Division of Labour: January 2011 Archives
January 31, 2011
On license plates c. 1911

I wonder why the state is involved with auto licensing. It would seem that many of the things the state wants - tax revenue, ability to track automobiles (on behalf of both the state and individuals), and so forth - could be privatized. If it could be (and perhaps it has been and I am just not aware of it) then why not? I haven't had a lot of time to think this through, but the thought was brought back to the front of my mind while reading this op-ed piece from the Jan. 31, 1911 NYT:

Under the operation of the Callan automobile law the manufacturers of motor cars are obliged to lend to purchasers for a period of fifteen days duplicate license tags bearing their numbers. The purchaser is supposed to obtain within the fortnight his own license number by a tedious process of application to the Secretary of State. Through delay, neglect, or loss, the manufacturer tags are frequently not returned. Chauffeurs, particularly, are fond of keeping and using them for "joy rides." If they come to grief, the civil and criminal liability to damages to persons and property is avoided. The "joy riders" escape, and suits are brought against the dealers who license tags were used.

The lending of tags to purchasers should be done away with. In the first place, they should have the privilege of obtaining their own numbers without [unreadable] and upon the filing of their applications, with the amount of license fee. When the Callan law went into effect the owners of motor cars were subjected to needless inconvenience through the cumbrous process of registration. Secondly, dealers ought not to be placed in a position where they would incur, even for a day, a liability that should attach to the owners and drivers of motor cars. We understand that the manufacturers have signed a petition to Secretary Lazansky, asking him to empower a deputy to issue licenses direct to purchasers at the time of purchase, upon evidence that the purchaser has complied with the requirements of the law. That is a sensible appeal. The manufacturers are confident that the things it asks for are practicable, and that they would afford relief to all concerned.

Yet another addition to the "things never change" drawer.

Posted by Craig Depken at 04:28 PM in Politics

On public angst about corporations c. 1911

From the Jan 31, 1911 NYT:

BOSTON - Speaking before the Chamber of Commerce here to-night, William G. McAdoo, President of the Hudson-Manhattan Railroad Company of New York, dwelt particularly on the manner in which the public should be treated by large corporations....

Mr. McAdoo said that the deep-rooted prejudice against corporations had arisen from dishonest management, which resulted in grave losses to investors, abuse of power and of opportunity, corrupt practices in politics, and arrogant and arbitrary methods in dealing with the public. He was not hostile to corporations, he declared, but desired to see justice done both sides.

And the mixed economy is 100 years down the road. How bad would Mr. McAdoo think it is today?

Posted by Craig Depken at 04:17 PM in Economics

January 29, 2011
Have I missed it?

Why isn't the American Left collapsing in paroxisms of giddy glee over the unfolding events in Egypt? Consider: (1) Most American Left of my acquiantance express the opinion that the American Right is basically equivalent to Mubarak's police state, so a popular uprising against a police state there should encourage people here, right? (2) Suppose that, when the Islamic Brotherhood takes power in Egypt, it turns out that they've been telling the truth for decades. They have renounced violence, and their interest is fair and honest government. That's a poke in the eye to the American Right, who have said that the Islamic Brotherhood is an organization that wants to kill all non-Muslims, right? (3) Suppose the Islamic Brotherhood has been lying and immediately declares jihad on all infidels. They'll immediately close the Suez to oil shipments, and drive the price of oil well over $100/bbl. That will totally re-boot non-oil energy research in the West, which the Leftists (well, Left Greenies--often the same people) have demanded for years, right?

Posted by Noel Campbell at 12:10 PM

Oh, the irony

This time it's the Egyptians saying to Pharaoh, "Let my people go!" What a pity Chuck Heston isn't available to play El Baradei in the forthcoming movie.

Posted by Noel Campbell at 12:00 PM

January 28, 2011
Hope and Change--Credit Card Interest Rate Edition

Interest rates are now hovering near record highs, at an average rate of 14.72%. And if your credit is bad enough, you could even end up with a rate as high as 59.9% APR.

That's because while the CARD Act helped crack down on certain fees and requires more disclosures, it didn't cap every credit card holder's worst enemy: interest rates.

Sure, the new rules prevent banks from raising most interest rates retroactively, but there's no limit on the rates they can charge new customers.

"Rates are going up because card issuers know that once you get a card they can't raise the rates, so they're raising rates on the front end to ensure they get the revenue from that interest," said Beverly Harzog, credit card expert at Credit.com.


See also Todd Zywicki's WSJ piece: Dodd-Frank and the Return of the Loan Shark

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 05:00 PM in Economics

If It Keeps Them Busy--Bird Noises Edition

Cuckoo, maybe. Then again pols often spend their time and taxpayer dollars doing more harmful things:

It may sound like a bird-brained idea, but the mayor of Lancaster wants to brighten up the Mojave Desert city by broadcasting recorded bird songs.

R. Rex Parris proposed the idea during his State of the City talk on Monday.

The Antelope Valley Press says Parris wants to play the bird chatter from loudspeakers on Lancaster Boulevard. The mayor says there’s science to show that listening to birdsong makes people happier.


Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 04:51 PM

Two cents of snark...

...re: "Win the Future" theme in SOTU speech. Was anyone else singing to themselves the Black Sabbath tune, Supernaut? You know, "I've seen the future and I leave it all behind."

Posted by Noel Campbell at 10:14 AM

January 27, 2011
Un Discurso de postre

Mi amiga linda Carolina gives me a chance to talk about the SOTU in El Mercurio.

And she quoted me accurately, because I did say "Fue un discurso 'de postre': dulce cuando lo estás comiendo, pero después te sientes con sueño y algo lento y te preguntas qué había en él", añadió.

That is, "It was a dessert speech: sweet while you were listening, but afterwards you felt all sleepy and sluggish, and wondered what was in it."

Posted by Michael Munger at 12:26 PM in Politics

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Federal Agency Headquarters Leave Lights On In DC

Completely unsurprising--the folks who hector me about my light bulbs, my washing machine, and the fuel my car burns don't even bother to turn off the lights when they leave for the evening.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:15 AM

Mother Nature Likes Divided Government Too!

Snow Creating Gridlock in DC

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:12 AM

January 26, 2011
On voluntary taxation c. 1911

From the January 26, 1911 NYT:

WELLESLEY, Mass - To collect funds toward the $100,000 building fund at Wellesley College the students have adopted the plan of holding "silence" parties.

At these gatherings a girl, who is seen to smile is fined 1 cent. If she laughs the penalty is 5 cents. If she so far forgets herself as to talk, each sentence she utters costs her 10 cents.

A considerable sum of money has already been taken in.

Posted by Craig Depken at 11:36 AM in Economics

January 25, 2011
Art Carden on the SOTU

Co-blogger Art Carden after last year's SOTU:

Barack Obama, the orator and politician, talks about hope and change. Steve Jobs, the innovator and capitalist, delivers it.

Reading the whole thing will be a far better use of time than watching this year's SOTU.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:51 AM

Someone needs to call Diebold

A friend on facebook linked me to this:

"There's times when we don't break for lunch, and we don't break for dinner, we don't have bathroom breaks..." It would seem an obvious solution, rather than vote fraud, would be to stop passing so much legislation.

I'm sure there's a dissertation here. Public choice scores again.

Posted by Tim Shaughnessy at 11:35 AM in Politics

January 24, 2011
In Soviet Russia, board walks on you!

For your friends who aren't enamored with laissez-faire and know that, even though it's failed miserably everywhere it's been tried and is only successful at killing gobs of people, communism WILL work, there is an ideologically-friendly version of Monopoly:

'Communist Monopoly' Teaches Downside of Socialist Life

A Polish research institute has developed a board game to teach young people about life under Communism. In the game, which is inspired by Monopoly, players must wait in endless lines at stores for scarce goods. For added realism, they have to put up with people cutting in line and products running out -- unless they have a "colleague in the government" card.

The only problem is that it's all in Polish and presumably they remember how crappy things were back then.

P.S. Post title reference

Posted by Tim Shaughnessy at 03:37 PM in Economics

Incentives Matter: Jimmy John's Edition

I got introduced to Jimmy John's while in college. It's a good alternative to the other typical sub shops out there. The founder is thinking of relocating the headquarters from Illinois (which just raised its income and corporate tax rates) to Florida (no income tax).

Bonus teachable moment for principles students: Jimmy John's advertises that, along with its subs, it's "smells are free." I'm not sure why they would want that slogan on a pair of boxer shorts though. Is there truly a zero cost to obtaining nice smells at Jimmy John's?

Posted by Tim Shaughnessy at 03:22 PM in Economics

On Financial Regulation c. 1911

From the Jan. 24, 1911 NYT:

ALBANY - Senator Stephen J. Stilwell, Chairman of the Senate Codes Committee, introduced to-day a bill strengthening the provisions of the Penal Code in relation to stock transactions. It prohibits "short" sales and sales of stocks upon credit or margin, wherein both parties intend that such contract be of a speculative nature and not purchase for investment.
File in the "things never change" drawer.

Posted by Craig Depken at 02:00 PM in Economics

2011 Mises Seminar

From today's inbox. I highly recommend that all young scholars submit an abstract. IBL does things right and it is a great experience.

Dear friends,

In the Fall of each year, Istituto Bruno Leoni organizes a Mises Seminar in Sestri Levante, hosting young scholars from many different countries, carefully selected among the many applications submitted.

The Seminar is titled after Ludwig von Mises, the great Austrian economist that tutored Murray Rothbard and several important thinkers and is emerging as a significant event in the cultural life of contemporary classical liberalism, offering a distinguished audience to a few brilliant young libertarian scholars.

IBL will host some young (under-35) researchers. Each scholar or team of scholars will present a paper to be posted on this website a few weeks before the date of the Seminar.

During the Seminar itself, the paper will be briefly presented by their respective authors and commented by a scholar from an academic or a research establishment and, immediately thereafter, will be discussed by the audience.

The Seminar will be held in English and attendance is open to all.

The Eighth Mises Seminar will be held in Sestri Levante (Italy), October 8-9.

The theme discussed will be: Freedom and the Law. Rules and Institutions in a Free-Market Society

The keynote speakers of this year's edition will be
Leszek Balcerowicz
Former Polish Minister of Finances and former Chairman of the Polish Central Bank
Vernon L. Smith
Professor of Economics at Chapman University and 2002 Nobel Laureate in Economics


Call for Papers

Freedom and the Law. Rules and Institutions in a Free-Market Society

We call for young scholars to submit to our attention an essay for the Seminar
The topic can be investigated from the perspective of economics, philosophy, law, sociology, history, economic history.

Authors are invited to submit a proposal of about 500 words, in English to Dr Carlo Lottieri (carlo.lottieri@brunoleoni.it) not later than February 28th, 2011.

IBL will then select the best submissions and inform the candidates accordingly by March 30.
Conference paper (max. lenght 40.000 characters, in English) are to be submitted to IBL by July 1st 2011.

All travel and boarding expenses of the selected authors will be paid for by Istituto Bruno Leoni.

Informations concerning the presentation of papers, registration fees, accomodation and other logistic aspects will be provided later, through IBL’s web-site: www.brunoleoni.it

Posted by Joshua Hall at 11:08 AM in Admin

January 21, 2011
Deficit Reduction, Greg Mankiw Style

Prof. Mankiw makes a generous offer. Perhaps I should also be willing to make such a sacrifice.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:25 AM

January 20, 2011
Organ markets c. 1911

From the Jan. 20, 1911 NYT:

LONDON - The Daily News says that an American millionaire has purchased for $50,000 Liszt's organ, which was built in the United States in the course of one of his tours.

The organ was used later both by Wagner and Schumann.

Okay - the story wasn't about these organ markets - sorry.

Posted by Craig Depken at 11:03 AM in Economics

The good old days - textile edition - c. 1911

From the Jan. 20, 1911 NYT:

The supply of cotton in the United States for the year ending Aug. 31 last was 12,188,021 bales, or 20 per cent. less than that of the previous year, according to the Census Bureau's annual review of the cotton supply. Of that amount 52 per cent. was exported, or 6,339,028 running bales, values at $460,868,020. Of this cotton 38 per cent. went to the United Kingdom, 30 per cent. to Germany, 15 per cent. to France; these three countries taking about five-sixths of the total quantity exported.


The total value of exported cotton goods for domestic manufacture for the year ended June 30, 1910, amounted to $33,398,672, whereas the imports of cotton manufacturers into the United States during the same year amounted to $66,473,143 in value.

Posted by Craig Depken at 11:01 AM in Economics

Hey Ohio - thanks for nothing c. 1911

From the Jan 20, 1911 NYT:


Amendment Now Ratified by Legislatures of Ten States

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Jan. 19 - By a vote of 100 to 3 the House to-day concurred in the action of the Senate in adopting the resolution providing for the approval of the income tax amendment to the United States Constitution.

Posted by Craig Depken at 10:54 AM in Economics

More on negative externalities c. 1911

From the Jan. 20, 1911 NYT:

The Aldermen's law Committee will hold a public hearing in City Hall next Thursday afternoon on the ordinance introduced by Alderman Alexander S. Drescher of Brownsville to limit the length of hatpins. The measure fixes a penalty of $50 [$1,180 in 2010 CPI adjusted dollars] for the wearing of a pin which protrudes more than half an inch from the crown of a hat.
Oh boy.

Posted by Craig Depken at 10:52 AM in Economics

Probably Just a Coincidence

President Obama took to the pages of the WSJ to announce that his administration is going to focus on eliminating unnecessary regulations. Wags can rightfully ask why he waited two years into his term to address this issue or why we should expect anything more from this than from his empty campaign promise to go through the budget page by page and line by line to find savings or why we should expect someone who has increased burdensome regulations to make any serious dent in reducing them.

All reasonable questions, but there's another possibility. Perhaps the timing is related to the gearing up of the 2012 campaign. What better way to gin up some contributions from businesses than to agree, wink wink, to prune regulations harmful to contributors? Maybe too cynical, maybe not. After all, lots of Obama supporters are getting Obamacare waivers.

tag: public choice has a high R2

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:43 AM

The Anti-Illinois

That's how the WSJ described Georgia because of a proposed that reform that would reduce marginal tax rates and broaden the income and sales tax bases. My take, written for the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, appears in several newspapers around the state.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:29 AM

January 18, 2011
On negative externalities c. 1911

From a letter to the editor of the Jan. 18, 1911 NYT:

I was pleased to see the article in your columns the other day in reference to the proposed law regulating the length of hatpins. There is no question in my mind as to the need for such a law, for thousands are daily in danger of serious damage to their eyesight, face, or hands by protruding hatpins. Women should be considerate enough to either protect the points or wear shorter pins.
I might add they could wear higher heels to promote the hat and accompanying hat pins above the heads of their fellow citizens. The letter goes on:
Many are, but for those who are not, a law is necessary, and it should be enacted without delay.
{sarcasm}The letter writer does not suggest at what point in the distribution of hat-pins the regulation should be enforced. One would suspect that hat-pin manufacturers would be required to limit the length of the hat pin, but would this not then require hat manufacturers to change hats to accommodate the reduced length, and would this forced change in hat design impart potentially catastrophic damage to the social welfare of hat wearers and admirers alike?

While requiring new hat-pins to meet new safety standards might address the letter-writer's concerns for future hat-pin encounters, the letter writer does not address what society should do with what might have been millions of hat-pins that were already distributed around the city, state and country. Whether the government should seize the hatpins, a la gold in the 1930s, or offer hat-pin buy-back programs, a la guns-off-the-streets programs of today, is not clear. It would seem rather inefficient to police the length of hat-pins at the individual hat-wearer level, but then a bureau of hat-pin enforcement would likely provide a nice set of patronage jobs. {\sarcasm}

On the one hand such regulation seems to address a negative externality, but in my mind might add a negative externality - that is, the government and the citizenry start to expect and accept such regulations which ultimate erode personal liberty to the quick. The modern day equivalents of limiting light-bulb wattage, limiting access to Vitamin C supplements, and questioning whether lawn darts are a good gift for six year olds, seem to be a continuance of the demand expressed by the letter writer.

Except for the liberty-restricting nature of such regulations, one wonders if it it is perhaps better for the legislature to spend their limited time on regulations such as this rather than bigger ideas that often seem to be accompanied by even bigger attacks on personal liberty.

Posted by Craig Depken at 03:36 PM in Economics

January 17, 2011
162 Years and Still Dismal!

MLK Day is good time to (re)read how economics came to be known as the dismal science.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 03:24 PM

January 15, 2011
Death by Market Power: Reform, Competition and Patient Outcomes in the National Health Service

Surprise, surprise, surprise--competition leads to better outcomes for hospital patients. The abstract of a new NBER WP:

The effect of competition on the quality of health care remains a contested issue. Most empirical estimates rely on inference from non experimental data. In contrast, this paper exploits a pro-competitive policy reform to provide estimates of the impact of competition on hospital outcomes. The English government introduced a policy in 2006 to promote competition between hospitals. Patients were given choice of location for hospital care and provided information on the quality and timeliness of care. Prices, previously negotiated between buyer and seller, were set centrally under a DRG type system. Using this policy to implement a difference-in-differences research design we estimate the impact of the introduction of competition on not only clinical outcomes but also productivity and expenditure. Our data set is large, containing information on approximately 68,000 discharges per year per hospital from 162 hospitals. We find that the effect of competition is to save lives without raising costs. Patients discharged from hospitals located in markets where competition was more feasible were less likely to die, had shorter length of stay and were treated at the same cost.
Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 04:21 PM in Economics


A photo I took in the men's room of a local restaurant last night.

Restroom Fail.jpg

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 03:58 PM

January 14, 2011
Fashion as timeless

It's been a long time since I've posted here about fashion. That isn't a coincidence, as I've been preoccupied with other things and basically just really lazy of late. But here is a gem of a passage I've just come across again today. I am always interested by when it was written.

Fashion is one of the greatest forces in present-day life. It pervades every field and reaches every class. Fashion leads business and determines its direction. It has always been a factor in human life but never more forceful, never more influential and never wider in scope than in the last decade and it gives every indication of growing still more important.

That is the first paragraph of the Preface to Paul H. Nystrom's fascinating Economics of Fashion, published by Roland Press in 1928.

Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 05:36 PM in Economics

Truth in Economics: Do Economists Need a Code of Conduct?

Another interesting question and discussion from The Economist blog. I found the responses by Paul Seabright, Lane Pritchett, and Tyler Cowen the most compelling. All three suggest that the problem is at least two-fold, with an economists' code addressing only one of the folds. Like Alfred Marshall's scissors analogy, it takes two blades to cut a piece of paper. Absent some way to correct deep and various biases among the "consumers" of economics research, a "code of conduct" on the producers of economics research will be futile and its only value will be a symbolic one.

The larger issue of truth in economics is treated nicely by the edited volume, Economic Policy Under Uncertainty: The Role of Truth and Accountability in Policy Advice (edited by Peter Mooslechner, Helene Schuberth, and Martin Schurz), Edward Elgar 2004. I reviewed this book for the 2006 Journal of Markets & Morality.

The thrust of the volume is in addressing the meaning of truth and its role in economic policy advice. Truth as the word is used in this collection, is a concept that economics has ignored for decades. Smoothing its edges quite a bit, truth amounts to a concern about whether policymakers are receiving information and analysis that is the closest to the economic problem in reality and that is most likely to predict the actual effects of alternative policy options. Thus, we are concerned with whether policy advice is realistic or biased or uncertain, and so on.


This is an intriguing exercise. If economists as a society were to draft a constitution with, among others, one objective being the formation of true policy advice, what would the constitution look like? By this chapter’s lights, the profession would have to instill greater openness of discourse, transparency, and accountability. Some specific recommendations include making data from empirical studies publicly available, allowing or requiring empirical results to be reestimated by disinterested economists, and divorcing the generation of economic policy advice from organizations dedicated to advancing narrow or political interests. The expectation is that economics would evolve into a social science in which individual scientists advance their theories as forcefully as possible under the expectation that others in the discipline will have the incentives to reject others’ theories in favor of their own.

An equally intriguing counterpoint ... might be to ask why such order within the discipline would not emerge without constitutional design. Several economists have acquired first-rate reputations deconstructing others’ arguments and results, or at least serving as umpires within their fields (Deirdre McCloskey, Bennett McCallum, David Laband, and Dan Klein, to name a few). Prominent economists routinely duke it out on weblogs devoted to current events and policy commentary. Increasingly, more formal outlets, such as Econ Journal Watch, also serve as checks and balances on policy prescriptions of economists everywhere. Such casual observations suggest that a level of mutual accountability continues to evolve among the competing producers of economic policy ideas, a point that seems to be given short shrift in the volume.

...and also given short shrift in The Economist forum.

The economic philosophers Guido Pincione and Fernando Teson also analyze economic "truth" in their 2006 book, Rational Choice and Democratic Deliberation (Caplan's Myth before Caplan's Myth). My review of this book turns the question of "truth" onto politicians and can be found here on the DoL archives.

Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 12:14 PM in Economics

January 13, 2011
The Only Sure Things Are Death and Taxes

Family charged 'death tax' for baby who lived one hour

(The story is not as outrageous as the headline makes it seem.)

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 04:11 PM

On Rare Earths and Predatory Pricing

One sometimes hears fears that large firms might engage in so-called predatory pricing. The nefarious behavior goes something like this: the big firm slashes prices to levels that result in it and its competitors incurring losses. Smaller competitors are supposedly less capable of withstanding losses and leave the industry before the large firm. The large firm then has a monopoly and raises its prices to earn large profits.

There are many ways to poke at this notion and I don't know of any instances of it actually occurring. (Large airlines are sometimes accused of acting this way toward startups.) An obvious question, however, is why don't the small firms re-open when the big meany raises its prices. A recent article in the WSJ reminded me of exactly this point; a snip:

Responding to China's recent squeeze on the global supply of rare earths, a U.S. company plans to reopen its mine that produces the unusual metals, which are critical to making high-tech products ranging from iPhones to electric cars.

The Mountain Pass mine was at one time the world's dominant rare-earth supplier. But mining was suspended in 2002 amid environmental complaints, including that its wastewater had damaged the desert's delicate ecosystem. In the years that followed, China achieved world dominance in the production of rare-earth metals, in part by shunning costly environmental controls.

It's true that the mine closed because of environmental concerns not because of so-called predatory pricing, but notice how the mine is being reopened because of difficulty obtaining rare earths from China. There's no reason the same could not occur in response to predatory pricing.

This article also nicely illustrates Thomas Sowell's wisdom that there are not solutions only tradeoffs.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:18 AM in Economics

Did the Clean Air Act Affect Pollution?

While home enjoying the snowpocalypse over the past couple of days, I got around to reading the Bill Gates/Matt Ridley exchange in the WSJ. This part of Gates's piece caught my eye:

I asked Ken Caldeira, a scientist who studies global ecology at the Carnegie Institution for Science, to look over this part of the book. He pointed out that Mr. Ridley celebrates declining air-pollution emissions in the U.S. but does not acknowledge that this has come about because of government regulations based on publicly funded science, which Mr. Ridley opposes.

Well, it just happens that my former student Shawn Regan recently posted on SO2 trends before and after enactment of the Clean Air Act. The punch line, depicted in the diagram below, is that there was already a downward trend before the CAA was implemented and it is difficult to discern any benefit from the legislation. (A similar point can be made about OSHA regs.)


Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:21 AM in Economics

January 11, 2011
Is the U.S. justice system broken? Transcript now available

Last month I had the opportunity to talk about my book, The Pursuit of Justice: Law and Economics of Legal Institutions, with an audience of 75 people and two distinguished panelists, David Friedman and Alex Kozinski. And now, The Independent Institute, who hosted the book forum, has generously made the transcript available (text or audio). Here is the transcript. Here's a page describing the event. And here's a page with the book contents, description, and link for purchase. Enjoy.

Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 11:19 AM in Economics

Econ 102 assignment

Please explain whether (1) this proposal makes sense within the framework of Keynesian macroeconomics, and (2) makes sense within the framework of microeconomics.

Posted by Lawrence H. White at 12:23 AM in Economics

January 10, 2011
Very high transaction costs

Developers demolish all the stairways of a building in bid to evict family on the seventh storey


HT: a former student from my law & econ class.

Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 03:56 PM in Economics

January 08, 2011
On the Fraudulent Vaccines and Autism Study

The revelation that a 1998 article in the British medical journal Lancet has been in the news over the past few days. The thing that caught my eye about the episode is that the paper apparently studied only 12 children with autism:

The analysis, by British journalist Brian Deer, found that despite the claim in Wakefield's paper that the 12 children studied were normal until they had the MMR shot, five had previously documented developmental problems.

Fraudulent or not, a sample size of 12 seems ridiculously low to warrant publication. Makes me wonder about the editorial standards of this supposedly prestigious journal.

UPDATE (1/12)--Below the fold

Read More »

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:27 PM

January 06, 2011
Want a Crappy Meal Kids?

Aasif Mandvi's take on SF's happy meal nanny-statism:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
San Francisco's Happy Meal Ban
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>The Daily Show on Facebook
Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:28 AM

I'm So Confused

This morning's installment of Marxist Place discussed the economic effects of flooding in Australia. The story focused on the disruption to interational steel production caused by disruption of coking coal from Australia. While this disruption is unfortunate, I don't see how the story could overlook the obvious stiimulative benefits of having to clean up and rebuild after the flooding (a second dose of which is apparently on the way from more forthcoming rain). After all, hurricanes stimulate and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman tells us that flying airplanes into buildings "could even do some economic good." So it seems only natural to expect that flooding will lead our Aussie friends to increased prosperity.

P.S. New York is expecting another 6-9 inches of stimulative snow to add to the great bounty that it reaped just days ago.


Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:42 AM in Economics

January 05, 2011
The Locavore's Dilemma: Why Pineapples Shouldn't Be Grown in North Dakota

That's the title of Jayson L. Lusk and F. Bailey Norwood's Econlib article. An excerpt:

Local foods travel fewer miles, but an environmentalist must be concerned with more than the tailpipe emissions from farm to market. Consumers must also travel to buy their food, and the variety of foods offered in supermarkets minimizes the need to make multiple trips. An extra trip by a consumer to the farmers' market is likely to expend more energy than was saved by reducing the distance the food travels. Moreover, fresh local foods often require more at-home preparation, where energy use is less efficient relative to that of large-scale processing facilities.

The truth is that the energy expended transporting food is relatively unimportant. According to USDA-ERS data, consumers spent $880.7 billion on food in 2006. Only four percent of these expenditures can be attributed to post-farm transportation costs. One recent study indicated that over 80 percent of the global-warming impacts of food consumption occur at the farm, and only ten percent are due to transportation.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:13 AM in Economics

Today is ...

... the first Kennedy free day of my life. Not that the remaining Congressional overlords are much more tolerable.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:07 AM

January 04, 2011
All The Devils Are Here Review

I just finished reading Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera's book All The Devils Are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis. (Thanks to the Penguin Group for the review copy). Basically the book is a must have for the nuts and bolts of the mortgage market leading up to the financial crisis. McLean and Nocera weave and detailed and interesting story about the individuals involved in creating and growing subprime lending and CDOs. It is not really a book to read for analysis of how to prevent future financial problems as much as it is a good story of the run-up to the financial crisis. It would make a great book to assign for a regulation or public policy course, as I think students would walk away from a reading of the book with very different impressions of what should be done moving forward.

Posted by Joshua Hall at 04:52 PM in Economics

An Interesting Observation by Ben Powell

Ben Powell writes on Facebook:

Sweat Free Communities Publishes a "Shop with a Conscience" guide where they certify factories that are "sweat free" by paying certain wages and having good working conditions. Here's a map of all of these companies source locations (minus 1 in Asia that didn't fit the screen shot). Apparently you help 3rd world workers by just buying from U.S. and Canadian workers!


Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 12:23 PM in Economics

Imagine That

A group including former Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox has announced plans for a large sports complex near Cartersville, Ga. The really radical part of the plan is--imagine this--apparently the group will not be having the taxpayers underwrite part of the project.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:21 AM

David Stockman Interview

The former Congressman talks to Reason.tv's Nick Gillespie on Austrian Economics, tax cuts, TARP, and Ronald Reagan.

Posted by Joshua Hall at 09:20 AM in Politics

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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