Law

“This study finds total marijuana demand to be much larger than previously estimated,” Colorado’s study concluded.

And this, which I think suggests the laws in other states are binding for many consumers:

Colorado concluded that visitors account for 44 percent of recreational marijuana retail sales in the Denver area. In the mountains and other vacation spots, visitors to Colorado account for 90 percent of recreational dispensary traffic.

And this, which sounds tautologous, but is not:

“Heavy users consume marijuana much more often, and more intensely, than other consumers,” the study concluded.

Overall heavy users seem to account for about seventy percent of total demand.  Here is some detail:

Colorado’s market numbers bore out survey estimates that most marijuana is consumed by heavy daily users. For example, survey authors estimated that a third of all Colorado’s pot consumers use the drug less than once a month. But that group accounts for just 0.3 percent of the total market, analysts concluded.

The full story is here, the study itself is here.  For the pointer I thank C., who I believe is not part of that seventy percent of market demand.

The largest-ever study of same-sex parents found their children turn out healthier and happier than the general population.

A new study of 315 same-sex parents and 500 children in Australia found that, after correcting for socioeconomic factors, their children fared well on several measures, including asthma, dental care, behavioral issues, learning, sleep, and speech.

Do note this:

Perceived stigmas were associated with worse scores for physical activity, mental health, family cohesion, and emotional outcomes. The stigmas, however, were not prevalent enough to negatively tilt the children’s outcomes in a comparison to outcomes across the general population.

There is more here, from German Lopez, the study itself is here.

The British government is pulling out all the stops for Scotland with a referendum on independence two months away, going so far as to lobby the United States government to allow the importation of that famous Scottish delicacy made from sheep’s innards, haggis.

The problem, it seems, is sheep lungs, which the United States banned for consumption in 1971. But lungs are vital to traditional haggis, which usually also contains minced sheep heart and liver, mixed with onion, oatmeal, suet and spices. It’s all stuffed into a sheep’s stomach, which is then simmered for several hours. Delicious, no?

There is more here.  But is the market really there?  I hope not.  Please keep this in mind:

There is apparently a shocking lack of knowledge about haggis. According to a not-very-scientific online survey in 2003, carried out by the haggis manufacturer Hall’s of Broxburn, a third of American visitors to Scotland believed that haggis was an animal. Nearly a quarter thought they could catch one.

Here is one of them, coming to me in an email from the Sinocism China Newsletter, about the growing demands for democracy in Hong Kong:

Any public suggestion that the People’s Liberation Army might intervene here was politically unacceptable until very recently, but it is now raised as a possibility by some of Beijing’s advisers. “A showdown is getting more and more inevitable by the day, and some degree of violence is imminent,” said Lau Nai-keung, one of Beijing’s most prominent allies in Hong Kong. “If worst comes to worst, the P.L.A. will come out of its barracks.” Mr. Lau is one of the six Hong Kong members of the Basic Law Committee, a group under the National People’s Congress Standing Committee in Beijing that sets policies relating to Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

An associated NYT story is here.  Uighur terrorism has been another story that has snuck up on us.  How many more China stories will be sneaking up on us this year?  Next?

For the case of the public sector, the probability of involuntary separation is just 1.3 percent, which is one-third as high as the probability in the private sector case. I then calculate the difference in compensation between the public sector (low unemployment case) and the private sector, such that a worker would be indifferent between working in either sector. I find that workers would be willing to work for about 10 percent less compensation in the public sector, given the additional benefit of much higher job security. This estimate is conservative in terms of considering today’s labor market, as average unemployment duration today is much higher than its historical average.

This analysis suggests the possibility that public sector compensation may be significantly higher than competitive levels. Moreover, the fact that public sector workers are only about one-third as likely to voluntarily leave their job as private sector workers is consistent with the conclusion that average public sector compensation rates are in excess of competitive levels, indicating that there are relatively few external employment opportunities that dominate public sector workers’ jobs. The fact that average public compensation is higher than average private sector compensation suggests that public sector worker compensation may be well above competitive levels and indicates that public sector wages could be reduced without significantly impacting public sector employment. For example, I’ve calculated the impact of a 5 percent wage reduction for all public employees in California, a state with one of the most severe fiscal crises in the country. A 5 percent wage cut would reduce state spending by $1.33 billion, which would reduce California’s 2011 state budget deficit by nearly 15 percent.

There is more here, interesting throughout.  There is further relevant information here.  Here is the news on today’s Supreme Court decision on public sector unions: “Supreme Court drastically curtails public sector unions.”

The author of this new and excellent book is David Skarbek and the subtitle is How Prison Gangs Govern the American Penal System.  It carries rave blurbs from Thomas Schelling and also Philip Keefer.  My favorite section was the discussion of how the rate of gang formation in prisons depends on how the prisons are governed (start at p.65).  For instance when prison officials cannot reliably protect prison inhabitants, gang membership is especially likely.  Gangs rarely operate in UK prisons and when they are do they are usually far less powerful.  Some observers believe that indeterminate sentences increase inmate frustration and stimulate gang formation within prisons.  Female prisoners in many states, such as California, also do not have gangs in the traditional sense, although they may form into “small families.”  Gangs are also more likely in large prisons with many inmates than in small prisons.

A very interesting book, which should be read by anyone with an interest in this topic.

Everyone else is covering this, still it seems worthy of mention in this space too:

Just weeks before Blackwater guards fatally shot 17 civilians at Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007, the State Department began investigating the security contractor’s operations in Iraq. But the inquiry was abandoned after Blackwater’s top manager there issued a threat: “that he could kill” the government’s chief investigator and “no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq,” according to department reports.

American Embassy officials in Baghdad sided with Blackwater rather than the State Department investigators as a dispute over the probe escalated in August 2007, the previously undisclosed documents show.

The full story is here, and also it seems the U.S. government is trying to put that reporter in jail for his work.  And here is my 2007 column on Blackwater: “Private contractors may not respect virtue for its own sake, but like most businesses, they will respect the wishes of their most powerful customers, in this case governments. What is wrong with Blackwater may, most of all, mirror what is wrong with Uncle Sam.”

Addendum: The documents by the way are here.  Check out p.6, it reads to me a bit less threatening, and more commentary on the chaos of Iraq, than some accounts are making it out to be.

Activists tell of ‘being travelled’ – sent on lavish trips, chaperoned by police – to keep them out of the government’s way.

As top Communist leaders gathered in Beijing the veteran Chinese political activist He Depu was obliged to leave town – on an all-expenses-paid holiday to the tropical island of Hainan, complete with police escorts.

It is an unusual method of muzzling dissent, but He is one of dozens of campaigners who rights groups say have been forced to take vacations – sometimes featuring luxurious hotels beside sun-drenched beaches, trips to tourist sites and lavish dinners – courtesy of the authorities.

It happens so often that dissidents have coined a phrase for it: “being travelled”.

He, 57, had not been charged with any crime but officers took him 1,400 miles (2,300km) to Hainan for 10 days to ensure he was not in the capital for this year’s annual meeting of China’s legislature, he said.

Two policemen accompanied him, his wife and another dissident for dips in the ocean and visits to a large Buddha statue, he said.

“We had a pretty good time because a decent amount of money was spent on the trip – the local government paid for everything.”

Altogether eight activists have told Agence France-Presse of being forced on holiday in recent years.

The pointer is from Mark Thorson.

Getting paid to tell tourists about D.C. history will no longer involve passing a 100-question test or paying a fee. Anyone can just show up and talk without fear of arrest.

On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit threw out a 108-year-old city code requiring every “sightseeing tour guide” in the city to be licensed after correctly answering 70 out of 100 multiple-choice questions.

The decision is a victory for Tonia Edwards and Bill Main, the married couple who together operate the (illegal, until Friday) Segway tour company Segs in the City and have battled the regulations since 2010.

The $200 cost of the licensing process was too high for many of their guides, they said, often recent college graduates who work in the business for only a few months.

There is more here.  “Small steps toward a much better world,” as they say…

…my reading of the available evidence convinces me that a social policy that channels benefits through work and thereby encourages paid employment has important advantages over a UBI [universal basic income] in helping the disadvantaged to live full, happy, productive, and rewarding lives.

What evidence? Let’s start with the well-established finding that unemployment has major negative effects on well-being, including both mental and physical health. And the effects are remarkably persistent. A study using German panel data examined changes in reported life satisfaction after marriage, divorce, birth of a child, death of a spouse, layoff, and unemployment. All had predictable effects in the short term, but for five of the six the effect generally wore off with time: the joy of having a new baby subsided, while the pain of a loved one’s death gradually faded. The exception was unemployment: even after five years, the researchers found little evidence of adaptation.

Evidence even more directly on point comes from the experience of welfare reform – specifically, the imposition of work requirements on recipients of public assistance. Interestingly, studies of the economic consequences of reform showed little or no change in recipients’ material well-being. But a pair of studies found a positive impact on single mothers’ happiness as a result of moving off welfare and finding work.

There is more here.  And Ross Douthat offers related remarks on whether it really is possible to encourage work — how well have previous welfare reforms succeeded in this end?

Inside the razor wire on Eagle Crest Way, in rural Clallam Bay, Wash., telephone calls start at $3.15. Emails out, beyond the security fence, run 33 cents. Money transfers in, to what pass for bank accounts, cost $4.95.

Within that perimeter lies the Clallam Bay Corrections Center, a state prison — and an attractive business opportunity. One private company, JPay, has a grip on Internet and financial services. Another, Global Tel-Link, controls the phones.

The problem of course is unfettered monopoly, not the private companies per se, but private companies are often more efficient at exploiting the gains from potential monopoly power.  Still, government is in on the act too:

In Baldwin County, Ala., for instance, the sheriff’s department collects 84 percent of the gross revenue from calls at the county jail.

The story is here, and for the pointer I thank Henry Farrell.

It is excellent throughout, here is one good sentence:

The funny thing about Piketty is that he has a lot more faith in returns on invested capital than any professional investor I’ve ever met.

Here is another:

The result of all that is the effective death of the IPO. The number of public companies in the US has dropped dramatically. And then correspondingly, growth companies go public much later. Microsoft went out at under $1 billion, Facebook went out at $80 billion. Gains from the growth accrue to the private investor, not the public investor…

Most American retirement savings is invested in the public stock market. Most Americans can’t invest in private companies and most Americans can’t invest in venture capital and private equity funds. They’re actually prohibited from doing so by the SEC. If you both prohibit them from investing in private growth and wire the market so they can’t get into public growth, then you can’t be invested in growth. That raises the societal question of how are we going to pay for retirements. That’s the question that needs to be asked that nobody asks because it’s too scary.

The full interview is here.

In the major fields of domestic policy responsibility assigned to the new devolved institutions, such as health, education, local government, there have been remarkably few initiatives. A system of local government, reorganised in 1996 on the basis of 32 multi-purpose local authorities and designed by the preceding Conservative UK government, has been largely left untouched. As in England a grossly inadequate system of council tax inherited from the preceding Conservative government and crying out for reform, has been left untouched by the first two Labour/Liberal Democratic administrations and the two successor SNP administrations. And under the latter the system has been shored up by Scottish government funding to facilitate a council tax freeze and containment of local government expenditure.

Or try this:

A 2012 Audit Scotland report has also indicated little change in health inequalities within Scotland in the last decade. Despite avoiding the major structural reorganisations experienced by the NHS in England, and being more generously endowed with public funds, the NHS in Scotland does not seem to have made, under devolution, any fundamental change to the pattern of relatively poor health outcomes. Devolution did not involve much change in the governance of health in Scotland in as much as the ministerial, civil service and medical leadership continued as before but within a new ministerial structure. What was new was the Scottish Parliament and it does not seem to have made much difference.

There is more here, by Norman Bonney, interesting throughout.  The pointer is from www.macrodigest.com.

I interviewed him.  You will find the full version here, the edited version here.  Not surprisingly, I prefer the full version.  Here is one excerpt:

TC: If I look back at your career, I see you’ve been fighting various kinds of wars or struggles against a lot of different injustices. If you look back on all those decades, during which time you’ve been right about many things, what do you think is the main thing you’ve been wrong about?

RN: Oh, a lot of things. Nobody goes through these kinds of controversies without making bad predictions. I underestimated the power of corporations to crumble the countervailing force we call government. We always knew corporations like to have their adherents to become elected officials; that has been going on for a long time. But I never foresaw the insinuation of corporatism as a policy in one agency after another in government. Franklin Delano Roosevelt foresaw some of this when he sent a message to Congress when he started the temporary national economic commission to investigate consecrated corporate power. That was in 1938. In his message he said that whenever the government is controlled by private economic power, that’s facism. Now, there isn’t a department or agency in Washington where anyone has more power—over it and in it, through their appointees, and on Congress, through lobbyists and political action committees. Nobody comes close. There’s no organized force that comes close to the daily power to twist government in the favor of Wall Street and corporatism, and to disable government from adequately defending the health, safety and economic well-being of the American people.

TC: Let’s say we look at the U.S. corporate income tax. The rate on paper is 35 percent, which is quite high. When you look at how much they actually pay after various forms of maneuvering or evasion, maybe they pay 17–18 percent, which is more or less in the middle of the pack of OECD nations. So if corporations have so much political power in the United States, why is our corporate income tax still so high?

…Sweden, a country you cited favorably, taxes capital income much more lightly than the United States does—not just on paper but in terms of what’s actually paid.

I also ask him about the Flynn effect, whether America needs a new kind of sports participation, and how much American churches have resisted corruption through corporatization, among a variety of other topics.  I tried to avoid the predictable questions.

By the way, you can buy Nader’s new book, Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State.  I very much enjoyed my preparation for this interview, which involved reading or rereading a bunch of his books and also a few biographies of him.

The sharing of intelligence information has exploded since 9/11, so one way to avoid national restrictions on your intelligence service is to have someone else’s intelligence service do the actual spying.  Henry Farrell reports:

There’s been relatively little discussion of whether there is a problem in principle with international surveillance, and most of what there has been has concerned the question of whether or not privacy is a universalhumanright. But the recent Der Spiegel revelations combined with some earlier material points to a narrower but very troubling set of problems for liberal democracies. Cross national cooperation between intelligence services has exploded post-September 11. This cooperation is not only outside the public space but, very often, isn’t well known to politicians either. Such cooperation in turn means that intelligence services are in practice able to evade national controls on the things that they do or do not do, directly weakening democracy.

Henry concludes:

This implies that national security liberalism, to the extent that it ever was a credible position, isn’t any more. Liberals who embrace national security and extensive foreign intelligence gathering do so on the rationale that there is a clear distinction between national politics (where we owe obligations to our fellow citizens not to torture them or invade their privacy) and international politics (where they believe that at best a much weaker set of rights and obligations applies). But if national intelligence agencies are working across borders, creating a pool of shared information that systematically undermines national protections, then national security liberalism is at best incoherent, and at worst active apologetics on behalf of measures that not only corrode global rights, but the national level rights that they claim to care about too.

There is more here.