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(1) Was Paul Ehrlich right and Julian Simon wrong? No. At the risk of sounding like a bias confirmer, I do not believe that the actual claim Simon made has ever been represented fairly, and sadly he is no longer here to explain clearly what that claim is. First of all, the raw data here suffers from two problems Simon made us aware of. First of course is that these prices are not the right measure of availability, but rather how much the “labor-time” price of those commodities has changed. And this buttresses point number 2. It is that there have been very sharp runups in prices in the last decade. Third, we only take a look at 1800 because that is when it is easy enough to get data. An even longer term trend would show mind-blowing declines in these prices. So which long term trend is right? Which is the right “super-cycle?” But Simon’s real point is obscured by all of this nonetheless. And that is that over time it will become easier and not more difficult to meet our human needs over time. I don’t see how this changes any of that. Again, I am VERY biased here not only because I’ve used Simon’s insights repeatedly, but because the counterfactual is hard to demonstrate.

(2) “Thus, the textbook NK (New Keynesian) explanation for the effects of government spending or monetary policy is not supported by the behavior of the markup. That’s from Valerie Ramey. This will of course be dismissed since Ms. Ramey’s work on the actual size of the multipliers has reliably shown fiscal multipliers, even in favorable conditions, to be less than one. I would say, however, that I am disturbed that I knew the result of this paper before reading the abstract based solely on the author. Or should I not be disturbed? In other words, would it be better if we were all aggressively partisan in our research?

(3) If your grandparents live with your children, it turns out they are miserable!

(4) What happens when we put juveniles in jail? ”

Estimates based on over 35,000 juvenile offenders over a ten-year period from a large urban county in the US suggest that juvenile incarceration results in large decreases in the likelihood of high school completion and large increases in the likelihood of adult incarceration.  These results are in stark contrast to the small effects typically found for adult incarceration, but consistent with larger impacts of policies aimed at adolescents.

(5) I estimate that 5% or more of my students take some kind of ADHD drug, either by prescription or from illegal sales or sharing with their classmates. It turns out that the outcomes may not be good. Surprise there.

 Do Stimulant Medications Improve Educational and  Behavioral Outcomes for Children with ADHD?
by Janet Currie, Mark Stabile, Lauren E. Jones

We examine the effects of a policy change in the province of Quebec, Canada which greatly expanded insurance coverage for prescription medications.  We show that the change was associated with a sharp increase in the use of Ritalin, a medication commonly prescribed for ADHD, relative to the rest of Canada.  We ask whether this increase in medication use was associated with improvements in emotional functioning and short- and long-run academic outcomes among children with ADHD.  We find evidence of increases in emotional problems among girls, and reductions in educational attainment among boys.  Our results are silent on the effects on optimal use of medication for
ADHD, but suggest that expanding medication use can have negative consequences given the average way these drugs are used in the community.

(6) In this week’s edition of “wearing seatbelts may induce more accidents:”

Quantitative survey results allow us to reject the hypothesis that improving access to information would increase knowledge and shift behavior to less risky sexual activities.  In fact, we find that the service led to an increase in promiscuity, and no shift in perception of norms.  Qualitative focus groups discussions support the findings of the quantitative survey results.

(7) Telling students how important school is does not seem to make them work harder or better. Score another one for the home-institutional environment explanation.

(8) Let’s use some poor argumentation strategies for a change – after all, “everyone” else gets to do it. In this week’s edition, I will assert that if you favor economic stimulus then you are in fact destroying American lives by promoting substance abuse. Of course that’s not the only interpretation.

(9) Borjas finds that recent cohorts of immigrants are less likely to assimilate than older ones. See my point in #2.

5 Responses to “Was Julian Simon Actually Wrong? And Other Research”

  1. Harry says:

    So, is it reasonable to ask, before the Fed buys in July another $85 billion of subprime loans and 10-year Treasurys, for one or two examples where the multiplier has been greater than 1?

  2. Harry says:

    Julian Simon makes much sense, even if there are fine points to quarrel with about what he may have predicted. He is on my reading list, and I sure would like to have him on my team, if I could have afforded him, if I were making decisions about what to do with millions of other people’s money.

    On the other hand, I am happy that after a while I did not take Ehrlick seriously. This epiphany about Malthusianism occurred around same time as the free trade epiphany, which coincided with my first superficial reading of Bastiat essays.

    Speaking of complete data from the beginning of the nineteenth century, I offer my copy of Warren’s Prices, which is much fresher, published in 1933. He was a Cornell prof, and therefore authoritative.

  3. Scott says:

    5% hahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahaahahahahah

  4. Scott says:

    In other words, would it be better if we were all aggressively partisan in our research?

    Yes, because non-partisan research is impossible to achieve. Might as well pick a side and fight for it instead of holding the pretense of neutrality. Plus, even more importantly, it increases the incentive for the reader to check the presented facts, data, arguments, and perspectives.

    Juvenile delinquency habits could also score another point for home institutional environment explanation. This trend is both foreseeable and horrible. I would pay taxes to improve juvenile delinquent facilities. I would! I would be very happy to work form January until May for that sort of thing. But instead my efforts fund these f*cking LEED buildings. Yay America!

    In other words, would it be better if we were all aggressively partisan in our research?If adderal is not the most corrupt and evil thing to hit the system then I don’t know what is. In other words, would it be better if we were all aggressively partisan in our research? Besides Lotrimin ultra. Pee on your feet it you have athletes foot. It goes away in 1-2 days.

  5. Scott says:

    edit last paragraph:

    Mental Focus is a skill that takes time, discipline, and effort to develop. I wish I had developed this skill earlier in my life, before I met WC, but live & learn. If adderall is not the most corrupt and evil thing to hit the system i do not know what is. Perhaps Lotrimin Ultra. If you have athletes foot just pee on your feet. it goes away in 1-2 days.

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