Division of Labour: May 2007 Archives
May 31, 2007
I've been unplugged most of the past week but here are a few things that caught my eye.
1. A news item (with a HT to Reason):
Traffic officials in the Swiss city of Bern are hoping to stop men grabbing the extra large parking spaces reserved for women drivers by painting them pink, and adding flowers and other feminine symbols.
Apparently the spaces are near store exits and have video monitoring and are intended to increase women's safety. Fair enough, but why are the spaces extra large?
2. Recently I took issue with a WSJ article claiming summer employment for teens has decreased because of immigrant competition (I think the decline results from increasing affluence among teens). Today's WSJ (sorry no link)--apparently forgetting its gloomy article three weeks earlier--had an article headlined "Employers Beef Up Their Summer Hiring" and subtitled "Students Find More Options."
3. While we're picking on the WSJ (with reporting like this Rupert Murdoch might be an improvement), yesterday's issue had an article on subprime lending. An excerpt:
Some [subprime borrowers living on West Outer Drive in Detroit] used the money to buy their houses. But most already owned their homes and used the proceeds to pay off credit cards, do renovations and maintain an appearance of middle-class fortitude amid a declining local economy. Three now face eviction because they couldn't meet rising monthly payments. Two more are showing signs of distress....
The fate of people on West Outer Drive offers a glimpse of a drama that is playing out in middle- to lower-income, often minority-dominated communities across the country. In addition to putting families into homes, subprime mortgages and the brokers who peddle them are helping to take families out of homes in which they've lived for years ....
So why are subprime loans to blame for credit card debt, poor decisions for home renovations, or Detroit's lousy economy? If anything it seems that people would have lost their homes even sooner were it not for the democratization of credit. I'm beginning to wonder if the stink about subprime lending is another manifestation of Mencken's quote:
"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."
4. Mark Cuban wants to start a new pro football league--Skip Sauer explains.
On Memorial Day c. 1907
Memorial Day was celebrated on May 30 until 1971. May 30, 1907 was a Thursday, whereas May 31, 2007 is a Thursday. Therefore, the May 31, 1907 paper reports on those activities that took place on the day of the week if not the day of the month as in 2007.
Now that I have confused everyone, two articles concerning the 1907 Memorial Day celebrations were noteworthy.
The first concerned activities south of the Mason-Dixon:
RICHMOND, Va. - The twelfth annual reunion of the Confederate Veterans began here to-day. Gen Boiling called the convention to order. Gen Stephon D. Lee was the presiding officer and delivered his annual address.
The second concerned activities north of the Mason-Dixon:
Hurricane Forecasts: Part Deux
No big changes in the hurricane season forecasts from Colorado State. Reuters reports, Nine Atlantic Hurricanes Expected in 07:
MIAMI (Reuters) - The Colorado State University hurricane research team renewed its forecast for an "above average" 2007 Atlantic storm season on Thursday and predicted 17 tropical storms, with nine growing to hurricane strength. Of those, five would grow into major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher with winds over 110 mph (177 kph), the team founded by forecast pioneer William Gray said in its revised forecast.
Here's my post on the April forecast.
Most of what's in the CSU press release gets chopped out of the news reports. Some interesting points:
-The methodology isn't much different from econometric/business forecasting.
The hurricane team's forecasts are based on the premise that global oceanic and atmospheric conditions - such as El Nino, sea surface temperatures and sea level pressures - that preceded active or inactive hurricane seasons in the past provide meaningful information about similar trends in future seasons.
-The most important variable seems to be recent and current El Nino conditions:
"We expect an above-average hurricane season with ENSO conditions on the cool side, which will help increase the likelihood of major storm activity in the Atlantic," said Phil Klotzbach of the Colorado State hurricane forecast team and the lead author of the forecast. "El Nino conditions during the summer and fall - similar to those that developed in 2006 - tend to decrease Atlantic hurricane activity by increasing vertical wind shear across the area where Atlantic tropical cyclones develop."
-Which explains hiccups the past two years:
The Colorado State hurricane forecast team has said the hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005 were anomalies: Florida and the Gulf Coast were ravaged by four landfalling hurricanes each year. Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne caused devastating damage in 2004 followed by Dennis, Katrina, Rita and Wilma in 2005.
-Human activity doesn't play a role
"We are in a new era for storms that is part of a natural cycle," Gray said. "We've had an upturn of major storms in the Atlantic since 1995. This active cycle is expected to continue for another decade or two at which time we should enter a quieter Atlantic major hurricane period like we experienced during the quarter century periods of 1970-1994 and 1901-1925. These changes in storm activity are not caused by human-induced global warming but by natural forces."
-A pretty cool user tool is the Landfall Probability Website
Probabilities of tropical storm-force, hurricane-force and intense hurricane-force winds occurring at specific locations along the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts within a variety of time periods are listed on the forecast team's Landfall Probability Web site. The site provides U.S. landfall probabilities for 11 regions, 55 sub-regions and 205 individual counties along the U.S. coastline from Brownsville, Texas, to Eastport, Maine.
Congratulations to Mitch Mitchell, who has taken a tenure track job at University of South Alabama (U.S.A.). There's a 3.7% chance Mobile County will get a direct hit from an "intense hurricane." 26.7% chance for the coastline from Texas to Florida.
-The entire report is here: http://hurricane.atmos.colostate.edu/
May 30, 2007
James Galbraith versus Paul Krugman on the history of economics
James Galbraith, son of John Kenneth Galbraith, makes the following remarks in the course of a commentary on Chris Hayes’ article on heterodox economics:
Did John Kenneth Galbraith spend “his whole life as an economic dissident”? Absolutely not. My father's early Institutionalism was the mainstream at the time. The child of philosophical pragmatism and scientific Darwinism, Institutionalism linked Veblen, Commons at Wisconsin and Ayres in Texas; it gave us the New Deal and, in particular, Social Security. It was allied to a German-influenced historical economics, which controlled the American Economic Association. The AEA, now a free-trade sect, was formed in the 1890s largely to oppose the free-trade doctrines of 19th century British economics.
Galbraith’s remarks contradict the following statement by Paul Krugman:
Until John Maynard Keynes published The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money in 1936, economics—at least in the English-speaking world—was completely dominated by free-market orthodoxy. Heresies would occasionally pop up, but they were always suppressed. Classical economics, wrote Keynes in 1936, ‘conquered England as completely as the Holy Inquisition conquered Spain.’ And classical economics said that the answer to almost all problems was to let the forces of supply and demand do their job.
Who's right? By my reading, Galbraith is by far the more accurate historian of economic thought here. (I would only question his statement that Institutionalism was the American mainstream; I would instead say that it was in the American mainstream, but was not the only mainstream school of thought.) One of the chief architects of the New Deal was the Institutionalist economist Rexford G. Tugwell, a professor at Columbia University, hardly a marginalized or “suppressed” thinker.
Skybus, a new low cost airline based in Columbus (all flights either begin or end here) just opened up three new cities (San Diego, Hartford, Jacksonville) and another flight to Ft. Lauderdale. Their hook is that every flight has ten $10 seats on it.
So come visit us in Columbus folks! Or better yet how 'bout an invitation to your place?!
But beware the Skybus rules: Checking bags costs extra. No seat assignments--priority boarding extra. No operators standing by--website only. No refunds at all. No rebooking if you miss your flight. You may not bring food on the airplane, but they'll be happy to sell you some goodies!
I just scored three round trip tickets to Chicopee, MA for a total of $108 including fees and taxes (which amounted to 48% of the fare!) They've had some delays and issues this first week of operation, and who know if they'll survive, but $108 is a small risk to take.
Question: what is there to do for three days in western Massachusetts?
On weather headlines c. 1907
Compare and contrast:
Headlines from the Drudge Report on May 30, 2007:
Headline from the New York Times on May 30, 1907:
Schumpeter gets some respect
From the Harvard Business School Alumni mag:
Joseph Alois Schumpeter (1883–1950), an Austrian who taught at Harvard for twenty years, was “one of the greatest economists who ever lived, and an electrifying personality besides,” writes HBS professor emeritus Thomas K. McCraw in his new book, Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction. With this graceful, authoritative biography, McCraw, a Pulitzer Prize–winning historian, has all but ensured that a seminal but relatively uncelebrated twentieth-century visionary will finally get his due.
May 29, 2007
Now THIS is reality t.v.
CNN reports, Kidney up for grabs in TV show
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) -- A Dutch reality show that claims to be trying to draw attention to a shortage of organ donors said Tuesday it would go ahead with a program in which a terminally ill woman will choose a contestant to receive one of her kidneys.
The current wait list in the U.S. is fast approaching six figures: United Network for Organ Sharing
HT: my awesome wife.
Moving farther down the PPF
The Washington Post reports, Campaign Puts New Strain on Secret Service
The U.S. Secret Service expects to borrow more than 2,000 immigration officers and federal airport screeners next year to help guard an ever-expanding field of presidential candidates, while shifting 250 of its own agents from investigations to security details.
More guns less butter. How's your liberty?
Here is Bob Higgs's new book, Neither Liberty nor Safety: Fear, Ideology and the Growth of Government.
Line Up! Nonprice Rationing is Better, I Guess
From a news story....your folks in DC are out to protect you from high prices, and sufficient supply.
Responding to high costs at the pump, the House approved legislation Wednesday that would outlaw gasoline price gouging. Many lawmakers said that may be easier to say than to detect or enforce.
The legislation would penalize individuals or companies for taking "unfair advantage" or charging "unconscionably excessive" prices for gasoline and other fuels.
Opponents said the language was too vague and that the Federal Trade Commission, which would enforce the law, has not clearly defined price gouging.
"I don't know what `unconscionably excessive' means," said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas.
The bill's chief sponsor, Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, said he had no doubt the FTC would be able to determine price gouging once the agency had a law to uphold.
The good Bart Stupak (really? Is that really his name? Sounds like a bad guy in one of Ayn Rand's novels. Too perfect) is probably correct. The FTC really COULD determine price gouging. And the judges in Salem really COULD identify witches. They could have used that cheap gas to burn those witches at the stake, I suppose.
Are queues and gas-rationing cards in our future? Please tell us, Bart Stupak! We ourselves are too stupak to make choices.
Posted by Michael Munger at 09:42 AM
Paging Dr. Smith
In yet another example of leftists mis-using Adam Smith, Lee Russ at "watching the watchers" writes,
Adam Smith's famous "invisible hand" purportedly leads all individuals to follow their own self interest in a way that produces the greatest good for all. Just reading that idea leaves me amazed that such a counterintuitive idea has come to be so thoroughly accepted by really smart people, many of whom have really good educations...
The first point above is clearly nonsense. The second point is often true, but alas Mr. Russ also goes on to demonstrate his own ignorance of Smith's writings.
May 28, 2007
On Memorial Day c. 1907
From the May 28, 1907 NYT:
Next Thursday is Memorial Day, and if you will permit me, I would like to express a little sentiment regarding the day and its observance through your columns...in an attempt to rouse a little more thought and patriotic zeal in the reverence and honor which all true Americans should feel for the American soldier, and especially for those gray-headed veterans who are yet with us of the Grand Army of the Republic.
May 27, 2007
Earnings: the headlines versus the story
You may have seen the headlines, based on a recent report: “US Men earn less than their fathers” (Columbus Dispatch); “Men in their 30s making less than dads did” (Houston Chronicle); “Wages Through the Ages: Men Earn Less than Fathers at Same Age” (ABC News); “Making less than dad did” (CNNMoney.com); “Dad was better off than we were” (St. Petersburg Times); “Men in their 30s lag behind their fathers in pay” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch).
The report, "Economic Mobility: Is the American Dream Alive and Well?," was principally authored by John Morton and Isabel Sawhill, and issued by the Economic Mobility Project, a joint project of the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Brookings Institution, the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute and the Urban Institute.
Trouble is, all of these headlines seriously misrepresent the report. The report found that, adjusting for inflation, the median male US wage-earner in his 30s today earns less pay (benefits were excluded) than the median male wage-earner in his thirties did a generation ago. But it didn’t track fathers and sons. The US labor force has new entrants – immigrants -- whose fathers were not in the US labor force. Low-earning immigrants may all be earning more than their fathers did back in the old country, and native born workers may also all be earning more then their fathers did in the US, and yet the US median may still be lower than a generation ago.
The last paragraph of one version of the story, by Wall St. Journal reporter Greg Ip, offered just such an attempt to explain the findings by reference to immigration:
Bill Beach of the Heritage Foundation said increased immigration also could have pulled down median wages, as most immigrants at first earn less than native-born workers.
I don’t know how much of decline in median pay is actually explained by immigration. But I do know that unless immigrants are excluded, findings on median US male earners thirty years apart are not really about earners from the same families. Too bad the eager headline writers didn’t read to the end of the story and realize that the report doesn’t really make any claims about father-son pairs.
ADDENDUM: Comments are open.
May 26, 2007
Wherein “heterodox” means “to the left of Samuelson”
In a new article in The Nation, journalist Christopher Hayes describes the outcast status of “heterodox” economists. It’s an interesting account, but he blunders in several ways. For example, he cites as evidence that there is a “mafia”-like mindset within the economics profession the fact that David Card and Alan Blinder faced criticism for their empirical work and their non-free-market policy views:
As Card's and Blinder's experiences show, the "mafia" still flexes its muscles …
Hayes fails to note that free-market economists -- even "mainstream" Chicagoites -- face equally harsh criticism for their policy views and for their empirical work.
Hayes characterizes the difference between mainstream and heterodox both in terms of policy views and in terms of methodology:
While the discipline remains dominated by a "neoclassical" consensus that is generally pro-market and suspicious of government intervention, an explosion of new research programs and methods have provided strong evidence that many of the pillars of that consensus rest on a foundation of sand. … In the case of heterodox economists, what they don't believe is the neoclassical model that anchors the economics profession.
It follows from his characterization that Austrian economists are “heterodox” in both senses, being more consistently pro-market and suspicious of government than the mainstream, and in dissenting from key assumptions of the neoclassical model. Austrians have published in the Review of Political Economy and other heterodox journals. And yet, Austrian economists are never mentioned. Hayes's heterodox hipster heros are all lefties.
In light of which, Hayes might have taken notice of the evidence compiled by Dan Klein showing that members of the economics profession are mostly to the left of center. (ADDENDUM: To be clearer, that should be "the median academic economist is to the left of the political center".)
ADDENDUM: Many economists, mostly heterodox, comment on Hayes' article at TPM Cafe. Hat tip: Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution.
The Gentle Cynic c. 1907
From the May 26, 1907 NYT:
May 25, 2007
The best MR post EVER...
Sports headlines c. 1907
Baseball fans seem to be of two minds when it comes to Barry Bonds nearing (and ultimately breaking) the homerun record of Hank Aaron. What should not be lost, however, is that one of these days there will be newspaper headlines around the country mentioning Barry Bonds and the record. In the distant future people might be somewhat jealous that we were living at the time.
Consider this example from the May 25, 1907 NYT:
Cy Young Blanks the BrownsSt. Louis had five hits to Boston's nine, and St. Louis had three errors to Boston's none.
Strike outs: Powell 5, Young 1.
Time of Game: One hour and twenty-six minutes.
Those reading the headline 100 years ago likely had no idea that today we would be jealous of seeing Cy Young. Regardless of one's opinion about Barry Bonds, we should remember that others will be jealous of us one day.
On income inequality c. 1907
File this in the "things never change" drawer.
In the May 25, 1907 NYT is this nugget:
There is no prejudice in this country against honestly acquired wealth, however large - Judge William J. Gaynor, speaking in Kansas City.
On technological advance c. 1907
The May 25, 1907 NYT has an excellent editorial concerning technological change and the economic impacts that arise afterward. Specifically, the editorial quotes one Walter S. Power, Instructor at the University of Pennsylvania and author of the book "History of the American Whale Fishery":
The struggle for supremacy was fierce but short, and ended in the only way it could - in favor of the better, more easily obtained, and then seemingly inexhaustible kerosene. Sperm candles were dedicated to ornamental uses, and whale oil lamps were discarded to become interesting relics for succeeding generations...Kerosene came rapidly into general use. Then lubricating oils began to be made from the residuum, and finally the utilization of the wax or paraffine in making candles and in other arts robbed the whale products of their last strongholds in the markets of the world.
The editorial goes on:
The golden era of whaling had lasted half a century, representing near its close investments of over $100,000,000, with fifty different ports in Southern New England and New York, and giving employment to tens of thousands of men. On Jan. 1, 1906, there were but three whaling ports - New Bedford, Provincetown, and San Francisco - and the industry is kept alive chiefly for its by-product of bone, which a century ago was regarded as hardly worth saving. The expansion of the country and of Standard Oil pipe lines has seen the revolution, inversion, and practical collapse of the whale fishery.
At the time, of course, there is much hand-wringing about the business practices of Standard Oil, much like there is hand-wringing today about Microsoft and Walmart. However, while visiting a K-Mart in South Carolina last week I was reminded that K-Mart and Sears had teamed up to save each other and it didn't look like it was working. After commenting as such to my father-in-law, I suggested that Walmart probably wouldn't be around forever either.
The NYT of 100 years ago sounds a little like Ayn Rand's Howard Roarke in The Fountainhead when considering the dominance of Standard Oil:
"He who first shortened the labor of copyists by device of movable types was disbanding hired armies, and cashiering most Kings and Senates, and creating a whole new democratic world," said Carlyle. He who shall first market a cheaper substitute for petroleum will accomplish more than Presidents, Congresses, Commissioners of Corporations, Attorneys General, political capitalists, referendums, and mass meetings can do toward humbling the pride of Standard Oil.Although electricity replaced the use of petroleum for lighting, most of what was once Standard Oil remains to be humbled. Many claim it is because the government hasn't done enough, still others might suggest it is because the government has done too much. Regardless, the sentiment of 100 years ago would seem to pertain today although I doubt today's NYT would approach the issue in the same way.
I like the term "political capitalist." Perhaps we need to see more people on both sides of the aisle called such.
May 24, 2007
The horse vs. horsepower c. 1907
The May 24, 1907 NYT has the following short story:
CHICAGO - There will be no horse show in Chicago this Fall, and probably not for years to come, owing to the popularity of the automobile. The following statement was made to-day at the office of Sidney C. Love, Secretary of the Horse Show Association: "The Horse Show Association has divided profits and wound up its affairs. The show last year was not a success. The Directors decided therefore to withdraw for a few years until another wave of enthusiasm over horses makes it profitable to resume the shows."
The Chicago Horse Show did eventually return. Here's a 1925 story and a 1927 story
Tyranny of the majority c. 1907
The old adage of "don't tax you, don't tax me, tax the guy behind the tree" might apply in this case, from the May 24, 1907 NYT:
M. Dupuy arrived in Paris two or three weeks ago, well in advance of the party to whom he is to act as guide, mentor, and friend, and ten days ago he started in a motor car over the route which he had selected for the American automobile caravan to follow, so as to obtain all desirable information and make the best arrangements for the convenience of the transatlantic tourists.
On predictions c. 1907
The May 24, 1907 NYT has the following prediction by the Surgeon General of Illinois:
"The methods for the prevention of diseases, which have developed wonderfully in the last few years, lead me to believe that the outlook for the elimination of the white plague [tuberculosis] is very hopeful. Those affected will be isolated, and if this is done, preventives may be used until consumption will be a thing of the past.As far as predictions go, perhaps the last paragraph proved the most accurate. I wonder if surgeons of today would qualify their advancements (bypass, transplants, re-attachments, etc.) as simplifications or "great discoveries"?
May 23, 2007
Central Planning Follies: Lompoc Wi-fi Edition
A news item:
A $3 million plan to blanket Lompoc, Calif., with a wireless Internet system promised a quantum leap for economic development: The remote community hit hard by cutbacks at nearby Vandenberg Air Force Base would join the 21st century with cheap and plentiful high-speed access. Instead, nearly a year after its launch, Lompoc Net is limping along. The central California city of 42,000, surrounded by rolling hills, wineries and flower fields more than 17 miles from the nearest major highway, has only a few hundred subscribers.
That's far fewer than the 4,000 needed to start repaying loans from the city's utility coffers, potentially leaving smaller reserves to guard against electric rate increases.
And Lompoc isn't alone. Across the United States, many cities are finding their Wi-Fi projects costing more and drawing less interest than expected, leading to worries that a number will fail, resulting in millions of dollars in wasted tax dollars or grants when there had been roads to build and crime to fight.
Mmm, the Apple Pan
The LA Times brings back culinary memories for those of us who spent four years in the Westwood area on a grad student's income.
Hat tip: Craig Newmark.
On political symbolism c. 1907
I am back from a trip to South Carolina/North Carolina during which I was unplugged from news/politics/blogging. Blogging on my part will recommence with the usual quality.
The May 23, 1907 NYT has a letter to the editor which asks an interesting question:
It is amusing to note the very many unsatisfactory attempts made by the Socialists to explain the use of the red flag in their parades and as a symbol of their beliefs. As the cross is a sign of Christendom throughout the world so is the red banner symbolic of international Socialism, is one of the explanations. In answer to the fore going may I ask...why the color of red of all colors known to mankind was chosen as best expressing the doctrines of Socialism?
May 22, 2007
The Tax Foundation Joins the AMT Club
Washington, D.C., May 15, 2007 - Congress should not repeal or radically change the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) but instead reform the regular tax code so that it allows less income to go untaxed, according to a new Tax Foundation study to be released Thursday, May 17.
The key findings of the report:
• The overriding flaw of our income tax system is the vast flow of funds that escapes taxation through loopholes in the tax code. The AMT corrects a small portion of this problem, albeit imperfectly.
• The AMT is often redundant and complex, but the basic idea behind it—taxing a broader base at lower rates—is a sound one that should serve as a guide to tax policy.
• Most of the AMT "fixes" currently under consideration would move us in the wrong direction—shrinking the tax base and taxing what is left at even higher rates.
• The key to fixing the AMT lies in the regular tax code. By curtailing its myriad exclusions, deductions, exemptions, and credits we could raise the same revenue with lower tax rates, reduce the number of filers affected by the AMT, improve the overall quality of the tax system, boost the nation's economic well-being, and improve tax fairness.
The Tax Foundation's report is here.
Problems with the Real-Bills Doctrine
Some present-day advocates of the "real-bills doctrine", particularly followers of Professor Antal Fekete, occasionally depict themselves as defenders of free banking. The new RBD advocates make it necessary to (re-)emphasize that the case for free banking does not rest on the real-bills doctrine. I spell out problems with the RBD in a two-part column for the Free Market News Network (free registration required).
May 21, 2007
Indefinitely renewable rent seeking
ADDENDUM: links are fixed. Thanks!
Mark Helprin, a novelist and senior fellow at The Claremont Institute, has this NYT op-ed arguing that Congress should continue to extend the term of copyright.
At Volokh Conspiracy, Ilya Somin critiques on the important distinctions between real and intellectual property and unconstitutionality of the proposal.
At PrawfsBlawg, James Grimmelmann critiques on wealth redistribution.
The idea is similar to Landes & Posner proposal for indefinitely renewable copyright.
In the Landes & Posner proposal, depreciation of creative works over time softens the incentive effect that copyright supposedly has on innovation. In fact, unlike Landes&Posner, Helprin pays no attention to the supply elasticity of innovation. His argument is geared toward maximizing the wealth that accrues to descendants of the innovator/artist. Interpretation? Simple. The debate over copyright ain't about innovation; it's all about rent re-distribution. See also:
after all, chefs are certainly as creative as any other artists, but they receive no royalties, there are few ways of making serious money from cooking, and only a handful are good enough at both art and business to create a restaurant empire. And is creating an empire the solution?
b) The Design Piracy Protection Act would extend copyright protection to fashion designers for a period of three years. The fashion industry is historically well organized, cohesive almost. See Fashion Originators Guild of America v. Federal Trade Commission (1941), case here. (HT: Tanya Birman, my student)
Here's a good overview of the normative arguments by Wendy McElroy.
May 20, 2007
Building Social Capital (Facebook Group)
Posted by Robert Lawson at 10:00 AM
May 18, 2007
Saving the Tiger: A Contrast Between China and India
A few months ago, there was a flurry of posting on private property rights and animal conservation. I posted on bisons, elephants, and property rights. A few days later Wilson posted on chicken hawks and corn chips.
Here's another example (pdf; scroll down to p. 3): Barun Mitra explains that India has prohibited tiger hunting and trading but China has allowed tiger farms. Just as our previous examples would lead us to predict--tigers are scarce in India but abundant in China.
On Labor Force Participation, Inequality, and Returns to Education
Last night I happened to be skimming the Summer 2006 issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives. The issue has several interesting articles including the Hakes/Sauer Moneyball paper.
However, the article that caught my eye was Juhn and Potter's piece on labor force participation. For prime age (25-54) males, there has been a decrease in labor force participation.
High school dropout: 1969 LFPR = 94.6%; 2004 LFPR = 82.8%
High school dropout: 1969 LFPR = 90.8%; 2004 LFPR = 59.1%
The large decrease in labor force participation among people with lower levels of education has important implications for studies of inequality and college wage premiums (e.g., here and here). It's possible, for example, that studies showing increasing returns from college education are picking up (at least partly) the decreasing attachment of people with lower educational attainment to the labor force. Even studies that control for work status might be subject to this bias if people with higher levels of education are working more hours relative to people with lower levels of education.
May 16, 2007
Speaking of Scotch whisky
BBC News reports that India’s United Breweries, producers of Kingfisher beer, have paid $1.2 billion for the Scottish whisky distiller Whyte & Mackay in an all-cash deal. Whyte (no relation) & Mackay produce blended Scotch under their own label and single malts under the Dalmore and Jura labels.
Explaining the acquisition, UB head Vijay Mallya noted that Scotch had been “the only missing link in our portfolio” and “due to the shortage and rapidly increasing prices of Scotch whisky, we needed a reliable supply source” for Scotch to be sold in the growing Asian market. The second statement sounds like the Klein-Crawford-Alchian story of vertical integration to avoid post-contractual hold-up problems, doesn’t it?
So why did the billionaire Mallaya choose to buy Whyte & Mackay rather than some other Scottish distillery?
He also said he had an emotional attachment to the firm, with its Jura whisky being his late father's favourite single malt.
An Astonishing Fact (if true)
A friend emails:
The University of Wisconsin commonly grants more phds in History than are granted among all accounting doctoral institutions.
There's no doubt that there are not many new PHD's in accounting and that there are lots in history. (There's also no doubt that these supply differences result in starting salaries for historians that are roughly half the salary for starting accountants.) I, however, am somewhat skeptical that the statement is correct. I've opened comments for a day or so if readers want to support or refute the statement.
UPDATE: Co-blogger Josh sends me this list of UW history Ph.D. placements--there are about 20 per year. Surely there are more than 20 accounting Ph.D.'s awarded each year in the U.S.--I remain skeptical about the statement.
May 15, 2007
On race bias in NBA foul calling
Update on racial bias in NBA foul calling. You might recall Penn economist Justin Wolfers and co-author making NYT's front page for their preliminary work concluding that referees were more likely to call fouls on players of different race. The NBA counter-argued that the Wolfers study didn't have data on individual referees' race. After some back and forth, the league has now shared its referee race data with Wolfers, who has re-run some regressions. And ESPN hired a third party economist, Thomas Miles at Chicago law, to weigh in. Miles likes the Wolfers story better.
Seldom do preliminary results get so much attention, right? And seldom do arcane econometrics get such detailed discussion in the news.
New ESPN write up here.
Property rights vids & news
1. Finally, a no-go for the massive number of takings to make way for the notorious Riviera Beach, Florida, redevelopment, which by some estimates would have resulted in more relocations than Southwest DC half a century ago.
2. Susette Kelo's house may have a new home, as IJ sets plans on a site in New London, CT.
3. A New Jersey mom-n-pop business, under threat of a blight taking, makes for a "dramatic" video plea to stop eminent domain abuse (love the score!).
4. A head scratcher video of an unwanted, sherriff-escorted public health inspection on private property. Bastiat said, "the law perverted!"
May 14, 2007
ADDENDUM: A reader notes: "Its even worse than you report. I believe I heard a report that Daimler is retaining over $10 Billion in pension liability. If so, with this, Chrysler had a negative market value."
The link below is to a dynamic story. By this hour there is much detail and speculation about the deal.
New Coke. USFL. The pre-Iaccoca Chrysler. Today ends another giant, largely failed corporate experiment. At least this time it's not taxpayers footing the bail out.
FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Private equity firm Cerberus will buy a majority of DaimlerChrysler's (DCXGn.DE) struggling Chrysler Group for $7.4 billion, a fraction of the $36 billion deal that created the transatlantic car union nine years ago.
Islamic banking meets the credit card
Looking for an interest-free credit card? Consider the Saadiq Visa Gold Credit Card from Standard Chartered Bank, operated on Islamic banking principles. (“Currently available only for UAE customers, the Saadiq Gold Credit Card offering will be rolled-out across the Group’s network over the coming months.”) The bank promotes the card as “Internationally-recognised, Shariah–compliant”.
Need I mention that, in lieu of interest, there is a fixed monthly maintenance fee? Gee, it sounds like a traditional American Express card.
Competition for Shariah-compliant credit card customers is offered by the Makkah Credit Card from First Gulf Bank. Not only is it interest-free, but it "rewards cardholders with the opportunity to earn ‘Steps’ to travel to the Holy City of Makkah [Mecca]. For every AED 1.00 spent on the card, customers earn one step."
Econ Journal Watch
The May 2007 issue of Econ Journal Watch is now available online. Topics: the scarcity of non-mathematical research in top economics journals; why most articles in the Journal of Economic Theory do not really provide a theory; how the websites of Harvard and George Mason economists differ; the role of economists in liberalizing Swedish agriculture; the new political economy of Persson and Tabellini, pro and con; Institutional quality and the Economic Freedom of the World index; Peter Bauer's pioneering contributions to development economics.
Article on Kirzner's Contributions
The latest issue of Small Business Economics has an article by Robin Douhan, , Gunnar Eliasson, and Magnus Henrekson on Israel Kirzner's contributions to the economics of entrepreneurship. It is titled "Israel M. Kirzner: An Outstanding Austrian Contributor to the Economics of Entrepreneurship," and can be found here (gated).
Abstract Israel M. Kirzner is the 2006 winner of The International Award for Entrepreneurship and Small Business Research. In this essay, we present and evaluate his main contributions to the economics of entrepreneurship.
Perhaps most importantly, Kirzner has made the Austrian School intelligible for non-Austrians. By bridging the chasm between Austrian and mainstream thinking, the crucial role of entrepreneurship and the individual entrepreneur has become visible to a much broader audience.
May 13, 2007
Scotch and The Labor Theory of Value
I think the answer to Larry's question regarding Smith's failure to learn from the example of Scotch whisky relates to timing. Apparently, at least according to A Brief History of Scotch Whisky, the market for Scotch whisky was relatively late in coming.
In 1823 the Excise Act was passed, which sanctioned the distilling of whisky in return for a license fee of £10, and a set payment per gallon of proof spirit. Smuggling died out almost completely over the next ten years and, in fact, a great many of the present day distilleries stand on sites used by smugglers of old.
May 11, 2007
Scotch versus the Labor Theory of Value
I taught a course in the History of Economic Thought this spring and gave the final exam yesterday.
Question 20 (short answer): “How is the labor theory of value inconsistent with rate-of-return arbitrage?”
Best answer I got: “It doesn’t factor in value added by time, such as aging Scotch.”
I think I’ll work that example into my lecture notes for next year. To be concrete, assuming that the same number of labor manhours are required in preparation, distilling, and barreling, so that the only difference is how long the scotch is left in the barrel, the labor theory of value is inconsistent with a 750ml bottle of Glenlivet single malt 12 years old selling for $30 while the same size and proof of Glenlivet single malt 15 years old sells for $45, and Glenlivet 18 years old sells for $62. Such price differences are not just consistent with rate-of-return arbitrage, but are required by it. Putting the point another way: all costs cannot be reduced to labor. With a positive discount rate, waiting is also a cost.
The price differences between young and old Scotch are so systematic and so obvious, it’s a wonder that the Scotsman Adam Smith did not notice and repudiate the labor theory of value.
Talk is cheap: Milton Friedman takes NPR correspondent to school
I just ran across this nugget from a December 1999 interview with Milton Friedman by National Public Radio correspondent Susan Stamberg.
STAMBERG: I don't know how many Russian cabbies in New York have told me -- in the course of a really bumpy, pothole-filled ride -- how dreadfully tough their lives are here, having made that transition from a government which took care -- yes, in very brutal, cruel ways -- but took care of most of their human needs, and try to fight it out on the streets of the major city of capitalism.
Because he teaches at the University of Chicago, Steve Levitt of Freakonomics fame is often mistaken for a free-market economist. Levitt himself tells us on his blog: "In general I am not much of a libertarian ..."
As is well known, Levitt has clashed with John R. Lott, Jr., on the effects of laws permitting concealed carry of guns, with Lott unfortunately bringing a defamation action against Levitt for bad-mouthing Lott’s research. In his new book, Freedomnomics: Why the Free Market Works and Other Half-Baked Theories Don't, Lott challenges Levitt in the court of public opinion.
The title and even the cover art are takeoffs on the best-selling Freakonomics, although less obviously than in an earlier version. The subtitle’s reference to “Other Half-baked Theories” has been revised from “Freaky Theories” in an earlier version.
Where Levitt and Dubner in Freakonomics suggested that businesses like real-estate brokers regularly fleece their customers, Lott in Freedomnomics explains how competitive market mechanisms prevent such an outcome. I haven’t read the book yet, but Lott is always worth reading. I hope Lott’s intellectual challenge to Levitt attracts as much attention among economists as his legal challenge has.
Teen Employment--An Alternate Hypothesis
Yesterday's WSJ had an article (p. D1) about summer employment for teens. An excerpt:
This summer's teen employment rate will match a 57-year low set in 2004 and 2005, predicts Andrew Sum .... Just 36.5% of 16- to 19-year olds will be working, down from 37.1% in 2006 and 45% in 2000, he says, citing increased competition for part-time and temp jobs from older workers and immigrants.
I have a different explanation--leisure is a normal good. The rising affluence of families means their kids are less likely to seek summer employment.
May 09, 2007
Tragedy of the Commons: Madagascar Forest Edition
Mark Perry of Carpe Diem points to an Economist article on a study of property rights and forest cover in Madagascar. An excerpt:
One hypothesis is that population growth is the underlying problem. Another theory is that forest loss is an example of “the tragedy of the commons”—the idea that resources that do not clearly belong to an individual or a group are likely to be overexploited, since conserving them is in no individual user’s interest.
To distinguish between these hypotheses, a group of Swedish and Malagasy researchers led by Thomas Elmqvist of Stockholm University decided to try to correlate changes in Madagascar’s forest cover with local population densities and customary laws. Their results have just been published in the Public Library of Science.
Dr Elmqvist and his colleagues collected their information on forest cover from space ...
Different parts of Androy exhibited different patterns. The west showed a continuous loss. The north showed continuous increase. The centre and the south appeared stable. Damagingly for the population-density theory, the western part of the region, the one area of serious deforestation, had a low population density.
This is not to say that a thin population is bad for forests; the north, where forest cover is increasing, is also sparsely populated. But what is clear is that lots of people do not necessarily harm the forest, since cover was stable in the most highly populated area, the south.
The difference between the two sparsely populated regions was that in the west, where forest cover has dwindled, neither formal nor customary tenure was enforced. In the north—only about 20km away—land rights were well defined and forest cover increased.
BTW, Carpe Diem has become one of my favorite blogs so I've added it to the blogroll.
The price of a live kidney
In the continuing saga of my failed kidneys, my leading prospective live transplant donor was disqualified last month. So, as I continue on dialysis, I’ve been re-examining my options. (Any friends/acquaintances/kind strangers who’d like to consider donating a kidney, please contact me!) Wired News provides an interesting report on the legal market for organ transplants in Pakistan, the Phillipines, and elsewhere.
The report begins by naming the apparently respectable Aadil Hospital in Lahore, Pakistan as a leading provider of live kidney transplants to foreigners. The hospital’s own website provides helpful information on its kidney transplant package. The website doesn’t advertise the price, but Wired quotes a current rate of only $14,000, kidney included. The price is reportedly about double that through a Canadian broker, but the additional quality assurance of having a repeat player on your side may be worth it. I doubt my insurance would pay, but maybe I could use my medical savings account? Just thinking out loud here.
Here’s Wired's worldwide price list for various organs.
I sure am glad the government is there to protect the "little guy"!
MERRILL, Wis. — A service station that offered discounted gas to senior citizens and people supporting youth sports has been ordered by the state to raise its prices.
Unleashing Capitalism in WV
Economist Claims Book Has Prescription For W. Va.'s Ailing Economy Gov. Manchin Requests Meeting With Book's Author West Virginia ranks dead last in economic freedom according to a new book that's generating a lot of buzz around the Mountain State.
Russ Sobel's work in West Virginia is getting lots of attention. Go Russ!! Story and video here. I especially like the nifty satellite images of the WV border showing all the activity on the other side of the border.
Info about Russ's book is here. UPDATE: Co-blogger Josh is the associate editor of the book.
New and Notable in the Self-Promotion Department
1. While Bob has Sherrod Brown's ear, Russ Sobel has WV Governor Joe Manchin's. See this TV story about the reaction to Unleashing Capitalism. If you watch the news clip, they actually use the Google map photos showing growth on the other side of the WV border. A picture sometimes does say it all.
2. My Cato Journal article (with Russ Sobel) on judicial selection processes and judicial quality has just been published.
3. My music web site (with Bob Lawson and Dirk Mateer), From ABBA to Zeppelin, Led: Using Music to Teach Economics, has just been accepted at the Journal of Economic Education. Thanks to all of you who sent us great suggestions for additions. They will be slowly going up over the summer.
May 08, 2007
One for Levitt and Dubner
Today's WSJ article on picking Google friendly baby names reminded me of the Freakonomics chapter on baby names. An excerpt:
Before Abigail Garvey got married in 2000, anyone could easily Google her. Then she swapped her maiden name for her husband's last name, Wilson, and dropped out of sight.
In Web-search results for her new name, links to Ms. Wilson's epidemiology research papers became lost among all manner of other Abigail Wilsons, ranging from 1980s newspaper wedding announcements for various Abigail Wilsons to genealogy records listing Abigail Wilsons born in the 1600s and 1700s. When Ms. Wilson applied for a new job, interviewers questioned the publications she listed on her résumé because they weren't finding the publications in online searches, Ms. Wilson says.
So when Ms. Wilson, now 32, was pregnant with her first child, she ran every baby name she and her husband, Justin, considered through Google to make sure her baby wouldn't be born unsearchable. Her top choice: Kohler, an old family name that had the key, rare distinction of being uncommon on the Web when paired with Wilson. "Justin and I wanted our son's name to be as special as he is," she explains.
You know the lyrics: “Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me …”. But did you ever stop to wonder: how can anyone be expected to play a song melody on a tambourine?
Sherrod Brown on Adam Smith
Sherrod Brown writes, under his sub-heading: “The merits of tariffs”:
Weirdest Paragraph I Read Yesterday
The May 5th issue of The Economist (link here; sub req) contains this paragraph:
In Sweden, for example, academics are squabbling over calls to match their marking schemes with standardised Euro-grades, from A (excellent) to F for Fail. Students risk psychological harm, they fret, if visibly labelled successes or failures. Much better to stick with the two-level system of pass and fail .... Jacob Christensen, a political scientist at a Swedish university, Umea, suggested recently that Swedes "are expected to descend into deep psychological disorder as soon as they encounter disappointments in everyday life".
Huh? Both systems have a failure category; presumably a student who would be a failure under one system would be a failure in the other Indeed, the two-tier scheme creates the starker contrast between successes and failures. Yet somehow a system with various levels of success (A through D) will scar the psyches of fragile Swedes.
ADDENDUM: A reader offers the following explanation:
The point makes perfect sense to me (even though I am in favor of "conventional" A-F grading).
Let us assume that 10% of students fail in either scheme.
In one scheme, 90% are lumped together into the "passing" group, and none can say for sure that someone did better than them.
In the other scheme, perhaps 10% get As, 35% Bs, 35% Cs, and 10% Ds.
In the pass/fail scheme, only 10% of people can "encounter disappointments" (specifically, the disappointment of being outclassed), while in the ranked scheme, 90% of people encounter that disappointment.
ADDENDUM2: Here is a previous post on a related topic--the incentive effects of secret grades.
May 07, 2007
What denominations of notes and coins should we have?
Should Europe have EUR1 and EUR2 banknotes, as some are now proposing, rather than only coins in those denominations? Should the US no longer have a $1 bill, and instead only a coin in that denomination? Should we still have pennies?
I offer a general framework for resolving these questions in my latest op-ed at FMNN.com. Hint: I favor moving decisions about any product from the political sphere to the market sphere whenever possible. And here it's possible.
Paging Julian Simon
It's finally been said, by a "family planning" professor (whatever that is):
The scarily-named Optimum Population Trust says that families should have two rather than three kids for the sake of the planet. Prof. Guillebaud says that "when couples are planning a family they should be encouraged to think about the environmental consequences."
There is this curious bit: after the story describes how virtually all world population growth will come from poor, not wealthy, nations, Prof. Guillebaud says "rich countries should be the most concerned about family size as their children have higher per capita carbon dioxide emissions." So it seems that poor countries have too many kids and rich countries have too many wasteful kids. Of course, with fewer brains rich countries probably won't stay rich; they'll become poor and start spitting out rugrats again.
Well, let's reason this out. People of such mind usually perceive humans as a virus on the planet (thank you, Agent Smith), so why stop at two kids? The Optimum Population is obviously zero, when humans will no longer foul up the planet. It seems the Optimum Population Trust could be doing more effective things to reach this goal than releasing reports. Just ask Stalin, Mao, or Pol Pot, all unknowingly devoted to erasing carbon footprints from the world.
And why does it have to be fewer kids? Why can't we get rid of other people instead? Kids are too cute. Let's wait to see if Prof. Guillebaud becomes a martyr for his own cause. But I'm sure he'd tell us he's not the problem, it's "other people" who are the problem.
And don't trees like carbon dioxide? I wish these population-control types weren't so anti-arboreal.
Fox News Gets "The Diff"
Fox News has a sidebar displaying current polling results via Real Clear Politics. As a favor to the innumerate, Fox conviently reports the difference between the top two candidates. For background on "The Diff" click here.
HT: Jeff Hoffman.
Sen. Brown replies
I just received a phone call from Sen. Sherrod Brown. No kidding.
He was not pleased with my post about his commencement talk. To be fair to the Senator, I should note that he did not claim that Medicare and Medicaid were the only explanatory factors leading to increased life expectancy. He also mentioned public health, unions, workers compensation, etc., etc. Of course I'm sure we could debate the relative importance of these government initiatives versus the efforts of the private sector over the last century. I think the latter has done more to improve life expectancy and has typically done so in spite of the former; he thinks othewise. Ok. Fine. I had to listen to his (thankfully short) talk, and he had to endure my snarky blog post.
But my real objection (as in previous years) is the inappropriateness of a highly charged political talk at a commencement. The people in attendance on Saturday were there to see their graduates not to attend a political speech about the wonders of the progressive movement.
I would similarly object to a politicized talk given by a speaker who agreed with me. Of course, I won't hold my breath waiting for that to happen!
1. Arnold Kling has a lengthy post in response to Kevin Lang's book on poverty. Kling outlines three scenarios but he misses a fourth possibility which I discussed here (and Cowen hints at in his MR post on Lang's book).
2. Gary Becker apparently started thinking about the economics of crime when pondering whether to park illegally. I was reminded of the Beckerian notion of rational crime by a news item reporting that "China faces a looming baby boom as newly-rich couples find they can afford to pay fines incurred from having more than one child."
3. A proposal to allocate $950,000 to a green bean museum has caused a kerfuffle in SC. Gov Mark Sanford--perhaps the best in the country--calls the proposal wasteful pork. Museum proponents (story here; scroll down to the last paragraph) claim the museum will be a tourist attraction. It's almost enough to make one wish for a good old fashioned stadium boondoggle or bridge to nowhere.
4. I recently posted on a couple of drug war outrages in Atlanta. Readers wanting more on this topic should check out this post by Mark Perry of Carpe Diem; he has a link to a Cato article on botched drug raids and a map of places where such raids have happened.
May 06, 2007
Bang, bang, Maxwell's paper money hammer comes down
I have long been an interested observer of private alternatives to the fiat dollar like the silver-backed Liberty Dollar and the online bullion-transfer system e-gold.com. Due to the network property of a medium of exchange, I have been skeptical about either one spontaneously becoming commonly accepted, absent a meltdown of the fiat dollar (which historically used non-spontaneous legal muscle to displace gold and silver). But I haven’t been a complete cynic. A complete cynic would say: if alternative currencies were really a threat to the fiat dollar, they would be illegal.
Now it looks like complete cynicism is called for.
In September the US Mint and Department of Justice began hassling the Liberty Dollar operation. Now comes news that the Department of Justice has brought indictments against e-gold, Ltd., for alleged money laundering and operating a money transmitting service without a federal license.
Over at Financial Cryptography, Ian Grigg reports on the indictments. Here is InfoWorld’s account. The Department of Justice's press release is here. The actual text of the federal grand jury indictment is here.
Douglas Jackson, founder of e-gold.com, has responded to the charges in a letter.
May 05, 2007
Commencement Blues Part XII
Just got back from the university's commencement. Sigh.
The speaker was Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) who among many other irritating things said something to the effect that the increases in our life expectancy since 1900 are owed to government programs like "Medicaid and Medicare". To which, I reply:
Other DoL commencement related posts.
May 04, 2007
Atlanta's Drug War on Old Ladies
More outrages from the war on drugs:
Two months and a day before Kathryn Johnston, there was Frances Thompson.
The 80-year-old Thompson was in her bedroom the afternoon of Sept. 20, when she heard a terrible crash and shouting. Startled and confused, she grabbed a pistol and was immediately confronted by three Atlanta narcotics officers.
"They had masks covering their face. I thought I was being robbed," she recalled. "They pointed those big guns at me."
Lead officer Gary Smith said repeatedly "Police! Drop the Gun!" from behind his raid shield, according to a police report. Thompson, who had pointed the gun at the intruders, put down the black revolver as officers searched her apartment for a drug dealer named "Hollywood."
No one else was home. No drugs were found. And her pistol was a toy cap gun.
The raid at Thompson's home stunned the members of Atlanta Police Department's narcotics Team 1.
The near-disaster led five members of the team to seek a meeting with their boss, Sgt. Wilbert T. Stallings, according to John Garland, attorney for Jason R. Smith, one of the officers involved. Smith was one of two officers who pleaded guilty last week to killing 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston and lying to get a warrant for the fatal raid on Nov. 21.
"It was shocking enough for the officers to tell a superior, 'We've got to slow down or someone's going to get hurt,'" Garland said. "Everyone was shaken by it. They said, 'We need to take our time, to watch our CIs,' " their confidential informants.
Yet two months later — acting on what he was told was information from a confidential informant — shield man Gary Smith was wounded in a drug raid about a mile away, at the home of Kathryn Johnston. This time, the revolver brandished by the elderly resident was real, and she squeezed off an errant shot. The entry team responded with a 39-shot fusillade, killing Johnston.
No drugs were found in that case, either, except for the ones police planted in the basement.
The two incidents share striking similarities: Two elderly women living alone with guns; police battering in a door; faulty reports from street-level dealers helping narcotics officers; and police parsing the truth, if not outright lying.
The parking meter's 75th anniversary
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the invention of the parking meter. As any economist might guess, the parking meter was developed to ration scarce on-street parking, specifically to keep commuters from parking all day in curbside spots that downtown storeowners wanted to leave available for shoppers. As you might not guess, the meter was first introduced in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
The invention is credited to Carl C. Magee, an attorney and newspaper editor who had been asked by the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce to address the problem of oil company workers taking up all of the downtown parking spaces. According to Dianna Everett in the Oklahoma Historical Society’s Encyclopedia of Oklahoma:
Magee decided that the situation required the invention of a small, windable, inexpensively made, mechanical device to "time" the use of each parking space. In 1932 he designed and built a crude model and on December 21, 1932, filed for a patent. In order to refine the concept and build a real working prototype, he joined forces with the Oklahoma State University Engineering Department. … Professor H. G. Thuesen joined the project soon afterward and enlisted the help of Gerald A. Hale, former engineering student and 1927 OSU graduate. For the new model, dubbed the "Black Maria," they created the interior parts; a local plumber made the exterior shell. By late 1933 McGee, Thuesen, and Hale began looking for a manufacturer.
Magee filed for a patent on the improved device in May 1935 and received it in 1938. The Magee-Hale Park-O-Meter Company manufactured meters in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The first parking meters were installed in July 1935 in Oklahoma City. Photos of Magee and of the first meters are available here. One of the first meters is currently on display in the Oklahoma History Center in OKC.
Were parking meters an immediate success? They were, of course, unpopular with the commuters who could no longer park all day in prime spots at a zero price. According to Scott Cooper in the current issue of the Oklahoma Gazette, the mayor of Oklahoma City denied responsibility for the meters; the city manager refused to pose for photos with them. But, according to the website of POM, Inc., the successor to the firm Magee founded, the meters were popular with storeowners, because they freed space for shoppers exactly as intended:
Their first production run of parking meters was installed on one side of the street in downtown Oklahoma City on July 16, 1935. Business was so affected by the parking meters after only three days, the merchants on the other side of the street demanded that parking meters be installed in front of their businesses as well.
See also The Parking Meter Page.
Why Can't We All Get Prosperity?
Answer: We CAN. Letting some people lose their jobs is the key.
Read More »
The road to prosperity for a nation is to find ways to get more from less. To make the pie bigger, you have to find a more effective way to combine people, machines and raw materials. Technology is one way this happens. Trade is another. In modern America, we get richer, paradoxically, by putting people out of work, by finding production techniques that make the remaining labor force in a particular factory or industry more productive. Sometimes that happens by using a new production process. Sometimes it happens by importing something more cheaply than we can make it domestically. (In this essay and in my book, The Choice, I try and show how these two forces are really the same.) This is the story of manufacturing in the United States over the last fifty years. A lot fewer people are involved producing steel and cars but their output is much greater. Trade lets us produce additional steel and cars the roundabout way—by swapping goods and assets for steel and cars. I suspect producing those goods and assets also involves many fewer people than was the case in the past.
« Close It
Capitalist acts between consenting adults?
Officials at a high school have suspended a 19-year-old seen punching another student in the jaw in a video posted on MySpace.com.
May 03, 2007
"Markets in Everything"
Buy a U.S. Embassy!
Apologies to MR.
David Henderson on the AMT
Lott v. Levitt Update
Oct. 1 has been set as the trial date, and Lott has a book coming out (click the link to see its cover).
May 02, 2007
On baseball salaries c. 1907
The May 2, 1907 NYT reports from Albany, NY:
A decision of interest to baseball magnates and players was handed down yesterday by the Court of Appeals against the New York Baseball Club of the National League and in favor of Fred Pfeffer. Pfeffer was under contract by which he claimed he was to receive $2,400 a year and $600 additional for playing to the best of his ability. He claimed to have been suspended unjustly, it being charged he was not in playing condition. He sued for $800 and interest. His claim was afterward assigned to Frank Russell, who has finally won after a long litigation.Fred Pfeffer played professional baseball from 1882 through 1897. In 1896 he played four games with the New York Giants (the NL team) and had 14 at bats with 2 hits. Later that year he was traded or resigned with the Chicago Cubs and played 94 games with 88 hits in 360 at bats (a batting average of .244 - not great but not terrible).
Thus, the salary in question was from the 1896 season. The story doesn't report on the total amount of interest involved, but assuming an interest rate of 5% (high or low?), the entire award would amount to approximately $1300. If Russell took a thirty percent contingency fee (high or low? I admit I don't know what the norm was back then), this would leave Pfeffer with $871.
If we assume the $800 represents the economic damages incurred for being fired, and the base salary was $2,400, this would imply that Pfeffer's reservation wage (essentially the value of his best alternative to baseball for the NY Giants) was around $1,600. His reservation wage might have been considerably lower than this, which would have implied a larger claim in the law suit, but he might have chosen the amount for which to sue in a strategic fashion. *
One more player observation on baseball salaries doesn't help a whole lot, but let's take a crack at "robust inference on one observation" (my forthcoming Nobel-winning magnum opus).
Fred Pfeffer was an average hitter, especially as he primarily played second base and shortstop (positions that historically weren't expected to generate above-average batting numbers). Pfeffer's career statistics were a .255 batting average, a .312 on base percentage, and a .369 slugging percentage; all fair-to-middling' numbers. If the salary for an average player like Pfeffer was $2,400 but Pfeffer's reservation wage was somewhere in the area of $1,600, perhaps Pfeffer (and other players?) had more negotiating power under the reserve clause than is generally believed.**
The negotiated wage between Pfeffer and the Giants fell between Pfeffer's reservation wage and Pfeffer's marginal revenue product. What was his MRP? My work with Ashcraft suggested that the average ratio of MRP to wages amongst the best players in the game during the 1880s averaged 2.5. Thus, the so-called contract zone might have had a lower bound of $1,600 and an upper bound of $6,000. This would suggest that Pfeffer was able to negotiate about 18% of the $4,400 difference between his MRP and reservation wage, with the team keeping the rest of the difference.
This would seem to be back-of-the-envelope-consistent with the numbers in the Ashcraft-Depken piece.
How cool is that.
* HT to colleague Mike Ward for ealier discussion that led to this post.
** [tongue-in-cheek] My magnum opus titled "Robust Inference on One Observation - How to Win Every Argument Every Time" is replete with sentences filled with parentheticals, and hypotheticals. Unfortunately, publishers (okay, one) have taken a dim view of my work from which I can only conclude that all publishers are idiots.
Cross posted at Heavy Lifting
On coaches salaries c. 1907
The May 2, 1907 NYT reports from Princeton, N.J.:
George R. Murray, the general athletic Treasurer for Princeton University, to-day gave out the statement of the baseball association for the half year ended Jan. 1, 1907. The report shows a net profit of $11,78.34 for the season. The heaviest expenses being the coaches' salaries, $4,844.92, and training table, $3,159.11.Princeton baseball coaches were paid 103,865 2005 CPI adjusted dollars. That's considerably lower than coaches today are paid (en masse). The Department of Education and the NCAA gather data on athletic department budgets, primarily for Title IX concerns. In 2003, the last year public data are available, Princeton paid the average men's head coach $77,550 and the average men's assistant coach $56,200.
If the men's baseball team had 1 head coach and three assistant coaches. I don't have access to the actual salaries of these four individuals, but if they are paid the average at Princeton, total coaching salaries would total $246,000.
Are coaches today worth twice (in real terms) as they were 100 years ago, assuming Princeton coaches are paid the average salaries at Princeton? This would imply a growth rate in coaches real salaries of approximately 1.4% per year. I might believe that growth rate, after all has the marginal productivity of a good baseball coach changed all that much over the past 100 years? Moreover, as baseball is rarely a revenue generating sport (and it doesn't seem to be at Princeton), the value of marginal product is likely changing very little.
Granted, if the Princeton coaches are paid more than the average, then the growth rate would be a bit higher. However, the increase in coaches salaries have been greatest in football and basketball (both men's and women's) where the greatest amount of rents are gathering and with the players not being paid those rents are being distributed (to some extent) to the coaches of those particular sports.
Whether there is any largess for the coaches of non-revenue generating sports (where coaches likely have lower opportunity costs, lower productivity gains, and lower amounts of rent-generation) is an interesting empirical question. I am not sure if the data to answer that question are readily available, but it would prove an interesting dissertation topic.
May 01, 2007
This can only end well...
It's hard to tell who the bad guy is from the headline: "Chavez seizes control from Big Oil"
But, luckily we've come to a point in the history of the English language that the nobility of motives can be easily determined by the presence or lack thereof of "Big" before the name of your industry.
Chavez must be thinking the same thing I do whenever I see the US soccer team enter the pitch at the start of every World Cup: "Maybe THIS time it will work!" But, at least he decided to seize control on the day where I lecture on the institutions that promote economic growth.
Now, I have to get back to supporting Big Education (if you can call it that in Louisiana).
How SARBOX may be creating MORE white collar crime
The neoclassical law and econ story says increasing fines and reducing monitoring/prosecution costs is an efficient enforcement strategy--same amount of crime, less prosecution and incarceration costs. Lots of research has shown that SARBOX simply shifted and increased compliance costs. Add selection effects to the pool of potential criminals, however, and SARBOX can lead to more white collar crime. From this new SSRN working paper: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=981064.
Although the common law's embrace of a mens rea requirement in the criminal law reflected an advance - on both moral and efficiency grounds - over ancient law, recent legal developments suggest an unfortunate return to what are, in effect, strict liability crimes. Some modern criminal laws have explicitly abandoned any mens rea requirement, creating de jure strict liability; more commonly and insidiously, criminal laws applicable to many regulated industries are so ambiguously drafted, and entail such severe penalties, that the effect of the law is what we call de facto strict liability. In this article, we argue that these two trends - soaring penalties for corporate crimes and dilution of a mens rea requirement - could have the paradoxical consequence of creating more corporate crime and not, as the standard story goes, less.
The statesman who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals would not only load himself with a most unnecessary attention, but assume an authority which could safely be trusted, not only to no single person, but to no council or senate whatever, and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it. -Adam Smith
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E. Frank Stephenson
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By Month:November 2013
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