Saturday, June 19, 2010

Capla-con indeed

Bryan Caplan makes a valiant, but well short of convincing, case for having more kids in today's WSJ.

He gives three basic reasons why people should have more kids:

1. In happiness research, the big negative hit comes from having one child. Once you've passed that, the extra unhappiness from having more is fairly small.

2. Parents have little to no influence on how their children turn out, so you can relax, not bother to read to your extra kids or make costly "investments" on their behalf.

3. The more kids you have, the more grandkids you might get and everyone knows grandkids are *awesome*!

NB: I am not making any of this up!

Friday, June 18, 2010


From the LMM:

So much less humidity. Sunny, slight cool breeze. Sitting on the porch drinking tea, listening to birds, watching hummingbird.

Last night a firetruck stopped by to drop something of to the subdivision president. Little boy (5) next to our house runs out yelling, fire truck, fire truck! The young volunteer firemen see this, pull down the street with the sirens on, lights flashing, stop in front of the little boys house, one gets out and hands the kid a (plastic) fireman's hat. SOOO cute.

Think sweet thoughts today. You'll feel better.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mungowitz uber alles

Pete Boettke gives us a report from the front lines on the awesomeness that is my co-blogger:

"Then after dinner and discussion groups (I led a discussion of Hayek's "Individualism: True and False"), Mike Munger gave perhaps the best lecture on public choice for this sort of audience I have ever heard. I didn't meet Mike at IHS in the 1980s, but I did get tremendous help from in the early 1980s; Mike had just finished his PhD, I was co-authoring a paper with Bob Tollison on the Voluntary Restraint Agreement with Japan, and Mike was working at the FTC, he knew about this issue, and both Bob and Kevin Grier told me to contact him, and he provided me with some data, and some studies from the Center for the Study of American Business at Wash U related to this topic, etc. as I started my research under Bob's direction. Anyway, Mike summarized his introduction to public choice with five problems: (1) Information Problems; (2) Problem of Democratic Coherence; (3) The Problem of the Constitutional Paradox; (4) The Collective Action Problem; and (5) The Rent Seeking Problem.

Munger's discussion of the problem of democratic coherence was perhaps the best presentation of the central problem that I have ever seen in 20 plus years of hearing various individuals go over voting paradoxes, etc. In fact, I would probably rank Munger among the best teachers of economics and political economy I have ever seen at work."

Free Trade: The Great Prosperity Machine

Tom Palmer is not just cute. He's smart. (But he's also cute, I'm just sayin')


Diego takes a licking but keeps on ticking:

A couple of days ago Pele was quoted in the Brazilian press as suggesting that Argentina's appointment of Maradona was a mistake and that the former superstar only took the job because he needed the money.

"I'm not surprised, Pele should go back to the museum," was Maradona's retort before he also took a pop at former France star Platini, who a few months ago had insinuated that Maradona was a great player but not a great coach.

"As for Platini, I'm not surprised because I always had a distant relationship with him, we would just say hi and goodbye.

"But we know what the French are like and Platini is French, he believes he's better than the rest of us."

Personally I think he took the job for the fancy toilets and massive salad bar, but it cannot be denied that Argentina has won its first two games, including an absolute drubbing of South Korea this morning and is looking like a team to be reckoned with down the road.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Laguna San Ignacio

This video was taken and edited by Mrs. Angus during our trip to Baja to see the gray whales last March. I had to lobby her heavily to agree to let me post it, because the footage is often shaky, due to (a) the movement of the boat and (b) the excitement level of the videographer. It is almost 4 minutes long and the most spectacular footage is at the end.


Do NOT jaywalk in Seattle

Especially if you are female and African-American!

Check this video of the buzz-cut white cop winding up and punching a girl in the face!

Of course the cop union says the action was "justified".


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Libertarianism 101: a remedial course

Republicans are not necessarily Libertarians.

In particular, Bush was not a Libertarian.

He spent recklessly, engaged in chicanery to promote useless and costly wars, trampled all over civil liberties, cut protectionist deals with the steel industry and others, and screwed up big time on immigration.

As far as I know, Libertarianism is not primarily defined as a dogmatic belief in total deregulation (at least I hope it is not).

Libertarians tend to believe that victimless crimes are not actually crimes, that national borders should be much more open than they currently are, that foreign military operations are rarely justified, and that people have a right to privacy.

The idea that government screws things up is more an idea from Public Choice than from Libertarianism. Even if the government was awesome at fighting wars, Libertarians would oppose it. I think most Libertarians are *happy* that the government is not particularly good at what it does.

To me, Libertarianism is a philosophical argument against a lot of government interventions, and Public Choice is an instrumental argument against a lot of government interventions.

In case you are wondering what set me off, check here.

te estan buscando, Matador

"The bull charged and matador Christian Hernandez took off — across the ring, over the wall and into controversy.

The admittedly terrified torero was arrested after Sunday's botched bullfight at the Plaza Mexico, apparently for breach of contract, local media reported Monday. He was released after paying a fine.

"There are some things you must be aware of about yourself," the 22-year-old Mexican matador said in a television interview. "I didn't have the ability, I didn't have the balls, this is not my thing."
In a sight rarely seen in the bravado world of bullfighting, Hernandez made a spin with his red cape at the charging bull, then ran across the ring and leapt headlong over the wall to safety, dropping his cape in the process. The crowd hooted in derision.

Several months ago, another bull grievously gored Hernandez in the leg.

Officials did briefly convince Hernandez to return to the ring on Sunday, where he put his hands over his head and pointed upward before he made a second exit, shaking his head.

He later said he would retire from bullfighting.

Monday, June 14, 2010

If Only....

If only they had listened to me. Means-tested school vouchers had the #1 place on my education platform. And they WORK, and they don't cost much.

Competitive Effects of Means-Tested School Vouchers

David Figlio & Cassandra Hart
NBER Working Paper, June 2010

Abstract: We study the effects of private school competition on public school students’ test scores in the wake of Florida’s Corporate Tax Credit Scholarship program, now known as the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which offered scholarships to eligible low-income students to attend private schools. Specifically, we examine whether students in schools that were exposed to a more competitive private school landscape saw greater improvements in their test scores after the introduction of the scholarship program, than did students in schools that faced less competition. The degree of competition is characterized by several geocoded variables that capture students’ ease of access to private schools, and the variety of nearby private school options open to students. We find that greater degrees of competition are associated with greater improvements in students’ test scores following the introduction of the program; these findings are robust to the different variables we use to define competition. These findings are not an artifact of pre-policy trends; the degree of competition from nearby private schools matters only after the announcement of the new program, which makes nearby private competitors more affordable for eligible students. We also test for several moderating factors, and find that schools that we would expect to be most sensitive to competitive pressure see larger improvements in their test scores as a result of increased competition.

(Nod to Kevin L)

Now they finally have something to fight about

The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

People, this could make the Dutch disease and blood diamonds look like kid's stuff, no? We have already seen all the years of violence, all the corruption and now there is actually something valuable in play. Kudos to the NYT reporter for recognizing this:

Instead of bringing peace, the newfound mineral wealth could lead the Taliban to battle even more fiercely to regain control of the country.

The corruption that is already rampant in the Karzai government could also be amplified by the new wealth, particularly if a handful of well-connected oligarchs, some with personal ties to the president, gain control of the resources. Just last year, Afghanistan’s minister of mines was accused by American officials of accepting a $30 million bribe to award China the rights to develop its copper mine. The minister has since been replaced.

Endless fights could erupt between the central government in Kabul and provincial and tribal leaders in mineral-rich districts

Not to mention how it will affect the US and our willingness to keep soldiers fighting and dying there.

Goat Spears Weiner

Anonyman just liked the headline. So I'll post the story.

Anthony Weiner has been very busy lately.

Here's Mr. Weiner in a "point your finger and open your mouth contest" (he came in second, because his finger pointing was limp).

So wrong in so many ways

People, what's the creepiest part of this photo?

The pic is from here and the site is highly recommended.

Hat tip to Andy Roddick!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Misallocation and Productivity

I just read two interesting papers that highlight how market distortions like labor market regulations or capital subsidies can affect both actual productivity in a country and also our attempts to measure productivity in a country.

(QJE 2009, ungated version here). They use firm level data and estimate that if resources were allocated across sectors in China and India the same way they are in the USA, that manufacturing productivity could rise 40% or more!

No word on how eliminating distortions in the USA would raise our productivity though.

Second is a new NBER paper (ungated version here) by Fernald & Neiman entitled Growth Accounting with Misallocation: Or, Doing Less with More in Singapore. They set up a model which shows how having a sector of the economy that has preferential access to resources and earns a pure profit can cause different techniques for measuring productivity growth (i.e. using quantities vs. prices) can produced answers that disagree with each other and fail to capture actual productivty growth.

Interestingly, their case study of Singapore shows that the subsidized sector of the economy their had negative productivity growth even more severe than that estimated by Young in his classic piece.