Friday, April 17, 2009

Tea Party: Raleigh

Deficits are Future Taxes

"I thought he was a zombie, your honor"

Woody Harrelson attacks a zombie in an airport.

Woody Harrelson defended his clash with a photographer at a New York airport Wednesday night as a case of mistaken identity -- he says he mistook the cameraman for a zombie.

The TMZ photographer filed a complaint with police claiming the actor damaged his camera and pushed him in the face at La Guardia Airport, according to an airport spokesman.

"We're looking into this allegation and if it's warranted, we'll turn it over to the proper authorities," said Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spokesman Ron Marsico.

The photographer, who was not identified, captured the encounter on a small camera after his larger one was broken.

Harrelson, who is being sued by another TMZ photographer for an alleged assault in 2006, did not deny his involvement.

"I wrapped a movie called 'Zombieland,' in which I was constantly under assault by zombies, then flew to New York, still very much in character," Harrelson said in a statement issued Friday by his publicist.

"With my daughter at the airport I was startled by a paparazzo, who I quite understandably mistook for a zombie," he said.

Well, yes, once he explains it, it makes perfect sense.

(Nod to Lord Sutch, as always)

A Burr Under His Saddle, for 2010

I think that Burr is dead, if the Dems play this right.

Did you see this? I mean, did you SEE IT?

When the banking crisis hit last fall, U.S. Sen. Richard Burr told his wife to take as much money from the ATM as she could.

It's an anecdote that Burr, a Winston-Salem Republican, has told for a while when talking about the nation's financial woes. But after he used it in a speech Monday before the Henderson County Chamber of Commerce, it began to ripple across the political world.

In the 40-minute speech, Burr told an audience of about 70 business executives about the recent banking crisis and the federal government's response. He said he was so spooked after a briefing in Washington last fall that he called his wife, Brooke, back in North Carolina.

I mean, here's a guy on the Banking Committee, with better access, to better info, sooner, than the rest of us.

And his response to a crisis is to make a private call to his wife, to empty the bank account?

Suppose for a moment that he thought that if EVERYONE knew what he knew, then they would want to bail out of the banking system, also. He kept the info secret, until he was sure that HIS OWN cash was safe?

Thanks, Senator. Thanks very much, for all your f***ing help.

( are THE man)

It's Not Theft, If You are Elected

"If I'm corrupt, it's because I take care of my district." [Rep. John
Murtha (D-PA


When Misconduct Goes Unnoticed: The Acceptability of Gradual Erosion
in Others' Unethical Behavior

Francesca Gino & Max Bazerman
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Four laboratory studies show that people are more likely to accept others' unethical behavior when ethical degradation occurs slowly rather than in one abrupt shift. Participants served in the role of watchdogs charged with catching instances of cheating. The watchdogs in our studies were less likely to criticize the actions of others when their behavior eroded gradually, over time, rather than in one abrupt shift. We refer to this phenomenon as the slippery slope effect. Our studies also demonstrate that at least part of this effect can be attributed to implicit biases that result in a failure to notice ethical erosion when it occurs slowly. Broadly, our studies provide evidence as to when and why people accept cheating by others and examine the conditions under which the slippery slope effect occur.

(nod to Kevin L)

The REAL Reason for Greg Paulus' Departure for Michigan......

"Paulus said a strong graduate program means a lot to him, and Michigan would certainly qualify." ( video)


Oh, so Duke Poli Sci is chopped liver, is it?

I think that Paulus ought to have to sit out a year before he starts taking Michigan classes.....

Intergenerational Theft Contest

An intergenerational theft contest.

And you can play....for FAAAAAABULOUS prizes!

Top 20 List: Things Economists Say

Geoff Brennan and I spent twenty minutes in the beautiful Pavilion coffee shop here at Duke, thinking about what are the 20 aphorisms that most usefully capture economic wisdom.

The problem with aphorisms is that it takes considerable background to understand them, of course.

But here is our top 20 list. If there is more than one version, we try to give both. If there is an obvious source, we try to give that source. If there is a more general principle, we welcome "other sayings on...."

Starting with #20, and working our way up:

20. Economics is extremely useful, as a form of employment for economists. (Credit to JK Galbraith)

19. If all the world's economists were laid down end to end, around the earth, it would be hilarious. But they still would not reach a conclusion.

18. Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. (Other sayings on value of human capital.)

17. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. (An unstable cooperative equilibrium, unless the PD is iterated indefinitely. Then, stable)

16. People want economy. And they'll pay any price to get it. (Credit to Lee Iococca, and kudos to all you Prius owners out there!)

15. Government economists have the same impact on the economy as National Weather Service meteoroligists have on the weather. And the economists and meteorologists are about as good at predicting what will happen tomorrow.

14. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. And if you have more than $100,000, don't put all your cash in one FDIC bank.

13. A stitch in time saves nine. (Other sayings on compound interest and present value)

12. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. (Other sayings that show that, in equilibrium, there is no economic profit on risk neutral investments)

11. There is more than one way to skin a cat. (Other sayings on advantages of competition for spurring innovation)

10. A rising tide lifts all boats. A falling tide smells really bad.

9. The State is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else. (Credit to F. Bastiat)

8. In economics, things happen at the margin. The majority is always wrong. (Credit to JK Galbraith)

7. Incentives matter more than intentions

6. The best time to buy real estate is two years ago. The best time to buy a computer is two years in the future.

5. The first law of economics is, there isn't enough to do everything. The first law of politics is to repeal the first law of economics. (Credit to Thomas Sowell)

4. You can't eat your cake, and have it, too. (Other opportunity cost sayings)

3. Whatever is going to happen is happening now. The exception is
equity markets, where whatever is going to happen already happened, yesterday. (Credit to Sylvia Porter)

2. Bygones are bygones. No use crying over spilt milk. (Other sunk cost saysings)

And....a drum roll, please....The #1 best insight of economists, reduced to its most
simple form:


Thursday, April 16, 2009


I was going to post on l'affaire Tancredo, at UNC.

But I really couldn't do better than what El General has already done, on that subject. So, read him. And I second that.

Stimulating Discussion

My man Nick "I have lots of black clothing" Gillespie has an interesting piece in the print edition of Reason this issue.

Lots of different folks, including KPC pal Mark Perry. Oh, and including me, too.

Wrestling Greased Capitalist Pigs

Interesting article. Very interesting, in fact.

I began to ask myself: how will I be able to defend capitalism from those who seek to destroy it when actual capitalists are behaving so indefensibly? This is a question that free-market conservatives are now forced to grapple with on a much larger scale in the wake of the collapse of the financial markets.

... a raft of government policies, some dating back decades, helped create the current economic crisis. The Community Reinvestment Act, which was originated during the Carter administration and updated by President Clinton, encouraged more lending to those with patchy credit histories. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were able to use their government backing to borrow money cheaply, allowing them to absorb trillions of dollars in mortgages. And under the leadership of Chairman Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve Board pursued one of the most aggressive rate-cutting campaigns in history, which helped drive mortgage rates down to the lowest levels since the Eisenhower administration—yet the Fed resisted jacking up interest rates despite mounting evidence that housing prices were inflating to unsustainable levels.

While all of this is true, the causes of the current financial collapse, as with any economic calamity of this magnitude, are complex. The government may have helped create an environment that made us susceptible to a housing bubble, but at the end of the day private banks took advantage of that environment. They threw prudent risk management out the window, they pushed mortgages on un-creditworthy borrowers, they financed those mortgages with complicated financial instruments that few—if any—understood, and they escaped with millions as their companies begged for taxpayer dollars.

At a time when the nation is rushing toward socialism, there's an obvious temptation among conservatives to rally around the market and lay all of the blame for the financial crisis on big government. But any full accounting of the current mess requires us to reconcile our belief in capitalism with the fact that this is a case in which actual capitalists behaved recklessly. Their behavior, and the public outrage that it generates, presents more of a threat to capitalism than an army of Paul Krugmans.

(Emphasis mine)


Shiller strikes again.

Bob Shiller doesn't see any green shoots or rays of light. In fact he says that:

"It is now time to stimulate demand. It is also time to repair the credit system. Those are the two targets that must be hit to get us out of the current economic slump, and to restore confidence. It will be costly to meet both of these targets, and it will require new legislation to give enhanced regulatory powers to deal with a greatly changed financial system, now in a systemic slump.

It is time to face up to what needs to be done. The sticker shock involved will be large, but the costs in terms of lost output of not meeting either the credit target or the aggregate demand target will be yet larger."

I guess I should point out this was written yesterday, not last summer.

He also says that the main factor holding back the real ramping up of fiscal and monetary expansion is CEO pay. Seriously!

"In this crisis, acceptance of these measures is being replaced with outrage. It is increasing the blood pressure of the public, and that can’t continue without damage to our system. Compensation practices in the U.S. need to be made fairer. Vast earnings shouldn’t go virtually untaxed, while the middle class is paying a sizable fraction of each extra dollar in taxes. Only then will the government have the mandate to restore our banking and securities institutions to their proper strong role in our economy".


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

God bless Ron Paul

We don't need no stinkin' Navy!

"Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and a growing number of national security experts are calling on Congress to consider using letters of marque and reprisal, a power written into the Constitution that allows the United States to hire private citizens to keep international waters safe.

Used heavily during the Revolution and the War of 1812, letters of marque serve as official warrants from the government, allowing privateers to seize or destroy enemies, their loot and their vessels in exchange for bounty money.

The letters also require would-be thrill seekers to post a bond promising to abide by international rules of war.

In a YouTube video earlier this week, Paul suggested lawmakers consider issuing letters, which could relieve American naval ships from being the nation’s primary pirate responders — a free-market solution to make the high seas safer for cargo ships.

“I think if every potential pirate knew this would be the case, they would have second thoughts because they could probably be blown out of the water rather easily if those were the conditions,” Paul said."

Prosociality and Humor

Human prosociality from an evolutionary perspective: Variation and
correlations at a city-wide scale

David Sloan Wilson, Daniel Tumminelli O'Brien & Artura Sesma
Evolution and Human Behavior, May 2009, Pages 190-200

Prosociality is a fundamental theme in all branches of the human behavioral sciences. Evolutionary theory sets an even broader stage by examining prosociality in all species, including the distinctive human capacity to cooperate in large groups of unrelated individuals. We use evolutionary theory to investigate human prosociality at the scale of a small city (Binghamton, NY), based on survey data and a direct measure of prosocial behavior. In a survey of public school students (Grades 6-12), individual prosociality correlates strongly with social support, which is a basic
requirement for prosociality to succeed as a behavioral strategy in Darwinian terms. The most prosocial individuals receive social support from multiple sources (e.g., family, school, neighborhood, religion and extracurricular activities). Neighborhood social support is significant as a group-level variable in addition to an individual-level variable. The median income of a neighborhood does not directly influence individual prosociality, but only indirectly through forms of social support. Variation in neighborhood quality, as measured by the survey, corresponds to the likelihood that a stamped addressed letter dropped on the sidewalk of a given neighborhood will be mailed. We discuss the results in relation to evolutionary theory, the experimental economics literature and the social capital literature in an effort to integrate the study of human prosociality across disciplines.


An Evolutionary Perspective on Humor: Sexual Selection or Interest

Norman Li, Vladas Griskevicius, Kristina Durante, Peter Jonason, Derek
Pasisz & Katherine Aumer
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

Are people who are funny more attractive? Or does being attractive lead people to be seen as funnier? The answer may depend on the underlying evolutionary function of humor. While humor has been proposed to signal "good genes," we propose that humor also functions to indicate interest in social relationships - in initiating new relationships and in monitoring existing ones. Consistent with this interest indicator model, across three studies both sexes were more likely to initiate humor, and to respond more positively and consider the other person to be funny, when initially attracted to that person. The findings support that humor dynamics - and not just humor displays - influence romantic chemistry for both men and women,
suggesting that humor can ultimately function as a strategy to initiate and monitor social relationships.

(Nod to Kevin L)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Angus and Mungowitz: Another Convert

My lovely Ms. Mungowitz was throwing away what was left of a pecan pie, leftover from Easter celebrations.

As she put the aluminum pie pan in the garbage, she sang, loudly: "Bye, bye, Miss Pecah-ahn pie, drove my Chevy to the levy....."

And then slammed the trash lid and looked at me in horror. " and Angus....look what you have DONE to me!"

Angus, Mungowitz, and singing songs to the garbage: Always representing.

Some Books....

Apropos of exactly nothing, here are some books I have read in the last year that I really, really liked. Not all came OUT in the last year, by a long shot. And some were rereads. Still....they made me happy.







Paul Blustein, AND THE MONEY KEPT ROLLING IN (AND OUT): ...the Bankrupting of Argentina



You Just Can't Make This Stuff Up....

At first, I thought that Stephen Karlson, at C.S.S., was kidding. Outspoken support...for the pirates?

Then, I thought it must be a hoax. I mean....can this guy be serious? Mr. Scahill shares this tidbit, about the "Somali Coast Guard":

As one “pirate” said, “The French and the Americans will regret starting this killing. We do not kill, but take only ransom. We shall do something to anyone we see as French or American from now.” Another added, “As long as there is no just government in Somalia, we will still be the coast guard… If we get an American, we will take revenge.” (Note that "pirate" is in scare quotes, original in Scahill)

The way I see it, there are four issues:

1. Are these guys pirates? Is there any other conceivable description of their actions, tactics, and treatment of prisoners / ships?

2. Was the U.S. justified to use deadly force to free the captain of Maersk Alabama?

3. Was the U.S. wise to end the stalemate in this way?

4. Are the "pirates" (to use Scahill's air quotes, notwithstanding the answer to #1 above) justified in using violence and kidnapping to air the legitimate grievances of an oppressed people?


1. Absolutely. No, no other explanation. These guys are pirates. Anyone who would put quotes around the word "pirates" in this context is criminally insane.

2. Absolutely. A pirate caught in the act of piracy, and holding a hostage at gunpoint, has zero claim to due process. And if the guy getting medical treatment wants to say that it was unfair to fool him like that, that they had a deal, what about the Pirate's Code?....Well, I'd amend Captain Barbossa's answer: "First, your return to shore was not part of our negotiations nor our agreement so I must do nothing. And secondly, one must be a pirate for the pirate's code to apply and we're not. And thirdly, the code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules. Welcome aboard the Bainbridge...."

3. A legitimate question. I don't know the answer. I lean toward "yes," but Scahill may have some real arguments on the "no" side. Of course, I can't tell that, since he chose not to make any of those points.

4. Are you kidding me? You want to blame international shipping companies for the hell hole that is Somalia? One can have sympathy for the generation of young men growing up without law, or hope. But you can't seriously say that that justifies piracy, any more than poverty in Appalachia or Cleveland justifies armed robbery.


BHO got a PWD from EMK (and it's OK)

Me and Mungowitz love us some mutts. We got Pluto from the Norman pound the day we moved there. Hobo and Tanzi are both rescue dogs. But people, it's OK to get a purebred dog if you want to. I am amazed by the fact that Obama's dog choice is getting so much ink and whining. I am further amazed that the breeder who sold Joe Biden a german shepherd pup has allegedly received death threats!

These pics make me like BHO and gabby Joe more than I used to, no matter what kind of dogs they chose:

Inspecting the mechanism

In a recent municipal election in Lexington OK, Marion McWhirter and Max Punneo saw their battle for the city council end in a tie (53-53). Neither man (and yes I have that right) chose to contest the vote:

"Though Punneo -- and McWhirter -- were offered the opportunity to contest the election and ask for a recount, Punneo said the $300 cost would have factored to about $3 per person. "There was no need for that, really," he said."

So how was the tie resolved?

"With a handful of election officials and media representatives watching, Lexington's incumbent city councilman Marion McWhirter held on to his seat Monday when his name was successfully drawn from a decorated hat box by Cleveland County Election Board Secretary Paula Roberts."

WTF, you ask??

""We're following the election law," Roberts said".

I wonder what the law says exactly. Does it specify using a hat box? A decorated hat box? Does it speak to the style of the decorations?

Oh and one more thing: Norm Coleman, you have a phone call!

I'm a sucker for these

I am a sucker for these rehearsed/spontaneous dance takeovers of public spaces.

But then, I really really like to dance, myself. Often when I first get out of the shower.

(Nod to the Bishop, who doesn't dance so much, but is happy that other people do.)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Pole-dancing for Jesus?

Darwin WIn!!

At the Berlin Zoo recently, a 32 year old woman "climbed down a fence, over a wide hedge full of thorns and got past a concrete wall before swan diving into the murky moat where the polar bears swim." There were 4 adult polar bears in the area.

The woman is now in intensive care after some keepers fished her out.

The zoo says it doesn't plan to change its security measures. I agree. People like this should not be protected from their stupidity.

Here is a video link which shows the keepers trying to fish her out of the moat. The bears seem to just be playing with her!

Hat tip to the Eco Sista!

A Coffee Shop Review

A coffee shop review, by KPC pal Paul Gowder.

I couldn't find a part to excerpt. It is a perfect
organic whole. As long as the organic hole is only used
for #1.

Crime and Law

The Laws of Lawlessness

Peter Leeson, Journal of Legal Studies, forthcoming

According to conventional wisdom, self-governance cannot facilitate order between the members of different social groups. This is considered doubly true for the members of social groups that are avowed enemies of one another. This paper argues that it can. To investigate my hypothesis, I examine the Anglo-Scottish borderlands in the 16th century. The border people belonged to two separate social groups at constant war with one another. These people pillaged, plundered, and raided one another as a way of life they called "reiving." To regulate this system of inter-group banditry and prevent it from degenerating into chaos, border inhabitants developed a decentralized system of cross-border criminal law called the Leges Marchiarum. These "laws of lawlessness" governed all aspects of cross-border interaction and spawned novel institutions of their enforcement including "days of truce," bonds, "bawling," and "trod." The Leges Marchiarum and its institutions of enforcement created a unique, decentralized legal order that governed inter-group relations between hostiles along the border.


Arrest Avoidance: Law Enforcement and the Price of Cocaine

Beth Freeborn, Journal of Law and Economics, February 2009, Pages 19-40

Contrary to one goal of drug law enforcement, cocaine prices decreased between the years 1986 and 2000. This paper discusses how arrest avoidance behavior may affect cocaine consumer and dealer response to law enforcement. Dealers avoid arrest by making quick and easy sales; thus, pure-gram price is negatively related to dealer enforcement. Consumers avoid arrest by accepting high prices rather than searching for lower prices. Thus, pure-gram price is positively related to consumer enforcement. Because the implications from arrest avoidance conflict with traditional models of how enforcement should affect prices, I also empirically examine the relationship. Using purchase-level data from the Drug Enforcement Administration and legal penalty data, I find a negative, significant relationship between dealer enforcement and pure-gram price and a positive, significant relationship between consumer enforcement and pure-gram price. Both are consistent with the intuition of arrest avoidance.


Income Inequality and Pecuniary Crimes

Luiz Guilherme Scorzafave & Milena Karla Soares, Economics Letters, forthcoming

This paper verifies the relationship between income inequality and pecuniary crimes. The elasticity of pecuniary crimes relative to inequality is 1.46, corroborating previous literature. Other factors important to decrease criminality are expanding job opportunities and a more efficient legal system.


Shoplifting, Monitoring and Price Determination

Gideon Yaniv, Journal of Socio-Economics, forthcoming

Shoplifting is a major crime problem costing American retailers more than $10 billion per year. Surprisingly, despite the evolvement of an extensive theoretical literature on the economics of some major economic crimes, shoplifting has failed to attract economists’ attention. The present paper applies the economic toolbox to this problem, developing a principal-agent type model of shoplifting and shoplifting control. The model examines the customer's decision of whether to shoplift or not as well as the store's profit-maximizing price and monitoring intensity. The paper challenges the conventional wisdom that the observed rise in shoplifting calls for intensified monitoring and higher prices, showing that a rational response to increased shoplifting involves a reduction in both monitoring and prices.

(Nod to Kevin L)

Why Do We Need the BBC?

The BBC asks the question, "Why Do We Need Growth?"

economic growth may be a necessary condition for the relief of poverty and can be desirable for middle- and high-income people too, it is not enough on its own. Governments and society need to be judged on so much more than simply whether their economies are growing.

So I ask, "Why Do We Need the BBC?" To be fair, many people say they would pay voluntarily. Well, let's make the BBC optional, and find out.

Sunday, April 12, 2009