Saturday assorted links


#1: The country would be better if the left acted on their belief that blue states subsidize red states, and moved as many programs as possible to the state level, as well as allowing some differences in institutions like marriage.

It would be a great experiment, and it would allow people to vote with their feet. It is interesting that for all the calls of diversity, no diversity with the definition of marriage is to be allowed.

Of course, this would be pretty bad for anybody in Detroit, or for liberals with a strong geographical connection to places like Missouri and Mississippi.

For the left, "diversity" is a room full of people that look different but have the exact same opinions about everything.

The United Blobs of America. UBA, UBA, UBA!

That is not even internally consistent. The rich subset of blue States already do net transfers to the poor subset of red States. The poor red States then argue bathrooms and whether evolution is a thing.

I couldn't care less about bathrooms and gay marriages. I am not offended by any of the recent silliness about gay marriage. I was simply suggesting that the federal government gets out of marriage and transfer payments, and let us leave those to the states. Let federal tax liabilities and estate taxes be independent of marital status and relatedness between source of estate and recipient of estate. Let people choose how much morality the state should be able to impose by voting with their feet. Please specify the inconsistent part!

When you said "be better if the left acted on their belief that blue states subsidize red state" I thought you meant follow through with transfers, not stop them.

FWIW I think the left DO want their taxes to help poor rural children. Red Staters who don't want it are a little like Taliban who blow up schools.

Blue states send money to red states but it often goes to blue voters in those states.

#6 Cronut:

carbs with little redeeming qualities, I prefer to get my carbs the following ways:

Cheesecake, Dark Chocolate (less carbs than you might think), Tiramisu, Crispy apples, those you only get by picking them yourself, tropical fruits, really fresh chewy crispy resilient bread (German style or ciabatta) as a substrate for aged brie or other cheeses and cold cuts. For carbs, there is a tradeoff between pleasure and damage to the diet, the carbs in dark chocolate probably gives the most satisfaction per gram.

These pure carbs with no redeeming features I consider the culinary equivalent of macaroni and cheese.

Regarding Korean tacos: Just a farmer's market like gimmick for selling overprices slop until the novelty wears off. This type of food is often offered by food carts, where a small serving, no cutlery, no seating might cost 70-80% of a lunch special at a sit down place.

I believe in strong IP rights but I also have a healthy status-quo bias so I'd want those who think they need additional protections for food to make a really good case. I don't think they've made it.

That case would presumably be that society somehow benefits from restricting the ability of others to copy their food, which would seem to me to be obviously wrong.

I think if some other IP holders were forced to make this case, they would look ridiculous.

I don't really know how someone can say they believe in strong IP rights generally, when they cases for technology breakthrough and the ability to tax "Happy Birthday" seems to have little in common.

Okay bro.

Yes, that's exactly right.

Empirically, almost all the evidence suggests that IP laws are too strong to serve their function (i.e. the amount of innovation they foster is less useful than the inefficiencies they create and and their innovation-stifling effects).

Cuisine is a great example: I don't think anyone would argue that society is suffering from a lack of culinary innovation. If anything, innovation in the industry seems to be mostly gratuitous and unasked-for. All of this despite the absence of IP protection for new culinary creations.

As Jack says, this is probably the case in many other industries as well. Music is a good example: I can guarantee you that, if copyright protection for music were to vanish tomorrow, the world would have no shortage of people making and distributing high-quality music. Only capital-intensive content creation industries really benefit from IP protection, which is why industrial property (patents on industrial machines, processes, and compositions, as well as R&D-intensive products such as pharmaceuticals) and a few select areas of artistic creation (copyright on large-budget films) are the only areas where a strong case can be made for IP monopolies. (Trade-mark law is sort of a sidebar, dealing as it does with consumer confusion and unfair competition rather than spurs to innovation -- it's really closer to regulatory labeling laws than it is to copyright and patent law.)

Yeah, I'm not sure why a recipe or food innovation should get special protection when a computer algorithm or unique computing process cannot.

...I just miss the cruller.


Andrew Gelman is my favorite (and only) statistics blogger, but his comparisons between Sweden, Germany and US states would have resulted in a totally different outcome if the exchange rates of 2-3 years ago were applied to the comparison. Given that Gelman is statistically literate, and he knows that the large variation in exchange rates across time, then if being totally honest, these comparisons should contain some error bars consistent with the time horizon over which he wants his results to be relevant, i.e. "Germany compared to US states when using the median is between the 9th and the 29th poorest state with 95% confidence over 5 years".

Also, a Sailerite response, is that Swedes in Wisconsin are doing better than Swedes in Sweeden, which under the blank slate hypothesis proves the North American system superior to the social democratic systems of Scandinavia.

In defense of A Gelman he is reposting from "Institute von Mises Alabama". Nah don't think so. To be honest, Swedes would do well under any system. Swedes in Sweden probably place a higher utility to leisure than Swedes in Wiscousin, so this comparison does not make sense.

As Klaus pointed out Gelman is more or less pontificating other results, and questioning the PPP methodology, and not actually making any strong claims. He is thus not the rightful target of my barbs above! Looking at the Washington post comments of same article was interesting, a wide divergence of opinions, especially by those who have never lived in Scandinavia or Germany.

Ah the exchange rate. Yes that will affect the results, but (a) on PPP measures the US has consistently had a higher per capita GDP than Europe. (b) it's not irrelevant that the Euro has weakened these past few years, that is very much a symptom of Europe's struggles.

How much does a 20% VAT affect PPP?

'it’s not irrelevant that the Euro has weakened these past few years, that is very much a symptom of Europe’s struggles'

But not Germany's - German manufacturers are loving the advantage a low euro brings them.

#4 One example why these comparisons are flawed: I work in Europe on research and I take about 30-40 days of vacation per year, so it is natural that i should earn less , on average, than if i was doing research at the same level in the US, since probably i would be obliged to take a lot less vacation.

On the other hand you have to take into account that countries like Finland are maybe not the best place to move if you are a foreigner.... well i would say that outside of major US cities, its probably not so good to move as well, but the point is you have to factor a lot of stuff, if you want to make a fair comparison.

"so it is natural that i should earn less, on average, than if i was doing research at the same level in the US"

Isn't that the point, that there is a tradeoff between generous, democratic socialist policies and economic productivity and efficiency? It's surprising how many people deny that these "natural" tradeoffs exist.

It is a fact that people can take more vacations in general in Europe than in the US, but in research? Really? You mean, scientific research? I do research in the US (and I did some in France first) and no one prevents me, either here or there, to take 120 days of vacation a year if I want so (and some years I do).

The article does not give the source for the regional costs of living to compare the various US states.
But the Bureau of Economic Analysis now publishes quarterly data of state cost of living and uses that to calculate state per capita GDP and their data differs significantly from the data quoted in the article.

For example he says that New York is one of the poorest states when the regional cost of living is considered..

But the BEA shows that the New York real per capita income is 106 % of the national average at $43,603 and ranks as number 15th in terms of real per capita income.

Here are the poorest states according to the BEA...........................................................................
per capita...................................% of
real GDP
$37,451....Oregon...........41...... 91................................................................................................
$37,425....West Virginia..42 ......91 ...............................................................................................
$36,803...Mississippi.......43 .....89......................................................................................................
$36,769...Nevada...........44 .... 89........................................................................................................
$36,507..South Carolina.45......88..............................................................................................................
$36,087...Hawaii............ 46...... 87 ..................................................................................................................
$35,553...New Mexico.... 47.....86 ..................................................................................................................
$34,905....Arizona........ 48.......85.......................................................................................................................
$34,819...Idaho...........49 .......84...........................................................................................................
$34,580...Utah ...........50........84.......................................................................................................

Interestingly Washington, Oregon and California have an east-west divide, captured in this new map, but obsurced in statewide data.


Interesting, Alibaba is the Madoff ponzi scheme of China? Unfortunately, the markets can stay irrational longer than I can stay solvent, to spell out the obvious. Regarding the cup noodles, I doubt barriers to entry are there.

see if this is easier to read

$37,451 Oregon 41 91
$37,425 West Virginia 42 91
$36,803 Mississippi 43 89
$36,769 Nevada 44 89
$36,507 South Carolina 45 88
$36,087 Hawaii 46 87
$35,553 New Mexico 47 86
$34,905 Arizona 48 85
$34,819 Idaho 49 84
$34,580 Utah 50 84

Yeah, but does this take into account cost of living?

yes. read what I said.. The BEA uses regional price parity (cost of living) to calculate regional cost of living.

For a fixed salary, move to Utah, where you will have good neighbors, and little youth problems.

the labels are real per capita income( 200 8 $) name of state,rank, % of national average

#1) The author makes a good point, even if I'm not sure he realizes it, that political and governmental structures (like state boundaries) are quite rigid and may lack the flexibility to adjust to evolving economic environments. It's ironic that the map shows rigid rail lines rather than, say, air routes between hubs, which can flexibly be reconfigured to meet changing travel demands.

I'm not sure that moving from rigid state boundaries to rigid regional boundaries really addresses the problem though. It seems like we need to find a way to divorce infrastructure from rigid governmental structures, a way for markets and economics rather than politics to drive infrastructure decisions. Obviously, that's very difficult to do with public goods, but it should be doable with excludable goods like roads, rail, and communications networks.

Something algorithmic and fluid would be even more out there, but I can back this as an improvement. Call the purple bit The Great Southeast for an easier sell.

Yes, this was what I was thinking. Men of system always have ideas like these. My hunch is that a map that reflects reality would be a complete mess and would be unappealing to planner types.

It reminds me of how the public schools reinvent how to teach a particular topic every few years, but end up with the same (or worse) results.

#5...Loyal Wingmen...Are they of any help in bars?

#4 I feel like you really want to just use a basket of goods methodology, and see what people have.

What's property ownership like, computer ownership, access to food, life expectancy, vehicle?

Although in that case still "Depending on what you include in the basket of goods and services that are included in the cost-of-living calculations, you can get the adjustment to do all sorts of things."

# 6 Food plagiarism seems like a non-issue.

If an operator can do their original idea better, and cheaper, and can scale their distribution, then why worry about it?

If they can't, why stop a food plagiarist succeeding?

The issues with copyright seem even less apparent than any other area of IP. These aren't technologically intensive processes that need an expensive and precarious investment to become feasible and viable here, that can be argued to need powerful and artificial protection. It's hipster guys f**king around creatively with ingredients. The tradeoff for allowing innovation and copying vs protection for early investors ratio is way different.

1. Richard Florida's idea. States are an anachronism. But Americans are more attached to their states than they are to their guns and Bibles. Well, maybe not their guns and Bibles, but more attached than they are to their spouses for sure.

3. China as Silicon Valley writ large is one of the funnier (albeit accurate) observations I have read.

#1 Growing up in SoCal (30+ years), and living in Phoenix for the past 20 years, Phoenix is more similar to LA than SLC.

Better yet, there should be a border zone from the Imperial Valley in California stretching to the Gulf of Mexico. Once you get a way from this border zone, it has very little in common with the more north regions. The cultures of Minnesota and Idaho are nothing like El Paso, El Centro, Nogales.

Obviously written by East Coast media with no experience with the Southwest or West Coast. Likewise, I don't think i could comment intelligently east of the Mississippi River

And no experience with the Rockies, or the practical history of rail in the West. Anyone who draws a straight line from Denver to Salt Lake City and says "high speed rail" is delusional. Such a rail route would go north 90 miles from Denver to Cheyenne, WY, then west across the South/Bridger Pass, just like all of the major east-west links across the central Continental Divide.

#4: I have 30 days paid vacation. I can use 10 of these days a year and get a standard two week American vacation and then take the rest as money but I don't. If I did I could increase my yearly income by 12%.

If we are just talking about money then sure Sweden is poorer than lots of US states. But I have to tell you lots of US states are fucking backwards culturally in ways that Sweden is not. I'm a libertarian so I'm not praising the welfare state and trying to say that everything is fine over here but Sweden does not feel poor to me in ways that lots of US states do.

'but Sweden does not feel poor to me in ways that lots of US states do'

Neither is Germany. What is truly amusing is trying to compare things that don't even exist in the U.S. - the ICE (and TGV in this region) are available here, for available - including a nice ICE connection to the Frankfurt Airport train station, for a ticket that costs less than parking a car at the airport for a few days, with a trip that takes less time. It has been literally years since the last power outage (for any reason at all, including maintenance) in this town. There are three doctors and two dentists in walking distance in this town of ca. 6000 people, which is quite convenient, and difficult to measure when talking about earnings.

I always remember when the Chief Sales officer of a large German company came to visit me when I was living in the US. We had him around our modest house (for our subdivision in Houston). His comment was "you living like movie stars".

Truth is that public transport is almost a negative return on investment for most countries. The vast majority of people have access to a car so the marginal cost of any journey is small, and especially with Uber, you don't even need to have the upfront payment anymore.

The US has a superb airline industry with cheap flights almost anywhere you want to go as well, why on earth would you want the 19C technology of railways with all their fixed costs and slowness. The only reason Germany and other European countries can get away with this investment in "infrastructure" is because of the rent seekers and unions.

I am not from the US and don't live there now (left in 2004) so no axe to grind so believe me when I say having lived and worked in almost every part of the world including many parts of Europe (including Germany), the US living standard is way higher than anywhere else in the world, bar none.

I just talked to two German doctoral students who had finished stints at Yale. They both told me how shocked and dismayed they were when they first landed at JFK and took the train to New Haven. They felt like they had moved to a third world country. In my experience the top 10% of Americans live a life that maybe only the top 1% of Germans can afford. For the middle class it is a tradeoff with Germans having more leisure time, and much less stress about health care and education but Americans enjoying a higher standard of life in terms of consumption and housing. The bottom 10% or so of Americans are far poorer than then the bottom 10% in Germany.

Americans are shocked by conditions at JFK -- it is far and away the *worst* major city airport that I've ever experienced. But it's far from typical in the US (quite the opposite, actually).

'His comment was “you living like movie stars.”'

Did he ask how long the house would last? Most Germans in this region with experience of the U.S., when talking among themselves, find American housing to be incredibly shoddy.

'Truth is that public transport is almost a negative return on investment for most countries.'

And yet strangely, most countries seem to disagree with that assessment. For example, in this region, the reality of being able to use public transport is considered more than worth the subsidy. But then, nobody is maintaining a separate school bus fleet here either.

'The US has a superb airline industry with cheap flights almost anywhere you want to go as well, why on earth would you want the 19C technology of railways with all their fixed costs and slowness.'

Just replace 'US' with Spain, and see what happens - 'Indeed, more than 80% of travellers between Madrid and Seville use the AVE, with fewer than 20% travelling by air. The Madrid-Barcelona route was the world's busiest passenger air route in 2007 with 971 scheduled flights per week (both directions). In 2014, the line had already taken 61% of the traffic, stealing most of it from aircraft.'–Barcelona_high-speed_rail_line#Usage

20th century technology has a hard time competing with 21st century technology, actually.

"Did he ask how long the house would last?"

Europeans are surprised by how common wood-frame houses are in the US. But if maintained they last indefinitely (I live in a neighbrhood of hundred-year-old craftsman houses near a university. Approximately nobody thinks they're at the end of their lifespan -- and they're certainly not priced that way). I have friends who've lived in stone houses in Europe -- what a pain to work on! Their houses may be around even longer after they're dead than mine, but so what? And in the meantime, they have to live in them. Which is far from horrible, but is a clear step down from American levels of comfort and convenience.

Germany has many good things. The train to Frankfurt Airport, however, does not feature among them. Sure, it looks nice. Especially it looks great when it finally arrives, past the time, while you stress about whether you will miss your flight. It's also not cheap, either. The price is decent with a BahnCard, but cheap it is not.

U.S. Navy ships need drone wingmen. A cloud of flying bricks that automatically dock and refuel or swap batteries when they get low then resume escort duty. Then those Russkie fighters wouldn't have dared zoom by so low and fast the other day. One brick in a jet engine or helicopter rotor blade can ruin your whole day. The bricks are under control of the ship, so the cloud parts to allow your own helicopters and planes to pass through.

Cool idea. Would not have to be heavy. 3ft of aramid rope would not be good for a jet engine.

Rope would just add dead weight. The "brick" would actually be the batteries and the magnets of the electric motors.

If the Navy wasn't willing to shoot down a Russian jet with a missile why would they be willing to do it with a loitering brick?

They wouldn't be shooting anything down. The drone wouldn't take any aggressive action. It would just be holding its position 300 yards port of the bridge. It goes the same speed as the ship. If somebody collides with it, hey, they should have watched where they were going. It was painted orange and had blinking lights on it.

#2) In the age of Piketty, we are usually supposed to feel antipathy towards rentiers that try to maximize the income from their inherited capital, which presumably includes trying to apply inequality-expanding intellectual property laws in the broadest way possible. Yet, in this case, the author portrays Signorelli von Braunhut in a sympathethic light, describing her as a "cash-starved" "widow" even as she lives on a "palatial estate". Her attorney labels the legal battle as a "David and Goliath story", but who is the Goliath --- the IP rentier or her corporate adversary that outsources to China? This article ties in with a previous link [] that discussed the malleability of the concept of "privilege".

#1. The main proposals for what regional planning would do seem to be about picking regional champion industrial winners, reducing competition in the name of avoiding redundancy, increasing crony profits at the expense of the population.


Some of the adjustments made actually overstate Sweden & Germany's median incomes vs USA. OECD tax & xfer adjustments leave out VATs and excise taxes. Also leave out all state & local level transfers.

These adjustments will make US median look lower than it is and Sweden & Germany's medians higher. The effects can be relatively decent in size.

#1 I think the USA would be better moving toward the Swiss model with many more smaller states with closer to equal populations. California, texas and Florida are much too big.

#4 I think the USA s much better than those stats even show. Better to compare Germany and Sweden with Kiryas Joel.

Kiryas Joel seems like the perfect model for getting local state and federal government to pay for breeding. With affordable housing policies, an entity that constructs and operates affordable housing (rent less than 30% of median income in area) can get tax credits of 10 percent of the initial investment for 10 years, and after fulfilling the obligation to offer cheep housing for a full 15 years (5 years more), the housing is owned no strings attached. These people seem organized enough to pull this off (only the politically connected can get this deal), don't know if they actually do. They do need individuals that have high enough tax obligations that the credit does not exceed the pre credit tax liability. Just wondering how they keep youth from applying to live in the affordable housing units.

#4 While the median income in Sweden and Germany is lower, I would guess the poorest people there are less poor than the poorest in America. And that's sort of the whole reason why socialists love them.

Hard to say - food and other consumer goods in the US are much lower in price than most European countries. Similarly trailer parks, while derided by snobs, are actually a much better low income housing solution than the graffiti landed tower blocks of Europe.

I think it was Steve Sailer that points out the worse effects of being poor is the fact that you have to be around other poor people with their bad habits and poor social behaviours. I think what happens more in the US is that "decent" poor people tend to move away more easily compared with Europe (due to the social housing processes in Europe) which creates a sort of residual highly concentrated sink of the worst kind of people in certain places, like central Detroit. When people think of poor people in the US they tend to think of these places. But they are somewhat anomalous.

'Hard to say – food and other consumer goods in the US are much lower in price than most European countries.'

That may be true in some of Europe (the UK, definitely), but compared to the U.S., food is cheaper in Germany - as are all the following, according to this link, apparently current in April 2016, -

Consumer Prices in Germany are 7.65% lower than in United States

Consumer Prices Including Rent in Germany are 16.49% lower than in United States

Rent Prices in Germany are 34.47% lower than in United States

Restaurant Prices in Germany are 8.24% lower than in United States

Groceries Prices in Germany are 26.87% lower than in United States

Local Purchasing Power in Germany is 5.39% higher than in United States'

There is no question that some things are considerably more expensive in mercantilist Germany - wholesale electric prices for German commercial customers are lower than in the U.S., but consumer electric prices are much higher.

Isn't it likely that groceries are cheaper in Germany because it doesn't go through a dozen industrial processes before being sent to the market? I really don't think you're going to get the same product cheaper in Germany than the USA.

I don't know the cause but my personal experience, anecdotal as it is, definitely shows US foods to be more expensive than even those in Britain although I consider the British prices outrageous as well (though, conversely, I believe that VAT should be levied on food as it is in other European countries).

But, yes, buying a few simple items -- bread, salami, so forth, in New Jersey I ended up paying something along the lines of about $6, after having chosen the cheapest option possible. I could easily get that for £2 in Britain and for less elsewhere in Europe.

Perhaps the fact that packaging sizes vary considerably makes a difference (smaller packages available in Europe so price of item more expensive in the US while price per weight comes out as cheaper)?

5. An F16 apparently cost about $19 million while Australia's latest F35 purchase cost $157 million US each. So one piloted F16 and 7 F16 drones would have about the same price as one piloted F35 and one F16 drone. I know which option seems more cost effective to me.

Export deals for F16 as currently equipped have left the unit cost of the aircraft obscure, but estimates range 45-80 million.

You omitted the salient difference between them.

The F-16's actually work.

Well, I didn't want to get nasty, carlolspln, but there is that.

So one F16 and one F35 or 3 or 4 F16s then.

Are the blue states subsidizing the red state? I believe it could be true, but I've seen an analysis that takes into account:

1. We've been running deficits in the hundreds of billions of dollars for as far as they eye can see. Isn't it possible that ALL states get back more in gov't spending that were collected in taxes.

2. I live in State A and work in B State for a Company with its headquarters in State C and incorporated in State D. Which state gets credit for the employer portion of FICA taxes?

I've yet to see an analysis that puts a price on the human flows and not just the cash flows. Until the robots disemploy us all, the blue states haven't shown demographic sustainability.

#4 -- Germany doesn't *feel* poor. Even parts of East Germany that are still threadbare and seedy are well maintained. There's always the danger of interpreting the parts you see as being representative of the whole, but most of it feels prosperous and bourgois.

I was just driving through rural Missouri and Arkansas a couple of weeks ago, and you couldn't convince me that the region was richer than Saxony, let alone the area around Bonn.

And yet, many Americans without any experience of Germany are more than willing to be convinced that if given the chance, hordes of poor Germans, if only given the chance, would love to experience the greater wealth enjoyed by the residents of rural Missouri and Arkansas.

Yes, it is laughable, but then many American media sources rely on the ignorance of their audience when talking about the larger world while painting America as the best of all imaginable countries.

Aside from the problems Gelman suggests, with baskets of goods and so on, that make cost-of-living comparisons across regions dubious, there is another issue.

McMaken compares median incomes to the price indexes. But price indexes are means. They will be distorted by the very outliers McMaken wants to eliminate by using median rather than mean incomes. This is especially so in New York, where there are many extremely wealthy people.

The mean cost of housing, for example, is going to be driven up by the cost of luxury apartments overlooking Central Park to an extent that the median income of New Yorkers is not driven up by their occupants.

A pretty fatal flaw, now that you mention it.

Item 1 is not new

Nothing like this will ever transpire. I think given the political divisions in the country it may be more likely that you get a secession. This makes more sense to me, and maybe it should be supported Operating a political economy without buy-in of 60% of the people on any issue won't (and isn't) working very well.

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