Saturday, June 30, 2007

Development: Yer doin' it Wrong**, example #101

From the department of Doh!! comes this story: Nigerian school without power receives 300 laptops

"We have been browsing the Internet and we are very happy", Juliet Onah, an excited primary six pupil, was quoted as saying. But she said powering the laptop remained difficult as the school had no electricity and the supply at home was irregular.

No further comment is really necessary is it?

** see some others who are doing it wrong here

Friday, June 29, 2007

Well thats a load off my mind!

Former astronaut Lisa Nowak didn't wear diapers during her 950-mile road trip to confront a romantic rival, her lawyer said Friday, disputing one of the more bizarre details to emerge from the NASA love triangle.

"The biggest lie in this preposterous tale that has been told is that my client drove from Houston, Texas, to Orlando, Florida, nonstop, wearing a diaper," Donald Lykkebak said. "That is an absolute fabrication."

You cannot be serious!!

In the "loser who needs to get over himself category", I hereby nominate one Isaiah Washington.

Apparently there is a TV show called Grey's Anatomy that Isaiah was recently fired from after almost coming to blows with another cast member and referring to yet another cast member with an anti-gay slur, which he then repeated later at an awards show.

However, in Mr. Washington's ego addled universe here is how he sees things:

"Maybe for 50 years and the history of media and television I represent something that's supposed to not exist...This happened to Malcolm X, this happened to Paul Robeson -- this misconception can happen to any man of power that loves himself and wants to spread that love and that humanity throughout the world."

Say What???????

Was Malcolm X the star of "Malcolm in the Middle"??

Paul Robeson basically broke the color bar at Rutgers University and crusaded against lynching, before he fell in love with Uncle Joe Stalin.

Have a good weekend people, don't forget to spread that love!!

A Nice Round Number

In a recent post I questioned whether African development problems stemmed largely from a lack of foreign aid. I asked "haven't untold billions of dollars been send in aid and debt relief?"

Well, untold billions is pretty fuzzy even for me, so I asked the redoubtable Bill Easterly if he perhaps knew how much aid had gone to Africa.

Here is what he told me: "Total net aid (including concessional loans net of repayment and debt relief) to Africa from 1960 to 2005 is about $600 billion in 2005 dollars. This is a figure I have calculated myself recently from World Bank World Development Indicators and OECD figures."

So there you have it people, after $600 billion has gone in with (in my view at least) precious little to show for it, J. Sachs is still advocating large increases in aid as the solution and casting aspersions on anyone who might beg to differ.

I still beg to differ.

He Had the Receipt! Is there a PROBLEM, Officer?

Plus tax, of course. $4.88 + tax.

Man pays $4.88 for plasma TV at Wal-Mart Fri Jun 29, 7:46 AM ET

While Wal-Mart is known for dropping its prices, one West Monroe
(KPC: That's in LOOOsiana, for you Yankees) man took the ad campaign seriously when he dropped the price of a plasma television from $984 to $4.88. Police arrested Chandon L. Simms, 23, on Tuesday at the retail store on a charge of felony theft.

According to police reports, Simms carried a 42-inch Sanyo Plasma TV to a self-checkout aisle after switching the original price tag of $984 with one for only $4.88. Wal-Mart Loss Prevention officers witnessed the alleged transaction and called police.

When the store officers stopped Simms on his way out the door, he produced a receipt for a television purchased at the West Monroe Wal-Mart, authorities said.

Simms told officers that he purchased a TV from the West Monroe store and planned to returrn that one and keep the one he purchased for only $4.88 from the Monroe store. He was then arrested and booked into the Ouachita Correctional Center.

Information from: The News-Star, through Yahoo

He thought he would get away with it, because he was going through the self-checkout? With a four foot long box that said, "Plasma TV"? Wow.

Story Blows Up Like A Tater in the Microwave

This story will not die.

In fact, the followups show it has legs. If a potato could have legs. Eyes?

Lots more background here, in the Bay City Times

Angus has already pointed out the conflict of interest that lies at the heart of this controversy. But the BCT is still working on that angle:

The first runner-up, Katie Smrecak, will serve as the Potato Queen until a new queen is chosen next month. Smrecak is the daughter of Don Smrecak, chairman of the Munger Potato Festival.

Don Smrecak and Katie Smrecak could not be reached by The Times, and her family declined to comment.

But here is the important new development. Please join!

But for Nowicki's family and friends - and even some strangers - she still reigns as the Potato Queen.

A group on titled ''ALLISON NOWICKI IS THE REAL MUNGER POTATO QUEEN'' was created by Nowicki's sister, Jennifer Nowicki, last week. There are about 25 members so far. Nowicki said she was flattered to find some group members who showed support were people she didn't know.

The Potato Queen preceding Nowicki, KayCe Caban, sympathizes with her as well.

''I know when I was queen, there was a lot of drama ... because I could also not do a lot of parades,'' said Caban, who now lives in Ocean City, Miss. ''It's a popularity contest. A lot of people were upset that I won, and I think that a lot of people were upset that she won. I'm just shocked that they would do that, especially so close to the end of her reign.''

Linda Jenkins, an Essexville resident, was the first runner-up for Potato Queen in 1973 and said she filled in for the queen for several parades and even crowned the new Potato Queen.

''My understanding is the first runner-up did step in when the queen wasn't available,'' Jenkins said. ''As first runner-up, I had a ball. I got to be in the parades ... I got to wear a sash - nobody knew the difference.''

Down goes Dubya

Immigration reform is dead and this time its for real. Besides reflecting on Bush's complete lack of clout with his party's dwindling congressional delegations (only 12 out of 49 Republican senators were with him), and speculating on his noble obsession with this issue, it is worth thinking about what happens next.

From my point of view, the status quo is preferable to the type of bill that would attract the votes of 61 Senators. Perhaps Congress could try some small ball and address raising the number of work visas available for skilled immigrants (the current H1B limit is 65,000 per year and they go faster than tickets to the Police reunion tour).

Far be it from me to give political advice to the Republican party, but anti-immigration does not seem to be a huge vote winning platform item. Perhaps a Democratic majority will pass a better bill in 2009?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Marat Safin, International man of mystery

Wimbledon is starting to get good. We are one more win each away from Sharapova vs. Venus Willams, Tim Henman is out so tv time and center court are both freed up for actual professional players and in the morning (if the Oklahoma-esque London weather allows), Marat Safin will play Roger Federer.

Safin is a brooding, enigmatic, freakishly talented, impish, underachieving tennis genius and I am predicting he pulls a big upset and takes out the robotically perfect Swiss star Federer, winner of the last 4 Wimbledons.

I know, I know, but I'm a kid with a dream.

ps. Rafael Nadal, last year's finals loser had this piercing analysis of the All-England Championships:

"The grass don't change," Nadal said Tuesday after beating Mardy Fish of the United States 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-3 in the first round. "Always is grass."

I Still Don't Get It

So the blockbuster 3-way trade sending Kevin Garnett to Phoenix, Amare Stoudemire to Atlanta and the #3 and #11 picks in the draft (plus two bums) to Minnesota didn't go through after all. Ah, Steve Kerr came to his senses you say, or Kevin McHale thought better of it. No, apparently it died because ATLANTA DECIDED AGAINST IT!!! That's right, the only team clearly getting a big net gain nixed the deal. Wow. I would love to be an NBA GM.

Scots wa hae*

Yes, my native land is in the news.

Gordon Brown takes over as PM of the UK. Glasgow born and Edinburgh educated, Brown is in many ways the anti-Blair. The Wall Street Journal has an incredibly smarmy and condescending profile of Brown on its editorial page today entitled, "So Who's this Gordon Brown Anyway".

Among the gems: "If he is having a bad time, big Gordon has a job disguising it. His purple lips start to pout. He begins to pull at his dark pepper-and-salt fringe, or at least he did until he recently had it shampooed and trimmed."

Wow and then there is this: in public he is a bundle of anxiety who thinks he must crush all resistance. His jaw juts when he speaks and he has a smallish repertoire of jokes. At a lectern he does not swagger or casually survey the throng. He pats his script repeatedly with two hands the fingernails of which are bitten to bleeding remnants. Not even the most skilled Manhattan manicurist could salvage those nails.

This has got to be an all time low, even for the WS Journal editorial page. I guess they are practicing up for eight years of Hillary bashing!

*if the title seems overly weird look here

Tootin' the Sachs-o-phone

Erstwhile economist and current development messiah Jeffery Sachs is again instructing us how to solve Africa's problems.

He tells us: "Africa will be the bank's test under incoming President Robert Zoellick. If it fails there, not only Africa but the bank will be in mortal peril."

Well I am just a dumb Okie, but Africa has been the World Bank's test since McNamara was president and the BANK HAS COMPLETELY, UTTERLY, AND IRREVOCABLY FAILED the test.

I think for the overwhelming majority of the Bank employees, the mission of the bank is to continue to secure rich nation funding, employment and pay raises (note that employment and pay raises are a universally common goal of workers everywhere, I am not necessarily faulting Bank employees here at all).

Sachs rightly decries the lack of accountability for results that the World Bank has enjoyed for 60 years and counting now: Yet the bank's managers have not been held accountable. Senior bank officials actually whisper to African leaders not to dream about achieving the (millenium development) goals, since the managers don't want to be responsible for ambitious targets. They hope that the goals will just fade away.

Even after saying all that, though, Sachs seems to indicate believe that somehow by hearing the sound of his voice the Bank can magically change and become an effective tool for development. Its actually pretty easy, they just gotta get more resources and do what he says with them.

Sachs comes incredibly close to giving African governments a free pass for their plight and putting the blame squarely on one George Bush and his "free market ideologue" pals.

Seasoned practitioners not held back by ideology and posturing know how rapidly results can be achieved.


Yet when it comes to Africa, according to Washington's free-market ideologues, all those wonderful things
(infrastructure) are supposed to spring up by themselves, with markets coming to the rescue. And when those things don't arrive, since there is no way to pay for them, African governments are blamed for corruption.

Wow. I mean, WOW!! Has Africa gotten no development aid before? Haven't untold billions of dollars been sent in aid and debt relief? Is the problem of Africa really not enough aid?

One more bar: And the core problem in Africa is not corruption but the lack of basic infrastructure and services.

Isn't there possibly a connection there? Just maybe?

Look, I agree with Sachs (and I greatly admire his commitment and passion) that corruption isn't the only, or even main, problem in Africa. But it is a significant problem.

I think that more broadly "governance" is the main problem in Africa, and all the aid in the world won't fix that. The solution is ultimately internal, not external.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I don't get it

Timberwolves talking three-way Garnett deal:

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett is close to going to the Phoenix Suns in a monumental three-way trade that would send Phoenix forward Amare Stoudemire to the Atlanta Hawks, league sources said Wednesday.

Atlanta would move the Nos. 3 and 11 picks in Thursday's draft, as well as Zaza Pachulia and Anthony Johnson, to Minnesota.

Minnesota owner Glen Taylor has delivered a mandate to his basketball executives to get a deal done, one league executive said.

Bear with me people because its gonna take old Angus a while to break this one down for you. I'm not sure which part is crazier.

Kevin Garnett, 31 years old had the following stat line last year: 22.4 ppg (on 48% shooting), 12.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists. His career numbers are 20.5 (49%), 11.4 and 4.5 so even though he came to the league out of high school and has a lot of miles on him, he hasn't really slipped. He is going and the T-Wolves are getting two draft picks neither of which is Oden or Durant and two bums??

Phoenix is willing to give up Amare Stoudemire at 24 years of age and seemingly fully recovered from his microfracture surgery for the 31 year old Garnett? Here's Amare's stat line from last year: 20.4 ppg (at 57% shooting), 9.6 rebounds playing about 6 and a half minutes per game less than Garnett (he has virtually no assists, but then again, he's got Steve Nash).

I wouldn't do this if I were Phoenix, nor would I do it if I were Minnesota. And, if I were Minnesota, why wouldn't I trade Garnett heads up for Stoudemire (allowing for whatever juggling the cap rules require to make it work)?

Does Phoenix think this is Nash's last good year coming up but Amare won't peak for two or three more so they'll never be in synch for a championship?

What is it about Amare Stoudemire that I don't know? He's really 50? He's a bad teammate? Is a tattoo that says "Black Jesus" really THAT objectionable?

Tyler? Matt? Help me out here.

ps. if this goes through, I hope Emory University, Mercer University, Agnes Scott College, or Georgia Tech are hiring next year.

OKC, the Seattle of the Great Plains!!

From an AP wire story

In Oklahoma, about 20 firefighters had to use a raft to rescue 16-year-old twin sisters from their car, stalled in rushing bumper-deep water Tuesday.

The Oklahoma City area received about an inch of rain in 24 hours, bringing the city's annual total to 28.03 inches — about 10 inches above normal. Flooding closed some roads Wednesday in central and northeastern Oklahoma.

There are 10" wide mushroom caps growing in my backyard, people. We are gonna have to change "where the wind comes whistling down the range" to "where the rain comes running down your back" or something. Its like Ireland around here.

Munger Potato Queen: BAGGED!

Since we have been doing the Michigan thing here at KPC, I have to note that there is a scandal in Munger, MI: The "Potato Queen" has been called out and bagged. Her offense? She did not attend the Munger Potato festival events in the off-season.

Not just ANYONE gets to be queen. It takes dedication, and energy. You can't be one of those couch potatoes, and be Potato Queen, Allison Nowicki. You betrayed the public trust, and you had to be mashed.

BUT WAIT: Allison Nowicki fights back! Apparently it was just a misunderstanding. The accusation of holding back on the spud circuit?

Not so, says Nowicki, who appeared at the Miss Bay County Pageant, St. Johns Mint Festival, Bay County Fair, Montrose Blueberry Festival and Linwood Pickle Festival.

"The only one I missed was the (Bay City) St. Patrick's Day Parade," Nowicki, a sophomore at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, told The Bay City Times for a Monday story. "I called the first runner-up and told her I wasn't going to make it."

First runner-up Katie Smrecak, daughter of festival chairman Don Smrecak, will serve as queen until a new king and queen are crowned July 26 at the 53rd Annual Munger Potato Festival.

Munger is an unincorporated town about 85 miles north-northwest of Detroit.

Munger [sic? Nowicki?] said she had a school meeting that conflicted with the St. Patrick's Day Parade and couldn't make the 3 1/2-hour drive.

"To me, it wasn't about getting a crown and getting a sash — it was about getting to meet people and showing my love for Munger," Nowicki said. "Who knows if they're going to do that to next year's queen? I don't want anyone else to have to go through this."

Later in that story, we learn that "Two queen committee members declined comment." A cover-up! Call Oliver Stone!

For those of you thinking of attending this year's festival, it is July 26-30. Here is the schedule of events.....and here is what is going on, just on DAY ONE, Thursday (the order in which the events are listed escapes me):

Thursday, July 26
7:30 P.M.

Queen & King Chosen
7:00 P.M.

Jerkwater Town Boys*
8:00 P.M. till Midnight

Ellitott's Amusements
4 P.M. till Close

9:00 P.M. till ?

Bingo Tent
8:00 P.M. till ?

And, as the main ad states...well, here's what you can expect:
Family Fun - Activities for the entire family! - Famous Potato Bratwurst - Hot French Fries - Food Tent - Potato Display - Tons Of Free Potatoes

Do me a favor, open the door, let them in.

I'm a big fan of liberal immigration policies. My grandfather came here from Scotland with no skills, no real education (some would say he didn't really speak 'merican english even!!), and made a life for himself and his family opening up a grocery store in NYC. His children became railroad engineers, theologians, and bank vice presidents. His grandchildren have been at various times, airline mechanics, NYC policemen, realtors, and university professors.

I think immigration is win-win. Good for the immigrants and on net good for the host country. Yes I mean all immigrants. Heck, I love Mexico; lived there for two years.

So one would think I'd be happy about the news that the Senate (the worlds greatest deliberative body and all) had voted to take up the immigration bill again.


Holy Crap this is a weird one. Bush and Kennedy? Random amendments? A path to citizenship that takes time, money, and an attention to bureaucratic detail that woulda send my old granddad packing? Nothing to address the extreme limits we put on skilled immigrants?

The system that produced a 1,000+ page free trade bill, that tried to jumpstart the Doha talks by pledging to poor countries that we would definitely commit to capping our agricultural subsidies at a point well ABOVE their current levels, is now going to "do" immigration pressed by a desperate president.

I actually think I'm hoping for no bill at all.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

You Have To Learn How To Signal

Dr. Karlson is right in this, as in so many things.

Fighting over whose language to use seems silly.

Of course, maybe I just say that because I teach at a preternaturally expensive private school.....But acquiring a real facility with signals, and learning
how to fit in, and how to think and solve problems, EVEN IF THE PROBLEMS ARE MADE-UP AND ARE REALLY JUST ENTRY BARRIERS....It's valuable.

Education is the lubricant for social intercourse. There, I said it.

If we're so smart, why aren't they rich?

In the May 2007 issue of the American Economic Review, Bill Easterly argues that one reason why the overall package of development assistance offered by the World Bank and the IMF has not been very successful is that they (we?) mistakenly believe that they know what actions are needed to achieve development (ungated link here). First it was Investment that was the key to growth, then Human Capital, then Openness, then Institutions. As Easterly puts it: "Development economists have long known the answers on how to achieve development. The only problem is the answers change over time".

Meanwhile, in the September 2007 issue of the Journal of Development Economics, Robin and I provide empirical confirmation of this point by showing that while countries have become much more homogeneous in their policies (policy variables are converging), output paradoxically continues to diverge (ungated link here).

Specifically we show that Investment, Government Spending and Openness to Trade, and several measures of institutional quality are all converging in our sample of 90 countries from 1960-1999 while per capita incomes continue to diverge. A la Easterly, we interpret this as showing that poor countries have on average followed the development advice of the Bretton Woods Institutions (Bank and Fund), but have not gotten the promised payoff.

Going beyond this point, we also claim that our results show the neo-classical growth model to be totally inadequate to explain the data.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Blues Brothers: Mike and Linwood!

Mike and Linwood are both out of a job!

Now, I hope that Carrie Fisher can find them, and use her rocket launcher.

Why I am Not Not a Libertarian

DoF asks some good questions, and shares some very useful insights.

My two favorite "kill!" arguments from non-libertarians:

1. You just hate people!

2. You just don't want to pay taxes!

Gosh, those are devestating. I have no answer to those profound insights.

Danny, we hardly knew ye: Drezner Really *IS* a Moral Midget

Good lord! Dan Drezner, who pretends to have libertarian sensibilities, actually thinks that a system of fines for unpredictable, unintentional accidents will make the world a better place. He took a test; I give him an "F"!

(If you want to take the Moral Sense Test, do it now. Spoilers below)

Now, check this, from Dan:

I came across this Moral Sense test at Harvard.

It's an eight question test in which an action is described and then you are asked to award damages.

In the scenarios I was given, I awarded an average of $129 in fines. The average response of all test takers was approximately $72,000.

So, clearly, I'm a heartless bastard. [And you also like to make fun of short people!!--ed.] Or, I'm more willing to blame fortuna than people when bad but (largely) accidental things happen.

Dan! DAN! Walk away from those totalitarians at Tufts, and try to come towards the sound of my voice! THE PREMISE OF THE TEST IS THAT GOVERNMENT SHOULD FINE PEOPLE FOR ACCIDENTS, AND TAKE THE MONEY AT GUN POINT FOR USE IN THE GENERAL FUND!

These are TORTS, not criminal offenses. It is important that the victims do not receive the payment. An average of $129? GOTT IN HIMMEL! I had an "average payment of $0.00! I thought that several of the scenarios (like the peanuts in the allergist's office) were clear negligence, and that there was a cause of action for a law suit. Any allergy sufferer knows, or should know, that peanuts can be deadly, and in an allergist's office one expects to encounter people with.....ALLERGIES!

But not a fine! Why put government in charge of collecting fines when one private person harms another accidentally? You are in favor of criminalizing private mistakes, when there is a private remedy. There is no deterrent effect here, and no pretense of making the damaged party whole.

Danny, Danno, Danton....I thought you were one of us.


Berndt Coffee?

Interesting paper, by friend of KPC Colleen Berndt, on "Fair Trade Coffee."

Proponents of Fair Trade claim it improves the lives of farmers in developing countries by providing them a higher sale price for their crops, allowing for a higher standard of living, and offering the opportunity to escape the vulnerability of poverty. Drawing on field work conducted in Costa Rica and Guatemala, the author examines the observed effects of Fair Trade and finds it is unclear whether Fair Trade actually delivers on its promise. Rather, it may actually harm the long-term interests of small farmers in high-cost production areas.


Per molts anys, Antoni!!

One of the coolest things about visiting Barcelona is scoping the buildings of Catalonian architect Antoni Gaudi, who was born on this date in 1852. The pictures are nice but actually seeing these works is magical. I think Gaudi has been a huge influence on current funky superstar architect Frank Gehry

See more photos here

Now I'm a believer?

According to Sunday's NY Times, new Fed chair Ben Bernanke has made believers out of "the markets".

"Could an Ivy League academic like this ever have Street credibility? But as Mr. Bernanke meets with Fed policy makers this week to set interest rates, the answer is clear: yes, yes and yes again. If anybody has had to learn on the job, it has been Fed watchers and investors rather than Mr. Bernanke."

The article also claims that, despite having underestimated the housing mess, Bernanke has engineered a masterful economic soft landing where inflation falls gradually without a recession and growth picks back up soon. Second quarter growth for this year is being noised about at 3%.

There is at least one economist who doesn't agree, the emphatic Nouriel Roubini.

Me? I'm still stunned that academic economists don't automatically have mad street cred!

To Shoot, Perchance to Dream

Went out to the property in Chatham County yesterday.

Younger younger Munger and I went out early. Ah, the reason to have sons: you get to buy rifles, and pickup trucks, and people think MORE of you, because you are a good dad.

Then, Large Guns Man showed up, with his boys. We put the buffet out on the table. 8 mm Mauser rifle, AR 15, AK 74, the strangest Baretta carbine (with both flashlight and laser, straighth from Halo II), four different shotguns (two coach guns, and two with clips, which is psychotic) and a wild variety of pistols for dessert.

Angus had left behind a cooler after his visit to Duke a year ago. I had used it a few times, but left it at the property. Top blew off in winter, and cooler filled with water. Slime, mold, ick. My fault, a shame to waste the cooler. But since it was wasted, we wasted it good. More than 200 rounds of ammunition, and at least 50 shotgun shells, of many types, were blasted into the cooler at a range of 25 yards. The boys pose with the "kill."

(Identities disguised to protect the gunnutters, except for my son Brian, and the other kid. The other kid wandered out of the woods, ALMOST DIRECTLY BEHIND THE DIRECTION WE WERE FIRING. He heard the guns, and was drawn like a moth to the cordite.)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Weekend Update

Here at KPC we like to keep you informed about new developments on past posts, so without further ado:

(1) After while, Crocodile! Not if I see you first, Damien Hirst! KPC gave you art collecting advice, listing the most expensive living painters and which were most worth pursuing. Now word comes from the BBC this week that Damien Hirst's top sale price has jumped from $7.4 million to $19.3 million. Similarly, Lucien Freud's record price went from $8.2 million to $15.6 million. Wow, Contempory art prices are showing almost bubble-like behavior. KPC advises selling your Rothkos, Johns, Pollocks and the like ASAP.

(2) The NY Times has GOT to stop copying KPC! Earlier I reported with delight about Gustavo Arellano's awesome column "Ask A Mexican". Now the copycat NY Times has chimed in as well. Back off gray lady, he's OUR Mexican.

(3) Apres disbarment, le deluge! CNN reports that the Duke LAX 3 are (a) seeking to have Mike Nifong charged with criminal contempt of court and (b) asking a judge to order Nifong to pay their legal bills. So dreams do come true!


"The word "protection" is no longer taboo," he said. "Competition as an ideology, as a dogma, what has it done for Europe?" He said a competition policy could emerge "that will favour the emergence of European champions".

So, who's "he" you ask? Why it is our good friend Nick Sarkozy, the man who is going to bring economic reform and renewed vitality to France.

What exactly did our man do to re-legitimize protectionism and government favoritism in the EU? He insisted on having the words "undistorted competition" removed from the list of EU goals in the new draft of the constitution.

But Nick, can it really be so simple?

EU lawyers insist the removal of "undistorted competition" from the Union's objectives will have no legal impact on the European Commission's powers to police cartels and anti-competitive behaviour.

Oh, never mind. (and, as Mungowitz likes to say, "read the damn article here")

Saturday, June 23, 2007

You Can Check Out Anytime I Want

The Arctic archipelago of Svalbard has become a haven for immigrants,
because an unusual treaty says they do not need a visa or permit to work and
live there ... Longyearbyen is Svalbard's biggest settlement and has about 1,800 residents...The treaty was signed by World War I victors in Paris in 1920. It gave sovereignty over Svalbard to Norway, conditional on there being no barrier to entry...Longyearbyen, named after John Munro Longyear, the American coal miner who founded the town in 1906, lies in a glacial valley on the edge of a fjord. It now has a university, hospital, school and hotels, restaurants and shops. East Europeans also live and work in Longyearbyen and the pizzeria is run by Iranian brothers. In all, there are about 25 nationalities living in the town...But there are two hitches to Svalbard life - the weather, temperatures in winter can fall to -40C, and limited social services. The governor has the right to throw people off the island if they cause trouble or cannot find work or accommodation. (al Jazeera English, ATSRTWT)

(nod to KL, who got thrown off the island LONG ago)

Same Mistakes, Not Different Models

Interesting view of growth problems, in Restoring Japan's Economic Growth, by Adam S. Posen

Why aren't nations rational?

UPDATE: Chapter 6 is available on-line. Simplistic, perhaps, but good questions about growth, and nongrowth.

We need more Michiganders like Wally Wallington

I am leaving Michigan today (much to everyone's relief) and as always I'm struck by the sheer awesomeness of the people here. From Mark Perry, I found the story of Wally Wallington who manipulates and moves 30' x 30' pole barns and 20,000 pound concrete columns with wood, rope, stones, sand, and water. Why? Like the old punchline says, because he can!

Wally thinks he's uncovered how the ancients constructed Stonehenge and plans to singlehandedly erect a concrete replica in his back yard. Check out Wally's fantastic story via YouTube video here.

The north WILL rise again, people.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Biker Brutality

A story of a guy who was tased, and beaten, for riding his bike.

Now, I bet he is one strange guy.

But you can't mess with people like that.

Not just the fault of the police, either. We criminalize things that are no one else's business. As one of my favorite groups, the Corporate Avenger, point out:

"I don't fault the police....'cause the people that run 'em, got 'em on a short leash." (And thanks to Large Guns Man for that!)

(nod to Whacking Day)

Growth: F-cups and Bulging briefs

A remarkable post.

The part about growth struck me as....striking.

The post goes to say that a similar product for men, tentatively being called “bulging briefs biscuits,” is rumored to be ready for release early next year, although some commentators are claiming it may come sooner than expected.

I just HATE it when bulging briefs come sooner than expected. Sort of takes the edge off the whole proceedings. And then you have to talk for half an hour, at least, and hope she doesn't get sleepy.

Also from Japundit:
These new health foods (assuming they actually work) are sure to bulk up the population and also help with Japan’s flagging boinky boinky rate.

Tokyo Times gets the scoop: ATSRTWT

Happy Halloween: Don't say "Boo" for 30 yr Treasuries

We do not need the 30-year bond to meet the government's current financing needs, nor those that we expect to face in coming years. Looking beyond the next few years, as I already observed, we believe that the likely outcome is that the federal government's fiscal position will improve after the temporary setback that we are now experiencing.

There are two less likely outcomes that we have also considered.

First, it is possible that the federal government will return to significant and sustained budget surpluses even more quickly than we now expect. In this event, maintaining current issuance levels of 30-year bonds would be unnecessary and expensive to taxpayers.

The date? October 31, 2001.

Could anyone really have believed this? Surpluses? Sad to read, now.

And then there was this.

Maybe it doesn't matter very much. The 10-year T-bond is the new benchmark, and has been.

It just made me feel nostalgic to think of surpluses. That Halloween, 2001 press release was so confident......

(Nod to JT)

They put the "DOH" in Doha!!

When I first caught the bloggin' bug doing a guest gig on Marginal Revolution, I posted about the dicey prospects of concluding the Doha trade round. Yesterday, a new effort which consisted of the US, EU, Brazil and India negotiating on reducing agricultural subsidies in the US and EU also failed.

The US blamed Brazil & India saying in effect that you gotta give something to get something and Brazil & India absolutely wouldn't give anything.

The Indian trade minister countered by pointing out that while the US had lowered their offer for capping agricultural subsidies to $17 billion (from $22 billion), the current level of said subsidies is around $11 billion. He said such an offer had "no logic or equity". Nicely played sir!!

The US is playing out Rorden Wilkenson's script of ratcheting up the rhetoric:

Now, the U.S. trade representative, Susan Schwab, will head to Geneva, where she will meet with the WTO director general, Pascal Lamy, and appeal to other developing countries to pressure Brazil and India for new concessions that would jump-start the round. "We are absolutely determined not to give up on the Doha round," Schwab said.

and also this:

"Large economies like Brazil and India should not stand in the way
of progress for smaller, poor developing nations - but that appears
to be what happened in Germany this week," Tony Fratto, a
White House spokesman, said.

I really think Doha is done and agree with Dani R that its not such a big deal.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Yeah Baby, Americans do IT better!!

Austan Goolsbee in todays NY Times cites research showing that American firms have been the best at transforming cheap computing power into business productivity (link to article).

Goolsbee (I just love typing that!) cites a paper showing that in sectors like financial services, retail trade, and wholesale trade American takeovers of British firms caused a tremendous productivity advantage over a non-American alternative.

The irrepressible Goolsbee sums up as follows:

Perhaps the lesson from the research can be boiled down to something most Americans clearly understand: The world economy may be tough on your industry but look on the bright side: you could be French.

Amen, Brother

You Mean Economic Growth is NOT a Family Value?

Chris Dillow, at S&M (sorry) posts an interesting thought: economic growth can lead to loosening of family ties. He notes five mechanisms, and links some interesting and on-point research.

A summary (and perhaps an inept one; ATSRTWT!)
1. Dishwasher effect: more technically feasible for people to live alone, outsourcing kitchen jobs to machines
2. Tools, leverage, and capital: The premium on physical strength has diminished, so comparative advantage of men for lots of jobs has shrunk, or disappeared.
3. Creative destruction: more growth, more frictional job loss, more divorces.
4. Social moblity/migration: may be harder to "meet someone," and marriages lack the support structure of nearby families if children or finances strain the union.
5. Aspirations: disparities in income are larger if growth is strong, and women (in particular) can see the consequences of these disparities on telly. Why stand by your man when you can do better? Or, maybe you can do better (My wife certainly could!)

Now, given my views of my family, growing up, I don't mind reducing family ties. I moved out as soon as I could, and didn't go back very much. But I would be upset if my sons had that attitude. MANY people don't like their families; growth and modernity mean they can bail. What are the consequences, long-term, for the nature of society?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

governator, rust belt style

I's in yr statehouseraisin' ur taxes, kthxby

From the Guv's own homepage: New Michigan Business Tax Key to State's Economic Future, Creating Jobs

Homenaje a Tyler

You guessed it. I'm in Michigan (visiting family) and here's my best of Michigan list:

1. Sufjan Stevens, second best Michigander of all time (after Pontiac). His album "Greetings from Michigan" (pictured above) is highly recommended.

2. Mark Perry, my ex-student, friend and co-author.

3. Berry Gordy. Motown was the soundtrack of my youth on either CKLW or WKNR radio. I'd put the radio under my pillow and listen into the night. I was constantly on the scrounge for batteries!

4. Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes, trudge to the top and tumble to the bottom. lather rinse repeat. Pretty much the highlight of every summer for me was going there.

5. Iggy Pop , (born James Osterburg). While the Stooges reunion efforts are appallingly bad. The original Stooges were/are awesome. Their first three albums (The Stooges, Fun House, and Raw Power are not to be missed). From Ann Arbor trailer trash to the Godfather of Punk. Well done Ig!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Recycling Humor

Apropos of pretty much nothing, a joke....

Bill and Hillary are now married 40 years. When they first got married, Bill said, "I am putting a box under the bed. You must promise never to look in it." In all their 40 years of marriage, Hillary never looked. However, on the afternoon of their 40th anniversary, curiosity got the best of her, and she lifted the lid and peeked inside. In the box were 3 empty beer cans and $1,874.25 in cash. She closed the box and put it back under the bed. Now that she knew what was in the box, she was doubly curious as to why. That evening they were out for a special dinner. After dinner Hillary could no longer contain her curiosity and she confessed and said "I am so sorry. For all these years I kept my promise and never looked into the box under our bed. However, today the temptation was too much, and I gave in. But now I need to know why do you keep the empty cans in the box?" Bill thought for a while and said, "I guess after all these years you deserve to know the truth. Whenever I was unfaithful to you I put an empty beer can in the box under the bed to remind myself not to do it again." Hillary was shocked, but said, "I am very disappointed and saddened, but I guess after all those years away from home on the road, temptation does happen and I guess that a few times is not that bad considering the years." They hugged and made their peace. A little while later Hillary asked Bill, "Why do you have all that money in the box?" Bill answered, "Whenever the box filled with empty cans, I cashed them in."


Great times in Utah this year, for the annual Liberty Fund week long gig at Park City.

Some pictures.....

(Nod to K-Rad, for setting up the Facebook Group, "I Found Libert at the Tripod". Just remember: "Everyone do what you want" is not the same as "Anarchy," no matter what your fascist lefty friends say!)

Market Daffy-nitions

When I worked at GMU, one of the best experiences for me was freelancing as a junior associate with Bob Tollison on his antitrust consulting. I quickly (for me at least) learned three things. (1) big time lawyers are really smart, (2) never tell a client work they propose is unnecessary, and (3) anti-trust cases often come down to how the relevant market is defined, which is our present topic.

Consider the old proposed acquisition of Seven up by Pepsi. We (Pepsico) tried to define the market as "stuff to drink", while the government sought to define it as "nationally distributed flavored carbonated beverages". We set about estimating residual demand curves showing that a wide range of beverages were economic substitutes for soda and the battle was joined.

The foregoing is pertinent to the current antitrust proceeding against the proposed Whole Foods purchase of Wild Oats. The government is defining the market as "nationwide operators of premium natural and organic supermarkets", of which Whole Foods and Wild Oats are about all there is. Presumably, Whole Foods seeks to define the market as "places that sell food", where they are not even a drop in the proverbial bucket. My history probably biases me, but I gotta think the latter definition is more nearly correct than the former.

Anyway, if the past is any guide, economists will be hired, elasticities estimated, depositions taken, and then a judge will make a ruling based mainly on how much he liked or didn't like his personal experiences at Whole Foods.

Monday, June 18, 2007

6 degrees of Angus

One of my favorite young artists is Souther Salazar. Heres a pic:

For those of you on the east coast, Souther is having a solo show at Jonathan LeVine Gallery in NYC June 23-July 21.

This morning, Robin was scanning Slate magazine when she remarked "man these videos are ripping off Souther Salazar!!" However, a closer inspection revealed that Souther had indeed done the animation. Too Cool.

Then, the angus CPU dimly recalled having seen the alien video before along with a Rick Santorum reference and was able to pull up this Mungowitz Post. At that time, I didn't recogize the essential Souther-ness of the video.

Everything is Illuminated, people.

A new Consensus on Democracy and Growth??

For all democracy's seductive charms, most empirical work in economics concludes that the partial correlation between democracy and economic growth is if anything, negative (See Barro (1996 Journal of Economic Growth) and also Wacziarg).

However, three new papers are finding different results.

(1) two dudes named Kevin Grier & Michael Munger show that when one expands the sample of countries to include more long term non-democracies than are in the Penn World Tables, and when one accounts for the effects of regime length on growth, democracies enjoy a substantial growth advantage over non-democracies.

(2) Philippe Aghion, Alberto Alesina, and Francesco Trebbi argue that democracy affects economies in a heterogeneous fashion, specifically improving performance in "advanced" sectors.

(3) Torsten Persson and Guido Tabellini study regime transitions and find large growth penalties for exits from democracy.

So maybe there is one less reason to hate democracy!

The Right Thing and Wrong Thing

You have no doubt seen the "fight" in the Alabama Senate. It was more of a smack-down. The sort of man who insults another in public, relying on the character of the target to temper the response, generally has little stomach for actual fight.

Didn't really think much about it, but then I noticed this kind of response. Look: It's a simple can insult me. But if you insult my mom, there is going to be a fight. You don't want the fight, don't rock the insult. And for those of you unfortunate enough to be born outside the South (including Angus, now a Southerner by importation), if you don't get this, you are likely to get punched.

I was moved to send a letter to Senator Bishop. Here it is:

Senator Charles Bishop
Room 733-D
State House
11 South Union Street
Montgomery, AL 36130

Dear Senator Bishop:

You have recently been at the center of some controversy.

I write in support of your position.

It is perfectly true, as you have said repeatedly, that grown men do not settle differences with fists. This is even more true on the floor of the Senate chamber.

But there is a higher truth. In the South, a heritage you and I share, one man does not attack the character or memory of another man’s mother. There are some insults so infamous that they demand action, regardless of the consequences.

Sometimes, the wrong thing is precisely the right thing to do.

I am sorry to have heard of the criticism you have suffered, and appreciate your attempts to explain. But I don’t see that you had any choice, under the circumstances. One cannot accept such a public affront to she who gave him life.

With all best wishes,
Michael C. Munger

Sunday, June 17, 2007


Ize in ur Kuntry: Winnin' ur Open!!

More Aid for Africa?

There is a huge and sometimes heated debate about whether Aid helps to create economic growth. The most well-known facet is probably the public debates between Jeff Sachs and Bill Easterly. One odd thing about this debate though is that it is largely conducted by rich country academics, with little input from the "beneficiaries".

However three recent African perspectives on aid can be found as follows:

(1) From today's NY Times "What does Africa Need Most: Technology or Aid?"

The article comes down in favor of technology and entrepreneurship. It also tells the story of the man to built the Congo's vast growing wireless telecom network.

Money quote: "What man ever became rich by holding out a begging bowl?"
(uh, I know this one, Lee Iacocca, right??)

(2) An older piece from Der Spegel (2005) interviewing Kenyan economist James Shikwati

Money quote:

SPIEGEL: What are the Germans supposed to do?

Shikwati: If they really want to fight poverty, they should completely halt development aid and give Africa the opportunity to ensure its own survival. Currently, Africa is like a child that immediately cries for its babysitter when something goes wrong. Africa should stand on its own two feet.

(3) The writings of George Ayittey, economics professor at American University in DC.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Cry 'Havoc,' and let slip the dogs of war

Two thirds of my hoped for trifecta are in the books. Mike Nifong is not the DA of Durham County and he is disbarred!! Now for the civil suit.

Things are looking good. As he left the courtroom, Reade Seligmann's lawyer said, "I don't think any of us are done with Mr. Nifong yet".


This week's sign of the apocalypse

The week that was

Besides bringing you cutting edge LOLcats, KPC wants to keep our readers informed about developments on issues we've previously posted so....

1. Nifong to world : "I Suck"!! Earlier this week we posted that Nifong was appearing before a disciplinary committee hearing that could lead to his disbarment. Yesterday he gave a tear-stained mea culpa and resigned as Durham county prosecutor. So far so good, but I'm still rooting for disbarment and then a civil suit against him.

2. Confessions of a Double Murderer it is!! In the case we reported on earlier this week, a judge has awarded Ron Goldman's family the rights to OJ aborted book. Sweet!

3. Delayed reaction. We profiled allegedly plucky French tennis pro Marc Giquel who took a fast serve to the harbles and then after an icing returned to the court and won his match. However, the next day he quit after losing the first set of his quarterfinal match to Finnish hearthrob Jarkko Nieminen.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Dumbest Sentence I've read in a long while

From yesterday's Financial Times: Being a developing country used to be easy.

This is by Alan Beatie. He continues:

You followed leaders - Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea - up a well-trodden ladder from agriculture through manufacturing to services. Starting with tilling the soil, you moved on to turning out T-shirts, then toys, then tractors, then television sets, and ended up trading Treasuries.

The gist of this foolishness is that China is screwing up that EZ ladder to success everybody had enjoyed previously.

I guess the first question to ask is who exactly followed those leaders up that well trodden ladder to a financial services economy before China and India got on? Anybody from Sub Saharan Africa? Anybody from Latin America? Anybody besides the cited leaders??

In one sense being a developing country is easy, its actually doing some developing (ie catching up to the leaders) that is so hard, has been hard in the past and is still hard today.

We didn't call Beattie's leaders the Asian Miracle countries because they did something easy.

The second question to ask is whether those cited leaders made it all the way to the top as Beattie implies. Well according to the Penn World Tables, Taiwan is stalled out at around 55% of US per capita income ( 54.25% in 2004), and Korea is still grinding away, but is only up to around 50% of US income. So even the few miracle countries that have substantially improved relative to the US still have a very long way to go.

By the way, China is at 14.6% of US per capita income in 2004 and India at around 9%. Despite their recent gains, they are very very poor countries.

The third question to ask is, even if China and India are making it harder for other countries to catch up, if we had to pick to incredibly poor countries to start growing rapidly, wouldn't we pick China and India, simply based on their huge populations? Thats a lot better than having the Gambia and Boliva win the growth takeoff lottery, isn't it?

My last question is directly to Alan Beattie: What you talking 'bout Willis??

A Radical Proposal for Reducing the Trade Deficit

In case you haven't noticed, the US is running a large trade deficit. Oh, and a lot of people are upset about it too. Anyway, what often goes unmentioned in all the anti-China, anti-trade rhetoric is that (A) the US imports a lot of oil, and (B) the price of oil has gone through the roof lately.

So, if the trade deficit is such a bad thing, and oil imports are a major cause of the deficit, then given that our two largest sources of imported oil are Canada and Mexico (I am not making this up: check it out here), and since we have allegedly not been averse to going to war over oil, I humbly propose that we consider annexing our immediate neighbors to the north and south.

Hey, I just solved the immigration problem too, didn't I?? Sweet!!!

"New Balls, Please"!!

As the tennis circuit turns toward the super-short grass court season, serve speeds pick up and bad bounces multiply. Just ask French pro Marc Giquel (below right in the photo), who took a 129 mph shot in the shorts from Benjamin Becker at the Wimbledon warm-up tourney in Germany yesterday.


Although I must say that speaking strictly for myself, I'd rather be Giquel than the anonymous tour trainer shown icing down Giquel's privates in the photo.

Oh, and Giquel eventually returned to the court and won the match!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Hate the Game, not the Playa!!

Economics demi-god Steve Levitt is playing at the WSOP (world series of poker):

but KPC has discovered what Steve doesn't want anyone to know, exactly who it was that knocked him out of the tourney:

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

2 Scotsmen, 1 Penny

So Mungowitz tells these better than me, but I got a story for y'all. We decided to buy a digital SLR, specifically a Nikon D200. But they are expensive and the Angus family is CHEAP!! So we searched the internet and found a deal priced about 30% lower than anything else from a joint called Express Cameras. I placed my order online. 5 hours later I got a phone call from Adam at Express Cameras. They are so sorry but they don't take Amex anymore, the website is being changed as we speak so could he get another card number, oh and by the way, did I know the stock battery was no good and I should get a better one for $279 and the camera doesn't come with a charger so I'll need that too (another $150).

God help me people, I went along with that. I'll never be allowed to wear a kilt again, but I said, "OK Adam, thanks".

Adam, feeling like he's hooked the fish of the century then tells me, oh and the memory card you have chosen is very slow, you will have to wait 5-10 seconds between pictures. You should get a fast card for another $350, also did you know the lenses you are getting aren't for digital cameras? they won't allow you to use any of the features of your camera. we can sell you better ones for another $400.

At this point my genetic heritage kicked in and saved me, "Adam, I think this is a pretty bad case of bait and switch my friend and I am going to have to cancel the entire order"

On a dime, Adam turns ugly: What is wrong with you, are you retarded? I am trying to give you a great deal and you act like this? You can't cancel the order now, its too late.

Me: pretty sure I can and just did.

Adam: you will have to pay a cancellation fee of $389

Me: don't think so.

Adam: I am going to send this straight to a collection agency and ruin your credit rating, that is a promise.

Me: been there done that (some nasty business with my ill-spent student loans, don't ask), chaucito my friend.

So back to the internet and I find this great site, where he breaks things down for me about Adam and his ilk:

They prey on innocents and try to sell you pieces that come included with your camera, like the charger, for hundreds of dollars extra. They also try to switch you to high-profit-margin off-brand lenses like Sigma that they've deliberately overpriced, hoping you didn't research them.

And indeed, my battery was fine, the charger is included in the camera price, my lenses were Nikon and work perfectly with the digital camera and a fast memory card costs $60 at Circuit City.

Looking around some more, I found these customer ratings of Express Camera (which somehow are orthogonal to the testimonials prominently displayed on their website) and also their rapsheet with the NJ BBB (292 complaints in the last 36 months).

So innocent Angus hauled his butt to Circuit City and got exactly what he wanted (for less than he'd left things with Adam) with NO INTEREST PAYMENTS UNTIL 2009. Sweet!!! I could be dead by then (especially if Adam catches up with me).

Now it all makes sense!!!

hat tip to LolPresident.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Long Arm of the law

1. Down goes Nifong? The notorious Duke Lacrosse prosecutor is now appearing before a disciplinary commission facing possible disbarment. I was living in Durham during the year of the Nifong and in my view, this guy deserves to catch it really really hard. K C Johnson has much more.

2. Some said it was murder, but it was sewer-cide. Now the Jamaican police are saying that Pakistani cricket coach Bob Woolmer, found dead in his hotel in a pile of vomit and poop and blood, wasn't murdered after all but died instead of "natural causes". I'll say this: if that's true I hope I do NOT die of natural causes.

3. "Who Romeo? Yeah I used to have a thing with him?" A Judge in Atlanta ordered Genarlo Wilson released with 8 years to go on his mandatory minimum 10 year sentence for having "consensual" oral sex with a 15 year old girl (when he himself was 17). The judge also ruled that Wilson would not have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. The state Attorney General says the judge has overstepped his bounds, and plans to appeal the decision; meanwhile he's keeping Genarlo in jail. I'm conflicted on this one people. The state legislature has since amended the law under which Wilson was convicted to make his act a misdemeanor so maybe he should get out. On the other hand, Jimmy Carter has been lobbying for Wilson's release, so he should probably stay in!

4.What's in a name? Ron Goldman's family is suing to take over the rights to OJ's "If I did it", rename it "Confessions of a Double Murderer" and sell the book to help collect part of the $33.5 million judgement they won against OJ. Perhaps not surprisingly, OJ and his family are not cooperating.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Be Careful What You Ask For ('cause you just might get it)

In 1986, California enacted Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act. While not as famous as Alex's friend Dog, the act has produced what Adam Liptak of the NY Times calls Environmental Bounty Hunters. Citizens can file suit against offending firms and keep 25% of the penalties imposed and lawyers for said citizens get their fees paid as well!

Liptak describes one man, lawyer Clifford Chanler as "the State's leading bounty hunter".

"In the past seven years, Mr. Chanler has sent over 600 notices and filed more than 200 lawsuits on behalf of a few clients, none of whom even claimed to have been injured, and collected $15 million in settlements in return.

Over coffee the other day, Mr. Chanler said he did not much care for the term bounty hunter.

“I prefer to use the phrase of ‘citizen enforcer,’ ” he said. “But I don’t shy away from the fact that there is a civil bounty incentive structure built into the statute.”"

So far so good right? But the plot thickens. Ex-governor moonbeam and current attorney general Jerry Brown wants Chanler and others to cut it out because "it does not appear to be in the public interest"

Oooh, good one Jerry, that will work for sure. Ask a lawyer to stop doing something thats both lucrative and completely legal because it does not appear to be in the public interest? Sure, no problem.......

If anything, Mr. Chanler appears quite ready to broaden the scope of his duties:

“Civil enforcement should not be left to public officials,” he said, “because of the influence of money on politics and just the resource level available to the government.”

Amen, Clifford, amen!!

Wake up and smell the Tacos

The Seattle Weekly runs a great column called "Ask a Mexican" written by Gustavo Arellano with this identifying graphic:

a helpful glossary is also provided.

Oops they did it again!

The NY Times is nothing if not consistently humorous. Consider this passage from David Leonhart's article on Larry Summers:

since 1979, the share of pretax income going to the top 1 percent of American households has risen by 7 percentage points, to 16 percent. Over the same span, the share of income going to the bottom 80 percent has fallen by 7 percentage points. It’s as if every household in that bottom 80 percent is writing a check for $7,000 every year and sending it to the top 1 percent.

as we pro-immigration types like to say, vamos por partes.

1. The quote considers pretax incomes and the top 1% pay a lot of taxes. For example, in 2004, the top 1 percent of taxpayers (AGI over $328,049) paid 36.9 percent of all federal income taxes (see link). So there is a fair amount of redistribution to consider.

2. The quote deals in shares, not levels. This is not a zero sum game. It it possible for everyone to increase their incomes at the same time, and indeed this is the case. The rich are getting relatively richer but the "poor" (the bottom 80% is pretty broad) are getting richer too. In no way does the cited statistic make a case that the gains of the rich come at the expense of the poor.

3. The $7,000 a year check thing makes absolutely no sense. Where does the number come from? top 1% share rises 7% in 27 years (an average of about .27%/year) and every one in the bottom 80% is correspondingly out $7,000 per year?

Update: the redoubtable Brendan Nyhan sheds some light on the mysterious $7,000 here. I tried to email Leonhart as well, but apparently is not his correct address.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Ivory Tower of Babel

So immigration reform is on life support in the US Congress. According to the NY Times it was killed by this couple:

Meanwhile, the NY Times Magazine profiles economist Lant Pritchett, who advocates huge increases in guest workers from the poorest countries to the rich ones.

Immigration seems to be the hottest of hot button issues in the blogosphere. Economists advocating increased immigration often are taunted with phrases like "but here in the real world" and others quite a bit less polite. Yet economics is an incredibly globalized profession.

In my department, in the southwest of the USA, we have professors from Argentina, Turkey, China (3), India, and Greece (2) out of 18 total positions (along with a visitor from Peru).

At Harvard, the first six names on the economics faculty directory are Aghion (France), Alesina (Italy), Ambrus (Hungary), Antras (Spain), Ardagna (Italy), and Amendariz (Mexico).

The journals in which we seek to publish receive articles from economists around the world.

Maybe one of the reasons economists by and large favor globalization and are relaxed about immigration is that we have been living it for quite a while now. Or maybe we really are just the clueless, sheltered, pointy-headed freaks we are accused of being.


The EU comes up a lot in conversations these days.

For example, I was just at a conference of young law and poli sci profs, discussing public choice.

At dinner, one young woman told a story of some friends of hers. Her friends had decided they needed fresh ingredients for a dish they were making. So, she said, "They went to a farm, and got permission from the farmer to milk his goats themselves."

"Wow....", young man across the table says.

"What do you mean?" young woman asks.

Young man: "Two women, milking goats....that's kind of hot!"

Young woman: "EEeee-uuUUUU!"

If you hang out with sophisticated folks, international affairs come up pretty often.

Friday, June 08, 2007

No Wonder Vista is so Funky

Harvard's "most famous drop-out" returned to cop an honorary degree and give the commencement address:
In his remarks Bill said, "reducing inequity is the highest human achievement"


I realize that I am somewhat of a freak, but isn't that kind of nuts?

So Bill is saying to Michelangelo and Robert Gober and Marino Marini "go screw". The same to Leonardo, Titian, Richter, and Twombly. Not to mention Beethoven, Mozart, McCartney. Oh yeah Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry too! None of you bums reduced inequity.

Who is Gates' hero, Fidel Castro??

Hasn't Microsoft massively increased inequity? Isn't the digital divide the big inequity of our times?

They shoulda let Bill Russell (see the photo) give the speech.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Strategic Pig Reserve

The New York Times Business section is a great substitute for the comics.

Their article titled "In China and U.S., the Fear of Inflation Is Having Fallout Effects" comes with the above photo and the following priceless gem:

The crisis over pork prices in China, like the jolt many Americans feel when gasoline prices jump, offers one example of how prices can suddenly soar. The Chinese government is struggling to cope — including deliberating whether to sell a snuffling, smelly strategic reserve of hundreds of thousands of live pigs kept at special subsidized farms for precisely the shortage the country is now facing.

Beside the bizarre and improbable idea that you can stockpile pigs, the article also implies that rising pork prices have caused Chinese exporting firms to raise their prices:

Steep increases for pork loins and bacon are the most tangible sign that after a decade in which prices have fluctuated but not moved significantly upward, inflation is creeping back into China. In response to this pressure at home, Chinese companies are starting to raise prices for exports, removing what has been a brake on inflation in the West.

As a final comic touch, the article also equates the recent economic performance of Mexico (which has been fairly disappointing) with that of India (which has been astonishing):

With the global economy expanding at a robust pace, and prices rising in fast-developing countries like India and Mexico, central bankers and investors are becoming concerned.

I am not making this stuff up. Who needs Dilbert, when you have the prose stylings of Keith Bradsher??

Where the sun don't shine??

From Yahoo News comes this headline:

"Putin Suggests New Site For US Missile Shield"

but alas my hopes were dashed when it actually turned out to be......

Azerbaijan!! (though Robin suggests that my title still applies!!)

PS: Can someone explain to me how exactly is Russia in the G-8? US, Canada, Germany, France, Japan, Italy, UK and Russia???

From the Penn World Tables here is GDP per capita in 2003 (given in 2000 dollars and adjusted for deviations from PPP. variable name RGDPL) for these countries

US-$34,875, Canada-$27,844, UK-$26,044, France-$25,663, Germany-$25,188, Japan-$24,036, Italy-$22,923 and Russia-$11,794. What gives?? There is enough room to drive a Mexican truck between #7 and #"8".

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Tyler Cowen is Pure Evil

Maybe it's because I am up at GMU Law School to give some lectures, and being in the same building as Mercatus is annoying. All that freedom and creativity in the same building as a LAW SCHOOL. Problems.

But the real problem is hearing from Angus that Tyler is hatin' on the Cavs. This from a WASHINGTON basketball fan, mind you.

It struck me that Tyler is pure evil. I'm not talking about just the way Alex T describes the differences in their posts; I mean pure evil in the way that Amish described Glenn Reynolds, and I do thank Amish (and Fat Kid; RIP) for the idea of such a list.

10)He dresses as Santa Claus and pretends to have a heart attack in front of small groups of children. Screams, "This is the big one, Elizabeth!" Kids have no idea what that means, but cry because they don't want Santa to die.

9)Enjoys nothing better than a good game of dwarf tossing.

8)He's Lindsay Lohan's agent. And he hid her underwear.

7)He's the Man. You know ...the guy thats been keeping the poor folks down for the last 200 years. That's Tyler.

First 6)He has to kill hobos to get an "inspiration." Even then, it's iffy.

Second 6)He's currently helping O.J. look for the "real" killers. And he wants Mike Nifong to prosecute them, when they are found.

Third 6)Convinced someone in Hollywood that "Little Man" would be even funnier than "White Chicks." He now has the Wayans brothers' souls in a safe deposit box at a bank in Centreville, VA.

5)He once linked a blog in Reno, just to watch its server crash. (A "MarginLanche")

4)Told Dick Cheney it was casual friday at Auschwitz. Told William Jefferson that cops never look in the freezer. Told George Bush Iraq was a secular nation. Told Wolfowitz nobody would notice the raise for his girlfriend. I could go on. But you get the idea.

3)Told all of his guy friends that the Crying Game is a really good date movie.

2)Tyler can control weaker minds. That guy that tried to jump into the Popemobile? Tyler double-dog-dared-him. "I want that hat!", he said.

1)He told Britney Spears that hair, anywhere, is overrated.