Saturday, August 20, 2011

Wow, it's Hitler week at KPC

This time the venerable Harold Bloom plays the Hitler card wrt the Tea Party:

We have this horrible contemporary phenomenon in the Tea Party – a real menace not only to America but to the world. Because if it goes on like this, they will destroy our economy and they will destroy America. They have no democratic vision, and I don't mean with a capital “D”, I mean with a small “d”. They frighten me. They're like the early followers of Adolf Hitler, and I'm willing to be quoted on that. They are a sickening phenomenon. That is because they have not read deeply and widely enough. But then maybe they’re not to blame, because American education – even in elite universities – has become a scandal in my opinion. It has committed suicide.

Yikes!

I agree that American education has become a scandal, but not because the rise of the Tea Party.

Hat tip to LeBron who really buried the lede on this one.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Hayek Caused Hitler

Wow. Robert Sidelsky is clearly a zealot, someone who puts worship ahead of logical argument. But that's okay. There are plenty of folks I admire who do that also.

Sidelsky has perhaps overstepped, however. It turns out that Hayek's economic policies brought Hitler to powerin Germany. If only the D-Bank had been Keynesian, and had inflated the money supply, and wasted a bunch of money on make-work projects, the Nazis would never have had a chance.

Who knew?

The surprising thing for me is that I would have said that inflating the hell out of the money supply and spending a bunch of money on crony projects was EXACTLY what Weimar did. Thank goodness B-Sid is here to set me straight.

Note that I am not making the Godwin's Law objection. Sidelsky is not making a gratuitous comparison to Hitler. He literally means that Hayekian economic policies are directly responsible for the rise of the Nazis.

(Nod to Herr F, who is helpful)

How The US Crushes Resistance in its Young People (?)

This piece is interesting, but pretty inconsistent. Check it out.

The problem with Soc Sec and Medicare is that the rich are not fairly taxed? It was supposed to be self-financing. To the extent that it takes more from the rich and gives it to the poor, it is a welfare program, not a pension program for workers. Perhaps that is okay, but that is NOT how the program was sold or how it is talked about still. This person is deeply confused.

And...our young people should take to the streets, like those in Egypt did, because our kids have to pay back student loans? Really? Mubarak repression of all free speech and job choice = student loans?

Still, interesting. ATSRTWT.

(Nod to Katie, btw)

Angus at the Opera

Last night, Mrs. Angus and I went to the Santa Fe Opera and saw "The Last Savage" by Gian Carlo Menotti.

It was amazing.

It started out with a gaggle of tattooed Osama Bin Ladens in diapers dancing around, and also insulted women, gays, and pretty much any other group you could think of.

Basically it was like an episode of South Park set to incredible music, where every so often an excellent real musical interlude would hit you between the eyes.

The parts of the greedy servant girl and the loutish prince were sung especially well overall and their two solos were the musical highlights.

Them dancing Bin Ladens were really something though!


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Stopped Clock-onomics

"[J]ust to be clear, there's nothing wrong with a low cost of living. In particular, there's a good case to be made that zoning policies in many states unnecessarily restrict the supply of housing, and that this is one area where Texas does in fact do something right."

What? WHAT? What alien spaceship stole P-Kroog, and who is this guy?

I think the problem is P-Kroog is actually a first-rate economist, and so sometimes he forgets his self-appointed role as slinger of shinola and actually makes sense briefly.

That article, linked above, does pretty quickly revert to P-Kroogery of the worst sort. But, for just a minute there....

How Much Did an iPad Cost in 1911?

Our guy, that smokin' hot Steve Horowitz, shares some truth about cost of "living."


On a personal front, my very own EYM has struck a blow for informing the squishes of the world. Tired of seeing all the "no farms, no food!" stickers on the MacBook Pros of all his fellow Carrborovians, he got a bumper sticker of his own made.

It's on his computer (it's a used Dell, by the way, at about half the cost of the MacBook Pros that all the sensitive lefties insist on having as a show of their independence from everything but dad's trust fund). (And before you crack wise, EYM has a job, thank you very much).

It's Different if SPACE ALIENS Break the Window

The broken window fallacy is pernicious. John Stossel explains, for those of you who have lived under a rock, or studied economics at Harvard, MIT, or Princeton.

(heh; heh heh; heh: he said, "Fallacious")

Most recently, of course, it was KPC's favorite deep space Keynesian, P-Kroog.

Mary Theroux has some thoughts.


...

extra skin pups

This photo is amazing:




Many more great pics here.

Rent-Seeking is the New Profit Center, and DC is its Festering Capital

In the U.S. there have always been centers for frenzied entrepreneurial activity, creating value, wealth, and employment. It's what we do.

New York and Boston were both important trade, financial, and industrial centers. Then Pittsburgh and the Ohio Valley became engines of growth and industrial might. Detroit made iron machines that covered the world with transportation. Silicon Valley, quite recently, produced enormous amounts of hardware and software, and revolutionized the way we think about information.

In all those cases, American entrepreneurs sought out opportunities to create value and collect profits. That's what profits are, the inducement to redirect resources toward higher valued uses.

What does the U.S. produce now? Government contracts, where money is taken from tax-payers at gunpoint and wasted on "information systems," useless consultants and brutal elective wars on faraway and largely innocent populations. A festering hive of rent-seekers has clustered around Washington, D.C.

Rent-seeking and profit-seeking look the same from the perspective of the seeker. Both produce super-normal returns to investment, and create wealth for the winners. The difference is that profits are a sign of value being created. Rent-seeking is a sign of value being destroyed.

(nod to Anonyman, who eats his rents with fava beans and a nice Chianti)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

SCORE!

From Renton: It just gets better. You could NOT make this stuff up.

I did post yesterday about the "cyberstalking" harrassment.

Here is one of the "offensive" videos put up about the Renton PD, and the jail facility.




Turns out the folks who put this video up were....Renton cops!

(Nod to B.E. I'd give names, but this is probably cyberstalking, and I don't want to implicate the innocent!)

Jon Stewart on Ron Paul

I don't always like Jon Stewart. But I have to like this, a lot.


It's a legit question: Why ignore Ron Paul? I don't think they are doing it because they are afraid of him.

I also enjoyed JS's line that Huntsman was the only Mormon actively running, and he still came in second among Mormons in the straw poll.

(Nod to John Jay L.)

Gender and Genetics as Sources of Attitudes Toward Science and Politics

Who is in charge of Science: Men view "Time" as more fixed, "Reality" as
less real, and "Order" as less ordered

Ira Trofimova, Cognitive Systems Research, forthcoming

Abstract: There is a controversy about the factors underlying male predominance in mathematics, natural and engineering sciences. Our study of meaning attribution, conducted in Canada, China and Russia showed that men had a consistent tendency to estimate natural phenomena (even time-related) as more fixed and limited, less real (even "Reality") and less complex (even "Complexity") than women. Concepts related to classical mechanics received significantly more positive estimations by men than by women, but phenomena related to development and reality were assessed more positively by women than by men. We argue that the methods and language of science, which historically were developed by men, were affected by a tendency of men to reduce natural phenomena to structures with Lego-like components, and to mechanical aspects of their interaction.

****************

Linking Genetics and Political Attitudes: Reconceptualizing Political Ideology

Kevin Smith et al., Political Psychology, June 2011, Pages 369-397

Abstract: In this paper, we trace the route by which genetics could ultimately connect to issue attitudes and suggest that central to this connection are chronic dispositional preferences for mass-scale social rules, order, and conduct-what we label political ideology. The need to resolve bedrock social dilemmas concerning such matters as leadership style, protection from outgroups, and the degree to which norms of conduct are malleable, is present in any large-scale social unit at any time. This universality is important in that it leaves open the possibility that genetics could influence stances on issues of the day. Here, we measure orientation to these bedrock principles in two ways-a survey of conscious, self-reported positions and an implicit association test (IAT) of latent orientations toward fixed or flexible rules of social conduct. In an initial test, both measures were predictive of stances on issues of the day as well as of ideological self-labeling, thereby suggesting that the heritability of specific issue attitudes could be the result of the heritability of general orientations toward bedrock principles of mass-scale group life.

(Nod to Kevin Lewis)

Railroaded?

JS sends an email, as he sometimes does:

The California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA), hired some highly qualified transportation experts to analyze their ridership and revenue projections. From what I can tell the experts determined that the original ridership and revenue model used many state of the art techniques, but did not use all the methods the reviewing experts have heard of so they need to do more projecting. In going through the projections they came up with some interesting points about bias due to using stated preference versus revealed preference and a lot of advice on how to improve the accuracy of the projections. (The Report)

Even though all of the recommendation seem reasonable in making the model more accurate, it seems to me to be much about scientism. The the model projects all modes; however, the most import for determining revenue and ridership is the High Speed Rail (HSR) component. This mode has no possibility of revealed preference data in the US much less California. So the question is for both the CHSRA modelers and model reviewers: "Where is the uncertainty?" I see a presumption that there is an answer, instead of range of possible outcomes.

Many travel models that populate the Metropolitan Planning Organizations across the US show traffic doubling from Today's levels by 2035, but from May 2001 to May 2011 the trend has only shown a 0.8% annual rate of increase. (Travel Trends Report FHWA) A rate approximately one quarter of what was projected. These car and truck models have virtually all the historical data that economtrican could want but still has huge uncertainties. In fact the auto share of the market is an integral part of the HSR model. Shouldn't the uncertainty be as or more paramount than the accuracy. With the higher uncertainty should come the naturally higher return on the $40 to $120 Billion investment. I predict little if any of the uncertainty will be addressed in the next CHSRA business plan.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Renton, WA

This is an excellent little story, told in an excellent way by Ken over at Popehat.

You will enjoy it.

The whole probable cause thing really does come down to two elements:

1. A specific crime has been committed.
2. A specific identifiable person and location to be searched can be named.

You can't search a specific person / location in hopes of finding evidence of SOME crime. And you can't just search any old person you want just because a specific crime has been committed. You need both elements.

The whole things makes me think of the part near the end of LOTR:

...as they came to the east end of the village they met a barrier with a large board saying NO ROAD; and behind it stood a large band of Shirriffs with staves in their hands and feathers in their caps, looking both important and rather scared.
"What's all this?" said Frodo, feeling inclined to laugh.
"This is what it is, Mr. Baggins," said the leader of the Shirriffs, a two-feather hobbit: "You're arrested for Gate-breaking, and Tearing up of Rules, and Assaulting Gate-keepers, and Trespassing, and Sleeping in Shire-buildings without Leave, and Bribing Guards with Food."
And what else?" said Frodo.
"That'll do to go on with," said the Shirriff-leader.
"I can add some more, if you'd like it," said Sam. "Calling your Chief Names, Wishing to punch his Pimply Face, and Thinking you Shirriffs look a lot of Tom-fools".


In this case, as Ken at Popehat puts it:

When the police arrest someone, or search something, the relevant question isn’t whether they can, post hoc, gather evidence to show that there was probable cause. The question is whether the search or arrest was supported by probable cause at the time. Saying “well, we asked for a search warrant and got it, but we haven’t found new evidence since, so we’re not going to try to defend the warrant” is a non-sequitur. In addition, it’s an about-face. Renton’s minions previously claimed that the internet cartoons were self-evidently illegal cyberstalking. So what more evidence did they need to gather to support that proposition — unless the proposition was nonsense from the onset?

Owie. That's going to leave a mark. Of course, Ken may be a cyberstalker himself. With laws that vague, all you need to do is annoy the prosecutor and....Wait, there's someone at the door. You have a warrant for what? For cyberstalking? AAAIEEEE!

"It's not the end of Western civilization"

Me and Mrs. Angus yap with Captain Zach and you can hear it here.

The whole KGOU "World Views" series can be accessed here.

Mungo has always told me that I have a face for radio!

Dutch Resistance

Dutch Boy sends this article from the NYT.

Interesting, but grim, reading.

Dutch Boy, deep down inside, is very nearly a bed-wetting leftie. He believes in extreme stuff like actual rights for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. He believes in reproductive rights, and thinks capital punishment is barbaric. He would likely treat immigrants more like humans than cattle.

But living in Holland also made him a realist about Muslim immigration in Europe. To be fair, the problem is not so much the immigrants themselves as the bizarre Dutch reaction to it. Also the Danish/Swedish/Norse/French/German/etc. reaction.

From the NYT article: Dutch politicians were promoting economic integration — language training, job training. “They didn’t understand the importance of religious identity among the immigrants,” he said. They dismissed it as backward even as they failed to understand the anger a growing immigrant population was creating.

The problem has two parts:
1. A deep shame the Dutch feel about Western institutions. They are not remotely willing to defend markets, political liberties, or anything. Perversely, since by their birthright as Dutchmen they are entitled to these things, they feel no need whatsoever to protect them. Let someone else do it. I'm tired.
2. A weakness of the spirit, a disease of the soul, so pervasive that they cannot imagine that anyone could really be serious about believing in that primitive religious crap. To be fair, they doubt across the board, from Christian to Jew to Muslim. They just wallow in weltschmerz, and justify their national spiritual laziness as a sign of sophistication.

So, it comes down to this: Christopher Caldwell, REFLECTIONS ON THE REVOLUTION IN EUROPE. I had not read this book until two years ago, when Dutch Boy sent it to me. But if you have not read it, you should. This is not a partisan issue, it's just the facts.

Monday's Child is Full of Links: What Blogs Do


A roundup of some interesting links on what blogs do, may do, and probably don't do.

From the Incidental Economist: Another set of links

TC's post on reputation

A science perspective (and credit for the poster above)

The impact of blogs on literature
. (Really? A book? I had not seen this.)

The impact of blogging on the practice of law (pretty old, but thoughtful and quite interesting)

Blogging and public relations

An academic-ish article from the good people at Monkey Cage

Blogging as a way of increasing "assignment engagement" for students


Property Rights and Cooperation Among Greedy People

Young children's understanding of violations of property rights
Federico Rossano, Hannes Rakoczy & Michael Tomasello, Cognition, forthcoming

Abstract: The present work investigated young children's normative understanding of property rights using a novel methodology. Two- and 3-year-old children participated in situations in which an actor (1) took possession of an object for himself, and (2) attempted to throw it away. What varied was who owned the objectt: the actor himself, the child subject, or a third party. We found that while both 2- and 3-year-old children protested frequently when their own object was involved, only 3-year-old children protested more when a third party's object was involved than when the actor was acting on his own object. This suggests that at the latest around 3 years of age young children begin to understand the normative dimensions of property rights.
**********************

Emergence of social cohesion in a model society of greedy, mobile individuals
Carlos Roca & Dirk Helbing, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 12 July 2011, Pages 11370-11374

Abstract: Human wellbeing in modern societies relies on social cohesion, which can be characterized by high levels of cooperation and a large number of social ties. Both features, however, are frequently challenged by individual self-interest. In fact, the stability of social and economic systems can suddenly break down as the recent financial crisis and outbreaks of civil wars illustrate. To understand the conditions for the emergence and robustness of social cohesion, we simulate the creation of public goods among mobile agents, assuming that behavioral changes are determined by individual satisfaction. Specifically, we study a generalized win-stay-lose-shift learning model, which is only based on previous experience and rules out greenbeard effects that would allow individuals to guess future gains. The most noteworthy aspect of this model is that it promotes cooperation in social dilemma situations despite very low information requirements and without assuming imitation, a shadow of the future, reputation effects, signaling, or punishment. We find that moderate greediness favors social cohesion by a coevolution between cooperation and spatial organization, additionally showing that those cooperation-enforcing levels of greediness can be evolutionarily selected. However, a maladaptive trend of increasing greediness, although enhancing individuals' returns in the beginning, eventually causes cooperation and social relationships to fall apart. Our model is, therefore, expected to shed light on the long-standing problem of the emergence and stability of cooperative behavior.

(nod to Kevin Lewis)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Grand Game: Inflation Edition

Angus points out that advocating good policies that are impossible is bad.

As a balance, I submit that it is also unfortunate when we are told we need to pursue bad policies that are unfortunately all too feasible.

In this article...well, check it out.

My own favorite 'graf:

Had the central bankers of the world understood that inflation in asset prices could be just as bad as, if not worse than, inflation in the prices of consumer goods, this would not be necessary. But they did not. So they did nothing to resist soaring home prices, just as they had seen no reason to worry about the Internet stock bubble.

Golly sakes alive, Jasper; where to start?

1. "Understand"? The asset bubble was largely an intentional consequence of monetary, regulatory, and tax policies of the federal government. It was not a thunderstorm, something that just happened randomly. It was a POLICY.
2. The fact that incorrect asset prices resulting from government policies on money, interest, and taxes cause asset bubbles is one of the central tenets of the Austrian Business Cycle theory. I myself have always been skeptical of that theory, but it accounts for the events of 2001 - 2010 beautifully and quite accurately.

It's not the bust. The problem is the freakin' boom. And the idea that inflation solves the bust is just askin' for another boom.

Why do economists keep advocating impossible policies?

Policy activists on both the fiscal and monetary side are united by one common thread. The policies they propose are impossible to credibly implement.

Start with the fiscal side. Christina Romer in the NY Times again calls for an increase in our debt now for "stimulus" combined with a long term reduction in our debt. Mark Thoma and many others have made similar calls.

Dr. Romer is an excellent economist with a fantastic research record, but her policy proposal is impossible! In our political system, we cannot make any type of future long term commitment to do anything.

We cannot bind future politicians. Long run plans will only come to pass if they are in the interest of the politicians who are in office at each point in time over the course of the plan. In econo-speak, the policy must be time-consistent if it is ever going to be followed.

Amazingly we find the exact same problem on the monetary side. We are told by the Sumnerians that targeting a path for nominal GDP or the price level would help avoid situations like our current one.

But for these policies to work, when shocks hit the economy people have to believe that the Fed will do things in the future that they know the Fed doesn't like to do!

The Fed cannot bind either (A) future Feds, or (B) future politicians, who after all actually created and run the Fed.

The popular economics discussion of policy alternatives seemingly takes place in a world where Finn Kydland never won the Nobel Prize.

I will allow that there are papers that take commitment issues seriously in monetary policy. Many of them are well discussed in this excellent post. But, reading the post will show just how thorny those issues are and just how hard it actually is to implement an "optimal" policy over time.

The Sacrifices We Make For Research

I am sorry; I find this quite funny.

That does not MAKE me a bad person, but it IMPLIES that I am a bad person.

The guy was doing what he knew, so that he knew who he was doing. Here is his dissertation. So when he did the Pres's wife, he had solid research to back him up.

(Nod to Anonyman, who also found it funny. But there is no question Anonyman is going to hell, none)