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August 2013

"Will your congressman retire richer than you?"


Not only do congressional representatives and senators earn the guarantee of a monthly pension check -- a benefit that has become increasingly rare for most U.S. workers -- they also receive Social Security payments and can opt to pay into the federal Thrift Savings Plan, a 401(k) style-plan with fees that are far lower than most retirement plans.

As a result, longtime members of Congress can easily retire with six-figure annual incomes for life.

See also the sweet deal the former president of Ohio State is getting: "I'm considering retirement".

"Daughters and Left-Wing Voting"


This paper provides evidence that daughters make people more left-wing. Having sons, by contrast, makes them more right-wing. Parents, politicians and voters are probably not aware of this phenomenon – nor are social scientists. The paper discusses its economic and evolutionary roots. It also speculates on where research might lead. The paper ends with a conjecture: left-wing individuals are people who come from families into which, over recent past generations, many females have been born.

I'm quite skeptical. For one thing, wouldn't this contradict the stylized fact that most people's political views are substantially fixed by their late teens?

For another, my wife and I are firm counterexamples. 

Feminism: way too much of a good thing

Elizabeth Scalia:

In other words, women have succeeded in becoming the men they hated.

Susan L. M. Goldberg:

Wait. Women have struggled to move into seats of real power in the film and television industry in order to . . .  make sex ugly? . . . Not quite. For feminist critics, the sex not only has to be ugly, it should be fat, too . . . 

Mary Waldman (Slate!):

This trend coincides with a broader one: A greater number of American college women are binge-drinking, even as alcoholism rates for men are leveling off. Kitchener’s quest to find out why led her to a conclusion that seems obvious, though maybe only after the fact: Women are sick of presenting shiny, demure surfaces to the world. They want—as Kesha would say—not to give a what. . . .

And second, is playing by the body-fluid-soaked rules of the boys’ club actually such a liberating experience for women? I’m not convinced. Obviously, there’s rape. (And rape and rape and rape and rape.) But also, while some ladies of Olympian stamina do exist and enjoy projectile-vomiting contests—which is fine!—others prefer their goldfish in cracker form. How do we know that the women seeking out frat culture as the one space where women can “relax” and “be themselves” aren’t just getting chained to a new set of rules?

"The Harsh Economic Sting of the Beepocalypse"

OMG! What will we do when all the bees die

My suggestion: Don't worry. Like other apocalypic environmental disasters we've been warned about, this one, too, is 99.9% bogus. Work done by NC State economist Wally Thurman, Montana State economist Randy Rucker, and Oregon State entomologist Michael Burgett is extremely persuasive that there isn't a problem. See Wally briefly explain in this short video with John Stossel. Or read Wally and Randy's piece in the Wall Street Journal from about two months ago. Or read this brief piece by Shawn Regan of PERC.

"Technopessimism Is Bunk"

Yes! Distinguished economist Joel Mokyr smacks down the pessimists:

Yet today, once again, we hear concerns that innovation has peaked. Some claim that "the low-hanging fruits have all been picked." The big inventions that made daily life so much more comfortable -- air conditioning, running cold and hot water, antibiotics, ready-made food, the washing machine -- have all been made and cannot be matched, so the thinking goes.

Entrepreneur Peter Thiel's widely quoted line "we wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters" reflects a sense of disappointment. Others feel that the regulatory state reflects a change in culture: we are too afraid to take chances; we have become complacent, lazy and conservative.

Still others, on the contrary, want to stop technology from going much further because they worry that it will render people redundant, as more and more work is done by machines that can see, hear, read and (in their own fashion) think. What we gained as consumers, viewers, patients and citizens, they fear, we may be about to lose as workers. Technology, while it may have saved the world in the past century, has done what it was supposed to do. Now we need to focus on other things, they say.

This view is wrong and dangerous. Technology has not finished its work; it has barely started. 

Related: "Why Capitalism is Awesome".

But the true genius of the market economy isn’t that it produces prominent, highly publicized goods to inspire retail queues, or the medical breakthroughs that make the nightly news. No, the genius of capitalism is found in the tiny things — the things that nobody notices. A market economy is characterized by an infinite succession of imperceptible, iterative changes and adjustments.

And see also "The US Is Well On Its Way To Replace Saudi Arabia As The World's Largest Oil Producer". Why? Technology and markets.