Assorted Links (7/28/2014)

Here’s a list of articles that I have been reading and podcasts that I have been listening to lately:

Sam Altman on Start-ups, Venture Capital, and the Y Combinator

I listened to this very interesting and highly informative podcast during one of my daily walks in my hometown of Austin, TX. Basically this is a tutorial on how entrepreneurship and venture capital promote economic growth and innovation, and mostly make the world a better place…

100 Years Ago Today It Began: “Austria Has Chosen War”

“The good news is that 100 years later the world is a far more stable and peaceful place.”

Why Corporate Inversions Are All the Rage

This is the best explanation I’ve seen concerning the phenomenon of so-called corporate inversions…

Putin Restores a Cuban Beachhead

“In The Wall Street Journal, Americas columnist Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes that the Kremlin and the Castros are chummy again, and Moscow is offering military aid.”

The Danger of Too Loose, Too Long

“In The Wall Street Journal, Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Richard Fisher writes that with an improving labor market and an uptick in inflation, the danger now is to wait too long to tighten.”

The Lingering, Hidden Costs of the Bank Bailout

“In The Wall Street Journal, Nobel laureate Vernon L. Smith asks why is growth so anemic? New economic activity has been discouraged. Here are some ways to change that.”

How we found the giant squid

“Humankind has been looking for the giant squid (Architeuthis) since we first started taking pictures underwater. But the elusive deep-sea predator could never be caught on film” (until now).

Yes to Coffee and Wine: Rewriting the Rules of Pregnancy

“Go ahead, have a glass of wine during pregnancy, writes Emily Oster.”

Math nerds are taking over Wall Street

“Elie Galam is a math geek turned finance wizard. Check out how he and other quants are taking over Wall Street.”

Freakonomics » Does Religion Make You Happy?

I listened to this podcast during one of my daily walks in my hometown of Austin, TX. It showcases research on the “economics of religion” by various economists and sociologists. I was particularly intrigued to learn about MIT economist Jonathan Gruber’s recently published research on this topic. Professor Gruber finds (among other things) that “[The religious are] more likely to have higher incomes, higher education, have more stable marriages, be less likely to be on welfare, essentially be more successful on any economic measure you want to use”. He also empirically documents (the somewhat counter-intuitive result) that religious giving and religious attendance are substitutes, not complements… (see for access to Gruber’s paper entitled “Pay or Pray? The Impact of Charitable Subsidies on Religious Attendance”…

Libertarian Charles Murray: The welfare state has denuded our civic culture

For my “bleeding heart” libertarian friends, I recommend Charles Murray’s book “In Our Hands: A Plan To Replace The Welfare State” (cf.…

Progressives’ hot new poverty-fighting idea has just one basic problem: Science

“Look at the evidence, liberals!”

Reining in ObamaCare—and the President

“In The Wall Street Journal, Jonathan H. Adler and Michael F. Cannon write that Halbig v. Burwell is about determining whether the president, like an autocrat, can levy taxes on his own.”

Obama’s Law Professor: ‘I Wouldn’t Bet’ on Obamacare Surviving Next Legal Challenge

“President Obama’s old Harvard Law professor, Laurence Tribe, said that he “wouldn’t bet the family farm” on Obamacare’s surviving the legal challenges to an IRS rule about who is eligible for subsidies that are currently working their way through the federal courts.”

US military enlistment rates by state: A Texas-sized difference

“An 18-24 year-old from Florida or Texas who enlists in the US military has more than double the chance of bumping into a fellow Southerner in uniform than a resident from Massachusetts, Connecticut, or New York does with a Northeast compatriot.”

New York law thinks a burrito is a sandwich

“New York’s “sandwich tax” might be the greatest fraud every played on New Yorkers if you don’t count the ones that involve rent or drugs.”

Hamas’s Civilian Death Strategy

“In The Wall Street Journal, Thane Rosenbaum argues that Gazans shelter terrorists and their weapons in their homes, right beside sofas and dirty diapers.”

Why a federal court just ruled Obamacare subsidies are illegal in 36 states

“This little-known lawsuit is Obamacare’s biggest threat.”

Heading Off the Entitlement Meltdown

“Demography is destiny: The retirement of 77 million baby boomers is not a theoretical projection.”

Four Years of Dodd-Frank Damage

“In The Wall Street Journal, Peter Wallison writes that the financial law has restricted credit and let regulators create even more too-big-to-fail companies.”

Income Inequality Is Not Rising Globally. It’s Falling.

“Though the income gap has widened in many individual nations, it has been shrinking globally for most of the last 20 years.”

Uber Upstarts: Technological Progress and Its Discontents

“The battle between new smartphone-enabled ‘transportation network companies’ and legacy taxicabs largely mirrors the age-old war over productivity, a war that only ever has one outcome.”

Microsoft lays off 18,000 with ridiculous letter

“I have never been laid off, but I would assume that the process begins with an apology of sorts. “I’m sorry.” “Do you have a moment?” or “Can we talk?” are probably good first steps….”

Jury Awards $23.6 Billion in Florida Smoking Case

“A jury in Florida awarded a staggering $23 billion judgment against R. J. Reynolds, the country’s second-largest tobacco company, for causing the death of a smoker who died of lung cancer.”

Doctors get due dates wrong 96.6% of the time

“Your baby is most likely to be born one week before your due date.”


Assorted Links (7/15/2014)

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

This poll proves that millennials have totally incoherent political views

“73% of Millennials say “people should be allowed to keep what they produce, even if there are others with greater needs”…”

New research shows Facebook may be hazardous to your marriage

“Facebook is no stranger to bad press.”

Why the new jihadists in Iraq and Syria see al Qaeda as too passive

“A new generation of Islamist extremists battle-hardened in Iraq and Syria sees the old guard of al Qaeda as too passive.”

10 Fun Facts About the Millennial Generation

“Reason-Rupe has a new survey and report out on millennials—find it here. Here are a few highlights…”

Do Markets Work for Bees?

“What and what not to do about Colony Collapse disorder…”

You mean I’d have to PAY for that??

“……..Millennial support for large government flips if high taxes are required.”

Why Piketty’s Wealth Data Are Worthless

“In the Wall Street Journal, Alan Reynolds write that private retirement plans rose to $12.4 trillion in 2012 from $875 billion in 1984. None of it is reported on tax returns.”

Texas Admissions Brawl

Our local “controversy” at UT-Austin has now made the pages of the editorial section of the Wall Street Journal

Remembering Louis Zamperini

Mr. Zamperini was a truly amazing person. RIP, Mr. Zamperini!

Get Bosses Out of Health Insurance Altogether

“The Supreme Court’s decision last week in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby has pushed all the buttons that could be expected…”

A Sexual Revolution for Young Evangelicals? No.

Interesting review of recent work by Mark Regnerus…

Confessions of a Computer Modeler

“In the Wall Street Journal, Robert Caprara writes that any model, including those predicting climate doom, can be tweaked to yield a desired result.”


“Rivalry and harmony at the olympics of choirs, beginning on July 9th in Riga, Latvia.”

What is the rationale behind standard paper sizes like A4 and A3?

I have often wondered about this very issue since I interact regularly with non-US academic colleagues who share these “weird” A4 PDF files (which measure 8.27 x 11.69 inches) with me. Thanks to, this all makes sense now…

Chart and economic fact of the day: Texas has added one million jobs since 2007 vs. only 24,900…

Preventing economists’ capture

Are we saving too much for retirement?

Google’s Larry Page: “I Think the Government’s Likely to Collapse Under Its Own Weight.”

“The co-founders on how regulation “increases without bounds” and why Google stays away from health care.”


Assorted Links (7/6/2014)

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

An Unfolding Fiscal Disaster

“The ACA’s partisan origins have left lawmakers with vastly reduced incentives to achieve the budgetary savings required to make its finances work.”

A Company Liberals Could Love

“The entire conflict between religious liberty and cultural liberalism has created an interesting situation in our politics: The political left is expending a remarkable amount of energy trying to fine, vilify and bring to heel organizations — charities, hospitals, schools and mission-infused businesses — whose commitments they might under other circumstances extol.”

Religious groups prep for Hobby Lobby repeat

“The Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision is just days old, but a group of religious schools and institutions is preparing for Part Two.”

The summer’s most unread book is…

“A simple index drawn from e-books shows which best sellers are going unread (we’re looking at you, Piketty).”

Independence in 1776; Dependence in 2014

“The rise in the size and scope of federal subsidies means that Americans are steadily losing their independence.”

Hail to the Chef: Which Presidents Do Americans Want to Grill With?

“If you were having a barbecue for Independence Day, which recent president would you want to help you out on the grill?…”

The great (and growing) global impact of the Declaration of Independence

“No American document has had a bigger global impact than the Declaration of Independence.”

New York City’s Affordable Housing Bonanza for the Rich

“Housing subsidies go to families making up to $193K.”

Why is it so difficult to teach people to manage money?

“Almost everyone supports teaching students to manage money. If only it worked.”

Muscle Shoals (2013)

Jan and I watched this movie recently.  In a little bit under two hours, you will come away with a basic grasp of the last 50 years of popular music history…

Obama’s Disappointing Year at the Supreme Court

“From recess appointments to warrantless cellphone searches to Obamacare, the White House lost big this term at SCOTUS.”

Richest 1% taxed too much: NJ Gov. Chris Christie

“The tax code relies too much on the wealthiest Americans and needs to be revamped, says N.J. Gov. Christie.”

Childhood Vaccines Safe, Says Pediatricians

“The latest in-depth review of immunizations shows that they aren’t linked to higher risk of autism or cancer.”

A few things the Hobby Lobby ruling won’t do

“The courts aren’t going to be passing judgment on the wisdom of different religious teachings. And access to blood transfusions will be affected by this decision even less than access to contraception will be.”

Map: Watch America’s air get cleaner over the past decade

“It’s not just your imagination — America’s air really has been getting cleaner over the past decade.”

Hobby Lobby: Government Can’t Violate Religious Liberties Willy-Nilly

“The Hobby Lobby decision has nothing to do with big business, freedom to use contraceptives, or preferencing religious liberty above everything else.”

Hansen on Risk, Ambiguity, and Measurement

I listened to this EconTalk podcast recently on my daily morning walk. Other than being awesome because 1) the interviewee is a 2013 economics Nobel Laureate, and 2) the topics discussed (risk, ambiguity, and measurement) are important throughout the life, physical, and social sciences, I also enjoyed learning about the following quote (attributed to the 19th century physicist Lord Kelvin): “When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it.”

Obamacare’s Contraception Mandate

“That phrase or variants of it will appear in a lot of coverage today. It’s misleading for two reasons. Hobby Lobby doesn’t object to providing contraception; it objects to contraceptives that may act as abortifacients.”

SCOTUS sides with Hobby Lobby on contraception mandate

“The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that for-profit employers with religious objections can opt out of providing contraception coverage under Obamacare.”