Friday, April 27, 2012

In Feb 1981, that freak Angus dragged me to Graham Chapel (750 people!) on Wash U campus to see a completely unknown band.  They were from IRELAND, of all things. 

Concert was strange.  They didn't have many songs.  Most bizarrely, at least in my memory, they started with a song ("Ocean") which they later played again, as an encore.  As I said, they didn't have many songs.

But the concert was pretty great. I liked them enough that I went and bought their debut album, which hadn't been out long. The album was called "Boy," and I could only buy it because I had written down the cryptic name of the unknown band. It was called U2. Perhaps you have heard of them. Anyway, here is Bono, 30 years later, 2011, in Busch Stadium. He specifically recalls Graham Chapel. They got paid $750. I think that is what a ticket cost in Busch Stadium in 2011! Most gratifyingly, Bono confirms that they did in fact START OVER on the set list, for the encores, because they didn't know many songs. And he also confirms that being in a band is still a good way to meet girls.

One day too soon

If I'da waited another day before posting my pond pics, you would have gotten to see our water lily in bloom too.

Feast your eyes (and clic the pic for a more bucolic image):

In (limited) defense of the Bernank

Progressive social media is echoing with the theme that everything would be well with the American economy were it not for the willful obstructionism of Ben Bernanke.

Here is a tweet from Matt Y:

"the gaps get smaller with every month Bernanke lets our human and physical capital stock decay -- that's the problem!"

and another:

"I'm not sure I understand why it's my job to "understand" the man presiding over a total disaster."

And here's the usually excellent Interfluidity telling us that our current economic woes are a deliberate choice made by our policymakers:

"We are in a depression, but not because we don’t know how to remedy the problem. We are in a depression because it is our revealed preference, as a polity, not to remedy the problem. We are choosing continued depression because we prefer it to the alternatives."


First of all, we are not in a depression. Nor is the economy a "total disaster". We are in a disappointingly slow and painful recovery from a very deep recession.

Second, the Bernank actually helped to save our asses back in the darkest days of financial panic.

Third, these are the same folks who generally believe that wages are too low and workers don't earn enough compared to capital. Yet their solution to the low growth / high unemployment problem is for the Fed to lower wages?

Fourth, the Fed cannot automatically control the real interest rate. Do you think the Fed could set inflation or inflation expectations at 10% and simultaneously hold nominal rates at zero?

Fifth, NGDP targeting is not some magic bullet that would solve our current problems. It relies crucially on a particular path for expectations. If you think it's easy for an actor who can't easily make credible commitments to control expectations, you should read Svensson's work and ask yourself how likely it is that the Fed could ever follow Svensson's foolproof path.

I personally support having the Fed try some additional unorthodox policies in the short run. Even if there's only a .25 chance they significantly affect employment and growth, why not try? But I do not think the Fed is sitting on policies that will definitely cure our economic ills. The Fed is not close to omnipotent.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


The irises are blooming in the pond, the fish survived our "winter", and all is well with the world. (clic the pics for images that are even more bucolic).

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

We Get Letters: Polls on I-95

From Jason S:

Dr. John Whitehead posted ”It is Hard to Stifle My Outrage When the Government Asks Those Who Benefit to Pay” regarding the wisdom of Tolling I-95.

 I thought that maybe I had something to add that could cut to the heart of the matter. Tolls and user fees are excellent instruments to create value, but this is unlikely to be such an occasion for this multi-billion dollar expenditure. 1. The Draft Environmental Assessment, Purpose and Need, Page 13, Table 1-5, Statewide Average shows that fewer people will use the facility if they have to pay the price(toll) for the facility compare to if they continue with the current maintenance plan.

If the project has less people using I-95, it would seem that the project has increased the overall cost to users based on the laws of supply and demand. 2. This can also be seen quite simply by looking at the need to provide 19 cents in benefit to the users to match the fee being collected. If the new project lets everyone drive at 70mph on the corridor, and in the year of opening people value their time on average at $20/hour, then driving at 70mph with 19 cent toll is equivalent to driving at 42mph without a toll. This is equivalent to Level of Service D that the planners are trying to avoid. I would add that low income users would feel even more disadvantaged with $10/hr value of time. It makes the toll chill[1] equal to 30 mph.[2] 3.

While I have driven the corridor a decade ago and realize there are many large trucks the current traffic, according to Google Maps, is free flowing on Friday afternoon at 5:30pm typically the worst time for traffic. The proposed changes could mean very little if traffic volumes continue to hold steady as seen in the FHWA vehicle mile traveled (vmt) trends. (I looked at the NC data but there was a 2 billion vmt discrepancy going from 2010 to 2011 that makes a good estimate of the recent NC trends hard to enumerate.) I am a big supporter of no subsidies and user pays, but costumers still expect profits from their user fees that they pay. Users are smart enough to know there are intermediate solutions, phased solutions and new technology that can guide smarter investment in infrastructure.

Footnotes: [1] Toll Chill is meant to mean how it feels, in the same vain as Wind Chill.
[2] Safety and Bridge Rehab were not addressed these have only small changes to user benefits proposed.

The EU Banquet

A. Raoul suggests that, at the EU Banquet, lobster will be served.  Everyone will get their fair share.  Here is the German lobster:

And the Greek lobster.

Got mashed potatoes

but unlike Neil, We also got T-boned!

This is the second time in the last 5 years that I've gotten plowed into by a student pulling out from a stop sign while I was driving down a street that had no stop sign! This time Mrs. Angus was driving and I was sitting on the inside of the door shown in the photo.


All Greek to Me....

Apparently, my name in Greek is:  Μάικλ Μάνγκερ .  And here is an article in a Greek paper that has an interview about American politics. English version:

Q1.    What are the chances of Mitt Romney beating President Obama and under what circumstances could that happen?

The culture that is Austria

(clic the pic for an even more futile image).

I wonder what they'll think of next? An air-tight pet carrier?

the pithy essence of international relations

"Another  fairly  safe  prediction  pertains  to  international  coordination  for   policies  on  global  public  goods,  especially  precautionary  measures  to  reduce  the  risk   of  catastrophic  climate  change  and  mitigate  its  consequences.  Reaching  and   implementing  agreements  will  remain  problematic.  Only  the  Germans  and  the   Scandinavians  will  make  promises  in  good  faith  and  strive  to  fulfill  them.  Britain  will   try  to  emulate  them  but  will  not  succeed.  America  will  be  honest  about  its  domestic   political  difficulties,  and  therefore  promise  little  or  nothing,  drawing  criticism  from   countries  like  France  and  Italy,  which  will  sign  anything  and  then  do  nothing.  China   and  India  will  repeatedly  declare  good  intentions,  but  their  main  priority  will  be   economic  growth,  and  they  will  be  too  distracted  by  their  internal  problems  to  do   much  about  the  environmental  impact  of  their  growth."

~Avinash Dixit (Full article here)

Shine on you crazy Landsdomur

Ah, Iceland.  A special court that only existed in theory before now, tried the ex-prime minister for crimes he may have committed during their recent crisis and convicted him of NOT HAVING ENOUGH MEETINGS!!

In other words, they acquitted him of any serious charges.

Oh, and his punishment for not holding enough meetings?


And that, people, is pretty much the only sensible thing in the whole story.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I'd hate to see the unhappy one!

Transmissions from the satellite heart

The World Bank estimates that remittances to developing countries in 2011 exceeded $370 billion. Here's some context, from the "Migration & Development Brief":

It's interesting to see just how thoroughly remittances dominate ODA (official development assistance) as a source of funds in developing countries.  The chart also shows the explosion of FDI in the developing world over the last 10 years (interrupted by the financial crisis but recovering quickly).

Hat tip to the Roving Bandit!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Tell me quick before I faint... he dead or is he ain't?

Quite uncharacteristically, Hugo Chavez has been silent for 9 days now (except for his twitter feed). Yes he's in Havana getting treatment, but that didn't silence him before.

For now the Chavez administration is practicing "government by Twitter" according to his opponent in the upcoming election, Henrique Capriles.

The incredibly named Diosdado Cabello dismissed rumors of Chavez's death saying the only dead thing he could see was Capriles' campaign!


Development links

World Bank says they are doing an excellent job.

More Lant Pritchett on schooling vs. education in developing countries.

Michael Clemens tries to reconcile the conflict between development goals and impact evaluation.