Assorted links

1. David Frum is right about the pipeline.

2. The 1% and economics majors.

3. Good Julian Sanchez post on SOPA.

4. Stuff New Yorkers say, short fun video, hat tip Yana, who says it is really yuppies who moved to New York, not New Yorkers.  Here is stuff no one says.

5. Scott Winship on economic doom; an overview of many of his points.


#2 YES I saw this too - this is a real blow to those who claim it's the best, brightest, and most productive who make up the 1%. Econ is one of the easiest majors - and lo and behold many of the sciences and engineering don't look too hot on that list. The exception are the biological sciences (as they lead to medical school).

Econ is up there because I imagine it's the primary major for hedge fund and investment banking types.

That really bothers me - I should have just majored in a joke subject like that and gotten amazing marks with little effort. This is exactly why I don't buy into this idea that these top earners are so brilliant - this is just more proof.

You don't quite get it, The "1%" isn't hedge fund managers, it's a bullshit election slogan.
Economics is fine because people destined for the 1% need to take something. They don't take engineering, they hire engineers.
Engineering being in the 1% is pretty amazing considering it is a path for people not taking the 1% for granted ending up there anyway.

Engineering majors at top schools tend to end up management consultants or bankers.

Bankers?? Really, bankers?

Thank god.

Of course, if that's your argument, doesn't that also argue that education isn't that important either?

The top earners could be brilliant, and simply choose to major in an easy subject because they realize that education doesn't really matter so much, no?

I don't think education is that important - but what I'm saying is what could some econ major possibly contribute that's actually valuable. See if this list were dominated by scientists, engineers and other professions that actually produce something I'd be more sanguine about it but it's not.

but what I’m saying is what could some econ major possibly contribute that’s actually valuable.

I think that the events of the last few years demonstrate, at the least, that when econ majors mess up it's very bad. That is, fundamentally, the same thing as saying that what they contribute is "actually valuable."

The same thing applies to, say, management. As scientists and engineers it's easy for me and my colleagues to laugh about the uselessness of managers, but anyone who has experienced bad management (as well as good) should realize the importance of it.

Economists, the new fish mongers.

This is getting pretty ridiculous. You took some undergrad econ courses that you thought were easy, therefore the over 1,000,000 economists in the country provide nothing of value? Someone take this guy out back.

It's instructive of the general misunderstand of what education really is.

Their main value is as PR agents for big business.

@John Thacker

I'm not so sure that's the same thing as saying what they contribute is actually valuable. First of all Econ majors get those finance jobs because their easy major gives them inflated grades which opens the door to the big investment banks, etc.
Second of all much of finance is not really important in and of itself. Saying that the consequences of high-financiers messing up is huge therefore good financiers are very valuable maybe misses the point that we don't need this function performed at all - or at least we only need a much more modest version performed.

What's the base rate of economic majors vs. engineering or pre-med? I think people need to think a little more Bayesian instead of constructing causal stories to explain the stat.

+1 PKSully

I'm really surprised no one came at me with that before. I expected someone to bring that up immediately.


Your comments show that you value quantity over quality. Keep up the not-so-good work!


(and rapidly degrading MR)

Math and applied math were at 39 and 4.6%. Not that far behind.

@ CBBB - With the personality you display here, I'd wager you'd still be unemployed and bitter regardless of your choice of major.

What about a literary critic? I think bitterness is an asset there.

He does seem well suited to criticizing things. But I can't imagine the sort to pay him to do so.

What about a literary critic? I think bitterness is an asset there

We could grind him into coffee, I suppose.

"CBBBlend, it wakes you right the fuck up!"

No you got the causation wrong - my bitterness developed as a result of unemployment.

The Steve Murdock option? Metal cans are bitterness agnostic.

The smarter people do not always take the harder majors.

Also studying economic may indicate a desire to make a lot of money.

Given your (poor) understanding of economics, do you really believe you should be the judge of that?

You confuse me not believing economics with a poor understanding of

No confusion, you just don't get it. I'm not seeing a real keen of understand math either.

Like I've said before, on this blog unless you agree with the prevailing wisdom it must mean you must not understand

#1 -

He's also right about the need for a carbon tax (with offsetting cuts elsewhere)

Petroleum tax for sure. I don't see the reason to move people away from natural gas, though.

Fair enough. Although natural gas is so low-priced these days the tax would be hardly noticed.

No he's not. If CO2 from burning hydrocarbons is a negative externality it needs to be banned. We don't need a complicated wealth-transfer scheme designed to soak the many for the benefit of the few while doing nothing to address the root problem. Of course, without fossil fuels, Canada's industrial economy with its advanced living standards (and the generous welfare state it funds) becomes acutely untenable. So naturally Frum wants the pipeline.

It's funny how Boomers like Frum have begun to tiptoe away from environmental advocacy now that they're approaching retirement, just like they tiptoed away from the American working class when they saw how cheap labor was in the Third World.

"If CO2 from burning hydrocarbons is a negative externality it needs to be banned. "
If true, then yes. But this really doesn't seem to be the case any more, does it?

Ahem, correct, and thus my point that cap-and-trade is a scheme to line certain people's pockets.

I swear I once read a comment by somebody on MR who said CO2 needed to be taxed out of existence.

"Of course, without fossil fuels, Canada’s industrial economy with its advanced living standards (and the generous welfare state it funds) becomes acutely untenable"

Yep this is absolutely true. This is literally the only real industry Canada has left - Alberta and Saskatchewan, the major oil producing provinces are the only provinces left in the country that produce net value for the Canadian economy. This pipeline is more of a life-support system for the Canadian economy.

Newfoundland also produces a great deal of oil.

So where's the payback for decades and decades of supporting that long benighted province?

Well, I think they're getting it in taxes and lower oil prices, but that it will take a long time to undo the harm done by Canada's social programs. Maybe I don't understand your point.

My understanding is also that Newfoundland has been relatively shrewd in negotiation of royalties on its various natural resources.

Except that the very same movement you describe produces very high paying, very numerous jobs for the Canadian working class.

The oil company is trying to build that pipeline because they thought it was the cheapest way for them to get more oil. If they don't get the permit, then they will have to choose a more expensive way to get oil or the supply of oil will be less. Either way, the price of oil will go up and this will have exactly the effect environmentalists want; even if it's only a small victory. Also I thought it was republicans who decided to make this into a major national issue; not democrats?

Frum should try interviewing natural scientists when he wants to talk about natural science. If he did, he would know that not all oil extraction has equally harmful effects.

#1 - I don't know about this, the pipeline could do damage if there were spills. Just because it won't "save the planet" doesn't mean it's a good idea. Cancel the Pipeline

Yeah, the most advanced nation on Earth clearly cannot handle pipe technology.

It's too big a risk to make a pipe. It's much better to load billions of gallons of oil onto ships and sail it across the ocean. Nothing bad ever happens that way. And who cares if many of the sellers want us dead? It's probably because of something bad we did anyway.

"Starting in spring, 2011, environmental and global warming activist Bill McKibben took the question of the pipeline to NASA scientist James Hansen, who told McKibben the pipeline would be "game over for the planet"."

No, see, it really does save the planet, and we should all be breathing a huge sigh of relief. Is that a sigh, or is that a wheezing choke on the CO2?

Well I think Hansen is talking about how the pipeline would lead to further development of the oil sands which are a very dirty source of oil.

Canada is going to develop those oil sands with or without our cooperation. The only effect of this decision is the Canadian oil that would've gone through Keystone will be refined in Asia and the US will import more oil in tankers to make up the difference.

No doubt this will prove just as accurate as his prediction that the West Side Highway in New York would be underwater in 20 years, which he predicted 24 years ago. Of course, he now says he was misquoted (despite previously affirming the scarier version) and actually meant to predict 40 years, which shows every indication of being equally wrong.

So the oil is shipped to china, and burnt there.

2. How on earth did "Art History and Criticism" get so high on that list?

Also many of the 1% are just kids who inherited their fortunes - you know PRODUCTIVE types

The tables reflect earnings, not wealth.

inherited "networks." point still stands.

The person who actually chooses art history and

the unit of measure is "family". I think a lot of this is Mrs. Degree effects

#1 Frum more or less had me until he got to the part where he blamed Democrats (alone) for the failure to pass a carbon tax. "Putting a price on carbon, however, is a concept the Obama administration and the Democrats in Congress indefinitely postponed all the way back in 2009. "

As I recall, way back in the ancient prehistory of 2009, the Democratically controlled House passed a cap-and-trade bill that had roughly the same economic effect as a carbon tax -- that is, it would gradually raise the cost of CO2 production. It died in the Senate because no GOP senators would vote for it, a few conservative Dems defected, and it needed 60 votes.

This was not a failure of Democratic willingness to take potentially unpopular but necessary steps.

Cap-and-trade was chosen over a straight tax because it's easier to game, and siphon $$ to your buddies. It was a mercy killing.

That said, Foster B has a point. Like the Dems had any hope of passing a carbon tax past the Do Nothings.

"Do Nothings" as in don't create a brand new tax during a great recession? I think I'll start calling this Meta-Keynesian.

Anyway, Frum is wrong about that too. There is no alternative energy yet.

Do Nothings as in don't pass anything at all, even a carbon tax with offsets in tax reductions elsewhere, or a deficit reduction package with $8 of spending cuts per $1 of tax increases.

Do Nothing that might help, because if anything improves The Great Black Satan gets some credit.

$8 of spending cuts per $1 of tax increases

Was that the bill with $1 tax increase immediately and $8 spending cuts in the distant future sometime when Congress was hopefully in Democratic hands and could kill it?

@Tom - right, because everyone knows that the recipients of the carbon permits - coal burning utilities and other heavy industry - are all big friends of the Democrats.

Well, the last scam like this made Al Gore a billionaire, right?

Isn't the general idea of cap-and-trade a conservative, market-oriented approach to emission reduction? I guess once Obama and oter Democrats propose it it becomes a Communist plot or something.

Cap and trade is a good approach if executed with transparency, but a tax system is more efficient, especially that one is in place now and we could just adjust the rate.

Re pipeline and the rule of law.

How about defending rule of law.

If a permit is rejected for environmental reasons, and you can plan an alternate route that will satisfy the concerns, then you should either say the law is wrong (which no one says) or comply with it.

They will reroute and this ceerfufflul will be over after the election.

So, how about this: We can expand drilling in the Gulf Coast too if we just ignore the regulations, according to BP.

Doesn't "rule of law" generally require some kind of clear process to demonstrate that you've satisfied the law? I don't think that the environmental review process satisfies that. (And, contrary to your claim, many people do say that the law is wrong.) I think everyone was assuming that this was simply going to be an arbitrary decision with no clear way to satisfy the law other than making the executive branch happy.

In large infrastructure efforts, the Environmental Impact Statement process takes ten years and magically always ends up recommending that whatever the politicians wanted to do is the best choice... after spending all that time and money. I've never seen a transportation project that was really derailed or changed by an EIS.

We don't have rule of law anymore in this country.

When in your opinion did we have that?

When we tried and knew what it wasn't?

John, Rule of law is just that. Congress can create a new law, and the president can veto it.

Ad hoc law making during an election season designed for picture taking and commercials, but not for good government.

""On November 10, 2011 four days after twelve thousand people encircled the White House, the culmination of months of protests, President Obama announced "the decision on the pipeline permit would be delayed until at least 2013, pending further environmental review".""

Soulds like rule of law to me. Postpone until 2013. Good work. So, public scrutiny is now "encircling the White House."

No uncertainty to see here. And by the way, there is no crowding out, no inflation, and no downgrade.

The results of yesterday show the significance of the Tea Party/ primary challenges to Republicans in 2010. Both the Left and Right grassroots oppose SOPA and PIPA. Support for them was balanced among both parties before yesterday.

The vast majority of Senators (Representatives are harder to check) that switched to being against SOPA and PIPA yesterday were Republicans. They presumably have much more to fear from primaries than Democrats. Republican voters, after all, proved willing to lose seats in 2010 to deny nomination to those they disliked. Democrats, OTOH, won't even run a token protest against Obama for any to do with the supposedly important war and civil liberties concerns.

Unless I'm reading the chart wrong, English majors make up more than twice the percentage at the top than math majors. Maybe drop the M from STEM?

Yes, math majors don't get paid much.

I think that's because in this country English is often pre-law.

Yeah Drop the S and M from STEM I've been saying that for a while - I guess biological sciences are on that list but that's only because of medicine. And, as I said in the other thread a big reason Doctors make so much is that there are very large barriers to entry to the field that go beyond mere ability.

The Math and Physics majors are not the most personable people out there. Some of these people are brilliant but also have serious social deficiency's. Some are invisible some are completely grating, not as much as an mediocre know-it-all Econ student, but nonetheless many do not participate in the world at large outside of their minds. The Serious Econ students have to at least minor in Math in order to do any bit of real econ so consider top tier Econ majors as smart students who are at least interested in getting laid.

Re: #2. Does the data account for age? I'd imagine the top 1%-ers are much significantly older than the 99%-ers. So the data is telling us what to major in 30 years ago to maximize chances of landing in the top 1% today, no? I don't think I'd maximize to my kids change to be in the top 1% tomorrow by recommending Area, Ethnic, and Civilization Studies today.

Here's a great article about Say's Law and Keynesian theory. Thought you would enjoy!

2. Great news for CBBB -- there's a 3.9% chance he'll be a 1%er! 4.6% if he studied applied math.

#2 this is biased against Computer Science, as it is a relatively new field. Anyone over, say, 50 could not be a comp scientist

Look at elementary education or school counseling by comparison. And ethnic studies? Really?

Apparently the most reliable way to become a 1%er is to use gov't to extract rents. Not surprising under Obama I guess. all the 1%ers got there in the last 3 years? Color me skeptical.

That would be quite unlikely, but otoh Obama is equally unlikely to be doing anything about it.

Between late 2007 and mid-2009, the number of federal workers earning more than $150,000 more than doubled, even as the economy fell into a deep recession during that period.

A competitive school voucher system under which we didn't pay by seniority would be a good start.

Although, I suppose mid-2009 is not really long enough, and it's certainly a problem that predates Obama.

Well, it is income. That's not a very stable measure of wealth. What fraction of the 1%ers in year n are 1%ers in year n+1? It's got to be considerably less than 100%. At the high-end, with the largest incomes in the country, the turnover is huge because the way to get on that list is to sell the company you've spent your life building.

How did all those neat computers and software get invented prior to 1982?

And don't forget Popehat's piece on SOPA & Citizens United:

"1. David Frum is right about the pipeline."

So is Paul Krugman:

Extremely stupid. Private funds aren't diverted coercively, they're invested where private investors expect the best return.

I'm glad someone is smarter than Krugman because I know I'm not.

How unfortunate for you.

I think it's great that you're smarter than Krugman. What exactly have you done to prove that?

Realized that global warming is bullshit.


If you can prove that I bet you could get your proof published and make a great reputation for yourself.

I'm astonished you haven't done that already, you being an expert climate scientist and all. Why haven't you?

Krugman knows, his purpose is not to be correct.

David Frum's analysis about the impact of Keystone on planet saving is essentially beside the point. As noted above in the comments, saving the planet (if still possible) depends on there being a 60th or 61st or 62nd vote in the Senate for a carbon tax (or cap and trade) regime. And this is the prism through which all things Keystone should be analyzed. It would be very interesting to read a political economy story discussing the political impact of preventing additional high-carbon facts on the ground. Frum's article isn't interesting.

3. The Pirate Bay has an interesting release on SOPA: I'm interested to hear the MR communities reaction to this text.

I think they nailed it and what needs to happen is the development of a new model of distribution for this material. People are opposed to consuming products in a way forced upon them by distributors and it's understandable; it's so damn inefficient. DRM, region codes, it's a load of bs. Solve the actual problem. iTunes proved that there is something better than free, and it's easy. Make it easier to buy (consume) this material.

#1 David Frum on Keystone XL, A summary:

a)Oil from Canada offers the United States energy security into the indefinite future. (RIGHT)
b) Keystone XL would have provided jobs, and the Obama administration killed the project (RIGHT)
c) Why did Obama kill it? Nebraska: not really, to please environmentalists, probably. (RIGHT)
d) Curtailing oilsands development will do nothing for the environment because Canada will just sell the oil to Asia. (WRONG - explanation after the summary)
e) Getting off the oil addiction requires price incentives to discourage oil use (RIGHT, very right)
f) Democratic senators and the Obama administration "postponed" putting a price on carbon that would provide a disincentive to using oil, gas, etc. (WRONG - technically he didn't lie here, but the wording is incredibly misleading and partisan)
g) Obama is putting environmentalists are under the illusion that "the United States can move off oil at zero cost." (WRONG)
h) "There are serious carbon tax proposals" ... "if you want to use less oil, then you must ensure that oil costs more." (RIGHT)

d) is wrong because if the distance to market for the oil sands product is higher, and the transportation is more difficult, the price will be higher, thus discouraging use per e). Cancellation of the pipeline will not save the environment or the climate, but it is a step in the right direction, and that step is worth the loss of potential jobs, and the "savings" of being able to get oil from Canada.

f) really? I forgot that that's how the cap and trade debate went down. There were enough moderate republicans supporting it, but too many democrats decided it wasn't in the interests of their constituents, right? Ha. (If I'm wrong, please correct me - it really seemed like Cap and Trade was up against a GOP brick wall in 2009).

g) Only a the most extreme unrealistic environmental fools with little knowledge think that we can get off oil at zero cost. There may be a net gain in the long run of getting off of oil, but it will take a huge investment and short term pain. Most people who care about the environment are realistic and think that its worth getting off of oil despite the high costs.

h) Lets get those proposals back on the table. If a strong carbon tax had been implemented, projects like Keystone XL would be reasonable from an environmental point of view because demand for oil would be curtailed!

Blech - formatting on the list didn't work. Sorry if its difficult to read

It would make a lot of sense to impose a carbon tax if there was any reliable evidence that carbon will actually cause any net environmental costs. As is stands, the climate models are little more than guesswork (as the failure of Hansen 1988 to predict current temperature shows), and the cost estimates aren't even that (as demonstrated by the lack of any observed acceleration in sea level rise).


I think your criteria for what justifies a carbon tax is way too stringent. I agree that to impose a carbon tax requires evidence that increased greenhouse gas concentrations will cause net costs (environmental or otherwise).

However saying that one paper failed to predict current temperatures, and therefore all climate models are "little more than guesswork" is just ridiculous. I'm sure there are many more papers that are wrong. Still, the basic premise that increasing concentrations of CO2 (and methane, and water vapor) cause increasing AVERAGE surface temperatures (and most likely also cause increasing statistical variance in temperatures) is pretty well established.

So does a higher average surface temperature of the earth lead to net costs? I think so, and sea level rise is about the most benign element of it. Serious sea level-rise (multiple feet) is a worst-case scenario that is not likely, but possible. (Also, you say lack of observed *acceleration* of sea level rise - isn't a steady sea level rise bad enough?)

More severe flooding, droughts, storms and other extreme weather would be much more costly. It may be that an influx of fresh water into the north atlantic will shut off the gulf stream. ( That would cause extremely severe winters in europe - giving most of europe effectively the same climate as northern Canada. The cost of that alone multiplied by its probability should be enough to justify a worldwide carbon tax. While this could conceivably be a negative feedback that could "correct" AGW, it would take a long time, and the damage done in the meantime would be enormous.

Yes, I realize that "global warming" causing severe cold periods is counter intuitive. Please don't dismiss it out of hand - its a legitimate threat, and a carbon tax is by far the least painful way we can deal with this situation. Besides, even if we're wrong, we end up being more efficient with our energy use - how can that be such a bad thing?

They are actually already building the first export pipelines across the rockies to export tar sand oil to Asia, there has been a signifigant amount of protesting by blocking trucks in North Idaho. Iit has not been very effective though, and once the capscity is built that cost is sunk. All of this just delays things there is no way Canada, a sovereign nation, will not exploit these resources to the maximum.

My point is that even if Canada does export the resources to the maximum, blocking (and even delaying) the pipeline through the US to the gulf still helps lower the externalities that result from it.

My reasoning is as follows:
1. A pipeline to the Gulf is the most profitable way to bring the tar sands oil to market. My evidence for this is primarily that it was the first choice of the producers (which I admit is tenuous because it assumes they were being ideally profit-maximizing).

2. If the pipeline to the gulf is blocked, and another route is chose, that route will be less profitable, either on an operating basis (more expensive to bring a barrel to market) or a capital expenditure basis (you have to build new refineries or ports) - otherwise they would have opted for that route from the start.

3) If the oil is less profitable than the alternatives (do to increased costs of delivery and extraction), there will be less incentive to produce as much of it. Producers will not be willing to spend quite as much on capital expenditures (as they would have if the pipeline to the gulf were in place) because there is an increased risk that a price shock would put them at an operating loss and unable to recoup their investments (yes, its a small risk, but one that a smart businessman pays attention to).

4) Lower capital expenditures (infrastructure primarily) result in lower delivery volumes.

5) Lower delivery volumes result in lower carbon emissions because the oil being consumed uses up less carbon to get it out of the ground.


Economics is probably in the list because it is a top major of people who get an MBA.

I bet David Frum is completely wrong about the pipeline and it will still be built on the original schedule despite the political theater around it right now.

That seems to be the consensus view.

“This is clearly the biggest infrastructure project on the continent, and once the election is settled, we believe it will be approved,” Stephenson said in an interview.

Absolutely the pipeline will be built this is just electioneering.

The fact that an MBA - a degree where you learn nothing helps you get into the upper echelons of income is indicative of what I've been saying.

On the contrary, business and Econ are not hard sciences since they deal mostly with people and their choices. I suspect that many engineering and mathematical problems can be solved by computers and the number of engineers needed may decrease as their functions fall to automation. I can't see a future where computers run companies and deal with employees and build relationships with customers and use that knowledge to make better (not perfect) forecasts. Nearly everything an engineer did 100 years ago is now child's play on a computer but a business leader today needs many (most) of the skills that his counterpart in the past did.

I can’t see a future where computers run companies and deal with employees and build relationships with customers and use that knowledge to make better (not perfect) forecasts

Too bad neither Economics nor Business education teach those skills nor do those fields illuminate better ways to do these things. In fact Economics is a field entirely devoted to trying to model human choices as an engineering problem.

#5. I liked this argument. He says, among other things, that there has been no great stagnation. Good to know. Of course, he chastises lefties for all the doom and gloom, but he never mentions Glen Beck. Nor does he ever mention banks, at least not directly. There is talk of foreclosures, school debt and bankruptcies. And, there is no mention that the financial system nearly fell off a cliff in 2008.

#4 The days of "Taxi Driver" and "Midnight Cowboy" are long gone, but New Yorkers still make bank on the myth of their hard-edged city. Now it's the home of flash mob pillow fights.

So, Winship gets his article in one Kristol paper (conservative) and then gets it published in another Kristol organization.

Small world.

When I think of what must be a typical 1%-er, I think of a person with pretty good social skills and charisma, a willingness to work 60-hour weeks and probably with some physical attractiveness.

What I don't think of is someone who spent four years in college burying his nose in math and engineering textbooks. Intelligence beyond the minimum needed to function in a white collar corporate environment really isn't that important if you are not aiming for a highly specialized and technical career. However, since economics can be pretty math-heavy at some universities, I would guess this is a selection effect.

But this is my point - contrary to what people here say their wealth is generated because they actually produce something of value, it's generated because they know how to play-the-game and move up in strongly hierarchical organizations. Is this the kind of thing that should be overly rewarded?

In CBBB's world, no one is a successful business owner.

That explains why he doesn't stop bitching here all day and go out and start a company. He's obviously very smart and talented, he says so himself.

To be fair I don't think he has said that.

I don't agree with on much, but I vaguely remember being that age and I can imagine I'd be bitter too. It can be very hard to get in that door.

TallDave is right I've never said that - in fact I say just the opposite

It should be rewarded -- the only question is how much. Bad management can ruin an organization very quickly and most people are bad managers by default. Good managers are tough to find -- you need the right temperament, the just-right mix between being detail-oriented and grasping the big picture and the ability to lead and motivate people. Having the connections to bring new clients on board is also important in top management at some firms.

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