26 Feb 2014


Potpourri 69 Comments

==> Once again, Bryan Caplan beats me to the punch. Barry Ritholz et al. have things exactly backwards when it comes to the “welfare queen” corporations relying on food stamps etc. to underpay their workforce. Other things equal, a stronger “social safety net” makes workers pickier when it comes to their jobs. Put it this way: Would it make sense to eliminate welfare benefits and tell the recipients, “We’re trying to give you more bargaining power against Walmart”?

==> THIS IS FREAKY. Scott Sumner (in an older post to which he recently alluded) documents how Frederic Mishkin altered key sections of his textbook, mysteriously right around the time that retaining them would have embarrassed Ben Bernanke. Sumner of course thinks Mishkin is a great guy, but I’m not so sure. To me, the most ominous part about the “Inside Job” attack interview wasn’t that Mishkin got paid to write a study on Iceland, but that he apparently renamed the title of the paper on his CV after Iceland blew up. (Here’s the whole attack piece, but the Orwellian titling stuff starts around 1:05.) That would be like me altering my blog posts to, “My Deflation Bet With David R. Henderson.”

==> Matt Walsh says husbands don’t need to “earn” respect from their wives, just like wives don’t need to earn love from their husbands. Good stuff.

==> This Tom Woods interview with Michael Huemer (on justification for political authority) is really good.

==> Tatiana Moroz is so talented, she makes grown men cry.

==> Some people demanded that I comment on Jon Stewart’s attack on Judge Napolitano. What do you want me to say? He opens with a joke about killing vampires. Of course the writers at the Daily Show weren’t trying to increase sales of Napolitano’s books, but they did give long clips of his statement so people at least had the context. Yeah I didn’t find this piece as funny as, say, Stewart calling the trillion dollar coin a bad idea (full of swear words), but Krugman is right that the same amount of nuanced analysis went into that earlier episode. As Stewart himself said in response to Krugman, it’s a comedy show and they admittedly don’t get into all the subtleties of the argument; what seems an acceptable shortcut for the joke probably depends on whether you agree with the target or not. (If you want a true example of people lying about their opponents, how about Noah Smith retweeting some guy who called Walter Block a “pro-slavery prof”? Even if the NYT quote were in context, that would be wrong. I could say, “You know, bee stings aren’t that bad.” Wouldn’t make me a pro-sting economist.)

69 Responses to “Potpourri”

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

    Just be careful about saying something like “Reading Krugman sure is painful, but it’s better than a sharp stick in the eye.” People might use that to claim you’re pro-Krugman!

  2. DesolationJones says:

    I don’t think Wenzel got that “Senior Black Correspondent” is a joke.

  3. Silas Barta says:

    Bees should definitely get your permission before sting you.

    • Silas Barta says:

      Oops, goofed there and made it sound like broken English. That should read “get your permission before TO string you.”

      • Ken B says:

        Oops goofed there and made it sound like broken English.
        “Get your permission before stinging you.”
        Using the infinite not the gerund is incorrect and to confuse.

        • Keshav Srinivasan says:

          I think Silas was using before as an adverb, not as a preposition, so the infinitive is fine. It’s a complementary infinitive that goes with permission.

          • Ken B says:

            Really? You say this is correct: ” bees should get your permission before to sting you”?

            I say “bees should get permission to sting you” or “bees should get permission before stinging you.” Or “bees should get prior permission to sting you” or “before they sting.” ll of those are clearly grammatical.

            Well I think you are wrong about what part of speech before is here, and I say that even after to read this http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Before?s=t

            • Yancey Ward says:

              Well, I disagree with Silas, I think bees should get your permission afterwards to sting you.

              By the way, both sentences in question are are perfectly proper English, but the gerund is the more common and natural way of writing Silas’s statement, especially with the word “before” rather than “beforehand”.

              • Ken B says:

                No, before is prepositional there I think, making the infinitive wrong. It is clearly awkward, which is what is funny, as Silas made his change to avoid sounding awkward or broken.
                You are suggesting
                “before, to sting” with a comma but even then beforehand fits better

              • Bob Murphy says:

                For what it’s worth, I thought Silas was using voice recognition or something, and that there had been another mistake. I didn’t even realize the correction was what he meant to write, until you guys were arguing about it. Thus, I have to agree with Ken B. on this one.

                Though I should say, I think you are ALL wrong for arguing about this in the first place.

              • Ken B says:

                Note you said afterwards not after.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Yes, using beforehand would definitely have been preferable to using before.

              • Silas Barta says:

                Meh, I was just trying to be funny by correcting it something that sounds even more broken (and changed sting to string in the process).

              • Silas Barta says:

                (The idea was that I would spawn this off into some foreign comic animal shtick like “Yes, I will make sure to get your permission … BEFORE TO STING YOU!” … fail, I guess)

              • Bob Murphy says:

                OK sorry Silas, that makes sense now. Like I said, it wasn’t that I thought you were saying something odd and didn’t know how to write. But, I thought it was auto-correct (or voice recognition), I didn’t get that it was a joke.

              • Yancey Ward says:


                It is only prepositional if you call it preposition. It is adverbial if you call it adverbial (I don’t know for sure that is a word, for the record). It can be both. In your defense, my natural reading of it is prepositional, and I had go back and reread it to see it could also still be correct.

  4. Ken B says:

    Nice way to make the Wal-Mart point.

    • joe says:

      WalMart is called a welfare queen because WalMart benefits directly when govt provides food and health care to their workers. Low wage workers have little to no bargaining power which is why a minimum wage is required.. Anyone claiming that WalMart would have to pay these people higher wages without the social safety net doesn’t understand the problems faced by low skilled workers. Without the safety net, WalMart would have a less productive workforce. They’d pay the same but get less.

      • skylien says:

        A MW (alone) doesn’t give workers more bargaining power. It does the opposite; it takes it away from them. (Just having fewer options to offer = Less Bargaining Power)

        How can you first say “…doesn’t understand the problems faced by low skilled workers.” but then follow up to explain how the safety net benefits WalMart ? Why do you switch the subject from the problem of the low skilled worker to the alleged benefit for WalMart?

        BTW: I, and I am sure Bob too, am interested to know the details in what way a safety net and a minimum wage that are designed to transfer more WalMart net-income to workers than otherwise should actually be better (means more net- income for WalMart) for WalMart than otherwise. Sounds rather contradictory…

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

        And yeah, you have this the exact opposite. Wal-Mart (and other MW employers) have little to no bargaining power when people can get all of their basic necessities of life provided to them for free by the government.

        A large portion of the chronically unemployed are people who live off welfare and simply see no need to bust their ass eight hours a day in tough conditions in order to make money they don’t really need.

        If there was no welfare whatsoever, and if not working meant you starved to death, Wal-Mart would be able to successfully offer significantly lower wages than they do now. As it stands today, Wal-Mart is essentially “competing” with federal and state welfare programs for workers. It’s a tough competition for them to win, given as the feds and states give you money for doing nothing, while Wal-Mart expects you to productively contribute something to them in return.

      • Ken B says:

        Joe, can make an argument not just an assertion? Bob gave a clear argument.

      • Andrew' says:

        Some people don’t understand bargaining power. First off, Wal-Mart doesn’t own employees. They would be free to go work elsewhere, except…

        The government helped destroy the other potential employers for these marginally unemployable people, thus they have to deal with Wal-Mart.

        Now, why is Wal-Mart able to survive and gobble up employees? Economy of scale. They can take the fixed costs and administrative costs mandated by government of all the low-skilled employees and concentrate them into more efficient cost centers.

        So, everything the government has done got us right where we are. Now they want to do it with even more gusto- because that is easily marketed politically.

        If Wal-Mart is still the sole demander, NOTHING that doesn’t fix that is going to accomplish your political marketing goal. Wal-Mart isn’t a bad guy simply because they figured out how to survive despite the government piggy-backing social engineering experiments on the back of low-skilled labor. But politics needs a bad guy. So, where does the money grab come in?

        • Tel says:

          The exact politics that you describe creating the current Wal Mart situation, also require a bad guy, so people like joe have something to rail against and so government can be heros by squeezing some small concession out of the corporations.

          Thus Wal Mart is a bad guy, by definition… their job is to be the Bad Guy.

          • andrew' says:

            I predict corporations will be bigger next year.

            • Tel says:

              Ha! I predict government debt will be bigger.

    • Silas Barta says:

      That’s always bothered me, how almost the very same people make such contradictory points on this.

      In one moment it’s, “we need a strong social safety net so that people have REAL options, REAL bargaining power, and don’t have to take Wal-mart’s *slave* wages!”

      In the other it’s “Obviously the social safety net is just a big *subsidy* to fatcats like Walmart!”

      • Tel says:

        And in conclusion… we must raise the minimum wage, increase the level of government subsidies in the form of subsidized health care, and blame Walmart.

  5. GeePonder says:

    What porn problem?

  6. Daniel Kuehn says:

    I was wondering what you would think of Bryan’s post. What do you think of this line: “This could be very nice from the point of view of Walmart’s workers.”

    This seems to get to the point that a lot of us have been trying to make about the ACA: declines in employment due to free goodies and therefore a supply shock are not as bad (for workers) as declines in employment due to demand shocks.

    Bryan has always been consistent in criticizing Casey Mulligan on this point – and yet you seem to agree with Mulligan. I find this all interesting.

    On the question of whether it helps Wal-Mart… I think that’s a little tougher than Bryan implies. He’s treating it like an endowment effect, which it is in a way, but it’s not a cash transfer. It changes the relative price of goods by lowering the cost of medical care, food, housing, and whatever else. If those programs were removed those costs would be higher and peoples’ reservation wages could very well go up in response.

    Purer cash transfers like UI and TANF may work like Bryan suggests, but I think a lot of other welfare programs are mixed bag.

    • Daniel Kuehn says:

      And, I should add, we’re not idiots.

      What do pure cash transfers like UI and TANF have that the others do not? Job search requirements and budgets for services to help people connect to work. Obviously some people are going to avoid that push, but it’s well understood what kind of incentives these programs set up compared to – say – the earned income tax credit.

    • Daniel Kuehn says:

      Now that I think about it, it’s a natural way to look at a lot of the welfare state, but it’s the one way we don’t look at it.

      We talk about MTRs and the slope of the budget constraint.
      We talk about endowments.

      As far as I know we don’t really talk about how they change the price of consumer goods.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Daniel what is the (apparent) tension between this post and Casey Mulligan’s work? I haven’t seen Bryan criticize him so I don’t know what you mean.

    • Andrew' says:

      “It changes the relative price of goods by lowering the cost of medical care, food, housing, and whatever else”

      That’s good stuff.

  7. joe says:

    Jon Stewart did not attack Judge Napolitano. He simply corrected a few facts. Napolitano twittered a link to the full video that aired Fox and when you hear the full video, Napolitano looks like an even bigger imbecile. Hard to believe that clown teaches laws. Certainly would not hire any attorney who graduated from Brooklyn law.

    Does Michael Huemer know you can download his book for free from the torrent sites?

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Joe are you familiar with Jerry Wolfgang, the resident troll over at EPJ? It sounds like you guys would hit it off…

      • Richie says:

        I’ve mention before that I think “joe” and “Jerry Wolfgang” are the same person. That, or they are getting their material from the same source.

        • Richie says:


        • Tom Woods says:

          Yes, they are clearly the same person. The hysterical thought control is identical in both cases. If we could all just mimic Hillary Clinton on every issue, we would do a great deal for this phantom’s blood pressure.

    • Andrew' says:


      I know you don’t ever reply in defense of comments you make, but is your position that Civil War is required to end slavery, and that ending slavery was the proximate cause of Lincoln’s crusade into a US Civil War?

  8. GabbyD says:

    About stewart, i think u can respond to his arguments, same as you would anyone who would criticize a position u happen to agree with.

    regarding the krugman issue, stewart responds: “Look, as with most bits we do, whether of the fully fleshed out or more drive-by variety, there are always various counterarguments and nuances of language and thought that can be cited as evidence of this show’s inherent unfairness or ignorance,” he added. “So, I stand by our research on the topic, the due diligence, and my ignorant conclusion that a trillion dollar coin minted to allow the President to circumvent the debt ceiling, however arbitrary that may be, is a stupid fucking idea.”

    in other words, he 1) allows for the existence of counter arguments, valid ones too., but 2) he reaches his conclusion anyway.

    so, he’s pretty much like most people. he reaches his conclusion after considering evidence for it.

    so, if you want to defend the judge, please do so. in fact, i’m asking: what are good resources that support his positon on the correct history of the civil war?

  9. Gamble says:

    I think Daily Show was attacking more than Judge Nap. The free market, libertarians and tax protestors were also trounced.

  10. Andrew' says:

    Daily Show wasn’t aware that that’s a thing? Well, now they do.

    It’s kind of like when Ron Paul came and spoke and one of my co-workers said, as if to save me pain, “I think you should be aware he wants to reduce the military.”

    • andrew' says:

      Compensated emancipation was attempted well into the war. And it worked in DC, as well as a significant list of countries. Lincoln was for it before Jon Stewart was against it. But it wasn’t tried to prevent the war. It was mostly tried to appease border states for warring interests.

  11. Andrew' says:

    If Lincoln was embarking on a moral crusade to end slavery, why not go do it in Puerto Rico or Cuba. Why not either (1) use the political process in the US and/or (2) use military force OUTSIDE the US?

  12. Max says:

    The adoption of the Confederate point of view of the civil war is one of the weirder features of American libertarianism. There’s no reason for a libertarian to accept that the Confederacy had a right to exist. It was a completely illegitimate government. It’s fine to deplore the war – everyone does. What is not fine is to place most of the blame on the government that was not fighting to enslave people. Surely we can assign the bad guys at least half the blame (maybe more!)

    • andrew' says:

      Its about the secession. What is the confusion?

      • andrew' says:

        Play it out. The states are allowed to I secede. Then what? Hint: Don’t lead with “we’ll we’d still have slavery.”

    • Ken B says:

      It’s worse than you think. Look at what Tom Woods for instance says: the real culprits were abolitionists. Guess how he treats John C Calhoun.

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

        Wait, what? I’ve never heard Tom Woods say anything but positive things about the abolitionists.

        He does occasionally talk about how overwhelmingly unpopular their views were, but usually in the context of “These guys were heroic for speaking out against injustice, even though it was unpopular” rather than “We should have kept slavery because of Democracy!” or some such nonsense.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Matt M, have you seen the views Ken B. attributes to me, for example? You shouldn’t be shocked at this point.

          • Ken B says:

            Notice how Bob doesn’t actually deny my claim here, just goes for innuendo.
            I have posted this many times on this blog


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

              I think this article doesn’t really prove either of us right or wrong. Technically, I guess it proves my claim that he “only” says positive things about abolitionists.

              But I think your claim that he’s saying they’re “the real problem” is also misplaced. This article seems to be making the case that many prominent abolitionists seemed more concerned with a hatred of the South than with freeing the slaves. Which may be a valid historical conclusion to draw. At no point in this article does he say that abolishing slavery was a bad idea, or that the confederacy was a morally just and praiseworthy state, or any other such thing.

              It may be worth noting that this article was written about 15 years ago, and that more recently, Tom’s “Liberty Classroom” website features an hour-long lecture of the abolitionist movement that paints it in fairly glowing terms. The actual lecture is given by Kevin Gutzman, not by Woods himself, but all the material on the site is promoted and endorsed by Woods, so it seems reasonable to suggest he agrees with it.

              I’ve read Woods talk about Calhoun several times, and each time it has been in praise of Calhoun’s stance on tariffs, nullification, secession, etc. I’m a huge Tom Woods fanboy and I read a lot of his stuff and listen to a ton of his speeches. I’ve never once read or heard him say anything that might suggest he’s secretly pro-slavery, or that he likes Calhoun because Calhoun was pro-slavery, or anything like that.

              Praising Calhoun for being anti-tariff or saying “the cause of the south is the cause of us all” when specifically referring to secession is the equivalent of praising Hitler for having built the Autobahn. It puts you in a very vulnerable situation for attack and isn’t probably the best idea (remember, it was 1999, you can afford to say crazy things when you aren’t famous, I should know!), but it’s perfectly legitimate to do so. We shouldn’t be permanently forbidden from recognizing the positive accomplishments or aspects of certain entities, just because they have some negative ones as well.

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

                I should say “disproves” my claim in the first paragraph…

              • Ken B says:

                Utterly reprehensible is not a term of abuse? Villain?

                “Any civilized man must recognize in the abolitionists not noble crusaders whose one flaw was a tendency toward extremism, but utterly reprehensible agitators who put metaphysical abstractions ahead of prudence, charity, and rationality. Indeed, with heroes like this, who needs villains?”
                Take that Lysander Spooner you reprehensible villain!

              • Ken B says:

                Praising Stephens for that is cryptic speech. It is not comparable to the autobahn. He did not say the south got that one right. He said the cause of the south, meaning the cause as Stephens meant it because he’s quoting Stephens saying it, was noble. Did you read the foundation speech?
                Google Max Boot reviewing Woods for more links and references. Hummel, king of the Lincoln critics amongst real historians, is very harsh on Woods whom he calls neo confederate.

          • Ken B says:

            Woods practicing cryptic speech
            “These are some of the valuable things that Richard Weaver found in Southern civilization, and why we can say, with Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens, that “the cause of the South is the cause of us all.”
            You should hunt up Stephens’s speech, called the foundation speech, on what he thought the southern cause was about..

            And there”s more google Woods on Calhoun a bit.

            • Tel says:

              Alexander Stephens also the guy who said that succession was a really bad idea, and they would be able to keep their slaves by remaining loyal to the Union and supporting the Democrats in Congress, but any attempt to use violence against Lincoln would result in them losing their slaves forever.

              He got that bit correct, I guess it’s a good thing no one listened to him.

              • Ken B says:

                Hard to know but I find the “oh it would have faded away” argument unpersuasive. They said that in 1787. There’s no evidence in southern history post war of lessening of racial hostility. No obvious reason why slavery would have vanished.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                There is no evidence that slavery would have continued.

              • Ken B says:

                Actually there is. It continued every year up to 1861. It continued after that until forcibly ended. The south was actively trying to extend it.
                Maybe it would have ended, and maybe the country would have adopted Dutch as the national language; no-one can say for sure. But neither seems likely.

              • Tel says:

                Hard to know but I find the “oh it would have faded away” argument unpersuasive.

                That was my point. So you must regularly cheer about the fact that the Southerners didn’t listen to Alexander Stephens, and went ahead with succession.

            • Tom Woods says:

              Ken, this is obviously stupid. The fact that you have to use the Wayback Machine to dig up a 17-year-old articleshould be a clue, but for some reason isn’t. During these years you can also find anti-capitalist writing by me. It would make as much sense for you to dig that up and pretend I am anti-capitalist, but that would be too ridiculous even for you.

              As for Richard Weaver, he is one of the most revered conservative intellectuals of the 20th century, so I find it, well, eccentric to claim that I may not agree with him. Eugene Genovese, who spentmuch of his career a Marxist, also said there was much of value in southern culture, and that what p.c. hysterics were doing to the South was ignorant nonsense. Not every single aspect of the South has to do with slavery. The South is William Faulkner, Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, Walker Percy, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Randolph, George Mason, Patrick Henry, etc.

              But really: you’re going to look at my corpus of work and claim I am pro-slavery? So I’m for the nonaggression principle except in the small matter of owning human beings?

              It is incredible what the Internet does to some people. I used to be as viciousand unreasonable as Ken, but I refuse to do that to people anymore.

    • Ben B says:

      The word illigetimite is redundant here.

      The northern government was indeed fighting to enslave people; even if they were against private slavery, they certainly weren’t against public slavery.

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

    Who the heck is Matt Walsh anyway? I had never heard of this guy until about a month ago, when all of a sudden everything he says is absolutely everywhere on Facebook. I still have no idea exactly what he’s famous FOR…

  14. Gamble says:

    Jon Stewart and correspondent should read this book. Hopefully they realize, yes there was a slavery problem but the solution was actually worse.


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