Monday, July 31, 2006
Makiw's Top Ten
I have some issues with his #7:
Governments Can Sometimes Improve Market Outcomes.
When a market fails to allocate resources efficiently, the government can change the outcome through public policy. Examples are regulations against monopolies and pollution.
I will accept his statement but not his examples. Sorry Mankiw...
Risks and Consequences
Is this true? Has anybody seen any evidence suggesting this? Any evidence to the contrary?
Since we know that there is no 'gate-way' effect, is scaring kids the most effective policy approach? We stopped doing that with sexual education some time ago, so why are we still doing it with drugs and alcohol and even tobacco use?
I guess when one outcome is "good" and the alternative is "bad" that really leaves no flexibility in understanding and application. There is no real middle of the road in the War on Drugs, is there?
Sunday, July 30, 2006
This has come up in several of my "kitchen table" debates, as well as in a public policy class I took with Chris. It seems almost everyone is in favor of licensing for doctors, dentists, emergency medical personnel, etc. But most of the people I've talked to agree that it is ridiculous for the State of North Carolina to have a Board of Cosmetic Art Examiners. Apparently, NC isn't the only state to do this, either. How do I know about this? My mom is a cosmetologist and she was complaining about the "continuing ed" classes she is forced to take in order to keep her license. She's been doing her job for over 30 years, but NC says she has to go to classes to learn how to do it better, stronger, faster, whatever.
Now back to the question. What should be licensed and what shouldn't? I personally have so much (perhaps blind) faith in the market that I don't think licensing anywhere is worthwhile. It imposes invisible costs and may remove some risk, which is why most people like it: it seems like all gain and no pain to the uninitiated. To the initiated, it seems like a costly barrier to entry, a new revenue stream for state governments, and a way for politicians to sound morally righteous by saying things like "In a State as great as ours, we should have a decent standard of care in Industry X." Almost makes me forget how absurd the premise is, when it has that "politician ring" to it.
What do you think?
Friday, July 28, 2006
Your favorite poison
What is the most destructive, coercive, and costly? What is the price tag and in what way is it destructive?
The biggest and best coercive governmental group, to me, is the IRS. Although I do not know the price tag, it is destructive because it creates new winners and losers. Additionally, it has forced companies, businesses, and non-profits to fit into a particular mold, rather than exist for the greatest possible benefit to its share-holders and customers.
Other groups that are promising include the War Department and the "War on Terror", Health Care Regulation, Pension Insurance, and Medicaid.
Pot doesn't lead to heroin
"Earlier this month, professor Yasmin Hurd of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine released a study showing that rats exposed to the main ingredient in marijuana during their adolescence showed a greater sensitivity to heroin as adults. The wire lit up with articles announcing confirmation for the "gateway theory"—the claim
that marijuana use leads to harder drugs...
On close inspection, Hurd's research, published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, doesn't show otherwise. For the most part, it's a blow to the gateway theory. To be sure, Hurd found that rats who got high on pot as adolescents used more heroin once they were addicted. But she found no evidence that they were more likely to become addicted than the rats in the control group who'd never been exposed to delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, marijuana's main ingredient.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
If it works, they can then do the same think for fatty foods, sex, and caffeine -- along with more 'addictive' substances.
Check it out.
This worked pretty well earlier, so I figured we could continue it.
What are your favorite western movies? Whether it is the old west (Tombstone) or the new western tarantino-type films...
Additionally, there are a lot of western/mexican movies too -- like Desperado and Once Upon a time in Mexico.
My two favorites are: Blazzing Saddles and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
New from NBER
Welfare to Work Program
These are all interesting to me. I hope they will be to you. I still have access to them for free, so many of you might as well.
And this is why I care:
Hat-tip to Dr. Craig Newmark.
The current wave of technology-driven advances in productivity (and, to a much smaller extent, outsourcing) is impinging for the first time on educated white-collar workers in services, as opposed to the skilled or semiskilled blue-collar workers who felt the brunt of earlier labor-saving innovation in manufacturing. Better schools are not going to deflect very much of that pressure, or to save very many of those jobs. What might make a difference is a completely different approach to the whole idea of education -- one that helps people to change course midcareer, and that does more than pay lip service to the idea of lifelong schooling. This would be worth discussing.
I want all exceptions, examples, and arguments.
It is important to discuss the concept of wealth. Here's Bastiat, this fellow and another. You can also check out these definitions. There are many differing opinions and many examples, but is there any consistent definition throughout?
What do the past and modern economists have to say about this?
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Best War Movies
I want everybody's top vote getter and their top five picks.
If you need a little refresher, here's a list of some of them.
Full Metal Jacket, Patton, Plattoon, Tora Tora Tora, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Das Boot, U-571, The Longest Day, The Devil's Brigade, The Dear Hunter, Sergeant York, Black Hawk Down...
Others that are not so much War Movies, but take place during war are:
Schindler's List, A Bewautiful Life (Vita è bella), and The Dirty Dozen
The movie that tops my list is Patton. My top five include: Full Metal Jacket, Sergeant York, The Bridge on the River Kwai, and Apocalypse Now.
Monday, July 24, 2006
Recipe for family comedy:
Mix one(sometimes two) funny, well-known (and many times beyond his/her prime) actor
Deeply loving and very supportive wife with an extremely strong, controlling exterior
Enviro-conscience and at the same time airhead older daughter
Intelligent and/or unpopular younger son
Place in large bowl and stir in two parts conflict with one part fart jokes/potty humor
Add a touch of slapstick and moral lessons learned
Bake at 450 for one hour
And voila, you have a wholesome family comedy with a happy ending
This movie pretty much sticks to the recipe, but there some pretty funny parts. Robin Williams is still funny.
Early in the film, which in fact sets the stage for the future conflict and eventual RV voyage across the country, a friend of the older daughter was invited to a business party, where she insulted the president of the company -- blaming him for childhood obesity because he was responsible for putting sodas in all the schools ("Childhood obesity was on his head"). Obviously these are pretty standard leftist arguments with little evidence, but they appear to represent the opinions of a great many in this country. Additionally, at the very end, the wealthy president is again attacked. This time by the daughter. With many gasps of horror by the audience, she claims that his company sent many jobs overseas. The alleged "outsourcing" was the critical blow. Again, an issue as much beloved by the left -- as the right. It is amazing to me, but I think both sides have this one wrong. I think it is always a fun discussion, but Russell Roberts' The Choice covers it best. Why is outsourcing bad?
Even though I am critical of the film, I think it is still worth a rent or a visit over to Blue Ridge Theatres. You can't beat a buck fifty show.
Via NewMark's Door
Recycling supports 14,00 jobs in NC. A 20% increase in recycling participation would create 500 new jobs.
Okay class, please point out the problem with that statement. Has anybody else seen this before a movie or on TV? For more info, check out the website.
A few comments on the movie later.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Resistance Is Futile
Want to use electronics with your mind? To sense when your computer is about to crash? To have cyborg limbs? Very soon, you just might!
It's amazing to live in a time when these things are possible. With just the technologies I listed, we could provide the handicapped with greater functionality or improve the capabilities of healthy individuals. And there are still more advances coming from genetic engineering and nanotechnology. Pretty soon we might not even recognize ourselves. Which leads to the question should there be limits to man's ability to improve himself? Is technologically adapting man's body moral? What will it mean for society? Will it pit poor against rich? Human against Posthuman?
At least one person, Nick Bostrum of Oxford Univ., is thinking about these issues seriously. And his answers are suprisingly optimisitic. If you're at all interested in these questions, I recomend checking out his website.
Two links are particuarly interesting:
- His article on the morality of improving humanity through technology.
- His Tranhumanist FAQ. I especially like the section where he speculates as to how these technologies will impact society at large.
I would be interested to hear other's thoughts on this topic. In particular, how do you feel about the political consequences of some of these technologies? Would you agree with Bostrum that safe-guarding some of the more risky technologies, such as destructive nanotechnology, present public goods problems? Should the government play a role in distributing or regulating these technologies to keep them from falling into the hands of terrorists (similar to what is done with nuclear weapons technology)?
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Austrian Economist of the Day!
It's Roger Garrison! He hasn't published much latley, but he has several interesting articles and books on economic intellectual history, the study of macoeconomics in general, and Austrian economic theory in particular. I especially like his accessable (intermediate level) introduction to Austrian Business Cycle theory.
Friday, July 21, 2006
I really don't see the point
Why not get rid of all the constraints on accepting monies and let each and every politician be accountable for the money they receive and the attached favors they give when they get into office.
One criticism to this argument is that it might create a greater incentive for inefficient allocations of resources to political ends (pumping up the public choice). However, we have to look at how much is currently allocated to dodging the bullets of campaign contribution regulation.
The unemployment rate for June 2006 was at 4.6%. Not too bad.
One question: How can our economy continue to support the expanding public sector?
Check out the new release here.
Two can play at that game
Here's the story.
After not being able to sleep last night, I popped the movie Boondock Saints in the DVD. It's always been one of my favorites!!
So after watching some of it I thought about the State's monopoly on law and police enforcement. If they set what appropriate activity is (both ethically and legally), then what is essentially 'good' and 'bad' is dictated or atleast influenced by state officials - judges, legislators, and law enforcement officers.
Vigilantes are in competition with that monopoly and historically governments have not been too keen on the idea. Much the same way that militias have lost support and gained a significantly more negative conotation.
Power of the individual to act against what they know to be wrong is discouraged. Is this necessarily a good thing? I know at first thought it looks like a really bad idea, but for the majority of people, why not? Is a lynch mob any 'better' than capital punishment? In my mind the only thing seperating them is a thin veil of "legitimacy".
Thursday, July 20, 2006
FUN AT WORK
Do you love the 80's?
Shake that thing
And my personal favorite: Despair.com
Some goings on
Juveniles are the first to lose their rights. Cameras come up and curfews come down. All in the name of 'safety'.
Good news for Wal-Mart!!
Some updates on that infamous Massachusetts health reform bill...
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Break Up the Everyday Low Prices?
Luckily, this is nothing new to us. We did the whole long-distance relationship thing all through the summer and winter breaks of college and then the last year and half full time.
Does anyone have any good stories on long distance relationships?
I will follow up with some of my own, but I figured I would let someone else get the ball rolling.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Who do we owe exactly?
Interestingly enough, they seem to be held by many religious groups as well.
In my opinion, the notion that indivdauls can only act in particular ways or achieve great things with the assistance of some other group, some deity, governmental action and assistiance or by the sheer grace of God is flawed.
For me that really down-plays the will and ability of human beings, especially in the achievement of groups of people that feel that they could only accomplish great things, or get a good income because of the people that came before them and paved the path for them.
I don't know why I have such a problem with this thinking exactly. It just seems to me that it gets people into believing their own stereotypes and following those "self-fulfilling prophecies" about their own individual limitations.
Perhaps it is because I don't believe that people can not achieve great things because they are held back by some invisible 'force' that keeps them poor, or limits their upward mobility. Since I believe that anyone can accomplish great things, I do not believe in the convenient excuses built into failure -- somebody was out to get me, they only hire this type of person, or they don't like people like me. For me, that's just a cop-out. A convenient, self-limiting psychological crutch that maintains our complacency and shadows our laziness. Why do any more, if we can make ourselves believe that somebody else is holding us back -- the key is to blame some one else for our own failures.
Never taking any individual responsibility is the key to this type of life and is intimately tied to believing in "owing someone else" when things do go well, because life is beyond our control. We must first appease the gods , since we are mere puppets on a string.
Monday, July 17, 2006
Moving more towards Left-Libertarianism
Here is his explanation of Left-Libertarianism.
From the Third Party Prof
With increased suburbanization into more traditionally rural, agriculture-based counties surrounding the Capital City, who will the State of North Carolina side with?
The Farmers or The Suburbanites?
This is a good read!
Sunday, July 16, 2006
Did 7th Heaven Take God Out of Christianity?
Don't get me wrong, those are very excellent reasons to go to church. But are those good reasons to convert to Christianity? After all, couldn't Muslims or Jews or Buddhists claim the same thing?
Even when the show's character's are discussing sex, they give very secular explainations for why you should wait for marriage. STDs, unwanted pregnancies, run away dads, and so on and so forth. But isn't the only thing that matters is that God doesn't like it?
What about the question of whether the Christian God actually exists? What about the problems of interpruting and trusting the Bible? Has 7th Heaven taken the God out of Christianity?
Really, I can't complain too loudly. The show is heart warming, which is rare for TV these days. Plus, the writers do a good job of making the characters believeable (most days). Anyways, tell me what y'all think.
Does Welfare Break-Up Families?
1) What exactly is the causal link between a government helping needy families (normally those led by single mothers) and fathers leaving those families? The best explaination I could come up with is that the father cares just enough about his family that he doesn't want to see them starve if he leaves. So, with a welfare check on stand-by, he can skip town with a slightly lighter conscience. But if that's the case...
2) Wouldn't the same consequences result from Vuk's world of increased family charity? What's the difference to the father whether his baby-momma is fed by the state or by her family? Seems like the father's incentives to leave remains the same. But let's not forget the fact that...
3) you can only receive aid from TANF for a few months at a time. Not to mention you can only be on the program for a total of 5 years in your life-time. So, quantitatively, how strong are the incentives Vuk's worrying somuch about? EXACTLY how strong? Did he take the time to do the measurements? And while we're at it...
4) How does Vuk account for the pro-family incentives that TANF might have? Maybe, providing mothers the ability to leave bad husbands today results in stronger families in the future. I don't know. But Vuk doesn't even seem aware of the possibility. This is an important question for both his qualitiative or a quantitative arguments.
And These are only a few of my questions. Honestly, I see more holes in his arguments than I see keys on my keyboard. But If anyone would care to set me straight on these issues, I am more than open to conversation. :)
Friday, July 14, 2006
Discussing God and the Babel Fish
Here is the passage:
...Now it [Babel fish] is such a bizarrely improbably coincidence that anything so mind-bogglingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as a final and clinching proof of the nonexistence of God.
The argument goes something like this: 'I refuse to prove that I exist,' says God, 'for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.'
'But,' says Man, 'the Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don't QED.'
'Oh dear,' says God, 'I hadn't thought of that,' and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.
'Oh, that was easy,' says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next pedestrian crossing.
I definitely recommend reading Adams. Quick read with a quirky perspective. It's some good stuff.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
A Very Interesting Person
Are all churches like this about their prophets and founder? Is this fanaticism or faith?
A little more on L. Ron Hubbard
New from the EPI
Obviously I am not a fan of the title or description (hyper-individualism??!!), but it should be an interesting read. Still, I am not sure if it is worth the price. Would anybody like to review it?
It looks like there site is down right now, but here is the EPI link.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Where do I begin?
I'm trying to indoctrinate some people at work. Since some of them are open to suggestions about which articles to read, what should I send them links to? "I, Pencil" is a good one to start with and just about anything from Bastiat is nice. What if they are starting out a bit left of center, especially economically/fiscally? Is there anything that won't scare them away completely?
Please help me out and offer your suggestions. At least for this post, let's put the details behind us and come up with a list of good (and easy to read) articles about the free-market philosophy.
Utilitarian and Natural Rights approaches are (for now) both acceptable.
"Famililar Bad Choices" From the Weekly Standard
Family and the State
Managing Free Speech
Yes I believe in freedom of speech, but somebody needs to manage it.
I think this is the way a lot of people see and think about rights and freedoms. Somebody needs to be in charge to manage it. Essentially, if a right or freedom is centrally directed though, it can be conveniently denied by political and social groups at a whim. Is it really much of a right if it can be denied?
Indeed, can we have freedom that is free? Or does it need to be "managed" by someone?
Practically speaking though, I don't think there exists a freedom that is free. It needs to be managed by a court system or a group of individuals that explicitly state the rights and freedoms of individuals. Even though I do not think there needs to be any group to "manage" First Amendment rights, since the courts can handle defamation on a case by case basis, there does need to be people to outline those rights either initially (Bill of Rights) or in the context of a dynamic government organization in which we live.
Do freedoms need to be managed?
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Shine On You Crazy Diamond
Bills in NC and some News
Back seat drivers have to buckle
Government planning at work
A look at the Interstates at Age 50.
Monday, July 10, 2006
It was this young women with her daughter. She was driving a red truck and was pulled over for being 'suspicious'. There was another individual in the car with them, and upon closer inspection there was found to be two syringes and traces of heroin in one of them. Obviously when the questions were asked one was found to be lying. The police sided with the other woman (not the one with child). To me, it appeared like the mother was in fact the most sincere, even to the point of tears, crying for the well-being of her child and told the officers the truth -- she was in fact in the neighborhood to learn how to turn tricks and make some money. Upon hearing that honesty, she was arrested and then seperated from her child. It was actually very sad to see that these officers took such a sick satisfaction in a job well done.
Obviously I am not the best judge of character, or ultimately of the best caretaker and provider for that little girl, but it is hard to believe that those officers can know what is best for anyone but themselves, at any time. To make it even worse, they justified their action by saying that "perhaps she will learn her lesson, after some time in prison and having her child taken away".
It is not just that her rights (self-conviction and improper search and seizure) were violated, but also that these sort of policing activities are commonly used. Even more so, these actions will fall predominantly on the poor and less educated, who are not even aware of their rights.
How will giving someone a wrap sheet make them better off? If they actually committed a crime, then this action might be justifiable, but even them we still have to look at the rehabilitation vs. retribution issue within the american criminal justice system. The problem with criminality (and the increasing numbers of criminals) is that they are criminals for life. They are guilty until proven innocent. Note: whether they are found to actually be guilty after the fact does not justify loss of civil liberties.
Okay, sorry about the tangent, but I was totally displeased by their actions and felt bad for the young girl and her child, whom will be in custody of the state (or already is). Of course the State knows what's best, but why not just take our children at birth, so we don't get so attached?
So I'm thinking
What about drug use? For some drugs perhaps...
Are common staples like food, water, gasoline considered Giffen goods during a natural disaster?
I like this
Sunday, July 09, 2006
The World Cup and Government's Role in Sports
Check out the results here and make sure to read the recent Mises Article.
Also, be sure to check out other Sport subsidies: The AllStar Game on Tuesday
And of course right here in our own backyard, swimming susidies in Greensboro.
Friday, July 07, 2006
Speed limit as a Pricing mechanism
Although it is treated much like a congestible public good and provided by all levels of government, transportation services can easily be carried out in the private sector and had been up until recently.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
Big Brother in your Buick
The ACLU is already up in arms.
The apparent goal of the bill is to stop transportation of drugs and illegal immigrants.
July 4th: Freedom from Government
To quote Thomas Jefferson:
"May [the Declaration of Independence] be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the Signal of
arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form [of government] which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them."
Did you ever know that you're my hero?
Remember kids...don't do drugs!
The Enron scandal was a government failure.
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
The bombs bursting in air...
If not, why do they appear to be treated as such?
Just an observation from the holiday season....
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
What's so great about America?
Why should we care if people like the United States?
What's so great about the United States that they should adore this country at all times? Democracy? Apple pie and baseball? The endless appeals system? Or is it our commitment to counter terrorism and provide world-wide freedom by force?
Just like a friend of mine in graduate school that was so sincerely concerned about opinion polls in other countries, Mo Rocca was on Charles Osgood's sunday morning CBS show prompting all Americans to watch the World Cup, because that's what the world cares about. So why not care a little more and sit in front of the television a few more hours this week. Take one for the old world team...
But, really. I never understood why we should care. Why does it matter?
On this Fourth of July we should all remember the United States of America, whether its for the good or the bad. So, why should the world care and why should we care how the world feels?
Monday, July 03, 2006
Why is history so Statist?
Why is history so Statist?
Why is everything about politicians, plans, laws, governments, and even the measure of 'progress' a fucntion of state action and intervention?
Is it because of the bureacracy and the paperwork, where we get the records? Is it because those that win write the history and so state-driven military powers are the focus? Is it because they pay for it and the extra coverage is the tribute?
Anybody, want to take this one?