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)

Hamid Karzai has a very good idea

Here is change we can believe in:

"Afghan President Hamid Karzai threatened over the weekend to quit the political process and join the Taliban if he continued to come under outside pressure to reform, several members of parliament said Monday."

Hey Hamid: Don't let the door hit you in the butt on the way out, bro!

People, if Karzai was in charge of the Taliban, we'd have wrapped this whole business up quite a while ago.

The Main Thing We Stand For is Reelection

(Nod to Tommy the Brit. Careful with the video camera in the rubbish bin, Tom!)

The Nets? THE NETS?

Bizarre timing: Coach K to the Nets?

Couldn't they have waited a day? Why leak it now?

I guess I know, so people will write about it, but wow.

Tiny Butler

I am getting (as Cheech Marin used to say) a little sick up and fed with the dominant story of mighty Duke versus tiny Butler.

...on the verge of another improbable David-vs.-Goliath story, with tiny Butler in the NCAA national championship game against mighty Duke, you have to understand that the impact of this historic confrontation can't be contained within Indiana's boundaries.

It's so much bigger than that. Butler's presence in the national championship game is a true American sports success story.

"This," said Butler guard Ronald Nored, "could never happen in major-college football."

Sure, Butler has 4,500 students.

But Duke has only 6,250 undergrad students.

Michigan State, by contrast, has 47,000 students. West Virginia U has 30,000. U of NC, Duke's arch-rival (and my own favorite team) has 25,000 students.

Duke is also "tiny." But Duke kicked WVU's ass, and nobody talked about "David" winning that game. Duke beat UNC like a drum this year, and nobody raved about the tiny school winning.

The reason that Butler is not favored to win tonight is NOT that they are tiny. The reason is that Butler is not very good.

The real story (and frequent readers here know I am no Duke fan) is that Duke, in spite of being 1/4 the size of its most frequent rivals, consistently wins, doesn't cheat, and graduates all of its players with actual college degrees in actual college subjects. Why isn't THAT the story here:

Duke University provides education to students who otherwise could never afford it, and manages to win while doing it!

Mungowitz Gets Adam Smith Pin Factory Wrong!

Fred Stahl writes:

Dr. Munger,

I enjoy your podcasts with Russ Roberts. You two always sound like you are having more fun than you deserve. ( MM NOTE: Russ is certainly having more fun than HE deserves!)

Yesterday I was searching for the hunters and sandwich shop story—you know, the one showing how economies of scale make specialization more efficient even if everybody is equally skilled. I was a student in Dr. Roberts’ microeconomics class last semester when he presented the story, attributing it to Buchanan. I found a transcript of you and Roberts talking about it in an April 2007 podcast. I also came across your 2007 article on division of labor in the Library of Economics and Liberty: FEATURED ARTICLE | APRIL 2, 2007
I'll Stick With These:
Some Sharp Observations on the Division of Labor

On reading the article, I saw that it might leave misconceptions about Adam Smith’s analysis of the pin factory. Here is the relevant part: And this is the period where Smith formed his impression: he saw pins being made by 3-6 men, in a small shop, each of whom performed several tasks at different points in the production process. Smith's widely quoted conclusion, which was actually just a quick estimate, was that there 18 different steps in the pin-making process.

The best research I have seen says that Smith never actually visited the pin factory he wrote about. Consequently, he would not have been able to make a estimate of the number of operations, quick or otherwise. Smith used data on a French pin factory published decades earlier. As Rothbard tells it, Smith accused his friend Adam Ferguson of plagiarizing his bit about the pin factory. Ferguson fired back that they both got the story from a French source.[1] The facts fit Ferguson’s charge. The French factories had 18 fabrication operations, as Smith mentions, whereas an English factory typically had 25. Edwin Cannan attributes the source of Smith’s production information to an article on pins that appeared in a mid-17th century French encyclopedia, thirty years before Smith wrote Wealth.[2]

One other small point, Wealth has 10 workers in the pin factory. By the way, apparently few if any economic historians know that in his 1832 On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, Charles Babbage re-analyzed Smith’s pin factory. In contrast to Smith’s arm waving, Babbage used detailed cost and time data and concluded that Smith missed an important source of productivity. Smith wrote about division of labor by task. Babbage pointed out that the manager who divides labor by skill can hire cheap children and women for the unskilled work and expensive men for the bundles of skilled tasks. The productivity gain is a factor of 3 to 4, as measured in cost per pin.[3]

Rothbard comments about Smith:
Much of his analysis was wrong, and many of the facts he did include in the Wealth of Nations were obsolete and gathered from books 30 years old

[1] Rothbard, Murray. An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought, Vol. I and II, Edward Elgar Pub. 1995. Chapter 16. Excerpt available from Mises Institute, March 31, 2010 from under title “The Adam Smith Myth.”
[2] Edwin Cannan edited the 1976 edition of The Wealth of Nations published by The University of Chicago Press. The attribution appears in Footnote 4 on page 8 as Vol. 5 of Encyclopédie.
[3] Babbage, Charles. 1835. On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures. 4th ed. London: Charles Knight. Reprint: New York: Augustus M. Kelly, 1963. Babbage presents his detailed cost and time study data along with his analysis of the pin factory in Chapter 19.

Very interesting, Fred, and thanks! I haven't seen footnotes in an email in a while; many people have gone in the direction of the thing called "links." Still, I'm sure you are right, and that I am wrong about the story. Lots of good info there, Fred!

I'd be interested to know what ASLL thinks of my errors. Sufficiently corrected now?