Assorted Links (12/17/2010)

Here’s list of articles that I have been reading lately:

The Coming College Education Bubble –

“Higher education’s price-earnings ratio looks like Nevada housing circa 2007.”

The Economics of Seinfeld

This website uses various Seinfeld episodes to help teach the principles of economics. My favorite is the rental car episode (cf. which provides a particularly vivid example of moral hazard (Hat tip to Greg Mankiw –

The Argument Against Gay Marriage: And Why it Doesn’t Fail « Public Discourse

“Last week we released our Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy article, “What is Marriage?” It offers a robust defense of the conjugal view of marriage as the union of husband and wife, and issues specific intellectual challenges to those who propose to redefine civil marriage to accommodate same-sex partnerships.”

Charles Krauthammer – The new comeback kid

“Don’t be fooled by thin-skinned temperament; Obama is a very smart man.”

The Case for Adoption

“In The Wall Street Journal, NPR’s Scott Simon writes that the story of the baby boy who was floated into the bulrushes along the Nile reminds us that the instinct to care for castaway children is ancient and inborn.”

Republicans and the Spending Dope

“In The Wall Street Journal, Potomac Watch columnist Kimberley Strassel notes that the trillion-dollar omnibus spending bill is the first big test of GOP resolve.”

America’s best and worst commutes

Gulp… My hometown of Austin, TX, ranks only marginally better than Los Angeles and Houston. Are you kidding???

Depression era Americans were optimistic, pro-fascism

“PEW has published a write-up of Gallup survey results from 1936 and 1937 in an effort to determine whether Americans are reacting differently to economic hardship now than they did in the Great Depression. Somewhat, says Pew: [D]espite their far higher and longer-lasting record of unemployment, Depression-era Americans remained hopeful for the future. About half (50%) expected general business conditions to improve over the next six months, while only 29% expected a worsening. And fully 60% thought that opportunities for getting ahead were better (45%) or at least as good (15%) as in their father’s day. Today’s public is far gloomier about the economic outlook: Only 35% in an  October Pew Research Center survey expected better economic conditions by October 2011, while 16% expected a still weaker economy.”

“Surplus Population”? Sorry, Mr. Scrooge, But You’re Mistaken

“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”—from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. These were very cold words from a very cold character that has come to epitomize callousness and indifference in the popular mind… Scrooge the critic of the “surplus population” was mistaken.  Nonetheless, if public debate about “overpopulation” is any indication, we condemn Scrooge for his virtues and agree with him (whether we acknowledge it or not) on population.”

Freakonomics Radio: Do More Expensive Wines Taste Better?

“When you take a sip of Cabernet, what are you tasting? The grape? The tannins? The oak barrel? Or the price? Believe it or not, the most dominant flavor may be the dollars. Thanks to the work of some intrepid and wine-obsessed economists (yes, there is an American Association of Wine Economists), we are starting to gain a new understanding of the relationship between wine, critics and consumers.”

The Reality of the Tax Deal – Robert P. Murphy – Mises Daily

Mr. Murphy raises some interesting concerns, based upon basic price theory, that an unintended consequence of cutting the payroll tax may be to cause the headline unemployment rate to “stubbornly” refuse to fall – or possibly even increase.

How the West grew rich – Washington Times

“The idea that America and the West grew rich through oppression and exploitation is strongly held among many intellectuals and activists. In the West, the exploitation thesis is invoked, by Jesse Jackson and others, to demand the payment of hundreds of billions of dollars in reparations for slavery and colonialism to African-Americans and natives of the Third World… Did the West enrich itself at the expense of minorities and the Third World through its distinctive crimes of slavery and colonialism?”

The GOP Charge Up Capitol Hill

“In The Wall Street Journal, Fred Barnes writes that come January, House Republicans will mount a far-reaching assault on the Democratic policies of the last two years.”

Money Out the Fenêtre

“In The Wall Street Journal, Jim Sollisch writes that budget cuts are forcing colleges to end foreign-language requirements, and it’s about time.”

What Are Taxes For

“In The Wall Street Journal, Wonder Land columnist Daniel Henninger asks: Should the primary purpose of taxation be to support the government or to maximize economic growth?”