Thursday, August 30, 2012

Why Journalists Should Have to Specialize in a Field

I follow Matt Yglesias on twitter.  I like to get the far left's perspective of things despite disagreeing with a lot of their positions.  Yglesias writes quite a bit on economics but so often he comes to simplistic conclusions.  So, what's happening?  Simply put, he's a leftist journalist that writes on economics related topics and uses simple Keynesian analysis to back up any policy that recommends more government power or control.  Granted, I haven't read every piece of his work so there may be a few gems that defy the trend.

In this link from Cafe Hayek, Don Boudreaux points out that Yglesias's analysis falls short when analyzing the stimulative effects of rebuilding after a hurricane.

Yglesias's shortcomings reinforce my feelings that journalists should pick a field they want to work in and specialize in that field by earning either a double major or a graduate degree.  One, this would reduce the supply of journalists and maybe increase their pay.  Two, the quality of journalism as a whole only has one direction to go: up.  I hope.  Requiring journalists to have some understanding of what they report on would improve the analysis coming out of our media outlets.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Why Should I Brush Your Teeth?

Bryan Caplan and Bill Dickens get into an argument over welfare.  See here.

This is really long, so I'll summarize.  At one point, Caplan says: Let me close by asking you a question I publicly asked Paul Krugman: Why are you so forgiving of people with irresponsible lifestyles, but so outraged by people who don't want to pay taxes to help people with irresponsible lifestyles?  This seems morally perverse.  If you're going to single anyone out for condemnation, it should be the person who behaves irresponsibly in the first place, not the complete stranger who asks, "How is this my fault?"

Dickens gives his response.  But, scroll down to the comments section and look for the powerful Thomas Sowell's comment.  Sowell points out a classic debate blunder (or maneuver if you're on the losing side).  Bryan Caplan asks a question that could be interpreted equivalently as "We should encourage people to brush their teeth so they don't need as much dental work." Dickens response is "People with bad teeth regret not having brushed them earlier in life." Sowell notes that Dickens doesn't even respond to Caplan's point.

At any rate, this requires some reading.  So, get comfy before diving in.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

We Seem Biased toward European Immigrants

Cafe Hayek — where orders emerge

These graphs show changing immigration trends.  Personally, I would like to see completely open immigration, as would most economists I suspect; at least, those not employed by specific groups that dislike immigration (unions).

Disability Increasing: I Assign Blame.

Russ Roberts on Disability

Russ Roberts shows that the number of workers as a percentage of overall employed workers is increasing.  I would imagine there is a connection to the amount of litigation faced by practitioners of medicine.  Many medical providers might feel that refusing to grant Total and Permanent Disability status to their patients is more trouble than it's worth.  This makes Workers Comp insurance more expensive for companies, increases their input costs, makes them raise prices on any manner of goods, reduces consumer surplus.

So what's the connection?  Fear of Litigation=>Doctors grant disability status=>Raises WC Premiums=>Raises cost of labor to companies=>Leads to higher prices for goods=>lowers quality of life for consumers.  So, we need tort reform.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Global Warming: I'll take two please.

Cafe Hayek — where orders emerge

Boudreaux makes an argument in the above referenced article that I've not heard.  To summarize: according to global warming experts, temperatures have risen over the past 250 years due to the industrial revolution and the emission of greenhouse gases.  The estimated total increase in global average temperatures is somewhere between a few and several degrees.  Compare this to a massive increase in human longevity, standard of living, education, rights extended to women, and health; not to mention the end of an ancient institution, slavery.  All of these positives were made possible by the industrial revolution.  Who, looking back, would say that they would prefer the earth to be a few degrees cooler even if it meant undoing all of human progress over the past 250 years? 

Thursday, August 09, 2012

The Myth of Overpopulation.

Cafe Hayek — where orders emerge

Boudreaux concisely refutes the idea that the earth is overcrowded.
1) More people are living longer and healthier lives than at any time in history.  So, overcrowding is not causing people to die early or lack nutrients (an argument that a specific location or country suffers from this issue is a different argument than global overcrowding).
2) The idea that overcrowding causes global warming is usually met with proposals to reduce the number of babies in the world.  But, babies and the elderly both cause CO2 emissions.  In fact, an elderly person with a car, home, etc imaginably produces much more.  So, why do we not see proposals to reduce the number of the elderly?  I can't imagine a satisfactory answer here.  Anyone want to try?

Friday, August 03, 2012

Response to A Follower

Here is a link to Benjy Sarlin's piece regarding the Romney Tax Plan (which doesn't exist in actuated form yet (but who does? Me? You? Alas!))  But, to get at the source, the Tax Policy Center is the place to go.

As for my response, here are some initial thoughts:

1) Income tax decrease across the board and eliminating loopholes is a good idea for any tax policy.  Loopholes funnel consumer income into things that they may not otherwise purchase without the tax benefit.  Decreasing the income tax, financed by getting rid of loopholes, should serve to allow consumers to reallocate their spending in a way that makes them better off in terms of welfare, even if they are no longer allowed to write off certain purchases. 

2) Any tax plan designed to address the budget deficit probably has to include government spending reductions and tax increases on the middle class.  There aren't enough wealthy people to only tax them and succeed in reducing the deficit to any great degree.  So an increase in taxes on the middle class is the result of too much government spending and they should be willing to vote for someone who acknowledges that it's time to pay for the government's past largesse.

3) For the first time since this data has been kept, the Congressional Budget Office has found that the middle class is a "net recipient of government largesse."  The middle class of one of the wealthiest nations on earth is now receiving handouts from the wealthier class.  The middle class does not need handouts.  Greg Mankiw notes (yes, he is an adviser for Mitt Romney, but 2+2=4 whether you worship at Paul Krugman's feet or not): "The most surprising fact to me was that the effective tax rate is negative for the middle quintile.  According to the CBO data, this number was +14 percent in 1979 (when the data begin) and remained positive through 2007.  It was negative 0.5 percent in 2008, and negative 5 percent in 2009.  That is, the middle class, having long been a net contributor to the funding of government, is now a net recipient of government largess."

4)  The Tax Policy Center that put together the proposals did so using pieced together emails and comments made on the campaign trail: " The Tax Policy Center (TPC) has completed a preliminary analysis of the Romney plan, based on information posted on the campaign website and email exchanges with campaign policy advisors. Because we have received no details on proposals to reduce tax preferences, the TPC analysis does not include those proposals."  In other words, no plan has been submitted, so far they are just going off of random bits of information put together here and there.

5) Lastly, as noted earlier, it is not a bad idea to get cut income taxes and finance it by getting rid of loopholes (tax expenditures).  Every time a middle class person fills out a tax return and takes a deduction they are enjoying a tax expenditure.  Yes, the wealthy have a lot, but so do the middle class.  These loopholes are very distortionary in that they twist the market for goods and services by placing incentives on purchasing some items and not others.  If you've ever said, or heard said, "I want to buy a home so that I can write off the blah, blah, blah."  Then you've seen these loopholes at work.  Get rid of as many of them as you can and just give people their money back so they can spend on what they choose.

6) Truly last.  Any argument that at its foundation rejects any tax policy because it reduces tax on the rich is a non-starter for me.  I think that when capital flows freely, it flows to the place where it earns its highest return.  Wealthy people tend to generate high returns.  That doesn't mean that the government can't collect revenue and construct safety nets for the poor.  The government tends to be very bad at this job and typically use this mission as a means to justify a lot of unnecessary and restrictive regulation far beyond its optimal scope.