Thursday assorted links


I suppose the Amazon news means that, unless there's a Great Crash of course, the academics of GMU should be able to sell their houses at ginormous profits, and clear off to a cheaper part of the country, thus demonstrating the merits of market mechanisms.

New Yorkers already concerned over the stench of Amazon tech cucks flooding into their neighborhoods.

If they're all cucks, why would New Yorkers be concerned? It would just be selling more wheatgrass juice and avocado toast, right?

These tech bros are more the type to play Fortnight after an evening of IPAs and whiskey tasting than the eco-yuppies you're thinking of.

'Look for the warning signs, says Isabelle, who dated an Amazon dude for two years before coming to her senses.

“A holier-than-thou attitude, a low-key sense of superiority — those are the red flags,” she says.'

While she may be right about Amazon tech bros, this woman lacks any sense of self-perspective or irony.

"Box Office Bomb: The Short Life of Popcorn Prediction Markets"

Ouch. Maybe a poor choice of wording considering what follows in the article.

"Cantor Fitzgerald, under a London-based branch called Cantor Index Holdings, wanted to turn the HSX into something real. Then 9/11 happened.

Cantor Fitzgerald was headquartered on five of the highest floors of One World Trade Center, and 658 of the firm’s employees lost their lives. No company was hit harder that day. Appropriately, box office futures became an afterthought."

#2...A “highly educated labor pool” was among the tech giant’s top criteria for selecting its new headquarters, according to the company’s request for proposals. Long Island City, in Queens, N.Y., and the Crystal City area of Arlington were chosen, in part, due to the strength of their local talent and higher-education institutions. Local colleges and universities have already set major overhauls in motion to help meet Amazon’s requirements."

On the contrary, the subsidies are clearly bribes to allow Amazon to lower its standards for intellectual talent in these areas, not being, say, up to Bay Area and Puget Sound standards.

5. is great.

"The Senate vote followed July 15, and, six days after that, President Obama signed the Wall Street Reform Act into law, which changed the definition of a commodity to exclude exactly two things: onions and “motion picture box office receipts, or any index, measure, value or data related to such receipts.”"

I'd love to hear the story of why onions are on that list.

Luckily, this very blog you're on right now has a link to an article -- which you're commenting on -- that tells that exact story.

You could also listen to Planet Money #657 where the onion story is told in more detail. A very good storytelling podcast episode!

It's an odd story. The original malefactors were clearly guilty of monopolistic practices, so surely they could have been charged with that? Banning futures, rather than prosecuting monopolists, seems rather dim.

I've followed Hollywood Stock Exchange for a long time. One of the things that makes the predicted box office totals useful is all the insider trading. The website specifically encourages insider trading.

I think what would be different than futures contracts for agricultural commodities is that everybody participating in, say, hog belly futures markets is in it for the money. On the other hand, allowing hobbyists to bet real money on how well movies do at the box office while allowing insider trading would cause hobbyists to consistently lose money to insiders. Hollywood insiders are not underprivileged on the whole, so they don't need a new privilege to fleece hobbyist outsiders.

But policing insider trading in Hollywood would be a waste of government money and bad for movies since the business functions on inside information: e.g., this young actor is great in the daily rushes for this low budget now under production, so get him in to audition for our next superhero blockbuster. Inside information makes for better movies.

More specifically, it's like buying futures in corn from farmer johns east field. Farmer John bets that field is going to go bad, then based in on other bidders he harvests it as a priority or waits for the storm or the raccoons to destroy the crop.

The equivalent of crop futures would be futures on the totals of all the box offices for summer, winter holiday, for Disney, Universal. That was once easy, but horizontal and vertical integration makes that impossible by futures on the stocks of those firm's.

But movies that bust in US theaters can be highly profitable worldwide, or on DVD or streaming.

Futures on movies can't be done like for crops because they would need to be sold before the script and cast are set, because the point of futures is whether you should "plant", ie invest in making the movie for release Dec 2020.

But there are lots of "futures" contracts written for movies in all the shares sold to production companies, distributors, etc. Anyone can invest in most of them by way of owning various stocks or investment fun8ds, but they all diversify into dozens to hundreds of productions, so the bets are on the performance of all films, just like corn futures are bets on all farms growing corn.

What is proposed is more like betting on the Kentucky's Derby. The odds on each horse are a prediction on performance, and the betting system allows betting the equivalent of box office success, even if third in tickets sold. Ie, place, show, etc.

No one tries to justify horse track betting as providing guidance for horse owners and trainers.

Mitch "the swamp" McConnell always filling up the bills with pork, or should I say, onions.

#4 So, barely detectable evidence of very small improvements in some cases (and in some cases, deterioration). My first thought was "at what cost?", and it was interesting to see that was the first comment at the link.

The comments there suggest Head Start costs $7600/yr. Nationwide preschool would be hugely expensive, and like every similar program, costs will only go up over time. Is this the best use of incremental funds? No evidence to suggest this is the case.

I think we should try to discourage people who shouldn't be having children from having children. Maybe pay them to get sterilized or to at least use Norplant.

Sterilized no (irreversible), but I see very little downside in offering cash (wouldn't have to be very much) to people below a certain cutoff to use Norplant. If it's voluntary, what's the objection? The tricky part is where is the cutoff, do you just use income?

The other tricky part is selection effects, women that are conscientious enough to do this are probably better parent material than those who don't even care. Then again, the poorest will just want the money, so win-win?

+1 win-win

To be honest, I might be open to a little light and non-coercive eugenics .. but observe that it too is something that can only make a comeback as memories of actual Nazis fade.

Note: "progressives and eugenics" has a history on this site:

By the way, how many of you thought out the equilibrium, where all you have to do is supply free birth control?

The problem is pills/condoms don't really seem to do the trick, Norplant would. And if you offer a little actual payment to do it? You'll get plenty of takers.

Kudos for dragging TMC into the "free Norplant at Planned Parenthood" endgame.

Maybe this is the post-Trump realignment.

I'm usually open for something that passes the cost/benefit test as much as this would.

"The problem is pills/condoms don't really seem to do the trick, "

Your evidence is what??

In all societies where women have equal rights in theory to men, women have children below replace, or rapidly heading that way. Merely telling women in school they have equal liberty to men, even when they don't, they act as if free to choose, or they probably decide to not bring girls into a world that doesn't value them.

Along the same lines you could offer a basic guaranteed income conditional on not having children.

That is one of the side-benefits of free birth control you have to admit.

I doubt it. The kind of women we want to discourage from reproducing probably aren't doing it on accident. The poor parts of Chicago have illegitimacy rates over 90%. Those aren't "oops" events. They just want to get pregnant at 16.

Teen pregnancy is at decades long lows. And if you paid those poor women to use Norplant you'd get a ton of success.

The median age at which black women had their first child in 2016 was about 24. About 8% of all births to black women were to mothers under the age of 20. The total fertility rate for black American women is about 2.1 children per woman per lifetime; they're not exactly breeding like rabbits. About 17% of the births to black women in a given year are to mothers who already have 3 or more children; the median age of such mothers is about 32.

While teen births in Illinois have been falling since the 70s, while Obama was president, the percent of teen births fell from 10% to 5% of births.

15 and under fell from 250 for the entire state in 2008 to 75 in 2016. For 17 and under, the total was about 6000 in 2008 and 2100 in 2016, for the entire State of Illinois.

The absolute reduction during Obama's term for under 17 was larger than under Reagan and Bush, from a starting 10,971.

If Trump beats Obama on reducing teen births, then there will be no teen mother births in Illinois when he leaves office in 8 years, or less than 3000 out of 160,000 Illinois births if only 4 years.

While 15% of all births were to teens in 1980, 10% in 2008, by 2016, it was only 5% in all of Illinois.

You must be thinking of Texas.

A much more effective way to have American children turn out better is to start with better raw material.

Grandchildren of Low-Skill Immigrants Have Lagging Education and Earnings

When calculating cost, remember to build in the fact that free or heavily subsidized daycare could: 1. expand the labor pool (granted, at the low end) by making it possible for single mothers to return to work, 2. remove those same single mothers from various means-tested benefits programs.

Why does it need to be subsidized when you can just deregulate it?
Governments are currently driving up the cost of day care by requiring all sorts of education and childcare degrees to be allowed to open one.

I mean, to even work in a daycare, you basically have to be trained in early childhood education. You can get the benefits of cheap daycare for working moms without those day cares having to be preschools.

Deregulation would make it cheaper, and may still be a good idea, but it won't make it free. Given that many single mothers are looking at potentially taking low-paying jobs, having to pay child care costs (potentially for multiple children) may still be enough to tilt the calculus toward staying at home and subsisting on means-tested benefits.

But the GOP prohibit mother's from getting welfare without paid labor for more that two or three years lifetime. But the GOP opposes employer mandates allowing children at work, ie day care at work, or paid leave to care for kids when sick and not allowed at school.

Basically, the GOP message is having kids is a luxury good that only the wealthy should be allowed to consume, like going on cruises, or the opera.

I don't disagree with your overall point, but it's not really the case that welfare is tied to work when you consider the full set of means-tested programs. AFAIK Medicaid, Section 8, SNAP and free school lunches don't have a work requirement.

GOP opposes

Opposing the government forcing people to do something isn't the same as opposing people choosing to do that same something.

Still, you can afford to pay for a lot more cheap day care, for more people, than preschool.
The thing is the D's are trying to sell it as preschool which is more expensive and requires more training, and not incidentally education degrees and probably membership in the NEA and unionization and probably subsidized lunchrooms staffed by SEIU employees.
None of that is necessary if your goal is simply to provide child care so single moms can get jobs.

Could have a bifurcated certification process. One set of regs to qualify as a "daycare", which would be sufficient to accept voucher payments and that all child care providers would have to meet, and more extensive set of requirements to qualify as a "preschool". It would be up to the individual child care provider whether they want to seek "preschool" certification. (At which point they could charge more.)

Yay to Hazel. First you should stop doing the bad you are doing to the low income, then start to look at what you can do for them.

Like BTW stop requiring a prescription for birth control.

Let's expand the net subsidies for single motherhood. What could possibly go wrong?

If child care were heavily subsidized or free, you could then require single mothers to work. Or, at least, to attempt to find work. In effect you would be kicking them off *other* benefit programs that are predicated on their not being able to work (because they have to care for children).

Not unless it amounts to a 1 for 1 substitution; hence there's a probably a net increase in subsidies by the single mother's sugar daddy (the government). You're only going the maximize the incentive to find work if you pair subsidized child care with much lower benefits when not working (not merely a largely toothless work search requirement).

2. Did GMU, or GMU's main funders, offer something to Amazon? It would seem incongruous that the owner of the WP would locate in Virginia in order to benefit GMU. I could be wrong. But I don't think so. Jeff Bezos operates in the, you know, real world. I hope I am wrong and that GMU continues to attract large contributions from wealthy donors.

"I could be wrong. But I don't think so."

I rate this statement extremely true.

GMU's main funders are the taxpayers of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The GMU Foundation, which is not taxpayer funded, is a major funder of a public policy institute that happens to rent space from GMU, and which has recently become an ardent defender of monopolies.

Don't get fooled by the shell game.

2. Wonderful. Just what our inordinately expensive by all global comparison standards higher education system was meant to do, provide subsidized to training to multinational behemoth corporations. Somehow though I think the Crystal City location has more to do with being adjacent to the Pentagon than GMU. It will be a wonderful thing to see when Bezos wins the JEDI contract and truly becomes the first true master of the universe.

Instead of using taxpayer dollars to train up a workforce for Bezos, why not just offer open borders to computer programmers and the like? A less harmful option than filling the feeding troughs yet again for US academics.

Some body explain why businesses have no obligation to train, or pay for the training, of their own employees. Don't they have to pay for their physical plant, raw materials, shipping costs, etc? The Air Force doesn't hire fighter pilots that are already trained by the University of Virginia at their own expense. The Navy trains its own submariners. They don't accept applications from Georgia Tech.

Conservatives argued for ending golden handcuffs, ie pensions, benefits, wage hikes with more experience, ...

And poaching workers trained by competitors!

Where workers seldom worked for a given employer long, unions provided the training, in the centuries old tradition, but conservatives have been destroying unions for decades, killing off apprenticeship run by unions.


No employer or group is going to train workers for free when workers leave for the employers who do not train once fully, or even partially trained.

And the Air Force trained pilots only if they handcuffed themselves to the military for 7 years or more to get the top training. Plus the military offered golden handcuffs of pension after 20 years.

I assume the GMU expansion is going to involve tearing down the old department store and putting up something that connects to the other buildings?

Tearing down the old department store? Symbolic, eh?

4. Well, if the effects are that ambiguous, perhaps we could do something radical like allowing local school boards to make the call on the financing and provision of pre-school programs. We might do something superlatively radical and discontinue federal subsidies for primary and secondary schooling outside of Indian reservations, small insular dependencies, military installations, and the population of U.S. Government employees posted abroad.

2. Maybe it is just me, but while this article is shaped for general PR, it seemed a little bit skewed. As if only now, after Amazon, these universities had decided to prepare their students for $150,000 salaries.

A computer science degree is underrated?

>>> "We might do something superlatively radical and discontinue federal subsidies for primary and secondary schooling outside..."

well that would be stunningly "radical" to the moderates at GMU ... but genuine libertarians would opt to end all government interventions into education at all levels of government.

The GMU crowd would instantly faint to the floor at any serious move to get government out of the education establishment & markets.

Many of the Mercatus crowd (think someone like de Rugy) would not care in the least, since they have nothing to do with the education establishment & markets.

#3 I think we have to rethink Adam Smith, who famously asserted any gathering of those in the same business was always a conspiracy against the public good. I think the ability of people in a trade to gather and talk (and bitch) about their trade clearly increases innovation and entrepreneurship. This also implies a closed model (say a bunch of scientists working in secret for an evil dictator) is going to have a lot of headwinds against it.

What the hell are conferences for?

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