Month: August 2017

My Conversation with comedian Dave Barry

Here is the transcript and audio (no video).

We discuss what makes Florida special, why business writing is so terrible, Eddie Murphy, whether social conservatives can be funny (in public), the weirdness of Peter Pan, how he is so productive, playing guitar with Roger McGuinn, DT, the future of comedy, and much much more.  Here is one excerpt:

COWEN: If I look at old slapstick, it doesn’t seem funny at all. Intuitively, you would think slapstick, being only physical, would have a much longer half-life. What I find funny is very culturally specific references. Now, am I strange?

BARRY: Well, not about slapstick. When I was a little guy, I maybe thought that the Three Stooges were kind of funny but that stopped a long time ago. Some physical humor is still funny to me. Abbott and Costello were pretty physical, but they were funny without being slapstick. Just hitting each other in the nose and going, “nyuk, nyuk, nyuk” never struck me as funny at all. I have forgotten the second part of your question.

On different comedians and what’s not funny anymore

COWEN: You mentioned Abbott and Costello. If you’re willing, I’ll talk about a few comedians, or mention a few, and you can tell me what you found funny with them, didn’t find funny.

Let’s start with Abbott and Costello. Favorite of my father. I’ve watched almost all the movies. As I kid, I didn’t find them funny, but I actually started to find them funny in retrospect after having watched a bit of Seinfeld and Larry David. What’s your take on Abbott and Costello?

BARRY: Yeah, I can see the connection there. It more relies on you letting it — the humor — slowly develop and the characters themselves being the humor without coming right out and saying what’s funny about it: The one who never understands what’s going on, the one who’s always losing his patience with the other one. The first, maybe, three or four times, it’s just mildly amusing. But after a while, when you see it coming, that becomes very funny to you.

It’s very rare to find that kind of patience in humor anymore. I don’t think the audience is as generous as it used to be, allowing humor to build the way it did in an Abbott and Costello sketch.

COWEN: And is Abbott or Costello funnier to you? Abbott being the straight man.

BARRY: Yeah, I think Abbott is funnier.

COWEN: I think he’s much funnier.

Most of all, I was impressed by Dave Barry as a managerial force for his own career.  Again, here is the link.

Does society underestimate women?

Yes.  The context is female jockeys in horse racing, and so we turn to Alasdair Brown and Fuyu Yang in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization:


Male and female jockeys compete side-by-side in horse racing.

Betting market prices provide a window onto society’s beliefs about female ability.

Women are slightly underestimated, winning 0.3% more races than the market predicts.

Underestimation is greater in jump racing, where female participation is low.

Here is the paper link, ungated, via Michelle Dawson.

My short essay on opportunity concepts for South Africa

Here is the piece (pdf), here is the broader symposium, with other notable contributors, including Bill Easterly, Charles Kenny, and Brandon Fuller.  Here is one excerpt from my essay:

…we should keep in mind the strictures of Dani Rodrik that every country, or sometimes every region, is different. Nonetheless this reorientation of measures of progress would have some implications for policy analysis. In particular, high levels of inequality, inequality of opportunity, and relative income mobility would not be seen as problems per se.

Furthermore, the frequent appearance of those concepts in political and also scholarly rhetoric would be seen as misleading and a distraction. The focus instead would be on expanding the absolute size of opportunities for the poor. To make this more concrete, consider a policy change which benefitted both the rich and the poor. Many of the equality metrics would have to struggle with such a policy, which might increase inequality in some manner, whereas the approach recommended in this paper could endorse it wholeheartedly.

It is interesting to note the recent visit of Thomas Piketty to South Africa. He called for a national minimum wage, greater worker participation in company boards, and land reform. Those are all attempts to provide equalizing measures across one dimension or another. Although some parts of those ideas may have merit, they do not seem overall focused on incentivizing wealth creation and opportunity. Piketty even stated: “I think it’s fair to say that black economic empowerment strategies, which were mostly based on voluntary market transactions […] were not that successful in spreading wealth.” It perhaps would have been more appropriate to note South Africa remains a highly regulated, highly legally privileged, and indeed mercantilist economy; the country ranked only number 72 on the 2015 Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom. So perhaps empowerment based on voluntary market transactions has not yet really been tried.

The absolute opportunities approach also suggests a different emphasis for a topic such as land reform. Many arguments for land reform focus on the difference in the land holdings between the rich and the poor, yet perhaps those are not the relevant numbers. A better focus would be the following question: “by how much would receiving more land elevate the opportunities of the poor?” If indeed the answer to that question is optimistic, the case for land reform will be stronger.

Do read the whole thing.

Tuesday assorted links

1. Kevin Durant overestimates the pace of economic growth.

2. Berliners frustrated over restaurants where no German is spoken.

3. The rising returns to non-cognitive skill in Sweden (pdf).

4. How Driscoll’s is reinventing the strawberry.

5. Traditional asset tokenization and the New Monetary Economics.  Recommended for those who have the background to follow it.

6. Books are using more swear words, with graphs further down in the link.

7. Reynaud Camus on The Great Replacement.

CEA update, Tomas Philipson to join

President Donald Trump named Tomas Philipson, an economist at the University of Chicago who has specialized in health-care policy, to the three-member Council of Economic Advisers on Monday.

Mr. Philipson briefly served as an adviser to the Trump transition team last fall on health-care matters and was a senior economic adviser to the head of the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services during the George W. Bush administration. Mr. Philipson is the co-founder of Precision Health Economics, a consultancy. He is professor of public policy at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy and a director of the Health Economics Program at the university’s Becker Friedman Institute for economic research.

Mr. Trump’s nominee to lead the CEA, Kevin Hassett, hasn’t been confirmed by the Senate. His nomination cleared the Senate Banking Committee with only one lawmaker, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), voting against him in June.

The two other members of the CEA aren’t subject to Senate confirmation and typically serve for around two years. Mr. Trump hasn’t announced the third member of the council, which has advised presidents for over seven decades on the economic impact of their policies.

That is from the WSJ.

Are U.S. Cities Underpoliced?

Aaron Chalfin and Justin McCrary have a forthcoming paper in the Review of Economics and Statistics that takes a new approach to estimate the effect of police on crime. If you run an ordinary regression using the number of police to explain the number of crimes you typically find small or even positive coefficients, i.e. the police appear to have no effect on crime or maybe even a positive effect. The usual explanation is endogeneity. The number of police influence the number of crimes but the number of crimes also influences the number of police. The recent literature has focused on breaking this endogeneity circle by finding a change in the number of police that is exogenous, i.e. random with respect to crime. My paper with Jon Klick, for example, uses random movements in the terror alert level combined with the fact that the police go on double shifts when the terror alert level rises to estimate the effect of police on crime in Washington, DC. If the assumption of exogeneity is satisfied then you have pulled a random experiment out of natural data, hence a natural experiment. Obviously, if the exogeneity assumption isn’t satisfied the technique doesn’t work. But even if the exogeneity assumption is satisfied there is another problem–by focusing only on changes in police and crime when the terror alert level changes you are throwing out most of the variation in the data so the estimates are going to be less precise than if you used more of the variation in the data.

Chalfin and McCrary acknowledge the endogeneity problem but they suggest that a more important reason why ordinary regression gives you poor results is that the number of police is poorly measured. Suppose the number of police jumps up and down in the data even when the true number stays constant. Fake variation obviously can’t influence real crime so when your regression “sees” a lot of (fake) variation in police which is not associated with variation in crime it’s naturally going to conclude that the effect of police on crime is small, i.e. attenuation bias.

By comparing two different measures of the number of police, Chalfin and McCrary show that a surprising amount of the ups and downs in the number of police is measurement error. Using their two measures, however, Chalfin and McCrary produce a third measure which is better than either alone. Using this cleaned-up estimate, they find that ordinary regression (with controls) gives you estimates of the effect of police on crime which are plausible and similar to those found using other techniques like natural experiments. Chalfin and McCrary’s estimates, however, are more precise since they use much more of the variation in the data.

Using these new estimates of the effect of police and crime along with estimates of the social cost of crime they conclude (as I have argued before) that U.S. cities are substantially under-policed.

Hat tip Kevin Lewis.

Addendum: After writing this post I discovered that I had covered the Chalfin and McCrary paper when it was a working paper, five years ago! This tells you something about how long it can take to get an economics paper published.

Surveillance sentences to ponder

The mostly male crowd that participated in Friday night’s tiki-torch-lit rally did not cover their faces, and they were widely photographed. A Twitter account, @YesYoureRacist, began posting photographs of participants and uncovering their identities. White was among the first it named. The account would soon identify students enrolled at the University of Nevada and Washington State University, leading both of the schools to issue statements condemning racism.


A white nationalist who participated in the torch-lit march through the University of Virginia’s campus this weekend has lost his job at a Berkeley, Calif., hot dog restaurant after Twitter users posted his photo and place of employment. The employee, Cole White, was identified online after he was photographed among a shouting and torch-wielding mob during the march Friday night in Charlottesville.

Effective social monitoring, or dangerous slippery slope?  Or both?  Sometimes the undercover sleuths are wrong (NYT).  Many colleges are being asked to expel those students.

Here is the full article, via Michael Rosenwald.

My Fall 2017 Ph.d Industrial Organization reading list

It is long, and thus below the fold…

  1. Competition


Einav, Lira and Levin, Jonathan, “Empirical Industrial Organization: A Progress Report,” Journal of Economic Perspectives, (Spring 2010), 145-162.

Bresnahan, Timothy F. “Competition and Collusion in the American Automobile Industry: the 1955 Price War,” Journal of Industrial Economics, 1987, 35(4), 457-82.

Asker, John, “A Study of the Internal Organization of a Bidding Cartel,” American Economic Review, (June 2010), 724-762.

Bresnahan, Timothy and Reiss, Peter C. “Entry and Competition in Concentrated Markets,” Journal of Political Economy, (1991), 99(5), 977-1009.

Whinston, Michael D., “Antitrust Policy Toward Horizontal Mergers,” Handbook of Industrial Organization, vol.III, chapter 36, see also chapter 35 by John Sutton.

“Benefits of Competition and Indicators of Market Power,” Council of Economic Advisors, April 2016.

Klein, Benjamin and Leffler, Keith.  “The Role of Market Forces in Assuring Contractual Performance.”  Journal of Political Economy 89 (1981): 615-641.

Bogdan Genchev, and Julie Holland Mortimer. “Empirical Evidence on Conditional Pricing Practices.” NBER working paper 22313, June 2016.

Sproul, Michael.  “Antitrust and Prices.”  Journal of Political Economy (August 1993): 741-754.

McCutcheon, Barbara. “Do Meetings in Smoke-Filled Rooms Facilitate Collusion?”  Journal of Political Economy (April 1997): 336-350.

Crandall, Robert and Winston, Clifford, “Does Antitrust Improve Consumer Welfare?: Assessing the Evidence,”  Journal of Economic Perspectives (Fall 2003), 3-26, available at

FTC, Bureau of Competition, website,  Read about some current cases and also read the merger guidelines.

Parente, Stephen L. and Prescott, Edward. “Monopoly Rights: A Barrier to Riches.”  American Economic Review 89, 5 (December 1999): 1216-1233.

Demsetz, Harold.  “Why Regulate Utilities?”  Journal of Law and Economics (April 1968): 347-359.

Armstrong, Mark and Sappington, David, “Recent Developments in the Theory of Regulation,” Handbook of Industrial Organization, chapter 27, also on-line.

Shleifer, Andrei. “State vs. Private Ownership.” Journal of Economic Perspectives (Fall 1998): 133-151.

Farrell, Joseph and Klemperer, Paul, “Coordination and Lock-In: Competition with Switching Costs and Network Effects,” Handbook of Industrial Organization, vol.III, chapter 31, also on-line.

Xavier Gabaix and David Laibson, “Shrouded Attributes, Consumer Myopia, and Information Suppression in Competitive Markets,” 

 Strictly optional: Ariel Pakes and dynamic computational approaches to modeling oligopoly:


2. Organization

Gibbons, Robert, “Four Formal(izable) Theories of the Firm,” on-line at

“Make Versus Buy in Trucking: Asset Ownership, Job Design, and Information,” by George P. Baker and Thomas N. Hubbard, American Economic Review, (June 2003), 551-572.

Van den Steen, Eric, “Interpersonal Authority in a Theory of the Firm,” American Economic Review, 2010, 100:1, 466-490.

 Miller, Merton, and commentators.  “The Modigliani-Miller Propositions After Thirty Years,” and comments, Journal of Economic Perspectives (Fall 1988): 99-158.

Myers, Stewart. “Capital Structure.” Journal of Economic Perspectives (Spring 2001): 81-102.

Hansemann, Henry. “The Role of Non-Profit Enterprise.” Yale Law Journal (1980): 835-901.

Optional: Charness, Gary and Kuhn, Peter J. “Lab Labor: What Can Labor Economists Learn From the Lab?” NBER Working Paper, 15913, 2010, Lazear, Edward P. “Leadership: A Personnel Economics Approach,” NBER Working Paper 15918, 2010, Oyer, Paul and Schaefer, Scott, “Personnel Economics: Hiring and Incentives,” NBER Working Paper 15977, 2010.

Cowen, Tyler, Google lecture on prizes, on YouTube.


3. Production 

American Economic Review Symposium, May 2010, starts with “Why do Firms in Developing Countries Have Low Productivity?” runs pp.620-633. 

Nicholas Bloom, Raffaella Sadun, and John Van Reenen, “Recent Advances in the Empirics of Organizational Economics,”

Nicholas Bloom, Raffaella Sadun, and John Van Reenen, the slides for “Americans do I.T. Better: US Multinationals and the Productivity Miracle,”, the paper is here but I recommend focusing on the slides. 

Bloom, Nicholas, Raffaella Sadun, and John Van Reenen. “Management as a Technology?” National Bureau of Economic Research working paper 22327, June 2016.

Syerson, Chad “What Determines Productivity?” Journal of Economic Literature, June 2011, XLIX, 2, 326-365.

Diego Restuccia and Richard Rogerson, “The Causes and Costs of Misallocation,” Journal of Economic Perspectives, Summer 2017, 31, 3, 151-174. 

Dani Rodrik, “A Surprising Convergence Result,, and his paper here

Serguey Braguinsky, Lee G. Branstetter, and Andre Regateiro,The Incredible Shrinking Portuguese Firm,”

David Lagakos, “Explaining Cross-Country Productivity Differences in Retail Trade,” Journal of Political Economy, April 2016, 124, 2, 1-49.

Casselman, Ben. “Corporate America Hasn’t Been Disrupted.” FiveThirtyEight, August 8, 2014.

Decker, Ryan and John Haltiwanger, Ron S. Jarmin, and Javier Miranda. “Where Has all the Skewness Gone?  The Decline in High-Growth (Young) Firms in the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research working paper 21776, December 2015.  NB: This paper and the three that follow have some repetition, so read them selectively rather than exhaustively.

 Decker, Ryan and John Haltiwanger, Ron S. Jarmin, and Javier Miranda. “The Secular Business Dynamism in the U.S.” Working paper, June 2014.

Haltiwanger, John, Ian Hathaway, and Javier Miranda. “Declining Business Dynamism in the U.S. High-Technology Sector.” Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, February 2014.

Haltiwanger, John, Ron Jarmin and Javier Miranda. Where Have All the Young Firms Gone? Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, May 2012.

Song, Jae, David J. Price, Fatih Guvenen, and Nicholas Bloom. “Firming Up Inequality,” CEP discussion Paper no. 1354, May 2015.

Andrews, Dan, Chiara Criscuolo and Peter N. Gal. “Frontier firms, Technology Diffusion and Public Policy: Micro Evidence from OECD Countries.”  OECD working paper, 2015.

Furman, Jason and Peter Orszag. “A Firm-Level Perspective on the Role of Rents in the Rise in Inequality.” October 16, 2015.

Mueller, Holger M., Paige Ouimet, and Elena Simintzi. “Wage Inequality and Firm Growth.” Centre for Economic Policy Research, working paper 2015.

Furman, Jason. ”Business Investment in the United States: Facts, Explanations, Puzzles, and Policy.” Remarks delivered at the Progressive Policy Institute, September 30, 2015, on-line at

Scharfstein, David S. and Stein, Jeremy C.  “Herd Behavior and Investment.”  American Economic Review 80 (June 1990): 465-479.

Chen, Peter, Loukas Karabarbounis, and Brent Neiman. “The Global Rise of Corporate Saving.” National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper 23133, February 2017.


4. Incentives

Edmans, Adam, Xavier Gabaix, and Dirk Jenter, “Executive Compensation: A Survey of Theory and Evidence,” NBER Working Paper 23596, July 2017.

Kaplan, Steven N. “Executive Compensation and Corporate Governance in the U.S.: Perceptions, Facts and Challenges.” Working paper, July 2012. 

Robert J. Gordon and Ian Dew-Becker, “Unresolved Issues in the Rise of American Inequality,”

Stein, Jeremy C. “Efficient Capital Markets, Inefficient Firms: A Model of Myopic Corporate Behavior.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 104 (November 1989): 655-670.

Ben-David, Itzhak, and John R. Graham and Campbell R. Harvey, “Managerial Miscalibration,” NBER working paper 16215, July 2010.


5. Sectors: finance, health care, tech, others

 Gorton, Gary B. “Slapped in the Face by the Invisible Hand: Banking and the Panic of 2007,”, published on-line in 2009. 

Erel, Isil, Nadault, Taylor D., and Stulz, Rene M., “Why Did U.S. Banks Invest in Highly-Rated Securitization Tranches?” NBER Working Paper 17269, August 2011. 

Philippon, Thomas. “Has the U.S. Finance Industry Become Less Efficient? On the Theory and Measurement of Financial Intermediation.” Working paper, September 2014. 

Gompers, Paul and Lerner, Josh.  “The Venture Capital Revolution.” Journal of Economic Perspectives, Spring 2001, 145-168.

Paul Graham, essays,

Optional: consider subscribing to Ben Thompson’s Stratechery, periodic emails on the tech industry, note it is expensive.

Friedman, Milton. “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits.” The New York Times Magazine, September 13, 1970.

Healy, Kieran. “The Persistence of the Old Regime.” Crooked Timber blog, August 6, 2014.

More to be added, depending on your interests.

Virginia is a multicultural success story

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column.  Excerpt:

Virginia is the location of the Pentagon, and military and national intelligence establishment have been a cash cow for the state. That has boosted prosperity and minimized cyclical downturns, two factors that help alleviate racial and interethnic tensions, in turn raising upward mobility for immigrants. The state has also encouraged real estate growth and created a favorable environment for small and midsize businesses. For all the criticism of ugly strip malls, they are an ideal place for immigrants to start a new business.

The result has been a strong upper middle class rather than a playground for billionaires. That offers immigrants a good chance to move up the social and income ladders fairly quickly.

Almost 70 percent of Virginia immigrants have settled in Northern Virginia, very close to Washington and Maryland. The D.C. metropolitan area, due to the primacy of politics, has attracted migrants and temporary residents for a long time, including American-born citizens from other states. There is little stigma to being an outsider or new arrival.

When I first moved to Northern Virginia in 1980, it was common to see Confederate flags and to hear “good ol’ boys” talk with racist overtones. Today the region is a multicultural success, has some of the best schools in the country, and is renowned for its globe-spanning ethnic food.

Another big part of the Virginia economy has been the significant naval presence in the Norfolk area. In addition to creating lots of jobs, the U.S. military long has been one of the most successfully integrated and tolerant institutions in the country, setting a good workplace and cultural precedent.

It also helps that Virginia’s immigrants are a mix of nationalities, with no one dominant ethnic group. That has encouraged broad-based assimilation, and prevented any single, easily identifiable group from being a source of social tensions.

Do read the whole thing.

Rewatching *Enter the Dragon* (some minor spoilers)

Yana and I saw this Bruce Lee movie last night over Dan Klein’s house, for me it was my first viewing since my undergraduate days.  A few points struck me:

1. Hong Kong is portrayed as a poor, dumpy ghetto; this was 1973.  The Technicolor shots of the city are gorgeous.

2. Black Power, in the character of Williams [Jim Kelly], is shown to be a fundamentally moral and emancipatory force.  And as was so common in movies from the 1970s and 80s, the black guy “gets it.”

3. The main villain, Han, reminded me of Chairman Mao, except that the role of the West in the opium trade is inverted and placed on Mao [Han] himself.  It is no surprise that Mao’s China banned the movie.

4. Bruce takes on and defeats a whole group of unimpressive karate experts — was that intended as an anti-Japanese slam?

5. Angela Mao, who played Bruce Lee’s sister, steals the show.  She now lives in Flushing, Queens (NYT).

6. The American male heroes seem not to mind that the women they are given to sleep with are essentially slaves, held under coercion or otherwise dubious circumstances.  The movie seems not to mind that the male heroes do not mind.  And an analogous film today would not have nude scenes, for several reasons, one being the desire to sell it to…China.

6b. The politically incorrect ranking in terms of libido is black > white > Asian, without any apology or attempt at subtlety.

7. Many scenes reminded me of the James Bond flick You Only Live Twice, and also Dr. No.  It is a common theme in movies from that time that a hero can use a diversion to take over a command center; is that still done?  The final mirrors trick seemed to be taken from Orson Welles’s The Lady from Shanghai.  Yana remarked that many of the underground sets looked like they were borrowed from Star Trek, and that the “turn the corner” suspense scenes seem to have anticipated Star Wars.

8. “Jackie Chan appears as a guard during the underground lair battle scene and gets his neck snapped by Lee.”

9. The score by Lalo Schifrin remains compelling and Bruce dominates every scene he is in.

10. As was often the case in those times, the exposition is relatively slow, much of the action is saved for the last half hour, and finally the film just ends.

What I’ve been reading

1. Daphne Hampson, Kierkegaard: Exposition and Technique.  Dense but carefully argued and consistently insightful, perhaps the best introduction to its subject matter.  It is especially strong on how Kierkegaard’s Lutheranism informed his critique of Hegel, his supernaturalism, and his strong opposition to complacency.

Kierkegaard also was an influence on my Stubborn Attachments, as Hampson writes: “Given that faith is to look beyond ourselves to Christ, the ‘future’ is for Lutheranism a critical category.  In the thought of the 20th-century Lutheran theologian Rudolf Bultmann ‘future’ and ‘God’ become concomitant.  The relation to this future, to God, takes one outside oneself, whereas to rest on my laurels (my past) is of the essence of sin.  As we shall see, for Kierkegaard, relating to the idea of eternal life is existentially life-transforming.  It follows that in this tradition there is little continuity of person, for one and again I must break myself open (in my self-satisfaction) as I consent to dependence on God.”


2. Johnny Rogan, Byrds: Requiem for the Timeless: Volume 2: The Lives of Gene Clark, Michael Clarke, Kevin Kelley, Gram Parsons, Clarence White and Skip Battin.  Full of amazing and loving detail, this volume covers the less famous of the Byrds, and why their careers did not go further; whether in business or the arts, we spend too much time studying the winners.  Here are my earlier remarks on Rogan’s earlier editions as an extended essay on management theory and career advice.

3. Michael D. Barr, The Ruling Elite of Singapore: Networks of Power and Influence.  From 2013, but all the more relevant today.  Barr’s coverage is insufficiently appreciative of good results, but nonetheless offers an invaluable “how things really work” guide to Singaporean government, most of all on where accountability lies and where it does not.  There is guesswork involved, but this book offers plenty of details and analysis you won’t get elsewhere.

4. Henry A. Kissinger, A World Restored: Europe After Napoleon: The Politics of Conservatism in a Revolutionary Age.  Published in 1964, before Kissinger became Kissinger, although he is a war criminal this volume shows the quality of his thought: “…an equilibrium based on considerations of power is the most difficult of all to establish, particularly in a revolutionary period following a long peace.  Lulled by the memory of stability, states tend to seek security in activity and to mistake impotence for lack of provocation.”  The person who recommended this volume to me told me it would explain why the internal and external requirements for foreign policy on the Continent are much more in accord than they are for either England or America.  It does no such thing, so I still would like to read on that question.

Jack Schneider, Beyond Test Scores: A Better Way to Measure School Quality.  Under a true value added measure, the schools in Somerville, Massachusetts turn out to be quite good, even though their raw test scores are not impressive.

David Osborne, Reinventing America’s Schools: Creating a 21st Education System, covers how charter schools are transforming the American educational landscape.

Who is winning with the fiduciary rule?

Remember the fiduciary rule, the one that “requires brokers to act in the best interests of savers and went into partial effect in June”?  Who could be opposed to such a thing?  But of course when a regulation sounds so very good, there is usually some other consideration around the corner, perhaps involving secondary consequences.  And, as some of us had predicted, it is not working out so well:

The rule requires brokers to act in the best interests of retirement savers, rather than sell products that are merely suitable but could make brokers more money. Financial firms decried the restriction, which began to take effect in June, as limiting consumer choice while raising their compliance costs and potential liability.

But adherence is proving a positive. Firms are pushing customers toward accounts that charge an annual fee on their assets, rather than commissions which can violate the rule, and such fee-based accounts have long been more lucrative for the industry. In earnings calls, executives are citing the Department of Labor rule, known varyingly as the DOL or fiduciary rule, as a boon.

“Primarily because of DOL” and market appreciation, assets are growing in fee-based accounts, said Stifel Financial Corp. SF 0.40% Chief Executive Ronald Kruszewski, on a call in July. In an interview, he said such accounts can be twice as costly for clients.

That is from Lisa Beilfuss at the WSJ.  Allison Schraeger is one who saw this coming.

Charter cities in Honduras update

The Economist has a lengthy and very informative article on this, here is one bit:

Another candidate to be the first ZEDE is a public-private partnership with Canadian investors to create an “energy district” in Olancho department, where wood would be harvested for fuel. The ZEDE itself would be confined at first to a 1.6 square km (0.6 square mile) patch, which will be occupied by a power station. But it could eventually expand to an area covering 8% of Honduras’s territory and including 380,000 people. HOI, a Christian NGO based in the United States, is to provide health care and education from the outset in this “area of influence”.

…Even now, just how ZEDEs will work is a matter of argument among their supporters. The law places effective control in the hands of investors and a “technical secretary” who will administer each zone (and must be a Honduran citizen). They are answerable to an independent “commission for best practices” (CAMP). Civil and criminal cases will be adjudicated by special ZEDE courts, though it is not clear whether each zone will have its own or whether they will join a single parallel system. They could employ foreign judges to hear civil and criminal cases, just as Honduran football teams hire foreign players, suggests Mr Díaz. A “tribunal of individual rights”, guided by international conventions, will protect residents. Its decisions can be appealed to international courts.

But this governance structure is not settled; participants do not agree on what has been decided or even on who is part of it. The original CAMP, appointed by Mr Lobo, had 21 members, including Grover Norquist, an American anti-tax campaigner, Richard Rahn, then of the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington, DC, and Mark Klugmann, a former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan. This body met just once, in March 2015, on the resort island of Roatán.

In short, the prognosis is still unclear, which I take to be bad news.  In any case, there is much more at the link.