Saturday, September 07, 2013

Mungowitz in Australia

So, I had a little trouble with the law in Oz, and got arrested.  It was all a misunderstanding.  But they had some trouble getting me in the car...

All right, so, no, that wasn't me.  But I could imagine doing that. Thanks to TG for sending that.

If Grandma had wheels we could end this recession!

People, I just can't take it anymore. I can't stick my fingers in my ears and cover my eyes and avoid dealing with the "lack of government jobs is holding back the recovery" BS any longer. The one that pushed me over the edge was from the usually excellent Neil Irwin at Wonkblog (hat tip to Mark Thoma):

 One of the reasons for quiet optimism about the economy over the last few months has been the possibility that state and local governments have finished their long retrenchment and that government hiring might soon contribute to job creation. 

 Never mind. 

 From July 2008 to January 2013, the sector shed more than 737,000 jobs. Had the jobs merely been maintained, the unemployment rate would be as much has half a percentage point lower. Indeed, the state and local pullback is one significant reason that this recovery has been weaker than those in the past.

 Gentle readers, I humbly submit to you the case that in all likelihood, it's the weak recovery that has caused the state and local pullback, not the other way around!

We have had a much worse recession than previous ones, along with a crash of housing prices. State and local governments are fully funded by tax revenues, and at the local level, property tax revenues are a big factor.

So it's entirely likely that the size and nature of this "great recession" has caused state and local government employment to be very weak compared to previous recoveries.

Irwin (and countless others) are making the same mistake as taking Rogoff-Reinhart's numbers and claiming high debt slows growth, when there is a clear case for the opposite view, that slow growth creates high debt.

Exercises like, "if this sector had done this, then the economy would have done that" are just meaningless. They are the equivalent of "if grandma had wheels she'd be a bicycle", but with fancy charts.

Causality is not inherently ideological, though appeals to causal problems often seem to be.

Friday, September 06, 2013

And you want to be my latex salesman.....?????

Angus and Thomas More

Angus makes a fair point.  If the President is going to pledge war, perhaps we should have protested then. 

Well, I made a mistake then, because I thought the international community would respond.   And that was the "we" in question.  So, I'm protesting now, because the "we" can't be the U.S., acting alone.  And the reason is law.  From my good friend Chris Nelson, at Arizona, the suggestion that we check out "A Man for All Seasons," and the rule of law.

Just so you have the program, and know the players:  Assad is the devil here.  And Obama is considering cutting down the law to get at him... So, for Hutter, the scene from "A Man for All Seasons."

Thursday, September 05, 2013

It's An EconTalk Extravaganza!

The Butler symposium, "Capitalism and the Good Society," is up at EconTalk.  Epstein, Munger, Sidelsky circus, with Russ Roberts as ringmaster.

It's really LOOONG, of course, but the individual parts are interesting, and different.  And the HD version of it is really quite beautiful filmed, as you would expect from genius-boy John Papola doing the production.

In which I tell:
1.  The Pig story
2.  The Shopping Cart story
3.  The Unicorn story
4.  The Bleeding story

So, story time!  (And ya gotta love Skidelsky's sox...)

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

the EYM brings it!

Great piece by the EYM describing the recent NYU "secret" concert.

I would LOVE to take the drugs that inspired someone to book How to Dress Well and Danny Brown on the same bill.

Was also happy to read that Speedy Ortiz is still alive and working.

between assad and a hard place

I am really confused, so I thought I'd try to work things out in this post and get some help from our always astute commenters.

Months ago BHO said chemical weapons were a red line and warned Assad not to use them.

Recently, according to BHO, Assad did just that.

Now, virtually everyone I know is going nuts, vociferously objecting to a strike against Assad.

I don't get it. To me, if you are against US military retaliation for the use of chemical weapons, the time to go nuts was months ago when BHO said what he said.

Given that he said it, with no take back, what the hell else is he supposed to do but strike Assad?

Now sure, he's making a complete bollox of it, and it is likely to be militarily weak and ineffective, but really, he has no choice but to do it. What's he supposed to do, say, "LOL, I was just kidding. Gas away, my friend."

So I don't understand why people waited until now to go nuts.

Maybe they think BHO is pulling a Bush-Cheney and fibbing about the use of chemical weapons?

God help me, but I think that's unlikely. BHO clearly doesn't really want to do this, so I think the evidence is likely pretty strong (NB: Jeff Sachs disagrees).

Maybe people think that BHO and by extension US foreign policy already has zero credibility, so it doesn't matter if BHO walks this back?

Certainly many people I know are 140 character mocking the argument that US credibility is at stake. But BHO has also told the ayatollah that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable. If he doesn't follow through with respect to Assad, it certainly won't help his efforts to keep the ayatollah out of Club Nuke, will it? And that's a club we don't want the ayatollah in, do we?

So while I would not have ever gone about it the way BHO has, I do think that chemical weapons use deserves a strong sanction (not necessarily military though), and given where BHO has put us (see post title), I think he has no choice but to strike Assad.

BHO should have had a response prepared for this eventuality before he ever talked about the red line.  He was reckless and arrogant to think his words would not be tested. But it is what it is and we are where we are......

What's your solution? Tell me in the comments.

Roubini, Roubini, Who's Got the Hot Tub?

Wow.  I'm not so sure that Nouriel has this right, about "brains."  It may just be "money."  Still, an insight into life in NY, for the crust of the upper crust.

Story,.. of Dr. Doom's Giant....Hot Tub

Thanks to Anonyman, who basically lives the same way.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Monday, September 02, 2013

Monday's Child

1.  Lumpy Brits taking off their knickers and supporting (or protesting, it's hard to tell) tigers in the zoo.

2.  As the EYM notes, a strong title here.  And then some strong claims.  If nonsense can be strong.

3.  This is tough.  You have to feel bad for the kid.  Yet, as the DA notes, "I would have shot him."

4.  The top ten "best cities" in the world to live in.  Before you look, think of your own favorite five cities.  I predict little overlap.  For me, there was one:  Vienna.

5.  This talks about this.  Russ and I thought that was interesting enough that we did this.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Pick your poison

From the inimitable Zach Weiner:

"Microeconomics successfully describes situations that never occur. Macroeconomics unsuccessfully describes situations that occur constantly."

Or as I like to tell my students, Micro has right answers to the wrong questions, while Macro has wrong answers to the right questions.

To me, this makes Macro the obvious choice of best field. But maybe that's wrong?

Broken Window

On Monday I taught this in my "Econ for Non-Majors" class (syllabus here, if you are interested...)

And used this very fine video, from the Dub-MOE.

A student noticed this, as he was walking out.  It was parked just outside the classroom.  Click for an even more deadweight loss image...

Apparently Krugman and his boys are trying to go around creating prosperity again....  After all, he proposed this.