Tuesday, December 07, 2010

A Day Without Social Science....

A day without social science is like a day without sunshine. Which we call "night"

So David Brooks believes social science is night

(Nod to TS)

I wonder if alcohol was involved in some way....

What the heck? Christmas carols?

Woman bites off husbands tongue, and then other things happened.

(Nod to the Blonde)

Oh Dear!

Leader, that is. Thanks to @hallsmansm for pointing me to this most excellent blog.

Here are a couple of examples:

The Jacket Speaks

Nick "The Jacket" Gillespie and KPC friend Veronique de Rugy have a plan to balance the budget. It does not involve tax increases, but it does involve spending cuts. Here it is...

I do want to be clear on my opposition to "The Deal" out of Washington. It's fine with me to extend/preserve the tax cuts. But since we have a growing deficit, that just means we are failing to pay for our spending.

And as Angus said this morning, the total spending cuts in "The Deal" are....negative! The Deal increases spending.

Any deal that does not involve spending cuts is no deal at all. DAFT!

Dance band on the Titanic

So President O and the Congressional Republicans have displayed their latest arrangement of the deck chairs on the USS Titanic.

There's something for everyone. No rise in income tax rates, lower payroll taxes, re-extended unemployment benefits, a compromise on the inheritance tax (35% on estates over $5 million) and a bunch of other directed tax breaks.

The two year "cost" is around $900 Billion

Number of spending cuts included in the plan? Around $0.00.

As my co-blogger has so forcefully stated recently: Deficits are future taxes.

Without spending cuts, all we are doing is shuffling the deck on the timing.

As for "stimulus", well the economy will turn around on its own at some point, perhaps soon, so these cuts may be lucky enough to be enacted at an opportunistic point in time whereby they will get the "credit".

And so it continues.

People, the search for grown-ups in government is not going well.

Grand Game: Poinsettias

The Grand Game, Xmas plant edition.

Here is the article. The internal bookmarks aren't set up right, so go here, and then go forward to pages (page 14, mnscrpt page 12) to the article on poinsettias.

The economic argument in the paper made me want to know more about Dr. Godfrey Ejimakor. If you share that want, go here.

Now, perhaps there are disagreements in Ag Econ I don't know about. But is the history of grower marketing agreements in Africa and here in the U.S. really so attractive?

Monday, December 06, 2010

Mel Hinich: In Memoriam

The "In Memoriam" article for Mel Hinich was just published in PUBLIC CHOICE.


It starts bad. But then....the SONG.

End the DAFT!

Our policy is daft. DAFT! Because *D*eficits *A*re *F*uture "T*axes. The DAFT Republicans want to borrow money to pay for tax cuts. And the DAFT Democrats want to borrow money to pay for unemployment benefit extension. It's DAFT! Deficits Are Future Taxes!

I'm going to get t-shirts made: "End the DAFT!"

It's easy....

Instead of "Hell no, I won't go!" we can try, "Like Hell I say, I won't pay!"

Monday's Child is full of links

Anon is angry. (Nod to Alex, who KNOWS from Angry)

It's a temptation that, as we've seen from the class of '94, some of them can't withstand." EWWWW! Stop him before he schtoops again. (Nod to Kevin Lewis)

Joe Scarborough's Class of 2010 Survival Guide.

Class 2010 rapidly putting money in their g-strings
. (Nod to Lord Kent)

Breaking up: easier some times than other times. (Nod to Kevin Lewis)

Partisan filters. (Nod to Kevin Lewis)

Good? Or good enough... (Nod to Kevin Lewis)

You're So Unbelievable

Dear Fed:

You are so unbelievable.

Nothing the "greedy" banks are doing is irrational. It makes perfect to gamble with house money.

The question is why the "house" puts up with it. And the answer is that the "house" (meaning the Fed) is playing with taxpayer money. Nobody who is deciding anything has any skin in the game.

Lordy. Lordy pie.

(Nod to Anonyman)

In defense of Greg Oden?

Over at MR, Tyler asks if we should value economists who are like Ronald Coase or those who are more like Nolan Ryan. (I am not making this up!). This is an instant classic Tyler post containing the sentence "Nobody calls him (Greg Oden) the Ronald Coase of rebounding."

I think he's asking if we should value people with a high "home run" percentage in their output or those with a lot of output.

I think there is an easy way out of this and that is to look at citations, not raw output. After all a rebound is a rebound is a rebound, but not all articles are created equal!

It's possible to have a very long vita without making any discernible impact on the profession and (this should go without saying, but sometimes doesn't) a very short vita is not necessarily a sign of high quality.

So on the citation front, it's no contest. According to Google Scholar, Ronald Coase has over 31,000 cites to his two classic articles. Nolan Ryan only has 9!!

A more serious comparison might be to someone like Alberto Alesina. When I look at the first four pages (40 articles) of his cited articles in Google Scholar, I count roughly 27,000 cites, while his two most cited articles ring up a total of around 4900 cites.

I am somewhat already agreeing with Tyler in that I'm using total citations rather than citations per author here (i.e. not penalizing Alberto for having a lot of co-authored articles).

Who's better?

Hard to say really in this case, but I think total citations are the metric to compare scholars with different vita lengths.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Why Bruce Bartlett is hopeless

I'm not sure what to make of this post from Bruce Bartlett, called "Why fixing the budget is hopeless"

He cites a survey where 848 Americans think 25% of the Federal budget is spent on foreign aid and 10% is given as the ideal amount.

He then points out that official bilateral foreign aid in 2009 was less than 1% of the Federal budget.

First, taking everything at face value, I am not sure why this means fixing the budget is hopeless.

Second, there is a hell of a lot more to foreign aid that "bilateral foreign aid". There's US contributions to multilateral aid agencies, then there's NATO, there's our military presence in Japan, South Korea, etc., there's whatever the heck we're still doing in Iraq after a second president has said "mission accomplished". I'm not saying it's 25%, but it's way way way more than 0.6%.

Why take a question where the definition of aid is not given and could easily be construed broadly and match the answer to a very distinct, narrow definition of aid?

Unless of course, you're hopeless!

Bang a gong

One of the only changes I've made to Mrs. Angus in our 16 years together was to institute a "no bangs" policy for her.

I'm not a fan of bangs for women. Chad, however, is a big bangs fan and he schooled me on the origin of the look.

People, bangs were invented in the 8th century by an Iraqi socialite nicknamed Ziryab or Blackbird!

It must be true, it says so right here in the Wikipedia.

He got kicked out of Baghdad for singing too good, so he moved to Spain.

Once there, he did NOT rest on his laurels though.

He put more strings on the oud. He opened up a chain of beauty parlors. He invented toothpaste. And, just to top it all off, he invented the three course meal.

He was the Marc Bolan of 8th century Andalucia!

Why didn't I think of that?

In today's NY Times, Christy Romer solves our economic problems:

"The Federal Reserve, Congress and the president need to reaffirm that they will do whatever it takes to restore the economy to full health... They should follow up with powerful fiscal and monetary actions to create jobs — coupled with a concrete plan for tackling our long-run budget problems."

Look, I know the Times only pays $1,000 per column, but this has got to be a joke, right?

What exactly are these mysterious "powerful" policy actions and why didn't the government try them when Dr. Romer was head of the CEA?

Good grief!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Don't Forget to Say Happy Birthday to Jesus

According to the LMM, this is actually a documentary.

Nice Mug Shot, and Woman Trouble

1. Nice mug shot. It is interesting that taking drugs helps you escape the drug possession charge. I guess you can't have your cocaine and eat it, too.

2. Women...women who hate women...are luckiest people?

(Nod to Anonyman)

Friday, December 03, 2010

Sell Everything. Quickly.

From the "7:30 Report" in Oz.

(Nod to the Ward Boss)

Thank goodness for sub-titles

This is simultaneous the worst and the best video I've seen in quite a while.



Because it makes me happy, that's why.

(Nod to the Blonde, who has to do her own tree. Can you help?)

So near but yet so far

Dean Baker gets a lot of stuff right early, but then heads off the rails again Ozzie-style:

China's government is saying is that it has no better use for its money than subsidising the consumption of people in the United States and other wealthy countries, by propping up the value of the dollar. That may seem surprising since per capita income in China is less than $8,000 a year, while it is over $45,000 a year in the United States, but if this is what China's leaders insist, who are we to argue?

In effect, China is subsidising its exports to the United States. This is very generous of the Chinese government, since the United States can take advantage of China's generosity to enjoy a higher standard of living. Currently, our deficit with China is equal to 2% of GDP. This means that China is handing us goods and services that are worth roughly $280bn a year more than the value of goods and services we give them in exchange.

I wouldn't put it exactly this way, but kudos, Dean, you're nailing it!

Then there's this:

While this displaces a large amount of domestic production, we can ensure that the displacement does not result in unemployment by simply shortening working weeks. If everyone's working week was shortened by 2.0% (the equivalent of one week per year of vacation), we could keep the workforce fully employed even in the case of reduced demand.

People, the idea that every $ of the trade deficit with China represents a $ of lost domestic production is risible. Does Dean really think the next cheapest producer of Walmart products operates plants in the USA? What about Indonesia, Vietnam, India, Sri Lanka, even Mexico? Bilateral trade is not a leak-proof iron pipe. Reductions in a trade deficit with a single country does not guarantee reductions in the overall trade deficit. That's just econ 101.

Dean is also a bit confused about where most low education workers in the USA work:

At present, China's trade policy primary hurts non-college-educated workers, since those with college and professional degrees are largely protected from the same sort of competition that manufacturing workers face. It is important to eliminate the barriers that protect doctors, lawyers and university professors from competition with their lower-paid counterparts in the developing world. This way, trade with China would put downward pressure on the wages of professionals, not just manufacturing workers.

First, most non college educated workers do NOT work in manufacturing. Manufacturing employment is a small fraction of overall employment. Many non-college educated workers work in the service sector and thus are largely "sheltered" from import competition.

Second, as Dean knows full well, American university professors in the USA face tremendous competition from foreign workers. In our small department in Oklahoma we have a Greek, an Argentine, a Turk, and three Chinese professors; about one third of the department lived abroad before starting grad school. Go look at the home page of the Harvard economics department and count the foreigners.

I fully support increased immigration for professionals (and indeed for almost everyone), but Dean just does not have his facts straight here.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

John Nye: Interesting Talk on North, and Economics

Great, great talk. John is a wonderful guy, funny and smart.

(Nod to Pete B)

Take the skinheads bowling

One of my alltime favorite bands is Camper Van Beethoven. Turns out their front-man, David Lowery also has a head for business, as he was involved in the founding of Groupon which just sold itself to Google.

Here is Lowery on the subject:

"In 2008 I was appointed to the board of advisors of a small web startup called www.the point.com. The site the brainchild of Andrew Mason was a " tipping point" mechanism, a social networking site that allowed people "commit" to take group action. In particular the hope was they would take group action for social change. The investors quietly noted there was not a clear way to monetize Andrew’s experiment. However they hoped that by watching the way users used the tipping point mechanism, a viable way to monetize this website would present itself.

I was asked to start a campaign on www.thepoint.com."To get a feel for it". Not being very socially conscious I decided that I wanted to use The Point for my own narrow self interests.

Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven have a festival, The Campout. It’s rather remote and since we produce the small festival ourselves we take considerable financial risk. While the previous years had been marginally successful we were worried about the rapidly deteriorating economy (I believe Bear Stearns had just gone bankrupt). So I started a campaign to get a "break even" amount of CVB and Cracker fans to commit to attend the festival. In this way our fan’s promises to attend would become a sort of promissory note. no pun intended. While you couldn’t exactly peg it’s value, these collective promises to attend at some point seemed to be worth enough to go ahead and book the flights, PA, lights, and port-o-potties.

Other successful "campaigns" on The Point also involved similar commitments for group purchasing. It wasn’t long before The Point became Groupon."

Wow, Elvis Presley died and David Lowery got paid?

Hat tip to DG!

Economics is fun: Follow the money

Follow the money.... why repeal the estate tax, really?

Raise the price of a substitute (savings), and you shift out the demand curve for life insurance.

See, it's easy, and FUN!

(Nod to Angry Alex)

He's just not that into you

Danny G is taking this whole LeBron breakup thing pretty hard:

"The Cleveland Cavaliers have poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into a high-powered Midwestern law firm to investigate their suspicions that the Miami Heat broke NBA tampering rules while pursuing LeBron James, and owner Dan Gilbert has privately vowed he won’t relent until he has a thick binder of findings to drop on the desk of the NBA commissioner, league sources told Yahoo! Sports."

Man, I know break-ups are tough, but this is nuts. Hiring a private dick to try and piece together whether your ex started cheating on you before the divorce? Does he think he'll get LeBron back?

I guess he just wants LeBron's new love to be hurting too. He should just sneak up on Pat Riley and sucker-punch him!

My Safety University

So, MSU played well, if getting CHILIPUNK'D by a freshman counts as playing well. Here is photographic evidence that the boys in green from My Safety University were actually there, in Cameron, doing whatever it is that they do.

Since I have been to games with Aaron, I know what they were doing. Aaron was saying some remarkably brazen things, during quiet moments, terrifying his "friends." In this case the friends stand out because they are wearing the "tools of ignorance" green shirts that come with being MSU fans.

Went to a Durham Bulls game with Aaron, in September. We were in the third row, directly behind the visitors dugout. You could throw a peanut and hit the on-deck batter in the backside, couldn't have been more than 15 feet.

During quiet moments, Aaron would go after the kid who was playing left field for the other team. The guy had missed a grounder, trying to hurry and make a throw to the plate. The ball had skipped under his glove, and gone to the fence. Two runs scored, man on third, instead of first and third, one run in.

So Aaron is going after this kid pretty hard, and it's often quiet in minor league ballparks. Not totally silent, but Aaron the Foghorn Voice could be heard in the far reaches. "In Little League...IN LITTLE LEAGUE! You learn you have to catch the ball before you can throw it! Hey, Todd! Why didn't you catch it before you threw it? That's Little League."

Aaron, between innings, finds out that the kid (Todd Frazier) DID play Little League. In fact, he played on the LL WORLD CHAMP TEAM! Played for Toms River, and went 4-4 in final game against Japan, one of the hits a homer.

Next at-bat for Todd: "Hey, Todd! You DID play Little League! You should have known. How did you miss that grounder?"

Todd keeps turning around, clearly has rabbit ears. Finally, Todd turns around and mouths, "You are fat! Lose weight!"

Now, Aaron is in heaven, of course. That is not a very good comeback. But more important Todd's head is up in the stands, not in the game. Aaron's work is done.

So he goes after another guy, with long shaggy hair. Looks up the guy's hometown, in the trusty game program. "Hey, Smith! Nice hair! By this time Saturday, you're going to be home in (guy's actual hometown), waking up late and getting your hair done! Does your wife have a favorite place for you to get your hair done! Hey, Smith!"

Then two more developments.

First, the mousey little guy ahead of us turns around and berates Aaron for being a loud-mouth goofball. Except he does it in the most whiny, "Why can't you be nice? We're just here to see the game. Don't be mean to people!" junior tree-hugging granola way. I mean, this weasel made @kohenari look macho. Photographic evidence of Mr. Mouse: To Aaron's credit, he backed off a bit. We were afriad Mouse Man might quiver himself to death or something.

Then, a guy up to our right, five rows over and five rows back, starts giving it HARD to the Bats in the N'awlins Old School fashion. This old guy looks like a Confederate cavalry officer, with white goatee and flowing white hair. Thick Loosiana accent. "Hey, battah! That bat too heavy, now. That bat doan got dat heavy, heavy gris-gris all ovah it. You cain't even pick dat bat, dat's a gris-gris bat! Who dat gawnna hit wit dat gris-gris bat? Not you, sawn, not you!"

We were rolling around in the aisles at this point. First, this guy had some great stuff. I can't remember most of it, but it was tremendous. Aaron was trying to take notes. (Since he went to MSU, he can't actually write, but he was trying). Second, the guy ahead of us, Mr. "Let's all get along and watch the game!" was staring straight ahead. No way he was going to mess with Colonel Jeb Stuart over there. Ol' Jeb would have brought dat hoodoo right down on that little leftie bed-wetter head of his.

But...oh, glory! The Bat's pitching coach, the COACH, comes up to the top step and starts bickering with ol' Jeb the Heckler. Coach yelled, "Hey, old man: You're an idiot!" Jeb nods happily: SCORE! Aaron, knowing he was in the presence of true heckling greatness, nodded and remembered. A rabbit-eared 22 year old....easy. A 55 year old veteran coach, who should know better...Practice, Aaron, practice.

So, anyway, though I was not at the Duke-MSU game last night, I am confident that there was invective and heckling taking place, right up to and perhaps slightly past the point where Aaron got physically threatened.

(UPDATE: My bad, photo credit to Chris DeSante, who clearly has ESPNHD and a TV nicer than most grad students can be expected to have)

Holiday Postcard

A holiday postcard from the Bishop. That's out the window of his office. His office at the B-school. The view outside that office is better. The INSIDE that office is better, too.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Grand Game: Climate Edition

You know what to do. Here is the meat...

(Nod to Pelsmin)

It Happened Like THIS, you see...

(Nod to the LMM)

The Scarlet Band...Period!

This can't be true, can it?
Let's hear again how free and open those Scands are.

Got That New-Time Religion....

What, me worry?

"Rep. John Shimkus is standing by a controversial comment that global
warming isn't something to worry about because God said he wouldn't destroy
the Earth after Noah's flood. The Illinois Republican running for the
powerful perch atop the House Energy and Commerce Committee told POLITICO on
Wednesday that his understanding of the Bible reaffirms his belief that
government shouldn't be in the business of trying to address rising
greenhouse gas emissions." [Politico]

What, me think rationally?

"My father, David Brower, the first executive director of the Sierra Club
and the founder of Friends of the Earth, could confer no higher praise than
'He has the religion.' By this, my father meant that the person in question
understood, felt the cause and the imperative of environmentalism in his or
her bones." [Kenneth Brower, Atlantic Monthly]

(Nod to Kevin Lewis)

Do ya do ya want my cash?

People, Robert Reich slipped up this week and put in writing what a lot of progressives really think about our current fiscal situation:

"Tuesday, the President meets with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders to begin working out a compromise for extending the Bush tax cuts. Both parties say they want to preserve the tax cuts for lower- and middle-income families. But this would cost $3 trillion over the next decade. Republicans also want to extend them permanently for the top 2 percent of earners, for an added $700 billion. The top don’t need the cuts, don’t deserve them, and won’t spend the windfall (and thereby stimulate the economy)."

Ah yes, rich people just plain old don't deserve to keep their money. They might do something with it that the progressives wouldn't approve.

It's a strange argument to make; the $3 trillion "tax cut" is OK, while it's the $700 billion "cut" that blows out the budget.