by Tyler Cowen
on December 27, 2012 at 12:20 pm
1. The rise of the cyborgs.
2. Cacique democracy in the Philippines.
3. Why do we blink so often?
4. The Vatican will vacuum tourists.
5. Chinese industrial policy for music.
6. 2012 in graphs.
“Cyborgs unite. You have nothing to lose but your chips …!”
I am somewhat surprised to see the Philippines discussed on a blog about failed nations. Wasn’t Tyler recently there, and posted optimistic-sounding posts about the country?
One can be optimistic about the Philippines insofar as it can only go up. Very little rule of law. Great place if you ever want to extract a ransom.
#3) We blink so often because it can induce movement artifacts in fMRI (very common from blinking/movement), and then we can produce a paper about it.
I love that in the picture for the Sistine Chapel article there is a guy taking a picture. Everyone who has ever been there knows that there are guards constantly telling people they are not allowed to take pictures.
Yeah but for whatever reason the guards stand near the front of the Chapel (near “The Last Judgement”, seen in the far end in the picture).
I recall that there were no guards in the rear, where the guy is taking that picture.
Not sure why, although maybe I have two guesses: 1) you enter the Chapel near The Last Judgement, so maybe seeing lots of guards puts people off immediately; 2) the paintings on that end of the Chapel are better (they are), so they need more policing there.
#6: Virtually every graph is seriously misleading. They tell the truth about the at least one-eyed blindness of those who chose.
Cite? Maybe even an example?
Examples: Maya MacGuineas, to what does the y-axis refer? It’s a list of percentages, but of what?
Robert Greenstein: The largest Federal expenditures, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, are conveniently hidden under the x axis, so that the viewer cannot perceive their rate of growth.
Apparently Greenstein gets two: “Most who don’t owe income tax…” This graph proves nothing, except that 61 percent of those who don’t pay income tax are working. The graph and notes imply that this is OK because they are paying payroll taxes. But wait, isn’t that supposed to fund their future benefits? (We know it doesn’t, but I’m sure most of them think it does.)
Krugman: “The story is no longer about a rising education premium, as it was in the ’80s and ’90s; since 2000, we’ve been looking instead at a major redistribution from labor in general to capital.” But isn’t the story that the best students are going into finance? They’re making the most money, so how is this not an education premium?
McKibben: ““This shows that the fossil fuel companies have five times more carbon in their reserves than even the most conservative governments think would be safe to burn.” A government, whether conservative or something else, is first of all not qualified by virtue of its governing authority to determine how much CO2 is “safe to burn.” A government is also not a disinterested scientific observer, but has a vested interest in maximizing revenue, a function conveniently supported by CO2 alarmism.
Alice Rivlin: “Federal appropriations headed toward lowest rate since 1970.” First of all, the graph doesn’t go back to 1970, but only contains two “lowest since 1970 lines.” Second, the graph shows that only discretionary spending might drop below the “since 1970” line, but that federal expenditures as a whole are projected to rise, driven by “mandatory” spending. How is any federal spending “mandatory?” Any federal spending can presumably be stopped by any Congress.
Orszag: Simply incomprehensible.
MacGuineas’s graph obviously refers to debt held by the public as a percentage of GDP. I didn’t notice that it wasn’t labeled until you pointed it out. Good catch.
Greenstein’s first graph is about recent changes in law, for which there haven’t been much for the programs you mention. Also, it’s about deficits, so it’s obvious that it is impossible to include every tax cut or spending program in it. Glenn Hubbard’s graph takes the same perspective, and shows essentially the same point. (You didn’t mention it, but did you have the same disagreement with Hubbard?)
Greenstein’s second graph states facts. You’re the one creating implications. Further, you yourself refute your own quibble with the graph (“We know it doesn’t…”). I agree with that quibble, which means your primary issue with the graph is moot. Also, I know many DC liberals, and they don’t believe what you allege they believe; the vast majority of them ascribe to the unified budget theory (i.e., they agree with you that Social Security should properly be considered as on-budget).
Krugman’s graph: Fewer people work in finance now as they did when the labor share of income started falling rapidly about 10 years ago (see here: http://research.stlouisfed.org/fredgraph.png?g=e5g). Your story may have made sense back in 2008, but given recent developments it doesn’t explain the continued fall in the labor share as the finance industry collapsed. Only a small share of the top income groups work in finance (http://web.williams.edu/Economics/wp/BakijaColeHeimJobsIncomeGrowthTopEarners.pdf), since most of them are executives. My presumption is that it is globalization causing this trend in the labor share of income, although I don’t pretend to have the final word on the subject.
McKibben: Neither are fossil fuel companies or consumers, who don’t care a whit about what is “safe to burn” and who are not disinterested scientific observers but have a vested interest in maximizing revenue. The difference is that governments are accountable to the people harmed, whereas under current law the users of fossil fuels are not. That’s why ideally we would deregulate the current communist-style “all-you-can-eat” treatment of CO2 emissions by finally enforcing individual property rights. This would make it illegal for any company or individual to violate the sovereign rights of another human by releasing any amount of pollutant into the atmosphere. Anything else would simply be socialist. (I say this tongue-in-cheek of course; I don’t favor complete enforcement of environmental property rights would prevent any burning of any fossil fuels absent the unfeasible Coasian solution, which would be prohibitively costly).
Rivlin: I think you took away exactly the point that she was trying to make. So much of the debate focuses on discretionary spending, when what really matters is the mandatory side. It seems a bit absurd to keep demanding discretionary spending cuts when such spending is already down to historically low levels. Further, your question of “how is any federal spending ‘mandatory’?” is something of a non sequitur, no one that I have met in DC has that impression. It’s just jargon. I guess that’s understandable though.
Orszag: His graph is hard to read, but if you read his notes, his point becomes crystal clear. He’s an economist remember–and he in particular is known for having a tough time conveying his research findings.
(Also tongue-in-cheek) “This would make it illegal for any company or individual to violate the sovereign rights of another human by releasing any amount of pollutant into the atmosphere.” By this criterion flatulence would be illegal!
Obligatory for #3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKXLkWrBo7o
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On average, having such a teacher for one year raises a child’s cumulative lifetime income by $50,000 (equivalent to $9,000 in present value at age 12 with a 5 percent interest rate).
I find that very hard to believe. If I could bet on that, I would bet half my net worth at even odds that that is not close to being true.
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