Saturday, December 26, 2009

Beginners' Guide to Liberty

Adam Smith Institute publishes a very nice edited "volume" on the web.

(Nod to Angry Alex, who is no beginner)

Registration Map of NC

Thanks to the good work of Ray U., we can construct the following registration map of NC. As the legend suggests, the GREEN counties are those with Libertarian regisration proportions (as % of registered voters) greater than 0.11%. And the YELLOW are counties with registration proportions of 0.09% to 0.109%. And that's about half the counties. The RED counties are those with the lowest percentages, below 0.03%. The counties left white, then, are those between 0.03% and 0.089%.

Overall, only 1 in 1,000 registered North Carolinians are L's.


Republicans are Hypocrites

Remarkable that the best defense the Dems can come up with for their "sell your children" deficit is "The Republicans did it!"

I thought that the Dems, and Obama in particular, had promised to make DIFFERENT mistakes. So far, foreign / military policy is Bush III. And, since the Republican fiscal policy was "run up the deficit, and pay off Goldman Sachs," and the Dem policy is "run up the deficit much faster, and pay off Goldman Sachs,"...well, I don't see much to pick from here.

Still, sure, for the record, the Republicans are stone liars. I agree.

Six years ago, "it was standard practice not to pay for things," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. "We were concerned about it, because it certainly added to the deficit, no question." His 2003 vote has been vindicated, Hatch said, because the prescription drug benefit "has done a lot of good."

"Standard practice not to pay for things"? Only if you are a Senator, Orrin. And the idea that spending "does a lot of good" is amazing. Clearly, if I take money from A at gunpoint, and give some of it to B (keeping the rest to pay my expenses), then B is, in terms of that one program, better off. That is NOT the same as "does a lot of good," even if there are many people in the B category.

And the prescription drug benefit, since it was paid for with deficit, actually takes money from B's grandchildren in the future, and gives it to B NOW. B likely would not do that straight up, but give B the smoke-screen of this being a "government program," and it DOES A LOT OF GOOD!

(Nod to Anonyman, who never lies. Just ask him.)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Cutest Darned Baby Panda

Little guy leaves the den, and has adventures.

Mostly falling awkwardly on his face.

To each according to their needs

Seth Roberts great post about appreciative thinking (link is here, it's well worth reading) got me thinking about my own career teaching grad students. I realized that, in alternating waves, I've dealt with students who needed to learn appreciative thinking and students who needed to learn Cowen's Law.

At GMU, I was teaching traditional subjects (econometrics, macro) to non-traditional students (austrians and public choicers). Many of them thought the whole enterprise was invalid and were not shy about saying so or giving heated critiques of what exactly was the problem. It was great for me, because it forced me to figure out why I thought my subjects were worth learning. Plus working to convince them that even if they disagreed, there were worthwhile things to be learned and even appreciated in the standard material definitely made me a better teacher (thanks Pete and Steve and Dave!!).

At Tulane and at Oklahoma, a lot of students had the opposite problem: they thought all published work was perfect and all famous professors infallible. Here I had to work to convince them that (a la Tyler) there is indeed something wrong with everything, existing work can be improved upon, even by non superstar economists, and that a critical eye was extremely important.

This past fall though, I realized I may have gone overboard with pushing critical thinking on my students. Mrs. Angus and I started a reading group in development and growth where we meet to discuss recently published or new working papers in the fields. And some of the students didn't like anything! I am a critical person by nature, but the level of negativity in the group often disturbed me. I once again found myself trying to show students that there was value to be appreciated in other people's research, no matter what one thought of its overall validity. 

Full circle, people!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lazy Students, or Just Clueless?

There is an interesting divide. Some of my students work, and some don't. Most of the ones who work, do well. (They got into Duke, so they have SOMETHING going for them)

And some of the ones who DON'T work much, still do well, at least in the B+ range. To be honest, Poli Sci is just not that hard. If you are smart and write well, you can write a perfectly acceptable paper in four days. Even just crunched in at the end of the semester.

An interesting article, on working and time management. The amazing thing is that you just need to work a little, every day, to succeed.

Same thing for faculty: 3 hours actual work, writing, every day and you will be pretty successful.

Happy Solstice from Angus & Mungowitz!

"it's a Saturnalia miracle"

Back From NYC, and Rapping It Down

So, I'm back from NYC, and have finished my (truly trivial, probably will die on cutting room floor) role in the rap video. It was SO great to watch the film crew in action, though. Very, very cool. Also colder than heck in NYC, post-blizzard.

For more info on the video, and the rap song, and the people who actually matter, check this video....

Monday, December 21, 2009

Spanish is so great

One of my favorite dichos (sayings) in Spanish is "salir de Guatemala y llegar a Guatepeor" which is in the same spirit as "out of the frying pan and into the fire" only much much funnier.

The reason why I mention this is the Dallas Cowboys cut their worthless kicker Nick Folk who has missed 7 of his last 9 FG attempts only to sign Shaun Suisham, who was recently cut by the Washington DC football franchise (I refuse to use their heinous name) for missing a chip shot that cost Washington a game earlier this month.

I wonder if Suisham would be willing to change his surname to Guatepeor?

The EYM Comes Home

The Elder Younger Munger returned home from UNC, resplendent. He pulled the intermediate microecon and macroecon courses out. He had skipped the intro courses (which are always dreadful) and the second level courses (which are only slightly less so). But it does help to know the definitions. Still, he got through them both, with just enough for the "gentleman's A-" that is what the "gentleman's C+" has turned into at American universities. Two anecdotes of the return.

1. In the car, he was describing a friend of his. The EYM has a great deadpan, which drives the LMM a little nuts. EYM: "I have a friend. He just got his nipples pierced. His first piercing experience."

LMM: "Why? And YOU had better not do that."

EYM: "Whimsicality. He got curved barbells inserted into his nipples. But invisible to others, most of the time. Whimsicality."

LMM: "And he's better now, somehow?"

EYM: "Well, he is considerably more sensitive to temperature changes...."

2. Then, the EYM noted that he is in a "band," THE PRETENSE. They have "tracks" up on MYSPACE, at

They are, as you will hear if you listen, a noise rock band. Three tracks have particular historic value, I think:

"Exams at 8 and 12, Featuring 'The Neighbor'" (listen at the end; that's an actual neighbor coming in and telling them to STFU)

"Stupidly Hot Shower" (just because)

"Kentucky" (this track was of course much too commercial and calculated for the band's core fans. It has, after all, both something like a melody and something like lyrics. NOT those things, but something like them. So the band broke up over creative differences, but reformed after promising NEVER to "sell out" with any commercial pandering like this again. A turning point, I predict.)

Finally, I should point out that they are playing a gig January 18, at Elon, as a warmup band. I predict injuries, inflicted by the audience, and inflicted on "The Pretense."

UPDATE: Old KPC friend Martin comes home for Froehliche Weihnachten, and sends warm props to the EYM. Thanks, Martin. And of course I will elevate your suggested link to the front page. That's amazing.

As for Principles of Econ, Patrick, you MAY be right. But the EYM read Hazlitt, Hayek, and Heilbroner, Read and Rand before he was 12. He is almost finished with a math major in college. I don't see why memorizing the definition of "elasticity" in a large principles class is going to help. Having me as a dad has many obvious drawbacks. Why not acknowledge the one benefit: He has had "Principles" shoved down his throat since birth?

Go Josef, it's your birthday

We gonna party like it's your birthday, sip Bacardi like it's your birthday and, for at least one day, no one in Russia is gonna badmouth you!

The Russian Communist Party asked the nation Monday for a daylong moratorium on criticizing Soviet dictator Josef Stalin as they celebrate his 130th birthday.

Despite overseeing political purges and widespread famine that killed millions of Soviet citizens, Stalin is still embraced by many Russians nostalgic for Soviet times.

His popularity has even risen in recent years amid a Kremlin-backed campaign to burnish his image as the man who led the nation to victory in World War II.

"We would very much like for any discussion of the mistakes of the Stalin epoch to be silenced today, so that people could reflect on Stalin's personality as a creator, a thinker and a patriot," Communist deputy parliament speaker Ivan Melnikov said on the party's Web site. The Communists represent the country's second most powerful political party after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia.

You got it Ivan!!

Don't walk him, but don't give him anything good to hit

As a mere lad, pre Mrs. Angus and digital cable, I followed baseball. At one point in this (admittedly low) stage of my life, I recall watching a show about the Atlanta Braves on the "Superstation" where the pitching coach came out to the mound and offered up the zen koan of unhelpful advice that comprises the title of this post.

Apparently Nicholas Sarkozy watched the same show and internalized the meme:

President Nicolas Sarkozy has ordered the head of the French train authority to get Eurostar traffic moving again by Tuesday.

Eurostar has suspended traffic between Paris and London pending tests to determine what caused five trains to get stuck inside the Channel Tunnel late Friday, trapping more than 2,000 people for hours.

On Monday, Sarkozy called in SNCF President Guillaume Pepy and ordered him to get traffic moving again by Tuesday and present measures to assure such incidents don't happen again.

Through the years it has amazed me how often people "in authority" offer up the same useless advice: don't walk him, but..... 

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Markets in one less thing

Reuters informs us that Horse is "falling off restaurant menus" in France:

"Many people love horses and traditionally, many French people have loved them even more with a side of salad. That passion, however, has slowed to a trickle in the last couple of years as crisis-hit French consumers buy less meat and years of campaigning by animal rights groups take effect.

Consumption of horse meat has fallen 12 percent in the last two years and currently makes up less than 1 percent of all meat consumed in France, the ministry said in a report.

And while only a few years ago horse meat was relatively easy to find, now it takes more time to track it down.

"Horse is indeed a French dish, but you'd be very hard-pressed to find it in any restaurants now," said the chef at restaurant Le Central in Paris, adding: "There's so much publicity against it.""

I guess Mr. Ed can finally visit Paris, eh?

Good Books, Bad Books

On the "good" side of the ledger:

"Open" by Andre Agassi. I am not kidding about this. It is really honest, funny, informative and fun. Even if you don't like tennis.

"Born to Run"  by Christopher McDougall. Fascinating story about the Tarahumara, human evolution, and personal growth and discovery. The guy makes a few bizarre statements about the Tarahumara in the beginning (for a more balanced view of them, I recommend "God's Middle Finger), but the book is really attention grabbing and fun. Even if you don't like to run.

On the "bad" side of the ledger:

"The Art of Political Murder" by Francisco Goldman. He somehow manages to take a sensational case in a divided and violent country and make it mind numbingly boring. The first few chapters (as far as I could make it) are just a laundry list of names and times. I skipped ahead a few times and found more of the same so I quit. An infinitely better book, more or less on the same topic is "Senselessness" by Horacio Castellanos Moya, which I can unreservedly recommend.

"The Inheritance of Rome" by Chris Wickham. I am sorry, but Tyler must have been indulging in some of Oklahoma's finest when he recommended this book. All the guy does is (a) contradict himself at least once per page (so thus they were very Roman, but yet they were not Roman) and (b) come up with new names for the Goths. People I have plowed through multiple volumes of Braudel with pleasure, but I couldn't get past page 100 of this.
"Inherent Vice" by Thomas Pinchon. Lord, how the mighty have fallen. It's not funny, it's not weird, it's not readable. If you want to read a "hard boiled" novel by a slumming serious author try "Nobody Move" by Denis Johnson instead.

Descartes' Muse?