Economics

"Big Labor’s Minimum-Wage Remorse"

You just can't make this stuff up:

Big Labor has had big success getting politicians to raise the minimum wage, despite warnings that it could lead to more automation. Well, what do you know, now the Oregon AFL-CIO wants voters to limit self-checkout kiosks in grocery stores. . . .

The draft initiative claims “grocery stores provide many people with their primary place of social connection and sense of community,” but self-service checkouts add “to social isolation and related negative health consequences” for shoppers. It claims the kiosks “contribute to retail workers feeling devalued” and heighten the risk of everything from shoplifting to underage drinking. Oh, and self-checkout stations also intensify “efficiency pressures on workers.”


"The Way Not to Fix Education, Housing, and Health Care"

A point that's obvious but still underappreciated:

If so — if the rising costs of education, housing, and health care are causing ordinary Americans to tread water economically despite the falling work-time costs of most other goods and services — why would anyone suppose that the “solution” to this problem is more government intervention? No three sectors of the American economy are as heavily and as consistently distorted by taxes, subsidies, and regulations as are these three sectors. 

Related: "What Student Loans and Health Care Have in Common".


"On Climate, Democrats Have Gone From an Inconvenient Truth to Convenient Lies"

Matt Lewis, commentator on CNN(!) and The Daily Beast(!!) eviscerates the Democratic contenders' environmental plans:

The 2020 Democrats have moved from inconvenient truths to convenient lies. In their fantasy world, America can power the whole planet with wind and solar, monkeys pedaling bicycles, and unicorn farts. If we are to find a serious solution that can become law—and endure—Democrats are going to have to get serious and be more realistic. 


"You Don’t Really Want Smart People Running the World"

Isn't this the truth?

However, the record does not actually support that underlying idea, at least not in a clear-cut way. Of course we can all think of cases where people are in positions in which they clearly do not have the intellectual capacity to understand what the task involves, much less do it effectively. The other side of the story, however, is that of cases where people who were clearly intelligent, well-educated, and intellectually acute have nonetheless made a total hash of things.

Military history, in particular, is full of spectacular disasters where someone subsequently looking at events often concludes that the generals in charge must have been seriously slow on the uptake. (One classic case was that of the man responsible for the disastrous French defeat at the Battle of Sedan, Marshal Bazaine, who was defended by his lawyer at a subsequent court martial with the classic line “Gentlemen, my client is not a traitor. He is merely an imbecile.”)


"The Anatomy of a Moral Panic"

Fine article by a historian. Two observations:

  1. The phrase "moral panic" was coined by a sociologist. And, apparently, sociologists have some constructive suggestions for how we could reduce or avoid them. Sociology is at least a little bit useful--who knew?
  2. The concept fits quite nicely with--I think it is probably a subclass of--the "Bootleggers and Baptists" concept, which I've long thought is quite a useful description of a variety of phenomena in political economy.

"How to Avert a Public-Pension Crisis"

If a Blue State, a Red State, and a couple 0f In-Between States can do it, one would think every state could.

Much can be learned from the best funded plans, like those in South Dakota, New York, Wisconsin, and Tennessee. Plans in each of these states are better than 90% funded at this point because policymakers have been proactive in adjusting important assumptions, closing funding gaps quickly, and developing risk-sharing mechanisms that can fairly adjust contributions or benefits as needed. These states demonstrate that it is possible to sustainably manage a defined-benefit pension plan.