Assorted links

1. Using electronic medical records to correlate genes with illnesses.

2. It’s not always easy to retract a paper.

3. What is the best year for movies ever?

4. My 2011 post on the economics of Black Friday.

5. Are locality-backed minimum wage hikes the new trend?  Keep in mind that unless you have the Sea-Tac airport or some comparably immobile resource in your district, it is harder to make them work if the wage change is local only.  This is a classic instance of expressive voting at the expense of good economic policy.


@#5 - UNLESS says TC. "unless you have the Sea-Tac airport or some comparably immobile resource in your district,"

But isn't modern economics an example of "unless"? It's not the exception, it's the rule. Let's make a list:

UNLESS you have monopoly or pricing power, MC = MR. (but outside of wheat farmers in college econ textbooks, doesn't every profession have some sort of barrier to entry?)

UNLESS wages and prices are sticky, Say's Law holds (Id.)

UNLESS there is vertical integration, all horizontal price fixing cartels fail (see OPEC, pace DeBeers?)

UNLESS there is clustering effects, raising the taxes in California will drive all white collar professionals to Nevada or Arizona.

UNLESS preferences are inelastic, raising the price of French wines or German cars via tariffs will decrease consumption of French wine/German cars, or raising the price of gasoline will decrease the miles traveled, or devaluing the exchange rate will produce a J-effect (but imports are all at record highs, as is the number of miles traveled, see

I'm sure you can think of others if you're into economics.

UNLESS...never holds.

All models are simplifications of the world. They are still quite useful, however.

Useful for what? Economics has no predicative power (basically junk science). Seems like superfluous piffle to me.

If that is true, then wouldn't reading an economics blog be the biggest waste of time ever? Besides posting comments on it, of course.

To say this is just an "economics" blog is to miss the whole point about what this blog is about ...

Entertainment value cannot be overvalued.

Just assume a can opener in case that seems obscure.

@priors, you are right. I hereby retract my comment. Sorry, Benny.

Just because the exception proves the rule, doesn't mean they're not exceptions.

There's not much point in being in business if you can't get some bit of monopoly power. Without monopoly power, you'll just earn the risk-adjusted standard rate of return. The basic teach of the discipline of corporate strategy is that you don't want to be a wheat farmer.

@#2 - the author of this piece, Robert Trivers, who asked for retraction, comes across as a troll when he uses this kind of language: "so now Nature “retracts’ the paper without saying a thing—once again the fraudsters get to pretend nothing is really amiss—i believe Brown still has his job in the UK". Wow. So unprofessional. That's modern science though: anybody who is anybody has gone into the gatekeeper professions (doctor, lawyer, Indian chief, politician, middleman, economist) and away from the 'producer' professions, unless you are a Third World immigrant looking to gain entry into the EU/USA (since being a gatekeeper in a developing country is a bit too dangerous and usually reserved for the privileged elite). Blame poor patent laws on this state of affairs. Yes true. And then we get fellows writing books on the Great Stagnation, kind of like describing the symptoms of an underlying illness without understanding the cause, which is regulations and lack of protection and incentives have made innovation go extinct.

But isn't there an optimal level of regulation, one that maximizes wealth and freedom? Check out George Stigler's beautiful paper, "wealth, and possibly liberty," published in the journal of legal studies in 1978 I believe

#2 - I'm totally curious as to the effects of this on Brown's career. Can he lose his job based on this retraction? It probably had a large part of signalling his quality to the University when he was hired. I don't know if he has tenure, but if he doesn't, this might throw a monkey wrench into that process.

"Robert Trivers, who asked for retraction, comes across as a troll"

Trivers is a genius with a famously difficult personality:

Thanks for the link SS. Indeed Trivers (who was behind the Red Queen hypothesis I see) is brilliant and... a troll. Excerpt below from your link.

"My mental breakdown prevented me from getting into Yale for law school" ... "When I came to Harvard you had to take a whole series of mini-tests. There were 16 of them – physics, math, botany, chemistry, etc. Naturally I failed." "The guy who really got me focused properly was Richard Lewontin, a geneticist who hated my work, helped make sure that Harvard didn't give me tenure right away when I wanted it, and will undoubtedly hate my genetics work" "I asked myself, "What ideas do you have that are worth developing?" I started thinking about the obvious concept, "If you scratch my back I'll scratch yours," and began to wonder about how to make reciprocal altruism work in an evolutionary way, stating the argument in a form that didn't limit it to humans." "I was very fortunate. Lewontin once referred to me to a bunch of graduate students as an intellectual opportunist. He meant that to be negative, but I laughed. What else makes sense in this short life? I was an intellectual opportunist." "But I had to get away from Harvard. I was a graduate student at Harvard from 1968 to 1972, then I started teaching at Harvard in 1973, until 1978. I was not denied tenure, I just needed more money for what I was doing ... Harvard wasn't paying me enough to replenish what was being taken out of me biologically. Never mind not being paid enough to have any reproductive success of my own."

1950: All About Eve, Sunset Boulevard, Father of the Bride, Devil's Doorway, Cinderella, The Flowers of St. Francis, Winchester '73, Stromboli, Stars in My Crown, La Ronde, Rashomon, Night and the City, In a Lonely Place, The Gunfighter, The Furies, Rio Grande

I had my doubts when I saw the piece was published at the Vanity Fair site. I had greater doubts when I saw that it was claiming that 2013 might be a contender. I stopped paying attention when it extolled the virtues of "World War Z", and even wondered if it was a joke.

Yes, 1950 has as good a claim as any other year. What a list, thanks!

I'm skeptical about 2013 too. In any case, there will be a memory bias favoring a recent year.

There are arguably a handful of good movies this year, but not a single great movie. Seems we should have at least one great movie before considering it as one of the greatest years for movies. Or Is The Age of Average just beginning?

I'm pretty sure that article was a joke.

Didn't 'No Country For Old Men' and 'There Will Be Blood' release in the same year?

That should be the best movie year ever.

They were, in 2007. Same year as Knocked Up, Ratatouille, Juno, Hot Fuzz, The Simpsons Movie, Bourne Ultimatum, Atonement, Gone Baby Gone, Zodiac, Grindhouse That was a pretty good year, those are just the higher profile movies that year.

How about 1999: Fight Club, The Matrix, Election, Office Space, Blair Witch Project, Being John Malkovich, Sixth Sense, Magnolia, American Beauty, even Star Wars Episode I (it sucked but the anticipation was pretty fun).

1999 is my favorite year for movies. 2013 sucked. Ideally hope that article is a joke. WWZ was very disappointing for me even though I wasn't expecting much from such mediocre source material.

Wouldn't we expect locality-based minimum wage increases tend to be less damaging state-wide or nationwide increases? San Francisco has a $10.55 minimum wage. But even without minimum wage laws, wouldn't we expect San Francisco businesses to be paying clerks and busboys higher wages just to compensate for the cost of living in or commuting to SF? And the high SF minimum wage may even be a boon for poorer people living in Oakland. But on the other hand, a high minimum wage could be really bad news for already poor central-valley counties -- just as New York's plans to increase the state minimum wages to $9 by 2016 will probably have no little or no effect in Manhattan but generate more unemployment upstate.

Right. The history of the federal minimum wage law was that higher minimums were used by northern states to keep southern states from luring industry down south because of the lower wages. In contrast, the smaller the locality imposing the minimum wage, the more finetuned it can be to local conditions rather than to be used as a weapon of regional warfare.

#5 - think of it as a kind of zoning. Increasing minimum building requirements works great to produce spiffy neighborhoods. Increasing minimum wages will similarly produce a spiffy workforce. Shiny happy town!

Does suck for those workers who are unable to spiff up.

3. I have always been one to say 1939 too, but really in addition to taste one also needs to take what market you are talking about. For example, in the early to mid 90s I worked for a Chinese film distributor and watched a well over a thousand Chinese movies, mostly from Hong Kong. It is my considered opinion that 1996 was the single greatest year for Cantonese language cinema, but it was not a very good year in any other film industry. It was almost uniquely awful in the US and not much better in India or Europe either. 1939 was astonishingly good in the US, very very good in France, and good in England, but outside of "Story of the Last Chrysanthemum" in Japan, almost any year in the 30s was better.

He included Don Jon on his list of movies making 2013 one of the best ever. The entire post was a joke, right?

The satire became obvious when he referred to WWZ as an 'intelligent' movie.


Every year nowadays is the best year for movies, because we can watch almost all of the good old films too. People in 1939 couldn't watch Casablanca. One simply must broaden one's own horizons to include the past.

4) thanks for the redux of the 2011 Black Friday post. my reaction is the same now as in the comments then: "I love how economists make everything so complicated." looking back through that post and comments reminds me why I am thankful for the conversation here: it's fun.

3. Of course to keep his street cred, Handy has to cite 1974 . But let me make the case for 1977:

Star Wars, Annie Hall, Close Encounters, Saturday Night Fever plus Looking for Mr Goodbar, Black Sunday, The Goodbye Girl, A Bridge Too Far, The Hills Have Eyes, Pumping Iron and Slap Shot.

5.: "This is a classic instance of expressive voting at the expense of good economic policy."

Here is what Ron Unz says about Tyler's idea of "good economic policy":

"Now my historical expertise in this field is rather limited, but I believe the roots of the EITC trace back to the “Negative Income Tax” originally proposed by President Richard Nixon at the urging of free market icon Milton Friedman, and later implemented and expanded under various subsequent Democratic and (especially) Republican presidents. This means of addressing the poverty of low-wage workers involves the government sending them checks, thereby making them somewhat less poor. Free market advocates, always harshly critical of “big government” and the social-welfare system, seem to find these cash subsidies a quite congenial solution.

"But let’s give a little thought to who actually benefits from this policy. Haven’t low-wage employers merely followed the classic strategy of using their political influence to privatize their gains while socializing their expenses, retaining the full output-value of their workers but foisting a huge share of the costs unto ordinary taxpayers via the EITC, as well as housing and medical subsidies, school expenses, and social welfare benefits in general, none of which are remotely covered by the net taxes (if any) paid by the working-poor?

"The obvious endpoint of this approach would be for businesses to pay their workers nothing, and have all salaries and social benefits covered by the government as an “anti-poverty measure,” a proposal which would surely seem very attractive to employers and their influential lobbyists."

Is Tyler in favor of "businesses to pay their workers nothing, and have all salaries and social benefits covered by the government"?

Isn't the end point of "good economic policy" of lower and lower wages, that are far below the cost just to get to the job and do it, called communism?

I love it - we're all subsidizing WalMart and McDonalds. Their employees would be homeless if it wasn't for taxpayers and charities.

you wrote:
"This is a classic instance of expressive voting at the expense of good economic policy."

yes, if you define "good economic policy" as policy that helps the upper class and hurts the working class.

Case in point--all those other white western nations (e.g., australia, denmark, switz, norway, etc etc etc. that all have higher minimum wage that the USA. Oh, and they just happen to be better places to live than the USA, at least for the working class.

Oh, wait. You use a different criteria. Right?

Amen brother

Non-expressive voting rooolz.

#5 This particular measure in Sea-tac only affects wages for work at the airport and at hospitality businesses near the airport. It doesn't affect wages paid by other local Sea-tac businesses, such as the corner fast food outlet. So not only is it expressive voting it is also voting that nearly entirely affects only other people.

3. 1988: Totoro & GoTF, good pair there

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