Division of Labour: Misc. Archives
February 10, 2013
Theroux on Plantinga Receiving Rescher Prize

On the Independence Institute blog.

Posted by Joshua Hall at 04:24 PM in Misc.

December 23, 2012
Worst Business Projection Ever

Here's something I found while looking for something else. Is this the worst business projection ever?

From the Associated Press, Jan. 3, 1951:

Four of the nation's biggest athletic conferences will lead a fight against live television of football games at the NCAA convention in Dallas next week.
They are the Big 10, Eastern College Athletic Conference, Southwest, and Southeastern. ...
Ralph Furey of Columbia, chairman of a committee set up to study the effect of television on sports attendance, reported to the ECAC general meeting:
'Live television of sports events presents a threat to the institution of
intercollegiate athletics.'
A special television committee or the powerful Big Ten reported:
'Live television has an adverse effect on athletic attendance, particularly
The Big Ten banned live telecasts of conference games last year. ... The Southeastern Conference voted unanimously to bar direct telecasting of its football games. ... "

Apparently, somewhere along the line people with a bit more vision and sense of the possibilities got involved.

Posted by Brad Smith at 12:35 PM in Economics ~ in Misc. ~ in Sports

August 16, 2012
Something to keep in mind during your faculty retreat/meeting, etc.

Yes, it's that time of year once again. Today's inspirational text is from James Buchanan, Better than Plowing 3-4 (1992):

". . . I worked throughout the war at Pearl Harbor and at Guam, at fleet headquarters control deep in the bowels of the earth. I enjoyed the military, the colleagues, the work, and the setting; and I was good at the job. For the first and only time in my life, I worked closely with men who were important in shaping the lives and destinies of many others. I saw these military leaders as ordinary mortals, trying to do their job within the constraints they faced, and burdened with their own prejudices like everyone else. This experience has helped me throughout my academic career; I have been able to relegate to the third order of smalls the sometime petty quarrels that seem to motivate professors everywhere, in their roles both as instructors and as research scholars."

Posted by Mike DeBow at 04:20 PM in Misc.

April 15, 2011
Resources for IHS Career Development Seminar

I'm headed to DC in just a little bit for the IHS Career Development Seminar. The CDS was a formative experience for me when I was in grad school, and I look forward to making deposits into the IHS Favor Bank rather than making withdrawals. I'm giving a talk on writing (and presenting) tomorrow, and Chris Coyne and I are talking about the differences between liberal arts colleges and research universities either tomorrow or Sunday. Here are a couple of resources for my talk on writing:

1. My posts for Stepcase Lifehack, which include a number of short pieces about writing.

2. Scaling the Ivory Tower, published by the IHS. I didn't read this until I was almost finished with grad school. It's really useful.

3. My article "How to Be a Great Conference Participant." Follow all the advice in this paper and people will have no doubts about your professional abilities.

Posted by Art Carden at 08:44 AM in Misc.

April 13, 2011
The Association of Private Enterprise Education is Decadent and Depraved: 2011

The Association of Private Enterprise Education's 2011 meeting wrapped up last night. For just over two days, economists and scholars from related disciplines discussed, debated, and dissected the idea of "Institutional Evolution Toward Freedom and Prosperity." Enormous thanks and congratulations are in order for outgoing APEE President Ed Lopez and incoming APEE President Benjamin Powell; they put together a killer program. DOL contributor Frank Stephenson was honored with the Kent-Aronoff Service Award for his dedication to the association and his work with the Young Scholar's Grants that help graduate students and young faculty members attend on the cheap. Frank is the reason I first attended APEE, and he's also the reason I started blogging again. His contribution to my evolution as a scholar and a teacher has been non-trivial, and I'm sure there are many who can say the same.

I also have to say a special word about the students who accompanied me. Brent Butgereit, Trey Carson, Morgan Rote, Lara Wagner, and Rachel Webb shined brightly in the undergraduate paper competition and throughout the conference. I heard a lot of very, very kind and enthusiastic compliments about them over the last few days. Trey is trying to pick a PhD program in economics (he has two very attractive offers), Morgan will work for a consulting firm in DC for a few years before going to graduate school, Rachel and Brent are taking a year to work before they begin PhD study, and Lara is going to law school to study human rights law. They're safe on their flight back to the US now.

The conference started with a lecture by 2009 Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom, and this set the tone for the entire meeting. Deirdre McCloskey delivered a plenary address on Monday afternoon, and George Ayittey delivered a plenary address on Tuesday afternoon. I have pages and pages (and bits and bits) of notes that I'm going to get through when I get back to Memphis. The quality of the papers at the conference, at least in the sessions I attended, was uniformly high, as was the quality of the extracurricular discussions at the bar after the conference programming had ended for the day.

I mentioned that Rhodes was represented by five undergraduate students at the conference. In addition to the vigorous exchanges over matters of scholarship, we spent a good deal of time talking about student programming. Indeed, there was a whole session dedicated to it. It's encouraging to see so many scholars who are working hard to open doors for their students and introduce them to the life of the mind.

I'll grant that part of this is availability bias, but it's really hard not to be incredibly optimistic about the future of scholarship and the future of liberty after a conference like this. It took a lot of hard work by the organizers and the participants, but the final payoff is going to be substantial.

Posted by Art Carden at 02:19 PM in Misc.

March 24, 2011
A Harsh Wrist Slap Is in Order

So the FAA is suspending the dozing air traffic controller. I would expect the harshest possible treatment*, given the dire implications of this incident: It calls into question the reason for the FAA's existence.

I mean, after all, what could have been worse than having two airliners land without incident while this guy was asleep?**

*Not sure how harsh that can be, given some recent accounts of the difficulty in disciplining public servants.

**Rhetorical question

Posted by Wilson Mixon at 02:32 PM in Misc.

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.

Posted by Joshua Hall at 11:24 AM in Misc.

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:
wisconsin + greed: 18
wisconsin + entitlement: 77
wisconsin + "collective bargaining rights": 373
wisconsin + "freedom of association": 4
wisconsin + "freedom of disassociation": 0

major world publications:
wisconsin + greed: 9
wisconsin + entitlement: 29
wisconsin + "collective bargaining rights": 117
wisconsin + "freedom of association": 2
wisconsin + "freedom of disassociation": 0

Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 01:28 PM in Misc.

February 14, 2011
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.

Posted by Art Carden at 10:32 AM in Misc.

December 05, 2010
Tyler Cowen on Bourgeois Dignity

Tyler finds Deirdre McCloskey's latest convincing. I've read several versions of this in draft form and am about halfway through the published version. McCloskey's "Bourgeois Era" series is the kind of game-changing work we get into this business to do. As I read it, Bourgeois Dignity is basically her 1981/1996 piece on the development of Britain expanded to over several more millennia, the entire world, and some 500 pages. And she comes to what I think is a pretty convincing answer.

Posted by Art Carden at 08:14 PM in Misc.

November 23, 2010
Government job training programs for (wait for it) . . . ex-pirates

How is it possible that I'm the first DOL blogger to notice this story from today's Journal?
(Must be the holiday.)

Posted by Mike DeBow at 04:44 PM in Misc.

November 01, 2010
Building Brand Equity: Speaking at CSU-East Bay, Taxes and Tea Parties

I'm speaking at the Smith Center for Private Enterprise Studies at CSU-East Bay on Wednesday, November 10. The lecture is $0 and open to the public, and I'm speaking at 2:00 PM. More information can be found here.

Also, Steve Horwitz and I are working on a trilogy about the Tea Parties. Here's installment #2.

Posted by Art Carden at 03:20 PM in Misc.

October 17, 2010
Speaking in Denver on Tuesday

I'll be speaking about Walmart at the Metropolitan State College of Denver on Tuesday at 11:30. The lecture will take place at the Tivoli Student Union Turnhalle, 1111 W. Colfax Avenue in Denver. Contact Alexandre Padilla at padilale@mscd.edu for more information.

Posted by Art Carden at 09:28 AM in Misc.

September 13, 2010
Cavalcade of Miscellany: New Forbes Column, Caplan Against Libertarian Reform

1. My new column/blog "The Economic Imagination" has started at Forbes.com. My first entry: what can selling ponchos at the Alabama-Penn State game tell us about entrepreneurs and markets?

2. Bryan Caplan argues against some incrementalist-libertarian measures to improve policy, like the Social Security privatization attempt that took place under G.W. Bush. RTWT, but I think the financial crisis lends some support to his thesis. The narrative that has emerged is that the market got us into this mess, and the government has to get us out, to paraphrase Barney Frank. If you've ever heard of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, it's probably because someone is holding it up as an example of how deregulation doesn't work.

Posted by Art Carden at 11:32 AM in Misc.

September 08, 2010
"They talk about me like a dog." Er,...

The President says that his critics "talk about me like a dog." I just want to be clear that I never talk about the President like I talk about my dog.

Posted by Brad Smith at 11:50 PM in Misc. ~ in Personal ~ in Politics

August 22, 2010
Easterly on Reversing Conditional Probabilities

Here's a great post from William Easterly in which he points out a fundamental statistical mistake that a lot of opponents of Park51--aka "Ground Zero Mosque"--and similar projects are making.

In short, we're getting our conditional probabilities wrong. A lot of terrorists are Muslims. This does not mean that a lot of Muslims are terrorists. Consider a similar example. Rhodes is now in possession of an interesting collection of papers from a former KKK leader in Tennessee. The papers are mostly from the late 1960s and early 1970s. If I remember correctly, the gentleman in charge was also a prominent member of his church (director of the Sunday School program, I believe). Their local chapter paperwork included a line item for the number of ministers enrolled. If you took a census of KKK members at virtually any time in the organization's history, it's a fair guess that very high percentage would identify themselves as Christians. The probability that one identifies as a Christian given that he or she is a member of the KKK is very high. It would absurd to infer from this that the probability that one is a member of the KKK given that he or she identifies as a Christian is also very high.

I've been following the mosque controversy and participating in the discussion because I view it as a teachable moment (I have a Forbes piece or two or three in the pipeline). Not only does it teach us about institutions, history, theology, and economics, it's a very useful lesson in statistics. I suspect that p(terrorist|Muslim), just like p(Klansman|Christian), is pretty low.

Posted by Art Carden at 01:10 PM in Misc.

August 06, 2010
Paper Idea: African-American Seminary in Memphis?

From the 1916-1917 edition of the Negro Year Book, page 21:

Southern Baptists Pledge Fifty Thousand Dollars for Theological School for Negroes

In its annual report for 1915, the Southern Baptist Convention concerning its work among Negroes, says: 'We continue our cooperation with the Home Mission Board of the National Baptist Convention, some lingering New Era work and special institute and teachers' work. In this latter work we are gratified specially with the solid good being accomplished in the teaching of our colored preachers. This we consider the great foundation work that must be done if we would build the superstructure wisely.' During the year the convention in its work among Negroes employed thirty-nine workers who held six hundred and nineteen Bible conferences. The convention at its annual meeting in Houston, Texas, voted to establish a Negro Baptist Theological Seminary at Memphis, Tennessee. For this purpose the convention pledged $50,000.

I think this eventually became American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville (now American Baptist College). So here's the paper idea: how did the Seminary end up in Nashville and not Memphis?

Posted by Art Carden at 03:12 PM in Misc.

July 27, 2010
Building Brand Equity: New Working Paper, New Column, More Mises Blogging

1. Chris Coyne and I are working on a couple of papers and a short book about the Memphis Riot of 1866. Here's the first paper. We're presenting the project at the Instituto Bruno Leoni's Mises Seminar in October and, we hope, a few other places this coming academic year.

2. My blogging here at DOL is going to get lighter going forward. In addition to being absolutely slammed with research commitments until about 2112, I'm going to be writing a weekly column for Forbes.com (my so-far-irregular contributions to date are here) and twice-weekly posts for the Mises Economics Blog. I'll be fighting a more systematic battle against economic illiteracy at a rate of about 1200 words per week.

Posted by Art Carden at 08:57 PM in Misc.

July 16, 2010
Cavalcade of Miscellany: Nullification and Conservatism

1. Tom Woods discusses Nullification on PressTV, which is "the first Iranian international news network.

2. Bryan Caplan makes the case for "Why Libertarians Should Be Conservatives." He will argue for "why conservatives should be libertarians" on Monday.

Posted by Art Carden at 09:20 AM in Misc.

July 06, 2010
Building brand Equity: Nullfication

I went to the office on Thursday or Friday morning telling myself I wasn't going to spend the entire morning writing an article about Tom Woods' Nullification. And then I spent the entire morning writing an article about Nullification. It's available here.

Posted by Art Carden at 01:32 PM in Misc.

July 04, 2010
Letter on Prohibition

To the Memphis Commercial Appeal:

The story about the havoc wrought by Craig Petties was tragic, but it could have been avoided. Violence is the predictable and tragic consequence of drug prohibition. People continue to demand drugs in large quantities, drug suppliers have to resort to violence to settle disputes because they are barred from formal legal channels, and the conditions created by prohibition itself makes it more profitable to be a criminal. The same factors that produced the horrors of alcohol prohibition have also produced the horrors of drug prohibition.

Blood and violence are the price we pay for prohibition. It's a price that's far too high.

Posted by Art Carden at 12:49 PM in Misc.

June 30, 2010
Cavalcade of Miscellany

1. Claudia Williamson, "Let Fake States Fail: Anarchy as a Viable Solution to Artificial States"

2. Congratulations to Scott Beaulier, new father and now economics professor at Troy University. It's a big loss for Mercer, but a big gain for Troy.

3. Re: Ed's recent Freeman column, here's my take on whether we should subsidize media.

4. Ouch. The Onion, America's finest satire.

5. Robust civil society, from Michael J. Hicks's The Local Economic Impact of Wal-Mart, p. 1: "Individuals from nine of 10 Americans households have shopped at a Wal-Mart in the past few months, far more than have voted in any U.S. election."

Posted by Art Carden at 02:15 PM in Misc.

June 28, 2010
Building Brand Equity: Pictures of the Socialistic Future

My discussion is here.

In other news, there is hope for civilization: a member of my Facebook network tells us that Lady Gaga has more Facebook fans than Barack Obama.

Posted by Art Carden at 09:29 PM in Misc.

Is Neoconservatism Dead?

Bradley Thompson and Yaron Brook discuss their new book on PJTV. I look forward to watching. HT: Bradley Thompson.

Posted by Art Carden at 10:51 AM in Misc.

June 27, 2010
A Thought for a Sunday Afternoon

We've subsidized the decision to live, work, and play along the Gulf Coast. Tariffs have kept people and capital employed in Gulf Coast seafood production rather than other occupations. We've subsidized Gulf Coast oil drilling and capped drillers' liability for certain damages at $75 million. What could possibly go wrong?

Posted by Art Carden at 04:59 PM in Misc.

June 24, 2010
Ideas and Civilization

Someday, I want to write a book about the importance of ideas called "The Possibility of Civilization," based on this quote from John Maynard Keynes:

"To the economists--who are the trustees, not of civilization, but of the possibility of civilization."

A couple of days ago, Howard Baetjer and I were talking about the closing passages in Ludwig von Mises's Socialism and Human Action. Both can be downloaded from Mises.org. Here's the end of Socialism, and here's the penultimate paragraph:

The great social discussion cannot proceed otherwise than by means of the thought, will, and action of individuals. Society lives and acts only in individuals; it is nothing more than a certain attitude on their part. Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders; no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way out for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interests, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle. None can stand aside with unconcern; the interests of everyone hang on the result. Whether he chooses or not, every man is drawn into the great historical struggle, the decisive battle into which our epoch has plunged us.

And here's the end of Human Action:

Man's freedom to choose and to act is restricted in a threefold way. There are first the physical laws to whose unfeeling absoluteness man must adjust his conduct if he wants to live. There are second the individual's innate constitutional characteristics and dispositions and the operation of environmental factors; we know that they influence both the choice of the ends and that of the means, although our cognizance of the mode of their operation is rather vague. There is finally the regularity of phenomena with regard to the interconnectedness of means and ends, viz., the praxeological law as distinct from the physical and from the physiological law.

The elucidation and the categorial and formal examination of this third class of laws of the universe is the subject matter of praxeology and its hitherto best-developed branch, economics. The body of economic knowledge is an essential element in the structure of human civilization; it is the foundation upon which modern industrialism and all the moral, intellectual, technological, and therapeutical achievements of the last centuries have been built. It rests with men whether they will make the proper use of the rich treasure with which this knowledge provides them or whether they will leave it unused. But if they fail to take the best advantage of it and disregard its teachings and warnings, they will not annul economics; they will stamp out society and the human race.

Posted by Art Carden at 12:15 PM in Misc.

June 22, 2010
Links for my IHS "Exploring Liberty" Lectures

I'm lecturing at an Institute for Humane Studies "Exploring Liberty" seminar this week. Here's a trailhead for a bunch of links related to the issues we're discussing.

There are a lot of resources available for my "Economics in One Lesson" talk. Some links to a few things I've written on these issues are available here. An older version of Henry Hazlitt's book Economics in One Lesson can be downloaded here, an abridged audiobook version of it can be found here, and here's a series of interviews with economists (and a historian) on the book's chapters. The Reader's Digest condensation of F.A. Hayek's The Road to Serfdom is available here. An early draft of Deirdre McCloskey's The Bourgeois Virtues is available here. We also discussed the cases for and against drug legalization; my argument and sources are here.

On the limits to growth and environmental economics, Julian Simon is essential. Most of what I know about the economics of scarce resources (like water) I learn from reading David Zetland's blog. Most of what I know about development economics I learn from reading William Easterly's blog.

For the Walmart talk, here's my article summarizing what we know about Walmart, and here's audio of a lecture I gave at St. Lawrence University on Walmart.

Here's a handful of links to resources on immigration, and here's my paper "Can't Buy Me Growth: On Foreign Aid and Economic Change." A short version of Bryan Caplan's excellent book The Myth of the Rational Voter was published by the Cato Institute and is available here (he discusses "anti-foreign bias" in particular).

We're pretty enthusiastic about free markets not because we think they will always produce perfect outcomes, but because the alternatives are almost universally worse. In this lecture, I address some of the Common Objections to Capitalism.

Posted by Art Carden at 12:37 AM in Misc.

June 20, 2010
Quick Links on Voting, Redux

I'm teaching at the IHS "Exploring Liberty" Summer Seminar at Yale this week. During Mark LeBar's lecture on what we should expect from government, we had an excellent discussion of legitimacy, consent, and participation. Here are some links on voting that I posted last month.

1. "Debate: Does My Vote Matter?" at Opposingviews.com. I was really disappointed in this because the other side of the debate (Rock the Vote and the League of Women Voters) didn't offer anything meaningful or substantive. Nor did they respond to any of my claims or criticisms of their positions.

2. Politics 2.0: Hack the Vote at Lifehack.org.

3. The (Il)logic of Collective Action: Lessons from the 2008 Election at The Beacon.

4. Forget Polls: Look at Prediction Markets on the Election, also at The Beacon.

5. Don Boudreaux explains his refusal to vote for The Freeman. Voting isn't the only way to be politically engaged. Especially given the ways in which access to the ballot is limited and political voices are silenced, I'm less and less inclined to think that it's a system that deserves our sanction.

6. Jeff Tucker explains why "Democracy Takes Too Many Lunch Hours" for the Mises Blog.

7. My student Brent Butgereit's winning essay answering my question "Should I vote in the Memphis Mayoral Election?" He compares voting to cheering at a football game.

8. The Cato Institute's Policy Paper version of Bryan Caplan's excellent The Myth of the Rational Voter.

Posted by Art Carden at 11:48 AM in Misc.

June 09, 2010
The Road To Serfdom, Condensed

Here (again) is a PDF of the condensed version of The Road to Serfdom. Why is this relevant? Here are Tom Woods and Yuri Maltsev discussing Hayek on Glenn Beck. Here's Beck's The Revolutionary Holocaust, a documentary on communism, sliced up on YouTube. Road to Serfdom is now the #1 book on Amazon.com.

Posted by Art Carden at 09:28 AM in Misc.

June 03, 2010
Cavalcade of Miscellany: Pileus Blog Edition

I was going to post a handful of links, but then i realized that almost all of the hat tips would go to the Pileus Blog. So just click there and scroll. My question: if governments are going to start licensing journalists [??!!], will there be a section of the exam about economics? What about causal inference?

Speaking of causal inference, here's a case in point (HT: Jennifer Sciubba). I was thinking about buying a talisman, casting a few spells, and maybe sacrificing a couple of chickens to try to improve my kids' lots in life, but instead I'm just going to buy a lot more books and keep them in the house. I wonder if PDFs on the computer count.

Posted by Art Carden at 11:19 AM in Misc.

June 01, 2010
Staff in Universities

My article in the CHRONICLE on working with staff. An underappreciated part of academic adminisration. I know it took me much too long to recognize the importance of staff work.

Posted by Michael Munger at 01:20 PM in Misc.

Cavalcade of Miscellany

1. Forget diet and exercise. I'm just going to brush my teeth a lot (HT: Scott Cunningham).

Serendipity Update: Near an article titled "The Memphis Riots" in the May 16, 1866 issue of Brownlow's Knoxville Whig is an article entitled "Take Care of Your Teeth." The article recommends brushing 2-3 times daily, and concludes:

By way of conclusion, if you appreciate good health and good teeth, have them examined once every six months by a competent dentist.

For, as has already been stated in the introduction to this article, many of the diseases of the human organization may be traced directly or indirectly to disease of the teeth, a subject upon which I...

The microfilm cuts off the bottom of the article.

2. Henderson on Hayek on Social Justice. Repeat after Thomas Sowell: Justice is a process characteristic.

3. From The Onion: new high-tar, high-carbon monoxide cigarettes are eco-friendly because they kill people.

4. My 2005 paper "The Market's Benevolent Tendencies," translated into Farsi.

Posted by Art Carden at 11:04 AM in Misc.

May 31, 2010
Charles Spurgeon on War

Here's Laurence M. Vance's "Charles Spurgeon on Christian War Fever." An audio version is here.

Update: Here's John Cecil Cadoux's The Early Christian Attitude to War, courtesy of the Online Library of Liberty, which I just added to my reading list.

Posted by Art Carden at 01:44 PM in Misc.

May 28, 2010
Cavalcade of Miscellany (Updated)

1. Sven Wilson on lying politicians (redundant?). Choice sentence: "Put a typical Congressman in front of a TV camera, and you are assured of one thing: total B.S."

2. Serendipity re: 1 with Justin Ross.

3. Lenore Skenazy on why "I wouldn't leave my kid somewhere I wouldn't also leave $1 million" isn't a very good argument.

4. Bradley Thompson sends me a link to his book (with Yaron Brook) entitled Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea. Having just finished Thomas Sowell's Intellectuals and Society, it looks especially interesting.

Posted by Art Carden at 10:16 PM in Misc.

May 25, 2010
Comforts of Modernity

I'm cleaning up a few things and came across this, which I wrote on a plane to Copenhagen last month:

Blog post: glanced up at the screen on a plane. Off the coast of Maine, en route to Copenhagen. We're about 35,000 feet up, the outside temperature is -77 degrees fahrenheit, and we're moving at a ground speed of 562 MPH.

I'm sipping a cup of decaf coffee while working on a Forbes article on my laptop and listening to music on my iPod.

Posted by Art Carden at 09:40 AM in Misc.

May 01, 2010
Never Forget: May Day 2010 (Updated)

Here are a couple of May Day Links as the blogosphere continues adding to the discussion:

1. Bryan Caplan's interesting counterfactual history: what if a stroke had killed Lenin in 1917?

2. Bryan's online Museum of Communism.

2a. Bryan's article on communism for the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics.

3. R.J. Rummel's democide website.

4. My 11/9/09 post on democide victims.

5. At the "What's Wrong With the World?" panel at Rhodes in September, I claimed that arguments for communism would be wrong. Mises explains why in his classic "Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth."

6. David Gordon reviews G.A. Cohen's Why Not Socialism?. My review will appear in The Freeman; James Otteson's review will appear in The Independent Review.

7. Romance does not excuse evil. It suggests an interesting exercise in comparative ethics. Who is guilty of the greater crime: the apologist for pedophiles in priestly robes, or the apologist for those who inaugurated campaigns of systematic slaughter in the name of "the people?"

8. Who is that on your t-shirt?

Posted by Art Carden at 06:16 AM in Misc.

April 28, 2010
Toward Understanding Ideological Polarization in the Blogosphere

Three internet law scholars affiliated with Yale's Infomation Society Project have analyzed ideological and technological patterns among political blogs.

[P]revious empirical studies of the United States political blogosphere have found evidence that the left and right are relatively symmetric in terms of various forms of linking behavior despite their ideological polarization... In this paper, we revisit these findings by comparing the practices of discursive production and participation among top U.S. political blogs on the left, right, and center during Summer, 2008. Based on qualitative coding of the top 155 political blogs, our results reveal significant cross-ideological variations along several important dimensions. Notably, we find evidence of an association between ideological affiliation and the technologies, institutions, and practices of participation across political blogs. Sites on the left adopt more participatory technical platforms; are comprised of significantly fewer sole-authored sites; include user blogs; maintain more fluid boundaries between secondary and primary content; include longer narrative and discussion posts; and (among the top half of the blogs in our sample) more often use blogs as platforms for mobilization as well as discursive production.

Here is a slanted write up in The Nation. Are we to be surprised by these findings? I don't think so. This fits with the populist and Progressive traditions that are strong in the American left, and the monarchical tradition that is stronger on the right. The paper is more about advancing the tools with which we analyze the Internet especially the blogosphere. By the way, a quick glance at the appendix reveals no economics blogs are in the study.

Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 12:55 PM in Misc.

April 22, 2010
SDAE: Carl Menger Undergraduate Essay Contest

By email from Steve Horwitz, long-time Secretary of the SDAE.

The Society for the Development of Austrian Economics is pleased to announce the inaugural Carl Menger Essay Contest. The purpose of the contest is to recognize and encourage undergraduate scholarship in the Austrian tradition and the broadly catallactic approach to social science which it represents, an approach common also to the Scottish Enlightenment of Smith and Hume, the French Liberal School of Say and Bastiat, the Virginia School of Buchanan and Tullock, the UCLA price theory of Alchian and Demsetz, and the Bloomington School of Vincent and Elinor Ostrom, among others. We invite essays that explore, advance, challenge, or apply the ideas of these and related schools of thought.

The contest is open to undergraduate students and recent graduates from any discipline. Entrants must be enrolled in undergraduate coursework at some point during the 2010 calendar year, and must not hold a Bachelor’s or equivalent degree as of January 31, 2010. Those graduating at the end of the spring or summer are eligible.

Three winners will receive $1,000 each conditional on attending and presenting their essays at the Society’s annual meeting at the Southern Economic Association conference (southerneconomic.org). The conference takes place on November 20-22, 2010 at the Sheraton Atlanta in Atlanta, Georgia.

PDF with full details here.

Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 10:45 AM in Misc.

April 20, 2010
What I've Been Writing Lately

1. Improve Your Writing With Word Limits, for Lifehack.org.

2. Barbecue Defined in the Process of Its Emergence, for Mises.org.

Posted by Art Carden at 09:45 AM in Misc.

April 16, 2010
"Opportunities for Students" Bleg

I maintain an "Opportunities for Students" page on my website. Am I missing anything? If so, please let me know.

Posted by Art Carden at 11:53 AM in Misc.

April 09, 2010
Chronicle Articles

I have written a number of "advice" articles, in the Chronicle of Higher Ed. Anyone who knows me knows that my abilities as a leader are quite limited, so the merit of these articles, if they have any, is more on the "Here are some mistakes to avoid!" front.

And, the Jan 2010 piece does have a rather funny story in it....

April 2010: 10 Suggestions for a New Department Chair


Nov 2009: SORRY I'M LATE


Aug 2008: "A" HIRE VS "THE" HIRE

Posted by Michael Munger at 08:09 AM in Misc.

April 07, 2010

Good stuff from Google Reader this morning:

1. Hanson on Yglesias on markets. This reaffirms my belief that politics has more in common with team sports than principles.

2. Bryan Caplan comments on this essay by David Boaz. Boaz warns against libertarians viewing the past with rose-colored glasses.

Posted by Art Carden at 09:43 AM in Misc.

March 30, 2010
What I've Been Writing Lately: On Timothy Ferriss, The Four-Hour Workweek

In the latest issue of Productive!.

Posted by Art Carden at 09:12 PM in Misc.

March 28, 2010
On Twitter: 140-Character Microblogging

I joined Twitter a few months ago; you can follow me here. Here's an interesting article on the effective use of Twitter. I just made a note to myself to give Twitter assignments in my classes this Fall ("use exactly 140 characters to explain X"). Cross-posted at The Beacon.

Posted by Art Carden at 10:18 PM in Misc.

March 26, 2010
Samizdat: The Libertarian Alarm Clock

You might have read the story about the Socialist Alarm Clock. Here's one version. A friend who wishes to remain anonymous sent his libertarian version and asked me to post it (cross-posted at the Mises Blog and The Beacon):

"This morning I was awoken by my alarm clock built by the ingenuity of millions of individuals all working for their own gain, but whose efforts were coordinated by the prices for labor and materials and finished goods provided by the free market. I then took a shower in the clean water provided by the shower head, pipes, and sanitation facilities whose construction also involved the efforts of thousands of people acting in their independent interest. After that, I turned on the TV to The Weather Channel, whose owners include one of the largest multi-national corporations and private equity companies, to see the week's forecast presented in a clear, informative (and even entertaining) manner. I watched this while eating breakfast of General Mills’ inspected food and taking drugs whose strong brand name gives me confidence in its safety.

At the time which millions of people coordinate their activities to take advantage of each other’s knowledge and skills, I leave for work. I get into my Japanese-designed, Mexican-supplied, Michigan-assembled automobile and set out to work on the roads built by construction contracting companies and named after corrupt politicians, possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel that was shipped from the Middle East by an oil company at a per gallon cost many times lower than the price of having a letter delivered across the street by the government monopoly that loses millions of dollars each year. To make the purchase there is no need to leave the pump; I am able to slide a piece of plastic into a small slot and get credit extended to me by a bank who has never met me in person. On the way out the door, I put out the Fed-Ex envelope containing the documents I need to arrive across the country tomorrow morning and drop the kids off at the public school which is attended by only the best students, thanks to the high home prices in the area.

After work, I drive my Japanese-Latino-Midwestern car back home, to a house which has not burned down in my absence because of materials developed in the research and development departments of hundreds of corporations and which has not been plundered of all is valuables thanks to the lock on the door and a sign advertising the security company whose services I employ. My piece of mind was not interrupted by the thought of these events anyway, as I have both fire and homeowners insurance through privately held insurance company.

I then log on to the internet to watch and listen to artists who don't appeal to a broad enough audience to make it onto one of the few channels that a government monopoly allows to be broadcast. I then log onto the democraticunderground.com to post about how DEREGULATING the medical industry is BAD because low-cost, quality health care can never be provided by greedy, self-interested people."

Posted by Art Carden at 11:46 AM in Misc.

March 19, 2010
Stuff To Read While You Watch College Basketball

1. My new Forbes piece on immigration.

2. Seth Simonds' great Lifehack piece on using Twitter. A key selection:

3. Sidestep Stoner Syndrome

Every complex thought reduced to 140 characters will end up sounding like it was pulled from a hookah. That brilliant thought you had earlier today about how the world could learn a lot just by watching ducks swim? You didn’t seem smarter when you tweeted it. You sounded like you were really, really high. All those inspirational quotes about failure being nothing more than success wrapped in bacon? They make you sound high. This isn’t your fault. Not at all! You can blame it on Twitter’s 140-character limits and our common human tendency to say as many profound things each day as possible. If you focus on sharing your perspective on simpler ideas, you’ll seem insightful and perhaps even witty.

3. A 2002 article about Netscape suing Microsoft for "crushing" Netscape Navigator. Having just switched from Firefox to Chrome and having kept kind of an eye on the battle between MySpace and Facebook, the worries about a Microsoft browser monopoly seem kind of silly in retrospect. Here's are some links from 9/1/09 on natural monopoly.

4. Also, watch J.C. Bradbury on Stossel talking about stadium subsidies.

Posted by Art Carden at 05:43 PM in Misc.

March 18, 2010
Graph of the day

This site shows a useful piece of history regarding pollution.

Posted by Wilson Mixon at 02:22 PM in Misc.

March 16, 2010
A Day-Brightener

The Ludwig von Mises Institutet i Sverige (HT: Jeff Tucker).

Posted by Art Carden at 04:08 PM in Misc.

March 10, 2010
More Student Opportunities

Eric Daniel emailed me some additional opportunities for students which (I think) I forgot to post.

1. The Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism three-day conference, which includes room, board, tuition, books, and travel money.

2. The Fund for American Studies offers summer internships.

Posted by Art Carden at 11:19 AM in Misc.

March 08, 2010
Catching Up With the Internet

1. The podcast of my lecture on Walmart from St. Lawrence University.

2. More wisdom on aid from William Easterly. How much do aid agencies waste trying to be all things to all people?

3. Mises Dailies in Spanish (HT: Manuel Lora).

4. Today's EconTalk is essential: Katherine Newman discusses low-wage labor.

5. Here's Emily Schaeffer on Toyota. This is a classic example of why markets work and governments don't. Market processes don't mean we won't have problems or that people won't make mistakes. Market processes do mean that when problems occur and when mistakes are made (or when fraud is committed), they will be identified as such.

Posted by Art Carden at 04:32 PM in Misc.

March 07, 2010
Cavalcade of Miscellany: Race and Rational Voters

1. I was thinking about something like this earlier today (HT: Steve Haptonstahl). As people get more mobile and as lines dividing ethnic groups keep blurring, "where are you from?" will take on new meanings.

2. Here's Bryan Caplan on voting and the prospects of meaningful reform for Medicare and Social Security. Here's where I think there's an important aspect of wisdom in the Tea Party movement: our current pattern of government spending is unsustainable, and a lot of what has been proposed and implemented in the last several years is only making it less sustainable. Unfortunately, it looks like a lot of the Tea Partiers are most exercised about areas of government spending (like foreign aid and welfare) that are very, very small relative to, say, what we're spending on the military.

Posted by Art Carden at 04:25 PM in Misc.

March 01, 2010
Quote of the Morning

Here's co-blogger Mike Munger on a ruling by a Memphis immigration judge granting asylum to German homeschoolers:

My point is that "broadly accepted" is irrelevant to "right thing to do." Broadly accepted can't be the standard, in a civilized nation, of the set of the things citizens can be forced to do at gunpoint.

Therein lies one of the fundamental differences between libertarianism/classical liberalism and statist ideologies like progressivism and conservatism, and it's a Smithian/Hayekian point that Thomas Sowell has made repeatedly in books like Knowledge and Decisions, A Conflict of Visions, The Vision of the Anointed, The Quest for Cosmic Justice: when you're talking about what "the state" should do or the policies "the state" should implement or "the kind of society we want to build," you're fundamentally talking about when, where and how one person should force his or her will on another person at gunpoint.

In this case, whether you agree or disagree with the homeschoolers' values or whether you think cultural diversity is good or bad is precisely irrelevant to the question of whether you have the right to threaten them with violence if they do not allow you to substitute your judgment for theirs. If you're willing to ignore (or even support) those who come for the homeschoolers, don't be surprised when they come for you.

Posted by Art Carden at 10:02 AM in Misc.

February 26, 2010
CTV, not the Onion

"Aid officials" tell Haitians to "leave their tent homes and return to their destroyed neighborhoods." Apparently, it's due to heavy rain.

Posted by Art Carden at 07:36 AM in Misc.

February 20, 2010
Free-Range Kids

Bryan Caplan and Steve Horwitz are both very enthusiastic about Lenore Skenazy's Free-Range Kids. After reading it last night, I am too. I agree with Bryan that it isn't a work of social science and it doesn't try to be. It's an exercise in fast-paced, well-written, applied common sense. Dare I say it, it's also a book in applied economics and statistics. Skenazy argues throughout that just because something is possible doesn't mean it is probable. Consider the annual hand-wringing about Halloween candy. She reports that apparently there is no evidence that sickos are poisoning Halloween candy or putting razor blades in apples or anything like that (when I related the story this morning, my sister told me that she "knows someone who" got a razor blade in an apple one time but never reported it to the police). Every time someone says something about the latest X that is supposed to be associated with a very terrible Y, my inner econometrician starts asking "in what doses? With what probability? How precise is the estimate? How was the experiment designed?" Sometimes, my inner econometrician starts speaking on behalf of my outer concerned parent. Then things get interesting.

It's a great book for parents and parents-to-be, and it sets the table for Caplan's forthcoming Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids.

Posted by Art Carden at 11:03 AM in Misc.

February 19, 2010
Lots-o-Links Roundup

Lots of great stuff on teh interwebs recently. HT to everyone for links to the following:

1. Will Wilkinson on "The Progressive Fallacy on Free Speech." A good passage: "Corporations are not essentially villainous agglomerations of money and power. They are a convenient form of social organization that enables large numbers of people to undertake cooperative endeavors."

2. Speaking of progressives and conservatives, Steve Horwitz talks about constitutional consistency. Why have constitutions if we're just going to chuck them out the window when they get inconvenient?

3. Speaking of consistency and the Constitution, Andrew Napolitano argues that military tribunals for suspected terrorists are unconstitutional without a formal declaration of war. Presumably, we have a constitution to prevent just this kind of thing.

4. Speaking of Steve Horwitz, here's his new NBR post. The takeaway point, which I'll add to future discussions of capital, production, and macroeconomics: capital goods are more like legos than like Play-Doh.

5. Roderick Long discusses the tea party movement. So does Gene Healy. As always, I wonder what the starting point is for narratives of decline. I'm also a little concerned that some of the tea partying isn't so much about principled objections to government power as it is about people being upset that someone else might get the first-class upgrades they were expecting on the government subsidy gravy train (cf. "keep your government hands off my Medicare").

6. Radley Balko discusses a new article in The American Conservative that takes an impressively data-driven look at the relationship between immigration and crime and finds that, contrary to a lot of hysteria, immigrants (including undocumented immigrants) aren't causing a crime wave. I agree with Radley: given the resonance of all things anti-foreign with a lot of conservatives, this was a gutsy journalistic move for AmConMag. I'm guessing that Darryl Weathers from the Construction Workers' Union is not amused.

7. Speaking of foreigners, people have complained that the Chinese are manipulating their currency. As Mark J. Perry explains, they're doing us a favor if they manipulate their currency to make their exports cheaper.

Posted by Art Carden at 11:45 PM in Misc.

Recent Reading

1. Paul Dragos Aligica and Peter J. Boettke, Challenging Institutional Analysis and Development: The Bloomington School. if you've been scoring at home, my motivation for reading this was obvious. It's a very succinct discussion of the features that make the Bloomington School distinctive. It's a very useful survey of the contributions of Political Economy to Social Science. They offer a beautiful quote from Vincent Ostrom on pp. 61-62 that should give enthusiasts for intervention pause:

The greatest evils inflicted upon humanity have been the work of those who are so confident of their efforts to do good that they do not hesitate to use the instruments of evil available to them on behalf of their righteous cause.

2. Elinor Ostrom, Understanding Institutional Diversity. Again, the motivation is obvious. Books packed with game-changing insights make my head asplode. This is one of those books.

3. Virginia Postrel, The Substance of Style. This was one I have been meaning to read for years. I've read a lot of the surrounding material and am familiar with the argument, but I'd never actually sat down and read the book. For polemical force, it's every bit as good as The Future and Its Enemies. As social criticism, it's better. Given how much I loved Future, it goes without saying that I think this is a must-read.

4. Walter Williams, South Africa's War Against Capitalism. I bought a used copy through the Amazon Marketplace. When it arrived in the mail, I opened it to discover that it's signed by Walter Williams. Epic Win. Williams offers a brief survey of South African history and shows how apartheid was a decades-long institutional revolution against the institutions of free-market capitalism.

5. Julie Rose's new translation of Les Miserables. Tyler Cowen described this as the definitive translation. The sheer depth, breadth, and magnitude of the story is astounding. This is the first time I've read it since reading Atlas Shrugged, and it's clear that Hugo's influence is all over Rand. Indeed, one thing I learned from Jennifer Burns's Rand bio is that Rand wrote a detailed outline of Les Miz while working on Atlas. The Rose translation is beautiful.

Posted by Art Carden at 06:04 PM in Misc.

February 02, 2010
Summer 2010 Opportunities

So you're a graduate student and you're wondering "what should I do this summer?" I would encourage you to apply for a Rowley Summer Fellowship from the Mises Institute. I spent a few weeks there in the summer of 2003, attended the Rothbard Graduate Seminar on Man, Economy, and State, and generally enjoyed the outstanding intellectual environment (the change of scenery was nice, too). HT: Tom Woods.

Speaking of nice scenery and outstanding intellectual environments, the American Institute for Economic Research also has a student summer fellowship program. I've been to AIER as a Visiting Research Fellow twice, and I've loved it both times. Suffice it to say that the summer climate in the Berkshires is much, much more pleasant than the summer climate in Memphis.

Here's my "Opportunities for Students" page, which I expect to update periodically. It has links to a handful of other resources.

Posted by Art Carden at 01:58 PM in Misc.

January 31, 2010
On Prying and Gossip

In his excellent book Fair Play, Steven Landsburg relates an incident in which he learns never to underestimate the power of those who hate to see others enjoy themselves. In the same vein, I would caution people to never underestimate the power and malevolence of those who love destruction for its own sake. Consider the following passage from Les Miserables:

"No one pries as effectively into other people's business as those whose business it most definitely is not. 'Why does that gentleman only ever come at dusk?' 'Why doesn't what's-his-name ever hang his keys on the hook on Thursdays?' 'Why does she always take the backstreets?' 'Why does Madame always get out of her fiacre before it drives into her hard?' 'Why does she send someone out for a block of writing paper when she has loads of stationery in the house?' And so on and so forth. There are beings who, to find the answer to such teasing riddles, about which, furthermore, they don't actually give a fig, spend more money, devote more time, go to much more trouble than ten good deeds would require; and do so gratuitiously, just for the hell of it, without being rewarded for their curiosity except by curiosity itself. They will follow this or that person for days at a time, while away the hours loitering on sundry street corners, under the arches of passageways, at night, in the cold and the rain, bribe desk attendants, get coach drivers and lackeys roaring drunk, buy off a chambermaid, put a porter in their pocket. What for? For nothing. For the sake of finding out, knowing, penetrating the mystery. Out of an itching need to be able to tell. And often, once these secrets are out, the mysteries broadcast, the enigmas exposed to the light of day, they lead to catastrophe, duels, bankruptcies, ruined families, shattered existences--to the great joy of those who 'got to the bottom of it all' for no apparent reason than through sheer instinct. Sad.

"Some people are malicious out of a simple need to have something to say. Their conversation, parlor talk, antechamber gossip, is reminiscent of those fireplaces that swiftly go through the wood--they need a lot of fuel, and the fuel is their neighbor."

Victor Hugo, Les Miserables, trans. 2009 by Julie Rose, New York: Modern Library, p. 150.

Posted by Art Carden at 03:55 PM in Misc.

January 30, 2010
Inconsistencies in Public Discourse: Che Guevara

I've been thinking a lot about some apparent inconsistencies in public discourse. For example, I would expect a very high correlation between the view that we need to do all we can to curb carbon dioxide emissions because "the science is settled" on global warming and the view that we need to raise the minimum wage in order to help the poor.

Similarly, I would expect a very high correlation between the probability that you think we need to close Guantanamo and the probability that you own (and have worn proudly) a Che Guevara t-shirt. Lord Acton said that great men are almost invariably and always very bad men. Che Guevara was not a great man. He was just a very bad man. Here's more (HT: Humberto Fontova):

Addendum: here's Glenn Beck's entire documentary on communism.

Posted by Art Carden at 03:25 PM in Misc.

Cavalcade of Miscellany: Politics & Power, Moral Decline, Arachno-Capitalism

1. Sheldon Richman's recent TGIF column on the State of the Union Address is not to be missed. I ask: do people go into politics to pursue virtue, truth, and charity, or do they go into politics to pursue power? Consider Summer 2008, when the Obama campaign threw Austan Goolsbee under the bus and then moved toward the center on trade. This is consistent with the power motive rather than the virtue/truth/charity motive (here are some potentially useful links from Wednesday).

2. Cultural conservatives spend a lot of time denouncing the moral decay of American society, but I'm not sure where they would place the heights from which we have allegedly fallen. Consider this passage from Gordon S. Woods, Empire of Liberty, p. 342:

"For many observers it seemed as if sexual passions were running amuck. Premarital pregnancies dramatically increased, at rates not reached again until the 1960s. In some communities one third of all marriages took place after the woman was pregnant. Between 1785 and 1797 Martha Ballard, a midwife in Lincoln County, Maine, delivered 106 women of their first babies; forty, or 38 percent, were conceived out of wedlock. All these statistics suggest that many sons and daughters were selecting their mates without waiting for parental approval."

3. Arachno-Capitalism. I posted it a link to the video on the Mises Blog yesterday. Best comment so far: "Eight legs good. Two legs bad."

Posted by Art Carden at 10:58 AM in Misc.

January 28, 2010
On the Road Again...

It's almost February, and I'll be doing a bit of traveling. Next week, I'm spending Thursday at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa (campus lecture at 4:00 PM, public lecture at 7:00 PM, both on Walmart) and then giving a seminar on a paper that Charles Courtemanche and I have in the works at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. On Wednesday, 2/17 I'm giving my Walmart public talk and (possibly) a seminar at Indiana University, and then I'll be doing the same at Saint Lawrence University in beautiful Canton, NY on Thursday, February 25. If you'll be in Storm Lake, Bloomington, or Canton while I'm around, be sure to let me know.

Posted by Art Carden at 09:37 PM in Misc.

January 27, 2010
Steve Jobs Unveiled an Amazing New Product...

...in 1984, the year I started Kindergarten:

Then, in 2001, when I finished college and started grad school, he introduced the iPod:

Today, he unveiled the iPad. Of course, not all responses have been positive, and the Twitter feed shows the iPad getting iPanned (one comment on the Gizmodo liveblog asks "Does anyone else feel the same way they felt 12 minutes into Phantom Menace?"). It does look like an oversized iPhone, but I'll be interested in seeing what the reactions are over the next couple of days, and I fully expect that Jobs's critics will ultimately be iPwned (sorry, couldn't resist). And no, I don't plan to buy one.


Posted by Art Carden at 01:43 PM in Misc.

"Do You Have a Minute?"

Jason Womack is one of my favorite thinkers on productivity; I contributed a bit to his book The Promise Doctrine, and I'm going to review it for Lifehack.org. In the video below, he offers a couple of useful tips for dealing with interruptions. Here's a classic from co-blogger and music video superstar Michael Munger on meetings.

A proposal: Assume the average worker's time is worth $0.33/minute. Would meetings be more efficient if attendees were penalized $0.33*(other people in the meeting)*(number of minutes late), so that someone arriving five minutes late to a meeting with three other people is penalized $5 (perhaps to be redistributed to those who were there on time)? Or would that be a recipe for mutiny? Or would people be later more often since they're paying for their lateness with money rather than social capital? Are there any examples of policies like this? What do you think?

Posted by Art Carden at 10:28 AM in Misc.

January 24, 2010
Spontaneous order . . . or something like it

According to the Wikipedia entry for Phenix City, Alabama --

"Although Alabama is legally part of the Central Time Zone, Phenix City's proximity to the larger city of Columbus, Georgia means that Phenix City and areas within a 10-15 mile radius (such as Smiths Station, Alabama) observe Eastern Time on a de facto basis, including the Phenix City municipal government."

Posted by Mike DeBow at 07:34 PM in Misc.

January 13, 2010
Did a Deal With the Devil Cause the Haitian Earthquake?

According to Pat Robertson, the Haitians won their freedom from the French by swearing "a pact to the Devil." Again according to Robertson, their history of poverty is due to this unholy bargain.

There are a couple of problems with this explanation, though. First, it doesn't account for Haiti's prosperity relative to other countries that, as far as I know, haven't made any bargains with Satan or their pre-quake growth.

Second, a few minutes with the Google turned up a three-part series of articles by Jean R. Gelin in which he argues that the "Haitian deal with the Devil" claim is a myth (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

Here's Tyler Cowen on Haitian poverty.

HT: Charles McKinney for the Robertson link.

Posted by Art Carden at 05:45 PM in Misc.

January 12, 2010
Walter Block on Tour

Someone needs to print t-shirts.

Posted by Art Carden at 05:14 PM in Misc.

January 09, 2010
Predictions: Indentification Strategies Through Sports

Regarding my earlier post, Kyle Jackson emailed me to ask about another intersection between my college sports loyalties and my research interests: "will the display have a negative effect on lynchings in the area?" See on this one of my papers on lynching here; several are another revision or two away from being circulated again. I have an idea for a paper on the rise of college football and the decline in violence in the South, but I'm skeptical about a relationship. There hasn't been a lynching in Tuscaloosa in many, many years, but I'll make the following predictions:

1. Alabama will see an explosion of babies born in early-to mid-September.

1a. It also occurs to me that, tragically, there will probably be an increase in the number of abortions in Alabama in the next couple of months.

I'm not sure how 1 and 1a would change if the University of Alabama hadn't canceled the first three days of classes in anticipation of the game. My guess is that since college students are probably more likely than others to engage in risky (i.e., unprotected) sex, both will be lower.

2. When the data are reported, they will show a rise in domestic violence in parts of Texas and a fall in domestic violence in parts of Alabama.

The more I think about it, the more I think that sports can be used as an identification strategy for topics related very broadly to reproduction, crime, teen pregnancy, sexual assault, and all sorts of other things. A recent paper by Card and Dahl argues that football upsets increase domestic violence. Collecting localized data on abortion, births, crime, etc. might be a little tricky, but with college football alone you have thousands of possible observations. For example, there changes in abortions, birth, and crime near schools that pulled off major upsets? Is the effect for football different from the effect for March Madness? How do effects change based on the size and type of the school? The mind boggles, but I think there are enough data here to give us clearer answers to important questions.

Posted by Art Carden at 08:17 AM in Misc.

January 06, 2010
Dispatches from Sabbatical Prep, Part II: Kemmons Wilson Quotes

Here are a few inspiring and entertaining quotes from Holiday Inn founder Kemmons Wilson, culled from my notes on his autobiography Half Luck and Half Brains: The Kemmons Wilson, Holiday Inn Story (Nashville: Hambleton-Hill Publishing, 1996):

“A consultant is a man who knows a hundred ways to make love but doesn’t know any women.” (p. 169)

"An opportunist is a man who meets the wolf at the door and the next day appears in a fur coat." (p. 15)

"A 40-hour week has no charm for me. I'm looking for a 40-hour day." (p. 214)

"There are hundreds of languages in the world, but a smile speaks all of them." (p. 105).

Posted by Art Carden at 12:31 PM in Misc.

January 01, 2010
Restaurant Reviews from Birmingham: The Baskits, Saigon Noodle House

We've been visiting family and friends in Alabama this Christmas season, and we've been eating like it's the holidays. My problem is that I spent most of 2009 eating like it was the holidays. I tried two new restaurants yesterday--I met fellow DOLer Mike DeBow at The Baskits in Homewood for lunch, and Shannon and I went to Saigon Noodle House near 280 and 459 for dinner. The chicken tenders at The Baskits have won awards and the staff is great. I had a fried chocolate pie as a mid-morning snack (it was the only thing I could see there that would go well with coffee, and they'd stopped serving breakfast, and I was there working on a book review for a few hours). This was truly amazing: imagine your standard Southern fried pie, but with a crust made out of a funnel cake.

We went to Saigon Noodle House for dinner, and it was some of the best Vietnamese food I've ever had. I don't say that lightly: there's a good Vietnamese place in Memphis (Pho Saigon), and there are a lot of them in St. Louis. We shared spring rolls to start, Shannon got a curry chicken noodle soup, and I got M3, which was a seafood-and-beef soup with clear glass noodles and vermicelli. The Spring rolls were especially good for a couple of reasons. First, the wrapper wasn't gummy and chewy like they are on a lot of other Spring rolls. Second, they had a fried wrapper in the middle of each spring roll. This helped the rolls stay together and added an interesting texture and flavor. As for the soups, I'm so woefully ignorant of the fine points of Asian cuisine that I can't say much more than "they were really, really good." We didn't get any bubble tea, but they have that too. We'll be visiting Saigon Noodle House again the next time we're in Birmingham. HT: www.bhamdining.com.

Posted by Art Carden at 09:41 AM in Misc.

December 16, 2009
"What Went Wrong?"

In my inbox today:

Big Think Convenes Unprecedented Online Commission to Document the Causes of the Financial Crisis

NEW YORK -The on-line think tank, Big Think today launched "What Went Wrong?" an eight-week, Web-based educational series with leading economics experts collaborating to understand the root causes of the recent global financial crisis, in the interest of preventing yet another.

This ambitious and innovative initiative, sponsored by the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, comes out of the urgent need to improve our understanding of the factors that led to the crisis and assess proposed reforms to avert new crises already looming.

The interactive series will combine Big Think's singular ability to engage a range of top figures in government, business, academia and media with an open network of the world's leading economics bloggers and columnists -- who will drive the agenda of the series through their questions and analysis.

More below the fold

Read More »

Posted by Joshua Hall at 04:58 PM in Misc.

2010-11 Koch Associate Program: Free-Market Career Opportunities

The Koch Associate Program is a challenging job opportunity for professionals who are passionate about free-market ideas and want to become more effective at advancing liberty throughout their careers. During the year-long program, each Associate works in a full-time, paid position with a market-oriented think tank, policy institute, or grassroots organization; while also receiving valuable management training in a seminar setting one day out of each week at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. For more information, visit www.cgkfoundation.org/associate-program.

Posted by Joshua Hall at 03:49 PM in Misc.

December 07, 2009
On "Conspicuous Compassion"

Here's a PDF of the first chapter of Patrick West's Conspicuous Compassion, via Merlin Mann's Kung Fu Grippe Blog (ht: Will Wilkinson). Co-blogger Wilson Mixon has described this as "better to feel good than to do good" on a number of occasions.

Addendum: I wrote about the economics of anonymous giving for Lifehack.org about a year ago.

Posted by Art Carden at 10:44 AM in Misc.

November 20, 2009
Cavalcade of Miscellany: On the Road Again...

1. The last week has been consumed by a burst of travel, exam grading, and other stuff (I now have a decent website in progress). On Monday, I debated the merits and demerits of Walmart with Stephan Goetz at Wake Forest. A good time was had by all, the questions were fantastic, and we didn't really disagree on too much of substance. Here's a write-up from the WFU student newspaper.

2. Here's some true wisdom from Arnold Kling on TARP; it echoes the discussion of the New Deal we had in Economic History yesterday. HT: Don Boudreaux.

Posted by Art Carden at 02:28 PM in Misc.

November 18, 2009
Thinking Globally, Acting...Globally and Locally

Looking for a way to make a difference? Join Amnesty International's Annual Global Write-a-Thon (HT: Leigh Johnson). I'm going to write to American leaders on behalf of open borders. Here's (another) link to Lant Pritchett's Let Their People Come.

Posted by Art Carden at 11:52 AM in Misc.

November 06, 2009
Boudreaux on Voting

Here's Don Boudreaux on why he refuses to vote (HT Don Boudreaux). Perhaps non-voting can be an exercise in civic virtue: by abstaining, non-voters reduce congestion at the polls and make life easier for those who derive great satisfaction from voting. I've written on voting several times. Don's essay is well worth reading.

Posted by Art Carden at 12:52 PM in Misc.

October 31, 2009
Sentence of the Day

I know I should grade these papers, but I can't tear myself away from teh interwebs or the Twilight Zone Championship Game (aka Iowa-Indiana). Here's the Mises Institute's Jeffrey Tucker:

"Unlike at Christmas, where kids must only be good little citizens all year in order to be showered with gifts from their beneficent Guardians, at Halloween, kids must actually work in real time for their candy."

FWIW, Jeff is one of my favorite thinkers on 21st century education, and not just because he publishes a lot of my articles. Here's his Mises.org media archive; one of my favorites is his talk "Dissident Publishing: Then and Now."

Posted by Art Carden at 03:13 PM in Misc.

October 09, 2009
Michael Moore and Capitalism (Updated)

Here he makes a couple of crucial admissions in this clip featuring a great question from Chad Swarthout, a student at George Washington University and a participant in the Institute for Humane Studies "Liberty and Society" Summer Seminar I taught at last summer. Sadly, Moore doesn't realize that the "ideal" system he describes in which everyone's voice is heard is a system based on private property and free markets, nor does he answer Chad's question meaningfully.

Update: readers who were at the 2009 Liberty & Society Seminar at Wake Forest might remember Kyle McNeel's exhortation to "stand in front of a tank" in reference to the 20th anniversary of Tiananmen Square. This is a pretty good example of someone doing exactly that.

Posted by Art Carden at 01:12 PM in Misc.

October 08, 2009
Tonight: "The Legacy of Adam Smith and the Future of Capitalism"

If you're in the Memphis area and you're looking for something to do this evening, Rhodes is hosting a Symposium on "The Legacy of Adam Smith and the Future of Capitalism" through the Project for the Study of Liberal Democracy. This year marks the 250th anniversary of Adam Smith's The Theory of Moral Sentiments, and we will hear comments from James Otteson, Professor of Philosophy and Economics at Yeshiva University and Charles G. Koch Senior Fellow at the Fund for American Studies, and Peter McNamara, Associate Professor and Graduate Director in the Department of Political Science at Utah State University. I'm the discussant. If you saw Brian C. Anderson's review of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's Commonwealth in this morning's Wall Street Journal, you understand why this discussion takes on added importance. The fun begins at 7:00 PM in the Bryan Campus Life Center.

Posted by Art Carden at 09:12 AM in Misc.

September 13, 2009
Cavalcade of Miscellany

1. During his administration, President W. Bush made us poorer with steel tariffs. Now, President Obama will make us poorer with tire tariffs. Is that supposed to be change I can believe in?

2. Congratulations to Melinda Miller of the US Naval Academy, who won the 2009 Nevins Prize from the Economic History Association for the best dissertation in American economic history. Here's an old MetaFilter post discussing her work and offering links.

3. Recent posts from John Cochrane, including his response to Paul Krugman's NYT Magazine article on how economists got it all wrong. It appears the gloves are off.

4. Sheldon Richman on the immorality of forcing insurance companies to cover preexisting conditions. It's a pretty good argument.

Posted by Art Carden at 02:48 AM in Misc.

September 04, 2009
Dispatches from Atlanta: Jim Crow, Legislator?

I'm spending the weekend looking at microfilm and documents at the Atlanta University Center's Woodruff Library, and I came across the following on Reel 86, Frames 357 and 357B of the W.E.B. DuBois papers (quoted verbatim, hand-written):

"Mississippi Code of 1930, of the Public Statute Laws of the State of M. Published by Authority of the Legisltaure by the Code Commission
"Ch. 20, Sec. 1115
Railroads-not providing separate cars.--
If any person or corporation operating a railroad shall fail to provide two or more passenger cars for each passenger train, or to divide the passenger cars by a partition, to secure separate accomodations (sic) for the white and colored races, as provided by law, or if any railroad passenger conductor shall fail to assign each passenger to the car or compartment of the car used for the race to which the passenger belongs, he or it shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and on conviction shall be find not less than twenty dollars nor more than five hundred dollars."

Jim Crow wasn't a market phenomenon, but why would railroads--who had disproportionate political power--go along with it? My gut reaction is that it stifled competition: railroads acquiesced to Jim Crow for the same reason Wal-Mart has gotten enthusiastic about health care mandates. I'll have to check the data, but it would be interesting to see whether railroads were more or less profitable during and after Jim Crow.

And here's another gem from Chapter 20, section 1103 of the Mississippi Code that illustrates some of the cultural constraints on the market (frame 357B):
"Races-social equality, marriages between - advocacy of punished.--Any person, firm, or corporation also shall be guilty of printing, publishing, or circulating printed, typewritten, or written matter urging or presenting for public acceptance or general information, arguments or suggestions in favor of social equality, or of intermarriage between whites and negroes, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars or imprisonment not exceeding six months or both fine and imprisonment in the discretion of the court."

Naturally, this raises an empirical question: how often were people prosecuted for advocating racial equality?

Complete Cite, if you find this useful:
Papers of W.E.B. DuBois, Reel 86. Robert W. Woodruff Library, Atlanta University Center.

Posted by Art Carden at 03:16 PM in Misc.

September 02, 2009
Congratulations, Bryan Caplan

Congratulations are in order for the Caplans: young Simon Caplan was born today.

Posted by Art Carden at 03:33 PM in Misc.

September 01, 2009
On "city" hospitals c. 1909

I am not sure what a "city hospital" was in New York City in 1909, however the Sept. 1, 1909 NYT prints the following letter to the editor:

In one of our city hospitals there are as many as 400 people attending the clinic every day. At the entrance of this clinic there stands a water cooler with one cup; there is no way provided for the proper cleansing of this cup, and men, women, and children use the same, some of whom are suffering from tuberculosis, syphilis, cancer, ulcerated mouths, and other infectious diseases. If the city cannot provide paper cups that can be destroyed, or washed, sterilized, and used again, would it not be wise to remove the cooler?

Most of the people are ignorant of their danger. Are the doctors who are fighting these dread diseases carelessly ignorant, or are those in authority criminally negligent?

Posted by Craig Depken at 03:41 PM in Misc.

August 24, 2009
Cavalcade of Miscellany

1. Megan McArdle comments on a discussion about American Europhilia. Tyler Cowen says Americans are smitten with Europe because of majestic, stately architecture and says that if it featured predominantly postwar buildings, "most Americans would think of Europe as some kind of dump." Tyler is responding to Bryan Caplan, who argues that "Touristic Bias" explains "why Americans overrate Europe, and Europeans underrate America." I haven't spent much time in Europe, but after a couple of days in Amsterdam in 2007 the charm started to wear off and I started wishing I could find a Starbucks or a grocery store that opened before 10:00 AM.

2. David Goldhill offers essential reading on health care (HT: Marc Law, Radley Balko). Here's the most important paragraph:

"...I suspect that our collective search for villains—for someone to blame—has distracted us and our political leaders from addressing the fundamental causes of our nation’s health-care crisis. All of the actors in health care—from doctors to insurers to pharmaceutical companies—work in a heavily regulated, massively subsidized industry full of structural distortions. They all want to serve patients well. But they also all behave rationally in response to the economic incentives those distortions create. Accidentally, but relentlessly, America has built a health-care system with incentives that inexorably generate terrible and perverse results. Incentives that emphasize health care over any other aspect of health and well-being. That emphasize treatment over prevention. That disguise true costs. That favor complexity, and discourage transparent competition based on price or quality. That result in a generational pyramid scheme rather than sustainable financing. And that—most important—remove consumers from our irreplaceable role as the ultimate ensurer of value."

The policies being seriously considered are not about capitalism versus socialism. They are about replacing a statist status quo with a different kind of statism.

3. Gary Becker on a clunker of an idea.

4. We had this for dinner this evening. It was awesome.

5. John Smoltz had a great first game with the Cardinals. Five scoreless innings, three hits, nine strikeouts--including seven in a row. At $100,000, that's a bargain even if it's the only game he ever pitches for the Cardinals. By comparison, if Chris Carpenter pitched 250 innings--which is probably impossible right now--he would come in at $56,000 per inning.

Posted by Art Carden at 08:35 PM in Misc.  ·  Comments (0)

August 20, 2009
The Rhetorical Road to Hitler

The last time I taught Economic History, I enjoined my students to avoid using Hitler and the Nazis as rhetorical devices because such comparisons are almost always irrelevant. If you're talking about Stalin, Mao, and democide, then Hitler comparisons might be appropriate. If you're debating the merits of a vegetarian diet, then invoking Hitler's vegetarianism lends nothing to the debate. Here's Barney Frank dismissing such a comparison in the context of the health care debate; I ultimately think that reductio ad Hitlerum arguments will ultimately weaken the impact of the opposition to President Obama's health care proposals.

Posted by Art Carden at 08:30 AM in Misc.

August 19, 2009
What To Do With What You Did Over Your Summer Vacation (2009 Edition)

So you've been to a summer program sponsored by Mises, IHS, FEE, Cato, Independent, or any of a number of other organizations dedicated to economic research and education. You're excited, and you're firmly grounded in your understanding of the classical liberal tradition. You wonder: what now? Here are a few suggestions that will help you make a difference and contribute to the discussion while developing your writing ability.

Read More »

Posted by Art Carden at 10:30 PM in Misc.

August 18, 2009
How long do you wait for a sub sandwhich?

I am not trying to be a curmudgeon as I approach the big four-oh this Saturday, but here is a rant.

At our local mall a *** subway shop recently opened in the food court. Generally speaking, the mall food court (in my opinion) ranks near the bottom of desirable locations to gain sustenance. Faced with the options of bad Chinese, bad Cajun, bad fish and chips, bad pizza, and bad hamburgers, I was willing to give the *** sub shop a chance. After all, how bad can a sub sandwich be relative to the other choices.

Admission: Today was the first time I ever ordered/ate anything from a *** Sub Shop so if I am off base here, please let me know.

My prediction is that the *** sub shop in our local mall will be out of business within a few months. I ordered a #5 turkey and roast beef without the onions at 11:17 AM. I took delivery of my sandwich at 11:30 AM. Now, I may be willing to wait for the greatest sub sandwich I have ever tasted, but the old #5 was not that.

Is the shtick of the *** sub shop to make you wait ten plus minutes for your sub? If so, then I humbly suggest they take that shtick somewhere else.

The whole idea of a food court (misdirected as I think it is) is to churn-and-burn, that is, to move people through the line as quick as possible. In the sub shop there were three people making sandwiches (as far as I could tell) and plenty of customers waiting for sandwiches who I had not seen in line (I was number two in a two deep line when I ordered). Thus, I assume that the folks waiting ahead of me had a somewhat similar experience - that is ten+ minutes for a single sub (with a bit lower average wait time if two or more people ordered multiple subs on the same ticket).

The capacity at which they were operating at 11:15AM was around eighteen sandwiches per hour - I'll be generous and go up to 20 per hour. At a price of $8 per sandwich that's $164 in total revenue per hour at full capacity. Let's assume the store operates at the equivalent of four peak-capacity hours per day - that's $640 per day. That doesn't sound sufficient to survive very long - they better get a lot more efficient really quick.

I am open to possibilities that the *** sub shop will get better.

1. As I mentioned, this was my first (and probably last) time ordering from a *** Subs, so maybe I was supposed sit and wait with pregnant anticipation for my old #5 rather than surfing the web on my iPhone and getting frustrated that I had already paid and trying to decide if it was worth it to demand my money back.

2. The shop is relatively new so there might be some learning-by-doing on the part of the sub-shop workers. I could imagine myself in the same position of learning to make sub sandwiches. I would likely take my time making sure that the sandwich was perfect when, in the end, the marginal difference in quality and appearance is likely very low. Thus, over time the folks making sandwiches will figure out how to do things better and more efficiently.

3. Unlike a Subway or a Jimmy Johns, the *** sub seemed to not embrace division of labor beyond the cashier and sandwich maker distinction. This might change over time.

4. The folks making the sandwiches might have been "playing down" to the relatively moderate demand the shop was facing at the time - perhaps the sandwich makers become much more efficient when facing a line of folks ten deep. But my "robust inference on one observation" is that they do not.

In today's environment I don't want to see anyone who has the guts to open their own business/franchise to flame out. Thus my "free" advice to the store owner. Perhaps I will print this post out and slide it under their door sometime, I suppose I won't be able to charge them for my consulting fee.

In the end, why was such a bad experience? My family was already finished eating their bad pizza before I ever made it to the table.


Posted by Craig Depken at 05:45 PM in Misc.

August 17, 2009
Doin' it wrong...

Note to fellow caffeine addicts:

Move the canister of dog treats far, far away from the whole bean coffee.

Posted by Noel Campbell at 11:13 AM in Misc.

August 06, 2009
Cavalcade of Miscellany: Semi-Random Thoughts from Joe's Coffee in Panama City, Florida

1. Mises University was awesome. Much more--including notes and links based on my lectures--to come when I get back into the swing of normal life (sometime after the middle of the month).

2. Will communications technology make traditional vacations obsolete, and is this a bad thing? Is the traditional vacation model of lumpy leisure optimal, or is it better to smooth your leisure? Does this depend on the kind of job you have? What if you're a workaholic who loves to travel but doesn't like being a tourist? What if your idea of relaxing involves a pile of books, a laptop, and a large supply of coffee--in other words, what most people consider work? More on this later--Tyler Cowen's new book should be waiting for me in Memphis, and I'm planning to review it for Lifehack.org.

3. After I defended my dissertation, I made a list of long-term goals. By age 75, I want to have written the definitive economic history of the South. After working on a survey paper about it all summer, I'm realizing now that such a volume would probably occupy me until I'm at least 125 (how should my expectations about the probability of The Singularity affect the production process?). The working title, which borrows from Ekelund and Tollison: The South as a Rent-Seeking Society.

4. In a market economy with secure private property rights, what kind of footprint is a carbon footprint? Is it like Neil Armstrong's unshaken, unstirred footprint on the moon that will presumably last for eternity, or is it like a footprint on a beach that disappears with the winds and the tides? Given the complexity and resilience of spontaneous natural and social systems, my money is on the latter.

5. Speaking of footprints, Jacob took his first steps last night. He has provided a lot of help pushing the shopping cart while we've been collecting data at Super Walmarts and Sam's Clubs in a couple of different places, but this was the first time he has walked unassisted. His assistance on a couple of Walmart data-gathering exercises has been considerable.

Posted by Art Carden at 01:07 PM in Misc.

July 31, 2009
Two books to recommend

I have just read two very well-written books on British history that should appeal to some DoL readers, particularly those of you interested in the history of ideas.

I'm about to finish John Stuart Mill: Victorian Firebrand (2007). The author, Richard Reeves, seems to have had a general, rather than a specialist, audience mostly in mind. He does an excellent job of weaving together Mill's life and his ideas. Reeves tells the story vividly, managing to keep up a nice pace throughout its nearly 500 pages. A quick scan of reviews available online indicate that the book was very well-received. I learned a great deal about Mill from the book. For example, I did not know the extent to which Mill was apprehensive about universal suffrage. Consider this, from p. 313 of the paperback (quoting ch. 8 of Representative Governenment (1861)):
"[Mill] also insisted that there should be no representation without taxation. Allowing non-taxpayers a vote, he said, amounted 'to allowing them to put their hands into other people's pockets for any purpose which they think fit to call a public one.'"

The second book I will recommend is Edward Vallance, The Glorious Revolution: 1688 -- Britain's Fight for Liberty (2007). The title is too modest in one way: the book is not focused solely on the events of 1688; it spans the reigns of James II, William and Mary, and Anne. The author tells this complex and important story very well, to favorable reviews. He also has a snappy website and blog that are well worth a visit.

Posted by Mike DeBow at 04:49 PM in Misc.

July 27, 2009
Mises University 2009

Mises University 2009 has started. The intellectual revolution will not be televised, but it will be streamed live and then archived and hosted on Mises.org. Tomorrow and Tuesday consist of "core curriculum" lectures, and the rest of the week will consist of concurrent sessions on applications and further explorations of the theory. You can follow it all on the Mises Blog. The first lecture, on "The Life and Work of Ludwig von Mises," was given by Guido Hulsmann. In addition to this lecture, here's a series of lectures series of lectures. Here is Hulsmann's authoritative bio of Mises in PDF at a price of zero. Here is Richard Ebeling's review essay on Hulsmann in from the Summer 2008 issue of the Independent Review, also available at a price of zero.

So why read Mises? And why read a 1000+ page biography of Mises? I can think of two reasons off the top of my head. The first is scientific. Mises laid a solid theoretical foundation for analytical social science. I have been in discussions with people who have argued that everything Mises said that was important has been absorbed into mainstream economics. I don't think that's true, but even if it is we do well to consider and explore the careful and detailed unfolding of the Misesian system. The second is historical. Mises's accomplishments came against a backdrop of almost insufferable hostility. He was professionally successful--Mises was an influential theorist and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Economic Association who turned down several academic appointments after his arrival in the United States. However, he fought a long and difficult battle over the possibility of socialist calculation and was chased out of Europe by the Nazis. The experience of Mises and other scholars in similar circumstances brings into high relief the principle that ideas have consequences. Mises's classic essay "Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth" and the Postscript by Joe Salerno--who will lead things off tomorrow with a lecture on "The Marginalist Revolution"--are well worth the time and effort. Here's an audio version of Salerno's essay.

Posted by Art Carden at 12:26 AM in Misc.

July 23, 2009
Complements to my Third Cup of Coffee

1. I'm excited about this book from Harriet C. Frazier: Lynchings in Missouri, 1803-1981. I expect it to be a source of very useful data for a lot of projects I'm working on.

2. Radley Balko offers a challenge and gets into an instructive discussion, asking left-wing bloggers to state the upper limits on the amount of government involvement in the economy with which they are comfortable. He gets an interesting response from Citizen Jane: apparently, we're just supposed to trust President Obama, who is "a well-educated man with good communication skills," and his "teams of experts capable of addressing particular problems." I won't question President Obama's education, charisma, and communication skills, and I agree with Citizen Jane's broader point that we should generally "avoid pooling our ignorance and trying to micromanage what we don't understand" (which is sound advice for members of Congress trying to micromanage the financial system, the auto industry, and other areas). However, I disagree with the idea that we should just trust the President and the experts to do the right thing. There are cases in which expertise is necessary and warranted. In other cases, it is over-rated. With regard to what we do and do not understand, Hayek was correct about the importance of economics: "(t)he curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design." I suspect there's more common ground here than there appears to be at first glance.

3. I propose an alternative explanation: businesses that support higher minimum wages support them because higher minimum wages will hobble their competitors. Wal-Mart didn't endorse a higher minimum wage in 2005 because the company's executives woke up one morning with progressive social consciences. I suspect that something similar is at play here. In the post linked here Catherine Rampell argues that businesses don't always behave in the way that econ 101 predicts. I would argue that this is exactly what econ 101 predicts when businesses are responding to political rather than economic incentives. We'll find out in the Fall--I just added it to my Econ 101 notes.

4. Speaking of which, here's me on the minimum wage. I'm interested in the degree to which making certain labor market transactions illegal increases the relative returns to unscrupulousness. In the same way that the drug war has created international criminal empires, I would expect to see a strong relationship between labor market restrictions and "human trafficking," with all of the attendant costs that usually come with criminality. There are also a couple of paper ideas in all of this: welfare crowds out private charity to a certain degree. Do minimum wage laws have a similar effect? Do minimum wage laws increase demand for charitable services through their effect on employment while reducing the supply of charitable services? Is part of the reduction in supply (if there is one) due to charitable Atlases shrugging when they observe the continued implementation of destructive policies?

5. "Is this institution run by men, or gods?" Peter Klein explains why he didn't sign the Open Letter in support of Fed Independence.

With that, I think I've indulged my fascination with all things bright and shiny for today. My still-unwieldy paper on the economic history of the South will be my complement to cups of coffee 4 through n.

Posted by Art Carden at 10:04 AM in Misc.  ·  Comments (10)

July 20, 2009
On Book Reviews

Josh McCabe at The Sociological Imagination asks about whether it is a good idea to review books. Here's my comment:

I agree with the comments here. I passed on a book review request once in grad school because I didn’t feel qualified to review the book in question. In retrospect, that was a mistake. In the last couple of years, I’ve found book reviewing to be an enjoyable and useful intellectual exercise.

Reviewing books makes you a better scholar in a few ways. First, it’s an excellent way to practice analyzing an argument. Since your research involves analyzing others’ arguments anyway, this is a very good way to continue refining your skills. Second, it’s an excellent way to practice writing for publication. Third, it’s a good way to stay abreast of developments in your field. Fourth, it’s a commitment device that forces you to read books that might otherwise slip to the bottom of the pile. Fifth, it makes you look at your own research in a different way. Finally, it’s a good way to build social capital. Being a prolific book reviewer probably won’t make the difference between an adjunct position at a community college and a chaired professorship in the Ivy League, but I would expect it to help at the margin.

Comments are open if you have thoughts on this. I promised a reader an article about book reviews last year. This provides motivation to get it finished.

Posted by Art Carden at 11:13 AM in Misc.  ·  Comments (28)

July 13, 2009
Cops and Donuts

Playing to stereotype, some police officers in Clare, Michigan bought a bakery (story here; video here). I stopped in this bakery about 6 months ago for pastries and coffee and am glad it will remain in business.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:57 AM in Misc.

July 06, 2009
Sumner: The Challenge of Facts

Our summer odyssey is underway. We arrived in Great Barrington, Massachusetts today for a three-week stay at the American Institute for Economic Research. At the end of this month, I'm teaching at Mises University in beautiful Auburn, Alabama. In August, we're spending a week in Panama City, Florida and then I'm off to a Jack Miller Center Summer Institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Then classes begin. One thing that caught my eye when strolling through the AIER library a few minutes ago was a collection of essays by William Graham Sumner entitled "The Challenge of Facts and Other Essays." I assigned his "The Forgotten Man" a few years ago in econ 101 with some success, and I look forward to seeing if I can find any good readings in this volume.

Fortunately, Google Books is here to help. Here's the book in its entirety:

Posted by Art Carden at 03:41 PM in Misc.

June 26, 2009
Two Interesting Headlines

"Couple accused of assault using Cheetos," today's Tennessean.

"Woman accused of swapping sex for arson," Wednesday's St. Louis Post-Dispatch.


1. Use the economic way of thinking to explain the conditions under which Cheetos would emerge as criminals' weapons of choice.

2. Is the offer of sex for arson consistent with the principle that trade creates wealth? Why or why not?

Posted by Art Carden at 12:05 PM in Misc.

June 25, 2009
Three Meals in Memphis, or, Why I've Gained Weight Since Grad School

My tastes aren't nearly as refined as Tyler Cowen's or John Nye's, but I've been thinking for what I would include in this post for a long time. After lunch today, I finally know. If I were visiting Memphis and could eat three meals, here's where I would go:

Breakfast: Brother Juniper's. We're there on a semi-regular basis with out-of-town guests. I usually get the Greek omelet with home fries and a biscuit. A charming atmosphere combined with excellent food makes for a great beginning to any day. Except Monday, because they're closed. Alternate: Blue Plate Cafe.

Lunch: Cafe Eclectic. To my shame, I didn't know it existed until I went there for coffee with a colleague a few weeks ago. I was there for lunch today, and the patty melt with remoulade was possibly the best burger I've ever eaten. The roasted red pepper soup was fabulous, and the "taters" on the side were a mix of different potatoes. I expect the bakery to compete in the breakfast category soon. Alternate: Boscos.

Really Nice Dinner: Tsunami. Shannon and I celebrated our sixth anniversary here over the weekend. The food--Asian seafood--was outstanding, and the ginger donuts we had for dessert were good in a way that I didn't know existed. In the last year or so we've become fans of Gordon Ramsay's TV shows Hell's Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares. Again, I'm no foodie, but Chef Ramsay might want to visit Tsunami--not to straighten them out, but to enjoy what they have to offer. Alternate: The Grove Grill, which does have the best shrimp & grits in Memphis.

Barbecue (I know this is four but BBQ is the local specialty): Central BBQ. You can't really go wrong with barbecue in Memphis, but Central is our favorite. I'm especially fond of the turkey BBQ nachos. Alternate: Bar-B-Q Shop.

Honorable Mentions: Fino's, Pho Saigon, and the Asian restaurant on Cleveland across from Lobster King. Any other suggestions?

Posted by Art Carden at 03:30 PM in Misc.

June 12, 2009
Shameless Plug

My baby boy Shane is opening a second Saba, at Oakhurst Square tonight. For info, see the web site that I, serving as Saba's official web slave, maintain.

Posted by Wilson Mixon at 05:36 PM in Misc.

Mea Maxima Culpa

I've committed my first major social networking faux pas. Apparently, I let TripIt.com send an "Art Carden wants to connect with you on TripIt" invite to basically everyone I've ever emailed from my Gmail account. That sound yiou hear is TFP growth slowing down as a result.

Posted by Art Carden at 05:32 PM in Misc.

June 10, 2009
Best. Swag. Ever.

The Murray Rothbard "Enemy of the State" flask. Some have suggested that the next logical step is a cigarette case featuring a prominent Austrian economist (did Mises smoke? I know Hayek did). I would like to see this conclude with a complete and official "Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms" set. Perhaps the Mises Institute could team up with the Ayn Rand Institute to produce customized dollar-sign cigarettes?

Disclosure: since I write for the Mises Institute (here's today's contribution) and will be on the faculty at Mises University at the end of next month, skeptical readers might want to take my enthusiasm for their products with a grain of salt--a grain that, perhaps, could someday be dispensed from a Frederic Bastiat or J.B. Say salt shaker.

Posted by Art Carden at 10:27 AM in Misc.

June 09, 2009
Another Link: Walter Block's "Defending the Undefendable"

This book is very much in the spirit of Rothbard's The Ethics of Liberty. Here's the PDF. Audio versions of the chapters are available on the Mises Media page.

Posted by Art Carden at 12:31 PM in Misc.

May 28, 2009
I Checked the Mail Today, Oh Boy!

A bunch of stuff arrived: Butler Shaffer's new book, a collection of Hayek essays, the Scholar's Edition of Man, Economy, and State, and The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer, among other things. That brings me to a bleg: does anyone know if there is a "Complete Works of C.S. Lewis" or something like it in the works? I've seen a couple of anthologies, but I was wondering if anyone is putting together a "complete works" or "selected works" or something similar. If you know and can let me know, I'll be in your debt.

Posted by Art Carden at 04:03 PM in Misc.

Why Don't People Believe Julian Simon?


I'm giving lectures this summer on "The Limits to Economic Growth" (IHS, next week) and "Environmental and Natural Resource Economics" (Mises University, end of July), and something that continues to perplex me is the popularity and near-ubiquity of the environmental destruction narrative. Consider this: I was listening to our pastor's Sunday evening sermon on the radio a few weeks ago when I was picking up my wife and Mother-in-law at the airport last month. He mentioned that a public school teacher in our congregation had been encouraged by the School Board to highlight the "fact" that overpopulation is our #1 environmental problem as part of the Earth Day curriculum. That this is demonstrably false doesn't seem to trouble anyone.

In the face of compelling evidence, people cling nonetheless to environmentalist mythology. Others (including co-blogger Michael Munger) have pointed out that recycling, for example, is an act of piety more than it is anything else. Is environmentalism how people are channeling their religious impulses in a secular world?

Update: Here's Steve Horwitz on the same issue (HT: Steve Horwitz). And here's one of my contributions to the ever-evolving English language.

Posted by Art Carden at 10:28 AM in Misc.

May 22, 2009
Recent* Reading

Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point. There's a lot to be said for this book and how it can inform social entrepreneurs. Gladwell offers a collection of stories and studies about social epidemics and their causes. It's a great business book.

Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class. I'd read good and bad things about this book, so I looked forward to sampling it. I'm not sure if the "gay-pride-marches-as-development-strategies" are really reading Florida correctly; one thing that really liked about the book was its comparative-institutional perspective. Given that a local government is going to "do something," what is the best strategy? I especially like Florida's ideas about creating a sense of organic place within a city as opposed to big, splashy, subsidized projects like stadiums and malls.

Donald Norman, The Design of Future Things. I'm pretty sure I mentioned this some time ago, but this was an excellent find at a "Friends of the Library" book sale. I'll mention it again since I'm working on a few things that integrate some of Norman's ideas and address some of the points he makes. As a Hayekian, I take from this the insight that context matters and, while we can train computers to calculate, we cannot train them to think. Computers can process information, but I'm not sure that they can use knowledge (particularly tacit knowledge). For those at the forefront of the interface between man and machine, Norman's book has important implications for how we address the complementarities between computational power and human insight.

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. This was sent to us by a friend and will likely become a regular part of our reading-to-the-baby rotation. This one actually has a pretty good set of lessons about capital, labor, and entrepreneurship. I won't give it away, though--you'll need to read it yourself.

Gerald Weinberg, Weinberg on Writing: The Fieldstone Method. My review is here.

Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture. My review is here.

*--"Recent" is defined as "sometime in the past academic year and not yet discussed in a 'Recent Reading' post."

Posted by Art Carden at 03:10 PM in Misc.

May 20, 2009
Check it out

Wolfram's Alpha is out and is definitely worth looking at, if you haven't already.

Posted by Wilson Mixon at 03:30 PM in Misc.

May 08, 2009

1. Readers currently slogging through exams or term papers might appreciate this syllabus for an internet age writing course. A related book by Mark Bauerlein is here.

2. Massachusetts is a salami slice closer to cradle to grave socialism--it now gives cars to welfare recipients.

3. The EU falls for the fixed number of jobs fallacy: EU calls for shorter work week to create jobs.

4. Skip Sauer offers some remarks on the passing of Jerry Scully.

5. No such thing as a free lunch--green car and energy edition.

[UPDATE 5/11--A reader sent an email cautioning about citing the story from The Atlantic; here's a snip of the message:

The thing about rare earths is that they're not actually that rare. And if the need for more of them was to become plain there are plenty of alternative sources. ... What all too many miss is that you don't really need to dig great holes in the gound to get a number of metals. ...

Looking at metals production as being about holes in the ground is to commit that great economic sin, of thinking that technology is static.

I agree--thanks for the email.]

6. Will Wilkinson's commentary on MarketPlace earlier this week is worth a listen.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:50 PM in Misc.

May 06, 2009
Assorted Links

1. Dracula, in "Real Time." HT: Freakonomics.

2. A Hedge Fund Manager Speaks "Truth to Power." HT: Russ Roberts.

3. Foreign Policy discussion of Marx. My contribution will appear today or tomorrow.

4. Op-ed on "regime uncertainty" created by political rhetoric about price gouging, based on my recently-published paper on the subject.

5. Update: Secession, State, and Liberty, full PDF. HT: Jeff Tucker. I find this especially interesting in light of my recent readings on Southern historical memory and religious apologists for slavery in the early nineteenth century.

Posted by Art Carden at 02:05 PM in Misc.

April 29, 2009
The Right Question

Our Administrative Assistant, Tiffany Harts, on the Manhattan/Air Force One Fiasco:

"Couldn't they have just photoshopped it?"

Here's WSJ video:

Posted by Art Carden at 03:33 PM in Misc.

April 27, 2009

1. Portugese Institute for Economic Freedom

2. Advice for Wannabe Economics Teachers (.pdf)

3. A shot-by-shot remake of Journey's "Separate Ways"

4. The 'New' Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Foreign Interventionism (.pdf)

Posted by Joshua Hall at 02:41 PM in Misc.

April 24, 2009
Paper Idea

I'm processing my notes on Fitzhugh Brundage's very interesting The Southern Past: A Clash of Race and Memory. It points out that in Europe, states erected a lot of monuments while in the US (particularly in the South) monuments were erected by voluntary associations. Why did European states erect so many monuments while Americans relied on voluntary associations to do basically the same thing? Do you know?

Posted by Art Carden at 01:19 PM in Misc.

April 16, 2009
For APEE 2009 Attendees

As a thank you to the students who volunteered their time to make the 2009 APEE Conference such a great success, I made a donation in their name to the UFM ITA scholarship program. If you would like to donate, you can find a secure donation form online here.

Posted by Joshua Hall at 01:01 PM in Misc.

April 10, 2009
Your Vote Matters: Help Pete Leeson get on "All Things Considered"

Article here. Bleg from Pete here. Revolutions have to start somewhere, so please recommend and leave a comment. Shameless plug: if you're going to the Southern Economic Association meetings, I'm organizing a symposium on Pete's book that features comments from Peter Klein, Charles North, Virgil Storr, and me (note to self: get a better website).

Posted by Art Carden at 06:57 PM in Misc.

April 09, 2009
APEE Conference and Roundup

Like Larry, I also congratulate Bob Lawson on winning APEE's Distinguished Scholar Award. I'm guessing it was our paper on ratemyprofessors that got him over the top. :-)

[UPDATE: Art's post reminded me that I neglected to mention my student Shawn Regan's splendid presentation on common property bicycle programs. Well done Shawn.]

Also regarding APEE's meeting in Guatemala City--special thanks to our hosts at the Universidad Francisco Marroquin for making it such a smooth and pleasant conference. The UFM students who assisted at the conference were extraordinarily friendly and helpful.

A few things that caught my eye over the past few days:

1. As usual, this week's Econtalk podcast looks interesting. This week Russ Roberts chats with Dan Klein about Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments. Look for four follow up podcasts starting April 15.

2. Robert Lucas throws a shoe at Mark Zandi and Christy Romer. A related DOL post is here.

3. Men's underwear sales--reportedly an economic indicator followed by Maestro Greenspan (maybe he was contemplating boxers or briefs instead of minding monetary policy from 2003-2005)--are expected to decline this year. This is probably nothing to get one's undies in a bunch about as long as people don't skimp on laundering their skivvies a la their shirts.

4. Y'all come on down: Atlanta is the top destination for UHaul rentals. (Source.)

5. Polticians as menus costs: Greg Mankiw points to Lee Ohanian's research on Hoover's rigid wage policy's role in worsening the Great Depression. Yet another reason to debunk the high school history version of the Great Depression.

[UPDATE (4/10)--A reader who saw my mention of ratemyprofessors points me to this analysis comparing prof salaries to the ratemyprofs ratings.]

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:23 AM in Misc.

April 03, 2009
Student Programs and a Culture of Excellence

Peter Boettke offers two great posts on recent developments among my generation of economists. First, two of his former students, Adam Martin and Claudia Williamson, are joining NYU's Development Research Institute. These are great placements for two excellent young scholars. Second, he has a post describing the student programs being built and supervised by some of his former students. Programs at San Jose State, Trinity College, Suffolk University, James Madison University, Mercer University, Loyola University-New Orleans, Beloit College, West Virginia University, Saint Lawrence University, and George Mason University are being supervised and nurtured by some of Pete's students and colleagues past and present. I consider myself a fellow traveler with Pete's students (and with good reason: my advisor, John Nye, is now at GMU) and I'm really excited about what they are doing. More on that in a minute.

Pete has said before that a dog that can't wag it's own tail is a pretty sad dog, so I'm going to take an opportunity to highlight some of the things our students at Rhodes are doing. First, seniors Jill Carr and Dustin Sump will present their research at the APEE meetings in Guatemala City this weekend. Jill is entering the PhD program at Texas A&M in the Fall, and Dustin will be working as a member of the Koch Associates Program next year before entering a PhD program. Allyson Pellissier, a junior, is weighing several exciting opportunities for this summer and will pursue a PhD in economics after she graduates. I anticipate that a few dozen Rhodes students will participate in summer seminars sponsored by IHS, the Mises Institute, FEE, and other organizations. In the last few years, Rhodes students have been instrumental in bringing William Easterly, Bryan Caplan, Randall Parker, Chris Coyne, J.C. Bradbury, John Hasnas, Mike DeBow, Randall Holcombe, Larry White, Ken Elzinga, and Deirdre McCloskey to campus. We're rounding out this list of speakers with a visit from Douglass C. North on April 23. In Fall 2007, some of my economic history students wrote articles that were published in the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. In just the last week, a lot of students have expressed interest in doing graduate work in economics. Mike Hammock nails it in his description of what he likes most about Rhodes: "You know you're at a good school when students choose to sit next to you in the dining hall so that they can talk about economics outside the classroom."

I remember a conversation I had with Pete in graduate school about building a culture of excellence among the scholars of my generation. In my estimation, that is exactly what is happening: people like Pete Leeson, Chris Coyne, Claudia Williamson, Ben Powell, and Ed Stringham, just to name a few, are doing work of lasting importance that is being published in excellent journals, and they are being rewarded with excellent opportunities. Having peers, colleagues, and students of this caliber makes me very optimistic for the future of our cherished discipline.

And so we continue our preparations for APEE. Division of Labour will be well-represented: Josh, Ed, Frank, Larry, Bob, and I are all on the program. I expect that a good time will be had by all.

Posted by Art Carden at 10:33 AM in Misc.

March 29, 2009
Media Sightings Etc.

A few things that have caught my eye over the past couple of days.

JC Bradbury has a piece on the new United Football League in ESPN The Magazine. I can't find a link on the ESPN site and Bradbury's taken a blogging hiatus, but he suggests that the UFL has a chance of success because it is playing on Friday nights and has teams in large cities lacking NFL teams (Vegas, Hartford, Orlando).

Dan Klein on Paul Krugman (in Newsweek): "He's become more and more outspoken. A lot of what he says is wrong and not considered." Dan also has an interesting article on group think in academia in the spring issue of The Independent Review.

Hillsdale history prof Burt Folsom is now blogging; I especially liked this post in which Burt and his wife Anita offer up three questions that were not posed at the Obama press conference.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 05:30 PM in Misc.

March 23, 2009
Deirdre McCloskey Comes to Rhodes Wednesday Evening

Deirdre McCloskey, a veritable walking university who holds appointments in numerous departments at the University of Illinois-Chicago, Academia Vitae (Deventer, Netherlands), and the University of the Free State in South Africa, will give a public lecture on her book "The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce" at Rhodes on Wednesday evening. The lecture is free and open to the public, and it will take place at 7:00 PM in the McCallum Ballroom at the Bryan Campus Life Center.

Posted by Art Carden at 03:19 PM in Misc.

March 11, 2009
Article on Email

Among my various activities, I'm a periodic contributor to Stepcase Lifehack. Today's article applies economics to everyone's favorite time-waster and stress-creator: email. Be sure to forward it to all your friends.

Posted by Art Carden at 10:15 AM in Misc.

March 09, 2009

1. Congratulations Scott Beaulier!

2. A new state freedom index.

3. Informal Institutions Rule. (Ungated)

4. Best Steelers Themed Song Remake Ever

5. Larry Moss, R.I.P.

6. "Ocular Least Squares" (.pdf)

Posted by Joshua Hall at 12:34 PM in Misc.

March 01, 2009
Adam Smith Fellow, Pembroke College, Cambridge

Nigel Ashford forwards an assistant professor job announcement for the "Adam Smith Fellow." It's a 5-year renewable research position with some teaching, for economists "in one or more of the areas of urban and regional economics, development economics, environmental economics or the economics of property or planning. ..."

The ad is here. Note the March 16 deadline.

Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 02:18 PM in Misc.

Wisdom, Compassion, and Responsibility

Are wisdom and compassion complements or substitutes? The Crisis and public policy responses to it call to mind this passage from "Atlas Shrugged" (p. 385 of the 1996 Signet edition), right after Francisco d'Anconia's multi-page Jeremiad defending money. Interestingly, d'Anconia echoes a common theme in Old Testament prophecy and in New Testament eschatology:

"There were people who had listened, but now hurried away, and people who said, 'It's horrible'--'It's not true!'--'How vicious and selfish!'--saying it loudly and guardedly at once, as if wishing that their neighbors would hear them, but hoping that Francisco would not.

"'Senor d'Anconia,' declared the woman with the earrings, 'I don't agree with you!'

"'If you can refute a single sentence I uttered, madame, I shall hear it gratefully.'

"'Oh, I can't answer you. I don't have any answers, my mind doesn't work that way, but I don't feel that you're rights, so I know that you're wrong.'

"'How do you know it?'

"I feel it. I don't go by my head, but by my heart. You might be good at logic, but you're heartless.'

"'Madame, when we'll see men dying of starvation around us, your heart won't be of any earthly use to save them. And I'm heartless enough to say that when you'll scream, "but I didn't know it!"--you will not be forgiven.'"

Posted by Art Carden at 10:19 AM in Misc.

February 23, 2009
An amusing invitation

This landed in my inbox today.

---------- Forwarded message ---------- From: ISPR/KGCM 2009 Date: Sun, Feb 22, 2009 at 7:14 PM Subject: Invitation to a Symposium on Peer Reviewing To: EDWARD.LOPEZ@sjsu.edu

Only 8% [sic] members of the Scientific Research Society agreed that "peer review works well as it is". (Chubin and Hackett, 1990; p.192).

"A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision and an analysis of the peer review system substantiate complaints about this fundamental aspect of scientific research." (Horrobin, 2001)

Horrobin concludes that peer review "is a non-validated charade whose processes generate results little better than does chance." (Horrobin, 2001). This has been statistically proven and reported by an increasing number of journal editors.

But, "Peer Review is one of the sacred pillars of the scientific edifice" (Goodstein, 2000), it is a necessary condition in quality assurance...

And so, the message says, these tensions will be the issue at a conference this summer in Orlando. So far so good. But then there is this:

All Submitted papers will be reviewed using a double-blind (at least three reviewers), non-blind, and participative peer review.
Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 09:11 PM in Misc.

February 16, 2009
Will Wilkinson: "Naomi Klein: A Prebuttal"

Will will be speaking at U. Iowa the night before Ms. Klein. I've been told that his lecture will be available online sometime afterward.

Posted by Art Carden at 02:12 PM in Misc.

February 09, 2009
Kudos Nancy

My marketing colleague Nancy Albers-Miller is quoted in this NPR story on the Michael Phelps pot incident.

BTW, boos and hisses for the spotlight grabbing sheriff in SC who wants to prosecute Phelps.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 05:51 PM in Misc.

February 07, 2009
Bob Lawson Owes Me a Drink

I finished the Mike Cody Four-Mile Classic in 46:45, roughly two minutes less than our agreed-upon goal of 48:44. I realize that's a laughably pathetic time for serious runners, but I'm pretty happy with it given that my goal was just to cross the finish line. I know Bob offered a beer, but since we'll be outside the US I'll settle for a taste of protectionism (Mac blogging, can't link, so here's the URL: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa5477/is_200710/ai_n21301892/pg_1).

A reader asked me about the appeal of Marx across the humanities and social sciences in spite of the fact that his system is fundamentally flawed and 20th century attempts to implement his vision are soaked in blood. I can't do much more than speculate on this right now, but I wonder if Marx's appeal stems from its flattery of what Hayek called "The Fatal Conceit." Mises speaks to this a little bit in "The Anticapitalistic Mentality," but if memory serves me correctly he doesn't offer much in the way of systematic evidence.

For readers fortunate enough to have regular multi-disciplinary conversations with earnest and inquisitive thinkers from across the ideological and intellectual spectrum, here's a question to consider: why don't they read Mises and Hayek instead of Marx? Both were, like Marx, systematic and rigorous thinkers of towering intellect who applied their insights beyond economics. Unlike Marx, however, they developed and built on correct theories of value, prices, and business cycles. I realize there's a lot of contention within economics about Misesian/Hayekian business cycle theory, so this last claim is weaker than the first two.

I wonder if path dependence isn't at play here. I agree that the economics of QWERTY can be laid to rest in market settings--Tyler Cowen and Peter Klein have blogged about this recently--but I think it has much to tell us about the dynamics of systems in which feedback mechanisms like prices, profits, and losses are lacking. Is Marx the QWERTY of the ivory tower? I need to think about this in greater detail, but the robustness of the Marxian system in light of his failed theories of value, exploitation, alienation, and class conflict is not apparent to me.

I'll be writing about this periodically as I prep my Econ 323 notes over the next few weeks. I'm always grateful for insight, correction, and reproof; you can reach me at cardena-at-rhodes-dot-edu.

Posted by Art Carden at 12:08 PM in Misc.

Running While Thinking About Bohm-Bawerk and Marx

The Mike Cody Four Mile Classic begins in about 40 minutes. It's my first race, and my goal is just to cross the finish line. I don't care if I'm walking (likely), running (unlikely), or crawling (possible) when the race is over as long as I finish it. I'll count it a double success if I win my bet with Bob.

So what will I be thinking about while I'm running, apart from "I can't beleive I signed up for this, I think my lungs are on fire, I want to die"? In getting ready for a couple of weeks of discussing Karl Marx, Adam Smith, and classical economics in Econ 323, I've been slogging through Eugen von Bohm-Bawerk's Karl Marx and the Close of His System, which is a systematic, point-by-point discussion of the fundamental incoherence of the Marxian system. Marx's "law of value" holds that the value of a commodity is determined by the amount of socially necessary labor needed to produce it. This also determines the ratio at which commodities are exchanged. Bohm-Bawerk systematically shows that this is inconsistent the fact that profit rates tend toward uniformity across industries. Either the law of value is true, or the tendency toward uniformity of profit is true, or both are false. They can't both be true. I recognize that Thomas Sowell disagrees with and criticizes Bohm-Bawerk's interpretation, but after reading Rothbard's chapters on Marxism in his Classical Economics, I'm inclined to believe that Bohm-Bawerk's critique is accurate.

In the twenty-first century, I'm not sure how much mileage we get as economists by beating up on Marx's economics. It's a dead horse, and we've known it for quite some time. After reading selections from Marx's Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, however, I'm more and more convinced that social-scientific analysis derived from Marxian principles is fundamentally flawed. Among the essays I've read ("Estranged Labour," "Private Property and Labour," "Private Property and Communism," "Human Needs and Division of Labour Under the Rule of Private Property," and "The Power of Money"), it appears that Marx's social theory rests on his value theory. Without his value theory, his claims about alienated labor, capital and money as the embodiments of alienated labor, and the power relations among classes are invalid (NB: Here's David Prychitko's article on Marxism in which he notes that Marx's theory of alienation is also weakened by the Austrian theory of knowledge and its role in society).

I'll be thinking about this while I'm running this morning. If anyone can direct me to cites arguing convincingly that Marx's social theory is fundamentally independent of his value theory and his economic analysis, I would be grateful.

Posted by Art Carden at 09:41 AM in Misc.

February 05, 2009
Render Unto Caesar?

Here is an excellent article on the historical and political context of Matthew 22:21, the verse in which Jesus says "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's." It navigates the stormy waters between interpretation of the passage as an uncritical endorsement of taxation and the state and word-mincing interpretations that try to ferret out a pre-established conclusion. I found the article especially interesting in light of the review I'm working on of Paul Heyne's book on economics and ethics, which should be available soon.

Posted by Art Carden at 09:31 AM in Misc.

February 03, 2009
Independent Institute's 2009 Templeton Essay Contest

Open to students and untenured faculty no older than 36 years.

This year's topic:

“Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”
—Benjamin Franklin

Student prizes:
First Prize: $2,500
Second Prize: $1,500
Third prize: $1,000

Faculty prizes:
First Prize: $10,00
Second Prize: $5,000
Third prize: $1,500

Deadline: May 1, 2009. Details on TII's website.

Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 09:36 AM in Misc.

February 02, 2009
I Guess We Now Know Why Michael Phelps Has a 12,000 Calorie Daily Diet
Olympic great Michael Phelps acknowledged "regrettable" behavior and "bad judgment" after a photo in a British newspaper showed him inhaling from a marijuana pipe.

Source. Source on the 12,00 calorie daily diet.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:50 AM in Misc.

January 23, 2009
Bryan Caplan on Parental Investment in Kids

Here's a very interesting article by Bryan Caplan on the amount of time we spend parenting (HT: Bryan Caplan). The main point I take from it is that our parenting effort features too much quantity and not enough quality. We can probably be happier, better parents (with happier, better kids) if we rest when we need to and don't do things we fundamentally don't want to do just because we feel like the kids need "face time." It's an interesting idea, to be sure, and I look forward to Bryan's forthcoming book giving us "Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids."

Posted by Art Carden at 03:44 PM in Misc.

January 20, 2009
Re Running--Berry Half Marathon

On March 7, Berry's 26,000 acre campus is the host for the 2nd annual Berry Half Marathon--there are also 5k and 10k races (rumor has it, a marathon will be added in coming years). Other events include a kite day, and a kids fun run. I'm not running, but I'll be on my mountain bike as a sweeper.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:50 AM in Misc.

January 09, 2009
Economic Viagra for the Porn Industry?
In an announcement that launched a thousand unprintable puns, adult-entertainment moguls Larry Flynt and Joe Francis said Wednesday that they are asking Washington for a $5 billion federal bailout, claiming that the porn business is suffering from the soft economy.

Article. Would this be any more obscene than Washington's recent spending orgy?

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:30 AM in Misc.

January 02, 2009
California Dreamin'

The Division of Labour team will be pretty busy at the ASSA meetings. Craig Depken is presenting in a session on real estate tomorrow morning at 10:15. Bob Lawson and I are in a concurrent session, Josh Hall is presenting in the economic education poster session, and Ed Lopez is hosting the IHS reception tomorrow evening. I expect that a good time will be had by all. Good luck to any and all job candidates who are reading this, and remember to have a good time. Most of the people you will meet here will be genuinely interested in you and your work. Remember that there's a demand curve in this market, too.

I'll be extending my West Coast stay by a couple of days. On Tuesday, I'm presenting the torture and economic liberalization paper at the Naval Postgraduate School (thanks, David Henderson) and then speaking on the Great Depression and World War II to a group in Monterey (thanks again, David Henderson).

I'll also plug Deirdre McCloskey's talk tonight at 6:30. Her topic: "Smith's Proposal: An Ethically Serious Capitalism." It should be especially interesting since I'm having my Classical & Marxian students read parts of "The Bourgeois Virtues." My flight gets in a little before 5:00, so I hope to make it in in time.

Posted by Art Carden at 08:18 AM in Misc.

January 01, 2009
Is the Productivity Bubble Popping?

Among the hats I picked up in 2008 was a semi-regular gig writing for Lifehack.org, a popular personal productivity website. I started reading it and other related sites a few months before I finished my dissertation in 2006, and it seems like during my years in the productivity business (first as an observer, now as a writer), pretty much everything useful about list-making, goal-setting, etc. was said and a bubble of sorts developed. I wonder if that bubble is popping. Here's Lifehack.org editor Dustin Wax starting a multi-part series entitled "Toward a New Vision of Productivity" in which he points out that many of the leaders of the web worker productivity movement have moved on and will be focused on actually getting things done instead of discussing meta-issues about productivity. It's worth a look, and as a social scientist I wonder if there are models in our toolkit than can explain it.

Posted by Art Carden at 03:30 PM in Misc.

December 19, 2008
Friday Grab Bag--With Cheer!

1. Dictionary.com's word of the day is "iambic". Why do we have a three syllable word to mean "having two syllables"?

2. Ouch. Injury to insult: Illinois's AG says state won't pay for Blago's defense. And DOJ is moving to block acceess to his $3m. campaign war chest. BTW, folks, he ain't guilty yet!

3. With Cerberus working the White House halls, W. won't give up on a Detroit bailout and solidifying his record as the worst president of our lifetimes.

4. Meanwhile, Philip K. Howard says let's restructure Washinton, DC, too!

5. A Gen-Xer explains why network t.v. died a long time ago (but doesn't talk of the affiliates).

6. David Allen Grier at Chocolate News unveils the mystery of Kwanza. (NB: video includes a dubbed out F bomb)

Everyone, it's been a great year. I hope you have safe travels, a merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, and blessed Kwanza (oops, I almost forgot Festivus!). And best wishes for a peaceful and prosperous 2009. Giddyup!

Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 08:45 AM in Misc.

December 18, 2008
The Most Depressing Sentence(s) I Read This Year

... comes from Michael Lewis's The Blind Side :

Many of them [black football players at Ole Miss], according to their tutors, were less prepared for college than Michael Oher. The typical incoming player in Michael's class had third-grade level reading skills. Several had never taken math. Ever.

This is an indictment of both the NCAA and the school systems that the players attended. Passing someone through 12 years of schooling without teaching the person basic reading and arithmetic is simply child abuse.

I liked the book (though not as much as Moneyball), especially chapters 2, 5 and 9 dealing with the evolution of football and the increased importance of the left tackle position. JC Bradbury's review provides more information about Michael Oher's background.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 05:04 PM in Misc.

December 10, 2008
I Didn't Know that ...

... Doors singer Jim Morrison's dad was born in good old Rome, GA. Jim Morrison's father died last month; he was a Navy admiral.

In a 1992 visit to Paris, I came across Jim Morrison's grave (photo here; scroll down) during a visit to Pere La Chaise Cemetery. I say "came across" because I wasn't there to join to the ongoing party at Morrison's grave site; I was there looking for the burial site of Jean Baptiste Say. Other famous people buried there include Chopin, Oscar Wilde, and Richard Wright.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:56 AM in Misc.

December 09, 2008
Coleman Wins B.S. Contest

I'm not sure this is his proudest moment, but my former student John Coleman won Harvard Business School Public Speaking Club's Business Speaking (B.S.) contest. Of course, it's not too surprising since John won a national speech title in his senior year at Berry. (He also has a forthcoming book, How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator.)

Here's John's talk (apparently the first minute is missing; thanks to Ted Crouse for the pointer):

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 03:52 PM in Misc.

Spend Spring Break With Me

No, not on some sunny beach consuming tropical beverages--at an IHS seminar.

The Institute for Humane Studies is sponsoring two seminars in March--one is March 7-12 at UC-Santa Cruz and the other is March 14-19 at Emory. I'll be one of the faculty members for the Emory seminar. More information and application details are here.

Students looking for scholarship support for next year might also want to check out IHS's Humane Studies Fellowships. I think there is a preference for graduate students but that some undergrads get supported.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 03:30 PM in Misc.

December 01, 2008
What I’ve Been Reading Lately: Anarchy, State, and Dystopia Edition

V For Vendetta and Watchmen

…all the whores and politicians will look up and shout ‘save us!’ And I’ll look down, and whisper ‘no.” Rorshach's Journal, from p. 1 of Watchmen

I picked up the acclaimed graphic novels V For Vendetta and Watchmen while grading at our neighborhood Barnes & Noble on Monday. I confess I’d never heard of Watchmen before seeing the new Batman movie over the summer. Both raise compelling questions about the relationship between the citizen and the state. One of the most compelling questions, as I see it, concerns our responsibility to know and our responsibility to understand. Both books paint pictures of avoidable misery that aren’t avoided in no small part because of a steadfast refusal on the part of the citizenry to do anything about it. I mean “do anything about it” in the sense that ideas are higher-order factors of production, so to speak, that ultimately determine the structure of a society’s institutions. At the risk of being presumptuous, while there is much we don’t know there is much that we do. In economics, we know that there are no free lunches, that demand curves slope downward, and that decisions are made at the margin. No amount of wishing will make it otherwise.

Time Will Run Back, Henry Hazlitt. Bob lent this to me when I was in Auburn in October. I found it to be a very quick read, and it poses an interesting question: what if all traces of non-socialist thinking were destroyed and a society tried to build markets from the ground up in order to solve allocation and calculation problems? The novel is inspired by Hazlitt’s review of Mises’s Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis and was recently brought back into print by the Mises Institute. Here's Hazlitt's intro to the book.

All three made me think, which is what a good book is supposed to do. Trailers for Vendetta and Watchmen are below the Fold. Discussion of their theological implications and affinity with themes in Atlas Shrugged forthcoming.

Read More »

Posted by Art Carden at 10:00 AM in Misc.

November 30, 2008
Acton University

This intensive four-day seminar will be held at the Acton Institute June 16-19, 2009. Some very interesting details:

As a participant of Acton University, you will delve into the moral, cultural, economic, legal, and theological underpinnings of the social order that values human liberty. Because you can build your own curriculum, your experience will suit your interests, whether you are an undergraduate or graduate student, a non-profit professional, a member of the clergy, professor, Catholic High School teacher, social worker, journalist or business person. More than 50 AU courses are now available, ranging from the theological and philosophical, to the policy-oriented and practical. If you are interested in deepening your understanding of the integration of sound economics, rigorous philosophy, and the Judeo-Christian faith, Acton University was designed for you. Space and scholarship funds are limited – the 2008 conference carried a siginificant student waiting list within weeks of last year's launch- so register or apply now!

Please visit www.acton.org/actonu where you will find the online registration form along with complete conference information. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me at keagle@acton.org or at 616.454.3080. I hope to see you in June!
Kara Eagle
Program Officer
Acton Institute

Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 09:44 AM in Misc.

November 18, 2008
Impeach Here and Impeach Now

I just saw this on the WSJ's webpage:

The Treasury secretary told a House committee it is unrealistic to expect the $700 billion rescue plan to reverse the woes inflicted by the financial crisis.

Then why the @#$! are we p!ssing away the $700B? Good grief, would someone please start impeachment proceedings against this crowd since it's not safe to leave them in office for another two months.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:40 AM in Misc.

November 14, 2008
Snarky Thought of the Day

Crikey, George W. Bailout warning against too much government involvement in markets is akin to Bill Clinton warning against marital infidelity.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:22 PM in Misc.

November 07, 2008
Gas Below $2 in GA

Mark Perry of the excellent Carpe Diem has been tracking states with gas prices below $2. Add one more--Georgia!--to his list. On my way to take in some Lady Vikings hoops earlier this evening, I saw a station posting $1.99. The RNT has a story of other local stations with price below $2 per gallon. Prices are roughly half of the price of one month ago.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:04 PM in Misc.

November 05, 2008
Chez Schumpeter: Creative Destruction in the Kitchen

In these trying economic times, the family and I have been partying like it's 1939. Several meals have included/consisted of baked potatoes cooked over an open fire in the back yard (HT: Robert Lawson and Ryan Stowers for helpful hints). As part of the search for cheap, tasty food we hit on a pretty good combination that we'll probably turn into a dip or something this holiday season: salsa and blue cheese dressing. It has just the right combination of kick and pungency, with a texture that varies depending on the chunkiness of the ingredients. It most closely resembles a totally awesome buffalo chicken cheese dip our Sunday School teacher made for a Super Bowl Party back in ought-seven, and we've found it to be a cheap way to spice up otherwise mundane meals. Two seconds with Google yielded a recipe for buffalo chicken cheese dip, courtesy of Cooks.com.

Posted by Art Carden at 11:27 AM in Misc.

October 29, 2008
Job Opening at San Jose State

Please pardon the following commercial interruption, but the advertisement won't appear in the JOE until December because of California budget vagaries. So I am getting the word out.

The Department of Economics at San Jose State University invites applications for a tenure-track position at the level of Assistant Professor in Applied Economics. Qualifications include demonstrated teaching expertise and research potential. Preferred teaching fields are Industrial Organization, Labor Economics, Financial Economics, or Cost Benefit Analysis.

See below the fold for complete details. And please distribute freely.

Read More »

Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 11:00 AM in Misc.

October 27, 2008
Humane Studies Fellowships

The Institute for Humane Studies is currently soliciting applications for the 2009-10 Humane Studies Fellowships. IHS hopes to exceed last year's award totals of $600,000 to more than 150 graduate and advanced undergraduate students from around the world. The awards support research into the principles, practices, and institutions that support a free, prosperous and responsible society. Select applicants are invited to the annual Humane Studies Research Colloquium and other advanced colloquia throughout the year. Fellows also join a growing network of over 10,000 IHS academics who are committed to the ideas of liberty and intellectual freedom. For more information, visit www.TheIHS.org/HSF. The deadline to apply is December 31, 2008

Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 11:00 AM in Misc.

October 15, 2008
Markets in Everything: Eau de Franklin Street Edition
UNC-Chapel Hill now has an official smell. A new collegiate perfume boasts that it captures the essence of the school.

The $60 bottle is among a handful of fragrances targeting universities with big, loyal alumni bases. Each perfume is based largely on the university's color scheme.

What does Carolina blue smell like? Champagne, lemon, jasmine and lavender, apparently. To contrast: the University of Alabama's color is crimson: a scent heavy in reds such as apple and pomegranate, said Katie Masich, a chemical engineer and president of the perfume company, Masik Collegiate Fragrances.

Source. Thanks Jane Shaw for the pointer. HT to MR for the MIE concept.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:23 PM in Misc.

October 09, 2008
Mike Lester Hits the Bullseye

Here's today's offering from Mike Lester of the Rome News-Tribune. We're all socialists now.


Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:11 AM in Misc.

October 08, 2008
The Real $700 Billion Transfer ...

... isn't our purchases of oil from other countries, it's the bailout. Kevin Duffy explains:

"The current $800 billion bailout (sorry, rescue) package is nothing more than a looting of the responsible and productive by the reckless and profligate. Call it reverse Darwinism, the survival of the least fit."

This quote caught my attention more than it might have normally because it echoes a chat I had with my wife last night. She usually has little interest in politics and policy but, as someone who has made significant down payments on the homes she's bought and has maintained a good credit history, she is annoyed that the bailout puts her on the hook for others' misbehavior.

HT: George Leef

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:15 AM in Misc.

October 07, 2008

Some things that caught my eye today:

1. Gun shows don't increase gun deaths, according to a new NBER WP by Mark Duggan, Randi Hjalmarsson and Brian A. Jacob.

2. George Leef points to this Stanley Kurz NRO piece on ACORN. I only skimmed it, but understanding ACORN is important.

3. I concur with Bob that Heroes of Capitalism is a nifty new blog. Very cool project.

4. Here's some Boudreauxnomics for Joe Stiglitz.

5. Supply your own joke to go with this headline in the AJC: Voodoo priestess says Cobb official bounced checks.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:01 PM in Misc.

September 30, 2008
Afternoon Snark

Probably not entirely fair--so my apologies in advance--but here goes:

Asking Washington pols to solve the financial market crisis is akin to asking an arsonist to put out his fire.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 02:43 PM in Misc.

DDF on the technological end of the human species
"I've got three different technologies that could wipe out the species," said Friedman, a self-professed libertarian who is certain that neither politics nor central planning will avert a possible bad technological outcome.

"I am much more worried about the government making the wrong response and doing damage than I am about the government not protecting me," said Friedman, adding: "It's a mistake to think of the world as if there was somebody in charge. There's never been anybody in charge."

That's David Friedman in a San Francisco Chronicle feature on him and his new book, Future Imperfect.

HT: Jeff Hummell

Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 10:04 AM in Misc.

September 22, 2008
Government Efficiency Example of the Day

So GA has a something like a $2 billion budget hole and the GA DOT is bumping back projects because of an ostensible lack of funding. So what is GA doing? It's continuing to run commercials/PSAs about a road project (the repaving of the downtown connector in Atlanta) that has been finished more than a week. The PSAs urge people to be patient, choose alternate routes, and to consult a GA DOT website for info on construction delasy.

No, it probably isn't a large amount of money and maybe GA DOT saved money with some sort of bulk media buy, but certainly doesn't look like good stewardship of taxpayer dollars.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:44 AM in Misc.

September 19, 2008
Biden's Patriotic Duty vs. Obama's Coercion

Joe Biden has rightly taken flak over his remark that paying higher taxes is the patriotic thing for high income people to do.

Perhaps surprisingly, I'm going to come to ole Joe's defense--sort of. Biden's comment might at least allow for the possibility that people actually own the income they earn even if patriots should pay higher taxes. By contrast, Biden's running mate seems to believe that instead of people owning the income they earn but the government does:

Because the truth is, what Senator McCain said yesterday fits with the same economic philosophy that he's had for 26 years. It's the philosophy that says we should give more and more to those with the most ...

The notion that letting people keep more of what they earn is "to give more and more to those with the most" implies that Obama thinks the government owns all income that people earn and that any income after taxes is a gift from that government.

Biden's patriotic duty bit isn't appealing but I'll take it over Obama's coercion.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:17 PM in Misc.

Questions I Must Ask

Justin Ross just might have started a new meme with his response to this news snip:

For elementary and middle school students, only homework grades "that raise a student's average" will be recorded.

As for me, I've been wondering about accommodations for students with learning disabilities. I don't question learning disabilities existence per se, but what I can't figure out is why students with disabilities always get time and half for exams as an accommodation. Shouldn't there be some variation across students? Maybe some with time and a half, but others with double time or only time and a quarter.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:37 PM in Misc.

September 18, 2008
Coke Dealer's Gas Surcharge
Spiraling gas prices led an Indiana drug dealer to levy a fuel oil surcharge on customers purchasing cocaine, according to investigators. Anthony Salinas, 18, tacked on the gasoline surcharge when he sold a confidential police source coke on two occasions in June. While arranging one buy, Salinas told the source that a quarter-ounce of cocaine would cost $240--$215 for the drug itself and "$25.00 for gas money to deliver the cocaine" ...


Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:36 PM in Misc.

September 13, 2008
Cavalcade of Miscellany

1. Feeding a baby is a contact sport. JHC's flailing arms, legs, and head strike true with astonishing regularity--there are few things that will re-focus your attention quite like being punched squarely in the throat by an infant.

2. The supply curve has shifted, so I'm moving along my demand curve for gas: I would go to the office this morning, but you know, gas prices. So I'm working from home. But this means that instead of gas to get to the office, I'm paying for electricity to power my computer, coffee pot, and air conditioner. So maybe I should work with a pen and paper and lay off the coffee. But pens and paper require resources to produce and I'd just have to retype it later anyway, and no coffee means lower productivity. It doesn't look like I can win, so maybe I should just turn everything off, crawl back into bed, and cry myself to sleep.

3. This is the first Saturday I'm not going to a college football game so far this season. I went to the Ole Miss-Memphis game in Oxford (the hidden gem of the mid-South) a few weeks ago and to the Memphis-Rice game last weekend. I must say the Southern Heritage Classic between Jackson State and Tennessee State at the Liberty Bowl looks tempting in light of news coverage of the pregame tailgating festivities. I plan to resume my consumption of live college football next Saturday in Fayetteville at the Alabama-Arkansas game.

4. Speaking of football, tailgating culture looks like a great research setting for scholars interested in social capital, networks, the politics/economics/sociology of identity, etc. It's a great way to spend a crisp autumn Saturday. Every school's fanbase has its share of liquor-soaked idiots, but in my experience LSIs are the exception rather than the rule. Warren St. John's excellent book "Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer" offers an inside look at the RV tailgating culture of Alabama football; the book has special meaning for me because the season he covered in the book was my junior year at the Capstone (and the only season during my time at Alabama that wasn't an unmitigated disaster).

Posted by Art Carden at 09:39 AM in Misc.

September 10, 2008
Don't Know Much Biology*

Apparently some folks think that a young woman (Sarah Palin's daughter) who is five months pregnant could have given birth to a child who is less than five months old (Palin's youngest child). Here (via James Taranto) is the transcript of a question posed by Pacifica Radio to former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel:

"Sen. Gravel, let's turn to another matter, one that's caused a great deal of buzz here in St. Paul today at the Republican convention, and that is the announcement that Gov. Palin's 17-year-old daughter is pregnant, that she is not married to the young man who is purportedly the father, and that this is being brought out now because there was so much buzz around on various blogs that indeed Gov. Palin herself may not have been the mother of a Down syndrome child but it might have been the same daughter that was the mother of that child. ... How do you think it's going to play?"

Trig Palin was born April 18th; it was announced on Sept. 1 that Bristol Palin was five months preggers meaning that she conceived around April 1st.

*The co-blogger who gave me some good natured ribbing about using Shakespeare in the title of my last post will be pleased to see me using lyrics from "Animal House" atop this post.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:46 PM in Misc.

Birnam Wood Shall Come to Dunsinane

A headline at AJC.com: Bush to host Babs at the White House.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:56 AM in Misc.

September 06, 2008
Cavalcade of Miscellany

1. Yard work in the jungle that is our backyard is strangely relaxing--it's like bonzai gardening for the undisciplined. I cleared some brush and cut down a small tree this morning (yawp!); the negative externality (reduced air quality) is offset by the positive externalities (reduced probability that Memphis gets destroyed by a wildfire, our yard is presumably more pleasant for our neighbors to look at).

2. JHC and I discovered during a 6:00 AM feeding that they've brought back Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Jacob was unimpressed. P(Cardens get a TiVO) remains unchanged.

3. Speaking of JHC, he took in his first sporting event last night, a Rhodes soccer game that the mighty Lynx were winning by a score of 6-2 when we left with a couple of minutes to go in the second half. We enjoyed sitting with Michael Leslie, a colleague in the English Department and an experienced parent who has probably forgotten more about the finer points of the Beautiful Game than I will ever know. A good time was had by all, and at a price of $0.00 you get a lot of bang for your (non-)buck.

4. Recent Reading: Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class. When I say "recent reading," I usually mean "recent sampling/skimming" rather than "recent detailed word-for-word reading." I read an interesting lesson in this for local development officials: adhere to principles rather than "planning." Instead of taxing people to pay for stadiums (which are net drags on local economies) and regulating land use in such a way as to create the appearance of authenticity, pursue a more hands-off, evolutionary strategy in which you allow people to experiment. Florida would probably propose a little more activism than this, but as a cultural Hayekian I don't think there's a way that a City Council or County Commission is going to have the specialized knowledge necessary to create a thriving music or art scene.

4. Recent Reading: Michael Heller, The Gridlock Economy. I'm reviewing this for The Freeman, and I'm about halfway through it. It's a provocative book, so far. When everybody owns something, nobody does, and if patents and other rights give everyone veto power over particular innovations, the pace of innovation slows down. Unaddressed so far is the role of the state as a monopoly provider of property rights and dispute resolution, but I look forward to seeing how these issues are addressed in the rest of the book. For now, here's Stephan Kinsella's argument against intellectual property.

Posted by Art Carden at 11:31 AM in Misc.

September 03, 2008
RE: An (Immodest) Proposal to Let the Taxman into Your Bedroom

This couple better hope the sex tax doesn't come about:

Some women give their husbands clothes or gadgets for their birthday.

Charla Muller surprised her husband with a gift of sex — every day for an entire year.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:52 PM in Misc.

September 02, 2008
Recent Reading

Brian Doherty, Radicals for Capitalism. That such a book even exists is fantastic. Libertarian/classical liberal philosophy and economics represent viable intellectual and political programs, but this wasn't always the case. Doherty offers a wide-ranging survey of the who, what, when, where, why and how of American classical liberalism, mostly in the postwar era. One area that will ultimately deserve more study, I think, will be the relationship between the extreme idealism of Ayn Rand, the unwavering commitment to principle of Murray Rothbard, and the pragmatism of Milton Friedman and F.A. Hayek. It will be interesting to see what a followup to Doherty's book will look like in 50 years, and if some of the fallout from the excommunications, in-fights, and witchhunts that seem to have characterized libertarianism in the 60s and 70s has blown over by then.

Thomas Sowell, A Conflict of Visions. I require this for the first couple of days of econ 101 (an idea I borrowed from my predecessor and colleague Mark McMahon). It's an excellent survey of different ways to think about the world. Sowell focuses on what he calls "the constrained vision" (which he identifies with Smith, Friedman, Hayek, Burke, and several others) and the "unconstrained vision," which he identifies with Godwin, Rousseau, Paine, and to a degree, Ayn Rand. Sowell offers a useful way of thinking about the role of ideology and assumptions in social analysis. Highly recommended. Here's a critical analysis by Bryan Caplan.

Paul Pearsall, Toxic Success. This is a contribution to the "more money doesn't make you happier, so slow down and smell the flowers" genre. I skimmed parts of it; I would have read more if Justin Wolfers and Betsey Stevenson hadn't shown that its core thesis is incorrect.

Tyler Cowen, Creative Destruction. Fantastic book. I really like Tyler's work on economics and culture; I'm especially fond of his ability to speak to people across disciplines. Interdisciplinary conversation--and I mean conversation, not condescension--is probably an area where the equal-marginal principle is not satisfied.

Daniel K. Benjamin, ed. The Collected Works of Armen A. Alchian. The Liberty Fund is awesome. I try to read a lot of classic articles by Certified Great Thinkers to see how they approach problems. I’ve only read the first couple of papers in this one, but Alchian’s 1950 paper on the evolutionary aspects of economics is fantastic. I’m struck by the degree to which he anticipates recently-revived interest in the Darwinian metaphor in the social sciences. Walter Block, Stephen W. Carson, and I address some of these issues in our 2006 Business and Society Review paper. I’ve done some thinking about this, and while I agree with Sami Dakhlia (one of my mentors at Alabama, now at Southern Miss) that there are no analogues to the phenotype and genotype in social sciences, I think the “survival characteristic” approach to institutions and forms in markets is appropriate.

Bruce Caldwell, Hayek's Challenge. Caldwell offers a very ambitious attempt to place Hayek in context--a daunting task given the breadth and depth of what Hayek wrote over a seventy year career. He devotes the first third of the book to a careful exploration of the intellectual tradition from which Hayek drew his inspiration; indeed, the first part of the book is a book-within-a-book about the early Austrian School and its relationship with the German Historical School. Caldwell offers a very useful survey of what Hayek did and didn't write while establishing the common themes in his economics, his psychology, and his social theory. Next on the list: Lanny Ebenstein's biography of Hayek and Steve Horwitz's review of both in History of Political Economy.

Max Lucado, 3:16-The Numbers of Hope. My first full Lucado book (I skimmed and enjoyed The Sweet Spot once while waiting at Walgreen’s), and his most recent. I certainly don’t have any soteriological or theological quibbles with what he’s writing; it’s just not really my style. I can see why he is wildly successful, though. I'll try to read a few others this year.

Richard Powers, Gain. "Reading" is a strong word. I’ve been slogging through in intermittent bursts for months. I hope to knock it out some weekend. What I've read of it is pretty interesting, though.

Feeding the Monkey, or, stuff that's on the way from Amazon.com: Vernon Smith, Rationality in Economics; Caroline Hoxby, The Economics of School Choice, Hayek, Law, Legislation, and Liberty (all three volumes).

Meme: Marginal Revolution.

Posted by Art Carden at 10:56 AM in Misc.

August 28, 2008
It's Hard to Run Wearing Baggy Pants

Here's another instance (previous here) of a person being caught b/c of his droopy drawers:

Atlanta police shot and wounded a man who allegedly pointed a gun at officers after a foot chase outside the Fulton County Courthouse, according to police and witnesses.

Witnesses said the fleeing man pulled the gun after tripping because he was struggling to keep his baggy pants from falling down.

The man was idenfied as Emanuel Uzowihe, 21.

Uzowihe’s injuries were not life-threatening and he was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital for treatment ...

Jackson and another witness, Julia Kelly, said Uzowihe fell because he couldn’t keep his baggy pants on his waist.

“He was running pretty fast,” Jackson said. “The only thing that messed him up is he was trying to pull his pants up.”

Said Kelly: “I bet he won’t wear baggy pants again.”

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:23 AM in Misc.

August 26, 2008

1. My former student Dan Alban calls my attention to two good pieces in Slate: French bureaucracy is impeding the French wine industry and an economics experiment increases farm worker productivity. [Sorry I forgot the link earlier.]

2. Jon Sanders asks a good question: If computer models have difficulty predicting hurricane tracks then what does that say about models of global warming?

3. Reason number 982 to hate politics: Democrats whack John McCain for being married to a multimillionairess but in 2004 their nominee was married to a billionairess (wikipedia says Heinz Kerry owns 5 houses). In any case, I'll be voting for Barr if I vote at all so I was pleased to see Brad's post containing Barr's polling numbers.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:04 AM in Misc.

August 20, 2008
Recent Reading

I haven't been able to update this for a while because of baby-related responsibilities, but I've been on a bit of a book bender recently in part inspired by my reading of The Shock Doctrine. Here are a few interesting recent reads:

1. F.A. Hayek, The Sensory Order. This was for a project on Hayek and Buchanan co-authored with Anamaria Berea and Jeremy Horpedahl from George Mason. It is very, very dense, but you can see how Hayek's social theory and classical liberalism follow from his cognitive theory. Peter Klein and commenters on his blog say a couple of things about the relationship between Austrian economics and the public choice approach here.

2. F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom. I re-read this while prepping material for Bob's and my paper about The Shock Doctrine. It remains as timeless and as classic as ever. My version was a gift from a friend in 1999, but there is now a Definitive Edition edited by Hayek scholar Bruce Caldwell.

3. Milton and Rose Friedman, Two Lucky People. The Friedmans' memoirs. I read this as part of the Shock Doctrine project, and the Friedmans go to great lengths to set the record straight about his involvement (or lack thereof) in Chile. They include an appendix of Chile documents, including Friedman's letter to Pinochet.

4. Lanny Ebenstein, Milton Friedman: A Biography. Excellent brief treatment of the man's life and work; an essential companion for Friedman scholarship. The definitive biography of Friedman has yet to be written, and I can't see a full treatment of Friedman coming in at less than a thousand pages. History of Thought students looking for a dissertation topic should seriously consider this.

5. Stephen T. Ziliak and Deirdre N. McCloskey, The Cult of Statistical Significance. This I the crowning piece in a 25+ year research agenda on the rhetoric of empirical analysis. Wide-ranging in coverage, this criticizes scientist’s morbid obsession with statistical significance, noting that it is quite literally morbid: the subtitle is “How the Standard Error Costs Us Jobs, Justice, and Lives.” I’m reviewing it for Economic Affairs; the full review should be available before too long.

6. Tom Peters, Thriving on Chaos: Handbook for a Management Revolution. One of my guilty pleasures is reading management and personal development books. I forget how this one ended up on my bookshelf, but it was interesting to skim parts of it 20 years after it was written. One thing I found interesting about the parts I did read was how much the song remains the same: trade deficit, low saving, competition from East Asia, lack of innovation, blind American business methods, etc. are leading us down the wrong path. As we all know, fears of Japanese economic dominance were unfounded, and besides, I remain puzzled by economic nationalism. I understand its superficial emotional appeal, but I have a hard time thinking in terms of "our" steel industry, "our" automobile industry, "our" semiconductor industry, or "our" potato chip factory. Many economists have pointed out that the principle that trade creates wealth does not end when you cross a national border, and I agree with Steven Landsburg that it is morally distasteful to prefer trade with one stranger to trade with another based on anything other than the content of that stranger's character (or the price and quality of his or her product).

7. Alvaro Vargas Llosa, The Che Guevara Myth and the Future of Liberty. An excellent and short (67 pp.) treatment of Che mythology and Latin American liberalism. I expected a more detailed treatment of Che, but he only gets the first chapter. I'll be giving our student workers my ID card, a Liberty Fund tote bag, and a list of call numbers for every Che book our library has soon.

Other books on the shelf that I probably should have read by now but haven't: Michael Heller's The Gridlock Economy (reviewing for The Freeman), Brian Doherty's Radicals for Capitalism, David M. Primo's Rules and Restraint (reviewing for Public Choice), Deirdre N. McCloskey's Knowledge and Persuasion in Economics, and many more. Coming from Amazon.com: Bruce Caldwell's Hayek's Challenge: An Intellectual Biography of F.A. Hayek and Lanny Ebenstein's Friedrich Hayek: A Biography.

Meme: Marginal Revolution.

Posted by Art Carden at 02:57 PM in Misc.

August 18, 2008
Markets in Everything: Breast Enhancing Gum

From the AJC:

If you must increase your bust, but gas prices have tapped your plastic surgery fund, there may still be hope. This time you don’t have to go under the knife. Just pop a few pieces of gum in your mouth everyday. Zoft Breast Enhancement Gum, which can be purchased without a prescription, contains Fenugreek Seed Extract, Fennel Seed, and 11 other herbs that the company says will deliver “larger, fuller, firmer breasts.”

Consider me skeptical, but users wanting to convince me are welcome to send before and after photos. :-)

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:57 PM in Misc.

August 14, 2008
Quick Hits

1. I wonder if PETA or Lou Dobbs is more bothered by this (HT Shawn):

Sensor-equipped elephant seals are helping scientists survey the ice-covered oceans surrounding Antarctica—and in some ways the animals do a better—and cheaper—job than traditional methods.

2. I guess 47% of the public doesn't know the meaning of "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press ...":

Nearly half of Americans (47%) believe the government should require all radio and television stations to offer equal amounts of conservative and liberal political commentary ..."

3. News reports earlier this week huffed and puffed that two-thirds of corporations don't pay income taxes. Well they're wrong--no corporations pay taxes. People--that is owners, input suppliers (including labor), or customers--pay taxes not corporations. Companies merely write the check to Uncle Sam. (Read Mankiw for more explanation.)

Resume regular programming.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:56 PM in Misc.

Infant Nutrition Bleg

We took Jacob to the doctor this morning for his two-week checkup, and we're glad to report that he's still perfectly healthy. One thing we've noticed in our recent foray into parenthood is that there is a lot of zeal for breastfeeding. I found Jan Riordan's book on breastfeeding via Google books and skimmed parts of it, but apart from a few figures about how many billions of dollars we're losing because Americans don't breastfeed enough, I haven't been able to find non-gated estimates of the treatment effect of breastfeeding on different health outcomes. Comments are open if anyone can direct me to good studies of the following:

1. What is the treatment effect of breastfeeding on health outcomes? How is it calculated?

2. What is the marginal effect of an additional unit of breastmilk on health outcomes? How is it calculated?

3. Breastfeeding has been promoted in developing countries. On page 8, Riordan reproduces a tragic "UNICEF photograph of thriving breast-fed twin and his dying bottle-fed sister (Courtesy of Children's Hospital, Islamabad, Pakistan)." Is the efficacy of breastfeeding in developing countries due to breastfeeding as such, or is it because breastmilk is a substitute for a contaminated water supply?

Sign-and-significance studies without clear, comparative discussions of magnitude need not apply. Thanks in advance to anyone who can help.

Posted by Art Carden at 12:57 PM in Misc.  ·  Comments (1)

August 08, 2008

Thursday's WSJ had a write up on paperbackswap.com and some other book swapping sites. Paperbackswap.com was founded by a former colleague, a former student, and an older Berry alum; more about them here. I'm a member; the site is both useful and user friendly.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 12:35 AM in Misc.

August 07, 2008
The Revolution Will be Printed on a T-Shirt That Retails for $17.99

While browsing for some stuff about Che Guevara for a project about human rights violations and economic freedom (coming soon!), I came across www.che-lives.com. Three things about the site immediately jumped out at me. First, the hammer-and-sickle icons on the left sidebar, the second of which is next to "advertising" (by Google--the link will take you to cheguevaraproducts.com). The second is the fact that the right sidebar is all links to the Che-Lives Store. Then, right below the middle of the page are "Links" (actually "Ads by Google" again) with one offering "Che Guevara Shirts" and the other linking to "10 Rules of Flat Stomach" (can't I just cover unsightly flab with a Che shirt?). From the main site, it would be easier to navigate to "10 Rules of Flat Stomach" than it would be to actually find anything Che said or wrote.

Here is Alvaro Vargas Llosa on Che. And here's the shirt I won from Bureaucrash at the IHS "Liberty and Society" Summer Seminar. It's actually cheaper than the shirts I saw at the Che-Lives Store, but I could save on Che shirts if I bought them wholesale. Finally, here's a related thought from the vault on how anti-capitalism is made possible by the social division of labor.

Beautiful irony, thy name is Che Guevara.

Posted by Art Carden at 05:33 PM in Misc.

Walter Block on Point-Shaving

Bob raises an interesting question about what Walter Block might say about point-shaving. So I sent him an email and asked. He graciously agreed to let me post his response:

In my humble opinion, point shaving is like payola: a disc jockey playing records he is paid to play by record companies. Rothbard deals with this correctly in my view: this is a tort against the radio station, not listeners. But there could be severe penalties against either payola or point shaving.

A couple of further thoughts:

1. As I understand it, gambling fuels a lot of interest in sports. It's the fact that people can bet on them that makes them interested in MAC basketball games. I'm not picking on the MAC: growing up in Ohio I always felt like MAC schools were unfairly overlooked, especially in football.

2. Point-shaving scandals and other gambling-related scandals are probably a direct consequence of the fact that betting on sports is illegal in most places and, therefore, has to be done underground. This produces the results you would expect: heavy involvement from organized crime, violence, dishonesty, and so on. If gambling were universally legal, I would guess that professional sports leagues and now-legitimate gambling operations would work out some time of arrangement whereby gambling operations would be entitled to relief if the league's games were fixed and where the league would be entitled to relief if it were discoverd that the gambling operations were meddling with the outcomes. I don't know exactly what kinds of institutions would evolve, but I'm enough of a Hayekian to trust that order would emerge. This theory is weakened by the fact that the leagues do not currently have any arrangements with Las Vegas sports books, and I think that the specter of gambling is one of the reasons why the major sports leagues have avoided Las Vegas.

3. I don't know why more people don't bet against their favorite teams as a form of insurance, especially since so many of us will let the outcome of a sporting event ruin an entire weekend (or week, or year). One would think that people would want to insure against such precipitous utility losses, especially since winning a few bucks would make it easier for a dejected fan to self-medicate after a crushing loss. I have three back-of-the-envelope theories. The first is social: for a lot of people, betting against Our Team is a form of treason. If I had to explain to friends and family that I'm not that disappointed in Our Team's recent loss because I won $100, I would probably end up spending my winnings replacing slashed tires. The second is psychological: people enjoy the emotional roller-coaster that comes with being a sports fan. In other words, the variance of the expected utility stream is important, not just the mean. The third is that sports fans are playing a maximax strategy and don't want to dampen the euphoria that comes with the best-case scenario. Losing money would probably make it harder to belt out "We Are the Champions," and I doubt I would have enjoyed the Cardinals' Game 7 victory over the Mets in the 2006 NLCS as much if I'd lost money on it. Any alternatives? Comments are open.

Posted by Art Carden at 04:18 PM in Misc.  ·  Comments (8)

August 05, 2008
A Lot Has Happened Since Thursday

1. US Per-Capita GDP is now lower.

2. The percentage of our family income and the percentage of US GDP devoted to health care is now higher.

3. My estimate of the probability that major diseases like cancer and AIDS will be cured in my lifetime is now higher.

Jacob Henry Carden was born at 11:47 PM on Thursday, July 31. He was 21 inches long and weighed just under eight pounds. I would describe him as healthy, happy, and hungry. A family photo and an economics question are below the fold.

Read More »

Posted by Art Carden at 10:22 AM in Misc.

August 01, 2008
Weirdest Sentence I Read This Week
Even Larry Lindsey, the former Reagan economist, concludes that a larger bailout is nearly inevitable -- though his fanciful solution is to recruit 100,000 immigrants who would agree to buy $10 million worth of housing each.

That's from Holman Jenkins WSJ column. I wonder what makes Lindsey think there are 100,000 such people who want to come here, have net worth above $10m, and want to tie up $10m in houses that Americans don't want to purchase at their current prices. Maybe he has good reasons for offering his solution, but it strikes me as a bit squirrelly.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:37 PM in Misc.

July 30, 2008
Ratings everywhere, everywhere ratings

1. My new home of Auburn-Opelika, AL scored in the top five in Inc.com's best small cities to do business.

2. Once again the alma maters of DoL bloggers were well represented on Princeton Review's party school list. Josh and me: Ohio U. (#5). Tim and me: FSU (#10). Josh: WVU (#4). Craig: UGA (#7). Mike & Art: Alabama (#19). Did I miss anyone?

Posted by Robert Lawson at 04:12 PM in Misc.

July 25, 2008
More Handiwork of Pres. George W. Bailout

Stimulus checks for dead people.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:39 AM in Misc.

Tax Dollars at "Work"

A former student sends me this article on a summer "jobs" program in Washington DC:

Samantha Baskin gets paid to be patient. One of thousands of students across the District who had pay problems in the summer youth jobs program last week, Samantha, 14, said that she doesn't actually do anything at the Washington East of the River Academy.

"We don't do nothing," she said. The director "holds us in a room for hours."

Although she was owed several hundred dollars, Samantha was paid a nickel Friday and was finally paid in full yesterday.

Pay problems are just one of the administrative issues in the D.C. summer youth jobs program, as was apparent at a news conference yesterday at the academy.

In interviews, many students echoed Samantha's complaint, saying they were spending their days sitting silently in classrooms.

Students are supposed to be doing arts programs, such as jewelry-making, painting and singing in a choir, [summer academy director Dianna] Robinson said, as well as learning such "life skills" as job readiness.

Robinson said she was excited about the remaining 4 1/2 weeks, now that everyone has been registered. But she did not think the first month had been a waste.

"Some of these 14-year-olds are the only ones earning a salary in a three-generation household," Robinson said. "If that means sitting in a hot auditorium, then I'm okay with that."

Just a hunch, but I bet some of the adults in three-generation households who are not earning salaries might have picked up a few of their "life skills" and "job readiness" in previous summer "jobs" programs.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:03 AM in Misc.

July 23, 2008
Interesting Lists

A friend from college has started a blog where he's collecting five-item lists, which he ultimately plans to turn into a book. I just added a couple of lists of things I learned from 80s rock songs and a list of favorite condiments. Merlin Mann's 5ives is also interesting.

Posted by Art Carden at 08:31 PM in Misc.

July 21, 2008
Firms in the Marvel Universe

Re: my post about what I've been reading and watching lately (below), Josh sent me a link this morning to the Wikipedia page for Damage Control, which was the company that was apparently hired to clean up the mess after battles between superheroes and supervillains. On one hand, it's great to see that the market process works even in the Marvel Universe. On the other, a quick skim of the page suggests that the company has some trouble with executive opportunism. Under a well-functioning legal system, incurred liability from crime should reduce the value of the company. This should create a market opportunity for a superhero of a different kind--call him The Speculator--to create value through his signature maneuver, the Leveraged Buyout. I doubt a series of comic books based on the academic debate about capital market discipline would sell particularly well, though.

Posted by Art Carden at 11:41 AM in Misc.

Mike Moffatt's Fitness Challenge

It looks like Mike Moffatt will not be contributing $100 to the "Munger for Governor" campaign.


Posted by Art Carden at 10:49 AM in Misc.

July 20, 2008
What I've Been Reading (and Watching) Lately*

1. Thomas Sowell, On Classical Economics. I'm teaching Classical and Marxian Political Economy in the Spring, and I'm thinking about assigning this. James C.W. Ahiakpor didn't care for it. It's very heavily footnoted--about 1/3 of the 300 or so pages are devoted to notes, index, and bibliography.

2. Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness. It's always good to read a little Rand during major policy debates; she isn't one to mince words. Many will find the title off-putting; Rand's use of "selfishness" is different from the way most of the rest of us use it. Every chapter stands alone because the book is a collection of essays by Rand and Nathaniel Branden. My favorite chapters were 12, 13, and 14 on "Man's Rights," "Collectivized 'Rights,'", and "The Nature of Government." Branden's chapter on "The Divine Right of Stagnation (chapter 16) is also worth reading.

3. Deirdre McCloskey, How to be Human (Though an Economist). I've read this a few times--I picked it up when I was on the job market in Boston in 2006. Every grad student should read it during their first year. My favorite essays (those on work and scholarship) appear on pp. 101-110 under "Rule 5. Work and Pray."

4. Robert Ekelund and Robert Tollison, Mercantilism as a Rent-Seeking Society. I've skimmed parts of it and it applies the now-standard theory of rent-seeking to European mercantilism. The content will provide interesting background for my Classical and Marxian course, and I'm especially interested in reading it in light of the literature that has developed since it was published in 1981.

5. The One-Year Bible (New Living Translation). This is one of the more innovative of the various Bible-reading plans I've come across. Every day has a selection from the Old Testament, a selection from the New Testament, and selections from Psalms and Proverbs. I first read it in 2001-2002; I've become a fan of the NLT because of its conversational tone.

A couple of notes on movies and something about insurance below the fold.

*-Meme: Guess.

Read More »

Posted by Art Carden at 07:12 PM in Misc.

July 16, 2008
Moral Sentiments: Billy Graham speaks at TED

Posted by Art Carden at 10:41 AM in Misc.

July 15, 2008
President George W. Bailout


Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:56 AM in Misc.

The Way Not to Convince Me to Take Global Warming Seriously ...

... is to have Al Sharpton and Pat Robertson collaborate on a global warming video. With pitchmen like these, I'll remain a skeptic (I'm not a denier--that would require more knowledge/confidence on the issue than I possess.) BTW, in addition to hurricanes, dying polar bears, and the like, global warming is now said to increase kidney stones.


Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:39 AM in Misc.

July 14, 2008
No beer, no civilization

So says George Will. Another snip:

Beer is a health food. And you do not need to buy it from those wan, unhealthy-looking people who, peering disapprovingly at you through rimless Trotsky-style spectacles, seem to run all the health food stores.

So let there be no more loose talk -- especially not now, with summer arriving -- about beer not being essential. Benjamin Franklin was, as usual, on to something when he said, "Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:03 AM in Misc.

July 10, 2008
Sir John Templeton, 1912-2008

The New York Times carries an informative article for those, like me, who didn't know the man personally.

In a career that spanned seven decades, Sir John dazzled Wall Street, organized some of the most successful mutual funds of his time, led investors into foreign markets, established charities that now give away $70 million a year, wrote books on finance and spirituality and promoted a search for answers to what he called the “Big Questions” — realms of science, faith, God and the purpose of humanity.

Along the way, he became one of the world’s richest men, gave up American citizenship, moved to the Bahamas, was knighted by the Queen of England and bestowed much of his fortune on spiritual thinkers and innovators:...

Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 10:06 AM in Misc.

July 07, 2008
Best Sentence I've Read Today*

From the summer issue of Rhodes magazine, here's physicist and fellow member of the college's Fall 2006 professorial cohort Deseree Meyer Brittingham on her summer reading:

Confession #1: I didn't always know I wanted to be a nuclear physicist, and I began my undergraduate years as an English major.

Also a possible contender for Best. Sentence. Ever.

*Meme: as always, Marginal Revolution.

Posted by Art Carden at 07:15 PM in Misc.

Go East, Young Man

I just finished listening to Will Wilkinson's "Free Will" conversation with Who's Your City? author Richard Florida.

At Florida's website, one can find a lot of interesting information about urban areas. One that jumped out at me was the clear spatial distribution of single men and women. If people are voting with their feet based on available marriage partners, we should see men moving east and women moving west, ceteris paribus. I'll be interested in seeing what this map looks like in ten years.

Posted by Art Carden at 02:14 PM in Misc.

What I've Been Reading Lately*

1. Richard Land, The Divided States of America? Land, who chairs the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, preached at our church yesterday, and I picked up a copy of the book after his message. I've read the first few chapters and the last chapter, and it has been a pleasant surprise so far. Subtitled "What Liberals AND Conservatives are missing in the God-and-country shouting match!", it's a refreshing departure from the shrill squawking that characterizes most left- and right-wing polemics about the relationship between church and state; indeed, a common theme among the back-cover blurbs is that the book is unique in that it is very calm and very measured. I look forward to finishing it.

2. Robert William Fogel, The Fourth Great Awakening and the Future of Egalitarianism. I'm finally reading this one from cover to cover. Fogel argues that according to available measures, we are in the middle of a Fourth Great Awakening of religious fervor, and he draws on the historical experiences of the first three Great Awakenings to make predictions about how the Fourth Great Awakening will influence social policy. Fogel applies his economist's reverence for clear theory and explanation and his historian's reverence for facts and evidence to a very important question in the social sciences very generally.

3. Jim Powell, FDR's Folly: How Roosevelt and His New Deal Prolonged the Great Depression. This was one of the free books available to students at last week's IHS seminar, so I decided to take a look at it before I gave my lecture on the Great Depression and World War II. Powell offers a very useful intellectual history of the Great Depression, and I recommended that students read this book after reading Atlas Shrugged. The parallels between the New Dealers' rhetoric and the statements made by some of Rand's villains are instructive. For students: the Ayn Rand Institute is sponsoring an essay contest, and I'm pretty sure they'll send you a copy of Atlas Shrugged if you ask for it. Powell's book is an excellent introduction to the New Deal; for a deeper, more analytical treatment, I recommend Robert Higgs's Depression, War, and Cold War.

4. Paul Ehrlich, The Population Bomb. Since this is one of those books that is likely only "read" in title only, I wanted to at least skim it before giving my IHS lecture on the limits to economic growth. I was surprised to discover that it is an explicitly political tract. As much as I would like to say so, the book's proper place is not the dustbin of history. Instead, I hope that future courses in intellectual history assign Ehrlich's writings alongside Julian Simon's writings to show how and how not to think about social phenomena.

*-Meme: Marginal Revolution.

Posted by Art Carden at 12:26 PM in Misc.

July 04, 2008
Celebre su independencia

A few of us DOLers are in Guatemala for the APEE board meeting. Since I can't shoot any roman candles this year, allow me to celebrate with you by pasting these timeless words, never perfunctory.

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 07:04 PM in Misc.

July 03, 2008
Penny Postcards Online

Interesting archive here.

Here is historical downtown Auburn (date unknown). aumnst.jpg

Posted by Joshua Hall at 12:05 PM in Misc.

June 17, 2008
Gaseous Admissions

From an AACSB newsletter (LH column; scroll down):

Oberlin College created a sustainability house called "SEED," which stands for Student Experiment Ecological Design. Students work to combat global warming by finding ways to reduce carbon admissions in their own lives.

As if carbon emissions aren't bad enough, we now have to deal with carbon admissions. Mon dieu!

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:18 PM in Misc.

June 13, 2008
Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy in Academia

In a few weeks, I'm giving a short talk for the graduate fellows at AIER about my reflections on academic life two years out. Basically, I'm going to give them a first-hand perspective on my successes, failures, and mistakes.

Given my offbeat interests, I don't think I really appreciated or internalized the core material in grad school as much as I should have. I don't have data on this, but I think that a lot of people outside of the mainstream of their disciplines make the same mistake.

A book I'm reviewing contains this sentence, which I take to heart as I develop as a scholar: "Jackson Pollock could draw like a camera, but instead he chose to splatter paint in a wild manner that pulsed with emotion." I've heard the same about Picasso and others. Their abstract expressions become much more meaningful, and they gain more credibility, when one considers them against the backdrop of their technical mastery.


Posted by Art Carden at 12:43 PM in Misc.

May 30, 2008
Building Brand Equity: AIER, ISNIE, IHS

It'll be a busy summer. Co-blogger Larry White and I will both be in residence at the American Institute for Economic Research in Great Barrington, MA during June. You can also catch me giving a "Brain Candy" lecture entitled "Homer Economicus Responds to Incentives" at a Rhodes Summer Writing Workshop for high schoolers on June 16 or 17, in the audience at the International Society for New Institutional Economics meetings at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management on June 20-21 and at the Institute for Humane Studies "Liberty and Society" seminar at Bryn Mawr, where co-blogger Josh Hall--who coined the term Homer Economicus--and I will give the economics lectures. My only time in New England consists of a couple of trips to Boston, so I'm really looking forward to the AIER trip. If anyone can recommend a good Asian restaurant in Toronto, please let me know (Mrs. Carden and I will be celebrating our fifth anniversary while we're there). Finally, my only other trip to Philadelphia was in eighth grade; I'm looking forward to going back. The Mint was closed the last time I was there, so it would be neat to be able to take a tour and watch as my currency is debased before my very eyes. We'll be back in Memphis for good around July 6, just in time for the late-summer heat.

Posted by Art Carden at 03:22 PM in Misc.

Graduate Student Sessions at SEA

This announcement arrived in my email today. I participated in one of these sessions a few years ago, and it's a great opportunity to get on the circuit in the early stages of the job market.

A number of sessions at the 2008 conference of the Southern Economic Association, to be held at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C. on November 20-23, 2008 (academic sessions will begin at 8 am on November 21st), are designated as graduate student sessions. These sessions provide an opportunity for graduate students to present their scholarly work, and to receive feedback from members of the organization who hold professional positions. Each southern university with a Ph.D. program in Economics is invited to nominate one advanced graduate student, preferably a student who will be on the job market, to participate in one of the sessions designed for graduate students. The graduate students selected will receive a $100 cash award, complimentary one year membership to the SEA, and the registration fee for attending the conference will be waived. I am writing to encourage you, if you are at an institution that grants a Ph.D. in Economics, to ask your department head or graduate coordinator to nominate a graduate student to participate in this initiative.

The Association recognizes the importance for young scholars to establish a habit of attending professional meetings with the idea of placing their work before an audience of professionals in their field. This experience will provide them with feedback that can sharpen their ideas. Moreover, they will have an opportunity to meet scholars from other institutions interested in their area of research. In addition, at the 2008 SEA conference, graduate students will have the opportunity to observe the presentation styles and ideas of prominent members of the profession by attending the Presidential Address of James D. Gwartney (Florida State University), the Distinguished Guest Lecture featuring Peter Diamond (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), and the Association Lecture delivered by David Laibson (Harvard University).

Please ask your department head to provide me with the name of the graduate student selected to represent your department via e-mail at (GoldsmithA@wlu.edu). In addition, please have the graduate student selected provide me with a word file containing an abstract, 200 words or less, of the paper they plan to present, along with their complete contact information (mailing address, e-mail address, fax and phone numbers) by August 15, 2008--although the earlier the better. For additional information about the 2008 conference, please visit www.southerneconomic.org.

I want to thank you in advance for participating in this initiative and for providing this important opportunity for professional growth for one of your outstanding graduate students.

Art Goldsmith
Graduate Student Program Manager

Posted by Art Carden at 11:21 AM in Misc.

May 23, 2008
Quick Hits

1. Matt Ryan and I sniffed around some MLB game data looking for interesting trends about extra inning games. The basic idea is that some moves that a manager might undertake to win an extra inning game could reduce the likelihood of winning the team's next game. Indeed, it looks like teams are less likely to play an extra inning game if they have a game (instead of an off day) the next day. Matt provides details. BTW, Matt's going to be on the market next year; he's a clever and collegial guy who'd be a nice addition to a department.

2. Demand curves are downward sloping: Driving in the US becomes a luxury.

3. The proposed area of oil drilling in ANWR is 1/13 the size of Berry College; Mark Perry has nifty graphics. BTW, the offer still stands for Mankiw to locate Harvard South on our back forty.

4. My reading list just got longer--Russell Roberts has a new book out this summer. I've used his previous books The Choice and The Invisible Heart in class; the description makes me think this one will also make its way into my classes.

5. Our mediocre president gets so few things right it's worth pointing out that his veto of the farm bill is spot on. My congressman, who proclaims "[h]e is committed to lowering taxes for hardworking Georgians and protecting the traditional values so important to Northwest Georgia," voted for it. Grrrrr.

6. Great moments in government schooling: State throws out CRCT results.

7. For kicks and giggles: Suspect to police: I drive with pants down and Clayton Co. teen accused of biting butts at Wal-Mart

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:37 AM in Misc.

May 22, 2008
High School rankings

Newsweek's new ranking of 1300 public high schools is out. The school district we're leaving, Bexley, Ohio, came in 404, but the one we're moving to, Auburn, AL, came in 369 so that's good I guess. The rankings are based solely on the percentage of graduating seniors taking AP or IB exams.

Needless to say, not everyone is happy with the simple Newsweek methodology. US News has a ranking based on a more complicated formula created by SchoolMatters.

The advantage of the Newsweek methodology is that AP and IB exams are the same nationwide while just about all other data are not comparable across states. The US News rankings plow ahead despite the comparability issues looking at state test scores primarily and placing greater emphasis on the relative performance of disadvantaged and minority students.*

Anyway in the US News report, Bexley High made the cut with a "silver medal" but, Auburn High was left out in the cold, so that's not so good. I suspect the reason is that Bexley has very few of disadvantaged and minority students (just 5% qualify for federally subsidized lunches), and the ones it has do relatively well. Auburn, in contrast has a more diverse student body with more disadvantaged and minority students (25% qualify for subsidized lunches), many of whom one may presume don't do that well on state tests.

From my point of view, as a parent of a non-disadvantaged, non-minority student, I suspect Auburn will serve our needs quite well with lots of AP opportunities and participation opportunities in the IB program.

As you might guess, unlike many commenters on these rankings, I think it's better to measure badly than not to measure at all. Bad measurements at least start the conversation and overtime can lead to calls for better measurements.

My own alma mater was on neither list.

*I must note that SchoolMatters' own Compare Schools utility won't compare schools from different states "because most states use a unique test to measure student performance."

Posted by Robert Lawson at 12:01 PM in Misc.

May 19, 2008
Sob Story

The Chronicle of Higher Ed has a story about deferred maintenance at colleges. The teaser just below the link to the story laments:

Public colleges compete with other state agencies when making their case for maintenance money.

How awful--public colleges having to compete with other state agencies for funding. Private colleges have to compete with public colleges that get taxpayer provided funding.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:49 AM in Misc.

May 13, 2008
The Lexus LS600H, which costs £84,000, was a gift from Lexus to the 65-year-old former Beatle [Paul McCartney], who helped promote the hybrid vehicle.

But instead of arriving by boat as expected, the car was flown to Britain on a Korean Air flight, creating a carbon footprint almost 100 times bigger than if it had come by sea.

Source. NB--The article suggests the blame may lie with Lexus not McCartney.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:04 PM in Misc.

April 30, 2008
Beloit in Springtime

Final day of class
Students will be leaving soon
Still too cold to walk

Posted by Joshua Hall at 02:35 PM in Misc.

April 24, 2008
Hats off

Congratulations to Master Sergeant Brendan O’Connor, who on Wednesday, April 30th will receive the Distinguished Service Cross for his valor as a medic with the Green Berets in Afghanistan. (This will be only the second DSC for Afghanistan duty.) CBS’s 60 Minutes told the remarkable story of his battlefield heroics on Sunday. Brendan and I grew up in the same town (Moorestown, NJ). One summer I was his boss at a local go-cart track owned by my classmate Mark Molz (I was the hired manager, paid in greasy $1 bills). Discipline, teamwork, and courage under fire – that’s what the go-cart track was all about, so I'm sure I can take some tiny credit for having had a formative influence on the young Brendan. Well, maybe.

HT: Mark Molz

Posted by Lawrence H. White at 04:51 PM in Misc.

April 18, 2008
Kondracke on Obama, Lester Brown on Ethanol, & Solar Power in SD

Three items from yesterday's Brit Hume program on FNC; quotes are from the program transcript on Lex/Nex.

First, here's an exchange between Hume and Mort Kondracke--no friend to free markets--on Obama:

HUME: What about Obama on the question of taxes and the capital gains tax? The premise of the question from Charlie Gibson was every time we lower the capital gains tax rate, we get a larger gusher of revenue from capital gains taxes. Would you want to raise it anyway?

Obama said yes, not so much because on the revenue side, but because of fairness. How about that?

KONDRAKE: That shows that he doesn't understand how markets work, and he is less interested in growth for the economy and for controlling the deficit than he is in, quote unquote, "fairness."

Jack Kemp had a wonderful piece in "The Wall Street Journal" today about how it is that even blighted neighborhoods grow. You create an enterprise zone where the capital gains rate is zero, and that encourages investment. That's what you want in those kinds of places.

I don't think Barack Obama understands anything about a capitalist economy.


Next, here's radical environmentalist Lester Brown on ethanol:

LESTER BROWN, PRESIDENT, EARTH POLICY INSTITUTE: In our efforts to reduce our oil insecurity, we have created unprecedented world food insecurity.

If even someone as green as Brown understands ethanol to be a boondoggle, you'd think .... Oh, never mind, it's all about politics.

Last, here's a bit on solar power program in SD schools:

And the movement to convert San Diego's schools to solar power has stalled because it has led to a huge increase in energy costs. "The San Diego Tribune" reports electric bills went up $20,000 a year after solar energy systems were installed in 28 schools.
Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:51 AM in Misc.

April 14, 2008
DC Trips

I've been to DC twice in the past three weeks. Last week I was there for a reading discussion at the Koch Foundation. I thoroughly enjoyed the time with the Koch Associates--thanks for the invitation and the warm welcome.

Also on last week's trip, I caught a Rent-Seekers Nationals game at the new DC ballpark. I thought it was a decent venue, though going to a $600 million taxpayer fleecing give me a bit of a slimy feeling. Most enjoyable was being accompanied by my former students Dan Alban and Keri Anderson.

My earlier DC trip was about 3 weeks ago--I took Pee Wee for Spring Break. It was a pretty standard trip with a 6 year old--monuments and museums. Our visit to the Air and Space Museum was marred by the tight crowd. It'd be much more pleasant if tickets were somehow rationed--by reservations or, heaven forbid, by price.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 02:34 PM in Misc.

April 11, 2008
The Use and Abuse of Powerpoint

I've gone to a lot of conferences and given a lot of talks this semester, and this has given me the opportunity to reflect on what goes into good and bad presentations (I've given many of both). On Ben Parizek's suggestion, I recently read Seth Godin's e-booklet Really Bad Powerpoint. It reminds me a bit of The Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation. Together, they offer a pretty clear guide to very good and very bad presentations and are definitely worth the time and effort. The Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation makes the point beautifully.

Posted by Art Carden at 05:50 PM in Misc.

April 03, 2008
Woman Bites Dog
Amy Rice feared for her dog's life when a pit bull jumped over a fence into her yard and attacked her pooch. So she took matters into her own mouth.

Rice says she bit the pit bull on the nose Friday after trying to pull the dog's jaws off her Labrador retriever, Ella.

I think it's close enough to consider man bites dog. Source.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:57 AM in Misc.

March 28, 2008
Pubs Ban British Treasury Chief After Alcohol Tax Hike
Earlier this month, treasury chief Alistair Darling raised taxes on cars and cigarettes, but it is his new alcohol duties — which raised the price of a pint of beer — that have gotten Britons' backs up.

So when a pub landlord in Darling's home town of Edinburgh barred the chancellor from his establishment, drinking holes across the country followed suit, posting pictures of the white-haired, bespectacled treasurer above the big red word "barred."

Bar manger Andrew Little at the Utopia pub, which kicked off the campaign, told The Associated Press the poster was put up "tongue-in-cheek," but the sentiment snowballed.

"It looks like we've touched a nerve," Little said.

Hundreds have joined Internet groups devoted to running Darling out of every pub in the country, and establishments from the Tap And Spile in the north England town of Lincoln to the Plough Inn in Finstock, near Oxford, said Darling would not allowed to partake of their booze.

Source here.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:49 AM in Misc.

March 26, 2008
Space Tourism II

Wired carries the AP story:

New Entry in Space Tourism Industry (By JOHN ANTCZAK Associated Press Writer) Mar 26, 2:03 PM EDT

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A California aerospace company plans to enter the space tourism industry with a two-seat rocket ship capable of suborbital flights to altitudes more than 37 miles above the Earth. The Lynx, about the size of a small private plane, is expected to begin flying in 2010, according to developer Xcor Aerospace, which planned to release details of the design at a news conference Wednesday.


Xcor's announcement comes two months after aerospace designer Burt Rutan and billionaire Richard Branson unveiled a model of SpaceShipTwo, which is being built for Branson's Virgin Galactic space tourism company and may begin test flights this year.

Which will eventually be a very cool thing. But in the meantime, it's an excuse to not so randomly quote the second funniest movie ever, Airplane II: The Sequel.

[in a montage of news reports] Buffalo Anchorman: Our top story Tonight, Four-alarm fire rages through Downtown Buffalo. Also in the news, Lunar Shuttle heads for the Sun, and certain disaster. Tokyo Anchorman: Our top story Tonight, Four-alarm fire rages through Downtown Tokyo. Also in the news, American Lunar Mission locked in death struggle. Moscow Anchorman: [with a gun pointed to his head] A Four-alarm fire in Downtown Moscow clears way for a glorious new tractor factory. And on the lighter side of the news, Hundreds of Capitalists are soon to perish in Shuttle disaster.

honorable mention:

Steve McCroskey: Jacobs, I want to know absolutely everything that's happened up till now.
Jacobs: Well, let's see. First the earth cooled. And then the dinosaurs came, but they got too big and fat, so they all died and they turned into oil. And then the Arabs came and they bought Mercedes Benzes. And Prince Charles started wearing all of Lady Di's clothes. I couldn't believe it.

Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 02:48 PM in Misc.

March 23, 2008
Home Schooling

An inside view of home schooling:

"[H]ome-schooling" is a misnomer, really. Most of it doesn't even take place at home, and the schooling has little in common with what goes on in school. [...] What home-schoolers most readily reflect are the virtues of the old American frontier settlement or the Amish barn-raising -- we co-operate in self-reliance. My wife and I have been teaching our children ourselves for more than 15 years, and we've found that home-schooling opens doors that schools leave closed.

And contrary to most popular belief, home-schooling isn't the brainchild of religious fanatics. It actually got started in the counterculture of the 1960s. [...] My wife and I hadn't originally planned on home-schooling, but with six children and one modest income, we couldn't afford a house in one of the better school districts in the state. We were living in Plainfield, an elegant old central New Jersey city with typically poor urban public schools characterized by bureaucratic mismanagement, low teacher morale and student violence. [...]

Home-schoolers also work across a much wider socioeconomic spectrum than the conventionally schooled. We have worked on many projects, and in many organizations, that draw participating home-schoolers from all around our state, from far beyond school district borders. [...]

The results? Studies have shown that home-schooled children outperform the conventionally schooled not only on standardized academic tests but also on tests of social skills. This, I believe, isn't because home-schoolers do things better than schools do them but because we do better things than schools do. [...]

Conventional schools are like the nation's Rust Belt companies, designed in the 19th century but struggling to meet the standards of international competition today. [...] People who are free to think for themselves usually get together and find solutions that are better than what bureaucrats can devise.

Posted by Wilson Mixon at 10:44 AM in Misc.

March 17, 2008
This and That

I was in DC over the weekend for an excellent IHS workshop on "Liberty and the Art of Teaching." A couple of quick observations about Julian Simon, iPods, and commerce are below the fold.

Read More »

Posted by Art Carden at 10:53 AM in Misc.  ·  Comments (2)

March 01, 2008
Buckley's "Ultimate Resources"

From Rich Lowry's appreciation:

Back in 1959, Buckley excoriated the flabbiness of thought that attended an invitation to Nikita Khrushchev to visit the United States. He concluded: "Khrushchev cannot take permanent advantage of our temporary disadvantage, for it is the West he is fighting. And in the West there lie, however encysted, the ultimate resources, which are moral in nature. In the end, we will bury him." Throughout the decades, with his intellectual pickax, Buckley uncovered those ultimate resources.

Posted by Wilson Mixon at 02:03 PM in Misc.

Business/Economic Reporting

Among the "Four Wrong Reasons for Pessimism":

Want to know the truth about business journalists? Most of us are failed sportswriters. . . . Think about what it takes to be a first-rate business journalist. One must be facile with numbers and financial statements and have the confidence to talk to CEOs, high-level executives, board members, analysts and so forth. One must delve deeply into the industry one writes about--what is the competitive landscape, what are the technological disruptions on the road ahead? It is also critical that one have a coherent global economic view to be able to put a story into context. And one must be a good storyteller.

Now, if one possesses all of these talents, what are the chances one goes into the low-paying field of journalism? Not great. . . .

The thin talent pool in business journalism combines with two other forces: Journalism is populated by left-of-center people, many of whom are hostile to business; and traditional journalism itself faces threats of disruption from the Internet, leaving business journalists in a fearful mood, which gets projected into their stories.

Posted by Wilson Mixon at 10:05 AM in Misc.

February 25, 2008
Enhanced by Ethanol

That's the claim made on the gas pumps at Wal-Mart. They have cute little cardboard green and yellow ears of corn on the hoses. Just one problem--saying gasoline is enhanced by ethanol is like saying a swimming pool is enhanced by pee. Since ethanol reduces gas mileage and can increase deposits in engines, a more accurate word would be contaminated or diluted.

Just for the record--no one should worry that I'm getting wobbly on Wal-Mart. :-)

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:51 AM in Misc.

February 19, 2008
Bryan Caplan at Rhodes

Bryan Caplan, author of The Myth of the Rational Voter, will be speak at Rhodes on Thursday night at 8:00 PM in Hardie Auditorium. The lecture is free and open to the public; more information can be found here. This is particularly interesting in light of Fidel Castro's resignation, which President Bush hopes will lead to "a democratic transition."

Posted by Art Carden at 06:03 PM in Misc.

February 03, 2008
Kickin' It Around Berry College

My former student Ryan Simmons made this YouTube video of Berry. My favorite scenes are the one with the cows and the one in the president's office.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 02:31 PM in Misc.

January 30, 2008
Many Thanks to Bruce Yandle ...

... for his talk "Looking for Heroes in Adam Smith's World" before a standing room crowd at Berry yesterday. Thanks, too, to my colleague Melissa Yeoh for arranging Bruce's visit.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:09 PM in Misc.

January 17, 2008
Water "treatment" c. 1908

In a reversal from the current discussion about the appropriate use of water:

For having doused his wife with cold water while she lay in a bed Edward J. Donnelly of 140 Hobart Avenue, Bayonne, was yesterday sentenced to ninety days by Recorder Lazarus. Donnelly said he tried the water cure on his wife to stop her from talking, and said she talked so incessantly that he could not sleep. He slept after he threw the water over her.

Posted by Craig Depken at 11:10 AM in Misc.

Catching up via quick hits

Some quick hits I've meant to blog about more extensively, but lately I've been very short on time.

1. Of light and carbon: From www.spiked.com, here is the best article I've seen summarizing the incandescent vs. flourescent craze. To reduce my carbon footprint, I henceforth resolve to boycott "carbon copy" and "blind carbon copy" emails.

2. Dani Rodrik recently posted a short paper, "Second Best Institutions," that is highly worthwhile but raises many puzzles.

3. Bob Lawson is visiting Liberty Fund today to give a talk on why we don't see countries with both high political freedoms and low economic freedoms.

4. Harvey Mansfield says economic thinking lacks virtue.

5. Alex Tabarrok says don't sweat the recession talk and reminds us (ahem!) that the real impact of economics lies less in clever applications of welfare analytics to Christmas, but more in enlightened understanding of growth and prosperity.

Amazingly, there are only about 6 million scientists and engineers in the entire world, nearly a quarter of whom are in the U.S. Poverty means that millions of potentially world-class scientists today spend their lives trying to eke out a subsistence living, rather than leading mankind’s charge into the future. But if the world as a whole were as wealthy as the U.S. and were devoting the same share of population to research and development, there would be more than five times as many scientists and engineers worldwide.

6. Finally, the January issue of W highlights the fascinating artist Thomas Nozkowski. There are some insights into originality and genius. I like the rich descriptions of his quirky, creatively-destructive methods and their beautiful results.

Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 10:39 AM in Misc.

January 15, 2008
Caught My Eye

1. From the ok for me but not for thee department: NY Mayor Bloomberg is photographed nibbling on some Cheez-Its (0.5g of trans fats per serving) after leading NY's ban on trans fats.

2. MIT economists Jonathan Gruber and David Rodriguez find:

Our best estimate is that physicians provide negative uncompensated care to the uninsured, earning more on uninsured patients than on insured patients with comparable treatments. Even our most conservative estimates suggest that uncompensated care amounts to only 0.8% of revenues, or at most $3.2 billion nationally.

Not that it'll stop the socialized medicine crowd but this paper is very important because it rebuts one of the alleged failings of the current system.

3. Cato's David Boaz nominates someone for The Diff (previous installments here, here, and here).

4. Mark Steyn's column on capitalism as the real agent of change is a must read. See especially the paragraphs on John Edwards.

5. Carpe Diem posts on Krugman's recession forecasts and mortgage fraud via fake paystubs.

6. MR is hosting a book forum on Tim Harford's The Logic of LIfe. I got an advance copy and read it over Christmas break. I thought it was superb; I am pleased to see someone pushing back against the behavioral economics tide of the past few years.

7. I also read and liked John Lott's Freedomnomics. I would have liked it better if it had less emphasis on rebutting of Freakonomics. I don't think Freakonomics is flawless (I hated the chapter on baby names), but I thought Lott's constant harping on it was tiresome. Moreover, like Russ Roberts comments on Lojack and concealed handguns, I don't think of Lott's and Levitt's work as opposites.

I think both books miss a plausible explanation for the reason realtors take longer to sell their houses and get higher sales prices. Many people who put houses on the market do so because they are moving out of town. They have higher monitoring costs to make sure the house isn't burglarized. They also have higher transactions costs to consummate a sale from out of town. These factors push someone moving out of town (or across a large city like Chicago) to sell faster and at a lower price. Realtors, on the other hand, probably are not moving out of town and therefore have lower costs to hold out a bit longer for a higher price. I also suspect that it is somewhat common for realtors to deliberately own two (or more) houses at once. They then put both on the market and sell the one that draws the more attractive bids. People who are not planning to simultaneously market two homes may face liquidity constraints that nudge them to sell their first home sooner (and at a lower price) before taking on their next home.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 12:17 AM in Misc.

January 12, 2008
UNC_CH 1886

On the status of the University of North Carolina in the late 19th century:

Ad placed in the Waynesville (N. C.) Daily News on July 12, 1886.

University of North Carolina

The next session opens August 26th. Fifteen Professors offer a wide range of instruction in Literature, Science and Philosophy. The Law School and the Department of Normal Instruction are fully equipped. Special higher training in all the departments is provided for graduates of the University and of other Colleges free of charge. Select Library of 20,000 volumes; Reading Room of 114 Periodicals. Total collegiate expenses $88.00 a year. Board $8.00 to $13.50 per month. Sessions begin last Thursday in August. For full information, address
President Kemp P. Battle, L. L. D.
Chapel Hill, N. C.

Posted by Wilson Mixon at 03:27 PM in Misc.

Harvard c. 1908

From the Dec. 11, 1908 NYT:

The total enrollment of students at Harvard University this year is 5,763. The total is a decrease of 26 from last year.

The total registration in the Department of Arts and Sciences is 2,836. The Divinity School has 31 members, the Law School 716, the Medical School 345, the Dental School 68, the Busely[?] Institute, devoted to agricultural courses, 22, and Radcliffe College 167.

Posted by Craig Depken at 02:31 PM in Misc.

January 05, 2008
Yale c. 1908

The January 5, 1908 NYT reports on the status at Yale:

Official registration figures at Yale show that the university has 3,306 students this year, against 3,247 last year.

Surprise is felt that the Academic Department shows a falling off of 36 students. There are 474 members of the faculty against 442 last year.

The Sheffield Scientific School is the only department showing substantial gains. Its numbers have increased from 875 to 948. The Graduate Department has dropped from 260 to 257, and the Medical School from 157 to 154. The Law School has increased from 294 to 330.

In 2006, Yale had 11,415 in total enrollment with 5,332 undergraduates.

Wikipedia's entry on the Sheffield Scientific School

Posted by Craig Depken at 05:48 PM in Misc.

December 19, 2007
Another Way to Waste Time

Test your vocabulary on FreeRice.com. I made it to level 47.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 12:01 PM in Misc.

December 04, 2007
Cry Me a River

In the news,

CINCINNATI (AP) — Two college students say the high cost of tuition led them to rob a bank.

The men pleaded guilty to two charges of aggravated robbery and six charges of kidnapping. They face 20 years in prison when sentenced Dec. 27.

Andrew Butler, 20, a student at the University of Toledo, told Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Steve Martin on Monday that tuition increases outpaced his scholarships and financial aid.

Christopher Avery, 22, a student at the University of Cincinnati, said he couldn't pay for summer classes after an internship at a grocery store fell through.

Armed with guns and wearing masks, Butler and Avery made off with $130,000 from a crowded Valley Central Savings Bank in suburban Reading on July 17, said Assistant Hamilton County Prosecutor Brian Goodyear.

An attempt to rob a check-cashing business a day earlier was thwarted when the students couldn't get through the business' security system despite firing four shots at the bullet-resistant glass, Goodyear said.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:10 AM in Misc.

December 03, 2007
University taglines

Craig Newmark comments on university taglines. I absolutely detest the patronizing tone of my own university's "An Education You Want. The Attention You Deserve."

But do like Southern Mississippi's "Freeing the Power of the Indvidual".

Posted by Robert Lawson at 02:20 PM in Misc.

December 01, 2007
Candy blog

If you want mass-market candy reviews that read like fine wine reviews, accompanied by excellent photos, check out Candy Blog. A sample:

The flavor of Good & Plenty is more complex, I think, than some of the European pastilles. First, the sugar coating doesn’t completely contain the licorice flavor so when you stick your nose into a movie-sized box of Good & Plenty and you get a woodsy whiff of anise. The sugar shell isn’t very crunchy, in fact, it’s a little grainy, but it works pretty well for Good & Plenty, letting the flavor permeate. The licorice itself has a high sweet overtone and then the molasses hits, dark and slightly burnt and with a light salty bite. After it’s gone there’s a lingering sweetness and clean licorice/anise flavor ... until you pop the next few in your mouth.
Posted by Lawrence H. White at 01:19 PM in Misc.

November 30, 2007
Is the Rome News-Tribune the Country's Most Libertarian Newspaper?

Probably not--it tends to support levying taxes to finance "economic development" and has occasional outbreaks of populism--though the competition is slim. Fortunately, the RNT does offer up healthy doses of libertarianism from time to time. Here's a sample from today's issue:

EVIDENCE MOUNTS that Rome needs a new “Clean It or Lien It” ordinance —one that would be applied to the brains of some in the municipal bureaucracy. The nit-picking mentality of some of the “hired guns” charged with protecting the beauty (in some places) and historical ambiance (in even fewer places) of this fair city is starting to get obviously out of hand. Rules should be guidelines with some flexibility built into them. Those increasingly seem not the sort that Rome has.

Worse, there appear to be so many chefs stirring the pot that an odd concoction is sure to result. Planning Commission, Rome Historic Preservation Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals and Adjustments, City Commission all seem to have some sort of say on the most trivial of appearance matters — and often the ability to “veto” the opinions of the other.

At some point, perhaps already reached, this state of affairs will drive away new enterprises. Is it really impossible to do business in Rome without having a staff of lawyers on retainer to deal with the city?

I've opened comments for readers to suggest other papers with libertarian leaning editorial pages. I've also put another sample from the RNT below the fold.

UPDATE (12/8): I have added another example below the fold.

Read More »

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:14 PM in Misc.  ·  Comments (1)

November 23, 2007
Blondes Have More Externalities ...

... and apparently they are not all of the positive variety. To wit,

While blondes may have more fun, a new study suggests that fair-haired ladies may be making those around them dumber.

Researchers found that men's scores on general knowledge tests drop when they are shown photos of blonde women, the Sunday Times of London reported.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:54 AM in Misc.

Quick Hits from the Southerns

I spent the first part of this week at the Southern Econ meetings in New Orleans. Besides seeing several DOLers, some grad school pals, and lots of friends, a couple of highlights:

1. My former student Andrew Chupp, now in GA State's Ph.D. program, did a superb job presenting his paper on how emissions policies affect the demand for hybrid cars. Well done!

2. While taking the shuttle from the airport to my hotel, I got in a brief conversation with the driver about how jammed New Orleans will be in January with the AEA meetings and national championship Sugar Bowl back-to-back. The driver indicatd he's a LSU fan but hopes LSU will not be in the Sugar Bowl. Why not? Many LSU fans will be driving to the game and, consequently, there will be less demand for shuttles and other tourist services. This one insight alone makes the driver a better sports economist than many of the folks who cook up fanciful economic impact studies for major sports events and new arenas.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:50 AM in Misc.

November 16, 2007
Self-Serve Beer

From the AJC comes this example of using technology to save labor and employee monitoring costs:

Stats, a new downtown sports bar, spent $110,000 to install the system. The Table Tap technology lets guests serve themselves once waitresses check identifications and turn on a meter. The taps connect to 16 kegs in a basement cooler, and guests can pick which two they want hooked up at the table.

"I want one in my house," said Kevin McDonough of Sandy Springs, who was sipping on a pint of Harp that he'd poured himself./

The meters tick away suds by the ounce, with prices ranging from 25 cents to 37 cents. That amounts to $4 a pint for the least expensive beer.

When the table hits 180 ounces, the taps stop pouring until a server checks over the table

Table Tap founder Jeff Libby negotiated the limit with the Georgia Department of Revenue, settling on an amount equal to the largest pitchers in use at other restaurants. It's the same self-serve concept, he figured.

Still, the pour-your-own approach is much more appealing than scanning cereal through a self-serve checkout lane. Not just for drinkers, but for restaurateurs.

With meters on many of the taps, including at an upstairs bar, nobody gets a freebie.

With guests at seven tables and 10 private rooms free to pour their own, labor costs shrink.

Another news item on employee monitoring is below the fold.

Read More »

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:48 AM in Misc.

November 06, 2007
Holy Cow!

News item:

Charles and Linda Everson were driving back to their hotel when their minivan was struck by a falling object — a 600-pound cow.

The Eversons were unhurt but the cow, which had fallen off a cliff, had to be euthanized.

The year-old cow fell about 200 feet from the cliff and landed on the hood of the couple's minivan, causing heavy damage.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 03:36 PM in Misc.

October 27, 2007
Thesis Printing on Demand

For those in need of having theses or dissertations bound, I recently used Thesis on Demand. I found their prices to be quite reasonable and the quality was excellent. The really nice thing is you just upload the .pdf and pay by credit card and 4-6 weeks later you get a really nice, well bound, thesis or dissertaion in the mail.

Posted by Joshua Hall at 01:03 PM in Misc.

October 24, 2007
Self-interested pleading?

Is it just my imagination, or are those cars with bumper stickers that command us to "Stop Road Rage" among the most irritatatingly driven cars on the road?

Posted by Lawrence H. White at 10:40 PM in Misc.

October 16, 2007
Congratulations Garvey Essay Winners!

The 2006-07 Garvey Essay topic was

Is foreign aid the solution to global poverty?”

A 2005 United Nations report called for a doubling of foreign aid to poor countries as the means to reduce poverty. Yet the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to a for-profit microloan bank and its founder, an apparent vindication of the ideas of Peter T. Bauer, Henry Hazlitt, Deepak Lal, and others. As Bauer wrote, “Development aid, far from being necessary to rescue poor societies from a vicious circle of poverty, is far more likely to keep them in that state.…Emergence from poverty requires effort, firmly established property rights, and productive investment.”

Congratulations to the winners.

Junior faculty winners are Peter Leeson, Jason Sorens (University at Buffalo), and Art Carden (Rhodes College).

Student winners are John Parker (U. of Alabama), James Estes (Pittsburgh Theological Seminary), and Juan Ramon Rallo (U. de Valencia).

The contest drew 600 applicants from 48 countries. Details, including prize amounts and webbed essays, are here

Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 08:26 AM in Misc.

Thanks Aeon

I spent a few days last week attending a Liberty Fund conference organized by Aeon Skoble. A fantastic experience--thanks for the invitation and thanks to Liberty Fund for its generosity. Also attending were friends Ed Stringham and Elizabeth Hull.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 12:31 AM in Misc.

October 12, 2007
Throwing Stones in Glass Houses

From the AJC:

PETA: Cobb shelter illegally euthanized animals

I guess PETA would rather give animals lethal injections and dump them in dumpsters.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 02:06 PM in Misc.

Misc updates

I'll be away for a couple of weeks to (1) give a talk at the International Policy Network in London, (2) attend and give a couple presentations at the annual Economic Freedom Network meeting held this year on the Adriatic Coast in Budva, Montenegro, and (3) give a talk for the Liberalni Institut in Prague.

I'll also find some weekend time to hike in the Durmitor Mountains of Montenegro where I hope to summit Bobotov Kuk (8274').

Posted by Robert Lawson at 10:59 AM in Misc.

October 11, 2007
Another Entrepreneur Serving Customer Needs
As the world's top condom experts convene this week to update international standards, one American entrepreneur has a simple message: Size matters.

It's shaking up an industry that has generally taken a one-size-fits-all approach.

The world's top condom experts gathered this week in South Korea to update international standards for condoms, where one American entrepreneur was pushing for more different sizes to be allowed.

Frank Sadlo, founder of TheyFit, which makes what he claims are the world's first custom-fit condoms, is pushing for updated standards to allow greater variation in condom size.

Story here.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:34 PM in Misc.

October 08, 2007
Good News for Beer Drinkers

The reference is just to offset Frank's gloom and doom report.

Posted by Wilson Mixon at 04:01 PM in Misc.

October 04, 2007
An Awkward Introduction

This morning, after a report about on bureaucrats running up large travel bills flying first class, the hosts of "Fox and Friends" introduced a guest thusly

MR. DOOCY: More on this waste with an expert.

MR. NAPOLITANO: Yes. We're joined now by California Congressman Ed Royce.

Although the introduction could be interpreted (and was intended) to mean that Rep. Royce opposes government waste, I bet he'd prefer not to be introduced as an expert on government waste. For what it's worth, Royce had a score of 84 (rank of 21) on the Club for Growth's 2006 House Scorecard.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 12:00 AM in Misc.

September 24, 2007
In response to anarchists c. 1907

Following up on the Anarchist handbill story from last week, the Sept. 24, 1907 NYT reports on the exercise of private property rights:

On account of the Anarchist notice, which was posted on the property of H.C. Frick at Fifth Avenue and Grant Street, the other day, the property is to be closed to the public in the future. There is a high board fence about it, but during the Summer the gates have been thrown open and the place was used as a playground for the poor children in the downtown districts.

This afternoon all the entrances to the property were boarded up, and notices were posted announcing that persons who trespassed on the property would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Posted by Craig Depken at 12:22 PM in Misc.

September 22, 2007
Ethically Challenged

Today's WSJ has an article (sub req) about MIT reporting incorrect SAT scores for the U.S. News rankings. It's a pretty small error and there may not have been an attempt to deceive, but this paragraph caught my eye:

Says Mr. Shmill [MIT's interim admissions dean]: "It was a pretty harmless error, or we wouldn't be talking about it."

So if it wasn't a "pretty harmless error" MIT would have kept it hush, hush. A real paragon virtue, eh?

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:09 PM in Misc.

September 21, 2007
On being wealthy c. 1907

The Sept. 21, 1907 NYT reports about ongoing testimony concerning the business practices of Standard Oil including, for the first time, revelation of the major stock holders of the company.


In 2005 dollars, J.D. Rockefeller's holdings would be worth approximately $2,4 billion. This amount seems relatively paultry compared to those on the Forbes 400. Indeed, J.D.'s Standard Oil holdings would put him around number 188 on today's list.

The level of concentration amongst the people listed here is moderate - the Herfindahl index is 2722. Here's the Lorenz curve:

Stata Data File

Another story carries the headline "Rockefeller Saves $198," and concerns the wages Rockefeller paid college students who worked on his estate during the summer. The daily wage was reduced from $1.50 to $1.25. When several of the students complained, the foreman said "If you don't want to work for $1.25, you know what you can do." Promptly, three people quit.

Posted by Craig Depken at 03:28 PM in Misc.

September 19, 2007
Hayek & Wikipedia: Who GNU?

Interesting article on the Mises blog:

The English Wikipedia alone includes nearly two million articles, and has a word-length fifteen times that of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Wikipedia is the single largest encyclopedia ever assembled, having long since surpassed the Yongle Encyclopedia of 15th century China.

The man credited with founding Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales — known to Wikipedians as "Jimbo" — was a finance major at Auburn University when the Mises Institute's Mark Thornton suggested he read "The Use of Knowledge in Society," a now-famous essay written by Austro-libertarian economist and Nobel laureate Friedrich von Hayek. ... According to a June 2007 Reason magazine interview, this insight of Hayek's is what led Wales to found Wikipedia. The rather lofty vision that inspired Wales? "Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That's what we're doing."

Those who refused to believe that a user-generated encyclopedia could compete with the monolithic, traditional encyclopedia written by experts and organized by professional editors, were no doubt shocked when Nature magazine published a 2006 article comparing Wikipedia to the well-known Encyclopedia Britannica. The article concluded that Wikipedia articles were comparable in accuracy and thoroughness to those of the older, paper encyclopedia.

According to [a Pew Research Center] study, "Wikipedia has become the No. 1 external site visited after Google's search page, receiving over half of its traffic from the search engine." All that traffic does not include sites that syndicate Wikipedia content, such as Ask.com.

Such syndication is free thanks to the special license agreement to which all contributors consent when adding content to the encyclopedia. The GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL) allows for royalty-free reproduction — in original or modified form — even in for-profit projects.

I have an attraction to GNU projects: I've been using GRETL (Gnu Regression, Econometrics and Time-series Library) for both instruction and research. I co-authored a review article that describes GRETL's capabilities as of a couple of years ago. As happens with things GNU, these have increased a good bit since then.

Posted by Wilson Mixon at 03:57 PM in Misc.

September 17, 2007
Waiting to call 911 II

Frank notes below that a government school didn't call 911 when a student fell ill.

Heck that's nothing; a couple years ago there was a local high school here in Columbus that didn’t call 911 after a girl was RAPED.

Posted by Robert Lawson at 10:39 AM in Misc.

September 14, 2007
Waiting to Call 911

Bob's waiting for the Ohio AG to sue failing government schools, here's a story of a government school that wouldn't call 911 when a student fell ill:

The typed words on the school memo are as direct as they are stunning: "No Deans are permitted to call 911 for any reason."

An assistant principal at Jamaica High School wrote the order just two weeks before ninth-grader Mariya Fatima suffered a stroke at the Queens school in April.

Employees waited more than an hour before calling 911, according to court records, costing Mariya crucial minutes of medical treatment, a delay that may have made her paralysis worse.

A month after Mariya collapsed, the same assistant principal sent out another memo, flip-flopping and telling the deans it was okay to call 911, but instructing them to downplay assaults.

The author of the memo and the school's principal have both since left Jamaica High School, but that's little comfort to Mariya's family.

"You take it for granted that your child is going to be safe, but if they don't want to call 911, no matter what the circumstances, your child is not protected," family lawyer Gary Carlton said.

Mariya, who lost use of her right hand and leg, has had to relearn how to speak and walk since the stroke.

I once heard a talk show blabber call government schooling the most common form of child abuse. Articles like these make you wonder if it just might be so.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 12:16 PM in Misc.

September 12, 2007
Snarky Thought of the Morning

Yesterday's WSJ had an article on people moving from the auto to health care industries. Several bloggers have, rightly, commented on how this exemplifies the fluid nature of a market economy. But what caught my attention was the article's subtitle:

NURSING AMBITIONS In Shift, Auto Workers Flee to Health-Care Jobs Many Seek New Starts In Field That Bled Big 3; Detroit's Next Migration

Wrong--health care didn't bleed the big 3, the UAW did. The subtitle only fits if workers were leaving the auto industry to be union organizers. Sure the big 3 have high medical expenses, but those expenses are there because of the UAW.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:25 AM in Misc.

August 31, 2007
The Wonders of Capitalism--New Car Edition

We just bought a Honda Odyssey for my better half. We paid about 4% more than we did for a similar vehicle 10 years ago. In real terms we paid about 20% less than we did a decade ago. Moreover, it ignores the fact that the Odyssey has lots of improvements (airbags all around not just in the front, a 6 CD changer, remote control sliding doors for letting Pee Wee in and out, and more) over our old car.

Our good deal got me wondering about the new car price component of the CPI. According to the Economic Report of the President (Table B-61), the CPI for new cars fell from 141.7 in 1997 to 136.4 in December 2006.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 04:30 PM in Misc.

August 29, 2007
Studying Matters ... Who Knew?

[U]sing results from our full sample, an increase in study-effort of one hour per day (an increase of approximately .67 of a standard deviation in our sample) is estimated to have the same effect on grades as a 5.21 point increase in ACT scores (an increase of 1.40 standard deviations in our sample and 1.10 standard deviations among all ACT test takers).

Paper here.

Quick quiz: This paper is based on survey data of Berea College students. What is the mean number of hours per day that they report studying? Answer below the fold.

Read More »

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:53 AM in Misc.

August 27, 2007
Advice to Freshmen

It's the first day of school here. As I do every year, I offer the following advice to new college students:

There are basically three things you can do with your time in college: (1) Study, (2) Drink, or (3) Work at a job/Play a sport. My advice is to pick only 2. You cannot do (1), (2), and (3). Well you can but not well. Options (1) and (2) work together well as do Options (1) and (3). If you pick options (2) and (3), then drop out now and save yourself/your parents/the taxpayers a lot money.

Posted by Robert Lawson at 10:45 AM in Misc.

August 24, 2007
We're # 30

Todays about.economics contains a few interesting items:

  • Ross McKitrick's proposal for a carbon tax. I think a carbon tax is the way to go, relative to cap-and-trade. The latter just has too much potential for mischief.

  • DOL ranks #30 among economics blogs, based on incoming links from other blogs.

  • A link to Stephen T. Easton's calculation on the revenue the government could realize from legalizing and taxing marijuana

Posted by Wilson Mixon at 11:39 AM in Misc.

August 21, 2007
The Unintended Consequences of Gun Control?

In the news (w/ a HT to WSJ's Best of the Web Today):

A robber who held up a bookmaker's shop in Leicester with his girlfriend's vibrator has been jailed.

Nicki Jex, 27, of Braunstone, Leicester, hid the sex toy in a carrier bag pretending it was a gun, Leicester Crown Court heard.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:31 PM in Misc.

August 19, 2007
Pandora Radio

Stuck in an iTunes rut? Pandora Radio will take a couple of your favorite artists, analyze them and stream in similar music. It's dynamic and gives very cool descriptions of what it's doing as it goes along. HT: Noel Campbell.

Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 10:19 PM in Misc.

August 17, 2007
Hurricane Dean vs. Howard Dean

Current forecast is for Hurricane Dean to hit land between Corpus Christi and Houston. Damages could be severe.

Any more severe than Howard Dean?

Only time will tell.

AP story on the Hurricane Dean.

Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 11:53 AM in Misc.

Your Tax Dollars at Work

Pentagon Paid $998,798 to Ship Two 19-Cent Washers

Hard to believe some folks think government run medical care would be cheaper.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:04 AM in Misc.

August 15, 2007
A New Form of Family Leave

In the news:

Moscow - A Russian region of Ulyanovsk has found a novel way to fight the nation's birth-rate crisis: It has declared Sept. 12 the Day of Conception and for the third year running is giving couples time off from work to procreate.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:31 AM in Misc.

August 14, 2007
The Four Mistakes of Nonlibertarians ...

... splendidly explained by George Leef.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 02:20 PM in Misc.

August 10, 2007
Inspired by Michael Vick or A New Event for the Redneck Games?

Woman Kills Raccoon With Her Bare Hands

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:22 AM in Misc.

Headline Meet Article

The headline on a story in today's AJC:

Number of Black Murder Victims on Rise

A paragraph from the article:

An estimated 16,400 people were murdered in the United States in 2005, down from a peak of 21,400 a decade ago. Similarly, the number of black people slain dropped over the last 10 years, from 10,400 in 1995 to almost 8,000 in 2005.

Here's another paragraph from the article:

Two years ago, 6,783 black men were murdered, up from 6,342 in 2004, the study shows. The murder rate among white men also rose, but less dramatically: 5,850 were slain in 2005, compared with 5,769 the year before.

So there's been a decline in both white and black murder victims over the past decade albeit with a small (compared to the 10-year decline) increase over the last two years of the period. How does it get reported? Not the good news of an overall decline; not the bad news that the there's been a small increase in both black and white murders over the 2004-2005 period. Instead, the headline points only to the increase in black murders.

BTW, the article also mentions that the vast majority (93% for black victims; 85% for white victims) of people had killers of the same race. Since the number of black and white victims is roughly equal (actually approx 15% more black victims), the fact that nearly all killers are of the same race means that the number of people of each race convicted should be roughly equal. Just for the record: I doubt the justice system is color blind--this article finds it is not--the murder data suggest that a color blind system would not yield incarceration rates proportionate to population. For actual data on executions by race and death row population by race see this page; whites outnumber blacks in both cases.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:20 AM in Misc.

August 06, 2007
Children's Book Suggestion

While on vacation in June, we bought Wendie Old's To Fly: The Story of the Wright Brothers for Pee Wee. We bought the book because we planned to visit the Wright sites (and the spectacular Museum of the Air Force) in Dayton later in our trip, so we thought the book would give Pee Wee some good background on the places we'd visit. The book fulfilled that purpose well, and, to my delight, it also takes a swipe at government funded competition to the Wrights. Olds writes (p. 43), "People like Samuel Langley, who received more than $55,000 from the government, could not solve the problems of flight. It took two bicycle repairmen from Dayton, Ohio to solve them."

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:57 AM in Misc.

July 31, 2007
On the move....again

Today the movers came and swept up most of my stuff, which I won't see again until a week after we get to Indy. Between my wife and I, this makes our 5th move in two years. We're enjoying the chance to purge junk and simplify. In a year we'll do it all over again. A year as resident scholar at Liberty Fund should definitely be worth it all, and then some.

Having been out of it lately, a bit of quick catching up on some interesting finds.

Sunday's NYTimes book section had this deep review of what could be an important war book. I found the review to be overstated in some areas.

Speaking of Indiana, my buddy Eric Schansberg landed a piece at the WSJournal on Indiana property taxes. Eric blogs about his experience with the editors here: http://schansblog.blogspot.com/. Text of article is posted there too.

The latest issue of The Lighthouse features William Gray on hurricanes and global warming, Alex Tabarrok on class action torts, news from the ethanol boondoggle, and---get this!---Bob Higgs taking on Randy Barnett on justifying the Iraq war.

I really enjoyed Todd Zywicki's article on Tullock's critique of the common law. I've been reading some of Tullock's early law and econ work, and Todd has as strong a handle on the value of the contributions as I've seen.

Our last night in San Francisco was at The Red Victorian Inn, a "B&B" and "Peace Center" with galleries of home grown art and plants in the Haight-Ashbury. An oasis for communitarians. A funky sort of convenience for me, being around the corner from the apartment we vacate today.

Happy travels.

Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 12:12 PM in Misc.

July 24, 2007
Daniel Sickles

Craig's post below reminded me of my trip a few years ago to the National Museum of Health and Medicine at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in D.C. It's a really creepy museum, off the beaten path, but well worth the trip if you're tired of all the glitzy museums on the Mall.

The purpose of our visit was to see the shattered lower leg of Civial War General Daniel Sickles. Ick.

Daniel Sickles was my great, great, ..., great uncle on my mother's father's side. He's more infamous than famous. A Tammany Hall politician and U.S. Congressman, before the war he shot and killed the son of Francis Scott Key in Lafayette Park and was the first person ever acquitted on the grounds of temporary insanity. As a General in the war he was a disaster; he almost lost the battle of Gettysburg for the Union by moving his troops off Little Round Top as ordered and into the Peach Orchard far in front of the union lines on Cemetery Ridge. After getting his Corp III almost wiped out, complete disaster for the Union was only narrowly averted by a quick-thinking major who dragged several cannon up Little Round Top to stop the Confederates from taking the unguarded hill and outflanking the union lines. If he hadn't suffered the leg injury at Gettysburg and been so well connected politically, he most surely would have been court martialed for disobeying orders.

UPDATE: Perhaps I was too unfair to Gen. Sickles? I received the following e-mail.

Sir: With all due respect, I don't take such a dim view of your "great, great, ..., great uncle on my mother's father's side" as you do. Perhaps you have accepted as gospel Thomas Keneally's hatchet job, "American Scoundrel: The Life of the Notorious Civil War General Dan Sickles." Personally, I think you'd be better served by embracing W. A. Swanberg's "Sickles the Incredible: A Biography of Daniel Edgar Sickles" or Edgcumb Pinchon's 1945 book "Dan Sickles: Hero of Gettysburg and 'Yankee King of Spain.' " In any event, regarding the incident at Gettsyburg, I used to tell visitors to the National Museum of Health and Medicine (where I worked for 6 years until retiring in March) that if Sickles hadn't disobeyed the incompetent Gen. Meade (who was actually about to order a retreat!) by moving his soldiers 3 miles forward to higher ground, that the Confederates would have easily overrun his Division and then perhaps have encircled the remaining Federals and won the battle. Sickles was the right man in the right spot. Not having gone through the ranks, he had no problem arguing with Meade and eventually doing what he felt was best. I'd compare him to General H. Norman Swartzkopf. As to his other exploits, shooting Francis Scott Key's son, moving in with Queen Isabella, etc., I think these add to the aura of his swash-buckling reputation. The author Norman Mailer has written a screenplay about Sickles. And although he's never released it I have talked to his archivist and we both hope that someday he will. Wouldn't that be something?

PS: And as far as your comment about his leg, the first time the Medal of Honor was ever awarded was to soldiers who fought in the War of the Rebellion. Sickles received one along with thousands of others. Years later, when the Army decided to make the medal a more meaningful decoration, it rescinded most of the medals it had awarded. They did not take Sickles' medal back. The Army felt he deserved it!

I am aware that there is some dispute about Sickles' role at Gettysburg. True, Meade was a boob and he was probably going to retreat. True, Sickles' moving of his III Corps lured the Confederates to attack and committed both sides that the battle. True, the Union ultimately won the battle. Still my (now dated) reading of military histories of the battle (as opposed to Sickles biographies) is that his move was pretty foolish and almost resulted in complete disaster (as opposed to disaster just for his III Corps). It was pure dumb luck that it didn't turn out very badly for the Union. Meade ultimately was fired in disgrace and rightly so. But if anyone was in a position to write the history books in his favor it was Sickles, and he definitely tried, yet he still is given low marks in most accounts.

Posted by Robert Lawson at 03:13 PM in Misc.

June 26, 2007
Markets in Everything: Papa Don't Pinot Edition

Another news item from my vacation in northern Michigan:

The Material Girl's father, Tony Ciccone, recently decided to advance his winery business by releasing Madonna Wine, which is available in five varieties: Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay.

"Most of our wines are state-bottled wines," Ciccone said. "We don't try to make California wines or wines from France. We make wines that are Michigan wines."

Ciccone, who has been bottling wine out of his Ciccone Vineyard & Winery in Suttons Bay for nine years, is a regular visitor to Bay City. And when he's not seeing friends and family, he ventures over to the Water Front Market to visit owner Greg Schultz.

"Sales have been pretty good, considering it's a $40 bottle of wine," Schultz said.

Madonna Wine was released in December 2006, Ciccone said, and its popularity has increased ever since. The label on each bottle features a colorful picture of Madonna, with whom he consulted beforehand to make sure his daughter approved of the idea.

BTW, if you're inclined to buy a bottle via mail you might owe a thanks to Juanita Swedenburg who recently passed. She filed the suit, litigated by IJ, that led the Supreme Court to open interstate wine shipment.

HT to MR for the Markets in Everything concept.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:47 AM in Misc.

June 23, 2007
Sunlight as a Disinfectant?

I'm currently visiting some family and friends in Michigan. En route, I had a nice visit with co-blogger Bob and his family.

The big news up here is an online database of public employee salaries created by the Lansing State Journal. The database lists the salaries of some 53,000 state employees. State employee unions are not amused--they are threatening a boycott of the LSJ.

Speaking of things Michigan--Mark Perry reports that Michigan has overtaken Mississippi for the highest unemployment rate in the country.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:12 PM in Misc.

May 31, 2007
Grab Bag

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.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:45 PM in Misc.

May 30, 2007
Skybus rules

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?

Posted by Robert Lawson at 09:45 AM in Misc.

May 16, 2007
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.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:25 AM in Misc.  ·  Comments (3)

May 08, 2007
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.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:28 AM in Misc.

May 07, 2007
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.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:50 PM in Misc.

Quick Hits

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.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 12:10 PM in Misc.

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.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:15 PM in Misc.

April 26, 2007
Baggy Pants/Imus

A news item from Florida:

A controversial Central Florida senator wants to pass a law that would punish teens who show off their underwear.

If the "Pull Up Your Britches" bill somehow passes, students could be suspended up to 10 days for showing their underwear.

The bill's sponsor is state Sen. Gary Siplin of Orlando. He was convicted of grand theft for paying his office staff with state money while he worked on his re-election campaign.

Baggy pants look foolish, but there's no need for a law. (Indeed, baggy pants may help enforce existing laws--here's a story of a robber whose baggy pants made him stumble and get caught by police.) Is there no end for the nanny staters?

On a different topic, I think this paragraph helps explain why the networks devoted so much coverage to braying a$$ Imus's idiotic remarks:

CNN could have taken a page from that recipe in hopes of growing a program that averaged just 376,000 viewers last month, down from 510,000 in August, as MSNBC's increasingly popular rival Imus in the Morning crept closer with 354,000 viewers and Fox News' Fox & Friends continued to win the cable time slot with 692,000 viewers.

I didn't watch Imus and am not sorry he's gone; however, I also suspect the self-interest of competing networks led them to hype the story.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:03 AM in Misc.

April 18, 2007
A Lollapalooza of Congratulations

Several folks with Berry connections have notable recent achievements:

My former student John Coleman has been accepted to Harvard Business School.

2006 graduate Sam Bulow landed a job with Princeton's investment company.

December graduate Nancy Vogh is the inaugural winner of the J. Wilson Mixon Jr. (where have I heard that name before?) Outstanding Senior in Economics Award. Nancy's headed for Clemson's doctoral program in economics.

Current student Erin Wendt has been selected a Richards Scholar; the program provides students with a generous stipend for an academic activity outside of the normal curriculum. Erin plans to intern and/or do fieldwork with an NGO specializing in African economic development. (Bleg--I'd appreciate readers' suggestions for contacts/experiences that would help Erin design a fieldwork program in Africa.)

Our new hire Melissa Yeoh is now Dr. Yeoh; she successfully defended her dissertation earlier today.

Kudos to all--it's quality folks like you that make Berry a great place to teach.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 04:54 PM in Misc.

April 16, 2007
Exam Grading/Bob's Run in Boston

As a service to other instructors, I pass along this technique for grading exams. Thanks to Doug for the pointer.

Co-blogger Bob seems to be doing fairly well slogging through the Boston Marathon's awful conditions. At the 30k mark, he's on a 3:15 pace, less than 5 minutes off his qualifying time. Updates are here. (NB--if my link doesn't pull up Bob's progress just enter his bib number (6252).)

UPDATE: Bob hit the 35k mark 25 seconds off the 3:20 pace required for him to qualify for next year's race. Looks like he'll have a close call. Stay tuned.

UPDATE 2: Bob finished in 3:29.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 12:54 PM in Misc.

April 04, 2007
Better to Feel Good than Do Good: Belgian Barbequing Edition

A news item:

The government of Belgium's French-speaking region of Wallonia, which has a population of about 4 million, has approved a tax on barbequing, local media reported.

Experts said that between 50 and 100 grams of CO2, a so-called greenhouse gas, is emitted during barbequing. Beginning June 2007, residents of Wallonia will have to pay 20 euros for a grilling session.

The local authorities plan to monitor compliance with the new tax legislation from helicopters, whose thermal sensors will detect burning grills.

Now about the CO2 emissions from the helicopters...

HT: WSJ's "Best of the Web Today" email

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 05:39 PM in Misc.

April 03, 2007
Breeder Reaction?

Not of the nuclear sort. This is about eating the seed corn. Or maybe it's about the well-known tendency of government to look to the future as opposed to private-sector myopia.

Anyway, this from DER SPIEGEL: "The fate of 12 German giant rabbits delivered to North Korea is in doubt. The breeder who sent them suspects they have been eaten by top officials rather than used to set up a bunny farm."

Posted by Wilson Mixon at 10:50 AM in Misc.

March 29, 2007
Rape Statistics in Need of "The Diff"

Deja vu--I was recently thinking that it'd been awhile since I'd done a post on "The Diff." Kindly Jon Sanders of The Locker Room helps me out by posting this excerpt from the UNCW newspaper:

During a typical college year, 3 percent of female students experience rape or attempted rape. During their four years of college, one in every four female students will be sexually assaulted, according to the UNCW Police Web site. While women often feel they're safe on campus, the opportunity for disaster is always there.

It seems like somebody at UNCW didn't too well in math. Trying to go from a 3% annual incidence of rape or attempted rape to a 25% rape incidence over a 4 year college career takes a bit of fuzzy math. Maybe UNCW needs "The Diff" or a new model called "The Product."

UPDATE: A reader points out that the UNCW stats might be consistent if rape/attempted rape is a narrower category of behavior than sexual assault. A fair point; thanks.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 05:07 PM in Misc.

March 22, 2007
Thanks Jim

I appreciate Jim Couch of University of North Alabama visiting Berry on Tuesday. Jim gave a talk "Dealing from the Bottom of the Deck: The Political Economy of the New Deal" based on his research (with Bill Shughart) on public choice aspects of New Deal spending. Thanks Jim.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 04:42 PM in Misc.


1. The AJC on the joys of Georgia in the spring: "Atlanta's pollen count skyrocketed to nearly 2,600 Thursday, more than 20 times the level considered "extremely high" by allergists." Even with my daily dose of Claritin, a short walk between buildings leaves me with watery, itchy eyes.

2. George Will writes on occupational licensing for interior designers. It's a silly attempt at rent-seeking similar to florist licensing in Louisiana. [HT: George Leef]

3. Part of my post on tenure has reproduced in The Chronicle of Higher Education (no link, the article behind the firewall). [HT: George Leef]

4. Andrew Young is back in the news--this time for having connections to a firm that "is entangled in a controversy concerning the firm's dealings with Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo." At least this time he isn't spouting off about inner city markets selling "stale bread and bad meat and wilted vegetables."

5. Readers thinking it's been too long since I've blogged on Wal-Mart (the indirect reference to Wal-Mart in the Andrew Young post above doesn't count) might turn to this column by WaPo's Sebatian Mallaby. [HT: Mark Perry] An excerpt:

The average Wal-Mart customer earns $35,000 a year, compared with $50,000 at Target and $74,000 at Costco. Moreover, Wal-Mart's "every day low prices" make the biggest difference to the poor, since they spend a higher proportion of income on food and other basics. As a force for poverty relief, Wal-Mart's $200 billion-plus assistance to consumers may rival many federal programs. Those programs are better targeted at the needy, but they are dramatically smaller. Food stamps were worth $33 billion in 2005, and the earned-income tax credit was worth $40 billion.

Set against these savings for consumers, Wal-Mart's alleged suppression of wages appears trivial. Arindrajit Dube of the University of California at Berkeley, a leading Wal-Mart critic, has calculated that the firm has caused a $4.7 billion annual loss of wages for workers in the retail sector.

6. John McCain issued a warning about the spead of socialism in Latin America. While he's correct in thinking Chavez is a menace, I'm also concerned about the socialism peddled by McCain. Senators who live in glass houses ...

7. The International Property Rights Index looks to be an interesting project.

8. A new NBER Working Paper co-authored by Princeton's Harvey Rosen finds that financial market liberalization over the past 35 years has benefitted mortgage borrowers. The paper also finds no evidence that GSEs Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac have contributed to households' gains.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 04:29 PM in Misc.

March 16, 2007
135,789 safe Virginians

From Townhall.com:

After obtaining a list of all 135,789 Virginians who are permitted to carry a concealed weapon, Trejbal [a writer with the Roanoke Times in Virginia] and his employer posted them in a searchable online database. ... Trejbal unintentionally created a "do not mess with" list of Virginians, but what about all the folks who are not on that list?

As it turns out, the database was only up for about 24 hours before Meade [the paper's publisher] had it removed, "out of a sense of caution and concern for the public." ... Trejbal feigns concern that "so many people have missed the point about the column. It was not fundamentally about guns. It was fundamentally about open government."

No, it was fundamentally a hit piece against not only those who have concealed carry permits, but any gun owner. As noted above, Trejbal's original essay justified posting the database because, "There are plenty of reasons to question the wisdom of widespread gun ownership."

Had [self-described] "philosopher and historian" Trejbal pursued his Ph.D., he might have come across these words from Lucius Annaeus Seneca, circa 45 AD "Quemadmoeum gladuis neminem occidit, occidentis telum est. " (A sword is never a killer, it is a tool in the killer's hands.)

Posted by Wilson Mixon at 04:35 PM in Misc.

March 14, 2007
Caught My Eye

1. Among those of us who discuss property rights in class, it is pretty standard to compare private ownership to open access. Sometimes my students will respond "Nice idea in theory, but who actually owns a [fill in the blank with an open access resource]?" Conveniently, the WSJ recently ran had an article on the Duke of Devonshire's ownership of a river in Ireland. Alas the article is not available on the web, but this info conveys the same point:

Ireland's river and lake waters have been privately owned and managed for centuries. In the Lismore area it is the Duke of Devonshire, Lord of Lismore Castle, who owns most of the river rights. He leases out the best fishing waters for the day. In the case of salmon, these are stretches of river from 100 to 500 yards long with clean gravel breeding beds. These rented stretches, called beats, can cover either one or sometimes both banks of the river.

Depending on the time of year and the particular beat, prices for a day's rental run between €35 and €100 Irish pounds. Bank fishing or wading is the method allowed. There are no quotas - the rule is NOT catch and release.

The beauty of the system is that it keeps the river from being fished to death! The beats are well managed, well policed, and stocks are conserved.

2. The WSJ also had an article last week on increasing pay for leaders of non-profits. It isn't really a surprise since incentives matter and skilled leaders possess scarce talent. An excerpt:

People who work at charities generally aren't in it for the money. But a growing number of nonprofits are paying salaries that approach those in the corporate world, a trend highlighted by a new survey.

"Salaries have become much more competitive," says Marilyn M. Machlowitz, who runs a New York-based executive-placement firm for nonprofits. She says her firm has lured corporate types to fill a number of nonprofit jobs paying in excess of $200,000. That's at least $50,000 higher than five years ago, she adds.

Salaries for top executives at nonprofits have climbed 25% to 50% since 2000, says Jennifer Bol, head of the education, nonprofit and public-policy practice at Spencer Stuart, an executive-placement firm. A new survey of New York-area nonprofits by Professionals for Nonprofits, another search firm, found that among nonprofits with operating budgets over $20 million, 15% more chief executives and executive directors of these organizations earned $250,000 to $350,000 last year than in 2005.

Several factors are boosting pay: greater competition among nonprofits to attract top talent, difficulty in retaining staff and a lack of internal candidates for some important positions.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:34 PM in Misc.

March 07, 2007
Markets in Everything: Love-making gets green light from adult stores

A news item:

You've heard of green cars, green tourism and green weddings. Now Canadians should ready themselves for green sex.

For those who like to make love to the soundtrack of the global warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth, Greenpeace has released a list of strategies for "getting it on for the good of the planet," suggesting "you can be a bomb in bed without nuking the planet." TreeHugger, an online magazine edited by Ontario's Michael Graham Richard, has just published a guide on "how to green your sex life." The famed adult store Good Vibrations announced last week they would no longer sell sex toys containing phthalates, controversial chemical plasticizers believed by some to be hazardous to humans and the environment alike.

And throughout Canada and the U.S., people who want to pleasure the planet can now buy everything from bamboo bed sheets to organic lubricant and "eco-undies."

Listening to the sound track of "An Inconvenient Truth"? Oh, never mind.

HT: Chad Adams of the Locker Room for the story and MR for the markets in everything concept

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 12:53 PM in Misc.

On Tenure

Steve Levitt asks:

It must not be that simple because few schools have tried [to abolish tenure], and my sense is that those that took a stab at it capitulated quickly and reinstated tenure. What am I missing?

Greg Mankiw responds:

One question that Steve does not address is how department hiring would work in a world without tenure. Now, senior hiring is done by existing senior faculty. If those faculty could start firing one another, the political dynamics of hiring would become complicated and probably untenable. (Here is a related paper.) A university without tenure would likely have to move toward a more hierarchical system with a "boss" in charge of hiring and other major decisions. That is, one cannot abolish tenure and expect university governance to remain the same. Deans would likely have more power over hiring. In my experience, anything that gives deans more authority is a step in the wrong direction, for deans have less information about what is going on in the field or in the classroom than the faculty do.

My take: I probably value tenure less than most faculty members, but I'm not as dismissive as Levitt. To me (as with Mankiw's concern about faculty hiring), tenure solves a principal-agent problem. Berry College asks me to do lots of things that have little or no value in the labor market; for example, this past weekend I participated in an event for prospective students. In a world without tenure in which I could be dismissed, I'd be much less likely to do things that are valuable to Berry College but not valued in the labor market. Instead, I'd spend much more time on research to maintain my market value. I should add that my estimate of how economists' skills are valued in the market is about 3/4 based on research, roughly 1/4 based on teaching, and virtually nothing (beyond an assessment of collegiality) based on service. My estimate is intended as an average--places like mine place more value on teaching while doctoral institutions probably place less value on teaching.

Although I suggest that tenure may exist, at least in part, to solve a principal-agent problem, I'm not claiming it is the optimal solution. (As an aside--I think the institution of "making partner" in law firms and the like is analogous to tenure.) Nor do I deny that tenure protects the lazy; however, there are some limited ways (e.g., freeze or cut their pay) to deal with folks who retire on the job.

I've opened comments for a couple of days; I'll probably close them on Friday to choke off the spammers.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:52 AM in Misc.  ·  Comments (3)

February 28, 2007
Thanks David

Yesterday, UGA's David Mustard delivered Berry's 2007 ODE Lecture. His talk, "HOPE Scholarship: Good or Hopeless," was well-received by a standing-room only crowd. I very much appreciate David's willingness to give a talk at Berry.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 12:55 PM in Misc.

February 27, 2007
Congratulations Gary

Congratulations to my colleague Gary Roseman for being approved for tenure and promotion to associate professor. Gary is a superb instructor who is deserving of the promotion.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:38 AM in Misc.

February 23, 2007
Markets in Everything--Cat Flatulence Edition

A news item:

Governments in rich nations are spending billions of dollars to buy a clearer conscience over climate change. Are they getting their money's worth?

Enlightened individuals, those who stay awake at nights wondering what they can do to prevent the polar caps from melting, at least have a growing menu of choices.

Sydney-based Easy Being Green says it will mitigate your cat's flatulent contribution to global warming for A$8 ($6). The same company could also make your granny ``carbon-neutral'' at A$10 a year, according to a report in the Australian newspaper last weekend.

Grannies produce only 25% more carbon emissions than cats. Who knew?

HT to MR for the markets in everything concept.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 12:44 PM in Misc.

February 22, 2007
Raise a Glass to George Washington

Eric Schansberg writes in an email message:

Years ago, I learned that George Washington kept track of his gambling pursuits. Today, I learned that he was probably the #1 whiskey producer in colonial America. Go George!

Link is to this Opinion Journal piece (free) by the ever readable John Fund. It's a very enjoyable and informative article. Two of many gems:

Mr. Rees is proud that Mount Vernon is helping showcase our Founding Father's business career by opening a complete reconstruction of his 75-by-30-foot distillery, which at its peak turned out 11,000 gallons a year of corn and rye whiskey along with fruit brandy. (The distillery and accompanying museum open to the public on March 31.) James Anderson, a Scot who was convinced making whiskey was a growth industry, pitched the idea to Washington just weeks before he retired from office. Import taxes had reduced the consumption of molasses-based rum and made home-grown hooch popular. At the time, the average American consumed five gallons of distilled spirits every year, compared with only 1.8 gallons today.

WOW!!! And another:

But for all of Washington's commendable belief in moderate alcohol use, he very much appreciated its utility. Esther White, a Mount Vernon archaeologist, told me Washington once lost a 1755 campaign for the Virginia House of Delegates because he didn't treat prospective supporters to a drink. Two years later, he rolled out 144 gallons of refreshment. He won with 307 votes, a return on his investment of better than two votes per gallon. He never lost another campaign.

Enjoy! And raise a glass to our first prez.

Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 03:42 PM in Misc.

February 20, 2007
Welcome Melissa

I'm pleased to announce that Melissa Yeoh, a PhD candidate at Clemson, has accepted an offer to join Berry's economics department next year. Melissa will be a classroom dynamo and she's doing interesting work in IO, public, and environmental.

Although searches are time consuming and sometimes (though not this time) get bogged down in nasty academic politics, I met some interesting people and made some new friends this year. Thanks to all who applied.

BTW, I think co-blogger Josh will have some exciting job market news to post.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 12:25 PM in Misc.

Congratulations JC

My friend JC Bradbury is having a pretty good week. His book The Baseball Professor is receiving favorable reviews (e.g., this one in the WSJ).

On Saturday, JC and his wife welcomed their second daughter, Sarah, to the world. Wonder if her first word will be "PrOPS."

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:10 AM in Misc.

February 15, 2007
Adam Smith Bow

I am incredibly appreciative of the Christmas present I received from two of my former students--an Adam Smith bow tie. A perfect gift for a DOLer eh? Thanks again to Keri and Dan for the gift and thanks to Erin for the photo:


Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:37 AM in Misc.

February 12, 2007
So the War is About Oil After All?

Greg Mankiw quotes the following passage from the new Economic Report of the President (p. 129):

The purchase of a gallon of gasoline imposes these national security and environmental costs on everyone, not just on the buyer and seller. Though State and Federal gasoline and diesel fuel taxes and regulations help account for these other costs, many studies suggest that the total external costs of oil may be higher. Carefully crafted government policy may be a useful way to account for these additional costs. However, this objective should be balanced against additional inefficiencies that government involvement introduces into the market. Once policies are in place that ensure that individuals account for the full costs of the goods and services they consume—e.g., national security and environmental concerns—competitive markets are the most efficient means to determine how goods are produced, as well as which goods are produced in the future.

I have added the emphasis in bold. The antecedent of "these national security ... costs" is not clear from the quote, but it seems that the CEA might be telling us the war is about oil after all. (CEA notwithstanding, I'm dubious of the proposition.) If so, this might cause a bigger kerfuffle than the big stink over Mankiw and offshore outsourcing.

The hour is late; I might update tomorrow.

UPDATE (2/13, 8:50 AM): I've put the paragraph before the one that Mankiw excerpts below the fold. The CEA argues that having OPEC (especially Iran and Venezuela) producing much of the world's oil gives them "disproportionate diplomatic leverage."

Read More »

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:54 PM in Misc.

February 07, 2007
Garvey Fellowship Contest

The Independent Institute sponsors its biennial essay contest for junior faculty and students, with sizeable cash prizes awarded to winners. This year's theme is whether foreign aid is the solution to global poverty. Guidelines here. Deadline is May 1. Start typing!

Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 08:47 PM in Misc.

January 29, 2007
Self-awareness can be an elusive thing

Back last February, George Will wrote a column noting that survey data tended to show that self-identified conservatives are more likely than liberals or moderates to describe themselves as "very happy." Will then speculated as to why this is the case.

Following common practice among college teachers, I post cartoons and other op-ed-type materials on my office door and on the bulletin board space next to my class notices, etc. I enjoyed this particular Will column, and posted the Birmingham News version of it, titled "Conservatives happier; maybe they expect less", on my bulletin board.

Well, last week someone decided to respond to Will by defacing the column, drawing an arrow from the word "Conservatives" in the title and appending the word "Bullsh!t." In addition, someone (probably the same person?) stuck a push-pin into the little photo of Will's head that accompanied the column.

I plan to leave this on the bulletin board until I retire.

Coincidentally, this minor act of know-nothing vandalism came to my attention the same day Steven Hayward posted this related item on No Left Turns.

Posted by Mike DeBow at 12:47 PM in Misc.

January 20, 2007
Global Warming Tempest

A few months back I noted that The Weather Channel was starting a global warming show. The show's host, Heidi Cullen, has now caused an uproar by suggesting that the American Meteorological Society should deny "Seals of Approval" to meteorologists who are global warming skeptics. One columnist says TWC is offering up a "con job" and accuses Cullen of advocating an Orwellian form of thought control. That characterization may well be accurate, but I'm wondering if a more fundamental motive than politically correct dogma might be a work here--namely, an effort to build ratings for Cullen's show.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:14 AM in Misc.

January 18, 2007
Two Items on the Duke Lax Case

DOL has barely mentioned the Duke lacrosse case, and I don't really plan to break our silence. With apologies to our Duke co-blogger, I direct interested readers to a couple of opinions on Duke's role in the scandal:

1. K.C. Johnson's account of a lacrosse player (not one of the three facing charges) of a student suing a professor for allegedly giving him a failing grade merely for being on the lacrosse team.

2. Yesterday's offering from Rome News-Tribune cartoonist Mike Lester pokes Duke for its treatment of the lax players.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:29 PM in Misc.

January 16, 2007
On My Radar

1. The dean of Chicago's business school calls the "students as customers" model "corrupt and corrupting."

2. I read Kotlikoff and Burn's "The Coming Generational Storm" over Christmas break and am using it in my public econ course this semester. I have some minor quibbles about hyperbole and snarkiness in the writing, but K&B do a fantastic job explaining the unstainable entitlement programs for seniors. Robert Samuelson's article in the WaPo makes the same point.

3. James Feyrer and Bruce Sacerdote of Dartmouth have an interesting paper on the role of institutions in economic development. They find that the number of years islands spent as European colonies is positively related to growth. James Hamilton discusses the paper here.

4. Arthur Laffer paid a visit to GA; from the AJC:

Under the proposal, all existing property taxes — including those on real estate — would be eliminated. Georgians would instead pay a 5 percent state income tax, with some exceptions for the poor, and a 5 percent consumption tax on goods and services. Local governments and school boards would not lose any money under the new system, Richardson said.

The idea comes from a former economic policy adviser to President Reagan whom Richardson recently hired to study overhauling Georgia’s tax system. Richardson has started working with Arthur B. Laffer , an economist considered by many as the “father of supply-side economics.” Along with Laffer, the speaker has hired Donna Arduin, a former fiscal advisor to several governors, including Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Jeb Bush of Florida.

GA's income tax code is already relatively flat (the top mtr kicks in at something like $20k of taxable income) so I see only modest potential for efficiency gains. By contrast, I see lots of room for harm if the legislature starts carving out special interest provisions.

5. NPR ran an interview with Johns Hopkins economic geographer Roger Stone. An excerpt (via Lex Nex):

Prof. STERN: Well, I was studying another topic, frankly, when I began to hear the Bush administration claims that Iran had so much natural gas and oil it couldn't possibly need nuclear energy for electric power. And it turned out, as I looked closer and closer at the issue, I began to discover what appeared to me to be severe structural policy-based weaknesses in the Irani petroleum sector.

[NPR Host] INSKEEP: How could that possibly be, when Iran is said to have some of the richest petroleum resources in the world?

Prof. STERN: Well, keep in mind that the Soviet Union also has some of the richest petroleum resources in the world, and it went bust. So it's really not to do with the physical resource under the ground. There's lots and lots of oil and gas under Iran. It's the government's policies towards that resource that are really the problem.

INSKEEP: What do you mean?

Prof. STERN: Well, first they have failed to reinvest in their industry, so both the well infrastructure as well as the refineries are old and decrepit. Second, they've subsidized domestic demand. So there's no revenue from that. And that cheap oil fuels explosive demand growth. So Iran has the highest demand growth in the world.

6. Some folks in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro region of North Carolina have started an alternative currency, the PLENTY (Piedmont Local Economy Tender). A comparison of the PLENTY's ostensible advantages over the US dollar is here. The anti-globalization bent of the PLENTY movement reminds me of one of the most spectacularly wrong-headed things I've ever read: A local environmental activist opined that we should live only on goods and services produced in this county.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 12:57 PM in Misc.

January 11, 2007
Nifty Maps

Countries I've visited:

create your own visited countries map

[RL: Ok, I cheated and included Kenya and Tanzania, but that's next month...]

States I've visited:

create your own visited states map

[Via Marginal Revolution via Drezner]

Posted by Robert Lawson at 11:34 AM in Misc.

January 08, 2007
An idling engine is an inefficient engine

Forget motorway congestion - this is a traffic jam

Posted by Craig Depken at 01:19 PM in Misc.

January 03, 2007
New Year's Roundup

I'm back in town for a couple of days between family vacation and the AEAs. Some things that have caught my attention recently:

1. IHS has two videos about its programs and summer seminars up on YouTube. Much of the footage in both was shot at Princeton last summer and I have a brief appearance in the first one (my voice was lousy all week from allergies/laryngitis). Links here and here. Kudos to IHS's marketing department--headed by my former student Keri Anderson--for the fine work.

2. It would be remiss if someone on this blog failed to post on P.J. O'Rourke's latest offering. In On the Wealth of Nations, O'Rourke's gives us his humorous take on Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations. O'Rourke will be discussing the book this weekend on CPAN2's BookTV (Sinday at 12 pm and Monday at 12 am).

3. Two interesting new papers from NBER. In one,

We showcase our approach empirically by exploring the extent to which the U.S. Endangered Species Act has altered land development patterns. We report evidence indicating significant acceleration of development directly after each of several events deemed likely to raise fears among owners of habitat land. Our preferred estimate suggests an overall acceleration of land development by roughly one year.

In the other,

We document large differences in trend changes in hours worked across OECD countries over the period 1956-2004. We then assess the extent to which these changes are consistent with the intratemporal first order condition from the neoclassical growth model. We find large and trending deviations from this condition, and that the model can account for virtually none of the changes in hours worked. We then extend the model to incorporate observed changes in taxes. Our findings suggest that taxes can account for much of the variation in hours worked both over time and across countries.

4. Robert Samuelson of the WaPo considers the importance of productivity growth and concludes,

Therein lies a caution to the Democratic Congress and the Bush administration. Although government can't easily dictate higher productivity, its policies may perversely favor lower productivity. What's politically expedient today -- a dubious tax break, a lazy budget deficit, an expensive regulation -- may be economically corrosive tomorrow. Don't ditch the future.

5. Dwight Lee puckishly proposes a market for American citizenship in which Americans would be allowed to sell their citizenship to immigrants. This one is a must read. HT: Mankiw.

6. A gripe about the reformatted WSJ: I'm not fond of having to look in another section of the paper (the B section--a part of the paper I only read if a story on the front of the section looks interesting) to find the letters to the editor. It's now more time consuming to find letters such as this today's offering from Don Boudreaux (Don posts on the letter here):

David Malpass rightly argues that the U.S. trade deficit is a sign, not of American economic weakness, but of vigor ("Embrace the Deficit," December 21). To further strengthen his case he might have pointed out that in 102 of the 120 months of that most economically depressed decade, the 1930s, the U.S. ran trade surpluses. On an annual basis, America had a trade surplus for nine of the ten years of the 1930s (with 1936 being the only year of a trade deficit). For the whole of that decade, the U.S. ran a significant trade surplus, with exports over those ten years totaling $26.05 billion and imports totaling only $21.13 billion.

Clearly, just as a trade deficit is no sign of economic malaise, a trade surplus is no sign of economic vitality.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:31 AM in Misc.

December 19, 2006
Off for the Holidays

This is likely my last post until after New Year's (maybe even until after the AEA meetings). My family will be spending some time northern Michigan; hopefully there will be some good snow for Pee Wee. Whenever we return to my wife's hometown we chuckle about the photo below. It is not a photoshop creation; my wife took the photo during a trip home a few years ago. Happy holidays to co-bloggers and readers.


Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 04:32 PM in Misc.

December 15, 2006
Cattle-lytic Converter

Mike Lester, the superb cartoonist for the Rome News-Tribune, offered his take on the UN report that cows contribute more to global warming than cars. The cartoon has some barnyard humor so I put it below the fold. Laugh at your own risk.

Read More »

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:47 AM in Misc.

December 11, 2006
Vintage Beer

Aging--it isn't just for wine:

It was brewed in the year that the Suez Canal opened, Charles Dickens embarked on one of his last literary tours and the Cutty Sark was launched in Scotland.

Luminous quality: Steve Wellington inspects the 1869 Ratcliff ale
But the recently-discovered cache of 1869 ale should have been undrinkable, given the conventional brewing wisdom that even the best beers are supposed to last no more than a couple of decades. Beer experts, however, say the 137-year-old brew tastes "absolutely amazing".

The Victorian beer was part of a cache of 250 vintage bottles found in the vaults of Worthington's White Shield brewery in Burton-on-Trent.

HT: Wilson

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:44 AM in Misc.

December 09, 2006
Dartmouth's grade inflation approach

Re: Frank's post , Dartmouth basically does this now.

On May 23, 1994 the Faculty voted that transcripts and student grade reports should indicate, along with the grade earned, the median grade given in the class as well as the class enrollment. Departments may recommend, with approval of the Committee on Instruction, that certain courses (e.g., honors classes, independent study) be exempted from this provision. Courses with enrollments of less than ten will also be exempted. At the bottom of the transcript there will be a summary statement of the following type: 'Exceeded the median grade in 13 courses; equaled the median grade in 7 courses; below the median grade in 13 courses; 33 courses taken eligible for this comparison.' This provision applies to members of the Class of 1998 and later classes.

Here are the median grades in Spring 2006 in economics courses at Dartmouth:

06S ECON-001-01 81 B -
06S ECON-001-02 81 B -
06S ECON-001-03 34 B
06S ECON-001-04 31 B
06S ECON-002-01 46 A /A-
06S ECON-010-01 68 A -
06S ECON-010-02 68 A -
06S ECON-010-03 37 B +
06S ECON-020-01 59 A -
06S ECON-020-02 59 A -
06S ECON-021-01 25 B +
06S ECON-021-02 33 B
06S ECON-022-01 65 B +
06S ECON-022-02 65 B +
06S ECON-025-01 34 B
06S ECON-026-01 58 B +
06S ECON-026-02 58 B +
06S ECON-027-01 33 B
06S ECON-038-01 34 A
06S ECON-039-01 33 B +
06S ECON-046-01 43 A -
06S ECON-046-02 43 A -
06S ECON-046-03 43 A -
06S ECON-046-04 24 A -
06S ECON-046-05 24 A -
06S ECON-049-01 20 A -/B+
06S ECON-049-02 20 A -/B+
06S ECON-056-01 42 B +
06S ECON-081-01 16 A

Posted by Robert Lawson at 09:48 AM in Misc.

December 08, 2006
My Two Cents on Grade Inflation

My thinking on grade inflation is similar but not identical to Wilson's. Instead of switching to ranks, I'd simply add an additional column to each student's transcript. The additional column would contain the gpa for each class taken. For example, a student's transcript might indicate a grade of B+ with a class gpa of 2.6. If one wanted to take one more step, transcripts could also report cumlative class grade point averages. Little Johnny, for example, might have a 3.3 gpa in classes with a cumulative gpa of 3.6. By contrast, Little Susie might have a 3.2 gpa but have earned that gpa in classes with a cumulative gpa of 2.7.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 04:43 PM in Misc.

More on Grade Inflation

I suggest a radical approach to grade inflation: get rid of it by getting rid of grades. Aside from being subject to inflationary pressures, grades are odd creatures in the first place. Every instructor has complained about the difference between a high-B and a low-B student, hence +/- grading which reduces but does not resolve the problem.

Why not just rank each student in each class? We already do this with grades, except that all students with a given grade are implicitly assigned the same rank. In a system based on ranking, a student's transcript would report the mean percentile rank, perhaps with a supplemental histogram of percentiles in all classes taken.

Not only would ranking rather than grading remove the possibility of grade inflation, it would also reduce students' incentives to seek out crip courses in order to pump up the average. One could still take a crip course to free up time for studying other subjects, but could not count on a higher grade (now rank) in the course to directly affect the overall average.

Posted by Wilson Mixon at 04:02 PM in Misc.

December 06, 2006
The intermediate micro of planning your own wedding

It's really very simple, actually. If M=income, N=leisure, H=work, w=wage, and T=time endowment, then your usual labor-leisure choice set is:

But the choice set while planning your own wedding is:

We should have hitched up wagons in Vegas, baby.

Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 12:09 PM in Misc.

December 04, 2006
Wizard-of-Oz Diplomas

Read all about them in Arnold Kling's offering on education and entrepreneurship. I was especially pleased that Kling included accrediting agencies as one of the significant barriers to improving higher ed.

HT: George Leef

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 02:51 PM in Misc.


Last Friday, I was the guest speaker for the Middle Georgia Economics Seminar Series (a consortium of Mercer, Wesleyan, and Macon St.). I thoroughly enjoyed my visit; my paper is here. There was a good turnout of students (at 3:30 on a Friday!) and they came prepared with interesting questions. I also enjoyed meeting faculty members Ihsuan Li, Allen Lynch, Scott Beaulier, Atul Saxena, and Phil Taylor. Thanks to all for a pleasant visit.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 02:46 PM in Misc.

November 28, 2006

It was good to see co-bloggers, friends, and a former student at the SEAs in Charleston. Some things that have caught my attention over the past week or so (many are radio links b/c of my spending much time in the car over the past 10 days):

1. Another vicitm of the drug war--a drug raid kills an 88 year old woman in Atlanta.

2. NPR reports on a study finding that teacher certification does not increase student test scores.

3. NPR on the release of the Playstation 3. Another story here.

4. Frank Deford offers a funny take on how to make a sports movie.

5. From the better to feel good than do good dept: NPR compares the carbon offset movement to selling indulgences. (I almost ran off the road when I heard this one.)

6. Incentives matter: NC offers extra pay to teachers who will move to poor performing schools.

7. Cars are a normal good in Russia (and probably everywhere else). Hint to student readers--I expect this item or the next item to appear on the final in my principles class.

8. The supply of Christmas trees has decreased in in Texas and Denmark. Econ 101 in action.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:08 AM in Misc.

November 14, 2006
Bad News

Aeon Skoble of L&P posts that John Tierney is leaving the NYT's op-ed page. His departure is a big loss for the cause of liberty.

Don Boudreaux comments here.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:21 AM in Misc.

November 11, 2006
Random Items Including a Naked Man with a Concealed Weapon

1. Via Volokh: Police in CA arrested a naked man with a concealed weapon. Story here.

2. Via the comments on the naked man with concealed weapon story: A judge has ruled that a burrito is not a sandwich. Details here.

3. A study links homeliness with crime.

4. Ah the joys of socialized medicine:

A woman has been told she must remain in agony for more than two months because her hospital will be punished if it operates on her more quickly.

Bonnie Collins, who has gallstones, has been advised by her GP to live on water and occasional cream crackers to stop her condition getting worse.

Doctors will not operate on her until Christmas at the earliest, because debt-ridden Ipswich Hospital - which is planning to treat cats and dogs for cancer to raise funds - will not get paid for moving her up the waiting list. This is because her case is classified as urgent, but not an emergency.

5. JS points me to some folks who need a lesson on value added (story here; photo included):

In a field just off N.C. 42 in Gardners Township, a large cotton module with a message turned the heads of some motorists this week.

“Victoria’s Secret sells underwear for $45 a pair. Farmers sell cotton for 45 cents a pound. What’s wrong?” was written in black paint on its side. …

Kevin Gardner said … “That is how it is in the world. Somebody overseas buys cotton at cheap prices and multiplies the price 100 fold … Farmers over here are struggling to make it.”

That inspired the college student to write the message on the side of his uncle’s cotton, he said.

“I’m not good at math, but 100 times 45 cents ….” Gardner said. “There ain’t a 100 pounds of cotton in some of those drawers.”

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 04:05 PM in Misc.

November 02, 2006
"Sometimes our government goes too far"

So says DeKalb County (GA) CEO Vernon Jones after he vetoed tighter smoking regulations for the county. If only we heard Jones's sentiment more often from him and other government officials.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:42 AM in Misc.

October 31, 2006
Potpourri/An Incentives Matter Lollapalooza

Some things catching my eye over the past few days:

1. A hopeful sign--a CNN poll finds:

Queried about their views on the role of government, 54 percent of the 1,013 adults polled said they thought it was trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses. Only 37 percent said they thought the government should do more to solve the country's problems.

2. Greg Mankiw's Pigou Club WSJ op-ed generated several letters in response. I'm skeptical of the Pigouvian approach (here) but I thought a few of the letters were unfair to Mankiw (see his response here). For example, a few writers wondered if Mankiw had noticed less congestion on the road. Perhaps it is difficult to notice less congestion, but there were gobs of stories on the web and in major media publications documenting people's move to mass transit (examples here and here), more fuel efficient vehicles, etc. Moreover, the effects should get larger over time.

3. Incentives apparently matter to uninsured drivers (I wonder if this will reduce Craig's insurance premiums for uninsured drivers):

Arlington recently adopted a towing policy for uninsured drivers.

Arlington police wrote 38,592 citations for uninsured motorists last year alone.

Police say compliance is growing. They're now finding fewer uninsured motorists, perhaps because through August of this year, more than 4,200 vehicles of uninsured drivers were towed in Arlington.

To reclaim a vehicle towed for lack of insurance, a driver has to prove that liability insurance has been purchased, plus pay a $412 fine for no insurance, a $135 tow fee and a $20-a-day storage fee.

4. Also from the incentives matter department:

---David Figlio and Lawrence Kenny on teacher incentives and student performance

---Naci H. Mocan and R. Kaj Gittings on the death penalty

5. In an editorial on a proposed prohibition of nighttime garbage pickup, the Rome News-Tribune channels Ronald Coase:

Which came first, the business that needs garbage pickup on a daily basis or the nearby resident? For example, in a downtown now filling up with condo, loft and apartment dwellers practically every commercial enterprise came first. They didn’t cause the resulting problem. The arrival of their new neighbors did.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:36 PM in Misc.

Pee Wee at the Grand Canyon

I've been meaning to post a photo of our father-son fall break in Arizona. We're already planning a trip for spring break (his breaks coincide with mine because he attends Berry's elementary school).


Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:33 AM in Misc.

Re: Cardinal Red October

I hope Larry watched his back and kept a firm grip on his wallet while celebrating the Cardinals' World Series victory--recent news reports indicate that St. Louis is the most dangerous city in America.

Like Larry, I also attended the Hillsdale conference, but I wasn't on the program. In addition to Larry's talk, I enjoyed the offerings from Richard Epstein, P.J. Hill, Jim Couch, and Lawrence Reed. Another highlight was meeting Mark Steckbeck of The Liberal Order.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:29 AM in Misc.

October 25, 2006
Do as I Say, Not as I Do ...

This article knocks Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, and other celebrities for proclaiming to be eco-friendly while burning gobs of gas flying around the world on private jets. The article also points to Leonardo DiCaprio who applies his environmental principles consistently by flying commercial air in addition to driving a Prius. Just to be clear--I have no beef with folks who choose to fly in private jets; I just don't want them proclaiming their moral superiority for driving a Prius or other "green" car.

Along the same lines, here's a report on Al Gore's campaigning at Berkeley for California's Prop. 87 oil extraction tax:

``I'm here to change peoples' minds on the climate crisis and to support Prop 87,'' Gore called to a group of reporters after he emerged from the ``100 miles per gallon'' Toyota Prius that brought him to a noontime rally in a sun-drenched park behind Berkeley's City Hall.

His motorcade also included three motorcycles, two limousines and a Dodge Ram 1500 light duty truck.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:08 AM in Misc.

October 11, 2006
Sixes are Sevens: Observation #1467

From MosNews.com:

Residents of the small town of Balykchi proposed to replace the monument to Vladimir Lenin remaining from the Soviet times with a statue of the local crime boss...
Replacing the statue of one crime boss with the statue of another crime boss makes complete sense.

Posted by Craig Depken at 10:34 AM in Misc.

Another 9/11 Moonbat

From the AJC:

MILWAUKEE — A university instructor who came under scrutiny for arguing that the U.S. government orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks likens President Bush to Adolf Hitler in an essay his students are being required to buy for his course.

The essay by Kevin Barrett, "Interpreting the Unspeakable: The Myth of 9/11," is part of a $20 book of essays by 15 authors, according to an unedited copy first obtained by WKOW-TV in Madison and later by The Associated Press.

The book's title is "9/11 and American Empire: Muslims, Jews, and Christians Speak Out." It is on the syllabus for Barrett's course at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, "Islam: Religion and Culture," but only three of the essays are required reading, not including Barrett's essay.

Barrett, a part-time instructor who holds a doctorate in African languages and literature and folklore from UW-Madison, is active in a group called Scholars for 9/11 Truth. The group's members say U.S. officials, not al-Qaida terrorists, were behind the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

"Like Bush and the neocons, Hitler and the Nazis inaugurated their new era by destroying an architectural monument and blaming its destruction on their designated enemies," he wrote.

Previous post here. Beyond the moral offensiveness of equating Bush and Hitler, part of what amazes me about the conspiracy theory crowd is how they could possibly think an administration that has made such a hash of Iraq could have orchestrated an elaborate 9/11 conspiracy.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:18 AM in Misc.

October 08, 2006
FEMA Follies

Your tax dollars at work:

At the Pinitos Learning Center in Boca Raton, disaster workers dressed as "Windy Biggie" and "Sunny" teach 30 preschoolers a song about how the wind is good, even during a hurricane.

"Windy Biggie is our friend.

"Windy Biggie is strong wind.

"She turns, turns, turns, turns around.

"She's knocking things to the ground."

This is FEMA tax money at work. It's also paying for Hurricane Bingo, puppet shows, "salsa for seniors," and yoga on the beach.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:28 PM in Misc.

October 05, 2006
DoL data

Craig asks about DoL's stats.

DoL had 20,214 unique visitors in September.

DoL stats.JPG

Posted by Robert Lawson at 12:50 PM in Misc.

October 03, 2006
Bad News for Homebrewers

From CNN.com:

Federal investigators were set Tuesday to begin an investigation into a fire that ruined about 4 percent of America's yield of hops, used as flavoring in the brewing of beer and ale.

The fire started shortly before noon Monday in a 40,000-square-foot (3,600-square-meter) warehouse operated by S.S. Steiner Inc., one of the four largest hop buyers in the Yakima Valley of central Washington. By mid-afternoon flames engulfed most of the building, sending up plumes of smoke and a pungent aroma.

The fire destroyed or ruined about 10,000 bales, each weighing about 200 pounds (90 kilograms) and likely worth $1.75 to $2 a pound, Ann George, administrator of the Washington Hops Commission in nearby Moxee, told the Herald-Republic.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:08 PM in Misc.

September 29, 2006
Friday Roundup

1. In Atlanta tonight, Roger Clemens starts what might be his last major league game. I was hoping to make it, but just couldn't pull it off.

2. The WaPo has an article on wildlife's contribution to water pollution.

3. I had a bit of deja vu reading that there may be another scandal about Congressmen soliciting pages for inappropriate activities. I was a House page when there was a similar scandal back in 1982. I had no part in nor saw any signs of bad behavior while I was there, but I did get interviewed by a couple of newspapers snooping around for dirt.

4. From the AJC:

As the senior official overseeing federal farm programs in Georgia, Duke Lane Jr. helps distribute billions in subsidies while serving farmers and safeguarding taxpayers.

In 2004, Lane's public actions benefited his private interests, and taxpayers picked up the tab.

Don't read the whole thing--it'll make you want to throw something at your computer.

5. (Via Drudge) Al Gore claims smoking significantly contributes to global warming.

6. The prisoners of Fidel's paradise now have reverted back to horse-drawn transportation. (HT: LR)

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 02:49 PM in Misc.

September 28, 2006
Quick Hits

1. I like the Weather Channel because it combines maps and weather, two things that have interested me since childhood. Alas, TWC is introducing a global warming show and the show will take the position that global warming is definitely happening. The show's host Heidi Cullen claims, "Scientists are very much in consensus about the fact that it's real." My reading, admittedly based on quite superficial research, is that scientists are not certain global warming is taking place and that they are much less certain about whether human activity has contributed global warming or whether policy changes could mitigate it.

2. I was glad to see 7-Eleven dropping Citgo. Although I have no pretense that my choice will have any effect whatsoever on Citgo or Chavez, for the last year or so (i.e., well before the Chavez's rant at the UN) I've been choosing not to patronize Citgo stations. I'm probably guilty of the "better to feel good than to do good" criticism, but I don't want to support a dictator.

3. Dave Berri posts on Freakonomics vs. Moneyball or, if you prefer, Steve Levitt vs. Skip Sauer.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 04:35 PM in Misc.

September 27, 2006
Capital Woes

The local fishwrapper finally noticed that my university is suing its former VP for Resource Management and Director of Facilities as well as a local construction firm.

Specifically, the suit says Aungst handled Capital's purchase of two rental properties at 701 and 707 Sheridan Ave. in February, and paid the owners more than $350,000 over the fair market value of the buildings, plus an illegal broker fee of $50,000....Capital's lawsuit also says Aungst and Fares arranged for Gutknecht Construction to remodel a house owned by Capital for Fares to live in rent free. In [a] letter, Gutknecht vice president Jeff Feinman stated that the company would renovate the house, at 2361 E. Mound St., for $105,000. The lawsuit contends that Fares promised Fredrickson he would pay any cost above $80,000. The lawsuit says Gutknecht charged Capital $306,134 for the work, which Gutknecht never completed. The company also attached a $251,841 lien on the property. Fares and Aungst hid the cost of the renovation by charging some costs to Capital accounts for rental property maintenance and for the construction of a new residence hall, the lawsuit says.

Meanwhile, the former Director of Public Safety is suing us for $4.6 million.

I should've gone to law school...

Posted by Robert Lawson at 09:20 AM in Misc.

September 25, 2006
Man v. Nature c. 1906

From the Sept. 25, 1906 NYT:

Mobile, Ala -- A 500-pound octopus was caught yesterday by a fishing party in Mississippi Sound, and killed after a struggle that lasted for eight hours....The octopus towed the boat of the party stern first for a distance of ten miles. It was finally killed with rifles.

Posted by Craig Depken at 12:48 PM in Misc.

September 23, 2006
Important lesson c. 1906

From the Sept. 23, 1906 NYT:

From the Louisville Courier-Journal - A health crank who has never smoked, chewed, nor used intoxicants, and who lives upon 10 cents a day, rode 11,761 miles on a bicycle when he was 50 years old. The lesson we learn from this is that strenuous economy does not always result in the ownership of motor cars.

Posted by Craig Depken at 03:35 PM in Misc.

Real genius c. 1906

From the Sept. 23, 1906 NYT:

The youngest collegian in this section of the country, if not in the United States, is eleven-year-old Norbert Weiner, who has entered the freshman class at Tuft's College. He is the son of Leo Weiner, Assistant Professor of Slavonic Languages at Harvard, and resides with his parents at 11 Bellevue Street, Medford Hillside....He is to make the study of philosophy his specialty.
He changed his major, as his Wikipedia entry claims he went to study mathematics (although at that time philosophy and other subjects were sometimes rolled together).

Furthermore, a crater on the dark side of the moon carries his name.

Posted by Craig Depken at 03:29 PM in Misc.

September 16, 2006
Homeland security c. 1906

From the September 16, 1906 NYT:

As a result of an investigation by the School Board of Hellertown [Penn.], a village near here, concerning the robbing of school houses, it has been discovered that Hellertown is the home of half a dozen boys, each about 16 years old, who have organized the "Jesse James boys" and who planned to commit various crimes.

[T]he boys had planned to burn the hosiery mill at Hellertown, to wreck the "Scranton Flyer" on the Jersey Central Railroad, and blow up Odd Fellows' Hall.

Posted by Craig Depken at 02:54 PM in Misc.

September 06, 2006
Google does it again

Google News Archive allows you to search 200 years back. I don't think this will put my "c. 1906" series out of business, but it reduces my editorial monopoly.

Whenever I hear of Google, my mind turns to the following comparison: Google vs. Ethanol. The former is a market-determined winner, continues to innovate, and is consistently reducing "price," which in the case of Google is the cost of accessing information, and the latter is a government-determined winner, fails to innovate for the most part, and seems to drive up the price of gasoline.

Posted by Craig Depken at 12:56 PM in Misc.

Something to ponder

Do you go to your 20th high school reunion when one of your classmates has just become editor of Newsweek? This is what I would face next year.

Congrats to Jon Meacham.

More here

Posted by Craig Depken at 12:33 PM in Misc.

September 04, 2006
Game Six of the 1986 World Series with Nintendo RBI Baseball

Ahh... takes me back to middle school. The best part is the use of Vince Scully's play by play.

Posted by Joshua Hall at 06:55 PM in Misc.

August 31, 2006
Welcome Wilson

I'm pleased to announce that my former colleague Wilson Mixon has agreed to join our little corner of the blogosphere. Many readers and co-bloggers know Wilson from his many years of involvement with APEE.

Also on the administrative front, I'll be adding Greg Mankiw's blog to our blogroll.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 04:09 PM in Misc.

August 29, 2006
The Duke Rape Case Fraud

Stuart Taylor has this excellent column at Slate, on the alleged - and it now appears almost certainly false - rape of a stripper by members of the Duke Lacrosse team. It's a story of dishonest, politically ambitious prosecutors; crooked cops bent on making the evidence fit the crime, ideologically driven academics, and mostly, the shameless, ideologically charged reporting of America's most influential newspaper. It's long, but well worth a read - a real life Bonfire of the Vanities.

Posted by Brad Smith at 08:27 PM in Culture ~ in Misc. ~ in Politics

August 22, 2006
Party School Competition

While Bob's alma mater again made the top party school list, Craig's alma mater is apparently trying to catch up. From today's AJC:

Parents and educators are doing a double-take at a coupon book advertising alcohol specials and bail bonds being handed to University of Georgia students at a pair of Athens bookstores.

The booklet, which includes discount coupons and ads for alcohol specials such as $1 drinks at one bar, a free order of nachos with the purchase of a pitcher of beer at another and 20 percent off at Double "O" Bonding, an Athens bail bonds company, was included with textbook purchases.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:03 AM in Misc.

In the news...

The old alma mater, Ohio University, (sniff) still makin' me proud. We're #6! We're #6! We're #6! ....

An article about Charlie 'Lefty' Trudeau's vintage base ball bat making business. Charlie plays with me on the Ohio Village Muffins and also for the Columbus Capitals. If you're in the central Ohio area, come see us and about 25 other clubs play all day on Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day Weekend at the Ohio Village.

Posted by Robert Lawson at 09:35 AM in Misc.

August 18, 2006
Reverse Causation Sighting

From The Economist (which really ought to know better):

Gross overcrowding has led to a sky-high recidivist rate.

Geez--you think just maybe it could be the other way around? Perhaps it's a sky-high recidivist rate leading to gross overcrowding. (HT: WSJ's "Best of the Web Today")

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:22 AM in Misc.

August 12, 2006
Kids Needing Vouchers--Camden New Jersey Edition

An excerpt from an NPR story on government school fraud:

School officials in Camden, N.J., have been under investigation for allegations of cheating on state tests, falsifying data and a cover-up. The results of that investigation are expected any day.

The alleged corruption is so pervasive and so blatant that New Jersey's commissioner of education has vowed to clean house. The two whistleblowers in the case say that's too little, too late for Camden's 17,000 school children.

Paula Veggian has worked for Camden, N.J. public schools for nearly 40 years, first as a math teacher and then as a scheduler at Brimm Medical Arts High School, the district's academic jewel.

"I have devoted my entire adult career to the children in the city of Camden, and what I uncovered was very damaging to children," Veggian says.

What Veggian uncovered and reported to her superiors was a grade-fixing scheme and the falsification of students' transcripts. She agreed to speak to NPR -- her first public discussion of the case -- at her attorney's office.

There's lots wrong with colleges, but this type of fraud is one reason why I'm not sure the higher ed commission's call for standardized tests is such a great idea.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:38 AM in Misc.

August 11, 2006
TEL Testimony/Rome Braves

I spent yesterday afternoon testifying before a GA Senate committee considering a tax-expenditure limitation for Georgia. So this morning I open the Rome News-Tribune and find an article containing a terrible picture of me and some dopey quotes. Fortunately I can't find a link. :-) (BTW--thanks again to co-bloggers Bob and Josh for their Ohio TEL study; I made good use of it again.)

Last night was Berry night at the Rome Braves; our new president threw out the first pitch. As for the game, fans were treated (if that's the right word) to a no-hitter by the visiting Augusta GreenJackets (an affiliate of the Giants). Three GJ pitchers allowed no hits or walks; the only Rome baserunner reached on a HBP in the first inning.

If waking to find my face for radio in the local fishwrap isn't bad enough for one's birthday, I'm off for a dept chairs meeting that's scheduled to run until mid-afternoon. It's the academic equivalent of water torture; I expect many of my colleagues will bring reading.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:48 AM in Misc.

August 10, 2006
Pee Wee Starts Kindergarten

Yesterday was my son's first day of kindergarten. The local newspaper (sign of a small city I suppose) had an article; Pee Wee's photo didn't make the print edition but is included in the web version of the article (he's the one on the right).

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:57 PM in Misc.

August 08, 2006
Product Review--DOL Merchandise

Bob noted awhile back that we now have DOL merchandise. I bought a shirt and a couple of other items and was completely satisfied. Of course, caveat emptor still applies.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 12:26 PM in Misc.

Week in Review

Pee Wee and I spent the end of last week visiting family in NC and since our return I've been hunkered down prepping for upcoming testimony on tax-expenditure limitations before a GA Senate committee. Here are some things that caught my eye over the past few days:

1. Parade mag (the Sunday paper insert) had an article on eminent domain abuse. The article's significance is not its substance but rather the implication that there is wide public acceptance that Kelo was an abomination.

2. Unintended consequences in action: this article reports that govt mapping of woodpecker populations has led folks to preemptively destroy woodpecker habitat. (HT: The Locker Room) See also this article in the Journal of Law and Economics.

3. Surprise, surprise--Italy pardons a bunch of crooks and has an increase in crime.

4. Allen Sanderson applies economic principles to explain soccer's low popularity in the US relative to the rest of the world.

5. NPR had a story on the Irish miracle--Ireland's economic turnaround over the past 20 years.

6. We're from the government and we're here to help: MIT economist Amy Finkelstein finds that about half of the increase in medical expenditure results from medical insurance. I bet similar third party payer effects also explains much of the increase in higher ed spending.

7. Another wacky minor league baseball promo--the independent league Newark Bears hosted Britney Spears baby safety night.

8. Price system sighting--Lynne Kiesling blogs on increasing copper prices.

9. Sports Illustrated has a piece on sports economics. The article pays special attention (including a cool photo) to Skip Sauer, one of the genuine good guys in this business.

10. Great moments in socialized medicine: Great Britain is now imposing minimum waiting times for patients.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:01 AM in Misc.

August 01, 2006
I Never Though I'd See The Day

Rich Vedder has a blog on college affordability.

Posted by Joshua Hall at 11:00 PM in Misc.


Russ Roberts links to a NYT piece on declining male labor force participation. It's a good thing in some ways--increased prosperity has allowed for early retirement. Alas, there are also some folks who relying on other folks to work in their stead as this passage excerpted by Roberts indicates:

But the fastest growing source of help is a patchwork system of government support, the main one being federal disability insurance, which is financed by Social Security payroll taxes. The disability stipends range up to $1,000 a month and, after the first two years, Medicare kicks in, giving access to health insurance that for many missing men no longer comes with the low-wage jobs available to them.

No federal entitlement program is growing as quickly, with more than 6.5 million men and women now receiving monthly disability payments, up from 3 million in 1990. About 25 percent of the missing men are collecting this insurance.

The ailments that qualify them are usually real, like back pain, heart trouble or mental illness. But in some cases, the illnesses are not so serious that they would prevent people from working if a well-paying job with benefits were an option.

The disability program, in turn, is an obstacle to working again. Taking a job holds the risk of demonstrating that one can earn a living and is thus no longer entitled to the monthly payments. But staying out of work has consequences. Skills deteriorate, along with the desire for a paying job and the habits that it requires.

Pay particular attention to the third paragraph--the illnesses are no so severe that they would prevent someone from working a high pay/high benefits job. Since when does the severity of a disability depend on a person's labor market alternatives? BTW, there's a thriving legal practice in helping people receive Social Security disabilty payments.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:29 AM in Misc.

July 28, 2006
Misleading Headline c. 1906?

The headline of an article in the July 28, 1906 NYT:

Leaves $1,000,000 for Humanity

Well, it isn't really for all of humanity, but only the humanity that would go to Presbyterian Hospital of Philadelphia and would be served by the American and New England Antivivisection Societies.

Posted by Craig Depken at 05:48 PM in Misc.

Linguistic Gymnastics

Rome has recently gotten its own NPR station; we now have clear reception compared to the static-laden broadcasts from Atlanta and Chattanooga. I don't consider it a big gain (no surprise there, eh?), but I do occasionally listen while I'm in my car.

I just happened to be listening last weekend and caught a few minutes of "Fresh Air." Host Terry Gross was interviewing Geoff Nunberg about his book Talking Right. His thesis is that Republicans have twisted the meaning of words like values and colorblind. Ho-hum, hardly a novel thesis; perhaps even correct (though no more so than lefty language distortions like calling Social Security taxes "contributions"). Then Nunberg let loose a big groaner:

"... and, most notably, it is what the right has done with freedom in expanding the word in the hope that people would see in the right not to have to pay a minimum wage or the right not to have to provide healthcare would be seen as the same kind of freedom that Washington's soldiers struggled for at Valley Forge."

Yeah, right--the American Revolution was all about a "living wage" and single-payer health care. And the colonists probably didn't think the taxes imposed by George III were high enough. What foolishness.

Listen to the program here; my transcribed quote of Nunberg begins at about 3:45.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 02:41 PM in Misc.

July 26, 2006
A good excuse for light blogging

I wanted to warn of light blogging from me - although I will try to keep up with the New York Times from 1906 - as the newest member of the Depken clan arrived this morning (7/26/2006) at 10:39am CDT.

requisite baby image here

Catherine (Cate) Allison Depken (for the moment?) weighed in at 7lbs 5 oz and 21 inches. Everyone is healthy and happy - although going from one child to two (Campbell is 2yrs 2mos) seems more daunting by the hour.

Posted by Craig Depken at 06:13 PM in Misc.

July 25, 2006
More Quick Hits

1. Here's a how-to for having an Al Gore approved birthday. (HT: Wilson Mixon)

2. Sex in outer space apparently comes with lots of complications--almost enough to kill the mood.

3. Debra Saunders examines allegations of Chinese killing Falun Gong practicioners to sell their organs for transplant. If true, this sort of underground organ market is much more morally repugnant than any sort of incentives for donation being proposed for the U.S.

4. US News has a nifty article on UPS's use of technology. (I owe someone a HT on this one, but I don't recall where I saw it. My apologies.)

5. The Washington Post has been running a superb series on the follies of the farm subsidy program. Here's an excerpt from one article:

Then, on Feb. 1, 2003, the shuttle exploded. To ensure recovery of the debris and pay for emergency costs, President Bush issued a federal disaster declaration. As an unintended result, most of East Texas was then eligible for livestock funds. Denton County's livestock owners collected $433,000, records show.

"Speaking personally, I didn't think it was necessary at that point in time," said Calvin Peterson, an 81-year-old rancher who heads the local farm committee. "It might have been more political than anything."

In Henderson County, about 100 miles southeast of Dallas, Nico de Boer felt the same way. When he arrived from the Netherlands 17 years ago, de Boer had 90 acres, a house, one barn and fewer than 200 cows. Today, he has 1,000 acres, multiple cow barns and sheds, 650 cows that produce 3 million pounds of milk monthly, a BMW in the driveway, a swimming pool, and two more farms in neighboring counties.

The rolling hills surrounding his sprawling farm receive a generous average of 40 inches of rain annually. When the shuttle exploded, pastures were full and there hadn't been a drought or any other type of weather disaster in years, records show. But after the presidential disaster declaration, John Reeves of the local USDA office informed livestock owners in Henderson County they were eligible. They eventually collected $751,083 despite no shuttle damage.

(HT: Wilson Mixon)

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:36 AM in Misc.

July 24, 2006
My Grab Bag

As Bob noted, I've been away for a few days for some Mount Mitchell hiking and a ballgame in Asheville. It was particularly good to have my former colleague Wilson Mixon join us for dinner and the ballgame.

No four mile run for me yesterday, but I hitched Pee Wee's trailer-bike to mine and we spent a few hours on the Silver Comet Trail. The Pumpkinvine Creek Trestle (a 750 foot long, 126 foot high bridge) and the 800 foot Brushy Mountain tunnel are Pee Wee's favorite parts of the trail.

Thanks to co-blogger Craig for carrying the load while Bob and I were away. Some things that caught my attention over the past few days:

1. Public radio's "Marketplace" program ran a story on the black market for handicapped parking hang tags in Austin, Texas. "They're being sold at flea markets. We've even heard of purchases on eBay," says a police officer on the selling of the hang tags. Markets in everything, I suppose.

2. Also on the topic of parking, here's Tim Harford on a study about incentives vs. appeals to morality in an effort to reduce parking violations. Once again we see--repeat after Steve Landsberg--people respond to incentives.

3. Also from the incentives matter department--Craig Newmark points us to a Mahalanobis post suggesting that Britain's high rate of teen pregnancy is attributable to its high subsidies for teenage parenting.

4. My former student Dan Alban was pictured on Bow Tie Bill's blog. Bill has some fine ties but his line won't be complete until he offers a bow version of the Adam Smith tie.

5. Friday's WSJ (sub req; no link) had an article on recent American success in the Tour de France. If the article is correct, Americans' more entrepreneurial approach is a key factor. The article claims that European riders are "put through regimented training programs" and "tend to train the way cyclists have always trained and ride exactly the way they have ridden for decades." By contrast, American cyclists have innovated (or, perhaps more accurately, more readily adopted innovations)--from Greg LeMond's going with clipless pedals and special handlebars for time trials to Lance Armstrong's using a lower gear in the mountains. (Please, no email on entrepreneurship and doping. I'm aware of, but have no opinion on, the allegations about Armstrong.)

6. Eric Crampton blogs on television shows with public choice themes.

ADDENDUM: Two more items.

7. USA Today had a piece on governments paying people for undertaking various water conservation measures such as installing low-flow toilets. I can't help but think these efforts have at least as much to do with feel-good nanny-statism as saving water. If reducing water use is the true goal, why not just raise the price of water? People will respond to the incentive to save water in many ways, including but not limited to installing low-flow toilets.

8. Regarding my recent post on silly terror targets, a reader wrote to suggest that many of the potential targets that seem silly as targets for radical Islamic terrorism (e.g., the kangaroo farm or popcorn factory) might not be so silly when thinking about targets for radical environmental terrorists. A superb point--many thanks for the comment.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:47 AM in Misc.

July 18, 2006
Intervention Begets More Intervention

From the Boston Herald:

Memo to Boston Globe gay and lesbian Guild employees: Get married or lose your domestic partner benefits.

Globe staffers have been told that health and dental benefits for gay employees; domestic partners are being discontinued. Gay couples who want to keep their benefits must marry by Jan. 1.

A memo sent to the Globe's Boston Newspaper Guild members, and obtained by the Herald, states that Massachusetts gay Guild employees can extend their benefits to their partners only if they marry.

An employee who currently covers a same-sex domestic partner as a dependent will have to marry his or her partner by Jan. 1 for the employee benefits coverage to continue at the employee rates, the memo states.

The policy change at the Globe, which devotes extensive coverage to gay issues, opens a new can of worms in the Bay State as employers rethink their domestic partner benefits in the wake of the legalization of gay marriage in 2004.

Benefits for domestic partners were originally offered to gay employees because they couldn't legally marry, said Ilene Robinson Sunshine, a lawyer at Sullivan & Worcester.

Now that gay marriage is legal in Massachusetts companies that offer benefits to gay employees; partners risk hearing cries of discrimination from unmarried straight couples.

Let's get government out of the marriage game altogether. That is the way to be fair to everyone be they gay or straight (but probably not this guy).

Posted by Joshua Hall at 01:13 PM in Misc.

July 14, 2006
More Ridiculous "Terror Targets"

Apparently the North Georgia kangaroo farm is not the only silly entry on the government's list of terror targets. The list also also includes Amish Country popcorn in Indiana (maybe a dark side to Orville Redenbacher or a fear of suicide buggy bombers), the Sweetwater Flea Market near Knoxville (anthrax laden Velvet Elvis paintings?), and the Mule Day Parade in Tennessee. Here's a safe prediction--we have more to fear from the asses in Washington than anything that could happen at the Mule Day Parade. Rant complete.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:41 AM in Misc.

July 13, 2006
Kangaroo Terror Target/Dumb & Unlucky Criminals

From the AJC:

DAWSONVILLE — Two hundred and fifty kangaroos hopping around in this rural, hilly outback of North Georgia are a prime, if movable, target for terrorists.

Or so claims a Department of Homeland Security database that identifies nationwide facilities that it considers ripe for attack.

Also from the AJC we have a crook who is both dumb and unlucky:

So three people go to the drive-up window at a bank and — the way police tell it — try to cash a personal check they stole in a burglary.

The name on the check is Joyce Powell. The problem is, Joyce Powell is not in the car. In fact, she's in the bank; she works at the Sylvester Banking Company and the teller at the drive-up window knows her.

The teller stalls the folks in the car by asking for identification. Meanwhile, Powell checks with the cops and learns someone has broken into her house in rural Worth County.

By now, the three in the car are getting jittery, so they leave Sylvester and go to Albany, where police find them quickly.

Calvin Barfield, 27, Shannon Parrish, 26, and Stacey Ellis, 19, are in the Worth County Jail charged with burglary and forgery.

Yep, Barfield left his driver's license and Social Security card with the teller.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:34 AM in Misc.

July 11, 2006
The Ultimate in Pork

From my eastern NC stomping grounds:

An old postcard proclaims Rocky Mount as the "Bar-b-cue capital of the world."

Now, the city wants to promote that view with BBQ Park, which will honor Bob Melton's Barbeque, the state's first sit-down restaurant devoted to the pork delicacy that is sold around the state.

"Whenever the money becomes available, we see it as more of a tourism thing," said Pete Armstrong, Parks and Recreation director. "Eventually we want to capitalize on the barbecue thing."

Yup, tax money for pork park. Source here; HT Reason.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 02:01 PM in Misc.

July 05, 2006
Hit and Run

I've been away from the office and computer for most of the past week and will be away for most of the next two weeks. A few items that caught my attention:

1. Tournament incentives are tricky things. NASCAR is tinkering with its championship points system. Maybe it'll become an annual affair like the BCS.

2. The national media have finally caught wind of a particularly sordid murder two years ago in Rome. I knew this was coming; I'm just surprised it's taken so long. (HT: Kara)

3. A Times (UK) article predicts that a new airfare tax to combat global warming (insert laugh here?) will cause airfares to double. I doubt it; I suspect that the demand for air travel is sufficiently elastic that European airlines will not be able to pass much of the tax along to consumers.

4. For an example of rent seeking behavior described by co-blogger Mike Munger, here's a bit on flex fuel fuzzy math courtesy of the ethanol lobby. (HT: Wilson)

5. As a refuge from all the idiocy about losing manufacturing jobs, The Economist reports the U.S. manufacturing sector is doing quite well. (HT: Wilson again)

6. From the wacky minor league baseball promo department (previous entry here), we have the California team that gave out bobble couches and had a silent innning in honor of Tom Cruise.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 04:17 PM in Misc.

June 28, 2006
Light blogging

I'm off to San Diego for the Western Economic Association meetings. Light blogging for me over the weekend.

I will catch up on the NYT c. 1906 when I return.

Also on my to-do list is a comparison of 1905-1906 and 2005-2006. Some issues that pop to mind:

2005-2006: Gas price increases
1905-1906: Ice price increases

2005-2006: Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans
1905-1906: Earthquake destroys much of San Francisco

2005-2006: Abrahmhoff scandal
1905-1906: Bribery scandals in many states and Congress

2005-2006: Japan halts U.S. beef exports over concerns of BSE
1905-1906: Europe halts U.S. meat exports over concerns of tainted meat.

2005-2006: Teachers call for smaller class size and more money.
1905-1906: Teachers call for smaller class size and more money.

2005-2006: Terrorist attacks abound but not in the United States.
1905-1906: Terrorist attacks abound but not in the United States.

2005-2006: Republican President tries to tackle immigration reform.
1905-1906: Republican President tries to tackle immigration reform.

2005-2006: Congress passes hasty legislation to fix perceived problems.
1905-1906: Congress passes hasty legislation to fix perceived problems.

What does it all mean? I have a hunch, but more when I get back.

Posted by Craig Depken at 11:20 PM in Misc.

June 27, 2006
Obesity concerns c. 1906

A display ad from the June 27, 1906 NYT:

Posted by Craig Depken at 03:41 PM in Misc.

Learning by doing c. 1906

From the June 27, 1906 NYT:

[T]he article...calls to my mind the bad results following the introduction of the system [of turnstiles] in the stations of the Illinois Central Railroad in Chicago.

Two or more persons were injured, particularly women, nearly every day by running against the bars and being caught by them. This, I believe, was the cause of many suits being filed against the Illinois Central Company.

There is nothing more dangerous than this turnstile method of entrance and exit where the public is to be dealt with. I have seen persons very badly injured by those now in use at some of the stations of the elevated road.

Isn't running against the bars and being caught by them the purpose of the turnstile? And why point out that women were particularly prone to being injured by the complicated system of controlled access?

Evidently in 1906, the term "turnstile jumping" would not have been used.

A Google search of the term "turnstile injury" yielded one (1) hit. Perhaps after 100 years we have learned how to use the turnstile in a safe and orderly fashion?

Posted by Craig Depken at 03:39 PM in Misc.

June 23, 2006
Like Ice Cube Said, "Today It Was A Good Day"

Found out two nice things today:

1. Futurama is coming back.

2. I passed my field comps and am now a Ph.D. candidate.

That is all.

Posted by Joshua Hall at 07:32 PM in Misc.

A Leftist's Dilemma

Lefties like to invoke children as their rationale for statist policy. (A Lex/Nex search of "Clinton" and "for the children" was stopped because it would return more than 1,000 results.) Lefties also like universal childcare. A new NBER working paper must therefore cause great conflict in lefty hearts; it finds:

We carefully analyze the impacts of Quebec’s “$5 per day childcare” program on childcare utilization, labor supply, and child (and parent) outcomes in two parent families. We find strong evidence of a shift into new childcare use, although approximately one third of the newly reported use appears to come from women who previously worked and had informal arrangements. ... Finally, we uncover striking evidence that children are worse off in a variety of behavioral and health dimensions, ranging from aggression to motor-social skills to illness. Our analysis also suggests that the new childcare program led to more hostile, less consistent parenting, worse parental health, and lower-quality parental relationships.

A non-technical summary of the paper is here.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 12:00 PM in Misc.

June 21, 2006
An Argument in FAVOR of Killing the Estate Tax

From a letter to the NYT (scroll down) by an Atlanta financial planner:

As a financial adviser, I spend much of my time helping clients decide how to handle their estate tax liability....

It's not that hard to structure an estate to avoid the tax. That's what the thousands of accountants, lawyers and financial planners do.

From my perspective, the estate tax is purely optional. So repeal is unnecessary except for the uninformed, the unfocused or those people who are unwilling to pay their financial planning team a little more to make the tax go away or be reduced.

I owe someone a hat tip on this one, but I don't remember where I saw it.

ADDENDUM: Speaking of the estate tax, here's Aeon Skoble's Freeman article on Bill Gates, Sr. and Warren Buffett's support of the tax.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 04:06 PM in Misc.  ·  Comments (1)

How the Government Spends Your Money

Testimony presented to the house committee on Homeland Security yesterday revealed that Fema paid housing assistance to people who had never lived in a hurricane-damaged property - including at least 1,000 prison inmates - and made payments to people who were living in free hotel rooms. In one instance it paid out on a property damage claim from a cemetery in New Orleans - to a person who had never lived in the city. In another it paid compensation for a vacant lot.

"Fema paid over $20,000 to an inmate who used a post office box as his damaged property," Gregory Kutz, the GAO's director of audits, told the committee.

During the audit investigators filed their own bogus claims and used other undercover methods to discover that most of the improper payments occurred because Fema failed to verify the identity of those making claims, or to confirm their addresses.

In the largest instance of abuse by an individual, Fema made 26 payments to someone who submitted claims for damaged property at 13 different addresses in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, using 13 different social security numbers. Only one of the social security numbers was valid, and a search of property records revealed that the individual had never lived at any of the 13 addresses. In addition, only eight of the addresses actually existed.

Fema also paid rental assistance to people who were already enjoying luxurious hotel accommodation - footing an $8,000 hotel bill in Hawaii for someone who simultaneously received $2,358 in rental assistance.

Fema debit cards also turned out to be an easy mark for those bent on fraud. Among some of the charges the GAO found unnecessary to satisfy legitimate disaster needs were $3,700 on a diamond watch, earrings and ring, a one-week all inclusive holiday in the Dominican Republic, $200 of Dom Perignon champagne, fireworks, $1,000 for a Houston divorce lawyer, and a considerable amount for adult erotica.

Story here--better take your blood pressure pills before reading it. I also bet little has changed in "The Land of 10,770 Empty FEMA Trailers."

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 03:54 PM in Misc.

June 20, 2006
Lack of endowment at U of C c. 1906

From the June 20, 1906 NYT:

The University of Chicago to-day lost five members of its Faculty, who resigned, it is said, because of the lack of sufficient funds to guarantee their salaries.

The professors are I. Thorstein Veblin of the Chair of Political Economy, Oliver J. Thatcher, Medical History; Alexis Carrol, and C.C. Guthrie of the medical department, and Charles A. Houston of the history department.

One hundred years later, the U of C has an endowment of approximately $3.6 billion.

[Aside: How is Veblin/Veblen's name actually spelled? Perhaps the NYT has a typo? In Google, "thorstein veblin" yields 480 hits whereas "thorstein veblen" yields 274,000. I am assuming that the Thorstein Veblin refered to is who wrote Theory of the Leisure Class.]

Posted by Craig Depken at 10:14 AM in Misc.

June 19, 2006
Also back from an IHS seminar

Like co-blogger Frank, I spent last week as a lecturer at an IHS student seminar. But I was a “guest lecturer,” giving only one talk (“Instead of Central Banking”). Except for the cafeteria food I couldn’t eat (I’m supposed to be on a low-salt diet, and they served pizza every day), it was great fun to interact with enthusiastic students and fellow faculty (Neera Badhwar, Steve Horwitz, Mario Villarreal, Craig Yurish, David Mayer, guest lecturer David Kelley). The students included one from Capital U. whose blog used to be on our blogroll.

The seminar was at Bryn Mawr College, just outside Philadelphia, where the big story last week was the hubbub over a sign at a local cheesesteak parlor, Geno’s Steaks. The sign reads: “This is America. When ordering, please speak English.” The city’s Human Relations Commission has filed a formal complaint over the sign’s offensiveness – story here. Paradox: if a patron can’t speak English, how can he be offended by the sign?

Next week I'm off to Zurich, to give a week's worth of lectures at the invitation of the Swiss National Bank. It just goes to prove that central banks have more money to spend than they know what to do with -- no doubt because they print the stuff. Which will be one of my lecture topics.

Posted by Lawrence H. White at 11:16 PM in Misc.

June 13, 2006
New Baby Congrats to Josh

For those who haven't heard, I got this by email from Josh earlier today.


Things are fine here. My wife just had a baby. Bennett Friedman Hall.
Mom and baby are doing well.

An inspired, auspicious name. Congratulations, Josh!

Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 05:01 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

June 11, 2006
Skype hype

I've just downloaded and tested sykpe.com's program for making phone calls on the internet. The sound quality is really amazingly good--better by far than my cell phone. It sounds like the other person is in the same room.

The software download is free; skype to skype calls are free; skype to regular phone calls are free in the U.S. through the rest of the year; and skype to regular phone calls outside of the U.S. are cheap. You can also get a skype phone number so that regular phones can call you on the computer but there is a fee for this.

This will come in handy when I'm travelling abroad and my cell phone won't work. I'll be able to call home from anywhere I can get a decent internet connection--which is just about everywhere nowadays.

Posted by Robert Lawson at 05:44 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

June 06, 2006
Ayn Rand U?

From the Durham Herald Sun (via the Locker Room):

OXFORD -- Plans for a future institution of higher learning here are beginning to surface in more detail ...

Founders College has submitted an application projecting a fall 2007 start and an enrollment of 500, said Michelle Howard-Vital, associate vice president of academic affairs for UNC General Administration.

Eric Daniels of Durham filed the request, Howard-Vital said. She identified Daniels as a faculty member at Duke University. The Duke faculty directory lists him as a visiting professor in the sociology department.

As proposed, Founders College would offer an associate of arts degree and a bachelor of arts in liberal arts.

According to Howard-Vital, the institution would be maintained and operated by The College of Rational Education, which is a North Carolina non-profit corporation.

The College of Rational Education, in papers filed with the state secretary of state, identifies its agent as Gary Hull of Durham. Hull's name also appears on similar documents identifying what is called Founders College Education Inc.

Attempts to reach him for comment Monday were unsuccessful. It wasn't clear whether he is the same Gary Hull who also is listed as a Duke faculty member. A Gary Hull listed in the Duke faculty directory teaches sociology.

The College of Rational Education, in papers filed with the secretary of state's office, said its purpose includes applying the philosophy of the late Ayn Rand.

Howard-Vital is part of a staff that reports to UNC system President Erskine Bowles and works with the system's Board of Governors, whose 32 voting members would have the final say in approving Founders College.

What's up with having the government colleges approve new private colleges? Seems like a conflict of interest. And two Randians in Duke's sociology department--who knew?

ADDENDUM: It turns out that there is an interesting history behind Duke's Randian sociologist. From FIRE:

At Duke University, the administration shut down a website after Professor Gary Hull posted an article entitled "Terrorism and Its Appeasement" that called for a strong military response to the terrorist attacks. FIRE took Professor's Hull's case to the print and broadcast media. Shamed by widespread publicity, Duke reinstated Hull's web page, but required him to add a disclaimer that the views expressed in the article did not reflect the views of the University. Duke has never before required any other professors to add such disclaimers to their web pages. That institution's double standard is now out in the open.

Duke's Disclaimer

"Terrorism and Its Appeasement" — I, Gary Hull, personally believe this article expresses an important and intellectually serious position that students have the right to read. Although the article contains particular recommendations I may not agree with, it is nonetheless an intelligent and comprehensive analysis of terrorism, in general, and of the terrorist attack on America, in particular. (The posting of these opinions does not reflect the endorsement of the Department of Sociology or Markets & Management Studies Program at Duke University.)

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:30 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

June 05, 2006
Incentives Matter: Chinese Divorce Edition

From the LA Times:

RENHE, China — Farmer Yan Shihai was happily married for more than 30 years. Then late last year, seemingly out of the blue, the 57-year-old grandfather and his loving wife got a divorce.

Within months, all three of his adult children and their spouses also split up. So did almost every other married person in Yan's village of 4,000 — an astounding 98% of Renhe's married couples officially parted, according to the local government.

It was as if a spell had been cast over this once-quiet rural community in the Chinese heartland. Everybody suddenly seemed to have fallen out of love. The oldest among them were in their 90s and barely able to move. The youngest had just tied the knot. Some had babies.

But instead of tension or tears, the couples waiting in line at the local registry to end their marriages were practically jolly. They believed they were taking advantage of a legal loophole that allowed them to get an extra apartment.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 04:16 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

The Management Myth

From The Atlantic:

Most of management theory is inane, writes our correspondent, the founder of a consulting firm. If you want to succeed in business, don’t get an M.B.A. Study philosophy instead.

Full story here; hat tip Wilson Mixon.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:06 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

June 02, 2006
Quick Hits

1. The WaPo reports that Jeffrey Maier, the kid who interfered with a ball hit by Derek Jeter in the 1996 playoffs, is now a successful college baseball player who is likely to be drafted in the upcoming mlb draft. If he ultimately makes the big leagues and faces the Orioles, I wonder if they'll plunk him. Odder still--maybe the O's will draft him.

2. USA Today reports that Britain will have a knife amnesty program in an attempt to reduce the occurrence of stabbings. You know what's coming next--a knife buy-back program. A better way of reducing stabbings would be to legalize concealed carry.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 02:56 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

Wanted: University CEO

As expected:


President Theodore L. Fredrickson announced his retirement today, effective immediately effective June 30, ending a career that has spanned nearly four decades in higher education. The university’s Board of Trustees has named Provost Denvy Bowman as interim president. In addition, Associate Provost Steve Bruning has been named interim provost.

Read More »

Posted by Robert Lawson at 01:57 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

May 29, 2006
When more is not better

The Times Online reports that a 63-year-old British man has been convicted of harassment for anonymously sending a woman letters containing more than £3000 in cash.

Posted by Lawrence H. White at 01:25 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

May 26, 2006

Another great libertarian-conservative has landed a spot in the professoriate. Allison Hayward, aka the Skeptic, will be joining the faculty at George Mason University School of Law as an Assistant Professor in the fall. I don't know much else about her, but according to the school's press release, she used to be Chief of Staff to a former FEC Chairman.

Posted by Brad Smith at 05:37 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

The price of soda c. 1906

From the May 26, 1906 NYT:

Today, a case of soda costs about $5 on sale, whereas the $2.50 per case in 1906 is $52.30 in 2004 CPI adjusted dollars (EH.net). Ouch.

Posted by Craig Depken at 02:01 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

May 25, 2006
Something Else to Keep the Congressional Price Gouging Caucus Busy

A news item (via WSJ's "Best of the Web Today"):

Kirk Alvers has done the math: He's being charged $3 for a gallon of gas but $18 for 36 ounces of ketchup.

Alvers and other Basha High students are seeing red over a school policy that charges them 25 cents for two half-ounce packets of ketchup at lunch. The policy was enacted recently to limit waste and messiness in the school's lunch area.

Actually his math is wrong--the price works out to $9 for 36 ounces of ketchup. Maybe he needs The Diff.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 03:49 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

May 24, 2006
Wal-Mart & Productivity; Wal-Mart's Land Seized Via Eminent Domain

Co-blogger Mike DeBow requested info on Wal-Mart's effect on productivity growth. It'd be out of character for me to forego an opportunity to blog on Wal-Mart.

Here's a NYT article by Virginia Postrel that cites (and links to) a McKinsey study finding large productivity effects arising from Wal-Mart.

Now to a different Wal-Mart topic. From ABC News:

Tuesday night, during a sometimes raucous meeting, the city council voted unanimously to take Wal-Mart's land by power of eminent domain. It's a power the Supreme Court affirmed for municipalities in a controversial New London, Conn., ruling, in which the city wanted to take private property for a commercial development.

The Hercules, Calif., land in question consists of a 17-acre stretch next to new homes, offering a view of the San Pablo Bay. The city did not want Wal-Mart to be the centerpiece of its planned waterfront.

Instead, city planners have looked for a more historic-looking development, with buildings that include apartments on the second floor and shops and restaurants on the ground floor.

Sigh--more fallout from the awful Kelo decision. On the other hand, if Wal-Mart has ever benefitted from an eminent domain land grab there might a bit of rough justice here. Hopefully being on the losing side of an eminent domain issue will deter Wal-Mart from future development via eminent domain.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:29 PM in Misc.  ·  Comments (2)  ·  TrackBack (0)

Time to dust off the old c.v.?
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Capital University President Ted Fredrickson canceled his European vacation and rushed home yesterday to deal with an operating deficit three times as large as the one expected this year at the liberal-arts college in Bexley.

The estimated deficit is $5.4 million rather than the $1.8 million discussed in early May, according to a May 16 memo from Fredrickson to the faculty and staff. The amount grew after "new information came to light" on May 15, the memo says. [Story.]

Posted by Robert Lawson at 09:44 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

May 15, 2006
Off to college again...

I just arrived at my new office at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center at Bowling Green State University where I'm a visiting scholar for the summer.

I'm living in a dorm-like efficiency room and I kind of feel like I'm at college again. BGSU is your basic college town but compared to my alma mater (Ohio University), the campus is pretty darned (what's the word?) UGLY.

Posted by Robert Lawson at 09:29 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

May 10, 2006
The Chevrolet HHR

Suddenly the roads around here are filled with the new “retro-styled” Chevrolet model, the HHR. It looks pretty sharp, but I can’t help thinking that it looks like they mated a Hummer H3 with a Chrysler PT Cruiser.

Posted by Lawrence H. White at 10:12 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

Pornographers and Baptists

From today's Rome News-Tribune:

The Floyd County Commission unveiled Tuesday a proposed adult entertainment ordinance that would apply retroactively to Entice Movies & Novelties.

The county’s sole such venue opened in Shannon early last week, despite strong objections from residents who mobilized pickets at the Ga. 53 site Saturday.

“That’s what this does,” Garner said. “It can be applied to a business already open because Georgia allows an amortization period — a period in which an existing business can recoup its investment.”

Entice investors would get two years to recover their costs if they cannot comply with the new ordinance, he said, although some provisions — such as a ban on private rooms — would apply within 90 days of adoption.

Charles Craton, owner of the property occupied by Entice, said he does not believe the retroactive provision will hold up to a court challenge, but he supports a county ordinance.

“I actually encouraged (Commission Chairman) John Mayes to enact an ordinance,” Craton said. “I heard through the grapevine that a chain has been looking at Rome since all this publicity. If (the county) doesn’t do something, it could get out of hand.”

It would be just awful to have some competition wouldn't it?

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:44 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

May 09, 2006
Must Love Dogs

"No man's life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session," goes an old saying. But now and then a legislature does something right, even if it is only correcting something the legislature did before.

The Florida legislature closed out its session last week by passing legislation allowing dogs to join their owners in outdoor seating at restaurants. The law had formerly prohibited their presence, even in these outdoor areas. Yeah! One thing I always liked about living in Ecuador many years ago was the ability to take my dog into restaurants. This is the kind of thing that really has little to do with public health, and that the market is perfectly good at regulating. This small step to increase freedom will make the lives of thousands of Floridians just a little bit more enjoyable.

And note, too, that the legislature also did away with a per drink tax on alcoholic beverages, and named a state pie - the former being an objectively good thing, the latter a better use of time than many other things they could have done. They provided for voter registration at bait shops and gun shops, which for some reason the St. Pete Times doesn't like - presumably, the paper is all for easier registration, just not of gun toting, fishing yahoos.

On bigger things, the legislature's record was mixed. But allowing dogs into restaurants - well, I'm thinking of moving south.

Posted by Brad Smith at 01:44 PM in Culture ~ in Funny Stuff ~ in Law ~ in Misc. ~ in Politics  ·  TrackBack (0)

A Newspaper in Need of "The Diff"

It's been a few months since I've posted on "The Diff." Now, via Craig Newmark, I've located a newspaper in need of The Diff. From the Raleigh News & Observer:

Halves vs. quarters.

Parents instead of agents.

And 11 fewer seconds on the shot clock.

Those are just a few of the adaptations Detroit Pistons assistant coach Sidney Lowe will need to make when he becomes N.C. State's head basketball coach.

Since the NBA shot clock is 24 seconds and the NCAA clock is 35 seconds, Lowe will have to adjust 11 MORE seconds on the shot clock.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:22 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

If at first you don't succeed...
The threat of a faculty noconfidence vote on Capital University President Ted Fredrickson didn’t materialize yesterday.

Instead, the school’s Faculty Senate tabled the motion at its meeting and decided to send the university’s board a letter detailing its complaints.


Posted by Robert Lawson at 09:25 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

May 08, 2006
Up off the mat...

I have been quiet as of late for four reasons:

1) sick child/wife
2) end of semester and two exams today
3) asked to write answers for end-of-chapter questions for four chapters of the new edition of Stock and Watson's Econometrics textbook (harder than I thought)
4) my access to the historical NYT has been blocked by a computer glitch. Today, I finally called ProQuest (who offer the service through our library) and in twenty seconds the guy on the other end of the phone has a workaround and now I am back in play.

I will have to sift through a week's worth of NYT to see if there is anything interesting, but as I have received a few emails expressing interest in the "c. 1906 project," it will continue.

Posted by Craig Depken at 11:28 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

May 02, 2006
Somebody Needs a Better Marketing Plan

Three colleagues and I went over to Panera for lunch today. When we returned to our vehicle after lunch, the windshield had a flyer for a new car title loan store. I'm just guessing here, but I doubt many Panera customers (or customers of the nearby Barnes&Noble and Pier One) are likely to be using the services of car title lenders. I bet the title company would gin up more customers at other stores such as the Kmart across the street.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 03:29 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

April 30, 2006
Another Job for the Congressional Price Gouging Caucus

From the AJC:

The first dog on the auction block was a blond Pekingese male, 5 to 10 years old, hunky by Pekingese standards: mashed face, hair like a thatched hut. He sold for $100.

After that, prices soared as if dogs were gasoline and the auction was run by Exxon. The second breed on the block, a female Maltese — which the auctioneer announced "is obviously in need of a bath"— sold for $240.

That's the way it went Saturday morning at the dog auction in the parking lot of the Bartow County Animal Shelter near Cartersville.

More than 250 people showed up hoping to buy pedigree dogs — Chihauhaus, Maltese, Yorkshire terriers, Pomeranians, Pekingese and dachshunds — for rock-bottom prices. Instead, they got a dose of dog-price inflation, spurred by animal rescue groups trying to save the canines from breeders.

The animal rescue groups vowed to buy the dogs, get them medical treatment, have them neutered and find them homes.

Guy Bilyeu, 46, executive director of Chattanooga-based Humane Educational Society, , showed up with a group of supporters and $16,000. He bought more than 60 dogs.

Patricia Duncan, 27, was among the people lamenting the dog inflation. She said she used to work for Culberson's Hillview Kennels.

"It's ridiculous," she said. "These rescue people are outbidding everybody. They just bought a Maltese that has no teeth for $800."

Fido, Rover, and their furry friends better hope the "rescue people" aren't from PETA.

ADDENDUM: Today was Berry's graduation and the speaker was the U.S. Rep for this part of GA. He gave a decent speech--at least considering that he's a member of the U.S. Congress and that commencement speeches are generally awful compilations of cliches and platitudes. He made a few references to liberty which would be great if there were some evidence he consistently votes to increase freedom. From the new drug entitlement to bloated federal spending, however, his actions seem at odds with his rhetoric. The sad thing is that his Dummycrat opponents in the recent elections have been even worse.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 12:41 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

April 25, 2006
More Fish, Less Crime?

From the NYT:

Most prisons are notorious for the quality of their cuisine (pretty poor) and the behavior of their residents (pretty violent). They are therefore ideal locations to test a novel hypothesis: that violent aggression is largely a product of poor nutrition. Toward that end, researchers are studying whether inmates become less violent when put on a diet rich in vitamins and in the fatty acids found in seafood.

Could a salmon steak and a side of spinach really help curb violence, not just in prison but everywhere? In 2001, Dr. Joseph Hibbeln, a senior clinical investigator at the National Institutes of Health, published a study, provocatively titled "Seafood Consumption and Homicide Mortality," that found a correlation between a higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids (most often obtained from fish) and lower murder rates.

Of course, seeing a correlation between fatty acids and nonviolence doesn't necessarily prove that fatty acids inhibit violence. Bernard Gesch, a senior research scientist at Oxford University, set out to show that better nutrition does, in fact, decrease violence. He enrolled 231 volunteers at a British prison in his study; one-half received a placebo, while the other half received fatty acids and other supplements. Over time, the antisocial behavior (as measured by assaults and other violations) of the inmates who had been given the supplements dropped by more than a third relative to their previous records. The control group showed little change. Gesch published his results in 2002 and plans to start a larger study later this year. Similar trials are already under way in Holland and Norway.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:37 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

April 21, 2006
Geography of Government Abuse

Curious about eminent domain abuse in your state? IJ's CastleCoalition.org has merged its database of eminent domain abuses with Google maps to create a nifty, though dismal, map of eminent domain abuses. View the entire U.S. or zoom into a specific state.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:52 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

Bow Tie Blog

Bill Kenerson, of Beau Ties Ltd, has started a blog. Among his first offerings are a post on Tucker Carlson's giving up bow ties and a post that CSI will feature his ties in an upcoming episode.

Here (scroll down) is a picture of Pee Wee wearing one of Bill's bows. I think it was the first time that my wife left me and the little guy home alone.

If only Bill would create the Adam Smith bowtie. Or maybe the supply-and-demand bow tie.

Ht: Mini Me

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 03:05 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

April 19, 2006
Thanks, Mike and Congratulations, John

Thanks to co-blogger Mike DeBow for speaking at Berry's ODE induction and awards dinner last week.

Congratulations to my grad school colleague John Dawson for earning promotion and tenure at Appalachian State. Well deserved!

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 02:56 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

April 12, 2006
Oprah on Wealth

In the news:

Winfrey, 52, who is reportedly worth more than $1 billion, said she doesn't feel guilty about her wealth. "I was coming back from Africa on one of my trips," she said. "I had taken one of my wealthy friends with me. She said, 'Don't you just feel guilty? Don't you just feel terrible?' I said, 'No, I don't. I do not know how me being destitute is going to help them.' Then I said when we got home, 'I'm going home to sleep on my Pratesi sheets right now and I'll feel good about it.' "

The talk-show host also discussed an academy for girls that she's building in South Africa. "I want to offer opportunities to girls who have nothing but the will to learn," she said. "I'm going to be opening my school on January 2, and it will be one of the great days of my life to see 450 girls, most of them orphans who would not have had the opportunity for education in their lives, come to school."

Comments are open.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 03:14 PM in Misc.  ·  Comments (0)  ·  TrackBack (0)

April 07, 2006
A worthy cause c. 1906

Co-blogger Frank Stephenson enjoys the view of one of the most beautiful campuses in the world at Berry College. Berry has one of the largest endowments in all of U.S. higher education, but such was not always the case.

An article in the April 8, 1906 NYT describes what was to become Berry College:

Miss Martha Berry, founder and Director of the Boys' Industrial School at Rome, Ga., is seeking aid in the North for her school. Many persons interested in the education of the poor whites of the South are helping her...The school has no endowment fund, and as each...boy is boarded, clothed, taught a trade for $50 a year, the necessity of asking financial aid is obvious.

Applying solid ex post analysis, I would say that Martha Berry's cause was worthwhile, but who knew in 1906?

Posted by Craig Depken at 08:59 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

April 06, 2006
Berry Grads Place in Morley Competition

Earlier I noted that my former students John Coleman and Dan Alban were finalists in the Felix Morley Journalism Competition. The winners have been announced and both have placed--John as a runner up and Dan as an honorable mention. Dan--glad to see you've become a bow tie aficionado; John--the thank you on your blog is far too generous.

While I'm talking up the accomplishments of Berry grads, I should also mention the bang up presentations of Mike Hammock and Andrew Chupp at the Association of Private Enterprise Education meetings in Vegas.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:36 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

March 29, 2006
Good Bye Mike's Beer Barn

FSU alumni mourn the loss of an institution.

Hoist a beer in a farewell toast: Mike's Beer Barn has closed.

A Tallahassee landmark for 50 years at Tennessee and Copeland streets across from Florida State, the Beer Barn was closed March 19 by founder and owner Mike Norman.

Posted by Robert Lawson at 03:50 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

March 17, 2006
More evidence for private- or home-schooling

Thanks to Craig for his link to Stossel's program. I watched it last Friday sitting in my massage chair.

If you needed more evidence on where to send your kids, there is this story from CNN.com today. For a fee and to maintain their teaching licenses, some Miami-Dade teachers paid to get credit for courses they never took. The scammer "pleaded guilty to fraud in November, admitting he did little more than sell transcripts, requiring no tests, homework or other academic work." Hmm, some of my students put in the same amount of effort.

But this was the best:

On Wednesday, dozens of students and parents defended the teachers who lost their jobs, saying that removing them in the middle of the school year would be too disruptive. Board member Evelyn Greer, who voted against the firings, agreed. "It baffles me, just baffles me, to have disruptions at the class level," Greer said.

So you would rather your child, or the children in your district, be taught by a fraud? Aside from teachers' unions, government monopolies, and poor teachers' colleges, part of the problem with public schools (and the reason why I transferred to a Catholic high school my junior year) are the fellow students, their parents, teachers, and administrators more interested in pep rallies than college prep.

Posted by Tim Shaughnessy at 01:02 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

March 14, 2006
New Blogger

Micheal DeBow, a professor at Samford's Cumberland School of Law, is our newest partner in crime. He'll continue posting at Southern Appeal and he'll continue to maintain his fantastic page of law and economics links. Welcome, Mike!

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:28 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

March 13, 2006
Potato Chip of the Month Club?
Anchor O'Reilly has tasted each and every one of his products. That's the nom de crisp and fictional alter ego of Ned Coyle, a Toledo-based web entrepreneur who founded the Chip of the Month Club with his wife Therese in 1999.*

* Laura Taxel, "Hometown Chips," Ohio Magazine, March 2006.

The article briefly mentions the founding of the Ohio Potato Chip Institute in Cleveland in 1931 which eventually became the National Potato Chip Institute in 1937, and then the Snack Food Association in 1978. I wonder what sort of interest-group activity they were involved in?

Posted by Joshua Hall at 09:56 AM in Misc.

March 07, 2006
Too Much Outback

As reported a few months ago, American obesity is causing drug injections to miss their mark. Now we learn that Aussies are also having obesity problems:

Believing toilet seats are no longer able to handle our growing love handles, Standards Australia has begun a review and expects to make changes including "an increase in the strength of toilet seats to accommodate the increasing size of humans".

It's expected the new standard will cater for a 150kg person – of which there are more and more every day.

A member of the Standards Australia review committee, Steve Cummings, head of research and development for toilet maker Caroma Dorf, said toilet seats currently only had to withstand 45kg.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:20 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

March 06, 2006
Ideas, David Friedman's blog

David Friedman has a pretty new blog, called simply Ideas, which spans a breadth of legal and current affairs topics (including literature, I'm looking forward to reading David's new fantasy novel Harald) through a number of interesting thought puzzles. Here is one example.

An Athenian Puzzle:

The ancient Athenians had a very straightforward approach to the problem of funding government expenditures. If you were one of the richest Athenians, every other year you had to pay for something—sponsor Athens' team at the Olympics, pay all (later part) of the cost of the one of the triremes in the Athenian fleet, or the like.

If you were selected for such a task—called a liturgy—there were two ways of getting out of it. One was to show that you had already been assigned a liturgy for this year or had done one in the previous year. The other was to show that there was another Athenian, richer than you, who had not been assigned a liturgy either this year or last—and who should therefore do yours.

That raised an obvious problem. In a society without an IRS, without accounting, without modern banking and financial records, how do you prove that another Athenian is richer than you are?

I will give one hint to the answer: It was obviously invented, not by an accountant, but by an economist. Possibly a mad economist.

David was nice enough to come guest lecture at my Law and Econ seminar last week, and one of my students nailed the answer. Have a look at Ideas for answer(s) and discussion. Another puzzle I found interesting is on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 05:33 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

Paglia on Summers

In today's NYT Camille Paglia offers her take on Larry Summers leaving Harvard; an excerpt:

Over the last three decades of trendy poststructuralism and
postmodernism, American humanities professors fell under the sway of a
ruthless guild mentality. Corruption and cronyism became systemic,
spread by the ostentatious conference circuit and the new humanities
centers of the 1980's. Harvard did not begin that blight but became an
extreme example of it. Amid the ruins of the Summers presidency, there
is a tremendous opportunity for recovery and renewal of the humanities.
Which way will Harvard go?

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:35 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

Good Grief

This just has to be something from the Onion--even the most ardent nanny-staters couldn't be this self-parodying:

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- The City Council is considering a local law to require coat hooks in all public bathrooms.

The council's Ordinance Committee has endorsed a proposal from City Councilman Keith Rodgerson requiring restaurants, gas stations, stores and other public accommodations in the city to have coat hooks.

The full story is here; apparently it is real.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:07 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

February 28, 2006
Chubby Chinese Canines

Yahoo News reports that China now has specially designed treadmills for overweight dogs. Perhaps Morgan Spurlock (of Supersize Me) could eat Chow Chow chow for a month and see what happens to his weight.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:22 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

February 21, 2006
Congratulations to John and Dan

I'm beaming like a proud pappa tonight--not one, but two of my former students, Dan Alban and John Coleman, are finalists in the IHS Felix Morley Journalism Competition. Coleman was an honorable mention in last year's contest.

Good work gents!

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:43 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

February 20, 2006
An idea for those old books?

I am not exactly sure where I come down on this one, but my first impression is that if you participate in this effort you are not violating any libertarian principles (although I could be wrong):

The New Orleans Public Library is asking for any and all hardcover and paperback books for people of all ages in an effort to restock the shelves after Katrina.

Posted by Craig Depken at 03:20 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

February 19, 2006
For the distance runners out there

Including DOL's own Robert Lawson and local colleague Courtney LaFountain, from the Feb. 19, 1906 NYT:

Having completed 47,888 miles of the 60,000 which he is attempting to walk in seven years, and having already worn out thirty-seven pairs of boots on his journey, a septuagenarian engineer named Mark All arrived at Leicester Feb. 3.

Wow. That's a testimony to 1906 manufacturing: 1294 miles per pair of boots! I wonder what mileage distance runners get from today's running shoes?

Posted by Craig Depken at 10:55 PM in Misc.  ·  Comments (1)  ·  TrackBack (0)

February 16, 2006
Grade Inflation

There's been a pretty big hubbub on my campus about grade inflation after it was revealed in the student newspaper that about 45% of the grades in the College of Arts & Sciences were A or A-. B's (including B+ and B-) were about 30%. C's were only about 14%. D's less than 5%. And F's less than 5%.

As usual, the economics department, like William F. Buckley, is "standing athwart history, yelling stop".


Even this is too many A's imo. We're going to have to work on that.

Posted by Robert Lawson at 01:41 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

February 14, 2006
"The Land of 10,770 Empty FEMA Trailers"

That's the headline of a story in the LA Times. An excerpt:

Today, legions of wide-bodied mobile homes sit empty at Hope's [Arkansas] Municipal Airport, a sprawling former military base. After all these months, storm victims can't seem to get the trailers, which are proving a mixed blessing to Hope and Arkansas.

"It just boggles the mind in this day and time," said Mark Keith, director of the Hope-Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce. "There are 10,770 trailers at Hope Airport. That's one for every man, woman and child in Hope, with a few left over to send to Emmet, down the road." ...

Why haven't the trailers been sent to those who need them?

Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), a graduate of Hope High School, asked that question as he toured the airport Thursday with FEMA officials. "It cost $431 million and they're all sitting there, 75% of them literally parked in a cow pasture," Ross said in a telephone interview. "They are brand-new, all totally furnished, and yet people have been living in tents for five months in a row. It just makes you sick to your stomach."

FEMA says it has been stymied by federal regulations, such as one forbidding trailers to be positioned in flood plains — which rules out much of the area hit by Katrina — and by officials in Louisiana, where the need is greatest.

"It's amazing that every state in the union embraced Katrina evacuees except the folks in Louisiana," FEMA spokeswoman Nicol Andrews said.

It boggles the mind to think that Paul Krugman would like the same governmental central planning that plopped 10,000 trailers down in Arkansas to oversee people's medical decisions.

While we're on Katrina and FEMA, the WaPo reports on the staggering amount of fraud in FEMA's relief spending. Again, how could any rational person think that the government's response to Katrina means we need more government rather than less?

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:38 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

February 12, 2006
God's Gift to Jay Leno

VP Cheney accidentally shot a hunting companion yesterday; the incident will be a ripe target for late night comedians. Look, too, for editorial cartoonists depicting Cheney as Elmer Fudd. The victim, who apparently will recover, is a lawyer--perhaps providing even more (ahem) ammo for the comedians.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 05:30 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

January 26, 2006
Time waster

Torus Trooper is a pretty cool game. I score a lot of points even though I am not exactly sure what I am doing.

However, it is the type of game you should have on your laptop. On a plane, I can imagine it would get a little bit more attention than Freecell.

Posted by Craig Depken at 08:07 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

80's Arcade

More time wasters : PACMAN / DONKEY KONG / ASTEROIDS / FROGGER / SPACE INVADERS / and more...

Ah, the nostalgia. These take me right back to junior high... (Yikes! What a horrible memory. Junior high sucked.)

Posted by Robert Lawson at 08:31 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

January 25, 2006
Time waster

Tank Wars ala Atari 2600.

Oh, the memories.

Posted by Craig Depken at 10:36 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

January 22, 2006
And for my next trick…

After joining the DoL gang late last November, I quickly went on a 40+ day hiatus to travel and hang out with my fiancée in Texas. Now that the semester brings me back to reality (and, perhaps mutually exclusively, to California), I will now do a reappearing act. Topics for near future posts: housing prices in Silicon Valley, a series of on public choice, congressional reform, marijuana decrim., and Mozart. Good to be back.

Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 02:54 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

January 21, 2006
Reporters Who Need "The Diff"

A couple of examples from an article about innumerate reporters:

5. College grades carry the most weight, making up 56% of the final score. Fourteen percent is composed of test scores, recommendations and activities. The final 29% comes from 10 other criteria.

10. Chipper Jones is batting just .176 in 85 at-bats with the Braves. But he has had more success as a pinch hitter, with five hits in 30 at-bats, including one that clinched a playoff spot.

For background on "The Diff," click here.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:45 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

It Must Be Somewhere Around Here

A news item:

MADRID: Spain's most important modern art museum has confessed it has lost a 38-tonne sculpture by the prestigious American artist Richard Serra.

HT: Wilson

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 03:52 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

January 20, 2006
Fun Friday Newsday

More stuff from news websites. The local dogtrainer tells us that the Lousiana Supreme Court has upheld a Caddo Parish (Shreveport) ban on cockfighting. This article is replete with hilarious lines.
--"Since Louisiana law has nothing to say about cockfighting, Caddo Parish is free to ban it, the state Supreme Court said." It probably doesn't say anything about blogging either; can the parish ban that too?
--"Though Louisiana has no law for or against cockfights, its animal cruelty law states that...fowl are not animals." They'd have to be vegetables or minerals then.
--quotes from Caddo's Sheriff: "In south Louisiana, [cockfighting is] pretty much culture." But all cultures are equally deserving of respect.

I'm too lazy to check the archives, but I'm sure the "academic bill of rights" has been discussed here. CNN.com has a story about the latest developments. Count me as one who, though with vast experience of Marxism from college professors, is skeptical of such a bill. Too much potential for unintended consequences, IMHO.
"...the document exhorts professors to present a wide spectrum of intellectual views in the classroom." Like in math classes? The conservative vs. liberal position on whether water really has two hydrogen atoms? Of course, Horowitz wants his bill to encourage conservative opinion in class, but since most of my off-the-cuff remarks are libertarian, would not a student have just cause under this bill of rights to take action against me for not espousing the liberal views Horowitz wants to counteract?

Posted by Tim Shaughnessy at 02:34 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

The Age of Reagan turns 25

Today marks the 25th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's inauguration as President. Drink a toast to the Gipper!

Posted by Brad Smith at 01:52 AM in Misc. ~ in Politics  ·  TrackBack (0)

January 19, 2006
Heck - it's free!


I don't know, they push advertising while you are on hold so TANSTAAFL.

Posted by Craig Depken at 12:51 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

January 17, 2006
Nagin and Robertson

Pat Robertson was widely (and, in my view, appropriately) criticized for his claim that Sharon's stroke was God's retribution for dividing Israel. Apparently New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is a Robertson acolyte, for he now thinks hurricanes are an indication of God's unhappiness with the U.S. An excerpt from the AJC:

NEW ORLEANS — Mayor Ray Nagin suggested Monday that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and other storms were a sign that "God is mad at America" and at black communities, too, for tearing themselves apart with violence and political infighting.

"Surely God is mad at America. He sent us hurricane after hurricane after hurricane, and it's destroyed and put stress on this country," Nagin, who is black, said as he and other city leaders marked Martin Luther King Day.

"Surely he doesn't approve of us being in Iraq under false pretenses. But surely he is upset at black America also. We're not taking care of ourselves."

Nagin also promised that New Orleans will be a "chocolate" city again. Many of the city's black neighborhoods were heavily damaged by Katrina.

"It's time for us to come together. It's time for us to rebuild New Orleans — the one that should be a chocolate New Orleans," the mayor said. "This city will be a majority African American city. It's the way God wants it to be. You can't have New Orleans no other way. It wouldn't be New Orleans."

Here's a quick test for anyone who doesn't think the U.S. media have a leftist bias. Compare the number of hostile editorials and cartoons that blasted Robertson to those that criticize Nagin. The former will no doubt outnumber the latter.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:56 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

January 13, 2006
The Week's Most Important Event

The most important event of the week has gone all but unnoted in the blogosphere.

In 1875, prohibitionists blew up the last saloon in Westerville, Ohio. The owner attempted to reopen his saloon four years later, and that was dynamited, too. Westerville has been dry ever since.

Until yesterday, when Michael's Pizza owner Michael Evans served up a beer to local jewler Bill Morgan. Last November, Westerville, once known as "the Dry Capital of the World," headquarters of the Anti-saloon League beginning in 1909, voted to allow two establishments to sell beer and wine. Evans auctioned off the first legal beer sold in town in 130 years to Morgan, who paid $150 for the drink (Evans donated the proceeds to local charity).

One small step for freedom; one giant leap for beer. (Sorry, couldn't come up with anything more inspiring.)

Posted by Brad Smith at 09:10 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

January 12, 2006
A TEL for GA? Now, More than Ever

Last year, I wrote an article for the GA Public Policy Foundation and testified before a GA legislative hearing in favor of a tax-expenditure limitation for the state of Georgia. (Some details are here.)

Today's AJC reports:

Gov. Sonny Perdue, heading into an election year armed with rising state revenues, proposed a voter-friendly budget Wednesday that contains millions for school construction, a child-care tax credit for families and even gift cards for teachers.

The record $18.6 billion spending bill for the upcoming fiscal year — $1.2 billion higher than this year's — also would pay for more prison beds, fund broadband Internet access in rural areas and hand the state's 100,000 teachers a 4 percent pay raise.

Too bad there isn't a TEL in place to prevent Gov. Perdue from using the state fisc as though it is his own private vote-buying fund.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:40 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

January 05, 2006
Academic Conferences: Is this Session Worth Attending?

Professor Lawson claims to be at something called the AEA conference, which I assume is the Association of Enterprising Astronauts or some such thing. I'm at an academic conference myself - the AALS, or Association of American Law Schools. Sadly (fortunately?) few of the sessions are of interest to me, personally or professionally.

Is this one worth attending?:

Section on Scholarship:
Blogging: Scholarship or Distraction?

Is there a correct answer?

Posted by Brad Smith at 05:32 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

January 04, 2006
The Value of Political Connections

About a week before Christmas, a plane carrying a Rome insurance broker, his daughter, and two of the daughter's friends went down off the coast of Florida while en route to the Bahamas. One girl survived and another was found dead in the water, but the pilot and his daughter were not found until earlier this week when a shrimp boat snagged the submerged plane.

I'm bothered by the federal government's disparate treatment of this accident and the fairly similar loss of JFK, Jr and two passengers in 1999. In the Kennedy crash, the federal government sent Coast Guard and Navy vessels to aid in the search. A remote operated vehicle from the USS Grasp actually found the Kennedy plane. In contrast, the Coast Guard aided in the current search for about two days but suspended its involvement once hope of recovering the pilot and his daughter alive faded. And, unlike the Kennedy crash, no Navy vessels with underwater gizmos were used in this search. Perhaps there's a good reason--maybe the depth of the crash sites or the need to keep spectators away from the Kennedy crash--for the disparate treatment, but the difference reeks of political cronyism. Meanwhile a good family has its agony prolonged.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:43 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

Catching Up/Detroit/Undercover Economist

I'm back from a week in Michigan and, like Bob, will be in Boston this weekend for the AEA meetings. The weather in Michigan was unseasonably warm and rainy so Pee Wee got little time playing in the snow.

A highlight of the trip was catching the Redwings 5-2 victory over Columbus on New Year's Eve. I'm not enough of a hockey fan to comment on the new rules vs. the old rules, but the game featured lots of offensive excitement. Detroit fans apparently have a grudge against former Wing Sergei Fedorov--he was booed each time he touched the puck. Detroit fans must have been especially happy that Fedorov's two penalties led to Redwing goals. A quick glance through the program revealed that many Redwings are at least 35 years of age--I wondered if this indicated that hockey players peak at a later age than players of other sports (e.g., late 20s for baseball) or if the Wings are an unusually experienced hockey club.

Returning to my buddy Phil's house after the game, we took some surface streets through Detroit. The contrast between the rot of Detroit and the normalcy of neighboring cities is a vivid example of the principle that institutions matter. Many blocks in Detroit had only a few buildings standing and vacant lots where previous buildings had been removed. Other blocks weren't so lucky--they had a few occupied buildings in decent condition surrounded by boarded up or crumbing buildings.

A final note on Detroit--skip Elmore Leonard's latest Detroit crime book Mr. Paradise. Having finished The Undercover Economist and wanting some airport reading (good thing since I had a 2 hour flight delay), I picked up a copy at a discount bookstore. Leonard has a reputation as a leading writer of detective fiction but I found Mr. Paradise to have a thin plot, little suspense, unbelievable characters, and sketchy writing.

ADDENDUM: A quick review of The Undercover Economist. It's a lively introduction to economic thinking; it would serve as a good complement to or replacement for a traditional text in a principles course. The book is generally sympathetic to markets/liberty and has a good chapter on the importance of institutions (see Detroit above). On the other hand, there is some tripe about "trying to balance the excesses of competitive markets" (p. 74), some dubious statistics (p. 76--25,000 UK seniors die in a typical winter because of inadequate heating), and an overly accepting view of market failures. For example, I think Harford should buttress his discussion of asymmetric information and lemons (chapter 5) with a discussion of how people often find clever ways (warranties, certification) around such difficulties. I also think he should mention that government is the source of many "market failures"--for example, he thinks that health savings accounts would be preferable to current health insurance schemes but doesn't realize that government tax policy has steered people away from HSAs.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:10 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

December 22, 2005
Reporters in Need of "The Diff"

From today's WSJ "Best of the Web Today":

Something is wrong with the arithmetic in this dispatch from Reuters:

President George W. Bush ranks as the least popular and most bellicose of the last ten U.S. presidents, according to a new survey.

Only nine percent of the 662 people polled picked Bush as their favorite among the last 10 presidents. John F. Kennedy topped that part of the survey, with 26 percent, closely followed by Bill Clinton (25 percent) and Ronald Reagan (23 percent).

So let's see if we have this straight: these four presidents combined account for 26% (JFK) plus 23% (Reagan) plus 25% (Clinton) plus 9% (Bush). That's a total of 83%.

Therefore a total of 17% of those surveyed picked one of the remaining six presidents--or, to put it another way, those six presidents scored an average of 2.83%. It's conceivable that one of the six bested Bush's 9%--but no more than one of them could have, which means Bush is at least the fifth most popular of the 10 most recent presidents.

For more on The Diff click here.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:25 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

College Students Need "The Diff" Too

A few years back the student government association of NC State staged a protest over a proposed tuition hike. One protester is in the right-hand photo here; apparently she also needs The Diff.

Bonus coverage: The student in the left-hand photo (apparently taken at UNC-CH with the "Old Well" in the background) needs a spellchecker.

HT: Jon Sanders

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 04:28 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

December 20, 2005
Someone Who Needs "The Diff"

The WSJ's "Best of the Web Today" reprints this post from the left-wing fever swamp DemocraticUnderground (I won't provide a link):

I would dare to assume that most of us here are in the upper 1%-20% of the population intelligence-wise. We must come to the realization that the majority of the population is in the lower 80% to 99% percent of the bell-curve. WE are not the norm. The Republicans understand that the average American is not very bright. They cater and pander to the masses. The Democratic Party tries to appeal to the population about "issues" that these people just don't understand.

The poster must be the target audience for The Diff.

NB: Expect little, if any, blogging from me over the next 2-3 weeks. After hosting my parents, siblings, etc this weekend, I'm off to spend next week in northern Michigan with the in-laws. (This thin-blooded Southerner will be planted close to the fireplace reading The Undercover Economist.) Then it's on the AEA meetings in Boston. Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays to all readers and co-bloggers.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:19 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

December 16, 2005
Perhaps a little late

SmartStuff is a pretty cool website with interesting and clever products. Kinda like Sharper Image but perhaps higher quality?

Perhaps a little late for this Christmas season, although for a price perhaps anything can be delivered?

Posted by Craig Depken at 09:11 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

Does PETA Have a Tokyo Chapter?

A news headline (via Drudge):

30 decapitated dog heads found in Tokyo moat

Gruesome details here; no apparent link to PETA.

While we're on PETA, the two PETA workers who were killing and dumping kitties in the rural NC county where I grew up have now been charged with 25 felony counts:

WINTON, N.C. — The cats and dogs two PETA employees have been charged with euthanizing and dumping in an Ahoskie garbage bin were killed by injections of pentobarbital, a barbiturate commonly used to put down animals, according to new warrants issued and served on Friday.

Additionally, the two employees were charged with three felony counts of obtaining property by false pretenses. The charges allege that they euthanized three cats from an Ahoskie veterinarian after promising to find the animals new homes, according to the new warrants.

PETA employees Andrew B. Cook, 24, of Virginia Beach, and Adria J. Hinkle, 27, of Norfolk, were served with warrants on 22 felony charges of animal cruelty and the three felony charges of obtaining property by false pretense in court on Friday.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 12:42 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

Illiteracy and Innumeracy

George Leef links to a study finding that literacy among Americans continues to decline.

Americans might also be struggling with numeracy. Case in point--the new scoreboard at the Cleveland Cavaliers' arena. From a recent news article:

On the scoreboard at The Q, the Cavs' score was on the left, the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets' score was on the right, and beneath it was "The Diff." As in Cavs 109, Hornets 87, The Diff +22.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 12:35 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

December 15, 2005
"Environmentalism is collectivism in drag"

So says George Will in his column today. Actually, I think he's a bit wrong. I fail to see the "in drag" part--environmentalism is flat out collectivism. An excerpt from Will's column:

Few opponents of energy development in what they call "pristine" ANWR have visited it. Those who have and who think it is "pristine" must have visited during the 56 days a year when it is without sunlight. They missed the roads, stores, houses, military installations, airstrip and school. They did not miss seeing the trees in area 1002. There are no trees.

Opponents worry that the caribou will be disconsolate about, and their reproduction disrupted by, this intrusion by man. The same was said 30 years ago by opponents of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, which brings heated oil south from Prudhoe Bay. Since the oil began flowing, the caribou have increased from 5,000 to 31,000. Perhaps the pipeline's heat makes them amorous.

Ice roads and helicopter pads, which will melt each spring, will minimize man's footprint, which will be on a 2,000-acre plot about one-fifth the size of Dulles Airport. Nevertheless, opponents say the environmental cost is too high for what the ineffable John Kerry calls "a few drops of oil." Some drops. The estimated 10.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil -- such estimates frequently underestimate actual yields -- could supply all the oil needs of Kerry's Massachusetts for 75 years.

Two thousand acres is roughly one-fourteenth the size of my college's campus and a postage stamp size parcel in the vastness of ANWR. Supposing that enviros are correct that drilling would trash the 2,000 acres, this seems like a minor cost relative to the millions of barrels of oil.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:20 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

Markets in Everything--Proposal Gals

Today's AJC has good news for the romantically-challenged:

They draw red hearts out of rose petals. They light aromatherapy candles, chill champagne and sprinkle chocolates around the room.

They set the mood — for someone else.

Staffers at Château Élan don't actually pop the question, but they sometimes get close to getting down on one knee.

"Once, we text-messaged, 'Your bubble bath is ready,' " said Château Élan guest "experience" coordinator Jamie Shelton, also known as one of the "Proposal Gals." "We were in the hallway during the proposal. We never get to be in the room."

Increasingly, men are calling upon professionals to give their proposal a bit of bling. Long considered private and low-key, megawatt proposals are spawning a new industry of advisers — they choose rings, pluck flowers, release doves and even schedule the timing of the engagement.

HT to MR for the Markets in Everything concept.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:05 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

December 12, 2005
It’s for your sake, not for the sake of your beliefs

In the name of seeking “the speedy recovery of ailing Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan” (the world’s most popular actor, whose recent hospitalization we noted here), members of the political Samjwadi Party sacrificed two buffaloes in a temple in Assam, India.

Irony: Bachchan is an ambassador for People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

Posted by Lawrence H. White at 11:52 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

Possible typo?

From one of Drudge's links about the fuel depot explosion in England was this snippet:

More than 60 billion gallons of fuel erupted in a ball of flames hundreds of feet in the sky, creating an acrid cloud of smoke which is stretching for miles and moving south-eastwards. [emphasis added]

60 billion gallons? The U.S. uses 320,500,000 gallons per day (at least according to this site), so the 60 billion number would be about 180 or so days of U.S. consumption - a fuel depot that big in England? I've been there - I'm not sure there's anything that big in England.

Another story claims "[i]n total, 20 petrol tanks were involved, each said to hold three million gallons of fuel." That sounds a little more reasonable.

Oh well, millions or billions - what's the diff?

Posted by Craig Depken at 12:27 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

December 10, 2005
It's the most wonderful time of the academic year...

I have an e-stack of 75 term papers that I'm avoiding like Vince Young does tacklers. But I am reminded that reading term papers is a privilege. Below is from a friend who teaches at a large state university (not SJSU).

Dear Econ colleagues: I am sure that some of you have plenty of spare
time to help me grade term papers. I am having difficulty grading some
of the following sentences:

"Climate conditions are extremely venerable to tipping the production
yields of all industries..."

"We will experience the effects threw our physical health becoming
poorer to the ascetic changes in our environments."

"Recycling one aluminum can will save 95% of energy rather than
extracting aluminum from a bauxite ore. This amount of energy saved can
light the city of Pittsburgh for six years." How big is this can you
might wonder?????....

Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 02:47 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

December 08, 2005
The newest variety of Coke

Chocolate Coke, as I predicted? No, coffee-infused “Coca Cola Blak”. (Hat tip: Juan Non-Volokh at the Volokh Conspiracy.)

Posted by Lawrence H. White at 04:57 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

December 04, 2005

The implosion of the tallest building in South Dakota didn't come off quite as planned. The job will be finished by the wrecking ball.

Posted by Craig Depken at 09:48 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

November 29, 2005
Time to Hit the Treadmill

A news item:

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Fatter rear ends are causing many drug injections to miss their mark, requiring longer needles to reach buttock muscle, researchers said on Monday.

Standard-sized needles failed to reach the buttock muscle in 23 out of 25 women whose rears were examined after what was supposed to be an intramuscular injection of a drug.

Two-thirds of the 50 patients in the study did not receive the full dosage of the drug, which instead lodged in the fat tissue of their buttocks, researchers from The Adelaide and Meath Hospital in Dublin said in a presentation to the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:39 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

November 21, 2005
Books Bound in Human Skin

My former student Dan Alban has a nifty--assuming there can actually be such a thing--article on books bound in human skin. The article is well written and (perhaps too) thoroughly researched.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 12:45 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

November 10, 2005
Fowl Play?

One of two full-size Chick-fil-A cows has been swiped off a 50-foot-high billboard overlooking Interstate 464 in northern Chesapeake [Virginia].

Workers for Adams Outdoor Advertising noticed the 500-pound fiberglass cow missing Tuesday. It’s the first time Chick-fil-A has lost a local cow, but about a dozen have been heisted elsewhere. Ransom demands and mysterious “moo ” phone calls have sometimes followed. So far, there’s been no word of such activity here.

“It’s kind of funny,” said Chick-fil-A’s Mark Baldwin, “but it’s still a crime.”

The black-and-white cows cost $3,200 – which makes stealing them a felony. The law has been notified and will be on the trail. A reward is being offered for the cow’s safe return – a year’s worth of free chicken sandwiches. Tipsters are asked to call (757) 382-6161.

Story here.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 12:04 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

November 07, 2005
Cloudland Canyon

Georgia has had a beautiful, albeit a bit too dry, fall, and this past weekend was exceptionally pleasant. Trying to strike one more of those "we should have done this sooner" items off the list of north Georgia attractions, the Stephensons spent part of yesterday leaf-peeping and hiking at Cloudland Canyon park. The views and color were spectacular; an early fall photo and general park info are available here. The only drawback--the dry fall has reduced the park's two waterfalls to mere trickles (photo here; scroll down).

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:55 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

Selling Land on the Moon

A Chinese company has had its license suspended after it tried to make money by selling land on the moon.

The Beijing Lunar Village Aeronautics Science and Technology Co. managed to sell large swathes of pristine lunar property before being shut down, the state -owned Xinhua news agency reported on Monday.

Talk about markets in everything (though perhaps scams in everything would be more appropriate). Complete story here.

HT: Drudge

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:39 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

November 04, 2005
Classroom Tyranny

Levitt & Dubner's blog posts an email from a student who got kicked out of class for citing the research on abortion and crime.

Coincidentally, my law and econ students and I were discussing the same topic in class yesterday. (I use the paper in class and had just returned an exam with an abortion and crime question.) We were wondering aloud if one could further test the abortion-crime connection by looking at the public funding of abortion. Federal funding is generally prohibited by the Hyde Amendment, but, although I don't have precise details, I think there is (or used to be) public funding via Medicaid and that the funding varies by state and over time. Since the people who receive funding might well be folks who, in the absence of public funding, were the most likely to have "unwanted kids," it seems that examing the effect of eliminating public funding has on abortion rates and subsequent crime rates might be an especially useful way of testing the abortion-crime connection.

BTW, nothing in the previous paragraph should be taken I am pro-abortion or that I favor public funding of abortion. Doing so would be wrong on both counts.

ADDENDUM: For a different flavor of classroom tyranny, check out some of the exam questions that Jon Sanders has posted here (and the links contained therein).

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:52 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

November 03, 2005
Extended Fall Break at UGA

From today's AJC:

ATHENS — Some University of Georgia students might have gotten an extra day in the sun last week, but it's the university's administrators who are burning over faculty decisions to cancel classes the day before fall break.

UGA Provost Arnett Mace sent out a firm edict this week to university deans to canvass their faculty and see how many called off Wednesday classes in anticipation of the two-day break and the annual Georgia-Florida football game in Jacksonville last weekend.

Some couldn't resist poking fun at the issue. In an e-mail to faculty members asking whether they had canceled classes, one dean compared Mace to Dean Wormer, the malevolent presence at the fictitious Faber College in the movie "Animal House."

"There is something in his request that has that 'Animal House' flavor," the dean wrote, knowing that faculty would bristle at the directive. "Remember, Dean Wormer?"

Hmmm ... I bet that dean is now on double secret probation.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:38 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

November 02, 2005
Man Kills Buck With Bare Hands in Bedroom

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — For 40 exhausting minutes, Wayne Goldsberry battled a buck with his bare hands in his daughter's bedroom.

Goldsberry finally subdued the five-point whitetail deer that crashed through a bedroom window at his daughter's home Friday. When it was over, blood splattered the walls and the deer lay dead on the bedroom floor, its neck broken.

Full story here.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:32 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

November 01, 2005
Incentive compatibility

A veteran of the First World War, now 109 years old, remembers:

As mechanics, we had to keep the aircraft flying using anything we could. The pilots liked to take their mechanics up in the plane with them, because that way they knew the mechanics would service the plane properly. I used to sit behind the pilot and drop out bombs.

The WWI vets' reminiscences in their entirety are haunting. (Hat tip: Mark Brady at Liberty and Power.)

On the subject of WWI, I recommend the French film A Very Long Engagement (2004), now available on DVD. Part of the plot turns on another strategic issue: how the French army dealt with soldiers who shot themselves (or invited the enemy to shoot them) in the hand in an attempt to get sent home.

Posted by Lawrence H. White at 04:12 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

October 28, 2005
K. G. Mungowitz to talk at Capital U.

“Why Democracy is Overrated”
Michael C. Munger
Professor and Department Chair, Political Science
Duke University
Monday, November 7, 2005
5:30 p.m., Bridge of Learning (LC 260)

Suggested popular writings by Michael C. Munger:
Everybody Loves Mikey
The Thing Itself
Democracy is a Means Not an End
Tragedy of the Malecon: Is Cuba “Domestic” Politics?

Posted by Robert Lawson at 10:51 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

Thanks JC/Name Game

1. I spent Wednesday visiting John Charles Bradbury and his students at Sewanee. I had a fabulous time and even got to see the Adam Smith stained glass window in Sewanee's chapel. Thanks for your hospitality, JC.

2. My turn on the name game. There are Frank Stephensons who:

--designed the Mini (and moved on to Ferrari/Maserati and now Fiat)

--is a print technician at Oaklands College UK

--is a senior technical manager at Applied Biosystems

--is editor of FSU's Research in Review

--is the author of the novel "An Unlikely Journey"

--is director of the Stevenson School's annual fund (Not only does a Stephenson direct the Stevenson School's annual fund, it also has a (Ron) Provost as its dean of students.)

--is a Joel Chandler Harris scholar.

--was [thanks Larry] a cricket player in India

--is my dad and was a guest on Michael Feldman's NPR program to discuss his "Great American Chitlin Cookbook" (BTW, I don't eat chitlins and fortunately they were hardly ever served when I was a child.)

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:18 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

October 25, 2005
It ain't me, babe

A British comic named Dave Gorman had a mildly amusing TV series where he just traveled around the UK meeting other people named Dave Gorman.

I’d have an even easier time than Dave. Among the other Larry Whites out there that I’m not:

● The NYU business school economist (back when we were both at NYU, we used to trade mail and phone messages frequently)

● The past president of the Interscholastic Sailing Association and recipient of US Sailing’s Nathanael G. Herreshoff Trophy

● The University of Alabama’s associate athletic director for media relations

● Singer / songwriter / jazz instrumentalist

Executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

● Founder of Larry White Associates, Inc., a healthcare job-search firm

● The pitcher who had late-season cups of coffee with the LA Dodgers in 1982 and 1983 (although I do have his 1983 Albuqueque baseball card)

Owner of Lo-Lo's Chicken & Waffles in Phoenix, AZ

● The producer of documentaries, including Leona Helmsley - The Queen of Mean

● The poster guy for child support reform

● The gospel singer, founder and president of Larry White Ministries in Saginaw, MI

● The Vermont yoga instructor

If my parents had anticipated Google, they’d have given me a less common name.

Posted by Lawrence H. White at 11:02 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

October 24, 2005
Does he have a hood and robe in his closet?

From a letter in today's AJC (scroll down):

As usual, positives ignored by press

Last Wednesday evening, I was delighted to read on the Internet that Georgia fourth- and eighth-graders had outscored their counterparts in such non-Southern states as Illinois, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Hawaii and Alaska. The next morning I read your article, which I would have headlined by telling of our successes. But that wouldn't be consistent with your agenda, would it?

As a diverse, multicultural state, we will never outscore students in monolithic states such as New Hampshire and North Dakota, where the kids look like they came out of an injection molding machine.

Talk about soft bigotry of low expectations--the writer seems to think that non-whites are incapable of scoring as well as whites. Must have been written by some gap-toothed bubba driving a truck with a gun rack, right? Actually, I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that the writer is a lefty (one clue--the phrase "diverse, multicultural"; another--his residence in Decatur, an overwhelmingly liberal city; another--his sneering at NH and ND). If I'm right, this letter provides a great counterexample to the nauseating moral superiority of leftists.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:39 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

October 21, 2005
More Coffee, Less Crime

I heard this one on Boortz while driving in this morning (excerpted from WaPo):

BLUFFTON, S.C. -- A would-be carjacker got a different kind of jolt from his intended victim's morning cup of coffee, authorities said.

The suspect tapped the car window Wednesday morning with a gun and motioned the driver to get out, Chief Deputy Roy Hughes said.

But the driver _ who had just bought a cup of hot coffee _ slammed the car door into the carjacker's legs, threw the coffee at his neck and face and wrestled him to the ground

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:44 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

October 20, 2005
Help Wanted

Scott Colley, Berry's President, is retiring June 30, 2006 and there is a search underway for his successor. If you know someone who would be a good president of our fair college, drop me an email (I'm on the search committee) or use the nomination link here.

Interested in being my colleague? Berry is also recruiting for a tenure track economics position to replace my retiring colleague Wilson Mixon. The position is rank open. Applied micro folks--Wilson teaches environmental, econometrics, and micro principles--are especially encouraged to apply. The ad, mailing address, etc. are here.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 02:37 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

October 14, 2005
Nude Disco in London

News item (via Drudge):

HUNDREDS of clubbers are descending on the country's only nude disco every Saturday night.

The craze for letting it all hang out on the dancefloor is pulling in punters to South Central in Kennington Lane.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 04:24 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

Iraqi Nose Jobs

From NPR:

[NPR Report Deborah] AMOS: And how should her body be? Just like those singers in the videos. Cosmetic surgery is now a booming business in Baghdad, tummies tucked, noses reshaped. And Wafa Mohammed is not alone.

Ms. MOHAMMED: (Through Translator) The married are encouraged by their husbands and the unmarried that have money, they are encouraged by their family.

AMOS: At the Ferdoz Hospital(ph) in Baghdad, Dr. Riad El Badri(ph), a 34-year-old surgeon, schedules about three cosmetic surgeries a day, a 100 percent increase since before the war. Dr. Badri says Iraqis know just what they want.

Dr. RIAD EL BADRI: Singer or Arab singer, yeah, yeah, like in Nancy Ajram. They come to us and say, `I want the nose of this singer.'

AMOS: Before the war, only the most privileged in Saddam's circles could afford cosmetic surgery. Now it is a middle class luxury, says Dr. Badri. Iraqi salaries are much higher than before the war. The cost of cosmetic surgery is so low, patients from Jordan and Syria risk their lives to come to Baghdad for the service. But Dr. Badri believes Iraqis need it most, the women and the men.

Glass half full: these folks are prosperous enough to afford surgery and apparently not too worried about bombing. Glass half empty: having the motivation for a nose job come from a music video.

Listen to full story here. HT: Wilson Mixon

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:49 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

Hit-and-run victim ends up in a PC trap for calling driver fat

A news item:

AN injured pedestrian has complained that she was ticked off by a police officer for using the word “fat” to describe a hit-and-run motorist.

Mary Magilton, 54, said she was simply trying to give the officer an accurate description of the female driver whose car mounted the pavement and hit her at a busy road junction.

Instead of the officer taking a note of her description, he paused and told her she could not use such language to describe an alleged offender.

HT: Wilson Mixon

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:57 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

October 13, 2005
Are DOLers shooting themselves in the foot?

Well, just the untenured ones?

You don't have to be a David Horowitz follower to know that speech isn't all that free on university campuses. This is usually due to speech codes, but apparently the wrong ideas can also have tenure implications.

My only complaint about my school, which I suppose could hurt my tenure chances, is that the Dean's office has FAR too few days of free cake in the break room. I know, I know, free riding and all.

I'll leave comments open; I'm curious if blogging has similar effects in other industries.

Posted by Tim Shaughnessy at 02:03 PM in Misc.

October 12, 2005
Committing Crime to Get Healthcare

From the Macon Telegraph:

PERRY - If rising health-care expenses have made it too cost-prohibitive for some Middle Georgians to purchase their Prozac prescriptions, there's always one place they can get them for free - in jail.

In fact, medical care at Houston County's detention center is so comprehensive that some inmates actually seek it out, even committing crimes for access to services the jail provides, said Maj. Charles Holt, who oversees day-to-day operations at the facility.

HT: Andrew Roth of Club for Growth blog.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:56 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

October 09, 2005
World Grilled Cheese-Eating Championship

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Ed "Cookie" Jarvis of Long Island, N.Y., clearly won the grilled cheese-eating championship at the Arkansas State Fair on Saturday, stuffing down 19 sandwiches in the 10-minute contest.

Patrick Philbin of Moonachie, N.J., came in second, scarfing down a sandwich-and-a-half less than champion Jarvis.

All six contestants finished without getting sick, said Michael Castellano of the International Federation of Competitive Eating.

Little Rock was the 11th city on the 15-city circuit of the GoldenPalace.com World Grilled Cheese-Eating Championship. GoldenPalace.com, an online casino, and the federation are sponsoring the event.

Story here.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:32 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

October 07, 2005
Sexual Theme Park Coming to London

LONDON — Move over, Eros. Developers announced plans Friday to open a multimillion dollar sexual "theme park" near London's Piccadilly Circus, home to the much-photographed statue of the Greek god of love.

Backers say the London Academy of Sex and Relationships, due to open next spring, will not be a sleazy sex museum, but an educational multimedia attraction that will teach visitors to become better lovers and provide valuable information about disease and sexual problems.

Located within the Trocadero entertainment center — just around the corner from Soho, London's red-light district — the $8.3 million project will feature unspecified "high tech and interactive exhibits."

Story here. Readers can decide for themselves if a theme park of sex makes London more attractive or less attractive as a tourist destination.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:45 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

October 01, 2005
Space Beagle Blog

I'm in Thailand right now for a conference and hope to blog about this later. But for now I thought I'd pass along a plug for a new blog written by a fellow I just met at the conference.

Posted by Robert Lawson at 02:51 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

September 30, 2005
An Islamic guide on how to beat your wife

MADRID -- An imam who wrote a book on how to beat your wife without leaving marks on her body has been ordered by a judge in Spain to study the country's constitution.
The judge told Mohamed Kamal Mustafa, imam of a mosque in the southern resort of Fuengirola, to spend six months studying three articles of the constitution and the universal declaration of human rights.
Mr. Mustafa was sentenced to 15 months in jail and fined about $2,600 last year after being found guilty of inciting violence against women.
A judge released him after 22 days in jail on the condition that he undertake a re-education course.
The Spanish government has set up a commission to find ways for the Muslim community to regulate itself. A central recommendation is that imams speak Spanish and have a basic knowledge of human rights and Spanish law.
In his book "Women in Islam," published four years ago, Mr. Mustafa wrote that verbal warnings followed by a period of sexual inactivity could be used to discipline a disobedient wife.
If that failed, he argued that, according to Islamic law, beatings could be judiciously administered.
"The blows should be concentrated on the hands and feet using a rod that is thin and light so that it does not leave scars or bruises on the body," he wrote.

Barbaric. Full story here; registration required.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:50 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

Another Kid Who Needs a Voucher

Boy Faces Suspension For Bringing Butter Knife To School

HT: Best of the Web Today

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:39 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

Smart beer mat orders refills

A beer mat that knows when a glass is nearly empty and automatically asks for a refill has been created by thirsty researchers in Germany.

Andreas Butz at the University of Munich and Michael Schmitz from Saarland University came up with the idea while out drinking with their students.

The disc-shaped mat can be attached to a normal beer mat so that it still soaks up spilt liquid and displays an advertisement. But it also contains a pressure sensor and radio transmitter to alert bar staff of the need for a refill.

Full story here.

HT Wilson Mixon.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:16 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

More Perdue Gasbaggery

From today's AJC:

With fuel prices climbing again, Gov. Sonny Perdue extended the "state of emergency" Thursday for two weeks to protect drivers from price gouging at the pumps.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:54 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

September 29, 2005
Rita report

I received this interesting e-mail on Wednesday from a friend and I thought I'd pass it along (with permission).

Here is a report from Hurricane Rita ravaged Nacogdoches, TX.

With the pending hurricane, I had the wife and the kids move up to Mom’s home in northern, TX to ride out the storm. The university President cancelled classes Thursday afternoon until they were to restart on the following Tuesday. However, the university would “remain open” and he required all administration and staff to remain on the job throughout the whole period. As an administrator I had to remain here to step in for my boss who was stuck out of town due to the closure of the Houston airport. The hurricane hit on Saturday afternoon, with the eye of the storm passing just 30 miles to the east. Electricity went out for most people in the area early Saturday morning. Water and phone service remained available for most homes within the city throughout the storm, but those living out in the country had neither. Power has since been restored to most businesses in town and to the university as well, but half the residential neighborhoods in town and most of the country residents remain without any power (including the Stroup household).

Standing in for the boss can be fairly interesting. I was called by the University President at 5:00am Friday morning. He asked me to attend an “emergency” meeting at 6:00am at the university. There the college Deans and various university administrators discussed how to coordinate notifying the remainder of the university administration and staff that they could turn around and go home once they came to work at 8:00am that morning. For some reason, the fact that this decision process could have taken place before the close of business Thursday afternoon, after classes had already been cancelled and before all these people went home for the day, was not discussed. (You gotta love bureaucracy.)

But one learns some interesting things going through a scenario like this. Every time you enter a dark room you turn on the light switch despite knowing full well that there is no power—sometimes you do this twice within a matter of fifteen seconds. Sometimes you even find yourself looking for those little nightlights to plug in the hallway to help you see, only to realize that, just like the light bulbs in the ceiling, they require power, too. Then you’re glad that nobody is with you to make fun of your stupidity. Also, the entire (slightly smelly) contents of a medium sized chest freezer can be placed comfortably into three large plastic garbage bags, making convenient hauling it all to the city dump. I was one of many people there, all holding black trash bags and tossing them into a pile and smelling the pungent aroma.

Cleaning up the storm debris from the yard allows you to notice that half the town seems to be burning scarce gasoline by driving around neighborhoods in some gruesome spectator sport. They slow down and gawk, mouth fully agape and finger pointing, at the neighbor’s 50 foot tall oak tree that unfortunately has bisected her roof. You feel like putting up traffic cones and charging a dollar per vehicle for admission. Also, you learn to entertain yourself when it is only 7:00pm at night and there is no television, no light to read books by, and only two radio stations remain on the air to listen to on your transistor radio. Unfortunately, one is a rap station and the other one country. You can’t make out what the rappers are saying so you pick country one, only to wonder just how many songs can be written about having yet another beer to try to forget about the fact that you’re such an dolt that your lady’s been cheatin’ on ya with your “best friend”? It makes you wonder just how much of a dolt you’ve been yourself lately. Then the guilty feelings make you turn off the radio, preferring the silence to the introspection.

But it all could have been worse. Our house was spared any damage, as our only fallen tree out in the back yard had landed perfectly in a spot that did not hurt any structure or any other trees. Merely a foot to the right or left would have damaged something. A couple of good friends came over with a chain saw and we three made quick work of cleaning it up. Of course sharing an obligatory cold beer followed all the hard work (yes, I had a small stash sitting on ice in the cooler—for morale purposes, of course). And unlike many of my friends, at least I had no “refugees” to house that had come up from the Houston area. I really feel for those poor folks from the Houston-Galveston-Beaumont areas on the Texas coast. They all spent 24 to 36 hours driving northward only a hundred miles on super-congested highways in the 95 degree weather with the A/C turned off to save precious gasoline (which was nowhere to be found along the way). They were trying to escape the potential of having to endure high winds, extended power outages and heavy rains on the coast, only to arrive in Nacogdoches exhausted and cranky, to sleep on the hard floors with dozens of their extended (and, let’s face it, usually “extended” for good reason) relatives, where they experienced heavy winds, extended power outages and heavy rains. Of course, when they had enough of all that, they then tried to return home on the same super-congested highways with the same shortage of gasoline in the same heat without A/C, trying to return to neighborhoods that the police may or may not yet deem to be open for the public.

Yup, every time I get hot, tired and frustrated I think about their ordeal and I tell myself, “It could always be worse.”

I still complain, though… and I think you would, too.


Posted by Robert Lawson at 06:46 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

September 26, 2005
Sonny's Not Too Bright

Declaring "snow days," Georgia Gov Sonny Perdue closed schools today and tomorrow to save gas and reduce supply problems in the wake of Rita. The gov claims the school closings will save 500,000 gallons of gas by idling school buses.

It's entirely possible, of course, that Gov. Perdue's policy will result in greater gas usage than having schools operate as usual. Georgia had 1.38 million government school kids in 2002-2003 (data obtained from the Georgia Statistics System); if each kid's parents use about four-tenths of a gallon (=500,000 gallons divided by 1.38 million kids) more gas than they would if the kids were in school then total gas usage would increase. Would this happen? Hard to say, but it's certainly possible if having the little tykes out of school results in extra driving.

Now the kicker: What's even worse than having policymakers guided by shaky economic thinking? Hypocrisy. Earlier this evening I was watching a few innings of the Braves game--guess which gas conserving politician was seated in the stands? Yup, our beloved governor who wasn't so concerned about gas availability that he couldn't drive across town to catch a ballgame.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:28 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

September 23, 2005
Boortz/Marx Kerfuffle

Neal Boortz's recent appearance on "Hannity and Colmes" has resulted in a big stink over whether Boortz referred to people who favor the estate/death tax are Marxists. (See Cathy Young and Neal Boortz for more details.)

Pulling The Marx-Engels Reader off the bookshelf, I turn to the "Manifesto of the Communist Party" (p. 490 of the book) and find a 10-point program. The third item on that list is "Abolition of all right of inheritance." Strictly speaking, the death tax doesn't abolish "all right of inheritance." It is also possible (though I think unlikely) that someone might favor abolishing inheritance but oppose the other nine items in Marx's program. Nonetheless, it looks like ole Neal might be onto something. The strong reaction from the Media Matters crowd suggests that Neal just might have hit a nerve.

ADDENDUM: Speaking of Marx, I loved co-blogger Tim's line:

"We are ready to fire the heads of FEMA, Homeland Security, even Bush himself, over a thousand dead from Katrina, yet people love the figurehead of a philosophical movement that has killed tens of millions. If only we could tie Marx to Halliburton, maybe people would stop idolizing him."

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:52 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

September 22, 2005
A Celebrity Florist--Who Knew?

From the WaPo:

TAKAMATSU, Japan -- A rose by any other name is still a rose, but in the hands of Shogo Kariyazaki -- the celebrity florist who has bloomed into one of Japan's richest men -- a rose is as good as gold.

One part Liberace, one part Martha Stewart, Japan's gender-blending home guru was greeted this week by a standing-room-only crowd in this sleepy western town. With glossy lips, flowing bleached-blond hair and a black silk shirt embroidered with birds of paradise in flight, the slight 46-year-old exclaimed, "Beauty is the essential thing in life!" He then tossed yellow roses and pansies into a vase as his audience offered enthusiastic "oohs" and "aahs."

An estimated 20,000 locals -- one in every 15 residents of Takamatsu -- paid $5 each to view his "fantasy forest exhibition" of day-glo trees and heart-shaped anthuriums at the city's largest department store. Kariyazaki is so popular through his TV appearances, live shows and corporate sponsorships that he ranked as one of the country's biggest individual taxpayers last year, earning 10 times the average salary of Toyota's top executives, according to Japan's National Tax Agency.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:14 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

Katrina Corruption

A news item (ht Drudge):

Police found cases of food, clothing and tools intended for hurricane victims at the home of the chief administrative officer for a New Orleans suburb, authorities said Wednesday.

Officers searched Cedric Floyd's home because of complaints that city workers were helping themselves to donations for hurricane victims. Floyd, who runs the day-to-day operations in the suburb of Kenner, was in charge of distributing the goods.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 12:44 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

Mike Lester New Orleans Cartoon

Craig's last post brought to mind today's Mike Lester cartoon in the RNT:


Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:28 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

September 20, 2005
A Win for the Good Guys

It looks like the Fulton County government schools will not be using eminent domain to seize land for a planned Jewish school. Story here.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:39 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

September 19, 2005
Dog Shoots Man

Sofia - A tussle between a hunter and his dog in north-east Bulgaria over prey ended with the dog shooting the man ...

The man lost his temper ... and began beating it with the rifle.

But the dog's paw caught the trigger and the hunter ended up with buckshot hitting him. The extent of his injuries was not reported ...

Full story here.

HT: Wilson Mixon

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 03:07 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

September 16, 2005
Book Suggestion

George Leef has a new book out on the history of the right-to-work movement. I haven't yet read it, but I skimmed a copy when I visited George's office in Raleigh a few months back. The book looked good, but, if by some longshot it's not, it's probably still worth reading just for George's excellent prose.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 02:40 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

James Madison on Disaster Relief

From CNN:

“President Bush pledged Thursday night to put the full might and money of the federal government behind the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast and vowed to its people that ‘in the journey ahead, you are not alone.’” (CNN, Friday)

From James Madison (1794):

"I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents."

HT: From fee.org via Wilson Mixon

ADDENDUM: While the juxtaposition of these quotes probably seems miserly, I note that my family has donated to disaster relief. Bush, however, plans to use the confiscatory power of the federal government to turn over some $667 (=$200 billion/300 million people) per person to the relief, reconstruction, and social engineering schemes.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:39 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

September 14, 2005
More Wal-Mart Bashing

The story of a union hiring people to picket a Las Vegas Wal-Mart has been noted elsewhere, but it's just too incredible to let pass. An excerpt:

The shade from the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market sign is minimal around noon; still, six picketers squeeze their thermoses and Dasani bottles onto the dirt below, trying to keep their water cool. They're walking five-hour shifts on this corner at Stephanie Street and American Pacific Drive in Henderson—anti-Wal-Mart signs propped lazily on their shoulders, deep suntans on their faces and arms—with two 15-minute breaks to run across the street and use the washroom at a gas station.

Periodically one of them will sit down in a slightly larger slice of shade under a giant electricity pole in the intersection. Four lanes of traffic rush by, some drivers honk in support, more than once someone has yelled, "assholes!" but mostly, they're ignored.

They're not union members; they're temp workers employed through Allied Forces/Labor Express by the union—United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). They're making $6 an hour, with no benefits; it's 104 F, and they're protesting the working conditions inside the new Wal-Mart grocery store.

Almost as incredible is this news item:

Wal-Mart workers on four continents sued the giant retailer today in California Superior Court in Los Angeles. They maintain that Wal-Mart failed to meet its contractual duty to ensure that its suppliers pay basic wages due; forced them to work excessive hours seven days a week with no time off for holidays; obstructed their attempts to form a union; and, made false and misleading statements to the American public about the company's labor and human rights practices.

Talk about globalization.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:22 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

September 12, 2005
Jacoby on "Price Gouging"

Jeff Jacoby has a nifty column on so-called price gouging. An excerpt:

What is it about the price of gasoline that turns seemingly normal politicians into barking economic demagogues?

When Jill puts her house on the market for $450,000 -- triple what she paid 10 years ago, but the going price in her neighborhood today -- the politicos understand that the 200 percent markup is the result of supply and demand in the real estate market. Senators don't call press conferences to denounce Jill as a profiteer. Attorneys general don't threaten to prosecute her. Governors don't compare her to looters.

But when Joe's service station ups the price of gasoline by $1 a gallon, the political world freaks out. Never mind that a Category 4 hurricane has devastated oil production throughout the Gulf Coast, depleting the nation's already strained refining capacity by 2 million barrels a day and driving up the price Joe's wholesaler is now charging him. For some reason, politicians forget everything they learned in Economics 101, and rush to savage Joe for "gouging" his customers.

As good as Jacoby's column and lots of excellent posts on familiar blogs are, I think there is something that no one has explicitly stated. Suppose that so-called price gouging really is evil (I don't really believe this of course--it's just a hypothetical), there is still a reason to defend people's right to engage in it--the sanctity of private property, freedom of contract, freedom of association, etc. Even if I think the station owner near Atlanta who tried to get nearly $6 per gallon is a jerk of the highest order, I defend his right to do so without a bumpkin governor or publicity seeking attorney general hectoring him. And, needless to say, I'll be exercising my right to shop elsewhere.


1. Christopher Westley compares FEMA to Enron.

2. John Tierney (how'd this guy get hired by the NYT?) sorts out the blame--hint much resides with the grandstanding, finger-pointing clowns of Capitol Hill.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 12:27 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

September 09, 2005
Goole Maps and NO flooding

Flood map from New Orleans.

Somewhat interesting, if accurate.

Posted by Craig Depken at 12:45 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

September 08, 2005
Nothing is new.

Cartoon by Thomas Nast in Harper's Weekly, May 13, 1882:



Posted by Robert Lawson at 01:20 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

Catching Up

I've been away from DOL for a few days because we took a family trip to Virginia and I've had a few hectic days since returning. We saw several convoys of military vehicles and utility trucks headed south; otherwise the traffic seemed pretty light for a normally busy holiday weekend.

The trip to VA was a reunion of sorts for three college buddies and their families. My friend Don is married to woman who grew up in New Orleans and whose parents still live there (at least until Katrina). Their house escaped the flooding but had a tree fall on it; they're hoping that having a police officer living next door deterred looters.

I don't have much to add to the Katrina discussion; I'm especially disgusted by the whining about so-called price gouging and by the political finger pointing. This article on sending evacuees to the wrong city pretty well captures the government bungling (though we probably shouldn't expect otherwise).

The New Orleans debacle is partly a case study in something economists have known for awhile--institutions matter.* New Orleans has long had a reputation for corrupt and inept government; heck, Louisiana had a gubernatorial election between a wizard (David Duke) and a lizard (Edwin Edwards). For more see Thomas Lifson's comparison of the institutions of New Orleans and Houston.

*Kudos to co-blogger Bob for another installment of the EFW.

ADDENDUM: While in VA, I hitched up Pee Wee's trail-a-bike and we rode the Virginia Creeper trail. The trail runs through scenic valleys and along a mountain creek. Downhill is a fun ride with kids; uphill is a better workout.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 12:40 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

September 01, 2005
Quasi-personal Katrina stories

Okay, I'm 6 hours north of New Orleans, but Katrina is having an effect here in Shreveport.

Our gymnasium here at LSUS is a Red Cross shelter, and we are currently at capacity in hosting about 800 escapees. There are tons of cots and sleeping bags in the gym, and a big pet tent out front. Even though I'm sickened by the looting occurring in N.O., it makes me proud when I hear that our gym is no longer accepting donations of water, food, etc. because they are overwhelmed by the amount of donations already. I'll have to go across town and donate elsewhere. Hopefully I'll be able to go play soccer with some of the kids this weekend and give their parents a rest.

I've been trying to contact a friend (started the MS program at FSU when I started the PhD program) who lives in N.O.; his cell phone is still out. He's a smart enough guy that I'm sure he and his wife left early enough.

My former officemate's wife's parents live in Mandeville, north of Lake Ponchartrain, and they have a half tank of gas in their car. They can't take I-10 east to FSU, and they are looking for assurance that if they drive anywhere, they will be able to fill up again. Gas is available here in Shreveport, but price is rising. At least my lecture on bank runs will be easier for students to understand this semester.

I now have two additional students in my classes who are here from the University of New Orleans. In thinking about how our enrollment will climb slightly, and of how new houses and businesses may start here in Shreveport from displaced New Orleans residents, I got to revisit the Broken Window fallacy in class.

It is very sobering to leave my home that I purchased last year, drive my two-year old car into school, and step into my boring office, and then to go visit the gym and see an elderly couple sitting on a bench looking completely disoriented.

Posted by Tim Shaughnessy at 05:26 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

California Wine Smog

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District is considering imposing the nation's first air quality control on wineries, focusing on the largest vintners — companies such as E&J Gallo, Delicato, and Constellation Wines.

Wineries are the latest target of the district, which has struggled for years to clean up the valley's persistent pollution, by first going after manufacturers, the construction industry, and even home fireplaces....

Wineries have come under scrutiny because the fermentation process that turns grape sugars to alcohol releases ethanol, methanol and other organic compounds into the atmosphere, where they react with sunlight and heat to form ozone, one of the components of smog, air regulators said. [Full story.]

I just hope the EPA doesn't sniff out my homebrew set-up.

HT: Wilson Mixon

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 12:16 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

New Orleans: Before and After

Here are before and after NASA pictures of New Orleans. Information on the flooded areas of New Orleans can be found at the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center.

Audio and video coverage via ResourceShelf

Posted by at 09:12 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

August 31, 2005
Other People's Money/Atlanta Gas Panic

I'm just back from an evening in Atlanta. I had the good fortune of being invited to join Andrew Cohen and his GA State U. students and colleagues for a showing and discussion of Other People's Money. It's a good flick for discussing corporate control issues (fiduciary duties of corporate boards and managers, hostile takeovers, etc.), but it has an ill-fitting sexual subplot. Thanks Andrew for your hospitality.

Today has been a wacky day in the Atlanta gas market. Apparently rumors that Katrina would make gas unavailable proked some panic buying and hiking gas prices above $5 at some stations. The AJC has details here (including the Governor's declaration of a state of emergency and imposition of temporary price caps), and a former student of mine reports that many stations in the suburb of Kennesaw were drained. Other than a 30 cent jump from the weekend (when, like co-blogger Craig, we filled both our cars' tanks) and a couple of closed stations, I saw little evidence of the supply disruption.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:50 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

August 29, 2005
Brits and the F-word

Two news items suggest that the Brits have an unusual affection for the f-word (the word, not the act):

1. A [British] secondary school is to allow pupils to swear at teachers - as long as they don't do so more than five times in a lesson. A running tally of how many times the f-word has been used will be kept on the board. If a class goes over the limit, they will be 'spoken' to at the end of the lesson. [link here]

2. An Austrian village called F***ing will not change its name despite sniggering Brits making off with its roadsigns. [link here]

This item reads like a hoax--and may well be--but F***ing is on this map of Austria and this listing of unfortunate city names. More at snopes.com.

ADDENDUM: Over the weekend, I finally started reading I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe (also a Washington and Lee grad). His riff on college students' f*** patois is must reading for Brits with an f-word fixation.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 02:52 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

More Fulton County Follies

From the county that prosecutes dead people and uses diminutive grandmothers to guard former football players accused of rape, we now have investigators looking into allegations against the Board of Tax Assessors:

• Collusion between appraisers and land agents to give certain commercial properties lower values.

• Scores of properties that should be taxed given tax-exempt status instead.

• Retaliation by appraisers against residents who appealed their assessments.

• Assessors overstepping their authority and meddling in the daily activities of the department.

The potential for this type of hanky panky is probably one reason that two dozen Georgia counties, including Fulton and Floyd (where I live), have adopted assessment freezes that tax houses at their purchase price.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:37 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

Go Bobcats

Josh Hall and I are proud alumni of Ohio University, which was just named the #2 party school by the Princeton Review.

Josh's current grad school (WVU) came in 14th, while my grad school (FSU) has (inexplicably) been dropped from the top 20. Craig's UGA is on the list at 12th. Sorry Frank, Washington and Lee and NC St are nowhere to be seen this year.

Posted by Robert Lawson at 09:30 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

August 26, 2005
Beloit Mindset List

Beloit College is out with its annual list of cultural experiences for entering college freshmen, most of whom were born in 1987. A few examples:

1. Andy Warhol, Liberace, Jackie Gleason, and Lee Marvin have always been dead.
2. They don't remember when "cut and paste" involved scissors.
3. Heart-lung transplants have always been possible.
4. Wayne Gretzky never played for Edmonton.
5. Boston has been working on the "The Big Dig" all their lives.

I think at least one item on the list--number 58, they never saw Pat Sajak or Arsenio Hall host a late night television show--is incorrect. Didn't Bill Clinton play his sax on Aresenio Hall's show in 1992?

ADDENDUM: I think number 62--Tom Landry never coached the Cowboys--is also incorrect. Landry coached through the 1988 season; of course most toddlers wouldn't remember his coaching the Cowboys.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:43 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

August 19, 2005
Book Tip

I've had a low profile for the past week or so because of a series of beginning of semester meetings (groan). As a way of reviving my brain cells following the meetings, I've been reading Jay Winik's splendid April 1865. (The book was published in 2001; my not reading it until 2005 reflects (1) I don't read enough, (2) I have a backlog of books I'm interested in reading, and (3) I generally avoid reading books when first published in order to guage whether my interest outlasts any initial buzz about the books.) John Miller offers a synopsis here; the usual from Amazon is here.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:03 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

Yet another GM hack

Whereis tells you where a particular server is on a Google map.

DOL is "located" in Jacksonville, FL, home of the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party - good onya.

Other sites of interest:

NFL.com - Cary, NC
MLB.com - New York, NY
NHL.com - Cary, NC
NBA.com - Bern, Switzerland?
goarmy.com - Fort Knox, KY

www.whitehouse.gov - Bern, Switzerland?
www.congress.gov - Washington, DC
www.supremecourtus.gov - Washington, DC

Posted by Craig Depken at 12:38 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

August 15, 2005
One day ten years ago...

August 15, 1995, the Business school at UGA, Brooks Hall, catches on fire. Fellow blogger Larry White might remember the aftermath, if not the day. Interestingly, there is no mention of the anniversary at UGA Today or at the Red and Black student newspaper.

A scan of an article that featured me in the Fall 1996 Report of the President (sorry no on-line version). More over at Heavy Lifting.

Posted by Craig Depken at 05:45 PM in Misc.  ·  Comments (9)  ·  TrackBack (0)

August 09, 2005
New econ blog

I want to join those welcoming The Austrian Economists to the blogosphere. (Aside to blogmaster Lawson: can we add it to our blogroll?) The bloggers are the perspicacious Pete Boettke of GMU and his former students Chris Coyne and Peter Leeson, who used to have a blog called Common Knowledge. The new blog will be offering solid and insightful commentary on economic issues and the economics profession. When you click over to check it out, don’t fail to scroll all the way down to read the very first post …

Posted by Lawrence H. White at 01:33 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

Smile, You're On Candid Camera!

These are words you don't want to hear when the Israelis use their new point and shoot camera. Picture here The camera on the end of a grenade sends pictures back to a laptop. Unfortunately, it is a disposable camera that can be used only once.

    No special training or adaptation equipment is necessary" to fire the Firefly, from Israel's Rafael Armament Development Authority, or Israel Military Industry's Reconnaissance Rifle Grenade.

    Grunts just fire the disposable "ballistic cameras" from "standard-issue M203 grenade launchers attached to M16 or other assault rifles," and then wait for the pictures to come back, 8 seconds and 600 meters later.

    Via DefenseTech

Also see DefenseUpdate

Posted by at 09:02 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

August 08, 2005

My daughter and I were sitting in the Detroit airport lobby waiting for my son to arrive when two Arabic speaking young males walked up to the set of seats next to us and tossed a large piece of luggage in one of the seats. They then turned and briskly walked away, leaving the bag unattended. My first thought was to get my daughter out of the terminal. I walked her to the nearest exit and then proceeded to notify security about the unattended bag. I told them that two men speaking Arabic (ethnic profiling?) had left a bag unattended inside the terminal. Security wanted to know the age of the men (age and gender profiling?) and what they were wearing (clothing style profiling?). Airport guards immediately surrounded the bag. I could see that they were anxious about approaching this rather large unattended bag. Fortunately, the two young Arabic males soon returned. They were apparently innocent. Security questioned them, searched their luggage and then released them.

Was I engaging in ethnic profiling? It is against the rules to leave your baggage unattended at the airport. But, would I have reported the bag to the authorities if it had been left by a little old lady or a blond haired European? I don’t know. However, the fact that these were young Arab males certainly increased my concern.

The costs imposed on the profilers are almost always ignored in discussions of ethnic or racial profiling. As an American, I like to think of all people as being equal. It disturbs me that I might be suspicious of some individuals simply because of their race, nationality or religion. It bothers me that I had subjected these individuals to the inconvenience and embarrassment of an airport search simply because of who they are. I don’t regret having done it. This could have been a dry run testing airport security. I do regret having had to of done it.

Posted by at 11:58 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)


While visiting NC last week with Pee Wee, we took a couple of day trips to the Norfolk/Va Beach area. The Virginia Zoo was pretty standard (though Pee Wee got his first glimpse of elephants etc.), and the Virginia Marine Science aquarium was fairly good. But the real treat was lunch at Doumar's--a restaurant started by the family of the ice cream cone's inventor. Doumar's barbeque is ok, though not nearly as good as Tarheel Barbeque in the boondocks of Gates County NC (you weren't expecting a link here were you?) But Doumar's ice cream and cones (still made on premises!) are the highlight. Doumar's has the ambiance of a 1950s diner, including curb service. I'm told (but haven't been able to verify) that early in his career the legendary DJ Wolfman Jack used to broadcast from Doumar's.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:10 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

Peter Jennings Memories

I have no strong opinion about Peter Jennings; I'm not a fan but I do hold him a bit above Dan Rather. Although I rarely watched ABC News, I have two favorite Jennings moments. One was the 1996 election coverage when he was paired with David Brinkley. By midnight Brinkley had turned into a grumpy old man and proceeded to call Bill Clinton a "bore" and predicted four more years of "goddamned nonsense." Jennings responded by saying, "You can't say that on the air, Mr. Brinkley."

My other Jennings (perhaps faulty) memory followed the crash of TWA 800. Jennings was taking calls from "eyewitnesses" and a fellow somehow bluffed his way through the call screener and got to speak live with Jennings. The caller then spouted some nonsense about having seen O.J. Simpson shoot down the plane. Jennings calm handling of this prank (while no doubt seething inside) is consistent with his colleagues' accounts of his being calm under pressure and a master at ad-libbing.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:45 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

August 07, 2005
Heroin Hairpiece

QUEENS, NY (CBS4 News) A teenager was caught smuggling drugs in an unusual way: in a hairpiece! And investigators say the 19-year-old acting strangely and wearing a bad toupee tipped them off to more than $100-thousand worth of heroin hidden underneath!

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:49 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

August 04, 2005
London Blogging

My internet connection has been spotty at the house I'm staying at so my blogging may not be as easy as I'd hoped. A few initial reactions:

Great city. Of course. Like NYC but older with nicer people.

Expensive. OMG. The exchange rate is about 2:1 (that is, 2 dollars equals 1 pound) but prices are about 1:1. So the purchasing power from the dollar point of view is horrible. (This is probably why I see so many Brits at Disney World.) Predictably, the prices are most high for things with a large service component (like eating out) but not so bad for goods. We're eating in the house for dinners and even packing our lunches out so it's not so bad.

Here's a pic of Big Ben with the London Eye in the background (just to prove that we're here.)


Posted by Robert Lawson at 06:39 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

August 01, 2005
London Blogging

Off to London today for a two-week holiday and I hope to be able to do some tourist blogging. Besides the usual tourist stuff, we'll be making a haj to see the Great One's grave in Edinburgh.

Posted by Robert Lawson at 02:22 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

July 27, 2005
Is it worth it?

Three students are recording my lectures in Econometrics II (euphemistically called "Research Methods") which have covered panel data, maximum likelihood, stochastic frontiers, limited dependent variables (logit/probit/mlogit/oprobit/tobit/truncated variables), and what I like to call the "good, the bad, and the ugly" of econometric practice.

I half jokingly asked at the end of tonight's class, the last of the semester, if one or more were podcasting me without my knowledge. Luckily no light bulbs went off (on?), but one student stated he had them all saved (sixteen two hour plus lectures) and that he would give them to me.

I hesitated when he said they would be in .wav format - which would require multiple CD's - but he immediately pointed out he would burn them to a DVD, probably with room to spare. So much for me being on the cutting edge of technology, I am still burning CD's.

I will now be one step closer to the scene in Real Genius when eventually the class was held with the students' desks holding tape recorders and the professor's lecture being played from a tape recording.

Actually, I am terrified to hear myself yapping on about such stuff. I cringe when I hear myself on a my voice mail message at home/work/cell, I wonder how bad it will be to hear me discussing econometrics (so might Profs. Cornwell and Atkinson at UGA ;-).

I wonder if anyone else has experience with this - from either the student or professor viewpoint. Comments/experiences/and whether it is worth podcasting your lectures appreciated. I am personally becoming more turned off by technology on both sides of the lectern (even more than I initially was back in the 1990s), but I wonder if I am missing something.

Posted by Craig Depken at 10:59 PM in Misc.  ·  Comments (7)  ·  TrackBack (0)

Is your college becoming a diploma mill?

The line between real colleges and diploma mills continues to blur as more and more reputable schools get into the distance learning game and the "transcripting" of life experience or other work for college credit.

A case in point, Otterbein College just got busted for transcripting bogus coursework.

Posted by Robert Lawson at 02:56 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

July 26, 2005


Adult per Capita Cigarette Yearly Consumption and Major Smoking and Health Events, United States, 1900–1999 (Source: Center for Disease Control)


Map of Virginia

Posted by Lawrence H. White at 05:05 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

Quick Hits

1. Driving through western Ohio on my recent vacation, I noticed a business called "Endless Endeavors." Unfortunately for the owners naming a business endless cannot hold back the perennial gales of creative destruction--the business was closed and its building for sale.

2. One of my favorite snippets of economics is Steve Landburg's telling of Peltzman's seatbelt research and driver safety in "The Armchair Economist." To the folks who think people don't change their driving behavior in response to perceived changes in risk, I offer another example. While motoring along I-75 in Ohio, I drove into a strong thunderstorm. And how did I and other drivers respond? We slowed down considerably, just as the Peltzman hypothesis would predict.

3. During our vacation my wife thought it would be fun to take Pee Wee to the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. While examining an exhibit documenting Henry Ford's failures in the airplane business, I had a snarky thought about the notion that Ford's success was partly attributable to his paying his workers above market wages. If this is such a winning strategy then it seems that Ford should have been able to similarly overpay his airplane workers and been successful in the plane business. (NB I wasn't impressed by Greenfield Village; of course your mileage may vary.)

4. A few months back the WSJ started a feature on philanthropy called "Giving Back" in it's Friday edition. I dislike the "Back" part--it suggests that donors have taken their wealth rather than earned it via mutually beneficial voluntary exchange. This is not a complaint about philanthropy--lot's of people do lots of good via charitable endeavors. For example, John Walton, who was recently killed in a plane crash, made large gifts to the Children's Scholarship Fund. Of course some giving isn't as effective--think Ted Turner and his gift to the U.N.

5. While excavating the pile of WSJs that accumulated on my desk, I noticed an article on Title IX (July 6) featured a photo of Danica Patrick. I also recall lots of references to Title IX during the coverage of Michelle Wie, Morgan Pressel, et al during the women's U.S. Open. Title IX may well be a wonderful thing, but I have a hard time seeing how it deserves credit for Patrick's success. How many high schools or colleges have auto racing teams? I suspect very few, if any. Likewise, I doubt teen golfers like Wie and Pressel have played on golf teams that wouldn't have existed but for Title IX. Then there are the foreign golfers like Birdie Kim and Annika Sorenstam who are not Title IX beneficiaries. Indeed, I suspect that most of their defeated opponents are Title IX beneficiaries.

6. Much has been made of the sluggishness of movie attendance/box office receipts this year. After returning home a couple of weeks ago, my better two-thirds needed a bit of a break from her 10 days home alone with Pee Wee. I loaded Pee Wee in the car and took him to the Herbie movie so my wife could get two hours of peace and quiet. Based on that experience it's easy to see why lots of folks opt for home viewing. The theater was freezing cold, the volume was too loud, and we had to sit through 8-10 trailers (some of which weren't suitable for a 4 year old). Then there are the expensive snacks and the lousy selection of movies that comes to our multiplex. By contrast, a family with a large tv and surround sound at home can control its surroundings and pick a film of its choice via on-demand services or Netflix.

An aside to my movie outing with Pee Wee: I'm pretty clueless about current celebrities--it hasn't always been this way but I've been pretty tuned out of movies and music since Pee Wee came along. For example, the other faculty at my IHS seminar had fun at my ignorance of Colin Firth. (I actually had seen some of his films but I didn't know his name.) Thanks to my outing with Pee Wee, my celebrity awareness is now improved--I can now identify Lindsay Lohan.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 02:26 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

July 23, 2005
Scary use of Google Maps

This combination made by a kid at Clemson (dang Tigers) combines google maps with the white pages. Type in an address, get the map and a list of names, addresses, and phone numbers of the other people who live on the street - at least those who are listed in the telephone book?

When using my street, the app kicked back about eighty percent of the folks - thankfully my address/phone number was not among them, but our phone is unlisted.

Privacy? Seems that horse done left the barn a long time ago.

Posted by Craig Depken at 03:22 PM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

July 21, 2005
Fuzzy Math Sighting

This snippet appeared in today's NCPA Daily Policy Digest:

So what happens to cohabitating couples down the road? A 2000
study in the journal Population Studies reveals:

o Within five years of a live-in relationship, half of couples
marry, while 40 percent split up.

o Another 20 percent continue living together.

It's not clear if the mathematically challenged folks are at NCPA or the Journal of Population Studies.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:50 AM in Misc.  ·  TrackBack (0)

July 18, 2005
Snarky PBS Comment

Something to keep in mind next time someone proclaims that PBS fills a niche that the other 50+ channels of TV do not: Last night our local PBS affiliate aired "The Diana Conspiracy" about conspiracy theories of the Princess of Wales's death. I was unable to locate a transcript (and certainly didn't waste a scare hour of my life watching), but here's a description:

"Ever since her death in 1997, conspiracy theorists have sought to prove that the crash that killed both Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayad was no accident. Now, while a year-long investigation that will lead up to a U.K. inquest takes place, THE DIANA CONSPIRACY examines the various theories. The documentary poses