Assorted links

by on February 19, 2014 at 12:27 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. The premium for turning black money into white.

2. Israel’s anti-concentration law goes into effect.

3. Strange trademark case.

4. Settlers of Catan.  And Megan McArdle sits in on Steve Teles’s class.

5. The CBO says a minimum wage hike will increase unemployment (pdf).  And Scott Sumner is right about the new ARRA study.

6. Smart guns.

Govco February 19, 2014 at 12:34 pm

Thank you for your daily labor with these ALs (and other posts) and for hosting one of the best comment sections on the web. It enriches my intellectual life quite a bit.

Chris S February 19, 2014 at 2:26 pm

You forgot to say “FIRST!” ;)

Z February 19, 2014 at 12:36 pm

#7: “Proponents compare smart guns to automobile air bags — a transformative add-on that gun owners will demand.”

Only in the fevered mind of the lunatic is this true. The only way this catches on is if it made mandatory and we all know that’s the next step in the gun grabber’s assault on liberty. A better use of the technology would be to install it on the 3% committing the 27% of the homicides every year, but that would require too much noticing.

dbp February 19, 2014 at 4:49 pm


Plus, my airbag won’t disable my car if it malfunctions, prevent me from using it at a moment’s notice, prevent me from loaning my car to a friend. Smart guns are actually more similar to the car’s key than any of the car’s safety equipment.

All the push for this technology is coming from people who would ban private ownership of fire arms if they could and should be understood as a method to that end.

Rahul February 20, 2014 at 1:13 am

I’m not sure it’d have to be mandatory to catch on. It might be a niche use. Say I only only use guns for sport or hunting. A wristwatch my be a small inconvenience for the peace of mind that my gun won’t be misused.

It’s not a catch all solution but doesn’t mean it is useless. The best users might self identify & adopt most of all perhaps because it benefits themselves.

Alexei Sadeski February 20, 2014 at 2:04 am

If using only for sport or hunting, the wristwatch is still annoying: Every time your buddy wants to shoot the gun, you’ve got to swap watches. Taking a bunch of guns sport shooting? If I bring a few guns to the range, I’ve got to keep five watches on my arm – or else swap watches every three minutes.

The “best users” might self identify and adopt? Conscientious gun owners already keep their weapons inside safes. Superior to this technology in many ways.

Rahul February 20, 2014 at 3:07 am

Is the smart-gun dumb enough to not let you pre-register multiple weapons to one watch?

Alexei Sadeski February 20, 2014 at 4:01 am


With all of the different mfgr’s out there? Who knows.

Right now there’s one mfgr with one watch.

Rahul February 20, 2014 at 4:56 am


You seem to be an active user so what about law enforcement / security guards? Would guys who handle guns daily for work or carry a concealed weapon; do they worry about a stolen weapon or an opponent wrestling or grabbing a gun? If that’s a credible scenario, this may be yet another niche.

Finch February 20, 2014 at 5:46 pm

There’s an old joke about the safety catch killing more police than it saves.

And safeties are generally mechanically reliable. People just forget to disengage them.

Marian Kechlibar February 20, 2014 at 6:18 am

Color me very, very skeptical.

“Smart” devices are internally complicated, having firmware (potentially faulty), relying on radio communication (potentially disrupted by unseen electromagnetic fields) and requiring battery or other power source which can fail.

One remarkable feature of current guns is that they are quite resilient against environment challenges (see the notorious AK-47, which allegedly could shoot even if buried in a Vietcong grave for three months). OK, this rule has exceptions, guns can and do jam sometimes, but the malfunctions are well known by current users.

Adding a “smart” device to the mix brings another set of problems. How many times did your smartphone do something strange, because of a SW/HW error?

Rahul February 20, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Yes, but how much did your smartphone cost you? There’s firmware in both your DSL-modem & Boeing avionics, but doesn’t mean they are both equally crappy nor equally prone to throw a blue screen.

Sure software can be buggy but for mission critical applications there’s ways to test & to incorporate redundancies to bring malfunctions down to a level where the gains outweigh the risks. Otherwise we’d still be operating nuclear reactors with fully mechanical, software-devoid systems.

Mark Thorson February 19, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Reading a palmprint in a fraction of a second would probably be a difficult and unreliable technology. But reading the skin color is much more tractable. That might be all you need, depending on your own skin color and that of likely adversaries.

Now that I think about it, a tattoo to unlock the gun might be the best solution. No watch or RF link, just an optical sensor in the handgrip to sense the combination of pigments in the tattoo. LEDs can act as photosensors, and they have very narrow spectral sensitivity, so that would be a cheap way to do it.

John Schilling February 19, 2014 at 9:26 pm

You live in an urban or suburban area of California, right? At any rate, someplace where they have never heard of these quaint things once called “weather” and “dirt”.

Mark Thorson February 19, 2014 at 11:16 pm

If you’re sensing a pigment in a tattoo which has absorption bands at wavelengths A, B, and C and reflects at wavelengths D, E, and F, by checking all of these wavelengths you’d have a fairly specific identification of the presence of that pigment, even if you have to shine through a dirt layer. Only complete blocking by a solid coating of dirt would prevent that. Thrown in another couple of pigments, and you’ve got something like a combination lock — nobody without the same set of pigments could activate the gun.

Fluorescent pigments would be even more specific, because their absorption bands have corresponding emission bands at different wavelengths.

There’s no scanning of fingerprint/palmprint ridges, so it’s fast and requires almost no computing power. Just grab the gun and you’re good to go.

Rahul February 20, 2014 at 3:29 am

Not sure if they make reliable, cheap sensors that can absorb & emit at multiple, well defined wavelengths.

John Schilling February 20, 2014 at 10:29 am

Ah, so gun owners will be required to have unique, identifying tattoos. That sounds familiar…

Mark Thorson February 20, 2014 at 10:58 am

Operated as a sensor, an LED is cheap, reliable, and very wavelength-specific. You can get four LEDs in one package, but it’s probably cheaper just to mount individual LEDs close together.

The tattoo does not need to be visible to the human eye. It only has to stand out from the background. Both could be acomplished by a fluorescent tattoo, which only emits when excited by a specific wavelength. Having narrow bands for both excitation and emission makes it easy to distinguish from anything else, such as natural fluorescent molecules in human flesh.

roadrunner February 19, 2014 at 10:15 pm

The gun will not be voluntarily adopted by gun people. They are rooting for the ccompany to go bankrupt, so there will be peer pressure not to buy it.

Not to mention no gun owner wants one due to reliability concerns.

The big question is NJ. They passed a law ten years ago outlawing non smart guns once smart guns are declared feasible by the AG. Won’t happen while Christie harbors presidential ambitions, bets are off after that. Wouldn’t survive a SCOTUS challenge with the current court lineup, who knows after that.

Panic buying will precede the decision.

Rahul February 19, 2014 at 12:50 pm

#1 is thanks to the Reserve Bank which Raghuram Rajan now heads. Forget true macro but the guys presiding over a few such fairly silly initiatives. He’s made it a royal pain to use a credit / debit card too.

pritesh February 19, 2014 at 1:00 pm
Sigivald February 19, 2014 at 2:05 pm

#4: Arguably the best song on Let It Be, though I also think every one of them improves on the Beatles version.

Up until NATO, pretty much every Laibach album is very, very strong as a whole.

After NATO, things get more uneven, though Jesus Christ Superstars is a return to form.

Donald Pretari February 19, 2014 at 2:22 pm

I read through the Report, and I do think it makes some good points. I also think the ARRA was very helpful. Having said that, and I hate to say this because a lot of people who are smarter and more knowledgeable than me believe in it, but The Multiplier Effect verges on BS to me. I’m not saying that there aren’t reasons to do the things that the ARRA did, since I think there are, but there must be better ways of describing and arguing for these provisions than plugging in a Multiplier Effect Model. As far as I can tell, all it really claims is that things will on balance get better.

smurf February 19, 2014 at 2:32 pm

A link to Laibach, wow, I would not have expected this on MR!

JWatts February 19, 2014 at 2:46 pm

“5. Settlers of Catan.”

An excellent game. And since you used the name of the game vs the title of the article it makes me think you’ve seen the game.

Tyler, have you played The Settlers of Catan?

Just another MR Commentor February 19, 2014 at 3:15 pm

5. While Settlers of Catan is a decent enough game as those things go, I dislike the luddite implications of these sorts of traditional board games.

mkt February 19, 2014 at 3:47 pm

According to the article, there are plenty of ways to play Settlers of Catan online — but it’s not as good an experience.

Does traditional sex have luddite implications, or should we be pursuing high technology versions?

triclops41 February 19, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Yes, think sex in Demolition Man

Doug February 19, 2014 at 8:14 pm

I dislike the online versions because it doesn’t allow for complex trades. Typically when we play in my house there’s all kinds of manors of convoluted trade agreements. The most important is probably the exchange of a resource now for future resources. Also usually there’s the Nash equilibrium of the robber extorting cards from all the sitting players in exchange for not placing on anyone.

Dave February 19, 2014 at 9:35 pm

This is an interesting comment. A trade must involve cards moving in both directions — just handing over a card is forbidden. Do you have norms about bookkeeping owed cards, to be resolved when a real trade happens? How does that interact with robber-induced discarding?

Doug February 19, 2014 at 10:25 pm

Yes, it’s against the rules which is why when playing with purists they usually complain. However the spirit of the rule is preserved, because we disallow any trades that are egregiously “uneconomic”. E.g. a player who has no chance of winning making awful trades to funnel resources to a potential competitor. Generally we just keep a list of who owes what when, and check off when it’s been fulfilled. Contracts are considered enforceable, so a player must pay what he owes and can’t back out when convenient.

Players can stipulate any robber-specific terms they want. But the “default” is that if you’re holding a card that you owe to a player on your next turn than you can’t choose that one for your 8+ card discard. If the card’s swiped in the robber pick, then you just “owe” on the next time the resource comes up.

Overall I like the style a lot. It makes dealmaking much more important, especially early game when resources are scarce and you’re trying to get your first settlements/cities on the board. You wind up with certain strategies where the player gets an early economic advantage but winds up highly “indebted”, so it’s interesting to see how that plays out.

JWatts February 19, 2014 at 4:15 pm

“I dislike the luddite implications of these sorts of traditional board games”

Most of the games I play, I prefer the social interaction and feed back that comes from playing across a physical board with real people. Furthermore, you get a substantial amount of tactile feedback from high quality bits that you don’t get from a computer screen. Playing the same game online is a much more sterile experience to me.

usfoodpolicy February 19, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Yes, there’s a person whose comments I’m totally happy to read just on the MR website. (But I won’t make the error of inviting you out to discuss over a beer!)

Just another MR Commentor February 19, 2014 at 4:25 pm

Interesting article by Megan McArdel however I hope in further editions of this series she discusses some of the emerging non-coercive alternatives to states such as virtual worlds or Seasteading projects. Also the implications for states when they can no longer control and organize the world due to game changing technologies like Bitcoin.

Chris Long February 19, 2014 at 7:22 pm

What happened to the Laibach link? They’re a great band.

Laibach on YouTube:

mulp February 20, 2014 at 3:46 pm

Ok, the ARRA law failed.

That proves tax cuts don’t create jobs.

That proves borrow and spend to fill potholes and to replace and repair decaying bridges does not work.

Clearly tax hike and spend is superior. We can compare the Reagan tax hike and spend stimulus to the Obama tax cut borrow and spend.

In 1983, Jan 6, Reagan signed a 125% tax hike to fund spending on filling potholes and replacing bridges to create jobs.

Unemployment when he signed the 125% tax hike was 10.8% and he was doomed to be a one-term president because of the massive job losses that his tax cuts triggered, ending the slow job creation resulting from Carter appointing Volcker to tighten the money supply, the action that triggered the 1979-80 recession that doomed his reelection and slowed job creation.

Reagan also hiked the payroll tax just a few months later.

By hiking the gas tax and related taxes, borrowing against expected revenue got lots of construction work started quickly putting people to work, and the ongoing increase in tax revenue keep the jobs going even as projects were completed and debt was repaid because repayment of debt allowed new debt for more construction work.

With ARRA, it was all borrowing to get projects going, but then the debt would be a drag on future construction projects so as soon as ARRA projects completed, that was the end of it.

The roads were in worse share in 2009 than in 1983, and after ARRA they are in worse shape than in 1983, while tax hike and spend steadily improved the highway quality until the high price of fuel cut gas consumption and thus cut tax revenue compounded by inflation. In 1990 and 1993, the taxes were hiked 100%, to 450% of what the tax rate was in 1982, with the spending increases occurring in 1991, 1994, and 1998, resulting in slower job creation than from 1983 onward, but a longest period of job creation in US history.

Thus, we now now that the way to create jobs in a down economy is to hike taxes and then spend in anticipation of that added tax revenue, taking on short term debt.

But that was the dominant economic theory before adopting the free lunch economics since 1980.

The theory that cutting taxes will result in potholes and bridges being replaced by free workers because that’s what free in free market means.

mulp February 20, 2014 at 4:00 pm

4. Settlers of Catan.

Free lunch economics. Money from nothing.

The only time in recorded history we have anything close to that kind of economy was in the post 15th century colonial era, but he leaves out all the killing that was required (some of it by accident by spreading germs before anyone knew what germs were).

A better version would have some places have no resources and people with no means to move off and trade so the only way they would be able to advance would be by getting other players to give them money so they could move off the place they were born and would die without handouts.

nike air max 95 March 13, 2014 at 4:38 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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