Assorted Links (1/5/2013)

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

It Pays to Be Happy

“Earning more money tends to make people happier, at least up to a point. But new research suggests the reverse may also be true: happier people actually make more money.”

The Cleric Behind ‘Les Mis’

“Doris Donnelly writes that novelist and poet Victor Hugo was anticlerical, yet the hero in his famous novel is set on his course by a Catholic bishop.” The following quote from this Wall Street Journal article succinctly explains the story behind Les Misérables : “During the night he spent at the bishop’s home, mere days after his release from serving 19 years as galley prisoner 24601, Jean Valjean stole six silver place settings, was apprehended, and returned the next morning under police guard to face the consequences of his crime. Unruffled, the bishop brushed off the police, added valuable silver candlesticks to the bundle, “bought” Jean Valjean’s soul from evil and claimed it for God. He redirected the life of a man chained to hatred, mistrust and anger, and he enabled Jean Valjean to emerge as one of the noblest characters in literature.”

Close Shave for Asteroid

“Asteroid 2012 DA14 will pass very close to Earth—much, much closer than the moon—on Feb. 15. Its path won’t lead to a collision with Earth, but it will pass close to a ring of orbiting satellites.”

Return of the real Obama

“After the fiscal cliff, the president is free to be himself — a committed big-government social democrat.”

2 months until next budget crisis?

“A prominent economist known as ‘Dr. Doom’ says the country’s budget dispute will come roaring back soon.” This (another budget crisis in 2 months’ time) seems like an eventuality, in view of the facts that 1) the fiscal cliff legislation passed 2 days ago delays $110 billion in spending cuts for two months, and 2) this is around the same time that Congress will need to debate whether or not to raise the debt ceiling… So definitely expect more 11th hour brinksmanship around the beginning of March…

The Morning Ledger: Cliff Dive Averted

For those of you who are wondering what was in the so-called fiscal cliff legislation that was literally passed last evening in the 11th (pm) hour, I recommend reading the first four paragraphs of the article “The Morning Ledger: Cliff Dive Averted” (@ Basically we get a two month reprieve from political theater and last-minute brinksmanship. As former Obama chief of staff (and now Chicago mayor) Rahm Emanuel once famously remarked, “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste”…

Lost Decade, Revisited

“Holman Jenkins writes that bitter politics over taxing and spending will be our lot for years to come.” Quoting from this article, “The fiscal cliff turned into just another trial of strength by advocates of the welfare state to prove the welfare state is not rationally reformable in advance of a funding crisis. But we already knew that.”

Nothing Is Certain Except More Debt and Taxes

“In The Wall Street Journal, David Malpass writes that the Senate fiscal-cliff bill still means higher taxes on every working American—so much for just going after ‘the rich.'”

A Tax Cuts Mystery

“If Government spending wasn’t out of control, no one would have wanted to kill Bush tax cuts.”

Another Fiscal Flop

“The voters get what they want.”

Hummel on Moss on Limited Liability

Economist JR Hummel’s informative review of David A. Moss’s book, When All Else Fails: Government as the Ultimate Risk Manager – on the history and nature of liability rules, including limited liability…

Some clear thinking on the national debt and the real fiscal problem

Some clear thinking on the national debt and the real fiscal problem: Government’s spending on entitlement programs…

The Fiscal Cliff and Congress’s Dysfunction

“Spending every year is now twice what it was when Bill Clinton left office, and the national debt is three times as high. Republicans and Democrats alike should be able to find wasteful, extravagant, and unnecessary programs to cut back or eliminate.”

eBay for Professors

Here’s the story line for this podcast: “Ever heard of the self-employed college professor? Thanks to the efforts of the for-profit education company Straighter Line, some professors will now be able to go into business for themselves and set the price on how much their teaching is worth.”

Over the Cliff at Steven Landsburg

Here’s a positive spin about going over the fiscal cliff from University of Rochester economist Steven Landsburg (AKA the Armchair Economist)…

Le Tax Fairness

France’s Constitutional Court struck down the new 75% top French income tax rate, not because it is confiscatory; rather on grounds of—get this—unfairness. While it is apparently “fair” to take 75% of what someone earns, it isn’t fair unless the law confiscates 75% from all rich households equally…

Top 10 Economic Charts of 2012

The charts include 1) a look at what the largest and smallest parts of the economy have been, going back to 1949, 2) where Americans have been spending their money from 1901 to the present, 3) a snapshot of people moving in and out of the U.S. labor force, 4) a look back at the economic performance of the U.S. during presidents’ first terms, 5) a listing of how many weeks of unemployment benefits are offered by each state, 6) which states have the worst unemployment rates (going back to 1976), 7) the numbers behind the U.S.’s deficits, 8) how student loan debt outpaces all other forms of nonhousing consumer debt, 9) how overall food prices don’t move as much as corn prices do, and 10) how Germany’s economic performance compared to the rest of the euro zone.

Baby, You’re a Rich Man

“You don’t have to be Warren Buffett to be considered wealthy. It all depends on who is setting the bar. Here’s why it matters for your taxes, investment options and college aid—and what you can do about it.”

How to Read in 2013

“This is the moment to get out of your rut and visit the rest of the political spectrum.” One of my New Year’s resolutions is to follow Ross Douthat’s advice to: 1) take out a subscription to a magazine whose politics I don’t share, 2) expand my reading geographically as well as ideologically, and 3) make a special effort to read entirely outside existing partisan categories.

The Most Important Speech So Far in the 21st Century?

George Will at Washington University in St. Louis. The transcript of Mr. Will’s speech entitled ” titled “Religion and Politics in the First Modern Nation” is available for downloading from; the video is @

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