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December 17, 2014

California Faces Death by Pension

"Here's what happens when unions control everything."

Remember this when California comes to the federal government begging for a bailout.

"Pace University's National Champion Monetary Policy Team Predicts The Fed's Next Move"

We'll know later today whether they're right.

December 16, 2014

"Houston Issues as Many Single-Family Housing Permits as All of California"

From Business Week:

“If you don’t have housing, you can’t do labor,” Chris Thornberg, principal at Beacon Economics, a Los Angeles-based research and consulting firm, told Bloomberg News. “If you can’t do labor, you are missing a major ingredient for economic growth.”

December 15, 2014

"LARRY SUMMERS: It Shouldn't Take This Long To Fix An Escalator"

Damn right.

But Larry is late to the party. See, for example, "D.C. Escalator Nightmare".

"Household Response to Government Debt: Evidence from Life Insurance Holdings"

Forthcoming in JMCB. Abstract:

We use state-level panel data on life insurance in force in the United States and find that a one dollar increase in government debt, at either the state or federal level, is associated with a $0.96 increase in the face value of the average life insurance holdings per capita for a household in the average state. This increase represents an intention to save that would almost completely off set the government debt in specifi c states of the world (i.e. if the insured dies). Because this state of the world is rare, the immediate increase in actual savings is only about $0.03, the cost of the additional insurance. We find, in addition, that this response occurs mainly on the intensive margin, meaning that the size of the average life insurance policy increases when government debt increases. Along the extensive margin, we find the number of policies in force falls slightly with federal debt, and rises slightly with state debt increases. The results show altruistic planning in response to changes in government debt that are consistent with Ricardian Equivalence and the long-run neutrality of government debt.

"Minneapolis Is Micromanaging the Food Supply"

What a surprise: "The city is finding out that more rules don't equal healthier eating."

But enacting rules and regulations are so much easier than trying to, you know, persuade people.

December 14, 2014

"Finding Racism Where It Isn’t"

Holman Jenkins, Jr. details the government's attempt to find racial discrimination in the loan market. Well-done, but especially good is the final sentence:

Unfortunately, the truth may be that our government has simply fallen into the hands of liars and chiselers who have identified a shakedown that the current legal and political culture will let them get away with.

December 10, 2014

"Economics: The View From Sociology"

Stephen Williamson tells you probably as much as you'll want to know about the hot new attack on economics.

Short version: it's dopey.

Related--here's one distinguished sociologist's critique of sociology: "How Sociologists Made Themselves Irrelevant".

"Wheat People vs. Rice People: Why Are Some Cultures More Individualistic Than Others?"

I find explanations of differences in culture and in economic systems due to geography potentially very appealing. (Geography, unlike many other factors, can be safely assumed exogenous.) So this hypothesis is quite interesting.

But the author doesn't mention, oddly, the similarity between this idea and Wittfogel's notion of "hydraulic civilizations".

December 09, 2014

"How Washington made itself irrelevant"

By Bruce Katz, Vice-President of Brookings[!]:

Now that the midterms are behind us, let’s have an honest assessment of what’s really happening in our nation’s capital: The federal government’s power is diminishing. Washington is becoming less effective at addressing many of our nation’s problems and less consequential in bolstering the cities and regions that drive the economy.

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