Thursday, December 11, 2008
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
So in effect, Americans are fooled into thinking anything that has "Fat Free" on it is healthier and therefore consume more calories! It is the classic case of "Coke Classic has too many calories; I'll have a Diet Coke. Oh yeah, and a brownie!"
Saturday, November 29, 2008
I'm not going to take the time to dig through the fine print of New York City's Landmark Preservation Commission, but if it is like other such commissions and boards around the country, once a piece of property has been designated as historical, the owner is prevented from using the property in any way not approved by the commission. A very strong case can be made that this is a taking.
The commission would be better off buying the property from the owner and preserving the desired building itself. But then that would get in the way of a free lunch.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Some South Carolina residents don't want a Lowe's in a certain part of town. Two observations:
- If people want it, it will come and it has to go somewhere.
- If the developer is getting special treatment, you've got an argument. Fight that.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
As for who wins, I could care less. I will not be voting and may never vote again. I fully second Don Boudreaux's reasons for not voting. To them I would add my own ignorance. Every time I learn something, I realize how much I don't know, and this semester has convinced that there is a lot I don't know! Whenever most topics are being discussed I remind myself that unless I know enough to make an informed and thorough analysis of the topic, I tread lightly with my comments lest I increase the world's supply of nonsense via my ignorance. I take the same approach to voting. Given how little I know about practically every topic on the public agenda, how can I make an informed decision about a candidate who doesn't understand very much about any given topic either?
(By the way, I don't care what Obama, McCain, Biden, Palin or any other candidate for any office says, given the grand totality of human knowledge, not to mention the things we don't know yet, the candidates, just like me, know practically NOTHING!)
In addition, I'm convinced that many people shouldn't vote (pick a college student at random) and I like to lead by example.
The one reform that might get me to vote again is a "None of the Above" option for each and every political race. It would be great fun to see "None of the Above" get more votes than any candidate. The candidate with the highest number of votes would still win the office, but I can't help but think they would tread a little lighter once in office given that "no one" got more votes than they did.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Friday, September 5, 2008
T. Boone Pickens, of the famous Pickens Plan to increase the capture of wind energy in the United States, was interviewed by Fast Company Magazine. After outlining his project, Pickens was asked the following:
And you'll do all of this on your beautiful 68,000 acre ranch?
To which he responded:
I'm not going to have the windmills on my ranch. They're ugly.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
- Here is a piece on the transition of Russian agriculture from collectively owned to large agricultural companies with the specter of a Russian government takeover.
- Being at a larger university for the first time, I've seen first hand how seriously many (if not most) people in town take the football team. Win or lose, it doesn't bother me.
- "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise." -Ben Franklin
- "Late to bed and early to rise makes a man a grad student." -Matt
- Since coming back to grad school, I've also learned that caffeine is your friend!
Sunday, August 17, 2008
If the offended land owners valued the pristine view more than the developer valued the land as a site for wind turbines, then they should pool their money and out bid the developer, acquire the land and keep in its current state.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
In terms of posting, one of two things could happen.
- I will be extremely busy, leaving little time for blogging.
- I will be thinking about economics 24/7 for the next 4 years. Thus I will think of plenty of blog topics and begin to see even more of the world in an economic context. So even though my time will become more scarce, I will blog more.
I'm not sure which will occur, but I will at least check in from time to time.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Thursday, July 10, 2008
A Dallas county commissioners court meeting resulted in charges of racial insensitivity when one commissioner referred to "black holes."
Forget looking for intelligent life in outer space; it's hard enough to find it on Earth!
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
I dislike the idea of naming stuff after people. If a new school is built, name it after the town or the street it's on. If a new highway or road is constructed, give it a number or name it after a tree. Naming stuff after people inevitably results in nonproductive tinkling contests. The only times I like the idea of naming something after someone is as a joke (such as "The Michael Vick Humane Society Annex") or as a back handed compliment (such as naming a park lot "The Joe Blow Memorial Parking Lot" before Joe Blow actually dies).
Would naming the new Waco elementary school "Barack Obama Elementary" versus "J.H. Hines Elementary School" actually improve educational quality?
Monday, June 23, 2008
The only way I've found thus far to subdue my rage is to find the smallest area between two vehicles I can fit through and drive my truck through it. Usually someone is watching. Maybe eventually someone will come to the same conclusions I have and gas stations will become more pleasant places.
Monday, June 2, 2008
Monday, May 26, 2008
- How can you combat the universal human tendency to stop in door ways? How many times have you been to a large event and the human traffic stops moving the moment you get to the door because everyone before you has stopped in the door? How can incentives be used to get people to take enough steps to keep the flow of traffic moving?
- How can you get people to stop donating garbage to charity or giving you garbage? For example, someone can't bring themselves to throw away a worn out piece of furniture, so they give it to their church. On an individual level, if someone gives you garbage, you can give them garbage in return. At some point things should stop because the original giver no longer wants you to reciprocate. On the charity level, I'm not sure what to do.
Monday, May 19, 2008
On the other hand, if taken far enough, NIMBY could kill the goose that lays the golden egg; i.e. any business that someone finds offensive will be run or kept out of town thereby destroying or preventing prosperity. See Marlin, Texas for an example.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Man is a creative and adaptive species!
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Really good article about current U.S. farm policy and its contradictions.
There is a great cartoon over at Econ Journal Watch. It is on the left hand side of the page. It makes a good point about externalities and property rights.
A study from the state of Washington found no evidence of illegal gas price manipulation. Add that study to the pile of others that have come to same conclusion. When will they stop?
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
MacCallum contributes a chapter to The Voluntary City. Here are portions of a great paragraph which addresses voting (very relevant during this election year) from his essay "The Case for Land Lease versus Subdivision" in that volume:
Well worth a read.
Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Here is an article on agricultural commodity futures market volatility. My expertise regarding commodity futures is limited. I have a couple of theories as to what could be contributing to this volatility (increased demand leading to exaggerated responses to new information or a speculative bubble in some commodities), but I have no idea if either theory has any validity.
Monday, April 14, 2008
The controversy over the proposed water treatment plant in Lorena [March 21, Page 1A] should not be passed over too lightly by the people who think they are not affected.
“Leftover sludge” will be pumped into holding tanks and trucked to the city of Waco’s main wastewater treatment plant for processing. That will entail tanker trucks transporting this sludge down Highway 77 through the city of Robinson to the LaSalle Avenue water treatment plant — about a 10-mile trip.
Imagine all the possibilities. Robinson citizens may want to weigh in on this proposal, too.
Monday, April 7, 2008
- The waste water treatment plant has to go somewhere and like it or lump it, rural areas are better locations due to more open space and cheaper land.
- The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is not going to allow this plant to discharge any hazardous materials. As for the smell, local resident would be better off letting the plant be built and then bringing a suit if the plant creates an odor.
Monday, March 31, 2008
- Robin Hanson on not reading newspapers. Contains a great quote by Thomas Jefferson and says some things I've tried to say, but more elegantly.
- Steve Horwitz on why Wal Mart should win the Nobel Peace Prize. Here and here.
- The following sentence is from an email to Mickey Spagnola at DallasCowboys.com. In referring to the possibility that Dallas will acquire the troubled (to put it lightly) Pacman Jones, a gentleman writes: "Quite simply, we cannot afford to even associate with a player like this." Ahem, unless you're associated with the Dallas Cowboys in an employment capacity, "we" are not going to associate with Pacman, "they" are. "We" are not looking into acquiring Pacman Jones, the Cowboys are. "We" are not playing bad basketball, the Mavericks are. "We" did not lose to Memphis, the Longhorns did. Let's give credit and place blame where it is due.
- Michael Giberson on price gouging.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Two passages are worthy of quoting in full:
But by encouraging people to find the most efficient ways to conserve energy, this nudge might do more good than some of the expensive subsidies being handed out in Congress.
Besides putting the enthusiasm of greens to practical use, this fashion statement might also inject some realism into the debate about global warming. Once you start keeping track of all the energy you use, you begin to see the difficulties of making drastic reductions — and the difference between effective actions and ritual displays.
The potential to use congestion pricing as a mechanism to track motorists is a major concern. Likewise is the use of the tolls. Instead of being used to maintain or expand roads, the tolls are being used to subsidize mass transportation (buses and subways).
As good of an economic idea as congestion pricing is, if the political process skews it, no congestion pricing may be better than a deeply flawed one.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
- I find many farm news sites useless, but Farm Futures is fantastic! Even non farmers should find the homepage useful: it contains futures quotes for every major commodity plus several currencies and financial instruments in one location. From what I've seen, the articles are really good as well.
- Benjamin Franklin on 'hope': "He who lives on hope will die fasting."
- Benjamin Franklin on poverty: "Having been poor is no shame, but being ashamed of it is."
Monday, March 10, 2008
I asked this question on an exam and got the following response:
Q: Why is break even analysis a useful tool?
A: Break is a useful tool because in order to do the job you must have a break.
The question is how long this will last before a legal challenge ends such classes.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
- Why Most Voters Shouldn't Vote The article raises a great question: If someone wasn't interested in heart surgery, would we let that person fiddle with our heart? Likewise, if someone is not interested in politics, why is that person allowed to vote? HT: Bryan Caplan
- Thomas Sowell on free lunches and what destroys prosperity.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Here are some highlights (or low lights):
- People increasingly change denominations or abandon their affiliation all together.
- 51.3 percent call themselves Protestants, but one third of Protestants either could not or would not describe their denomination.
- 25 percent of adults under 30 have no affiliation.
- Those who are "secular unaffiliated" are greater a percentage of Americans than Methodists (6.3 versus 6.2 percent).
- Oregon has the greatest percentage of population with no affiliation (27 percent).
What shocks me to no end is that ranch land values in several regions, including North Central and Central Texas, are actually higher than crop land values. I would bet that's due to a combination of livestock prices and residential/lifestyle farmers moving into the area. If you look at the chart on the bottom of the page you can see that dry land and ranch land values for the region briefly converged in about the second quarter of 2006 before commodity prices really took off. I wouldn't bet against crop land values overtaking ranch land values again should grain prices stay high.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
If you do, that puts you in the wealthiest 2 percent of taxpayers, and you’re too affluent to be participating in commodity programs, said Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer, speaking at the National Cotton Council’s annual meeting.
Schafer’s comments started me thinking. President Bush and Vice President Cheney receive more than $200,000 a year in salary and benefits. Both probably continue to receive earnings from oil and gas company investments.
Monday, February 25, 2008
So what are the variable costs of going to the car wash?
- The car wash is 25 miles away so the round trip will take me 2 gallons of gas at $3.10 per gallon for a total of $6.20.
- It will take a half hour to drive one way to the car wash. I will probably spend half an hour waiting for my truck to be washed. So it will cost me one and a half hours. Assuming the opportunity cost of my labor is $6 per hour (what I could earn moving dirt), the total opportunity cost of my time is $9.00.
- There is a high probability that the car wash will not be to my satisfaction. While they will wash off the top layer of grim, I doubt that will shine my wheels and tires, scrub the bugs off the grill, and wash my windows properly. Therefore, I will have to wash my truck again when I get home. Assume it takes an hour (at an opportunity cost of $6 per hour) and I use $1 worth of supplies to wash my truck for a total of $7.00.
So the total variable costs of going to this car wash is $6.20+$9.00+$7.00 for a total of $22.20. I would be willing to pay $10 to have my truck spotless.
Needless to say, I won't be going to this car wash.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Monday, February 18, 2008
I can understand fainting at the sight of Chuck Norris or Dennis Kucinich's wife (as in "How did he get her?"), but Obama? Is it an encouraging sign when people, even a few, are soo overcome by a candidate's look and personality that they faint?
Friday, February 15, 2008
The editors argue that gas taxes should not be diverted to non highway construction uses. Yes! But then they don't go far enough. They don't even question whether or not gas taxes should be used to fund school buses.
Once again: you pay for state roads via taxes whenever you pull up to the pump. When that tax revenue is diverted to other uses (schools, retirement benefits, whatever) you break that linkage between the funding source (gas taxes) and their intended use (road construction and maintenance). Bad consequences (horrible and insufficient roads) follow. If you want to increase school funding, retirement benefits, or build a 65 foot statue of a Baptist hugging a bear, get the money from somewhere besides gas taxes.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Two things on this story.
1) It is a fairly clear indication of where Europe is heading.
2) It is official that the Catholic Church in The Netherlands has completely sold out. They no longer have the conviction necessary to carry forward the message of Christ. They are now just trying to win a popularity contest and get on the good side of the future majority faith.
Forget sending missionaries to Asia or Africa. The Church needs to start sending missionaries to Western Europe!
Monday, February 11, 2008
One idea that's been running through my mind the last few months is how aging populations will impact the economy. Friedman doesn't get into this (he focuses on backward looking cultures, not age groups), but he does ask a question relevant to my concern: "Does your society have more memories than dreams or more dreams than memories?"
I've often wondered what will happen as the U.S. gets older. Will an aging population that has more years behind it than in front of it erect barriers or push for policies that will stymie economic growth in exchange for increased present comforts? Will a fear of change drive older Americans to restrict innovation or long term investments? Here is part of a great paragraph by Friedman:
While some people would no doubt get some risk reduction, greater peace of mind and extra care from staying in a hospital for a day or two, there are costs involved. There is obviously the financial cost of keeping a patient in the hospital. There is a cost to the patient in terms of comfort. I've yet to hear anyone actually want to go to the hospital when nothing was wrong with them (aside from Grandpa Simpson on one episode of The Simpsons) and I've never heard anyone say how comfortable hospital beds are. There is also increased stress from being away from home.
In my mind, the greatest benefit of outpatient surgery is that it gets you out of the hospital. Hospitals are full of sick people. The sooner you can get out of there, the better. For anyone who has ever worked with fresh from the sale barn feeder cattle, you know the worst place fresh cattle can be is confined in pens at your barn. If one gets sick, the entire bunch is at risk. The sooner you get them out and away from that environment, the better. If you can recover at home, I find it hard to imagine why anyone would want to stay in an uncomfortable environment surrounded by sick people.
This may be a cultural element from the days when you were kept in the hospital a few days for most any condition. I'd be interested to see if the attitudes toward outpatient surgery are different for people in their 20s and 30s versus senior citizens.
Cox and Alm wrote a great book several years ago called Myths of Rich and Poor: Why We're Better Off Than We Think.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
Here are my requirements to run for office in Falls County, Texas in no particular order.
- You must have lived outside of the county for at least 15 years of your adult life. Furthermore, living in any county that borders Falls County does not count (McLennan, Bell, Robertson, Limestone, and Milam). You must have lived far enough away from the county to not remember the way things have always been done.
- You must average reading at least one nonfiction book a week. Falls County officials need some "intelligence of knowledge" (not my term, but great regardless) so ingesting vast quantities of information is required. Preferably stuff on public policy applicable to the county.
- You must not have the patience to put up with nonsense. When a county resident starts spewing garbage and BS from every pore, just tell them they're full of it and move on.
- You must never have been an employee of Falls County prior to running for office. Fresh blood is a requirement.
- You must promise, if in a relevant position, to never, ever pave another foot of Falls County roads. The current paved roads cannot be maintained much less new ones. Promising to make some paved roads gravel roads and some gravel roads dirt roads would also be a nice touch.
- You must never, without significant study, dismiss a policy alternative for Falls County. Even if this policy has never been tried, if it looks promising, try it. You can't screw the county up much more, so try something new.
- The words "historic preservation" should never leave your lips. Historically, the county has been poor. I'm not interested in preserving that.
And before anyone says anything, I disqualify myself because quite frankly, I'm smart enough not to run for office in Falls County.
- Since Waco isn't going to have a 65 foot statue of a Texas Ranger by the Brazos and I-35, how about they build a 65 foot statue of a tourist? Considering that increasing tourism seems to be the primary economic growth strategy Waco has, it seems fitting.
- I'm always shocked when something non grandiose and actually beneficial (ie not something that is done to make Waco look better than it is) happens in the Waco economy. Tractor Supply is doubling the size of their Waco distribution center. Good for Tractor Supply and Waco. Maybe something like that will happen in Marlin one day. Sigh.... One can dream.
- Speaking of Marlin, the Falls County Commissioners have issued a burn ban and disaster declaration for Falls County. I'll agree that Falls County is a disaster area, but it has nothing to do with lack of rain, wind and dry forage.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
The Rockets versus Bucks matchup Saturday was estimated to have been viewed by 200 million worldwide. This game featured Yao Ming of the Rockets versus Yi Jianlian of the Bucks, therefore it drew a huge Chinese audience. Even though the Super Bowl was the highest rated ever, it drew an American audience of 97.5 million, it is extremely likely that the Rockets-Bucks was watched by more people worldwide because the rest of the world doesn't share our love for American football.
A great article in The American looks at how basketball could soon outpace soccer as the world's most popular sport. What surprised me is that Tracy McGrady sells more jerseys in China than Yao does. Considering the number of foreign born and raised players in the NBA and the league's popularity overseas, it wouldn't be surprising if the NBA is a world entertainment and mirch in dice (sorry merchandise) power in the not to distant future. The NFL will probably reign supreme in the U.S., but the NBA is the league to bank on worldwide.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
- Why buying a home could be easier for those of us who are younger.
- Hans Bader, whom I'd never heard of before, on ABC News' reporting on one couple with a subprime mortgage. A little math could have saved both ABC and this couple some embarrassment.
- P.J. O'Rourke, hilarious as always, sends a letter to our European friends explaining the Presidential campaign.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
This woman calls lamenting her daughter's struggles in college algebra with the usual variety of reasons: the lab manual won't work for the course, the instructor is foreign and she can't understand him, she works 30 hours a week, she's falling behind in the course, etc. etc. All I could think of, besides welcome to the real world sweetheart, was why in the hell is this girl's mother calling us to complain.
Have today's teens become soo infantilized that they can't take care of their own college course problems? God forbid the mother tells the daughter to go talk to people herself and see what she can do. Maybe the daughter would grow up a little if mom stopped doing her dirty work for her.
This woman, and everyone else, should really read Robert Epstein's The Case Against Adolescence which argues that adolescence is a destructive concept and that many teens are much more capable that given credit for if they are just given the opportunity.
Monday, January 28, 2008
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Tom Brady is seen Tuesday walking around with a boot on his ankle. Every sports talk show was going nuts for about half the day until Brady was seen hours later without the boot.
This nonsense will just continue until Super Sunday. By next Wednesday, the primary topics floating around the sports shows will be probably be: "The Patriots or the Giants: Who has the better practice squad." Or "Eli Manning and Jessica Simpson are currently in the same state. Will this curse the Giants?"
Friday, January 18, 2008
The stories reported are predominantly events that happened that day or the day or two before. So much that happens on a daily basis ultimately amounts to nothing. In statistical terms, the vast majority of news is nothing more than random noise. Many stories that have tremendous fanfare attached (a Hillary Clinton campaign stop in Iowa) or that have some supposed psychological impact (crude oil rising to $100 per barrel) are in the great scheme of things pure random noise. If so much news is just random noise, why clutter my brain with it?
It is also obvious that newscasters have no background in statistics, probability, or maybe even rationality. On January 3, a local weatherman in Waco showed a table listing average rainfall year to date (that is for 2008) and current rainfall year to date. According to this table, we were already 0.14 inches behind for the year. One problem though. You can't make statistical arguments based on a sample size of three days! Showing such a figure was nothing short of pointless and lent itself to misinterpretation. Some basic statistics and probability training would do wonders for news coverage. I'm not holding my breath that it happens.
I believe George Will was the first to say this, but I'm not sure: It is not news when planes land safely. The only time planes are in the news is when they skid off the runway, have engine trouble mid flight, the pilot is drunk or they crash. Over long travel distances you are much safer travelling by air than my automobile, but you would never guess it my watching the news. Once again, a statistics and probability lesson would do wonders.
I mean this in the best possible way: reporters are ignorant. Their sphere of knowledge, just like mine or yours, is severely limited. However, they report on a wide variety of topics in which they can't have more than a cursory understanding. An example: a reporter did a story on the troubles facing a municipal water company. She reported that the water pump was buried so many feet in the ground. Buried implies that the pump is covered by several yards of dirt. But water pumps are not buried, they're covered and fairly easily removed by a mechanical lift with no movement of dirt required. And this is just an example of a silly mistake that I happened to catch. I shudder to think about how many mistakes I miss due to my ignorance of the topic. How many fallacies and erroneous facts abound because reporters don't realize their ignorance?
Since I've more or less stopped watching the news, I am not one bit less informed and my mind is not cluttered with meaningless garbage (Britney Spears). I get a great deal of news off the Internet which allows me to filter out the random noise and instantly check facts if something sounds fishy or if I just want more information. Plus there are non journalists (economists, lawyers, political scientists, mathematicians, you name it) all over the Net who share their specialized knowledge via blogs. I've gotten to the point where I trust a Tyler Cowen or a Michael Barone more than a Brian Williams or Charles Gibson because Cowen and Barone have well known specialities (economics and politics, respectively) and stick to them while Williams and Gibson report on everything from the environment to consumer trends to a UFO in Stephenville. (By the way, what would aliens be doing in Stephenville? I could make a bad joke along the lines of "They can't be looking for intelligent life" but I will refrain from doing so.) I've found that Cowen and Barone will admit their ignorance on any given topic. I'm not sure Williams, Gibson or their type would.
So from what I've discovered, one of the best things you can do for your health, your sanity, and the world (aside from only using one piece of toilet paper per trip) is to stop watching the news.
Friday, January 11, 2008
I'm not sure the following paragraph hasn't been absorbed in Marlin, Texas particularly the last sentence:
When French students are not getting this kind of wildly biased commentary on the destruction wreaked by capitalism, they are learning that economic progress is also the root cause of social ills. For example, a one-year high school course on the inner workings of an economy developed by the French Education Ministry called Sciences Economiques et Sociales, spends two thirds of its time discussing the sociopolitical fallout of economic activity. Chapter and section headings include “Social Cleavages and Inequality,” “Social Mobilization and Conflict,” “Poverty and Exclusion,” and “Globalization and Regulation.” The ministry mandates that students learn “worldwide regulation as a response” to globalization. Only one third of the course is about companies and markets, and even those bits include extensive sections on unions, government economic policy, the limits of markets, and the dangers of growth. The overall message is that economic activity has countless undesirable effects from which citizens must be protected.
Thursday, January 3, 2008
- That as long as Bobby Petrino is the coach of Arkansas, they never win a football game.
- Despite news to the contrary, that Marlin doesn't get the RTLC plant. After everything that has happened, Marlin isn't worthy of such a blessing.
- That people who don't understand the very basics of statistics and probability stop watching the news and reading the paper. More on this later.
- That a majority of my students this semester can spell worth a crap.
- That the resignations of Falls County and Marlin City officials keeps on coming.
- That I start blogging more regularly.
- That Jerry Jones does not pull off some Herschel Walker type trade in order to draft Darren McFadden. However, I do hope he gets rid of Roy Williams. In case someone hasn't noticed, Roy can't cover!
- That more people read The Misanthropic Economist!
Happy New Year!