unpaid thoughts on the dismal science

Saturday, August 31, 2002  
Good news: "Economy Dips While Welfare Drops in Cities". You'd think that leftists everywhere would be breathing a sigh a relief that bad economic times don't mean an increase of people going on the dole, but apparently not:
On one side of the debate, advocates for the poor say they see the decline as yet more proof that the system is callous by design. Pointing to swelling lines at food pantries and housing shelters, they say there is overwhelming anecdotal evidence that the city is discouraging needy people from getting aid.
Overwhelming anecdotal evidence is still just anecdotal evidence, pal. I have to be impressed with the left's mental ingenuity, though. When the welfare bill was passed in 1996, they screeched that when bad times came, there would be bodies in the street from all the poor starving to death due to lack of welfare funds, but now that it hasn't happened, well, that means the system has failed anyways! Hmmm, what do we call it when you have a non-falsifiable belief? Oh, yeah: religion.
7:37 PM

If this story doesn't convince you that anti-trust laws are deeply flawed, I don't know what will!!!

Spotted on The Knowledge Problem.
7:19 PM

Friday, August 30, 2002  
Ron Bailey spends most of "Today's Special: Fillet of Springbok" writing about what it's like to attend a UN conference, but there's a hint of good news at the end:
Finally, what was the story today? Probably the lead is that environmental activists are increasingly glum about the final results of the negotiations. The precautionary principle (never do anything for the first time) may be nixed, as well as any mention of the Kyoto Protocol, and a global timetable for phasing in renewable energy supplies. Still, with a week to go, there is time for the world's political leaders to succumb to the unjustified fears being fanned by the cadre of political ecologists gathered here in Johannesburg. I'll keep you posted.
Keep your fingers crossed.
4:51 PM

Ben Lieberman talks about how many states restrict out-of-state companies from competing with local ones in "Repealing E-Prohibition".
4:44 PM

Paul Krugman posts a little timeline of statements by the Bushies in "Just Trust Us".
11:38 AM

In "Murder in America", economist Mark Thornton writes about a recent study that indicates that the falling murder rates over the last few decades are due to improved medical technology. "Murder and Medicine: The Lethality of Criminal Assault, 1960–1999", is the study in question and it appeared in the May 2002 issue of Homicide Studies.
9:20 AM

Thursday, August 29, 2002  
Hal R. Varian writes in "When Economics Shifts From Science to Engineering" that:
a famous economist once remarked, "The point is not to understand the world, but to change it."
Most of the article is about Al Roth, an economist at Harvard, who worked with the National Resident Matching Program to design a new system for matching residents and hospitals.

Oh, and who was that famous economist? You'll have to read the article to find out.
8:28 PM

Mark Harrison over at Catallaxy Files files an interesting post on efficiency in response to another posting on John Quiggin's blog. I can't help but feel that leftists dislike the notion of efficiency because so few of their policies are efficient, but even if efficiency is an imperfect standard, isn't it better than the alternatives?
7:21 PM

"Profit Beats Poverty" is the latest report by Ron Bailey from the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
6:29 PM

In the latest Impromptus, an amusing anecdote about the late Julian Simon is told:
He was at some environmental forum, and he said, “How many people here believe that the earth is increasingly polluted and that our natural resources are being exhausted?” Naturally, every hand shot up. He said, “Is there any evidence that could dissuade you?” Nothing. Again: “Is there any evidence I could give you — anything at all — that would lead you to reconsider these assumptions?” Not a stir. Simon then said, “Well, excuse me, I’m not dressed for church.”

6:27 PM

In "One Small Step for Man …", Steven E. Landsburg provides the answer to a question that has vexed economists for ages: why do people walk up stairs, but not escalators?
6:04 PM

Wednesday, August 28, 2002  
James Lileks latest screed delivers a very humorous critique of George Monbiot's lament about the world's wealthy future.

Spotted on Instapundit.com.
10:06 PM

Lynn Keisling reports on "Oil and Gas Price Stability" and it's more good news:
Even with the threat of military action in the Persian Gulf and the upcoming Labor Day holiday weekend, both crude oil and gasoline prices are pretty darn stable (although oil prices, especially, are high; more on that in a second). On gasoline, this Reuters article summarizes the results of the regular Lundberg survey of gasoline stations. In the most recent survey, gasoline prices were very stable, at levels sustained over 20 weeks! How often does that happen in the summer? Not very! This price stability is at least in part a result of the production substitution of gasoline for other distillate products such as diesel and jet fuel, which are less in demand because of economic slowness and the fact that many of us won't set foot on a plane unless we absolutely have to. So enough supply has been out there to meet demand without price having to adjust abruptly. Isn't economics beautiful?
Oh, yes it is, Lynne!
9:44 PM

"Fueling the Future" is Ron Bailey's latest report from the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Sample:
"The priority has to be getting energy access to poor people no matter what the source," said Greenpeace spokesman Steve Sawyer at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). He was responding to my question about whether the 2 billion or so people without access to modern energy services should nonetheless be able to get access to energy from whatever source, renewable or not? It is indeed progress that radical groups like Greenpeace now recognize poor people can't be overly choosy about how they cook their food and light their homes.

9:40 PM

Stephen Moore says capitalism can save the world in "Real Aid".
9:34 PM

More good news: "U.S. Steel Firms Lose Another Import Battle".
9:25 PM

Good news: "Underclass is a myth, Left admits".
9:23 PM

Tuesday, August 27, 2002  
Ronald Bailey reports on the second day of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in "Listening to the Poor". Bailey's cab driver, Isaac, plays a central part in looking at today's events:
What would shock Issac and certainly should shock people already enjoying the good life in developed economies is that ideological environmentalists are aiming at "wealth alleviation." During a press conference at the International Union for the Conversation of Nature (IUCN), Daniel Bitler from the World Wildlife Fund made it clear what sustainable development really means to committed political environmentalists. "Sustainable development is setting the necessary social and ecological limits to economic growth," he declared. In other words, poor people like Issac and his children should not aspire to the opportunities and wealth enjoyed by the citizens of developed countries. This vision is based on the false Malthusian notion that the world's resources are limited, condemning a large portion of the world's people to misery and poverty in perpetuity.

5:02 PM

Paul Krugman takes on President Bush's new "Healthy Forest" plan in "Bush on Fire". The Krugmeister pleads:
Wouldn't it be nice if just once, on some issue, the Bush administration came up with a plan that didn't involve weakened environmental protection, financial breaks for wealthy individuals and corporations and reduced public oversight?
Is it really that bad? Maybe. Thomas Bray points out in "Scorched Earth Policy" that Bush's plan has met with some skepticism from the right as well:
Randal O'Toole of the libertarian Thoreau Institute notes that the goal of reducing fire hazards on 2.5 million acres of National Forest a year means that "it will take more than 80 years to treat all areas"--and cost more than $100 billion. Mr. O'Toole questions whether fires these days are any worse than they used to be, or just more noticeable because of population encroachment on wilderness areas. He also suspects a plot by the Forest Service to fatten its budget.
UPDATE: Matthew Hoy has a far more detailed critique of Krugman's latest here.
4:26 PM

Arnold Kling asks, "Can Greenspan Steer?"
9:43 AM

Monday, August 26, 2002  
Ronald Bailey reports on the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg South Africa in "A Summit Misconceived". The usual economic idiocies abound:
"Water is a human right" is a slogan often heard here, along with the claim that "water is too important to be left in the hands of private companies." This is nonsense. "There is plenty of water;, it's just being used stupidly," declared Richard Tren, an analyst at the Free Market Foundation in South Africa. Water shortages are most often the result of politically motivated misallocation by government bureaucracies. Pricing water in private markets would give people an incentive to use it more wisely. The fact is that in most areas there would be copious supplies of freshwater for drinking and industrial uses if supplies could be freed from inefficient government-subsidized crop irrigation schemes.
I pity poor Bailey who plans to sit through this crap day after day for the whole summit. Ugh.
9:44 PM