09 Dec 2013


Big Brother, Bitcoin, Bryan Caplan, Krugman, Libertarianism, Mario Rizzo, Potpourri, Steve Landsburg 11 Comments

==> Mario Rizzo stands up for economic freedom and tolerance.

==> A few people have told me to highlight this apparent Krugman Kontradiction on unemployment benefits and job search (scroll down a bit). I actually highlighted this when it initially occurred (perhaps because somebody brought it to my attention, I can’t remember). However, Krugman on this one built himself an escape hatch because he was saying that it wasn’t the thing to focus on (or words to that effect). Don’t get me wrong, it’s super slippery (as usual), but I think he’s painted himself into tighter corners than this before.

==> Bryan Caplan has a pretty interesting take on what it is that economic theory gives us, when interpreting the claims of others. However, I think Bryan ludicrously overstates his case when he writes: “A good economist really can talk more intelligently about many topics he’s never specifically studied than most non-economists who work on those topics full-time.” Yikes! Just re-read that again to see why I’m taken aback. Now what Bryan presumably means is, “A good economist can offer crucial economic insights on a variety of topics, that the non-economist specialists would never have considered.” But that’s not what he actually wrote.

==> Megan McArdle discusses the coming “doc shock,” meaning that leftward shifts in supply, and rightward shifts in demand, for health care might have some predictable effects.

==> Oops.

==> Let’s just say I’m against this idea. A long time ago I wrote a series of essays critiquing “Assassination Politics,” a similar proposal.

==> Steve Landsburg reacts to Paul Krugman’s minimum wage op ed the way I would have. Besides the stuff Steve focuses on, a quibble I had was when Krugman writes:

First, a few facts. Although the national minimum wage was raised a few years ago, it’s still very low by historical standards, having consistently lagged behind both inflation and average wage levels. Who gets paid this low minimum? By and large, it’s the man or woman behind the cash register: almost 60 percent of U.S. minimum-wage workers are in either food service or sales.

I thought it sounded funny the way he said “the man or woman behind the cash register.” I don’t recall Krugman using such a phrase in other writings when all he means is “people.” Now I can’t prove this was his intention, of course, but in the context of this particular article–where he had earlier written about the plight of workers trying to “feed their families”–Krugman’s phrasing gives the impression that the majority of minimum wage workers are grown-ups who are heads of households. But if you follow the very link Krugman gives, you see that just about half of the workers who make “at or below minimum wage” are aged 16 to 24. That table doesn’t break it down further, but I’m betting if went up to 29 you’d catch another big chunk, and for that matter on the other end it would be older people supporting themselves. Again, this isn’t to deny that there are plenty of people who are in dire straits–and for that I blame the very policies that Krugman champions–but I think someone who just read Krugman’s article would walk away with the wrong impression.

11 Responses to “Potpourri”

  1. Rick Hull says:

    The “Dead Pool” assassination market stuff has a rich history in cypherpunk lore, the well from which Bitcoin springs: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassination_market

  2. oOooOoOOooOOo says:

    Why would anyone want to kill Bernanke? His beard is beautiful.

  3. Harold says:

    You missed an “in” off your tolerance.

    • Ken B says:

      I don’t think so Harold. There is a difference between disapproval or prejudice and intolerance. Intolerance implies trying to stop, prevent, or eliminate something. The baker isn’t trying to stop the wedding, he just declines to participate. A law forcing him to do so anyway is intolerant of his abstention.

      • Harold says:

        Semantics, semantics. Tolerance may be defined as the capacity or willingness to recognise and respect beliefs or practices of others. The baker is displaying intolerance. By refusing to bake a cake he is clearly expressing lack of respect for the practices or beliefs of others.

        Rizzo is not standing up for tolerance by supporting the baker.

        Is he standing up for intolerance? You can define tolerance as the willingness to accept rather than respect. If we use this narrower definition, then in a strict sense the baker is tolerating the practices and beliefs of the couple as he is not directly trying to prevent it. However, by refusing to do what he does everyday for others he is expressing disapproval in a very clear way. By expressing such disapproval he is trying to prevent the practice.

        SO definitely not standing up for tolerance. Just maybe you could squeeze in an interpretation where he is not standing up for intolerance. Either way, I contend it is more accurate to say he his standing up for intolerance than for tolerance.

        • Ken B says:

          Not to be snippy Harold, but if I dispute the choice of words, and say word A is more appropriate than word B, objecting that it’s semantics doesn’t seem like a strong riposte. If I correct MF’s syllogism and he replies “Logic, logic” …

          • Harold says:

            Yes, scrub my “semantics, semantics” reference. It was more a cry of frustration than a dismissal; the rest of the post attempts to elucidate the semantic issues.

  4. Matt M (Dude Where's My Freedom) says:

    “almost 60 percent of U.S. minimum-wage workers are in either food service or sales.”

    This is a very interesting way to phrase things, that I would suggest is, although technically accurate, also attempting to be deceptive. Who really cares what sector minimum wage employees are in? What sector someone chooses to work in shouldn’t be relevant, the very point of those who advocate for a higher minimum wage (like Krugman) is that ALL work is worth $15 an hour, regardless of what it actually is.

    I think he writes that hoping people will read it wrong and assume something like “almost 60% of people in food service or sales make minimum wage” which isn’t even close to true, but is closer to the picture the leftist agitators try and paint. The simple fact is that relatively speaking, very very few people in this country make the minimum wage, a fact that in and of itself shatters the myth that without minimum wage laws, we’d all be making ten cents an hour and working 100 hour weeks with no weekends.

  5. Bharat says:

    I respond to Krugman here. Felt a need to stress the methodological issue.

  6. Innocent says:

    So, and forgive me if I honestly feel this way. Someone who scans my items into a machine, which automatically adds it all up, and then takes my money from me and returns ( if needed ) change and a receipt and my bagged items is ONLY making minimum wage?

    Maybe it is just me but I have worked one of those jobs. It is simple and only deserved minimum wage. There were periods of long hours where NO ONE WAS SHOPPING… I know that may seem shocking to Mr. Krugman but it is TRUE that at times I simply SAT and waited for someone to show up so I could use my amazing adding machine in which I scanned in barcodes and took a persons money from them.

    The truth is I am near to the point where I do not think we really need live people at registers anymore, that will come true faster if you create an economic incentive to get rid of register tenders.

    How much does an auto-cashier cost? well Only a little more than one years salary of someone at minimum wage right now.

  7. Joe Schmoe says:

    “Let’s just say I’m against this idea. A long time ago I wrote a series of essays critiquing “Assassination Politics,” a similar proposal.”

    I’m about as against that as I am against Obama having a secret assassination list.

    But I really can’t object to someone treating someone else with the same moral standards as that other person has as long as they keep me out of it. Let one be treated to the same moral standards that he subscribes to, as long as others are not affected.

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