Month: March 2015

The TPP debate is alive and well

Here is Ezra on TPP:

5. Here’s how the White House sees it: there will either be a trade deal with America at the core of it that forces countries like Vietnam and Malaysia to live up to labor and environmental standards the Obama administration finds acceptable, or there will be a trade deal with China at the core of it that forces countries like Vietnam and Malaysia to live up to labor and environmental standards China finds acceptable. Which would you prefer?

6. There’s also a bigger foreign policy objective here. TPP is central to the Obama administration’s long-heralded “pivot to Asia.”…

Do read the whole thing, to not pursue some version of TPP is basically to turn our backs on much of Asia.  Or think of TPP as an attempt to cartelize ASEAN nations and others in the region against Chinese one-by-one bilateral bargaining, most of all on geopolitical issues, not just labor and environmental standards.

Matt Yglesias comments, he says beware of economists (i.e., me) bearing foreign policy arguments.  And here are Autor, Dorn, and Hanson on TPP, as Dani Rodrik pointed on on Twitter they offer a relatively mercantilist argument in favor of the agreement.

Did economic incentives destroy lower-income families?

That tale doesn’t seem to fit the data.  DarwinCatholic reports:

There follows more hand-waving about how things are tough for those at the lower end of the economy. And they are. But here’s the problem. They always have been. The effect that we’re looking to explain is a massive decrease in marriage rates and increase in out-of-wedlock childbearing. If we’re going to explain that as driven by a bad economy, we’d expect to see the incomes of those people getting worse, right? But they haven’t.

There has been a near stagnation for the lowest quintile, but not general income declines.  And if I understand the author correctly those figures do not include government benefits, and it is widely admitted that the “war on poverty” has brought some successful results.  Or try this:

Since 1960 the out-of-wedlock birth rate for African Americans has increased by about 3.5x while the rate for Whites has increased by 10x. If you look at median incomes by race via the Census, you’ll see that inflation adjusted median income for African American men has gone up by 82% from 1960 to 2001, while for white men it’s only gone up by 35% (for women those numbers are 272% and 135% respectively.) This does have a certain inverse relation to what we see on out-of-wedlock births, in that white out of wedlock births have increased more, but again we have the problem that incomes have in fact gone up, while marriage and the family have clearly gone down.

Maybe “cultural factors” do play a role and it is not all about wages and the economics.  In passing, here is your “Jordan fact of the day”:

The US shows up low on the list, while right at the top with 94% percent of children living with two parents is that well known northern European social democracy… Jordan.

The post is excellent and interesting throughout.  For the pointer I thank Will.  In the meantime, score one for David Brooks.

Is Scarborough, Ontario the dining capital of the world?

Wednesday night I was taken on a restaurant tour of Scarborough — four different places — plus rolls from a Sri Lankan locale, consumed in the office of the Dean of UT Scarborough and with the assistance of Peter Loewen.

After that eating, and lots of driving around and looking, I concluded Scarborough is the best ethnic food suburb I have seen in my life, ever, and by an order of magnitude.  I hope you all have the chance to visit Scarborough, Ontario.

If you are wondering where I went, that is beside the point.

What cost is each state obsessed with?

cost-obsessions-map

Or click here for a larger map and further explanation.  The data are taken from Google searches from each state, and sadly the Northeast does not surprise me.  (You will note that the searches seem to be done for the capital city of each state, which is selecting somewhat for low quality.)  Perhaps Kentucky, Washington state, and Minnesota come off looking best…

For the pointer I thank Yuka.

United States facts of the day

Joe Uva, chairman of Hispanic enterprises and content at NBCUniversal, a big media company, is fond of telling fellow executives that with a combined purchasing power of $1.1 trillion, if Hispanic-Americans were a country they would rank 16th in the world.

That is from The Economist, via Rami Kiwan.  I would amend this by noting I am not aware of any very exact calculation of the purchasing power of Hispanic-Americans, so there is perhaps a bit of a caveat emptor here, still as a ballpark estimate this seems reasonable.  There is this too:

A giant reason to be optimistic about the rise of Hispanics is that they are making America much younger. The median age of whites is 42; of blacks 32; and of Hispanics 28. Among American-born Hispanics, the median age is a stunning 18.

The article is interesting more generally.

Markets in everything, hunting mutant animals edition

More than 99.9 percent of all wild gnus, also called wildebeest, from the Afrikaans for “wild beast,” have dark coats. But this three-year-old golden bull and his many offspring are not an accident. They have been bred specially for their unusual coloring, which is coveted by big game hunters.

These flaxen creatures are the latest craze in South Africa’s $1 billion ultra-high-end big-game hunting industry. Well-heeled marksmen pay nearly $50,000 to take a shot at a golden gnu — more than 100 times what they pay to shoot a common gnu. Breeders are also engineering white lions with pale blue eyes, black impalas, white kudus, and coffee-colored springboks, all of which are exceedingly rare in the wild.

“We breed them because they’re different,” says Barry York, who owns a 2,500-acre ranch about 135 miles east of Johannesburg. There, he expertly mates big game for optimal — read: unusual — results. “There’ll always be a premium paid for highly-adapted, unique, rare animals.”

…No one disputes that there’s money to be made in rare big game. Africa Hunt Lodge, a U.S.-based tour operator, advertises “hunt packages” to international clients traveling to South Africa that include killing a golden gnu for $49,500, a black impala for $45,000, and a white lion for $30,000.

There is more here, and for the pointer I thank Kaushal Desai.

New html edition of Tyler Cowen’s ethnic dining guide is up

You will find it here on my home page, scroll way down.  You should note it is more or less a copy of the blog version of the dining guide and does not contain new information if you have been following the blog.  Among the new and exciting places are Saudi food, Nanjing-style Chinese food, and I hear Peter Chang is opening his new Arlington place this coming Saturday.

How much of a drag on growth is a strong U.S. dollar? How good is a weak euro?

Scott Sumner says much of what I would, namely don’t reason from a price change.  I would make a related point, but in reverse, about the now-weaker euro.  Yes, it does in the short run help the eurozone exporters and thus the eurozone economies.  But it also makes imports more expensive, all the more in the longer run as the exchange rate pass-through effect on domestic import prices holds more fully.  Even in the short run, it makes the citizenry less wealthy as measured in other currency units of account, at least assuming that people and institutions in the eurozone are holding a disproportionate share of euros, a plausible assumption.

All in all, the weaker euro is likely to prove a net benefit to the eurozone, all the more so if monetary policy can drum up some expansionary domestic benefits above and beyond the exchange rate effect.  Still, if you deliberately engineer a depreciation of your currency out of weakness and desperation, the long-run benefits usually don’t match up to that immediate feeling of short-run juice.

Assorted links

1. Birds that bring gifts.

2. High parental income means high patent rates (pdf).

3. Here is a weak Elizabeth Bruenig critique of David Brooks on culture and poverty.  She should try to make all of the same points, but using the ethnic Japanese in Brazil as her example.  Or Mormons, or Armenians and education, or…?  The history of Native Americans is also not without relevance here.  I am not impressed by her citation of the fact that “Poor people feel ashamed of the incarceration of relatives.”  There is plenty of social science literature about how much culture matters for outcomes and I don’t see her citing any of it; it is not a response but rather a diversion of attention to argue food stamp expenditures bring a positive rate of return.

4. Critique drift.

5. What do we actually know about Sappho?

To where should you vote with your feet?

Mark Brown asks me:

If voting with your feet was your preferred method, what would be the best country to immigrate to from the United States for: A) Progressives B) Social Conservatives C) Libertarians

As a follow up, a common expression in the US among adults as I was growing up was “its a free country”. That expressed both disdain of the expressed course of action and a willingness to let the fool do what he wanted. Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn are literary representatives of that, what should I call it, frontier freedom? Are there countries that even if the official line is restrictive, the feeling of liberty might be much greater? Am I nuts to feel that in many ways the US is less free than it was a couple of generations ago?

For Progressives I’ll pick Denmark.  They have high taxes and ultimately they are not too friendly toward immigration, instead preferring to keep their social policy comprehensive and expensive.  Sweden may not quite manage the same, although they are still a fairly high pick on this list.  Another direction to look would be Australia, where government spending is most likely to actually be redistributive.

For Social Conservatives, I say Singapore.  They are tough on drugs and the citizens are expected to work and required to save.  Parents are treated with respect, at least relative to the West, and when it comes to births at the very least they are trying hard with subsidies and ads on buses.  An underrated pick here would be France, by the way.

For Libertarians, I say the United States.  For all of the statist intervention in this country, it remains the place where markets are capable of exercising the most power for the better.  And it is no accident that such a huge chunk of the world’s libertarians are also Americans, or at least heavily American-influenced.  Singapore is in the running for this designation, with its government at eighteen percent of gdp, but so many things there are planned so comprehensively and the attitude of the country is more technocratic than free market per se.  Hong Kong is no longer such a free economy, having come under increasing Chinese influence not to mention law-enforced cartelization, and that is on top of their government-supplied housing stock and single payer health care system.

As for the last part of this question, the relatively peaceful parts of Mexico, in my view, very often feel freer than the United States.  But I am never sure how much that is worth.

Indonesian markets in everything

When a listing for a house in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, appeared on a real estate website with the headline “RUMAH DIJUAL: Beli Rumah Bisa Ajak Pemiliknya Menikah” (HOUSE FOR SALE: Buy the house and you may marry the owner”) many people assumed it was a joke.

But the house’s current owner says the above ad, which is featured on property website rumahdijual.com, is completely serious.

Below the listing price of the house (Rp 999 million or about US$76,500), the ad reads: “Offer of the century!!! Buy the house and you may marry the owner (terms & conditions apply). Only for serious buyers and without negotiation.”

The link is here, the pointer is from Dan.

The rent is too damn high!, Hong Kong dead people’s edition

From Amie Tsang:

Sage International, the Hong Kong-listed funeral services group that is Ms Ma’s employer, has struggled for so long to find spaces that it has started encouraging its clients to use an alternative way to commemorate their loved ones — turning their ashes into gemstones.

She says a few hundred customers each year choose this glittering way to commemorate the deceased. She has even used the service herself. “This is my father,” she says, pointing at the stone in her earring.

Assorted links