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October 31, 2008

Law Professor Says Palin Was Ridiculed for Being Right on VP Duties




University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Harlan Reynolds agrees with Sarah Palin's views on the constitutional role of the Vice President:


(p. A23) The presidential campaign has taken a detour into a dispute over the constitutional status of the vice presidency. It all started when Sarah Palin asserted in her debate with Joe Biden that the vice president should play an important role in the legislative branch.

Ms. Palin has been roundly mocked for her claim. But she was probably right.

. . .

The Constitution and the best interests of the country suggest that the best place for the vice president is in the Senate.



For the full commentary, see:

GLENN HARLAN REYNOLDS. "Where Does the Vice President Belong? Palin Was Right. The Office is Legislative." The New York Times (Mon., October 27, 2008): A23.

(Note: ellipsis added.)




October 30, 2008

Fewer Jobs Under Obama's High-Cost Health Plan



RatnerDavePetStore.jpg "Dave Ratner, owner of four pet stores in Western Massachusetts, is worried about being able to pay into a state health benefits plan." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. A16) AGAWAM, Mass. -- Dave Ratner, owner of Dave's Soda and Pet City, is pretty sure he is about to get "whacked" by the new state law that requires employers to contribute to health care benefits for their workers or pay a $295-per-employee penalty. In order to avoid thousands of dollars in fines, Mr. Ratner is considering not adding part-time workers at his four pet supply stores in Western Massachusetts.

But the penalty in Massachusetts is picayune compared with what some health experts believe Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, might impose as part of his plan to provide affordable coverage for the uninsured. Though Mr. Obama has not released details, economists believe he might require large and medium companies to contribute as much as 6 percent of their payrolls.

That, Mr. Ratner said, would be catastrophic to a low-margin business like his, which has 90 employees, 29 of them full-time workers who are offered health benefits.

"To all of a sudden whack 6 to 7 percent of payroll costs, forget it," he said. "If they do that, prices go up and employment goes down because nobody can absorb that."



For the full story, see:

KEVIN SACK. "Businesses Wary of Details in Obama Health Plan." The New York Times (Mon., October 27, 2008): A16.





October 29, 2008

"The Real Economic Heroes of Capitalism: the Self-Made Entrepreneurs"



(p. A19) Much of the resentment felt by citizens toward the massive investment companies . . . stems from the perception that capitalism is rigged toward the most powerful. When the owner of a small retail outlet or medium-sized service firm gets into financial trouble -- who steps in to help? Why are the rules to start a business so onerous, why is the bureaucratic process so lengthy, why are the requirements for hiring employees so burdensome? When does the entrepreneur receive the respect and cooperation he deserves for making a genuine contribution to the productive capacity of the economy? Equal access to credit is sacrificed to the overwhelming appetite of big business -- especially when government skews the terms in favor of its friends. It is time to pay deference to the real economic heroes of capitalism: the self-made entrepreneurs who have the courage to start a business from scratch, the fidelity to pay their taxes, and the dedication to provide real goods and services to their fellow man.

. . .

Who would have guessed that it would take a Frenchman to remind us that hope is the limitless source of power that drives the human spirit to create, to improve, to achieve its dreams; it is the greatest civilizing influence in our culture. Yet it was Mr. Sarkozy, speaking before Congress last November, who offered the most profound assessment of our nation's gift to the world. "What made America great was her ability to transform her own dream into hope for all mankind," he said. "America did not tell the millions of men and women who came from every country in the world and who -- with their hands, their intelligence and their heart -- built the greatest nation in the world: 'Come, and everything will be given to you.' She said: 'Come, and the only limits to what you'll be able to achieve will be your own courage and your own talent.'"



For the full commentary, see:

JUDY SHELTON. "A Capitalist Manifesto; Markets remain our best hope for a better future." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., OCTOBER 13, 2008): A19.

(Note: ellipses added.)




October 28, 2008

Democratic Housing Secretary Cisneros Aided Irresponsible House Buying



ClintonCisneros.jpg



"Henry G. Cisneros, secretary of housing and urban development, speaking to President Bill Clinton on Dec. 19, 1994, in Washington." Source of caption and photo: online version of the 2006 NYT article cited below.

(p. 1) SAN ANTONIO -- A grandson of Mexican immigrants and a former mayor of this town, Henry G. Cisneros has spent years trying to make the dream of homeownership come true for low-income families.

As the Clinton administration's top housing official in the mid-1990s, Mr. Cisneros loosened mortgage restrictions so first-time buyers could qualify for loans they could never get before.

Then, capitalizing on a housing expansion he helped unleash, he joined the boards of a major builder, KB Home, and the largest mortgage lender in the nation, Countrywide Financial -- two companies that rode the housing boom, drawing criticism along the way for abusive business practices.

And Mr. Cisneros became a developer himself. The Lago Vista development here in his hometown once stood as a testament to his life's work.

Joining with KB, he built 428 homes for low-income buyers in what was a neglected, industrial neighborhood. He often made the trip from downtown to ask residents if they were happy.

"People bought here because of Cisneros," says Celia Morales, a Lago Vista resident. "There was a feeling of, 'He's got our back.' "

But Mr. Cisneros rarely comes around anymore. Lago Vista, like many communities born in the housing boom, is now under stress. Scores of homes have been foreclosed, including one in five over the last six years on the community's longest street, Sunbend Falls, according to property records.

While Mr. Cisneros says he remains proud of his work, he has misgivings over what his passion has wrought. He insists that the worst problems developed only after "bad actors" hijacked his good intentions but acknowledges that "people came to homeownership who should not have been homeowners."


For the full story, see:

DAVID STREITFELD and GRETCHEN MORGENSON. "The Reckoning; Man in the Middle; Building Flawed American Dreams; Helping Low-Income Families Buy Homes and Watching the Failures." The New York Times, Section 1 (Sun., October 19, 2008): 1 & 23.

See also:

DAVID JOHNSTON and NEIL A. LEWIS. "Inquiry on Clinton Official Ends With Accusations of Cover-Up." The New York Times (Thurs., January 19, 2006).

CisnerosDeveloper.jpg "THE DEVELOPER Henry Cisneros in his office in San Antonio with Sylvia Arce-Garcia, an executive assistant. He is the head of CityView, a developer." Source of caption and photo: online version of the 2008 NYT article cited above.




October 27, 2008

"Ill-Conceived Regulation Poisoned the System"



RiskFormula.gif




Source of formula title and of formula: online version of the WSJ commentary quoted and cited below.

(p. A17) Here's how ill-conceived regulation poisoned the system. Until recently, bank CEOs and regulators slept well at night thanks to a financial model developed in the 1990s called "value at risk" or VaR. It assesses historical variances and covariances among different securities, informing financial institutions of the risks they're taking. By assessing risk factors across all securities, VaR can compare historical levels of risk for given portfolios, usually up to a 99% probability that banks would not lose more than a certain amount of money. In normal times, banks compare the VaR worst case with their capital to make sure their reserves can cover losses.

But VaR can't account for extreme unprecedented events -- the collapse of Barings in 1995 due to a rogue trader in Singapore, or today's government-mandated bad mortgages bundled into securities that are hard to value and unwind. The "1% likely" happened. And because the 1% literally didn't compute, there was no estimate of the stunning losses that have occurred.

Yale mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot pointed out the shortcomings of the VaR model in his "The (Mis)behavior of Markets," published in 2004. He noted that bell curves work for, say, disparities in the height of people. In markets, instead of flat tails of rare events at either end of the bell curve, there are "fat tails" of huge upsides and huge downsides. Markets are more complex than the neat shape of bell curves.

Last year's bestselling nonfiction book had a similar theme. In "The Black Swan," former trader Nassim Nicholas Taleb pointed out that extreme outcomes are actually common, warning that financial engineers -- "scientists," as he calls them -- ignore these unlikely outcomes at their peril. But today's credit panic was not entirely unpredictable. Mr. Taleb was prescient in writing, "The government-sponsored institution Fannie Mae, when I look at their risks, seems to be sitting on a barrel of dynamite, vulnerable to the slightest hiccup. But not to worry: Their large staffs of scientists deemed these events 'unlikely.'"



For the full commentary, see:

L. GORDON CROVITZ. "The 1% Panic." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., OCTOBER 13, 2008): A17.

(Note: the online version of the article had the following added subtitle: "Our financial models were only meant to work 99% of the time.")

For the Taleb book mentioned in the commentary, see:

Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. New York: Random House, 2007.

For an insightful review of the Taleb book, see:

Diamond, Arthur M., Jr. "Review of the Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable." Journal of Scientific Exploration 22, no. 3 (2008): 419-22.




October 26, 2008

Dem's Acorn Group Registers Mickey Mouse to Vote for Obama



MickeyMouseVoterRegistration.jpg "Suspicious voter registration applications in recent months include this one for Mickey Mouse, of Orlando, Fla." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. A13) WASHINGTON -- Thousands of suspicious voter registrations collected by the housing-advocacy group known as Acorn have become a rallying point for Republicans, who claim left-leaning activists may be trying to rig votes in the 2008 elections.

Many of the potentially faulty registrations were flagged to election officials as a result of the group's own internal controls.

Democrats say the Republicans are attempting to whip up fear as a way of discouraging some newly registered voters from going to the polls. If past elections are an indication, such claims also may serve as a way to set up potential legal challenges should close election results produce disputed counts and recounts.

Faulty registrations in recent months include those in the names of Mickey Mouse in Florida, Batman in New Mexico and Dallas Cowboys football players in Nevada. State and federal authorities have opened investigations in about a dozen states; as many as 16,000 registrations in Pennsylvania are under suspicion. The Michigan attorney general's office Tuesday said it arrested and filed felony charges against a former Acorn canvasser for allegedly forging six voter applications.



For the full story, see:

EVAN PEREZ. "Probes Focus on Advocacy Group's Voter Registration." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., OCTOBER 15, 2008): A13.




October 25, 2008

Lawyer for Obama's Acorn Group Is Concerned About Group's Embezzlement and Possible Violations of Federal Laws



(p. A15) An internal report by a lawyer for the community organizing group Acorn raises questions about whether the web of relationships among its 174 affiliates may have led to violations of federal laws.

The group, formally known as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, has been in the news over accusations that it is involved in voter registration fraud, charges it says are overblown and politically motivated.

Republicans have tried to make an issue of Senator Barack Obama's ties to the group, which he represented in a lawsuit in 1995. The Obama campaign has denied any connection with Acorn's voter registration drives.

The June 18 report, written by Elizabeth Kingsley, a Washington lawyer, spells out her concerns about potentially improper use of charitable dollars for political purposes; money transfers among the affiliates; and potential conflicts created by employees working for multiple affiliates, among other things.

It also offers a different account of the embezzlement of almost $1 million by the brother of Acorn's founder, Wade Rathke, than the one the organization gave in July, when word of the theft became public.

"A full analysis of potential liability will require consultation with a knowledgeable white-collar criminal attorney," Ms. Kingsley wrote of the embezzlement, which occurred in 2000 but was not disclosed until this summer.



For the full story, see:

STEPHANIE STROM. "Acorn Report Raises Issues of Legality." The New York Times (Weds., October 22, 2008): A15.




October 24, 2008

L.E.D.'s as the Next Leapfrog Advance in Light




A few years ago I presented a paper at the meetings of Society for Social Studies of Science in which I mentioned Nordhaus's wonderful paper in which he measures advances in technology that produce illumination. Some of the technologies represent leapfrog advances that are part of Schumpeter's process of creative destruction.

At the end of my presentation, a member of the audience gave me a reference to the new L.E.D. light technology that he suggested was the next leapfrog advance. (Alas, I do not remember his name.)


(p. C3) L.E.D. bulbs, with their brighter light and longer life, have already replaced standard bulbs in many of the nation's traffic lights. Indeed, the red, green and yellow signals are -- aside from the tiny blinking red light on a DVD player, a cellphone or another electronic device -- probably the most familiar application of the technology.

But it is showing up in more prominent spots. The ball that descends in Times Square on New Year's Eve is illuminated with L.E.D.'s. And the managers of the Empire State Building are considering a proposal to light it with L.E.D. fixtures, which would allow them to remotely change the building's colors to one of millions of variations.

. . .

The problem, though, is the price. A standard 60-watt incandescent usually costs less than $1. An equivalent compact fluorescent is about $2. But in Europe this September, Philips, the Dutch company dealing in consumer electronics, health care machines and lighting, is to introduce the Ledino, its first L.E.D. replacement for a standard incandescent. Priced at $107 a bulb, it is unlikely to have more than a few takers.

"L.E.D. performance is there, but the price is not," said Kevin Dowling, a Philips Lighting vice president . . .

. . .

"The Marcus Center lighting will require no maintenance for 15 years," Mr. Gregory said. "That's a dream for a lighting designer."

But he does not expect standard bulbs to disappear totally. Just as the invention of the light bulb did not completely kill the candle and kerosene lamp markets, Mr. Gregory said, "there will always be a need for incandescent bulbs. They will never totally go away."

"The way an incandescent bulb plays on the face on a Broadway makeup mirror," he said, "you can never duplicate that."



For the full story, see:

ERIC A. TAUB. "Fans of L.E.D.'s Say This Bulb's Time Has Come." The New York Times (Mon., July 28, 2008): C3.

(Note: ellipses added.)


The reference to the Nordhaus paper is:

Nordhaus, William D. "Do Real-Output and Real-Wage Measures Capture Reality? The History of Light Suggests Not." In The Economics of New Goods, edited by Robert J. Gordon and Timothy F. Bresnahan, Chicago: University of Chicago Press for National Bureau of Economic Research, 1997, pp. 29-66.


LEDsNewYearsBallFullSpectrum.jpg "The full spectrum of color, design and programming available for the Times Square ball." Source of the caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.





October 23, 2008

Based on Past Experience, the Renaissance Was Impossible



(p. 26) Even the wisest of them were at a hopeless disadvantage, for their only guide in sorting it all out---the only guide anyone ever has---was the past, and precedents are worse than useless when facing something entirely new. They suffered another handicap. As medieval men, crippled by ten centuries of immobility, they viewed the world through distorted prisms peculiar to their age.

In all that time nothing of real consequence had either improved or declined. Except for the introduction of waterwheels in the 800s and windmills in the late 1100s, there had been no inventions of significance. No startling new ideas had appeared, no new terri-(p. 27)tories outside Europe had been explored. Everything was as it had been for as long as the oldest European could remember. The center of the Ptolemaic universe was the known world---Europe, with the Holy Land and North Africa on its fringes. The sun moved round it every day. Heaven was above the immovable earth, somewhere in the overarching sky; hell seethed far beneath their feet. Kings ruled at the pleasure of the Almighty; all others did what they were told to do. Jesus, the son of God, had been crucified and resurrected, and his reappearance was imminent, or at any rate inevitable. Every human being adored him (the Jews and the Muslims being invisible). The Church was indivisible, the afterlife a certainty; all knowledge was already known. And nothing would ever change.

The mighty storm was swiftly approaching, but Europeans were not only unaware of it; they were convinced that such a phenomenon could not exist. Shackled in ignorance, disciplined by fear, and sheathed in superstition, they trudged into the sixteenth century in the clumsy, hunched, pigeon-toed gait of rickets victims, their vacant faces, pocked by smallpox, turned blindly toward the future they thought they knew---gullible, pitiful innocents who were about to be swept up in the most powerful, incomprehensible, irresistible vortex since Alaric had led his Visigoths and Huns across the Alps, fallen on Rome, and extinguished the lamps of learning a thousand years before.



Source:

Manchester, William. A World Lit Only by Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance, Portrait of an Age. New York: Little, Brown & Co., 1993.

(Note: italics in original.)




October 22, 2008

Antikythera Mechanism Linked to Archimedes



AntikytheraMechanism.jpg "Fragments of the Antikythera Mechanism, an ancient astronomical computer built by the Greeks around 80 B.C. It was found on a shipwreck by sponge divers in 1900, and its exact function still eludes scholars." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. A12) After a closer examination of a surviving marvel of ancient Greek technology known as the Antikythera Mechanism, scientists have found that the device not only predicted solar eclipses but also organized the calendar in the four-year cycles of the Olympiad, forerunner of the modern Olympic Games.

The new findings, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, also suggested that the mechanism's concept originated in the colonies of Corinth, possibly Syracuse, on Sicily. The scientists said this implied a likely connection with Archimedes.

Archimedes, who lived in Syracuse and died in 212 B.C., invented a planetarium calculating motions of the Moon and the known planets and wrote a lost manuscript on astronomical mechanisms. . . .

. . .

Only now, applying high-resolution imaging systems and three-dimensional X-ray tomography, have experts been able to decipher inscriptions and reconstruct functions of the bronze gears on the mechanism. The latest research has revealed details of dials on the instrument's back side, including the names of all 12 months of an ancient calendar.

In the journal report, the team led by the mathematician and filmmaker Tony Freeth of the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project, in Cardiff, Wales, said the month names "are unexpectedly of Corinthian origin," which suggested "a heritage going back to Archimedes."



For the full story, see:

JOHN NOBLE WILFORD. "Discovering How Greeks Computed in 100 B.C." The New York Times (Thurs., July 31, 2008): A12.

(Note: ellipses added.)




October 21, 2008

The Current Financial Crisis Reveals a Need for Reform



As I think about the current financial crisis, I have been struck by the uncertainty among economists about what should be done. Many economists are silent. Those who speak, have offered very diverse opinions. And even among those who express opinions, there is a lack of confidence in their opinions.

Milton Friedman used to say that economists will be listened to when there is a crisis, and that economists need to be ready, as Friedman himself was with his floating exchange rate proposal. (Milton, we need you again.)

I believe that one lesson from the current crisis is that we need reform---reform of economists' research priorities and methods. We should become more interested in policy relevance, history and institutions; and less interested in mathematical rigor.

We should avoid what Schumpeter called "the Ricardian Vice." (Highly stylized, aggregated models, based on unrealistic simplifying assumptions, that are then blindly applied to policy decisions in the actual, richly "thick" world---see McCloskey's essay on thick and thin methods in economics.)

We also should spend less time in studying cute, counter-intuitive results ("freakonomics"), and spend more time on the big issues.

We should be willing to suggest institutional reforms and experiments, and participate in experiments (natural and artificial) to see how they work. (Spontaneous order is nice when it happens, but entrepreneurial vision and initiative can improve the world too.)

Capitalism has produced huge gains in longevity and standards of living. Yet capitalism is in danger of being hobbled or destroyed.

Schumpeter warned of "the crumbling of the protecting walls." We should have been better prepared to rebuild and defend them.

Note: The "Ricardian Vice" phrase is from Schumpeter's History of Economic Analysis, p. 473; the "protecting walls" phrase is from Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, p. 143.

The McCloskey essay mentioned is:

McCloskey, Deirdre. "Thick and Thin Methodologies in the History of Economic Thought." In The Popperian Legacy in Economics, 245-57. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1988.




October 20, 2008

Women Earn More than Men, in New York City


 

WomenMenNYCearningsOverTime.jpg   Source of the graph:  online version of the NYT article cited below.

 

(p. A1)  Young women in New York and several of the nation’s other largest cities who work full time have forged ahead of men in wages, according to an analysis of recent census data.

The shift has occurred in New York since 2000 and even earlier in Los Angeles, Dallas and a few other cities.

Economists consider it striking because the wage gap between men and women nationally has narrowed more slowly and has even widened in recent years among one part of that group: college-educated women in their 20s. But in New York, young college-educated women’s wages as a percentage of men’s rose slightly between 2000 and 2005.

The analysis was prepared by Andrew A. Beveridge, a demographer at Queens College, who first reported his findings in Gotham Gazette, published online by the Citizens Union Foundation. It shows that women of all educational levels from 21 to 30 living in New York City and working full time made 117 percent of men’s wages, and even more in Dallas, 120 percent. Nationwide, that group of women made much less: 89 percent of the average full-time pay for men.

Just why young women at all educational levels in New York and other big cities have fared better than their peers elsewhere is a matter of some debate. But a major reason, experts say, is that women have been graduating from college in larger numbers than men, and that many of those women seem to be gravitating toward major urban areas.

 

For the full story, see: 

SAM ROBERTS.  "For Young Earners in Big City, a Gap in Women’s Favor."  The New York Times (Fri., August 3, 2007):  A1 & A16.

 

   Source of the graph:  online version of the NYT article cited above.

 




October 19, 2008

McCraw on the Nature of Schumpeter's Defense of Socialism



McCraw on the third part of Schumpeter's Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy:

(p. 359) In answer to the question that opens Part III, "Can socialism work?" Schumpeter responds with the provocative statement, "Of course it can." But a close reading of the subsequent text reveals that he actually means, "Of course (p. 360) it can't," at least in comparison with capitalism. He is now writing in full ironic mode, like the satirist Johnathan Swift. "A Modest Proposal"---Swift's famous pamphlet of 1729---had suggested that problems of famine and overpopulation could be met by one simple step: feeding children from poor families to the rich. His proposal, Swift argued, was "innocent, cheap, easy and effectual."

Schumpeter's Swiftian approach to socialism recalls to mind the delight he took as a young man in Vienna's coffeehouses, where political and artistic discussion often continued well into the night. In this kind of setting, no proposition was too absurd or too subtly hedged with conditions and exceptions . Speakers won admiration for their sarcasm and wit, no less than for the cogency of their arguments. To puncture a point of view while seeming to recommend it was especially delicious.



Source:

McCraw, Thomas K. Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 2007.




October 18, 2008

U.S. Geological Survey Finds Huge New Gas and Oil Reserves in Arctic



ArcticOilGasMap.jpg

Source of the graphic: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. A9) The Arctic contains just over a fifth of the world's undiscovered, recoverable oil and natural-gas resources, according to a review released Wednesday, confirming its potential as the final frontier for energy exploration.

A report by the U.S. Geological Survey found that the area north of the Arctic Circle has an estimated 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas -- nearly two-thirds the proved gas reserves of the entire Middle East -- and 90 billion barrels of oil.

The report, the culmination of four years of study, is one of the most ambitious attempts to assess the Arctic's petroleum potential. One of its main findings is that natural gas is three times as abundant as oil in the Arctic, and most of that gas is concentrated in Russia.

The survey reflects interest in an area once off-limits to oil exploration. It has become more accessible as global warming reduces the polar icecap, opening valuable new shipping routes, oil fields and mineral deposits.



For the full story, see:

GUY CHAZAN. "Cold Comfort: Arctic Is Oil Hot Spot; Hard-to-Reach Energy Reserves Limit Potential." The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., July 24, 2008): A9.

See also:

JAD MOUAWAD. "Oil Survey Says Arctic Has Riches." The New York Times (Thurs., July 24, 2008): C1 & C4.

WardHuntIceShelfCrack.jpg "A Canadian ranger looks along the length of one of the gaping new cracks in the large Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, in an April photo. Climate change is opening up the region's potential for energy exploration." Source of the caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited above.





October 17, 2008

"Leapfrog Over the Other Players in Their Industry"



(p. 152) The early market is driven by the demands of visionaries for offerings that create dramatic competitive advantages of the sort that would allow them to leapfrog over the other players in their industry.


Source:

Moore, Geoffrey A. Living on the Fault Line: Managing for Shareholder Value in the Age of the Internet. 1st ed. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2000.




October 16, 2008

Growing the Nanny State: California Senate Bans Helium Balloons



BalloonEffigyJackScott.jpg "Don Caldwell, who made an effigy of California state Sen. Jack Scott in protest of his proposed balloon ban, with his wife, Laura." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. A1) California state Sen. Jack Scott says he didn't intend to "be a party pooper." It's just that helium-filled foil balloons -- like those found at hospital gift shops and office parties -- are dangerous. They float into electric lines and cause power outages, more than 800 in California last year, utilities say.

He drafted a bill to ban foil balloons; it sailed through the state Senate and now awaits a vote in the Assembly.

He didn't expect the issue to blow up the way it did.

Last month, at a pro-balloon rally in a Pasadena park, protesters cheered as a group of children pounced on an effigy of Mr. Scott -- made entirely of balloons.

"There's a leg, get that leg!" shouted John Kobylt, a radio talk-show host who broadcast the protest live. "Look what's left of him!" he said, holding up a sagging cluster of punctured latex. "That's what happens when you ban our balloons."

Wedding planners, party organizers and balloon artists all rallied to the cause. The industry body, the Balloon Council, set up a Web site -- www.savetheballoons.com -- that urges people to contact their state representatives. Members began a grass-roots campaign to garner support.

"My first reaction to this was, 'You've got to be kidding. Is this a joke?'" recalled Barry Broad, the lobbyist they hired to spearhead the pro-balloon effort. "Balloons (p. A16) and ice-cream cones are associated with the lighthearted parts of life, and now suddenly they have this evil-twin side?"



For the full story, see:

AMY KAUFMAN. "California Targets New Menace: Helium-Filled Foil Balloons; State Senate Sees Danger and Cracks Down, But Party Planners Fight Back; the $100 Fine." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., July 15, 2008): A1 & A16.




October 15, 2008

Schumpeter Saw Keynes' Work as a "Striking Example" of "the Ricardian Vice"



McCraw on Schumpeter's History of Economic Analysis:

(p. 460) . . . , Schumpeter compared Keynes to David Ricardo: "His work, is a striking example of what we have called above the Ricardian Vice, namely, the habit of piling a heavy load of practical conclusions upon a tenuous groundwork, which was unequal to it yet seemed in its simplicity not only attractive but also convincing. All this goes a long way though not the whole way toward answering the questions that always interest us, namely the questions what it is in a man's message that makes people listen to him, and why and how."


Source:

McCraw, Thomas K. Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 2007.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: italics in original.)




October 14, 2008

George W. Bush: The Real Dark Knight



BatmanDarkKnight.jpg







The movie version of the Dark Knight. Source of photo: online version of the WSJ commentary quoted below.

(p. A15) A cry for help goes out from a city beleaguered by violence and fear: A beam of light flashed into the night sky, the dark symbol of a bat projected onto the surface of the racing clouds . . .

Oh, wait a minute. That's not a bat, actually. In fact, when you trace the outline with your finger, it looks kind of like . . . a "W."

There seems to me no question that the Batman film "The Dark Knight," currently breaking every box office record in history, is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war. Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand. Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past.

And like W, Batman understands that there is no moral equivalence between a free society -- in which people sometimes make the wrong choices -- and a criminal sect bent on destruction. The former must be cherished even in its moments of folly; the latter must be hounded to the gates of Hell.



For the full commentary, see:

ANDREW KLAVAN. "What Bush and Batman Have in Common." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., July 25, 2008): A15.

(Note: ellipses in original.)




October 13, 2008

Chinese Prometheus: Executing the Inventor of Airplane



Here is a significant claim from "an elderly Chinese professor" (p. 76) who was talking to Robert Payne in 1943. Payne was "a writer and teacher who befriended Needham in China." The passage is quoted in an entertaining new book by Simon Winchester.

(p. 77) ". . .; we invented an airplane, and quite rightly executed the inventor; . . . "


Source:

Winchester, Simon. The Man Who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2008.


Winchester does not document his source for the quote, but it is presumably one of these two books by Payne, that are listed in Winchester's bibliography:

Payne, Robert. Chinese Diaries 1941-1946. New York: Weybright and Talley, 1945.

Payne, Robert. Chungking Diary. London: Weybright and Talley, 1945.




October 12, 2008

Leapfrog Competition Among Three Firms in Jet-Engine Oligopoly



GearedTurboFanEnginePrattWhitney.jpg "Pratt & Whitney hopes its Geared Turbo Fan engine will defy skeptics and win it a spot on the next generation of jets from Boeing and Airbus." Source of the caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. B1) Once every 20 years or so, the companies that make jet engines battle it out for a chance to power the next generation of single-aisle airplanes.

. . .

General Electric Co. unveiled plans to develop a new family of engine cores that it said would vault it ahead of United Technologies Corp.'s Pratt & Whitney, which has a two-year head start on a novel engine that promises to burn 12% less fuel than today's best engines.

GE, which is working with French partner Safran SA, said its engine will have fewer moving parts than Pratt & Whitney's, and will deliver equal or better performance. "We've been pretty quiet for the last couple of years, but we've been doing plenty of work in secret," said GE Aviation President David Joyce, in an interview. "So be it. Game on."

. . .

Besides GE and Pratt & Whitney, the other major player in the industry is Britain's Rolls-Royce PLC. Hoping to dominate the market, all three companies plan to spend well over $1 billion on their new engines, stretching the limits of their technology. Developing fuel-efficient engines requires the use of exotic alloys and ceramic coatings that can cope with internal engine temperatures that would be above the melting points of untreated metal components.

The next generation of engines may look radically different from those used today. One design that GE and Rolls-Royce are exploring separately would have a double row of propellers at the (p. B3) back end of the engine, with no protective covering. Such an engine would be noisier and significantly slower than today's planes. It also would have to be mounted at the rear of the airplane, but the companies say it would consume as much as 24% less fuel.

. . .

Pratt & Whitney had hoped to get a boost in the engine race by promoting a design called the Geared Turbo Fan. It uses a gearbox at the front of the engine that allow various fans and compressors to turn at different speeds for greater efficiency and less noise. . . .

. . .

The company has been working on the gear technology for almost 20 years, investing almost $1 billion so far, Mr. Finger said. He said that in addition to fuel and emissions savings, the new engine will cut noise by a factor of two and reduce maintenance by 40% because it will have fewer moving parts throughout the engine.



For the full story, see:

J. LYNN LUNSFORD and DANIEL MICHAELS. "Jet-Engine Makers Launch New War; Billions of Dollars at Stake in Race To Develop Efficient Power Source For Next Wave of Boeing, Airbus Planes." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., July 14, 2008): B1 & B3.

(Note: ellipses added.)


GearedTurboFanEnginePrattWhitneyDiagram.jpg "GE is creating an engine with fewer moving parts than Pratt & Whitney's design, and seeks to deliver equal or better performance." Source of the caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited above.




October 11, 2008

McCraw Calls Schumpeter's History of Economic Analysis "an Epic Analytical Narrative"



McCraw on Schumpeter's History of Economic Analysis:

(p. 461) History of Economic Analysis succeeds where much economic writing or our own time fails, having sacrificed the messy humanity of its subject on the alter of mathematical rigor. Above all else, Schumpeter's History is an epic analytical narrative. It is about real human beings, moored in their own time, struggling like characters in a a novel to resolve difficult problems. Sometimes the problems (p. 462) are purely intellectual. Sometimes they are issues of public policy. Often they are both. But what Schumpeter was trying to do---and in fact did---was answer the deceptively simple question he posed in the early pages of his book: to discover "how economists have come to reason as they do."


Source:

McCraw, Thomas K. Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 2007.




October 10, 2008

For Some Purposes Leapfrogged Technologies Remain Better




CassetteRIPtombstone.jpg "Hachette's audio department recently held a "funeral" for cassette tapes; an invitation is above." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


The article quoted below mentions a feature of new "leapfrog" technologies that has received too little attention. The new product, overall, for most purposes, or for most important purposes, is better than the old product, but it may be that the new product lacks some features that the old product had, that had value. It is a step forward in most respects, but not in all respects.

I salute the observation in the last quoted paragraph below. When I am listening to a book, while walking Willy, some UPS truck often passes me, noisily making a sentence of two inaudible. If I'm listening to a cassette, I can back up a few sentences. If I'm listening to a CD, I have to back up at least a few minutes, and often many minutes (depending on how short the tracks are on the CD).

I remember an early word processor (can't remember its name, maybe it was Wordmarc), that allowed you to type in the page number of a long document and then go directly to that page. I am currently writing a book using Microsoft Word. And in the vast majority of respects it is better than the word processor of yore. But every time I have to scroll and scroll and scroll, to get to a page, when I already know exactly which page I want, I irrationally curse Bill Gates.

Addendum posted 10/10/08:

Since this post was created on July 30, 2008, I have discovered that Word 2007 has the feature that I missed from Wordmarc, and I also learned that if I had invested more time in Word 2003, I might have discovered that by drilling down to an obscure option menu, it too could have been customized to have had the feature. (In Wordmarc the feature was real obvious.)


(p. C7) There was a funeral the other day in the Midtown offices of Hachette, the book publisher, to mourn the passing of what it called a "dear friend." Nobody had actually died, except for a piece of technology, the cassette tape.

While the cassette was dumped long ago by the music industry, it has lived on among publishers of audio books. Many people prefer cassettes because they make it easy to pick up in the same place where the listener left off, or to rewind in case a certain sentence is missed. For Hachette, however, demand had slowed so much that it released its last book on cassette in June, with "Sail," a novel by James Patterson and Howard Roughan.

The funeral at Hachette -- an office party in the audio-book department -- mirrored the broader demise of cassettes, which gave vinyl a run for its money before being eclipsed by the compact disc. (The CD, too, is in rapid decline, thanks to Internet music stores, but that is a different story.)

. . .

Cassette tapes' tendency to hiss -- and to melt in the summer and snap in the winter -- turns off audiophiles. But for audio books, the cassette is an oddly elegant medium: you can eject it from your car, carry it home and stick it in a boombox, and it will pick up in the same place, an analog feat beyond the ability of the CD.



For the full story, see:

ANDREW ADAM NEWMAN. "Say So Long to an Old Companion: Cassette Tapes." The New York Times (Mon., July 28, 2008): C7.

(Note: ellipsis added.)






October 9, 2008

SNL CSPAN Pelosi, Frank Bailout Skit



SNLcspanBailout2008-10-04.jpg Source: screen capture from the NBC video clip mentioned, and linked to below.

Most Saturday Night Live (SNL) skits support liberal causes and politicians, and are critical of those with sympathies for free markets.

There was a wonderful, rare exception aired as the second skit on the 10/04/08 show. The skit pokes fun at the Democrats for their responsibility in creating the mortgage meltdown crisis. Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank are shown expressing sympathy for various miscreants who expect the taxpayer to bail them out of their financial responsibilites.

(An interesting sidenote is that NBC pulled the clip from their web site for a about a full day, even though they left up other clips from the same show. Some bloggers suggested that employees of NBC had political motivations for their act of quasi-censorshp.)

The skit was entitled "C-span Bailout" and as of 10/08/08, could be found at:

http://www.nbc.com/Saturday_Night_Live/video/clips/c-span-bailout/727521/





October 8, 2008

Steve Jobs Shows Schumpeter Was Wrong About Bureaucratization of the Entrepreneurial Function



JobsSteveGauntAppearance.jpg "Steven P. Jobs during a conference in June in San Francisco." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article cited below.

Sometimes Schumpeter suggested that in mature capitalism, it would be possible for some aspects of entrepreneurship to be made routine enough to be performed by corporate bureaucracies.

The creative innovations of Steve Jobs, and the stock market reaction to rumors of his ill-health, illustrate that individual entrepreneurs still matter.

(p. B2) During Apple's earnings conference call Monday, Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer declined to answer an analyst's question about Mr. Jobs's health, calling it "a private matter." Apple's demurral raised new concerns among investors, who have been worried about Mr. Jobs's health since a 2004 bout with pancreatic cancer.

Their fears flared earlier this year, when Mr. Jobs appeared gaunt at a public appearance; the company at the time blamed "a common bug." The fears were stoked anew this week with a report in the New York Post that the CEO is unwell. Now, said one Apple fund investor, "everyone's worried."

Apple shares fell as low as $146.53 earlier Tuesday following the company's lackluster outlook for the current quarter. Some analysts suggested that concerns about Mr. Jobs's health were also weighing on the stock, which closed at $162.02, down $4.27, in 4 p.m. Nasdaq Stock Market trading.

. . .

The dearth of information has led investors to do their own digging over the years. In 2004, one hedge fund hired private investigators to tail Mr. Jobs to hospital appointments in the hopes of figuring out how sick he was, said a portfolio manager at the fund. Eventually, he said, Mr. Jobs "seemed to catch on," and became harder to track.

More recently, hedge-fund managers said Tuesday, fund managers have talked of asking doctors to closely analyze pictures of Mr. Jobs to monitor changes in his physical appearance, and have been talking about once again hiring investigators to find out Mr. Jobs's prognosis.



For the full story, see:
BEN CHARNY and JUSTIN SCHECK. "Worries Over Jobs's Health Weighs on the Stock." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., July 23, 2008): B2.

(Note: ellipses added.)

Another relevant WSJ article is:
breakingviews.com. "GE Deal Is Looking Bright; Abu Dhabi Capital Accord Yields Potential Benefits For Both Participants; Boardroom Health." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., July 23, 2008): C18.

(Note: The online version of the title of this second WSJ article is: "GE's Imagination at Work Challenged at Home, Company Strikes Gusher With Abu Dhabi Linkup." )

The NYT article is:
JOHN MARKOFF. "Talk of Chief's Health Weighs on Apple's Share Price."
The New York Times (Weds., July 23, 2008): C5.


In fairness to Schumpeter, his position on this issue was frequently conflicted, as has been shown and discussed in:

Langlois, Richard N. "Schumpeter and the Obsolescence of the Entrepreneur." Advances in Austrian Economics 6 (2003): 287-302.




October 7, 2008

Schumpeter Poem on People Wanting to Be in Control of Their Lives



A few lines from an unpublished Schumpeter poem (written September 6, 1941) that McCraw quotes at length:

(p. 400) To live the lives which are our own
To manage our affairs
That's what the people wanted


Source:

McCraw, Thomas K. Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 2007.




October 6, 2008

The Fragility of Freedom



TroublesomeYoungMenBK.jpgBloodToilTearsAndSweatBK.jpg





Source of book image on the left:                    
http://images.barnesandnoble.com/images/25780000/25788683.jpg

Source of book image on the right: http://www.churchillsociety.org/Churchill%20Book%20Discussion%20Group.htm

Several recent books support a common conclusion that freedom is fragile, and its preservation can sometimes depend on the courage of a few individuals. I recently heard discussions on C-SPAN of a couple of books (images above) on WW2 that emphasize this point. Hitler might very well have succeeded in the long-term conquest of continental Europe, and even Great Britain, if Churchill and a few others had not taken a stand.

Earlier, also on C-SPAN, I heard John Ferling make a similar point with regard to the American Revolution. (See the images of his two relevant books below.) Were it not for the actions of George Washington, and a few others, the revolution very well might have failed.

One can view this as a bad news, good news, story. In earlier entries on the blog, I have quoted articles suggesting that the French are especially bothered by how "precarious" life can be. Well, the bad news is, that on this, the French may be right.

But, on the other hand, the stories of Churchill, and Washington, also tell us that with some courage and determination and wisdom, individuals can sometimes make a big difference in how stories end. That is the good news.

(And yes, Nassim, luck matters too.)


Books referred to:

Ferling, John. Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independence. New York: Oxford University Press, USA, 2007.

Ferling, John. A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic. 1st ed. New York: Oxford University Press, USA, 2003.

Lukacs, John R. Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat: The Dire Warning: Churchill's First Speech as Prime Minister. New York: Basic Books, 2008.

Olson, Lynne. Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England. 1st ed. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.

LeapInTheDarkBK.jpg

AlmostAMiracleBK.JPG


Source of book image on the left:                     http://images.barnesandnoble.com/images/7790000/7793679.jpg
Source of book image on the right: http://images.barnesandnoble.com/images/13420000/13429252.jpg





October 5, 2008

McCain Supports Construction of Nuclear Power Plants



McCainNuclearFermi2Plant.jpg "Sen. John McCain, center, visits the Enrico Fermi nuclear plant in Michigan. From left: shift manager Phil Skarbek, CEO Anthony Earley, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich." Source of caption and photo: http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/election2008/2008-08-05-mccain-nuclear_N.htm


I believe that the market is the most efficient institution for deciding the best mix of technologies for providing energy. But I am 'pro-nuclear' in the sense that the government should reduce past regulatory barriers, that have unjustifiably increased the cost of nuclear power relative to other energy technologies.

(p. A16) NEWPORT, Mich. -- Senator John McCain toured a nuclear power plant in Michigan on Tuesday to highlight his support for the construction of 45 new nuclear power generators by 2030, a position that he said distinguished him from his Democratic rival, Senator Barack Obama.

Mr. McCain, an Arizona Republican, portrayed his support of nuclear energy as part of an "all-of-the-above approach" to addressing the nation's energy needs at a time of $4-a-gallon gasoline. He called it "safe, efficient, inexpensive and obviously a vital ingredient in the future of the economy of our nation and in our mission to eliminate over time our dependence on foreign oil."

"If we really want to enable new technologies tomorrow like plug-in electric cars, we need electricity to plug into," he said in a statement after touring the Fermi 2 nuclear plant, its twin cooling towers spewing vapors used as a backdrop. "We need to do all this and more."

. . .

But market conditions have improved as demand for power has risen and the price of natural gas, a competing fuel, has jumped. Lately some environmental groups that had been critical of nuclear power have embraced it, seeing the technology as a way to meet the nation's growing energy demands without contributing more heat-trapping gases.

In addressing the nation's energy demands, Mr. Obama has focused on alternative energy sources like wind and solar, as well as conservation, which would apparently also be the main beneficiaries of the decade-long $150 billion government investment effort he promises if elected. He barely mentions nuclear power, usually just alluding to it in a sentence here or there.



For the full story, see:

MARY ANN GIORDANO and LARRY ROHTER. "McCain at Nuclear Plant Highlights Energy Issue." The New York Times (Weds., August 5, 2008): A16.

(Note: ellipsis added.)




October 4, 2008

Making a Profit Selling Solid Houses to Citizens of New Orleans



EverhouseNewOrleans.jpg



"The Everhouse." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. A9) Tomorrow, tens of thousands of people who lost their homes in Hurricane Katrina and are still living in federally owned trailers will be forced to find a new place to live. After nearly three years, the federal government's temporary housing is coming to an end.

These folks are not going to have an easy time of it, because affordable housing in the Gulf Coast region is scarce. The problem has persisted despite billions in government aid - and the efforts of large private developers - because of a shortage of skilled laborers and sky-high insurance rates.

Yet now there is hope, in the person of John Sawyer. Not only does this 64-year-old Bostonian believe he can build houses people can afford to buy and insure; he says they will withstand the next big storm. And, by the way, he intends to makes a tidy profit.

. . .

The dwellings will arrive in the form of kits that can be assembled in as little as 14 days. With walls of reinforced concrete, there isn't much wood, and so mold won't pose a major problem if the houses are ever flooded. They can "take a bath" as the locals say. Everhouses also cost $68 a square foot, less than half the going rate for affordable housing in New Orleans.

The upshot of the house's durability and cost is that it's easy to insure.


For the full commentary, see:

JAKE HALPERN. "A Market Solution to Hurricane Risk." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., May 31, 2008): A9.

(Note: ellipsis added.)




October 3, 2008

McCraw on Communist Versus Capitalist Imperialism



From McCraw's summary of an article entitled "The Function of Entrepreneurs and the Interest of the Worker" that Schumpeter published in 1927 in a labor magazine :

(p. 384) By the end of the war, every nation in Eastern Europe and most in Central Europe had fallen under the control of the Soviets. They stripped industrial machinery, works of art, gold, and other movable assets from many of those countries and shipped them all to Russia. The total amount stolen equaled in value the aid to Western Europe under the American-sponsored Marshall Plan, the largest foreign aid program in history.


Source:

McCraw, Thomas K. Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 2007.




October 2, 2008

Worst Hard Time



WorstHardTimeBK.jpg









Source of book image: http://www.bookswim.com/images_books/large/The_Worst_Hard_Time_The_Untold_Story_of_Those_Who_Survived_the_Great_American_Dust_Bowl-119185970830588.jpg


Timothy Egan's book presents an engrossing picture of what life was like in a particular time and place in U.S. history. The time is the 1920s and 1930s, and the place is the lower "high" plains, mainly of Oklahoma and Texas. Egan is a master of telling us meaningful stories about the goals and struggles of particular people, so that we care when the land blows away from them, and they suffer.

You will need, however, to look elsewhere for a deep understanding of the causes of what happened. Egan mainly aims at describing, not explaining. And when he explains, he mainly rounds up the usual suspects one would expect a New York Times reporter to round up (e.g., Herbert Hoover).

(For deeper and more illuminating explanations of what was going on during the worst of the period, you'd do better by consulting Amity Shlaes's The Forgotten Man.)

References to books mentioned above:

Egan, Timothy. The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006.

Shlaes, Amity. The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression. New York: HarperCollins, 2007.




October 1, 2008

Musings on the Financial Crisis and the Paulson Plan



A few people have asked me for my views on the current financial turmoil. Below, is an email that I sent this morning (10/1/08) to my brother Eric.

Hi Eric,

I'm with Abby in the 'stewing' department. I'm way conflicted.

On the one hand I believe that the least government is usually the best. On the other hand, I've read a couple of books recently about the Great Depression, and I'd rather keep that title in the "history" folder than in the "personal experience" folder.

I'm mad about the irresponsible home loans taken on by irresponsible consumers, and encouraged by irresponsible, and sometimes dishonest, mortgage pushers, and government and quasi-governmental agencies (aka Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac).

I'm also mad at investment bankers who created totally nontransparent securities based on these mortgages, garnering huge bonuses for themselves, without creating any value for consumers.

And I'm most mad that the fallout from this will almost certainly result in more government, and more taxes, that will reduce innovation, economic progress, and freedom.

In the long-run, I think we need to get the government out of the business of encouraging, and selling mortgage loans. And investment banks need to change the incentive structure for their high flyers, to make surer that they're rewarding good judgment, rather than rewarding opacity and unjustified risk-taking.

But the short-run gives me trouble. I have no sympathy for the investment banks. They deserve to go down.

The problem is the claim that the investment banks are an integral part of the financial infrastructure of the country. If that is true, then letting them totally fail, will take down many firms and taxpayers, who had no responsibility for the problems.

One crucial question is whether in fact, letting the investment banks fail would result in systemic collapse of the financial infrastructure. And I do not know the answer. This is a difficult question, outside my area of specialization.

But in the Great Depression, something sort of like that happened. And historians/economists have blamed Mellon/Hoover for adopting a position something akin to what the rebel house Republicans are adopting.

I have never met Ben Bernanke, and have never read any of his articles. But my impression is that he is a conscientious, serious scholar, who is generally friendly to free markets, and whose main research focus was the economics of the Great Depression. So when he looks worried, and says that something major needs to be done, I give that credibility.

I don't like growing the government in this way. But if we don't act, and if the collapse comes, then the proposed growth in government in the Paulson proposal will look petty ante, compared to what will follow.

I believe the government should provide national defense, police and courts. On infrastructure I've always been conflicted. I think a lot of infrastructure can be usefully privatized, and when it can, I favor it (although when I'm talking to Mom, I try not to mention my admiration for Mitch Daniels ;).

On the other hand I usually don't lose much sleep about government infrastructure like the Omaha streets and FDIC insurance.

It's a stretch, but maybe you can kind of think of what they are proposing as an emergency extension of infrastructure?

I didn't mean to write a long message. But I couldn't think of a good short one.

Cheers,

Art




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