Assorted links

by on February 8, 2012 at 10:46 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Is there a procedural way to get to looser zoning regulations?

2. Does the Henrietta Lacks book make a lot of sense?

3. Why are poor parents worse (are they?)

4. How illegal are driverless cars?, make sure you carry a copy of this article to show the cop who pulls you over.

5. Good news from European repo markets, but here Greek pharma bonds.

John Thacker February 8, 2012 at 11:30 am

Re: 1, the paper is interesting, but while it mentions the increase in land-use restrictions of the last few decades, I can’t seem to find in my perusal so far a mention of statewide restriction land-use policies, which have definitely been growing over these last few decades as well. That’s important, because the paper seems to argue that a citywide preference for more housing is being overcome by local opposition. However, if the anti-housing advocates can capture entire legislatures, that changes the political calculus and proposed procedural remedy. However, as the paper notes, partisan affiliation can help make the issue at least debated– the Republicans recently repealed Florida’s 30 year old state growth-management law.

Andrew' February 8, 2012 at 11:35 am

3. Again, cause or effect? For example, I have no idea how layaway, rent-to-own, check2cash, 60dayssameascash, etc. work though these things were constant topics among friends’ families growing up, particularly the poorer ones. I now have friends who grew up poor but are now well-off who do things like time-shares and whole-life insurance that I would never even consider.

Dan Weber February 8, 2012 at 11:39 am

#3 really makes me think of how a low-hassle non-profit “bank” would help out in low-income areas. Offering very basic functions like check-cashing and bill payment. Give people a robocall when their balances are low, so the worst people have to worry about is a payment not being made instead of an absurd number of penalties and fees.

Andrew' February 8, 2012 at 12:09 pm

I sincerely wish that were the case, but the point of my comment above is that my hypothesis would be that they would figure out some way to screw it up. What you are talking about would seem to say “just keep your money and keep your nose to the grindstone.” What I’ve seen is the poor are just as likely to try to overextend right to the edge to increase their status and lifestyle (at least superficially) just a little bit more than what would be a robust improvement. They’ll get an SUV, a big-screen TV (my tube TV is 10 years old and I hated buying that!). For example, why do the poor have kids younger and the ‘well-off’ later in the first place? As in, why do we have to take the kids as a given as if they fell out of the sky. Why not just wait a little bit longer until you can provide a more stable household?

Andrew' February 8, 2012 at 12:12 pm

(On second thought, my TV is actually more like 12 years old I think. I still have the TV I had in middle school, but the wife wasn’t having any of it).

IVV February 8, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Will a more stable household be forthcoming?

Andrew' February 8, 2012 at 1:08 pm

I suspect it depends on the returns to millions of little decisions and a few big ones.

enrique February 8, 2012 at 11:46 am

Re: #1

Although the zoning paper looks promising, it is a 71-page monstrosity (even the “abstract” is way too wordy) — this is a typical problem with most legal scholarship: quantity of words is used as a substitute for quality of ideas in order to bully the reader into submission and is the reason why I refuse to read such a long paper as a matter of principle

By way of comparison, “on average” most papers in economics and in the natural sciences are usually much more concise and to the point — most works of legal scholarship, in contrast, tends to be horrendously lengthy

Mo February 8, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Agreed. The abstract turned me off quickly from being interested. It was too long and quite meandering.

Rahul February 8, 2012 at 1:42 pm

I’m increasingly convinced that the format of a typical academic paper itself is a monstrosity. On a per unit time spent reading basis most papers provide a return far lower than most other written communication.

Daniel Dostal February 8, 2012 at 5:53 pm

Reading engineer journals. I was shocked by the typical readability (given an understanding of lexicon) and density of concrete thoughts. I suppose the discipline enforces some of this, but it’s still very encouraging.

Finch February 8, 2012 at 6:10 pm

+1 Engineering papers are a breath of fresh air. I particularly love the ample consideration of failed approaches.

I read a lot of economics papers at work, and they are often terribly inscrutable despite being considerably simpler, technically. It’s a regression: how much do you need to dress it up? Why is it 30 pages?

Roy February 9, 2012 at 10:04 am

This is true of many scientific papers, the standard geology paper is four pages including illustrations.

Urso February 8, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Undoubtedly. Length is considered a proxy for thoroughness in legal scholarship.

A couple years ago Harvard and a few other school decided to set a 25,000 word (soft) limit on submissions; which has been widely but not completely copied by lower ranked journals. It seems to have done a good job weeding out the 71 page monstrosities, but I think to too many legal scholars the 25,000 word figure is considered a *target* length, not a true maximum.

Turkey Vulture February 8, 2012 at 7:47 pm

I just had to read a 142-page article.

Legal scholarship blows.

crankee February 8, 2012 at 11:47 am

The low income parent story misses the point. Of course bad conditions will affect behavior but how does that behavior differ across low income groups? If some ethnic groups or some subgroups train their kids better even with equivalent incomes then one can rightly say that either individual or cultural failures are as much to blame as poor conditions. If two individuals start with nothing and one rises up, the one who rises up is more virtuous. How much “blame” we assign to the other is something that will depend on individual attitudes about “free will” and just deserts. But there’s no question that attitudinal differences explain much of the outcome differences.

libert February 8, 2012 at 11:47 am

My read of 1 (just the abstract though…):

Strong political parties help prevent individual legislators from being too NIMBY-ish.

John Thacker February 8, 2012 at 12:04 pm

Yes, that seems to be the thesis. I’m disappointed that there’s no analysis of statewide growth management laws. That would seem to complicate the narrative that housing restrictions are purely a NIMBY problem obstructing general sentiments in favor of more housing. (Though certainly there would still be public choice arguments and it is true that statewide laws have been repealed, as apparently recently in Florida.)

Alex February 8, 2012 at 12:01 pm
Mark B February 8, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Re #2: Seems clear to me that if you support payment for donated kidneys, you should probably support payment at least to Henrietta Lacks, and possibly to the Lacks family in this case. And if you don’t support payment to Lacks, you probably shouldn’t support payment for donated kidneys either.

Andrew' February 8, 2012 at 1:11 pm

It’s not clear to me how they are the same.

Daniel Dostal February 8, 2012 at 6:20 pm

I have to disagree. This isn’t about ownership of things produced in bodies. It’s about the methods in which they are exacted. No one supports mandatory payment for kidneys, we support allowing someone to sell their kidney. A patient going to a doctor to have a tumor tested is seeking medical advice, not selling tumor samples. The two could be one, but I would fight against it. If a doctor discovers interesting cells, it is the doctor who is making meaningful contributions to the world, not the poor schmuck with the tumor.

John Thacker February 8, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Not necessarily. I mean, it means that you should support the idea of it being legal to pay people like Henrietta Lacks in the first place. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to have a never ending claim or a retroactive system based on perceived fairness.

I can support it being legal to pay for donated kidneys without saying that everyone must accept money for them. It’s legal to pay for blood plasma, but there are plenty of free donations as well, gratefully accepted.

Jack February 8, 2012 at 1:24 pm

(3) I agree with the author that once you are poor, it is difficult to be a good parent. No argument there. However, equally important is the question: How do you end up poor? Well-meaning people too often seem to assume being poor is purely a bad draw from the card deck.

So any constructive discussion needs to address these two aspects: How do you steer people away from making bad decisions that lead them to poverty? And, if they do end up poor because of bad luck and bad choices, how can we help them be the best parents they can be?

Focusing on one while ignoring the other seems to me like a waste of time and resources.

Lewis February 8, 2012 at 3:04 pm

“cop who pulls you over.”
Cop who pulls who over?! I thought this was a driverless car.

Frank February 8, 2012 at 3:16 pm

The cop car is also driverless. Tickets transmitted via cell towers are displayed in the offender’s HUD.

Slocum February 8, 2012 at 3:06 pm

The main claim of #3 in a nutshell is this: They [the poor] have the same (limited) capacity for self-control and attention – but are forced to expend a large fraction of it on dealing with the ups and downs of everyday life.

I wish I believed it — it would be lovely if true — but I don’t. I just don’t see the evidence. There are pretty obvious individual differences in impulse control, resulting both from biology and — quite probably — due to also to culture and upbringing (e.g. Were you raised by and live among people for whom delayed gratification was common? And did those delayed gratification strategies pay off?)

The inference from the #3 claims is that if we just provided the poor with enough money to relieve their worries, then their limited self-control resources could be preserved and redirected and then, voila, they would no longer act like poor people. Their time horizons would expand, they would delay gratification, they would no longer make poor financial decisions and life choices on impulse or be inattentive parents. Does anybody really, truly believe that?

Frank February 8, 2012 at 3:34 pm

At the margin, yes. I question the magnitude of the impact, which speaks more to your point.

Slocum February 8, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Sadly, I’m not sure there’s much of an effect even at the margin:

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2011/08/lottery-winners-do-not-avoid-bankruptcy.html

Daniel Dostal February 8, 2012 at 6:26 pm

Of course no one believes your scenario, but it’s hardly meaningful. The real claim is that the stress of being poor conditions people towards poor choices. In other words, poor impulse control is a more probably outcome due to being poor. Suggesting that making a poor person rich corrects this behavior completely ignores human development. To correct your scenario, we would have to _go back in time_ and ensure that the person was never poor to observe the changes in behavior.

Miley Cyrax February 8, 2012 at 6:49 pm

@3

They also pass down their genes, kind of a dick move to their kids.

maguro February 8, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Literally!

Dingbat February 10, 2012 at 1:04 pm

For the number of times “personal responsibility/irresponsibility” comes up as a theme on this blog–on p. one today are not just the very words, but also the (parabolic) tale of the Secret Agreement, an agreement to focus incentives/liabilities rather than filtering them through the state–I’d expect more thought on driverless cars.

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