Monday, March 31, 2008

Blog Highlights

  • 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 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

Tierney on Carbon Tracking

John Tierney has a fantastic article as always. In today's article, he goes through his plan to combat global warming and reduce carbon emissions.

Two passages are worthy of quoting in full:

We can’t even prepare properly for something as straightforward as our own retirement. We’ll put in long hours shopping for a cellphone or a television set, but we’re too busy to agonize over pension plans: in one study, most people spent less than an hour choosing theirs. We’re not good at making immediate sacrifices for an abstract benefit in the future. And this weakness is compounded when, as with climate change, we have a hard time even understanding the problem or the impact of our actions today.
And after explaining how he would use a fashion statement to encourage carbon reduction (read the article to learn how):
This would be a strictly voluntary system — climate contrarians could either ignore it or proudly wear their flashing red lapel pins — and it would cost taxpayers nothing.
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.
Well worth reading in full.

Congestion Pricing Criticism

I like the idea of congestion pricing. If tolls are set such that a constant flow of traffic is maintained, roads will be more efficiently used and drivers will save time and money. My enthusiasm has been tempered by Becky Akers' article Congestion Pricing: The Road to the Surveillance State.

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

Is it all about Public Safety?

From the Wednesday, March 12, 2008 print edition of The Marlin Democrat (emphasis added):

Burn Ban Lifted
Commissioners did not vote Monday to reinstate the county-wide burn ban. The ban had been lifted at the last commissioners court meeting Feb. 25, but County Judge Steven Sharp put in an emergency ban because of dry air and high winds and to keep Falls County eligible for disaster relief funds. Sharp's emergency ban expired Tuesday, March 4 and it was not reinstated.

Misc. Stuff

  • 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

Break Even Analysis

Break even analysis equates total revenue and total cost. It is useful because it allows you see where you will just break even (make zero profit) and it will provide you with a range of outputs, at given prices and costs, over which you will make a positive profit.

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.

Hunting Classes

West Virginia is now allowing hunting classes in schools. I'd bet that a primary reason for this is that the state has seen a 20 percent decrease in the number of hunting permits purchased over the last decade for a revenue loss of $1.5 million.

The question is how long this will last before a legal challenge ends such classes.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Various Readings

  • 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.