Saturday, January 26, 2013

The End of History Illusion

The End of History Illusion

Jordi Quoidbach, Daniel Gilbert & Timothy Wilson
Science, 4 January 2013, Pages 96-98

We measured the personalities, values, and preferences of more than 19,000 people who ranged in age from 18 to 68 and asked them to report how much they had changed in the past decade and/or to predict how much they would change in the next decade. Young people, middle-aged people, and older people all believed they had changed a lot in the past but would change relatively little in the future. People, it seems, regard the present as a watershed moment at which they have finally become the person they will be for the rest of their lives. This "end of history illusion" had practical consequences, leading people to overpay for future opportunities to indulge their current preferences.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Government is Force

One part of government action is non-partisan:  force.  All government officials believe that their efforts to control people, observe people, and force people to bend to their will is justified.

Consequently, the chief problem of government is to protect citizens from government.  But this protection cannot be left to the discretion of government, but must be imposed.

We have lost sight of this fact.  The "administrative subpoena" is replacing the warrant signed by a judge.  'Cause nobody in government thinks they should NEED no stinkin' warrant.  They are the good guys.  Just ask them.  That, in a nutshell, is why government is so terrifying they.  They are convinced they are the good guys, so anything they do, no matter how bad, is justified.

Nod to Angry Alex.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Hey boy get a sweater: Angus on NPR?

Here's the link.

There is much more than just the salary cap (which restricts teams' overall payrolls) involved in the financial hosing of LeBron. It's the whole collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Even if a team chooses to spend over the cap and pay the steep  "luxury tax", there are still provisions in the CBA that limit the maximum salary any player can receive, how fast that salary can rise over the course of the contract, and how long the contract can last.

All of those things work against the LeBrons and in favor of the "median" player. Whatever sized pie is available, these other CBA provisions limit how much of it can go to the superstars, thus leaving more of it for the rank and file.

Kids Prefer Flaming Cheese

The ever-watchful Chateau sends this gem:  Flaming cheese shuts down road tunnel in northern Norway.  WaPo version.  (For some reason, links left out earlier, thanks to Angus for catching it!)

I have a warm spot for stories where, once you have read the title, you are pretty much done, and yet you want to read the story anyway.

And, while we're at it:  What is the deal with Norway and dairy products?  Remember the butter shortage?  And now a river of flaming cheese?  What is going on, Norway?  If you wouldn't take your dairy products and set them on fire in constricted areas, you'd enjoy them more.

An Insult to "Corrupt"

Calling U.S. drug enforcement "corrupt" is an insult.  To the word "corrupt."  Corruption is old, and sort of honorable, a way of smoothing out bad government.  But U.S. drug enforcement is bizarrely hypocritical, with lots of sharp edges.

HSBC settlement:  Appalling.

Outright theft of a family-owned hotel, because some tenants used drugs.

Outright theft of money, for ...well, for no actual reason at all.  Some people thought the guy might, possibly, maybe buy drugs.  Later.

So, to review:  if you are a large corporation, and can pay off the government, you are free to participate in the wholesale distribution of drugs.  If you try to run a legitimate business, however, that entire business can be taken from you.  And if the cops find any sort of asset they can steal, they will just take the money, like Mexcan Federales in some bad movie.  You have to sue to get the money back, and the burden of proof is on YOU to show you were NOT going to spend the money on drugs.

Here's the interesting thing:  in the late stages of Prohibition, corruption took the form of payoffs to crooked cops.  With the civil forfeiture rules now in place, corruption takes the form of simple, direct theft:  the authorities simply take anything of value that that they want, unless you are a large corporation and can afford lots of lawyers.

I keep calling it "corrupt."  But I don't think that word means what I think it means.  I need a knew word.

Nod to MK

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Profoundly Disturbing

Here is a pre-release of a VW SuperBowl commercial.  Starring Jimmy Cliff.

Okay, now Jimmy Cliff is legitimately a legend.  His song "Trapped" is a dark, wonderful, interesting thing.  I even liked Bruce Springsteen's cover.  And "The Harder They Come."  Jimmy Cliff is great.

And VW is a perfectly fine car company.

But there is something deeply creepy about the way all of these badly deranged folks are allowing themselves to be exploited for...well, for what?  What is the commercial supposed to show about VWs, exactly?  And I'm glad Jimmy Cliff is gettin' paid.  But this had to hurt.  I hope he at least got high first.  I mean, a rock/reggae legend had to a roll call of the most damaged people on the internet:  "Crazy cat lady!  Irate baseball coach!  Angry politician! Supermarket tantrum girl! (etc)."   Ouch.  I'm a big fan of euvoluntary exchange, but did Jimmy need the cash THIS bad?

Farewell, From La Mar

Had dinner our last night in Chile at La Mar. (Nice review, with good pictures, here).  It's over-priced, okay, but wow is the cebiche fantastico.

Juan Pablo had the grilled pulpo (yum!), the EYM a fantastic sopa de mariscos, and I (pig!) had the four-way cebiche platter.  I "shared" (the EYM had a few bites) but mostly it was MINE, precious, all MINE.  Oh, and Eugenio is on the phone.  Of course.  Eugenio is ALWAYS on the phone.

The LMM had, as always, something not on the menu.  Sometimes the waiter tries to hold firm, but LMM is remorseless.  She wants a particular thing, no restaurant has it, ever, and that is the thing she wants.  In this case, a  salad of lettuce, carrots, and tomatoes, and a side of lightly grilled mushrooms and zucchini.  No meat, no cheese, no onions, no sauce, no peppers, no (I could go on).  The waiter almost cried, but he brought it, exactly as requested.

Do we have a spending problem?

The usual suspects have been passing around a chart they claim shows that we don't:

(clic the pic for an even more bigger image!)

Well, I have to say that it sure looks like a spending problem to me (N.B. I am not a Republican or a "conservative").

Remember that the graph is in per capita terms. Population growth has averaged right around 1% a year over this period, so there's a lot more spending than it seems.

Often it's appropriate to express things in per-capita terms, but government spending is *not* an obvious candidate. First off, much government spending is on public goods, which by virtual of their being non-rival (or partly non-rival) in consumption means that per-captia is a very poor way to express their spending levels. Defense spending per-capita is kind of a weird and meaningless concept. Infrastructure falls in the middle. Eventually population growth would require greater infrastructure spending due to crowding or faster depreciation, but per-capita is just not a completely appropriate way to express it. Entitlement spending might be best expressed per-recipient rather than per-captia.

Another strange thing about the graph is it attributes total spending to the president in office. This is just weird. Yes Bush was a terrible president. Yes we spent like crazy and ran up deficits with nothing to show for it. I get it. I agree with it. But the president doesn't control Federal spending, he only has the veto threat to try and shape congressional decisions. He doesn't have any real direct lever to affect state and local spending at all.

There is simply no reason to expect that real government spending per capita should constantly rise and there is not reason to impute said spending completely to the president in office when it occurred.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


So, here I am in a hat.  AND there is a little kid in the background, playing "I crush hees HEAD!  Haahahaha!"

Chapeau Showdown

Ok people, it's a good old fashioned hat contest.

First up, me:

(clic the pic for an even more colorful image)

Second is my good friend and co-author Aaron S :

(clic the pic for an even more mixed communist metaphor)

Who is the winner people? Plus, do you have a great shot of Economists Wearing Hats? Show me!

Farewell to Santiago

Heading back to US tonight.  Flight leaves SCL at 22:10.  (Question:  not really a time zone issue.  Why aren't there some day flights?  It's ten hours.  Could leave at 9 am, be in at 7 pm.  That's a lot more civilized than this $%&^! overnight thing, which is awful.  But anyway...)

Had our last lunch with the EYM today, at the "traditional" Chilean restaurant Tip y Tap.  (Check it out).  The EYM and I split an order of crudo, and papas salteados.  Really, really excellent.  The crudo was unusually good, and the papas were outstanding.

You would have to be seriously hungry to eat an entire serving of crudo, that's pure raw ground meat there.  But to split...yum.  Papas salteados are hard to describe.  It's a kind of frying ("jumping," or stir-frying, is the etymology).  But if it is done well it creates a combination of good moist potato with a little crust on the outside.  Definitely not french fries or home fries, but a Peruvian genius move.  Salteado is a fine preparation, generally, but just papas by themselves work well.

Party Competition and Economic Growth

Africa's (Dis)advantage: The Curse of Party Monopoly

Ann Harrison, Justin Yifu Lin & Colin Xu
NBER Working Paper, January 2013

Africa’s economic performance has been widely viewed with pessimism. In this paper, we use firm-level data for 89 countries to examine formal firm performance. Without controls, manufacturing African firms do not perform much worse than firms in other regions. But they do have structural problems, exhibiting much lower export intensity and investment rates. Once we control for geography and the political and business environment, formal African firms robustly lead in sales growth, total factor productivity levels and productivity growth. Africa’s conditional advantage is higher in low-tech than in high-tech manufacturing, and exists in manufacturing but not in services. While geography, infrastructure, and access to finance play an important role in explaining Africa’s disadvantage in firm performance, the key factor is party monopoly. The longer a single political party remains in power, the lower are firm productivity levels, growth rates, and sales growth for manufacturing. In contrast, the business environment and firm characteristics (except for foreign investment) do not matter as much. We also find evidence that the effects of the political and business environment are heterogeneous across sectors and firms of various levels of technology.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Why Is the NRA So Powerful?

New video from Learn Liberty:  Why is the NRA so powerful?

Some things of note:

1.  The way the stick men caress the guns like luscious, curvy stick women is a little creepy.   Me gusta!  I'm not sure I would have chosen all the assault rifles, though.  Regular rifles, bolt action, or perhaps shotguns, are much more common interests for NRA members.
2.  I know that because I am an NRA member, and have been for a long time.  Card in my wallet, paid up member.  I am not happy with the recent positions on the NRA, on a variety of things.  But I am still a member.  Because the NRA is first and foremost the largest education and gun safety organization in the world.  And the magazines are awesome.  The NRA members I know, in law enforcement and gun training, are really fine people.  I am proud to be an NRA member, overall.
3.  I was so much fatter than.  I'm thinner than that now.
4.  As always, big ups to Elisabeth McCaffrey for making this all work.

More Support, Less Effort? Parental Support Crowds Out Student Effort in College

More Is More or More Is Less? Parental Financial Investments during College

Laura Hamilton
American Sociological Review, forthcoming

Evidence shows that parental financial investments increase college attendance, but we know little about how these investments shape postsecondary achievement. Two theoretical frameworks suggest diametric conclusions. Some studies operate from a more-is-more perspective in which children use calculated parental allocations to make academic progress. In contrast, a more-is-less perspective, rooted in a different model of rational behavior, suggests that parental investments create a disincentive for student achievement. I adjudicate between these frameworks, using data from nationally representative postsecondary datasets to determine what effect financial parental investments have on student GPA and degree completion. The findings suggest seemingly contradictory processes. Parental aid decreases student GPA, but it increases the odds of graduating — net of explanatory variables and accounting for alternative funding. Rather than strategically using resources in accordance with parental goals, or maximizing on their ability to avoid academic work, students are satisficing: they meet the criteria for adequacy on multiple fronts, rather than optimizing their chances for a particular outcome. As a result, students with parental funding often perform well enough to stay in school but dial down their academic efforts. I conclude by highlighting the importance of life stage and institutional context for parental investment.

Okay, but what about this kind of support, from "Daddy"?  John-O is pretty much a free-market guy, but he has a daughter at college.   He might prefer to pay, rather than have this kind of support.  The list of "Sugar Baby" colleges, for your delectation.  

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Fatherhood Premium

A Reconsideration of the Fatherhood Premium: Marriage, Coresidence, Biology, and Fathers’ Wages

Alexandra Killewald
American Sociological Review, forthcoming

Past research that asserts a fatherhood wage premium often ignores the heterogeneity of fathering contexts. I expect fatherhood to produce wage gains for men if it prompts them to alter their behavior in ways that increase labor-market productivity. Identity theory predicts a larger productivity-based fatherhood premium when ties of biology, coresidence with the child, and marriage to the child’s mother reinforce one another, making fatherhood, and the role of financial provider in particular, salient, high in commitment, and clear. Employer discrimination against fathers in less normative family structures may also contribute to variation in the fatherhood premium. Using fixed-effects models and data from the 1979 cohort of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79), I find that married, residential, biological fatherhood is associated with wage gains of about 4 percent, but unmarried residential fathers, nonresidential fathers, and stepfathers do not receive a fatherhood premium. Married residential fathers also receive no statistically significant wage premium when their wives work full-time. About 15 percent of the wage premium for married residential fathers can be explained by changes in human capital and job traits.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Monday, January 21, 2013

What inaugurations are good for

Pickin' up wimmen, right Bill?


People, you can stream the new Unknown Mortal Orchestra album at NPR.

So good. Check out "opposite of afternoon". Early Shins meets Dukes of the Stratosphere.

They are playing Norman in March and Mrs. A and I will be representing the elder generation at the show.

The Culture that is Hollywood

Here's Leonardo di Caprio on his upcoming plans:

"I am a bit drained. I'm now going to take a long, long break. I've done three films in two years and I'm just worn out.  I would like to improve the world a bit. I will fly around the world doing good for the environment"

1. Three films in two years? We need legislation to stop this kind of worker exploitation.

2. The only way that last sentence works is if Leo can fly just by flapping his arms.

What do you think people? How can LDC best help "improve the world"? Tell me in the comments.

Monday's Chile is Full of Links

1.  The worst journalistic lede of all time.  Even I think this is pretty terrible.

2.  Levantacola.  You think it's a Lebanese soft drink?  Nope, jeans that lift and separate.  Also called "Colombian jeans," or "Sweet fancy Moses, did you see that?"  Apparently a trend that's at least three years old, so I'm "behind" the times (see what I did there?).  Since this is KPC, yes, there is a video.  Ms. Jepsen can sing, "Levant my cola maybe."

3.  Policy matters:  China's "little emperors" and the implications for economics

4.  There was a lot of value.  Now there is less.  What happened to all that money?

5.  If you read this and believe the judge is right, it can only be that you don't understand this.  And that's bad, because honestly it's just not that complicated.

7.  Lance Armstrong getting caught may be a good thing for cycling, but it's a bad thing for the larger world.

8.  Interesting interactive housing chart.  Warning:  if you click on this, you will never get back the next 20 minutes.  Because it is very cool.

With nods to Anonyman, Angry Alex, Chug, and Kevin Lewis.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Lawyers and Prostitutes

Divorce lawyers and prostitutes:  Both charge by the hour.  About the same rate, actually.  Better ones charge more.

The difference should be that prostitutes screw their clients, while divorce lawyers try to screw the other side.  But apparently this one guy got confused.

A Minnesota lawyer is suspended indefinitely after having an affair with a client and then billing her for the time spent having sex, reported.

Thomas P. Lowe, 58, of Eagan, Minn., who is married, had an affair with a woman he was representing in a divorce case, according to the website.

Lowe reportedly knew the client for many years, and agreed in August 2011 to represent her in her divorce case. The two began an affair one month later. 

The website reports that at several times, Lowe billed the woman for legal services rendered while the two were having sex -- calling the time spent together a "meeting" or memo draft. 

I would have loved to have heard the conversation when the guy presented the bill.  "Wait, you are married, and have a code of ethics that prevents you from having sex with me.  And now you, a married attorney,  want to charge me, a divorced woman, $400 per hour for legal services during sex.  Excuse me, I have to go make a phone call.  Several phone calls, in fact."

You would  have to be a putz to think of charging in the first place.  But you would have to be an idiot to expect the woman to pay, instead of calling the ethics board.

Nod to Angry Alex

UPDATE:  Ick.  It's worse than that.  The woman tried to commit suicide.  And Lowe took payment on another case in cocaine.