Monday assorted links


Why no posts yet?

We were waiting for you.

Tyler makes posts. We make comments.

We make comments. Ray Lopez brags about his child bride.

I'm interested to see how long live television (as opposed to on-demand) sticks around for - there are so many TV shows that people don't watch deliberately, but watch because they happen to be on the air while they are flipping through channels. I guess radio has still stuck to that format, so probably not going to go extinct anytime soon.

3. This seems to be a popular whine in the NYT: "I don't have the time for all my shows." Really? Cable seasons are only 12 episodes. If you're committed to say a dozen shows, with a mix of broadcast and cable made up of sitcoms and dramas, and you have a DVR, I'm sure you can find time for all your shows. This is especially true since many of the most popular shows don't have overlapping seasons.

I don't know about anybody else but I've been getting sixty minutes 24 times a day for years now. If somebody feels that they don't have enough time maybe it would help to complain to the bureau of standards or some other government agency.

I don't agree - TV shows are now like wine and books - they are a lot easier to acquire than consume, so you have to be careful not to buy (or in the case of TV start watching) too many (in the case of TV, at one time) - in part because there are so many seasons and episodes of the good ones. In the past, the TV shows you missed, you forgot about and moved on. Now, there are shows like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Arrested Development and the Wire - all great, but that's pretty much a year's worth of TV right there - given that they have many seasons each.

How many e-books get bought and downloaded but are not read? Assuming publishers know, somehow I don't expect them to tell us.

The NYT complaint seems to be that audience fragmentation means that even the most successful shows get low audience shares as compared with years ago and, assuming revenue correlates with eyeballs, who's going to pay for all that's being produced?

The market's answer seems to be subscription services, in which one pays for a large bundle with no expectation of being able to consume all or even most of it.

Perhaps this works because subscribers will still feel they received good value even if they only watched a small percentage of what was available (whereas paying for an e-book one does not read is just wasted money)?

Subscription bundles might be the Web's answer to ad-blockers as well, assuming the blockers can stay ahead of Web coders. With so many websites dependent on ad revenue, these sites will need to find another way to produce revenue if few are seeing the ads. Although few may be willing to pay to access a particular website, many might be willing to pay for a subscription to a big bundle of them.

#6b: Getting rid of the scalpers is not going to fix the fact that you have this market with artificially below-equilibrium prices for the highest-in-demand restaurants. I'd say use some combination of pricing based on demand and using a lottery to distribute the rest of the slots to guests based on their ranked preferences. If you're willing to pay enough, you get the sit-down restaurant of your choice. Otherwise, you might get lucky.

I believe the current Disney restaurant reservation system is largely driven by internal politics not economics. So, there's little direct incentive to fix it.

Could you explain more? I imagine there's an attempt to appear egalitarian and an attempt to make as much money as possible, but if you have detail, I'd be interested.

Obviously they are trying to get a lot more people to eat sit-down dinners in their parks. There must be scaling issues.

I looked into booking at Disney this spring for our first family trip. And consulted with a friend who is a Disney World regularly. She clued me in that in order to get a reservation at a sit down restaurant you need to reserve a spot the day the reservation becomes available to the public (180 days ahead of time). Furthermore, when you arrive at said restaurant, you'll often find that even though it's "sold out" the majority of tables are empty and they seem understaffed.

I did some reading on various Disney blogs at the time and this seems to be a widely held observation.

From the article: " Even though it seems they’re leaving money on the table, Disney managers would rather leave tables open with no guests because they don’t have enough staff to serve them, then have extra staff standing around waiting for guests to walk-up and eat. My suspicion is Disney manager bonus structure has more to do with meeting labor efficiency numbers than generating revenue."

I don't think it can be actual costs leading to a labor shortage, because the restaurants are relatively expensive and effectively they are in a prime location. So the most likely explanation would seem to be internal politics.

The only justification, besides something crazy going on behind closed doors, is that they are trying to make the restaurants seem super special. People don't like crowded restaurants. (They've seemed well-staffed to me.)

But the vast majority of guests don't do any research at all. As evidence, every day a giant line forms to get inside the big golf ball at Epcot -- the attraction basically at the front door -- in the morning and lasts until the afternoon. Past 4pm or so you can walk right in. It's silly to wait outside in the noonday Florida sun but most people don't know any better.

I could see them keeping table space open to account for crowds but drop-ins for the best restaurants aren't allowed.

The last time I was there, the sit-down restaurants were entirely full at night, but mostly empty at lunch. Which sort of makes sense. The show-oriented restaurants make a nice break in the middle of a hot day if you have young kids.

Disney needs to rent in-park cabanas for parents. They'd make a killing.

Disney is primarily seeking to sell dining packages, so it doesn't care as much about maximizing revenue through price discrimination. There appears to be strong demand for having a package that guarantees breakfast, lunch and dinner are taken care-of. Selling peace-of-mind. So long as most people buy these packages, Disney has your money whether you get your 1st, 2nd, or 10th choice.

From Disney's perspective they've also created an incentive for people to give them money for food six months in advance. They've also created a captive consumer who won't leave the grounds for non-Disney dining choices.

Disney also wants to get people out of the park. After paying $100 for a day's admission, it's hilarious that they then charge you an additional premium to waste 2 hours of it sitting in a restaurant.

It would seem in their interest to pack those restaurants as much as they can. So they don't they?

Lots of those dinner reservations occur after the park has basically closed, or after small children are too exhausted to really endure more rides.

If you're there with teenagers, yeah, it's an obvious waste.

By "get people out of the park," I assume you mean "off the rides." I find Disney's ability to find unused space in the park to create lines for a "meet and greet" with a costume "magical." The popular dining options here probably include normal food with someone dressed-up as a Disney princess.

I don't completely disagree with E's point that price should rise to meet demand, but that's not how Disney works. Admission tickets are the same in the Summer as mid-February. The "cost" to ride top attractions is the same as lesser. You "pay" by consuming less.

Improving how they allocate dining options among people who buy packages so that people have more control over what dining option they get doesn't break any of that. The point of the prices isn't just getting Disney more revenue, it's also letting the people with strong preferences for particular dining experiences get those.

2. Deja vu all over again. This sounded drearily like the canadian cultural protectionists who are intent on forcing us to watch their drivel for our own good.

Implicit in everything that was said in the article is the idea that these 'artists', scam artists maybe? need to control what people are able to watch otherwise they won't watch our trash. And we need subsidies from everything everyone watches so we can keep making stuff nobody watches.

The hordes are at the gate. It isn't Netflix or amazon, it is your customers. They are at the gate on the inside wanting out.

From the article:

"Rabarts commented: “We don’t work in the same industry.” He argued that in the U.S. filmmaking was seen mostly as a business activity, while in Europe it was mainly seen as a cultural activity."

Apparently the unstated premise is that European cultural activity will only survive if it's walled off from competition.

US film activity survives because taxpayers pony up, and the studios chase your subsidies. Stick that in your libertarian pipes and smoke it.

"US film activity survives because taxpayers pony up, and the studios chase your subsidies."

Well if by taxpayer and "your" subsidies, you are referring to Canadians, then yes you have a good point.

No, there are state governments that are convinced that if they subsidize Hollywood productions, they'll be able to create a self-sustaining film industry. It's a pipe dream, of course, but unfortunately a popular one. My own state of Michigan has finally wised up and killed its film credits, but only after a couple hundred million dollars down the drain. And the production companies are on to the next state run by fools.

They're only subsidizing it with tax breaks, right? So nothing really lost?

Also, new California state tax credits :


I did not know that Michigan had film credits and then decided to get rid of them. Any news on the effects, or is it too soon to tell?

To me, the most noticeable examples of film credits are the state of Louisiana and the city of Pittsburgh. I wonder how well these types of credits work for the local economy. Net gain or net loss? Race to the bottom?

In my mind, it's the same game as getting a city or a state to build a stadium for your pro sports team.

The perennial complaint from Canadian film makers was lack of distribution. Much of the protectionism was geared towards distribution, what could be seen on TV and some venues. Oddly the free distribution available via the internet is even more of a threat.

To be clear, I was referring to the massive Canadian subsidies American studios get for filming in Canada. Granted, a chunk of the original shift was due to the favorable exchange rate in the 1990's and a high union wage pay rate in California, but clearly the subsidies were a factor also.

What makes you think Libertarians support subsidies to American movie studios?

6. "Our estimation exploits the relative expenditure of high- and low-income households on luxuries versus necessities." That sounds like you could get pretty much any result you want by defining "luxury" and "necessity." Too bad it's gated.

I guess you consider the paper a luxury for your household income level. Its costs about 90 minutes of labor at minimum wage, if you read and comprehend it fast - within 24 hours of first access.

More helpfully, it looks like it took three years to be refereed and published, because the abstract, and abridged references, etc online for the published paper are from

Low-value good.

in re:6b, if you are frantically trying to reserve a table six months in advance so that you can later feast on whatever boil-in-bag slop the Sysco truck has disgorged at your Disney 'restaurant', then I'm sorry but your vacation was never going to be any good.

Well, the cultural snob in me suggests that if you're going to a Disney theme park, your vacation was never going to be any good.

But clearly there are a lot of people who disagree! And, for better or worse, Disney's vacation experience is generally praised for delivering an experience that a lot of people seem to really enjoy. Except, apparently, for this restaurant thing.

Nobody's forcing you to patronize Disney. I mean, probably. Unless you have a child who can credibly threaten self-harm.

They're bluffing.

Are they? "You've got to ask yourself one question. 'Do I feel luck?' Well, do ya, punk?"

Well, I was planning a Disney vacation before, but now that I know that some random guy on the internet scorns my choices, I'll definitely reconsider.

if my shiptoasting here convinces even one reader to rethink their travel plans, I would die happy. the 'Disney experience' is the great satan incarnate, it is the apotheosis of American greed and the death of culture. you may as well just light a stack of hundreds on fire and then take the kids to Applebee's. I hope the scalpers take their marks to the bank.

What are you trying to say?

That he doesn't have kids

That he's between the ages of 16 and 26.

Once I'd seen a little more, I began to wish the rest of the world was more like Disney, not less...

I have several, and I agree with every word he typed.

"I have several, and I agree with every word he typed. "

You agree with the comment: ". the ‘Disney experience’ is the great satan incarnate"

Frankly, it's hard for me to wrap my head around people who are so damning of what other people do on their own time with their own money that they would write silly hyperbolic statements like that.

6.b. The odder thing about Disney right now is that it is promoting a plan in which photographs are taken of you throughout the park and on rides that are attached to your magic band, and you can connect people in your party to your magic band. Clearly intended to allow extended families and friends to share pictures for one set price. But you can find strangers on-line to "link" and share the cost of the package. I think this has lower risks of scam artists than the other. The pricing seemed high; I wonder if it assumes such workarounds.

6a. The Aguilar and Bils paper still exaggerates consumption inequality by treating the value of consumption as its nominal price. But that is not what most Americans think of as consumption inequality. Put another way, if a chicken sandwich cost $6.00 in Peoria and the identical sandwich sells for $15 in Manhattan, the paper treats this as being 2.5x the consumption of the first. But the whole argument about consumption inequality is that the rich often consume similar things than the poor. If you treat location as part of the consumption bundle then you are treating positional goods the same as material goods. By that standard, so long as city A is more elite than city B, no amount of raw material equality will erase the fact that those who can afford to live in city A will be seen -- ceteris paribus -- as being richer and consuming more than in city B even if every good, home, and service in cities A and B were identical except for location.

Excellent point!

But you miss the point. The point is to push a narrative to inform policy.

Yes, positional goods are the same as material goods. It's almost Marxist to insist that material goods are special. Embodied in a $15 sandwich are the benefits of living in a place with $15 sandwiches. The market has decided it is more pleasant to eat a sandwich in Manhattan than in the near suburbs of Detroit.

This sounds wrong to me. Any adjustment based on purchasing power worldwide is 'almost Marxist'? So... Marx systematically underestimated inequality? Hmmm...

#5...Why not spare a lot of money, time, and angst, and go directly to the third election?

On item 1, for what it's worth, my unprovable theory on the "why the English" for the causes of the Industrial Revolution is related to the brewing industry and the arrival of tea, of which even now the British are famous for the consumption of. On beer in the 1500's and 1600's the English finally figured out how to use hops effectively and a yeast strain was developed that worked in synergy with hops (the hops killed off competing yeast strains). This significantly improved the quality of English beer, leading to a big reduction in gastrointestinal illness. The hops allowed lower alcohol beer to have a longer shelf life. Basically English people were drinking beer instead of water but were not getting so drunk. Tea was related to the almost accidental acquisition of the Indian empire by the East India company. As both beer and tea require boiling the water the quality of the fluids drunk in Britain improved drastically despite increasing urbanization. Less gastrointestinal illnesses means more food retained in the body, increasing general intelligence.

Other European countries, like the Netherlands or Germany did not have the same beer types (preferring top fermented beers like lagers) or were wine drinking countries (like France) where the alcohol content remained high. In addition they had higher import duties on tea. So when they started to urbanize, which is a necessary part of increasing industrialisation, they started to see problems. Eventually sewers and clean water supplies became common and the English advantage disappeared.

If my memory serves me well, Brazil ambassador Maurício Nabuco claimed that countries that drink fermented beverages are superior to those countries which favor distillated drink beverages (and England was the greatest importer of wine and was specially fond of Porto). I know nothing about alcoholic (spelling it is hard enough) drinks and next to nothing about who drinks what, so I have no idea. Maybe It is not the consciousness of men that determines their drinking habits, but, on the contrary, their drinking habits that determines their consciousness.

Well to take a couple of random examples, vodka is probably the most common drink in both Finland and Poland and both are fairly nice countries, while most african nations are beer drinkers and are not so nice. So I don't think this holds up overall.

Poland does not count anyway, it is an artificial state. And maybe beer is culturally more important, remember the Polish Beer-Lovers' Party. Yes, Finland seems to be an exception, maybe they are Russian enough to drink vodka, but not enough to mess things. I do no know why he excluded beer from the fremented drinks, he said the beer drinking Germans never managed to build the Empire they wanted. A related point seems to be that "superior" for him meant powerful, strong, dynamic. I don't know how he would explain modern Italy, by the way.

1. Human capital leading up to the Industrial Revolution.

"Sustained economic growth did not begin in Britain with the Industrial Revolution. It can be traced back to the early seventeenth century. That earlier growth was manifested in urbanization, commercialization, and technological progress in several sectors of the economy."

I'm reading a a 1910 book on popular (statute) lawmaking's origins and history. Not addressed in the above paper but perhaps of interest is that during the reign of Elizabeth I, the Statute of Laborers is said to have been all but officially repealed. Also, in 1574, she did away with villeinage, freeing the agricultural workers from the land, or at least starting the process. Various evolutions of the Statute of Laborers had reinforced the restrictions on changing family trades, movement of laborers, etc. Villeinage had been imposed by the Norman conquerers.

"(1350) The next year the statute [of Laborers] is made more elaborate,
and specifies, for common laborers, one penny a day; for
mowers, carpenters, masons, tilers, and thatchers, three
pence, and so on. It is curious that the relative scale is
much the same as to-day: masons a little more than tilers,
tilers a little more than carpenters; though unskilled labor
was paid less in proportion. The same statute attempts to
protect the laborer by providing that victuals shall be sold
only at reasonable prices, which were apparently fixed by the

Here, therefore, we have the much-discussed Standard
Wage fixed by law, but in the interest of the employer; not
a "living wage" fixed in the interest of the employee, as
modem thought requires. The same statute makes it un-
lawful to give to able-bodied beggars, which is of a piece
with the compulsory labor of the able-bodied. Now this first
Statute of Laborers, which led to centuries of English law
unjust to the laborers, it is interesting to note, was possibly
never a valid law, for it was never agreed to by the House of
Conmons. However that may be, the confirming statute of
1364 was duly enacted by Parliament, and this was not in
terms repealed until the year 1869, although labor leaders
claim it to have been repealed by general words in the 5th

Thorold Rogers tells us that those, after all, were the
happy days of the laborer when masons got four pence a
day, and the Black Prince, the head of the army, only got
twenty shillings sixty times as much.


The institution of villeinage is last mentioned in a commission
of Queen Elizabeth, 1574, directing Lord Burlei^ and others
in certain counties to compound with all such bondmen or
bondwomen for their manumission and freedom."

--Popular Law-making: A Study of the Origin, History, and Present Tendencies of Law-making by Statute, Frederic Jesup Stimson (1910)

Whether the doing away with the wage-fixing/labor restriction law in practice did not have an influence on the sustained economic growth the paper presents might be of interest.

Serfdom qua serfdom did not long survive the Black Death. And by Elizabeth I's day peasants were already being evicted from the land due to economic concerns: it was more profitable to pasture sheep for the wool trade with Flanders than to grow crops. In all likelihood Elizabeth's laws were simply catching up with reality and ratifying long term trends.

England didn't have serfdom but they did have villeinage of a sort imposed by the Norman invaders. And the black death did severely alter labor relations. The Statute of Laborers was introduced in 1349 to address the rising wages that workers were able to demand. Subsequent alterations prohibited movement of agricultural workers, required sons over the age of 12 to follow their father's trade and required a "recommendation" letter from former employers for anyone changing jobs (a form of blackballing). The law prohibited the paying of wages greater than the government set cap but subsequently the law put the entire culpability for extra-wage payments on the worker.

Now by the late 16th century during the reign of Elizabeth I it is possible that the population had recovered enough that wage demands didn't exceed the wage caps. Or that the need for agricultural labor declined releasing more individuals to move to the towns.

The point is that just prior to when sustained economic growth started there were significant changes in the wage and price fixing laws. Not all the changes were legislative but de facto with the actual change of the laws coming later.

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