URLs du Jour

2018-04-26

[Amazon Link]

You ever wonder if you can get a "Don't Tread on Me" doormat? Talk about a mixed message! Anyway, you can, and it's our Amazon Product du Jour.

  • Proverbs 13:4 goes after another favorite Proverbial punching bag, the sluggard:

    4 A sluggard’s appetite is never filled,
        but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.

    I don't find that last part to be consistently true, but close enough.


  • Readers may have noticed that I am a sucker for state comparisons, and the despised-by-progressives American Legislative Exchange Council does a bang-up job on a dedicated website: Rich States, Poor States. And (spoiler) New Hampshire is ranked 17th overall. That's tops in New England, compared to MA (#25), RI (#39), CT (#40), ME (#42), and lowly VT (#49).

    There's a lot to quibble with, if you're a quibbler.

    You can also play with the underlying policies and numbers driving the rankings. Fun fact: if you (hypothetically) switched NH to a right-to-work state (which we came close to doing recently), it would lift our rank from #17 to #11 in the country.


  • Megan McArdle offers her take of the wacky senator from a neighboring state (the one ranked #49 in the previous item) and his jobs plan: Bernie Sanders wants you to have a good job. But there’s a catch. Well, there's probably more than one. For example, the cost, unestimated by Bernie, but ballparked by Megan:

    Perhaps we can help the senator out. With two weeks of paid vacation, each worker would make roughly $31,000 a year. Adding, conservatively, about $10,000 for benefits, would bring the total cost to about $40,000.

    The United States has between 25 million and 50 million workers making less than this total compensation package. Millions more are unemployed or fully out of the labor force. Assuming most of them did the rational thing and signed on, that would make for a $1 trillion to $2 trillion annual program — rivaling or exceeding our total expenditure on Social Security, with maybe Medicaid thrown in for good measure.

    And is it possible that extracting that much money from the private economy would have no negative effects? Well, to ask that question is to answer it.

    This wacky scheme has been signed onto by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Cory Booker (N.J.), showing that economic illiteracy and raw political ambition are positively correlated.


  • Steve Chapman at Reason chuckles at The Beef Lobby's Losing Fight Against Plant-Based 'Meat'.

    When you visit a grocery, literal-mindedness is a handicap. Apple butter is actually not a dairy product. Grape-Nuts cereal omits grapes as well as nuts. Corn dogs don't need leashes.

    The U.S. Cattlemen's Association, however, is appalled that new forms of protein are being sold under names such as Beyond Beef and Impossible Burger. Vegetarian and vegan substitutes for meat have gained a significant share of the market, partly because of health considerations and partly because of aversion to killing harmless animals for food. But the livestock group fears that consumers are being cruelly misled.

    It wants the Department of Agriculture to stop not only the use of these brand names but any term suggesting that there is such a thing as "synthetic beef" or "vegan meat."

    Well, that's nice. Chapman takes us on a brief tour of the regulatory rent-seeking by entrenched food industry groups. (Don't get Wisconsin started on "Almond Milk".)

    With respect to that first paragraph: I was recently shocked to learn that an egg cream contains neither eggs nor cream. Who knew? A lot of people, it turns out. But not I.


  • It's baseball season, and the Red Sox (as I type) snapped their three-game losing streak last night. So how about a baseball-related post from James R. Rogers: Moneyball Illustrates Efficient Markets, Not Behavioral Economics.

    The thing is, though, the story that Moneyball illuminates the insights of behavioral economics regarding the persistence of systematic error and inefficiencies, doesn’t quite work. Moneyball is the story of how Billy Beane exploited systematic error and inefficiencies in the then-existing market for baseball players to turn a low-payroll baseball team into a team that competed with, and won against, teams with much heftier payrolls.

    That’s not a story of systematic error; that’s a story of eliminating systematic error in a market. Billy Beane was essentially an arbitrager, taking advantage of new information to identify and exploit differentials in market evaluations player values versus the values indicated by his.

    Why is this important? As fun as it is—and it's a lot of fun—behavioral economics can be, as Deirdre McCloskey memorably said—the "applied theory of bossing people around". If you only see the mistakes people make in their economic decisions, it aids and abets those policy makers who think that whole economic freedom thing is a bad idea.


  • Wired answers the question you didn't know you wanted to ask: Why So Many People Make Their Password 'Dragon'.

    Each year since 2011, the security firm SplashData has released a list of the most commonly used passwords, based on caches of leaked account credentials. The annual list, intended as a reminder of humanity’s poor password practices, always includes predictable entries like “abc123,” “123456,” and “letmein.” But one entry, finishing in the top 20 every year, has stood out since the beginning: "dragon."

    But why? Is it because of the popularity of the television adaption of Game of Thrones, which first premiered the same year as the popular passwords list? Is it because so many Dungeons & Dragons fans got their accounts pwned? Well, maybe, in part. But the most convincing explanation is simpler than you might think.

    No spoilers here!


  • We looked at—sorry—Uranus yesterday. Today, we note the NYT has another planetary query in mind: What Lies Beneath Jupiter’s Great Red Spot? Could it be a volcano? Well…

    A volcano is an unlikely explanation for the mysterious red storm observed on the surface of Jupiter since the early 19th century. The planet has been found to be mostly gas, lacking a defined crust to rupture in an Earth-style volcanic eruption that would release hot materials from the interior of the planet.

    OK, I'll do a spoiler: nobody knows what lies beneath Jupiter's Great Red Spot. Just that it's almost certainly not a volcano.