Saturday, June 30, 2012

Hayek's Gift

I thought I had posted this, but it appears not.  Freddie gave Maynard a gift last year for the "holidays."
The mustaches just get worse and worse. It's like the picture of "Dorian Gray," somehow. Only in reverse. Or, something like that.

Gouging on CBC's "Invisible Hand"

A new show on the  Canadian Broadcorping Castration:  Invisible Hand.  Pretty interesting concept, and pretty edgy way of producing economics podcasts.

They did a show on price-gouging.  It is a really, really fantastic show on price-gouging.  (Phone call for Matt Zwolinski).  The little "experiment" they run is tremendous.  I will be using this podcast in every intro econ class I teach from now on.

(If you have trouble of getting the file to stream, you can download it here).

Finally, to my good friend Gavin Kennedy: "Invisible Hand" is the name of the show. It's not my fault. At least they didn't call it "As If By An Invisible Hand," so that's some consolation. (However, he does say "as if by an invisible hand" at about 6 minutes. Gavin: Please do what you do.)

Brilliant Satire

Okay, at first I was taken in.  But this is actually brilliant satire

I mean, it goes through the whole "don't have children" thing, and buy "credits," which is asinine, and often a scam to boot.  So, it could be serious.  But then, the giveaway:  If you really want to be "green," you will need to: 

Slow Down Your Breathing
      It sounds silly, but breathing is actually a major source of atmospheric carbon.  One of the ways you can reduce your Carbon Footprint is to breathe less.  That's right, breathe less!  You're probably asking yourself how that's possible, but believe it or not, yoga is a great way to slow down the metabolism and reduce the need for excessive breathing.  If you're not already into yoga, consider taking classes at your local studio.  Soon, you'll be breathing less, and as an added bonus, feel much less stressed out!

Okay, THAT is funny.  Well played, ma'am.  To reduce your carbon footprint, DRIVE to a yoga studio.  And since you will be having fewer children, you won't be needing to have all that heavy-breathing whoopee, either.  Stop all that "excessive breathing." Brilliant.  Because it's just goofy enough that it COULD be serious. 

(with a nod to the Blonde)

UPDATE:  As Trent M. notes in comments...

"My favorite part: on the "comments and coupons" page there is a coupon for "15% off 1 eco-friendly blunt trauma pet termination."

Friday, June 29, 2012

Single Payer

A number of people have written to express surprise that I "favor" single payer health insurance.  Not sure that's accurate.  I would prefer personal responsibility, and a competitive market in health care.  Modeled after the very successful, constantly cheaper, constantly better quality, service in Lasik surgery and other "elective" surgeries.  If someone, anyone, would even consider going in that direction, that would be fine.

Insurance would be for major problems, big surgeries, accidents.  You might have an annual deductible of $5k or more.  Doctors would advertise prices (yes, PRICES) of standard surgeries.

Does any of that sound familiar?  I didn't think so.  Instead, we have something really bad.  Single payer would be better than what we have.  Single payer is also better than ACA, by the way, which is why I am not happy about the decision yesterday. 

What we have is this (more below the fold):

A picture of 100 words

Click for an even more educational image.

Words of wisdom from John Cochrane

"The mandate was never the weakest part of this law as a matter of economics. It's the rest of the perfectly constitutional thousands of pages, and the perfectly constitutional thousands more arbitrary regulatory decisions that are the problem."

More here. Well worth reading.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The most redonkulus sentence I've read this month

"Doing research is therefore writing software."

Written by Matt Gentzkower and Jesse Shapiro.

More here.

What the Fudge?

Ran into an interesting journal business model this week. The American Journal of Agricultural Economics charges a page fee for accepted manuscripts. Not a submission fee for all manuscripts. Not an excess page charge for articles longer than some set limit.

Here's what their webpage says (way down at the bottom of "instructions to authors)":

"Major support for this journal comes from page charges of $40 per printed page for papers published, or a fraction thereof payable by the supporting institution or granting agency."

So a 20 journal page article will set you back $800. Weird but probably do-able.

But here's what their letter a couple days ago to Mrs. Angus said:

"Please be aware that AJAE levies page charges for accepted manuscripts in the amount of $95 per published page, and you should apprise any co-authors of your joint responsibility for this obligation in the event that your manuscript is accepted."

 That's $1900 for a 20 page paper.

People, that is some serious jack.

For those of you wondering why Mrs. Angus has any truck with the AJAE, she was working with a grad student from Ghana who was interested in tropical agriculture and they ended up with a joint paper. It cited a lot of AJAE pieces, so there it went (without them having read the fine print on the website, let alone them guessing the > 100% increase in fees the journal has levied).

If you were running a journal and wanted to use your fee structures to maximize the average quality of a submission, what would you do?

Is average quality of submission even the correct maximand? If not, what is?

Linkulus Maximus

Some links o' the day:

1.  A computer player that ALWAYS wins at Rock-Paper-Scissors (by cheating)

2.  Bird group goes after Obama.  Sounds Hitchcockian, but this is an interest group.  Which may be even scarier, now that I think of it.

3.  Not enough slurry bombers?  The fire, next time.

4.  Won't you PLEASE apply for food stamps?  This may be an important new party movement.

5.  Smarter lunchrooms, less childhood obesity?

With nods to the Ward Boss, Angry Alex, and the Blonde

The Wine Rack

Our good friend @Jeanne23 comes through with this product:  The WineRack!

Ladies, why wear a padded bra when you get the same effect, and a nice warm Merlot, with... The WineRack?  The male version, The BeerBelly, has several drawbacks.  First, while the WineRack enhances physical attractiveness, the BeerBelly is unattractive (outside of eastern North Carolina).  Second, body-temp red wine is fine.  Body-temp beer...not so much.

How Ya Gonna Know The Players, Without a Scorecard

John-O sends this scorecoard, almost an encryption key actually, for decoding secret messages sent by your progressive friends.  It's fun to learn what they really mean!

An example: 

Elizabeth Warren

Definition: An “Elizabeth Warren” is any brilliant scholar who both thinks we can fix the U.S. financial system simply by adding another giant bureaucracy with near unlimited power, and who can, by dancing vigorously in a circle, make it rain. Both equally as likely.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Meme: You Won't Find This at

It wasn't on purpose.  But now it's a meme:  You Won't Find This at

A reader sends this story:

An elderly man was arrested Monday night after a neighbor's fart allegedly drove him to threaten him with a gun, police said.

Daniel Collins, 72, had been involved in an ongoing dispute with the unidentified neighbor for some time, Det. Lt. Andrew McGurr told The neighbor told officers that Collins pointed a revolver at him in the vestibule of their apartment building at 694 Cedar Lane at around 9:25 p.m.

Collins said he confronted the man after hearing him pass gas in front of his apartment door, but denied threatening him with a gun. He consented to a search, and officers recovered a .32 caliber revolver from his vehicle.

He was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, unlawful possession of a firearm and making terroristic threats.

The door was closed.  The guy was outside, in the vestibule.  Okay, that is pretty loud flatulence.  But threaten him with a gun? 

Let me just say that, with me and two sons in the house, the LMM might have racked some buckshot into the ol' Rem 870 on MANY occasions, if this is actually an excuse.

Nudging Students?

The Behavioralist Goes to School: Leveraging Behavioral Economics to Improve Educational Performance

UPDATE:  Mark S. sends this ungated version...

Steven Levitt et al.
NBER Working Paper, June 2012

Abstract: A long line of research on behavioral economics has established the importance of factors that are typically absent from the standard economic framework: reference dependent preferences, hyperbolic preferences, and the value placed on non-financial rewards. To date, these insights have had little impact on the way the educational system operates. Through a series of field experiments involving thousands of primary and secondary school students, we demonstrate the power of behavioral economics to influence educational performance. Several insights emerge. First, we find that incentives framed as losses have more robust effects than comparable incentives framed as gains. Second, we find that non-financial incentives are considerably more cost-effective than financial incentives for younger students, but were not effective with older students. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, consistent with hyperbolic discounting, all motivating power of the incentives vanishes when rewards are handed out with a delay. Since the rewards to educational investment virtually always come with a delay, our results suggest that the current set of incentives may lead to underinvestment. For policymakers, our findings imply that in the absence of immediate incentives, many students put forth low effort on standardized tests, which may create biases in measures of student ability, teacher value added, school quality, and achievement gaps.

Nod to Kevin Lewis...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I Should Learn...

So, maybe someday I'll learn.  Though the evidence is against that.

Mark Twain once said, "Never pick a quarrel with a man who buys ink by the barrel, and paper by the ton.) (Okay, maybe MT did not say that, but stay with me).

Years ago, I picked a quarrel with Dan Drezner.  And was emotionally (and rightly) crushed when I realized that he was so much better than I at blogging.  I mean, SO MANY more people read his blog, it was unbelievable.   (Mark Twain 2004: Never pick a quarrel with a man whose Technorati score is two orders of magnitude better than yours.)

Did I learn?  I did not.  Tried again, picking a Twiter quarrel with Dan.  And happened to check on his "followers."  MON DIEU!  He has 120 times as many followers as I do.  More than 10,000. (Mark Twain 2012:  Never pick a quarrel with a man who has a 1,000% more followers than you)

Dan, you win.  You are mighty.

Boettke Goes AWOL

So, it all started with great promise.  Boettke promised to "update" us on the IHS summer camp.

Since the EYM is up there at Towson also, I have been checking back avidly to learn more.

But....nothing.  Boettke, how lame can you be, man?  Not even a "weather is here, I wish you were beautiful"?  What kind of summer camp IS that?

UPDATE:  Boettke says, "I've been posting on FB."  Really?  I ask that the case be remanded back to the trial court, and that he be convicted on the original charge.

How Did SCOTUS Rediscover Limits on Commerce Clause?

It is impressive that we went from "not a serious question" complacency on the question of "Commerce Clause allows everything, everywhere" to "OMG, the court is so activist!"

Damon Root gives a terrific backgrounding to the "radical" idea that the Commerce Clause be a limiter, as well as an enabler, of federal overreach.

Great, great piece by Will Wilkinson.  Nice.

We'll see what happens.  But at least the thing is in play, which is nice to see.  And it is interesting to note that it is likely to be the left that will now argue for some bite for the limits, since the states are actually doing the right thing and trying to decriminalize medical marijuana, but the feds hate to give up their entirely unjustifed enforcement monopoly.

Are Conservatives Libertarians? Are Libertarians Conservatives?

Several interesting articles.

1.  A piece by two people who really, really hate Ayn Rand, and are under the bizarre impression that Ayn Rand was a libertarian. In fact, libertarians split from Ayn Rand over just the sort of issues raised by the authors.  Most Objectivists I know are pretty scornful of the LP.  And most conservatives I know couldn't SPELL Ayn Rand.  The idea that Ayn Rand dominates conservatism.... strange.

2.  Welch and Gillespie try to talk sense into Jonah Goldberg and "Man" Coulter.   Man Coulter keeps coming back from drug laws, which she thinks conservative don't want, to solving the deficit problem, which we all KNOW that conservatives don't want.

3.  Kevin Vallier at BHL tries to claim that BHL is friendly EVEN to conservatives.  That's because BHL is friendly to everyone.  They are like little wiggly puppies, that's what they do.  They're so cute!

Monday, June 25, 2012

She Only Had to Sit with Him One Way!!!!

A Swedish woman aboard a Kenya Airways flight from Amsterdam to Tanzania was forced to sit next to a dead man for 10 hours. That’s right, 10 hours. According to reports, the man in question was ill when the flight took off, but shortly after, he died. The woman, a Swedish reporter named Lena Pettersson, filed a complaint and was able to receive a refund on only half of her $1,400 flight.

Jeez, she didn't have to sit with him on the return flight. Quityercomplainin!

(Nod to the Blonde, who claims that this happens to her all the time.)

Baptist Wedding

Actually, not sure they are Baptists.  But they take their step for full immersion.  You can be pretty sure it's going to happen.  Both the men and women are mostly pretty hefty.  Not that that's a bad thing.

One embarrassing touch:  The bride has on (unsurprisingly) a full-length, very full, very heavy gown.  The bridesmaids have on heavy dresses, but they are just below the knee.  And the men just have on tuxes.  Well, play it again.  Notice that the groom totally bails out on the bride, and just leaves her.  One of the other women helps the bride.  THAT may come up a few times, when they show the video.  "You left me to drown!"  And the problem is, the guy DID.  Wedding fail.

Debate on Citizens United

Here is a debate I did with Gene Nichol of UNC Law just after the Citizens United decision came down.  It's an hour, but the issues we raise as just as germane today.

I have not changed my mind.  Freedom of association is still the core issue.  And since under the old law, the Solicitor General explicitly said that a corporation publishing a book would be REGULATED BY THE FEC, that law was unconstitutional.  Full stop.

Whether the resulting unregulated system is ideal, I have conflicting opinions.  But you can't possibly think that Citizens United was wrongly decided, given those facts. 

The problem is that our friends on the left just ignore the facts of the case, for reasons I can't quite understand.  Non-profit corporations have to be able to make movies, and books, even ones that contain the phrase "Hilary Clinton would make a good (bad) President.  Vote for (against) her!"

Citizens United Stands

So, Citizens United was upheld against a truly nonsensical challenge from some idiots in Montana. The basis of the challenge was not the merits of Cit U, but rather the supremacy clause.

Some analysis of the case...

The decision, which came down today...  Amazing that those same folks who are going to whine about overturning precedent on HCR are willing to retry Cit U on the merits here, when the only question is actually the supremacy clause.  For the left, "judicial activism" is just when a judge does something they don't like, and they can't think of a real reason.

The Amicus Brief that I signed onto, regarding Cit U.

Interestingly, Chief Justice Roberts specifically referred to our Amicus Brief, BY NAME, in oral argument. (See p. 69, lines 19 and following). Winning!

And, since people seem to have forgotten it, the 1st Amendment. The most relevant part is highighted, for the willfully blind among us.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

That whole freedom of association thing, there.  It's not the key point that corporations are "persons."  The key point is that people can associate in any way they want, and that association can be active politically, without permission from haters of liberty like Justice Breyer and company. 

Mom, Dad....I'm a Democrat

After all, it might not be as bad as you think...

(Tweeted by KPC friend Bill Lumaye)

A Slice of Heaven

Some people come to Santa Fe for the Opera, some for the museums, some for the art galleries, or the gourmet dining, or the history, or the mountains.

But others have more noble pursuits.

People, I took this fotie in the Albertsons on Cerillos Road early in the evening on Saturday June 23rd. It has not been edited in any way:

Clic the pic for an even more porcine image.

If you are wondering, I asked, and the Festival is going on all this coming week!

Surprisingly, two wrongs don't make a right

Yesterday brought us another train-wreck of an economics column in the NY Times.  Yep, it was Bob Shiller's turn again.

Did you know that the mortgage mess is just like people kneeling at an outdoor concert?

Me neither.

Maybe that's because it isn't.

Bob, there is no collective action problem in the Olsonian sense in the mortgage mess.

First off, a single bank and an single lender can take effective action on their own! A bank doesn't need every other bank to write down their mortgages in order to be able to write down its mortgages. A single kneeler can sit down, but won't be able to see.  A single farmer can't make a price rise stick on her own; she needs all the other farmers to cut production to get prices raised. The kneeler and the farmer face a collective action problem in a way that a bank and a homeowner clearly do not. They need all (or most) of their compatriots to act the same way to get a result. An individual bank does not need this.

Second, bankers and homeowners have opposing goals. They are not all in it together in the same way, like the kneelers at the concert, or the farmers lusting for higher prices. I'd say the banks and homeowners  are closer to playing a zero sum game than being stuck in a collective action problem. Every $ of mortgage write-down is a gain to the homeowner and a loss to the bank. Sure, it may be the case that a lack of a write-down might lead to a foreclosure as Shiller argues, but it won't always do so and apparently a lot of banks think that blanket write-downs are worse than the status quo with all its associated default risk.

Having mis-diagnosed the problem, Shiller proceeds to a stupendously (and I mean that sincerely) bizarre remedy: the government should use its powers of eminent domain to seize mortgages!!

I am not making this up. Please do read the whole piece.

Inevitability of Politics?

This is a truly remarkable performance.  The mindless state worship.... the condescension, the paternalism.  Breath-taking.  Here is what self-appointed dictator of others Dorman has to say for his big finish:

The non-reflexive-libertarian view does not require a market failure or a taste for paternalism.  It sees Conditional Cash Transers as policy initiatives to shift cultural norms regarding education and health.  (And, no, trying to shift norms is no more paternalistic than choosing to not shift them.  Welcome to the inevitability of politics.)  Recipients of transfers can reasonably be asked to meet education and health conditions because child-rearing is recognized as socially necessary work, and it is equitable to pay people for it provided it is done in a way that meets societal expectations.

Okay, so it actually works as follows...(continued below the fold)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Did Not Participate?

Wow.  I see a real growth in opportunities for revisionist history.  We could say that African-Americans "did not participate" in baseball before Jackie Robinson.  That women "did not participate" in voting before the passage of the 19th Amendment.

Why not?  Because it was against the *&%*$%# LAW, that's why.  "Did not participate?"  Give me a break.  It was pure discriminination.

But now WRAL decides to cover the NCBA State-Sponsored Parties Only Governor Candidate Debate this way:

Democrat Walter Dalton faced questions about how they differed from not only each other but from elected officials in their own party during their first fact-to-face political forum in the race for governor.

Libertarian Barbara Howe is also running for governor but did not participate in the debate.

"Did not participate"?  In 2008, when I said I was going to try to crash, I was specifically told that if I even tried to attend the NCBA debate, I would be arrested, handcuffed, and taken to jail for trespassing.  Arrested.  Because of that threat, AND THE FACT THAT I WASN'T INVITED, I "did not participate" in the NCBA debate.  (More below the fold)

Darwin Award Prediction

So, here is the first paragraph, verbatim, of a crime story from Portland, Oregon.

A man who was intoxicated and masturbating to pornography when he drove a stolen car through the crime scene tape surrounding the homicide of a teen-age boy last year will not have to register as a sex offender.

Okay, there was a lot going on there.  Make sure you got all the pieces.  Drunk. Masturbating while staring at pornography. While driving.  Driving a stolen car. Right through a big yellow "crime scene" tape. Area swarming with local and state constabulary, all carrying guns. Looks like this:

But the judge let him off pretty easy.  Because the guy wasn't texting.  THEN there would have been trouble.

Sounds a future Darwin Award, maybe 2014.  Oh, and with a grateful nod to Raoul.

Movies You May Have Missed

The most Lovely Ms. Mungowitz for years insisted that she hated sub-titled movies.  For some reason, this has recently not been the case.  The first time, I'll admit, it MAY have been a subterfuge on my part, somehow failing to mention that the movie might be subtitled.

But now, we are off, she will actually go to foreign movies.  And we have seen three unbelievably fantastic movies, all of which happened to be French.

Kid with a Bike (I liked this one more than did the LMM.  Hard-edged, disturbing, but wonderful)
Monsieur Lazhar  (From the set-up, you think you have seen this movie:  To Sir, With Love; Goodby, Mr. Chips.  Not so much, no)
Intouchables (I laughed so hard, but I cried several times.  Critics a bit mixed, but I have rarely seen so many unexpected moments of joy in a movie.  In some scenes, a smiling Francois Cluzet looks so much like Dustin Hoffman you may be confused)

And two other very good movies that have not really gotten much attention during the boom-crash movies of summer.  (The Avengers was fine, more than fine, but you've seen that, right?)

Bernie  (I really hate Jack Black.  But he was amazing in this movie.)
Best Exotic Marigold Hotel  (Sweet.  Perhaps a little too much "white people seduced by ancient mysteries of Asia" thing, but very sweet)

Billy Boy Car

KPC fan Mark S. suggests that KPC may be just the place for this photo.  We have to agree.  We give you the "Billy Boy" car.  Those crazy folks in Wisconsin....

Do click for an even more prophylactic image...

Germany v. Greece Futbolosophy Match

The Monty Python version:

Posted by a number of people.  I was reminded by JT of the Monkey Cage.

Markets in everything: walk like the animals edition

This shoe:

Produces these prints:

More here.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dodd-Frank Causes Much More Harm than Help

KPC friend Amar Bhide has an interesting piece in Barrons.

In an email, Amar writes:

This is a general problem. Well-intentioned securities laws work only too well, turning judgment and relationship based finance into anonymous, arm’s length transactions. This also discriminates against financings that can’t be easily securitized; thus we get lots of mortgaged backed securities, fewer small business loans.

Tell that to the next person who tries to say that "lack of regulation" caused the financial crisis.  It's not true.  STUPID regulation caused the financial crisis, and Dodd-Frank is even more stupid than what we had in 2007.

Excerpt from the article, since it's gated:

When little else was regulated in the 19th and early 20th centuries, lawmakers kept banks on a tight leash. Even so, we didn't get all the pieces of bank regulation right until the 1930s. In contrast, the securities markets functioned adequately under the private rules of the stock exchanges.


If true, this is pretty strange...  Since Porkulus didn't work, can we really count on Forkulus to do any better?


Just a few days after announcing that his administration would no longer deport about 800,000 young illegal immigrants, you would think that President Obama would be received as something of a hero by NALEO, the National Association of Latino Elected Officials, before whom Obama is giving a speech this afternoon in Orlando. But the Secret Service wasn't taking any chances. As hundreds of Latino elected officials were enjoying their lunch at Disney's Contemporary Resort earlier today, it was announced that forks would be collected before Obama took the stage. It was also mentioned that knives, too, were entirely absent from the lunch for "a reason."

Nod to the Blonde
Sometimes people ask me what sets KPC apart from other blogs. I think it is the fact that we put up stuff like this:

You won't find THAT on, folks. With a nod to Angry Alex...

Friday, June 22, 2012

Student Loan -- College Bubble

Intelligent Design: Music Edition

Can people design music through an evolutionary process? Maybe they can.

Ben Bernanke: rainbow warrior

People, oil is at $80/barrel. I know about the scissors and all, but I believe this is mainly due to low demand. So while we criticize Bernanke's failures to get unemployment below 8%, let's also celebrate his environmental accomplishments.

No one has done more to fight global warming that Ben Bernanke. I suggest we switch him from "Helicopter" Ben to "Rainbow Warrior" Ben.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Unflinching Triumph

Have you heard of the hot new sport, "Staredown"?

Have you joined NASP, the National Association of Staredown Professionals?

No, you haven't, because "Unflinching Triumph," the introduction to the sport, is a mockumentary.  And the best part is my main man Robert Anthony Peters screaming "Tomato JUICE!  Hey, it's the good stuff, TJ!  Wanna take a bath!"  Excellent entertainment.  This is the Spinal Tap for people who don't have lives.

Here it is on YouTube.  It's an hour long, but worth watching.

Just in case you still like Roger Federer

People, what's worse? The moon-boots? The schizophrenic zebra hoodie? The pockets on the hoodie?

I promised Mrs. A that if she rooted with me for Rafa at Roland Garros, I'd root with her for Federer at Wimby, but this fotie changes everything!

They Done Made Him MAD, Now

one picture is worth a thousand notes?

The Media Preservation Initiative at Indiana University is taking old pictures of since lost analog records and creating digital sound files from them.

Very smart and very cool.

Hat tip to BinaryBits.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

de gustibus non est disputatum

Tyler points us to Robin Hanson's suggestion for your charitable contributions. To wit:

"The biggest single charity donation I’ve made so far is ~$100. But now I’m donating $5000 to an exceptionally worthy cause. And I suggest you donate too. Here’s my cause:"

Any guesses, people? Sanitation in the Sudan? AIDS in Africa? Education in Ecuador? Womens' Rights in Waziristan?

 Hell no!

It's this.

Yes, a different way to try and preserve your brain so that you can "live" forever.

I want to be judgemental, I really do.

But Mrs. A and I give roughly 50% of our charitable donations towards animal welfare (the other half goes to aid/development projects in Africa, Latin America & Asia), and I'm sure many people would criticize us for that choice.

I will say though that I would much rather have access to my 30 year old brain right now than access to my, shall we say, 80 year old brain in 2666.

P-Kroog on Colbert

"The US would be like Ireland if Romney wins" Really? Much cooler weather, and way more gingers?
with thanks to John-O.

Wal-Mart: Neither Here nor There, Except When It's There

When Walmart Comes to Town: Always Low Housing Prices? Always?

Devin Pope & Jaren Pope, NBER Working Paper, May 2012

Abstract: Walmart often faces strong local opposition when trying to build a new store. Opponents often claim that Walmart lowers nearby housing prices. In this study we use over one million housing transactions located near 159 Walmarts that opened between 2000 and 2006 to test if the opening of a Walmart does indeed lower housing prices. Using a difference-in-differences specification, our estimates suggest that a new Walmart store actually increases housing prices by between 2 and 3 percent for houses located within 0.5 miles of the store and by 1 to 2 percent for houses located between 0.5 and 1 mile.

Not sure why you would have any expectation of change in housing prices near a Wal-Mart.  Slightly more noise, more lights at night, but much easier to go pick up a few boxes of .45 ACP and a gallon of milk.  Anyway, there's yer answer.

(nod to Kevin Lewis)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Better adjust my priors about Toronto

The mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, is as we say in Oklahoma, a big un.

When he hit 330, he announced a weight loss contest with his brother Doug, who is junior to him both in political office (a councillor) and size (265 pounds).

 Hizzoner ran smack into the time inconsistency problem and after an initial early loss, actually weighed MORE at his penultimate weigh-in in May.

 He did however, end up losing 17 pounds but was trounced by his baby bro both in relative and absolute terms (brother lost 33 pounds from a smaller base).

 The mayor actually had to be herded onto the scale for the final weigh-in and fell off it awkwardly in his eagerness to get away from the cold hard facts.


Let's go for a politically incorrect breakdown:

Are all the members of Toronto's government from the same family?

Does Toronto choose it's mayor via a pie-eating contest?

The  "cut the waist" contest raised $14,000 for charity, which probably wouldn't cover the cost of thanksgiving dinner at the Ford house!

Do read the timeline at the end of the linked article. It's excellent.

Hat tip to Drew M.

I'll Just Pick Up

So, if you are playing golf, and one of the other members of the foursome said, "I'll just pick up, I've lost this hole," you might not expect to see what is described here

But then you likely don't belong to such a high class, "exclusive" golf club, you loser.

With thanks to S.W. who writes:

My favorite quote: "several members urinated on one of the greens, in the presence of the caddie, a female, and one or more of the members deliberately exposed themselves to her while urinating. I suspect that this is also a crime in Georgia."

I seem to recall golf being a Scottish invention. How peculiar that its adherents have become uptight about allowing a good breeze to waft 'cross the withers.

Heh, heh.  He said "waft."

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Biology of Bubble and Crash

Fascinating.  Actual physiological effects.  Hard to know about the differences in causes and effects, but provocative.

Go below the fold for an excerpt.  And with a nod to Erik C.

Stop and Frisk

Stop and Frisk is pretty bad.  Openly violates both the 4th and 14th Amendments.

But now, you can shoot the cops.  With your camera.

With a nod to Angry Alex

Why Are 10 year T bonds Attractive?

So, I have been wondering.  A lot.  With the rate on 10 yr T's down to 1.6%, how can that be anything other than a sucker's bet?

I mean, do you seriously believe that there will be inflation rates of <=1% for the next ten years? 

And that the US is going to find a way to solve the rate of increase of the deficit?  I don't mean the debt, I just mean the deficit.  No plan out there to solve the debt.  We see Spain facing rates of 7%+.  If US rates go back up to just 3% or 3.5%, anyone holding 1.6% T's is going to get hammered.

However, here is an answer.  At least it gives a rational explanation.

Markets in Everything: Relative Prices of Worship Edition

In Cambodia, people are converting to Christianity.  Because the relative price of worship is much less.  In fact, if you are Catholic, they actually GIVE you a sip of bad wine and a stale cracker to munch on.  You don't have to sacrifice your buffalo.

Phone call for Bob Tollison...

Not so fast, Noah!

Noah Smith lets his freak/scientist flag fly. Says he can't conform to tribal thought because he has to follow scientific principals.

Sounds good, and I agree with a lot of what he's saying.

But then he lets fly with this:

"RBC models say that small government is good."


Where to start?

Real Business Cycle models do not "speak" with one voice.

Most people who advocate for small government wouldn't know an RBC model if it bit them it the butt.

Very few people actually use RBC models in this day and age. Virtually all models now have monetary sectors and some form of monetary non-neutrality and are thus referred to more generally as DSGE (dynamic, stochastic, general equilibrium) models. RBC theory is a useful teaching tool, but I don't know anyone using it as a guide to policy.

I have never seen in any RBC or DSGE paper I've read (which easily would be 100+ papers) a statement like "thus we see small government raises welfare". Perhaps Noah is inferring his statement from the fact that some early RBC models didn't have government in them? Or that some early RBC models argued that business cycle fluctuations were optimal? I'd be very curious to see the money quotes to support Noah's statement.

If I do think to think about some type of generic RBC model, the government could easily have a large and important role as a funder of basic research leading to improved technological progress.

Driving While Blonde

This poor woman was targeted simply because she is white, and blonde.

At least, that's her story. The fact that she was doing 70 in a 30 mph zone is incidental.

Speeding blonde claims cop targeted her ABBOTSFORD, British Columbia, June 13 (UPI) --
A Canadian woman stopped for driving more than double the speed limit in British Columbia alleges the officer targeted her because she's a blonde, police said. The unidentified woman was clocked driving 70 mph in a 30 mph zone in Abbotsford, southeast of Vancouver Sunday, The (Vancouver) Province reported Wednesday. Police Constable Ian MacDonald told the newspaper the woman's first defense was to go on the offensive by alleging the officer profiled and stopped her because she's blonde. "You couldn't make this up -- people would never believe it," MacDonald said. "If the officer was targeting blondes and had the ability to determine blonde, brunette and redhead at (70 mph), he deserves a commendation -- a hairdressing commendation." Despite her protests, British Columbia provincial law means an instant 7-day impounding of the woman's Lexus because she was doing more than double the posted limit, along with fines to be determined in court, the report said.

Nod to the Blonde

Weiner Circle

Jack McBrayer visits the Weiner Circle. He finds the staff rude. He returns with a "little friend."

With a nod to Angry Alex

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Romney is not a shoo-in for the flip-flopping gold medal

Barack Obama, March 2011:

"With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that’s just not the case, because there are laws on the books that Congress has passed,"

Alligator Seen Eating Croc

Click for an even more savage image.

Nod to the Blonde

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Ink in England

Article from the Guardian, on Obama's reelection chances.  Reporter was kind enough to give me a call.

Always fun to go up against Larry Sabato, "The Mouth that Bored."

Stupid Choices, Real Consequences

KPC pal Logan H sends this photo, and this commentary:

I thought you might get a laugh (or grimace?) out of the attached photograph.  I took it yesterday from the interstate between Fremont and San Jose, CA (where I'm working for Cisco Systems this summer).  The building, by the way, is one of the largest I've seen in an area where companies' campuses are about the size of Rhode Island.

Do click on the photo for an even more absurdly overstated image.

Oh, and btw:  The Solyndra screw-up was even more disastrous than had been previously reported.  There was never any chance of success, it was just a pyramid scheme, targeting the subsidies.

Friday, June 15, 2012


1.  DNA checking to make sure you pick up dog waste?   Really?

2.  Minimizing your final footprint.

3.  "Unflinching Triumph:"  The National Association of Staredown Professionals.  Is it a mockumentary?  Why, yes, it is.  Featuring my friend Robert Anthony Peters.  It's disturbingly serious.  (It's a full feature film, so it's long).

Bank Runs: To Save MMM Funds, Scrap Them

KPC Pal Amar Bhide has an interesting piece in Bloomberg.

In an email, Amar asks:   The just published piece implicitly offers another route to universal -- and explicit -- deposit guarantees.  My European friends: Might a similar "ECB Direct" accounts be the answer to bank runs in Spain etc?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Nice Obit for Lin Ostrom

Best obit I have seen for Elinor Ostrom.

Thanks to Jonny Anomaly for the link.

The 7% solution

This morning, yields on 10 year Spanish government bonds hit 7%. That is a Euro-era record for Spain and a clear sign that the bank "bailout", which basically created billions of Euros more of senior debt to be repaid, didn't work and Spain is again on the ropes. The Spain - Germany spread is almost 550 basis points!

Either Germany and its Northern Neighbors are going to have to cough up a ton of cash (not loans) or the ECB is going to have to seriously print Euros, or the whole enterprise is doomed.

hang up the phone, Calderon

People, I never realized all the dimensions in which Felipe Calderon has been a bad president for Mexico.

This recent article in the Washington Post reveals another; He sold his soul to Elba Esther Gordillo, condemning Mexican public schools to another sexenio of misery.

The article details the misery,

 "The country is a member of the Group of 20 and boasts of the world’s 14th-largest economy, but only a quarter of its children graduate from high school. Sixth-graders in Mexico get 562 hours of “instructional learning” a year. In South Korea, it’s 1,195 hours...

 Yet Mexico’s lame performance is not about money. A generous 20 percent of the country’s budget goes to education, about $30 billion a year. More than 90 percent goes to salaries — negotiated by the teachers union, which dictates policy.

 “It was — and sadly still is — a very corrupt system,” said Carlos Ornelos, a specialist in education at the Autonomous Metropolitan University who was one of the first, in the 1990s, to expose the practice of teachers buying and selling their jobs. An elementary school teaching post, a tenured position for life, still sells for as much as $20,000 in the resort city of Cancun, and a post in a rural village can be had for $2,000, Ornelas said."


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ur Union of Unemployed

Ur Union of Unemployed:  Ucubed.

Gotta be a hoax, right?  RIGHT?

You lost your job. You're not alone. 31 million Americans face the same challenges. You want your job back. You want your life back. But you can't do it alone. Neither can anyone else. You all need each other. That's what UCubed is here to do: Help you and 31 million other unemployed Americans organize, work together and get back to work. Let UCubed help you connect. Form a cube, and multiply your political and economic power by 6. Then by 36. Eventually, by 31 million. Take Control.

The "Ur" instead of "Your" thing is disturbing.  Unless they mean "Ur," which would actually be pretty cool:  a combining form meaning “earliest, original,” used in words denoting the primal stage of a historical or cultural entity or phenomenon: ur-civilization; urtext.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

That's a lot of Bi Bim Bop!

Kudos to Thomas Sargent for landing a two year position at Seoul National University for an estimated $1,250,000 per year.

Economists can pull down 7 figures in total compensation when you figure in consulting and speech-giving on top of the academic salary, but this is the biggest salary+"research funds" number that I'm aware of in economics.

Trickle down, baby. Trickle down.

Hat tip to Daniel Lin

Reality Transcends Irony: Solar Failure is Sign of Maturity

Grand Game, Grand Game, whatcha gonna do?

Here is an article from the Seattle Times, on solar power.  It contains several nuggets of comedy gold.

But the best, IMHO, is the following claim:

" The report's authors said the demise of companies such as Solyndra, Evergreen Solar, SpectraWatt, Solar Millenium and Solon was a sign that the solar industry is maturing."

Look, we have been spending hundreds of billions of $ for 30+ years.  And there is no viable solar power industry.  Even the buggy whip industry had a some good years, before getting all "mature" and going bankrupt.

Nod to the Ward Boss, who knows things.

Lime Thong? Really?

KG goes off on Craig Sager.  He has cause, mind you.

But how does KG know about the lime thong? 

Gotta admit, KG rocks his own suit pretty well.  Guy looks good.

Don't Worky--Be Happy

The UN calls for a "happiness economy."

Reminds me of the old joke:  Guy making a speech about how, come the revolution, everyone will have mass transit and "planned urban communities" to live in, so they can walk to everything.

Guy in the back, timidly, says, "But what if I don't think those things will make me happy?"

Speaker roars, into the microphone:  "Oh, citizen, come the revolution, those things WILL make you happy!"

Monday, June 11, 2012

My Week at Hermosa Beach

So, here is the panorama.  My hotel, the Beach House, is the one with the white railings, the one I stop on briefly going from the left to right.  A pleasant little spot...

Mr. Rajoy gets something right

And that something was,"España no es Uganda".

No mountain gorillas, no chimps, no tree-climbing lions, no future for their young people, a worse credit rating, Spain is indeed quite distinct.

 Hey Mariano! Want to know something else Spain isn't anymore? Spain.

 Hat tip to Matt Y, who perhaps not surprisingly has a different take.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Jeff Sachs never gives up

Sachs has taken it on the chin recently with his Lancet piece being widely attacked and partially retracted. But he's not been humbled. Check out segments of this recent interview:

Q: Well, do you have evidence the approach is working? 

 JS: It depends what you mean by evidence. Some of my critics say we need to do these ‘randomized controlled trials’ (aka RCTs) as if what we’re doing is testing a red pill against a blue pill. What we’re doing has nothing to do with anything like that. It cannot be reduced down to such a simple and narrow test. We have been working with these communities for years to figure out how best to improve food production, get more kids in school, deliver clean drinking water, build infrastructure and encourage business development. This is not a randomized controlled trial; it’s a learning process.

Nice Bill Clinton (it depends on what you mean by "is") there Jeffrey!

Also an impressive summary of how RCTs work. They are science fiction, right out of the Matrix.

People, you know there's more:

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Moving on up

As we wait on the Finals to begin, I thought I'd write a bit about the Thunder's playoff run so far.

As is well known, the team committed the most turnovers in the Association and got the fewest assists in the regular season. However, I want to compare last year's playoff stats to this year's. I think this is a better comparison rather than regular season to playoffs as the bad teams are not in the playoffs.

In the 2010-11 playoffs (17 games) the Thunder has the most turnovers (14.9),  were 10th in assists (17.6), shot 44% (31.6% on 3s).  Russell shot 39% and averaged 4.6 turnovers. KD shot 45%.

In the 2011-12 playoffs (15 games so far) the Thunder are 14th in turnovers (11.2), and 6th in assists (18.7). Russell is shooting 43.6% (35% on 3s) and averaging only 2.3 turnovers.  KD is shooting 50.5 %.

So compared to last year's playoff run which ended in the Conference Finals, the Thunder are passing the ball and taking care of the ball much better. There is much less of KD trying to "post up" while Russell dribbles out the shot clock. The offense is much more efficient.

They are also playing much better defense. In the 2010-11 playoffs, they gave up 100.6 points per game. In the 2011-12 playoffs they are only giving up 95.7.

It sounds like a dumb cliche, but Durant has really calmed down, matured, "grown up", and Westbrook is making progress in those areas as well. San Antonio really contained Harden when he drove to the basket so he's going to have to make some adjustments there, but I think the Thunder will beat either Boston or Miami and win the championship this year.

Friday, June 08, 2012

If Boudreaux wore a barrette....

.......he'd be Mike Miller!

Don't take my word for it; feast your eyes:

Living it up at the Hamptons

So, the feds prosecuted former Senator John Edwards.  FAIL.

And the feds are going after Douglas Hampton, really hard.

But former Senator Ensign gets a free pass.

Even though Hampton cooperated with the Justice Department, and gave the lawyers PLENTLY to hammer Ensign with.  There is actually a case against Ensign.  He should go to jail.  But.... nothing.

A deal?  Ensign may know something about Democratic Senator..... Anonyman wants to know.


Got this email today:

Hello Mike,

My name is Matilda Thompson, social media manager at We’ve been following your blog at for a while now and your writing style is pretty great! I’m willing to bet PR agencies and Brands might find it appealing as well.

So we selected your site to offer you a revenue share partnership.  Let me know if you’d be interested in this opportunity and I’ll follow-up with more details!

Best regards,
Matilda Thompson

My response:  Gosh, Matilda, thanks for the compliment!  It would mean more if the "blog" you identify as admiring were something other than the main Duke University web site.  I'll give you credit, Duke does post often, has lots of links, and they do produce some pretty impressive content!

However, if this is the level of care you idiots at BlogDash put into your work, I'd like to try to make sure that no one falls for your spam-phish.  So I thought I'd post your email on my ACTUAL blog.

And please don't contact me again.  You can contact that "blog" at Duke directly, if you want.  Just send an email to, and I'm sure they'll get right back to you.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Frampton Comes Unglued

As part of our continuing coverage of news of the arrest and incarceration of UNC physics Prof. Paul Frampton, we have some...well, some continuing coverage.

I have to admit they guy is growing on me.  We have talked about this before, and there may have been some incredulity in our electronic voices.  But as more facts come out, it turns out Dr. Frampton is pretty much like...most 65+ college profs.

(Read on, below the fold, for details)

Holy Spumoli!

"I can go all night" ~ Kevin Durant

"We have always been old" ~ Manu Ginobli

That pretty much tells the story, and Mrs. Angus and I can't wait til Tuesday night!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

unhelpful help

There is a fantastic blog post from a frustrated aid worker in Haiti making its way around the interwebs. It is highly recommended to be read in full.

Here is one highlight:

1. Good intentions aren’t enough. 
2. Rose-colored glasses are bullshit. 
3. The white savior industrial complex is real, demonstrated daily by feel good aid programs that probably don’t work, or feel good causes like Kony 2012 that generate plenty of buzz but don’t add up to much when people are actually supposed to do something. 
4. You can’t help people who don’t want to help themselves. 
5. True altruism is an incredibly rare thing. (See #3) 
6. Little victories must be celebrated if you want to protect yourself from the crippling effects of the larger failure.

Here is another:

 If I were to do it all again, I wouldn’t design a solution. It isn’t my place to do that. What I’d do is try and be a useful resource for a group of people or a community that have a much better understanding of their problems than I do, and want to work together toward finding solutions. I wouldn’t come in as the guy with the answer. I’d come in as the guy willing to try and help them in any way possible as they find their own answer. 

 (NB: the paragraph after the above quote is exceedingly strange, but the overall article is incredible)

 The piece reminds me of David Ellerman's classic piece: of which here is a highlight:

There are many strategies for development assistance that may supply help in some form but actually do not help people help themselves. The forms of help that override or undercut people’s capacity to help themselves will be called “unhelpful help.” There are essentially two ways that the helper’s will can supplant the doer’s will to thwart autonomy and self-help: 

1) The helper, by social engineering, deliberately tries to impose his will on the doer; or 

2) The helper, by benevolent aid, replaces the doer’s will with her will, perhaps inadvertently. 

“Override” or “undercut” are shorthand terms for these two conceptually distinct yin-and-yang forms of unhelpful help (which may be combined, as when benevolence hides the desire to control).

Say what?

After the results of the Wisconsin recall were in, Obama for America-Wisconsin released a statement that said in part:

"While tonight’s outcome was not what we had hoped for – no one can dispute the strong message sent to Governor Walker.

Well, since he beat the same guy by a bigger margin than he beat him in 2010, I guess that the message would have to be, what, KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK?

Not sure that's the exact "strong message" the Dems were looking for.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

License to Raise Entry Barriers

Is it plausible that cosmetologists need, on average, 10 times as many days
to fulfill their educational and training requirements (372) than emergency
medical technicians (33), who literally hold lives in their hands? That is
the reality in most states.

Read the rest...


1.  The Dub-MOE runs away from giving money to pols

2.  Anonyman claims this may be why I am not Governor:  cute people win, tall people win.  Even in the AEA, of all things.  Ewwwwwww.

3.  The Vatican is fighting with the nuns.  The nuns are being led by Mick Jagger in a wig.  Check it out.

4.  UNC-CH decides to go along with idiotic "Dear Colleague" thugs.  The threat is that the feds will sue or hold up money if schools don't go along with the "new policy."  But the new policy makes criminal charges follow from the civil standard of evidence, "preponderance of evidence."  Here is why that is a bad idea.

Monday, June 04, 2012

A day in Wrightsville Beach

 Sunrise...over the ocean

Sunset...over the Sound

Moonrise...over the ocean

It was Christmas in prison and the food was real good

Mrs. Angus and I have been enjoying a Netflix show called "Lilyhammer" with Stephen Van Zandt as a wise guy in the witness protection NORWAY!

One episode portrayed Norwegian prisons as a combination of summer camp, counseling center, & dormitory. It left us wondering if the truth was anything like that depiction.

In just a couple of days we got our answer with this headline:

Norwegian prison may hire friends for mass killer Anders Behring Breivik

So if you' like to play chess in person with Anders, this could be your chance to do so and make bank at the same time!

Keep the faith Norway, and a belated happy Nasjonaldagen from your friends at KPC!

Saturday, June 02, 2012

The Fidelity Belly

CDs are dying, because they've fallen into the dreaded fidelity belly.

Say what?

You heard the man.

Maybe a picture would help?

Isn't that better?

LPs beat them on quality and digital recordings beat them on convenience so, so long to "perfect sound forever".

I don't think this is right.

CDs killed off Vinyl as a mass market product and MP3 players then killed off CDs. All because of convenience.

Vinyl has made a resurgence among hipsters, youth, hard-core audiophiles, and folks who want to roll the perfect blunt, but it is very much a niche product and will remain one.

By the way, if you have a hipster, youth, or blunt roller on your shopping list, the NY Times has some advice for you.

Friday, June 01, 2012

RC SR-71 Blackbird

Me gusta.

le deluge

I have said (and so has Angus) that Obama will win in November. That prediction was in part predicated on a belief that the folks in DC could put together some kind of cockamamie "Krugman Model" stimulus that would make measured growth appear to hit the 3% (or so) target required to get the idiots-who-make-up-the-electorate to vote for the incumbent.

Apres November, le deluge. The wheels come off, it gets bad. But not even THAT is happening. Golly. The jobs report is apocalyptic.

So, here is what I think is going to happen. (I have this talk I give to VC groups and annual meetings of investors, and it's really long and has lots of ppt slides. This is the summary, free for all you loyal KPC readers). (And I should also note that my own thinking was influenced by a dinner with LeBron a while back, though of course he is blameless for my getting this wrong).

Not the report we were looking for.

69,000 net new non-farm jobs in May. The prediction was for a relatively weak 150,000 and we didn't get to half of that!

April's number was revised down from 115,000 to 77,000 and March was revised down from 154,000 to 143,000.

To put all this in perspective, we should be seeing numbers around or over 250,000 per month in an "normal" recovery.