Law

In the period from January to June criminal homicides have risen 10 per cent in the state of Rio, compared with last year, while homicides in confrontations with police have risen 45 per cent, according to the state security secretariat. Violent deaths resulting from attempted robbery have risen 21 per cent.

The violence is taking its toll on Rio`s cash-strapped police, who complain they lack funds even for petrol for their vehicles. News organisation Globo reported that every 54 hours, a policeman is killed in the city.

That is from Joe Leahy and Andres Schipani at the FT.

The oddities of trademark law

by on August 3, 2017 at 12:46 am in Law | Permalink

Offensive words and phrases can be trademarked, and some people are trying to do this to keep such jargon out of broader circulation:

A spokesman for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office said the office does not comment on trademark applications. Applications for trademarks flagged under a “scandalousness provision” can still be denied, the spokesman said.

Bordenave said he has filed many trademarks for phrases and logos that might prove profitable — radio frequencies, for example, and the phrase “New Orleans Tricentennial.” (The city will celebrate its 300th birthday next year.)

His idea: Build a brand around the n-word by including it discreetly — in T-shirt collar tags or fine print on water bottles, for example — on products emblazoned with larger, positive messages like “UNITY.” He said consumers would learn that, by buying such products, they were keeping the epithet out of more visible circulation.

This plan strikes me as ill-advised, and overly optimistic on the entrepreneurial side:

Maynard — of Snowflake Enterprises, named for a common insult of “someone with thin skin,” he said — planned to co-opt the swastika by including it on baby products. Such “social satire,” he said, could change its meaning and restrict its usage among hate groups.

“One of the hopes is that people look at the swastika flag in 10 years and think: baby wipes,” he said.

Or is there another agenda, hidden in its openness?  Here is the full story, via M.

Gancia, Ponzetto, Ventura provide a precis to their very interesting theory about the size and number of nations.

Before 1950, more than one third of all territorial disputes were decided by war, while after that date diplomacy prevailed in almost 90% of cases.

Why did the first wave of globalisation lead to political concentration and conflict? Why did the second wave of globalisation lead instead to political fragmentation, resolved in a more peaceful way? To answer these questions, in a new paper we develop a model to study the interaction between globalisation and political structure (Gancia et al. 2017). A key premise of our theory is that borders hamper trade and globalisation make borders more costly. We show that political structure adapts to expanding trade opportunities in a non-monotonic way. In early stages, borders are removed by increasing the size of countries. In later stages, the cost of borders is removed by creating economic unions, and this leads to a reduction in the size of countries. Moreover, while the incentive to conquer markets through aggression increases with globalisation, international economic unions remove this incentive, thereby paving the way to the rule of diplomacy.

This point is very good:

Since the size of markets grows rapidly while political borders tend to change slowly, it suggests that globalisation is likely to put more pressure on the world’s political structure. Designing political institutions that can optimally adapt may become one of the major challenges faced by modern societies.

The full paper is here.

According to a study recently published in The Review of Economic Studies, access to legal marijuana may significantly reduce academic performance.

The study took advantage of a natural experiment in the Dutch city of Maastricht. In 2011, the city sought to pull back some of the marijuana tourism going to its coffee shops, where marijuana sales are legally tolerated. So through the local association of cannabis shop owners, it banned some foreigners of certain nationalities from buying pot at these venues.

This let researchers Olivier Marie and Ulf Zölitz, in the cleverly titled “‘High’ Achievers? Cannabis Access and Academic Performance,” compare the academic outcomes of Maastricht University students with varying levels of access to legal pot.

What they found: The students who weren’t allowed to legally access marijuana saw their grades significantly improve, especially in classes that require numerical and mathematical skills.

Here is the full Vox story.  I strongly believe it is morally wrong to throw people in jail for smoking such substances, but still policy decisions have real consequences, we should know what those are, and I am not convinced that full availability of marijuana is the optimal approach.

Here are ungated copies, noting there have been significant revisions in the paper along the way.

When I was in India, I visited the High Court of Bombay. It’s surprisingly easy to get in. Wandering around the halls and offices, upstairs and downstairs, I was surprised to see stacks and stacks of papers piled up against walls all bound with….red tape.

In an excellent piece in the WSJ, Niharika Mandhana and Vibhuti Agarwal, describe a similar court in Allahabad.

Tattered stacks of case paper were piled on racks, tables, chairs and the floor. Towers of folders spilled into corridors where passersby toppled smaller stacks. Files from 2015 mixed with ones from 2016 and 2017, creating a nightmare for officers struggling to locate hundreds of them every day.

On a stuffy third floor, Amit Kumar Yadav, age 35, squeezed sideways through dust-laden stacks, then pulled himself up on his toes and vaulted over the paperwork that carpeted the floor.

After an eight-hour hunt, he was still missing 17 of 65 files for the next day’s hearings. Those cases won’t be heard.

In my review of the Marathi movie Court, I said

Court not only shows the mundane production of injustice it structures itself around that theme. Scenes drift on for longer than expected. The movie builds tension like a conversation with uncomfortable pauses. The audience begins to fidget and think “when will this be over.” That’s intentional. In a two-hour movie Tamhane makes you feel a little like what the people in Indian court must feel, trapped.

That’s not a great advertisement for a movie but you watch Court not for the watching but for the experience of having watched. Even now the tension and the feel of the movie are with me and add color to observations like this:

Waiting anxiously in the back of a nearby courtroom, Mohammad Aqeel Hasan, a 27-year-old farmer, has lost count of the number of court trips he has made from his village. He said he was sure it was fewer than his father had made in the 1983 lawsuit against their neighbor. Each side claims ownership of land between their properties.

His father had won a swift victory in a lower court, but the decision was overturned on appeal. His father’s appeal of that decision has been pending since 1986. A few years ago, when his father could no longer travel, Mr. Hasan took over.

“At this rate, the case will go on for hundred years,” Mr. Hasan said. Court appearances require a 10-hour journey by train from his village.

Mr. Hasan’s case came and went in a heartbeat. The other side’s lawyer had sent an illness slip, forcing a delay.

“Not well again?” the judge said, and he moved the hearing to another month.

Mr. Hasan was crestfallen. “Coming to court is not easy,” he said, heading to the railway station for his trip home.

See also my piece, A Twisted Tale of Rent Control in the Maximum City.

The Economist reports on the work of three GMUers, Robert Warren Anderson, Noel Johnson, and Mark Koyama, all leaders of the next generation of GMU economists and up-and-coming stars:

A new study* by Robert Warren Anderson, Noel Johnson and Mark Koyama suggests that, historically, economic shocks were more strongly associated with outbreaks of violence directed against Jews than scholars had previously thought. The authors collected data for 1,366 anti-Semitic events involving forced emigration or murderous pogroms in 936 European cities between 1100 and 1800. This was then compared with historical temperature data from a variety of sources, including tree rings, Arctic ice cores and contemporary descriptions of the weather.

Cold spells hit medieval agriculture hard: a one-degree Celsius fall in temperatures reduced the growing season by up to four weeks. Lower yields caused widespread economic pain: up to 57% of people relied on farming for work in medieval England, for instance. The authors find that a fall in average temperatures of only a third of a degree increased the probability of a pogrom or expulsion by 50% over the next five years. They argue that violence against Jews was not simply caused by religiously-motivated anti-Semitism: “The Jews were convenient scapegoats for social and economic ills.”

The authors find that economic shocks had greater effects where soils were less suited to farming or where governments were weaker, and so less able to stop violence.

Here is a link to the published paper.

“The goal is a plan that reduces tax rates as much as possible, allows unprecedented capital expensing [for businesses], places a priority on permanence, and creates a system that encourages American companies to bring back jobs and profits trapped overseas,” it said.

No Border Adjustment Tax, even Ryan says that, lower rates for small business than for big business, full investment expensing, and an emphasis on permanence (how can they possibly manage that one?).  Will there be a “skinny” version of this bill too?

Here is one article, plus I’ve been trawling Twitter, presumably more details are on the way or maybe not.

1. “For over a century, incomes across states converged at a rate of 1.8% per year…The convergence rate from 1990 to 2010 was less than half the historic norm, and in the period leading up to the Great Recession there was virtually no convergence at all.”

2. After subtracting housing costs, janitors in NYC now earn less than they do in the Deep South.  This was not the case for most of American history.

3. For NYC janitors, housing costs measure at 52% of their income.

4. Income differences across states are increasingly capitalized into housing prices.

5. “…income convergence declined the most in areas with [land] supply constraints.”

6. “Had [cross-state] convergence continued apace through 2010…the increase in hourly wage inequality from 1980 to 2010 would have been 8% smaller.”

That is from a new NBER working paper, “Why has Regional Income Convergence in the US Declined?”, by Peter Ganong and Daniel W. Shoag.  Here are earlier ungated versions.

Note that this paper contains “…the first national panel measure of land use regulations in the US.”

In the place of U.S. support, Japan has offered to step in.

“Japan is the only state willing to help India in its Indian Ocean project to develop islands there,” said Abhijit Singh, head of the Maritime Policy Initiative at the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi think tank. The reason, he added, is that other nations—notably the U.S.—consider offering such help too provocative to China.

Here is the full WSJ story.

Here is the government’s own answer:

No.  The President’s clemency power is conferred by Article II, Section 2, Clause 1 of the Constitution of the United States, which provides:  “The President . . . shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.”  Thus, the President’s authority to grant clemency is limited to federal offenses and offenses prosecuted by the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia in the name of the United States in the D.C. Superior Court.  An offense that violates a state law is not an offense against the United States.  A person who wishes to seek a pardon or a commutation of sentence for a state offense should contact the authorities of the state in which the conviction occurred.  Such state authorities are typically the Governor or a state board of pardons and/or paroles, if the state government has created such a board.

Solve for the equilibrium!

I thank J. for a relevant pointer.

I would like to see building deregulators pay more attention to this aspect of the problem:

The next step would be transferring ownership of these assets to what Detter and Fölster call an “urban wealth fund”. Ideally, all publicly owned assets in a given city would be placed in the fund, regardless of whether they technically belong to the county, the city, the school system, the state or some other entity. The local governments would each have shares in the fund proportionate to the value of the assets they contributed. These shares would be reported as assets on the municipal balance sheets.

Independent managers with experience in real estate and finance would be charged with maximising the value of the portfolio. Cities would receive dividends from their stakes in these commercial properties and have the option to borrow against or sell their shares if desperate for cash.

Public officials would then have to decide whether it makes sense to pay fair market rents to stay in their properties. Moving offices might be inconvenient for government workers but the potential gains for taxpayers and citizens who depend on government services would be far greater. Leasing space in subway stations to shops might detract from the “historic” character of the US’s barbarous public transit systems, but the revenues could fund needed improvements, such as ventilation, without the need for debt or higher passenger fares.

That is from Matt Klein at the FT.  Note that profit maximization does not have to be the sole goal of such funds.

NYC pet-sitting is now illegal

by on July 22, 2017 at 1:20 pm in Law | Permalink

Pet lovers are barking mad over a little-known city rule that makes dog-sitting illegal in New York.

Health Department rules ban anyone from taking money to care for an animal outside a licensed kennel — and the department has warned a popular pet-sitting app that its users are breaking the law.

“The laws are antiquated,” said Chad Bacon, 29, a dog sitter in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, with the app Rover. “If you’re qualified and able to provide a service, I don’t think you should be penalized.”

Here is the full story, via the excellent Mark Thorson.  Ostensibly the purpose of the regulation is to ensure the health and safety of pets.

A Toronto man who spent $550 building a set of stairs in his community park says he has no regrets, despite the city’s insistence that he should have waited for a $65,000 city project to handle the problem. The city is now threatening to tear down the stairs because they were not built to regulation standards.

Retired mechanic Adi Astl says he took it upon himself to build the stairs after several neighbours fell down the steep path to a community garden in Tom Riley Park, in Etobicoke, Ont. Astl says his neighbours chipped in on the project, which only ended up costing $550 – a far cry from the $65,000-$150,000 price tag the city had estimated for the job.

“I thought they were talking about an escalator,” Astl told CTV News Channel on Wednesday.

Astl says he hired a homeless person to help him and built the eight steps in a matter of hours.

Astl’s wife, Gail Rutherford, says the stairs have already been a big help to people who routinely take that route through the park. “I’ve seen so many people fall over that rocky path that was there to begin with,” she said. “It’s a huge improvement over what was there.”

The city says the stairs are unsafe and has cordoned them off, banning their use:

“We just can’t have people decide to go out to Home Depot and build a staircase in a park because that’s what they would like to have.”

Here is the article, with photos, via Rob Gray.

The largest city in North America has done away with one of the biggest hidden subsidies for driving: minimum parking requirements.

Mexico City eliminated requirements that force developers to build a minimum number of parking spaces in each project. The city will instead cap the number of parking spaces allowed in new development, depending on the type and size of the building. Existing parking spaces can also be converted to other uses.

Mexico City Mayor Miguel Mancera signed the new regulations into effect last week.

The policy change applies to every land use and throughout the entire city of 8.8 million residents. It promises to make housing more affordable, reduce traffic, and improve air quality.

…The old rules mandated parking even though only about 30 percent of Mexico City residents own cars and the city has a well-developed subway system.

There are now parking maximums in place instead of minimums…

Within the central city, the new rules also require developers to pay a fee if they build more than 50 percent of the maximum parking allowed…

Revenues from the parking fee will be used to improve transit and subsidize housing.

Here is the story, via John Chamberlin.  Here is my earlier NYT column on this topic.

As their budgets strain, communities have begun questioning how much money and effort they should be spending to deal with overdoses, especially in cases involving people who have taken near-fatal overdoses multiple times. State and local officials say it might be time for “tough love”: pushing soaring medical costs onto drug abusers or even limiting how many times first responders can save an individual’s life.

“It’s not that I don’t want to treat overdose victims, it’s that the city cannot afford to treat overdose victims,” said Middletown Council Member Daniel Picard, noting this industrial town in northern Butler County might have to raise taxes in response to the crisis.

Often, the only thing separating whether an overdose victim goes to the hospital instead of the morgue is a dose of naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, a medication that can reverse the effects of opioid overdoses.

Two doses of an injectable form of naloxone, Evzio, cost $4,500, up from $690 in 2014. The price of other forms of the drug, including the nasally administered Narcan, typically range from $70 to $150 per dose, officials say.

…Here in Ohio, first responders say it’s not uncommon for overdose victims to have previously been revived with naloxone at least a half-dozen times.

…Picard, the council member, has proposed a controversial three-strikes policy in which first responders wouldn’t administer Narcan to repeated overdose victims.

Here is the Tim Craig at WaPo story.  I do not know what is the proper response to such opioid cases, or how much money should be spent.  I do know that somewhere, somehow a line has to be drawn.  And if you are reading a discussion of health care policy that does not acknowledge such a line, and set out possible standards for it, beware of sophistry and illusion.