by Tyler Cowen
on February 12, 2017 at 8:09 am
1. I accidentally bought a giant pig.
2. Gerrymandering just isn’t that big a problem (pdf).
3. Obamacare state-by-state?
4. Wall Street Journal to close Google loophole entirely.
5. UK proposal to jail journalists who leak “economically sensitive” documents?
6. What Gary Cohn is doing inside the White House (NYT).
7. Can Singapore nudge its citizens to love literature?
A pig like that, you don’t eat all at once.
“A woman in the US recently wrote, “Thank you for showing my two young boys that it’s OK to have two dads”
There is a Reddit Sub called “That happened”. I think the pig article belongs there.
You’ve never seen the scene in the excellent movie “Deliverance” where the pervert homo redneck (Sam!) tells his tied victim to ‘squeal like a pig’? That’s the implication.
A travelling salesman drove past a farm one day and noticed a pig with one wooden leg. He didn’t think much of it until a week later, driving by the same farm, the pig had two wooden legs. The third week, the pig had three wooden legs, and finally, after seeing the pig the fourth week with four wooden legs, he had to stop to inquire about it.
He tracked down the farmer and asked him about the strange sight. The farmer told him, “Well, that’s the greatest pig alive. About a month ago, he saved my wife and kids and me from our burning house by waking us up in the middle of the night just in time to escape without any harm!”
The salesman continue to prod the farmer about the pig’s wooden legs. “Well,” the farmer replied, “this pig is just like one of the family. He’s a really great pig. A couple of weeks ago, our youngest boy fell in the creek, and this truly wonderful pig fished him out just in time to save him from drowning! He’s one really great pig!”
The salesman, starting to lose his patience, again inquired about the wooden legs, to which the farmer replied, “Last week, I fell off my horse and my foot got caught up in the stirrup. This great pig ran along side of the horse and me and untangled me and truly saved my life. What a great pig – the greatest pig in the world!!”
Losing his patience, the salesman finally shouted, “All right already, That’s enough! He’s a really great pig – a REALLY great pig! But what about his wooden legs?!”
To which the farmer replied, “Well now, a great pig like that – you don’t eat him all at once!”
#1 – Guardian article on the pig: “If you look a pig closely in the eyes, it’s startling; there’s something so inexplicably human.” – what ignorance! A pig and a human have a common ancestor, that’s why a pig heart valve can be used in human heart surgery. Also, pigs routinely bond with their owners, that’s why we in the Philippines will sell our commercial pigs to a slaughterhouse rather than butcher them ourselves, since we grow attached to them, unlike our fowl. My suggestion to the Guardian author: stop your vegan nonsense (see what it did to Steve Jobs?), sell your pig for the meat, and enjoy a BBQ pulled pork sandwich, such as you can enjoy in Fat Pete’s BBQ shop in DC (never been there, but looks good online).
Bonus trivia: trichinosis is so rare now even in the USA, much less more hygienic Europe, that the USDA suggests pork can be cooked at a lower temperature, which brings out the ‘nutty flavor’ of pork.
#1. We have a common ancestor with pigs? Uh, with what species do we not share a common ancestor? I note they moved to a farm. Having experienced the stench and filth of a pig sty, I’m not surprised. Pigs are omnivores. Pigs aren’t bred to be pet or child friendly. In the Wizard of Oz movie, Dorothy falls from a fence into a pig pen which is a very dangerous place to be. Don’t mess with pigs. I note these guys are silent on these questions, as well as the cost of feed and care of a 300kg “pet”. I wonder how pigs age – do they become more belligerent? The expectation that animals not bred specifically for living with humans shouldn’t be expected to behave as if they were. Pigs eat their young. #2. Typical Social “science” tripe. It seems they chose to define gerrymandering based on outcome rather than initial constraints. They also (seem to) fail to use an appropriate seeding function. There are undoubtedly far less border blocks than interior blocks, so selecting blocks at “random” (whatever that means) is a poor way to start the process – it makes far more sense to pick a border block and grow the square from it, imho. Also, I missed the part where they validated their model…I don’t think they did. Garbage In, Garbage Out. #4 The WSJ spokesperson is quoted as claiming that their web portal hasn’t changed much in 20 years. As a 40 year subscriber, I can testify that that is simply false. With it’s recent major restructuring, I’m worried about its survival. It’s one of the very, very few reliable news sources available. (Although certainly not unbiased). They do real reporting. An ad revenue only model doesn’t seem capable of doing that. Alas, journalism.
I love that joke.
#1, the “somehow I now have this pig” story, is cute but hard to believe. Someone you hardly know messages you to offer you a pig that you don’t want, and then starts demanding an answer pronto or else it will be too late? And the pictures look too perfect. Seems to me the pig-owning couple is out to build a personal brand (like grumpy cat), and then make money from the eventual book/website/whatever.
I also get the impression from a lot of cute-kid Youtube videos, which try to seem spontaneous but always seem a bit scripted to me, all with an eye towards advertising revenue.
Am I being too cynical?
What’s surprising to me in particular is that they moved to take care of this pig. That’s dedication. Or else, it’s like you said.
Reminds me of the National Lampoon magazine cover–it’s classic now–of a man holding a gun to a dog’s head and the cover saying “Buy this magazine or else” (i.e. they will shoot the dog unless sales increase; animal rights people actually believed it and complained). They actually do this in China (abuse dogs unless onlookers pay money), as reported here on Marginal Revolution, and in Greece I’ve seen beggar gypsy mothers squeeze the genitals of their infants to make them cry (and thus get more donations), while in India they actually have a caste, still active today, that amputates the limbs of children so they will, over the course of their lives, get more charity money. Average is over!
The story of how they got the pig sounds fabricated.
As a rule of thumb, cynicism seems like the way to go, and your interpretation seems more likely than the non-cynical one.
5 – What’s not to like? Seen that. Done that. I read a post elsewhere on the massive (up to 50 million deaths) “Spanish Flu” epidemic of 1918 to 1920.
Woodrow Wilson was a progressive, ya’ know. During WWI, there was a Federal law against writing anything negative (could hurt war morale) about the US government. It could get a reporter or publisher up to 20 years in prison. Likely, the “censorship” hindered attempts to control the spread of the Spanish flu. FYI – it’s called the Spanish flu b/c Spanish newspapers weren’t censored by US law and reported the epidemic.
#2: “the evidence suggests that the partisan makeup of the House would be almost no different if gerrymandering – both partisan and racial – were altogether eliminated. Although some state delegations would see significant change, the aggregate advantage received by a particular party in Congress would be almost zero.”
I can believe that, but isn’t this only part of the issue with gerrymandering? My understanding is that another problem with gerrymandering is that by making districts tilt much more towards one party or another that it pushes members of the House towards the ideological extremes as members are much more concerned about primary challenges than defeat in the general election. This in turn makes governability more difficult. Maybe I missed it, but I don’t see any attempt to address that aspect in this paper.
I like the idea that by fighting against gerrymandering we could improve the incentives toward moderation in both parties. I don’t see the aim of the paper as having been to address this issue, but I agree with you that it’s an issue. On their main issue, predicting the results on partisan balance if gerrymandering were eliminated – I’ve long been a fan of the collective nouns, the terms of venery: pride of lions, tok of capercaillies, murder of crows, swarm of bees, etc. And I have invented one for Democrats, of which I am proud: a cuddle of Democrats. Having lived in Berkeley, and in Cambridge, and now in Arlington VA, I am very familiar with our tendency, birds of a feather, flocking together.
Nation wide in the house republicans got 3.1 mil. more votes than democrats. There were 109.5 votes cast. Republicans got 2.8% more votes.
There 433 congressmen (2 seats unfilled). 240 are reublicans. 193 are democrats. republicans have 19.5% more congressmen.
109.5 MILLION votes cast
#2 “.. we conduct computer simulations of the districting process to redraw the boundaries of Congressional districts without partisan intent. By estimating the
outcomes of these non-gerrymandered districts, we are able to establish the non-gerrymandered counterfactual against which the actual outcomes can be
Easier said than done. The modeling concept and results are very suspect.
Producing a “non-gerrymandered” districts for the simulations is difficult. Researcher intent to eliminate “partisan intent” does not guarantee the elimination of all researcher bias. There are hundreds of ways to construct districts; even seemingly objective geometric constructs can introduce biases.
Predicting probable election-outcomes in fictional Congressional Districts and contests is highly subjective with numerous researcher assumptions and error sources. Note how well professional pollsters did in November 2016 with real districts, real candidates, and lots of real data.
Unless I misunderstand the term “bias”, it is absolutely impossible ( and I DO understand the terms “absolutely” & “impossible”) to divide districts in an “unbiased” way. Pick a random number between 0 and 1. Since there are far more irrational numbers than rationals, you can’t (since your choices are limited to, at most, the numbers you can express in under 120 years which is not even a drop in the bucket of the number of possible numbers between 0 and 1). Gerrymandering is an INTENT to structurally improve the outcome (or diminish the outcome?) of one group relative to the non-group. How do you measure intent? You certainly don’t do it by disparate outcome.
I should have said gerrymandering is the successful implementation of the intent to structurally bias the outcome in favor of (or disfavor of, I suppose) one group relative to the non-group.
@#2 – “We conduct congressional districting simulations designed to draw geographically compact, contiguous, and equally apportioned districts in each state using precinct-level maps and voting results from the 2008 McCain-Obama election.7 This section explains this algorithm by illustrating its implementation in Florida” – the algorithm is sound (you can also produce a randomly partitioned state to overcome any potential researcher bias), but the conclusion of this otherwise excellent study is bogus: the reason there’s no effect of Gerrymandering today is because ever since 2000, with the Bush-Gore election, if not before, the Republican swing voters and Democratic party swing voters have merged, so elections are now very close. So Gerrymandering has lost importance in practice, not that it doesn’t work in theory.
There are a couple major problems with taking this study and claiming that gerrymandering doesn’t matter:
#1 Different criteria produce radically different conclusions. Eg. if instead of only carrying about whether districts are contiguous, one also cares about keeping constituencies together:
Maps constructed this way produce dramatic gains for the Democrats:
#2 I believe partisanship itself should be the main criteria by which a district is considered fair. If a districting plan gives one party outsized power compared to their vote share, than it’s undemocratic. It doesn’t matter if one party is clustered in an area or not. Indeed, the Wisconsin map was ruled invalid in court precisely on these grounds and a partisanship criteria is heading to the supreme court. The maps drawn by these simulations would be invalid under these partisan standards.
Agree regarding polarization that makes it more difficult for the median voter’s views to be represented. As someone in the middle who has regularly voted split tickets, I usually find the large gaps between the parties and inability to work together more troubling than specific representation. The median voter increasingly seems to have less influence.
Maybe the views of median voters shouldn’t hold sway, but I don’t see why that shouldn’t be one of the goals of representation.
2. Gerrymandering won the Left the office of Mayor of London.
I thought Boris Johnson did that? :-O (I know nothing about Boris Johnson except he talks a good ‘right-wing’ / Conservative party talk, but he seems to be more of a nutty liberal type…masquerading as a conservative, like the former Bob Ford? mayor in Toronto)
But Boris Johnson is smart, and Rob Ford was not so smart.
The WSJ will still allow you to circumvent their paywall if you access the article through Twitter. Just search any article you’re interested in on Twitter, and you’ll find a link that takes you directly there.
Yes, Google used to let you do that, but no longer. I don’t use Twitter, so now I download the WSJ from Piratebay in PDF and read it that way.
6 was interesting. I have no reason to doubt that Mr. Cohn wants to accomplish good things, but there are harsh realities. (Such as the fact that a trillion in infrastructure does indeed cost a trillion.)
I think Obamacare is the most interesting though. It seems like it might become a bellwether. Under Obama, the House has actually voted to repeal Obamacare in its entirety six times. Add in 30 or 40 show votes that were partial “repeals.”
And now, suddenly it is not simple. And that has the potential to turn voters, as they realize that the ACA and Obamacare are the same thing.
Will voters realize that the great game to vilify the ACA was 1) partisan games, and 2) at their expense?
Nope. If the situation doesn’t change, the 30 hour max, the narrow choice of expensive options, the actual effects of the legislation as it starts working as designed will cause people to demand that something be done about it.
A good number of Republicans in the house got there because of Obamacare, and they likely will be replaced if they don’t do what they were sent to do.
And yes it is complicated. Look what happened when the Soviet Union collapsed.
Leaving aside a Canadian telling us our system is “Soviet.”
There were many in these pages a year ago, going right back to ACA passage, telling us that a free market, without interventions, would serve everyone more cheaply. Now they are crickets.
Were they consciously lying then, or did they just not think too deeply about it? Instead, repeating the positions their side was supposed to have?
Like this “crash like the Soviet Union” stuff.
First, let us review the true benefits of Obamacare/ACA and the other massive miracles wrought by the magic man since January 2009.
Here are my favorites. The House of Representatives: we see 63 seats lost to Republicans. The Senate we find 10 Senate seats lost to Republicans. The White House is now occupied by Donald J. Trump. Democrats are minorities in the US Legislative Branch. Soon, hundreds of Federal judges will be Republican appointments.
First thing we do, let’s repeal Obamacare/ACA. Then, we’ll see what happens.
I bet that the (what 20% of) the people that benefit from ACA previously faithfully voted Democrat and will continue to vote Democrat. The people that didn’t benefit from Obamacare will vote Republican. We won’t know until we repeal it.
It was very frustrating to see the irrational triumph, to see demonization triumph.
But that’s the point, if Trump and the Republicans had really been fully informed and convinced themselves, Obamacare would be gone right now.
The Republican solution would have been written, and ready for votes and signature.
Instead a 2 year wait? Total failure. Or a late recognition of reality.
It’s just political reality. The Republicans are quite aware of what happened to the Democratic Party.
Great Moments in Self-Delusion: If they actually had the consent of the American people, the wacked-out, democrat left would control the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the White House.
#6 Gary Cohen’s policy perscriptions are amazingly well alingned with business republicans even though he is somehow listed as a democrat: lower taxes, infrastructure paid via a public-private partnership, and less regulation. Let’s hope that he continues to get the president’s ear and gets these policies enacted. This is *exactly* what ‘we’ want, badly.
No more of these poorly thought through initiatives wrt immigration. Reduce the numbers of visas, but don’t create messes.
How is infrastructure “paid via a public-private partnership?”
It sounds good, as words, but I don’t think those guys are really ready to make the interstates into privatized toll roads.
I think “infrastructure” goes unfunded because there is not a private firm who would see positive ROI.
“How is infrastructure “paid via a public-private partnership?”
Toll roads, toll bridges, and more user fees of all kinds paid to those companies who are the “private partners.” Does anyone really think these construction companies are going to do all this work for free? Maybe everyone is still in a fog from the ‘long con’ of Donald Trump, but this one is the easiest to see through.
I understand in the abstract that we could massively privatize infrastructure. We could do those GPS trackers that Oregon has talked about, for cars and trucks to pay for actual miles and roads driven.
But I think, like the ACA, this is a place where Trump could have a problem with voter expectations.
It seems as if the “abstract” is the only paradigm in which you people communicate.
Trump has talked a lot about the state of our airports and will try to improve at low or no cost through privatization.
It is kind of a weird historical path that led to “municipal airports,” but when cities or counties actually own them .. it seems another thing easier to talk about in the abstract than to change.
I sometimes wonder if Tyler reads the papers he links to or whether he just reads the abstract. I’ve been following this topic for a lot of years (was a poli sci minor in college, one course short of a double major). While I agree that gerrymandering other than a couple of well known examples is not as big a problem as the geographical concentration of democratic votes in urban areas is, this paper is immediately disqualified for an egregious statement “….On the other hand, most of the seat gain for Democrats occurs either in California or re-clearance states. California contributes as many seats to the Democrats through gerrymandering as the top three Republican gerrymanders combined.” SERIOUSLY???? Are the authors unaware that California, following Prop 11, has a citizen’s commission that draws up the districts? this is independent of the state legislature (firmly in hands of the Democratic party) and consists of 5 Dems, 5 Reps, and 4 from neither major party. this Commission drew the boundaries after the 2010 census and even put to of the more powerful Democratic House members in the same district.
Why can’t these guys have done their homework?
From the article:
“Although California and New Jersey both enlist independent commissions to
approve their maps and, thus, are coded as being nonpartisan in Levitt’s coding, we include them as partisan gerrymanders in the figure. Because many have suggested that California’s Independent Citizen’s Commission was heavily influenced by the Democrats, we have coded the state’s districting process as being controlled by the Democratic party (Cain, 2012; Pierce and Larson, 2011). And because a Republican (Former New Jersey Attorney General, John Farmer, Jr.) was appointed to be the tiebreaking vote for New Jersey’s independent commission, we have coded the state’s districting process as being controlled by Republicans. These states are indicated by an asterisk in Fig. 4.”
Wasn’t there a study that tried to model a pure result, and then deviation from it? That would seem a better measure of gerrymandering than “many have suggested.”
This kind of thing:
#7 – Singaporeans? I doubt it. Just too much focus on work and a lack of cultivation of curiousity and wonder here. Everyone in the MRT (subway) in the morning is glued to social media or watching soaps on their phone. Just look at the movies show here, its all blockbuster and super hero stuff, anything somewhat arty or independent doesn’t get a look-in. I read an interview with the Signaporean CEO of the Asian bookstore chain Page One, he said he doesn’t have time to read (they have since closed their store in Singapore).
2 – “Gerrymandering just isn’t that big a problem”
I’ve only skimmed the article, but it looks like their conclusion is that congressional gerrymandering is pretty effective on a state level, but on the national level, the sins basically cancel each other, and the house of representatives has more or less the breakdown it should.
So you could make the claim that “Gerrymandering just isn’t that big a problem **in the house of representatives**” — which is debatable but within the scope of the article you linked to. (For example, it looks like things would no longer be a wash on the national level if the voting rights act gets further eviscerated, which is entirely possible.)
However, you make the much more general claim that gerrymandering isn’t a big problem anywhere, but the article suggests that gerrymandering on the state level is effective, so the article does not support your claim! If the state legislature districts in my state are gerrymandered one way, and the districts in your state are gerrymandered the other way, then the two do not cancel out! The article you linked to does not support your claim.
Ignore the insertions from the department of redundancy department.
It’s very courageous of the WSJ to assume not only that people want more Fake News, but that they want it so badly that they will be prepared to pay for it. You can get it free on the Guardian website and all the major TV channels.
It’s not journalists who leak “economically sensitive documents”. It’s people in government who do the leaking. The law would criminalize the receivers of such documents, even if they just download them from the Internet. I’m reminded of the early treatment of the Snowden documents, when government employees would refuse to look at secret documents (and were warned not to) even after they were available to everyone on the net.
The great pig discussion.
On cost-disease, Mr. Cowen, interesting to see you trying to rebrand the word “inflation” for price increases driven by things like oligopoly behavior and other forms of rent-seeking.
7 – by “literature” you mean “fiction”. Why does it matter if anybody at all reads any fiction? Science, history, politics, technology, economics, sure. Why if all fiction disappeared from the world tomorrow, would it actually matter?
Where would NASA get its ideas?
While the exchanges were successful in some places, not so much in others, and the jury is still out on to what extent they are in a cost death spiral, Medicaid expansion worked, and even non expansion states have Medicaid MCO markets often more vigorous than the exchanges. State Medicaid agencies as the payer of last resort, backed by federal grants, would couple the low income healthcare system that was working better than anything else with the Feds in their core competence of collecting taxes and cutting checks, would raise zero constitutional eyebrows, and for some versions of “who pays” looks similar to the best parts of ACA.
In other words, government single payer with local politicians running the death and benefit panels picking losers and winners to ensure their reelection by killing off the opposition voters?
3. The Ezra video after the article is the best part of that link. It clearly lays out how conservatives and Republicans lied to get elected and are now boxed in by their own lies which were totally free lunch policy based. TANSTAAFL
Republicans will be working hard to blame Obama for all the lost access to health care and bankruptcy in the health care sector, plus hundreds of thousands of job losses as a result of Republican only bills passed in Congress.
Don’t forget we went to war with Britain in1859 over a pig.
Close, troops were called in, but no shots were actually fired, and both sides realized that they fighting yet another Anglo-American war wasn’t worth it.
2 – re: gerrymandering, I’m less concerned with electoral outcomes and more concerned with the anti-competitive effects is has on legislators. If a legislator only has to compete for the votes of one political party (and due to closed primaries, most likely the most ideologically far left or right within that party), there’s very little incentive to work with anyone who thinks differently than them.
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