Assorted Links

by on June 10, 2011 at 11:21 am in Economics | Permalink

1. Richard Florida adds interesting data on skills to the great male stagnation debate.

2. Freedom in the 50 States; New Hampshire is first. Appropriate.

3. Excellent pictures of the Bolivian salt flats.

4. Attorney-General Eric Holder wants a new season of The Wire. David Simon names his conditions.

5. The Corporatist Threat to the Arab Spring, good op-ed by Edmund Phelps. Recall, The Pharaoh and the Commanding Heights.

6. Soviet Dolphin Paratroopers.

7. Rinderpest is no more. Only the second time in history—smallpox was the first—that an infectious disease has been eradicated from the planet.

Yancey Ward June 10, 2011 at 11:34 am

In re #4

I didn’t even have to read it to know precisely what David Simon’s condition would be. Needless to say, Holder will never speak of the matter again.

Esteban June 10, 2011 at 4:49 pm

David Simon gets a little too self serious sometimes. It was clearly just a joke/praise by Holder.

FYI June 10, 2011 at 12:04 pm

#3: and to think that under all that salt lies the world’s largest lithium reserve. Which is not being used because of stupid Morales and his thugs (in the meantime, the state where the salts are located is by far the poorest in Bolivia). I wonder why Al Gore and all the greens out there don’t say a thing about this tragedy.

Esteban June 10, 2011 at 4:39 pm

Yeah, I’ve been to those salt flats. They’re amazing in person (and the 3 day trip from San Pedro de Atacama in Chile was awesome too), but Uyuni, the town itself, is pretty depressing. Seemed very poor and one of its ‘attractions’ is a train graveyard. Very depressing place whose economy seemed purely based on tourism for the salt flats. Too bad they can’t take advantage of the lithium.

clayton June 10, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Re: freest states list: I need to point out that in the state in which I unfortunately live, which your list says is the 12th freest state in the union, I cannot buy beer on Sunday. I cannot buy beer cold. I cannot buy wine with my dinner at the grocery store. Live free or die.

Further, this state has probably the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the union.

It is also 2nd in the nation in the rate of executing prisoners.

Free indeed.

Will Pflaum June 10, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Yeah, capital punishment should be a criteria. I like that my state was last but now that you mention it, Texas is 14 and I would worry about driving through rural Texas. What if you run into some corrupt town officials and get locked up by a crooked judge? Think it can’t happen? It’s not likely, but it can happen if the officials and judge feel like it. And the state has killed at least 2 innocent men in the past 20 years… so I guess the list is bunk.

Cyrus June 10, 2011 at 1:49 pm

I can imagine falling on wrong side of a corrupt rural sherriff. I can also imagine falling on the wrong side of a corrupt Chicago alderman. But what’s important is not what either of us can conceive, but with what frequency such injustices actually occur.

Will Pflaum June 10, 2011 at 2:45 pm

I suddenly became aware of this problem when the town tried to shut my business down and denied me due process. I am now aware that if it doesn’t happen that often, it can and there is no one you can call and say “I have been attacked by a government.” Tough luck.

I will win. I will be in Federal Court this summer. I have already started piling up victories because voodoo just won’t hold up in court forever. Still, I’m not pleased and haven’t decided if this event will motivate me to work on rooting out corruption with a lot of my energy or if I will return to focusing on investing and starting a second business that I have an investor interested in… or both.

I am sure it can happen in a city. However I don’t think a whole government will bare down on a single person for a trivial political act, for running for office or something, and seek to destroy that person because that person is either unlikely to matter or be too prominent to be attacked without scrunity. In a small town a regular person who is in no way famous or prominent can still represent a serious threat. The dynamics can be quite ugly. And, if I might point out, in my case it could be racial bias, xenophobia, political… anything like that.

If they could have shot me, they would have. But they can’t. And they can’t shut my business down. The constitution is a great document.

Rahul June 11, 2011 at 10:26 am

And, if I might point out, in my case it could be racial bias, xenophobia, political… anything like that.

ummm…Are you a black, Mexican from NY who votes republican? Trying to figure out which way the bias guns are pointed.

J Thomas June 10, 2011 at 10:49 pm

But what’s important is not what either of us can conceive, but with what frequency such injustices actually occur.

And how much publicity they get when they occur. Which in either case is likely to be none.

So how do we find out how often they happen? We probably don’t.

Will Pflaum June 10, 2011 at 12:09 pm

I have been blogging about corruption in my town and county in New York and was not surprised to see New York at the bottom of the list. The criteria are not what I would have chosen, however.

How about: Are officials corrupt? Is there inefficiency in government, allowing for corrupt fiefdoms of patronage? Are there too many jurisdictions to allow for oversight of officials? Is there a real system of local ethics accountability?

I like the statement on taxes in the Mercatus study. I think New York has way too high taxes for upstate. At the same time, upstate drains money from downstate. The subsidies from downstate allows upstate not to get its act together. And inefficiency upstate is a drag on downstate.

The drug laws are too restrictive here. You can’t be free if you can be locked up for growing a benign plant. I have no strong opinion on the gun laws. I homeschool and have had no trouble at all with any authority. Starting a PAC didn’t seem too hard. Referendum law is very difficult to understand if you are dealing with a county-wide proposal, as I would like to… and can’t get a straight answer on how to do it.

High taxes, corruption, efficiency, excessive jurisdictions, lack of regional variation in policy, weak FOIL, and abuse of power are biggest the problems. And I would agree with the rankings for completely different reasons.

RR June 10, 2011 at 12:17 pm

2.
Is the strong correlation with Red and Blue states a coincidence? Never thought of red states as bastions of libertarianism.

Mike Huben June 10, 2011 at 12:31 pm

At first glance, it looks as if the “index of freedom” is really an index of population or population density.

What it really is, is another excuse to bring libertarian frames into the conversation.

caseynshan June 10, 2011 at 2:01 pm

looks like the correlation with states in current financial trouble would be high… (based on inverse)

David June 10, 2011 at 3:29 pm

#2 – it is amusing to note that the “bottom” five states (NY, NJ, CA, HI, MA.) are notable for their high numbers of residents who are rich enough to be able to live wherever they choose, and the “top” five states (NH, SD, IN, ID, MO) are … not.

Is “freedom” as per the Mercatus Institute not all it’s cracked up to be?

Yancey Ward June 10, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Maybe those are the states that have to pay people to stay?

Cliff June 11, 2011 at 12:08 am

And yet there is a large annual net migration out of California to the rest of the U.S.

Anon June 11, 2011 at 9:52 am

1. They choose to reside in cities, whatever the relative freedom, and may have vacation houses in freer places.
2. The rich are better protected against government corruption and invasion, insulated by expensive lawyers and by larger properties away from snooping eyes.
3. Yes, the relative level of freedom in the U.S. is still fairly similar across states. It’s not a choice between living in Switzerland or Soviet Russia, yet.

joan June 10, 2011 at 4:31 pm

There seems to be almost no correlation between the Freedom index and the Wellbeing index shown here http://www.gallup.com/poll/116497/rankings-reveal-state-strengths-weaknesses.aspx#1
This would indicate that either people do not care about freedom of that they are not using the right variables to capture the things that make people feel free. It also does not seem to have much relationship to income, education health or the other things we claim to value.

Canuckistan June 10, 2011 at 5:04 pm

So I was noticing that quite a few of the less-than-free states were some of the richest in terms of GDP per capita. So I went and checked the GDP/cap rankings and composed the following graph:
http://www.4shared.com/folder/xdcMk3EX/_online.html (click on the picture twice).

It seems that at first blush my suspicions were confirmed, there seems to be some correlation, i.e. states that are less intrusive tend to be lower on the GDP/cap rank. Maybe states are more intrusive where the opportunities to create wealth are higher?

Yancey Ward June 10, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Maybe states become more unfree because governments find it more worthwhile to plunder them.

I have lived in both rich and poor states in the US, and I can tell you that the higher income in the richer states really isn’t all that much higher (if it is at all) when you take into account the costs of living. Believe me, $50,000 in Tennessee is the equivalent of $80,000 in Connecticut. Now, one can make the argument that this is overlooking the cultural and educational enrichment you get from Connecticut, but I am not buying it.

Rahul June 11, 2011 at 10:24 am

The correlation seems weak. The data points are all over that plot.

TGGP June 11, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Patri Friedman discussed that a while back here.

roly June 10, 2011 at 9:02 pm

“Maybe states are more intrusive where the opportunities to create wealth are higher?”

The more intrusive states are the more interesting states to live in. If money was not an object, would you rather live in New York City or Pierre, South Dakota.

I thought so.

Miley Cyrax June 10, 2011 at 9:58 pm

They’re “interesting” to live in spite of their intrusiveness. They would be even better to live in without the intrusiveness–in particular NY and CA, whose governmental teat-suckers would then flee to leech off taxpayers in other states.

J Thomas June 10, 2011 at 10:48 pm

Places that have a lot of people and a lot of wealth will have more complicated interactions.

Like ecosystems — a tropical rain forest is more complicated than an arctic tundra. Many more complicated ways that the plants and animals prey on each other, because there’s just plain most there.

Traditionally, if you wanted to be a hermit, where did you go? The desert or the high mountains. Hardly anybody comes around to bother you. Not much opportunity for wealth because you can’t sell anything to all those people who don’t come around to bother you.

It all fits together.

canuckistan June 10, 2011 at 11:44 pm

That was exactly my point!

J Thomas June 11, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Canuckistan, yes! And I hope by saying it a very different way also, it might get understood better.

nyongesa June 11, 2011 at 8:31 am

Hooray to the end of Rindepest. I have seen this scourge up close and it’s impact on lives, and it’s ugly. Some of Africa’s development challenges are born by the high “disease load” of the Continent.

As always, I am forever fascinated by the extent to which such actions save so many lives, but will go un-noticed by the afflicted public at large. I’m known as a bit of a curmudgeon on the subject during dinner parties, where colonialism or other such complaints are flying about, when I challenge fellow Africans about the fact that western disease intervention in Afirca saves tens of millions of lives, there’s a delicious silence that befalls the table, followed by the inevitable acknowledgement, and discussion shift that ensues. .

Tomasz Wegrzanowski June 11, 2011 at 10:20 am

Re #7: Dracunculiasis is very close to extinction, so it will most likely be the third. I’d love to see prediction markets as to when exactly it will happen. It depends on stability in South Sudan mostly, rest of the world will almost certainly be fine real soon now.

I’d also like to see prediction markets on polio eradication. The whole project seems to have made zero progress since 2001. It’s possible it will only happen once rural India and Nigeria become reasonably wealthy, in 2050s or so.

Tom June 11, 2011 at 9:16 pm

This Freedom study reminds me of the annual revelation of the best states for business-invariably Mississippi or some other state that business’s don’t locate in. I would be embarrassed to be an academic associated with the Mercatus Center right now, unless I was desperate for Koch money.

Andrea June 13, 2011 at 12:06 am

Thank you so much for featuring our photos of the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia – glad you enjoyed them =)

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