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.