"I Was Wrong. So, So Wrong."

A single-payer advocate totally changes her mind.

I made that argument so many times, over and over. “The lack of some kind of public health insurance option is crippling the economy! Stifling innovation! Keeping entrepreneurs out of the marketplace! We could revitalize the economy from top to bottom in one year if we fixed this!” was my favorite hobby horse, to the point that even friends who agreed with me asked me to STFU about it, more than once.

I . . . was wrong.

I was so, so, so, wrong.


The baby formula problem is an application of Newmark's Third Law

"When you see puzzling behavior in a market or a hard-to-explain institution, ask first: is a government regulation or bureaucracy involved?"

See "How Government Made the Baby-Formula Shortage Worse," "The U.S. Baby Formula Shortage Is the FDA's Fault," and "Rock‐​a‐​Bye Trade Restrictions on Baby Formula". (Note that there is little overlap in the explanations offered by these three pieces.)

And for a spirited critique of the administration's plan to deal with the shortage see "The White House Plan on Baby Formula Is Classic Biden".


"Robbing Peter to Pay Paul? The Redistribution of Wealth Caused by Rent Control"

Yet another government policy touted as helping the poor that apparently . . . doesn't.

We use the price effects caused by the passage of rent control in St. Paul, Minnesota in 2021, to study the transfer of wealth across income groups. First, we find that rent control caused property values to fall by 6-7%, for an aggregate loss of $1.6 billion. Both owner-occupied and rental properties lost value, but the losses were larger for rental properties, and in neighborhoods with a higher concentration of rentals. Second, leveraging administrative parcel-level data, we find that the tenants who gained the most from rent control had higher incomes and were more likely to be white, while the owners who lost the most had lower incomes and were more likely to be minorities. For properties with high-income owners and low-income tenants, the transfer of wealth was close to zero. Thus, to the extent that rent control is intended to transfer wealth from high-income to low-income households, the realized impact of the law was the opposite of its intention.


Two pieces arguing that Americans should be more optimistic

Kevin D. Williamson, "America’s Unwarranted Pessimism".

We Americans suffer from a pronounced bias toward pessimism, a very strange intellectual defect for a people as inexplicably blessed as we are. We love our disaster porn. It wasn’t that long ago that all the best people assured us that we were at “peak oil” and that the United States would never be able to compete with energy superpowers such as Saudi Arabia. That view found a large and committed constituency — a constituency it still enjoys, even after the facts have discredited the prediction. 

Bret Stephens, "Can We Still Be Optimistic About America?" (NY Times, possibly gated.)

Even without the daily reminders of Carter-era inflation, this feels like another era of Carter-style malaise, complete with an unpopular president who tends to inspire more sympathy than he does confidence.

So why am I still an optimist when it comes to America? Because while we are bent, our adversaries are brittle. As we find ways to bend, they can only remain static or shatter.


"Lawyers: From Mainstays of the Republic to Progressive Rent-Seekers"

One of my late dad's favorite solutions to the Ills that Beset Us was to demand that fewer lawyers serve in Congress and that Congressfolks have a broader span of occupational backgrounds. (And also, with a very few possible  exceptions, to insist that any law Congress passes apply to Congress as well.)

Related: "The Lawyers’ War on Law".


"Why Are There 10 Hot Dogs to a Pack But Only 8 Buns?"

Mental Floss tackles a Big Question of our time. Their answer is not fully satisfying but it could be true

(For those of you with an academic bent, here's a link to an abstract of a paper co-authored by a long-time-ago colleague of mine. I remember virtually all my colleagues being interested in the topic, but most, I think, weren't persuaded by the paper.)


"What’s normal at Harvard, but weird at other colleges?"

Quora readers discuss. Part of the top answer (at the time of posting this):

You enter Harvard after having graduated at the top or very near the top of your high school class. You were probably one of the all-around, good students, socially active, involved in your local community. You were probably named “Most Likely To Succeed” or something equally pithy. Academically and in general, you were near the top of the pyramid: the 98th percentile or higher. You got amazing scores on the SATs. You won awards for this or that during graduation.

Then you get to Harvard, and you’re average. If you’re lucky. Everybody else is so much smarter than you. You take the required reading test that everybody takes during Freshman Week, and you’re certain you did fine. Oops, no you didn’t do fine. Nobody did fine, everybody is required to take remedial reading and expository writing. I am completely serious. In my class, we read “Lolita” and what that has to do with expository writing escapes me to this day.


"Publication, Publication"

This a terrific piece by Harvard professor Gary King advising students how to properly replicate a published paper. Everything is here: if students follow the advice, they will have a fine chance of getting published.

Trying to replicate a published paper is, I think, a fine--albeit demanding for both student and professor--exercise for a graduate econometrics class. (Prof. King apparently also assigns this to undergraduates as well, but he teaches at . . . Harvard.)

UPDATE: Link fixed now.