06 October 2011

Digest: 6 Oct 2011

GQ | Lisa DePaulo | Is This the Sanest Man Running for President?
If you're seeking the presidency but no one notices, are you still seeking the presidency? Gary Johnson was governor of New Mexico for eight years, balanced the hell out of his budgets, and climbed Mount Everest with a broken leg. You'd think that would at least give him a shot at the GOP nomination. Nope. Lisa DePaulo hits the surreal non-campaign trail with the most compulsively honest Republican in the race—and returns with some disturbing truths about the Kabuki shit show we like to call modern presidential politics
Gary Johnson is the reason I still register GOP. Once every decade or so I may get the chance to check a box for a guy like him in the Red Team primaries. It will be an entirely futile gesture, but if even one party boss thinks for one fraction of a second that maybe his members don't want ignorant, pandering, populist xenophobe chest-thumpers but instead want guys like Gary Johnson, it will be worth it. That scintilla of consequence is more of a tangible outcome than all the rest of my ballots combined will have.

WSJ: Real Time Economist | Kathleen Madigan | It’s Man vs. Machine and Man Is Losing
Since the recession ended, businesses had increased their real spending on equipment and software by a strong 26%, while they have added almost nothing to their payrolls.


EconLog | Bryan Caplan | Marsh vs. A Simple, Effective Way to Avoid Poverty, Bryan Caplan
If you really care about poverty, you should overjoyed to learn that people can massively reduce poverty by slightly changing their behavior. Of course, this realization will also reduce our sympathy for people who refuse to change their behavior. And it should.
Caplan is talking specifically about not having a child before you're married. If you can manage to do that, and also manage to not use drugs and not drop out of high school, you'll do alright for yourself no matter where you start.

His observation here gets at the distinction between the deserving poor and the undeserving poor, which is a thorny one. Failing to have out-of-wedlock children moves you away from the former category and towards* the latter. Unfortunately many people want to deal with the difficult distinction between these two groups by treating ever poor person as deserving. (The converse is also true, and also a bad idea.)

* Note that I said "towards" and not "into."

ProfessorBainbridge.com | Stephen Bainbridge | What would happen if the NCAA adopted Dodd-Frank?
Accordingly, as Christopher Bruner aptly observed, “the shareholder-empowerment position appears self-contradictory, essentially amounting to the claim that we must give shareholders more power because managers left to the themselves have excessively focused on the shareholders’ interests.”

In sum, the shareholder empowerment measures adopted before the crisis did nothing to prevent it and may well have contributed to it. The new provisions included in Dodd-Frank thus are unlikely to prevent another such crisis and may even increase the odds of some similar crisis induced by excessive risk taking.
(1a) The ability to align the desires of strangers is one of the most powerful features of markets.

(1b) Misalignment is, concurrently, one of the greatest causes of discontent and friction in markets.

(2a) These problems of misaligned incentives are just as common in other forms of societal organization.

(2b) However because incentives were never aligned in the first place, this issue is much less obvious, to the degree that people think it does not happen (e.g.).

(3) I am continuously astounded by "reformers" who are not only fighting the last battle, as if they lived in static environments, but are doing so in a way that would have lost the prior battle. Dodd-Frank's exec compensation rules seem to me an example of this.

Science: Editorial | Andrew Grove | Rethinking Clinical Trials
We might conceptualize an “e-trial” system along similar lines. Drug safety would continue to be ensured by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. While safety-focused Phase I trials would continue under their jurisdiction, establishing efficacy would no longer be under their purview. Once safety is proven, patients could access the medicine in question through qualified physicians.
This "e-trial" system is interesting, though I'm not convinced. At the very least, safety and efficacy need to be decoupled. I don't see any reason those should be linked. (Nor any reason the State should be the arbiter of the latter. Certainly no more so than they ought to be able to sanction or outlaw diet and exercise regimens.) We also need to move beyond the idea that new drugs must be effective on average.

Information Dissemination | Feng | Evolution of PLAAF doctrine/training
Even though [People's Liberation Army Air Force] can see the importance of training, the ideological types in PRC leadership thought it was capitalistic to train. PLA has historically adopted a "people army" motto that relies on the large Chinese population and land mass and the ideological types wanted PLA to go back to that and to spend more time on communism ideology. Once the Cultural Revolution started, the ideological types won out in PLAAF's development. By 1966, PLAAF pilots were averaging less than 24 hours of training a year. [...] Due to high accident rate from low training hours, the training program became more and more simple. Even the pilot selection program for PLAAF changed from selection based on performance to based on their obedience of Mao's communist ideologies. Mao even gave orders to compress flight school program from 2 years and 4 months to 1 year. Much of the flight training and aircraft related manuals were destroyed as part of the Cultural Revolution, because that's what happened to anything book or cultural related at that period.
Mao, like Stalin and three year olds throughout history, could not conceive of the world as an objective reality external to his own mind. Flying a plane is an actual thing you do to manipulate reality. It is not subject to ideological purity or politics. You can not magic that skill into existence by decree.

Reason: Hit & Run | Lucy Steigerwald | Ron Paul, Gary Johnson Among Those Not Keen on U.S. Killing of Anwar al-Awlaki

Steigerwald also notes that Glenn Greenwald, despite being firmly form the Left, has been unwaveringly critical of executive abuse of civil liberties like this even with a Blue Team guy in the White House. I didn't explicitly say it yesterday when I quoted him, but good for him. The country could use more Glenn Greenwalds.

Reason: Hit & Run | Matt Welch | Ron Paul: Assassination of al-Awlaki Might Be an Impeachable Offense

Might be?

EconLog | Arnold Kling | This Should Not be News
the majority of small businesses, which are concentrated among skilled craftsmen, lawyers, real estate agents, doctors, small shopkeepers, and restaurateurs.
Good point here about innovation, but I just wanted to point this out because I think most people have a misconception about what "small businesses" actually tend to be in practice.

This is only tangentially related, but I also want to point out something Obama said in one of his innumerable recent addresses. He made some promise about 98% of business not paying more taxes, since the Fortune 500 aren't drivers of job growth. The problem is that there are, even rounding down heavily, on the order of 10,000,000 payroll businesses in America. The largest 2% of that is 200,000 businesses. That's "Big Business" according to his rhetoric. That includes not just GE and Exxon and the rest of the Fortune 500, but also places like my local hardware store with its three locations and the local pizza chain with ten stores or so, and 199,498 other local companies people have never heard of.

EconLog | David Henderson | Obama's Budgetary Sleight of Hand

Reason: Hit & Run | Mike Riggs | One Year After Beating University of Maryland Student John J. McKenna, Two Maryland Police Officers Indicted

Thanks to citizens' ability to record cops, since, IIRC, the police's own footage was mysteriously "missing."

Popehate | Clark | conventional wisdom, Thomas Kuhn, Paul Graham, and how shit is about to get real

This is the first post by Popehat's newest contributor, and it's a good one. It actually reminds me of Graham, in the way that starts over here, drifts over there towards something technical or scientific, and then winds back to make a conclusion that's not obviously related to where we began but follows very well. I look forward to reading more from Clark.

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