Friday, February 26, 2010

This bill does not reduce deficits

Paul Ryan is da bomb.

"Hiding spending does not reduce spending".


Some Democrats are finally turning on House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel

in the wake of an ethics committee finding that he violated House rules by accepting a Caribbean junket.

Similaries between Climategate/Climatequiddick and Enron


Via Steve McIntyre.

Quotes of the day

Celebrity is what a democratic society has instead of aristocrats.--John Leonard

I knew there were only two choices available for preacher’s daughters: the ingenue or the femme fatale. Extreme ends of the spectrum to be sure, but in my experience, when it comes to stereotypes, Christians don’t do halfway.--Janna Barber

First, you decide what you want specifically; and second, you decide if you're willing to pay the price to make it happen, and then pay that price.--Nelson Bunker Hunt

[My father] worked because he came from nothing and took pride in the Something he’d built, and to this day when he gets behind the wheel of one of his enormous trucks and drives it hither, drives it yon, it all surely goes back to being a 14-year-old kid who was sent to a farm miles away to work for the summer for no money, just food and a cot, to take the pressure off the rest of the family.--James Lileks

Ineffective sanctions, effective job destruction. An unaccountable branch of the US government hurts poor people far away who have no voice in US politics. Deeply saddened…we don’t know what more to say.--William Easterly and Laura Freschi

The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.--Winston Churchill

Truthfully, my career aspiration is to prove that a drug with more than a billion dollars in annual sales is actually killing Americans and citizens across the globe, that in the clinical trials the dangers of this drug were revealed, and that the executives knew about the dangers and went ahead and marketed it anyway.--Harry Markopolos

... he has some amount of Asperger's, which means he has trouble seeing things from other's perspectives. Thus, everyone who disagrees with him is 1) an idiot or 2) evil. He can't imagine it otherwise.--Eric Falkenstein

It's very strange to hear gold standard advocates criticize President Hoover for imposing steep tax increases in 1932, the Depression's worst year. Yet the gold standard they champion was the reason for the tax increases they deplore. ... The punch line to one of my favorite anecdotes goes, "Son, your answers are so old, I have forgotten the questions." Has the Depression receded so far into history that the answers that once plunged the nation into misery can possibly look credible again?--David Frum

I think those people who say they believe in a gold standard are fundamentally being very anti-libertarian because what they mean by a gold standard is a governmentally fixed price for gold.--Milton Friedman

"Fixing the system" in reality means acknowledging with distaste the durability of this culture and insulating its systemic impact. The casino is not going away and the Volcker rule tacitly acknowledges this: prop trading and other supposedly nefarious activities are not to be castrated, just rehoused. The Goldmans of the world may be broken up but their vampire calamari offspring will still suck your face off somehow if you are inclined to engage them. Your call. As long as there is a strong enough narrow banking system, let the casino keep its doors open. Caveat emptor. --Andrew Clavell

It's worth adding that government policies like community rating and mandated benefits exacerbate adverse selection, and government-provided care and insurance exacerbate moral hazard. We should also cast a skeptical eye on the Samaritan's Dilemma -- that is, the willingness of the citizenry to provide care for people who can't or won't provide for themselves, which encourages free-riding. While this is a real issue (as are the other three cited inefficiencies), what is its magnitude? The Report says uncompensated care for the uninsured was $56 billion in 2008. That sounds like a lot. But the Report also says (elsewhere) total expenditures on healthcare in 2009 were $2.5 trillion. Assuming the 2008 and 2009 numbers are relatively close, we can do the math and conclude that uncompensated care for the uninsured is less than 3% of all health expenditures.--Glen Whitman

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), who made his substantial fortune by suing military contractors and later lambasted them as a lawmmaker, was indeed evacuated from Niger by personnel working for Xe Services (the private security empire formerly known as Blackwater), his spokesman confirms.--David Schulman

Sartre, perhaps the most omnivorous and omnipresent of the 20th-century philosophers, is the subject of Roudinesco’s second chapter, ‘Psychoanalysis on the Shadowy Banks of the Danube’, which details Sartre’s foray into film-making: his abortive collaboration with John Huston on a screenplay about Freud. Roudinesco begins by situating Huston’s choice of Sartre as screenwriter within the context of America’s hygienisation, medicalisation and corruption of psychoanalysis. Apparently, the one oasis in America where ‘emigrants from old Europe’ sustained the ‘high tradition’ of Freudian analysis was Hollywood, which Roudinesco represents as a European-operated machine for ‘criticising the ideals of the American way of life’. Huston, although an American – or ‘American born’, as Roudinesco charitably puts it – decided to make a movie about this Freud: the European, anti-American one. Another way of looking at it would be to say that Huston, following the great American biopic tradition, wanted to make a movie about how Freud became Freud. But in either case Sartre, the pre-eminent and ultra-European philosopher of becoming, was an ideal choice. He completed a 95-page screen treatment in 1958. The protagonist of Sartre’s script was Freud the young neurologist, who had reached a ‘desperate impasse’ in his treatment of Anna O. and in his theory of the sexual etiology of hysterical neurosis. For the part of Anna O., incidentally, Sartre had his eye on Marilyn Monroe, who was discouraged from taking the role by Anna Freud and by Monroe’s own psychoanalyst, Marianne Kris, whose father had been Freud’s tarot partner.--Elif Batuman

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II is perhaps the most financially successful package of entertainment ever. Developed by Infinity Ward, the game did $310 million worth of sales in its very first day. By comparison, the current movie blockbuster Avatar did a measly $27 million on day one. But another comparison might be even more appropriate illustration of the phenomenon of militainment and how the American public’s interface with war is changing. Roughly 70,000 young Americans chose to join the U.S. Army in 2009. By contrast, 4.7 million chose to spend Nov. 11, 2009, playing this video game version of war at home, most of them not even realizing it was Veteran’s Day. --P.W. Singer

It’s hard to argue that George Bush looking up your library records is more of an infringement on personal rights than the Obama administration having full access to your cell phone records.--Dennis Shiraev

The Economist is surprised that Barack Obama’s administration has gotten so little done in its first year. It has no major achievements — not one. I am not surprised at all. That is what I expected to happen. In the past the American public have had the wisdom to not elect serving members of congress. Kennedy was the only other serving member of Congress elected to the Presidency in the 20th century. The US public has always valued experience in executive roles. They usually elect vice presidents (Bush, Johnson, Trueman, Coolidge, Theodore Roosevelt, etc.) or Governors (Bush, Clinton, Carter, Nixon, Franklin Roosevelt, Wilson, McKinley, etc.) or military leaders (Eisenhower, Grant, Taylor, Jackson, Washington, etc.). This is important because vice-presidents, governors and five star generals have an established leadership team. They arrive in Washington ready to rule. They have the team and they have the experience in wielding executive power needed to put their agenda into action. Barack Obama arrived in Washington with his campaign team. He had no executive experience (none) and no leadership team. All he had was his campaign. That explains why he has never stopped campaigning and fully focused on ruling. That explains why he handed over key legislation to Congressional Democrats; in particular the health reform and the stimulus package, instead of proposing and championing his own plans.--Sam Wylie

Barack Obama may not realize it, but I may have just helped save his presidency. How? By winning a drawn-out fight to protect his powers as commander in chief to wage war and keep Americans safe. He sure didn't make it easy. When Mr. Obama took office a year ago, receiving help from one of the lawyers involved in the development of George W. Bush's counterterrorism policies was the furthest thing from his mind. Having won a great electoral victory, the new president promised a quick about-face. ... Why bother fighting off an administration hell-bent on finding scapegoats for its policy disagreements with the last president? I could have easily decided to hide out, as others have. Instead, I wrote numerous articles (several published in this newspaper) and three books explaining and defending presidential control of national security policy. I gave dozens of speeches and media appearances, where I confronted critics of the administration's terrorism policies. And, most importantly, I was lucky to receive the outstanding legal counsel of Miguel Estrada, one of the nation's finest defense attorneys, to attack head-on and without reservation, each and every one of OPR's mistakes, misdeeds and acts of malfeasance. I did not do this to win any popularity contests, least of all those held in the faculty lounge. I did it to help our president—President Obama, not Bush. Mr. Obama is fighting three wars simultaneously in Iraq, Afghanistan, and against al Qaeda. He will call upon the men and women serving under his command to make choices as hard as the ones we faced. They cannot meet those challenges with clear minds if they believe that a bevy of prosecutors, congressional committees and media critics await them when they return from the battlefield. This is no idle worry. In 2005, a Navy Seal team dropped into Afghanistan encountered goat herders who clearly intended to inform the Taliban of their whereabouts. The team leader ordered them released, against his better military judgment, because of his worries about the media and political attacks that would follow. In less than an hour, more than 80 Taliban fighters attacked and killed all but one member of the Seal team and 16 Americans on a helicopter rescue mission. If a president cannot, or will not, protect the men and women who fight our nation's wars, they will follow the same risk-averse attitudes that invited the 9/11 attacks in the first place. Without a vigorous commander-in-chief power at his disposal, Mr. Obama will struggle to win any of these victories. But that is where OPR, playing a junior varsity CIA, wanted to lead us. Ending the Justice Department's ethics witch hunt not only brought an unjust persecution to an end, but it protects the president's constitutional ability to fight the enemies that threaten our nation today.--John Yoo

You should never spend that kind of money on car repairs for a 10 year old car. Just dump it and buy a new one or a newer one. It's a sunk cost. You own the Eddy Curry of cars right now.--Bill Simmons

Thursday, February 25, 2010

When suspects are found by combing through large [DNA] databases, the odds are exponentially higher ... in some cases 1 in 3

... when police use fresh DNA material to link a crime directly to a suspect identified through eyewitness accounts or other evidence, the chances of accidentally hitting on an innocent person are extraordinarily slim. But when suspects are found by combing through large databases, the odds are exponentially higher. In Puckett’s case the actual chance of a false match is a staggering one in three, according to the formula endorsed by the FBI’s DNA advisory board and the National Research Council, a body created by Congress to advise the government and the public on scientific issues. But the jury that decided Puckett’s fate never heard that figure. In fact, his lawyers were explicitly barred from bringing it up.

... more than a million new profiles are being added to our nation’s offender databases each year, and as DNA testing becomes more routine, it is likely that these systems will grow to include an even wider cross-section of the public. Of course, as the number of profiles in the databases swell, so do the odds of accidentally fingering innocent people.

Quotes of the day

Although I knew Buffett was always talking his book when he wrote the bullish on America Op-Ed during the midst of the crisis, I had no idea he was pulling the strings behind the scenes to create new policies that would bail out and profit his investments.--Kid Dynamite

... just how obscene are those [insurance industry] profits? Economist Mark J. Perry, at the Carpe Diem blog listing of Profit Margins by Industry, shows the Health Care Plan Industry ranks #86 by profit margin (profits/revenue) at 3.3 percent and the hospital industry ranks #77 at 3.6 percent — much lower than the 25.6 percent profit margin for beer brewers. Yet the administration is not beating the drums to hold down brewery profits or to take over the industry to create Government Beer.--Rome-Sentinel Editorial Board

Public apologies to people who are not owed any apology have become one of the many signs of the mushy thinking of our times. So are apologies for things that somebody else did.--Thomas Sowell

As I'm a big fan of Friederich Hayek, the application of his seminal insight about how the market effectively decentralizes decision making was really enjoyable. That is, Sowell notes that intellectuals don't know the essential information of parochial time and place that is so essential. It is easy to dismiss this knowledge because it tends to be pedestrian, not elegant or sophisticated. Yet there are so many different essential facts, the sum of this simple knowledge adds up to 100 times whatever is known by intellectuals like Paul Krugman or Ezra Klein, who pontificate on their industrial policies as if such details don't matter. Intellectuals have a tendency to dismiss this because they have often been the smartest person in the room growing up, and naturally assume this greater knowledge is also present when considering health care or energy policy, but it's just one of those insights that isn't obvious because they have always gotten an A+ on their term papers, which never actually were implemented.--Eric Falkenstein

I argue that a right of exit is important in order to limit government power. I sometimes think that what kept the U.S. government small in the early 19th century was not so much the Constitution as the fact that people kept leaving the then-current United States for adjacent territories. The option to exit would have made it quite difficult for government to grow large and intrusive. But is there such a thing as too much right to exit?--Arnold Kling

When [Rep. Mark] Souder pointed out that the minimum existed in order to minimize speed differentials, [Transportation Secretary Ray] LaHood proclaimed, "I don't buy your argument, Mr. Souder". Secretary LaHood seems to be arguing that the laws of the United States override the laws of physics. I spend a fair amount of time hanging around isolationists who take a pretty hardline stance on US sovereignty, but even for me, this was novel.--Megan McArdle

One of the talking points that the Republicans seem to have settled on is that NHTSA may be understaffed; they are asking him if they can't appropriate more money for engineers and other personnel. As a loyal member of the Obama administration, LaHood is being forced to argue that he doesn't need any more staff than the 66 new positions requested in the administration's proposed budgets.--Megan McArdle

I find it a little odd that we're going to have a Congressional hearing to look at those [annualized Toyota accelerator] two deaths out of 40,000... you have to look at death rates in safety terms rationally.--David Champion

I feel youthful, so millenial

The Millennial Quiz has shaved 2 decades off my self perception (which was previously informed primarily by my creaky body).

I scored a '59', whereas my fellow GenXers typically score a '33' and the next generation 'Millenials' typically score a '73'.

Via Mark Perry.

Keith Hennesey compares Presidents Bush and Obama on their bipartisan outcomes

and the contrast is quite compelling and rather surprising.

Tom Maguire spanks Michael Isikoff

using a rolled up copy of Isikoff's April 2009 Newsweek issue as a paddle.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Scientists have been forced to withdraw a study on projected sea level rise due to global warming

after finding mistakes that undermined the findings.

Via Jules Crittenden.

Chart of the day: US troop deployments

Source here.

Reconciliation: So how about that nuclear option back in 2005?

5 minutes of important history that a public school or university will probably never rise to teach you.

Via Drudge.

Strategies that can counter aging effects

over at Eric Barker's.

Intrade's current Oscars pricing

Picture Last



Supporting Actor

Supporting Actress


as of 12:34 EST. Source here.

UPDATE: Interestingly, Roger Ebert's predictions line up exactly as Intrade's relative pricing. His piece is dated Feb 19, and all the Intrade leaders were leaders prior to that date.

Quotes of the day

On average, bronze medalists are happier than silver medalists.--Victoria Medvec

While it's no longer possible to observe the scores of individual judges, [Eric] Zitzewitz analyzes whether having a home-country judge on the panel still results in a higher average score. He finds that the home-country bias gets even worse when anonymous judges can hide from a scrutinizing press and public, despite the barriers that anonymity may create for effective backroom deal-making. The home-judge advantage under the new system is about 20 percent higher than in the days of full disclosure. (Zitzewitz can't say how much of this increase in bias is from the home-country judge himself, and how much from others he's persuaded to go along with him; how each judge has scored a performance—and which judges' scores are counted—are kept secret.)--Ray Fisman

To paraphrase William Gibson: The future is already here, it's just not evenly distributed.--Eric Barker

The people who surround us every day that hoard things a lot more subtle than phone books they can’t part with or clothing they’ve never even taken out of the shopping bags or food that has long gone bad. I thought about the people who hoard things like hurt and shame and guilt. You can’t see those people nearly as easily. Unlike the cat woman who had dozens of decomposing dead cats within her house, they never smell so strongly that neighbors alert the authorities.--Jon Acuff

Like legitimate art, legitimate criticism is a tragicomic holding action against entropy.--John Gardner

Surely building a company that sells a product and is accountable to shareholders is nothing like being a law dean and being accountable to a university president or maybe a subordinate. So I wouldn't want to get carried away with this analogy.--Larry Ribstein

A supply-chain manager in a retail operation works long days, and the only studying he can afford to do is on topics that may bore him to tears, but which is essential in order to keep up with the market and maintain his salary. A professor, on the other hand, studies what interests her. She reads hours and hours on topics that engage her aesthetically and intellectually. To then chalk up all those hours and hold them equivalent to the work of an HR manager who spends his day handling personnel disputes is pretty disingenuous. Look, no one here is begrudging you your career choice or lifestyle. But try to peer outside your world a bit and understand that you are, compared to the average American, extremely privileged economically. And a great many of your colleagues, who are fortunate to make more than you while living in lower-cost parts of the country, are even more so. Just keep that in mind when you want to push the argument that the lot of you are leftists because you simply aren’t as materialistic as the rest of us.--Tony Woodlief, to professor Laurie Fendrich

We forget that when Thomas Carlyle coined the epithet “the dismal science”, he was condemning not the gloomy Malthus but John Stuart Mill and his stubborn, infuriating opposition to slavery.--Tim Harford

We are agnostics living deep in the heart of Texas and our family fakes Christianity for social reasons. It’s not so much for the sake of my husband or myself but for our young children. We found by experience that if we were truthful about not being regular church attenders, the play dates suddenly ended. Thus started the faking of the religious funk. It seemed silly but it’s all very serious business down here. We don’t go to church or teach or children one belief is “right” over another. We expose them to every kind of belief and trust that they will one day settle in to their very own spirituality. However, for the sake of friends and neighbors, we pretend we are Christians. We try not to lie but rather not to disclose unnecessary information. As the children are getting older, this isn’t so easy for them and an outing is probably eminent. We are not the only ones. We have found a few other fakers out there.--unnamed Freakonomics reader

Zero fiscal multiplier: European version ... OK all you Keynesian macro modelers; raise your hand if you included the likely central bank reaction function in your fiscal multiplier estimates. That’s what I thought.--Scott Sumner

Does Mr. Cohen really think the government is always accountable to the people? Let me guess that Mr. Cohen was opposed to the invasion of Iraq. Who exactly does he think did this? Hint: it wasn’t a corporation.--Todd Henderson

The [Robin Hood] tax [on banks' financial transactions] would certainly be attractive if, like a tax on carbon dioxide or congestion, it reduced destructive activities. But would it? James Tobin and John Maynard Keynes both proposed taxes on financial transactions and each believed that the tax would reduce financial volatility. This is possible but far from obvious, when you realise that the tax might encourage bigger, more irregular financial transactions. An analogy: if I have to pay a charge whenever I use a cash machine, I make fewer, larger withdrawals and the amount of money in my wallet fluctuates more widely. Bear in mind, too, that the most bubble-prone asset market is for housing, which is bought in very lumpy, long-term chunks.--Tim Harford

As far as spotting bubbles, however, [Paul Krugman is] not so brilliant. Like most people he calls price patterns bubbles when he can’t explain them in terms of fundamentals. BTW, what would Hayek think if he came back today and found so many people who confidently knew when markets were overpriced? Why do we even need markets? If it so obvious what the correct price is, let’s bring back Soviet-style central planning. (On the other hand, even the Soviets couldn’t have done much worse than some of our bankers.)--Scott Sumner

Fundamentally, Obama has failed as a politician -- his top priority is much less popular now than it was when he started. You can blame that on Republican intransigence, on the economy, or on messaging, but the bottom line is that his job is to shepherd legislation around those obstacles, and he hasn't done that. George W. Bush was terrible on policy but tremendously effective at getting his agenda through. The way he did that was not by attempting grand bipartisan compromises, but by creating a political climate in which moderates from the other party found it in their best interests to cooperate. Obama has done just the opposite: with the Tea Party movement scaring the crap out of moderate Republicans, they can't support him even if they agree with his policies. I don't see a way for this dynamic to reverse before the 2010 elections.--aka Jesse Livermore

Lead us not into temptation

but deliver us from evil:
In some sense, people like this--the pedophiles who never do anything, and do their damnedest to keep from even thinking about it--are exercising a virtue that borders on the saintly. They're struggling mightily with a powerful desire that they exert rigid control over. Society should gather round to help them, tell them what a great job they're doing, give them other ways to channel the energy they aren't pouring into molesting kids, and substitutes for the emotional succor that most of us hope to get from our partners.

Instead, we're so revolted and afraid that we wall them into themselves, and probably make it more likely that they'll do something terrible.
Empathy would be a few steps better than sanctimony.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Quotes of the day

Feckless would be one step better than counterproductive.--Greg Mankiw

I have argued that it is time to go beyond the models and see what actually happened rather than repeat the same model forecasting exercise over and over again with the path of government purchases, taxes, and transfers in the stimulus. In fact, many in the press perceive that these repeated forecast simulations are new evidence, even though they are essentially the same evidence provided before the stimulus was passed a year ago.--John Taylor

We have great pitching, we have great defense, and we have good offensive players. I don’t even know what run prevention is. I’m a baseball player. I don’t know how to read very good, I don’t know how to write very good. We just go play, man. That’s it. We’ll be fine.--Dustin Pedroia

So we have 3 buffets but the same menus, no out-of-pocket spending, and no real competition. This is what progressives think of as 'the market'. They convince themselves things will get better if they have even more top-down control (single payer) because then they could implement technological and logistic innovations (cutting out the darn middle man) that will lower costs, all the while keeping health care employment levels and compensation rates the same. One might be tempted to say, it can't get worse than the status quo, but that what the Russians said in 1917, and boy were they wrong.--Eric Falkenstein

As the economist Fischer Black explained, an economy matches a population’s desires to the available resources and production technology. When an economy is operating efficiently, expectations are largely fulfilled; desires, resources, and production technology are well matched; and people are reasonably satisfied with their plans, relations, and contracts. ... If the government could identify how the economy needed to be restructured and provide incentives to move resources more quickly in that direction, a properly designed program could alleviate and shorten the recession. But, if the government could do that, central planning would be a good deal simpler. Moreover, just as a command economy is invariably less efficient at resource allocation and production than a market economy, a general stimulus program will, in all likelihood, lead to highly inefficient allocations, effectively burning resources at a time when they are scarce and particularly vital to restart and re‑align our beleaguered economies. To the extent that it is used to prop up declining industries, the stimulus could even prove harmful by delaying necessary adjustments. Viewed from a matching perspective, there is no failure of “aggregate demand” – whatever that means. Instead, there is a complex misalignment problem – too many autoworkers when too few people want new cars, for example – that results in a decline in overall output. Thus, it is possible that increased government spending – say, to boost car purchases – could exacerbate the misalignment. Given the central role of financial intermediation in the current crisis, the government should instead expedite the restructuring process through bankruptcy law. The key is to accept bad news: losses must be recognized before efficient realignment can occur.--Bradford Cornell

In 1974, the Federal Election Campaign Act limited such contributions to $1,000. If we had had that same law in 1964, almost no one in this room would have ever heard of Eugene McCarthy. It's because of that law that so many Senators have to spend so much of their time dialing for dollars.--David Henderson

The social sciences are much harder than the physical sciences or math, in that our progress has been much slower here than in these areas. An educated man knows a lot more math or physics than a child or hunter-gatherer; he does not know much more about what causes business cycles. Figuring out why Haiti is so poor, or how interest rates affect investment, is really difficult. However, it is easy for someone to articulate an answer to hard social issues that is not obviously wrong, which makes it easy to think one knows the answer. A wrong math or physics answer, is clearly wrong, and if you have worked with people who knows something quantitative you learn quite quickly how ignorant you are in that area. Don't confuse the inability to falsify with having figured something out. It generally means you just don't know what you don't know.--Eric Falkenstein

... if you're gay, your identical twin is usually still straight. Furthermore, family environment clearly affects sexual orientation. The smoking gun: Adoptive brothers of gay men and adoptive sisters of gay women are about six times more likely to be gay that you would expect from chance.[iii] On balance, the evidence that parents make kids gay is a little stronger than evidence that parents make kids well-educated, rich, pious, or chaste. While heredity is the star of the story, upbringing plays a modest supporting role.--Bryan Caplan

If [Ryan] Sorba had merely observed that the results of this study were "inconsistent" and then turned to the broader literature (which confirms a strong genetic component, a mild family environment component, and a lot of randomness), I'd commend him. But instead, he bizarrely picks one hole in one study, then claims complete vindication for environmentalism.--Bryan Caplan

A group calling itself the Women’s Direct Action Collective issued a manifesto in 2007 titled Sluts Against Rape insisting that “a woman should have the right to be sexual in any way she chooses” and that easy availability was “a positive assertion of sexual identity.” In other words, if people call you a whore because you, say, fall into bed with someone whose name you can’t quite remember, that’s their problem. Of course, if a man mistakes a woman being “sexual in any way she chooses” for consent to have sex, it’s still rape. ... [sex columnist and sociology professor Pepper] Schwartz seemed unaware that booze-fueled hooking-up lasts well beyond the frat-party years. Thanks to late marriage, easy divorce, and the well-paying jobs that the feminist revolution has wrought for women, the bars, clubs, sidewalks, and subway straps of nearly every urban center in America overflow every weekend with females, young and not so young, bronzed, blonded, teeth-whitened, and dressed in the maximal cleavage and minimal skirt lengths that used to be associated with streetwalkers but nowadays is standard garb for lawyers and portfolio managers on a girls’ night out. ... Urban life, furthermore, turns out to imitate Sex and the City. A survey reported in the New York Daily News around the time of the film’s release revealed that the typical female resident of Manhattan, who marries later on average than almost every other woman in the country, has 20 sex partners during her lifetime. By way of contrast, the median number of lifetime sex partners for all U.S. women ages 15 to 44 is just 3.3, according to the Census Bureau’s latest statistical abstract. ... Men, eager for replication, are naturally polygamous, while women are naturally monogamous—but only until a man they perceive as of higher status than their current mate comes along. Hypergamy—marrying up, or, in the absence of any constrained linkage between sex and marriage, mating up—is a more accurate description of women’s natural inclinations. Long-term monogamy—one spouse for one person at one time—may be the most desirable condition for ensuring personal happiness, accumulating property, and raising children, but it is an artifact of civilization, Western civilization in particular. ... Take away the offspring, blocked by the Pill and ready abortion, and it’s also a pretty fair description of today’s prolonged singles scene. In other words, we have met the Stone Age, and it is us. ... The whole point of the sexual and feminist revolutions was to obliterate the sexual double standard that supposedly stood in the way of ultimate female freedom. The twin revolutions obliterated much more, but the double standard has reemerged in a harsher, crueler form: wreaking havoc on beta men and on beta women, too, who, as the declining marriage rate indicates, have trouble finding and securing long-term mates in a supply-saturated short-term sexual marketplace.--Charlotte Allen

Monday, February 22, 2010

Cartoon of the day

Via Russ Roberts.

Letter from the nursing home

We who have served as secretary of the Treasury in both Republican and Democratic administrations write in support of the proposed legislation to prohibit certain proprietary activities of commercial banking organizations—the so-called Volcker rule, as part of needed financial reform.--W. Michael Blumenthal, Nicholas Brady, Paul O'Neill, George Shultz, John Snow
They from a different age, as CNBC ranter Jim Cramer just calmly explained a few minutes ago on the air (save O'Neill, who was quickly fired, and John Snow, who oversaw Treasury during the run up of the housing bubble).

They are peers to a dinosaur who inspired me to invoke the following law:
Those who can't do teach, and those who can't teach must regulate.
Here is some recommended reading for these guys, some of whom actually did a decent job back in the day.

Quotes of the day

That was the beauty of that [Miracle on Ice] game. You didn’t have to understand to understand.--Al Michaels

The issue isn’t derivatives; it’s all financial transactions whose objective is to deceive or to weaken financial transparency.--Roger Ehrenberg

The crisis of government in America is that it does too many things badly instead of doing a few things well.--Russ Roberts

[Federal officials] ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols manufactured in the United States, products regularly stolen by bootleggers and resold as drinkable spirits. The idea was to scare people into giving up illicit drinking. Instead, by the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the federal poisoning program, by some estimates, had killed at least 10,000 people.--Deborah Blum

Well, you know, to me I find it interesting that you have a lot of the Republicans running around and pushing back on the stimulus money and saying this doesn't create any new jobs. Then, they go out and they do the photo ops and they are posing with the big check and they say, 'Isn't this great?'--Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger

While even in an era of purple prose, such language may seem deepest violet.--Judge Jed Rakoff, on Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's legal writing

Why do you think this blog is pseudonymous?--Epicurean Dealmaker

The search for the next Greece is finding its way to an unlikely place: Japan.--William Pesek

I have attended meetings at which high-ranking officials from both the Soviet Union and the Carter administration have clearly stated that Carter's support for human rights was seen from the Soviet side as a repudiation of détente and a return to Cold War hostility -- and that, especially in the beginning, Carter did not fully grasp the tension between his two goals of détente with the Soviets and the promotion of human rights. Obama faces, potentially, a similar tradeoff between the promotion of human rights and the development of stable relations with countries such as China and Iran; he is likely to find it as difficult to manage the tension between those goals as Carter once did. --Walter Mead

China’s reserves are often thought of as if they were a treasure trove available for spending. They are not. They are simply the asset side of the mismatched balance sheet. If the PBoC wanted to “spend” $100, say for example to recapitalize a bank, it could do so, but this would automatically create a $100 dollar hole in its balance sheet. – it would still owe the RMB that it borrowed originally to purchase the $100. To put it another way, the reserves are not a savings account, free for the PBoC to spend as it likes. Reserves are effectively borrowed money.--Michael Pettis

... the $100 saved by an American consumer purchasing artificially cheap Chinese tires, might spend that extra $100 taking his or her family out to dinner more often at local restaurants, helping to save or create jobs in the local restaurant industry. That is, some Americans working in the restaurant industry can thank the manipulative Chinese for their jobs.--Mark Perry

Now consider two worlds - in one world the price of a typical Picasso is $50,000; in the other, it's $5 million. Which world would you guess has a higher standard of living? --Alex Tabarrok

The share of American GDP devoted to exports has about doubled during the past 50 years without having any noticeable impact on either the employment or unemployment rates. Part of the reason for this little impact is that imports increased even more rapidly than exports did, but the main answer is that some workers and capital shifted from producing for domestic uses to producing for foreign uses.--Gary Becker

I am not a climate scientist. But I know something about multiple regression analyses with complex phenomena. It is my impression that like macro models, these models do not perform well with out-of-sample predictions. That is, they are fitted to the past and then used to make predictions about the future. When the future does not turn out to be like the past predicted, the models are tweaked (improved!). The problem with this methodology is that the tweakers of the models are prone to confirmation bias.--Russ Roberts

There is little agreement about what causes depression and no consensus about what cures it. Virtually no scientist subscribes to the man-in-the-waiting-room theory, which is that depression is caused by a lack of serotonin, but many people report that they feel better when they take drugs that affect serotonin and other brain chemicals. There is suspicion that the pharmaceutical industry is cooking the studies that prove that antidepressant drugs are safe and effective, and that the industry’s direct-to-consumer advertising is encouraging people to demand pills to cure conditions that are not diseases (like shyness) or to get through ordinary life problems (like being laid off). ... Science, particularly medical science, is not a skyscraper made of Lucite. It is a field strewn with black boxes. There have been many medical treatments that worked even though, for a long time, we didn’t know why they worked—aspirin, for example. And drugs have often been used to carve out diseases. Malaria was “discovered” when it was learned that it responded to quinine. Someone was listening to quinine. As Nicholas Christakis, a medical sociologist, has pointed out, many commonly used remedies, such as Viagra, work less than half the time, and there are conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, that respond to placebos for which we would never contemplate not using medication, even though it proves only marginally more effective in trials. Some patients with Parkinson’s respond to sham surgery. The ostensibly shaky track record of antidepressants does not place them outside the pharmacological pale.--Louis Menand

New York Stock Exchange volume fell to about 1 million shares, the lowest level of the day at the time, in the minute Woods began a televised speech from Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, headquarters of the U.S. PGA Tour. Trading shot to about 6 million when the speech ended, the highest for any period except just after exchanges opened, data compiled by Bloomberg show.--Michael Patterson and Eric Martin

It amazes me that Tiger learned little to nothing from the past two months. The control freak whose life slipped out of control dipped right back into control-freak mode, reading a prepared speech in front of a hand-selected audience of people, taking no questions, talking in clichés and only occasionally seeming human. Everything about it seemed staged. Everything. When the main camera broke down at the nine-minute mark and Tiger had to be shown from the side, I half-expected to see that he was plugged in to the wall. ... Like so many other mega-celebrities who became famous too early, it's as though they never properly develop the part of their brain that controls this question: "How can I win over the person I'm talking to right now?" When you become famous too early, you don't have to win over anyone. You just have to exist. You become constantly wary. You start watching what you say around people you don't know. You measure any potential friend or business partner by one question: "What do they want from me?"--Bill Simmons

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hope. Change. Bayh-bayh.

Every 14 or 16 years we seem to have to relearn this lesson. I do have a sense of deja vu, and the movie doesn't have a happy ending.--Sen. Evan Bayh

Back in 2006, I learned from GOP campaign operatives in D.C. that the presidential candidate they feared the most was not Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or John Edwards. No, it was Evan Bayh, a moderate, well-spoken, and good-looking Democrat, who, unlike JFK, was able to consistently win in the red state of Indiana.

This was most surprising to me. I'm staying tuned.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Blogging will be light this week

It's about 10 degrees colder than usual in Florida, but that's still 30 degrees warmer than New York.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Quotes of the day

Markets don't reward merit; they reward value--two very different things. ... the idea that value creation is a one-way street from the top to the bottom is not just offensive, but it ignores the principle of comparative advantage, a key breakthrough in market theory. Put simply, this principle holds that everyone benefits by exchanging goods and services with everyone else, regardless of anyone's inherent capabilities. ... The beauty of the market, Hayek brilliantly pointed out, is that it allows people to use knowledge of their particular circumstances to generate something valuable for others. And circumstances, he emphasized, are a matter of chance--not of gift. Furthermore, since no two people's circumstances are ever identical, every producer potentially has something--some information, some skill or some resource--that no one else does, giving him a unique market edge. ... [Free markets] close the talent-gap by allowing people to ferret out and market whatever they've got--even, regrettably, Paris Hilton. In America, for instance, there are opportunities galore for funny people--standup comedy, late-night talk shows, etc.--who may have no head for math or science. Their sense of humor is a prized commodity, a gateway to riches and fame, instead of social ridicule as it would have been in the India of yore. But markets don't just expand and democratize the concept of merit; they render it moot. No longer does it matter what great qualities reside in you. What matters is if you can make them work for others. The concept of merit is replaced by that of value. Merit is intrinsic, concentrated and atomistic; value is relational, decentralized and social.--Shikha Dalmia

What were entities like CalPers and the Church of England doing plowing their money in along with real estate moguls like Tishman Speyer? The answer is "looking for alpha". Underfunded pension funds have been looking for extra return in order to make up the holes . . . and the problem is worst among public pension funds, because until recently, their accounting wasn't very good, so politicians were fond of making unfunded promises in lieu of wages. Needless to say, public pension funds cannot necessarily afford to attract top investment talent, particularly since appointments tend to have a political as well as financial component. ... Public pension funds shouldn't be trying to make up their deficiencies by chasing unrealistically high returns. Of course, if politicians and their appointees had the courage to pay for the gifts they gave public employees, rather than looking for loopholes, we wouldn't be in this mess in the first place.--Megan McArdle

Tebow's opinion on one of the nation's most contentious issues likely formed in the womb. Had Pam Tebow followed doctor's orders in 1987 and aborted her pregnancy, there wouldn't be a Tim Tebow for TMZ to publish shirtless photographs of. The younger Tebow won't apologize for his stance, even though he knows a lot of people will hate him for it. Tebow refuses to be one of those corporate jocks who only worships tiny pictures of Benjamin Franklin. That's probably for the best; we don't tend to learn what those jocks believe in until a 9-iron hits a window.--Andy Staples

Pam Tebow and her son feel good enough about that choice to want to tell people about it. Only, [the National Organization for Women] says they shouldn't be allowed to. Apparently NOW feels this commercial is an inappropriate message for America to see for 30 seconds, but women in bikinis selling beer is the right one. I would like to meet the genius at NOW who made that decision. On second thought, no, I wouldn't. ... See, the best way to deal with unwanted pregnancy is to not get the sperm in the egg and the egg implanted to begin with, and that is an issue for men, too -- and they should step up to that. ... If the pro-choice stance is so precarious that a story about someone who chose to carry a risky pregnancy to term undermines it, then CBS is not the problem. --Sally Jenkins

[Elizabeth] Gilbert had found a new man to love and a sense of the transcendent. She swore, however, that she would never remarry. Like all of us who swear that we will never do something—and then sheepishly retract it—Gilbert has lived to eat her words.--Cindy Crosby

Modern feminists are rightly alert to the insidious effect of women-only laws, which would, happily, be struck down as unconstitutional today. Why aren't they libertarians? The Brandeis brief is only one example of how dumb science is invoked to support bad policies. The progressive era is replete with special favors to agriculture and labor that bear no relationship to the disinterested scientific model, unless strong labor unions, with mighty strike potential, and agriculture cooperatives that burn crops rest on some deep progressive insights that elude those now obsolete defenders of laissez-faire.--Richard Epstein

Some Republicans, not named Paul Ryan, who participated in a government shutdown to force Medicare cuts in 1995 are now railing against the idea that the Democrats' health care plan would force Medicare cuts. That's the problem.--Derek Thompson

[Gary] Johnson wears his ideology on his sleeve--not up his sleeve, which is what I think that Obama did with his vague, gauzy campaign rhetoric.--Arnold Kling

I wonder who on the current staff is expected to win a Nobel prize.--Greg Mankiw

It appears consistent with the view that female orgasm has an evolved adaptive function.--Evolution & Human Behavior

Two new biographies of Palin—along with the self-proclaimed hockey mom’s own memoir, Going Rogue, which set a record for advance orders—are helping to make sure that she won’t fade away any time soon. Together, this trio of books offers more information and context about Palin than all but her most ardent detractors and fans could possibly stand. Yet the volumes, alone or together, still don’t give a clear picture of either the woman herself or what it is about her that drives her fans and critics alike to the edge of insanity. More important, the books strongly, if unintentionally, suggest that Palin does not have what it takes to redefine a Republican Party whose future looks about as bright as that of General Motors. Despite her impressive fan base and her ability to turn out huge crowds, Palin’s own program for “The Way Forward” (as she names a chapter in Going Rogue) makes plain that she is last year’s political model, a vehicle for a backward-looking GOP bent on blending generic social conservatism, small-government encomiums, big government spending, unconvincing outsider outrage, and status quo foreign adventurism. With a Saint Reagan statue firmly glued to the dashboard, of course. ... In light of candidate Obama’s notorious statement about fearful rubes clinging to their guns and their religion, Palin and Obama have emerged as archetypal opponents for a new generation of American politicians, with Palin as a pragmatic nativist and Obama as an idealistic cosmopolitan. Though neither speaks a foreign language, they are night and day, fire and ice, Alaska and Hawaii.--Nick Gillespie

The myth of the academic meritocracy powerfully affects students from families that believe in education, that may or may not have attained a few undergraduate degrees, but do not have a lot of experience with how access to the professions is controlled. Their daughter goes to graduate school, earns a doctorate in comparative literature from an Ivy League university, everyone is proud of her, and then they are shocked when she struggles for years to earn more than the minimum wage. (Meanwhile, her brother—who was never very good at school—makes a decent living fixing HVAC systems with a six-month certificate from a for-profit school near the Interstate.) Unable even to consider that something might be wrong with higher education, mom and dad begin to think there is something wrong with their daughter, and she begins to internalize that feeling.--Thomas Benton

... people are more likely to be drawn toward those whose surnames begin with a shared letter (e.g., "B" people gave more money to Bush in 2000, "G"s gave more to Gore) and more likely to look favorably on those who share their birthday. This appears to hold true on the road: Studies have found, for example, that drivers are less likely to honk at cars of similar perceived status as their own.--Tom Vanderbilt

When I am blogging this material, you know I have too much time on my hands at home. I'm not usually this grumpy but I've been locked up for days.--Tyler Cowen

A fierce advocate of free markets and business

would not target them for ineffective regulations, and direct and indirect tax increases. Give businesses more freedom, capital, and cashflow to operate, Mr. President. All you have to do is hold the line on regulations and taxes so entrepreneurial seeds can grow. You want your tax base to expand, so incent business risk taking, instead of taking another pound of flesh.

Markets are not perfect. But government is less perfect.

How are we going to reduce poverty? Well, I think some of the answer lies in creating jobs, which is why freer markets and lower taxes are part of my hope.

But not these kinds of jobs.

UPDATE: Hope. Change. Mixed Signals.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Quotes of the day

... we need to hang on to talented people. The best and brightest from around the world come to study at U.S. universities. After graduation, they are forced to leave because they can't get visas. It's ridiculous to export such talent to our competition.--Eric Schmidt

Goldman Sachs helped the Greek government to mask the true extent of its deficit with the help of a derivatives deal that legally circumvented the EU Maastricht deficit rules. At some point the so-called cross currency swaps will mature, and swell the country's already bloated deficit.--Beat Balzli

But while banks with short-term funding and many branches originating different loans have a deep capacity for holding credit risks, they have a limited capacity for holding market risks and little capacity for holding liquidity risk. Insurance companies and pension funds on the other hand have limited capacity for credit risk, but more for market and liquidity risks. The capacity for risk is related to the maturity of funding and not what an institution is called. This idea resonates a little with Paul Volcker’s idea of banks severing their exposure to proprietary trading (market risks), hedge funds, (market risks) and private equity (liquidity risks). But we must be wary of arbitrary distinctions – some hedge funds behave like banks and some banks like insurance companies.--Avinash Persaud

The real danger to markets lies with the DOLTS, or Dangerously Over-Leveraged Triple-A Superpowers. That club currently consists of the U.S.--David Reilly

Maybe [President Obama] should pick “core goals” that are compatible instead of ones that in direct conflict with each other.--Russ Roberts

Yet instead of taking his own advice from 2005 and finding a graceful way to pull the plug, the President insists that the real problem is that the public doesn't understand his proposals, that his biggest mistake last year wasn't explaining them well enough, and he insists on pushing forward and "punching" something through.--Tom Bevan

When has a new bureaucracy reduced bureaucracy? When has it 'cut down on paperwork'? The pages of fine print and endless places to initial are because of our laws and regulations, not in spite them. Will the bureaucracy make people wealthier? Well, government's the main place of employment growth, so I guess things are looking up.--Eric Falkenstein

... state and local government employers spent an average of $39.83 per hour worked ($26.24 for wages and $13.60 for benefits) for total employee compensation in September 2009. Total employer compensation costs for private industry workers averaged $27.49 per hour ($19.45 for wages and $8.05 for benefits), see chart above. In other words, government employees make 45% more on average than private sector employees. According to another BLS report, compensation for private industry workers has increased by 6.9% between December 2006 and December 2009, compared to a 9.8% increase for government workers (state and local) over the same period. According to an analysis by USAToday (thanks to Michael Jahr for the pointer), "The number of federal workers earning six-figure salaries has exploded during the recession, according to an analysis of federal salary data." For example, the number of federal employees making $100,000 or more has increased by 120,595, from 262,163 employees in December 2007 to 382,758 in June 2009, for a 46% increase. The number of federal workers making $150,000 or more has more than doubled since the recession started, from about 30,000 to more than 66,000.--Mark Perry

... if there were no returns to career choices in the marriage market, men would tend to work less, study less, and choose blue‐collar jobs over white‐collar jobs. These findings suggest that the existing literature underestimates the true returns to human capital investments by ignoring their returns in the marriage market.--Journal of Human Capital

Men lied more about their height, and women lied more about their weight, with participants farther from the mean lying more. Participants' self-ratings of accuracy were significantly correlated with observed accuracy, suggesting that inaccuracies were intentional rather than self-deceptive. Overall, participants reported being the least accurate about their photographs and the most accurate about their relationship information. Deception patterns suggest that participants strategically balanced the deceptive opportunities presented by online self-presentation (e.g., the editability of profiles) with the social constraints of establishing romantic relationships (e.g., the anticipation of future interaction).--Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin

Quotes of the day

The world now knows, or can know if it will, that every gallows built to destroy good men will hang the builder at last.--A.W. Tozer

Ever since we Gen-X/Yers began working, we've paid 12.4 percent of our earnings to Social Security,” he wrote. “In contrast, the Boomers will get a bargain. When they entered the workforce in the late 1960s, they paid only 6.5 percent of their earnings to Social Security. Only from 1990 on, when the Boomers had earned paychecks for a quarter-century, did they start paying 12.4 percent to Social Security, the same percentage we Gen-X/Yers have paid our whole lives. They've paid less of their earnings into Social Security than we Gen-X/Yers, yet they'll receive more in benefits than we will and we'll pick up the tab. The last two generations gave themselves some additional retirement benefits just before they left the workforce. The World War II generation gave itself annual COLA (cost-of-living allowance) raises in 1975, and the boomers gave themselves the prescription drug benefit earlier this decade.--Tom Fiery

Employers come to us about Gen Y, saying they're looking for a staff member but they don't want anyone in that 20s age bracket because they find they don't understand common courtesy in the workplace--Kristy-Lee Johnston

Seriously, if you can say something like, “Cigarettes are sinful because you’re abusing your body, which is the temple of God,” while enjoying a 57 layer burrito from Taco Bell, that would be pretty good.--Jon Acuff

But so many men in our culture live as if God will welcome them into heaven because they drafted a great fantasy team last year. The truth is, no man will ever wish for one more hour of SportsCenter on his death bed.--Sam Masteller

It is the dogma that is the drama--not beautiful phrases, nor comforting sentiments, nor vague aspirations to loving-kindness and uplift, nor the promise of something nice after death--but the terrifying assertion that the same God Who made the world lived in the world and passed through the grave and gate of death. Show that to the heathen, and they may not believe it; but at least they may realise that here is something that a man might be glad to believe.--Dorothy Sayers

Why Raise the Cigarette Tax When You Can Just Tax Breathing?--Andrew Samwick

George Bush enacted a bunch of tax cuts, and did nothing to implement the spending control those tax cuts demanded. He shouldn't have done that, even if voters would have been, like, rilly rilly mad if he didn't give them free drugs. So, too, at some point, Obama has to take responsibility. Listening to his defenders reminds me of those people who sit around whining about how their Dad was really distant and critical . . . I mean, fine, you apparently had a rotten childhood, but Dad can't get come and get you off the couch and find you a girlfriend and a better job. Girls and employers get really creeped out if they try. ... Obama is the one who is president with the really humongous deficits. Deficits of the size Bush ran are basically sustainable indefinitely; deficits of the size that Obama is apparently planning to run, aren't. --Megan McArdle

Well, the big problem [with Obama's small business tax credit] is that there’s currently regular tax and there’s alternative minimum tax (AMT) and this reduction in gains [being proposed] doesn’t apply when you compute your AMT tax. So even though today there’s this 50 percent break, an individual with a really big winner that generates lots in gains winds up paying the same amount as if he’d paid the full capital gains rate because there’s no corresponding AMT break. Moreover, there haven’t been any conversations to change that.--Steven Franklin

The graduated income tax, a signal aim of the progressive movement, was meant to bring about more equality among citizens. To an extent it did that, but it also brought about a huge disparity in the uncommitted resources of the Federal against State and local governments. ... Anything that grows the size of the Federal government will grow the deficit of New York and other such states. Hence Political Economy 101—when you are in a hole stop digging.--Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan

‘Bipartisanship’ is not writing proposals of your own behind closed doors, then unveiling them and demanding Republican support. Bipartisan ends require bipartisan means.--John Boehner and Eric Cantor

Hi Mom!--Sarah Palin's note on her palm

Economists have no clothes.--James Buchanan

You have never seen a city as completely incompetent at dealing with snow as Washington DC. ... I understand that it doesn't necessarily make sense for DC to maintain plentiful snow moving equipment, when these types of heavy snowfalls only occur about once every seven years. But it seems to me we could try to maintain some psychological readiness. If this is how we react to a snow storm, what are we going to do when the Russkis invade?--Megan McArdle

Monday, February 08, 2010

Quotes of the day

... there really is scarcity and aid really is forced to make intelligent choices. Be sure to give a seat [on the plane] to the pilot.--William Easterly

So here’s what irritates me about the Haitian government’s decision to prosecute Baptist missionaries for child abduction and criminal conspiracy. First, this is, according to the news report, the first criminal case to receive a hearing in Port-au-Prince since the earthquake. Really? Looting, rape, and beatings across the capital, and this is the one you decide to prosecute first?--Tony Woodlief

I would argue that corruption kills more people than terrorism and the drugs trade combined. The more public funds — some of them our taxes — that are stolen and go into the offshore bank accounts of corrupt officials and politicians, the less goes on health, education and development. That loss kills people. In 2001 Tanzania was the third poorest country in the world with an infant mortality rate of 91 deaths per thousand births. South Africa provides an even better example. As that £5.5 billion arms deal was going through President Mbeki was arguing that his country could not afford the £25 a month anti-retroviral drugs for the estimated 5.5 million South Africans who were infected with HIV. Work it out for yourself. --Richard Dowden

There is something strange going on when the environmentalist and the anti-environmentalist use the same excuse – one to justify taking the plane, the other to justify taking the bus. An admittedly unscientific poll of environmentalists at dinner parties suggests to me that they think “the plane is making the journey anyway” excuse is unacceptable but “the bus is making the journey anyway” excuse is spot on – and that they have no coherent justification for the distinction. Their favourite excuse is “you have to set an example” – but surely, before you decide to set an example, you need to be sure that you aren’t setting a bad one.--Tim Harford

There is a growing sense that the properties of the universe are best described not by the laws that govern matter but by the laws that govern information.--KentuckyFC

The process of evolution just isn't what most evolutionary biologists think it is.--Jan Sapp

Disclosing information about how the Chinese government works risks violating nebulous secrecy laws or sacrificing business opportunities. Many China-watchers will only speak face to face, concerned about using e-mails or phone calls to discuss what, in the West, would be standard chatter about the status of bankers and their supervisors.--Economist Editorial Board

A number of universities would like to institute affirmative action for males.--Alex Tabarrok

Many people think men are less romantic than women. Yet men fall in love faster (because they are so visual); men tend to be more dependent on their girlfriends or wives for intimacy; men are over two times more likely to kill themselves when a relationship ends; and men show just as much activity in brain regions associated with romantic passion.--Helen Fisher

... in the final equilibrium no married (paired) woman can be significantly better off than the unmarried woman (otherwise the unmarried woman would have an incentive to muscle in with a better deal) and so because the unmarried woman gets nothing the married women can't get much more nothing. Thus when the sex ratio is 20:20 the split is $50:$50 and when the sex ratio is 19:20 the split is more like to $99:$1 in favor of the men.--Alex Tabarrok, paraphrasing Tim Harford

I forced my kids to watch [The Who perform during the Super Bowl halftime show] for purposes of cultural instruction, at least until about the third note of “Pinball Wizard” when it became too painfully embarrassing. We clicked over to ESPN for more sports blah blah blah, checked back. The geezers were crawling through their medley … that high-tech lightshow and pyrotechnics actually were impressive, held us for a minute, but only served to make the oldsters look lamer … clicked away again, back, away again, back. It didn’t get any better. Someone please tell the NFL that geriatric hasbeen halftime shows are painful, especially when the 60-somethings insist on dressing retro and are hanging out of their mod gear.--Jules Crittenden

E cono mist the financial crisis, but will try to do better next time.--Yoram Bauman

... breaks disrupt hedonic adaptation and, as a result, intensify the subsequent experience.--Journal of Marketing Research

Er, well, the great sooth sayer and now standing feature of this mountain top conference for the elite of business and finance thought that even if governments and central bankers did everything right in terms of fiscal and monetary policy, we’d all still be in recession across the advanced economies for all of 2009 and 2010. And for sure, the S & P was going to 600. Admittedly, it did get as low as 650, but now it’s back above 1,000. If you’d listened to Mr Roubini, you would have missed out on one of the greatest stock market rallies ever.--Jeremy Warner

Did the bans on short selling achieve their stated purpose of restoring order to the stock market and limiting unwarranted drops in prices? This column presents new evidence from 30 countries arguing that the effect on stock prices was at best neutral, the impact on market liquidity was clearly detrimental – especially for small-cap and high-risk stocks, and that the ban slowed down price discovery.--Alessandro Beber and Marco Pagano

... mandates do generate a moral hazard problem, with diabetics exhibiting higher BMIs after the adoption of these mandates.--The Journal of Law and Economics

At the root of this kind of self-contradiction is our historical, nationally characterological ambivalence about government. We want Washington and the states to fix all of our problems now. At the same time, we want government to shrink, spend less, and reduce our taxes. We dislike government in the abstract: According to CNN, 67 percent of people favor balancing the budget even when the country is in a recession or a war, which is madness. But we love government in the particular: Even larger majorities oppose the kind of spending cuts that would reduce projected deficits, let alone eliminate them. ... Our reluctance to recognize economic choices also portends negative effects for the rest of the world. To change this story line, we need to stop blaming the rascals we elect to office and start looking to ourselves.--Jacob Weisberg

Today's tax system was shaped by sadists who were trying to be nice: Every wrinkle in the code was put there to benefit this or that interest. Since the 1986 tax simplification, the code has been recomplicated more than 14,000 times -- more than once a day.--George Will

A significant move to either the left or the right would open the door for a rival to take a more moderate stance, win the next election and change the agenda. Politicians will respond to this dynamic, whether they are power-seeking demagogues or more benevolent types who use elected office to help the world.--Tyler Cowen

The problem is, the public doesn't get mad at you for obstructing things the public doesn't like.--Megan McArdle

... this year [JPMorgan] Chase’s political action committee is sending the Democrats a pointed message. While it has contributed to some individual Democrats and state organizations, it has rebuffed solicitations from the national Democratic House and Senate campaign committees. Instead, it gave $30,000 to their Republican counterparts. The shift reflects the hard political edge to the industry’s campaign to thwart Mr. Obama’s proposals for tighter financial regulations. Just two years after Mr. Obama helped his party pull in record Wall Street contributions — $89 million from the securities and investment business, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics — some of his biggest supporters, like Mr. Dimon, have become the industry’s chief lobbyists against his regulatory agenda.--David Kirkpatrick

Every political community includes some members who insist that their side has all the answers and that their adversaries are idiots. But American liberals, to a degree far surpassing conservatives, appear committed to the proposition that their views are correct, self-evident, and based on fact and reason, while conservative positions are not just wrong but illegitimate, ideological and unworthy of serious consideration. Indeed, all the appeals to bipartisanship notwithstanding, President Obama and other leading liberal voices have joined in a chorus of intellectual condescension. ... Perhaps the most important conservative insight being depreciated is the durable warning from free-marketeers that government programs often fail to yield what their architects intend. Democrats have been busy expanding, enacting or proposing major state interventions in financial markets, energy and health care. Supporters of such efforts want to ensure that key decisions will be made in the public interest and be informed, for example, by sound science, the best new medical research or prudent standards of private-sector competition. But public-choice economists have long warned that when decisions are made in large, centralized government programs, political priorities almost always trump other goals. Even liberals should think twice about the prospect of decisions on innovative surgeries, light bulbs and carbon quotas being directed by legislators grandstanding for the cameras.--Gerard Alexander

Map of the day: Worldwide happiness, by nation

Source here, via Eric Barker.

Photo of the day: Sarah Palin scribbles interview notes on her hand

Source here.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Quotes of the day

Does honest editorial quality matter any more?--Harold Goldberg

See if you can spot the difference between reality and American culture.--Andrew Klavan

Not everything that has come out of the IPCC and the East Anglia Climate Unit is false, but enough of their product is sufficiently tainted that these institutions can best serve the cause of fighting climate change by stepping out of the picture.--Walter Mead

Non-Keynesian economists might be mistaken. But the plausibility of their arguments and the prominence of many in their ranks mean that [Robert] Reich’s summary dismissal of them is, well, facile.--Don Boudreaux

... the Fed has some sort of implicit nominal target, and if the economy seems to fall short they’ll pull out all the stops and flood the economy with liquidity. That’s why the $800 billion dollar fiscal stimulus was a complete waste of money; the Fed wasn’t going to allow NGDP to fall much further than the actual 2.5% it fell. Shame on us for not figuring that out, and shame on the Fed for not explaining that to us. Oh, and shame on the Fed for not having a more aggressive policy even with the stimulus. And shame on me for writing this post just one day after I resolved to be less opinionated.--Scott Sumner

Without exception, every time I've seen someone advocate means testing, he uses income as his measure of means. This completely ignores wealth. Although income and wealth are highly positively correlated, the correlation is not close to 1.0. Therefore means testing would discriminate in favor of wealthy people with low income. Because the most expensive programs for which means testing is advocated tend to be for the elderly, this is an even bigger problem.--David Henderson

Facebook was successful early on because it didn't depart significantly from how its audience interacted, and because it started at the top of the social hierarchy. Zuckerberg distinguished his site through one innovation: Facebook, initially at least, would be limited to Harvard. The site thus extended one of the primary conceits of education at an elite university: that everyone on campus is, if not a friend, then a potential friend, one already vetted by the authorities. Most previous social networks, such as MySpace and Friendster, had been dogged by the sense that, while one might use them with friends, they were to a substantial degree designed for meeting strangers.--Charles Petersen

Rationing happens today! The question is who will do it? The government? Or you, your doctor and your family? ... I have a lot of respect for [the Wyden-Bennett] plan. If I were a Democrat, it’s the bill I’d be on. He’s got more mandates than I’d like. But if Ron Wyden and I were in a room, we could hammer out a deal by tomorrow. ... This is my 12th year. If I lose my job over this, then so be it. In that case, I can be doing more productive things. If you’re given the opportunity to serve, you better serve like it’s your last term every term. It’s just the way I look at it. I sleep well at night. ... I don’t want a closed system that will gravitate towards more government control. I want it to be decentralized that has regulatory competition and market competition. You can be in or out of the exchange, which keeps everybody honest. That to me is very important.--Paul Ryan

I pay off the debt completely [with my legislative roadmap], and over time I wipe all these unfunded liabilities off the books. But if we do half that, that’s fantastic. ... I’m not interesting in winning by default. And I’m worried that if we get the majority back by default, we’ll screw up again.--Rep. Paul Ryan

There are hundreds of Republican politicians in Washington, but Ryan is one of the few worth taking seriously on substance — and one of the few, as a result, who can critique the Obama administration without resorting to gimmickry or sloganeering. And in a party that’s suffering from deficits of both leadership and substance, that’s pretty good position for a young congressman to occupy.--Ross Douthat