Assorted Links (3/25/2012)

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

Even Central Bankers Have Had Enough

online.wsj.com

“The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas calls the country’s top banks a clear and present danger to the economy. This is a member of the financial establishment itself calling for Too-Big-To-Fail banks to be broken up.”

Top Saudi Cleric Issues Fatwa: Destroy Churches | Via Meadia

blogs.the-american-interest.com

“In recent years the king of Saudi Arabia has won plaudits around the world for promoting interfaith dialogs. Those efforts recently received a dramatic setback when the top religious official in Saudi Arabia issued a fatwa earlier this month calling on the faithful to destroy all churches in the Arabian peninsula.”

Obama Is Humbled by the Market

online.barrons.com

“The gas market, that is, for which the president branded himself as a superman. Now he’s desperate to become human again.”

The Hunger Games: Could a real country have an economy like Panem’s?

www.slate.com

Be sure to read this Slate article before y’all head out to see The Hunger Games!

Obama’s tax hikes threaten a new US recession

www.nber.org

I highly recommend reading Harvard economist Martin Feldstein’s Financial Times article (short and concise – just 1-1/2 pages!) entitled “Obama’s tax hikes threaten a new US recession” at http://www.nber.org/feldstein/ft03192012.pdf!

Subsidizing wind and solar because China and Germany are doing it

keithhennessey.com

“If President Obama is going to subsidize industries either because he likes them or because other Nations’ governments are subsidizing them, then we must acknowledge that he is engaged in industrial policy, aka state-managed capitalism, with an open question about whether the managing state is based…”

Hey Baby, Is That a Prius You’re Driving?

www.freakonomics.com

Interesting podcast about “conspicuous conservation” (apologies to Thorstein Veblen, who famously coined the (related) term “conspicuous consumption” more than 100 years ago). This podcast “…centers around a paper by (economists) Alison and Steve Sexton… called “Conspicuous Conservation: The Prius Effect and Willingness to Pay for Environmental Bona Fides.” Why single out the Toyota Prius? how much value do people who lean green place on being seen leaning green? The Sextons found that the Prius’s “green halo” was quite valuable — and, the greener the neighborhood, the more valuable the Prius is.”

The podcast also considers various other examples of “conspicuous conservation”, including a canvas tote bag example (“For about $20 you can announce your environmental bona fides with a canvas tote that says “I’m not a plastic bag.””) and how people frequently install solar panels on the side of their homes facing the street, even if it would be more efficient (in terms of sun exposure) to install panels on the other side of their homes…

What Does the Prudent Investor Do Now?

professional.wsj.com

“In The Wall Street Journal, Princeton University economist Burton Malkiel writes that at a yield of 2.25%, the 10-year U.S. Treasury is a sure loser and stocks are a safer choice.”

Liberty and ObamaCare

online.wsj.com

Quoting from this article, “The stakes are much larger than one law or one President. It is not an exaggeration to say that the Supreme Court’s answers may constitute a hinge in the history of American liberty and limited and enumerated government. The Justices must decide if those principles still mean something.”

Obamacare: The reckoning

www.washingtonpost.com

Quoting from Charles Krauthammer’s article (concerning next week’s Supreme Court review of Obamacare), “If Obamacare is upheld, it fundamentally changes the nature of the American social contract. It means the effective end of a government of enumerated powers — i.e., finite, delineated powers beyond which the government may not go, beyond which lies the free realm of the people and their voluntary institutions. The new post-Obamacare dispensation is a central government of unlimited power from which citizen and civil society struggle to carve out and maintain spheres of autonomy.”

Solar Tariff

www.futureofcapitalism.com

Quoting from this article, “It’s bad enough in the first place that the American taxpayers are subsidizing domestic alternative energy companies through these Department of Energy loan guarantees. Now we’re also going to impose protectionist tariffs to shield them from foreign competition?”

Values & Capitalism

www.valuesandcapitalism.com

My new “favorite” blog is Values and Capitalism, which is located at http://www.valuesandcapitalism.com/. According to its “About” page, “”Values and Capitalism” is an initiative at the American Enterprise Institute that explores the moral and material nature of a market economy. The project emphasizes how the free enterprise system both creates wealth and rests upon traditional American values. Our publications and events are intended primarily for college students, with a particular emphasis on engaging Christian students in a discussion on the compatibility of their faith and the system of free enterprise.”

The GOP Budget and America’s Future

online.wsj.com

“In The Wall Street Journal, Chairman of the House Budget Committee Paul Ryan writes that President Obama’s budget gives more power to bureaucrats, takes more from taxpayers to fuel the expansion of government, and commits our nation to a future of debt and decline.”

ObamaCare’s Flawed Economic Foundations

online.wsj.com

“In The Wall Street Journal, Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Vernon L. Smith note that the individual insurance mandate has almost nothing to remedying costs imposed on the system by those without coverage.”

We Are Ruled by Professors

pjmedia.com

This article is a must read; it reminds me of British historian Paul Johnson’s famous 25-year old essay entitled “The Heartless Lovers of Humankind” (cf. http://www.fortfreedom.org/h11.htm), which is also well worth reading. Johnson notes, among other things, that “…Almost all 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.”

Why Prosperity Is Hip, And Raises Living Standards

www.forbes.com

“Since the election of 1800, and even before that in the inspiration for the American Revolution itself, the American people have always voted and fought for economic growth and prosperity.”

Millennials Are More ‘Generation Me’ Than ‘Generation We,’ Study Finds

chronicle.com

“Millennials, the generation of young Americans born after 1982, may not be the caring, socially conscious environmentalists some have portrayed them to be, according to a study described in the new issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.”

Charles Murray on the Growing Cultural Divide

professional.wsj.com

“Economics can’t explain the growing cultural divide between America’s upper and lower classes, says the author of Coming Apart.”

Lies My Newspaper Told Me: Five things Portlanders are wrong about

www.wweek.com

This is a somewhat humorous (and R-rated) essay that I bumped into recently; The 5 “lies” are:

1. Home solar is the wave of the future
2. Eating local will save the earth
3. Hybrid cars will solve our carbon woes
4. Home ownership: your best investment
5. Hands-free cellphones make multitasking effortless

What piqued my interest was the author’s reference to an important insight by the 19th century British economist William Jevons called the “Jevons Paradox”. The “Jevons Paradox” predicts that an “unintended” consequence of technological progress (e.g., hybrid cars and CFL’s) is that increased energy efficiency encourages more (rather than less) energy consumption. So the same person who would otherwise be careful about turning her incandescent lights off and driving her gas powered car less will think nothing of leaving her CFL’s on and driving her hybrid car more. Basically, by lowering the cost of energy use at the level of the individual, the “paradox” is that technological innovations such as hybrid cars and CFL’s may actually increase overall energy consumption by society.

Beyond the Gas Price Blame Game, a Thorny Case of Supply vs. Demand

knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu

More on why gas prices are so high, from Knowledge @ Wharton…

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