07 Jul 2017

The Private Production of Roads

Shameless Self-Promotion 71 Comments

My topic at EconLib. My favorite part:

 

It is true that roads form part of a network and that it would be confusing and dangerous if the different owners had different rules, such as a green light sometimes meaning “go” on one road and “stop” on another.

Yet in the private sector, all sorts of standards arise spontaneously and foster coordination, even without a powerful third party enforcing compliance. Screwdrivers and screws fit together; printer paper fits into printers; and software companies develop programs that work on computers that they didn’t build.

07 Jul 2017

Clarifying Paris, Parts 1 and 2

Climate Change, Shameless Self-Promotion 5 Comments

The sequel to my post on the Paris Agreement is now up at IER. For your reference, here is Part 1 and now here is Part 2.

In this latest article, I focus on the 2 degrees Celsius target, which is the centerpiece of the Paris Agreement. Some surprising stuff in here. For example:

As the diagram indicates, even if all governments satisfied the climate policy pledges they’ve made, the globe would still warm by an estimated 2.8°C (with an uncertainty band of 3.5°C on the high end and 2.3°C on the low end).

What’s worse, if we look at the current policies of the world’s governments, then this website estimates warming of 3.6°C, with an upper bound of 4.9°C and a lower bound of 2.6°C.

So to reiterate, the notion that the world was doing just fine, until Donald Trump came along and ruined the fight against climate change, is simply not true. Whether we look at what the other governments have promised or we look at what they’ve actually put into place, the world was not anywhere close to respecting the 2°C target.

30 Jun 2017

Potpourri

Health Legislation, Potpourri 8 Comments

==> LAST CHANCE! Remember there’s a great discount for my student text and teacher’s manual of Lessons for the Young Economist. Offer expires today (June 30, 2017).

==> You know, people like Krugman criticize me for refusing to grapple with the surprising inflation results after 2008. It’s like he never saw the publication:

Murphy, Robert. (2014) “Explaining Inflation in the Aftermath of the Great Recession,” Journal of Macroeconomics, Vol. 40, pp. 228-244.

==> My latest explaining the case against ObamaCare “saving tens of thousands of lives annually.” I rely heavily on Oren Cass’s original research, but one of my contributions is to actually chart the mortality data:

U.S. Age-Adjusted Mortality Rates per 100,000 (Annual, 2002–2015)

Source: CDC WONDER Database

29 Jun 2017

Murphy Figures Out How to Highlight, Screen Capture, and Tweet Multiple Photos: Progressives Tremble

Health Legislation No Comments

I was telling Alex Tabarrok on Twitter that we can’t help but use the third person sometimes; it just sounds better.

Anyway, this 2013 article by Peter Suderman showcases how some of our progressive friends described the famous Oregon Medicaid experiment after Year 1 of the data came in–when it looked great for the program–versus Year 2, when none of the physical health indicators showed statistically significant benefits.

Because of that piece, I learned of Ezra Klein’s take (after Year 1), when he explained that the Oregon experiment was “the gold standard” and how we needed future studies along similar lines.

Now that today’s opponents of ObamaCare are using that Oregon experiment as Exhibit #1 to explain why repealing the ACA wouldn’t kill 36,000 people a year (as Bernie Sanders claims), Ezra Klein has a much more nuanced take on what we can conclude from that Oregon study. It’s not a contradiction, but you tell me if you think his considerations about the strengths and weaknesses of the study design were the same when he (a) thought it showed how great Medicaid was versus (b) when conservatives began quoting its results to show how little Medicaid apparently does for its recipients in terms of objective physical health outcomes.

28 Jun 2017

McEnroe Gets Served

Culture Wars 37 Comments

For the upcoming issue of the Lara-Murphy Report, here is one of my blurbs about current events:

SIDEBAR: McEnroe Gets Served

Tennis Legend Gets Sucked Into PC Crosshairs. You may have heard about the public rift between tennis stars John McEnroe and Serena Williams. The innocent bystander may even have seen a headline and come away thinking that McEnroe went out of his way to belittle a pregnant woman, all to sell more copies of his book. What a pig!

The truth is less scandalous. McEnroe was doing an interview on NPR for his new book, But Seriously. (McEnroe’s trademark phrase from a 1981 Wimbledon match was, “You cannot be serious!”) Apparently in the book, McEnroe says Serena Williams is the best female player in the world. The NPR host, Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, was the one to bring up this passage. In response, McEnroe endorsed what he had written, saying, “Best female player ever—no question.”

But then Garcia-Navarro followed with, “Some wouldn’t qualify it, some would say she’s the best player in the world. Why qualify it?”

At this point, McEnroe seems to be surprised and asks for clarification. The NPR host pushes him, and so he was forced to say, “Well because if she was in, if she played the men’s circuit she’d be like 700 in the world.”

Now in fairness to the host, later on Twitter she sent out:

So it’s possible that she wasn’t disputing the fact that Serena Williams would not win consistently against today’s best men’s players. She may simply have been asking McEnroe to praise Williams relative to her peer group, in much the same way that people could argue Rocky Marciano is the best boxer of all time, even though he would presumably get destroyed in the ring today.

 

But regardless of the NPR host’s original intent, the scandal soon blew up on social media and every subsequent interview McEnroe did. (For one example, Rebecca Shapiro wrote at the Huffington Post, “John McEnroe Just Can’t Apologize For Sexist Serena Williams Comments.”) In the grand scheme of things, McEnroe is not suffering here; the controversy is undoubtedly fueling book sales. But we can’t help but point out how absurd modern discourse has become, when McEnroe’s praise for Serena Williams in his book was transformed into a sexist attack simply because he refused to say what he thought was an obvious falsehood.

28 Jun 2017

More Hatchet Jobbery From MacLean

Rothbard 3 Comments

David R. Henderson reports on another outrageous (and I use that term carefully) smearing of her opponents in Nancy MacLean’s book on Buchanan. First I’ll do the Buchanan one, and then I’ll showcase how she also smeared Rothbard (HT2 Roderick Long).

Regarding Buchanan, here’s what MacLean wrote:

Koch learned as a young adult, from his mentor Baldy Harper, that “the great social problem of our age is that of designing the preventive medicine that will stop the eroding of liberty in the body politic.” Harper warned that “once the disease has advanced, a bitter curative medicine is required to gain already-lost liberty.” James Buchanan revealed just how bitter the medicine would be. People who failed to foresee and save money for their future needs, Buchanan wrote in 2005, “are to be treated as subordinate members of the species, akin to . . . animals who are dependent.”

Whoa! You can imagine a young Hillary Clinton supporter reading this passage and thinking, “Man, I knew these right-wingers were horrible people who wanted poor sick people to die, but I had no idea of the depths of their depravity. To admit that in print?!”

Go read David’s post to see what the context was for that Buchanan quote. I think you’ll find the fuller quotation gives a slightly different interpretation.

Likewise, according to Roderick Long, MacLean discusses a Rothbard essay on “The Negro Revolution” and says, “His hope was that it ‘might be crippled and defeated.'”

So here’s the Rothbard essay in question. Now it’s pretty long, and I actually was going to give MacLean the benefit of the doubt on this–at first. Here’s some of the context:

ONCE THE REVOLUTIONARY crisis-point is passed, the revolution becomes almost unbeatable, because: (1) if the white governments yield to the stated demands, this adds fuel to the revolutionary movement and induces them to increase their demands; but (2) if savagely repressive measures are taken, as at Birmingham, this will make martyrs out of the Negro victims, multiply their revolutionary fervor, and greatly intensify support of the revolution throughout the country, among white and Negro alike. Indeed, it was this treatment, as we have seen, that made the Negro cause a revolution. In short, the governments are now damned if they do and damned if they don’t. With the Negro movement now in a revolutionary situation, it seems therefore impossible for the governments to stop or defeat it.

This does not mean, however, that the Negro Revolution will inevitably be victorious. There are two ways by which it might be crippled and defeated. First, the retaliatory creation of a white counter-revolutionary mass movement, equally determined and militant. In short, by the re-creation of the kind of Ku Klux Klan that smashed Reconstruction and the Negro movement in the late 19th century. Since whites are in the majority, they have the capacity to do this if they have the will. But the will, in my opinion, is gone; this is not the 19th century, nor even the 1920’s. White opinion, as we have seen, has drastically shifted from racism to egalitarianism; even the Southern whites, particularly the educated leadership, concede the broad merit of the Negro cause; and, finally, mob action no longer has respectability in our society.

Now of course, since I know Rothbard’s work very well, it’s obvious TO ME that he is clearly not saying that he’s rooting for the Negro Revolution to be crushed. Rather, he’s offering a dispassionate analysis of the political and social forces at work.

However, I truly was prepared to give MacLean a pass on this one, and say that she botched her treatment of Rothbard through an honest mistake. In other words, whereas she clearly had to know she was making Buchanan “say” the exact opposite of what he really said, in this case I thought it conceivable that MacLean really believed Rothbard was rooting for the crippling defeat of the Negro Revolution.

But alas, I can’t even give her that fig leaf. Because if you scroll down in his essay, Rothbard writes in his concluding paragraphs:

TO PASS BRIEFLY from the analytical to the evaluative, what should be the libertarian position on the Negro movement? Perhaps the most important point to make here is that the issue is a complex one; the Negro Revolution has some elements that a libertarian must favor, others that he must oppose. Thus, the libertarian opposes compulsory segregation and police brutality, but also opposes compulsory integration and such absurdities as ethnic quota systems in jobs. The ethnic quota is no less objectionable than Hitler’s numerus clausus; if 25% of bricklayers must be Negro, must not the proportion of Jewish doctors be forcibly reduced to 3%? Must every occupation in the land have its precise quota of Armenians, Greeks, Montenegrans, etc. ad infinitum?

For his over-all estimate of the Negro movement, the libertarian must weigh and formulate his conclusions according to what he believes to be the most important priorities. In doing so, incidentally, he should not overlook a generally neglected point: some Negroes are beginning to see that the heavy incidence of unemployment among Negro workers is partially caused by union restrictionism keeping Negroes (as well as numerous whites) out of many fields of employment. If the Negro Revolution shall have as one of its consequences the destruction of the restrictive union movement in this country, this, at least, will be a welcome boon.

So with the parts I’ve put in bold, Rothbard makes it crystal clear that his earlier line about “There are two ways by which it might be crippled and defeated” were not his hoped-for outcome, but simply his positive analysis of the situation. If Rothbard hadn’t included those final two paragraphs, I would be prepared to believe that MacLean genuinely misunderstood him (though it’s still bad for a historian to write something so inflammatory about another academic when she’s wrong).

But nope, she could not possibly have read the whole essay and thought that’s what Rothbard meant, unless she went into it looking to do a hit piece and have plausible deniability. [EDITED TO ADD:] She is clearly leading the modern reader to believe that Rothbard back in the day was opposed to the movement for equal legal treatment of blacks etc. To the extent that he expressed concerns, it was over things like mandatory quotas, which is what plenty of modern readers would object to as well.

27 Jun 2017

Potpourri

Potpourri 12 Comments

==> If I said this post by Scott Sumner proves I am the Bobby Flay of economics blogging, would anybody get the reference?

==> Glenn Greenwald brings us up to speed on just how sloppy and dishonest CNN and the NYT have been in their reporting on Trump and Russia. If you have the time, check out this piece by a left-wing comedian who was the target of a hit piece in the NYT. I actually sympathized more with this guy than with a libertarian, because politics weren’t involved and I could focus purely on the unfairness of the hit piece. (Greenwald links to the piece as an example of what he’s talking about.)

==> Alex Tabarrok talks about the new Seattle minimum wage study.

27 Jun 2017

Fact Checking the Fact Checkers

Health Legislation 15 Comments

Here’s my question: Are these people being dishonest or just dumb?

In response to a guy in the comments saying he would think about giving up his private health insurance to go on Medicaid, I wanted to see what the disparity was in doctors accepting Medicaid vs. private insurance. (Answer: 69% vs. 85%, apparently.)

But then I was distracted by this amazing demonstration. This fact check site is evaluating those Republicans:

In seeking to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has said “one out of every three physicians in this nation aren’t seeing Medicaid patients.” House Speaker Paul Ryan said “more and more doctors just won’t take Medicaid.”

It’s a common criticism of the Medicaid program — that the doctor participation rate is lower than the rate for Medicare beneficiaries or the privately insured. The implication is that Medicaid patients cannot access care and that it has gotten worse since the Affordable Care Act expanded the health care program for the low-income and disabled.

But experts say that implication is misleading:

So there’s a bunch of stuff, but a little down in the article you read this: “The most recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics are for 2013, showing the percentage of physicians accepting new Medicaid patients was 68.9 percent, while 84.7 percent accepted new privately insured patients and 83.7 percent accepted new Medicare patients. That’s based on a national survey of more than 4,000 office-based physicians.”

Here’s another way of framing my question: How close to 66.6666666….% would the true figure have needed to be, in order for them to say “Yes he’s right, one in three doctors won’t see a new Medicaid patient”?