Tuesday, May 31, 2011

That Cute Ben Powell Schools Us on Immigration

Koch brouhaha--My take

I went all Boudreaux on the Koch controversy in Florida, published an op ed today in the Tallahassee Democrat, link here but behind paywall. But you, lucky KPC reader, get it fast, fresh, and free!

Koch brouhaha is hardly news in academia

Florida’s universities, and media, are in an uproar about the Koch Foundation’s “strings” on grants to FSU’s Economics Department. But I’m not sure why.

As chair of Duke’s Political Science Department for the past ten years, I have competed for dozens of grants, large and small. And I have dealt with the reporting requirements of funders including the National Science Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and George Soros’ “Open Society.”

These organizations, not surprisingly, want to make sure their money is spent legally and fruitfully. But the media has been shocked that "information on publications, presentations, courses taught, students supervised and outreach activities'' was to be provided by recipients of Koch grants.

Look: that’s boiler plate. It’s essentially the same requirements that are imposed on any operating grant I have ever dealt with. There are two kinds of grants: endowment and operating. Endowment contributions go to a university’s investment principal, and all that can be spent is the income from that principal. In 1995, Yale returned $20 million to the Bass family, when the donors wanted control over hiring tenured professors. Princeton finally settled—in 2008—a lengthy lawsuit brought by the Robertson family over a $900 million endowment for support for the Woodrow Wilson School. Universities generally reject strings on endowment gifts.

But operating gifts are different. Most foundations give operating gifts exclusively. Endowment gifts produce investment returns, while operating gifts are spent directly. If I get $100,000 to spend on my Philosophy, Politics, and Economics program at Duke, then I spend the whole $100,000 during the term of the grant.

And then I have to file an annual report. How was the money spent? Was it effective? What is the evidence that it had an impact? How can I justify a future renewal of this money? Operating contributions come with strings, because they are spent directly, and then evaluated immediately.

I grew up in Central Florida, and still feel a strong kinship with the state. Full disclosure, though: I accepted operating contributions from the Koch Foundation last year. We used it to bring in outside speakers, including a New York Times columnist and an expert on economic development in Africa, for my classes in the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics Program at Duke University.

There were strings. As one condition of the grant, we distributed questionnaires to find out if students thought the speakers added learning value to the class. I did not have to get permission from Charles Koch, mind you. What the Foundation wanted to know was whether the students, the customers if you will, thought that the money was well spent, in terms of their own individual educational goals.

And well spent it was. I had 60 students, and got the highest evaluations I have ever received. The chance to have in a variety of experts, with direct experience to challenge students from across the ideological spectrum, was an enormous help.

I have studied the grant process used by the FSU economics department. There was nothing unusual, or underhanded, about what went on in Tallahassee. The funds were operating donations funds, not endowment. But I am concerned, as a long time Florida resident, about the media maelstrom. Why is it that even a hint of real intellectual diversity--the kind that represents differences in ideas--is seen as being so problematic at our state universities?

Michael C. Munger, PhD
Professor of Political Science, Economics, and Public Policy
Director, Philosophy, Politics, and Economics Program
Duke University

For an alternative view, see (for example) the DK....

For Don Luskin's view, see the WSJ article...

Prisoners' Dilemma

The problem, as I often tell my students, is that the fact that the PD has a dominant strategy is more determinative than they think.

The reason is that it does NOT depend on guilt or innocence. Think about it: knowing that I go free if I rat you out, but that I get the death penalty if you rat me out, has NOTHING to do with who did what, if in fact either of us did anything. Barring a joint defense, it's tough to resist.

The problem is that prosecutors don't care. A conviction means they win, and can get reelected. And then, to get parole, the guy has to admit guilt yet again, even if he is innocent.

Downside? Our prisons have a lot of innocent people in them, particularly the ones who can't afford real representation. A new book....

(Nod to Angry Alex)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Monday's Child is Full of Links

Advice to the newly tenured.... including how to stay out of government. (Nod to Angry Alex)

Natural rights? How would we know? A right is the power to do something; property is the power to do it exclusively, to prevent others from using the thing also. Hobbes thought we all had too many rights, or liberties, in the state of nature. Must the state by its nature restrict "natural" rights? And don't we want it to, for the reasons Hobbes gave? (Nod to Anonyman)

Ohio State cheats, gets caught, acts surprised, fires coach. Yawn.

Mormon Spring Break?
"Next weekend, hundreds of young singles will descend on a small North Carolina beach town for a rowdy weekend of late-night partying and anonymous hookups — not unlike your average episode of Jersey Shore. The difference? Instead of well-muscled guidos on the hunt for one-night stands, the shores will be teeming with Mormons searching for their future spouses. Welcome to Duck Beach: host to the most bizarre spring break on the planet." Proving once again that men can act like complete idiots, even if they have nothing but a chocolate milkshake to drink. (nod to Kevin Lewis)

He...PRUNED...a shrubbery! He must be...made of wood? NO! A WITCH! Kill him. Or, in Charlotte, fine him $100 per branch pruned. Really. (Nod to the Blonde)

Is Sex Work? A Memorial Day Post

This gone 'round the interwebs three or four times, so you may have seen it. But I laughed...A bit of military humor, on Memorial Day.

Is Sex Work?

A U.S. Marine Colonel was about to start the morning briefing to his staff. While waiting for the coffee machine to finish its brewing - the colonel decided to pose a question to all assembled.

He explained that his wife had been a bit frisky the night before and he failed to get his usual amount of sound sleep. He posed the question of just how much of sex was "work" and how much of it was "pleasure?" A Major chimed in with 75-25% in favor of work. A Captain said it was 50-50%. A lieutenant responded with 25-75% in favor of pleasure, depending upon his state of inebriation at the time. There being no consensus, the colonel turned to the PFC who was in charge of making the coffee. What was HIS opinion?

Without any hesitation, the young PFC responded, "Sir, it has to be 100% pleasure." The colonel was surprised and, as you might guess, asked why.

"Well, sir, if there was any work involved, the officers would have me doing it for them." The room fell silent.

God Bless the enlisted man.

And God Bless all our men and women in uniform, around the world, and since the beginning. For my own part, a remembrance of Captain Herbert Munger, 100th Infantry Division. On a morning in November, 1944 he was riding in the lead six-wheel drive armored car racing northeast after retreating German forces. The company hit a roadblock ambush, with machine guns and sighted in mortars. The second car was disabled. (Then) Lt. Munger got out of his (undamaged) car, got the wounded out of the disabled car, got the platoon turned around, and escaped the trap without loss of life. And so, sometimes, God Bless the offers.

He got a Bronze Star. I ended up with a father.

DSK Fail, Francophonies Fail

Okay, so this has been building up for about a decade. In me, I mean. Listening to all my leftoid friends worshipping France. We need something like their system of government, their culture, their possession of an actual political left, to protect the workers from those big mean capitalists. Well, Maureen Dowd, of all people, put it rather brilliantly in the NYT yesterday.

(The title of the article, "Cherchez la femme," was opaque to me. After reading an explanation, still not sure what Ms. Dowd was going for with that title. There was no woman affecting a man's behavior here, only a rape. And the story is about Christine Lagarde, who is impressive, but... Intriguing.)

Anyway, the article does a fine job of laying out the issues. I do want to emphasize just two things:

1. How can you socialist-lovers defend as "socialist" a society where the phrase "troussage de domestique" is common? And where it is used seriously as a DEFENSE of a man's actions? As Ms. Dowd puts it:

The journalist Jean-François Kahn said he was “practically certain” that DSK was not trying to rape the Sofitel maid, but was merely engaging in “troussage de domestique,” lifting the skirt of the servant. Jack Lang, a former government minister, cracked, “It’s not like anybody died.”

So if a rich man employs a poor woman, he is simply entitled to lift up her skirt? And as long as no one dies, he can actually physically enjoy her, against her will? No wonder all you lefites love France. This is Bill Clinton's idea of heaven, because you can say "So what?" instead of having to lie to the grand jury. And your wife, instead of making up some absurd "great right wing conspiracy," can proudly say that she admires your seductive prowess? (Though you francophones will have to explain to me how forcible rape is seduction...)

(Hilarious, this bit from FT. Nice arse, indeed.)

2. Capitalist elites have rich tastes, but they expect to pay for it. Socialist elites have tastes at least as rich, but think they are entitled to take, by harnessing the state's coercive force if necessary, because they "serve the people." $50k per month apartment? $3,000 per night suite? And this guy is a man of the people? The case reveals not just the hypocrisy of protecting male sexual predators in France, but also protecting the political predators who call themselves socialists. I think that part of the story is underreported. National Review hits on it, but that hardly counts among the "real" media you lefties take seriously.

Here is one honest person of the left, I'll admit.

UPDATE: Anonyman sends this tidbit. The title of the article could be expanded to ANY socialist organization, including our own Congress. And before you guys go all, "He's not a socialist" out of your little reflexive talking points, I have to point out that DSK calls HIMSELF a socialist. So go argue with him.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Food Deserts

An interesting map, and an interesting concept: The USDA lets you view "food deserts," or "low income neighborhoods with high concentrations of people who are far from a grocery store."
Link to map

Usually the complaint from you lefty bed-wetters is that corporations are too greedy. But the cool thing about this case is that you must believe corps are not greedy enough. Right?

Because the premise of this whole idea of food deserts is that it is perfectly possible to open a grocery store, and make money, in these neighborhoods.

The only reason that no one does open those potentially profitable grocery stores is... racism! Those greedy corporations won't open grocery stores. I admit it's heartbreaking to hear problems like those described in this video. But listen to the diagnosis: racism. Racism, racism, racism, from greedy groceries.

Logic fail! Greed is the enemy of racism, folks. In fact, greed is the enemy of all discrimination. Branch Rickey, who famously "broke the color line" in beisbol by hiring Jackie Robinson... was an even more famous skinflint and miser. My man Branch was no social crusader. BR signed JR because blacks could be paid less, for much higher performance, in that era of the color line.

And in fact for at least a decade after that, the average stats were higher, and the average pay was lower, for black baseball players.** GREED!You better recognize, folks.

Of course, I may be wrong. The grocery companies may be leaving money on the table here, in those "food deserts." And it is easy to prove me wrong, friends. All you arrogant, condescending lefty public sector nannies have to do is leave your protected job and go out and start a grocery store. According to your own world view, you'll be making big profits, AND helping the community. Of course, if you feel bad about the profits, you can always donate the $$ to Pres. Obama's campaign fund....

(Nod to Kevin Lewis for the link...)


Pascal, Anthony H. and Leonard A. Rapping (1972) "The Economics of Racial Discrimination in Organized Baseball", in RACIAL DISCRIMINATION IN ECONOMIC LIFE

Scully, Gerald. (1974) "Discrimination: The Case of Baseball," in GOVERNMENT AND THE SPORTS BUSINESS

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Williams Hoax, But Still True Conclusion

So, there's list of ten reasons why BHO will win, written by my friend Dr. Walter Williams (better friend of long-time GMU colleague Angus, of course, but still my friend).

Except that it's a silly hoax. Really.

Except that in fact the conclusion is correct, and I said so months ago. BHO cannot lose the election, now that the idiot Repubs took the House. No one will vote Repub after being reminded what a bunch of fakes and frauds the US House is led by.

Oh, yes, I did go there.

Friday, May 27, 2011


I have always liked Veronique. A tough lady. And quick with the whole numbers and evidence thing.

Some questions....

Just some questions that occur to me.

1. Is President Obama going to demand that the U.S. negotiate with Mexico based on the 1840 borders? Are we going to return the occupied "North Bank" of the Rio Grande? After all, it is the traditional home of the Mexican people, many of them speak Spanish, and thousands have crossed the border illegally so they can live in their ancestral homeland. We are putting more and more settlements in the region, but it's not clear that ethnic Mexicans should have to endorse this blatant land grab. I'm sure the French would like Obama him more for insisting on a Mexican "right of return" to this region. And the President appears to be running for President of France.

2. Many of Scotty McCreery's votes, by some estimates up to 60%, came from women in the 40-60 age range. Let me ask this: suppose that Lauren Alaina had won, and most of HER votes had come from 40-60 year old men. Wouldn't we all have found that really creepy? Both Scotty and Lauren are 16, so the comparison is fair. Why is it okay for middle aged women to lurk a 16 year old boy? Ick.

3. Is it the end of the world, for real? People laughed at the folks who thought the world would end on May 21st at 6 pm. But it may still happen. The LMM threw away a pair of shoes, and I don't believe she bought an offsetting new pair. That reduces her reserve to just under 400 pairs of shoes. So, I ask again, is it the end of the world?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

FDA: Feed the Dim Administrators

Sometimes I wonder if the FDA sucks as much as I think the FDA sucks.

And, it turns that it DOES.

An article, "Medical Devices: Lost in Regulation," by retired medical device researcher Paul Citron in the Spring 2011 Issues in Science and Technology [downloadable here] argues:

Although the United States is still home to numerous medical device companies, these companies no longer bring cutting-edge innovations to U.S. patients first. And U.S. clinical researchers now often find themselves merely validating thea pioneering work that is increasingly being done in Europe and elsewhere in the world. Worse still, seriously ill patients in the United States are now among the last in the world to receive medical innovations that have secured regulatory approval and clinical acceptance elsewhere in the developed world.

Citron cites several cases in which European patients benefited from early access to new medical devices: Deep brain stimulation to treat Parkinson's disease by 44 months; a ventricular support device to improve circulation by 29 months; a pacemaker device to manage irregular contractions in failing hearts by 30 months. Why is this happening? Citron maintains:

What's behind this erosion of leadership and late access to innovations? Simply stated, an overreaching, overly burdensome, and sometimes irrelevant Food and Drug Administration regulatory process for the most sophisticated new medical devices.

(Nod to Angry Alex)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fear of Crime=>Purchase of Gun

Note that if the state actually did the only job that we really want from us, which is to protect us from bad people, this would not be true.

The effect of perceived risk and victimization on plans to purchase a gun for self-protection

Gary Kleck et al., Journal of Criminal Justice, forthcoming

Purposes: To determine if perceived risk of criminal victimization, and past criminal victimization experiences, increases the likelihood of a person owning a gun for self-protection, and to determine if defects in past research concerning the way gun ownership was measured had obscured such effects.

Methods: We analyzed data on over 2,500 U.S. adults, using different ways of measuring gun ownership, and also analyzed future plans (among persons who did not own a gun at the time of the survey) to acquire a gun for self-protection. The latter procedure avoids the causal order problem attributable to the possibility that acquiring a gun might affect victimization risks and perceived risks, as well as the reverse.

Results: The estimated effect of perceived risk and prior victimization changed from being nonsignificant when household gun ownership was the dependent variable (as in most prior research) to being increasingly strong, and statistically significant, when gun ownership of the individual respondent for defensive reasons was measured. Further, once the causal order issue was side-stepped, risk and victimization showed even stronger, significant positive effects on planning to get a gun.

Conclusions: Crime affects gun ownership, in addition to any effects that gun ownership may have on crime.

Two friends of mine have written books on this. They disagree, with each other at least.

John Lott

Kristin Goss

Nod to Kevin Lewis

The New "Don't Go To College" Scholarship

Don't go to college, do get $100,000

The winners were announced today for a new fellowship that has sparked heated debate in academic circles for questioning the value of higher education and suggesting that some entrepreneurial students may be better off leaving college.

Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal, will pay each of the 24 winners of his Thiel Fellowship $100,000 not to attend college for two years and to develop business ideas instead.

The fellows, all 20 years old or younger, will leave institutions including Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Stanford University, to work with a network of more than 100 Silicon Valley mentors and further develop their ideas in areas such as biotechnology, education, and energy.

More than 400 people applied for the fellowship, and 45 of them were flown out to San Francisco in late March to present their ideas to Thiel's foundation and the network of Silicon Valley mentors.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Paying For It: Laws and Norms

Do laws affect attitudes? An assessment of the Norwegian prostitution law
using longitudinal data

Andreas Kotsadam & Niklas Jakobsson
International Review of Law and Economics, forthcoming

Abstract: The question of whether laws affect attitudes has inspired scholars across many disciplines, but empirical knowledge is sparse. Using longitudinal survey data from Norway and Sweden, collected before and after the implementation of a Norwegian law criminalizing the purchase of sexual services, we assess the short-run effects on attitudes using a difference-in-differences approach. In the general population, the law did not affect moral attitudes toward prostitution. However, in the Norwegian
capital, where prostitution was more visible before the reform, the law made people more negative toward buying sex. This supports the claim that proximity and visibility are important factors for the internalization of legal norms.

(nod to Kevin Lewis)

Crime is Falling

FALLING. And that is true even though our idiot lawmakers insist on continuing to make more and more idiot laws.

LeBron has some details, and the link.

Gary Johnson

That cute Will W writes about Gary Johnson in the Economist.

Mr Paul and the tea-party movement are each in their separate ways creatures of Cold War-era conservative-libertarian "fusionism", which remains a powerful ideological and institutional force on the right. In contrast, Mr Johnson comes off as a post-fusionist, libertarian-leaning fiscal conservative. The very existence of such a creature heartens me, but it remains that there exists in our culture no popular, pre-packaged political identity that celebrates and defines itself in terms of these laudable tendencies. "Liberaltarian" pragmatism has no electoral future in the absence of support from social movements and institutions dedicated to promoting it. Mr Johnson's main contribution during the race for the Republican nomination may be simply to show voters that the lonely ground on which he stands is there to stand on. And that's quite worthwhile. But I don't think the MSM has been out of line in treating him as even more of a long-shot than, say, Tim Pawlenty, a similarly uncharismatic but recognisably conservative ex-governor.

Wascawy Wabbit Seller!

This is almost unbelivable. He stopped. He stopped selling wabbits....um... rabbits. Now they fine him.

Because they can. Make an example of him. That sort of thing.

If it was so important to shut him down, why didn't they shut him down? They did nothing, except impose a fine long after he stopped the activity.

(Nod to Angry Alex)

You're So Vain, You Probly Think This Post is About You

No good deed goes unquestioned: Cynical reconstruals maintain belief in the
power of self-interest

Clayton Critcher & David Dunning
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract: In four studies, we examined how people maintain beliefs that self-interest is a strong determinant of behavior, even in the face of disconfirming evidence. People reflecting on selfless behavior tend to reconstrue it in terms of self-interested motives, but do not similarly scrutinize selfish behaviors for selfless motives. Study 1 found that people react to new information that selfless behavior is common by interpreting it as more reflective of self-interest. Studies 2a and 2b, applying a Bayesian analysis, demonstrated that people see "too much" self-interest in seemingly selfless actions, given their prior beliefs, but see the predicted amount of self-interest in seemingly selfish actions. This demonstrates that people do not possess internally consistent belief systems, but rather undue cynicism. In Study 3, participants read about real philanthropists whose acts of generosity had been heralded by major news outlets. As participants spent more time considering why such philanthropy was performed, they formed more cynical impressions of the philanthropists' motives. Beyond offering insight into why belief in the norm of self-interest persists, these studies introduce a novel route by which beliefs resist disconfirmation.

Reminds me of Gordon's old paper...

It's The Expenditures, Stupid!

(Nod to Tim Hedberg, at IHS)

Will the Fair Tax Raise Cain?

Herman Cain is a big fan of the "Fair Tax."

Me, I'm not so sure. We have to cut spending. Taxes are a secondary consideration.

Anonyman is not so sure the math adds up. Me, either.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Cross Talk: Arab Spring?

Alon Ben-Meir, Daniel Pipes, and I were on Cross-Talk.

Wanting Money is Okay; A Golden Toilet is Not Okay

Moral Signals, Public Outrage, and Immaterial Harms

David Tannenbaum, Eric Luis Uhlmann & Daniel Diermeier
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:Public outrage is often triggered by "immaterially" harmful acts (i.e., acts with relatively negligible consequences). A well-known example involves corporate salaries and perks: they generate public outrage yet their financial cost is relatively minor. The present research explains this paradox by appealing to a person-centered approach to moral judgment. Strong moral reactions can occur when relatively harmless acts provide highly diagnostic information about moral character. Studies 1a and 1b first demonstrate dissociation between moral evaluations of persons and their actions - although violence toward a human was viewed as a more blameworthy act than violence toward an animal, the latter was viewed as more revealing of bad moral character. Study 2 then shows that person-centered cues directly influence moral judgments - participants preferred to hire a more expensive CEO when the alternative candidate requested a frivolous perk as
part of his compensation package, an effect mediated by the informativeness of his request.

(Nod to Kevin Lewis)

Not the Onion?

1. WOMAN STOOD UP IN GLOUCESTER; NOW PREGNANT: British couple arrested for having public sex against the wall of the police station in Gloucester, England. According to the arresting officer: "Mr Moore's trousers were around his ankles and Miss Howell had a pile of clothing beside her. We were called from the station and it seems they had a measure of difficulty disengaging Miss Howell and Mr Moore from their activity...They were arrogant and aggressive and said 'If you don't want to look, you don't have to.'"

During the scuffle that followed as police tried to arrest them, both officers were slightly injured. Lisa Ellis, defending, said Moore and Howell were in a relationship together. "They had a couple of drinks and got carried away," she said. Miss Howell is now pregnant, and apparently will NOT be naming the baby "Gloucester." (LINK)

2. ET PHONES JIA: "Everybody from fund managers to jet-setting diplomats is talking about the world's center of gravity shifting to Asia. Now, extraterrestrials appear to be taking notice, too...'It's not surprising, really,' says Debhanom Muangman, a 75-year-old Harvard-educated physician and one of Thailand's leading UFO investigators. 'Aliens have been coming to Asia for decades, but now they sense a change. This is where the progressive countries are, so they are coming here much more often now.'" (LINK)

3. HAIR: New rash of thefts of hair and hair extensions. Ebay blamed for increased of ease of selling hair, because of course you want to rub up against hair that you buy from someone on Ebay. "During the past two months alone, robbers in quest of human hair have killed a beauty shop supplier in Michigan and carried out heists nationwide in which they have made off with tens of thousands of dollars of hair at a time." (LINK)

Nod to Tommy the Brit and to Kevin Lewis

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Highway Robbery

Angry Alex is en fuego. Thanks for the link....

Amazingly brazen. The great part is that the cops actually steal it from each other. And they ONLY try to get the money. Don't care at all about drugs.

We are about 3 years from being Northern Mexico. The temptation to steal drug money, illegally or "legally" as these Tennessee ubergropintheives are doing, is too much.

Grand Game: Hoosier 4th Amendment Edition

I am incredulous about many things in this case.

And it turns out that the Attorney General, who in principle benefits from the decision, actually had the juevos to ask Bozo and the Clown Court to think this over. This judge is Mitch Daniels' big achievement, as a nomination? I'm glad Daniels dropped out of the Prez race. One fewer Constitution-breaker for me to hate. The judge who wrote the opinion, Steven David, is an idiot. Don't take my word for it; it says so on the interwebs, and so it must be true.

The first point is that this was clearly within the scope of probable cause. No 4th Amendment issue need be raised. The Indiana Court is just engaging in recreational judicial legislation. It's not (just) that they got it wrong, THERE WAS NO ISSUE THEY HAD TO ADDRESS.

But they also got it way wrong. The point is not that there is a remedy for false arrest and home invasion. The point is that there has to be a presumption that protects citizens from harrassment and to be secure in their homes and their possessions. "They can sue"? Are you kidding me? Sovereign immunity protections aside, even if that WERE somehow a remedy, the 4th Amendment is explicit, and the body of court decisions is clear. I don't have to sue, because the cops can't come in. And if they do come in, they can't use the evidence. End of story.

Yes, in THIS case they had probable cause, and could have entered. But that's what's so outrageous about writing a 4th Amendment opinion on these facts. You can't freakin' amend the Constitution just because in your opinion another remedy has become available. And, again, let me point out that this is a "conservative" court. God save us from conservatives, as Dan pointed out.

Jeez. Am I going to have to vote for Obama? Cause that's messed up. But we need liberal judges, on both state and national courts, to stop this erosion of our most basic, and until now settled, civil rights.

Nod to Angry Alex. Thanks!

A Guest Blog: Best and Worst World Economies

(While Angus is out...Uganda Africa Again?....I'm accepting guest blogs, even those with opposing views on globalization. So, here you go!)

Comparing the Best and Worst World Economies (by Jeremy Fordham)

Economies thrive when a country has something to sell that the rest of the world wants. Whether it's animal, vegetable or mineral, or in the case of a service economy, human, trade creates wealth. One would think that the richest nations would be the ones with the most natural resources, but it's not necessarily true. For example, Botswana is the world's largest producer of diamonds, but has a GDP per capita of only $6,000.

Once a country identifies its resources, it must have the infrastructure to develop them and the political will to build that infrastructure. This can be done in two ways. One is to use public money for building roads, rails and ports to transport resources to market. The other way countries can grow their infrastructure is by creating trade and tax policies, which foster respect for human rights and the rule of law and will attract businesses to invest and develop the resources, creating wealth for both the companies and the host countries.

The U.S. has been enormously successful by all of these methods, with a public infrastructure that supports business, trade policies that attract foreign investment and one of the world's best human rights records. On the other hand, the Democratic Republic Congo, which is the poorest country on earth, has failed miserably at all three. The country has almost no infrastructure for developing and transporting resources. Likewise, it repels foreign business investment with one of the worst, most violent strings of mass human rights violations on the planet.

As anyone who has studied economics will tell you, there are similarities and differences between the richest and poorest economies. However the differences are stark when viewed statistically. According to the International Monetary Fund, the United States still leads the top ten economies in the world, with a 2010 GDP per capita of $47,400. At the other end of the spectrum, the Democratic Republic of Congo has a GDP per capita of $332. Yet both are republics. Both are rich in natural resources. The U.S. sits on vast deposits of coal, oil, natural gas and minerals. The Congo has oil, natural gas, gold and magnesium in abundance. Why then is the U.S. so rich and the Congo so poor?

One of the major reasons may be that the Congo's $24 trillion in mineral resources also fuels political corruption, and with no infrastructure to speak of, there is no support for industry. Violence prevents businesses from investing and extracting the resources that would make the country rich. This is a problem for many poorer economies in Africa, from Rwanda to Niger.

However countries that have no resources to sell, are small in geographical area, and isolated from the rest of the world have the worst lot of all. Though Nepal is home to Mt. Everest, its people live on an average of less than two dollars a day. Somalia, riven by political violence and with 73 percent of its population living in poverty, has found an unlikely source of income: piracy.

Yet Japan, which is also isolated, geographically small and resource-poor has the third best economy in the world, according to the CIA. Though Japan is a small island, it has invested all over the world in developing resources far from its shores. Technological innovation, a strong work ethic, high educational standards and research and development by industry led it to topple the U.S. "big three" car companies when it developed economy cars during the gas crisis of the 1970s. Following the market, Japanese car companies built factories in the U.S. to accommodate demand.

Undoubtedly geography and environment play an important role in shaping an economy, no matter what the level of natural resources and human determination. Siberia has untold mineral wealth beneath its frozen tundra. Yet it's the frozen tundra that makes them difficult to extract. On the other hand, the United Arab Emirates has vast oceans of oil under its sands that are extremely easy to access. As a result, the UAE has soaring skyscrapers and hotels shaped like sailboats, while Siberia has, well, snow and an economy that ranks 51st in the world.

As climate change progresses, weather and accessibility to clean water will have important impacts on economies. Climate change is one of the great levelers among countries. All countries need to be able to grow food and ship goods. The increasing severity and frequency of floods and storms may wipe out crops and destroy roads and bridges. Likewise, a lack of water for growing populations in some areas will also become a problem that nearly every country will have to face.

In the meantime, trade policy has had a great effect on both poor and rich economies, and not always for the better. When the push for "globalization" began in the 1980s, American businesses shipped jobs and then entire industries overseas into low-priced labor markets. The result of outsourcing has been that the economies of China and India have surged, while the U.S. economy has stagnated and wages have dropped.

Last but not least, the level of education and accessibility of health care affect the vibrancy of a nation's economy, which cannot thrive in the long term without a healthy and intelligent workforce. Here the U.S. suffers, as its education rankings have sunk to 36th in the world, right next to Poland and Estonia. Similarly, Although the U.S. has the most expensive health care in the world, the World Health Organization ranks it 37th for effectiveness, which is about as effective as Costa Rica's health system (which is not near as costly).

It appears that gaps between some of the richest and poorest economies are gradually closing. China was once a fountain of cheap goods for America's insatiable consumers, yet now the country owns much of America's debt. Countries with high populations of young people like India are surging in economic power, while America's aging infrastructure, high deficits and continued outsourcing drain its buying power. It will be interesting to see what country will be the economic "superpower" in another ten years.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A German Orgy?

So, Germans pay for orgies for top salesmen.

The idea of a German orgy is a little sketchy, I think. Like a Bahamian ice skater.

The real question, as Anonyman points out, is: What's with the stamping numbers on peoples' arms? Didn't those madcap Germans already try that?

Representin' Public Choice


Why Muslims like democracy yet have so little of it

Robbert Maseland & André van Hoorn
Public Choice, June 2011, Pages 481-496

Abstract: This paper explains the observed combination of relatively low levels of
democracy and positive attitudes towards it in the Muslim world. It argues that this democracy paradox is understandable from the perspective of the principle of diminishing marginal utility: people value highly that of which they have little. This reasoning implies, however, that surveys like the World Values Surveys (WVS) elicit circumstance-driven marginal preferences rather than culturally determined attitudinal traits. Empirical evidence showing that individuals living in undemocratic societies have much more favorable inclinations towards democracy supports our argument.

(Nod to Kevin Lewis)

Public Choice, fool. You better recognize.

A Little Bit Softer Now....

Not sure why I think this is desperately cute. But I do.

We're off to see the shoebill...

...the wonderful shoebill of Uganda!

Friday, May 20, 2011

We Are in Deep Trouble

If Ruth Bader Ginsberg is the


member of the Supreme Court who understands the 4th Amendment, we are in deep doo-doo.

This case illustrates

1. Why we actually need liberals on the Supreme Court. F*cking conservatives like Alito and John Roberts only care about the Constitution when it's conveeeeenient. This case is like something you use in an undergrad class to illustrate the 4th Amendment. Instead, 8 yo-yos used it to OVERTURN the 4th Amendment.

2. Why the insane war on drugs is insane. The only reason cops are all armed and jumpy and going after people who have not hurt anyone is the stupid laws. Like the Corporate Avenger said, "I don't fault the police. 'Cause the people who run 'em got 'em on a short leash."

John Lithgow Performs Newt Gingrich Press Release


Nod to Ace of Spades...

Grand Game: Jeannie Needs A Solar

Excellent Grand Game topic, from Anonyman.

Toronto schools go solar! They suck down solar subsidies for new roofs.

There's a bunch of dumb stuff here, but the one that made me gasp was their stating all the electricity generation in terms of "capacity." Friends, the "capacity" of solar power is calculated under the assumption that the sun is directly over head 24 hours per day, there are no clouds, and the sun does not move.

This is TORONTO.

The sun moves everywhere. But for 5 months of the year in Toronto the sun is nearly invisible, or at such a low angle that it will generate next to nothing.

And there are two other problems:
Even in Toronto, the sun moves.
Even in Toronto, even in the summer, they have the phenomenon known as "night." It's between evening and dawn (sun moving thing, again), both of which are bad for solar power. But not as bad as "night."

The actual performance of the solar roof? Likely to be 7% of the "capacity" numbers. We are talking about generating power at a cost of 20 cents / kwh, or more, and even then most of the time there won't be any power. If you include the cost of the panels when they are not generating power (Night. Winter. Clouds. That sort of thing.), the cost is probably nearly 50 cents per kwh. (Canada generates power at about 10 cents per kwh, on average, btw, from coal and nuclear plants).

I find it amazing that these schmoes in far northern countries where IS NO FREAKING SUN are the ones who think that anything they do to worship Gaia the Earth Mother is better than having actual schools.

Anyway, your turn. And, enjoy. (I have to go back this, because it is fantastic. First two paragraphs amazing. The reason sunny countries don't use solar is NOT that oil is too cheap. It's that...solar is too expensive! The only reason idiots in Germany and Canada do it is the artificial subsidies, and the belief that no cost is too high if it involves worship of Gaia.)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Pokey-Pokey

I do the POOOOOKey-pokey.

I do the POOOOOKey-pokey.

And that's what it's all about!

As you watch this, some TSA guy is grabbing Angus's tingly bits.

Separate your trash, your recycling, and

...and your babies.

(Nod to Anonyman)

Not the Onion

This is one of the stupidest things I've ever seen.

But they are apparently not kidding.

The whole world is "losing" jobs to productivity. And that's a good thing, Jack Davis.

Some things never change

Lars Von Trier:

"What can I say? I understand Hitler, but I think he did some wrong things, yes, absolutely. But I can see him sitting in his bunker in the end," von Trier said. "He's not what you would call a good guy, but I understand much about him, and I sympathize with him a little bit. But come on, I'm not for the Second World War, and I'm not against Jews. ...

"I am very much for Jews. No, not too much, because Israel is a pain in the ass."

Von Trier went on to say he also admired Hitler aide Albert Speer.

Lars now says he was "joking".

How is the IMF managing director chosen?

DSK is down and everyone has a thought on who the next managing director should be or how the process should work.

"Europe" is demanding that the new appointment be a European.

Since the founding of the IMF and World Bank, a "gentleman's agreement" has been in place that the head of the Bank will be an American and the head of the Fund a European.

The managing director is chosen by the executive board, i.e. the 24 executive directors of the Fund. Here is a link to who they are and who they represent along with the weight that is attached to each of their votes.

Here are the official rules for choosing the managing director:

"The IMF’s Managing Director is both Chairperson of the IMF’s Executive Board and Head of IMF staff. The Managing Director is assisted by a First Deputy Managing Director and two Deputy Managing Directors. He or she is appointed by the Executive Board for a renewable term of five years. Although the Executive Board may select a Managing Director by a majority of votes cast, the Board has in the past made such appointments by consensus."

It doesn't say whether the vote, if one would ever be taken, would be simple majority or weighted majority.

In sum, there is no formal nomination process, no hearings, no debates, just the consensus of the managing directors.

No wonder there is such a rabid free for all going on over the succession.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What Greg and Dan will be reading

Link is here. Note the endorsement by the mighty Jonathan Lethem.

If at first you don't succeed....

bail, bail again!

Looks like some "soft" haircuts will be included in "Grease II", the amazingly cheesy codename for the second round of EU bailouts for Greece.

They won't call it a default, and they'll probably try to make sure that whatever happens doesn't trigger default events in outstanding CDS contracts, but (a) it's a default, and (b) it won't be enough this time either.

I don't understand why the PIG countries just don't flat out default and be done with it. They are destroying their economies for the sake of German and French bankers.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Not the Onion?

Atheists demand chaplains who share their views. Strange as it sounds, groups representing atheists and secular humanists are pushing for the appointment of one of their own to the chaplaincy, hoping to give voice to what they say is a large - and largely underground - population of nonbelievers in the military...Defense Department statistics show that about 9,400 of the nation's 1.4 million active-duty military personnel identify themselves as atheists or agnostics, making them a larger subpopulation than Jews, Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists in the military. But atheist leaders say those numbers are an undercount because, they believe, there are many nonbelievers among the 285,000 service members who claim no religious preference on military surveys. "We deserve our own chaplains, people we can go to and talk about our deeply held non-beliefs and know they will be sympathetic," said one serviceman. (LINK)

Watermelons Explode In Farm Fields In China. BEIJING -- Watermelons have been bursting by the score in eastern China after farmers gave them overdoses of growth chemicals during wet weather, creating what state media called fields of "land mines." About 20 farmers around Danyang city in Jiangsu province were affected, losing up to 115 acres (45 hectares) of melon, China Central Television said in an investigative report. Prices over the past year prompted many farmers to jump into the watermelon market. All of those with exploding melons apparently were first-time users of the growth accelerator forchlorfenuron, though it has been widely available for some time, CCTV said. ..."If it had been used on very young fruit, it wouldn't be a problem," Wang said. "Another reason is that the melons they were planting are actually nicknamed the 'exploding melon' because they tend to split." (LINK)

Tense standoff in Dearborn, MI, at a Wal-Mart. Gunman holds hostages, but hostages all insist that they really never shop at Wal-Mart and so in fact were probably not really there. This is going to make it difficult to obtain any witnesses if the case goes to trial. Apparently one college professor who was taken hostage insisted that in fact he was confused, and thought it was a "Whole Foods," rather than a Wal-Mart. "Someone needs to look into the way these stores are labeled," complained Dr. Andrew Pinns-Waite, associate professor of English at Spring Arbor University. (LIN(K)

(Nod to Kevin Lewis and the Blonde)

MHP on Cornell West and BHO

I consider Melissa Harris-Perry a friend. Got to know her well while she was at Duke. She is a fine woman. There are some things we disagree about, but then I'm often wrong.

This I do know: Writing this little number took some courage. Well done, MHP.

I understand that MHP is in some ways simply defending the Democratic establishment here. But she also says quite a few needful things. I doubt she is going to be on Tavis Smiley's show anytime soon. But then, Tavis Smiley had it coming.

Photo of the day

Will the meeting of the DSK fan club please come to order?


Sometimes you come across a post that is so perfect, in every way, that there is nothing more to say. This post is like that.

Your Job Counts on Account of the Way It Is Counted

Interesting. Our boy LeBron points out that the way we count matters, and that "offshoring" may overcount the portion of value created in the U.S. (And this in reference to an article he cites. Nice.)

I have taken the other side, claiming that the way we count dramatically UNDERCOUNTS how much value is created in the U.S. Sure, the "jobs" may be offshored, but they are a tiny part of the value of the product, and what is being done overseas is easy, repetitive, and cheap, not something U.S. workers need to do. Our other boy, Mark Perry, writes it up for the iPhone. Here's the value pie chart:

Who is right? I find the Houseman, et al., article pretty persuasive. So, I am, as usual, confused. It can't be that we BOTH overcount and undercount, can it?

(UPDATE: Meant to say that the title is stolen from the evil "May the Schwartz Be With You!")

(UPDATE II: LG and JN had an interesting exchange. Here is my own view: we might well want to soften the blow. Globalization helps all of us a little, but hurts a few of us a lot. Why not smooth out a little?)

Monday, May 16, 2011

We are who we thought we were!

Yesterday....my governor in action:

(Gov. Beverly) Perdue said, according to her staff. "We are North Carolina, and we have chosen to become that because of our generational legacy of education."

1. I have no idea what that means. But I'm pretty sure it doesn't actually mean anything.

2. That was not a direct quote. That was the part of what Bev said that her staff thought was hard-hitting and meaningful. Imagine what they left out.

Here's the thing. NC's Dept of Public Instruction employs hundreds of androids and goof-offs who NEVER go near a classroom. Our state DPI has a huge building right down from the Leg Office Building with a big mural. "You are suitable to be awed."

(Nope, not a clue what that means, either. Guy must write for all the state offices, including Bev.)

Prime real estate. Has to be worth $10 million or more, with a payroll of another $10 million. I'd say, "you are suitable to be SOLD," NCDPI building.

How about this: abolish the NCDPI, sell the giant admin building. That would be $10 million this year for schools, and $10 million a year from now on in savings. AND NOT ONE ACTUAL TEACHER WOULD BE LAID OFF. Just a bunch of professional Democrats sucking on the public teat.

Seems to me the Gov should get back to her real specialty, taking money from poor people and pretending to help them.

UPDATE: Got this email... "I looked at the pic of the dept of ed building, and it looks like it actually says: "You are a child. You are suitable to be awed." Of course I first thought it was a translation from a well-known Japanese saying, or maybe some unique translation from the bible. But after reading it again I'm convinced they got it from a child molester that used it as a pick up line. "And ya know what will awe you? DEEZ!"

What kid doesn't want to be "awed" - even if they don't know what it means.

It's really creepy, I hope you're planning to run again...please."

New Americans Proud, Dept Homeland Security Americans Not So Much

An account from a reader, about citizenship. He is a citizen; his spouse, Alician, has a green card and has finally qualified for full U.S. citizenship. (No, Alician is not her real name). I have inserted some comments in [ ] branckets.

[A while ago ] at 5pm Alician got a call from the gubmint. Homeland Security said that they finally found her file [misplaced for six weeks! No explanation...] and to show up at 3pm the next day at the [regional] office, to be sworn in as a U.S. citizen. We showed up at 3 and were herded into a windowless conference room with about 20 other people. I started to think this was a set-up and everyone was going to be handcuffed and led onto a bus [or maybe a "shower"?].

But then a clearly bored "official" turned on the dvd player and left. We watched a 20 minute video showing pictures of 19th century immigrants while inspiring piano music played. After that another video began, which consisted of more pictures of immigrants with "I'm proud to be an American" as the soundtrack...the entire song!
[If you want the experience, here is the Lee Greenwood video...]

I think DHS saw this as their last chance to torture foreigners before they become citizens. After that video ended nothing happened, no actual person was around, and so we waited half an hour. Eventually, some soon to be ex-immigrant showed the entrepreneurial spirit [and that's why we need immigrants!] and flagged someone down to point out that we were all waiting to be sworn in.

Finally a woman showed up looking completely flustered and proceeded muy rapidamente to give the oath and pass out certificates. Then we were told to leave, quite abruptly. I think she was too busy not processing paperwork to be interrupted from not swearing in new citizens. Balancing the not-doing of all that work has to be pretty stressful.

So: After over five years, thousands of dollars in fees (as it's not supposed to cost the taxpayers any $), and hundreds of documents, it came down to this... "Would you just take your pathetic certificate and leave? We don't really have time for this, and we don't have any more awful videos to show you. We certainly don't have time to say anything, because then you would see we ourselves don't believe in all this patriotism crap. We at DHS actually hate Americans."

I felt bad for the people in uniform [a number of U.S. soldiers were gaining their citizenship for the first time] and from war-torn countries. They should have been treated better on their first day as U.S. citizens. Alician had the perfect one-word description: "Graceless." Still, she actually is proud to be an American, even if those DHS folks aren't.

Photo of the day

(clic the pic for a more glorious perp walk)

People, who will join me in contributing to a fund to purchase razors and decent neckties for the NYPD??

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Hurtful, MOST Hurtful.

Darn, that hurts.

I thought Paul and me was tight, ya heard?

But apparently NOT, since "ALL his favorite libertarians" write for one blog, JUST ONE BLOG.

That's aaight, Paul, I see how it is. That's cool, you go ahead on. I'll get over it. If you really think that that brazen hussy Zwolinsky is cuter than Angus and I, FINE.

Fair Trade Revealed As Feel-Good Hoax

I have for some time been a basher and hater of "Fair Trade," in coffee and other commodities. In fact, as far as I'm concerned, Russ Roberts and I podcastrated the whole issue nearly four years ago. Sarah Marchmont wrote a very fair-minded article about it.

Here is the basic economics--a rent is being created: a price above market price is being charged. In countries where property rights, contracts, and rule of law is tenuous, feel-gooders and scam artists have put together an unholy coalition. The feel-gooders create something called "Fair Trade" certification, which means that the farmers get paid well above market price for the coffee they produce.

Not surprisingly, many farmers want to get in on this action. But less than all can be certified "fair trade" recipients, since a price that much above the market price would create a surplus. The fair trade feel-gooders would never be able to sell the glut of coffee if EVERYONE gets fair trade certification.

So, the feel-gooders stick their fingers in their ears and shout "LA-LA-LA-LA-LA" and pretend that their partners the scam artists are doing the right thing when they hand out the "fair trade" certifications.

But remember that these are countries with little rule of law, and shoddy police enforcement. So what the scam artists in effect do is sell off the rent (the high price of fair trade certification) to the highest bidder.

The result is that, after a fairly short period, three years at most, the "fair trade" farmers are getting no more, and maybe less, than everyone else, and no more than they got before the "fair trade" scam was started. The scam artists, it's true, are skimming the profits, but the competition to become a scam artist then becomes the valuable commodity, and rent-seeking to get to be the guy who certifies "fair trade" then also dissipates THAT rent. Some government official in the country, the one who licenses the guy who licenses the guy who certifies "fair trade" farmers ends up sucking down the rent.

Consumers pay more, and feel good about themselves. The feel-gooders who started the program move on to abuse some other group of farmers with false promises. And the results are a substantial increase in dead-weight loss.

Don't believe me? Article in the National Post, by Lawrence Solomon, founder of Green Beanery in Toronto, a suburb of Buffalo.

And the German study that really reveals how it all works. In fact, as the Hohenheimers note, the certification process is so corrupt many don't even bother, and just mislabel the coffee as "fair trade" from the get-go.

All you need to know to figure out why "fair trade" and similar feel good programs are dumb is have lunch with Bob Tollison once, and have him explain what rent-seeking is. Or you can read this, I suppose, though Bob is a better bet. (Dr. Henderson gives a nice short history.) The point is that once you understand rent-seeking, you can PREDICT that stuff like "fair trade" won't work. It can't work. And it doesn't work.

UPDATE: Dalibor Rohac has a nice piece on same subject. Thanks for the tip, DR!

Note to Anonyman: Anonywife Is NOT Pleased....

Anonyman was passing the sink, there in lovely Anonytown. And noticed this:

Dude, go out RIGHT NOW, get some nice flowers, and just start saying "I'm sorry, honey I'm sorry, look, I'm sorry." Do NOT wait to find out what "the matter" is. Go. Et bon chance...

A cultural bouillabaisse

1. The culture that is France; the enablement of DSK. (Hat tip to LeBron)

2. The culture that is Australia; "boozed-up idiots running wild all over the country"

3. The culture that is Mexico; the toes knows!

I guess Paul Krugman shops at the Gap...

....because he doesn't know much about Banana Republic!

Paul says trying to link spending cuts to raising the debt ceiling makes America more likely to be seen as a Banana Republic, because it will show that "crazy extremists" have so much "blocking power" that we can't "get our house in order".

I would venture the view that the opposite is more likely to be true. Unconditionally raising the debt ceiling (again) without changes to path of future spending is likely to re-confirm the view that America is well on the road to becoming the mother of all Banana Republics.

Historically, Banana Republics were not run by "crazy extremists", they were run by corrupt plutocrats who governed in favor of foreign companies that controlled the export of the country's primary product (Wow, is Goldman Sachs the USA's United Fruit??).

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Not the Onion?

As many as one, or more, of these stories may be the Onion. Or, not.

1. In addition to being a terrorist mastermind, Osama Bin Laden was also kind of an underminer. Bin Laden's hand-written diary lists the secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as major targets, but the head of Joe Biden? Meh, maybe later. A counter-terrorism official tells the Telegraph, “There is a note indicating that the vice president is not an important target because that position has less weight.” Notes in the journal also paint a picture of bin Laden as the kind of boss that would peer into your cubicle if he wasn't hiding out in a compound: "You could describe him as a micro-manager," a U.S. official said. "The cumbersome process he had to follow for security reasons did not prevent him from playing a role...He was down in the weeds as far as best operatives, best targets, best timing." (LINK)

2. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange now makes his associates sign a complex, multi-page nondisclosure agreement that, among other things, asserts that the organization’s huge trove of leaked material is “solely the property of WikiLeaks,” according to a report Wednesday. “You accept and agree that the information disclosed, or to be disclosed to you pursuant to this agreement is, by its nature, valuable proprietary commercial information,” the agreement reads, “the misuse or unauthorized disclosure of which would be likely to cause us considerable damage.” Assange said, "The last thing we need is some tosser leaking all of our documents. I mean, wtf?" (LINK)

3. PALO ALTO, CA—Hewlett-Packard announced Friday the release of the first-ever non-computer, a device specifally designed to address the demands of individuals who have absolutely no need to own a computer. CEO Léo Apotheker told reporters the non-computer was a long-overdue innovation that would finally allow consumers with zero interest in computers to enjoy all the benefits of not having one. (LINK)

4. Really Gross "Person Who Had Been Dead for a Long Time Before Anybody Noticed" of the Day Story: Police have confirmed the discovery of human remains inside — from an elderly person who passed away years ago. Police showed up Thursday night, but because of the filth inside they couldn’t go in without a full-scale HAZMAT team. That team was assembled Friday morning, and the elderly man’s remains were found already decomposed on a bedroom floor. Neighbors said the daughter should be held responsible. “The father just happened to disappear one day, and nobody knew what happened to him. She kept saying he was fine, in a nursing home, then upstate,” neighbor David Welch added. Of course, for most New Yorkers, living "upstate" is no different from being dead, so the daughter may just have been speaking metaphorically. (LINK)

(Nod to Flo and Anonyman)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Minnesota: Behold your Senator!

I expect moronic stuff like this from Senator Al Franken, but I am actually a little bit surprised at Ezra Klein's cheerleading.

Ezra, in his WAPO column proposes some "no brainers", proposed legislation that everyone should be able to agree on.

According to him, no-brainer #4 is the Franken-sponsored "Pay for War Act".

As Franken puts it, "war shouldn't add to the deficit".

Now, I'm guessing Al is opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (me too!!), but that is just a completely idiotic principle.

People, in WWII the deficit reached 25% of GDP. Good thing for us Al Franken wasn't in office then!

"Gee whiz Hirohito, we sure don't like what you're doing, but we've about maxed out this year's tax revenues and hey, war shouldn't add to the deficit, so......."

Look at this picture and then reflect on the fact that Al Franken is a US Senator (clic the pic for a more glorious image)!

WWI and WWII stick out like wagging fingers rebuking Senator Al (and his boy Ezra).

If the US is in a war that poses a serious threat, we need to be able to spend whatever it takes to win. That's just common sense, as Al likes to say.

Trying to hamstring the future defense of this country as a reaction to the current situation certainly is a no-brainer, just not in the way Ezra means the term.

Bad Spam: These Kids Today...

Spammers used to take a little pride in their work. Make up a story, about a war, a widow, and a desperate last chance to make things right. Some romance, some mystery, knamean?

But now, these kids today simply do not take any pride in their work. Look at this spam I got yesterday: Really? If you are going to send a stupid spam phish to a million people, wouldn't you spend more than 20 seconds writing the thing? I understand spammers are busy, but where's the craftsmanship?

Two Very Cool Articles: Coopertation

Wow. Interesting.

The joker effect: Cooperation driven by destructive agents

Alex Arenas et al.
Journal of Theoretical Biology, 21 June 2011, Pages 113-119

Abstract: Understanding the emergence of cooperation is a central issue in
evolutionary game theory. The hardest setup for the attainment of cooperation in a population of individuals is the Public Goods game in which cooperative agents generate a common good at their own expenses, while defectors “free-ride” this good. Eventually this causes the exhaustion of the good, a situation which is bad for everybody. Previous results have shown that introducing reputation, allowing for volunteer participation, punishing defectors, rewarding cooperators or structuring agents, can enhance cooperation. Here we present a model which shows how the introduction of rare, malicious agents – that we term jokers – performing just destructive actions on the other agents induce bursts of cooperation. The appearance of jokers promotes a rock-paper-scissors dynamics, where jokers outbeat defectors and cooperators outperform jokers, which are subsequently invaded by defectors. Thus, paradoxically, the existence of destructive agents acting indiscriminately promotes cooperation.


Experiment on the Demand for Encompassment

Daniel Klein et al.
George Mason University Working Paper, March 2011

Abstract: The idea of political community is appealing on a gut level. Hayek suggested that certain genes and instincts still dispose us toward the ethos and mentality of the hunter-gatherer band, and that modern forms of political collectivism have, in part, been atavistic reassertions of such tendencies. Picking up on Hayek, Klein (2005) has suggested a combination of yearnings: 1) a yearning for coordinated sentiment (like Smithian sympathy), and 2) a yearning that the sentiment encompass the whole group. This paper reports on an experiment designed to explore the demand for encompassment by having subjects sing together. In each trial, one person in the room was designated not to sing unless every one of the others in the room had made a payment sufficient so as to have that person sing. Subjects chose to sacrifice money to achieve encompassment 47.4 percent of the time, with 59.6 percent of the subjects doing so in at least one trial. An exit questionnaire showed that subjects‘ chief reason for making such a sacrifice was a belief that the singing would be more enjoyable if it encompassed the whole group, and reported enjoyment is significantly higher with encompassment. We discuss the experiment as a parable for a penchant toward political collectivism.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Family Ties

The Politics of Mate Choice

John Alford et al.
Journal of Politics, April 2011, Pages 1–19

Abstract: Recent research has found a surprising degree of homogeneity in the personal political communication network of individuals but this work has focused largely on the tendency to sort into likeminded social, workplace, and residential political contexts. We extend this line of research into one of the most fundamental and consequential of political interactions — that between sexual mates. Using data on thousands of spouse pairs in the United States, we investigate the degree of concordance among mates on a variety of traits. Our findings show that physical and personality traits display only weakly positive and frequently insignificant correlations across spouses. Conversely, political attitudes display interspousal correlations that are among the strongest of all social and biometric traits. Further, it appears the political similarity of spouses derives in part from initial mate choice rather than persuasion and accommodation over the life of the relationship.


Sibling Ideological Influence: A Natural Experiment

R. Urbatsch
British Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Abstract: Siblings are a potentially important source of political socialization.
Influence is common, especially among younger siblings and those close in age, who tend to interact most frequently. This suggests that the positions of an individual's next-older sibling will hold particular sway. In policyquestions with a gender gap, then, those whose immediately older sibling is a sister will be more likely to absorb the typically female preference; those born after a brother, the male preference. Evidence from the United States shows that this pattern holds for general left–right orientation as well as for the preferred balance between public and private sectors. Just as American women are more likely to lean left and to see government intervention positively, so are Americans whose next-older sibling is female.

(Nod to Kevin Lewis)

I heart Benjamins!

Bennett McCallum says that we shouldn't raise inflation targets to avoid the zero bound problem because "Present institutional arrangements are not immutable. In particular, elimination of traditional currency is feasible (even arguably attractive) and would remove the ZLB constraint on policy."

Wow, thanks Ben (and all the others of your ilk).

Making currency illegal so the government can impose negative rates of return on all conceivable assets is such a dumb idea that only a highly trained economist could call it "arguably attractive".

There is little enough anonymity and privacy left in these United States of ours; let's not get rid of the last remaining shreds under the guise of "improving the performance of monetary policy".

Or, to put it another way, Big Brother is already plenty big enough!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Razing Arizona

Cute. The lefties in Arizona don't actually believe in "democracy" after all. As soon as they are in the minority, they become big "stop tyranny of the majority!" boosters. They even want to secede, and create their own little Atlantis in the Desert, presumably led by John Gulch.

For Pima County to actually become its own state:
• Pima residents would have to approve of the move in a referendum.
• The state legislature would have to approve of it, or it could pass in a state- wide referendum.
• The United States Congress would have to approve it.

The secession movement will almost certainly overcome zero of these three hurdles. But let's say that it did. This new "Baja Arizona" would be larger than Rhode Island, Delaware, New Jersey, and Connecticut, and it would have a greater population than Wyoming, Montana, Alaska, and the Dakotas. It would probably boast two Democratic senators (which is one of many reasons why this would never get through Congress). And the state motto would be, "Arizona: Now With 70 Percent Less Crazy!" or "Phew, Glad That's Over."

(Nod to Anonyman)

Kids Eat Coins, DJIA Passes

An actual article, sort of, on the relation between DJIA and kids eating coins.

“OBJECTIVE: To examine the relation between coins ingested by children and the Dow Jones Industrial Average. DESIGN: Observational study. Main outcome measures Total value of coins ingested and number of incidents of coins versus other objects swallowed, measured before and after the stock market crash of October 2008. RESULTS: Eighteen objects, including 11 coins, were ingested (NASDAQ (numismatic and sundry detritus acquired) composite of 18). The total value of the 11 coins swallowed was $1.03 (FTSE 100 (fraction of the US$ or 100 cents) index of 103). The pecuniary extraction ratio (PE ratio) was 0.57 (9/16). Comparing values for a period before and after October 2008, the mean monthly NASDAQ composite (0.41 (SD 0.67) v 0.5 (0.85), P=0.75), FTSE 100 index in cents (2.3 (6.8) v 3.1 (7.8), P=0.77), and PE ratio (0.54 (0.52) v 0.66 (0.29), P=0.50) did not change. The mean end-of-month closing value of the Dow Jones, however, decreased significantly (12 537 (841.4) v 8388 (699.8), P=0.001). CONCLUSION: There was no detectable difference in the total value of coins ingested, or ratio of coins to other objects swallowed, before or after a massive stock market crash.”

(Nod to @mscourt)

Political Science Blogging

Herr Fuchs sends this link, to an article by the estimable John Sides of the also estimable Monkey Cage.

In one part of the article, John asks, "Should Junior Faculty Blog?" I think his answer is a bit too optimistic. If your blog is invisible, why waste time on it? And if it is successful, and you become known for it, you are taking a pretty big chance when it comes time for promotion. Either way, I'd say, "no," at least until your fifth year or so in a TT job.

On the plus side of blogging, I blushingly refer to this article on "Truthiness" and political blogging, in a special issue of PC edited by blogging stalwarts Drezner and Farrell.

(Yes, it's gated. Send me an email and I'll send you a PDF, if you don't have access through a library).

UPDATE: On some comments. if you played Russian Roulette and won, that doesn't mean that it is a good idea to play Russian Roulette. So the fact that some people start a blog early, and still get tenure, is not proof it is a good idea.

Good of Dan D to write a comment also. Now, I don't think that the blog was the reason Dan did NOT get tenure. But I (and Dan) will always wonder a little bit whether it had some negative effect.

Dan wrote about it here... Seems like a long time ago now. Dan is fine, still cute and perky. But we'll never know.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The ultimate Giffen good?

Betsey S. says it may be kids!!

The whole article is excellent. Here's the nub:

Stating the problem this way makes it clear that Caplan’s argument actually requires parents to be making two mistakes. The first mistake is that the returns to the marginal hours with our children are lower than we think, and so we are over-investing in quality. If he’s right, we can all save ourselves a lot of time. But this doesn’t mean that we should necessarily have more kids. Here’s where the second assumption really matters: Caplan thinks that we should take the time we save and spend it on a greater quantity of children.

You can think of this another way. Caplan says that we parents are charging ourselves too much for children. And just as we buy more televisions when the price falls, we should have more children when the price falls. Maybe. But maybe not. When we reduce the price, there are both income and substitution effects. Caplan is entirely focused on the substitution effect: having kids becomes cheaper relative to buying TVs. So he says buy more kids, and fewer TVs. But what about the income effect? As people become richer, they tend to “buy” fewer children, not more. So there’s an offsetting income effect. Is it possible that the income effect overwhelms the substitution effect? Typically this only occurs among goods which take a big share of our budgets. Like children.

Video on Gas Price Hypocrisy

It is remarkable to watch how the ideological bias of the media condihttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.giftions the response to higher gas prices. And the president's scorn for SUVs is impressive, especially since this is his ride.

We have talked before about how higher prices may have some useful effects. In particular, we are not going to "run out" of oil, even though the peak oil harpies shriek about it.

But you can't say the effects of X are bad if Republicans are in power, but good if Democrats are in power.

The Most Pompous Man on Earth

Okay, so P-Kroog is the most pompous, least self-aware, most earnestly immune from self-doubt person in journalism today. (Olbermann is a bigger a-hole, but he has some ironic self-awareness).

Still, I refuse to believe that this P-Kroog critique of how elites misled policy, and blamed voters, is anything but satire. Surely even P-Kroog had to recognize that he is really talking about himself.

Well, what I’ve been hearing with growing frequency from members of the policy elite — self-appointed wise men, officials, and pundits in good standing — is the claim that it’s mostly the public’s fault. The idea is that we got into this mess because voters wanted something for nothing, and weak-minded politicians catered to the electorate’s foolishness.

So this seems like a good time to point out that this blame-the-public view isn’t just self-serving, it’s dead wrong.

The fact is that what we’re experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. The policies that got us into this mess weren’t responses to public demand. They were, with few exceptions, policies championed by small groups of influential people — in many cases, the same people now lecturing the rest of us on the need to get serious. And by trying to shift the blame to the general populace, elites are ducking some much-needed reflection on their own catastrophic mistakes.

He's got to realize that's irony, right? He's GOT to.

(Nod to Angry Alex)

Sports and Road Rage

The Bad Thing about Good Games: The Relationship between Close Sporting Events and Game-Day Traffic Fatalities

Stacy Wood, Melayne Morgan McInnes & David Norton
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

Abstract: For sports fans, great games are the close ones — those between evenly-matched opponents where the game remains undecided until the very end. However, the dark-side to sporting events is the incidence of traffic fatalities due to game- related drinking. Here, the authors ask whether the closeness of the game impacts the number of fatalities that occur. Two opposing predictions can be made. Games that are not close (“blow-outs”) may be less engaging, thus increasing drinking. Alternatively, close games may be more dangerous, increasing competition-associated testosterone that spills over into aggressive driving. An analysis of major sporting events (2001-2008) shows that closer games are significantly correlated with more fatalities. Importantly, increased fatalities are observed only in locations with winning fans (game-site and/or winners’ hometown) congruent with a testosterone- based account. Ultimately, this finding has material consequences for public welfare on game-days and suggests one silver-lining for losing fans may be a safer drive home.

(nod to Kevin Lewis)


Hey Jeff Van Gundy, Mike Fratello, Mike Brown, or Phil Jackson. Would one of y'all please come coach the Thunder?


If the Thunder had better offensive game planning and better situational adjustments, they could win it all this year.

But they don't, so they probably won't.
They just might beat Memphis though!

Not the Onion?

Which of these stories might be the Onion? Click the (LINK) at the end of each "story" to find out if it's real...

1. "Lots" of clergymen apparently pretend to be ex-Navy Seals, as an "ego-booster." Don Shipley, a retired SEAL who maintains a database of all former SEALs, got many to admit that they lied. "We deal with these guys all the time, especially the clergy," Shipley says. "It’s amazing how many of the clergy are involved in those lies to build that flock up." (LINK)

2. The federal government is going to require credit card companies to deny cards to women who stay home. "In explaining why this is O.K., the Fed said it believed 'married women who do not work outside the home' will still have access to credit because they can apply for joint accounts with their husbands, or become authorized users on their husband’s accounts. The board did concede that applying jointly might be 'inconvenient or impracticable' in some situations, like applying for on-the-spot credit at a retail store." Presumably if the ladies ask real nice, or else trade sex for use of the card, it will all work out. (LINK)

3. The President of the United States and a top general appear to have communicated with each other in a way that would be hard for terrorists to recognize or intercept, in the period just before the attack on Bin Laden's compound in Abbotabad. Bloggers the world over are shocked that the President did not use a public means of communication, perhaps a billboard or a Twitter account, to give orders about the dangerous mission. "If the President can communicate with top military officers in secret, how will I blog about it?" wrote one fat guy typing on a Macbook Pro in his pajamas* in the basement of his mom's house late Monday afternoon. (LINK)

(*How the Macbook Pro got into his pajamas we'll never know...)

(Nod to Anonyman and the Blonde)