster Abbey, and when the clouds give it a gap it turns the river into glaring gold. Having just finished my class on the Economic History of Latin America, I wandered down here to eat my lunch and type up the notes from our group presentations on our reading assignments. I succeeded in eating my lunch (a ham sandwich with mango chutney, a juicy English cucumber and a small piece of cheese), but only lasted about 30 seconds on my schoolwork. I have decided to blame it on the wind, which happens to be blowing quite briskly and won’t allow my notes to stay on my lap, or beside me.

I’m wearing my new forest green trench coat, which I purchased last week under the supervision of Clare and Arthur, my landlords but also my great friends. Arthur is an American who has lived long enough here to lose his American accent and wed Clare, a stunning, vivacious English girl from Kent. Arthur popped the collar of the coat when I tried it on, and I laughed and put it back down. Then he explained that here you actually pop your collar for practical reasons—to ward off that chilly, pesky wind. It is as the English are fond of saying, brilliant.

The first couple weeks of my program have been up and down. I’m adjusting to a new style of academia and learning in general, which is quite different from the system I’ve become accustomed to for the last 16 years of my education. Also, the first few classes gave me the impression that my program was far different than what I’d expected and that I would’ve been better off in a different one. I contemplated postponing a year, or even dropping out and joining the Romney campaign. But a few fantastic lectures and readings convinced me I’m in the right place for now, and that this is also the right timing. I’ve been attending…

There’s the sun again. I’m blinded by the alchemized river right in front of me, but the rays of light feel so good on my cold fingers. The London Eye is also fully in the sunlight and glistens against the backdrop of tired gray clouds. Behind it the gothic towers of Parliament are still in shadow. And now the sun has slipped away again, at about the same pace as the grey-headed man smoking an oversized pipe strolled by me, paused to look at the river and then crossed the road towards the tube station.

I’ve been attending career presentations almost every night. Consulting, Banking, Investment Research are all still on the table, but at this point I’m leaning heavily towards consulting. I think it will give me the variety of experiences I seek, reward my diverse skill-set, and help me learn to apply my creativity and problem-solving skills to enhance the performance of businesses, organizations and governments.

Time to succumb to the wind and put my fingers back in the pockets of this nice warm coat. Cheers.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Accountable Education Reform Hits a Snag


I've written a letter to the members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee about a recent change to the proposed No Child Left Behind (NCLB) reform that would ensure that all teachers are routinely evaluated. The changes would scrap these requirements and are in response to intense lobbying by Teachers Unions to (mostly Republican) Senators.

I encourage you to write these Senators. The StudentsFirst Campaign will make the process easy, and even have a form letter you can send if you are short on time. Check it out here.

Here's my letter:

Dear Senators,

I'm one of the lucky ones. I went to a great school and had great teachers because I lived in the right zip code. I have completed a degree in economics and am now working on my masters degree. In my recent coursework on the economics of education I carefully considered research from all sides of the educational spectrum in an effort to understand how we can make education better. Based on that research I have firm beliefs that measuring student and teacher performance is absolutely critical to getting better outcomes.

Like many policymakers, including the majority of you, I agree that we need to reform No Child Left Behind. But cutting teacher evaluations is not the right step forward. All students deserve the chance to be taught by evaluated, effective teachers.

As members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee I encourage you to restore the provisions on teacher evaluation originally placed in the bill by Senator Harkin.

Please do it for my siblings, my future children, and all the kids who aren't quite as lucky as I was to hit the zip code lottery.


K. Michael Monroe

Monday, October 17, 2011

Hare Krishnas and Free Lunches

I collected data while I ate the lunch I'd brought from home--Bombay mix with carrots and a granola bar. I was pleasantly surprised by the results. With an average donation of 75p, I think the Hare Krishna might be coming close to covering their costs.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011


She's dressed in black.
Not deep in the cave of the Tube
But just a stone's throw from the
of the mucky Thames

Furiously attacking her sonata.
Tired-taut strings sing yet again
The ole Stradivarius not ole enough.

Above her cabs swerve like geese
fighting unexpected gusts of careless
cycles, double-deckers and joggers.

She can't see the young couple
boarding the tentaculous eye,
glowing deep-sea electric blue against
the gray-purple depths of sky,

Or the Union Jack above the spired needles of Parliament,
sounding out the last-of-the-season breeze,
where mum and hundreds of grandmums have flown before,

Or the jade-shining windows above Ben's big hands,
wondering why they must always be different,
when the rest of the tower reflects efficiently-dull fluorescent orange.

The snake-charmer at mid-bridge.
The bagpiper at quarter-bridge.
The drag-queen Elizabeth at bridge-end.
The hot-dog hawker.
The gaping tourists.
The trigger happy novice photographers.
Not to mind.

40 pence. 2 quid. She plays on.

Monday, October 03, 2011

First Day of School

I'm sitting on a chair in front of the LSE Library, listening to Bossa Nova and looking around at all the five to seven story buildings that surround our little university courtyard and cafe.

The past four days have been the finest days of the summer, some Londoners are telling us. It has been between 75 and 85 degrees during the day, and today a wonderful breeze is weaving through the crowded London streets carrying on it scents of bakeries, chain-smokers, fall leaves and old red brick. Saturday morning I swam across the River Lea and toured the sculpture wing of the Victoria and Albert Museum with Alex and our friend here studying art, Claire.

Sunday morning we strolled around the Serpentine in Hyde Park, and I relaxed on the green reading Billy Collins. We were joined in the afternoon by a few new friends and made chicken korma with naan bread and stir-fried courgettes (British for zucchini). We watched LDS General Conference late into the evening joined by our landlady and her husband who have traveled in from Kent to spend the week fixing up the flat a bit. We ate and watched, and ate, and watched until nearly midnight.

Today my first lectures have been given by Dr. James Putzel of the International Development department, recounting the basic outlines of development theory and how we will proceed through our courses. LSE owns a collection of buildings in a small 3-4 block area that surrounds the western side of the Royal Courts of Justice. About half of them are historic, stone buildings with toffee-colored wooden interiors. The other half are modern but slightly aged towers of glass and steel.

About 60% of my classmates are from countries other than the US or the UK; imagine the variety of dress, hairstyles and accents! Time for my next class, on the history of economic growth in Latin America.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fjords, Forests and Trains

A few more pictures of Norway, straight from the camera. More to come on Flickr and once we get back to the UK.

My mission to swim in a Fjord was realized. It wasn't as cold as I thought it would be. The water was heavy and clear, but not very salty.

Hiking in the forests above Bergen, in the rain.

View of the fjords out our train window. The "most beautiful train ride in the world" from Bergen to Oslo sure lived up to its billing.

The train passed through summer, fall and then winter as it climbed and crested the mountains.

On Saturday we took the train from Oslo north to Gran, where a large chunk of my Monroe ancestors, through the Serdahl-Andersen line are from. This is a picture of the historic cemetary that has been use in the city since the 11th century. Chances are pretty good that my great-great-great-grandparents and their families are buried here, although the tombstones have since been replaced.

We stayed with Josh and Kimberly Oldham in Oslo. Kimberly was my sister Sheralie's roommate at BYU. We are so grateful for their warm hospitality and enjoyed a fierce match of Settlers of Cataan on Saturday night. (Josh won).

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Alex and I are spending the next 6 days in Norway and Sweden. We started today in Bergen, the largest city on the western side of Norway. It is over one thousand years old and served as a center for the vikings and also the Hanseatic league. It was rainy and cold, but unbelievably beautiful. I will be able to tell more about it in future posts, but for now wanted to at least share a few photos.

Monday, September 19, 2011

12 Hours in the UK

Been in the UK for 12 hours. Observations:

1) My "sorry" already has a British twang to it.
2) We live within walking distance of all necessary stores. Very nice.
3) Grocery shopping made me so happy I wanted to move in between the aisle of Indian food and the aisle of chutneys and sauces. This is going to be a good year for my stomach.
4) Flat is extremely pleasant, with thick, quiet walls and a nice third floor view of the neighborhood. New roommates are fastidiously clean and appreciated me making dinner.
5) Dinner was tomato sausage + spicy Indian sauce + potatoes + onion + brown basmati rice with mint and chip ice cream for dessert.
6) The "projects" of Tottenham are really, really nice. We live in a fine neighborhood with plenty of trees, confusing streets and roundabouts, and pleasant brick buildings.
7) I highly recommend flying Air New Zealand. Great food, cheery service, a nice palette for the interior of the plane (black, slate gray, dark green and some purple accents) and a hysterical rugby-themed security video.

Jet lag is messing with my brain. I better go to bed while I still can.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

i thank you god for most this amazing day

ee cummings

I've been thinking about this poem the last few weeks. I kept repeating the parts of it I knew over and over again in my mind, until finally I had to go find it in its entirety.


i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no
of all nothing--human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)


song (composed by Eric Whitacre)

I love the choral interpetation by Eric Whitacre. I sang it at a regional choir event in 2002, and then had the chance to sing under the baton of Eric Whitacre in 2005 and again in 2006.

Friday, March 18, 2011

This Looks Really Cool

This project sounds really cool, and the website will be coming live tomorrow! Canada sent 39 musicians out into the wild with filmmakers to spend some time making art in Canada's 13 national parks. From

National Parks Project - Trailer from Ryan J. Noth on Vimeo.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Louise Radnofsky Responds to My Criticism of Her WSJ Article

In today's WSJ, Louise Radnofsky authored an article entitled "Big Payday for Some Hill Staffers." Here are the opening sentences:

"Departing members of the House of Representatives awarded millions of dollars in extra pay to aides as they closed down their offices, according to lawmakers' spending records.

The 96 lawmakers paid their employees $6.7 million, or 31%, more in the fourth quarter of 2010 than they did, on average, in the first three quarters of the year.

That's about twice as much as the 16% increase awarded by lawmakers who returned to the 112th Congress, according to LegiStorm, an organization that tracks congressional salaries.

The disparity suggests retiring or defeated members used remaining funds in their official expenses budgets to boost salaries for staffers before they left Washington, cash that might otherwise have been returned to the U.S. Treasury."

Did that second sentence bother you? It bothered me. So, on a whim, I wrote the author and questioned why she hadn't worded it differently. To me, it seemed like a subtle but important example of editorial bias.

I feel like during my internship with the Treasury Department during the fall I had a chance to really start seeing this better. Each morning I read the Financial Times, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal as I prepared and delivered my daily news briefing to the US Undersecretary of International Affairs. I also skimmed the Washington Post and Politico.

Disclaimer, I begin preaching here.) Seeing where each paper placed their respective articles, how they headlined them, and how the authors described and analyzed the events showed very clear difference of world view and opinion. I was able to see the same story interpreted three, four or five times. It was fascinating. It confirmed my belief that none of us are completely objective, and neither is any paper. Recognizing these biases, both in the media we consume and within ourselves, makes us more careful analysts of world events.

But I digress. I was shocked to receive a response from Louise Radnofsky, only fifteen minutes after emailing her. Here is our conversation, in its entirety:



Thank you for reporting the recent pay raises that occurred in December of last year. Keeping track of this kind of thing is exactly the reason journalism is so important.

Why, though, in your second sentence, did you list the number of congresspersons, rather than the number of employees? It seems extremely misleading. The average reader sees $6.7 million being split among 96 people.

But the total number isn't very telling. How many employees was this spread among? At no point in your article did you say what the average salary bonus was, or the total number of outgoing staffers.

Here's the ironic thing: I agree that this is surprising, appalling and necessary to report, but I lose faith in your credibility when I glance back and realize the numbers aren't saying what I thought they were. Why not strengthen the case with the most descriptive statistics possible?


Michael Monroe


Thanks for your thoughtful note.

It's always hard to decide which stats to include and which ones to leave out to avoid overwhelming readers. The article focuses, rightly I think, on the elected officials who made the decisions rather than their employees. The examples indicate the average size of a Congressional office (17 or 18 staffers.) There's a second problem, though. It's not always possible to identify whether a particular employee received a bonus/ extra payment. What's very clear is that office payrolls jumped as a whole. So for the sake of accuracy, that was what we had to focus on.

I take your point though. I always want to make things as clear as possible and will continue to bear this sort of thing in mind. I think it seems clear on a first read to a lot of people in DC that we're talking about 96 member offices because nobody's bonus could be that big in a pool of $6.7 million. But in NY, and for people elsewhere who read about corporate payouts... that's the sort of thing they expect to hear. And I should remember that.

Hope this helps.



Thank you for your prompt response. I understand what you're saying, and as a student of economics understand how difficult it can be to provide descriptive characteristics for a nuanced set of data.

Thanks again for taking time out of your busy schedule to respond to my email. Best wishes in all your work,

Michael Monroe


Louise defended herself well, but I still think that the math tells a slightly less dramatic story. If the 96 lawmakers average 17 people per staff, the &6.7 million turns into about $4,180.00 per person. Considering that many staffers take leave during the fall election time and put in extremely abnormal hours (working nonstop the weeks immediately before the election) maybe $4,000 on top of a $60,000 salary doesn't seem unreasonable.

Is it still an interesting and important finding that outgoing Democrats paid more than Republicans who were returning? Yes. This should be the focus of the article. As it is currently written, I think it overstates the point.

What do you think?

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

BYU, ESPN and the Honor Code

I, like many of my fellow students, am mourning the loss of Brandon Davies. It has been interesting to see the national reaction. Check out what some of the ESPN guys had to say:

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Call Your Senator

Join the ONE campaign, and call the Senate to discourage harmful cuts from being made to foreign assistance programs. These are vital to our national security and to humanitarian assistance programs around the world.

Utah: Mike Lee (202) 224-5444 and Orin Hatch (202) 224-5251
CA: Barbara Boxer (202) 224-3553 and Dianne Feinstein (202) 224-3841
ID: Mike Crapo (202) 224-6142 and James Risch (202) 224-2752
NV: Harry Reid (202) 224-3542 and John Ensign (202) 224-6244
DC: Psyche

The ONE campaign works for promoting transparency, evaluation and accountability in funding for international development programs. Much of its efforts are to help secure funding for AIDS and Malaria programs in Sub-saharan Africa. I've worked with them for about a year now. I think that in this case the Congress is entirely justified in its attempts to want to reign in the budget--that is are most significant long-term security risk.

However, I believe that sharp cuts to our foreign assistance programs would put the well-being of millions who rely on these programs for life-saving drug treatments and vaccines. Research has shown that sudden cuts to these programs can cause instability and conflict--the kinds of conflict that often spur terrorism and cause massive social costs. It is thus in our own best interest to protect our national security by continuing these programs, and also in the best interest of those who live in poverty as well. Furthermore, these programs represent less than 0.7% of the annual budget. To cut these programs, but not touch entitlement spending like social security and medicare is preposterous. Those represent that massive spending commitments that is jeopardizing the future of our nation.

For more information on the ONE campaign, check out

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Wisdom from Machiavelli

I just read Machiavelli's "The Prince" in a single sitting. I found it cynical, provocative and brilliant. Machiavelli's theories explain the success and failure of dozens, if not hundreds of leaders. To me it is the kind of work that makes me a little uncomfortable, but is extremely useful because it explains so much of history's most pivotal events. Here are some less-often quoted passages that stuck out to me.

On the appropriate time to deal with a problem:

"In the beginning the disease is easy to cure, difficult to diagnose; but, after a while, if it has not been diagnosed and treated early, it becomes easy to diagnose and hard to cure. So, too, in politics, for if you foresee problems while they are a far off (which only a prudent man is able to do) they can easily be dealt with; but when, because you have failed to see them coming, you allow them to grow to the point that anyone can recognize them, then it is too late to do anything."

On a leader's relationship with the military:

"For the armed man has contempt for the man without weapons; the defenseless man does not trust someone who can overpower him... [Thus, a ruler] should not only keep his troops in good order and see they are well-trained; he should be always ought hunting, thereby accustoming his body to fatigue. He should take the opportunity to study the lie of the land, climbing the mountains, descending into the valleys, crossing the plains, fording rivers, and wading through marshes."

On a leader's appreciation of history and commitment to hard work:

"Every ruler should read history books, and in them he should study the actions of admirable men... He will never relax during peacetime, but will always be working to take advantage of the opportunities peace presents, so he will be fully prepared when adversity comes. When his luck changes, he must be ready to fight back."

I don't endorse the content of these quotes, nor do I intend for their publication here to be read merely as a commentary on current global affairs. These are simply astute, provocative statements, worth examining for their positive rather than normative value.

This being said, I could't help but think of Egypt's Mubarak and Tunisia's Ben Ali as I read Machiavelli tonight. Are they using it as their playbook? Have they ventured from it, or has it failed them? Mubarak just sacked his entire cabinet, as Machiavelli recommends in Chapter 19 on how one should avoid hatred and contempt. "Rulers should delegate responsibility for unpopular actions, while taking personal responsibility for those that will win favor."

Did Machiavelli describe the behavior that dictators tend to re-discover on their own, by observing the failures of those around them? How many dictators throughout the last five centuries have read Machiavelli? What about today's dictators? Do Kim Jong-il and Robert Mugabe keep a copy near their bedside? We can only speculate.

Regardless of whether Machiavelli merely describes autocratic behavior or serves as a step-by-step manual, it is a worthwhile read.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Truth about the Global Economy

Here is my recently published Political Review article, in case you missed it:

Whether it is the heated barbs of Eurozone bailout debates for the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain), trade quarrels with China, or rising concerns with capital flowing rapidly to emerging markets, some see current events as evidence of the fact that our increasingly multipolar system is losing both civility and stability. But do the actions of global economic actors match up with the heated rhetoric we hear in the press?

We find that despite the hot air, the post-crisis global economic recovery has been marked by strong unanimity and global consensus in taking the most vital steps toward recovery. Why is this not more apparent? Perhaps it is because analysts fail to acknowledge the difference between what politicians say to their constituents out of political necessity and what they say when sitting at the negotiation table.

For example, it might be a surprise for some to learn that China is letting its currency appreciate. That means the US strategy is working. Since September 2, the Chinese renminbi has been allowed to appreciate 2.2%, a rate that if continued would signal an important step toward dealing with global imbalances. It is happening slowly—but it is happening. One of the principle reasons China will continue to let the renminbi appreciate is that it is feeling pressure from more than just the United States. Developing nations’ export industries are being undercut by the undervalued renminbi as domestic manufacturers lose market shares. Although most lack the chutzpa to stand up to China on their own, when nations all sit around the G20 table, they agree that China needs to respect the rules of the international economic system. The recent G20 summit was far from the failure that some media outlets attempted to cast it as. Leaders agreed that structural imbalances must be addressed, and agreed on targets for creating a framework to help mitigate the danger these imbalances can create with help from the IMF.

Furthermore, the notion that the world is currently in a “currency war” is a myth. The truth is that measures to limit the flow of capital, called capital controls, are being used carefully and judiciously. Capital controls were once discouraged by the Washington Consensus, but the IMF and other key economic players have recently reversed their positions, acknowledging that when used properly, capital controls can alter the composition of capital flows away from dangerous “hot money” into more stable long-term investments. Brazil, South Korea, Thailand, and Peru have instituted capital controls that, some argue, will help the United States’ quantitative easing promote domestic growth by discouraging the flight of capital to emerging markets.
Although quantitative easing, dubbed QE2, is indeed a controversial Keynesian stimulus move, there is widespread consensus that full economic recovery for countries ranging from Mexico to Malaysia will require getting the US economy rolling once more. As is generally the case with monetary policy, the purpose of QE2 is to grease the economy’s wheels in order to lower unemployment, and make up for a lack of fiscal stimulus from a gridlocked congress. Unlike Chinese policy, however, the effects of QE2 on exchange rates are a byproduct rather than a primary objective. Some analysts have protested that monetary policy will mean skyrocketing inflation, but so far these predictions have not held any water: October’s core inflation trickled in at a shockingly low 0.6%, the lowest recorded since 1957. At this point deflation is a much more pressing concern.

However, the US must return to taking a greater role in global economic leadership by reversing its abandonment of free trade. It appears President Obama may have made a significant step in this regard by completing negotiations with South Korea on a free trade agreement just last Friday (December 3). Moving free trade forward gives Obama a chance to prove to voters that he can buck protectionist pressures from both agro-subsidy-drunk conservatives and seemingly luddite labor in order to boost long-term economic growth. Other agreements have already been negotiated with Panama and Colombia, and have been waiting years for a signature. Obama needs to quit stalling and sign them immediately.

Despite some hiccups, it seems global leaders are doing the right thing and then telling constituents what they need to politically. Since the crisis, the G8 has been modernized into the G20. The IMF and World Bank’s leadership structures have shifted greater power toward emerging economies. Trade has rebounded and flourished faster than anticipated. Protectionism has not rebounded, nor set back years of careful integration. Do not underestimate the global consensus—the howls and polemics are misguided and misplaced.

Mike is a Senior studying Economics. He is currently an intern with the International Affairs Department of the United States Treasury.