Efficient Markets 
Saturday, November 29, 2008, 03:34 PM
I participated in a comment thread over at Megan McArdle's blog, one of my new favorite places on the web.

What they are describing is generally called a "negative externality." A negative externality is where you do not bear the full cost of your economic activity: it is borne by another individual, group of individuals, or society as a whole. Environmental issues lend themselves to easy illustrations of this, but noise pollution from a bar could also be classified as a negative externality.

The key point here for libertarians is that markets do not function efficiently in the face of negative externalities. If I'm producing widgets for $5 and selling for $10, but Joe and Bob incur $15 of damage to their property every time I produce a widget, then society is operating at a net loss. If you don't have an efficient market, then you don't have all of the much-touted benefits of capitalism.

In general, there are two ways to deal with negative externalities:

1) You can regulate them. This involves either prohibiting certain activities (NO loud music after 2 a.m., etc) or setting caps (max carbon emissions per year, etc.).

2) You can price them in. In the widget example, this would mean that the gov't imposes a tax on me of $15 to compensate Joe and Bob.

Libertarians and conservatives tend to reflexively act against anything that calls for more government involvement. The problem here is that many confuse a useful tactic (less government regulation) with the strategic goal (an efficient market). If you achieve the former at the expense of the latter, it really doesn't count as a win.
2 comments ( 8977 views )   |  0 trackbacks   |  permalink   |   ( 2.9 / 1184 )

A Useful Addition to the National Discourse 
Saturday, November 15, 2008, 08:14 PM
I've long been critical of the way the NYT editorial page seems to make a deliberate effort to avoid adding a useful voice to the discussion of major political issues. Most often the Times is content complaining about the latest liberal pet peeve, while going out of its way to not propose a solution. It's as if the editorial board sees the job of filling up that massive space they set side for themselves as a chore, rather than an opportunity to move this country in the right direction.

The latest editorial on rebuilding the military is different. I don't agree with everything it says, but it's better researched than most Times editorials, and proposes several constructive solutions.
add comment ( 1328 views )   |  0 trackbacks   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 1683 )

Please Do Not Run For National Office Ever Again 
Sunday, November 9, 2008, 10:13 PM
Bill Kristol wrote a column complimenting Obama's skill and stating that "It's good for conservatism that conservatives will have to develop refreshed ideas and regenerated political skills to succeed in the age of Obama."

I appreciated his recognition of the skill in Obama's racial "mutt" comment. As a fellow racial mutt I like it anytime the mixed race question is acknowledged.

I was about to remark aloud what a great column it was, when I read the final sentence:
And it wouldn’t hurt for Governors Sarah Palin, Mitch Daniels, Bobby Jindal and the other possible 2012 G.O.P. nominees to begin bringing some puppies home for their kids.

No, NO, NO!

For the sake of the Republican party -- heck forget the Republican party -- for the sake of everything that is good, and true, and sweet, and honorable about this country please retire that woman from national politics. What is wrong with you Kristol?
add comment ( 1134 views )   |  0 trackbacks   |  permalink   |   ( 2.9 / 1267 )

I just don't understand how these people are so smart 
Saturday, November 8, 2008, 11:48 PM
The Economist, exactly on the mark as usual, weighs in on the Obama victory.

On the state of racial affairs in America, and by implication the rest of the western world:
This week America can claim more credibly than any other western country to have at last become politically colour-blind.

A sprinkling of optomism:
... he won almost exactly same share of it [the white vote] as the last three (white) Democratic candidates; Bill Clinton, Al Gore and John Kerry. And he won heavily among younger white voters. America will now have a president with half-brothers in Kenya, old schoolmates in Indonesia and a view of the world that seems to be based on respect rather than confrontation.

On the challenges that lie ahead:
Non-Americans must also brace for disappointment. America will certainly change under Mr Obama; the world of extraordinary rendition and licensed torture should thankfully soon be gone. But America will, as it must, continue to put its own interests, and those of its allies, first. Withdrawing from Iraq will be harder than Mr Obama’s supporters hope; the war in Afghanistan will demand more sacrifices from Americans and Europeans than he has yet prepared them for. The problems of the Middle East will hardly be solved overnight. Getting a climate-change bill through Congress will be hard.

Hope and perspective:
Like most politicians, Mr Obama will surely fail more than he succeeds. But he is a man of great dignity, superior talents and high ideals. In choosing him, America has shown once again its unrivalled capacity to renew itself, and to surprise.

add comment ( 1281 views )   |  0 trackbacks   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 1998 )

Lessons from the Financial Crisis 
Saturday, November 8, 2008, 02:25 PM
Ever since Rupert Murdoch took over the Wall Street Journal, the Op-Ed page has largely served as an annex for deposits by the editorial board. When editorials stay focused on business they remain spot on, but those that delve into politics sound strikingly similar to Fox News. It was refreshing, in the midst of all this, to see an excellent opinion piece written by Stephen Schwarzman, the CEO of Blackstone. He provides solid advice on how to ensure crisis like this do not happen in the future, and reminds us once again that maxim the majority political party in Washington would be wise to keep in mind: If there's anything worse than no regulation, it's bad regulation.

You hear that Mr. Barney Frank? Your bad regulations encouraged the issuance of mortgages to unworthy borrowers. You would think that Representative Frank would step up and acknowledge his error -- or at least remain silent while this crisis sorts out and we figure out how to overhaul our regulatory structure. Instead, the Democrats have appointed him their point man in dealing with this mess he helped create. Not exactly confidence inspiring.
add comment ( 1141 views )   |  0 trackbacks   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 2146 )

Saturday, November 8, 2008, 02:16 PM
The name of a delicious drink, but also the name of a columnist for the New York Times. She is, once again, absolutely hilarious.

On Sarah Palin:
The Republicans are being way more nasty to Sarah Palin than the Democrats are to Lieberman. They’ve been portraying her as both a shopaholic and a woman who walks around in nothing but a bath towel, a hillbilly who’s also a prima donna. The leakathon climaxed this week when Fox News’s Carl Cameron announced that Palin did not know that Africa was a continent.

Palin says this is untrue. But the worst part is that if these people get any meaner, we’re going to wind up feeling sorry for her. This is not something we are looking forward to, Republicans, and we will resent you for it.

On those calling for Senator Lindsey Graham to follow through on his promise to drown himself if South Carolina went for Obama:
...you cannot be angry with Republicans for supporting the Republican presidential candidate. It’s like getting angry at squirrels for climbing trees.

On Lieberman:
I am thinking of McCain’s other BFF, Senator Joseph Lieberman, who not only endorsed the Republican ticket and spoke at the Republican convention but also said, in the course of the campaign, that unlike McCain, Obama did not always put his country first. Since Lieberman is part of the Senate Democratic caucus, all this is not normal like squirrels climbing trees. It’s more like squirrels breaking into your house and setting fire to the sofa.

add comment ( 1004 views )   |  0 trackbacks   |  permalink   |   ( 3.1 / 2049 )

Still One Of My Favorite Songs 
Thursday, October 16, 2008, 08:16 PM
dream about me
on the phone to me

tell me no truth
if it is bad
there's enough in my life
to make me so sad

just dream about
color fills our life
just dream about
someone else tonight
just dream about
color fills our song
just dream about
how i will let go

add comment ( 1164 views )   |  0 trackbacks   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 2120 )

The Brits Don't Get Us 
Sunday, October 5, 2008, 04:15 PM
From The Economist's take on the VP debate:
At other points Mrs Palin was baffling. Mr Biden criticised the Republicans for having too much faith in drilling as a solution to the energy crisis. “John McCain has voted 20 times against funding alternative energy sources and thinks, I guess, the only answer is drill, drill, drill,” he said. “The chant is 'drill, baby, drill',” she corrected, playing some kind of gender card against herself.

To tell the truth, sometimes I don't get us.
add comment ( 1161 views )   |  0 trackbacks   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 2305 )

Daylight Savings Time 
Sunday, October 5, 2008, 09:03 AM
Can't make sense of when daylight savings time begins this year? The U. S. Naval Observatory has a very interesting history of daylight savings time that also includes information on when the time change occurs this year. (Answer: for 2008 daylight time begins on March 9 and ends on November 2.)
add comment ( 1135 views )   |  0 trackbacks   |  permalink   |   ( 2.9 / 2209 )

iPhone Email 
Tuesday, September 30, 2008, 04:49 PM
Having email on my iPhone is life-changingly great. However, whoever decided that all forwarded emails should be intended 3/4 of an inch -- as a technique to minimize readability over multiple forwards -- should be taken out back and shot. Okay, maybe not shot but certainly kicked in the shorts.

It appears that Apple has stolen a page from Microsoft and is now implementing it's own special way of (poorly) formatting emails.
add comment ( 1124 views )   |  0 trackbacks   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 2168 )

<<First <Back | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | Next> Last>>