Here’s a hilariously pathetic choice of words in the blurb of a New York Times piece published today. It turns out that generous maternity leave and flexible rules on part-time work can make it harder for women to be promoted — or even hired at all. “It turns out….” Please. It’s as if this author has … Continue reading NYT discovers that people respond to incentives!
The topic of the War in Afghanistan came up at a recent seminar I attended. One participant claimed that President Obama pulled the troops out of Afghanistan because of political pressure. Everyone quickly nodded in agreement as he continued with the rest of his comments. This reminded me of the argument that politicians increase spending … Continue reading Even more thoughts on incentives
From Luigi Zingales writing in Capital Ideas: Regulators depend on the regulated for much of the information they need to do their job properly, and this dependency encourages regulators to cater to the regulated. The regulated are also perhaps the primary audience of the regulators, as taxpayers and other citizens have much less incentive to monitor … Continue reading Economists, too, respond to incentives
Anthony Daniels (a.k.a. Theodore Dalrymple) on “bogus illnesses” and their relationship to tort law. Miracles are usually taken to mean that saints or relics cause miraculous improvements, but the tort law system causes miraculous deterioration in people. According to this law, if a person does you wrong by act, omission or negligence, and you suffer from it, you … Continue reading Daniels on bogus illnesses
Explaining spilled milk by saying the milk left the glass is no explanation for spilled milk. It’s a restatement of the question. When we ask why the milk spilled, we want to know why the milk left the glass—what did someone do, or not do, to bring this about. While this is obvious even to … Continue reading When economists say nothing
*MILD SPOILER ALERT* I finally saw Interstellar last night. Good movie. But here’s a rant on why movies like it annoy me: They ignore the biggest problem facing a group of people trying to decide how to save the world—the collective action problem. For example, most people in Interstellar suffer from apparent mindlessness. Not the main characters, … Continue reading Why Interstellar annoys me
Over at EconLog, Scott Sumner wonders why smokers don’t seem to have the lobbying clout of other special interest groups. Considering the number of smokers in the U.S. remains in the tens of millions, you’d think we’d hear more complaining about the sky-high taxes on cigarettes that exist in several states (he notes that one … Continue reading Why smokers don’t care about punitive cigarette taxes
I’m reading through Randy Simmons’ Beyond Politics: The Roots of Government Failure for my Microeconomics class. You could call it a primer on public choice. I’m skeptical of public choice. Most public choice literature I’ve read makes big assumptions about the nature and strength of people’s incentives—a logical jump I’ve written about before. Much to my surprise, … Continue reading Public choice is arrogant
Lots of people began worrying about inflation when the Federal Reserve began QE back in 2008. Some even predicted “inflationary disaster,” warning that the monetary base cannot quintuple without a correlating rise in consumer prices. For a while, I believed these guys. I was an undergraduate economics student at the time, and their logic made … Continue reading QE over? Brace for inflation.
I’m writing an essay on institutional analysis and whether it helps us understand problems of economic non-development. Specifically, I’m responding to the implicit claim that institutional analysis is an improvement from the “neoclassical paradigm” that often neglects, or takes for granted, the role of institutions. It’s a little heady, I know. What I want to point out … Continue reading Economics + institutions + pirates
Matt McCaffrey has an interesting post on incentives over at the Mises Economics Blog. He writes: Nevertheless, emphasizing incentives too much glosses over several problems: economic laws can make incentives irrelevant; incentives are in any case too narrow a concept to be the defining characteristic of economics; focus on incentives sometimes leads to a paternalistic view … Continue reading Another quibble with incentive talk
I had my first graduate microeconomics class today. One thing the professor posited as a “guidepost” for economic thinking is that incentives matter. As an example, he used welfare. If the state guarantees a certain level of income in an effort to reduce poverty, some people will respond by quitting their job and free-riding off state welfare programs. … Continue reading Why “incentive talk” rubs me the wrong way
I’ve noticed that comments on my piece at The Freeman today have been largely negative. Most of the negativity surrounds my claim that immigrants don’t come to the United States to become unemployed, and will therefore stop coming en masse when there are no jobs for them. I’m wrong, the commenters say, because immigrants are … Continue reading Response to my Brat article’s critics
The White House released a big climate change report today. I’m skeptical. But I’m also skeptical of climate change skeptics. I really don’t know what to think about all this. Some highlights from the report: A regional breakdown of climate change’s effect on different parts of the United States. Explicit blame for drastic climate change on “human … Continue reading Thoughts on the White House Climate Change Report