Via Jason Clemens on Facebook:
Some folks have asked for references regarding my comments earlier today about the fact that hiking the minimum wage will not by and large benefit low-income households. This is the first of several FB posts with references. This first post is to an academic article that appeared in the journal Canadian Public Policy. The researchers used Stat Can data to profile households with members earning the minimum wage. The results were in line with previous reports that show the majority of minimum wage earners are young people living at home. Here's a key finding from the abstract:
"First, over 80 percent of low wage earners are not members of poor households and, second, over 75 percent of poor households do not have a member who is a low wage earner. We also present simulation results which suggest that, even without any negative employment effects, planned increases in Ontario's minimum wage will lead to virtually no reduction in the level of poverty."
For some reason I didn't bother to pronounce the name of this wine to myself until I got it home and put it in the fridge. I'm glad I bought it now, even though I haven't opened it yet and have no idea what it tastes like.
I'm sure my Facebook friend, Michael Snell (aka The Wine Commonsewer) will want this for his wine cellar, even though he seems to have a VERY strong preference for reds.
Other wines I like because of the names:
From Coyote Blog, a spectacularly accurate and funny Venn diagram:
The first lesson of economics is (or ought to be), "People respond to incentives." And I would add, ".... whether we like it or not."
A few weeks ago I did a post pointing out that pundits on both the left and the right have moved further to the extremes, and away from sensible policy views. I just noticed another example today, an article claiming that if you pay people not to work, it won't significantly increase the number of people not working.Extending benefits to unemployed workers beyond the 26 weeks provided by most states has little effect on the unemployment rate and essentially no impact on labor force participation, a recent working paper released by the Federal Reserve Board found.
I guess they didn't notice that the natural rate of unemployment in Europe is at least 8%. [EE: and typically the natural unemployment rate in Canada has been higher than that in the US, in part because of our more liberal/generous unemployment compensation programmes]
Question: When was the last time you saw a liberal pundit point out that extended unemployment benefits increased the unemployment rate? Maybe when Bush was implementing the policy? Here's Brad DeLong in 2008:The rule of thumb, IIRC, is that the average duration of an unemployment spell increases by 1/4 of the increase in the duration of unemployment benefits. Thus a 13-week increase in unemployment insurance duration should increase the average unemployment spell by 3 weeks. With current mean unemployment spell duration at 17 weeks, and with roughly 2/3 of the unemployed eligible for UI, this would produce a 3/17 * 2/3 * 5.5% = 0.6% increase in the measured unemployment rate. ...
That was only a 13-week increase, not a 73-week increase, as Obama implemented. And BTW, DeLong's prediction was precisely correct.
As I said, "People respond to incentives, whether we like it or not."
One of my very favourite lines from Catch-22 is Yossarian's statement (paraphrased),
They have the right to do whatever they cannot be prevented from doing.
I was reminded of that line by this story from the CBC [via Ms Eclectic] which outlines how law-enforcement officials in the US take cash from people's cars.
Across America, law enforcement officers — from federal agents to state troopers right down to sheriffs in one-street backwaters — are operating a vast, co-ordinated scheme to grab as much of the public’s cash as they can; “hand over fist,” to use the words of one police trainer.
It usually starts on the road somewhere. An officer pulls you over for some minor infraction — changing lanes without proper signalling, following the car ahead too closely, straddling lanes. The offence is irrelevant.
Then the police officer wants to chat, asking questions about where you’re going, or where you came from, and why. He’ll peer into your car, then perhaps ask permission to search it, citing the need for vigilance against terrorist weaponry or drugs.
What he’s really looking for, though, is money.
And if you were foolish (or intimidated) enough to have consented to the search, and you’re carrying any significant amount of cash, you are now likely to lose it.
One bit of advice in the article is not to carry much cash with you, which makes sense to me.
- * - * -
Digression: about ten years ago when I was taking a minibus from London, Ontario, to the Detroit airport, a US immigration official asked "How much money are you bringing with you?"
I replied "Fourteen dollars."
He reacted with faked shock that I thought I could get by on so little cash, insinuating I might become a homeless vagrant.
I somewhat sarcastically replied that I was going to the airport, but I knew they had ATMs all over the US, and I had no wish to carry much cash with me, especially through Detroit.
I have no idea why they didn't pull me aside for being sarcastic. Whew.
Update: Raffi drew this article to my attention:
A Nebraska judge ordered cops to return $1 million to a California stripper after the cash was confiscated during a traffic stop.
Update #2: The actual quote from Catch-22 is from Chapter 39:
“Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can’t stop them from doing.”
The Elder of Ziyon links to a report from MEMRI [the Middle East Media Reports Institute] that as soon as the cease-fire was announced in Gaza, work on deeper tunnels was begun to prepare for renewed attacks on Israel.
A recent Al-Jazeera TV report took the viewers down into new tunnels dug by the Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, after the Gaza cease-fire. "We are getting these tunnels ready for the next battle, in order to launch attacks and fire mortars and artillery. These tunnels will also have other uses, which we will not disclose," said a masked militant. The report aired on September 4.
The Elder of Ziyon concludes,
Of course, any weapons Israel creates to destroy the deep tunnels will also cause severe damage to the surrounding areas, and the world will blame Israel....
Everything I have read about the Apple Watch looks nice. But there's a killer drawback:
I like to wear my watch all the time, including at night and while swimming.
Stephen Hawking wrote that discovering and messing with the Higgs-Boson particle might lead to the end of the universe as we know it. [via Jack]
He wrote: "The Higgs potential has the worrisome feature that it might become metastable at energies above 100bn gigaelectronvolts (GeV)."
What might this lead to? Hawkins explained: "This could mean that the universe could undergo catastrophic vacuum decay, with a bubble of the true vacuum expanding at the speed of light. This could happen at any time and we wouldn't see it coming."
Before you prepare your loved ones for an evacuation to some distant star, Hawking did offer some hope with, it seems, a wry smile: "A particle accelerator that reaches 100bn GeV would be larger than Earth, and is unlikely to be funded in the present economic climate."
But wait! What if the present economic climate changes?
These are absolutely amazing drawings, utilizing the extreme convexity of a cyclindrical mirror.
Here's a "standard" piece... a picture of a tree:
Here's a more complex one, in that without the cylinder it looks like a seascape, but in the cylinder it looks like a portrait:
And I love this one. A weird, intriguing sculpture that shows a hand to match the foot and hand in the background.
Fifty years ago I was content with the concept of an infinite universe --- infinite in time and space. Then I started learning about expansion, deflation, the big bang, string theory, parallel universes, 11 dimensions, criticisms of string theory, etc.
I was shaken from my contentedness by the turmoil and uncertainty of it all. Ms Eclectic and I began reading more and watching more PBS-type television programmes about cosmology. I cannot even pretend to understand the mathematics and all the physics of cosmology [mired, as I am, in my basic Newtonian world outlook which struggles for even/especially/only an intuitive grasp of relativity and quantum physics], but I love trying to understand cosmology.
And so it is with pleasure and delight that I read this article [via RalphK]. It doesn't really help me understand cosmology any better, but it is a fascinating expansion of human knowledge about the earth, the Milky Way, and the universe.
[O]ur galaxy is a mere speck in a larger structure, which was just revealed for the first time by a group of scientists who created a map of more than 8,000 galaxies in an effort to understand where they fit in the universe.
The team placed the Milky Way on the outskirts of a massive, previously unknown galaxy super-cluster scientists have named Laniakea, from the Hawaiian words for "immeasurable heaven."
The finding, reported in this week's issue of the journal Nature, stems from a new mapping technique that combines not only the distances between more than 8,000 nearby galaxies, but also their motion as the universe expands and galaxies are pulled through space by gravity.
It sort of looks as if we're in suburbs of Laniakea:
Note that this is a two-dimensional map of what is surely 3 or 4 (or more?) dimensions. Where were these galaxies and other clusters 5 billion years ago? and is this a map of where astronomers think they are now or where they were when they emitted the light we see now?
"Immeasurable Heaven", Laniakea, is a good term. I like it. And I'm thrilled with the increased understanding of the universe even if this understanding means little or nothing to our lives and struggles on earth.
This article is directed toward Bay Street lawyers in Trono, but probably applies in many other situations [ht Raffi]. And even if the advice doesn't work for all jobs, the overall direction of the advice might be useful.
[A]ll of our experts agreed on these finer points of dressing like a fully formed lawyer
- Well-kept facial hair is fine. Just no soul patch. Ever
- When the collars or cuffs start to wear, toss the shirt
- Skip the bow tie
- Always have a blazer hanging on your door (or cubicle wall)
- If you’re going to wear red lipstick, the rest of your makeup should be subtle
- If you’re not interested in fashion, don’t pretend to be. Stick to classic pieces
- If you want to play it safe, don’t wear jeans in your articling year. Not even on Friday
- A little colour goes a long way. Try not to overdo it
- Always err on the side of over- dressed. That way, you’re ready for anything
Here is a short exchange from the play, Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller:
Charley: When a deposit bottle is broken, you don't get your nickel back.
Willy: That's easy enough for you to say.
Charley: That ain't easy for me to say.
Charley is telling Willy to recognize that he can't change the past, but Willy holds onto his dreams for himself and for his son, Biff. Charley tells Willy, "Let him go," referring to Biff. And then Charley acknowledges that it is difficult to give up on past dreams.
It's like the old adage, "Don't cry over spilt milk." You can't undo the spill. You can rue the loss, you can clean up the mess, you can buy more milk, you can even learn to be more careful in the future; but you cannot get the milk back.
It's an example of the sunk cost fallacy that we talk so much about in economics: Costs should be based on forward-looking decisions if people are rational maximizers.
For example, what if I paid $12000 for a used car but then realized I don't like it. What I paid for it is irrelevant. The only things I should consider are my options for the future: should I donate the car to charity to get a tax write-off? should I sell it to someone else? etc. Trying to recover my $12000 is meaningless. Instead, I should look forward, identify my options, and choose from among them.
Humans don't seem to work that way though. Willy can't or won't give up on his dreams; he can't give up on the expectations created in the past. And Charley asknowledges that he, too, had trouble giving up the past and making decisions for the future when he says, "It ain't easy for me to say."
Here is another example of the sunk cost fallacy, from this site.
Hal Arkes and Catehrine Blumer ... asked subjects to assume they had spent $100 on a ticket for a ski trip in Michigan, but soon after found a better ski trip in Wisconsin for $50 and bought a ticket for this trip too. They then asked the people in the study to imagine they learned the two trips overlapped and the tickets couldn’t be refunded or resold. Which one do you think they chose, the $100 good vacation, or the $50 great one?
If, indeed, you think the Wisconsin ski trip would be better (of course you don't know for sure, and so the decision will be based on your expectations), then what you paid should not affect your decision because you will not be able to obtain a refund on either trip. You have paid $150 in total; it's gone, it's sunk. The only relevant questions is, "Now what're you gonna do?"
A "rational" maximizer [homo economicus?] would choose the Wisconsin trip, expecting it to be better. What was paid for the two trips is sunk; the decision should be based on expectations concerning future alternatives.
The example continues,
Over half of the people in the study went with the more expensive [Michigan] trip. It may not have promised to be as fun, but the loss seemed greater. That’s the fallacy at work, because the money is gone no matter what. You can’t get it back. The fallacy prevents you from realizing the best choice is to do whatever promises the better experience in the future, not which negates the feeling of loss in the past.
Willy does this throughout the play. He maintains his dream of being a big-time salesman even though, "He was a happy man with a batch of cement," and would have been much more successful in the construction business. He not only refuses to recognize his own, personal comparative advantage, but he holds onto that dream even in the face of his apparent lack of success. Does Linda do the same thing when she talks him out of moving the family to Alaska? Maybe, or maybe she just has different expectations.
Willy's dreams for himself, for Biff, and for their relationship are like a sunk cost. He could give up the dreams and be more successful, but he doesn't let go of them. Instead of looking forward and making decisions based on his options for the future, Willy keeps looking backward, trying to live a dream that cannot be, even in end.
Note: I play Charley in the upcoming performance of Death of a Salesman at Procunier Hall, The Palace Theatre, London, Ontario.
see this - an intriguing example. (apologies that I haven't been able to find a way to embed the video here).
A small bobcat-like vehicle that saws and splits wood. Now to find an attachment that stacks and bundles the wood!
Technological change, coupled with increased labour costs and reduced costs of capital rotate the isocosts, shifting the expansion path, and induce businesses to use more capital and less labour.
- Israelis who spent this past summer dodging Hamas rockets and sending their sons to fight in Gaza must wonder why it is "critical" to implement Obama's solution to their problems rather than to defeat terrorism and more broadly the ceaseless Arab and Muslim assaults on the Jewish state. Why are these not the status quo that the whole world agrees is unsustainable?
- Today Israel has both peace treaties and close and cooperative security arrangements with Egypt and Jordan. Several of the most important Arab regimes (Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia), as well as the PA in the West Bank, share with Israel a common view of the major dangers facing them. For each, as Jonathan Rynhold of the Begin-Sadat Center at Bar-Ilan University describes it, "the key threats come from Iran and from radical Sunni Islamists, including the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. They seek to maintain and promote a balance of power against these forces."
- In the latest Israel-Hamas conflict, all of these states and the PA were clearly hoping for an Israeli victory and a real setback for Hamas. They are all fighting the same enemies - enemies who wish to overturn the regional order and establish either an Iranian hegemony or an Islamist caliphate. All this leaves Israel and many Arab heads of state eyeing each other as potential allies rather than as perpetual foes.
- Netanyahu might not have a magical solution to the conflict with the Palestinians, but the "solutions" on offer are dead in the water. After this summer's war, there is little taste for taking chances with national security.
- In 2005, when the PA still ruled all of Gaza, we drafted an "Agreement on Movement and Access," which provided detailed rules for how people and goods could pass into and out of Gaza. The lack of trust between the sides, combined with deliberate Hamas efforts to render implementation impossible, destroyed the agreement before the ink was dry. It's easy to say that, for instance, the cement now needed for reconstruction would be closely monitored for proper use and not diverted to building more Hamas tunnels. But who exactly would be the monitors, working inside Gaza and in the face of Hamas intimidation?
- Netanyahu may actually have a strategy for the Palestinian conflict, as Jonathan Spyer argues in explaining why he resisted conquering Gaza. Netanyahu's caution derives from "his perception that what Israel calls 'wars' or 'operations' are really only episodes in a long war in which the country is engaged against those who seek its destruction....In such a conflict, what matters is...the ability to endure, conserve one's forces - military and societal - and to work away on wearing down the enemy's will."
- "This view" is sensitive to "the essentially implacable nature of the core Arab and Muslim hostility to Israel. So it includes an inbuilt skepticism toward the possibility of historic reconciliation and final-status peace accords. At the same time, [it] does not rule out alliances of convenience with regional powers."
This story brought tears to my eyes [ht JAB]:
Way to go Bengals!
And way to go Devon Still! You have a long, tough road ahead of you.
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As many long-time readers of EclectEcon will remember, a little over 3 years ago our granddaughter Lara was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma. Because of the amazing care from her parents and from the Anderson Cancer Clinic, Lara is cancer free now. But the first year of treatments was horrendous, and Lara was only 3 when she was diagnosed. Lara is an amazing little six-year-old who, like her parents, has a strength and determination that have stood her well.
Analogous to what happened with Devon Still, my son [Adam Smith Palmer] went to see his dean to explain that he was dropping out of grad school, despite having recently passed all his exams to pursue a PhD in astrophysics, to look after his daughter.
The Dean said [roughly paraphrased], "Don't drop out now. Wait until September. The university's health plan is much better than the one your wife has, and it will cover your daughter for another year."
Not the same as what the Bengals did, but similar.
I do not understand why or how people who claim to love freedom end up supporting groups and gubmnts (like Hamas) that are so opposed to freedom. For all its faults, Israel is by far the greatest promoter of individual freedom in the Middle East; and yet many writers oppose Israel and support Hamas. As David Feith said in a WSJ piece,
Diplomats consistently ignore the violent and anti-Semitic statements that Palestinian leaders make to their own people in Arabic, as long as those leaders speak soothingly in English to foreign audiences. Veterans of the "peace process" seek to legitimize Hamas with invitations to the international bargaining table, despite the group's clearly stated mission of eliminating Israel and Jews.
Such Western enablers emphasize many of the genuine tragedies of Palestinian life, but they elide whatever facts contradict their pro-Palestinian articles of faith. They insist that Israel won't compromise and a powerful Israel lobby steers U.S. policy, overlooking that Palestinian leaders rejected Israeli offers of statehood in 2000 and 2008. Their idea of progressivism means admiring the Palestinian "resistance"—and remaining silent about the illiberal horrors facing Palestinian women, religious minorities, gays and political dissidents.
This approach isn't simply a whitewash. Rather it portrays Palestinian leaders in purposefully limited fashion, as victims and pawns forever being acted upon by Israel and other outsiders, and not as decision makers choosing how to act toward Israel and their own people. This denies Palestinians' agency, treating them as if they have no responsibility for tyrannizing other Palestinians or terrorizing Israelis. ...
The custom now is a pro-Palestinian neo-Orientalism that glosses over the real conditions of Palestinian life, focusing instead on condemning Israel. Yet the effect of this neo-Orientalism isn't pro-Palestinian. By ignoring the pathologies of Palestinian politics, it condemns Palestinians to live under leaders who would rather impoverish and endanger their own people than compromise with Israel. [emphasis added]
Whatever their intent, neo-Orientalists provide cover for a political structure in Palestine that they would never accept for themselves—which is a form of bigotry. Countless articles are written about intricate details of Israeli coalition politics, typically with hand-wringing conclusions about the election of this or that hard-liner. Seldom do you read about Palestinian politics, where hard-liners throw their rivals from rooftops or shoot them in the street. Perhaps journalists consider such savagery the unremarkable fate of Palestinians who aren't entitled to politics as Westerners are. Textbook Orientalism.
Neo-Orientalist thinking treats both Israelis and Palestinians unfairly. A better approach would expose and reject the terrorist thugs claiming the mantle of a nationalist movement that deserves accountability and sobriety from its leaders. Then popular discussion of the Middle East may regain some humane sense of right and wrong—and the Palestinians may finally achieve security, prosperity and statehood.
This article in Time lists five myths of feminism [via Gabriel]. They comprise important misstatements about facts and misuses of statistics concerning what are typically referred to as women's issues.
The article does not pooh-pooh women's issues. Instead, it urges people to examine the facts and to have a better understanding of statistics.
Why do these reckless claims have so much appeal and staying power? For one thing, there is a lot of statistical illiteracy among journalists, feminist academics and political leaders. There is also an admirable human tendency to be protective of women—stories of female exploitation are readily believed, and vocal skeptics risk appearing indifferent to women’s suffering. Finally, armies of advocates depend on “killer stats” to galvanize their cause. But killer stats obliterate distinctions between more and less serious problems and send scarce resources in the wrong directions. They also promote bigotry. The idea that American men are annually enslaving more than 100,000 girls, sending millions of women to emergency rooms, sustaining a rape culture and cheating women out of their rightful salary creates rancor in true believers and disdain in those who would otherwise be sympathetic allies.
To read about the myths and the criticisms of them, read the entire piece.
Subject line and link courtesy of JR (my favourite drug dealer).
And about the subject line? JR's version of schadenfreude. The subject line of the email message he sent with the link was, "Pleasingly displeasing".
These would make excellent gifts for some people, but I haven't seen any on Amazon. ;-)
There appears to be some evidence that the use of marijuana for pain relief leads to less opioid addiction and fewer deaths resulting from opioid overdoses.
According to an abstract published online this past week by JAMA Internal Medicine, the use of medical marijuana in states that have legalized the drug for prescription purposes have led to significantly lower opioid-overdose mortality rates. ...
Their findings showed that states which had medical cannabis laws in place over this time period (13 states in total, 10 of which enacted medical marijuana laws between 1999 and 2010) had, "a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without cannabis laws." In other words, when medical marijuana was an option for physicians to turn to, there were fewer opioid-abuse deaths.
As you can probably surmise by now, a nearly 25% reduction in opioid-induced mortality would likely translate into big savings for the healthcare system (although it's hard to know how much for sure, since the JAMA study didn't go into non-mortality specifics). ...
Perhaps the most attractive component of this past week's abstract was that the trend toward lowered opioid-induced mortality tended to increase as time went on.
In the first year following medical marijuana approval on a state level the rate of opioid-induced overdoses that led to death dropped by 19.9%. By the sixth year following the passage of medical marijuana laws, this reduction had increased to 33.3%. Secondary analyses of these findings confirmed the initial study.
Clearly I absolutely need a prescription for medical marijuana. But should I actually ever get a prescription, I will be looking more for good recipes for ingestion -- I'm not keen on smoking the stuff.
As I wrote before,
There are loads of healthy (and otherwise) recipes at The Stoner's Cookbook.
Apparently Arctic Sea ice has grown dramatically over the past two years, contrary to the predictions of the more dire forecasts.
The most widely used measurements of Arctic ice extent are the daily satellite readings issued by the US National Snow and Ice Data Center, which is co-funded by Nasa. These reveal that – while the long-term trend still shows a decline – last Monday, August 25, the area of the Arctic Ocean with at least 15 per cent ice cover was 5.62 million square kilometres.
This was the highest level recorded on that date since 2006, ... and represents an increase of 1.71 million square kilometres over the past two years – an impressive 43 per cent.
Other figures from the Danish Meteorological Institute suggest that the growth has been even more dramatic. Using a different measure, the area with at least 30 per cent ice cover, these reveal a 63 per cent rise – from 2.7 million to 4.4 million square kilometres.
Who knows what the long-term trend really is and whether it has changed? Different people take different years as their starting point for measuring the long-term trend, and they obtain quite different trend lines as a result. As I wrote nearly two years ago, who knows?
...year-to-year fluctuations seriously mask the long-term trends, if there are any.
Is the growth in Arctic Sea ice over the past two years just a blip deviation from a downward trend? Or is it a sign that the downward trend doesn't exist, no longer exists, has shifted, or is much flatter than some have argued?
In trying to answer this question, remember that forecasting errors have confidence intervals that expand massively the farther into the future one tries to predict, looking like exponential horns. E.g. Google references many images showing this phenomenon.
Fit a trend line to global temperatures (keeping in mind that even that concept is contentious). Then calculate the variance around that trend line. Now use that variance to project confidence intervals for future global temperatures. Once that is done, you are led to the inexorable conclusion that it is very difficult to say with much confidence what will happen in the future to global temperatures.
Here is one attempt. This one uses just short time segments to make forecasts, and even these confidence intervals expand.
Other images there have different starting points and use different estimation techniques. One of my favourites is this one, indicating that the IPCC predicted much greater deviation from long term trend than seems to be occurring: