There will be a partial eclipse of the sun today. From the CBC:
The eclipse will start in Western Canada around 1:30 p.m. PT in Vancouver and Victoria and move east. At its peak around 3 p.m. PT, the moon will cover about two-thirds of the sun when viewed from southern B.C.
Generally, the eclipse will be greater (cover more of the sun) the further west and further north a viewer is.
In Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, the eclipse will start around 5:40 p.m. ET. The sun will set during the eclipse, after the moon covers about one-third of the sun.
I won't be able to see any of it because I'll be at the Hilton doing a Murder for Hire show. However here, also from the CBC, are some safety tips if you want to look at it:
A discussion with Facebook friends led to this pair of queries:
Some preferred contracting ebola, with the expectation they would be cured.
Others mentioned sizable alimony from Kim.
But some still said there are fates worse than death, and marriage to Kim would be one of those.
Ok, I'm not hearing the beeps during the NLCS, so why was it there during the ALCS?
And another question: why are we not seeing the pitch-tracker (computerized graphic showing where pitches were relative to the strike zones) during the league championship series?
I'm watching baseball's ALCS on the international telecast via Sportsnet in Canada. Near the top of each half inning, there's a beep, rapidly repeated four or five times. It's not always before the first pitch; sometimes it is after one or two pitches have been thrown. Does anyone have any idea what that is about?
I'm not thrilled with this year's selection to win the Nobel Prize in economics. People who know me and know my work will not be surprised by this. Despite Tyler Cowen's thorough and positive assessment of the work of the 2014 prize winner's contributions to the field, I took a dimmer view.
Most simply put, I saw much of Tirole's work as the use of high-powered pyrotechniques to justify gubmnt intervention by elitist interventionists.
I tend, most likely because of my own priors, to favour Bill Shughart's assessment of Tirole's work:
[L]ike many of his contemporaries, Professor Tirole treats policy interventions “intended” to restrain the exercise of market power and to protect consumers against its abuse as being designed and implemented by benevolent “public servants,” who survey dispassionately a nation’s industrial economy, identify and then surgically excise the tumors of monopoly, all with laser-sharp eyes on enhancing social welfare. To my knowledge, he never considered Chicago-school criticisms of economic regulation (showing that regulatory agencies tend to be “captured” by the very firms they supposedly are meant to regulate in the “public interest”) or public choice theories (and evidence) showing that the enforcement of the antitrust laws is deformed by special-interest-group politics.
Professor Tirole should be credited with appreciating that governmental intervention predictably fails if it follows a one-size-fits-all approach, imposing the same rules on every member of a particular industry or, indeed, an economy as a whole. But his later work on credit “bubbles”, the recent global financial crisis and ongoing slow recovery from it demonstrates a pro-government mindset in that, according to Reuters, he traces current economic woes to “insufficient government regulation.” Again according to Reuters, “Tirole himself was cautious on the economic prospects of his country, where unemployment is stuck at around 10 percent and whose leaders last month broke the latest in a series of promises to bring public lending to within EU limits.”
To be fair, Tirole has applied mathematical game theory and analysis of the principal-agent problem to public choice theory as well as to industrial organization. And I presume he has done so admirably.
But at the same time, Tirole's work seems to show a lack of concern for what Hayek termed "The Fatal Conceit":
The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.
F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit
Update: I may have overreached, likely because of the misuse of Tirole's results by too many people (including the Nobel committee in Sweden). See this piece by former student, David Henderson. The concluding three paragraphs:
Mr. Tirole also has examined so-called two-sided markets. Consider Google : It can price its services to users (one side) and its services to advertisers (the other side). The higher the price to users, the fewer users and, therefore, the less money Google would make from advertising. Google’s choice is to set a zero price to users and to charge for advertising. In 2006 Mr. Tirole and his Toulouse co-author Jean-Charles Rochet demonstrated that the decision about profit-maximizing pricing is complicated, and they do some heavy math to compute such prices under various theoretical conditions.
But they do not commit the mistake of thinking that regulators are necessarily better than firms in setting prices. Consider the recent issue of interchange fees (IF) in payment-card associations like Visa and MasterCard . Many regulators have advocated government regulation of such fees. But in 2003, Messrs. Rochet and Tirole wrote that “given the [economics] profession’s current state of knowledge, there is no reason to believe that the IFs chosen by an association are systematically too high or too low, as compared with socially optimal levels.” In other words: Back off. Interestingly, the article from which I’m quoting was not among the 159 articles referenced by the Nobel Committee.
If George Stigler were alive today, he would probably recognize, in Jean Tirole, a kindred spirit. In 1950 Stigler advocated breaking up U.S. Steel . In his 1988 memoirs he confessed, “I now marvel at my confidence at that time in discussing the proper way to run a steel company.” Mr. Tirole seems to share Stigler’s humility.
Renowned pro-Israel writer, Melanie Phillips, will be visiting London, Ontario, on October 28th. I am delighted, and I will make sure I go to see her.
I have been following Melanie Phillips' writings for nearly a decade, including her early blogging, and while I was teaching in England we corresponded about the growing influence of Islam in London, England. Her book, Londonistan, was published about that time and I think it was one of the last books I ever bought in hardback.
Here are the details about her upcoming visit to this London:
Columnist for the Times of London, Jerusalem Post and Jewish Chronicle, and author of Londonistan, The World Turned Upside Down: The Global Battle over God, Truth and Power, and Guardian Angel.
Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 7:30 pm
London Jewish Community Centre
536 Huron Street, London Tel: 519-673-3310
With thanks to Eva, Mary Lou, Susan, and many others for helping to make this happen.
Today is Canadian Thanksgiving. It's always on the second Monday of October, giving us a wonderful 3-day weekend to enjoy the autumn colours of the leaves changing.
These days, many people (perhaps most?) celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving with friends and family on Sunday rather than on the actual holiday Monday. Makes sense to me. It gives everyone a day to prepare, a day to celebrate, and a day to recover. Alternatively a day to drive, a day to rest, and a day to drive back home.
For me it will be different this year; Ms. Eclectic is out west, visiting and celebrating with her family. Meanwhile, I'm having a play rehearsal today and visiting with friends tomorrow.
Mostly, though, my Thanksgiving this year is being catered by Pizza Hut: buy one pizza and get the next three for "five bucks, five bucks, five bucks."
Above all, I don't know how else to say this, but I can't believe the wonderful life I have had. Everyday is Thanksgiving for me.
Some basic data from the WSJl [via Sean]:
For low-income workers, total pay and benefits rose by 41% from 1999 through 2006. But these workers’ wages increased only by 28%, barely outpacing inflation. The reason: Employer costs for these workers’ health costs nearly doubled, from 6.5% to 12.2% of compensation, and ate up money that could have gone toward salaries.
Now consider a worker who earns $250,000 or more a year. BLS data show that total compensation for these workers rose by 36% from 1999 through 2006. That’s actually less than for low-income workers. But the one-percenters’ health costs rose from just 4% of compensation in 1999 to only 4.3% in 2006.
It’s not that their health costs didn’t rise in dollars terms, it’s simply that health benefits are a much smaller part of their total pay and benefits. As a result, salaries for the one-percenters grew by 35%, a faster rate than for low-wage workers. The inequality of total compensation barely changed from 1999-2006, but rising health-care costs held back the growth of lower- and middle-class earnings.
There's much more in the original piece. Inequality likely has not increased over the years, and certainly has not increased as much as the strident redistributionists assert that it has.
Piketty implies that reductions in taxes over the past three decades have allowed the rich [EE: sic. I think he means high-income earners] to accumulate money while avoiding paying their fair share of taxes. Nothing could be further from the truth. As income taxes and capital-gains taxes were reduced in the United States beginning in the 1980s, the share of federal taxes paid by “the rich” steadily went up. From 1980 to 2010, as the top 1 percent increased their share of before-tax income from 9 percent to 15 percent, their share of the individual income tax soared from 17 percent to 39 percent of the total paid. Their share of total federal taxes more than doubled during a period when the highest marginal tax rate was cut in half, from 70 percent to 35.5 percent.
Putin highly recommends that people take economics courses from Professor Palmer so they will avoid making all the economics mistakes he and his cronies have made in Russia:
When foreign gubmnts subsidize their export industries they do, indeed, make life harder for their competitors here. But they also make consumers here better off.
Through foreign subsidies on exports, some U.S. industries are harmed, but others are helped. The net effect of the subsidies is an increase in the real aggregate income of the United States (and a reduction in the real aggregate income of Japan and any other country that provides industrial subsidies). As opposed to discouraging the subsidization of foreign industries, the United States should look upon such subsidies as an opportunity to improve the welfare of Americans.
The subsidization of foreign exports enables Americans to tap into the income bases of foreign countries and impose a tax on foreigners every time a subsidized product is imported into this country. Communist China, for example, would never consider allowing the U.S. government to tax its one billion citizens directly; nevertheless, that is what China permits indirectly through the subsidies it gives its exporting industries, for example, textiles. The tax is realized in terms of higher prices and lower real incomes in China and lower prices and higher real incomes in the United States.
I will likely have some extra luggage when going to Regina next week to give my seminar on "An Options Market for Human Organs", so I went to the WestJet website to see what the charges might be.
Here is a portion of the explanation of the fees at their site:
If you are paying a fee at the airport, we will accept Canadian dollars or the equivalent amount of the local currency. Much as we'd like to, we can't accept payment in the form of songs, yardwork or feats of strength. [emphasis added]
Some interesting, digressive notes:
But, as I posted earlier on Facebook, on the plus side...
Whoever said no news is good news was wrong. Turns out drinking red wine is better for you than going to the gym! How’s that for good news? Jason Dyck and other science researchers in the University of Alberta in Canada found that red wine, nuts and grapes have a complex called resveratrol which improves heart, muscle and bone functions; the same way they’re improved when one goes to the gym. Resveratrol proved to be an effective antioxidant when tested on rodents which is why scientists are planning on testing it with diabetics. If results are positive for the benefits of the complex, patient’s heart health could be improved just as much as it does when they work out vigorously.
What kind of commission structure is Willy Loman working under in Death of a Salesman? It certainly seems strange to me.
Willy: I did five hundred gross in Providence and seven hundred gross in Boston...
Linda: ... That makes your commission .... $212!....... How much did you (really) do?
Willy: .... it came to roughly two hundred gross in the whole trip....
Linda: Well, it makes $70 and some pennies.
Apparently, when Willy doesn't sell much, he earns a commission slightly greater than 35%. But if he sells a LOT of merchandise, he earns only 212/1200 or 17.7%.
That is a really incentive-incompatible commission structure. No wonder Willy never sold much -- he had an incentive to make more, smaller sales trips. As a result, the company did less business and paid Willy more per hour (despite his growing failures as a salesman). Usually commission structures are designed to encourage salesmen to make more, bigger sales, not fewer or less.
Maybe Linda's math skills are weak?
That, or Arthur Miller (and his editors and publishers) were innumerate.
Science is advanced when people are skeptical of received doctrines and "settled science". Advancing both knowledge and our understanding requires an open mind and a willingness to question the mainstream. And yet, throughout the ages, skeptics have been persecuted by religious and political leaders.
You would think humans could learn from this history. But no, assuming these remarks were not taken out of context [via Jack].
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., says he wants a law to punish politicians who dissent from man-made climate change theory - and calls them "contemptible human beings."
Kennedy made the remarks in an interview with Climate Depot at a climate march in New York on Sunday:
Kennedy Jr. accused skeptical politicians of "selling out the public trust." "Those guys are doing the Koch Brothers bidding and are against all the evidence of the rational mind, saying global warming does not exit. They are contemptible human beings. I wish there were a law you could punish them with. I don't think there is a law that you can punish those politicians under."
Kennedy also said he thinks the successful pro-energy Koch brothers should be "in jail...with all the other war criminals":
"I think it's treason. Do I think the Koch Brothers are treasonous, yes I do," Kennedy explained.
"They are enjoying making themselves billionaires by impoverishing the rest of us. Do I think they should be in jail, I think they should be enjoying three hots and a cot at the Hague with all the other war criminals," Kennedy declared.
And, Kennedy's not the only climate activist who would like to see dissenters jailed.
As the Media Research Center's Business and Media Institute (BMI) chronicled in a May 2014 analysis, pro-climate change theory media and scientists have long promoted the idea of throwing anyone who disagrees with them in jail - even to the point of calling for "climate Nuremberg" trials.
So much for constitutional freedoms of speech, press, and expression. So much for competition in the marketplace of ideas.
Even if it turns out that I am incorrect to be skeptical (I'm skeptical with good reason, for now, I think. See this, this, and this.), I hope the fundamental constitutional freedoms will not be abridged in this or any other debates or discussions concerning science and public policy.
Addendum: also see this by Bjorn Lomborg
I'll be giving a seminar at the University of Regina on "An Options Market for Human Organs" on October 3rd. Here is the abstract:
There is a chronic shortage of human organs for transplant. This shortage is largely the result of the failure to use market pricing in the face of a phenomenal increase in demand resulting in part from an aging population but more from the dramatic medical technology improvements during the past 50 years.
The shortage can easily be seen as an excess quantity demand over the quantity supplied at zero price. The naïve, simplistic solution is to allow markets in human organs to emerge with positive prices for the organs (and the transplant procedure).
But the market solution is fraught with difficulties, including the problem of killing a donor or, more commonly, who bears the risk when the probability of death of a live donor is increased. Also the transaction, negotiation, and legal costs associated with identifying a legal heir and working out a deal with them after a potential donor is killed can be ghoulish and daunting.
This paper presents an alternative: an options market for organs. Potential donors sign an irrevocable contract, receiving an upfront payment in exchange for their organs (should someone want them for transplant). Essentially, the purchaser buys an option of first refusal when the person dies.
It is expected that many of the buyers of these options would be life insurance companies who would most likely play a leading role in organizing the market.
The seminar is scheduled for 2:30 - 4pm in CL435.
I'm looking forward to seeing my friends in the economics department while I'm there (and, of course, playing with the Roughrider Pepband for the game that evening).
I have a small role (Charley) in the London Community Players' production of Death of a Salesman, so I claim no credit for this. And I make no claim to being unbiased, though I do my best.
This production is one of the best you could ever see. I'll stack it up against any professional production of Death of a Salesman. And last night's performance was the best yet.
The production takes place in Procunier Hall of The Palace Theatre, a too-small standard black-box-type performance venue, but Jason Rip (director), Steven Mitchell (tech and staging consultant), and Tia Morin (stage manager) have worked tirelessly and flexibly to bring off a tour de force in the venue.
The more we work on the play, the more I fail to see it as a critique of the American/Canadian dream or an attack on greed, success, or materialism. Rather, I see it as an exploration of the early onset of dementia in a man who never faced reality, about himself or much else.
To me, the hero of the play is Biff, who finally comes to grips with who he is and who his father was, after years and years of anguish about it all.... sort of a prolonged identity crisis.
Sure, Charley is a kind, sympathetic, generous guy and in some sense is a testament to the American/Canadian dream that success comes to those who work hard and who are honest and kind. Also his son, Bernard, who grows from being a nerdy (anemic, Willy calls him) kid to become a hot-shot lawyer arguing a case before the supreme court, is something of a hero. But they aren't the real heroes of the play.
Willy, of course, is a tragic hero. You want to grab him, shake him, tell him to stop lying to himself and everyone around him.
Linda (Willy's wife) is a tragic heroine. She lives with Willy's lies, trying to put bandaids on major wounds everywhere, going along with him and not forcing or even asking him to face reality very often. She keeps Willy from going to Alaska, and I'm not sure but what I wish Willy had gone there. Yet there's a good chance that if they had gone to Alaska, Willy still would have been a failure. After all, he was rejected and abandoned by his father and his older brother and likely would not have dealt with the challenges of Alaska any better than he dealt with the challenges of being a salesman in a changing market.
No matter whether you agree with my take on the play, you will be in awe of the performances. The audiences clearly are moved by the performances, and people have used phrases like "stunningly good" or "brilliant" or "mesmerizing" or "deep and moving" when talking about the show.
Rob Faust (Willy) and Deb Mitchell (Linda) are simply amazing, having captured the essence of their characters [not to mention having learned such taxing roles and the physical strain of actually performing them]. And the support from James Roberts (Biff) and Marshall Lemon (Happy), Willy and Linda's two sons, is terrific. Beyond those four main characters, the rest of us have supporting roles. And, to tell the truth, everyone in every role does a tremendous job.
See this play. It is one of the best productions you will ever see of Death of a Salesman.
The old CBC business model is broken. Television viewers and radio listeners have zillions of options via cable and the internet. Viewership is down and hence so are advertising revenues. The result? The CBC essentially wants to move toward the BBC model: charge everyone a fee (i.e. another tax) to support them, regardless of whether we watch, like, or listen to what they produce.
It is time for a massive shakeup at the CBC, not a massive shakedown of consumers and taxpayers. As Terrence Corcoran says,
The business model is broken, advertisers won’t support content, government subsidies are shrinking, so let’s ding consumers directly with a no-choice option. Never mind “pick and pay” TV. The CBC wants “we pick, you pay” TV.
The CBC does little to provide national news that is not otherwise available through Global, CTV, Sun, etc. And it is expensive. We are no longer getting our money's worth.
Most supporters of the CBC are people who want other taxpayers to support a medium that the supporters won't pay for themselves. My solution: If the CBC "can't afford to be free", put it on pay channels and see what happens.
Corcoran has much more. Read the whole thing.