Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Good Question

Russ Roberts asks a good question here.

Which is best for stimulating the economy?  1) If you have a bunch of unemployed carpenters, drop a bomb on a big city (evacuate the citizens first and put them up in rental homes), then employ the carpenters to rebuild that city.  2) Just give the unemployed carpenters the amount of money they would have earned working, but don't destroy the city.  3) Figure out why there are so many unemployed carpenters, then address that.

Many Keynesians argue that number 1 is the best idea.  Roberts, and I, disagree.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


NASA employs does Pennsylvania State University.  I'm sure this article is not an indictment of everyone working for these organizations; but, what these people are saying is stupid.

On second thought, they may have been joking, and it's the U.K.'s the Guardian that is making a fool of itself in the interest of promoting fear over global warming.

Most Econ 101 students should be able to provide one compelling reason why aliens are not likely to destroy the human race to prevent us from spreading greenhouse gasses to other planets....what would that reason be?  Go!!

Here's my guess: a race advanced enough to make interstellar travel reasonable (in terms of how long it takes to go from solar system to solar system) is probably advanced enough to have an energy source other than those that emit greenhouse gasses.  Or, they may still use such sources, but use it very efficiently.  So, rather than conduct a military operation, they might just shoot us a quick email about how to improve our energy usage (I'm assuming a race whose first instinct is to blow stuff up, including entire species and planets, probably wouldn't last long enough to achieve space flight...they might...but I doubt it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How Not to Be Persuasive

...because, it makes you sound smart and thrills the multitudes of thought-hating, reason-eschewing (eschew: to shun) individuals that comprise your audience.

Joe Nacera, in his article here, accuses Obama and Conservatives of having offered no real solutions to high unemployment.  He argues that Conservatives continue to offer non-solutions based off of tax-cuts for the wealthy, despite mounds of evidence to the contrary.  For Joe, "mounds" of evidence consist of such brilliant and highly reputed sources like the Huffington Post, and The Atlantic.  One journalist with left-leaning political views citing other leftward leaning journalists does not make a strong case any more than would an academic citing only his or her own work in a paper. 

Joe should at least acknowledge that there is a certain level of corporate taxation that would push producers of goods and services from the market.  Once one admits this level exists (we may not know what it is exactly) then it follows that once beyond this level, a decrease in taxes will serve as an incentive for producers to reenter the market, and thus, lower unemployment.

What Joe should really concern himself with is whether we are beyond this level, or not.  That's where the debate is, and where contributions to that debate are useful.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I was forced to... a cheeseburger the other day.  Don Boudreaux comments on Elizabeth Newton's stupid comments.  Some feel, often journalists, that their intellect is far enough above that of everyone else that they do not feel the need to think before they speak, or write in this case.  Newton's letter to the editor in the New York Times is an example of this.

On Defending the Profession...

When is no response to a criticism required?  Don Boudreaux opines.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Eugene Robinson writes in the Washington Post, here.  The thrust of Robinson's argument is that the S&P downgrade of US debt is due to Republican's threatening to not extend the debt limit.  My belief is that Robinson is using a tried and true political practice to sway the opinions of people who don't take much care in forming those opinions.  What is the tactic?  Robinson claims that a reasonable position is absurd, then argues in favor of the stupid position. 

To see what I'm talking about, look here.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Should the U.S. Cut Retiree Benefits

Here is an enlightening article from Bob Samuelson.  Bob's first point is that the US over the past 50 years has undertaken a huge wealth transfer from working individuals to retirees.

This is unsustainable, but neither party addressed it in the recent debt negotiations; at least, it was not part of the public debate.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Parents' Values and Welfare

I loved Don's response.  I also loved the self-discipline he exercised in not responding to the emailer with sarcasm and disgust.  Soon, I'll post Greg Mankiw's "10 Statements that Most Economists Agree With"  But, for now, I'll just use one: people respond to incentives.

Imagine that you and your family are out of work, out of money, and nearly out of food.  Your options are to either take a job that you would never take during less trying circumstances, or apply for food stamps.  If I were given a choice between shoveling manure or collecting food stamps...I might just have a tough decision to make.  One thing we cannot deny, or ignore, is that the existence of food stamps increases the probability that we will not accept less favorable (difficult, embarrasing, etc) employment.