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Research Rundown

  1. Daron Acemoglu (some say a future young Nobel Prize winner) explains conditions when labor scarcity and high wages encourage technological innovations and when they do not. My quick take, wonks will try to use this theoretical piece to justify interventions in labor markets that artificially push up wage rates –> arguing that doing so will spur technological advancements. Green energy anyone? Aside from the obvious problem with this, Acemoglu shows in the paper that labor scarcity and high wages are not sufficient conditions for technological advances, and that is because some technologies are complementary with labor, not substitutes for labor. I would argue that computers are one such example.
  2. Tom MaCurdy et al show why disability rates among the elderly population has declined between 1982 and 1999. Two interesting things stand out. (1) The declines are NOT due to better “preventative medicine,” but rather to something else. (2) And they do not report on this, such data is VERY hard to reconcile with this … the share of Americans receiving federal disability insurancehas skyrocketed over the same time period. This has not been due to the elderly being more disabled. And it is hard to imagine that with the advent of labor-saving technologies that suddenly young Americansare much more likely to become disabled today. The dirtly little secret is that pre-retirees are abusing the DI system as an early retirement program.
  3. Should we be worried by the end of print news? Here is a reason NOT to be (which I tend to agree with). Here is one reason perhaps to be worried. When amajor newspaper in Cincinnati folded, “fewer candidates ran for municipal office in the suburbs most reliant on the Post, incumbents became more likely to win re-election, and voter turnout fell.” I am not convinced that is a stable equilibrium. I am also not persuaded by “public participation” arguments are reasons I should or should not support a particular idea. Take the case of public schools.
  4. Remind Al Gore and the rest of the anti-humans that population is a GOOD thing. More evidence here.
  5. Why do people prefer looting? The authors conclude: “In particular, women, youth and African-Americans appear to have stronger preferences for redistribution. Individuals who believe that people try to take advantage of them, rather than being fair, have a strong desire for redistribution; similarly, believing that luck is more important than work as a driver of success is strongly associated with a taste for redistribution.”  I like that, a “taste” for redistribution. Makes it sound so benign. It is a taste for theft. A good understanding of economic principles demonstrates clearly that in free societies governed by the rule of law and secure individual property rights, that being “fair” confers advantages on individuals and firms, that taking advantage of people will lead to poor outcomes later on, and that luck is not what makes folks and countries wealthy. Of course, I have no delusions that people with a “taste for theft” will ever be persuaded by this evidence – no matter how true.
  6. Consumption poverty rates often indicate large declines, even in recent years when income poverty rates have risen.” Read more here. And isn’t it people’s ability to consume that really matters? By the way, my income has fallen in each of the last two years, and my real consumption (and happiness) has increased each year. My salary has been frozen for the next year too, which would mean three straight years of income declines, and I KNOW that I am better off today (and will be a year from now). What gives?

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