Wednesday, July 30, 2008
He now states that the effects of any new drilling for oil will not be felt for about 20 years. But just a couple of weeks ago, he and many other elites were all over "the speculators" for pushing up prices at the pump via their nefarious actions on oil futures markets.
Elites ought to be held to a higher standard.
But, thorough as they are, their discussion does not quite touch the logic of the LA City Council. This morning's LA Times includes "Council bans new fast-food outlets ... Officials want to bring eateries with healthier fare to South L.A. ... Councilwoamn Jan Perry, who as pushed for a moratorium for six years, said the initiative would give the city time to craft measures to lure sit-down restaurants serving healthier food to a part of the city that desparately wants more of them."
No externalities here. When and where people "desparately want more" of something (and less of something else), that's a job for local government.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
The current Forbes includes "Sun Worshippers" and includes industry forecasts of total solar power costs per watt for 2015, suggesting that it will be drop by more than 50%.
Most of us are not in the forecasting business, but we still have to decide which of the two 50% scenarios to bet on. The latter is probably the safer bet. The joker, of course, is the prospect of ever more energy policy and the like.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Today's WSJ has a section on cities, including an interview with Ed Glaeser. Responding to a question on higher gasoline prices, he says, "I would be very surprised to see a wholesale change in the nature of American urban development."
Saturday, July 26, 2008
It's an old story, "it would pump $32.1 billion in construction funding alone into our economy and create more than 210,000 jobs." But we have heard this song before and what is left unsaid is the awful performance that similar measures have resulted in. Similar half-penny sales taxes were passed by LA county voters in 1980 and 1990.
Transit in LA hit a high-water mark in 1985 because the 1980 half-penny sales tax hike was used to drop bus fares and transit ridership in the county shot up, to 497-million annual boardings, from a low of 354-million in 1982. But bus fares were raised in 1985 to bank money for rail. Since then, we have kicked more people off the buses than new rail has served. In fact, transit use declined steadily, to 364-million annual boardings in 1996, climbing back since then to reach near-1985 levels (496-million boardings) in2007. When 2008 is over, we will have surpassed 1985.
But in 22 years, the county's population grew by 21 percent, mostly at the low-income immigrant end, transit's natural audience. Had we just stayed at 1985 transit use levels, we would have served 1.6 billion more transit users over the 26-year period. Had we been fortunate enough to have transit use grow at the same rate that the county's population, we would have served 3.3 billion more transit riders.
And had official ridership promises been realized ... had pigs ever mastered flying ...
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Interestingly, cities are still the exception where faith in central planning/industrial policy is as strong as ever. This cannot work. Carl Close shows as much in his examination of San Francisco's Fillmore District.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Legalization is an appealing idea and when opponents dissatisfied with the "theory" ask for examples, there are few available. The Dr. Kush story is helpful. Some readers may not find the (depicted) characters that populate the transformed pot industry appealing, but that's not relevant. There are many subcultures that we may or may not have a passing acquaintance with, but we can seemingly all get along if and when there is decriminalization.
Besides the people described in the story are more sympathetic than the ones we see when we tune in Cops.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Many small cities with populations 10,000-25,000 are in metro areas and qualify. The piece points readers to this site to test their eligibility.
Fannie and Freddie may live or die. But there will always be ways for politicians to spread the moral hazard. And when chickens come home to roost, they will connect all the wrong dots and blame everyone but themselves.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Today's LA Times and WSJ include discussions (here and here) of the latest realizations of the effect in California government. Both pieces are worth looking at. Markets may be positive sum, but policial economy is not. And when the chickens do come home to roost, new programs are proposed to solve old program-created problems.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
But I can also imagine that most economists agree on the merits of openness and competition. Government monopolies should not be the rule or the law. Government provision, for example in education, communications, space exploration, mail delivery, infrastructure, (and many others) should never preempt private provision. Rather, it should compete with private options. If government can do it better, that can be discovered in the marketplace.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
As the title suggests, legal origins matter a lot. Common law traditions beat civil law traditions when it comes to explaining institutions that beget prosperity. Teasing a result of such profundity from a complex historical record is a real achievement. What Hayek wrote about in 1960 (and Smith in 1776) can now be tested and corroborated with modern data and methods.
Economics and history enrich each other. And the the law-and-economics approach along with new data run through modern statistical rules of evidence make a compelling story.
Monday, July 07, 2008
But as in the morning's WSJ ("With Gas Over $4, Cities Explore Whether It's Smart to Be Dense"), there is always a chorus predicting that this time people will move back to the central cities.
Sunday, July 06, 2008
This is beyond silly and easy to check. The quickest check is at Demographia, where Reich and others can find that in 2006 road and highway subsidies per passenger mile were $0.010 while transit subsidies per passenger-mile were $0.686. These are averages. At the margin, we build rail transit that gets much bigger subsidies.
Outsized and ineffectual transit subsidies have been in effect for over 40 years. Most politicians and reporters don't care and neither do many public intellectuals.
What little red meat I cosnsume these days is bison meat. It's as easy to get online as the beef.
Brad Hill points me to PERC research on bison ranching ("Bisonomics"). It seems that Ted Turner does it better than the native Americans ever did. European settlers replaced the bison herds that had long been roaming North America with cattle. In hindsight, that may have not been necessary. It seems that we have finally learned bison ranching. And bison steak is less toxic than the steaks and hamburgers we had grown up with.
And which red wines go best with bison burgers? Not surprisingly, Malbecs and a few others do very well.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Going over much the same ground is Leonard Mlodinow in The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives. I liked the latter much better. Towards the end, the author writes that nothing beats being lucky and good. Even better:
I wrote this book in the belief that we can reorganize
our thinking in the face of uncertainty. We can improve our skill at
decision making and tame some of the biases that lead us to make poor
judgments and poor choices. We can seek to understand people's
qualities or the qualities of a situation quite apart from the results they
attain, and we can learn to judge decisions by the spectrum of potential
outcomes they might have produced rather than by the particular result that actually occurred.