Thursday, February 28, 2013

Great Titles in Social Science

Lawyers as Agents of the Devil in a Prisoner's Dilemma Game: Evidence from Long Run Play 

Orley Ashenfelter, David Bloom & Gordon Dahl NBER Working Paper, February 2013 

Abstract: Do the parties in a typical dispute face incentives similar to those in the classic prisoner’s dilemma game? In this paper, we explore whether the costs and benefits of legal representation are such that each party seeks legal representation in the hope of exploiting the other party, while knowing full well that failing to do so will open up the possibility of being exploited. The paper first shows how it is possible to test for the presence of such an incentive structure in a typical dispute resolution system. It then reports estimates of the incentives for the parties to obtain legal representation in wage disputes that were settled by final-offer arbitration in New Jersey. The paper also reports briefly on similar studies of data from discharge grievances, court-annexed disputes in Pittsburgh, and child custody disputes in California. In each case, the data provide evidence that the parties face strong individual incentives to obtain legal representation which makes the parties jointly worse off. Using our New Jersey data, we find that expert agents may well have played a productive role in moderating the biases of their clients, but only early on in the history of the system. Over time, the parties slowly evolved to a non-cooperative equilibrium where the use of lawyers becomes nearly universal, despite the fact that agreeing not to hire lawyers is cheaper and does not appear to alter arbitration outcomes. 

Nod to Kevin Lewis


The Dub-MOE killin' it with "Why Are Gas Prices So High?"

Angus-ish Video?

Not sure why, but this video makes me think of dinner Chez Angus.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Let's just say the jury is still out on this one

Wow, Elba Esther Gordillo, aka "La Maestra" esta detenida!

The long time head of the Mexican Teachers Union (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación) has been a powerful retrograde force in Mexican politics, consistently blocking education reform and long rumored to be corrupt.

At least one Mexican "expert" loves the move:

This new development destroys those doubts about the seriousness of the Pena Nieto government to take on the union, and to mobilize the sovereign power of the state against vested interests.

But this is Mexico, where criminalizing political differences is an art form.

La Maestra burned new President Enrique Peña Nieto during the campaign by pulling her political party (the PANAL)out of an alliance with his party (the PRI). And all she wanted to stay in was for multiple family members to be Senators!

So it's far from clear whether this arrest marks a bold move against impunity and a step forward against corruption and toward rule of law, or just the same old "payback's a bitch" political culture at work.

Things That May Be Fake for $500, Alex!

The Crony Index

Which companies are the biggest rent-seekers?  Or, is it which companies are the BEST rent-seekers?

Either way....the Crony Index!

With a nod to Zachary B.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sequester this!

The sequester doesn't actually cut federal spending, episode 113.

This one comes from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO):

(clic the pic for an even more savage image)

The full document is available here.

Outlays/Spending are recorded in the second line of the table, and yes this includes the sequester!

Federal Spending is expected to be flat between 2012 and 2013 at around $3.55 trillion before beginning to rise again. It rises each and every year of the sequester.

Spending hits $4,000,000,000,000 in 2016, $5,000,000,000,000 in 2020 and flirts with $6,000,000,000,000 in 2023

People, these are the "savage cuts" that are going to wreck havoc on the American economy. This is Paul Krugman's "doomsday machine".

They are not actual cuts at all, but simply a lowering of the planned growth in Federal spending.

If this level of "cutting" is not politically possible, then we are all doomed.

Too legit to quit

First Yoweri Museveni, dictator of Uganda, informs us that he is "too experienced" to step down from power.

Then, sensing a challenge to his crown as king of African absurdity, Bobby Mugabe ups the ante by telling us he has a "divine mission" to rule Zimbabwe.

Museveni: 27 years and counting.

Mugabe: 33 years and counting.

Uganda has never had a peaceful transfer of political power.

Zimbabwe has never had ANY kind of transfer of political power.

Anyone want to tell me again how great it is to have been a British colony?

Grey Poupon: The Lost Footage, Plus Jon Lovette Catches It Hard

One of those "how could it end that way?" stories.

What happened after one rich guy took the other rich guy's Grey Poupon.

We need more of this sort of thing.  Like "The Lost Ending of It's 'A Wonderful Life'".  Jon Lovett as the evil Mr. Potter, and Dana Carvey killing it as the Jimmy Stewart character, with the bonus of an intro from William Shatner.

What other commercials or movies would YOU like to see the "real" ending for?

Gringo Style

Brazilian Gringo Style!  With the Dub-MOE as "Crazy Garage Dancer Guy" at about 1:40.  And, then, later...well, you have to see it.  But it doesn't end when you think it does.  None of the best things in life do.

A New Mandatory "Option": An Interlock System for Alcohol

From Big Brother motors!  You'll like it.  And if you don't like it, you'll have to buy it anyway.  Even though the touchscreen monitor you ALSO have as an option is more of a danger.

Statute of Limitations on Dying From Gunshot?

Okay, so there is no statute of limitations on murder, I get that.  Fair enough.

But is there some limit on our notion of "cause" when it comes to murder?

This fellow died of complications from a gunshot wound.... 36 years after he was shot.

Sacramento Police are investigating the murder of a 62-year-old man who died Monday, but say the trigger was pulled in 1977. 

 Walter Johnson, 62, was paralyzed by the shooting 36 years ago, and died from medical complications from that. Police say Johnson was driving to his parents’ home April 9, 1977, when three men blocked the roadway with their car on San Carlos Way. The three men walked up to Johnson, who was still in his car, investigators say. Johnson was shot in the upper body after a brief struggle, police say. He was then robbed and the three men fled in their red or brown Ford Pinto. 

They were never caught. Because Johnson died from complications stemming from the shooting, his death is considered a homicide. 

At some point you have to factor in the chances that the guy would have died from some other cause if he had NOT been shot.  The guy was 26.  The life expectancy of a 26 year old male, in that meighborhood, is (I'm guessing) 46 additional years, or a total age of 72.  Since 62 is less than that, is this murder?  Suppose it had been 46 years ago.  Or 66 years ago, and the guy died "of complications from the gunshot wound" at the age of 92.  Would that still be murder?  How about 86 years and the guy died at the age of 112.  Would THAT be murder?

I understand the quality of life issue, and that is both an aggravating factor in the assault, and a factor that would increase the size of civil liability in a lawsuit for damages.  No question the gunshot wound made his life worse.  But did it plausibly "cause" his death, in a legal sense?  And if so, at what age would this presumption of cause become rebuttable, if ever?

This sounds like a job for Dr Bellemare!  Or perhaps for Dr. Taylor! Or, on the tort side, for Prof. Hasnas. 

Nod to Angry Alex

Monday, February 25, 2013

Guilt is Like a Heavy Backpack

You think I'm making this up? I'm not making this up.

The Burden of Guilt: Heavy Backpacks, Light Snacks, and Enhanced Morality 

 Maryam Kouchaki, Francesca Gino & Ata Jami 

Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming 

Abstract: Drawing on the embodied simulation account of emotional information processing, we argue that the physical experience of weight is associated with the emotional experience of guilt and thus that weight intensifies the experience of guilt. Across 4 studies, we found that participants who wore a heavy backpack experienced higher levels of guilt compared to those who wore a light backpack. Additionally, wearing a heavy backpack affected participants' behavior. Specifically, it led them to be more likely to choose healthy snacks over guilt-inducing ones and boring tasks over fun ones. It also led participants to cheat less. Importantly, self-reported guilt mediated the effect of wearing a heavy backpack on these behaviors. Our studies also examined the mechanism behind these effects and demonstrated that participants processed guilty stimuli more fluently when experiencing physical weight.

Monday's Child is Full of Links

1.  A rather remarkable class action restraint on free speech.  The man was part of a group certified to constitute a class.  But he did not give his consent to be part of the class.  And he wanted to protest the settlement.  The judge not only said he could NOT protest the settlement (bad enough), but that also he had to promote, without comment, the very settlement he intended to protest.  An interesting problem for the "residence means consent" crowd who insist that just being privileged to live in the U.S. implies that the state actually owns all your property.  Does the state own your religious conscience, and your website, too?

2.  Firefox will allow users to block third party cookies.  Interesting.

3.  A tent city for fun...and profit.  NYTimes story about K-ville, and money in sports in colleges.

4.  Vote buying in Mexico.  Wall Street Journal version.   Monkey Cage version One and version Two 

5.  Arizona court rules, bizarrely, that "DUI" for marijuana only requires that the driver has smoked or ingested the drug within the last two weeks.  No evidence of actual "influence"is required.  Just "driving" is the offense.  The driver can be completely sober and functional.  This is truly odd, when you think about it.  If I find that you have traces of MJ in your blood, I cannot charge you possession or use.  Even though it is plausible to think that you used (at least, that is what the evidence appears to mean*).  But I can charge you with driving unsafely because you were high at the time you were driving.  Even though there is exactly zero evidence to support that claim.

*If the blood test does NOT reveal that you used, how could we conclude you were under the influence?  The test is either reliable or it is not.

6.  The rule about extra-marital affairs exposing operatives to blackmail should be scrapped?

Nod to Angry Alex, WH, Kevin Lewis, and Sam B

Not the Onion?

I really thought this had to be a hoax.  A tribe of sanctimonious Germans who believe that their unwillingness to behave responsibly creates obligations for others to take care of them.  Okay, wait, that is basically ALL Greeks, I understand.

But in this case it's Germans, and it's literally true.  These folks say they are "on strike."  From consuming.

The cool part is that they do in fact consume.  They are just "on strike" when it comes to paying for what they consume.

Oh, and while they refuse to WORK, they are happy to take--and USE--the "free" money that the government gives to them.

There's more!  Please do share your favorite quote, GG style.

with a grateful nod to Tal, who sent it to  J.C.  J.C. thought I would like it.  I like it.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

(Day) Trippin' with Tyler

Mrs. Angus and I carted Tyler out to the heartland yesterday. To Meers, OK and the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

We ate lunch here:

Burgers were very good.

We then hit the wildlife refuge:

(clic the pics for even more aromatic images of the American Bison)

A good time was had by all.

Then we headed back to (relative) civilization in order to make our dinner reservation here:

Dry-aged rib-eyes and brussel sprouts with bacon.


Saturday, February 23, 2013

IHS Art of Teaching Workship

A PSA for grad students. And, yes, I'll be at this party!


Attn: Graduate students, if you’re interested in honing your research and teaching skills this summer, IHS has some great opportunities:
· The Symposia on Scholarship & a Free Society bring graduate students together with leading classical liberal scholars from a range of disciplines for a weekend of discussion and research presentations. All applicants are invited to submit an optional proposal for a paper presentation. Applications to attend this summer must be received by March 15th. Additional details:

· The Liberty & the Art of Teaching Workshop taking place June 28-30 at Towson University in Towson, MD welcomes teachers, both new and experienced, to discuss and experiment with best practices for the university classroom. IHS provides full funding, including meals, accommodations, and program costs. Participants are responsible for travel (limited scholarships are available to cover travel expenses). For additional details on faculty presenters, topics, schedule, and feedback from past participants, visit

. Application deadline: April 15th.

Grand Game

Wow.  Just, wow.  Ed of MSNBC makes some macroeconomic claims that are pretty darned strong.  If Ed were right (and yes I got this from Angus), Zimbabwe would have the highest GDP/cap on earth.  Please do feel free to share your thoughts in comments, folks!

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Nod to the ever-vigilant WH, who had this response here

It is nice that Ed took time to talk about my own little home state.  But it would be okay with me if he directs his genius elsewhere from now on.

Painfully Sweet: Blind Stray Dog Rescued from Trash Pile

So cute it hurts.

Friday, February 22, 2013

défenestrer le sequester?

The NYT is on the sequester rampage this morning:

 Here's an unsigned editorial:

 Democrats and Republicans remain at odds on how to avoid a round of budget cuts so deep and arbitrary that to allow them now could push the economy back into recession. The cuts, known as a sequester, will kick in March 1 unless Republicans agree to President Obama’s demand to a legislative package that combines spending reductions and tax increases. 

And here's the inevitable Krugman chiming in with his bosses:

 the “sequester,” one of the worst policy ideas in our nation’s history... a fiscal doomsday machine that would inflict gratuitous damage on the nation.

 People, the sequester only lowers spending relative to baseline growth.

That is to say, it doesn't actually cut spending in the sense a regular normal person would view it.

Over the full 10 years of "deep" cuts, after the "doomsday machine" ravages us, Federal spending will be higher than it is now.

I am not making this up!

Federal spending is over 3 trillion dollars. We are talking about cutting 85 billion from its growth.

That's like a pimple on your pimple.

Calling this "one of the worst policy ideas in our nation's history" is just amazing hackery.

Slavery was one of our nation's policies.

Interning Japanese Americans with no cause in WWII was one of our nation's policies.

The war on drugs is one of our nation's policies.

Extra-legal drone killings of Americans (and non-americans) is one of our nation's policies.

I'd say that the sequester is actually an above average policy for our nation.

If we can't cut 85 billion from our planned spending growth four years after the recession ended, we are pretty much doomed.

Decline in Crime

Interesting to think about explanations for declines in crime.  Gun violence generally has collapsed, just fallen off the charts, outside of turf wars for drug gangs.  As the WSJ puts it,

"Bank holdups have been nearly cut in half over the past decade — to 5.1 robberies per 100 U.S. banks in 2011. Though the nationwide crime rate is dropping, the decline in bank robberies far exceeds the decline in other crimes, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation data...Bank-security experts and former FBI agents attribute the decline to stepped-up security and tougher sentencing for bank robbers. Many also say that more recently, sophisticated criminals are recognizing bank robbery as a high-risk, low-reward crime and are migrating online." [WSJ]

 As I do think that there is an extra explanation we are missing.  Many of the most ruthless criminals were able to sell mortgages to government agencies Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac during the housing bubble, so that diverted them from bank robberies.  The Fan/Fred combo didn't care about cost, and so it was too easy.

And today thugs can sell subsidized solar panels to religious zealots who worship Gaia and don't care about cost.

Who needs to rob banks, when the government will actually pay you to steal, legally?

Nod to Kevin Lewis for the WSJ piece; I doubt he endorses my interpretation.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The leopard cannot change his spots

Did you hear the one about the modern central banker who was able to credibly promise to be irresponsible?

Me neither.

Release of recent FOMC minutes reveal that all is not well on the QE bus:

However, many participants also expressed some concerns about potential costs and risks arising from further asset purchases. Several participants discussed the possible complications that additional purchases could cause for the eventual withdrawal of policy accommodation, a few mentioned the prospect of inflationary risks, and some noted that further asset purchases could foster market behavior that could undermine financial stability. Several participants noted that a very large portfolio of long-duration assets would, under certain circumstances, expose the Federal Reserve to significant capital losses when these holdings were unwound, but others pointed to offsetting factors and one noted that losses would not impede the effective operation of monetary policy. A few also raised concerns about the potential effects of further asset purchases on the functioning of particular financial markets, although a couple of other participants noted that there had been little evidence to date of such effects....  

...Several participants emphasized that the Committee should be prepared to vary the pace of asset purchases, either in response to changes in the economic outlook or as its evaluation of the efficacy and costs of such purchases evolved. For example, one participant argued that purchases should vary incrementally from meeting to meeting in response to incoming information about the economy. A number of participants stated that an ongoing evaluation of the efficacy, costs, and risks of asset purchases might well lead the Committee to taper or end its purchases before it judged that a substantial improvement in the outlook for the labor market had occurred.

(Quote from Tim Duy. more here)

To fight inflation, modern democracies have given the keys to the bus to conservative central bankers over the last 30 years. They worry about inflation when there is no inflation. They couch all expansionary policy statements with weasel words and out clauses that scream "we don't really mean it".  They cannot change their spots. Which is why they can pump trillions into the economy without generating much in the way of increased inflation expectations. Everyone knows they are not serious.

The single most effective tool to raise inflation expectations in the US would be to appoint Paul Krugman as the new Fed chair and let Matt Yglesias be his deputy.

Just when you think you have heard it all... turns out that Pete Domenici has fathered enough children to have his own baseball team, from the Domenician Republic.  (Thanks to a commenter on the original article for that one).

One with the then-24-year-old daughter of a fellow senator.  Wow.

Nod to Anonyman.

Why The World Needs Economists

Fact:  Productivity (output per person/hour) is much (MUCH) higher on smaller plots of land.* 

Resolved:  That this proves that "smallholders can feed the world."  More important, large farms are wasteful, and should be broken up.

Now, my good friend Marc Bellamare is no right wing, free market fundamentalist.  But he puts the hammer down on this argument.   In fact, he puts three different hammers down on it.  Bang, bang Bellamare's silver hammer made sure it was dead. 

The point is that even if you are a lefty, being trained in economics puts a pretty tight limit on how much stupid crap you can say.  We need more economists.

*This is a fact, unless it's measurement error.  Then it's not.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

higher ed indeed

The online revolution is hitting a few bumps.

Dick McKenzie walks away from his micro economics MOOC in mid mooc, citing the abysmal performance of a large majority of the 37,000 students.

The NYT even managed to produce an anti online class editorial.  They claim that online students generally do worse than brick and mortar students, especially in community college settings.

I don't mean to suggest that traditional higher ed is the bizzle though. Consider the case of Sharon Sweet, an associate professor of mathematics, who is about to be fired from her job in Florida for pressuring students to vote for Obama (and a straight Democratic ticket).

If this is truly found to be a generally fireable offense, I believe that there will be an incredible number of new job openings in higher ed in the coming years.

This semester, I've been working on "flipping" one of my classes. Before each class, the students are assigned videos to watch or a reading assignment to complete and they take an online quiz over the material. The last question on the quiz solicits their feedback about what is causing them problems.

Then in class, we try to deal with the problems, work some examples, and fine tune their understanding. I still probably lecture more than I should, but it's a start and the students seem to be either enjoying or at least be OK with the format, though I'll have to wait for course evaluations to see what they really think about it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mentors and Giants

Chris Alcantara is doing a series of "interviews" he calls "Mentors and Giants."

I am, at best, a mentor.  But Chris was kind enough to post the interview on his blog...

Which is here.

Grand Game: Hellman's Ad

This  Feel free to share your reactions.

Hellmann's short film (Eat Real. Eat Local) from Yoho Yue on Vimeo.

With thanks to O., who sent the thing (I had not seen it).  O. writes:   

I'm a Canadian economics student at the ***********... I've seen this video pop up a couple of times on Facebook, and I've been very disappointed with how gullible people around me seem to be about it, despite my best efforts. It's a campaign ad by Hellman's (owned by Unilever) full of mostly senseless arguments for you to eat local Canadian food. What do you think? What's your tactic when you see this kind of thing? Sometimes, when I try to explain that trade isn't a zero-sum game, I feel like I'm showing a dog card tricks.

Well, O., you could...start a blog!  In the meantime, though, keep showing those dogs those card tricks.  That's a new label category now, so thanks for that!

Maybe Lou Reed was wrong about Robert Christgau?

Here is a great Christgau piece on the Moldy Peaches from back in the day.

You should consider following Kimya Dawson on Twitter. She's a NSFW force of nature.

 And of course the Peaches' back catalog is a must.

Context for the title of this post can be found here (also NSFW).

Big Brother is Us

From KPC pal Chris A:  A story on Pat Metheny.  Here's the key passage from the news story.  I thought it was very perceptive of Metheny:

The impact of YouTube on a touring musician
"It's an unexpected turn of events for me. When you play that crappy gig in Germany in 1983, it's like, 'OK, we got through that one, and it's behind us.' Then it gets regurgitated 20 years later. The main thing is the way it limits the possibilities now. I used to love going and playing jam sessions, doing things spontaneously. I can't do that anymore. Everything you do is documented, nothing is casual anymore. You can't even have a conversation with someone after the gig, because there's somebody filming it. It turns out the Big Brother thing that was predicted, it's us."

In his blog, Chris suggests:  Metheny needs to go all Taylor Swift on youtube and smartphones! 

Or, maybe not.


Is cognitive ability a liability? A critique and future research agenda on skilled performance

Margaret Beier & Frederick Oswald
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, December 2012, Pages 331-345

Over a century of psychological research provides strong and consistent support for the idea that cognitive ability correlates positively with success in tasks that people face in employment, education, and everyday life. Recent experimental research, however, has converged on a different and provocative conclusion, namely that lower-ability people can actually be more effective performers within special environments characterized by features such as time pressure, social evaluation, and unpredictable task change. If this conclusion is true, it has extensive implications for practices such as personnel selection, training design, and teaching methods. The current article reexamines and reinterprets this research within the context of well-established resource theories of cognitive processing and skill acquisition leading to a less provocative conclusion that serves to reiterate the benefits of cognitive ability for task performance. Following this reexamination, we conclude by providing a research agenda for examining the determinants of skilled performance in dynamic task environments, including the following: (a) broadening the range of abilities and task difficulties examined, (b) considering the role of nonability traits and goals in skilled performance (e.g., personality, learning, and performance goals), (c) investigating the processes (e.g., problem solving strategies) that people use in complex environments, (d) developing research designs and analytic strategies for examining adaptive performance, and (e) investigating how best to train for adaptive performance.


Who Multi-Tasks and Why? Multi-Tasking Ability, Perceived Multi-Tasking Ability, Impulsivity, and Sensation Seeking

David Sanbonmatsu et al.
PLoS ONE, January 2013

The present study examined the relationship between personality and individual differences in multi-tasking ability. Participants enrolled at the University of Utah completed measures of multi-tasking activity, perceived multi-tasking ability, impulsivity, and sensation seeking. In addition, they performed the Operation Span in order to assess their executive control and actual multi-tasking ability. The findings indicate that the persons who are most capable of multi-tasking effectively are not the persons who are most likely to engage in multiple tasks simultaneously. To the contrary, multi-tasking activity as measured by the Media Multitasking Inventory and self-reported cell phone usage while driving were negatively correlated with actual multi-tasking ability. Multi-tasking was positively correlated with participants’ perceived ability to multi-task ability which was found to be significantly inflated. Participants with a strong approach orientation and a weak avoidance orientation – high levels of impulsivity and sensation seeking – reported greater multi-tasking behavior. Finally, the findings suggest that people often engage in multi-tasking because they are less able to block out distractions and focus on a singular task. Participants with less executive control - low scorers on the Operation Span task and persons high in impulsivity - tended to report higher levels of multi-tasking activity.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Monday, February 18, 2013

ain't nobody here but us chickens

This is amazing.

I have lived in ignorance for 50+ years.

 Here's a teaser:

(clic the pic for an even more tasty image)

Hat tip to Mrs. Angus

They Didn't Call It "Smile Club"

Michael Kraus & Teh-Way David Chen
Emotion, forthcoming

Abstract: The smile is perhaps the most widely studied facial expression of emotion, and in this article we examine its status as a sign of physical dominance. We reason, on the basis of prior research, that prior to a physical confrontation, smiles are a nonverbal sign of reduced hostility and aggression, and thereby unintentionally communicate reduced physical dominance. Two studies provide evidence in support of this prediction: Study 1 found that professional fighters who smiled more in a prefight photograph taken facing their opponent performed more poorly during the fight in relation to their less intensely smiling counterparts. In Study 2, untrained observers judged a fighter as less hostile and aggressive, and thereby less physically dominant when the fighters' facial expression was manipulated to show a smiling expression in relation to the same fighter displaying a neutral expression. Discussion focused on the reasons why smiles are associated with decreased physical dominance.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

In other news, the sun rose in the east....again

So, it turns out that insuring lots of additional people who have pre-existing conditions and no money to pay premiums actually costs a LOT more than before.

This in spite of the claim that ACA would actually SAVE money.

Now, it may be possible to argue that "we" (whoever that is) are saving money overall, because the costs of untreated health problems are externalities imposed on all of us in the form of lost productivity and desperate families.  And it may be that universal coverage is a good thing, just in terms of basic fairness.

But that was not the argument.  The argument was that ACA would straight up save money, and make insurance cheaper.  There was never any chance that this was actually true, and its' not true.  I love the way the craven, hypocritical WaPo puts:  Funds run low...  Well, yeah, that's what "giant budget-busting spending" does.  I guess Ms. Pelosi should have said, "Let's pass this bill and later we can figure out [how to pay for] what's in it."

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Green Energy Chronicles

This would be funny, if it weren't so not at all funny.

In particular:

 A website of the U.S. Department of Energy, Wind Powering America, describes how schools can receive taxpayer funding for wind projects.  The site provides links to wind-friendly educational materials from Canada, California, Idaho, the Dakotas, Montana, and Arizona.
Wind companies and their trade groups are also involved. In Ontario, my province, teachers are asked how they feel about corporate logos in schools in exchange for such “benefits” as free computers. The response is often negative, but industrial-wind propaganda abounds in textbooks, learning materials, and kid-friendly websites.
It's true.  The jerks who were opening mortgage origination shops in strip malls in 2006 are all now "working" in the the green energy industry.  And wind power may be the biggest rip-off of all.  Solar power is just expensive and inefficient, but at least it produces some small amount of power.  Wind power is actually a complete fraud.

Commentary on Rebel Defenses

Commentary on Rebel Alliance defense strategy on Hoth.  In short:  not good.  Comments are better than the article.

I'm not sure that this is quite fair, though.  After all, the writers were not able to defend even themselves against some of the most insipid dialogue ever seen in movies in Episodes I-III.  Asking them to defend a planet against a mechanized intergallactic force of combined air and land units is a bit much.

Nod to Angry Alex.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Audio Resources on the Econ of Car Dealerships

The economics of car dealerships is interesting.  Some time ago, RR and I did this podcast on the subject, and found a bunch of questions we really couldn't answer.

NPR Planet Money just did a piece, where we hear from the car dealers themselves.  The central question is, "Why do we have a system of pricing and bargaining that consumers hate?  I mean, actually hate?"

Nod to Kyle R.

Put more pudding on my platter

People, it's no mystery why we are fat. We are fat because the costs of being fat have fallen.

We don't have to be in shape to do our jobs and live our lives.

Calories have never been cheaper.

It has never been harder to die from a heart attack.

If you clog up your arteries they give you a pill, or router out the clogs, or just put in replacements. Hell, they'll even just give you a new heart if you destroy the one you have.

As a wise man once said, "solve for the equilibrium". All the Cass Sunstein's and Miguel Bloombitos, and Sarah Conly's of the world don't stand a chance.

Fat is the new skinny.

PS: should the opposite should be true for drugs and alcohol? Discuss

Friday, February 15, 2013

Most Excellent Musical / Econ Site

This is nothing short of amazing, fantastic, wonderful.

Do you need some terrible 70's or 80's music to illustrate  a point in econ class?  (Answer:  yes.  Yes, you do.  You ALWAYS do).

Then here is the reference site for you!

And the best thing (and this goes out to YOU, Steve Horwitz!) there is not one shred of that awful sound abortion, RUSH, anywhere on the site.  Because the only principle Rush illustrates is that even functionally deaf people will apparently still buy music.  For proof, check this:  it is NOT intended ironically.

Please to calm down about the minimum wage

As we all know, President O has called for raising the Federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. This has caused many of my friends to get fairly upset and argue that this is a bad policy that will raise unemployment.


(1) In truth, we don't really know what the minimum wage does to unemployment. Studies are mixed at best on that issue. It's just not that easy to isolate causal effects here.

(2) We just don't live in a principles of micro world where markets are perfectly competitive and firms have no market power / economic profits, so any wage above an individual's marginal product is impossible to sustain.  Besides the difficulty of identification, this is probably the main reason why it's so hard to find employment effects of minimum wage changes.

(3) A better reason to object to the minimum wage increase is that there are much more efficient ways to help the working poor. It doesn't seem to be well appreciated, but a substantial fraction of workers earning the minimum wage do NOT live in poor households. They are teenagers living at home or second workers in a household. If we wish to aid the working poor, increasing the earned income tax credit (EITC) is a much more effective approach.

(4) It is also good to remember that there are still a lot of jobs out there where the minimum wage does not apply (some classes of young worker, workers who earn tips).

(5)  This is a bit of a stretch but if the higher minimum wage did price someone out of the labor market, perhaps it would propel them into upgrading their human capital, with a GED or some vocational training or community college.

Finally, I'd like to ask my conservative friends to stop making the "if a higher minimum wage is good why stop at $9, why not make it $90 and everyone would be rich" argument.

It's just silly.

Obviously, we could find a minimum wage that would have serious employment effects. But it's not in the $9.00 neighborhood, and no one is proposing even a doubling of the current minimum wage.

If Reid & Pelosi (in 2014 after the Dems take back the House) propose a $20 minimum wage, then I'll join y'all on the ramparts.

Otherwise, let's consider giving it a rest. There are far far far worse policies that are actually in effect which deserve our attention and effort.

Do Guns Prevent Suicide?

Wow.  Talk about a moving target.  We hate guns because the level of violence is rising sharply.  (No, it isn't, it's falling sharply).  Oh....okay, we hate guns because they cause (CAUSE!) suicides.

My good friend Prof. Greene at NC State has a piece where he calls several remarkably illogical arguments "nice."

The problem is that the facts are these:

The total level of gun violence has fallen dramatically since 1980.  DRA.MA.TIC.ALLY.

If you remove suicides and drug crimes, in fact, the danger of gun violence is negligible.

A few highly over-sensationalized incidents have shoved the lefty elite into a hissy fit, with their little private high school boxers in tight knots.  So they shriek and yelp that "we" have to "do" "something" (yup, three different scare quote words).

To his credit, Prof. Greene does at least focus on suicides, where the data don't directly contradict his argument.

Except, wait...the data comparing national suicide rates DO directly contradict his argument.  If guns cause suicides, then one would expect the nations with the most guns to have the highest suicide rates, right?

Not so much.  In fact, the correlation between suicide rate and gun ownership is weakly INVERSE.  That's right, guns CURE suicide!  The US, with high gun ownership, has fewer suicides than the gun control icons of Austria, France, New Zealand, Belgium, Japan, and of course FAR below those happy gunless states of Russia and China. 

Now, I'll admit that naive correlations like that don't mean much, and I'm not serious.   Guns do NOT cure suicide. But surely that one means at least as much as the equally naive correlations being whooped up by the good Prof. Greene:  guns also do not CAUSE suicide, though it may be that a person contemplating suicide might use a gun if he has one.  Clearly it is NOT true that in South Korea people say, "I want to commit suicide, but I can't, because I don't have a gun!"

Claiming that taking guns away reduces suicides is at best a within-country measure, and there is no reason to believe the effect would be significant.

You Say "Profit" Like It's a BAD Thing

Profit:  I don't think that word means what you think it means.

Here is what LvM thought it meant.  Pretty interesting.

But now kids think it's a bad word, a bad thing, and that making profits makes you a bad person

Jesus said it best:  Profits are not without honor, but in your own country, and among your own kin, and in your own house,  Or something like that.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Guy Tries to Explain Government to Alien

It's pretty long, and (intentionally) painfully slow.  But parts of it are (intentionally) excruciating.

If you want to hear the 18th century version of this conversation, here it is.  In particular, Burke really nailed it one rockin' passage:

Parties in Religion and Politics make sufficient Discoveries concerning each other, to give a sober Man a proper Caution against them all…
In vain you tell me that Artificial Government is good, but that I fall out only with the Abuse. The Thing! the Thing itself is the Abuse! Observe, my Lord, I pray you, that grand Error upon which all artificial legislative Power is founded.
It was observed, that Men had ungovernable Passions, which made it necessary to guard against the Violence they might offer to each other. They appointed Governors over them for this Reason; but a worse and more perplexing Difficulty arises, how to be defended against the Governors? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
In vain they change from a single Person to a few. These few have the Passions of the one, and they unite to strengthen themselves, and to secure the Gratification of their lawless Passions at the Expence of the general Good. In vain do we fly to the Many.
The Case is worse; their Passions are less under the Government of Reason, they are augmented by the Contagion, and defended against all Attacks by their Multitude.

That's amazingly close to the alien's final summary, actually.