19 September 2011

Digest: 19 Sep 2011

NFL television broadcast maps from the506.com

I'd love to know how these things are determined.

EconLog | Bryan Caplan | Two Questions for People Who Respect the Law

I am with Caplan. Law and morality are completely orthogonal. When I talk to people about this I describe actions as existing in all four cells of two-by-two matrix: legal-moral, legal-immoral, illegal-moral, illegal-immoral. People seem to accept this when I describe it that way (or at least don't have any objection) but still persist in analyzing things as if only legal-moral and illegal-immoral actions exist.

io9 | Cyriaque Lamar | Pranksters add Conan the Barbarian to the faculty of Irish college
He completed his PhD, entitled "To Hear The Lamentation of Their Women: Constructions of Masculinity in Contemporary Zamoran Literature" at UCD and was appointed to the School of English in 2006, after sucessfully decapitating his predecessor during a bloody battle which will long be remembered in legend and song.
The Money Illusion | Scott Sumner | Tax rates on all T-securities now exceed 100%

Spousonomics | Jenny | Economists in Love: Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers
The U.S. has a household-based taxation system which subsidizes married families when one person stays home and taxes most people extra if they choose to marry and both work full-time. The average tax cost of marriage for a dual-income couple is $1,500 annually. [...] Truth is, I find it offensive that the tax man treats me differently according to a very private decision—whether I marry or not.
The family is a really poor unit of analysis. The individual is what matters; that ought to be the basis of our legislation.

This is also an immoral system, IMO, even when couples don't earn similar incomes. Just for different reasons.

Via Scott Sumner, who comments:
By the way, both the Dems and GOP support me and my wife having to pay far more in taxes than Wolfers and his partner–even with identical incomes. It’s not even controversial in Washington. And yet nearly 100% of Americans are outraged when they find out about the marriage penalty. Most don’t even know why it exists, why their reps support it.

Just one more reason why academics should pay no attention to “public opinion” polls. There is no such things as public opinion, there is only election results. No one knows what Americans would believe about Medicare if that sat down with all the government programs and tax revenues in a spreadsheet front of them, and told they had to equate the NPV of all future taxes with the NPV of all future spending. We simply don’t know. And anyone who argues otherwise isn’t thinking deeply enough about the issue.

Whether you want more or less money spent on Medicare, I guarantee that I can frame a poll question that gets the result you want.
I said before that asking people poll questions without having them assess trade-offs is fundamentally irresponsible and dishonest.

Overcoming Bias | Robin Hanson | Are Nations Tribes?
But a great many ill, collapsed, etc. folks in the world are largely left to die, at least if curing them costs anything like a US hospital stay. Ezra argues above for “decent” national care, not global care. And even libertarians wouldn’t leave family members to die. So everyone agrees that we heroically help some, and leave others to die. We only disagree on who falls into which category. [...]

To criticize libertarians effectively, you need to make clear why exactly “we” are a nation, rather than the entire world, or close family and friends.
Once again, individuals matter. Lines on maps do not. "The Nation" has no more moral standing with me than "The Family."

Marginal Revolution | Tyler Cowen | How many unemployed teachers are there?

Reason: Hit & Run | Shikha Dalmia | Social Security is Not a Ponzi Scheme, Mr. Perry

"It is much worse."

Popehat | Ken | Complain About Being Sexually Assaulted By A TSA Thug? THEY’LL SUE!

I don't think I've called for rope in over a year. I'm not saying this thug ought to swing, but if there's something to make me consider it, it would be using your authority to publicly sexually assault someone who criticizes you and then have the temerity to sue them for calling you out on it.

EconLog | Bryan Caplan | Reflections on Rod Long's "Libertarian Three-Step Program"

Further consideration of the Wolf Blitzer / Ron Paul exchange.

If I am allowed to include bad luck then I can always craft a hypothetical which will make any ideology or government policy look bad at first glance. Especially in a situation like this (a contemporary televised, presidential "debate") which is specifically designed to favor the seen over the unseen.

"Aha! But your policy will have some bad consequences for some unlucky people who we know ex post made the wrong decision!" is about the lamest criticism I can think of.

Votes must learn to accept that there will always be bad luck, that there will always be unfortunate outcomes, that there will always be consequences to decisions, and that policies can attempt to insulate us from bad consequences, but they can never be eliminated.


The Thinker | Jeffrey Ellis | A Comedy of Asshats

Sarah Grunfeld is a jerk. There are two rules of polite discourse: don't give offense unnecessarily, and don't take offense unnecessarily. The second is usually ignored, but it is equally important.

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