Assorted links

1. More or less the opposite of the truth.  And do not confuse “hilarity with universality” with “hilarity” more generally.  It is on the first that the Germans fail, not the second.

2. New pricing strategy.

3. An argument that driverless cars are not illegal.

4. Further thoughts on declining crime rates.

5.  Another ZMP laborer?  Or is it sticky wages?

6. Sicilian mayor sells homes for one euro.

7. We were (are) not as wealthy as we thought, or when did the recession really start?


how would one pull over a driverless car?

Re: driverless cars,

Calo is correct that driverless cars are probably not illegal yet in most states. But if it goes to the courts, judges will follow public sentiment about driverless cars. If the public is for it, they'll read the law like Calo. If they're against, there are plenty of statutory interpretation tricks to find the cars illegal. [This flows from both a PPT model of judicial decision-making and the observation that judges only decide controversial issues when they absolutely have to] And this all assumes it will get to the courts before the legislature explicitly rules on it, in which case all the speculation is moot.

I hope we have safe, legal driverless cars soon. Calo is, however, being too optimistic; driverless will not be thrust upon the public without some sort of legal or legislative action driven by public opinion (and we don't know what that opinion is as most have never thought about it).

You're missing the point. The article's premise is that Tyler hasn't surveyed all 50 states' legal codes, and "if it goes to the courts" the courts can't enforce a statute that doesn't exist. So while some local ordinances might be open to interpretation either way, there are no doubt states that have nothing on the books that even a twisted reading would make applicable. An aggressive prosecutor might still try to bring a case, but it's a bit extreme to think that the judge would rule solely on the basis of popular opinion when there's no relevant case law.

I think this is a case where conventional wisdom is pretty much on target. Americans are the funniest nationality. Not because of the broad comedy we export (e.g., Simpsons and Friends), although much of that is of decently high quality. But because of our various traditions of subcultural humor. Here I'm thinking of Jewish American humor, African American humor, etc.

I know there are some people who argue that Germans actually are funny, and Tyler appears to be among them. Hey, de gustibus non est disputandum. I will say that "typical" French humor is probably just as bad as German humor. And not only do Brits deserve much more credit than they're given in this survey, but the Irish and other flavors of Anglo deserve special recognition.

Commence the shouting!

Eh, color me skeptical of hilarity with universality. While there may be some great universal truths of the human condition out there, that content has been well harvested. Timing, cultural twists, etc. are kind of where all the funny actually resides these days. I don't know what it means to be considered the culture who is considered funny by the most other cultures. Judging by international comedies, not much.

5. I suspect the cops' salaries have not fallen as fast as the budget to pay them, therefore: sticky wages. Perhaps if they had all agreed to take a cut they could have saved their best friend's job, but that's not how things are playing out.

My opinion is that the first application of driverless vehicles should be for over-the-road tractor-trailers on the interstates. GPS would driver them from truckstop to truckstop and a local driver would take over for city street driving.

7 - Um, no kidding? I'm not an economist, but just anecdotal evidence from my own life and people I know - the mid 2000s were a bad time for the economy. A dearth of decent jobs, increasing prices for housing. When was the last time we weren't in a recession? Not the economics definition, but the ordinary person definition. I think maybe 1999.

1. South Park's May 4 episode was based on this. The German's took offense to the poll and designed a robot to be the funniest comedian in the world, which soon became bent on destroying the world since that would be the world's funniest joke.

1 Reagan telling Russian jokes is pretty funny.

The American Funny ratio probably looks something like this, with a bunch of minor terms added on: AF = [2(Trey P and Matt S) + 3(Classic Simpsons)] / [(Seth MacFarlane)^3 x (Jay Leno)^6]

With appropriate deductions for ripped off BritComs, it doesn't look good for us when you see it on paper.

7. Starting in 1999 sounds about right to me... If you're Generation X, with the 1991 layoffs a formative experience, then getting a couple years of potential in the late 90s (assuming you weren't in grad school all that time), then that's about when everything hit the wall... and you realized you'd never be promoted from within because there's a throng of Boomers ahead of you. Everywhere.

I'm confused by your use of the term "ZMP" or zero marginal product in many of these posts. The article above says that the town has marginal costs of $3500 or more per year, counting dental costs, to keep the dog in service, so the implication is that the marginal product is now less than $3500. (Or maybe, given the tone of the article, a binding budget constraint forced the town to cut items with MP greater than MC, in which case MP > $3500). In any case, I don't see the evidence that MP = 0.

By ZMP, do you mean MP - MC = 0?

Stewart Lee gave a convincing sounding explanation for the German humour perception:

But not all humour is difficult to translate- clowns like Mr Bean and Jackie Chan are famously universal. I wonder how much of America's reputation, compared to Britain, is due to it's strong animation industry? There's a lot more visual comedy in the Simpsons than in friends.

In American jurisprudence, things in general, of all sorts, are legal unless the law says otherwise, are they not?

If no law (ore regulation backed by law) prohibits a driverless car, it is legal.

If no law can be found that does so, we must presume it's legal.

In other words, if two people are arguing "X is illegal" vs "X is not illegal", it's up to the "X is illegal" party to show us that it's illegal - because being not-illegal is in most cases a matter of proving a negative...

(That said, I would not be surprised to see a rash of laws regulating or banning driverless cars, especially if there are newsworthy early failures that claim lives, or a ridiculous moral panic. But that's the future, not now.)

(Or, to put it another way, Tyler - why do you believe it to be illegal "in all 50 states"?

Are there specific statutes mandating that?

I did a cursory check of my own state of Oregon's vehicle code, and none of the definitions or language seem to mandate human operation - they just apply conditions to such operation.)

Who sets the standards to which the hardware and software in a driverless vehicle must conform? Who verifies that a particular implementation is standards conforming? Who bears the liability when a failure mode unanticipated in the standard results in a death?

"We were (are) not as wealthy as we thought, or when did the recession really start?"

In 1970 along with the postwar growth of the welfare and regulatory state.

Sorry, I meant 1973.

1. Re. low ranking of Germans, there seems to be a bit of Schadenfreude happening. [ahem]

I expect driver-less cars to first come with a button that says not for use on public roads.

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