Division of Labour: February 2011 Archives
February 28, 2011
The Curious Task ... SF Sewer Edition
A news item via Drudge:
San Francisco's big push for low-flow toilets has turned into a multimillion-dollar plumbing stink.
Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 05:38 PM
Building Brand Equity: Courtemanche and Carden on Warehouse Clubs and Grocery Prices
Downloadable here, under review at the RAND Journal of Economics.
On basketball tournaments in Charlotte
I was cited in this Charlotte Observer article about the economic impact of the CIAA basketball tournament.
Yankees in Athens c. 1911
For the second year in a row, the New York Yankees took spring training in Athens, Georgia (the center of all that is right and good in the universe):
Harry Lee, trainer of the New York American League Baseball Club, arrived in Athens to-day to prepare for the coming of the team. Manager Hal Chase and the regulars are scheduled to reach here on March 14.I spent nine wonderful years in Athens and never once heard about Yankees in Athens other than the Stoneman Raid.
On betting in baseball c. 1911
From the Feb. 28, 1911 NYT:
"Betting is one of the greatest evils which can come into baseball," said President Johnson [of the American League] to-night. "We can and do prevent it at our ball parks. Whether we can do anything than cast our influence against it if outsiders start it, is something yet to be determined. One of the promoters of this enterprise spoke to me about the matter when I was in Cincinnati recently, and I urged him strongly against it, pointing out the evils which might result. I hope the followers of baseball will cause the scheme to fall flat by refusing to wager."Eight years later, President Johnson's warning would seem to come home to roost.
February 27, 2011
Yet Another Way to Avoid High Cigarette Taxes
Add growing your own tobacco to smuggling from a low tax state or ordering on the web to the list of ways to avoid high cigarette taxes.
Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 04:10 PM
“It’s just adding zero to zero”
That's JC Bradbury in an AJC story on the economic benefit that would come from building a new, open-air, stadium for the Atlanta Falcons. Dennis Coates, Brad Humphreys, and others are also quoted.
February 25, 2011
You Can't Fire Everyone
That's the title of a forthcoming book by Hank Gilman, the Deputy Managing Editor of Fortune. The book is available for pre-order through Amazon and I thank the Penguin Group for sending me an advance copy.
My take: the book is well written and is a light and breezy read. Unlike some management books, Gilman makes no bones about the fact that he's just telling stories about what has worked for him. He's not trying to sell you management science, just trying to get the reader to be more thoughtful about managing. A lot of his advice is obvious ("focus on your employees' strenghts; avoid their weaknesses), but that's exactly the point of books like this, to remind the reader of what they should be doing. In my opinion, books like these should be valued on the quality of the writing and the stories told to illustrate the points. On both of these points Gilman does well.
February 24, 2011
What we're saying about Wisconsin
Lexix/Nexis(R) Keyword search:
Date range: 02-02-2011 to 02-24-2011
blog and web:
major world publications:
This is just from memory, but a story on the local radio news program this morning talked about how the Louisiana Federation of Teachers is against business tax cuts in the current budget. They played a clip of the head of the AFT saying that, since the tax cuts "cost the state" some tax revenue, schools "may have to lay off employees" (emphasis mine). This seems odd to me since the BLS shows the number of mass layoffs in Louisiana in 2008, 09, and 10 as greater than zero each year.
So even though many businesses in Louisiana (and the rest of the country) are struggling, laying off workers, or closing entirely, that is less significant than the possibility of schools laying off workers.
Adam Smith on Wisconsin
From IV.2.43 of The Wealth of Nations:
The member of parliament who supports every proposal for strengthening this monopoly, is sure to acquire not only the reputation of understanding trade, but great popularity and influence with an order of men whose numbers and wealth render them of great importance. If he opposes them, on the contrary, and still more if he has authority enough to thwart them, neither the most acknowledge probity, nor the highest rank, nor the greatest publick services can protect him form the most infamous abuse and detraction, from personal insults, nor sometimes from real danger, arising from the insolent outrage of furious and disappointed monopolists.
February 23, 2011
Ms. Pot, may I introduce Mr. Kettle?
Apparently the billionaire Koch brothers are vilely using their filthy lucre to influence politics. The Kochs are the powers behind the throne in the Wisconsin fight over public unions. How much has organized labor spent to influence Wisconsin politics? How much of that money was raised directly because Wisconsin is a "closed shop" state? How much influence did the unions have in passing the legislation that made Wisconsin a closed shop state?
I don't mind union members voting their preferences, lobbying, and demonstrating. I'm not naive enough to think that anyone would seek something other than a nice pension and health care system for themselves. Good for them. But let's try to remember that the freedoms you demand for yourself are also the freedoms you must grant to everyone else, even southern plains oil & gas plutocrats.
Posted by Noel Campbell at 11:25 AM
February 22, 2011
Tiebout Sorting in Action?
First the Wisconsin Dems flee to Illinois, now Indiana Dems are following suit. From the IndyStar:
House Democrats are leaving the state rather than vote on anti-union legislation, The Indianapolis Star has learned.
Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:05 PM
Podcasts on the Academic Profession
The complete set of three. One more to come, soon.
Dissertation and Research Agenda (LINK)
Publishing Your Work (LINK)
Obtaining Research Funding (LINK)
Enjoy! And thanks to JH for being so patient. She has memorized the intro by now, for my boring bio.
Posted by Michael Munger at 12:20 PM
The plight of the (Wisconsin) refugee
Today my heart bleeds for the dispossed refugees fleeing a brutal dictator.
Fleeing this brutal dictator (their words) are Wisconsin's 14 Democratic state senators. As is now well known, all 14 have fled the state, depriving the legislature of a quorum needed to conduct budget business.
But it's not easy being a legislator on the lamb. Check out the sad reports in this unintentionally humorous article from the Los Angeles Times.
"It's sort of like being a refugee," said runaway Senator Spencer Coggs. Indeed, and we know how hard it is to be a "refugee." "'Each day brings its own challenges,' Sen. Spencer Coggs said by telephone. 'Somebody will need an electric shaver or somebody will need provisions.'"
Oh the horrors! The Times reports that Coggs has had to purchase more underwear, socks and T-shirts. Thank heavens there are so many non-union Walmarts around. We'd hate to see Senator Coggs unshaven, let alone in day old underwear.
As so often happens in crowded refugee camps, medical care is hard to come by. Reports the Times, "Sen. Julie Lassa needed more contact lens solution."
"The senators have gone into survival mode in Illinois, doing small loads of laundry and eating 'whatever we can get our hands on,' said one senator." One can envision the senators, scrounging from garbage cans, slaughtering their dogs and horses, leaving them to pull their carts by hand. Fortunately, they are aided by "relatives and staff who trek across the border." Trek mind you. You know, that arduous jaunt down I-94 and I-39 (hey, don't laugh - ever drive I-94 at rush hour?).
Oh, the humanity!
February 18, 2011
Since I haven't blogged in several weeks (months?), I guess I should try to get back in the game. Mostly I just don't think I have much good to say, at least in comparison to all the other great bloggers out there.
Anyway, in the category of self-promotion, I thought I'd pass along the news to those who haven't heard. I'm leaving Auburn for SMU. Starting in August I will be the [take deep breath] Jerome M. Fullinwider Chair in Economic Freedom in the William O'Neil Center for Global Markets and Freedom in the Edwin L. Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University.
We're going to have to shorten that somehow on the business card!
A lot of people are asking about what happened here at Auburn. If you care, and I don't know why you should, I've written a little summary of the fun times I've had at Auburn the last three years.
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Summary: I accepted a job offer in February 2008 to be an Associate Professor of Finance in the College of Business at Auburn University and to direct the Economic Freedom Initiative (EFI) and co-Direct the Center of International Finance and Global Competitiveness (CIFGC). I was recruited mainly by CoB Associate Dean and Economics Professor Dan Gropper, CoB Dean Paul Bobrowski, Finance Professor Jim Barth, Economics Professor and Department Chair Steve Caudill, and Finance Professor and Department Chair John Jahera. I began at Auburn on July 1, 2008.
In making the decision to leave my tenured Professor of Economics and George H. Moor Chair at Capital University, I relied on promises Auburn made about future fundraising and hiring more faculty for an "Economic Freedom Initiative". The goal was to recruit several faculty doing work related to economic freedom to come to Auburn over the next couple years. However, Auburn never had sufficient faculty or senior administrative support for the Center or EFI. In particular, from the very beginning a small, but vocal contingent of current and former members of the economics department initiated a series of complaints in a variety of venues about the creation of the CIFGC, the EFI and the funding, my hire, etc.
In the Spring of 2009, I attempted to put a fundraising and hiring plan together. Numerous plans were put forth, but none proved feasible in light of the poisonous atmosphere created by the economics faculty and the utter lack of support from senior administration for the CoB dean.
In June 2009, the donors informed us that they would not pursue any future efforts with us because of “internal divisions within the university”. With no future financial support in the works and facing a hostile economics faculty and senior administration, I begin to search for a new job...
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February 17, 2011
Environmental Economics Post-Doc at Rhodes
If you're looking for a job and if you do anything related to environmental economics, please apply for this post-doc at Rhodes.
February 16, 2011
Glaeser and Bastiat, Intellectual Neighbors
Ed Glaeser was good, and very excited, on The Daily Show the other night, fronting his new book Triumph of the City. I look forward to getting a chance to read it. Perhaps our fine resident urban economist can blog a quick review. Meantime, I'm reminded of another great advocate of cities, Frederic Bastiat. In his Economic Harmonies, Bastiat leads the reader to recognize the great wonders of the division of labor and the concentrations of it that cities nourish. From Ch.4 of Liberty Fund's edition:
When one leaves Paris for a short stay in a little town in the provinces, one is astonished at the number of occasions when certain little services can be secured only at excessive cost of time and money and with great difficulty.
The curator of Liberty Fund's online liberary of liberty, David Hart, will be visiting San Jose State in early April, giving a talk on Bastiat's many interesting and important works.
Part of a RNT story on local rep Katie Dempsey taking gifts from lobbyists:
The football tickets were offered to each member of the General Assembly, Dempsey said, and she took the opportunity to see a game played in the Georgia Dome.
Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:57 AM
February 14, 2011
Op-ed on mutant ideologies... here.
Posted by Michael Munger at 01:15 PM
On the "terrific pace" of basket ball c. 1911
From the Feb. 14, 1911 NYT:
One of the finest games of basket ball that has every been played in the Columbia gymnasium was contested there last night, and after an uphill fight the Morningside quintet defeated the Pennsylvania five by a score of 17 to 15. Fully 2,500 persons witnessed the game, and the stands were jammed with graduates returning for Alumni Day, who wildly applauded each of the Columbia tallies, which finally chalked up a victory for the Blue and White.
Immediately below that story is a very brief recap of another game which would seem to have had an even greater pace:
The basket ball team of St. John's College of Brooklyn defeated the Colgate University five in a fast and exciting game last night in the St. John's College gymnasium by the score of 31 to 20.
And a final story:
Before a crowd of nearly 2,000 spectators the Sheltering Guardian Orphan Asylum basket ball team defeated the Bedford Athletic Club team of Harlem yesterday afternoon by a score of 25 to 15. Feuerstein shot four of Sheltering Guardian's goals from the field and caged the ball seven times on fouls.
I wonder exactly how long today's television viewer would stick with a game that ended up with a 25 to 15 score?
Building Brand Equity: Mises Academy Course on "Capitalism and Socialism"
I've been largely absent from DOL blogging because of my regular gigs with the Mises Economics Blog and Forbes, to say nothing of my regular teaching and research commitments. From March 31-May 12, I'll be teaching a short online course for the Mises Academy called "Capitalism and Socialism."
The course will be a handful of things. First, it will be an attempt to clarify the debate over capitalism and socialism by defining precisely what the terms mean. Second, it will be a chance to work on a couple of book manuscripts that I play with from time to time; the first manuscript is simply called Profit at this point, and the second is tentatively titled The Possibility of Civilization. I hope to finish the first after another iteration or two of teaching Classical & Marxian Political Economy or similar courses, and I plan to finish the second in time for my 90th or 100th birthday. Note that Douglass C. North celebrated his 90th last year, and Ronald Coase celebrated his 100th last year.
Third, the course will be my first experience in real online teaching. I'm going to use it to beta-test a few ideas. While the Mises Academy is not itself accredited, my plan is for the course to be something for which a student could justifiably earn an hour of independent study credit at any institution around the world. Whether the credit is awarded will be up to the discretion of the institution, of course.
In any event, I'm looking forward to it. I hope you can join us.
Better to Feel Good Than to Do Good: Nancy Pelosi's Compost Edition
It turns out that the [U.S. House] composting program [started under Speaker Pelosi] not only cost the House an estimated $475,000 a year (according to the House inspector general) but actually increased energy consumption in the form of "additional energy for the pulping process and the increased hauling distance to the composting facility," according to a news release from [California Rep.] Lungren.
Source. Repeat after Hayek, "The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design."
Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:27 AM
February 13, 2011
Good to Know This Menace Is Off the Streets
From the RN-T:
Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 04:16 PM
February 10, 2011
Tunisia, Egypt,... China?
HT to DoL friend Angus at Kids Prefer Cheese for the finds:
BTW, still waiting for the U.S. Left-of-Center of my acquiantance to celebrate the gains won by the Egyptian protesters. No snark, here; I'm a bit confused.
Posted by Noel Campbell at 02:51 PM
February 08, 2011
Wonder If There Is a Connection?
Two recent headlines on Drudge:
White House Super Bowl menu: 'Bratwurst, Kielbasa, Cheeseburgers, Deep Dish Pizza, Buffalo Wings, Potato Salad, Twice Baked Potatoes, Potato Chips, Pretzels, Chips and Dips, Salad, Ice Cream'...
Maybe this explains Obamacare.
Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:26 AM
February 07, 2011
Rome currently lacks a direct connection to I-75; one takes a four lane road from Rome to Cartersville then must wind through Cartersville to get to the interstate. Romans and the GA DOT have been trying for at least two decades to create a direct link between US 411 (the four lane highway) and I-75 but have been stalled for various reasons.
Today's RN-T carries a letter from someone in Cartersville that sounds an awful lot like a certain nineteenth century Frenchman:
I am concerned about the potential negative impact the U.S. 411 Connector will have on dozens of businesses along the busy travel corridors of Ga. 20 and U.S. 41 in Bartow County. this “road for Rome” will serve as a bypass around the two bustling highways and Cartersville, and is projected to carry more than 14,800 cars per day (source: Georgia Department of Transportation, November 2004 Concept Report). The end result will be 5.4 million fewer motorists per year that could purchase goods and services from our local businesses.
The only difference is that this writer is serious whereas M. Bastiat was not.
February 05, 2011
"Professor Cornpone" Wants to Win the Future Too!
I sent the following letter to the WSJ in response to its deliciously scathing editorial on ethanol cheerleader Newt Gingrich:
Regarding your recent editorial on Newt Gingrich (“Professor Cornpone” Jan. 31): Mr. Gingrich’s advocacy of moving to E85 as a way to reduce imports suggests he’s a better historian than mathematician or economist. If it takes four of every 10 rows of corn to meet the current 10% ethanol content requirement then, even if were feasible, devoting the entire U.S. corn crop to ethanol would come nowhere near supplying 85% of U.S. fuel consumption. Fulfilling U.S. fuels needs with ethanol would therefore require roughly doubling the U.S. corn crop or massive corn imports, either of which would surely have large effects on the price of corn both here and abroad.
Support for ethanol isn't the only way that old Newty is like President Obama. Just as the Chosen One blathered about wining the future in this year's SOTU, in 2005 Newt published a book called, wait for it, Winning the Future.
Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 04:33 PM
February 04, 2011
Damn! Munger v. Google has such a nice ring to it. But it was rejected by the NC Supreme Court.
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We had brought suit, and I was lead Quixote...um... lead plaintiff. (Robert Orr did all the work, of course. I was just eye candy. Or maybe BOB was Quixote, and I was Sancho Panza. That's more like it.)
But the NC Supreme Court today smashed all my dreams. Went so far as to say that the very idea of reviewing the review of the appeals decision was "improvidently granted." Oh, that hurts. Improvidently granted? "Sorry, nothing to see here folks. Just an everyday violation of the NC Constitution. Move along, citizens, move along."
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More Guvmint School Shenanigans
A former DeKalb County elementary school principal has admitted she unenrolled students before CRCT testing, and then re-enrolled them in an effort to boost scores last year.
This follows on last year's news that over 100 Atlanta Public School employees were suspected of cheating on the CRCT. But, hey, maybe healthcare will workout better.
Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:20 AM
February 03, 2011
My current vague thoughts about Egypt
Ok, try this on for size... Suppose the Muslim Brotherhood takes (democratic or otherwise) control of post-Mubarak Egypt. Suppose they/the Egyptian government immediately repudiates the peace treaty with Israel and orders the Egyptian army to begin offensive operations against Israel. The U.S. government would quickly suspend the billion-plus dollars it currently sends to the Egyptian army, a significant source of the army's power. I suspect that it is far from certain that the army would obey such an order from the Muslim Brotherhood; indeed is is conceivable that the army would unseat the Muslim Brotherhood from the government rather than carry out this order and cut off the dollar flow from Washington. Neither, I think, is the army particular friends and supporters of Hamas in Gaza. I think it is possible that the Egyptian army would continue to work with Israel under the table to contain Hamas, even if the Egyptian government reverts to a state of war with Israel. Meanwhile, such blatant militarism by the Muslim Brotherhood would signifcantly curtail tourism in Egypt. Egypt is a poor country that needs tourist dollars and U.S. subsidies to continue in even as pitiful a state as it does now. Why should we believe that the young, media-savvy Cairenes would tolerate the Muslim Brotherhood wrecking what was left of the Egyptian economy? Without the army, the Muslim Brotherhood likely lacks a powerful enough security apparatus to quell rioting on anywhere near the scale we currently witness. I'm not saying this is how things would play out; merely suggesting that it is possible.
Posted by Noel Campbell at 10:04 PM
Citizen Threatened for Being Too Smart!
I would have thought the oppressive apparatus of the state could no longer surprise me with its never-ending creativity. But...I am surprised, by this.
The NC DOT did an engineering study of a local road widening project, and concluded that no new signals were required at two intersections. A citizen, David Cox, had the gall to disagree. He did some research, and put the research in the form of an organized argument.
The state could have responded by ignoring the request. Or the state could have pointed out the errors in the study. (I myself have no position on the merits; haven't studied it, don't know the issues).
But the state engineer instead threatened the citizen with legal action... for... being smart! They investigated charging him with "practicing engineering without a license." Yes, really. The state DOT head engineer, Kevin Lacy, did not dispute the facts, the analysis, or the conclusions of the report. All he did was try to get the report dismissed because it was "engineering quality work." Read that again: the citizen made a petition to government for redress of a grievance, and the state wants to prosecute the citizen because the quality of the analysis is too high. (If the petition, redress, etc. thing sounds familiar that's because it is a right guaranteed in the 1st Amendment).
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Now, the citizen had NEVER claimed to be an engineer, and had simply signed his name to the report. And he had organized the report in a way that made sense to him, presenting information that he thought was important for the question of whether the intersections needed traffic signals.
The cool thing is that the state is going to say, "We never ACTUALLY brought charges!" Just like the Mafia thugs say, "Nice restaurant. It wud be a shame if sumpin wud to happen to it, like youknowafireorsumpin, capisce?" The fact is that the state can exert an enormously chilling effect simply by suggesting that citizens should be investigated.
But the idea that a citizen can be investigated for being smart and making an effective counter-argument.... wow, I did not expect the state to be willing to be that thuggish.
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Good one from my hometown newspaper
On wrestling c. 1911
From the Feb. 3, 1911 NYT do we see the birth of modern-day wrestling?
HARFTORD, Conn - A bill to legalize limited boxing bouts in Connecticut was introduced in the legislature to-day...In wrestling no strangle hold will be allowed or any holds which are liable to injure a contestant.
February 02, 2011
Mike Lester on SOTU
Been meaning to blog this offering from the Rome News-Tribune's Mike Lester:
Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:08 AM
Guess She Should Have Used Fedex
Someone is evidently a sandwich short of a picnic:
They’re calling it the parcel puppy. A Minneapolis woman is charged with animal cruelty after police say she tried to send a puppy through the mail.
Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:03 AM
February 01, 2011
Go Ahead, Make My Day
Closer to home, what does this onetime Carmel mayor think of the return of California Gov. Jerry Brown, who has pledged to get rid of the "smoke and mirrors" in Sacramento and balance the state's $25 billion budget deficit?
Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 06:51 PM
On government and the hat pin c. 1911
There were two hat-pin stories in the Feb. 1, 1911 NYT. The first from Boston:
"If I should carry a fish knife as long as this I would be arrested as a dangerous character," said Representative Newton to-day, holding up an eighteen-inch hatpin to the Legislative Committee on Legal Affairs, before which he appeared in support of a bill to limit the length of hatpins.I am not sure the "fish peddler" was intended to make people feel that Mr. Newton had more or less authority to speak about fish knives, hatpins, or anything in general. It seems a bit odd - but maybe representatives in 1911 still called themselves something other than a politician?
The second story pertains to New York:
The Aldermen voted down yesterday, by 37 to 29, the proposed city ordinance to restrict the length of women's hatpins. Alderman Alexander S. Drescher of Brownsville, who introduced the measure, made a hard fight for it, and was supported by Republican members of the board, but the Tammany opposition was too strong. The ordinance fixed a penalty of $50 for wearing a pin protruding more than half an inch from the crown of a hat.I guess the machine was good for at least one thing. Mr. Dowling continues:
"The way to get at this matter is to have the Legislature pass a bill prohibiting the sale of long hatpins. The next thing you will want to do will be to pass an ordinance to make a man wear mufflers over his ears so that he cannot hear any one asking him to have a drink. It is the most ridiculous ordinance I ever heard of.Drat!! Here, but not here,I sarcastically suggested that going after hatpin manufacturers was exactly where this was headed. Perhaps it still will sometime in the future, but I don't peak ahead so as not to ruin the surprises of opening up last century's paper to the day.
But I digress a bit. Mr. Dowling brings it home:
"How can we regulate the dress of women? I don't believe in passing a law to prohibit a woman from keeping her hat on."And women never influenced politics before given the ballot - yeah, right.
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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