Saturday, January 08, 2011

Mother Superior jumped the gun

Wow. Huge article in today's WSJ by Yale Law professor Amy Chua (of World on Fire "fame") called, "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior". Should have been titled "I am a raging, abusive, racist, a-hole".

It's terrific to read the whole thing. You think it can't get any worse and then it does.

Here's a lovely vignette involving her masochistic husband, Jed and daughter Lulu, that followed Lulu's inability to play a certain piece of music on the piano:

Jed took me aside. He told me to stop insulting Lulu—which I wasn't even doing, I was just motivating her—and that he didn't think threatening Lulu was helpful. Also, he said, maybe Lulu really just couldn't do the technique—perhaps she didn't have the coordination yet—had I considered that possibility?

"You just don't believe in her," I accused.

"That's ridiculous," Jed said scornfully. "Of course I do."

"Sophia could play the piece when she was this age."

"But Lulu and Sophia are different people," Jed pointed out.

"Oh no, not this," I said, rolling my eyes. "Everyone is special in their special own way," I mimicked sarcastically. "Even losers are special in their own special way. Well don't worry, you don't have to lift a finger. I'm willing to put in as long as it takes, and I'm happy to be the one hated. And you can be the one they adore because you make them pancakes and take them to Yankees games."

I rolled up my sleeves and went back to Lulu. I used every weapon and tactic I could think of. We worked right through dinner into the night, and I wouldn't let Lulu get up, not for water, not even to go to the bathroom.

Holy Crap!

The Matthew Effect

"To those that have, more will be given"

Quantitative and empirical demonstration of the Matthew effect in a study of career longevity

Alexander Petersen, Woo-Sung Jung, Jae-Suk Yang & Eugene Stanley, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 4 January 2011, Pages 18-23

Abstract: The Matthew effect refers to the adage written some two-thousand years ago in the Gospel of St. Matthew: “For to all those who have, more will be given.” Even two millennia later, this idiom is used by sociologists to qualitatively describe the dynamics of individual progress and the interplay between status and reward. Quantitative studies of professional careers are traditionally limited by the difficulty in measuring progress and the lack of data on individual careers. However, in some professions, there are well-defined metrics that quantify career longevity, success, and prowess, which together contribute to the overall success rating for an individual employee. Here we demonstrate testable evidence of the age-old Matthew “rich get richer” effect, wherein the longevity and past success of an individual lead to a cumulative advantage in further developing his or her career. We develop an exactly solvable stochastic career progress model that quantitatively incorporates the Matthew effect and validate our model predictions for several competitive professions. We test our model on the careers of 400,000 scientists using data from six high-impact journals and further confirm our findings by testing the model on the careers of more than 20,000 athletes in four sports leagues. Our model highlights the importance of early career development, showing that many careers are stunted by the relative disadvantage associated with inexperience.

I think of this as a kind of path-dependence. Along the lines Adam Smith (WoN, Bk I, chapter 2) suggested:

The difference of natural talents in different men is, in reality, much less than we are aware of; and the very different genius which appears to distinguish men of different professions, when grown up to maturity, is not upon many occasions so much the cause, as the effect of the division of labour. The difference between the most dissimilar characters, between a philosopher and a common street porter, for example, seems to arise not so much from nature, as from habit, custom, and education. When they came into the world, and for the first six or eight years of their existence, they werea, perhaps,a very much alike, and neither their parents nor play–fellows could perceive any remarkable difference. About that age, or soon after, they come to be employed in very different occupations. The difference of talents comes then to be taken notice of, and widens by degrees, till at last the vanity of the philosopher is willing to acknowledge scarce any resemblance.

(nod to Kevin Lewis)

Friday, January 07, 2011

Almost Too Easy

It's almost too easy (and depressing).

But as Nick "The Jacket" Gillespie points out (and as KPC has pointed out)'s NOT A HARD QUESTION!

(Nod to Angry Alex)

Odd Sentences, of the Criminal Kind

Some unusual sentences. Some funny, some just.... odd.

(Nod to the LMM)

If This Be Critique, Give Us More of It!

S.T. Karnick assesses Christopher Beam's recent article on libertarianism.

Both articles worth reading. If this be critique, give us more of it. Beam at least drills down a couple of levels, and correctly concludes (a) the Founders had real libertarian motives, in SOME ways, and (b) the modern Republicans couldn't see a real libertarian principle if someone wrapped it around their big porky necks.

(Nod to the Blonde)

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Afghan Troop Surge

On the Afghan troop surge:

(Nod to Angry Alex)

Video Beatdowns

I am a fan of a good video interview beatdown.

Here are two exceptionally delightful ones.

The folks at CNN put the hammer down on Dr. Wakefield, the Bernie Madoff of vaccine science.

And Jon Stewart's man Aasiaf Mandvi goes after San Francisco. I giggled and jiggled uncontrollably. The sheer Orwellian arrogance of the SF guy, saying "we don't have that power." Really? REALLY?

(Nod to @BrendanNyhan and Angry Alex)

Congratulations, Venezuela!

According to the Economist, exactly 5 countries are forecasted to have a shrinking economy in 2011. Only two of them are PIIGS (Portugal & Greece). Two others are small islands (Barbados & Puerto Rico).

The other is Venezuela, who is forecasted to do worse than Spain, Iceland, Ireland, and Italy (among many many others).

Nice work Hugo!

Reading The Constitution: Charade

I have been getting some angry emails from people who object to what I said in the David Lightman / McClatchy story about the new Congress. Here is what I said: "This is to make the tea party people happy. It's like a religious ceremony."

Anyone who reads this blog even occasionally knows I am a fan of the Constitution. The reason I think that the "reading ceremony" in Congress is idiotic is that I know for a fact the Republicans know they are LYING when they say they admire the Constitution. They have no intention of cutting spending, none.

Or maybe they don't know, and they are just idiots. Daniel Henninger explains the "perhaps they are idiots" position in today's WSJ quite nicely.

The Republicans are reading their little pocket Constitutions, and as soon as they get a chance they are going to increase the deficit dramatically. Because that is what Republicans do. You can't blame dogs for eating out of the garbage.

Trade is Good

More trade is more good. Restricting trade is bad. It's not complicated. And even unilateral movements toward free trade are good. Reminds me of the way I introduce my talks on free trade: a matching exercise.

China ... USA

1. Which country has the largest amount of manufacturing, by value, in the world?
2. Which country lost the most manufacturing jobs, gross, between 1990 and 2005?

The answers surprise people who know nothing about economics. The answer to 1 is "USA," by a lot.

The answer to 2 is China, again by a lot. Think of it this way: Here is a Chinese manufacturing facility, in 1990...
Here is a Chinese manufacturing facility in 2005...
China lost tens of millions of manufacturing jobs. Just compare the two pictures above, and you know it is true. The automated facility can produce 100 times, or 1000 times, as much output, and do it with fewer workers. But only if trade is possible. Because as Adam Smith brilliantly noted, "The Division of Labor is Limited by the Extent of the Market."

The point is that all factories, all over the world, are "losing" jobs to productivity. Adam Smith called it "division of labor." So while China has increased manufacturing OUTPUT (though not as much as the US!), China is rapidly losing manurfacturing JOBS.

So, to be clear, total US manufacturing is NOT falling. It's going up. Yes, up. We are losing jobs, sure, because we are becoming more productive. Check Mark Perry's graph:

UPDATE: Yes, I recognize that the idea of "gross jobs" is nonsense. I don't disagree with the comments. But when US protectionists talk about "shipping jobs to China" that is exactly what they are referring to. I'll stop when that idiot Lou Dobbs stops talking that way.

Further, remember this: In the Stone Age, unemployment was zero. Our goal is to be wealthy, not employed. Employment is often a means to wealth, but it is not the same thing. As my man Alan A says, "jobs are a COST." Cool.

Sustainable Marriage

Interesting article in the NYTimes, about marriage.

Quotes our longtime friend Caryl Rusbult, who was at UNC Chapel Hill for years (she was married to David Lowery, ex-editor of JOP and well-known political scientist).

The article actually does not do Caryl's theory justice. Caryl saw marriage as an institution that helped capture gains from exchange, and rewarded "investment." The NYTimes reporter is just genetically incapable of using a market metaphor in a positive way, and so ignored that part.

Caryl Rusbult died almost exactly a year ago. She is missed.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

End of Year Column From KPC Friend "Thomas"

An end of year column from KPC friend "Thomas." A wide-ranging and fun column, I'd say.

I became a devout follower of Austrian economics starting in the late 90s, which, at the time, was on a par with joining NAMBLA. I must ensure that being a wingnut is not undermining my financial stability. As to why you might wish to keep reading I have several arguments. Whatever it is I am doing has worked remarkably well. In 31 years I had only one year in which my total wealth decreased in nominal dollars. (Peek ahead to Figure 3 if you wish.) In addition, any economist will tell you that when the free market fails a black market emerges. The blogs are the black market of information. Noted economist Russ Roberts once asserted that reading five blogs is probably better than going to an economics lecture. The blogs, in conjunction with a serious filter, protect you from those who traffic in financial products and misinformation. I ride the blogs pretty hard and am pretty good at distilling complexity down to the extracts of beets and carrots.


The Voice

Nice. Just a nice story. I hope it works out for him.

(Nod to Jackie Blue)

The "Ignore the Constitution" Meme Grows

Donnie B picks up on the growing lefty-bedwetter meme about the inconvenient Constitution. A nice letter. (Nod to Angry Alex for pointing to this)

But the argument actually intrigues me, even on its own merits. Suppose you go with the EJ Dionne / Ezra Klein "Stop bringin' up old stuff!" view of the Constitution. That means it holds no essential truths, and has no moral force. I disagree, but suppose, for the sake of argument.

It is still a contract. A contract that would never have been signed unless the signatories thought that the contract represented a commitment. You don't have to believe that a contract is perfect to argue that it is binding. Here is what Mr. Dionne says:

" Gordon Wood, the widely admired historian of the Revolutionary era has noted, we "can recognize the extraordinary character of the Founding Fathers while also knowing that those 18th-century political leaders were not outside history. . . . They were as enmeshed in historical circumstances as we are, they had no special divine insight into politics, and their thinking was certainly not free of passion, ignorance, and foolishness."

An examination of the Constitution that views it as something other than the books of Genesis or Leviticus would be good for the country."

Mr. Dionne appears to use the following argument as if it made sense:

A. The Constitution is not scripture, but rather is a set of "shrewd political compromises."
B. Therefore, people on the left can simply ignore or distort provisions that they don't like.

I am willing to concede A, at least for the sake of argument. (Yes, my Burkean / Hayekian intuition warns me against changing things we don't understand, but let's go with this). But why oh why would B follow from A? The Constitution is a contract; you are bound by a signed and established contract unless you can elicit consent to change or ignore its provisions.

The Dionne / Klein argument is a non sequitur, revealing the appalling depth of the arrogance of the LBW ruling class. We have to pass the bill so we can all find out what is in it.

A Lagniappe: One can certainly argue that there IS no social contract, and the Constitution is NOT binding, because no one now living signed it. So those in the "Sovereign" or "Voluntaryist" movements can say they are NOT parties to the social contract. But that is not acceptable to Mr. Dionne, either. He wants a binding social contract, one that constrains all citizens to obey, but places no constraints on government. They are just making this up as they go along.


A flim-flam man turns philosophy professor only to be shocked by the company he now must keep. Well worth reading it all, here's a juicy excerpt:

"Bob, the professor business is even sleazier than the jewelry business. At least in the jewelry business we were honest about being fake. Plus, when I go to conferences, I've never seen such pretentiousness. These are the most precious people I've ever met."

"Come on, Clancy. Did you really think people were going to be any better in a university?"

"Um, kind of." Of course I did. "And it's not that they're not better. They're worse

Welcome to my world!

Feminism Explained

I have the feeling that this caricature is unfair. But I have a hard time pointing to specific lines that are unfair. All too accurate.

You do have to laugh at the part about college majors. Tremendous. "What did you learn in women's studies?"

(Nod to the Blonde, who is clearly just a handmaiden to "The Patriarchy")

View of New Congress, From Santiago

A view of the new US Congress, from my friend Carolina Alvarez at El Mercurio. She was kind enough to ask my opinion on some things.

As the headline puts it, "Nuevo Congreso de Estados Unidos se instala hoy"

I guess we'll see if hoy es una dia nueva, o no. I'm not sure the Repubs are capable of being different. But viva la gridlock! I feel safer already.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

EU Busts Man's Heat Balls

UPDATE: EU will capture and destroy the "Heat Balls," discussed earlier today here at KPC.

Can it really be better to make new bulbs, and destroy these without using them? How does that save energy? Can they be serious?

Answer: YES, if you understand that environmentalism has nothing to do with saving energy, and everything to do with religious ceremonies where cost is actually a signal of devotion. As soon as you start to think of environuts as religious zealots, it makes perfect sense.

(Nod to the Blonde, again. She just can't let these Heat Balls alone!)

THIS TIME We'll Cut Spending

No, really, this time will be different. The Republicans promise. Gag me.

Nod to Angry Alex, who gets it.

As I said for a McClatchy story, written by my man David Lightman, this is just a religious ceremony, something Repubs do before they start eating. It has nothing to do with the actual meal of piggies at the trough. HuffPo liked it.

Art vs. Commerce

"Well, it’s the absurdity of expressing it, the absurdity of commerce… making records is commerce and it’s about fooling yourself as a writer and a performer and fooling the audience into not thinking about it and accepting it. It’s like when you walk down the street, and you say, “look at that girl’s ass, it’s so great.” You’re ignoring also the fact that she farts and shits out of that ass."

--Will Oldham

Full interview is here.

Grabbing EU Law by the Heat Balls!

What, these incandescent light bulbs? The ones outlawed by the EU ubernannies? Those aren't light bulbs at all! Those are small heating units that plug into an otherwise unused light bulb. Sure, they produce a small amount of light, but that's a bonus.

These are "Heat Balls!" Sure, that's what they are. Really.

(Nod to the Blonde)

All We Are Saying Is: Give Bankruptcy a Chance!

"University of Pennsylvania law professor David Skeel, writing in the Weekly Standard, suggests that Congress pass a law allowing states to go bankrupt. Skeel, a bankruptcy expert, notes that a Depression-era statute allows local governments to go into bankruptcy...A state bankruptcy law would not let creditors thrust a state into bankruptcy -- that would violate state sovereignty. But it would allow a state government going into bankruptcy to force a 'cramdown,' imposing a haircut on bondholders, and to rewrite its union contracts. The threat of bankruptcy would put a powerful weapon in the hands of governors and legislatures: They can tell their unions that they have to accept cuts now or face a much more dire fate in bankruptcy court."
[Michael Barone, NRO Online]

(Kenneth A from Volokh has comments and links, back on the original Skeel article)

(Nod to Kevin Lewis)

From Pelsmin: Beer Cannon

The story.

Pelsmin's reason for sending it: "This is just the thing for the semi-immobile guy who needs to chase down his oxycodone with a frosty Bud Light." Yes, yes it is.

Monday, January 03, 2011

A milestone

Last Thursday, Mrs. A & I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary. It was a lovely evening:

Angus tries to be a one armed economist

People, I'm trying!

I want to go on record as being bullish on 2011 for the US economy. I want to predict average growth for the year of 4.2%.

Yes, de-leveraging is not over. Yes, housing probably has not hit bottom. But, my view is we are poised for a semi-robust expansion.

But I'm afraid to come out and say it.


Well I'm not proud to admit this but I'm afraid of the House Republicans and the crazy sh*t they will no doubt try and pull. Yes I know, checks and balances and all that, but they worry me.

If they go after the Fed, throw a lot of heat and light on rolling back HCR and the financial oversight bill, and try to shut down the government over the debt ceiling, we could be right back into economic doldrums.

Look, I am not a big fan of the Fed or of HCR as currently constituted, but my advice to the Republicans would be to wait until after 2012 when the economy should be much sounder and maybe you also have the Senate to try and make your move.

The biggest thing Washington could do right now to help the economy would be to take a 14 month vacation.

Patrick on Suspending the BoR

Patrick at Popehat is right about our blind spot about DUI "investigation." I hadn't thought about the sixth amendment point.

And, since my eye hurts too much to sleep, I have been up catching up on good blog posts. Like the ones at Popehat. So now my eye hurts AND I'm outraged. DUI is really tough, because it is like the war in Iraq: the right wants to do stupid shit, and the left is too big a bunch of pussweilers to stand up for the Constitution. Because half-wits like Ezra Klein have decided that talking about the Const is just bringin' up ol' stuff. And why you wanna bring up old stuff?

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Separated at Birth

Separated at birth? Mungowitz and Nick Nolte...

Lagniappe: The reason *I* look that way (Not sure what Nick's excuse was) is that I had this operation. With local anesthesia. Which means I got to watch (it's a 2 hour operation, by the way). If you want to see what it looks like from outside, check out this video.

It's amazing they can do that to an eye. It's even more amazing they did that to mine, and that I had to watch the whole thing. On the plus side: they prescribed oxycodone, the oxycontin plus other stuff pain medication. I was a little upset to learn that that was what they were going to prescribe, because they try to avoid it. It has to be clear that you are going to hurtin' before you get it. It does help, though. Gosh, have you ever looked at how your fingers bend? I mean really looked at your fingers. Whooooaaaaa.....

How much is that can of whoop-ass??

My oh my people, First, here's Will Wilkinson taking Arnold to the woodshed.

Will is both eloquent and spot-on here.

Second, here's Mark Thoma and Brad Delong, tag-teaming a brutal beatdown of N. Gregory Mankiw.

I am far more sympathetic to Mankiw's ideas than Mark and Brad, but it's fun to read them raging.

I guess we can all be glad that the Bush tax cuts were extended for everyone so that Greg didn't get dis-incentivized out of writing his Times column!