Please note that my opinions are my own, and the opinions of the anyone or any institution quoted are theirs. The opinions expressed herein do not reflect the opinion of North Carolina State University, its board of directors, the College of Management or any other college, Student Media Authority, or WKNC Raleigh.

Monday, July 30, 2007

WWMD: What Would Malthus Do?

An article in this week's Economist discusses recent history and current trends in world population.

If you'll recall the "Logistic Equation" from precalculus or calculus, you know that certain things, such as population growth and predator-prey relationships, can be shown with a nifty formula, involving an ugly thing called the natural number "e." When graphed, this renders an s-shaped curve, or what looks like a sideways graph of tangent.

Basically, it means that populations tend to grow slowly at first, then reach a critical number that sends the species population soaring through reproduction, until environmental effects (shortage of food, disease, predators, or crowding) force members of the population out, or dead. The curve levels out and maintains what would appear to be a long-term stable number, ceteris paribus.

Numbers are still growing; but recently—it is impossible to know exactly when—an inflection point seems to have been reached. The rate of population increase began to slow. In more and more countries, women started having fewer children than the number required to keep populations stable. Four out of nine people already live in countries in which the fertility rate has dipped below the replacement rate. Last year the United Nations said it thought the world's average fertility would fall below replacement by 2025. Demographers expect the global population to peak at around 10 billion (it is now 6.5 billion) by mid-century.

I would wager this recent inflection point has something to do with the signals we are receiving from our environment. Increased income, wealth, and abundance of materials has given rise to a shift in attitudes among young professionals, whom would rather use disposable income to enjoy themselves than save for a child's college, especially when costs are rising as rapidly as their are in the knowledge economy.
Think of twentysomethings as a single workforce, the best educated there is. In Japan (see article), that workforce will shrink by a fifth in the next decade—a considerable loss of knowledge and skills... In Japan, rural areas have borne the brunt of population decline, which is so bad that one village wants to give up and turn itself into an industrial-waste dump.

Well, hardly a poor use of resources if its a choice willingly made. But it begs the question: how much does the "labor" or "human capital" part of the production function really affect the makeup of an economy?
States should not be in the business of pushing people to have babies. If women decide to spend their 20s clubbing rather than child-rearing, and their cash on handbags rather than nappies, that's up to them.

Really? That's interesting, because an article from Medical News Today discusses some of the incentives Estonia is using to entice its young females to have multiple children. From that article:
Estonia provides employed women who have children with their monthly salary, up to $1,560 monthly, over a 15-month period and unemployed women with $200 monthly.

Whatever the measures, governments tend to protect their investments in capital and infrastructure and have been known to wage war, from time to time, over resources. So why not protect human capital as well?

more people + better education = economic growth

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Which Mayor Makes the Better President?

A one Mr. Rudolph Giuliani?

Or perhaps, a Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?

The similarities are obvious from this article from the Economist describing Mr. Ahmadinejad's rise to power:

And in 2005 presidential elections produced an unexpected victory for Mr Ahmadinejad, then a little-known former mayor of Tehran.


Public Viewing of Cadavers: A "Vein" Hope for Immortality

Just what exactly is our obsession with viewing preserved dead bodies? Whether its animals or humans, it seems that those with no tangential interest in anatomy take extreme interest in the display of a bare-bones (or muscle-wrapped, or anything in between) cadaver. The only thing odd may be that I haven't seen yet an advertisement that included a cadaver with the skin intact. Maybe because skin is just too personal... and creepy when its dead.

A recent exhibition in Raleigh piqued my girlfriend's own interest. I understood her curiousity, and felt a bit myself. But how would I take it, having lost both parents and countless influential people in my short life? I put it off.

Then an exhibit at Charlotte's Discovery Place caught her attention and interest, as well as a few of my other friends and family in the area. So far, it looks to be of less quality (and more affordable) than the Raleigh exhibit. I don't have a way to dodge this yet, but luckily the pressure has been low.

And a few weeks ago, an article about pharmaceutical pioneer Sir Wellcome's odd medical collection stated:

The permanent exhibitions contain quite a few human specimens... Next to the chairs stands a head-to-toe slice of a human corpse. Londoners, though, seem cavalier about viewing body parts as art. A diamond-encrusted cast of a skull by Damien Hirst, recently on show in a Mayfair gallery, was noticed far more for its over-the-top bling than for any connection with the human brain.

It seems to me that this obsession with human cadavers is no more than man's fascination with his own mortality. To see what I'm talking about, look at any local bar for a gent with tattoos, and I'll bet you'll find most of them have tatoos of skulls or skeletons. Even the most docile of us wonder about The Great Beyond and Eternity. Perhaps the prospect of having one's body displayed to the world, or the prospect of having it preserved, is our own attempt tricking the mind into accepting death by serving its egoistic tendencies.

It's quite interesting though, that this behavior serves no evolutionary purpose, insofar as I can tell, as most humans stop reproducing far before they expect to die, and far after their children have left the nest.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Oil Ref-Irony: A Minor Observation

Global warming threatens to thaw the world's arctic climate, which is exactly where the Bush administration talked about drilling a few years ago in Alaska.

The irony is rich: if we drill in Alaska, we threaten wildlife there; if we don't global warming will eventually kill them off (if global warming is even a significant trend).

Even more ironic is a recent note I heard about oil taxes floating a few indigenous tribes in the arctic, who would have been forced to assimilate a long time ago if not for oil revenues, but whose way of life (e.g. hunting seals, polar bears) is threatened by the "global warming trend." There has to be a cliché to describe this predicament...

On Enabling Poverty

Yesterday, I yelled at a bum. And I felt like a complete jerk. I was on the phone with customer service, trying to get an RMA for something I had to return, when the guy walks up to the bus stop on the university-side of the street (which they nearly never do) and asks the guy next to me to buy one of his ball caps.

I was looking for a sheet of paper to write down what the customer service rep was saying, when the guy started his spiel on me. I let him have it: "Sir, I'm on the phone, you're going to have to take that somewhere else." I think he muttered some curses and went off.

There I sat, realizing I wasn't practicing good Christian ethic, and feeling like a general scumbag. There that guy was, obviously trying to do some good. I mean, he went through the effort to find (or steal) those hats. He wasn't asking for a hand-out (per se). But I treated him just like dirt.

It occurred to me, as I was reading an article posted yesterday over at City Journal, titled "In the Heart of Freedom, in Chains" by Myron Magnet (thanks to Betsy's Page for alerting me to this), this poor black man might have given up trying to get a "real job." He probably felt like the white man was keeping him down. But that's just it. Too many black Americans feel that way, whether or not its the truth. Its a cop out, a way of living a lifestyle that's been glorified by popular culture.

Well, I refuse to keep any black man down. Its just not right. So what am I going to do next time one asks for for change, or tries to sell me a hot item?

I'll hand 'em a business card with the following on it, and repeat aloud, while maintaining good eye contact:

"I refuse to keep you down. By giving you something for nothing, I take away your dignity. You are an important, dignified person. You are valuable to society. You were created with a purpose. The only thing keeping you down is lost direction. You can succeed. I know it."

Thursday, July 19, 2007

YouTube: Pachelbel Rant

"A comedian rants about how much it sucks to play Pachelbel's Canon in D on a cello. Recorded live at Penn State, this piece by comedian/musician Rob Paravonian has been a favorite on the Dr. Demento Show."

Thought everyone would enjoy this little piece. Great connections to other pieces of music.

The Market for Body Odor

I read this comic strip the other day. I found it to be humorous, and could relate to the experience. Walking out of Subway today, I noticed the polite man holding the door for me smelled like tacos. Interesting, you might say, considering Subway doesn't sell tacos.

Then it hit me... that taco smell was plain, ol' funky body odor. The classic BO.

Which got me to thinking, maybe deodorant is an under-provided good. You know, there's a positive externality in using the stuff, everyone benefits from your refreshing floral smell. Don't get me started on the enormous cultural differences that make it difficult to sit next to an international student in the movie theater...

Maybe the government should subsidize its production, tax "polluters" and make them pay to stink, or just sign it into law as mandatory to wear. Heck, this is one situation I could stand for a little statism!

Maybe similar effects exist for halitosis. Who knows?

Debunking the Obvious

In an article on the WSJ's Economics Blog, it is reported that frat boys drink more. Now this seems obvious at first glance, but being a member of a fraternity, I feel that I should voice my own opinion.

The academic chicken-or-egg question at hand is whether frat membership causes drinking, or whether frats just attract drinkers who would behave the same way without frats. The circumstantial data is telling: Surveys suggest that 64% of frat members were drunk in the past 30 days and 42% of nonmembers. “Undoubtedly, students choose to join fraternities in part because of pre-existing preferences towards behaviors that membership facilitates,” he writes.”

And, appearantly, fraternities are bad for campuses:
And the higher the fraction of college students who belong to a frat on a campus, the more heavy drinking among students who aren’t frat members.

Aside from disliking the word "frat" and all its (not so) subtle connotations, this news doesn't bode well for already falling enrollment in men's organizations all across the country. I don't believe we foster that kind of atmosphere in Delta Upsilon, but I definitely have noticed a year-to-year struggle between academics and "socializing."

To those of us who pride ourselves on diversity and tolerance, any statistical paper showing a "general trend" seems to promote sometimes-harmful and self-perpetuating stereotyping.

And as for spillover effects, I suspect the results to be quite foggy, though I haven't read the actual paper.

It is refreshing to see the experts take a moment to be rational about all this:
“It would be erroneous to assume that these unconditional… differences accurately portray direct effects of fraternities.

To any parents out there: I suggest getting to know your son, his interests, hobbies, and habits as well as the ones any organization he wishes to join foster. This should be fairly easy to discern among all the polite BS during recruitment season. But of course, why should I be giving you advice? You're all intelligent people.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Moved to Feedburner

I've switched to feedburner for syndication. Subscribe using the new button in the sidebar, or update your readers with the following feed:

You can also now subscribe using e-mail. Just put your address in the sidebar and hit subscribe!

The Best in American Idiocy: Neocon Quotes from AlterNet

An article dated yesterday from AlterNet discussesalarming trends in conservative American thinking.

The following made my short list of favorite quotes:

"Do you have a child back in England?" she asks. No, I say. Her face darkens. "You'd better start," she says. "The Muslims are breeding. Soon, they'll have the whole of Europe."

"Just take a couple of these anti-war people off to the gas chamber for treason to show, if you try to bring down America at a time of war, that's what you'll get."

Ward Connerly is the only black person in the National Review posse, a 67-year-old Louisiana-born businessman, best known for leading conservative campaigns against affirmative action for black people. Earlier, I heard him saying the Republican Party has been "too preoccupied with… not ticking off the blacks", and a cooing white couple wandered away smiling, "If he can say it, we can say it."

Dinesh D'Souza announced as we entered Mexican seas what he calls "D'Souza's law of immigration": " The quality of an immigrant is inversely proportional to the distance travelled to get to the United States."

In other words: Latinos suck.

"The civilised countries should invade all the oil-owning places in the Middle East and run them properly. We won't take the money ourselves, but we'll manage it so the money isn't going to terrorists."

"Couldn't they just do experiments on Muslim stem-cells?" I ask. " Hey - that's a great idea!"

If this is the direction conservative thought is going in this country, I might as well apply for my British visa today. So much for our country being a bastion of tolerance, acceptance, and moderation. I believe the Founding Fathers would be ashamed.

Nod to BoingBoing for alerting us all.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Altadis to be purchased by Imperial Tobacco

The Wall Street Journal just reported on its website that Altadis has agreed to be purchased by Imperial Tobacco.

This especially affects our European friends, where Imperial Tobacco will be a tobacco "giant with leading market shares in the U.K., France, Spain, Germany, &c...

Will this decrease the quality of tobaccos that just seemed to get a revival under new blenders? How do you suspect this will affect prices for tobacco in Europe and America?

The long drawn-out battle for Altadis marks perhaps the last big deal in a series of acquisitions consolidating the industry in Europe. As cigarette sales slowly decline and smokers in the major Western European markets kick the habit and younger generations avoid the products, multinational cigarette makers have bee buying one another to cut costs through economies of scale.

The author of the article seems to think it will decrease prices, if in fact, there are economies of scale still to be exploited in such a large industry.

Since Altadis also holds a 49% stake in JR Outlets (a big online seller of cigars, bigger still in North Carolina), what will this do for cigar retail, which is arguably far more sensitive to industry changes than pipes and pipe tobacco?

Let's hear your thoughts!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Interesting Article on "Radical" Atheism

According to an article in today's Wall Street, new atheism √° la Dawkins, et al., fails to hold water when compared to the "purer" forms of Epicurian atheism.

Such questions -- toward which the mind naturally wanders, though it is susceptible to ambush by the crude scientism of which Mr. Hitchens occasionally avails himself -- include: Where did the universe come from, and is it governed by purpose?

Instead of announcing their faithful disbelief in a higher order as a way of obtaining reason, they fitfully attack institutions, touting hyperboles about what religion actually teaches, and falling back to their beloved when the arguments get too philosophical.
In making his case that reason must regard faith as an enemy to be wiped out, Mr. Hitchens declares Socrates's teaching that knowledge consists in knowing one's ignorance to be "the definition of an educated person." And yet Mr. Hitchens shows no awareness that his atheism, far from resulting from skeptical inquiry, is the rigidly dogmatic premise from which his inquiries proceed, and that it colors all his observations and determines his conclusions.

I can say it not better than Mr. Berkowitz (George Mason University). You owe it to yourself to ponder his article and form your own opinion.

Friday, July 13, 2007

North Korea Statism as Organized Crime

Today's article from the Informed Reader Blog over at the Wall Street Journal discusses N. Korea's statism. The first paragraph is quite good and spurred my thoughts.

The North Korean government’s stake in criminal enterprises is large enough that it will prolong the rogue state’s clash with the West, whether or not Pyongyang halts its nuclear-weapons program. Through interviews with defectors and policy makers, Time’s Bill Powell and Adam Zagorin describe the mechanics of how government dealings in Pyongyang translate into counterfeit money in New Jersey and heroin in Russia.
I'd love to hear a libertarian's thoughts on the first sentence in particular. It's a shame most libertarians live in advanced western culture, where their philosophical ideas, no matter how odd or unproven, are allowed to flourish.

State Criminal Activity
The idea of the State engaging in criminal enterprises is quite alarming to me. My libertarian friends might say that the State is already an organized crime unit by their own definition. In any case, its clear N. Korea's interests are not in promoting the welfare of its citizens through its "comparative advantage in violence."

Illegal activities bring $1 billion a year to Pyongyang, a State Department official tells Time. That compares with $1.7 billion in legitimate exports in 2005, based on estimates by the Central Intelligence Agency.
In addition to constituting more than half of N. Korea's trade income, counterfeiting has been cited as a means of modern warfare. Debase the quality of a country's products, commodities, or currencies, and you've got people worried. Call it "economic terrorism." We've even engaged in it ourselves.

Our libertarian friends would be more apt to quit their Rothbard-inspired gold buggery and focus on the dangers presented by counterfeiting paper currency by other governments, not our own. Don't get me started on commodity-based currency, but foreign counterfeiting could pose a serious threat to the strong currencies of the world.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Moment of Enlightenment

It just occurred to me what "Little Richard's" proper nickname would be.

Comedy Central's piping of "Little Rascals" into presidential satire, "Lil' Bush," has a lackey character named "Lil' Cheney." Subsitute a first name, or nick name, and you see where this is going...

Externalities in a Nutshell: Part 2

More correspondence with a student in an introductory class. I think I somehow view this dialog or parlay as "brain candy" (hat tip to JurisNaturalist for term), and that's why I enjoy it so much. I've got to stop blogging and get some work done... anyway, here it is:

Consider this example - say I want to contribute to a particular cause with my church which I consider worth my time and money. Say you also have a cause which you consider worth while to which you donate your time, money, and effort. Finally, say that we each consider the other person's cause to not be the best way to spend time or money - not that either are bad, simply they are not how we would each choose to use our resources. Would it be morally acceptable for either of us to force the other to contribute to our cause?

Consider then that this is what government can do in programs such as education, welfare, and other such public works. If you do not pay your taxes, then you are subject to legal penalties - thus, whether or not you approve of a particular program, you must support it or face penalties.

The idea rolling around in my head to fix that issue is simply this - let consumer taxes be raised to fund those programs which are necessary for the entire country to function - arguably, those which are non-excludable, such as roads, national defense, police - these can be divided between federal and state as each are more capable to accomplish (largely state - if Montana has less roads to maintain than New York, it can have a lower tax to support them). Beyond such necessities (setting aside determining what they would be for now), let additional programs be supported by taxes of choice - if you desire the benefits of a program, then you can pay a proportion of your income to support it. Thus, the amount of revenue, and thus the degree to which a program can grow, is determined by the demand for its service. For example - if I want to homeschool my children, I don't pay the proportion of tax set aside for that purpose, and spend it on educational materials instead.

Observations, comments, improvements?

  1. If you get "happy" from doing something, we call this gaining utility and you are said to have "gained utils." If something you do is enjoyable, whether or not you get a monetary reward, you should engage in that activity.
  2. Its never OK to force someone to engage in a particular activity. It unethical and uneconomic. If you think someone else should be doing something, and they aren't, the reason they aren't is twofold: a) they don't have the same tastes and preferences as you and/or b) they don't get anything out of the activity. Forcing them to do something would never increase total social welfare because they themselves would experience "disutility" from engaging in that activity, which can be viewed as a cost (instead of reward) and hence would lead to decreased total social welfare.
  3. Taxes and education get tricky. In the above example, I said the person would receive disutility, and hence its a cost to that person. Taxes are also a cost to individuals, and those that pay them may not like it, but they must pay taxes. Are we forcing them to do something? Yes. Is it unethical? Maybe. Is it uneconomic? No. We have a could reason to tax these individuals due to the nature of education--it provides positive spillover benefits to everyone. I hardly think forcing someone to do community service against their will helps anyone, but in any case the persons receiving the benefit and bearing the cost are two different individuals. Therefore, with education, everyone should pay for the benefits they receive. No free lunch and all that.
  4. Our government has actually accomplished much of what you state in the first part of your last paragraph. Most states do have different tax rates for highways, for instance. Check your gas pump next time you fill up, there should be a sticker with the tax rates of most of the south east on it. Some are low. Ours are not, but we have six major metropolitan areas in our state, and more roads. Go figure.
  5. Finally, the problem is that "taxes of choice" are analogous to charitable donations in the private sector. Charity is "under-provided" meaning that more people could be helped, but aren't, because costs and benefits aren't aligned to the correct people. Basically, like in point 3 above, the same people should bear costs and receive benefits, otherwise there is the classic "free rider problem." With charity, it may be that the beneficiaries are "free riders" themselves, they receive an external benefit from the donors decision to give (the donor bears all costs and receives some benefit to the transaction, if he didn't it wouldn't take place). The beneficiaries of the donation pay no costs associated with the transaction, and are not forced to "pay-it-forward." Similarly, "elective taxes" would pose the same problem without a corresponding enforcement scheme. Assuming we could accurately forecast demand/tax rates, whose to say that wouldn't be more costly than the current system?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

'Passive Citizenship' and the Role of Judicial Review

During a lecture last January, a thought occurred to me: perhaps judicial review is a major contributor to passive citizenship.

By establishing Judicial Review, the US Supreme Court effectively took the job of monitoring legislation from irritated citizens and gave it to learned lawyers. In and of itself, this may be a more efficient way of reviewing legislation, striking bad law, and keeping legislators in line.

However, "passive citizenship" is a common problem in America, which I personally categorize as a general disinterest in politics, issues "beneath" learned citizens, and debates. The latter may cause a drop in participation if one fears confrontation, offending someone, or failing to make a point (or simply making an ass of one's self).

In a country where the government takes over this role, what incentives do citizens have in participating in the political process if their vector of preferences includes risk-averse behaviors noted above.

Then does a multiparty system actually encourage debate? More views expressed publicly by politicians or celebrities may make more people feel comfortable with expressing their own views, writing their congressman, or by participating in a local peaceful protest. Power to the people.

Rational Gay Union Policy

I'm not attempting to steal JurisNaturalist's thunder, but our recent discussion of the rationality of gay union is even more important to post because we're both fairly conservative Christian men.

JN sent me an e-mail this morning about a possible paper topic. A general outline of our discussion (he might contest it was one-sided pontificating) is below.


  1. Heterosexual unions (hereafter referred to as "marriages") are good for society. They promote procreation, family values, sexual and mental health, and general happiness.
  2. Heterosexual couples choose to enter into marriage for these reasons, and according to individual sets of tastes and preferences (often, individuals are said to display a "vector" of preferences, tradition being one common example).
  3. Marriage is a private contract and subject to analogs of common contract law. Divorces, alimony, custody and more have analogs in breech of contract, reparations, and property ownership, respectively (forgive the coldness).
  4. Individuals enter into contracts only when it is beneficial to both parties.
  5. It has not been widely shown by credible sources that homosexual unions (hereafter referred to as "gay unions") are not afforded the same quality of life improvements set forth in step 1.
  6. It follows that all couples, regardless of sexuality, benefit from union (steps 1 and 4 with 5).
  7. As long as individuals benefit, society's welfare increases.
  8. It is in the best interest of governments to sanction unions for all couples.
  1. Some members of society may receive disutility from the existence of gay unions. One might imagine an extreme conservative Christian to be extremely irked by his state's passage of such a law. In this case, social welfare decreases.
  2. Some members of the gay community receive disutility from the ban or non-recognition of gay unions. One might imagine an extreme leftist progressive becoming irate over a state ban of gay marriage. In this case, social welfare also decreases.
We are left with no decision. Either banning or allowing gay union will decrease social welfare. We much measure the total welfare effect of each and compare three worlds:
  1. Where gay union is allowed
  2. Where gay union is banned
  3. Where those receiving disutility from the permission of gay union do not exist
In the first two worlds, both containing the individual that receive disutility from permission, social welfare is not optimal. When that common factor is removed, in world 3, social welfare is optimized based on the above assumptions (thought process).

We see, then, that the market for gay union has a positive externality in that it increases total social welfare, but costs of offending idealogues are included in any individual policy decision. Following general theory of market failures and government intervention from any basic resource economics course, one sees that gay unions are underprovided. This is much in the same way that education is thought to be underprovided in Externalities in a Nutshell; however, in that article, higher than normal costs are borne by buyers but in gay unions, these costs are borne by other individuals.

It occurs to me that, by my last statement, this means the market for gay unions contains a negative externality, not a positive one. This means that the market over-provides the number of unions. However, I believe this discrepancy lies in whom one place initial rights (see Property Law or Google for some more information on "initial allocation". If anyone can find a hole in my logic, please leave a comment. If a negative externality is actually the case, the following analysis is perfectly incorrect.

The common solution, then, is that government intervene to create an environment conducive to more gay unions, either silencing or removal of the offended, or in some other way encouraging couples to enter this contract. If this means subsidizing the union, then I see potential laws being similar to current marriage laws, including tax breaks for the union, for raising children, etc.

It seems more likely, however, that the first step be allowing the unions to take place at all.

House Coalitions: A form of multi-party government?

My thoughts on the value of a multi-party system are in the post immediately preceding this one. However, an interesting question remains...

Can coalitions be thought of functioning as a "third party?"

For some information on coalitions, check yellow dog democrat history, including some humorous descriptions of different flavors of dems, as well as the Blue Dog Coalition official page and wiki article. It might be fun to check out a direct comparison as well.

I think the simplest answer to my question is "no, because coalitions are too small and too unknown to have the required effects." Coalitions don't seem to receive much special media attention, nor do citizens generally describe themselves in terms of coalitions.

Well, I will. I think I could, maybe, be a considered a sort-of-blue-dog-dem. How's that for straddling the fence?

Anyone know of similar republican coalitions?

Paper Idea: The Benefits of a U.S. Multiparty System

Any well-connected reader might have noticed third-party candidate news during the last election, and I'm sure it will come up again. With movies like Man of the Year becoming more popular, the ideas of third parties and general political change are enjoyed by most of the public.

Train of thought:

  1. Third parties create political dialog through special interest proposals
  2. Third parties reduce polarization through increased choice (it's tough to be "in the middle" of three diverse groups)
  3. Legislative debate and dialog produce ideas
  4. More ideas are better than less ideas (due to increased choice)
  5. Third parties encourage public debate (in homes and/or media)
  6. Public opinion influences elected official behavior (perhaps principal-agent connection)
  7. Ideas will be "purchased" in the market through policy
  8. Only quality policy will pass the rigorous debate phase
  9. Quality policy increases voter happiness, participation
  1. Quality of policy after established third party participation increases.
  2. Quality policy increases voter participation.

  1. Quality policy has spillover effects: decreasing bureaucracy or its costs, increasing satisfaction, decreasing domestic unrest or terrorism, increased unemployment, efficient taxing, &c.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Carbon Neutral vs Carbon Optimal

We can learn two things from Prince Charles' fancy new Carbon Neutral lifestyle:

  • Hippy trends are still hip, even for squares.
  • It takes the wealth of a king to achieve that lifestyle
Most of us don't have the resources required to be completely carbon neutral. Perhaps carbon optimality (The Undercover Economist, Tim Harford) is a better choice? Think about it like an economist... you should only abate your own carbon usage to the point where the marginal cost of abatement is more than total marginal benefit.

Since it can be assumed that one person's abatement has a small market presence, we can assume to the total amount of abatement needed by society is greater than the individual can achieve. Therefore, stated simply:

One should abate carbon usage until they can no longer afford additional abatement. Whether subject to time or budget constraints, this is how the rational eco-minded individual will and should act.

As always, everything in moderation.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

What is a supply-demand imbalance, anyway?

This article from the Instutional Economics blog is intriguing. I generally like the argument against gold bugs that any commodity could just as easily serve as a comparison, and therefore gold is nothing special when compared to paper notes. What is interesting is the following statement:

"Commodities are becoming more expensive in terms of a broad-range of currencies because of supply-demand imbalances in the global markets where commodity prices are determined."

Fair enough. But what exactly is an "imbalance?" Furthermore, why is it that we only complain about supply-demand imbalances when things are going bad. Who is to say that the problem wasn't with the decades-long depression in the price of gold/other commodities?

An All-too-typical Assault on IP

A classic assault on law, using flawed logic and hoity-toity assertions. I'm beginning to grow tired of thinking-games and baseless declarations; perhaps I'll adopt a more scientific approach in my own philosophy.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

A short update...

So I've not been writing as much recently as I would have liked, but no more lame promises to blog more. I'll write when I can. And I have news to share!

Aside from generally trying to be more productive, which I hope to write about soon, I took a big step forward in changing my life tonight.

My girlfriend and best friend of 3 years and 8 months, said "Yes!" after about two minutes of freaking out when I asked her to marry me! I asked her while we were in Wilmington, on a river boat cruise, under the Independence Day fireworks.

Of course, I ruined an uncharacteristically romantic moment by misjudging the finale of the show, so I asked Emma in the middle. She missed the rest of the fireworks. :-)