Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Cheer up America!

I know things are tough right now but you can make it through. Always remember that you survived THIS:

You can lead kids to lunch, but you can't make them eat healthy

This is quite interesting. Two studies say that government subsidies appear to be associated with increased childhood obesity. Of course, one has to be careful of endogeneity, since it is likely that poor kids are more likely to be obese, and poor kids are more likely to receive subsidies. (May I point out that the fact that poverty goes with obesity would have seemed like a bizarre claim just 50 years ago? Things can't be THAT bad if our poor people are fat, right?)

Does the National School Lunch Program Improve Children’s Dietary Outcomes?

Benjamin Campbell et al.
American Journal of Agricultural Economics, July 2011, Pages 1099-1130

Abstract: The National School Lunch Program’s effect on children’s diets has been
extensively studied. Results have tended to be inconclusive regarding the effectiveness of the program. Utilizing more specific treatment groups, we find that participants in the National School Lunch Program do not consume a higher-quality diet at lunch than children choosing not to participate, even though the program is offered — but rather consume a higher quantity of foods while consuming similar amounts at other meals. Furthermore, children attending schools not participating in the National School Lunch Program have dietary outcomes that are not significantly different from program participants.

Child care subsidies and childhood obesity

Chris Herbst & Erdal Tekin
Review of Economics of the Household, September 2011, Pages 349-378

Abstract: In this paper, we study the impact of child care subsidy receipt on low- income children’s weight outcomes in the fall and spring of kindergarten using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Cohort. Our results suggest that subsidy receipt is associated with increases in BMI and a greater likelihood of being overweight and obese. Using quantile regression methods, we find substantial variation in subsidy effects across the BMI distribution. Specifically, child care subsidies have no effect on BMI at the lower end of the distribution, inconsistent effects in the middle of the distribution, and large effects at the top of the distribution. Our results point to the use of non-parental child care, particularly center-based services, as the key mechanism through which subsidies influence children’s weight outcomes.

I am going to go out on a limb here, and guess that the answer from P-Kroog is "The program needs to be bigger! Much BIGGER!"

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

A Surgeons Joke

Five surgeons are talking.

The first says: " I like to see accountants on my operating table, because when you open them up, everything inside is
numbered. "

The second responds: " Yeah, but you should try electricians. Everything inside of them is color coded. "

The third says: " No, I really think librarians are the best, everything inside of them is in alphabetical order. "

The fourth chimes in: " You know, I like construction workers.... those guys always understand when you have a few parts left over. "

But, the fifth shut them all up when he observed: " You're all wrong. Politicians are the easiest to operate on. There's no guts, no heart, no balls, no brains, and no spine, -- and the head and the ass are interchangeable."

Separated at Birth: Tennis edition

Alexandr Dolgopolov & Martina Hingis:


(clic the pics for more eerily similarity)

'Nuff said

Headline of the Month

"Nearly 40% of Europeans Suffer Mental Illness"

Lets see, JC Trichet, check; DSK, check; Sarkozy, check; Silvio Berlusconi, check; Joseph Ratzinger, check......

Hmmm, maybe that number is a bit low?

Interestingly, the percentage was only 27% in 2005 (it's 38% now).

That is an excellent rate of return in these troubled financial times, so I feel fully justified in recommending that our readers go LONG IN EUROPEAN MENTAL ILLNESS.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Mea Culpa

FLG has a valid point here.

You can't have just any shirt-tail guy off the street thinking they can do a hit-and-run post on bizarre sex practices.

Sorry, FLG; respect should have been paid.


The problem is not that we spend too little on infrastructure. The problem is that our very large spending on infrastructure gets diverted to pet projects of members of Congress.

Why anyone would think that government wants to do what is right for the average citizen utterly mystifies me.

Sure, a Senator is no more greedy than a financial services CEO. Folks, the problem is that a Senator is NO LESS greedy than a financial services CEO. And the Senator faces none of the checks on behavior. He gets to bribe voters in his state with money taken from people in other states. It's a foolproof system.

And you are the fool. Here's proof, from David Leonhardt.

Munger Road

This is odd.

First, it's odd that there is a movie called, "Munger Road." But there is. Here's the trailer (clearly for folks who live in a trailer park, I might add).

Second, given that I google myself 8-10 times per hour, it's remarkable that I didn't know. It fell to KPC pal (and G*d figure!) Dan Drezner to point out the existence of this offense to reason and cinema. Still, thanks to DD.

UPDATE: Apparently, an actual old fake legend, about a school bus in Illinois. There are even a bunch of YouTube videos, of such high quality as this one, with the car getting "pushed" off the railroad track, uphill.

What's Your PQ?

It turns out MY "pq" is 29, very similar to that of Ron Paul. Doesn't mean all our issue positions are the same, but I would guess that in a 2-dimensional space our issue positions ARE pretty much the same.

Our guy* Tim Groseclose has an interesting web site for his new book. And you can find out what YOUR pq is, though it's a 40 question survey.

*Angus actually owns him. He bought an option, back when it was cheap. At least, he wishes he had.

In Italy, Laziness is NOT a Problem

Does anybody really know what satire is?; does anybody really care?

Abstract: We investigate a phenomenon which we have experienced as common when dealing with an assortment of Italian public and private institutions: people promise to exchange high quality goods and services (H), but then something goes wrong and the quality delivered is lower than promised (L). While this is perceived as ‘cheating’ by outsiders, insiders seem not only to adapt but to rely on this outcome. They do not resent low quality exchanges, in fact they seem to resent high quality ones, and are inclined to ostracise and avoid dealing with agents who deliver high quality. This equilibrium violates the standard preference ranking associated to the prisoner’s dilemma and similar games, whereby self-interested rational agents prefer to dish out low quality in exchange for high quality. While equally ‘lazy’, agents in our L-worlds are nonetheless oddly ‘pro-social’: to the advantage of maximizing their raw self-interest, they prefer to receive low quality provided that they too can in exchange deliver low quality without embarrassment. They develop a set of oblique social norms to sustain their preferred equilibrium when threatened by intrusions of high quality. We argue that cooperation is not always for the better: high quality collective outcomes are not only endangered by self-interested individual defectors, but by ‘cartels’ of mutually satisfied mediocrities.

Either way, fabulous. Really a fine piece of social science. Not least because the phrase "cartels of mutually satisfied mediocrities" sounds a lot like a faculty meeting in the US. Not at Duke, of course. No, really.

(Nod to the Ward Boss, who is never lazy)

Grand Game: So Many Ways

I wish we had never played the Grand Game, and were never to play it again.

Just so we could take it out of its wrapping paper, still crinkly wrapping paper, and play it just one perfect time for this story.

My humble thanks to the lovely and talented @EmilySkarbek for the link.

There is a LOT to love in this story, people. Go!

Do Women Earn Less Than Men?

Well, women get paid less than men. The "earn" thing is considerably more complicated.

KPC uper-pal Steve Horwitz, with a fresh coat of Rain-X on his pate, explains.

They Knew This Was Going to Happen

This is just inexplicable.

“Is fortunetelling a crime? Of course, fortunetelling is not a crime,” prosecutor Laurence Bardfeld said in court recently. But promising to return large sums of money, and failing to do so, constitutes fraud, Bardfeld argued.

Yes, I think the prosecutor is right about that.

And, this: Bestselling romance novelist Jude Deveraux has been identified as one of the Marks’ clients, and she alone paid the family nearly $20 million, according to court documents. Deveraux declined to comment to The Miami Herald, citing the pending case, but in the acknowledgements section of her book Scarlet Nights, in which several characters were based on the Markses, she specifically praised retired Fort Lauderdale Police economics crimes detective Charles Stack, calling him a “true hero.”

Well, Mr. Stack may be a true hero. But Ms. Deveraux is a true moron. $20 million? I want to announce my own psychic services: Angus and I will make up a bunch of stupid sh** about the future (we are ECONOMISTS! IT'S EASY for us!), and we will do it for just $5 million. We'll call the service "Kids Prefer Cash."

Please leave a comment with your contact information. Clerks are on call.

(Nod to the Blonde; I think SHE knew this was going to happen. But then she's psychotic.)

Entrepreneurship, Change, and Extreme Events

A recent empirical study. Don't get me wrong, empirical studies are good. Here is the summary (courtesy of new papers superstar Kevin Lewis):

Entrepreneurship: The role of extreme events

Tilman Brück, Fernanda Llussá & José Tavares, European Journal of Political Economy, forthcoming

Abstract: We use aggregate country data as well as individual surveys to uncover, for
the first time, the effect of extreme events such as natural disasters and terrorist attacks on entrepreneurial activity. We find that natural disasters and terrorist attacks influence individual perceptions of the rewards to entrepreneurship and, more surprisingly, extreme events affect entrepreneurship rates positively in a robust and significant way.

"More surprisingly"? Really? Consider what Hayek said about information and change:

If it is fashionable today to minimize the importance of the knowledge of the particular circumstances of time and place, this is closely connected with the smaller importance which is now attached to change as such. Indeed, there are few points on which the assumptions made (usually only implicitly) by the "planners" differ from those of their opponents as much as with regard to the significance and frequency of changes which will make substantial alterations of production plans necessary. Of course, if detailed economic plans could be laid down for fairly long periods in advance and then closely adhered to, so that no further economic decisions of importance would be required, the task of drawing up a comprehensive plan governing all economic activity would be much less formidable.

It is, perhaps, worth stressing that economic problems arise always and only in consequence of change. So long as things continue as before, or at least as they were expected to, there arise no new problems requiring a decision, no need to form a new plan. The belief that changes, or at least day-to-day adjustments, have become less important in modern times implies the contention that economic problems also have become less important. This belief in the decreasing importance of change is, for that reason, usually held by the same people who argue that the importance of economic considerations has been driven into the background by the growing importance of technological knowledge.

"Extreme events," by definition (I think) are unexpected changes. Of COURSE entrepenership increases in the aftermath of extreme events. The "more surprising" bit can only be explained, as Hayek explained it, by the nonsensical insistence that technological knowledge and not entrepreneurship is the driving force of capitalist economies.

Of course, it would be possible to document that the relationship between large unexpected shocks and entrepreneurship is direct and predictable, from many works by Kirzner, or Mises, and others. But Hayek's paper was in the A.E.R. Don't you people read? I recognize that it is easier to claim your theory is novel if you constantly pretend that all previous work doesn't exist. But this is egregious.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

scenes from a marriage

Time to re-think college football

College football is a mess, with Ohio State and The U providing the latest "scandals" and with the pattern of conference jumping we've seen lately.

I think it's time to split big time football from academics. Dissolve the NCAA. Pay the players. Don't even force them to be students if they don't want to be students. Treat college football like an age 21 and under pro league. The schools rent out their facilities, names, supporters, etc. and the football program is separate from the school itself, just like the food service program.

There's 120 schools in the FBS. Split them into 4 geographical regions, everyone plays a 16 game season and then have a 16 team playoff.

I love David Boren. He's done amazing things for OU and my own family, but university presidents shouldn't have to be involved like this in something as inconsequential to the mission of a university as football:

“I don’t think OU is going to be a wallflower when all is said and done. I don’t know how long it will be before clarity comes to us. My experience is that on these kinds of things, it might be a matter of 72 hours, it might be a matter of two weeks. I don’t really think this is something that is going to linger on beyond two or three weeks at the outside. It’s been consuming my life the last few days, but it’s a fascinating challenge and we’re just in the search for what’s best for the university.”

--David Boren,

And then there's this:

Boren confirmed that he flew to Missouri, whose chancellor is the chairman of the Big 12 board of directors, and then to College Station last week to try to prevent the Aggies from leaving.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Obama Wins in 2012?

I have said several times Obama will win in 2012. (After I said in March 2008 that he was "unelectable," so ignore whatever I say).

But now a man with an actual MODEL (sort of) has called it for BHO.

Meet Prof. Lichtman...

(Nod to Anonyman)

A Strategy for the Left?

Is this going to be the strategy for Team Obama for 2012?

I am no fan of the talking points of either side. And there is some merit to the charge that some Republicans depend on the religious right for support.

But, "the economy sucks so let's talk about scary religious zealots!" is pretty darned cynical.

(Nod to the Blonde)

Markets in everything: earthmover edition

In the shadow of the Vegas strip, you can pay $400, get 10 minutes of instruction, and then get turned loose to operate earth-moving equipment in a vacant lot.


The company is called Dig This. Their website is here. The AP story is here. Sharon Zukin could not be reached for comment.

Redneck Trifecta

NASCAR, a racoon, and runnin' round nekkid. The article (there's a video). Another story.
The mug shot:
See, the problem is that among the folks I grew up with, that mugshot and this story would be extremely effective for on-line dating sites. Ocoee women would LOVE this guy. The tat? The quizzical look? The (by Ocoee standards) well-groomed hair? Two words: Chick. Magnet. Plus, he has a racoon.

(Seriously, is that a great mug shot or what? Calling him "unrepentant" doesn't really capture it fully) (Nod to the Blonde)

Not the Onion? (Labor Day/ Sex with Stuff Edition)

Which of the following (if any) are from the Onion?

1. Man has sex with inflatable pool raft.

2. Beach bonking in Blackpool: Your government keeps statistics!

3. Guinness BOWR "world's largest penis" man: It's no picnic.

4. Labor Day party: American caught having sex with picnic table.

5. Man arrested for having sex with street signs; now has to "STOP"

6. I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike.

7. Man humps steel park bench (the kind with holes in it). And there's a video (so this is NOT the Onion!). You may not want to listen; the guy is not having much fun. "OOOOOOOH! OOOOOOOOOOOOOOH!"

Some details
. And a source post.

(And a nod to Dutch Boy)

China Monopolizes the Sun!

Suppose you had a pretty big yard, 2 acres. And your neighbor comes over one day and says, "I have a big lawn mower, a huge expensive one. I just like having a big mower, too big for my own purposes. It really costs a lot, but my dad left me an inheritance and I like the prestige of having the biggest mower in the state. How about if I mow your lawn for my marginal cost, plus a little bit? Say, $35?"

You figure that you would have to buy a mower, plus spend time mowing, plus upkeep. It would cost you at least $100 a week to do the same thing. So, you say, "Sure!"

Can someone explain to me why we are poopin' in our panties about China doing essentially the same thing with solar power technology? And why U.S. government officials are claiming that the answer is that WE, the US, HAVE TO BUY A REALLY BIG MOWER, TOO? For some reason, gigantic world-wide over-capacity, subsidized by tax dollars, is the answer for Obamanoids like this guy:

“There is no question that renewable energy companies in the United States feel pressure from China,” said David B. Sandalow, the assistant secretary for policy and international affairs at the United States Energy Department. “Many of them say it is cheap capital, not cheap labor, that gives Chinese companies the main competitive advantage.”

Is China behaving badly? Yep. And if I were a Chinese taxpayer, I'd be pissed. But why is the US upset? There is no way that the resulting price of solar technology and equipment is going to be more expensive for us. UNLESS, of course, we try to enter the race and buy a really big lawn mower, too.

The "worry" is that China will achieve world dominance and then raise prices. Idiots used to make the same argument about Wal-Mart: once they drive out the competition, they will raise prices. Two problems with that argument. 1. It's not true, empirically. It just never happens. 2. The only possible truth to the argument is with respect to the "correct" price, which in the mind of the subsidizers is the price in the US if we spent billions in subsidies. Friends, subsidies are a COST, not a benefit.

Let the Chinese mow our solar lawn, if they want to. (Angus has tried to make this point before, as have I. Angus may have said it best here. And we'll probably get chances to say it again.)

(Nod to Anonyman, who drives a stinkin' hybrid)

(UPDATE: Meant to say... title of post comes from our guy Alex)

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Solar Fail

A little story, in pictures. First, triumphalism of our gov't: thousands of jobs.

The "deal" came under scrutiny, because it appeared that our gubmint had given truly huge amounts of public money without going through the usual procedures.

Most recently, the company went bankruptski. Total collapse.

The delicious part is this: Solyndra is whining that the Chinese subsidize THEIR solar industry. Solyndra was a pure scam, only a front for taking tax dollars. All of their revenues and investment money were public subsidy. And then they have the gall to say that the reason this oinker of a company could not compete is that they needed to be subsidized even more. Some background.

Their "idea"? I promised pictures. Here it was. It didn't work, even with huge public subsidies.

(Nod to J-Don, who knows things)

Ho Tax

Tax meter for street walkers, or street standers, in Germany.

As Anonyman said, "the Germans are so organized."

Plus: consummation areas. Nice.

Madeline the prostitute explains how it all works.