Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Solutions Not from Copenhagen

John Tierney, myself, and a few others are showing how green we are by NOT flying to Copenhagen to discuss global warming. Ross McKitrick, an economist at the University of Guelph in Ontario has a better solution. From Tierney's article:

"To end this political stalemate, Dr. McKitrick proposes calling each side’s bluff. He suggests imposing financial penalties on carbon emissions that would be set according to the temperature in the earth’s atmosphere. The penalties could start off small enough to be politically palatable to skeptical voters.

If the skeptics are right and the earth isn’t warming, then the penalties for burning carbon would stay small or maybe even disappear. But if the climate modelers and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are correct about the atmosphere heating up, then the penalties would quickly, and automatically, rise.

'Either way we get a sensible outcome,' Dr. McKitrick argues. 'The only people who lose will be those whose positions were disingenuous, such as opponents of greenhouse policy who claim to be skeptical while privately believing greenhouse warming is a crisis, or proponents of greenhouse gas emission cuts who neither understand nor believe the I.P.C.C. projections, but invoke them as a convenient argument on behalf of policies they want on other grounds even if global warming turns out to be untrue.'"

This way everyone puts their money where their mouth is.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My Return and Family Violence and Football

I know it has been a while since my last post. I've been incredibly busy with comprehensive exams, course work, teaching, and research. I've resolved to blog occasionally to further develop my writing ability. If anyone still comes by here, thanks for checking back in.

This study made me laugh this morning because it seems to confirm my intuition about people getting too worked up over sports. "Family Violence and Football: The Effect of Unexpected Emotional Cues on Violent Behavior." Here's the abstract:

Family violence is a pervasive and costly problem, yet there is no consensus on how to interpret the phenomenon of violence by one family member against another. Some analysts assume that violence has an instrumental role in intra-family incentives. Others argue that violent episodes represent a loss of control that the offender immediately regrets. In this paper we specify and test a behavioral model of the latter form. Our key hypothesis is that negative emotional cues – benchmarked relative to a rationally expected reference point – make a breakdown of control more likely. We test this hypothesis using data on police reports of family violence on Sundays during the professional football season. Controlling for location and time fixed effects, weather factors, the pre-game point spread, and the size of the local viewing audience, we find that upset losses by the home team (losses in games that the home team was predicted to win by more than 3 points) lead to an 8 percent increase in police reports of at-home male-on-female intimate partner violence. There is no corresponding effect on female-on-male violence. Consistent with the behavioral prediction that losses matter more than gains, upset victories by the home team have (at most) a small dampening effect on family violence. We also find that unexpected losses in highly salient or frustrating games have a 50% to 100% larger impact on rates of family violence. The evidence that payoff-irrelevant events affect the rate of family violence leads us to conclude that at least some fraction of family violence is better characterized as a breakdown of control than as rationally directed instrumental violence.

Monday, July 27, 2009

On Babies (Chinese) and Schools (Charter)

Two stories have recently caught my attention.
  • Chinese officials are now urging some couples to have two children, primarily to ease the coming strain from the population aging. The One Child policy has created an incredible generational, and gender, imbalance. They'd better hope and pray a disproportionate number of these two child couples have girls.
  • I have practically no hope that any education reform will work. The flaws go way too deep for vouchers, charter schools, merit pay, etc. to have any meaningful impact. The unionization of charter schools is one more reason I don't think school choice vouchers (or charter schools) would have any significant positive effect. Under a voucher plan, why wouldn't the current unions make every effort to unionize the teachers in voucher financed schools, thereby perpetuating the flaws of the current system? Even if school choice gathered momentum, the institutional structure of education remains intact. The financing mechanism might change, but the box within which (most) schooling occurs will still have its four walls in exactly the same place. For any significant and lasting change in education to occur, the walls must come down. I'm not betting on that happening.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Energy Use and Sin Taxes

Two great articles. Both are well worth reading in full, but a fantastic quote from each.

John Tierney on energy use:

"But among researchers who analyze environmental data, a lot has changed since the 1970s. With the benefit of their hindsight and improved equations, I’ll make a couple of predictions:

1. There will be no green revolution in energy or anything else. No leader or law or treaty will radically change the energy sources for people and industries in the United States or other countries. No recession or depression will make a lasting change in consumers’ passions to use energy, make money and buy new technology — and that, believe it or not, is good news, because...

2. The richer everyone gets, the greener the planet will be in the long run."

Robert Sirico on sin taxes:

"When it comes to public policy, the preferred method of discouraging sin should fall under the category of alternative, mediating institutions, notably family, church, and school. That would leave government officials more time to focus on the sins they can really do something about—their own."

Monday, May 25, 2009

On Christian Movies and Music

There is a great post from the Acton Institute on sub par Christian movies. It points out that Christian and conservative writers have not mastered the art of narrative, therefore most Christian and conservative themed films are dreadful. Read the whole post. It is well worth a few minutes.

I would put Christian music in the same boat. The lyrics can be quite inspirational, but with few exceptions the music behind the vocal melody is absolutely terrible and often times makes me envy the deaf. While I am a self avowed music snob, I can't help but think that the terrible, and often cookie cutter, music drives people away who would otherwise give contemporary Christian music a chance, especially non Christians.

If you look hard enough, you can find a few Christian bands that write half way decent music. A few this music snob enjoys are: Decyfer Down, Jonah 33, Hymns of Eden, and We As Human. Even a few secular musicians have written some music with Christian imagery. Alice Cooper put out two albums, Brutal Planet and Dragontown, that one critic compared to C.S. Lewis in Cooper's use of imagery at various points.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Targeting the Older Folks

Peter Drucker is closer to being vindicated. More goods and services are being marketed to consumers 50 years of age and above. The recession has played a role in this as have demographic shifts, but businesses are also finally realizing that the over 50 segment of the population is the wealthiest.

The Oldsters are also tech savvy. Over 50 percent of Kindle owners are 50 years old and above. A piece of interesting anecdotal evidence on Oldsters and technology comes from churches installing the projection screens in the front of the sanctuary to reduce the need for hymnals and readings printed in the bulletin. I've heard that the Oldsters are usually the loudest to object to the screens, but once they are installed they love them because they can see the words better than in the hymnal!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Family and Entrepreneurship

This brief essay points out the vital role of the family in transmitting business skills to the next generation. When entrepreneurs work in a family business before starting their own business, these new businesses are 10 to 40 percent more successful than they would otherwise be (that is one heck of a range, but that's beside the point). So it appears that much entrepreneurial skill is transmitted outside of a classroom; no big shock there. This is the primary reason I have very little good to say about child labor laws.

The most troubling aspect comes in when considering the weak family bonds many possess. For instance, the black rate of business ownership is below that of whites. How much of this is due to a distressingly low number of black children having the opportunity to work in family businesses? This creates a self perpetuating cycle. The current generation has a low rate of business ownership and thus the next generation has a lower rate of business ownership and thus fewer opportunities in life.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Post Office in Trouble

The U.S. Postal Service lost $2.8 billion last year and will be in trouble this year if Congress doesn't step in. How about opening up first class mail to competition? FedEx, DHL, UPS, and however many other package delivery companies there are do a fine job. How about letting them, or anyone else, take a crack at first class mail? The Internet has taken a huge cut out of the Post Office's business and as people become ever more Internet savvy and postage increases, it will continue to decline.

Now granted, other first class mail delivery services wouldn't be as entertaining since I think UPS frowns upon its employees carrying weapons, but I'm sure we can find plenty of entertainment elsewhere.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Externalities in the Air

I was on a flight Saturday. The man in front of me reclined his seat back to an extent that it slightly restricted my leg room. This seemed like an externality. The actions of this man reduced one of the goods, comfort, in my utility function.

It would have been very easy for me to attempt to remedy this situation. I could have politely asked the man to lean his seat forward a bit. If that failed, I could have called the flight attendant over to force him to lean his seat forward. I found that option a bit extravagant given the circumstances so we're left with the two of us bargaining over his optimal seat position should I raise a fuss. This man obviously valued having his seat reclined in order to increase his comfort, or possibly annoy me (probably not the latter, but it is a possibility). I valued having as much leg room as possible, but maximizing that would result in the cost of bargaining with the man. I did not bargain with him, his seat remained reclined for the remainder of the flight, and I continued to work.

Given that my net benefits of increased leg room (additional leg room minus the cost of bargaining) was obviously less than the value this man placed on reclining in his seat, social value was maximized. What appeared to be an externality was willingly accepted by me because the cost of remedying the situation was higher than the additional leg room I would obtain.

Now, the 12 year old boy sitting between myself and the attractive young lady in the next seat was an externality that should have been remedied immediately! I'm sure a meager cash payment would have eliminated that externality and added to both our utilities. However, she might have incurred an externality and then the whole process would start over.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The EU and the Economic Crises

The differing impacts the economic crises is having across the European Union is causing some splits in the EU. Some members of the Central and Eastern bloc are doing well given the circumstances (Poland, the Czech Republic) while others in the bloc are in dire straits (Hungary, Romania). There are differences across the Western countries, with Ireland, Italy, Spain, and Greece being hit harder than the rest. Since these nations are prohibited from taking substantial unilateral action to stimulate their economies, the EU is facing its first major challenge.

A professor of mine about 6 years ago speculated that the euro zone would be fragmented when some of the member countries had especially bad economic circumstances and the EU wouldn't act as aggressively as they hoped. Could they be facing that situation?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Right to Earn a Living

Here is a great article from The Freeman on how existing economic interests team up with state and local governments to restrict the entry of new competitors. An interesting side note is that veterinarians are some of the worst offenders. The article profiles one woman in Maryland who was prohibited under penalty of criminal prosecution from massaging horses. Another example happened in Texas 3 or 4 years ago when the vets sought to prohibit non vets from floating horse teeth. The vets succeeded in 2007 and the battle continues.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Rainforests and Health Care

  • The rain forests are expanding as farmers move from the countryside to the cities in search of better opportunities. Their farmers are reverting back to rain forest. From the article: "By one estimate, for every acre of rain forest cut down each year, more than 50 acres of new forest are growing in the tropics on land that was once farmed, logged, or ravaged by natural disaster." So native peoples win by gaining better employment opportunities, the animals win by getting increased habitat and environmentalists/conservationists get more rain forest. Three cheers for a win, win, win situation!
  • Here are two divergent, in both underlying perspective and solutions, views on health care reform: Paul Krugman takes the government provided universal health care line and Donald Condit takes the more market oriented line with a healthy dose of Christian ethics thrown in.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Now the Economy is Going to Tank!

Expect the unemployment rate for January to rise significantly. No, not because we now have President Obama. Because the Professional Bush protesters are now unemployed.

As a side note, Christmas break is now long gone and I will attempt to blog somewhat regularly.