Assorted links

by on February 22, 2014 at 2:53 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1 So Much for Subtlety February 22, 2014 at 3:40 pm

10,000 workers? How many of them were actually Opticians? These numbers are so close I suspect an inadequate sample size.

So will the French ban Japanese immigrants from wearing masks as an impediment to integration?

Fecal stool transplants are, like, totally gross. But the solution is to claim that they are a consentual sexual act. As they are for some I am told. And so protected. Then the FDA can go fly a kite.

2 GiT February 22, 2014 at 4:32 pm


3 GiT February 22, 2014 at 4:33 pm

I see MR does not support the “pooping back and forth, forever” emoji.

4 Thor February 22, 2014 at 6:18 pm

I’m afraid I just don’t give a ****.

5 Marie February 23, 2014 at 10:26 am

Is that what the donor section on your driver’s license says?

6 Peter Schaeffer February 22, 2014 at 3:55 pm

Quote from Peter Thiel

“In theory, I’m against it, because people should have the freedom to contract at whatever wage they’d like to have. But in practice, I think the alternative to higher minimum wage is that people simply end up going on welfare.’’
“And so, given how low the minimum wage is — and how generous the welfare benefits are — you have a marginal tax rate that’s on the order of 100 percent, and people are actually trapped in this sort of welfare state.”
“So I actually think that it’s a very out of the box idea — but it’s something one should consider seriously, given all the other distorted incentives that exist.”

7 Alexei Sadeski February 22, 2014 at 4:10 pm

The old “two wrongs make a right” theory.

8 david February 22, 2014 at 10:58 pm

Economists prefer to call it the “theory of the second best”, dating to 1956.

9 andy February 22, 2014 at 5:51 pm

So you have people working at $7, with high 100% marginal tax rate at $8. You raise minimum wage to $9. Some people will get unemployed forever. For some, they will see higher wage as a result of higher marginal product (i.e. they used to get the money from the benefits, now they get it from the employer). For some, the employer will require more work which they refused previously.

Is it trying to tell people “look, if you won’t make yourself valuable at least for $10/hour, you will have no job”? Is it a disguised way of forcing unskilled workers to acquire some skills? Damn those who won’t make it?

10 ummm February 22, 2014 at 7:14 pm

The solution is to cut welfare, lower taxes, and lower the minimum wage..this is a bi-partisan comprise that combines entitlement reform and supply side economics.

11 msgkings February 23, 2014 at 12:15 am

‘Bi-partisan’? WTF? The Dems want to cut welfare, lower taxes, AND lower the min wage?
Someone tell the Tea Party

12 Herb February 22, 2014 at 3:58 pm

“In theory, I’m against it, because people should have the freedom to contract at whatever wage they’d like to have. But in practice, I think the alternative to higher minimum wage is that people simply end up going on welfare.’’

Thiel gets it. When the theory crashes against the shoals of reality, you’ve gotta chuck the theory and navigate another way.

13 chuck martel February 22, 2014 at 4:41 pm

Wouldn’t want to consider restricting that ol’ welfare eligibility, would we? Is there a direct correlation between welfare and minimum wage? Do people that earn less (or more) than the minimum wage automatically qualify for some form of public assistance? Is that a 100% option? If I’m a twenty-something high school drop-out with a felony on my record can I quit my job flipping lamb burgers at Little Bo Peep’s and head straight for the subsidized couch?

14 Herb February 22, 2014 at 6:11 pm

You’re not going to clear the welfare rolls by imposing more stringent eligibility rules. You may, however, discover new and creative methods of becoming eligible.

15 chuck martel February 22, 2014 at 6:55 pm

You’re right. A good example are the athletic New York cops and firemen on permanent disability. When someone’s job is giving money away, that’s what they do. They find ways to make clients eligible.

16 john personna February 22, 2014 at 6:51 pm

There are hurtles to both work and public assistance. People who cannot navigate either end up sleeping in the park, or in a van down by the river. Then we are careful not to count them. I travel a bit in the US, and I see the homeless everywhere.

17 john personna February 22, 2014 at 6:52 pm

I probably meant “hurdles.”

18 Marie February 23, 2014 at 10:37 am

@chuck martel
Pre-ACA, the 21 year old healthy male with no dependents ordinarily qualified for very little to nothing by way of welfare.
There are certainly ways to game the system (find a woman with kids who does qualify, for one way). But if you are suggesting that young men who are healthy and able to work should not be on food stamps, the states usually already agree.
I believe, but this is not the population I’m familiar with, that Z’s scenario below usually involves young men committing crimes (something of a job, there) while the women and children qualify for money from the state programs.

19 Z February 22, 2014 at 4:44 pm

I’d put the number of people torn over whether to keep working or go on welfare at about the same number of poor people Peter Thiel has ever met in his life. That would be zero. Spend time in America’s ghettos, white and NAM, and you quickly figure out the economics is nothing like the economists and public policy types claim.

20 Jan February 22, 2014 at 5:22 pm

What are the economics like, based are your implied firsthand knowledge?

21 Z February 22, 2014 at 6:15 pm

Poor people are not poor because they are oppressed, lack opportunity or lack proper education. Most are poor because have poor impulse control. They also make choices that are not highly valued by society. Low IQ, drugs, alcohol and crime are other factors. A non-trivial number are just lazy. The typical drug dealer is not in the game because he missed out on the management training program down at the mall. He started slinging drugs because it was the easiest way to make enough money to buy stuff he wants. That’s something you see throughout the ghetto. Most would rather game the system for money than work.

People, who are not responding as you wish with the current incentives, are not going to respond with more of the same incentives. You could raise the minimum wage to $80 an hour, guaranteeing no loss of jobs, and the ghetto will remain unchanged. There are too many scams in the ghetto, many run by liberal white women like yourself. To quote myself, “there’s an army of social services parasites making fat salaries off the tax payer to run the welfare industrial complex. The best business in America is ghetto business. There’s never been a recession.”

The thing about poor people, and I’m talking about the underclass, is they may not be very bright, but they are very clever. They have no illusions about the human condition. No matter how well intended your program, scammers will exploit the gaps. The rest will follow. Food stamps replaced checks because checks were used to fund the underground economy. A week after food stamps were invented, a way to monetize them was invented. Now we have EBT cards and they are used to fund the Oxycontin Express.

I could go on..

22 Thor February 22, 2014 at 6:24 pm

Yes, this, and I’ve seen it in various countries. In Scandinavia, the welfare industrial complex is simply accepted as part of the cost of having a modern/contemporary society. You pay the underclass to “carry on”, without disrupting too many lives outside of their own milieu.

The big change is in demographics: in centuries gone by, the poor had many children. Now it is very unlikely that they will have more than one or two. (I’m speaking about Scandinavia.)

23 So Much for Subtlety February 22, 2014 at 6:51 pm

The demographic issue is why Social Democrats always accepted the need to sterilize the unfit. While Virginia often gets mentioned for doing it in the US, actually Court-ordered tubal ligations were common, and I think offhand, first, in places with a Scandinavian and/or Leftist tradition.

Which is why Sweden was compulsorily sterilizing the unfit into the 1970s. I would assume the rest of Scandinavia was not far behind.

And while the poor may be having two children, the middle class is having none. And the Somali immigrants are having six. Thus social democracy comes to an end in Scandinavia. They chose to be the new Lebanon instead.

24 Z February 22, 2014 at 6:59 pm

Thor: In paleocon circles, it is called riot insurance. The middle pays for the care and feeding of those in the ghetto so they won’t burn down the city.

25 Max Factor February 22, 2014 at 7:18 pm

So what are the solutions Z Man? We do nothing and they eventually point their guns at us. We create social programs and welfare and it costs us money. Any other options?

26 arhold February 22, 2014 at 7:26 pm

don’t flatter yourself. leave your phone number so the nobel committee can reach you lol

27 Max Factor February 22, 2014 at 7:34 pm

There are some answers out there. In NYS convicts who completed rigorous education while in prison displayed dramatically lower recidivism rates.

“About 275 prisoners are now enrolled. Graduates and those who completed courses not only didn’t return to prison, but started careers, including some in social services, and attended graduate schools that include Columbia and Yale, he said.”

28 So Much for Subtlety February 22, 2014 at 8:57 pm

Max, you have to think of cause and effect. Looking at the people who finish such programs is irrelevant. You have to look at all of those who start. After all who finishes?

Imagine two recidivists. One is 21 and is committed to his drug gang outside. To the point that he has every intention of going back to selling as soon as he can. The other is 41. He has tired of his gang life. He looks at the wasteland of his youth and wants something else. What it doesn’t matter as long as he gets to spend some time with his daughters and Baby Mommas.

Now we put two of them into a program to learn, say, Swahili. Which do you think is more likely to turn up? Which is more likely to finish? Which is more likely not to re-offend on the outside?

Education does not appear to do anything for recidivism rates. Sure, prisoners who have decided to give up crime do give up crime – and are more likely to get their GED. There is no rehabilitation scheme in the world that can take a random sample of prisoners, do something with them and have a meaningful, measurable impact. Rehabilitation does not work. Education does not work. Castration does actually but I don’t think we are going to be trying that any time soon.

29 Jan February 22, 2014 at 9:32 pm

I don’t think the data back up your generalizations. First, plenty of kids do lack proper education, mainly the poorest students. That is evident in test scores, and poor performance there clearly corresponds to diminished educational achievement and fewer opportunities. Compared to 25 years ago, cash assistance has dramatically decreased. TANF is a ghost of what welfare once was. On top of that, half the jobs in this country pay less than $35,000 per year. It’s just a fact that with stagnating wages, more people are going to be poor, working or not. I’d like you to tell me exactly how much government assistance you think qualifies as a “fat salary” and precisely which programs are putting that money in people’s pockets. I’m quite curious to see what you come up with.

What do you propose the answer is? Eliminating assistance because fraud exists? If being poor is driven by low IQ, substance abuse and impulse control, does that mean government should do less?

I can’t claim to have ever lived the day-to-day reality of “the ghetto” but I have lived in mixed income inner city areas and I imagine I have as much firsthand knowledge as you do. Also, I’m not a woman–my name has a Scandinavian pronunciation.

30 Marie February 23, 2014 at 10:50 am

@Z, how large a percentage of people using any form of public welfare do you believe fits into your description?

31 ummm February 22, 2014 at 7:11 pm

People respond to incentives whether they are in the ghetto or not. You take away the incentives to not work and people will get working again. The solution is comprehensive entitlement reform and eliminating the minimum wage. Stop and Frisk and measures implemented in the 80’s have significantly reduced crime in the NY by making the personal costs of crime higher in terms of jail time as a negative incentive.

32 Max Factor February 22, 2014 at 7:36 pm

Stop and frisk started in 1990.

33 Z February 22, 2014 at 8:09 pm

Don’t kid yourself. Stop and frisk made it hard for young NAM males to carry weapons in public. What really lowered crime rates is the slow expulsion of minorities so the kids of upper middle-class white liberals could live in the city. NYC elected a new people.

34 chuck martel February 22, 2014 at 4:58 pm

The results of the NASCAR study can be logically extended to other things, like the effect of improved equipment in football and ice hockey. Football players insist on putting their heads in places where they don’t belong.

35 Michael February 23, 2014 at 12:26 am

The problem I have with the article is the phrasing, “increased safety associates with more driver recklessness”, particularly the word “reckless”, which implies irrational behavior. Given a fixed level of safety comfort, then increased safety devices allow a person to drive just as safely if given improved equipment. This is purely rational behavior, and not much of a paradox to me.

This is backed up with the data in the article, while property damage has gone up, injury and death have gone down. There is nothing “reckless” about this dynamic, quite the opposite.

Also, please quit the football hysteria. The data is clear: professional football players are healthier and live longer than their peer group. Anecdotes about concussions and suicide and memory loss are not backed up by any real science. Certain nanny groups have set their sights on the NFL for weird cultural reasons. Don’t feed the trolls.

36 chuck martel February 23, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Do you suppose that if professional football players wore only a jock strap and a T-shirt that head injuries would increase or decrease?

37 Urso February 24, 2014 at 10:59 am

It’s not about the professionals, it’s about the high schoolers. There are two easy solutions I’ve been peddling for a few years now: 1) back to leather helmets, no face guards, or 2) no hands on the ground presnap (mandated 2 point stance). We just need to disincentivize using the helmet as a weapon.

38 Urso February 24, 2014 at 11:01 am

And fyi this is not some “weird cultural” anti-football thing; in fact I believe that a college football Saturday is the apotheosis of modern American culture. It’s precisely because football is so great and so important that it needs to be saved.

39 Michael February 28, 2014 at 12:19 am

in fact I believe that a college football Saturday is the apotheosis of modern American culture.

So, you admit that it is a cultural battle, and not a scientific/health based one?

40 Dismalist February 22, 2014 at 5:02 pm

What surprises me most about supporters of a statutory minimum wage is how begrudgingly small they all are. If one’s theory, or lack thereof, says there are no costs or low costs, why stop at a measly $12 per hour? Why not $24? Why not $240? Why not … ?

41 msgkings February 22, 2014 at 5:11 pm

Because the minimum wage isn’t automatically adjusted for inflation, there has to be this big fight about it every 5-10 years. Look at the chart, the real minimum wage goes lower every year until it gets ‘too low’ and then we have a fight and they up it back to where it would have been if they’d just adjust it for inflation. I wish they’d realize this and raise it one more time and then inflation index it so we don’t have this debate every 5-10 years.

Going much higher than $10 is raising the actual wage not just making up for inflation. That’s why no one is calling for that. Also, reductio ad absurdum is, well, absurd. It’s why no one wants 100% tax rates, or 0% tax rates.

42 msgkings February 22, 2014 at 5:13 pm

I should have said “it’s why no grown ups want 100% or 0% income tax rates”

43 chuck martel February 22, 2014 at 5:42 pm

What’s wrong with a debate every 5-10 years? Maybe people will change their minds when things don’t work out the way they thought they would. Frankly, the current debate over raising the minimum wage, which is taking place mostly in congress, the media and the blogosphere, isn’t making use of many resources, except the unenlightened opinions of statists. No shortage of that commodity.

44 john personna February 22, 2014 at 6:57 pm

I think, functionally, the infrequent debates and lack of inflation index conspire to keep the minimum wage theoretical and nonbinding. It is a “revealed preference” that your legislators do not really want a minimum wage.

45 Shane M February 22, 2014 at 7:32 pm

Revealed preference is interesting observation. We index social security to inflation. Revealed preference there also? Probably, although the concepts aren’t that much removed I don’t think.

46 andy February 23, 2014 at 1:29 am

Also, reductio ad absurdum is, well, absurd

It is absurd as it is a big step. Spain has minimum wage $5. Speaking about minimum wage $6 is totally absurd in Czech republic; it wouldn’t seem absurd in Spain. Yet all these countries are roughly comparable. (Spain has slightly higher PPP per capita, however they have also significantly higher inequality, which matters for minimum wage effects). France has minimum wage $12.

France GNI PPP is 50% higher then czech republic, inequality is higher, minimum wage is 4 times higher. That makes the question “why not $25 in the USA” in line with asking “why not $5 in Czech republic”. It is perfectly valid question where everyone is quite sure what would happen. Yet, somehow, you can brush it off as ‘absurd’, if you first go from $2 to $3, than $4 and than $5.

47 andy February 23, 2014 at 1:30 am

Forget to write: Czech rep. has minimum wage $2.50.

48 David Brown February 22, 2014 at 6:25 pm

That’s a straw-man. Minimum wage increases will directly cause some combination of reduced profits, decreased employment and higher prices. Any reduction in profits not to attributable to decreased hours and less affordable goods is economic rent. At $240 the main effect will be on employment and prices.

Low minimum wages put costs on localities with those jobs, as those localities are required to provision public goods such as hospital care, police and fire protection and education of children. So right now the chain is “Central Valley hospitals and other tax-payer supported entities subsidize the price of fruit and the profits of growers.”

49 Shane M February 22, 2014 at 7:37 pm

Not sure where I stand on minimum wage, but increased minimum wage could potentially not impact profits in non-inflationary environment. Where I used to work we planned for inflationary price increases – often tied into cost-of-living salary adjustments for employees. Nobody ended up better off. Revenue went up, expenses went up. ROE stayed about the same (or attempted to). That’s not strictly a minimum wage conversation, but maybe a minimum “real” wage conversation.

50 Shane M February 22, 2014 at 7:38 pm

edit: oops – should have been “could potentially not impact profits in inflationary environment.”

51 Donald Pretari February 22, 2014 at 6:54 pm

If Peter Thiel continues to think issues through Politically & Pragmatically, he might soon find himself with a much reduced audience of admirers. On the other hand, This Blog is one place he will still get a fair hearing.

52 ummm February 22, 2014 at 7:30 pm

He’s def. got some quirks and idiosyncrasies, but he’s wrong on this issue. I also disagreed with his plan to pay ppl to drop out of college to create a start-up. You never hear about those kids. I suppose they failed, not surprisingly, and now have to resume where they left off, albeit with added complication from quitting.

53 Max Factor February 22, 2014 at 7:37 pm

LOL – yeah, where are those kids?!?!?

54 Axa February 24, 2014 at 6:59 am
55 derek February 22, 2014 at 7:56 pm

Is Thiel saying that if minimum wage is increased there will be so many more jobs available so that those on welfare can get work?

56 Chip February 22, 2014 at 8:33 pm

Thiel is trying to mitigate one wrong with another wrong. It reflects his pessimistic (and probably correct) view of the expanding state.

57 prior_approval February 23, 2014 at 12:05 am

Well, this is sad – Prof. Cowen finally posts a link to a major interest to a commentor, and nothing appears.

58 So Much for Subtlety February 23, 2014 at 4:12 am

You’re a NASCAR fan?

59 prior_approval February 23, 2014 at 4:19 am

Nope – I’m a motorcycle rider. Car racing leaves me pretty cold, though rally racing is at least a bit unpredictable.

The commentor, of course, is the one that has constantly talked about Bitcoin, anonymity, and how the future will look when taxes are uncollectable.

60 John February 23, 2014 at 9:22 am

Something is odd in the NASCAR story. While the results are intuitive the finding that increasing speeds and restrictor plates (reduce top speed) both have a positive influence on recklessness

61 L'Homme au Masque de Fer February 23, 2014 at 12:20 pm

In Taiwan, where people of all ages use motor scooters for daily transportation, they’ve worn masks with decorations for years, believing they protect against pollution, and they’re also popular in mainland China, even though they’re rarely the proper kind to protect against pollution. But then Taiwan may have been influenced by Japan. Don’t forget Kōbō Abe’s “The Face of Another” and “The Box Man”.

62 nike air max 95 March 13, 2014 at 4:28 am

BEIJING, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) — A Beijing-based Tibetology scholar has criticized the Dalai Lama’s Friday meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in the White House, saying it was another “anti-China farce.” “Once again, the Dalai Lama slipped into the White House Map Room for a so-called ‘unofficial meeting’ with Obama. This was another farce against China,” said Lian Xiangmin, a researcher with the China Tibetology Research Center, in a signed article.

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