Division of Labour: November 2011 Archives
November 30, 2011
McDonald's 1, Busybodies 0
On Thursday, Dec. 1, the city's de facto ban of the Happy Meal commences. San Francisco has accomplished what the Hamburglar could not. Or has it?
The toys must cost McD's more than 10 cents apiece so my guess is that SF's next move will be to enact a predatory toy pricing law.
Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 12:45 PM
November 16, 2011
Williams on Poverty
This Walter Williams column summarizes some interesting research about income and wealth. Regarding comparisons with the past, this paragraph is striking:
Incentives Matter: Piece Rate for Professors Edition
The abstract of a new paper in Economics Letters:
Using panel data, we demonstrate a 50% increase in research productivity following a dramatic increase in the piece rate paid for articles by a major Chinese University. The increased productivity comes exclusively from those who were already research active.
November 15, 2011
Rent Seeking in Action: Pizza as a Vegetable Edition
When it comes to the politics of school lunch programs, the easy part is agreeing that kids should be eating more fruits and vegetables.
Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 07:05 PM
On Organ Sales, Saving Lives, and Reducing Violence
Anthony Gregory's piece in the Atlantic looks to be worth a read.
Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:50 AM
The Louisiana Branch of the Bastiat Family
In a recent post on modern day Bastiats, Don Boudreaux argues for Russ Roberts and Steve Landsburg. Both are fine choices, but Don overlooks another excellent candidate--himself. As good as both Roberts and Landsburg are--and I'm a big fan of both--Don is at least as fitting a choice. For example, Don's offer to stimulate Peter Morici's economy by torching his house and car brings to mind Bastiat's Petition of the Candlemakers.
Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:48 AM
November 12, 2011
Today's WaPo looks at the history of failed government energy projects from Nixon forward. As a bonus, it treats the "success" of the government's investment in the transcontinental railroads. It's too much to wish that it could have gone even farther back and examined the checkered history of the canals.
An Outrage, If Accurate
According to this post, the Michigan SEIU recieves about $6 million per year from caregivers who receive Medicaid. "For the SEIU, this makes them public employees and thus members of the union, which receives $30 out of the family's monthly Medicaid subsidy. The Michigan Quality Community Care Council (MQC3) deducts union dues on behalf of SEIU."
November 11, 2011
Grad students looking for some financial support (who isn't?) should apply for IHS's Humane Studies Fellowship program. Beyond financial assistance, IHS also offers several workshops for graduate students to help with career development. The program has been helpful for some of my former students--like all other IHS programs I recommend it highly. And a special offer for DOL readers: IHS will waive the application fee for applications received by December 1--just enter the code HSF25DoL on the last page of the application.
Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:15 AM
November 09, 2011
A Quick Take on the 2011 Elections: There is no Quick Take
If one theme emerged from Tuesday's off-year mid-terms, it is that there is no obvious theme or narrative.
Let us start with ballot issues. Apparently voters have had enough of Republican efforts to make it harder to vote: Maine voters by a 60-40% margin overturned a law passed earlier this year that would have ended same day voter registration. Or apparently voters remain quite concerned about voter fraud and willing to impose modest restrictions on the ease of voting to address the issue despite protests from Democratic officials: Mississippians voted 62-38% in favor of a law requiring voter ID at the polls.
Also in Mississippi, the right to a thrashing when a pro-life amendment defining personhood as beginning at conception was crushed, 58 percent to 42 percent. But the state's voters also passed a law vastly restricting the use of eminant domain by a ridiculously lopsided 73 percent to 27 percent margin.
Meanwhile, Ohio voters swung back to the Democrats, delivering a crushing 61-39% defeat to a law, passed earlier this year by the Republican dominated legislature, trimming government employees collective bargaining rights. Or maybe they didn't -
Read More »
another Ohio measure, which would amend the state constitution to void any law requiring persons to purchase healthcare (a straightforward slap at Obamacare) passed by an even greater margin, 66 percent to 34 percent.
If voters seemed all over the ideological map on ballot issues, when it comes to candidates the voters, as everyone knows, are fed up with incumbents. Fed up except, that is, with the incumbent mayors of Houston, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Columbus, Charlotte, Baltimore, Fort Wayne, Durham, Boise, and Salt Lake City all of whom won easy re-election, regardless of party.
Phoenix's open seat remained comfortably in Democrat hands, while Greensboro, NC remained Republican. Democrats did gain the mayor's office in Tucson, but Republicans appear to have countered by swiping the mayor's office in Spokane, though Democrats still hold out hope on the basis of some 40,000 absentee ballots yet to be counted in a close race. Democrats flipped the County Executive's office in Erie County, New York, but Republicans countered by flipping the Township Supervisor's office in Islip, New York (pop. 335,000). There were very few other changes.
Likewise every incumbent of either party who sought re-election to statewide office in Kentucky and Mississippi also won, most with over 60 percent of the vote. In conservative Kentucky, where the President is extremely unpopular, moderate Democratic Governor Steve Bashear won re-election by 21 points. Republicans had to defend an open seat in Mississippi, but Phil Bryant held the seat for GOP, rolling up a 22 point margin. In both states, both parties held all their statewide offices.
Down ballot, Republicans appear to have taken control of the Virginia Senate, but by the narrowest of margins - an 86 vote victory (and likely recount) that gives them a tie, which the Republican Lt. Governor can break. The GOP had hoped for an outright majority of two or three seats. [Update: The Republicans also added at least 6 more seats to their already substantial majority in the state House of Delegates.]
Republicans added a couple seats to their narrow majority in the Mississippi state senate. As of this hour, the state house remains up for grabs, although Republicans clearly gained some seats. [Update 9:02 a.m. 11/9: Several races still too close to call, but the most likely outcome is that the GOP takes the state house with a seat or two to spare.] But Democrats held on to their 2 vote edge in the Iowa State Senate with a special election victory. Republicans had hoped to win the race and gain a tie in the chamber. And in New Jersey, there was no change in the state senate, while Democrats added one seat to their majority in the state house.
If there is any trend, it might be this - the public seems unwilling to give either party a clear monopoly on power, and it rejects measures - such as Obamacare and Ohio's collective bargaining reforms, that seem to forced through on partisan lines. That rejection seems to have as much to do with a reaction to apparent legislative hubris as it does with the the merits of the issue (just as Democrats like to point out that individual elements of Obamacare poll well, individual elements of Ohio's collective bargaining reforms poll well - it's the whole package that, in each case, is rejected).
Meanwhile, results are not yet in on the Granville Village Council races. [Update: The lovely Julie came in 67 votes short.]
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November 05, 2011
It Wasn’t Government that Fixed Your Clock
This short essay by Larry Reed is worth rereading with tonight's time change.
Speaking of Larry Reed, he'll be speaking at Berry on Monday at 7 p.m. It'd be great to have some nearby alumni and friends join us.
Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 05:22 PM
Econ 101 Fail
A few days ago, I heard a news report (I think it was of those top of the hour updates that one gets on NPR or on AM stations) say, "stocks [prices] are down on Wall Street as sellers outnumber buyers." This is hardly a startling insight, but it just so happens that every transaction requires both a buyer and a seller.
Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:47 PM
We Are the 53 Percent
A recent offering from Mike Lester of the Rome News-Tribune:
Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:33 PM
Our favorite tv copier salesman is peddling more nonsense. To wit:
Oil and trade with China account for nearly the entire $550 billion trade deficit. This deficit is a tax on domestic demand that erases the benefits of tax cuts and stimulus spending.
This is a common fallacy--and one that Don Boudreaux has been especially vigorous in challenging. Trade deficits--be they for oil or stuff made in China--are merely the accounting flip side of net captal inflows, something that may increase domestic demand.
But suppose Americans didn't buy several hundred billions of dollars worth of oil from abroad (and ignore the resulting decreasing net capital inflow). We'd have to do without a key input for many goods and a commodity that is important for both commercial and personal transportation.
Prof. Morici might well reply that Americans could use the several hundred billion dollars that Americans spend on imported oil to purchase domestically produced energy. True perhaps, but the fact that Americans import the oil suggests that we cannot get a comparable quantity of domestically produced energy for similar prices. So we might well have eliminated Prof. Morici's dreaded "tax on domestic demand" by effectively levying a tax on actual consumption, namely by reducing the amount of energy that Americans actually consume.
It's worth noting, too, that one doesn't just increase domestic energy production by several hundred billion dollars simply by waving a magic wand. The workers and capital necessary for such an increase might well be redirected from other industries thereby reducing their output.
November 03, 2011
"It's a walkout!"
From CNN's take on it:
An Occupy Wall Street group at Harvard University staged a walk-out Wednesday afternoon of the introductory economics class of Greg Mankiw... Mankiw is the main professor in the Economics 10 class that has about 750 students... [A]bout 60 students participated in the walk-out.
I wonder if Occupy folks think that introductory political science classes are too political. I've been in undergrad English classes where the political bias was more intense and less concealed than any of my econ classes. For Occupy sympathizers: economists usually dislike the minimum wage not because it is favored by Democrats, but because it is a distortionary price control. Economists also have no influence over whether the platforms of particular political parties are more or less in line with basic economic principles. In brief, it's not that free market economists agree with Republicans, it's that they agree with us (when it suits them).
November 02, 2011
Truck, Barter, and Exchange
But not all candy is created equal, as all children will tell you. And increasingly American kids are getting an early lesson in economics — and business — by finding ways to trade their Halloween candy with friends and siblings.
Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:49 AM
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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