Friday, April 30, 2010

bass ackwards

The problem with Greece and the Euro isn't that the fixed exchange rate is foiling Greece from devaluing its way back to prosperity, but rather that adopting the Euro (and the ECB rules) let Greece finance an incredible spending binge at artificially low rates.

If Greece had never joined the Eurozone, it NEVER would have been able to run up so much foreign debt.

My problem with congress in a nutshell

“Balancing the budget and reducing the debt, in my mind, are not ends in and of themselves,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. “We can't afford to skimp on our children's education, assuring access to quality, affordable health care, retirement security, achieving energy independence, investing in our infrastructure, supporting medical research, creating more jobs.”

The article containing this gem is here.

While I do partly agree with the first phrase to the extent that I don't favor balancing the budget at current spending levels, the hideous combination of arrogance, profligacy and ignorance shown here typifies, to me, how our congress operates (and has operated for quite a while now).

USA roundup

1. First quarter GDP growth estimated at 3.2%, slightly under the forecasted rate of 3.4%. Consumer spending rose 3.6%. Can you say, "the jobless recovery continues?" Thank you, I knew that you could.

2. The oil spill off the coast of Louisiana is no joke, and it may take months just to cap the well (which is below 5000 feet of water).

3. Gilbert Arenas (still in the halfway house for his "guns in the workplace" issues) is being sued for not paying for "5 custom Berettas with 5 silencers" that he ordered from a high end arms dealer.

4. Bullish on Bush? "I been down so long, it looks like up to me."

Fire Protection Services

For you schmoes who dared doubt me, about provision of fire services.....

Well, read and cheer the mighty forces of private self-interest! That's 1979, Journal of Libertarian Studies, for the reference.

(nod to B-Doog, who knows stuff)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sad News

Angus Maddison has died.


Power corrupts, and Powerpoint corrupts absolutely.

New Laptop Design: Roll

Interesting design for "laptop."

Crisis fun

1. Stupidest part of the rescue package that I'm aware of:

Portugal is still slotted to loan money to Greece at a rate very far below its own borrowing costs!

2. Best proposed solution to the Greek crisis I've seen (from the comments on a Yahoo! news story on the crisis):

"Greece: sell Cyprus to the Turks. There, two problems solved! "

It's the Insolvency, stupid!

Yesterday was the day it seemed that everyone figured out the Greek crisis is not one of liquidity but rather of insolvency.

The situation in Southern Europe now seems more and more like the Latin American debt crisis, and to me, the central lesson of that crisis for the debtor countries was, if you are going to default, sooner is much better than later.

One of the main reasons the LA crisis morphed into the dreaded "lost decade" for the debtor countries was that they kept agreeing to refinance and re-borrow and thus dragged out the crises for years.

Today, capital markets are much larger and more open than they were in the early 80s so I don't think this crisis can be dragged out for years even if the countries involved were dumb enough to want to try.

Somehow though, I don't think that the capital markets are going to get thanked for providing this valuable service!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mencken Rulz

I just love this last passage from Mencken's 1926 "Last Words."

I have spoken hitherto of the possibility that democracy may be a self-limiting disease, like measles. It is, perhaps, something more: it is self-devouring. One cannot observe it objectively without being impressed by its curious distrust of itself—its apparently ineradicable tendency to abandon its whole philosophy at the first sign of strain. I need not point to what happens invariably in democratic states when the national safety is menaced. All the great tribunes of democracy, on such occasions, convert themselves, by a process as simple as taking a deep breath, into despots of an almost fabulous ferocity. Lincoln, Roosevelt and Wilson come instantly to mind: Jackson and Cleveland are in the background, waiting to be recalled. Nor is this process confined to times of alarm and terror: it is going on day in and day out. Democracy always seems bent upon killing the thing it theoretically loves. I have rehearsed some of its operations against liberty, the very cornerstone of its political metaphysic. It not only wars upon the thing itself; it even wars upon mere academic advocacy of it. I offer the spectacle of Americans jailed for reading the Bill of Rights as perhaps the most gaudily humorous ever witnessed in the modern world. Try to imagine monarchy jailing subjects for maintaining the divine right of Kings! Or Christianity damning a believer for arguing that Jesus Christ was the Son of God! This last, perhaps, has been done: anything is possible in that direction. But under democracy the remotest and most fantastic possibility is a common-place of every day. All the axioms resolve themselves into thundering paradoxes, many amounting to downright contradictions in terms. The mob is competent to rule the rest of us—but it must be rigorously policed itself. There is a government, not of men, but of laws - but men are set upon benches to decide finally what the law is and may be. The highest function of the citizen is to serve the state - but the first assumption that meets him, when he essays to discharge it, is an assumption of his disingenuousness and dishonour. Is that assumption commonly sound? Then the farce only grows the more glorious.

I confess, for my part, that it greatly delights me. I enjoy democracy immensely. It is incomparably idiotic, and hence incomparably amusing. Does it exalt dunderheads, cowards, trimmers, frauds, cads? Then the pain of seeing them go up is balanced and obliterated by the joy of seeing them come down. Is it inordinately wasteful, extravagant, dishonest? Then so is every other form of government: all alike are enemies to laborious and virtuous men. Is rascality at the very heart of it? Well, we have borne that rascality since 1776, and continue to survive. In the long run, it may turn out that rascality is necessary to human government, and even to civilization itself - that civilization, at bottom, is nothing but a colossal swindle. I do not know: I report only that when the suckers are running well the spectacle is infinitely exhilarating. But I am, it may be, a somewhat malicious man: my sympathies, when it comes to suckers, tend to be coy. What I can't make out is how any man can believe in democracy who feels for and with them, and is pained when they are debauched and made a show of. How can any man be a democrat who is sincerely a democrat?

It is rather amazing that progressives are convinced that man is deluded, badly informed, ill-motivated, and terminally selfish.... unless that man steps in a voting booth or public office. Then, the saints sing from on high and only good things can happen.

Epstein-Zinn-Weil preferences to the rescue (again)

Xavier Gabaix and Robert Barro are, in my opinion, on to something really intriguing and good with their work on the effects of rare disasters.

Now, in a new NBER working paper (ungated copy here) titled "Crises and Recoveries in an Empirical Model of Consumption Disasters", Emi Nakamura, Jon Steinsson, Robert Barro and Jose Ursua introduce a new twist, viz. Epstein-Zinn-Weil preferences.


Well because of this:

In a model with power utility and standard values for risk aversion, stocks surge at the onset of a disaster due to agents' strong desire to save. This counterfactual prediction causes a low equity premium, especially in normal times. In contrast, a model with Epstein-Zin-Weil preferences and an intertemporal elasticity of substitution equal to 2 yields a sizeable equity premium in normal times for modest values of risk aversion.

People, those are some magic preferences!

Try to Pay Attention....Libertarians are NOT Individualists

Got this asinine cartoon from my man KL....
How confused can you possibly be?

1. Libertarians believe that individual CHOICES, not disjointed individual ACTIONS, are the center of the good society. I have a 2006 BMW 330i. Not a clue how it works, the engine is a complex mystery to me. So, do I do all the work myself? I do not, none of it in fact. I pay an expert to do the service work for me. My choice to purchase a BMW was based in part on the excellent service record of the 330 series. I had a lot of choices, and I chose the BMW. Maybe a good choice, maybe not. But I do NOT believe in the need for, or even the desirability of, total independence and self-sufficiency. Markets always create complex mutual interdependencies that greatly increase specialization and improve welfare.

2. If the government stopped providing coercively "supplied" fire services, what would happen? Would there be zero fire protection? No, volunteer fire departments would take up part of the slack. In fact, volunteer fire departments are a perfect example of voluntary private organizations that would carry most of the water in a libertarian society. We don't necessarily need for-profit firms to do the work, though in larger cities that would probably make sense. This fallacy, that if the government stopped providing the service there would be no new institution to solve the problem, is obvious nonsense. Yet it is essentially the only argument that the anti-libertarian ning-nongs and lefty figjams have in their pathetic little arsenals. It doesn't matter how many times the canard is refuted, you still hear it.

An argument in favor of cloning yourself

Right here people!

(context is king).

Honoring the Government Workers

To Honor the Public Union Workers...A Video From SNL

The audience laughs nervously. It's a bit edgy, borderline racist.

But I did laugh. The contracts that local public employees unions can negotiate are really remarkable.

(nod to the NCM)

Does It Matter if Exchange is "Euvoluntary"?

Is exchange just? Does it matter if exchange is "euvoluntary"? I try to answer these and other questions, here.

Excerpt, with definition of euvoluntary:

Euvoluntary exchange requires (1) conventional ownership of items, services, or currency by both parties, (2) conventional capacity to transfer and assign this ownership to the other party, (3) the absence of regret, for both parties, after the exchange, in the sense that both receive value at least as great as was anticipated at the time of the agreement to exchange, (4) neither party is coerced, in the sense of being forced to exchange by threat, and (5) neither party is coerced in the alternative sense of being harmed by failing to exchange.

In the political world, “power” is measured by the capacity of one person or a group to impose his, or its, will on others through the threat of violence. That is the sense of “coercion” in number 4 above. In the economic world, power in an exchange relationship is measured by the disparity in outcomes if no exchange is agreed upon.

More simply, economic power is the disparity in welfare at the reversion points, or the best alternative to a negotiated agreement. Let’s call this the “BATNA” for short.

Suppose I am considering buying a bottle of water. If I am in a grocery store, and notice that the price is $1,000 per bottle, I laugh and push my cart along. I’ll buy the water somewhere else, or get some from the tap, or choose any of many alternatives. I am almost indifferent, in fact, between buying water at Kroger or buying it at Food Lion, for the market price of $0.90. I have choices.

And, I have money, and we all agree that I own that money and can transfer, and we all agree that each store owns the water, and can transfer it. Finally, the water is not poisonous, and tastes good, so I won’t regret purchasing it, if I choose to do so. So the exchange is euvoluntary.

Now, let’s suppose instead that I am far out in the desert, and am dying of thirst. I happen to have quite a bit of cash on me, but I can’t drink that. A four wheel drive taco truck rolls over the hill, and pulls up to me. I see that the sign advertises a special: “3 tacos for $5! Drinks: $1,000. 3 drinks for only $2,500”. I argue with the driver. “Have a heart, buddy! I am dying of thirst!” He asks if I have enough money to pay his price, and I admit that I do. The driver shrugs, and says, “Up to you! Have a nice day!” and starts to drive off.

I stop him, and buy 3 bottles of water for the “special” price of $2,500. Was the exchange euvoluntary?

It was not. The exchange violates part 5 of the definition, relative equality of BATNAs. My BATNA was death, from thirst. The driver was little affected by whether a deal was consummated (though he got a bit richer), while I was enormously affected. Even though in most important senses the exchange was voluntary (I could have said no), it was not euvoluntary.

(The paper is tentatively forthcoming in Social Philosophy and Policy, September 2011)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Lakers are from Mars, Ron-Ron is from Venus

Here is what Ron-Ron had to say after his Lakers got demolished Saturday night:

"They were aggressive," forward Ron Artest said. "No excuses. I hope nobody blamed the refs. Nobody did, right? They did well. We've got to play basketball."

And here is what Ron-Ron had to say about his 3-point shooting:

"My three-point touch? Oh, I don't worry about that. It's there. I like it," he said. "I missed three layups. I'm more concerned about that."

By the way, he was 0-4 on threes in the game and is shooting 13% on threes for the series.

Quotes are from here.

Nerd is the Intersecton of Dork, Dweeb, and Geek

A most excellent Venn diagram.

Anyone who actually LIKES Venn diagrams (and who says things like, "You can find Nerd at the intersection of Geek and Dork), is of course pretty good nerd material already. Otherwise, you think it's like the intersection of Hollywood and Vine, which is a street corner.

Ode on a Grecian Burn

The Greek bailout is proceeding apace. Their budget deficit was again revised upward and their bond rating accordingly again revised downward, so their debt refinancings are getting ever closer and more expensive. The EU and the IMF are committing around 40 billion Euros in funds.

But, is this a good idea?

Not many people believe the package is big enough to avoid a future restructuring of Greek debt, and now the Fund and the EU will be at the front of the line of creditors.

The Greek economy with its inflexible labor market, low productivity, low R&D spending, corruption, and bloated government sector desperately needs reform. While the Germans are insisting on "tough conditions", giving the money obviously reduces the pressure on the Greek polity to reform. It also reduces the pressure on the Portuguese and Spanish polities to reform as once the bailout lamp has been lit, it is not credible to say "we won't do it again". People, you know I'm talking 'bout moral hazard!

Further, things are so badly out of whack that it is not clear any set of reforms, no matter how tough, can fix the problem. To me, the choice between defaulting now or taking on a bunch of additional debt only to default later is a no brainer: just do it!

Paul Blustein's excellent book on the Argentine crisis shows how delaying the inevitable can just make things worse, and Greece is in much worse shape than Argentina was.

The argument in favor of giving the bailout and having Greece muddle on, to me, is that European banks have a large exposure to Greek debt and are still fragile from the recent crisis. A Greek default might re-start a general European banking crisis, putting the relatively solvent governments back on the hook anyway. The bailout thus buys time for banks to adjust their balance sheets in an orderly fashion.

In a way, the early attempts to deal with the Latin American debt crisis in the 80s worked this way, but the cost to the debtor nations of stringing out the process was considerable.

People, the only thing that can save Greece is an extremely large hot tub time machine. Lacking that, they should choose the least bad of a set of very bad alternatives, which is, in my opinion default and restructure now.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Nine bins, no waiting

England is screwed. We even have a label that says so.

But.... what the heck? Anyone want to play a little "Nine bins"?

All resources are either substitutable, or renewable, except.... ONE. Our time. That's the one thing we can't get more of. Yet the envirophiles want to waste all our time on religious ceremonies to worship Gaia.

(Nod to the NCM)

He said, He said

So after my Thunder utterly beat down the Lakers last night, Kobe Bean Bryant said:

"I was managing the game exactly how I wanted to," Bryant said. "Unfortunately, it got away from us by them getting out in transition and getting those buckets, I wasn't able to do what I normally am able to do at the end of the game, closing things out and things like that. But I felt pretty good about the way I was managing it."

After digesting this quote from KBB, Tyler Cowen said:

"Kobe should be PM of Greece or Iceland!"

I do know that KBB claims to be fluent in Italian......


In today's NYT, Bob Frank argues that since private markets compress pay differences relative to productivity differences, libertarians should accept government redistribution of wealth/income.

I am not sure there is one single sentence in this editorial that makes sense. Certainly not its imputing of actions and beliefs to "libertarians" or its ritualistic but content free invoking of "economic theory" or its claim of a stylized fact without any supporting evidence beyond one ridiculous example, or its bizarre equation of private pay practices with coercive government actions.

Here, I'll just concentrate on the bad economics.

Frank's example of where pay doesn't follow productivity is carpenters in a framing crew. He says:

The most productive carpenter in a framing crew, for example, might produce twice as much as his least productive colleague, but is rarely paid even 30 percent more.

This is pretty nuts in a number of dimensions.

First, where do these numbers come from? The weasel words "might" and "rarely" are there to cover his ass, but this is just made up out of whole cloth.

Second, a framing crew produces a framed house. It is team production. Marginal products are notoriously difficult to measure in this context and there is a lot of "economic theory" about this issue. It would be almost impossible to verify that one framer produced "twice as much" as another inside of a single crew.

Third, just widen the issue from carpenters on a framing crew to carpenters in general and his point totally fails. The least skilled work on framing crews. Higher skilled are the finish carpenters who do make a lot more money (easily more than twice as much). The highest skilled are artisans turning out custom furniture pieces and they in turn make a lot more money than do finish carpenters (again, easily more than twice as much).

I am not going to put quantitative numbers on these classes (with weasel words to give me an escape valve), but I am confident that, over the trade of carpentry in general, variations in earnings are extremely tied to variations in skill and these variations are quite large.

Frank then claims that the two highest paid workers in an enterprise rarely earn more than the three lowest paid.

Man, I guess CEO pay is really not an issue in this country after all.

Also in Frank's own industry, higher education, this is certainly not the case.

In econ departments and b-schools at least, the two highest paid full professors easily earn more than the three lowest paid assistants.

And of course, if you take the unit of observation to be the university, the gap between highest and lowest "employee" is very very large. OU's president makes over $250K and some staff make less than $25K.

There are a number of fields where pay is close to linearly related to productivity. Piecework jobs in factories and sales jobs on commission are two obvious examples.

Finally, there is a whole literature about the exact opposite case than the one Frank claims to be telling, where there is increasing returns to talent.

Writing, acting, making music, professional sports, and several other fields of endeavor all exhibit this trait.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

gREeNT -Seeking

JS writes:

The pursuit of the green cash flow has begun. Here are some Transit and Highway marketing efforts. For a little perspective on the Transit end, here is Thomas Rubin Writing for the Reason Foundation.

Rubin states “The purpose of this critique is not to attempt to show that buses are bad for energy use, air quality, or the economy. It is, rather, to show that any proposal to achieve improvements in any of these through transit, including bus transit, must be based on a realistic presentation of the current situation, the historical trend, and the practical potential for improvement. Any evaluation based on wholly ridiculous bus load factors and misstatements of auto load factors, using this analysis as the basis for future promises of improvements, fails this test badly.”

Jobs labeled green now have the highest market value. “Green” is even better than “free”, because policy makers can justify tax increases to help pay for their winning coalition (link...).

Why Give It Away? Do They Love Us?

KPC Friend Robet Eaton writes:

I saw David Pogue (NYTimes' tech guru) wonder aloud in his blog "why would these cable companies offer free wi-fi service???" It seemed like a scam, or a trojan horse to him.

He got his response quickly, in comments. It wasn't a scam, it was competition. "The free WiFi hot spots are an enticement to ward off defections to Verizon (and its Fios service) and AT&T."

I love how incredulous people can be that actual competition brings about such favorable results for us consumers ...

Well, yes, RE, the incredulity is amusing. But their refusal to update their beliefs can only be explained as religious devotion to a view that markets are bad, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.

Video on Price Gouging

The Bishop sends a video some students did for class.

And the truth will set them free.... Read about the incident itself.

Answer to Matty

Context available here.

Angry Professor

I like the Angry Professor.

This is something that we might do at the Mungowitz house. (Warning: Not PETA safe. Now that Angus is the darling of Greenpeace, I have to be careful...)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Don't Stop That Train....

Train doesn't stop, yet passengers get off. Nice.

(Nod to A.V., who doesn't care--he's just dying to get off)

Force Bad, Persuasion Good. Guns Rule Out Force.

One of those internet sensations going around. Still, worth thinking about.

The Gun is Civilization

Human beings only have two ways to deal with one another: reason and force. If you want me to do something for you, you have a choice of either convincing me via argument, or force me to do your bidding under threat of force. Every human interaction falls into one of those two categories, without exception. Reason or force, that's it.In a truly moral and civilized society, people exclusively interact through persuasion. Force has no place as a valid method of social interaction, and the only thing that removes force from the menu is the personal firearm, as paradoxical as it may sound to some.When I carry a gun, you cannot deal with me by force. You have to use reason and try to persuade me, because I have a way to negate your threat or employment of force.The gun is the only personal weapon that puts a 100-pound woman on equal footing with a 220-pound mugger, a 75-year old retiree on equal footing with a 19-year old gang banger, and a single guy on equal footing with a carload of drunk guys with baseball bats. The gun removes the disparity in physical strength, size, or numbers between a potential attacker and a defender.There are plenty of people who consider the gun as the source of bad force equations. These are the people who think that we'd be more civilized if all guns were removed from society, because a firearm makes it easier for a [armed] mugger to do his job. That, of course, is only true if the mugger's potential victims are mostly disarmed either by choice or by legislative fiat--it has no validity when most of a mugger's potential marks are armed.People who argue for the banning of arms ask for automatic rule by the young, the strong, and the many, and that's the exact opposite of a civilized society.

A mugger, even an armed one, can only make a successful living in a society where the state has granted him a force monopoly.

Then there's the argument that the gun makes confrontations lethal that otherwise would only result in injury. This argument is fallacious in several ways. Without guns involved, confrontations are won by the physically superior party inflicting overwhelming injury on the loser. People who think that fists, bats, sticks, or stones don't constitute lethal force watch too much TV, where people take beatings and come out of it with a bloody lip at worst. The fact that the gun makes lethal force easier works solely in favor of the weaker defender, not the stronger attacker. If both are armed, the field is level.

The gun is the only weapon that's as lethal in the hands of an octogenarian as it is in the hands of a weight lifter. It simply wouldn't work as well as a force equalizer if it wasn't both lethal and easily employable.When I carry a gun, I don't do so because I am looking for a fight, but because I'm looking to be left alone.

The gun at my side means that I cannot be forced, only persuaded. I don't carry it because I'm afraid, but because it enables me to be unafraid. It doesn't limit the actions of those who would interact with me through reason, only the actions of those who would do so by force. It removes force from the equation... and that's why carrying a gun is a civilized act.

by Maj. L. Caudill USMC (Ret)

Long strange trip

I've been an NBA fan since the late 1960s. I've seen games in Detroit (Cobo Hall), Milwaukee (when they played at the Mecca), Dallas, San Antonio, New York (the Gah-den), New Orleans, Los Angeles (Sports Arena, Fabulous Forum, and Staples).

Tyler and I for years were season ticket holders for the Washington Bullets in the Cap Center (people, we saw Muggsy Bogues and Manute Bol standing side by side).

All of this is preface for saying that last night's Thunder - Lakers game was the loudest crowd and probably most exciting game I've ever seen in person.

As in the previous two games, the Thunder came out extremely sloppy and fell far behind early. They somehow convince themselves that the Lakers are just another team and seem shocked by the intensity of the start of the game.

Kobe had a pretty good first 3 quarters and KD had a pretty poor first three quarters.

But, oh, that 4th quarter was fun. Kobe was 2-10 (10 - 29 total with no free throws) and Durant, who ended up guarding Kobe down the stretch, was huge. The key sequence was KD blocking Kobe's jumper, the Thunder recovering the ball and then Durant hitting a baseline floater on the other end.

Plus I guess Scotty Brooks must follow me on Twitter, because Jeff Green only got 27 minutes of PT to stink it up, rather than the 41 he's been averaging in this series.

Party Time!

Party Strength, the Personal Vote, and Government Spending

David Primo & James Snyder
American Journal of Political Science, April 2010, Pages 354-370

"Strong" political parties within legislatures are one possible solution to the problem of inefficient universalism, a norm under which all legislators seek large projects for their districts that are paid for out of a common pool. We demonstrate that even if parties have no role in the legislature, their role in elections can be sufficient to reduce spending. If parties in the electorate are strong, then legislators will demand less distributive spending because of a decreased incentive to secure a "personal vote" via local projects. We estimate that spending in states with strong party organizations is at least 4% smaller than in states where parties are weak. We also find evidence that strong party states receive less federal aid than states with weak organizations, and we theorize that this is because members of Congress from strong party states feel less compelled to secure aid than members from weak party states.


Are Congressional Leaders Middlepersons or Extremists? Yes

Stephen Jessee & Neil Malhotra
Legislative Studies Quarterly, forthcoming

Abstract: Influential theories of legislative organization predict that congressional
leaders should be selected from the center of their parties. Yet, the extant literature has generally rejected the "middleperson hypothesis," finding that leaders are extremists. We reexamine these findings by testing more appropriate null hypotheses via Monte Carlo simulation. We find that congressional leaders (and leadership candidates as a whole) tend to be closer to the party median than would occur by chance, but also tend to be selected to the left of the median for Democrats and to the right for Republicans. Compared to the pool of announced candidates for leadership positions, winners are not ideologically distinctive, suggesting that factors affecting the ideology of leaders tend to operate more at the
candidate emergence stage.


The multidimensional nature of party competition

Jeremy Albright, Party Politics, forthcoming

Abstract: Left-right is a convenient tool for summarizing the complexities of voter- party linkages in a manner that is comparable across contexts and that avoids the pathologies of preference aggregation in higher dimensions. Yet several reasons exist to believe that left-right is increasingly incapable of summarizing political behavior: the inability of left-right to capture policy concerns beyond economics and religion; the accumulation of new issue concerns over time; pressures for policy convergence stemming from the globalization of the world economy; and the decline of social cleavages that historically structured vote choice. This paper shows that parties are indeed talking about a growing number of issues, they are converging on the left-right scale, and the ideological cues they are sending to voters are
growing increasingly ambiguous. Social democratic parties have in particular been affected by these trends.

Nod to Kevin L.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Come to Durham.... to EAT!

Or so says my EXCELLENT friends at the NYT. Really.

The article mentions two of my favorite places, Crooks Corner and Watts Grocery.

(Nod to Anonyman)

Was He Out of the Basepath?

Jonathan Chait? I am linking Jonathan Chait?

Yes, but it's a baseball play. Catcher missed the tag, because he was falling forward, expecting to get hit.

(Nod to Steve Grant)

1:19 pm: less than 100,000 minutes of Chairity!

The Chairity meter goes below 100,000 today at 1:19.


Earth day special: the bravest eco-warriors

No, people, it's not the Greenpeace dudes ramming whaling boats with their rubber dinghies. It's not the folks who chain themselves to bulldozers at construction sites.

Mrs. A and I lived in that lovely metropolis for 2+ years and I would rather be slathered with honey and walk through a grizzly bear exhibit than cycle on the streets of Chilangolandia!

"every Ecobici user interviewed said they are gravely concerned about drivers who don't follow rules that allow cyclists to have their own lane. They told of near misses with buses, aggressive drivers leaning on their horns, cars on sidewalks, cars going the wrong way on one-way streets, virtual mayhem at traffic circles.

"Nobody respects the bicyclist," said Gustavo Gonzalez, slipping an Ecobici from a downtown rack. "But I like it. It's a very good program. I wish they'd extend it further.""

So on this earth day let us salute Gustavo Gonzalez and his bike riding cuates: the bravest eco-warriors ever.

Toronto--Not the Brightest Move

"Free" mass transit passes will jump start mass transit use!


If you sell a condo, you have to buy a year's worth of Metro passes, and leave them in the condo. Which raises the price of the condo by approximately....the cost of a year's passes for the Metro. Which, since that is not the thing most people would buy with that amount of cash, means that buyers will substitute away to other forms of housing.

This is how central cities become ghost towns. They try to use location rents to extract all sorts of social rents, and then when people move out to the suburbs, planners blame greed and racism.

When the actual blame should go to the idiots on the city council.

(Nod to RL, who is looking around)

Chris Dodd Must Go

In which I rant about Chris Dodd. I don't really admire the senior senator from CT very much.

The cool thing is that Michael Moore reams Dodd a new one in Capitalism: A Love Story. Makes it worth watching the movie. (Barney Frank, the rankest Dem on House Finance, also gets pounded by Mr. Moore).

Two Papers on Internet and Information Use, Disintermediation

Is the internet reflecting, or perhaps causing, increased segregation of news consumption and information exposure?

Ideological Segregation Online and Offline

Matthew Gentzkow & Jesse Shapiro
NBER Working Paper, April 2010

Abstract: We use individual and aggregate data to ask how the Internet is changing the ideological segregation of the American electorate. Focusing on online news consumption, offline news consumption, and face-to-face social interactions, we define ideological segregation in each domain using standard indices from the literature on racial segregation. We find that ideological segregation of online news consumption is low in absolute terms, higher than the segregation of most offline news consumption, and significantly lower than the segregation of face-to-face interactions with neighbors, co-workers, or family members. We find no evidence that the Internet is becoming more segregated over time.


The World Wide Web and the U.S. Political News Market

Norman Nie, Darwin Miller, Saar Golde, Daniel Butler & Kenneth Winneg
American Journal of Political Science, April 2010, Pages 428-439

Abstract: We propose a framework for understanding how the Internet has affected the
U.S. political news market. The framework is driven by the lower cost of production for online news and consumers' tendency to seek out media that conform to their own beliefs. The framework predicts that consumers of Internet news sources should hold more extreme political views and be interested in more diverse political issues than those who solely consume mainstream television news. We test these predictions using two large datasets with questions about news exposure and political views. Generally speaking, we find that consumers of generally left-of-center (right-of-center) cable news sources who combine their cable news viewing with online sources are more liberal (conservative) than those who do not. We also find that those who use online news content are more likely than those who consume only television news content to be interested in niche political issues.

(Nod to Kevin L)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Hey General, you just broke my BS meter!

People, sometimes it's just too easy:

School lunches called a national security threat

Retired military officers say kids are growing up too pudgy for service

Associated Press Writer
updated 9:36 a.m. CT, Tues., April 20, 2010

WASHINGTON - School lunches have been called many things, but a group of retired military officers is giving them a new label: national security threat.

That's not a reference to the mystery meat served up in the cafeteria line either. The retired officers are saying that school lunches have helped make the nation's young people so fat that fewer of them can meet the military's physical fitness standards, and recruitment is in jeopardy.....

The military group acknowledges that other things keep young adults out of the armed services, such as a criminal record or the lack of a high school diploma. But weight problems that have worsened over the past 15 years are now the leading medical reason that recruits are rejected.

Although all branches of the military now meet or exceed recruitment goals, retired Navy Rear Adm. James Barnett Jr., a member of the officers group, says the obesity trend could affect that.

"When over a quarter of young adults are too fat to fight, we need to take notice," Barnett said. He noted that national security in the year 2030 is "absolutely dependent" on reversing child obesity rates.

Hey Kid: Every time you eat a tator tot, you're letting the terrorists win!

Another other shoe drops

The scandal broke in North America, then re-erupted in Europe. Now it's Latin America's turn to proclaim the joys of Catholicism:

The detention of an 83-year-old priest in Brazil for allegedly abusing boys as young as 12 has added to the scandals hitting the Roman Catholic Church in Latin America, even as Chile's bishops asked pardon Tuesday for past cases.

The allegations against Monsignor Luiz Marques Barbosa — and two other Brazilian priests — have made headlines throughout the world's most populous Catholic nation and come amid accusations of sexual abuse by priests around the world.

Latin Americans priests have faced a cascade of accusations of abuse of minors.

A priest in Chile was charged recently with eight cases of sexually abusing minors, including a girl he had fathered.

Chile's bishops' conference issued a statement Tuesday apologizing for priestly sexual abuse and vowing a "total commitment" to prevent it in the future


spring forward

You gotta admit that this is much better than the alternative of having two sets of clocks!

Jeff Green: please report to the foreman's office

In the Thunder's two playoff games Green is averaging over 40 minutes per game of playing time and simply put, is not producing at all. He has scored in the two games a total of 22 points on 6 of 23 shooting and grabbed a total of 7 rebounds. He also has a total of 2 assists.

That's what we call not showing up, people.

Phone Call for Mr. Green!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Economic Geography

Interesting. P-Kroog's address to the American Association of Geographers.


Many economic geographers proper were furious at the rise of the new geographical economics. That was predictable: near the end of that 1990 monograph I foretold the reaction, and also explained why I was doing what I was doing:

“The geographers themselves probably won’t like this: the economics profession’s simultaneous love for rigor and contempt for realism will surely prove infuriating. I do not come here, however, to fight against the sociology of my profession, but to exploit it: by demonstrating that models of economic geography can be cute and fun, I hope to attract other people into tilling this nearly virgin soil.”

Actually, the reaction was even worse than I expected. As it happens, starting in the 1980s many geographers were moving even further from mainstream economics -- there was a widespread rejection not just of the assumptions of rational behavior and equilibrium, but of the whole notion of mathematical modeling and even the use of quantitative methods

(Nod to Neanderbill)

The Elastrator

Didn't Ray Bradbury write a book called "The Elastrated Man"? Maybe not.

Anyway, the Bishop sends this little tidbit.

Here's the bigger version, for bulls.

Fear the elastrator. For the elastrator will set you free.

The 10,000 Minutes, and Bon Jovi....

If I have this right (and I may not!), then the Chairity Counter at right will go below the magic 10,000 minute mark just after noon (12:43 pm) on Thursday, April 22.

Of course, the LMM and I will be in the car, headed to Charlotte to get ready for the Bon Jovi concert. (Did you hear that? I think it was one gun shot, the sound of Angus killing himself in anguish...) Yes, Bon Jovi. The LMM likes to pretend that I am John BJ, and I like to encourage this. WHOA! WE'RE HALF WAY THERE! WHOA-OH! LIVIN' ON A PRAY-ER!

She loves it.

Podcastrians! Love, Money, Profits, and Gifts

Russ Roberts and I wonder about a bunch of stuff. Youknowhowwedo.

Careful with that ash, Kazem

Here's one of the best entries ever in the "minister's explain nature" category:

"A senior Iranian cleric has claimed that dolled-up women incite extramarital sex, causing more earthquakes in Iran, a country that straddles several fault lines, newspapers reported on Saturday.

"Many women who dress inappropriately ... cause youths to go astray, taint their chastity and incite extramarital sex in society, which increases earthquakes," Ayatollah Kazem Sedighi told worshippers at Friday prayers in Tehran.

"Calamities are the result of people's deeds," he was quoted as saying by reformist Aftab-e Yazd newspaper. "We have no way but conform to Islam to ward off dangers.""

My thoughts:

1. Man, I have GOT to go visit Iceland!

2. This is a pretty warped and sick view of what causes sex. "Of course I had sex with her your honor, I saw her ankle and her nose. What else could I do?"

3. "When in doubt, blame the woman" seems to be a common position among at least some groups of Islamic clerics.

Here's to Homicide!

This weekend, Mrs. Angus and I were invited to dinner at the Snow household. Clyde is a national treasure and Norman institution and the title of the post was his pre-meal toast.

Clyde testified at Saddam Hussein's trial about forensic evidence from a mass grave of Kurds.

Apparently, Saddam rejected the idea that the grave had anything to do with him, claiming that Iraq was full of mass graves and in all likelihood it was a leftover from the Hittites!

(in other words, as I pointed out during this discussion, Saddam's defense was, "it wasn't me, it was Nebuchadnezzer")

Clyde allowed that, while he knew the Hittites were quite an advanced civilization, he was not aware that they had actually developed digital watches with batteries so powerful that the watches were still running when the grave was exhumed.


Sunday, April 18, 2010


Well, the Lakers had their way with my Thunder this afternoon. OKC was totally unprepared for the defensive intensity of LA and for how rough and tumble playoff basketball can be and got way behind early.

That said, they hung tough and managed to get it semi-close several times in the second half.

People, Kobe is toast! He's pretty much got nothing. I am not sure if that is temporary or permanent, but he is not playing well at all.

Bottom line: Thunder may win a game or two, but their bigs cannot hang with Bynum, Gasol and Odom.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

New Jersey Fan So Gross He Even Disgusts Phillys Fans

How gross and disgusting do you have to be to disgust Phillys fans?

I'm not sure where the line is, but this crosses it.

“It was the most vile, disgusting thing I’ve ever seen,” Vangelo said Friday. “He has two fingers down his throat, he lunges forward and vomits on myself and my 11-year-old daughter.”

Vangelo said he tried to push his children safely behind him, and Clemmens punched him in the face. Four or five fans in the next section rushed to help, Vangelo said. They held him until police arrived — someone punching Clemmens in the face as he tried to break free — and an officer was also hit with vomit, Vanore said.

Eeeeeew. New Jersey: So gross it makes Philadelphia look cultured and sophisticated.

(Nod RL)

MM on WAMC, With Allan Chartock

A (let's call it) "wide-ranging" interview with the very nice and interesting Allan Chartock, on WAMC's Northeast Public Radio. A huge audience, by my standards, on dozens of stations in MA, NY, and etc in New England.

My Cuomo bashing had started here....

And then used this way....

I was glad to get to clear this up in the interview. Andrew Cuomo did NOT cause the financial crisis. George Bush, Barney Frank, and Chris Dodd caused the financial crisis. Andrew Cuomo only helped. (Listen to see why I think so!)

Friday, April 16, 2010

There were no bogus rules like this in 1880!

Good Question!

Q: how many education professors does it take to run an acceptable school?

A: more than Stanford has, apparently!

hat tip to Malcolm.

Thoroughly Modern Macro

One popular innovation in macro and financial is the use of Epstein-Zin-Weil preferences. Roughly speaking these recursive preferences separate the risk aversion parameter from the elasticity of intertemporal substitution parameter, and they also allow people to care about the timing of when uncertainty is resolved.

However, working with these preferences in a general model is pretty tough.

In a new NBER working paper (ungated version here), Binsbergen, Fernandez-Villaverde, Koijen, & Rubio-Ramirez, show how to use second or third order perterbation methods to solve a fairly general DSGE model with EZW preferences and how to use the particle filter to build a likelihood function for directly estimating (instead of calibrating) the structural parameters of interest (or at least a subset of them).

This is not a simple paper, but it is an excellent one.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Medical Exec Discovers Rent-Seeking

Public Choice scholars have talked about rent-seeking, and the problem of "Tullock auctions," since the 1970s.

But it is nice to have our wisdom reconfirmed! An interesting example....

All pay auctions (Also called Tullock auctions, of course)

My podcast with Russ Roberts on this bidding problem

The Grand Game: Tax Day Edition

Oh, man, was I spitting tea all over the op-ed page this morning. Check this article out. Now, the author is Chris Fitzsimon, a man I both like personally, and respect as an analyst. And he's a Carolina fan, so it's all good.

But this article....well, time for the Grand Game! Readers, please point out the most jaw-dropping logical or evidentiary indignity!

I was so excited I went all Boudreaux on Chris, and sent the following letter to the Raleigh News and Observer:

To the Editor: On Thursday, April 15 you published a most curious op-ed by Chris Fitzsimon (“Civil Services Supported By Taxes”). He lists government services, and implies we should be grateful. It was curious for three reasons.

First, some of the items are not services at all, but are mandated by silly laws.

Second, many of these services are financed by additional direct fees, not taxes.

Finally, his recitation of how ungrateful we are reminded me of letters I have come across in my academic research on slavery. Slave owners in the old South were genuinely surprised, and hurt, when their ungrateful slaves ran off after the Civil War. After all, the slave-owners had fed, clothed, housed, and in some cases educated the slave in blacksmithing or other trades. The point is that the slave-owners came up with elaborate lists that said “Look at all the things Master does for you. Why aren’t you grateful?” And those lists looked… well, pretty much exactly like the Fitzsimon article. I say you keep your services, I’ll keep my taxes, and we’ll just call it even.

Sophie's Choice

Oh Norman, so sweet, but so cruel.

People, we have a thing in April called the Norman Music Festival. And wonder of wonders, both Dirty Projectors, who made my 2009 album of the year, and Leon Russell who is the absolute nuts are playing. And it's free. And it's an easy walk from my office.


So what is my beef?


How can this be? What kind of cruel joke is this? Do the Dons of Norman think no one could possibly like both the DPs and Leon?

How wrong they are, people, how wrong they are.

I am not making this up. It is a two day festival and there are no other acts nearly this good playing (sorry Evangelicals, you're good but not that good). Yet there it sits in black and white on the event's webpage: Sunday night, Main Stage 9:30 pm Dirty Projectors. Sunday night Jagermeister Stage 9:00 pm Leon Russell.

This is epic FUBAR, people.

Crap like this never would have happened to me if I had lived in the 1880s!

Any advice?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A match made in heaven

Cornershop and MIA!

You can read about it and hear it right here.

By the way, Cornershop has a new album out this month. Here is a video.

People, you just couldn't get stuff like this in 1880. No way, no how!

Theory of the second best: health care edition

I am a "small l" libertarian. Live and let live and all that jazz. But now, unless Mrs. Angus divorces me, I am gonna be helping to foot the bill for the extension of heavily subsidized health insurance that does little to actually reform the problems of our crappy health care system.

So I find myself wondering if I should favor some paternalistic policy proposals I've scorned in the past.

Like a sugar tax. Like zoning fast food joints out of walking distance from schools. Like regulating food ads for kids. Like increasing cigarette taxes even more.

Nudge, smudge!

I kind of hate myself for thinking like this, but if I gotta pay for strangers like they was family, I think they should operate under the rules they'd have if they were in my family!

But maybe that's just the snickers bars talking.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Just another band from Jackson Heights

Ladies and Gentlemen, without further ado, I give you The Beets!

The culture that is Oklahoma

People, you just can't make stuff like this up! enjoy.

bulls make money, bears make money,

but SOE's apparently do NOT make money.

People, have you seen the news that the ex-post cost of the TARP is now projected to be only around $90 billion? Even AIG might go back to being private (for the time being at least) this year. It's a pretty sunny story all the way around except for.....

Fan and Fred, of course. The $125 billion plus injected into them (so far) somehow doesn't count as part of the TARP bailouts, and no one is expecting that back any time soon. In fact the CBO projects another $370 billion plus of our money will find its way into those two black holes over the next few years.

So what does this mean?

1. I guess either the TARP rescues were a smashing success or else they were not really even needed to begin with. Seems like a win either way except for the precedent setting and the probable increase in moral hazard from here on.

2. Congress people who refused to seriously oversee / curtail / discipline Fan and Fred activities (yes I am talking to you Barney, you scalawag!) should be axed to 'splain themselves. Maybe like 20 random folks could be appointed to a commission and then could subpoena some congress people and drop the hammer on them. The head of GM got the ax in all this business, why not the champions of Fan and Fred?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Boob Tube

40-LL. Double L? As in what the HE-Double L? "One of my boyfriends?" She suffocated the poor man.

I think Dave Brown would just suggest that you make that "wubbawubbawubba" motorboat sound, to make some airspace.

And the ladies on the "The View" talk about upgrades. But not Double L. My lord.

(Nod to Tommy tWBB)

Remarkable Editorial

Quite an editorial, from Chi-Trib, about the state of the Illinois economy. Check it here.

Excerpt: Few of us, or our ancestors, gravitated to this state for its prairie scenery or bipolar climate. Illinois instead promised near-unrivaled opportunity: its rich soil, its wealth of industries, its human hustle frenetic to make a buck.

Today, though, we are losing employers. Nearly half a million of our jobs are gone. We export many of our educated young people to futures out of state.

We can wait, paralyzed, and hope that economic recovery eventually means full employment recovery. Or we can make structural changes now that would welcome the makers of jobs.

We need to lower costs. Our governance infrastructure has become overgrown and overpriced. We have 7,000 often redundant governments, far more than any other state. We populate those governments with armies of employees, and give them duties — some essential, some make-work. Many politicians of both parties enlist these workers as their allies in a cozy paradigm: If you help us win re-election, we will reward you with adequate salaries today — and fabulous retirement benefits tomorrow.

Those pols treat the public sector with fawning reverence while ignoring, or even scorning, a private sector that supplies their lifeblood revenues. Why so? Because the pols and their allies have a good thing going, and no incentive to disrupt it. So, unlike in scrappier states, there is precious little talk in Illinois of curtailing teacher tenure, or reducing benefits for current public employees, or capping government expenditures, or exterminating townships and other costly relics, or demolishing obsolete institutions, or ...

Recession, though, has forced a reckoning: Our shrinking and salary-squeezed private sector work force cannot adequately support many of our state's households — let alone sustain our antiquated overlays of taxing bodies.

This should be a time of tremendous opportunity for leaders who, rather than hiding from recession, exploit it to reinvent Illinois. To radically reshape the state's present and its future. To capitalize on employers' problems in other high-cost states by making Illinois their low-cost place to do business. To grow jobs.

Instead, our Statehouse brims with defensive, small-think pols hoping to survive another election.

(Nod to the NCM)

Double Down, KFC Style!

Double Down! Even *I* think this is disgusting. It's a "sandwich" where the buns are replaced by two fried chicken breasts. The filling is two big dollops of cheese product (one with yellow dye, and one left white), and some bacon.

An amusing review, when the thing was being test-marketed. (And source of photo above)

To be fair, though, this review made me think. After all: far as caloric intake goes, the Double Down isn't even half as bad as most fast-food burgers.The original-recipe fried Double Down with two strips of fried chicken breast clocks in at 540 calories and 32g of fat. The grilled Double Down has 460 calories and 23g of fat. Both have an outrageous amount of sodium, however, 1,380mg and 1,430 mg, respectively.

1.4 GRAMS of sodium? That's impressive. The recommended daily limit for sodium (for a person, for an entire DAY) is 2.3 grams. Hypertensive people should have half that. Less than one Double Death.

Let's compare a burger, though, just for fun. Let's go all the way, to Hardee's Monster 2/3 pound Thickburger.

Calories: 1320
Fat: 95 grams, for 860 calories
Sodium: 3020 mg
Carbs: 46 grams

By comparison, the Double Down is girl food!

Best Headline

Best Headline:

Governors Call For New Bureaucracy to Improve Efficiency

Here is the actual press release.

Let me know how that works out, okay?

(nod to JS)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

What Is A Libertarian? Stossel, Munger Give Thoughts

Allan Handleman talks to John Stossel and me about "What is a Libertarian?"

Link to show.

Link to WZTK web site.

Robert Shiller: "I burst the housing bubble"

Yes, people, as we sit and wait for the next bubble to arrive and save us, we finally can figure out who to blame for the untimely bursting of the last one: Robert Shiller!

It must be true, he says so his own self:

"In May 2005, I included in the second edition of my book, “Irrational Exuberance,” a new data series of real United States home prices that I constructed, going back to 1890. I was amazed to discover that no one had published such a long-term series before.

This data revealed that the home price boom was anomalous, by historical standards. It looked very much like a bubble, and a big one. The chart was reproduced many times in newspapers and magazines, starting with an article by David Leonhardt in The New York Times in August 2005.

In short, a public case began to be built that we really were experiencing a housing bubble. By 2006 a variety of narratives, taken together, appear to have produced a different mind-set for many people — creating a tipping point that stopped the growth in demand for homes in its tracks."

I wish I could say I was making this stuff up, but it's all right there in black and white.

LPNC meets in Burlington

Local paper, Burlington Times-News, covers the sensational story!

Here is the schedule.... And Neanderbill showed up! It was fun.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A new third (fourth) party in North Carolina?

Seriously? This report strains credulity....

But here is the newspaper story right here.... so it must be true, right?

In a shot across the bow of Dems, the labor powerhouse SEIU is starting a new third party in North Carolina that hopes to field its own slate of candidates, part of an effort to make the Democratic Party more reliable on issues important to labor, I’m told.

SEIU officials setting up the new party, called North Carolina First, are currently on the ground collecting signatures to qualify as a state party, SEIU officials tell me, adding that there are around 100 canvassers on the ground right now. The goal: To have the party up and running so candidates can run in this fall’s elections.

Law Suits: Can the States Win?

I have a guest op-ed in today's Durham Herald Sun, with my answer.

To summarize: No, the states cannot win.

Law Review

Kevin L sends this syllabus for you law clones out there. Get reading! And, goodONya, K-Rad!

Legal Constraints on Supreme Court Decision Making: Do Jurisprudential
Regimes Exist?

Jeffrey Lax & Kelly Rader
Journal of Politics, April 2010, Pages 273-284

Abstract: The founding debate of judicial politics - is Supreme Court decision making driven by law or politics? - remains at center stage. One influential line of attack involves the identification of jurisprudential regimes, stable patterns of case decisions based on the influence of case factors. The key test is whether the regime changes after a major precedent-setting decision, that is, whether the case factors are subsequently treated differently by the Supreme Court justices themselves so that they vote as though constrained by precedent. We analyze whether binding jurisprudential regime change actually exists. The standard test assumes votes are independent observations, even though they are clustered by case and by term. We argue that a (nonparametric) “randomization test” is more appropriate. We find little evidence that precedents affect voting.


Solicitor General Influence and Agenda Setting on the United States Supreme

Ryan Black & Ryan Owens, Harvard Working Paper, March 2010

Abstract: Do Solicitors General influence Supreme Court justices to behave differently than they would like? If so, are there limits on such influence? Using archival data, we find strong evidence of Solicitor General influence. In a substantial number of cases at the Supreme Court's agenda-setting stage, justices follow Solicitor General recommendations even when they are completely opposed to them. At the same time, we observe that law exerts strong influence. Justices are significantly less likely to follow Solicitor General recommendations that contravene important legal factors.


Friends of the Circuits: Interest Group Influence on Decision Making in the
U.S. Courts of Appeals

Paul Collins & Wendy Martinek, Social Science Quarterly, June 2010, Pages 397-414

Objective: Though there is an extensive literature focused on the participation and efficacy of interest group amici curiae in the U.S. Supreme Court, there is little rigorous analysis of amici curiae in the U.S. Courts of Appeals. Here, we systematically analyze the influence of amicus curiae briefs on U.S. Court of Appeals decision making to provide insights regarding both judicial decision making and the efficacy of interest groups.

Methods: We use a probit model to capture influences on appellant success in the courts of appeals from 1997-2002.

Results: We find that amicus briefs filed in support of the appellant enhance the likelihood of that litigant's probability of success, but that amicus briefs filed in support of the appellee have no effect on litigation outcomes.

Conclusion: Amici can help level the playing field between appellants and appellees by serving to counter the propensity to affirm in the U.S. Courts of Appeals.


Congressional Constraints and Tactical Supreme Court Maneuvers: Calling for
the Views of the United States Solicitor General

Ryan Black & Ryan Owens
Harvard Working Paper, January 2010

Abstract: Do United States Supreme Court justices invoke the aid of executive branch
officials to help them overcome congressional constraints? We examine archival data collected from the private papers of former Justice Harry A. Blackmun to analyze the conditions under which Supreme Court justices force the Solicitor General to participate in cases. We find that in addition to legal considerations, justices invite the SG to participate in cases so as to gain information that will aid them in determining whether the president will use his veto to protect the Court's decision against congressional override attempts. Justices are between 44% and 56% more likely to invite the SG when they require the president's veto to protect their decisions. These results hold across a host of alternative models of legislative
decision making and other various modeling specifications.


In Search of Judicial Activism in the Same-Sex Marriage Cases: Sorting the
Evidence from Courts, Legislatures, Initiatives and Amendments

Scott Barclay, Perspectives on Politics, March 2010, Pages 111-126

Abstract: In 2006, President Bush publicly stated that, in relation to the same-sex
marriage issue, “activist judges” were thwarting the preferred policy of the elected representatives and the expression of popular will embodied in popular initiatives and constitutional amendments. Notwithstanding the philosophical discussion of the constitutionally assigned role of courts in the political system and the idea of judicial independence, President Bush's statement raises an interesting empirical question: In the case of same-sex marriage, have state and federal courts really acted in direct opposition to the expressed policy preferences of current or recent legislative majorities or overturned popular initiatives and constitutional amendments? Using evidence from state and federal legislative and judicial action around same-sex marriage primarily from the fifteen years preceding President
Bush's 2006 statement, I argue that, with some rare exceptions, judges can not easily be identified as “activist” on the issue of same-sex marriage even if we assess their actions according to President Bush's criteria.


A Theory of Loopholes

Leo Katz
Journal of Legal Studies, January 2010, Pages 1-31

Laws are known to be replete with loopholes. The reason is generally thought to lie in the divergence between the text and the purpose of a law. Practical constraints supposedly make laws unavoidably over‐ or underinclusive. Lawyers who exploit loopholes are thought to be taking advantage of that over‐ and underinclusiveness. This essay offers a different perspective. Most loopholes have nothing to do with the over‐ or underinclusiveness of rules. This is best seen by exploring a particular subset of rules that reveal most clearly what is going on: the rules of voting. Arrow’s famous theorem teaches us that all halfway decent voting rules are vulnerable to agenda manipulation. Fundamentally, it will turn out, all legal rules are analogous to voting rules and all loophole exploitation analogous to agenda manipulation. The loophole‐exploiting lawyer no more deserves to be criticized, sanctioned, or otherwise frustrated in his efforts than does the shrewd parliamentarian.


The Separation of Powers and Supreme Court Agenda Setting

Ryan Owens, Harvard Working Paper, September 2009

This study employs the first systematic, empirical analysis that relies on archival data to examine whether the separation of powers influences justices' agenda votes. It spatially models how justices set the Court's agenda under a sincere approach as well as an SOP approach and compares the competing expectations derived therefrom. The results suggest that legislative and executive preferences fail to influence justices' votes. Across every model tested, the data show justices uninfluenced by the separation of powers. These results provide a strong rejoinder to SOP models, since the Court's agenda stage is the most likely stage of the decision making process to show signs of an SOP effect.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Chronicle Articles

I don't put magazine articles on my c.v., though I do write some now and again.

Some readers have asked for links; here is a list of my articles in the Chronicle of Higher Education, for what that's worth.

April 2010: 10 Suggestions for a New Department Chair


Nov 2009: SORRY I'M LATE


Aug 2008: "A" HIRE VS "THE" HIRE


Laver, de Marchi, and Mutlu article: NOT BFFs for BF

I have been very proud of several articles published in PUBLIC CHOICE during my editorship.

But I am proudest of this. This is an important paper, because it exposes the grave weaknesses in the "bargaining model" cottage industry.

Reference: Michael Laver · Scott de Marchi · Hande Mutlu, "Negotiation in legislatures over government formation," PUBLIC CHOICE, 2010

Abstract: We question results claiming to extend non-cooperative models of legislative bargaining to the theoretically general and substantively typical case with an arbitrary number of disciplined parties. We identify problems with both the derivation of formal results and empirical evaluation of these. No empirically robust formateur advantage is observed in field data on bargaining over government formation. Given this theoretical and empirical impasse, we reconsider the substantive premises that should form the foundation for any new attempt to model this fundamental political process, arguing that models should be grounded in binding constitutional constraints on the government formation process in parliamentary democracies.

Smokin' In The Boys Room: The Grand Game

Mr., I am fully....aware of the rules....'cause everybody knows that...smokin' ain't allowed on planes!

But Mr. Diplomatic Impunity tried it anyway.

So, let's play the Grand Game. What is your favorite part of this story?

My favorite part: TWO F-16s. TWO F-16s! "Stop trying to blow up the plane, or we will blow up the plane!" I understand they have to worry about a hijacking, Imagine looking out the window of the plane, and thinking, "Now, what could THOSE things do? What is their sole purpose for tailing us?"

UPDATE: Okay, my NEW favorite part is that Smoke Boy was heading to visit a convicted Al Qaeda terrorist. "Better lay low, this is controversial. I sure am nervous. Tell you what....I'll just duck into this restroom for a quick smoke!"

What could possibly go wrong with that plan?

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Appalling. And Hypocritical.

I'm sorry. But this is an unbelievably bad video.

First, for a rock video, you need a MUCH prettier girl on the treadmill. That girl is more attractive than I am, but less attractive than Angus. And I don't think "prettier than Angus" is too high a standard for rock videos.

Second, the lyrics don't explain enough about what the "fight" is about. It's cryptic. If you are willing to fight, the video should be pretty obvious. Presumably "mortgaged youth" is about the deficit.

Finally, "Ambassador Tom" is a drug warrior. The irony of someone's puritanical, nanny-state-loving, bald, pencil-necked uncle yammering about "freedom" while yanking at a guitar is too much for me.

"You think you're so smart, you can run my life, I don't need your help, neither does my wife." Hey, Tommy, how many thousands of people are having their lives run by you and your insane "war on drugs" boys, IN PRISON?

Shut up.

(Nod to Angry Alex)

I'm On a Plane. I Can't Complain.

Brit Law Prof Snoozes, Air Canada Loses!

"The last thing I remember was taking off from Calgary," Mr. Lines, who was en route from London, told Canada's National Post. "I knew I was safely on board and there was no further destinations and it was all good. ... Somebody would wake me up at the end."

That the "somebody" would be a plane mechanic in an otherwise empty aircraft came as a shock to Mr. Lines.

"If I'd been a vulnerable passenger, a young girl or elderly, it could have been a lot worse," he said. "The other implication is that if I was a terrorist, then I've got an hour-and-a-half after the plane's landed, all by myself, in a secure area on a plane."

After complaining to Air Canada, he was told that the flight attendant who should have checked the plane was instead assisting passengers in wheelchairs. By way of apology, the airline offered Mr. Lines 20 percent off the cost of four future flights.

I laughed, at first. But he's right. You can't just leave a guy on the plane, in a secure area. Even if he is asleep.

C-section: strike one

C-section performed on woman who was not pregnant, in Fayetteville, NC.

No, not from the Onion. The Onion has real news, about an archeologist who is tired of unearthing unspeakable ancient evils.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Why Don't Academics Have Real Jobs?

The question might be, why do lefties seek jobs in academics?

But another question, answered adroitly by Robert Nozick, is why do intellectuals hate captialism? Perhaps THAT is the reason they gather in self-protecting academic ghettoes to congratulate one another on how clever each is.

Big Monday

You know who had a good day Monday? Sure Krzyzewski and Mungowitz and the Dookies, but I'm talking about reigning NL MVP A-Poo.

4-5, 2 homers, 3 RBI and 4 runs scored.

Project those numbers out over a full season why don'tcha?

Student Athletes

Whatever else you say, Duke has student athletes in the old style. They graduate, they take real classes, and live right there with all the other students. No separate lives.

A nice NYTimes article, recognizing this.

My basketball team's name is Gay Human Bones!

Harlem's debut album "Free Drugs" was one of my top picks for 2008. Now they are in the big leagues, on Matador, and have another album, "Hippies", out.

It's a good one people!

Here is their Myspace page. Check out "Friendly Ghost" and note that they're on tour.

Here is a link to the video for "Gay Human Bones". I hear they are especially tough at home!

Monday, April 05, 2010


The "Fear the Boom and Bust" video, now with well over 1 million views, wins a Sammy!

Also, I have to point out this extremely balanced and informative review / exposition of the video on the Daily Kos.

Like, The Valley Girl

Tom Campbell, candidate for Cal Gov, goes on the Valley Girl show.

(Nod to Kevin L)

Earned Media

TV appearance on Political Connections, News 14 Carolina.

And my man Dr. Mike Beitler is there, too!

Lead, Nudge, or Get Out of the Way

KPC Pal and Most Excellent Fellow Will Wilkinson writes:

Perhaps you can set aside your ridiculous Duke boosterism for a moment and consider sharing the lead essay of Cato Unbound's new issue on "Slippery Slopes and the New Paternalism." The multi-talented Glen Whitman, economist extraordinaire and writer for TV's Fringe,kicks us off with an essay on "The Rise of the New Paternalism." Call it "soft paternalism," "asymmetric paternalism," or "libertarian paternalism"... with Cass Sunstein as Obama's regulatory czar, we all may be feeling the tender nudge of the new paternalism soon enough. Whitman puts us on guard, arguing that the logic of the new paternalism puts us on a slippery to not-so-tender plain old-fashioned paternalism.

Consider it shared, punkin'! And, I predict lots of fire on Duke's campus tonight ....and celebration.

I Can't Be the Only One....

I can't be the only one to think that Senator Mitch McConnell and Steve Forbes are becoming the same person, right?

Reader: Which one is which?

(The middle one is McConnell, top and bottom are Forbes)