Results for “department why not”
169 found

Are eSports real sports, a money pump, or both?

What are non-e sports for that matter?  Via Liam Boluk, I read this from Prashob Menon:

Last year’s League of Legends championship, for example, drew nearly 30 million viewers, putting it in line with the combined viewership of the 2014 MLB and NBA finals, or the series finales of Breaking Bad and Two and a Half Men, plus the Season 4 finale of Game of Thrones. As with most sports, competitive gaming is now firmly entrenched in the US college system, with the country’s largest collegiate league counting more than 10,000 active players, some of whom are on full athletic scholarships. Eager to capitalize on growing interest in the sport, Major League Gaming (MLG) opened the first dedicated domestic eSports arena in October 2014, and major brands such as Ford, American Express and Coke have begun forming partnerships with game developers, teams, players, event organizers and video distributors. The US Department of State has been issuing athlete visas to competitive gamers since 2013.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to say eSports aren’t “real” sports, but the bigger question is whether it even matters. The media business is about eyeballs, and audiences are turning up in droves for the likes of Defense of the Ancients and League of Legends.

The economics indeed do not look so bad:

Moreover, eSports fans, unlike linear TV viewers, are highly engaged in the content. Major League Gaming, for instance, consistently beats the industry average on key digital ad metrics such as completion rates (90% vs. 72%), click-through rates (4% vs. 2%), and ad viewability (99% vs. 44%).

Here is Wikipedia on eSports.  I believe I have timed my birth at more or less the right time, so I will die of old age just when such institutions are taking over the world and pushing out baseball’s eight-team American League, as it ruled in 1968.

Is the Income Tax Legal? Voluntary?

Just in case you are tempted to go all Wesley Snipes and refuse to pay your taxes on “constitutional” grounds, the income tax is legal and mandatory. Sorry.

Jonathan Siegel, professor of law at GWU has carefully examined all the primary tax protester arguments. All are wrong. Some are quite interesting

Some tax protestors claim that [the 16th] amendment is not really part of the Constitution — it was never ratified! Therefore, they say, the income tax is unconstitutional. This argument was popularized by Bill Benson in a book called “The Law That Never Was.”

Surprisingly enough, this argument has a little something to it. When the Sixteenth Amendment was ratified by state legislatures in the early twentieth century, the versions that some states voted on contained minor textual errors. Some of them neglected to capitalize the word “States,” one had “income” in place of “incomes,” one said “remuneration” instead of “enumeration,” one said “levy” instead of “lay,” and so on.

If the states didn’t all vote on the same, identical text for the Sixteenth Amendment, can the amendment really be considered ratified? When Congress makes a law, the House and the Senate must vote on the same text. Similarly, if the states didn’t vote on the right text, one could argue that they didn’t ratify the amendment. No Sixteenth Amendment, no income tax, the argument goes.

However, it seems that the amendment really was ratified. The alleged defects in the ratification process were considered at the time of ratification in 1913. The Solicitor of the Department of State convincingly explained why the minor textual variations in the versions the states voted on should be disregarded.

First, it seems that the state legislatures intended to ratify the amendment as proposed by Congress. They understood themselves to be voting to approve the proposed Sixteenth Amendment. The text set forth in their instruments of ratification was for recitation purposes only. The errors in the text were not proposals to change the text being ratified; they were just inadvertent errors that do not detract from the intention of the state legislatures to ratify the amendment as proposed.

Benson denies this. He claims that states deliberately altered the text of the proposed amendment. But the evidence just isn’t there. In one of his court filings, Benson singles out Oklahoma as a particularly clear case. He says the facts “unequivocally show that Oklahoma intentionally amended what the United States Congress had proposed” (see page 2 of Benson’s filing). But looking at Benson’s own book (pp. 61-67), one can see that the Oklahoma legislature adopted what it called “A resolution ratifying an amendment proposed by the sixty-first Congress of the United States” (emphasis added). This resolution then begins its ratification by reciting that “Whereas . . . Congress . . . on Monday the fifteenth day of March, one thousand nine hundred and nine, by joint resolution proposed an amendment to the constitution of the United States, in words and figures as follows:” Then, it’s true, the resolution misstates the text of the amendment (and pretty badly too). But it sure looks as though the Oklahoma legislatorsthought they were ratifying the amendment that Congress had proposed on the specified date and just misstated it. So even in a case that Benson himself singles out, it seems quite clear that the state legislature thought it was ratifying the Sixteenth Amendment, not proposing to change it.

…For all these reasons, it seems clear that the Sixteenth Amendment really is part of the Constitution.

Certainly that has been the uniform holding of the courts in cases in which this argument has been raised. For some representative cases, see United States v. Benson, 941 F.2d 598 (7th Cir. 1991) (rejecting these arguments in a criminal case brought against the author of the “Law that Never Was” book); United States v. Foster, 789 F.2d 457 (7th Cir. 1986); Cook v. Spillman, 806 F.2d 948 (9th Cir. 1986) (calling the argument that the Sixteenth Amendment was never ratified “frivolous” and imposing sanctions of $1,500 on the party making it); United States v. House, 617 F.Supp. 237, 238-39 (W.D. Mich.1985).

So while this argument is not as utterly absurd as most tax protestor arguments, one can be confident that it would not succeed in any actual court proceeding.

Should Iceland abolish fractional reserve banking?

You are all familiar with their recent financial mishaps in Iceland, note also theirs is not a history of financial stability:

It is fair to say that Iceland’s monetary history has been a turbulent one.  Currency controls in the 1920s to the 1950s were followed by chronic inflation in the 1970s to 1980s, with annual inflation reaching a high of 83% in 1983.  In 1981 it was considered necessary to redenominate the krona with 100 units being replaced by 1 new unit.

That is from a new Frosti Sigurjónsson report (pdf) advocating 100 percent reserve banking for Iceland.  In the “good old days” we had so many arguments against this arrangement — “disintermediation!” — but do those critiques hold up when so many nominal interest rates are in any case negative or close to zero?  In many countries banks may be fated to become money warehouses as it is.

An interesting question is whether Iceland can, with its current size and export profile, ever have monetary and financial stability.  With their exports and thus gdp so depending on fish and aluminum smelting and tourism, no other country shares their economic fluctuations, even roughly.  A fixed rate thus means a non-optimum currency, but a floating rate for 323,002 people may mean perpetual whipsawing from international capital flows, not to mention the risk of acquiring an oversized, hard to bail out banking system, as Iceland did before its Great Recession.

Should I file under Department of Why Not?  What if Scott Sumner asks me how to do this without inducing a collapse in nominal gdp?  If I interpret p.78 of the study correctly, the government will create new money by printing and injecting it into the economy through fiscal policy, as a means of forestalling this problem if need be.  Under this scenario, how powerful does the state become?  On what do they spend the money?

Frosti’s report, by the way, was commissioned by the Prime Minister and it is being taken very seriously.

I believe I first saw notice of this link from Stephen Kinsella.  Here are some responses to the idea.  Zero Hedge seems sympathetic.

The Ferguson Kleptocracy

In Ferguson and the Modern Debtor’s Prison I wrote:

You don’t get $321 in fines and fees and 3 warrants per household from an about-average crime rate. You get numbers like this from bullshit arrests for jaywalking and constant “low level harassment involving traffic stops, court appearances, high fines, and the threat of jail for failure to pay.”

The DOJ report on the Ferguson Police Department verifies this in stunning detail:

Ferguson has allowed its focus on revenue generation to fundamentally compromise the role of Ferguson’s municipal court. The municipal court does not act as a neutral arbiter of the law or a check on unlawful police conduct.

… Our investigation has found overwhelming evidence of minor municipal code violations resulting in multiple arrests, jail time, and payments that exceed the cost of the original ticket many times over. One woman, discussed above, received two parking tickets for a single violation in 2007 that then totaled $151 plus fees. Over seven years later, she still owed Ferguson $541—after already paying $550 in fines and fees, having multiple arrest warrants issued against her, and being arrested and jailed on several occasions.

Predatory fining was incentivized:

FPD has communicated to officers not only that they must focus on bringing in revenue, but that the department has little concern with how officers do this. FPD’s weak systems of supervision, review, and accountability…have sent a potent message to officers that their violations of law and policy will be tolerated, provided that officers continue to be “productive” in making arrests and writing citations. Where officers fail to meet productivity goals, supervisors have been instructed to alter officer assignments or impose discipline.

Excessive, illegal and sometimes criminal force was used routinely:

This culture within FPD influences officer activities in all areas of policing, beyond just ticketing. Officers expect and demand compliance even when they lack legal authority. They are inclined to interpret the exercise of free-speech rights as unlawful disobedience, innocent movements as physical threats, indications of mental or physical illness as belligerence. Police supervisors and leadership do too little to ensure that officers act in accordance with law and policy, and rarely respond meaningfully to civilian complaints of officer misconduct. The result is a pattern of stops without reasonable suspicion and arrests without probable cause in violation of the Fourth Amendment; infringement on free expression, as well as retaliation for protected expression, in violation of the First Amendment; and excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Here is one example:

In January 2013, a patrol sergeant stopped an African-American man after he saw the man talk to an individual in a truck and then walk away. The sergeant detained the man, although he did not articulate any reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was afoot. When the man declined to answer questions or submit to a frisk—which the sergeant sought to execute despite articulating no reason to believe the man was armed—the sergeant grabbed the man by the belt, drew his ECW [i.e. taser, AT], and ordered the man to comply. The man crossed his arms and objected that he had not done anything wrong. Video captured by the ECW’s built-in camera shows that the man made no aggressive movement toward the officer. The sergeant fired the ECW, applying a five-second cycle of electricity and causing the man to fall to the ground. The sergeant almost immediately applied the ECW again, which he later justified in his report by claiming that the man tried to stand up. The video makes clear, however, that the man never tried to stand—he only writhed in pain on the ground. The video also shows that the sergeant applied the ECW nearly continuously for 20 seconds, longer than represented in his report. The man was charged with Failure to Comply and Resisting Arrest, but no independent criminal violation.

Here is another, especially interesting, example:

While the record demonstrates a pattern of stops that are improper from the beginning, it also exposes encounters that start as constitutionally defensible but quickly cross the line. For example, in the summer of 2012, an officer detained a 32-year-old African-American man who was sitting in his car cooling off after playing basketball. The officer arguably had grounds to stop and question the man, since his windows appeared more deeply tinted than permitted under Ferguson’s code. Without cause, the officer went on to accuse the man of being a pedophile, prohibit the man from using his cell phone, order the man out of his car for a pat-down despite having no reason to believe he was armed, and ask to search his car. When the man refused, citing his constitutional rights, the officer reportedly pointed a gun at his head, and arrested him. The officer charged the man with eight different counts, including making a false declaration for initially providing the short form of his first name (e.g., “Mike” instead of “Michael”) and an address that, although legitimate, differed from the one on his license. The officer also charged the man both with having an expired operator’s license, and with having no operator’s license in possession. The man told us he lost his job as a contractor with the federal government as a result of the charges.

Although the report says the initial stop was constitutionally defensible, the initial stop was also clearly bullshit. “The officer arguably had grounds to stop and question the man, since his windows appeared more deeply tinted than permitted under Ferguson’s code.” Deep tinting!!!

Missouri, like most states, has a window tint law which essentially requires that tinting not be so dark as to impede the ability of the driver to see out of the car. Ok. But why does Ferguson have a window tint law! What this means is that you can be fined for driving through Ferguson for window tinting which is legal in the rest of Missouri. Absurd. Correction: the code appears to be the same as the state code but passed as a municipal ordinance so fines were collected locally. The purpose of the law was simply to extract more blood:

NYTimes: Last year Ferguson drivers paid $12,400 in fines for driving cars with tinted windows. They paid another $4,905 for loud music coming out of their cars.

The abuse in Ferguson shouldn’t really surprise us–this is how most governments behave most of the time. Democracy constrains what governments do but it’s a thin constraint easily capable of being pierced when stressed.

The worst abuses of government happen when an invading gang conquer people of a different race, religion and culture. What happened in Ferguson was similar only the rulers stayed the same and the population of the ruled changed. In 1990 Ferguson was 74% white and 25% black. Just 20 years later the percentages had nearly inverted, 29% white and 67% black. The population of rulers, however, changed more slowly so white rulers found themselves overlording a population that was foreign to them. As a result, democracy broke down and government as usual, banditry and abuse, broke out.

Comparing living standards over time

Scott Sumner writes:

Here’s one thought experiment. Get a department store catalog from today, and compare it to a catalog from 1964. (I recently saw Don Boudreaux do something similar at a conference.) Almost any millennial would rather shop out of the modern catalog, even with the same nominal amount of money to spend. Of course that’s just goods; there is also services, which have risen much faster in price. OK, so ask a millennial whether they’d rather live today on $100,000/year, or back in 1964 with the same nominal income. Recall the rotary phones and bulky cameras. The cars that rusted out frequently. Cars that you couldn’t count on to start on a cold morning. I recall getting cavities filled in 1964, without Novocaine. Not fun. No internet. Crappy TVs, where you have to constantly move the rabbit ears on top to get a decent picture. Lame black and white sitcoms, with 3 channels to choose from. Shorter life expectancy, even for the affluent. No Thai restaurants, sushi places or Starbucks. It’s steak and potatoes. Now against all that is the fact that someone making $100,000/year in 1964 was pretty rich, so your social standing was much higher than that income today. So it’s a close call, maybe living standards have risen for people making $100,000/year, maybe not. Zero inflation in the past 50 years may not be right, but it’s a reasonable estimate for a millennial, grounding in utility theory. In which period does $100,000 buy more happiness? We don’t know.

I say I prefer $100k today to $100k in 1964, that being a nominal rather than a real comparison.  If you are not convinced, try comparing $1 million or $1 billion (nominal) today to 1964.  For some income level, we have seen net deflation.

But here’s the catch: would you rather have net nominal 20k today or in 1964?  I would opt for 1964, where you would be quite prosperous and could track the career of Miles Davis and hear the Horowitz comeback concert at Carnegie Hall.  (To push along the scale a bit, $5 nominal in 1964 is clearly worth much more than $5 today nominal.  Back then you might eat the world’s best piece of fish for that much.)

So for people in the 20k a year income range, there has been net inflation.

Think about it: significant net deflation for the millionaires, but significant net inflation for those earning 20k a year.  In real terms income inequality has gone up much more than most of our numbers indicate.

Assorted Wednesday links

1. New blog from the research department of the IADB (much but not all is in Spanish).

2. Feline average is over.  But there is a counter here.

3. NPR favorite albums of the year list.

4. Lingerie RCT, safe for work, sort of.

5. How a car door should sound.

6. What a Harvard Business School professor orders from a Sichuan restaurant.  For all the fuss, he could have chosen better dishes (only the fish was a good selection), nor did the items as a whole have proper balance.

7. The now-full Cato forum on reviving economic growth.  Videos of the panels are here.

Christmas economics — a sleigh ride

This paper is from Laura Birg and Anna Goeddeke:

Do you believe that at Christmas time the gas prices, the economy and the number of suicides peak? Do you think that the value of presents you are giving to your beloved is of importance? We show in this paper that conventional wisdom about Christmas is often doubtful. Furthermore, we give an idea of how Santa Claus — and maybe you — is able to finance Christmas celebrations, why emergency departments are a place to especially avoid during this time of the year and why Christmas tree growers might care to explain the differences across species to you this year. We cannot clearly establish whether Christmas entails a welfare loss or gain, however, we give you an idea as to which institutional settings might reduce a potential welfare loss. Also, we give advice about which behaviours might get you more Christmas presents from Santa this year. Finally, we find that more research is needed to give conclusive reasons why Santa Claus actually brings presents to (nearly) everyone.

Here is Alex on whether Santa Claus reduces the rating of saving.

My visit to Christie’s

Being briefly in New York City, I stopped in to visit the pre-auction viewing for the Contemporary Art sale at Christie’s.  I was stunned but not surprised at how many quality works were on sale, compared to the historical average, having visited the same event numerous times in the past.  Pre-crash, for instance, most of the sale was mediocre junk, albeit by big names, sold under the pretext that those names were worth owning for their own sake.  And there were plenty of recycled mediocre works from the 1980s, say the dross by painters such as Eric Fischl (who does have some very good works, though a minority of his overall ouevre).  This time I saw dozens of pieces which impressed me as good enough to be on display at first-rate museums, and those pieces filled even the “lesser” rooms upstairs rather than just the main showcase rooms.

The quality of the supply to me suggests that “finance” thinks trouble may be on the horizon.  Otherwise, why sell now?  Why not hold on to the best pieces, as collectors did in the old days, and wait for them to appreciate?  Somebody senses a market peak.  That said, finance is not always right, least of all about itself.

In any case the prices for the good works are indeed quite high.  A very good Robert Ryman “white painting” (yes, that means it is white, more or less only white, but the textures are very good) these days goes for $8-12 million, as does a good de Kooning from his Alzheimer’s period.  Those price estimates are without the buyer’s premia.  A Twombly chalkboard painting was estimated in the $35-55 million range and no one was even bothering to look at it.

Whether or not you think these prices are justifiable on aesthetic grounds, quality Old Masters are far cheaper and arguably more likely to hold their value.  For 200k (not long ago for 60-80k) you can buy a very good Delacroix painting and it is easier to hang and transport than many of these over-scaled contemporary works.  I interpret this price difference as a status gradient.  In the Old Masters field, you can’t hope to assemble a world class collection, as too many of the very best works are already in museums.  In other words, the Mona Lisa will always make your collection seem unimpressive.  You can buy excellent older works at excellent prices, but that alone doesn’t seem to count for much.  In the Contemporary field, if you are wealthy, you really can buy top works from say the top half dozen artists — or more — in that area.  Plus you can have the artists to your dinner parties, the works match how younger finance types like to decorate their apartments and homes, and their larger size makes them splashier purchases for a lot of museums.

Buyer’s hint: Those Alexander Calder sketches are underpriced at $40-60k, there is still time to bid on them.

Assorted links

1. Very unlikely markets in everything (not even sure I should believe it, though perhaps some of you have extreme faith in signaling and adverse selection models).

2. Clive Crook makes the best case for Scottish independence I have seen.

3. Attach your iPad directly to your face (department of why not?).

4. Chimpanzees and war.

5. Average is Over, child millionaire edition.

6. The FOMC word count.

7. Should we hope to die at age 75?

My interview with Ralph Nader

I interviewed him.  You will find the full version here, the edited version here.  Not surprisingly, I prefer the full version.  Here is one excerpt:

TC: If I look back at your career, I see you’ve been fighting various kinds of wars or struggles against a lot of different injustices. If you look back on all those decades, during which time you’ve been right about many things, what do you think is the main thing you’ve been wrong about?

RN: Oh, a lot of things. Nobody goes through these kinds of controversies without making bad predictions. I underestimated the power of corporations to crumble the countervailing force we call government. We always knew corporations like to have their adherents to become elected officials; that has been going on for a long time. But I never foresaw the insinuation of corporatism as a policy in one agency after another in government. Franklin Delano Roosevelt foresaw some of this when he sent a message to Congress when he started the temporary national economic commission to investigate consecrated corporate power. That was in 1938. In his message he said that whenever the government is controlled by private economic power, that’s facism. Now, there isn’t a department or agency in Washington where anyone has more power—over it and in it, through their appointees, and on Congress, through lobbyists and political action committees. Nobody comes close. There’s no organized force that comes close to the daily power to twist government in the favor of Wall Street and corporatism, and to disable government from adequately defending the health, safety and economic well-being of the American people.

TC: Let’s say we look at the U.S. corporate income tax. The rate on paper is 35 percent, which is quite high. When you look at how much they actually pay after various forms of maneuvering or evasion, maybe they pay 17–18 percent, which is more or less in the middle of the pack of OECD nations. So if corporations have so much political power in the United States, why is our corporate income tax still so high?

…Sweden, a country you cited favorably, taxes capital income much more lightly than the United States does—not just on paper but in terms of what’s actually paid.

I also ask him about the Flynn effect, whether America needs a new kind of sports participation, and how much American churches have resisted corruption through corporatization, among a variety of other topics.  I tried to avoid the predictable questions.

By the way, you can buy Nader’s new book, Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State.  I very much enjoyed my preparation for this interview, which involved reading or rereading a bunch of his books and also a few biographies of him.

MIT’s rise to prominence in economics

There is a new paper (pdf) by Andrej Svorenčík on this topic:

The core question of MIT Economics Department’s history – why has MIT economics risen to prominence so quickly – requires an approach to history of economics that focuses on the role of the networks within which economists operate, their ideas diffuse, and gain scientific credit. By reconstructing the network of MIT economics Ph.Ds. and their advisors, this paper furnishes not just evidence of how MIT rose to prominence as documented by the numerous ties of Nobel Laureates, Clark Medalists, elected officials of the AEA or the Council of Economic Advisors to the MIT network. The MIT Economics Department is also revealed as a community of self-replicating economists who are to a large extent trained by a few key advisers who were mostly trained at MIT as well. MIT exhibits a large share of graduates who remain in American academia that is disproportionate to the number of graduates it has produced. It is hypothesized that this has been an important factor in MIT’s rise to prominence. On a methodological level this paper introduces prosopography or collective biography, a well-established historiographic method, to the field of history of economics.

When I was at Harvard in the 1980s, we typically thought of the MIT students as:

1. Smarter and harder working than we were

2. Better focused and better trained, and benefiting from a more collegial environment

3. More narrow

4. Somewhat less…um…modest, and thus you might prefer to have a Harvard student setting your economic policy.

Fortunately we all have moved on to broader and less prejudicial judgments.

The pointer is from @UdadisiSuperior.

The falling market share of General Motors

The General Motors market share in the US fell from 62.6% to 19.8% between 1980 and 2009, noticed Susan Helper and Rebecca Henderson. Helper is now the chief economist at the US commerce department, and Henderson is a management professor at Harvard.

The article is by Heidi Moore.  The market here is working, but oh so slowly.  I would like to see behavioral economics papers on why so many people continued to buy General Motors (and here I mean the standard cars) for as long as they did.

Here is a timeline of GM recalls.

Is the Volcker rule a good idea?

Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew has strongly urged federal agencies to finish writing the Volcker Rule by the end of the year — more than a year after they had been expected to do so — and President Obama recently stressed the importance of the deadline.

By the way, five (!) agencies are writing the rule, which is not a good sign.  As for the Volcker rule more generally, here are a few points:

1. If restricting activity X makes large banks smaller, that will ease the resolution process, following a financial crack-up.  That is a definite plus, although we do not know how much easier resolution will be.

2. It is not clear that banning bank proprietary trading will lower the chance of such a financial crack-up.  The overall recent record of real estate lending is not a good one, and as Edward Conard pointed out, restricting banks to the long side of transactions is not obviously a good idea.  I do see the moral hazard issue with allowing banks to engage in the potentially risky activity of proprietary trading.  Still, so far the data are suggesting that the banks which cracked up during the crisis did so because of overconfidence and hubris, not because of moral hazard problems (i.e., they still were holding lots of the assets they otherwise might have been trying to “game”).

3. There is no strong connection between proprietary trading and our recent financial crises.

3b.  Today the bugaboo is “big banks” but once it was “small banks” and for a while “insufficiently diversified banks.”  Maybe it really is big banks, looking forward, or maybe we just don’t know.  Small banks have their problems too.

4. There is some chance that proprietary trading will be pushed to a more dangerous, harder to regulate corner of our financial institutions.

5. There is some danger that loopholes in the regulation itself — especially as concerns permissible client activities — may undercut the original intent of the regulation. This will depend on exactly how well the regulation is written, but past regulatory history does not make me especially confident here.  And the distinction between “speculation” and “hedging” cannot be clearly defined.  Should we be writing rules whose central distinctions may be arbitrary?  And yet CEOs will have to sign off on compliance (with 950 pp. of regulations) personally.  Is that a good use of CEO attention?  Here is a good FT piece about how hard (and ambiguous) it will be to enforce the rule globally.

6. I do not myself shed too many tears over the “these markets will become less liquid without banks’ participation” critique, but I would note this is a personal judgment and the scientific status of such a claim remains unclear.

7. Many people, even seasoned commentators, approach the Volcker rule with mood affiliation, starting with how much we should resent our banks or our regulators or how we should join virtually any fight against either “big banks” or regulators.  I see many analyses of this issue which spend most of their time on “mood affiliation wind-up,” as I call it, and not so much time on the actual evidence, which is inconclusive to say the least.

8. We still seem unwilling to take actions which would transparently raise the price of credit to homeowners.  We instead prefer actions which appear to raise no one’s price of credit and which are extremely non-transparent in their final effects.  You can think of the Volcker rule as another entry in this sequence of ongoing choices.  That should serve as a warning sign of sorts, and arguably that is a more important truth than the case either for or against the rule.

When I add up all of these factors, I come closer to a “don’t do the Volcker rule” stance in my mind.  The case for the rule puts a good deal of stress on #1, but overall it does not fit the textbook model of good regulation.  I probably have a more negative opinion of “an extreme willingness to experiment with arbitrary regulatory stabs” than do most of the rule’s supporters, and that difference of opinion is perhaps what divides us, rather than any argument about financial regulation per se.

I really do see how the Volcker rule might work out just fine or even to our advantage.  I also see the temptation of arguing “I am against big banks, this is the legislation against big banks which is on the table, so I am going to support it.”  But let us at least present to our public audiences just how weak is the evidence-based case for doing this.

Addendum: You will find a different point of view from Simon Johnson here.  Here is a counter to his claim that prop trading losses were significant in 2008: “Loan losses didn’t just dwarf trading losses in absolute terms. Loan losses as a share of banks’ total loan portfolios also exceeded trading losses as a share of banks’ trading accounts. Yet no one’s arguing banks should stop lending in order to protect depositors (and rightly so). In short, those expecting the Volcker Rule to be a fix-all for Wall Street’s ills have probably misplaced their hope—the rule seems like a solution desperately seeking a problem.”

Assorted links

1. The 100 best novels, as selected in 1898.  How many have you never even heard of?

2. Beyond Medicaid?  And the Swiss proposal for a guaranteed minimum income.

3. On Krugman and the eurozone, by Anders Aslund.  I don’t agree with everything in the piece, but it makes some good points and in any case this perspective is underrepresented in the economics blogosphere.

4. Which animals dislike their own pooh and why.

5. Mirowski responds to critics (pdf).  In the end section, he should have been more gracious to Diane Coyle.

6. “He’s my best friend.” (Department of Why Not?)  And maybe books do change peoples’ minds after all (NFL player quits after reading Noam Chomsky and the Dalai Lama).