Assorted Links (3/18/2011)

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

Evaluating TARP

“TARP is not popular with most Americans. Economic evaluations now rolling in support their view, but rather than pointing fingers, it is time to absorb the lessons and take actions to remove the legacy costs and try to end government bailouts as we know them.”

Is the Press Causing More Damage than the Japanese Nuclear Accident Itself?

“I have no scientific expertise on nuclear power plants. I followed closely at the time the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 and listened to accounts of a Russian nuclear scientist-friend who worked on the damaged roof of the Chernobyl plant the day after the explosion. He suffered no known health consequences.”

Social Science Palooza II

“A sampling of recent research tries to understand the ties that bind.”

You Can’t Go Home Again

“Peggy Noonan’s lesson from the front: It’s easier to start a war than to finish one.”

John Wilson: What Happened to Heaven and Is Gandhi There?

“In The Wall Street Journal, John Wilson writes about a new book stirring debate about the afterlife.”

Progressive Government Is Obsolete

“In The Wall Street Journal, New York City Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith says that today’s bureaucratic rules and regulations stifle government workers’ creativity and prevent efficient city government.”

President ‘Present’

“In The Wall Street Journal, Potomac Watch columnist Kimberley Strassel says Obama is dodging the big decisions to keep his approval ratings up until the 2012 election campaign begins in earnest.”

Millions saved in Japan by good engineering and government building codes

“As the devastation in Japan achingly unfolds, it’s easy to learn about the thousands of deaths, the piles of debris, the washed-away homes and think, “Nothing could be worse.””

Why Official Bailouts Tend Not To Work: An Example Motivated by Greece

“Christophe Chamley of Boston University and Brian Pinto of the World Bank use recent events in Greece to illustrate that official bailouts tend not to work when countries have fundamental fiscal (‘insolvency’) problems and construct a two-period numerical example to explain why this should not come as a surprise.”

Deflation Dread Disorder “The CPI is Falling!””

“We’re suffering an epidemic of deflation dread disorder, according to Edward Leamer of UCLA who takes on the New York Times and leading talking heads. Leamer’s contention is that deflation is not so bad and maybe not coming.”

Japan Earthquake: before and after

“Aerial photos taken over Japan have revealed the scale of devastation across dozens of suburbs and tens of thousands of homes and businesses. Hover over each satellite photo to view the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami.”

Spent Fuel Rods at Plant Pose Big Risk

“Japan’s nuclear crisis now hangs largely on whether it can get control over the radioactive waste held in pools of water at the troubled Fukushima Daiichi power plant.”

The Collapse of Internationalism

“Daniel Henninger writes in The Wall Street Journal that the Obama foreign-policy team is following precisely the agenda it laid out years ago—and is utterly failing its first real-world test in Libya.”

TARP Was No Win for the Taxpayers

“In The Wall Street Journal, Paul Atkins, Mark McWatters and Kenneth Troske rebut the Treasury Department’s claim that the bank bailouts will return a profit to the taxpayers. Treasury is ignoring the fact that other more costly government programs are enabling the banks to repay their TARP funds.”

Our Anemic Recovery Continues

“Mortimer Zuckerman writes in The Wall Street Journal that who can blame consumers for holding back when 50 million Americans depend on taxpayer-supported programs? The modern-day soup line is a check in the mail.”

Freakonomics » Taking a Course From Gary Becker

I am DEFINITELY going to “sit in” on Gary Becker’s Econ 343 course on the theory of human capital, “…for which he won the Nobel Prize” (in 1992)…

Assorted Links (3/16/2011)

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

The New Humanism

“We have a prevailing view in our society — not only in the policy world, but in many spheres — that we are divided creatures. Reason, which is trustworthy, is separate from the emotions, which are suspect. Society progresses to the extent that reason can suppress the passions.”

A Red Dixiecrat Dawn?

“The controversy over the blue social model keeps heating up.  With the controversy over Wisconsin’s restrictions on public employee unions metastasizing from the Madison protests to what increasingly looks like a national political battle, the blue state and red state models of social development and economic governance seem to be at daggers drawn.”

Japan and the Broken Window Fallacy

“In The Wall Street Journal, George Melloan writes that, as the French economist Frederic Bastiat once observed, reconstruction activity yields no net gain in a society’s wealth.”

Why North Dakota Is Booming

“In The Wall Street Journal, Joel Kotkin notes that North Dakota’s energy-based economy is one of the healthiest in the nation, with 3.8% unemployment.”

In Japan, the public bears most of the risk of earthquakes

“The devastation unfolding in Japan will likely generate the largest insured losses for any earthquake, but by far the biggest part of the tab will fall on the Japanese people.”

Book Review: Peddling Protectionism

“James Grant reviews Douglas A. Irwin’s Peddling Protectionism: Smoot-Hawley and the Great Depression.”

Notable & Quotable

“Juan Williams on the latest scandal at NPR, his former employer.”

Review & Outlook: President Warren’s Empire

“The Wall Street Journal says the consumer finance czar answers to no one and sets her own budget.”

The Future of Nukes, and of Japan

“In The Wall Street Journal, Business World columnist Holman Jenkins wonders if the world will abandon nuclear energy, the only feasible alternative to fossil fuels.”

Make the Bush Tax Cuts Permanent

“…this year the House Republican majority should pass a permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts. Even that is just a beginning. To touch off a boom—and secure a prosperous future for all Americans—what’s really needed are additional, sweeping rate cuts on both individual and corporate income.”

Fukushima a triumph for nuke power: Build more reactors now!

“Japan’s nuclear powerplants have performed magnificently in the face of a disaster hugely greater than they were designed to withstand, remaining entirely safe throughout and sustaining only minor damage. The unfolding Fukushima story has enormously strengthened the case for advanced nation – including Japan – to build more nuclear powerplants, in the knowledge that no imaginable disaster can result in serious problems.”

Derivatives, as Accused by Buffett

“Warren Buffett’s comments to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission have been whizzing around e-mail inboxes.”

The Ike Phase

“At a time when urgent action calls, President Obama is choosing prudence. Is this wisdom or passivity?”

Japan Does Not Face Another Chernobyl

“In The Wall Street Journal, William Tucker says that the containment structures of Japan’s nuclear reactors appear to be working, and that the latest reactor designs aren’t vulnerable to the coolant problem at issue in Japan.”

Review & Outlook: Nuclear Overreactions

“The Wall Street Journal says one lesson of Japan’s earhtquake and nuclear reactor crisis is that modern life requires learning from disasters, not fleeing all risk.”

David Brooks: The social animal | Video on

“Tapping into the findings of his latest book, NYTimes columnist David Brooks unpacks new insights into human nature from the cognitive sciences — insights with massive implications for economics and politics as well as our own self-knowledge.”

On the N.C.A.A. Benching of Perry Jones

“The way the N.C.A.A. dispenses penalties for rules violations is wildly uneven — and this is where the case of a Baylor basketball player becomes baffling.”

Will It Be One-and-Done for Baylor’s Perry Jones?

“When the most-gifted players, like Baylor’s phenom, stay for only one season, it’s hard not to wonder how much college basketball matters.”

Assorted Links (3/12/2011)

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

Massive earthquake hits Japan

From’s “Big Picture” website – a remarkable series of 47 photos of yesterday’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan!

The Weekend Interview with James Q. Wilson: The Man Who Defined Deviancy Up

“In The Wall Street Journal, Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. interviews James Q. Wilson about why crime has dropped since he first wrote about ‘broken windows’ in 1982.”

Washington’s Dithering on Libya

“In The Wall Street Journal, Eliot Cohen says that if the Gadhafi regime survives, the Obama administration’s response to the crisis could hurt U.S. foreign policy for years to come.”

A European’s Warning to America

“In a Wall Street Journal essay adapted from Encounter Books’ Broadside No. 19, Why America Must Not Follow Europe, Daniel Hannan writes that Americans deserve better than the European model that Barack Obama is trying to implement.”

The Modesty Manifesto

“Americans’ tendency toward overconfidence is corroding our citizenship.”

Ready for Unionized Airport Security?

“In The Wall Street Journal, Potomac Watch columnist Kimberley Strassel notes how the Obama administration is greasing the wheels for the largest federal union organizing effort in history.”

ObamaCare and the Truth About ‘Cost Shifting’

“Economists John Cogan, Glenn Hubbard and Daniel Kessler write in The Wall Street Journal that there’s simply no evidence to support the claim that the insured bear the costs of caring for the uninsured.”

How the market can keep streams flowing

“With streams and rivers drying up because of over-usage, Rob Harmon has implemented an ingenious market mechanism to bring back the water. Farmers and beer companies find their fates intertwined in the intriguing century-old tale of Prickly Pear Creek.”  Mr. Harmon describes a market-based solution to this environmental problem which represents a very straightforward application of Coase’s Theorem (cf.…

The One That Got Away

Former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan disses former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s book entitled “Known and Unknown” (cf. Here’s a quote “It is the great scandal of the wars of the Bush era that the U.S. government failed to get him (bin Laden) and bring him to justice. It is the shame of this book that Don Rumsfeld lacks the brains to see it, or the guts to admit it.”

New York Needs Its Best

“In The Wall Street Journal, Michelle Rhee says New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo should back legislation to end the rule that teachers must be laid off in order of seniority.”

Why I’m Fighting in Wisconsin

“Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker writes in The Wall Street Journal that his state can avoid mass teacher layoffs and reward its best performers, but the state legislature has to act now.”

NPR’s Damning Admission

“The latest scandal to tarnish NPR’s image.”

Medicaid Is Worse Than No Coverage at All

“In The Wall Street Journal, Dr. Scott Gottlieb writes that Medicaid patients often fare worse than those with no insurance at all. So why, he asks, does the president want to shove one in four Americans into the government plan?”

Obama a ‘Radical’? Get Real

“In The Wall Street Journal, Michael Medved writes that the president isn’t outside the Democratic Party’s mainstream—and Republicans will find him easier to beat once they realize the problem is that mainstream.”

What Price the Cloud?

“In The Wall Street Journal, Business World columnist Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. says that cheap powerful handheld devices tied to high-speed mobile networks will strain the bandwidth capacity of Internet service providers.”

Why the Big Deal About Consumer Spending?

“Keynesian assertions notwithstanding, there is no hard evidence that consumer spending is a driver of economic growth, an economist writes.”

The Euro’s Debatable Future

“Europe’s leaders convene in Brussels this week to debate the future of the euro. In The Wall Street Journal, four experts—Barry Eichengreen, Martin Feldstein, Pedro Solbes and Steve H. Hanke—weigh in on the common currency.”

EU bans gender-based insurance rates

“In most of the United States, men pay more for auto insurance than women do, and with good reason: Men cost more to insure – especially young men.”

Personal union anecdotes…

With all the recent news about unions, it has made me think back to my own personal experiences early in my adult life as a labor union member.

Shortly after graduating from college in 1977 during the awful Carter “stagflationary” economy, I became a member of two labor unions: the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW).  In both cases, union membership was compulsory; for my “night” job as a professional musician and for my “day” job as a factory worker.  I recall allowing my AFM union dues to lapse (not possible in the case of IAMAW since those dues were automatically deducted from my paychecks); I can’t remember for sure whether this was a sin of omission or commission on my part.  Anyway, one time at a gig in San Jose, CA, an AFM union representative showed up unannounced and wanted all of the assembled musicians to show him their AFM union cards.  Since my card had expired, I discreetly hid from him; had he caught me, I may have been barred from performing that evening.

In my day job, my primary recollection is of the union steward spending most of his time carping with the plant manager on behalf of factory workers who more often than not just didn’t do a particularly good job of appearing to be busy (e.g., by taking excessively long breaks and not working particularly hard).  However, in fairness to the workers, what’s the point in working hard when you get paid by the hour and no meaningful linkage exists between effort and pay outcomes?  Furthermore, in our collection bargaining agreement, we (the workers) had basically agreed that we would not work too hard but would make a good faith effort at trying to look like we were busy, and for whatever reason the company that I worked for agreed to these terms. This company was a subsidiary of the Xerox Corporation called Cheshire, and its primary product was book-binding machines; I was a member of a team of four workers which was given a quota for making a certain number of  machines each day.  This was a terribly boring job because the required production rate was so low that if you worked at a “normal” pace, you’d be done by lunchtime, so we had to intentionally slow down and still look like we were “busy”…

In light of my personal experiences, I am still scratching my head at Paul Krugman’s recent missive entitled “Degrees and Dollars”.  Steve Landsburg argues that Krugman’s argument basically boils down to the following proposition: “…to encourage innovation, you want to strengthen the unions”.  As a union member, I would have loved to have had the opportunity (and incentives) to innovate; perhaps things are different now…

Assorted Links (3/7/2011)

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

“Necessary” Bank Bailouts Harm the Economy, Wreck the Banks

John Tamny channels Joseph Schumpeter: “The bank bailouts of 2008 continue to bring the broad economy harm, all the while restraining the ability of the banking system to get back on its feet. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. To put it simply, while business failure of any kind is always painful for investors and employees alike, it’s a happy sign of economic revival for revealing in living color that capitalism is working.”

The Young And the Perceptive

Interesting essay on how “systematically” important errors often go undetected: “Could teenagers have caught Wall Street’s false notes?”

Do the Math (even if you’re getting a PhD in English)

This article documents, among other things, the persistent (and chronic) oversupply (relative to demand) of PhD’s in fields such as English, History, and Foreign Languages…

Deterrence in the Age of Nuclear Proliferation

“In The Wall Street Journal, George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger and Sam Nunn say the doctrine of mutual assured destruction is obsolete.”

‘Borders on Misrepresentation’

“Judge Vinson calls out Justice on its ObamaCare dishonesty.”

The Unhappy Paradox of Santa-Statism

As an alternative to Santa-Statism, AEI president Arthur Brooks channels Nobel (economics) laureate Friedrich Hayek: “As regards the economy, the government should provide a minimum basic standard of living for citizens, and address market failures in cases where government action can do so cost effectively.”

The Dictator’s Wife Wears Louboutins

“In The Wall Street Journal, Bari Weiss and David Feith write about Vogue magazine’s recent paean to Syria’s first lady, Asma al-Assad. Apparently Anna Wintour missed the trend: Middle Eastern tyrants are out this season.”

The Middle East Uprisings, their Economies, and the World Economy

Thoughtful essay by University of Chicago economist and Nobel Laureate Gary Becker: “The revolutions and protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, and other parts of the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa) are the most important world development in the past 20 years, even though it is still highly uncertain about the types of governments that will emerge…”

When halfway isn’t

“The negotiations on the continuing resolution (CR) began yesterday. The Administration’s new line, echoed by Congressional Democrats, is that their new offer “comes halfway.””

Costs of the New Government Activism

“In “Activism,” a paper soon to be published by the Council on Foreign Relations, Alan Greenspan delves into the consequences of the recent surge of what he describes as “government activism, as represented by the 2009 US$814 billion programme of fiscal stimulus, housing and motor vehicle subsidies and innumerable regulatory interventions.””

George F. Will – Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich and the spotlight-chasing candidates of 2012

“When Republicans do not recoil from question-rants, the conservative party is indirectly injured.”

Badgering the Witless

Very interesting followup by “iowahawk” on his previous post entitled “Longhorns 17, Badgers 1“. Among other things, iowahawk references Caroline Hoxby’s 1996 QJE paper “…which statistically controls for additional variables. Her main conclusions: collective bargaining increases the input provided to schools (spending, construction and the like), but actual decreases school output (test scores and the like).”

On the use of social media in higher education…

My own experience with social media in a university setting is at odds with what is reported in this Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE) article. In my opinion, social media complements, but does not replace, the classroom experience.

Actually Going to Class? How 20th-Century. – Technology – The Chronicle of Higher Education
“”There’s not really much need for teachers anymore,” since so much material is online, says Dekunle Somade, a senior at the U. of Maryland at College Park.”

Assorted Links (3/5/2011)

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

The Math Behind Scoring Systems for March Madness Pools – The Numbers Guy

“A biostatistician proposes a new system for scoring college-basketball prediction contests and other office pools.”

Longhorns vs. Badgers

“So are public schools in Texas worse than public schools in more ‘progressive’ states such as Wisconsin – as Paul Krugman, among others, argues? Read this post from Iowahawk and decide for yourself. (HT Steve Pejovich)”

We Don’t Need U.N. Approval to Save Libyan Lives

“Why is the Obama administration deferring to an international body that protects brutal dictatorships?”

Review & Outlook: Still Too Big, Still Can’t Fail

Interesting article on how the ratings firms rationally condition their credit analyses of large banks like Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and Citigroup upon the expectation that “…Washington will open the checkbook again” for these firms when the next financial crisis occurs…

The Weekend Interview with Paul Johnson: Why America Will Stay on Top

I first became aware of Mr. Johnson many years ago when I read thought provoking essay entitled “The Heartless Lovers of Humankind” (available on the web at My favorite quote: “…intellectuals profess to love humanity and to be working for its improvement and happiness. But it is the idea of humanity they love, rather than the actual individuals who compose it.”

World’s Top Ten Gaddafi Toads

“When Muammar Gaddafi, the ‘Commander of Islam’, Africa’s King of Kings and the Great Loon of Libya addressed the United Nations General Assembly at unusual length in 2009, he asked about the hanging of Saddam Hussein. “How is the member of a government and president of a country sentenced to hang?”

Charles Krauthammer – From Baghdad to Benghazi

“Everyone is a convert to George W. Bush’s freedom agenda.”

Public Broadcasting Should Go Private

“In The Wall Street Journal, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint says that if these outfits can afford to pay lavish salaries to their heads, they don’t need taxpayer help.”

Time to Get Serious About American Oil

“In The Wall Street Journal, Alaska Governor Sean Parnell asks why Washington is blocking oil exploration in states like Alaska and Louisiana when the Middle East is such a powder keg?”

The Desire for Liberty Is Universal

“Michael Novak writes in The Wall Street Journal that a rebellion against a cruel dictator is not the same as a choice for a polity of law and rights. But it’s an important first step.”

Dollar’s Reign as World’s Main Reserve Currency Is Near an End

“The U.S. dollar will soon have to share the role of the world’s currency, argues UC Berkeley economist Barry Eichengreen in The Wall Street Journal. He explains why the change is coming—and what it will mean for international markets and companies.”

The Case for the Dollar’s Continued Dominance

Here’s a counterpoint to Eichengreen’s article: “The financial crisis and the U.S. government’s troubled long-term fiscal position have triggered speculation about alternatives to the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. But many economists say there’s nothing ready to replace it.”

Gadhafi Makes the U.N. Grade

“The Wall Street Journal on the Human Rights Council’s opinion.”

The Minimal Impact of the Stimulus

“The latest data on gross domestic product shows little benefit from the federal stimulus plan, an economist writes.”

EU Bans Sex-Based Insurance Rates

“The European Union’s highest court declared illegal the widespread practice of charging men and women different rates for insurance, roiling the industry and setting in motion an overhaul of how life, auto and health policies are written.”

Should We Invest More In Pre-Schools Or Parents? : Planet Money : NPR

“We have too many eggs in the kid basket,” an economist says. “We need to spend much more time and many more resources on helping parents.”

The Massachusetts Health-Reform Mess

“In The Wall Street Journal, John E. Calfee notes that the health reform that served as the model for ObamaCare is in serious fiscal trouble.”

George Will can really put a sentence together

“The latest EconTalk is George Will talking about his career, the state of America, the state of American politics, baseball, and a few other things along the way. He is a beautiful talker. I particularly liked his thoughts on whether American politics hasn’t gotten any uglier in recent years. Enjoy.”

The Best Economics Papers Ever?

“In celebration of its 100-year anniversary, the American Economic Review asked six “eminent economists” (Kenneth J. Arrow, B. Douglas Bernheim, Martin S. Feldstein, Daniel L. McFadden, James M. Poterba, and Robert M. Solow) to select the journal’s top 20 papers ever published.”