Friday, February 28, 2014

If Only We Had Something Valuable We Could Sell.....

An email from a reader.

Seattle's push for a $15 minimum wage isn't the only economic illiteracy we have here on the left coast. Here's an additional slice of annual economic illiteracy from our local zoo

1. The zoo needs money (they're always asking for donations at the gate). 

2. The zoo has something very valuable, where the demand is much higher than the supply. So what does a Seattle zoo do (ha!) with this valuable resource? Do they auction it to the highest bidder(s), perhaps with a dutch auction, thereby maximizing some much needed revenue? No, of course not, this is Seattle! 

Since this special fertilizer is limited, [they are going to sell it, right?  no...]  you have to enter a lottery for the chance to purchase... Sigh. Face palm. Double face palm.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Munger Over America Tour

Got some ink for the Kids Prefer Cheese blog, written by M. Munger and some other guy.  I think "Chopped Liver" is a fine name for the other guy.

From the Muncie Free Press:  A story.  More than 100 students and faculty showed up.  It was fun!  Then dinner at the very nice Vera Mae's.  Mushroom risotto:  yum!  Thanks to Cecil Bohanan!  And thanks to Kathryn Kennison (whom I inexplicably called "Elizabeth" in front of an audience at least twice!), a morning "tea" talk at the E.B. Ball Center.  She handled it pretty well, though.  She said, "Now, you come back soon, John!"

Spoke to the Bastiat Society of Indianapolis.  GREAT crowd.  Then dinner here.  Wonderful. Big props to Fundman; good call on the restaurant.  I had the "Spinach and Artichoke Pici;"  amazing.

Then, senior session for Econ majors at Davidson College, thanks to Prof. Fred Smith.  And dinner at Brickhouse, with amazing beer list, and pints just $4 all the time.

Three nights, four talks, three very fine meals out, three hotel rooms in different cities where I spent very little time.  Wednesday was the worst:  got up at 3 am to catch 3:30 taxi to IND to catch 5:10 am plane to Raleigh.  Drive to Duke to teach macro class, then drive to Davidson.  Give talk.  Informal talk with students.  Dinner with students and faculty.  Went to bed at 11 pm.  A long day.

Today, Thursday, I gave a talk to a group of Kazakh officials about democracy.  They are for it.  Me, I have questions.

Now all I need to do is not eat for a week, and it's all good!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What chopped liver feels like

"Have nothing to do on Monday night?

Duke University professor Michael Munger, the Kids Prefer Cheese blogger, will speak at 7 p.m. in Cardinal Hall B of the Pitttinger Student Center.

This guy did a walkabout around college campuses teaching economics and political science after a stint working for the Federal Trade Commission.

After four books and 100 published articles, Munger use the Kids blog to talk about politics, policy and people, and has a new blog, Euvoluntary, looking at philosophy and voluntary change.

His Public Choice 101 should be a hoot to all those economics and political science junkies.
Go to for more of Munger's wisdom and wit."

Hat tip to Dr. Phil

Monday, February 24, 2014

Monday's Child

1.  This is clever.  Buy stuff you hate, buy ALL of it, then return it on the last day of the "grace" period.  It's not very nice, but it is clever.

2.  This is sweet.  But from the description of the outfit, I doubt if anyone else would have bought them.

3.  You can see why folks get confused.  Why would stealing from your employer disqualify you for a job stealing from taxpayers?  It ought to be part of the job description, if they were honest.

4.  32JJ?  I didn't know they "made" JJ.  Wow.

5.  Beware the Texas Hooker!

6.  Haters gotta hate.

7.  Wow.  Quite a headline, takes a while to parse it.

8.  Sometimes you feel like a forklift.

9.  Trash:  She knew it when she saw it.  Cookies?  Really?

10.  Some insightful maps.

11.   Amazing read about Assange.  A lot of us wanted him to be a hero.  He's not.  This movie is worth watching.  First half, you think, "hero!"  Second half, you think...."ewwww...really, really NOT a hero."

12.  The long arm....the STRONG arm...of the law!  Jail?  Seriously?

13.  From "The Derrick" (published in "Oil City, PA"), a special donation.

14.  This is quite remarkable.  There are essentially no legal fully automatic Ak-47s in the U.S., as a proportion of the guns owned by private citizens.  None.  Nada.  They are illegal.  People talk about "assault rifles" as if they were automatic.  But that is not true.  They are SEMI-automatic.  One trigger pull, one round downrange.

15.  Should Facebook change your privacy settings if you die?

16.  Very cute pup reunion video.  This is exactly how the LMM reacts to my return after a long separation.  Not.

17.  Why do economists always want to take the natural log of everything?   On a related note, I understand that Paul Krugman's karaoke performance of "You Make Me Feel Like a  Natural Log" is still spoken of in hushed tones in a downtown Tokyo hotel bar.

18.  From a tweet:  ": When protesters are Instagramming your personal zoo, it usually means you’re done. "  Details here.  I propose (following Dan Drezner) that this be called henceforth "Hounshell's Law."

19.  Many nice things about this little post by E.V.  The comments are....insane, for the most part.  Not sure why it is wrong to sell cookies outside a medical facility.  Not really the same as a strip club.  Unless you think it is.

20.  I'm not sure J.C. is right here.  And if he is right, is he right to be happy about it?  I'm not sure.

21.  Top Five Characteristics of Bad Academic Advisers...

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Oklahoma is NOT OK.

Apparently, we are the 8th least happy state in the Union and a member of the mid-south slough of despond. Check the mappage; the Bible belt is a pretty sad place these days.

(Clik teh Pik for an even more depressing image).

Source is here and the hat tip goes to David Yves.

Royals, by Puddles the Sad Clown

Saturday, February 22, 2014


Chivalry?  Common sense?  Sexism?  You decide.

I generally do #1, #3, and #8, and try to do #5 and #6 regularly.  

The third one (open the door) just makes sense; the LMM often actually waits for a beat at the door, on the assumption that I will open it.  We're a team, here, and I need something to make me feel like I'm on the team!  And some doors are very heavy.  MM=2.4*LMM. 

The second (pull out her chair) is probably a good idea; I should try it.

The reason many men do NOT do these things may be this.

Ladies:  do you want men to want to do more of these things?  Or is it insulting?

Friday, February 21, 2014

All My Friends are Dead!

If you only watch ONE video tonight, then this will be the best video you watch tonight.  And the most realistically skanky trailer park lasses you are likely ever to see.  Not surprisingly, robustly and exuberantly NSFW.  Any video that contains the line, "My wife hasn't had to wear tampons, for at least 40 years" is not for the faint of heart.  Unless they have pacemakers.

Senior Citizens!

From Jackie Blue, who actually knows these folks.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Mother Superior Jumped the Gun (the case against the case against VARs)

Man, Arnold Kling is so cranky! While it's sometimes on point, and often entertaining, it's also sometimes just plain wrong.

Case is point is his recent anti-VAR rant.

Here's a snippet but do read the whole thing:

"The VAR crowd cheerfully ignores all the details in macro data. The economist with a computer program that will churn out VARs is like a 25-year-old with a new immersion blender. He does not want to spend time cooking carefully-selected ingredients. He just wants to throw whatever is in the pantry into the blender to make a smoothie or soup. (Note that I am being unfair to people with immersion blenders. I am not being unfair to people who use VARs.)"

It did take macro folks quite a while to come to the following realization, but pretty much everyone is on the same page now and agrees that,

In order to do policy analysis with a VAR you have to solve the same identification problem that a old fashioned structural model has to solve. It's not a free lunch.

Further more, pretty much everyone agrees (except for a few special cases) that 

achieving identification by making the system recursive is not a very smart strategy.

So "the VAR crowd" is working on improved identification strategies (long run restrictions, sign restrictions, identification via covariances) and has made a lot of progress. Look, identification issues are not unique to VARs. They plague virtually all non-experimental studies.

Another area that, contra Kling, the crowd has made huge progress on is structural change.

VARS with common factors whose loading are time variant. VARs with regime switching both in the means and in the conditional variances. VARs with time-varying coefficients.

One area where VARs have gone var beyond old fashioned structural models is modeling time varying conditional variances (and covariances) using either GARCH or stochastic volatility.

A lot of this work is being done using Bayesian computational tools, but it's very mainstream. Primiceri's 2005 RESTUD piece is a good place to start.

New Jersey has a "Jones" for Salt, But Can't Act

The U.S. has a  law that protects... no one, actually.

The Jones Act.

It may help some unions a little bit, but not really.  The main point seems to be to protect U.S. pride in a shipping industry it doesn't (and shouldn't) have.  This fellow...he's not good.  This fellow, not surprisingly, is more sensible.

I can't blame DHS, tho.  They have to enforce the law as it's written.  There is no "common sense" ground for a waiver.  So this, I think, is mistaken.  For once, the administration is actually enforcing the law.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Computer Science

In insight into the thinking of the NPR crowd.  A story about how public schools are failing to provide any education at all in computer science.  

Because they are forced to pay equal salaries to all teachers, and the products our education "schools" can't use a calculator, much less a computer.  But then the NPR conclusion?  It's a problem of "inequality."  No, it's the consequence of the fact that anyone who possibly can is pulling their kid out of the dysfunctional public school system, and trying to save them. 

Spending more on public schools will not help; as the story notes, the people who run public schools think that having a computer available means students know how to code.

That's about like saying that having a car in my garage makes me a mechanic.  No.  It doesn't.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Monday's Child

1.  Insane person forces way into home, rambles, makes up stuff, tries to steal time.  It happened here, to a poor fellow.  Happened to me, too, in 2000.  The "excited delirium" guy's name was George W. Bush, in my case.

2.  We outsource to China and India.  Russia outsources to Coca-Cola.

3.  If a dog has two noses, can he sniff twice as many hineys?


Sunday, February 16, 2014

What is academia good for?

Letting or cajoling academics to make their work "relevant to the real world" is a common theme in popular culture, epitomized by Nick Kristoff's Op-Ed in today's NY Times.

There is conversation all over the Twitters about it. For example,

Delicate balance. Don't want to ruin what makes academia special. Do want to enable people to make maximum contribution to world.

But people, I am here to tell you that the last thing you really want is academics out in the real world. Academia is a socially efficient institution that has evolved to effectively keep highly intelligent but basically useless people out of the the real world labor force. Believe me, putting them back in would lower, not raise, national wealth.
Just like the real purpose of social security is to nudge unproductive older people out of the labor force and thus raise average productivity, the real purpose of the academy is to keep academics out of the real world labor force. It's really win-win.

Can you imagine if Noah Smith worked in an office? Everyone would be learning Japanese, laughing, speaking in Doge, and not getting anything done. But compared to everyday pedestrian slackers, Noah could and would spin their antics into raises not pink slips.

Could you imagine the level of workplace violence Bryan Caplan's opinions might inspire if he worked on an assembly line?

Can you even begin to picture the amount of labor unrest that Pete Boettke and Steve Horowitz would stir up if they worked in a factory?

Think about the gross insubordination, crude jokes, and overall humiliation me and Mungowitz would dish out to the bosses so unlucky as to have employed us. We would bring any company to its knees in a couple of quarters, without really even trying.

And economists are among the most likely academics to be able to pass a real world Turing test!

People, the best thing you can do is keep having kids and keep sending them to University. We need a safe place to warehouse people like me.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

This week's sign of the Apocalypse

Look! Up in the sky. It's a bird, it's a plane, No it's....... 


Half sperm - half man? Sperman swims upstream to right wrongs and bring justice?

People, if crap like this can happen, why do we even have a government at all?

Hat tip to Mrs. Angus

Friday, February 14, 2014

Wind-Fall Profits? Grand Game!

From J.S.:

A star project management consultant proposes a means to prevent contractors from getting wind-fall profits, and seems to deny learning the lesson that incentives matter after hundreds of millions in cost overruns, and not even the slightest hint of irony that there may be wind-fall profits in his 300K+ per year salary.

Blog Entry 
Class Syllabus
Article on LA's Light Rail Fiasco 

Lots of great Grand Game stuff there, folks!

Ice Storm Revelations

From a Reader (not from me, mind you):

We had a outage at my place this morning and my PC, laptop, TV, DVD, iPad and my new surround sound music system were all shut down. 

Then I discovered that my iPhone battery was flat and to top it off it was raining outside, so I couldn't play golf. I went into the kitchen to make coffee and then I remembered that this also needs power

So I talked with my wife for twenty minutes.  I have to say, she seems like a nice person. But then the power came back on, thank God.

Pretty High Up, Without Ropes or Harnesses

This is remarkable.

The backstory, and some still photos.

Nod to Susan L.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Aiiiieeee! Imperial Walkers!

My post this morning was altered, I'll admit.  Anonyman called me out.

I photoshopped out the Imperial Walker.  And yes this is actually the Ice Planet Hoth.

My apologies.  Here is the original.


Yesterday in Raleigh was like a badly conceived horror movie.  Here is a picture from US 70, a road Bill Keech and I usually take to get home (yes, we carpool.  Don't hate me because I'm green!)

That's not a road out in the country.  That's a major highway about 2 miles from RDU airport, and the main connector for Durham and Raleigh.

We chose a different route, on the theory that a longer trip on the interstate would avoid having to stop at lights on hills, and that the plows were more likely to be out on the interstate.  So we avoided ....whatever that is, in the picture.

Ice, Ice Baby

Because of the ice storm on eastern seaboard, someone sent me this.


I was struck by several things.

1.  VI stole the "Under Pressure" riff so blatantly.  What happened with that?  I had forgotten.  Settled out of court, apparently.
2.  VI stole Justin's Bieber's hair-do and embarrassingly fake swagger 30 years before Justin even had the idea.  That's good stealin'.  Okay, fine, Justin stole from VI.  VI has some advice for Justin.
3.  "My Five Point Oh"?  Seriously, that was the cool car?  I vaguely remember that.  But it seems impossible now.

UPDATE:  Jackie Blue sends this.  As he should have.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

behold: your tumblr of the day

I'm too old for Tumblr (don't even get me started on Instagram and by the way, GET OFF MY LAWN).

But every so often there is a Tumblr so amazing that even I get it.

People, I give you, "F**k your Noguchi Coffee Table".

You are all welcome.

An interesting illness.  I have some friends who have varying degrees of this, but nothing like the lady in the story.

I have to admit that when I heard the name of the "disease," which is misophonia, I assumed Rick Santorum had it.  There is no one more phony than ol' Rick.

And it's different from what the bar ladies have in Bangkok, which is mesohorny-ah.  As 2 Live Crew made famous.

The Importance of Basic Economic Education

The reporters of the New York Times illustrate yet again the importance of a basic knowledge of economics.  By, yet again, showing what happens when "reporters" lack such basic knowledge.

A truly remarkable article.  Even by the appalling standards of the Times, this is terrible.

Pelsmin provides this commentary, via email.  I have underlined some points that made me giggle:

I've been following the NYTimes' coverage of drug shortages. I'm sure you've seen the stories about how critical drugs are running out, even generics. The lack of understanding of the most basic economic principles is funny, or maybe sad or pathetic. To me, there was only one POSSIBLE reason why widely manufactured on-patent and generic drugs could be running out; government interference. 

Sure enough, the reasons I've seen include factory shutdowns imposed due to failure to meet gov't quality standards and restrictions and hurdles placed on "over-prescribed" drugs like Adderal and certain pain killers. There is now a shortage of saline solution (!) and critical cancer drugs. 

The Times' coverage not only misses this but presents the government regulators as acting heroically to fix this. For example, the FDA proposed that a company with physical contaminants in a product FILTER the product and then sell it, instead of shutting down the factory, as if the company wouldn't have proposed this themselves. Now, not imposing a draconian restriction or condition on a company is considered innovative problem-solving by the government

Better is their feeble stab at the evil thinking by the drug companies. First, they blame "narrow profit margins" as one reason companies won't make vital drugs that are in short supply. I'm trying to picture the curve that explains this (currently reviewing some Escher drawings for inspiration...) The writer also states that "in a peculiarity of the generic drug industry, a drug is often made by only a few producers, making it difficult to mitigate the effects of a shortage". 

Think about that one; generic drugs are only made by a few producers, whereas on-patent drugs are -- what, made by hundreds? No, made by one company, typically, except for license deals. Other reasons indicate that either the writer understands factory production line optimization better than the companies, or maybe doesn't have a clue what she is talking about. Of course, the only way the wackier ideas of high-demand/low-supply/low price are possible is if the FDA has caused this (e.g. Medicare sets and enforces prices that have no bearing on costs or utility.) Yet the article cites praise for the government and "acknowledged that [the FDA] could not ultimately force drug companies to produce." Not yet, until the new five-year quotas are issued under executive order through the medical commisar.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Monday's Child

1.  Wind power=Ponzi scheme?  Perhaps.  I like the commenter who says that "The problem is not wind power; the problem is capitalism!  The insistence that investments actually pay a return!"  (In fact, sir, the idea of a return just means that the investment saves more resources than it uses up.  That seems like the very definition of "sustainable," right?)

2. Not surprising that Congresss tells some itty bitty fibs.  More surprising that "major" networks ignore the fibs.  So, well done, CBS.

3. As with any Ponzi scheme, the Girl Scouts can get nasty.  Whoever actually has to SELL the cookies is left holding the bag.  What you want to do is get orders for cases of cookies from your "associates" down the chain.  And if they try to return them, you attack.

4.  A sweet pup story.  And a dog kiss for the fireman.

5.  Not sure, at all , that this is real.  But it is perfectly plausible, at least for male readers.


Sunday, February 09, 2014

accounting identities are not causal (and your opinion is not evidence)

Today's sermon takes the following NY Times editorial, "Will Saving on Health Care Hurt the Economy" as its text for exegesis.

And what a text it is.

Let's begin with a classic case of confusing accounting identities for causal relationships:

LOST in all the debate last week about whether or not the Affordable Care Act will hurt the economy is the fact that health care is already imposing a drag on growth.

The health care sector has repeatedly helped to pull the economy from recession in recent decades, but this time around it is lagging behind the recovery.

Health care spending grew more slowly than the economy in 2011 and 2012 and will probably be found to have done so again in 2013.

People, health care spending growing slower than overall spending does NOT mean that the sector is "imposing a drag on growth". I know people say stuff like that all the time, but it's just not true.

Nor is it true that, "the health care sector has repeatedly help to pull the economy from recession in recent decades.

Look, we can always ex-post measure spending growth by sector and compare them. But the idea that if only health care spending could be made to grow more rapidly, nothing else would change and overall economic growth would rise is risible. Those numbers are simply ex-post accounting and they PROVIDE ZERO INSIGHT into the potential outcomes of various counterfactual scenarios.

The world would be a much better place if we could just stop from abusing accounting identities in this manner.

OK. Let's take a break to pass the collection plate and then proceed to the second theme of our homily, namely that your opinion does not constitute evidence.

Thank you for your generous contributions, Now let's return to our text:

But there is evidence that moderate inflation can help to stimulate economic activity. Rising prices spur people to borrow and spend more quickly. Rising prices also tend to raise nominal wages, making it easier for borrowers to pay fixed debts like mortgage loans.

And sluggish inflation can be self-perpetuating. Inflation is rising slowly because the economy is weak, and slow inflation is restraining faster growth.

People if you click on the link purporting to give this "evidence", it's another opinion piece by the same author! And here's an example of the level of evidence being provided:

“I’ve always said that a little inflation is good,” Richard A. Galanti, Costco’s chief financial officer, said in December 2008. And then there's this gem. "Executives at Walmart, Rent-A-Center and Spartan Stores, a Michigan grocery chain, have similarly bemoaned the lack of inflation in recent months."

People, your opinion is not evidence. Empirical models with a convincing identification strategy produce evidence. Richard A. Galanti's mouth produces hot air, and, at least on this topic, Mr. Appelbaum's word processor produces gibberish.

There is a theoretical case out there that a credible promise of seemingly inappropriately high levels of future inflation can help lift an economy out of a liquidity trap. This is Krugman's "credible commitment to be irresponsible" argument. There is another theoretical case that a higher inflation target may reduce the frequency at which the economy may hit the zero lower bound on nominal interest rates.

But neither of these cases have empirical support, and even if they did, they are a far cry from the simple minded notion that, "moderate inflation can help to stimulate economic activity".

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Opening Ceremony, Moscow, 1980

You almost certainly missed this.  The opening ceremony of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, the one boycotted by the U.S.    The video:

The cool part starts at 1 hour 17 minutes, almost on the nose.  Totalitarian regimes know how to put on a show.

Nod to Kevin Lewis.

Making sense of the jobs report

We had another head scratcher of a jobs report yesterday.

Only 113,000 new jobs but the unemployment rate fell from 6.7 to 6.6%.

Labor Force Participation must have fallen, you say.

Nope, it rose slightly from 62.8 to 63.0%.

BLS is on acid, you say.

Maybe, but the simple but weird fact that explains this is that new jobs and unemployment rates are calculated from two completely different government surveys!

Here's one of my favorite KPC posts from a couple years ago that explains this strange state of affairs.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Does Early Sexual Experience Affect Later Drinking Behavior? In Hamsters.

Um, hamsters?  Seriously. In hamsters.

Perhaps that can be the new tag line for scientists.  You know how you are supposed to add "in bed" after a fortune cookie?  So, your fortune cookie says  "You will soon come into a lot of money" and you add, "in bed!"  Hilarity.

From now on, medical studies have to end with "in hamsters" to make sure we all understand just how tenuous the conclusions are.

Early sexual experience alters voluntary alcohol intake in adulthood

John S. Morris, Zachary M. Weil, Randy J. Nelson

Abstract Steroid hormones signaling before and after birth sexually differentiates neuronal circuitry. Additionally, steroid hormones released during adolescence can also have long lasting effects on adult behavior and neuronal circuitry. As adolescence is a critical period for the organization of the nervous system by steroid hormones it may also be a sensitive period for the effects of social experience on adult phenotype. Our previous study indicated that early adolescent sexual activity altered mood and prefrontal cortical morphology but to a much smaller extent if the sexual experience happened in late adolescence. In humans, both substance abuse disorders and mood disorders greatly increase during adolescence. An association among both age of first sexual activity and age of puberty with both mood and substance disorders has been reported with alcohol being the most commonly abused drug in this population. The goal of this experiment was do determine whether sexual experience early in adolescent development would have enduring effects on adult affective and drug-seeking behavior. Compared to sexually inexperienced hamsters and those that experienced sex for the first time in adulthood, animals that mated at 40 days of age and were tested either 40 or 80 days later significantly increased depressive- but not anxiety-like behaviors and increased self-administration of saccharine-sweetened ethanol. The results of this study suggest that an isolated, though highly relevant, social experience during adolescence can significantly alter depressive-like behavior and alcohol self-administration in adulthood. hamsters.  How do they hold those red Solo cups in their little paws?

Nod to Kevin Lewis.  In hamsters.

Thursday, February 06, 2014


(I'm sure GWB never used the non-word "contradictoration."  But he should have, so I will).

There seems to be some confusion about marijuana.

First, the Democrats and some others who are pushing to legalize marijuana are trying to make tobacco illegal.  What's up with that?  Our President, himself a long-time smoker, favors this approach.

Second, the Republicans who opposed legalizing marijuana and want people to use less of it are now trying to lower the taxes on that same marijuana

Third, our President, also a long-time pot smoker, has said that he will never favor marijuan legalization.  Until he said that pot was "no more dangerous" than tobacco.  Let's suppose they are equally dangerous.  Then why has Obama cracked down sharply on medical marijuana

The point being that if they are equally dangerous, then why has Obama cracked down hard on legal prescription marijuana, advocated for legal recreational marijuana, and smoked tobacco while pushing to make tobacco illegal, or at least unavailable?

You know what?  Politicians are crazy.  Mr. Obama said "inhaling was the point."  I guess he just was using a metaphor for sucking.

How do you work this thing?

Look everyone, another Sochi toilet fail:

People, if crap like this can (can't?) happen, why do they even have a super-human dictator at all?

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Hey look: The whole Federal tax system is progressive

We know that the Federal income tax is progressive, while the payroll tax is regressive, and that these are the main two sources of Federal tax revenue (around 81% in 2012).

The TPI has some interesting stats about the overall progressivity of the Federal tax system.

First, the lowest quintile (20%) of earners pay almost no Federal taxes. Their average income tax rate is negative and almost completely offsets their payroll tax rate. They earn around 4% of income and pay around only around 0.2% of Federal taxes.

Second, the highest quintile of earners earn around 53% of total income and pay around 68% of all Federal taxes.

Before seeing these numbers, I would have said that the regressive nature of the payroll tax makes overall Federal taxes much less progressive than the income tax. But it turns out that the overall Federal tax burden is (too my mind at least) still pretty progressive.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Sport Stats

The contract year syndrome in the NBA and MLB: A classic undermining pattern  
Mark White & Kennon Sheldon
Motivation and Emotion, forthcoming

 Abstract: We assembled National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball player performance data from recent years, tracking 3 year periods in players’ careers: pre-contract year (baseline), contract year (CY; salient external incentive present), and post-contract year (salient external incentive removed). In both sports, we examined both individual scoring statistics (points scored, batting average) and non-scoring statistics (e.g. blocked shots, fielding percentage) over the 3 years. Using extrinsic motivation theories, we predicted and found a boost in some scoring statistics during the CY (relative to the pre-CY), but no change in non-scoring statistics. Using intrinsic motivation theories, we predicted and found an undermining of many statistics in the post-CY, relative to both the CY and the pre-CY baseline. Boosted CY scoring performance predicted post-CY salary raises in both sports, but salary raises were largely unrelated to post-CY performance. The CY performance boost is real, but team managers should know that it might be followed by a performance crash — the CY “syndrome.”

 The Hot Hand Fallacy: Cognitive Mistakes or Equilibrium Adjustments? Evidence from Baseball 
Brett Green & Jeffrey Zwiebel
Stanford Working Paper, November 2013

Abstract: We test for a 'hot hand' (i.e., short-term streakiness in performance) in Major League Baseball using panel data. We find strong evidence for its existence in all ten statistical categories we consider. The magnitudes are significant; being 'hot' corresponds to roughly a one quartile increase in the distribution. Our results are in notable contrast to the majority of the hot hand literature, which has found little to no evidence for a hot hand in sports, often employing basketball shooting data. We argue that this difference is attributable to endogenous defensive responses: basketball presents sufficient opportunity for defensive responses to equate shooting probabilities across players whereas baseball does not. As such, prior evidence on the absence of a hot hand (despite widespread belief in its presence) should not be interpreted as a cognitive mistake -- as it typically is in the literature -- but rather as an efficient equilibrium adjustment. We provide a heuristic manner for identifying a priori which sports are likely to permit an equating endogenous response response and discuss potential implications for identifying the hot hand effect in other settings.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

I'm all confused....

I'm really confused.

The guy at the NRO, where I expect to agree, has this completely, bizarrely, wrong.  He really couldn't be more confused (though, as he notes in every column, he went to Harvard Law School,
(I wanted to use a nicer font, to capture the self-congratulatory joy felt by Mr. Shapiro) so the fact that he is confused is not all that surprising).

The guy at the WaPo, with whom I almost never agree, has it right, and the for the right reasons.  In fact, Eugene Robinson totally nails it.  I find that I agree with Eugene about half the time now.  Five years ago, zero.  I'm very confused.

Fortunately, my good friend Nick Gillespie does explain why.  Nice column by Nick

Monday, February 03, 2014

How Would Jon Stewart Play This?

Jon Stewart might start with this quote:

"'We are locked in a struggle with powerful forces in this country who will do anything to destroy the Second Amendment,' said Richard Venola, a former editor of Guns & Ammo. 'The time for ceding some rational points is gone.'" [Quoted in NYT]

(Host looks into camera, with a "Here we go again" look)  I mean...that's just SUCH B.S.  They are trying to scare people.  The quote above comes from this story, where a guy got fired for even considering the possibility of regulating firearms ownership.  Nobody is "after" your gun rights, folks.

Then cut to:

"Movie producer Harvey Weinstein announced for the first time on Howard Stern’s radio show that he is making a full feature drama to try to destroy the National Rifle Association...'I shouldn’t say this, but I’ll tell it to you, Howard,' he said. 'I’m going to make a movie with Meryl Streep, and we’re going to take this head-on. And they’re going to wish they weren’t alive after I’m done with them.'" [Washington Times]

(Host stares into camera, struck dumb, mouth flapping...Big laughs all around!)

That actually sounds pretty rough.  Is ol' Harvey going to kill someone, or just make them want to kill themselves?

Two more points:

1.  The reason ol' Harvey W gets to make a "full feature" movie expressing his personal political views is that the "Citizens United" case was CORRECTLY DECIDED by the Supreme Court.  This is going to be a 2 hour political ad, one that costs millions of dollars to make.  And the money is going to come directly from corporate treasuries.  And none of it will have to be reported as a political contribution.  Because CU was CORRECTLY DECIDED.  I'm not sure why no one understands this.  The Citizens United movie about Hillary was protected political speech.  So is Harvey's piece of crap movie.  That's what the CU decision was about.

2.  My own view on guns are actually very close to those of Dick Metcalf.  The 2nd Amendment says "well-regulated," folks.  So, I may agree, on the merits, with a lot of what ol' Harvey W wants to say.  And I certainly want to defend his right to say it.

Monday's Child

1.  As always, stuff you won't find at  flatulent cows start fire at German dairy farm.  Who loaned them the lighter?  How did they HOLD the lighter?  (UPDATE:  No fewer than 7 people sent me this.  I guess I have a (makes air quotes) "reputation.")

2.  Ken is a treasure.  A deeply buried, wrinkly, smelly, dirty treasure.  But a treasure.  This post is really, really useful.

3.  Not sure this is real.  But it's real fun.

4.  When a nation becomes an empire, the financial centers are less important than proximity to the court, and to the king's functionaries.  And the functionaries of "both" parties (HA!) are so self-important that if someone questions them they immediately threaten violence. 

5.  Afrobeerometer.   (Okay, that was MB's title, and I stole it)


Sunday, February 02, 2014

No Wonder Mungo was such a great chair

Interesting piece at VOX describing research done on how the citation history of a department head is correlated with changes in the publishing performance of the department down the road.

Here's the money shot:

My boy KG Mungowitz sits at around 5400 cites on Google Scholar.  I think Duke owes him some royalties or something.

Here's what the article says about some common departmental decision rules:

It is not unusual for senior administrators to select chairs who have either undergone a decline in research productivity or made fewer research-specific investments over their careers (McDowell, Singell, and Stater 2009, 2011). Our study suggests that this may be a mistake.

Hat tip to Mark Thoma

Super Bowl

If you are at the game, you can't watch the game on your electronic device, to make sure that all those people who want to send blurry selfies can get access to the network.

One has to have priorities.

I'm a little surprised, though:  Why go to the game if you are going to watch the game on your iPad?  Some possible answers (what do YOU think?):

1.  To watch the commercials
2.  To hear the commentary
3.  To see replays more accurately
4.  (Your answer here!)

Lagniappe:  This Budweiser ad is treacly, sickly sweet.   But it made me laugh.

Nod to Susan L. for both links.