Month: December 2010

Legally protected catchphrases for star athletes (and coaches)

Pat Riley obtained a trademark for the term “three-peat” in 1989, when he coached the Los Angeles Lakers.

From football:

[Terrell] Owens wrote a children’s book, had a breakfast cereal named for him, made guest appearances on several television shows and commercials, and in 2009 starred in a VH1 reality show, “The T. O. Show.” In addition to registering “I Love Me Some Me,” he has also sought protection for “Getcha Popcorn Ready” and a logo featuring his initials, T. O.

The full story, interesting throughout, is here.

United States fact of the day

In 2009 40% of U.S. imports and exports was ‘related-party trade’ –”trade by U.S. companies with their subsidiaries abroad as well as trade by U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies with their parent companies.” That means companies are effectively trading with themselves, so they can choose which side of the transaction books the profits.

Here is more, from Michael Mandel.

Peter Orszag update

Former Obama administration budget director Peter Orszag is joining Citigroup's global banking division, the bank said Thursday.

Orszag will hold the title of vice chairman, and has been tapped to serve in the bank's Senior Strategic Advisory Group, which includes some of Citi's (C, Fortune 500) most senior bankers.

The story is here; didn't he used to own them?  I guess labor is the more lucrative class after all.

*Rush: Why You Need and Love the Rat Race*

The author is Todd Buchholz and it offers a valuable corrective to many accounts of zero- and negative-sum games:

I began to tear apart my old book manuscript and develop a new and controversial idea: the happiness comes from the rushing around.  We feel better chasing the tails, even if we never catch them.  The hunt makes us happier.  I began to write at a furious pace, feeling that I was knocking down false prophets who speak from pulpits, pits, classrooms, and yoga mats and make their followers feel guilty about trying to to eke out some success in a chaotic world.

You can pre-order it here.  I agree with the main thesis.  My question is this: if there is some value in butting your head against the wall, do the "false prophets" and their preaching make us happy too?

What’s the best predictor of sex partners?

Restrict the inquiry to heterosexual men in the United States.  To be sure, famous rock stars have a lot of opportunities, but that is just one small corner of the distribution.  Which variable is the best predictor for the population as a whole?  Patrons of prostitutes do not count.

You might rush in and claim "income" or "status" and maybe those are the correct answers.  But we're talking unconditional predictors here, and men with high income and status are a) often older, and b) often busy working.  I'm not ready to sign off on those answers and anecdotally, when I think of the people I know, I don't quite see it.  (It may be more true in Latin America, for instance, and that is one reason why visiting American tourists don't always succeed there.  They first need to be certified by a local of high income or status, but instead they make some kind of foolish direct charge.)

"Facility with women" is too vague empirically and in some cases verges on the tautological.  Maybe this is the most powerful variable but then I wish to re-ask the question and consider what variable predicts facility with women.

Any takers?

Assorted links

1. Will Wilkinson on Bartels.

2. Pavement (pdf, and not the band).

3. New purple octopus.  And sneezing snub-nosed monkey.

4. Dave Weigel on Randy Barnett.

5. Update on the Wolfers-Price NBA referee bias paper.

6. Controversial RCTs for social welfare programs.

7. Law and the Multiverse, a blog about superheroes.

8. John Taylor's new critique of stimulus.

9. Update on the "doc fix."

“Why work?”

Here's a claim, with concrete numbers, that:

"a one-parent family of three making $14,500 a year (minimum wage) has more disposable income than a family making $60,000 a year."

That's after various government benefits and taxes, but the calculation seems incorrect to me.  For instance, should the Medicaid and CHIP benefits of the poorer household actually be valued — to the user — at $16,500 a year?  (Is that number coming from some kind of cost basis?  If so, is it adjusted for the age of the Medicaid recipients to rule out nursing home expenditures?)  Is the $60,000 per year family receiving employer-supplied health insurance?  The assumption seems to be that they do not.

Still, even if you make adjustments this is a scary comparison.  I'd like to see a more exact calculation of the implicit marginal tax rates of the poor, as they climb from say 15k a year through the 60k range.  Does anyone know of such a table?

For the pointer I thank CC.

Addendum: Andrew Gelman comments.

The fiscal response to hurricanes

…in the eleven years following a hurricane an affected county receives additional non-disaster government transfers of $70 per capita per year. Private insurance-related transfers over the same time period average only $3.60 per capita per year. These results suggest that a non-trivial portion of the negative impact of hurricanes is absorbed by existing social safety net programs.

That is from Tatyana Deryugina. who is currently on the job market from MIT.

Elsewhere from the MIT students, here is Daniel Keniston's paper on price bargaining in the rickshaw market, and whether fixed prices would be better (they would exclude some low valuation users, it turns out).  You'll find all the MIT job market candidates, and their papers, here.

New arguments against polygamy

Prof. Grossbard said there are fewer women available to men in societies that permit polygamy – even for monogamous men, because they are drawing from the same pool of women.

Since that scarcity could increase what she describes as the women’s “bargaining power,” men in such societies have an incentive to ensure they retain control over who the women marry.

To that end, Prof. Grossbard said, polygamy is associated with teenage brides, arranged and forced marriages, payments to brides’ fathers, little emphasis on “romantic” love and poor access to education or the work force – all designed to restrict the ability of women to choose who they marry.

There is further discussion here.  I am not a fan of polygamy, but I find this argument strange (though not strictly impossible; men can behave preemptively and incur a large fixed cost to prevent a subsequent erosion of their control).  Surely Grossbard would not argue that all institutions which improve the bargaining power of women lead to…less bargaining power for women.  So why is polygamy so special in this regard?

For the pointer I thank John Chilton.  On polygamy, I once wrote:

Polygamy ends when children cease to be a net economic asset.  As society progresses and urbanizes, there are cheaper ways of having sex with multiple women, if that is one's goal. 

Here are previous MR posts on polygamy.

Assorted links

1. Why does Japan have such a high savings rate?

2. Trying to seem smart makes others seem stupider to you.

3. Why did outpatient spending take off in 1983?

4. The horse racing carry trade.

5. Laura Miller reviews the Google eBookstore.

6. Adam Smith's dictum again, for the hand model (highly recommended; she claims her hands have not seen the light of day for fifteen years.  Somehow deeply creepy, and there is one question she does not address).

Politics and the market

Mr. Mendelsohn has worked with Michelle Obama extensively on her anti-obesity campaign. But that didn’t stop him from starting a Capitol Hill-area burger spot, Good Stuff Eatery, and We, The Pizza, which opened four months ago.

More generally:

…the area surrounding the Capitol is awash in milkshakes, grilled cheese sandwiches and mildly baroque pizza.

What I’ve been reading

1. Supermac: The Life of Harold Macmillan, by D.R. Thorpe.  I'm not one of these people who enjoys reading a lot of long tracts about British politicians, but this is one of the best non-fiction books of the year.  It's full of good information, offers useful context for British economic and political debates, has plenty of original research, and is as suspenseful as a very good novel.  Most of all, it brings its world and character to life.  Highly recommended.

2. J.P. Singh, Globalized Arts: The Entertainment Economy and Cultural Identity.  The definitive book for updating coverage on its topic, including the best and most comprehensive history of the UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity.

3. James K. Glassman, Safety Net: The Strategy for De-Risking Your Investments in a Time of Turbulence.  p.11: "Reduce the proportion of stocks in your portfolio."  

4. Alan Taylor, The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Loyalists, and Indian Allies.  "The civil war had four overlapping dimensions.  In the first, Loyalists and Americans battled for control of Upper Canada.  Second, the bitter partisanship within the United States threatened to become a civil war, as many Federalists served the British as spies and smugglers, while their leaders in New England flirted with secession.  Third, Irish republicans waged a civil war within the British empire, renewing in Canada their rebellion, which the British had suppressed in Ireland in 1798.  Invading Canada, Irish-American soldiers faced British regiments primarily recruited in Ireland, for thousands of Irishmen had fled from poverty by enlisting in the royal forces.  Fourth, the war embroiled and divided native peoples…In the North American civil war of 1812, Americans fought Americans, Irish battled Irish, and Indians attacked one another.  They struggled to extend, or to contain, the republicanism spawned by the American Revolution."  Some of this book has too much detail for my interests, but overall it is good.

5. Thomas Bartlett, Ireland: A History.  I liked the cover so much that I also enjoyed the book more.  I also liked the weight of this book a great deal; it was just right.  In any case a fine one-volume introduction.