Assorted links

by on March 31, 2010 at 10:56 am in Web/Tech | Permalink

1. Bryan Caplan responds.

2. Taxes per person.

3. Does the Flynn effect account for most of age-related IQ decline?

4. Russia eliminates two time zones (why do you people love this stuff?)

5. Freakonomics film is coming out soon.

6. Interview with Elinor Ostrom.

7. How to complete a census, with Christopher Walken.

8. Is Peter Chang now going to Richmond?

Guru Sethupathy March 31, 2010 at 11:02 am

Re: Taxes per person. Rather than taxes per person, how about looking at taxes per hour worked? That seems more fair (since part of the reason that our GDP/person is higher is that we work so many more hours in a year). Then, I think the US would be lower on that tax list.

Dick Pimple March 31, 2010 at 11:38 am

I have great confidence that Bryan will respond adequately to Tyler.

James March 31, 2010 at 11:50 am

Guru,

Personally, I am not that convinced by Mankiw’s reasoning on this, but wouldn’t taxes per hour suffer from the same problem Mankiw highlights as taxes per GDP?

Dan March 31, 2010 at 11:58 am

Mankiw is a (usually) a good economist; however, his analysis on “Taxes/Person” is poor in my opinion. In terms of economic efficiency, whether a country is “high” tax or “low” tax is solely determined by the marginal tax rate. In terms of marginal effective tax rates, it is my understanding that the U.S. has quite low taxes.

Nylund March 31, 2010 at 12:19 pm

I know that when I lived in Canada, not only did I get great universal health care, I felt like I was also paying less in taxes. But, this may also be due to my low position in the income distribution (I was a grad student). This brings me to the bigger point. When dealing with things with very skewed distributions (like income, taxes paid, etc.) averages are a terrible metric. I’m sure that if you make $200k (much less hundreds of millions in capital gains), you’d much rather pay US taxes, but if you only make $20k, you’d probably prefer the Canadian tax system where things like rent are tax deductible.

Mankiw has a great education. He knows (or should know) that averages are a terrible metric, so why should he use them? I hope its not because he went looking for data to support his a priori conclusion.

anon March 31, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Rather than taxes per person, how about looking at taxes per hour worked? That seems more fair (since part of the reason that our GDP/person is higher is that we work so many more hours in a year).

So the more we work the better higher taxes look????

J March 31, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Bill, Give me a break with this “people who work for the government don’t really work, and they’re taxes don’t count since they’re paid by taxpayers” shtick. That’s just silly.

First, we could imagine an (admittedly crazy) world in which the government nationalized everything, where everyone was paid by the gov AND everyone paid taxes. Would no one be working, even if goods and services are being produced and provided?

Second, let’s imagine a more realistic example of a town where the major employer is a public university, military base, etc. Let’s further imagine a small sandwich shop in that town whose only customers are those employed by the government. Therefore, all of the income going to this sandwich-shop owner is second-hand tax money. Does that mean the sandwich shop owner isn’t really working, since without those customers’ tax-funded incomes, he’d go out of business?

Third, let’s think of the portion of one’s income one keeps due to certain tax subsidies, deductions, etc. that affect only certain types of people with certain types of income or expenditures. (For example, mortgage interest deductions.) Does the spending one keeps due to this tax deduction not really “count” the same as other income, since it’s effectively the government privileging/subsidizing some types of spending more than other kinds?

In a world with tax expenditures, subsidies, mixed public-private ventures, etc. the line between the sources of income are very blurry, and that type of over-the-top ideological statement really adds nothing to our understanding of how things really work.

Guru Sethupathy March 31, 2010 at 1:42 pm

Mankiw, in his own words, says he is trying to address whether “Americans are vastly undertaxed compared with other major nations.” Well, income tax is a tax on labor supply. And since labor supply is normally measured as hours worked, that was my argument for why the better metric would be taxes per hour worked.

Dick Pimple March 31, 2010 at 3:03 pm

“Bryan Caplan is a fool.”

No he’s not.

A Guy Wearing Uggs, Nothing Else, and Covered in Coconut Oil March 31, 2010 at 3:41 pm

I’m Bryan Caplan’s biggest fan, and anyone who’s here and not reading Bryan’s blog has something seriously wrong with them!

MPS March 31, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Yglesias at http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/ has all you need to see Mankiw is being thoughtless. I presume the root of the problem is that the actual buying power of converted USD is different in different countries, so it’s an apples to oranges comparison.

Barkley Rosser March 31, 2010 at 4:16 pm

Oh, I can’t resist. Bill, will you tell the relatives of the dead soldiers brought back
for burial in Arlington Cemetery that what their late loved ones did should not be “digified”
as “work”?

Regarding Chang, this is hilarious. Anyway, to anyone who gets to a restaurant he is actually
cooking in, do ask for hot dishes to be “ma la” if you want that real Szechuan numbing effect.

spencer March 31, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Typical Mankiw blog.

Find some metric that justifies his biases and publishes it.

Why do you think he had to quit allowing comments?

It was too embarrassing.

A Guy Wearing Uggs, Nothing Else, and Covered in Coconut Oil March 31, 2010 at 5:16 pm

Barkley’s in a foul mood cuz he just got lubed, in the wrong end apparently.

The Juggernaut March 31, 2010 at 5:24 pm

I love how Barkley is SOOO concerned about American soldiers now that Obama-rama is in charge. Bet he didn’t feel that way
when the Shrubster was calling the shots. What a fake.

Bill Stepp March 31, 2010 at 9:31 pm

J,

You might believe in the labor theory of value, but I don’t. Government workers are not productive, they are parasites. The fact that they are running around doing stuff (like teaching Keynesianism, stealing, and killing) doesn’t make them productive. Only people who work in the market are productive.

Y = C + I – (G + T)
= production – predation

Barkley,

Privatize the schools, then the teachers will be producers. Ditto for the police, firemen, and soldiers. The U.S. military has no business being in Afghanistan. It is making the world less safe. Do you seriously think I’m a defender of Blackwater? Takes its subsidies away also.

Any dead U.S. soldier volunteered, stole my money (second hand) and knew what might happen once he got into a war zone. A draftee-slave is a different matter, but the draft ended in 1973 or so and therefore isn’t a factor.

And Barkley, The Juggernaut nailed you. Somehow I don’t think you’re any more concerned about dead soldiers than I am.

U.S. out of Afghanistan–and out of North America!

Steko March 31, 2010 at 9:56 pm

Mankiw will surely be excited to hear about the low tax/person rates in Cuba, the Sudan and Afghanistan. Clearly these countries are onto something.

Congrats to Greg and a number of MR commenters for proving once again that Smart People plus Ideology often gives us Ridiculously Dumb Ideas.

Robert April 1, 2010 at 12:24 am

Mankiw will surely be excited to hear about the low tax/person rates in Cuba, the Sudan and Afghanistan. Clearly these countries are onto something.

Way to misunderstand the point of Mankiw’s post!

Christian Hansen April 1, 2010 at 2:02 am

I like Mankiw but what is the point without the ability to comment? Long live the commentariat.

Andrew April 1, 2010 at 5:11 am

“So, yea obviously we are paying more taxes, but that’s cause we are richer, not because we are taxed at a heavier rate.”

What argument? That we are “richer”? We are not “richer.” We are more productive. Stocks and flows. Mankiw proposed a different indicator. There is no “argument.” We pay a higher absolute amount for government per person, they pay a higher percentage of GDP. Currencies aside, our government is going to be less efficient because they have smaller countries. There are any number of other reasons why one indicator is different than the other. The point is that saying we should be taxed more becomes someone else is taxed more is nonsense. Our government couldn’t even provide the same services as other countries if it tried.

Frankly, I like the taxes as a percentage of hourly wage idea.

Sleazy P Martini April 1, 2010 at 9:39 am

“I think that Bryan and Arnold and David are all smart guys. But the person who runs their blog behind the scenes should be fired.”

-100.

Yancey Ward April 1, 2010 at 11:43 am

Better to read Scott Sumner’s defense of Mankiw- he at least knows how deep the argument really is. Yglesias lacks the intellect to even understand it.

A Guy Wearing Uggs, Nothing Else, and Covered in Coconut Oil, Taking a Break from Reading Caplan's Blog to Check Out Tyler's April 1, 2010 at 12:39 pm

All the people who think the webmaster at Bryan’s blog should be fired deserve to be beaten with iron pipes.

Sleazy P Martini April 1, 2010 at 3:03 pm

“The person runing their blog engages in egregious censorship of posters and posting that is
at least as bad as what Bred Delong engages in”

Define what you mean by “censorship” here. Are you saying they delete posts they disagree with or
can’t adequately refute? So what? It’s their blog, not yours (I agree such behavior is intellectually
cowardly but that’s not the point). Do you understand the definition of censorship? If I go into
your house and yell “fuck” and you kick me out, are you “censoring” me? Come on.

Contrast what deLong does, which is not just the intellectual cowardice of deleting contrary opinions,
but *editing* posts to make the poster look bad. Given the effort this must take, it’s clear that this
guy is no mere partisan; he’s ideologically deranged.

Steko April 1, 2010 at 3:59 pm

“Way to misunderstand the point of Mankiw’s post!”

There’s a difference between understanding the point and showing how ridiculous it is.

Taxes paid independent of GDP is a useless statistic for determining how high the tax burden is in a country (size and efficiency of their government).

Exhibit A: Cuba. Does Mankiw want to claim that Cuba’s Tax/Person which is of 1/3 of ours corresponds in any meaningful way to their tax rates vs ours?

So you say, “That’s not fair, you’re using very poor countries” which is of course exactly the point — taxes should be compared to how rich a country is. The US is a richer country and tax/person in the US needs to always be viewed in relation to how rich we are, just as Cuba’s lower tax/person needs to be viewed in terms of how poor they are.

Carving out all the poor countries by saying “developed nations” is a cheap anticipatory dodge of the obvious stunning refutation but at the end of the day the point holds and just means we end up using Slovenia like Yglesias does — same point just less forceful.

Sleazy P Martini April 1, 2010 at 4:11 pm

I don’t have a problem with you complaining about this as long as it’s not sour grapes (I agree deleting non-offensive
posts is intellectually shabby, but seriously, don’t lame out and blame the “manager” for doing something the owners
surely consent to; come out and say what you think needs to be said), but rather with you calling it “censorship,”
which was clearly absurd. Also, why don’t you voice objection to the exact same thing (even worse) that takes place
at Rizzo’s and the GMU blogs?

Barkley Rosser April 2, 2010 at 3:04 am

Sleazy,

I do not complain about this at the blogs you mention because I am unaware of it happening. Certainly.
many who run blogs delete posts and even ban posters, but it is usually for fairly egregious offenses,
flaming and spamming and trolling, and so on, and usually with some warning for the poster before banning
is done.

Again, I do not wish to get too far into details here, but I know that at least one of the three has
been made aware of the situation. Now, you have to understand that for some bloggers, especially when
there is a group of them for a single blog, it can be very convenient to have a manager in the background
who handles technical details. However, very rarely do these individuals engage in “moderating” or
deleting or censorng or banning or any of these sorts of things, but I know in this case that this
individual does this without consulting or asking the three about particular decisions along these lines.
While they may disagree with specific decisions that are made and make requests for different treatment,
this is not always forthcoming exactly as requested. However, because of the convenience and the ability
of the individual regarding the more technical aspects regarding the blog, they may find it too much of a
hassle to replace the individual, even though there may be some differences over conduct. It is also
unclear to me exactly who owns the blog, which may actually be the Liberty Fund and not the bloggers,
with the LF being the main employer of this individual, whom I am not naming, in case you had not noticed,
although I definitely know who the individual is and have communicated with that individual directly, much
to my severe dissatisfaction, which is why I am complainig here. How else does one deal with a petty
dictator who appears to be out of control?

In any case, the sort of thing that has gone on is that one can get banned without warning by this
individual for having posted complaining about the deletion of another post by this individual that did
not contain any bad language or outrageous remarks, nothing remotely as unpleasant as what was in Ugg’s
comment above, for example. After intervention by one of the bloggers, the banned one may be unbanned,
but they are warned that the manager will have the commenter “under surveillance,” presumably to avoid any
criticism of the conduct of the manager in particular, although indeed the grounds for such banning are
not stated at all. Again, for somebody working at the Liberty Fund, this sort of thing strikes me as
bizarre to say the least, but the bloggers appear to find it too much of a hassle to seriously deal with
what is going on, if they even have the ultimate ability to do so.

Barkley Rosser April 2, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Sleazy,

This is going to be my last comment on this. Frankly I do not know the degree to which the three bloggers there monitor what the manager does, although I know that sometimes they are not in full agreement. But it appears that this manager operates with some considerable degree of autonomy, and it may be that this is due to the LF having some larger role in the blog, which I think is officially listed on their site, although I could be wrong about that (I have been boycotting the blog for some time).

It may also be that there are unfair banning or deleting practices going on at other blogs that I am not personally aware of. I would note some others where there are certainly limits include Mankiw who simply allows no comments and Krugman, who is very severe in which comments are allowed and which are not (I have never successfully posted a comment there, despite several efforts, although he may have good and special reasons for being particularly annoyed with me). However, I think that if a blog is banning people for criticizing the policies of the person doing the banning and deleting, whether that person (or persons) is the blogger or co-bloggers, or some behind-the-scened anonymous manager as at econlog, then it should be acceptable to raise these issues on other blogs. People who engage in overly censorious practices deserve censure and condemnation themselves.

I am going to close this by simply noting that I do have some parallel experience here. I am a co-blogger at Econospeak. We also have a behind the scenes person who takes care of technical matters. She is Diane Warth, who is excellent and never engages in any banning, censoring, deleting, or any of this other b.s. that this Liberty Fund hypocrite at Econlog does. Indeed, only one of us has to my knowledge ever done any of this, and this individual ended up leaving the blog after the co-bloggers complained about this and some other conduct. So, I have been there, but we at least do not do this, and we certainly do not grant some hidden person this authority and then behave like a bunch of chicken shits when this individual abuses their authority.

Again, I am not alone in this experience of this view about this particular situation. This person should be fired, period!

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