Assorted links

by on December 5, 2010 at 12:40 pm in Web/Tech | Permalink

1. Is the UK uniquely bad at dealing with snow?

2. MIE: 4th amendment underclothes.  Or Pet's Eye View Camera.

3. Hillary Clinton's speech on internet freedom.  And a very good comment on Wikileaks.

4. Greg Mankiw on unemployment insurance.

5. "Cholera powder" in Haiti?

6. Best chance for the eurozone.

Allison December 5, 2010 at 9:16 am

I'm going to have to answer 'yes' to question one. Last time I flew into London my flight got rerouted to Amsterdam because Heathrow couldn't clear the snow fast enough. Total snowfall that day at Heathrow: one inch.

John Thacker December 5, 2010 at 9:33 am

And yes, I've been in the UK when it has snowed. Edinburgh is better than London at dealing with snow, but neither really gets snow that often, compared to the Northern US.

Walt December 5, 2010 at 10:10 am

I wouldn't judge the UK too harshly, as i live in Seattle.

Roy December 5, 2010 at 10:38 am

No, there is always Seattle.

Haiti could handle snow better than them

CorcoranCadet December 5, 2010 at 10:48 am

I always get a laugh when people start complaining about how inept their city is at dealing with snow and how everything is "coming to a standstill." As Mr. Thacker noted above, it's all about money. A city that rarely has snow is simply not going to have the equipment to deal with it. Of course one has to wonder why we haven't wasted money on extra snow plows when local governments routinely waste money on many other things.

There is obviously truth that people in places that get little snow are "worse" at dealing with it than people in places with little snow. Perhaps someone should do a little study and look at average amount of snowfall vs. time to plow/car accidents.

mulp December 5, 2010 at 11:09 am

When Mankiw doesn't have a solution to the high unemployment, it is clear economists are at a loss and have no answers.

Perhaps all options should be on the table:

Euthanasia, perhaps.

Or perhaps bringing back the CCC and FERA.

FDR and his advisers were opposed to the dole and believed that only jobs were the answer. The CCC and FERA paid only for only 30 hours, required qualifying for relief, and paid wages that, while were higher than the relief payments, were less than what the work would cost in good economic times.

All over the US there are millions of hours of habitat restoration needed, but the Gulf coast is a good example. The loss of wetland buffers protecting towns in the region provide great opportunities to employ the unemployed youth. Maybe the job wouldn't pay a college grad better than working part-time as a waiter and surviving only on food stamps, by the personal contribution but also the public contribution. I know some argue the Gulf Coast should be abandoned, but that cuts oil production and shipping based on the Mississippi system.

Why does it require "broken windows" before Republicans agree to jobs programs? We had the big jobs programs after the hurricanes funded by Federal Keynesian deficits. We had a Federal Keynesian deficit spending program building in Iraq based on Made In America for a few years that created jobs – we built cities for a couple hundred thousand Americans and allies in short order. Is the only way to create jobs based on some "broken window" that requires no-bid contracts to cost plus government contractors?

anonymous December 5, 2010 at 12:31 pm

"Our winters are very unpredictable in this country." These cannot be fairly compared with Scandinavia or Canada.

"They know almost to the week when the snow is going to come and they are organised for it," Mr Quarmby notes.

Quite simply, Mr. Quarmby has no idea what he's talking about.

Josh December 5, 2010 at 12:49 pm

For what it's worth, RM, climate change predicts everything and anything. There is an infamous article from ten years ago with the UK Met Office suggesting that snowfall would become a thing of the past thanks to climate change, and now the entire island has been covered in snow two years in a row. When it doesn't snow, it's because it's too warm, and when it does snow, it's because "warmth means more moisture," even though if the snow comes with lower than average temperatures! It's unfalsifiable!

zbicyclist December 6, 2010 at 6:17 am

Mankiw's post ("Economist admits he doesn't know everything") is certainly a man-bites-dog story.

figleaf December 6, 2010 at 7:43 am

Re Item #4: Maybe it's because it's a Sunday morning in the traditional season of giving but economists sure have a funny way of looking at things. Mankiw talks about the pros and cons of UI benefits in terms of crap like buffering aggregate demand and incrementally higher taxes. Others talk (but obviously not Mankiw) about it in terms of money multipliers.

I'm aware that in their professional capacities economists have zero interest in that which is not subject to statistics in general and financial statistics in particular, and so to economists as economists social capital is immeasurable and, if not irrelevant then a major, major impediment to the smooth operation of their statistical models.

For instance Mankiw's post leaves one with the impression that to an economist collection plates are the only elements of significance in a church. And, one gets the impression as well, that contributions to a collection plate are a noisome and disruptive form of voluntary redistribution of wealth.

The only family member of mine who's been in a position to redeem unemployment insurance when he needed it was an uncle, a corporate sales rep, who's employer of several decades went dark during the Reagan recession. Most of the rest of my family have been either business owners or otherwise self-employed or else free-lance contractors, none of which qualifies them for employment insurance.

But (this being Sunday and all) God knows I've seen an awful lot of legitimate unemployment among neighbors and friends. Enough to know that unemployment insurance also provides not only material benefits such as roofs overhead and food on the table but also intangible benefits similar to those provided by churches: social goodwill, comfort, community, and freedom from despair. All of which Mr. Mankiw seems to believe would make his models work better if withheld.

Well, it's no longer Sunday morning — I was called away before posting this. And since then several more prominent bloggers have made similar but no-doubt more informed remarks along the same lines. I'm posting this now because I wish to be counted in the chorus.

figleaf

p.s. I'd just add that Mankiw is also a liar when he claims to be agnostic about UI. No one acting in either good faith or with an open mind would argue that the duration of payments was an arbitrary and independent variable. In 1999 or 2006 I think one could argue the standard 26 weeks was too long. At the moment 99 weeks appears to be too short. Gee, I wonder if there might be some other factor that might explain the difference?

lff December 6, 2010 at 9:05 am

@DavidWright: I appreciate your thoughtful reply – it educated me a bit. However, I can't see how income distribution is such a different species of concern as employment or inflation. Surely Mankiw would not argue that a concern for full employment or low inflation was "…more a matter of political philosophy than…of economics."

I don't see any reason a concern for UI as it effects income distribution could not be legitimately tied to concerns about inflation or unemployment rates. Surely in the great macroeconomic scheme of things they are all connected.

lff

John Dewey December 7, 2010 at 10:44 am

Alan W.: "I can't see the benefit of cutting people off when there's little prospect of finding work, unless the argument is that desperation will lead to innovation of some sort."

Yes, Alan. That's close to the argument.

"Desperation" will lead some unemployed workers to accept the emotional adjustments necessary for them to accept work that's available.

"Desperation" will lead others to start tiny businesses or become self-employed.

"Desperation" will lead others to make living adjustments which enable them to afford retraining.

Finally, and this is probably most important, a great national round of desperation will restore the importance of personal saving. When workers realize that they are responsible for their own lives – and when they see the consequences for those who refuse to do so – the personal savings rate will return to levels America experienced in the two decades after the Great Depression.

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