31 Oct 2009

Now I Know How Cliff Clavin Felt

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I’m so conservative I probably wouldn’t have risked it all on the Daily Double… Duh.

(Every econoblogger is featuring this, but I think I saw it first from Boettke. And this is the reference in my post title. UPDATE: I just noticed a mistake at around 4:22 in the Cheers clip. Amateurs.)

31 Oct 2009

Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is?

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Jeff Hummel passes along this op ed by William Shugart on daylight saving:

Although daylight-saving time was sold politically as an energy-conservation measure, it does no such thing. Studies conducted in Indiana prior to 2006, when that state operated under three different time regimes, show either no difference in energy consumption or a small increase in power usage during the months after clocks were moved one hour ahead.

Yet the costs of switching between daylight-saving and standard time go far beyond the hassles of “losing” an hour in the springtime and “gaining” it back in the fall.

A Swedish study…reports increases in the incidence of myocardial infarction (heart attack) after the beginning of daylight-saving time and the subsequent return to standard time. Depending on whether the shift occurred in the fall or spring, men and women were found to vary in the extent to which their heart attack risks were increased, but the study’s authors concluded from the clinical evidence that time change triggered more myocardial infarctions in the two groups overall than they would have suffered otherwise.

It would be cold comfort were only a small fraction of the population subject to the untoward health consequences of time shifting. That is because, as the Swedish study notes, more than 1.5 billion people around the globe are exposed to the transitions demanded of them at the beginning and ending of daylight-saving time. Many of the companies located overseas that provide technical support or other services to U.S. businesses operate on New York time. Workers in Manila, Mumbai and elsewhere therefore must adjust their clocks twice a year even if their own nations have not officially adopted the institution of what in some places is called summer time.

Adding to the bill, some students of daylight-saving time suggest that accidents involving pedestrians spike immediately after the return to standard time as well, because drivers have not yet adjusted to commuting home in the dark.

There are few, if any, measurable benefits from switching to daylight-saving time in the spring and back to standard time at the end of October. But time shifting imposes some very real costs.

Those costs, we now suspect, are not limited to feeling out of sorts temporarily or investing effort in adjusting clocks rather than doing something more enjoyable or productive. The twice-a-year ritual of time travel actually kills.

I cannot prove it, and I suspect no one ever will, but I think the primary reason for the “daylight saving” nonsense is that it reinforces the notion that the State is omnipotent.

“We are the government. We certify your birth, marriage, and death. Any amount of the paycheck with your name on it, that you get to keep, is a ‘tax expenditure’ on our part. If you fail to pay sufficient property taxes–the amount being decided by us, not you–then we take our rightful property away from you. We are the State. You don’t even know what time it is until we tell you.”

31 Oct 2009

Murphy PIGs: Everything Must Go! The Prices Are Insane!

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When I give a talk somewhere, I don’t want to carry a bunch of books on me, so I just buy some directly from the publisher and have them shipped to the site. Of course I err on the side of optimism (better to come back with extra books rather than turn people away empty-handed), which means that over time I accumulate a bunch of inventory.

Consequently, while supplies last, I will sign and ship either of my Politically Incorrect Guides (see links in the left margin) for $15 plus shipping. Note that that’s only a buck more than Amazon charges for the Great Depression book, and my signature has gotta be worth at least $2.50.

Like I said, this is “while supplies last,” since I’m just trying to clean out my inventory, rather than start a side business exploiting my author’s discount. If you are interested, send me an email with “PIG Order” in the subject line, and I’ll let you know if I still have any in stock. (I have a lot more Depression ones than Capitalism ones.)

Makes a great holiday gift!

31 Oct 2009

More Stimulus Arithmetic

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In preparation for an op ed, I spent a half hour Saturday morning playing with the interactive map at the most transparent administration in history’s Recovery.org website. As of Halloween, here are some of the regional breakdowns in terms of stimulus money awarded, received, and jobs saved (according to the recipients). Of course these figures of jobs saved are themselves bogus, but even on their own terms:

Region…..Awarded…Received…Jobs
======================================
D.C……..$2.8b…..$209m……2,274
Idaho……$1.2b…..$246m……2,103
Texas……$10.7b….$1.8b……19,572

If you use trusty division, you find that the District of Columbia has “created or saved” jobs at a cost of $1.2 million per job (using the Awarded figure) or $92k using the Received figure.

Idaho takes the cake (at least of the states I checked) on the Received end, where each job created or saved cost $117k of stimulus awards actually received.

31 Oct 2009

Holy Apology, Batman!

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Oops. I went off the handle on Tyler Cowen and Bryan Caplan because of their over-the-top denunciations of Michael Chabon’s decision to get his son circumcised. In particular, I couldn’t believe Bryan described reading the section as seeing “the face of evil.”

Well, I just read the relevant chapter last night, and yeah, I see what Bryan is saying. Chabon and his wife really do think it is nothing but pointless genital mutilation deriving from an absurd tradition, and basically (my interpretation) Chabon goes ahead with it because his self-loathing doesn’t give him the confidence to take a stand.

(BTW I really like the first four chapters of the book so far. I think Chabon has the amazing ability of grabbing on to an insight about society and then really drawing out its implications with an incredible but not affected vocabulary.)

I guess the next time I want to mock GMU professors, I should study this and this.*

* In case you’re clicking those links past Halloween 2009, I should explain that the site Cheeptalk is “dressing up” as MarginalRevolution. If my rudimentary understanding of the intertubes is right, in the future when they republish their site, the above posts will have the same content but will no longer look like MR.

30 Oct 2009

SNL Clip on a Lazy Sunday

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I’m sure this is quite dated but if you don’t have a TV, it’s new to you too… (HT2 Thinklings)

30 Oct 2009

The Gold Standard and the Great Depression

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Krugman had been bashing gold for a while, so I rushed to its defense. Wherever there is a commodity in distress, I’ll be there.

29 Oct 2009

Those Evil Insurers

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I’m not going to get the wording exactly right, but at the bottom of the hour the AM news break featured a reporter saying something like this:

A new study shows that women in Tennessee are having a hard time getting insurance because…they’re women. The study put out by Blah Blah Blah found that women in the 25-xx age bracket who don’t smoke, pay higher health insurance premiums than men in the same age bracket who do smoke. The higher premiums mean that many women simply go without health insurance.

The study also found that men are affected too. In the 55 and older age bracket, men pay higher health insurance premiums than women with the same medical history.

Did you like the part I put in bold as much as I did? Both men and women are charged discriminatory insurance premiums because of their sex. Incredible!

Either that, or there’s some reason that women in their late 20s tend to have higher medical bills than men of the same age. I can’t think of any biological difference though that could explain this discrepancy. And as for the men, I’m puzzled too. It’s not like they die earlier than women.