Feed on

I’m running off to my environmental economics class, so can’t spend time on this. But if we are nominating pieces of journalism in economics for the “top 10″ worst articles of the year, this would surely be a candidate. A little sliver:

Because lists of “repetitive loss” properties are maintained by cities and counties, rather than federal authorities, Wetlands Watch had a hard time getting comprehensive data. But where numbers were available — in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Hampton and Portsmouth – Wetlands Watch found nearly 3,000 properties awaiting funding. Local flood managers told the group it costs between $75,000 and $250,000 either to raise a home and protect it from the tides, or to acquire it so the homeowner can move out. Which means that in just five Virginia jurisdictions, the study says, it would cost more than $430 million to protect the homes that have already been damaged.

And that’s just “repetitive loss” properties, a specific category of homes insured by the National Flood Insurance Program that have sustained at least $1,000 in damage twice in a 10-year period. Many more homes are not covered by flood insurance. And many additional homes are likely to sustain damage in the future, if the seas rise, as predicted, by a meter or more on the East Coast over the next century.

One’s mind can only wonder at how surprising it must be for people who own homes on storm ravaged coasts that there is a possibility their home might be flooded or swept out to sea. One’s mind can only wonder why private insurance does or does not exist here and what the premiums are here. One’s mind can only wonder why, after centuries of sea level rise, that people who choose to live near the coast somehow forgot that they should worry about it, and that now, only now, after the 5th IPCC report, we are awakened to the possibility that the water levels where we live might continue to rise. One can only wonder why, as the worst case of the article states, dealing with over a trillion dollars of flood protection over a 100 year period is some sort of incredible challenge. And one’s mind can only wonder at the feebleness of thought (or rather, the bully instinct) that articulates that it is some sort of shared responsibility for me, living in Rochester, to support people with beachfront cottages.

The most regular question I get from students who actually care about their education is why we tend to see so much bad policy, particularly if it is widely understood that messing with (nonexternality) prices is such a bad idea and industrial planning is such a bad idea. I typically stumble saying something to the effect of we know best what NOT to do but that is not as satisfying as positive proscriptions as far as policy goes. People would probably be offended if I said what I actually believed which is that the entire premise of the question is faulty. I’d be accused of “do nothingism” or some version of “extreme conservatism” to which I certainly do not adhere. But in the spirit of providing an answer, I definitely have one single law that should be followed in the construction of good public policy. This law is definitely a necessary condition. Your mileage may vary on whether it is sufficient. That law is:


Do I believe that such a rule would ever be followed? Of course not. But you’ve asked me, so that’s the best I can offer. Think through the implications for a bit and hopefully we will discuss more in future posts.

And to switch gears mildly to Grubergate, perhaps this new paper is of some relevance (it may also be of use to those who follow the absurdity of the climate change conspiracy debates – google Lewandowsky to learn more):

Do I Think BLS Data are BS? The Consequences of Conspiracy Theories

Katherine Levine Einstein & David Glick
Political Behavior, forthcoming

While the willingness of people to believe unfounded and conspiratorial explanations of events is fascinating and troubling, few have addressed the broader impacts of the dissemination of conspiracy claims. We use survey experiments to assess whether realistic exposure to a conspiracy claim affects conspiracy beliefs and trust in government. These experiments yield interesting and potentially surprising results. We discover that respondents who are asked whether they believe in a conspiracy claim after reading a specific allegation actually report lower beliefs than those not exposed to the specific claim. Turning to trust in government, we find that exposure to a conspiracy claim has a potent negative effect on trust in government services and institutions including those unconnected to the allegations. Moreover, and consistent with our belief experiment, we find that first asking whether people believe in the conspiracy mitigates the negative trust effects. Combining these findings suggests that conspiracy exposure increases conspiracy beliefs and reduces trust, but that asking about beliefs prompts additional thinking about the claims which softens and/or reverses the exposure’s effect on beliefs and trust.

Here, without my comments.

This is annoying and frustrating and a problem. But it’s also not a completely broken website, either. This year, people do seem to be able to sign up for health plans — something they were unable to do on last year’s launch day.

So, several years into the “law” and a year after the first enrollment period, and a website is working. Hoorah.

The food experts opine:

But there is something the president can do now, on his own, to break that deadlock, much as he has done with climate change. In the next State of the Union address, he should announce an executive order establishing a national policy for food, health and well-being. By officially acknowledging the problem and by setting forth a few simple principles on which most Americans agree, the introduction of such a policy would create momentum for reform. By elevating food and farming to a matter of public concern rather than a parochial interest, the president can make it much more difficult for the interests of agribusiness to prevail over those of public and environmental health.

I am sorry for being dogmatic. We don’t need any national food policy aside from stopping any and all intervention in food markets. I am not interested in debating this. I am not willing to debate this. I will begin and end any comment about national food policy with the following portraits:

The Ukrainian Holodomor, national food policy at its “best”

Mao’s Great Leap Forward

Or how about this one … if they only had a plan none of it would have happened.

Of course, we’re smart and rich and better than all of those people, so nothing at all would happen here.

Our family purchased some tea on Wednesday night:

All the boxes1


All the boxes2


All the boxes3


Can someone remind me again why we need to mandate GMO labeling?

For those interested, that B logo stands for a Certified B Corporation (again, I don’t know how we’d ever survive without government entities certifying corporations …). Here is the CCOF certification, again, how would consumers EVER know what is and is not organic if the government didn’t tell us?


Once again, let’s line up along our ideological preferences and use those to masquerade as real economics. Those who are in favor of net neutrality may seem to be doing so because the term “neutrality” seems to indicate “fairness” or even “correct.” Of course, the entire point of any economic system is to treat different users differently. I get paid a hell of a lot less than my colleagues that are actually real economists. In the name of “workplace neutrality” should the U of R be forced to provide “equal access to the payroll” to both me and they? What about people that play a lot of golf? Is it fair to charge all golfers the same price to play golf? If you are a private club, perhaps, but that is your decision with your money. Of course, many private clubs which are run not on a membership basis actually make users pay per round they play – so if you play 8 rounds a week you are going to pay 8 times more than the guy that plays 2 rounds per year. Makes sense, no? There must be a way for heavy users (“content providers”) to pay the costs that they impose on the resource and there also must be an incentive for “platform providers” to continue to keep the course in good shape and to innovate in ways to make the game more accessible and enjoyable.

The absolute flouting of any reasonable resemblance of good economics in this “debate” is appalling. What makes it most appalling is that the entities that are most in favor of imposing net neutrality rules, the government and its regulators and supporters, have absolutely no problem at all with net non-neutrality when it comes to the resources they command. Remember all of the kerfuffle about the “you didn’t build that?” Well really the entire defense of the President and his fawning followers is that, “well, he didn’t really mean that they didn’t build it, but really they take advantage of more government infrastructure and military protection than the average Joe and so therefore they should have to pay more.” In other words, the President himself doesn’t believe in some theoretical “net neutrality” rule when it comes to resources he is in command of.

Or better yet, I have experience with another blatant illustration of how the planocracy feels about net neutrality. In this case, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. Name calling should probably commence now.










Only in …

In reading a bit about urban growth and congestion from drivers I’ve come across an argument made by the planocracy against the expansion of roads.

The argument?

That it makes little sense to build more roads because of the “problem” of induced demand. In other words, only in the mind of a planner is it a problem when more people get to take advantage of valuable resources. Even if building roads does not end up reducing congestion … it sure does help more people use roads at all. But now that is a bad thing.

Let’s apply that to some other ideas of the planocracy: there is no reason to expand ObamaCare because people might actually use it. There is no reason to declare an area a National Park because people might actually visit. Oh the fun games we could play!

In today’s news trumpeting the “big” US-China carbon deal:

This is, in my view, the most important bilateral climate announcement ever,” said David Sandalow, a former top environmental official at the White House and the Energy Department.

The MOST IMPORTANT? Wow. Consider the other things we learn from the piece:

Yet it wasn’t clear how either the U.S. or China would meet their goals, nor whether China’s growing emissions until 2030 would negate any reductions in the U.S.

If this is what qualifies as newsworthy and important, I’d really love to see what would qualify as unimportant. Here’s more:

“This is a major milestone in the U.S.-China relationship,” Obama said, with Xi at his side. “It shows what’s possible when we work together on an urgent global challenge.”

major milestone? Sort of kind of maybe agreeing to a non-binding non-target two decades out. Sure.

By the way, the “science” is pretty clear that the US would be cutting carbon emissions totally irrespective of what the political class tried to do about it. And when that reduction happens, we’re going to have to endure a mind-numbing Presidential campaign in 2036 that beats on the tired meme that “together we can” reduce carbon emissions and therefore do a whole host of other things … together.

Finally, this was also in the piece:

the United States and China is putting the world’s two worst polluters

I would challenge the author, and readers, to actually define what pollution is.


The Republicans face a choice. Do not run black candidates and let it be obviously clear that they are racist white elites. Or … they can choose to run black candidates and be a little bit more covert about them being racist white elites (i.e. the only reason they supposedly run black candidates is to provide cover for white elites). That’s just dandy. No comments here, we’re not permitted to provide opinions as members of the non-oppressed class here.  Here is my favorite passage:

As the Republican Party contemplates their approach to the 2016 presidential election, the first black, female Mormon in the House has captured their attention on the national stage. This win serves as a psychological victory for them after launching a political strategy to gain more of the “minority vote” since losing the presidency in 2008 and 2012. This pattern of using blacks to further white interests was foundational in the emergence of American society and has been carried forth with each proceeding generation, whether blacks are used physically or, in this case, symbolically. In the end, however, her new role as a freshman GOP congresswoman serves more as window dressing for the red states and is unlikely to result in a shift of more blacks to a party that continues to relegate them to the borders of society. Instead, her accomplishment is quite dangerous for people of color, sending a message that society is post-racial when, in fact, hate crimes, police shootings of innocent and unarmed black men and boys and vitriolic online attacks have dramatically increased since the election of our first black president. Mia Love and her red political ideology do not align with the needs of black Americans, historically disenfranchised people who remain left out and left behind.

That idea is bordering on ____ … oops, I have to shut up. In other news, this guy is not black either.  What a fun world we live in.


I Was Wrong

It’s good to find evidence that you are wrong about something. As I was driving into work today, I had the experience of getting nastily cut off by a guy in a car with a Connecticut license plate. I know I was right … I was in the right lane on the I-490 just before the Goodman Street exit. The guy in the CT car was tailgaiting the fellow in the left lane to my left, and admittedly the left lane guy was going too slow to be in the left lane. So what does the guy from CT do? He gets behind me, he then goes onto the EXIT ramp for Goodman St, blasts his accelerator and just before hitting the barrier he zips in front of me then over in front of the guy in the left lane.

Aside from the obvious danger here and the fact the the guy broke the law in 1o0 different ways, I said to myself, “pfffft, typical Connecticut driver.” Indeed growing up in NYC I always viewed CT and NJ drivers to be among the most aggressive and, what I thought, dangerous drivers out there.

So, when I got into the office this morning I decided to see how dangerous these “bad drivers” were. I was totally wrong.

The states with the two of the four lowest fatality rates from car accidents are, incredibly, Connecticut and New Jersey (Massachusetts and Minnesota are in the top 4 too. Places like Montana, Louisiana, Arkansas, West Virginia and North Dakota are the most dangerous)! Now, we can come up with all kinds of explanations for it and perhaps rescue my view that I think CT and NJ drivers are off the hook. But, that’s a bit of a stretch. I was wrong.

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