"Solving the Poor"

A review of Robert Putnam's book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, by Amy L. Wax.

I also highly recommend her "Engines of Inequality: Class, Race, and Family Structure," Family Law Quarterly, Fall 2007, the sort of article that gets her branded a "racist" at one of our finer institutions of higher education.

See also "Family Structure Matters — Science Proves It". (And as Glenn Reynolds often cracks, we don't want to argue with science now do we?)

"Study shows college textbook prices up an insane 1,041% since 1977"

Yeah, yeah, but how does this fit with my experience? I have one observation to report. I purchased my undergraduate econometrics text, Jan Kmenta's  Elements of Econometrics, which I struggled with and grew to dislike intensely, but for unaccountable reasons have kept all these years (maybe as a reminder to stay humble, very humble), for spring semester of my junior year, so early 1977. The price--not stamped, not stickered, and, of course, not bar-coded--is written in pencil on the inside, first sheet after the cover: "$19.95". 

While a second edition of Kmenta is, apparently, still in print, I will ignore that. I can't imagine any university professor assigning it in 2015 given that there are many better choices available. One such better option is Stock and Watson's Introduction to Econometrics. Amazon quotes a list price of $260, but they'll sell it to you for $185.37. 

So at the list price, there's been an increase of 1203%; at the preferable transaction price, the increase is 829%. Either percentage is reasonably close to 1041%, or as they say in D.C., "close enough for government work". 

But--and this is an important "but"--Stock and Watson is a much better text. Is it eight times better than Kmenta, 1st edition? It's hard to say, but probably . . . close enough.

Precisely correct

Kyle Smith, reviewing  Ronald Bailey's new book, The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the Twenty-first Century:

Environmentalist groups are, of course, in the same business as the folks who brought you the “Saw” movies. Their fundraising depends on it, and the media rarely go back to fact-check past predictions, instead blustering ahead with the next dire warning.

Bailey doesn’t claim that global challenges simply resolve themselves — although, as we have seen, some scares were fictitious, based on junk science to begin with.

The doomsayers simply never account for the role of human cooperation and ingenuity in confronting challenges. . . .

So will global warming, a much more complicated issue than CFCs, be resolved by cooperation or ingenuity? Ask yourself which science has seen more breakthroughs in the last few decades — political science or technology.

Related: Matt Ridley, "The Green Scare Problem".

Also related: Jonathan V. Last, "Remember Ebola?"

Words to remember

From a review of Nina Teicholz's The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet by Donald J. McNamara in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 2015:

This book should be read by every nutritional science professional as a guide to risks of hubris and the unquestioning belief in whatever the conventional wisdom of the day is and to the consequences of basing public policy on belief as opposed to evidence of positive, beneficial effects. All scientists should read it as an example of how limited science can become federal policy, which may, in in the long run, be harmful when the basic tenets of science, skepticism, and consistent questioning are set aside to appease the powerful voices convinced that we must do something (even if we do not have the proof that that something is the right something).

(Sorry, no link because the piece is behind a paywall.)

"Book Review: Tom Stossel's 'Pharmaphobia'"

"Yet, despite the book's extraordinary well-documented and indisputable examples of real progress, the negative impact of the "anti-innovation"  industry—which has used every trick in the book to slow progress—becomes just as clear. By far, the most potent weapon in the arsenal of the conflict-of interest-movement is the fabrication of the myth that the process that leads to innovation is inherently dishonest and corrupt."

"Book Review: The Redistribution Recession"

Philip Greenspun reviews U. of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan's book, The Redistribution Recession: How Labor Market Distortions Contracted the Economy. Here's the TL;DR:

With 363 pages of analysis and mathematical models, Mulligan shows that essentially all of what we have observed since 2009 can be explained by the following:

  • many able-bodied Americans will not work if they have a reasonably attractive alternative
  • the federal government, starting in 2009, made not working much more financially rewarding for tens of millions of working-age adults . . .

This is an important book and deserves to be read by anyone interested in the U.S. economy. There is a lot of interesting information still accessible even to those whose econ/math background isn’t adequate for fully appreciating Mulligan’s mathematical model.