Saturday, March 29, 2008

There's no Debatin' these Socialist Calculations!!

Apparently Salvadore Allende didn't get the memo that Lange & Lerner lost the calculation debates. Allende's government (while it lasted) was attempting to implement a plan to "manage Chile’s economy using a clunky mainframe computer and a network of telex machines."

The project, called Cybersyn, was the brainchild of A. Stafford Beer...who employed his “cybernetic” concepts to help Mr. Allende find an alternative to the planned economies of Cuba and the Soviet Union.....

A Star Trek-like chair with controls in the armrests was a replica of those in a prototype operations room. Mr. Beer planned for the room to receive computer reports based on data flowing from telex machines connected to factories up and down this 2,700-mile-long country. Managers were to sit in seven of the contoured chairs and make critical decisions about the reports displayed on projection screens.

While the operations room never became fully operational, Cybersyn gained stature within the Allende government for helping to outmaneuver striking workers in October 1972. That helped planners realize — as the pioneers of the modern-day Internet did — that the communications network was more important than computing power, which Chile did not have much of, anyway. A single I.B.M. 360/50 mainframe, which had less storage capacity than most flash drives today, processed the factories’ data, with a Burroughs 3500 later filling in.

(the program was intended) to use the telex communications system — a network of teletypewriters — to gather data from factories on variables like daily output, energy use and labor “in real time,” and then use a computer to filter out the important pieces of economic information the government needed to make decisions.

Sweet! Here's more from Wikipedia:

There were 500 unused telex machines bought by the previous government, each was put into one factory. In the control center in Santiago, each day data coming from each factory (several numbers, such as raw material input, production output and number of absentees) were put into a computer, which made short-term predictions and necessary adjustments. There were four levels of control (firm, branch, sector, total), with
algedonic feedback (if lower level of control didn't remedy a problem in a certain interval, the higher level was notified). The results were discussed in the operations room and the top-level plan was made. The software for Cybersyn was called Cyberstride, and it used Bayesian filtering and Bayesian control. It was written by Chilean engineers in consultation with a team of 12 British programmers.


Move over Von Mises! It looks like maybe it was Augustin Pinochet who actually won the calculation debate!

Hat tip to Mrs. Angus

Friday, March 28, 2008

Pangea 3000 presents the Beatles Block on WP3K

John, Paul, George and Ringo! All in the same band!! How is that even possible??

Gott in Himmel!

Oh, my. Mike Gravel decides he is a Libertarian. Check the new, spiffed-out web site.

A campaign video, from the Gravel campaign:



Yes, that is a campaign video. Don't blame me.

This one is even better.

if the 1s just hold their place the 0s make a smiley face

The NY Times has launched a new blog called "Measure for Measure", on songwriting and music! There are 4 bloggers, Andrew Bird, Roseanne Cash, Susanne Vega and some guy named Darrell Brown. The inaugural post by Bird is terrific, as is his music. If you are not yet a fan I highly recommend starting with "The Mysterious Production of Eggs" from which the title of this post is taken. I also really like Roseanne Cash. My alltime favorite song of hers is "Seven Year Ache"

Save Us From Wal-Mart

It irritates many rich people that poor people need to shop at Wal-Mart.

Chicago is taking action to end this irritation.

Earth to homeowners: time to move on

Last September I blogged that the house across the street from us had been for sale (well, had a for sale sign in the yard and a listing in the MLS) for 18 months. Well now it's the end of March and the sign is still there, so we are marking the 2 year anniversary of this neighborhood tomfoolery.

Coincidentally Dave Leonhart has a piece in the NY times on problems that homeowners have accepting reality. He cites an LA realtor claiming that "he has recently been saying no to almost half the sellers who have asked him to represent them. Their initial asking price is just too unrealistic."

Besides the obvious costs these folk are imposing on themselves, there is also an external cost here, isn't there? Aren't we waiting to see where housing ends up being priced so that we can resolve uncertainty and get back to the great business of America, getting in early on the next bubble with borrowed money?

So come on you would be sellers, suck it up and mark it down! Take one for the team; Team America!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

You won't believe this. I don't believe it, but it's true

So, my son Kevin is applying to colleges.

He filled out this federal form for financial aid. We live in North Carolina, and said so on the form.

So....we just got this letter, from the state of "Rhode Island and Providence Plantations."



That's pretty small so let me summarize.

1. The state of RI & PP takes it upon itself to file EVERY application for federal aid as an application for aid in the state of RI.
2. Then, they send out letters to everyone NOT from RI, telling them that they were turned down for aid.
3. The reason is that....YOU DON'T LIVE IN RI & PP!

This was an actual letter, sent in an envelope, with a stamp. Rhode Island turned us down for aid we didn't apply for, based on a residence that we never claimed, for a set of colleges my son didn't even apply to.

Your government, at work.

Munger Girls

Munger girls.

Laugh About It, Talk About It, When You've Got to Choose

Video of the candidate forum.

Interesting contrasts.

And, major props to Bill Holman for playing this straight. I appreciate it.

Family values

In an audience with then World Bank president James Wolfenson in 1996, Indonesian president/dictator Suharto reportedly said "What you regard as corruption... we regard as family values", one of the greatest lines ever(reported by Sebastian Mallaby in his excellent book "The World's Banker", p. 179).

Now it appears that things might work the same way in Hugo Chavez's Venezuela.

Hugo's dad is the governor of a state, his older brother is the federal education minister, and two of his younger brothers are accused (to be fair, by a political rival to his father) of buying a string of 17 ranches using fronts to hide their identity.

Excerpts from the article:

Venezuela's National Assembly opened an investigation Wednesday into a congressman's accusations that two of President Hugo Chavez's brothers acquired 17 ranches in recent years — if true a potential stain on the image of Chavez's socialist movement. Lawmaker Wilmer Azuaje detailed his allegations in a closed-door committee session, presenting documents that he says show how an assortment of ranch lands were obtained by Chavez's brothers Argenis and Narciso. Azuaje said afterward that he asked the congressional audit commission to visit the haciendas for an inspection and to summon those who sold the properties for questioning. Azuaje, of the president's socialist party, said the ranches are all located in Chavez's home state of Barinas, where the president's father is governor. Asked if the accusations are linked to his own campaign for governor in Barinas, Azuaje said Chavez and his party "demand that we denounce... acts of corruption (and) incapacity." There was no immediate reaction from Chavez's younger brothers or the president, who was traveling in Brazil. The lawmaker told the Venezuelan television channel Globovision on Tuesday that he has documents indicating Chavez's brothers acquired 17 ranches through front men who carried out the transactions on their behalf. Azuaje said he decided to call for the investigation because he feels the land acquisitions harm the image of Chavez's socialist movement. He said he also has asked prosecutors to open a separate investigation.


One step closer

David Stern was in town (OKC that is) this week with a sub-committee of the NBA owners' relocation committee. OU did its part by sending Bob Stoops to be part of the OKC welcoming delegation: Gov. Brad Henry, Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops and numerous other representatives of the city, state and sports community came out to welcome Stern, New Jersey Nets owner Lewis Katz, Indiana Pacers owner Herb Simon and Los Angeles Lakers vice president Jeanie Buss as Oklahoma City brought out fancy cars and hard facts to woo its first major-league sports franchise (Wow Stoops is slipping. Second billing behind the Gov.? He needs to win him some bowl games).

After the presentation, Stern indicated that the sub-committee was going to recommend allowing the move: "It was a pretty full presentation and pretty much a tour de force on behalf of Oklahoma that I'd say impressed the members of the committee greatly," Stern said.

Stern also smacked down the late Seattle bid by Steve Balmer to buy the Sonics back from Clay Bennett and pay for half of renovating the Key Arena:

When asked about a group of Seattle businessmen who have offered to fund half of a $300 million renovation at KeyArena, the Sonics' current home, Stern rejected the option.

"The reason that this journey began was because KeyArena was not an adequate arena going forward and there were a lot of recommendations made for another arena ... but the tax revenues and the various contributions weren't forthcoming," Stern said.

Only one little hurdle left: Busdriver, BREAK THAT LEASE!!!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

John McCain: Pure Evil

I must publicly break with my pal Angus, on the McCain question. From my Reason homeboy Matt Welch, in the NYT:

BEHIND any successful politician lies a usable contradiction, and John McCain’s is this: We love him (and occasionally hate him) for his stubborn individualism, yet his politics are best understood as a decade-long attack on the individual.

The presumptive presidential nominee of the Republican Party has seduced the press and the public with frank confessions of his failings, from his hard-living flyboy days to his adulterous first marriage to the Keating Five scandal. But in both legislation and rhetoric, Mr. McCain has consistently sought to restrict the very freedoms he once exercised, in the common national enterprise of “serving a cause greater than self-interest.”

Such sentiment can sound stirring coming from a lone citizen freely choosing public service. But from a potential president, Mr. McCain’s exaltation of sacrifice over the private pursuit of happiness — “I did it out of patriotism, not for profit,” he snarled to Mitt Romney during the final Republican presidential debate — reflects a worryingly militaristic view of citizenship.


More Reason: Be Afraid of President McCain

Have you heard about the new Argentine diet plan?

Recently elected Argentine President Christina Fernandez is facing the first big crisis of her administration over the government's inceased tax rates on some agricultural export crops, chiefly soybeans. Argentina has been growing rapidly since 2003 though with higher and higher inflation, now estimated to be between 20 and 30 percent, and higher and higher government spending. The government raised export tariff rates on March 11 and farmers went "on strike" with roadblocks, protests, and a cessation of delivering agricultural products either for export or for domestic consumption. Farmers vow to continue striking indefinitely and Fernandez vows not to give in to extortion.

From the FT story:

Agriculture is the backbone of the Argentine economy and high international prices for commodities, especially soya, have translated into booming exports.

The government’s new tariff regime replaces a 35 per cent levy on soya sales, with charges of up to 95 per cent if prices rise to $600 (€380, £300) a tonne.

Other crops are similarly affected, but soya is Argentina’s agricultural star commodity. Cattle farmers and other producers have been switching to the grain en masse, attracted by high profitability.

Under the new tariff scheme, farmers pay 44 per cent on exports at prices of about $465 a tonne. Added to income tax and provincial levies, this results in a total tax burden on farmers of 73 per cent, according to the Argentine Agrarian Federation, one of the four main producers’ associations.

The government argues that higher tariffs are needed to share out more fairly the windfall from exceptional commodities prices, and that the sliding scale benefits farmers more than a straight increase.

But the agriculture sector feels it is being squeezed to provide funds for a spendthrift government to fuel what critics say are unsustainable subsidies. Farmers say that the new tariff regime, coming just four months after the last increase in export tariffs on grains and cereals, was the last straw.

The government could close down meat exports in an effort to stave off shortages. It has requisitioned cattle owned by the armed forces for slaughter. But farmers say that is a drop in the ocean. Meanwhile, no trucks have entered the port of Rosario, Argentina’s grains export centre, for four days; eight ships have been diverted for lack of cargoes in Argentina and 15 are stuck in Rosario awaiting loading, according to the Agrarian Federation.


While I get a kick out of seeing farmers taxed instead of subsidized, them are some pretty steep tariffs. Note that when prices go up, tariff revenues rise with a constant tariff rate; what is going on here is that the tariff rate is also rising. I'm guessing the Argentine farm lobby screwed up and didn't put enough pesos into the Kircher-Fernandez political organization.

Mungers in Lugano?

Jason C, my homeslice from Austin, writes with this picture from his trip to Lugano, Switzerland:

Hi Mike,
Apparently, some of your relatives own a pasticceria in Lugano, Switzerland.


Is Brad DeLong right about China?

In one of the most curious defenses of free trade ever, DeLong argues that we should continue to trade freely with and embrace China so that their children will think fondly of us when they are our new overlords. Really! I am not making this up.

Some quotes:

if possible, the current superpower should embrace its possible successor. It should bind it as closely as possible with ties of blood, commerce, and culture--so that should the emerging superpower come to its full strength, it will to as great an extent possible share the world view of and regard itself as part of the same civilization as its predecessor: Romans to their Greeks.

There is a good chance that China is now on the same path to world preeminence that America walked 130 years ago. Come 2047 and again in 2071 and in the years after 2075, America is going to need China. There is nothing more dangerous for America's future national security, nothing more destructive to America's future prosperity, than for Chinese schoolchildren to be taught in 2047 and 2071 and in the years after 2075 that America tried to keep the Chinese as poor as possible for as long as possible.

I am just not so sure about this. First China is still a very poor country, and we recently found out it's even poorer than we thought. Second, though still very poor, China already has a very very serious pollution problem. Third, none of the east Asian miracle countries have caught up to the US (nor does it look like they will). Singapore and Hong Kong are indeed quite rich but they are cities, not countries. In per capita terms, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand all grew rapidly relative to the US for a while but plateaued well short of US income levels. Fourth, China has serious governance problems. I do not foresee a totalitarian government reaching US-EU levels of wealth, and I do not foresee a change of government in China that would be anything close to smooth.

So, free trade with China? Sure, I'm for free trade with everybody. Trying to please our new overlords in advance? If they turn out to be so, I don't think what we do now will matter much, but I also wouldn't hold my breath waiting for the takeover.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Suggestion for a PLANK!

Dirty Davey suggests a platform plank, in an email:

A campaign suggestion--commit to a full-term moratorium on rhyming programs.

"Booze it and Lose it", "Click it or Ticket", "Learn and Earn"--we poor
citizens are a bit jaded by the poetry of the state.



So, I guess I'll throw out that stuff on "Never too late....to Masticate!" stuff I was working on. Free dentures for everyone over 110 years old.

Sitting on a sofa on a Tuesday afternoon: Going to the candidates' debate.....

Water issues today.

An actual debate. With me, Richard Moore, Bev Purdue, and Robert Orr.

Well attended. And fun.

I think they are going up put a link. I'll post it, if so.

Munger Goes for Reverend Wright Award

Okay, so maybe this was a little intemperate.

Excerpt:
Munger, who is the chairman of Duke’s political-science department, has never run for public office, and his ideology is difficult to pin down. He has been a Republican most of his life, and he said he expects to take votes away from the Republican candidate. But his support of same-sex marriage and a moratorium on the death penalty would appeal to many liberals.

“The Democrats in North Carolina are what the Republicans usually are, and the Republicans are the Taliban,” Munger said, with characteristic brashness. “They look to scripture to decide what their positions should be.”


Okay, that may have been unfortunate. The "Taliban" reference is a bit over the top. No point insulting people's religious beliefs.

One of the commenters on the article wondered if "Monger" was trying to one-up Rev. Wright.

RCHS Triumphant, for the Sixth Straight Year

Why does North Carolina continue to have a cap on charter schools? RCHS operates at 2/3 the cost per student of an average high school, and 1/4 the cost of NCSSM. Pharaoh, let my charters go!

QUIZ BOWLERS ARE STATE CHAMPS…AGAIN

The Raleigh Charter Quiz Bowl Team sent 16 students to the NCOAST (North Carolina Open Academic State Tournament) in Hickory Ridge on Saturday, March 15. This tournament serves as North Carolina's state championship. Congratulations to the varsity team of K. Munger (Captain), P. Schultz, J. Hanna, and J. Vandezande who won the tournament by defeating the team from North Carolina School of Science and Math (NCSSM). NCSSM had defeated our Varsity B team of B. Rubin, S. Stroud, K. Boyina, and C. Holgate in the semifinals. Both the A and B teams were undefeated after the preliminary matches

RCHS fielded two junior varsity teams as well. Our A team of D. Smith, O. Marschall, M. Lochbaum, and R. Austin won the JV section of the tournament, defeating our B team made up of S. Marivada, S. Challener, D. Rao, and C. Brown.

This is the sixth year in a row that RCHS has won both the Varsity and JV championships in this state tournament. Congratulations to both teams.

This tournament effectively ends the quiz bowl season, although we will still compete in the Knowledge Master Open (an international computer-based quiz) in April, and we have a berth at a national tournament in May. A special thanks goes out to all who helped in the training of our players and supported the team this year.

How not to retract something: Hillary edition

Regarding the difference between her verbal account and the film of her arriving in Bosnia, Hillary graciously said this morning:

"I went to 80 countries, you know. I gave contemporaneous accounts, I wrote about a lot of this in my book. You know, I think that, a minor blip, you know, if I said something that, you know, I say a lot of things — millions of words a day — so if I misspoke, that was just a misstatement,"


By the way, if we assume she sleeps 6 hours a night, that leaves 18 hours, or 1080 minutes to talk. According to Wikipedia, "conversations are maintained at 200 words per minute". Lets recognize Hill's prodigious skills and allow 500 wpm for her. This gives us a figure of 540,000 words a day.

Sinbad??

and a side of Rice.....

I have a bad confession to make. I read the New Yorker every week. Pretty much cover to cover. Sorry.

Anyway, in last week's issue I found an intriguing idea: Condi Rice for the second spot on the Republican ticket.

an excerpt:

To deal first with the obvious: Rice may be “only” the second woman and the second African-American to be Secretary of State, but she is indisputably the highest-ranking black female official ever to have served in any branch of the United States government. Her nomination to a constitutional executive office would cost McCain the votes of his party’s hardened racists and incorrigible misogynists. They are surely fewer in number, though, than the people who would like to participate in breaking the glass ceiling of race or gender but, given the choice, would rather do so in a more timid way, and/or without abandoning their party. And with Rice on the ticket the Republicans could attack Clinton or Obama with far less restraint.

By choosing Rice, McCain would shackle himself anew to Bush’s Iraq war. But it’s hard to see how those chains could get much tighter than he has already made them. Rice would fit nicely into McCain’s view of the war as worth fighting but, until Donald Rumsfeld’s exit from the Pentagon, fought clumsily. And it would be fairly easy to establish a story line that would cast Rice as having been less Bush’s enabler than a loyal subordinate who nevertheless pushed gently from within for a more reasonable, more diplomatic approach.

Rice is already fourth in line for the Presidency, and getting bumped up three places would be a shorter leap than any of the three Presidential candidates propose to make. It’s true that her record in office has been one of failure, from downgrading terrorism as a priority before 9/11 to ignoring the Israel-Palestine problem until (almost certainly) too late. But this does not seem to have done much damage to her popularity. In a Washington Post-ABC News poll taken when opposition to the Iraq war was approaching its height, she enjoyed a “favorable-unfavorable” rating of nearly two to one. The conservative rank and file likes her.


Does anybody besides me think this is a great idea? Or are y'all hankering for flip-flop Mitt?

Monday, March 24, 2008

TV Story: In the News

A tv story, uncut, unfiltered, ripped from the headlines.

Well: a tv story, anyway.

My bracket is shot....

As El Zorno says...."In the spirit of the season."

My bracket is shot.

Subsidies: For You Podcastrians

For you podcastrians out there.....

Subsidies, Russ Roberts with very special guest me.

If not NOTA, then NOHA

The Libertarians want, as a matter of policy, to have "NOTA" as a choice on ballots.

NOTA, as in None Of The Above.

I will certainly be voting NOHA: "None of Hillary, Always!"

Check this:

"We need a president who is ready on day one to be commander in chief of our
economy." [Clinton, in speech today]

"...Mrs. Clinton's approach to [civil liberties] is that of a top-down
progressive. Her speeches about privacy suggest that she has boundless faith in the power of experts, judges and ultimately herself to strike the correct balance between privacy and security.

Moreover, the core constituency that cares intensely about civil liberties is a distinct minority — some polls estimate it as around 20 percent of the electorate. A polarizing president, who played primarily to the Democratic base and refused to reach out to conservative libertarians, would have no hope of striking a sensible balance between privacy and security." [Rosen, NYT op-ed]


WTF? Is she going to say, "Oil prices, down! Now! Housing prices, up, up sharply, restore equity! I am the commander in chief of the economy!"

And, on the civil liberties concern: That sounds just like...well....GW Bush. "No hope of striking a sensible balance between privacy and security." Been there, done that.

(Nod to KL)

They slipped up and said it out loud, Minnesota edition

For the original edition of this title see here.

From King at SCSU comes the tale of Minnesota State Senator Larry Pogemiller, who in his enlightened wisdom said:

"I think it's simplistic and naive to say people can spend their money better than the government."and he went on to include... "The notion that everybody can individually spend their money better than government I, I just think is trite, wrongheaded and anti-democratic."

I am loving this trend of our "leaders" coming out and finally saying what they really think. Getting all the cards on the table, so to speak.

King, I know what we'd do with such a fellow here in Oklahomie, but what will happen up north? Is he your next Governor?

Evo-nomics in Action

There is a very old joke about the businessperson to whom it was pointed out that their company was selling their product at less than cost and thus going to make a loss. The owner replied something like, "that's ok, we'll make it up on volume".

The above is a fairly accurate summary of energy policy in Evo's Bolivia. The price of oil there is set by government decree at $27.11 (the oil and gas industries were nationalized by Evo in 2006).

Amazingly this has caused two things (1) a lot of smuggling and (2) domestic demand now outstrips domestic supply by around 30%. This gap is made up by the government buying oil on international markets and then re-selling it to its citizens at the $27.11 price (making it up on volume, just like Walmart)!

From the linked article:

"The Bolivian state is turning into a protectionist one, fixing oil prices that do not match international market prices," said Carlos Toranzo, an economist at the Latin American Institute of Social Research in La Paz.

"Smuggling is a national habit, but we are going to suffer from it as long as we keep prices artificial," he said.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Frankly Dumb

[Robert Frank, Journal of Public Economics, forthcoming:]

"A positional externality occurs when new purchases alter the relevant context within which an existing positional good is evaluated. For example, if some job candidates begin wearing expensive custom-tailored suits, a side effect of their action is that other candidates become less likely to make favorable impressions on interviewers. From any individual job seeker's point of view, the best response might be to match the higher expenditures of others, lest her chances of landing the job fall. But this outcome may be inefficient, since when all spend more, each candidate's probability of success remains unchanged. All may agree that some form of collective restraint on expenditure would be useful. In such cases, however, it is often impractical to negotiate private solutions. Do positional externalities then become legitimate objects of public policy concern? In attempting to answer this question, I employ the classical libertarian criterion put forth by John Stuart Mill, who wrote the state may not legitimately constrain any citizen's freedom of action except to prevent harm to others. I argue that many positional externalities appear to meet Mill's test, causing not just negative feelings but also large and tangible economic costs to others who are ill-equipped to avoid them...Those conditions are precisely analogous to the ones that make military arms races between equally matched rival nations wasteful...No libertarian would think to object to a military arms control agreement on the grounds that it limited each side's freedom to spend as much as it pleased on arms. Since that was precisely the objective each sought by entering into the agreement, such an objection would be absurd on its face...I have argued elsewhere that a simpler, more promising, approach would be to abandon the current progressive income tax in favor of a more steeply progressive general consumption tax...Taxpayers would report their incomes to the tax authorities just as they do now. They would also report how much they had saved during the year, much as they do now in order to exempt money deposited in retirement accounts. People would then pay tax on their 'taxable consumption,' which is just the difference between their income and their annual savings, less a standard deduction. Rates at the margin would rise with taxable consumption. If the tax were revenue neutral, marginal rates at the top would be significantly higher than current marginal tax rates on income...Proposals to generate additional income tax revenue by raising top marginal rates invariably summon concern about possible negative effects on the incentive to save and invest. Under a progressive consumption tax, by contrast, people's incentives would be to save and invest more, even if top marginal tax rates on consumption were extremely high...it would lower the marginal costs of self-insuring against lost earning power and of leaving bequests...And given the apparent importance of context, the indirect effects of a progressive consumption tax promise to be considerably larger than the direct effects. Thus, for example, if people at the top save more and spend less on mansions, that will shift the frame of reference that influences the housing expenditures of those just below the top. So they, too, will spend less on housing, and so on all the way down the income ladder...Liberals and conservatives alike agree that our failure to save has had damaging macroeconomic consequences, that we would all be better off if we all spent less and saved and invested more. But no individual has the power to alter the aggregate savings rates...In the absence of detailed empirical evidence, a plausible conjecture is that the first expenditures that high-end consumers would reduce in response to a steeply progressive consumption tax are the same ones they have recently been increasing in response to their growing incomes. In the US, some of the most spectacular increases in high-end consumption in recent years have occurred in housing and the events families use to mark special occasions. By all accounts, such expenditures are hyper-positional."

Good lord. Robert Frank has "discovered" rent-seeking. Many of the signals that people give in interviews (arriving on time, dressing well, etc.) are not purely wasteful. They are signals of unobservable features correlated with likely performance.

But, if lazy folks could form a lobby, and lobby for the benefits inherent in BLOCKING smart, energetic people from being able to work hard to give good signals, how much would that be worth? A lot! So, even lazy people might work on that. Or pay somebody to work on it for them.

The problem is that EVERYTHING Frank points out as a cost is FAR less costly than the rent-seeking orgy he wants to start instead. Giving out the bennies he thinks are "good public policy" would cause a riot of rent-seekers. "Make smart people talk slower." "Yeah, and they don't get to wash their hair. I don't wash my hair, so people who DO wash their hair have an unfair advantage. Legislate that away!"

Rent-seeking is what people do to obtain favorable regulation. The competition for the kind of benefits Frank wants to give out would DWARF, in terms of costs, the tiny effects he claims to be worried about.

And he doesn't even realize that Tullock and Krueger pointed all this out 40 years ago. Yeesh.

As Kashdan and Klein say: "Assume the positional!" And give us taxpayers a little KY first.

(nod to KL, who likes to assume the positional, or so I hear)

All Sing

Thanks to Angus for the props.

Now, every body sing!



For most of you, the ones who can read, the words are written there in the video. For you folks from Michigan State, just hum.

Sinbad was right!


"I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base."
--Hillary Clinton, speech at George Washington University, March 17, 2008.


Of course, the picture above is of Hill's landing in Bosnia. At least she does have her "head down".

My goodness people, I think she's a bigger and more shameless liar than Bill. Can it be??

Now Mungowitz can die happy

Duke is out and Davidson is in. Mungowitz must be completely delirious (as opposed to his usual level of partial delirium). Lil Davidson has their first postseason wins in over 30 years and has beaten Gonzaga (a 7 seed) and Georgetown (a 2 seed) to make the so called sweet 16.

For those who haven't yet read Mungowitz's autobiography "You can't touch this", Mungo went to Davidson and, because of his UNC roots (man crush on Dean Smith), hates his employer's main fundraising tool, Coach K's Blue Devils.

I say "so called" sweet 16 because from a quality of ball point of view, college basketball is an abomination. There are only maybe 10-20 college players that are any good at all, tops. NCAA hoops quality is at an all time low, though crazy stuff like this Davidson run and my ex-employer George Mason's run a couple years ago will keep the fanatics happy.

Congrats Mungowitz on the best Easter ever!

Markets in Everything?? Rampant Art Fraud

Everyone with a genuine Miro or Picasso print take a step forward. Not so fast, buddy!!

A ring of art counterfeiters has sold thousands of prints since 1999 bearing the forged signatures of Picasso, Miro, Dali and other famous artists to buyers around the world.

"Thousands of people will learn they ... bought a fake," said Chicago-based U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who announced indictments on Wednesday charging two Americans, a Spaniard from Barcelona, and two Italians from Milan and Monsummano with multiple counts of fraud.

U.S. authorities will seek to extradite the Europeans.

Sale prices ranged up to $50,000 for counterfeit prints that came with forged artists' signatures and fake certificates of authenticity that were sold in galleries, at art shows and through Internet auction site eBay, Fitzgerald said.

The counterfeits were produced in Spain and Italy, with the volume of fakes such that two of the alleged conspirators warned another one not to flood the market.

I am pretty sure that Picasso and Miro fakes have been abundant well before 1999, both because they are in high demand and because they are so easy to fake!! My advice is to collect original art by up and coming people and leave the famous artist print market to the crowds. Mrs. Angus and I started out in prints but have been moving more and more toward originals. Anybody want to buy a nice pair of Howard Hodgkin prints?

An Easter PSA from Mungowitz and Angus