Category Archives: Economics

Against Editors

A writer’s rant:

Here is the traditional career track for someone employed in journalism: first, you are a writer. If you hang on, and don’t wash out, and manage not to get laid off, and don’t alienate too many people, at some point you will be promoted to an editor position. It is really a two-step career journey, in the writing world. Writing, then editing. You don’t have to accept a promotion to an editing position of course. You don’t have to send your kids to college and pay a mortgage, necessarily. If you want to get regular promotions and raises, you will, for the most part, accept the fact that your path takes you away from writing and into editing, in some form. The number of pure writing positions that offer salaries as high as top editing positions is vanishingly small. Most well-paid writers are celebrities in the writing world. That is how few of them there are.

Here is the problem with this career path: writing and editing are two completely different skills. There are good writers who are terrible editors. (Indeed, some of the worst editors are good writers!) There are good editors who lack the creativity and antisocial personality disorders that would make them great writers. This is okay. This is natural. It is thoroughly unremarkable for an industry to have different positions that require different skill sets. The problem in the writing world is that, in order to move up, the writer must stop doing what he did well in the first place and transition into an editing job that he may or may not have any aptitude for.

Engineering has a similar problem, in that if you want to advance, you often have to go into management, even though a lot of good engineers are terrible managers.

Reagan Versus Obama

Comparing the economic legacies.

It’s not really fair, though. One president knew how to allow the economy to create wealth. The other only knows about, and cares about, redistributing it.

[Friday-morning update]

Post recession, one third of Americans think they’re worse off.

Pretty sure the polling wouldn’t have indicated that in 1986. Of course, the Obama defenders will say that those deluded people have false consciousness.

[Bumped]

Millennials And Workforce Participation

Remember when Bill Clinton lied his way into office in 1992, claiming that it was the “worst economy in fifty years” when in fact it hadn’t been that bad and the recession had actually ended? Well, it really really is the worst economy in seventy years now, and it’s due to the kind of government interference in the economy and war on business that caused it the last time, in the Roosevelt administration:

It seems rather perplexing that the Los Angeles Times could try to creatively rename unemployed millennials trying to survive by working a bunch of “off-the-books jobs for cash to survive as ‘freelancing’”. But the simple facts are that businesses have adapted to the Obama Administration’s taxes, regulations, and the “Affordable Care Act.” Add the burden of Governor Brown’s tax increase to the highest level in the nation, and California millennials are rewarded, according to the Times, with “16.2% of Californians — or about 6.2 million — were either jobless, too discouraged to seek work, working less than they’d like, or in off-the-books jobs.”

It’s not actually perplexing at all, of course.

[Update a few minutes later]

Three quarters of Americans
think that their childrens’ lives will be worse than theirs.

They will, if we don’t get a huge change in direction, back to the Republic and liberty.

[Update a few more minutes later]

From apathy to dependence:

Tyler went on to suggest that democracies tended to go through the following sequence:

From bondage to spiritual faith;
From spiritual faith to great courage;
From courage to liberty;
From liberty to abundance;
From abundance to complacency;
From complacency to apathy;
From apathy to dependence;
From dependence back into bondage.

It’s ironic that it was Joe Biden who said that it was the Republicans who “wanted to put y’all back in chains.”

[Update a while later]

First link was wrong. Fixed now.

[Update a couple minutes later]

A glimmer of hope from the generation that has been the most abused by these little tyrants:

“An overwhelming majority of these Millennial-aged voters actually think government aid does more harm than good, that the government is at its max when it comes to helping the poor, and – get this – that people on the government dole have it way too easy.”

Being underemployed and underpaid while having to support people who don’t work at all will have that effect.

Leftist Wonks

How Halbig demonstrates that they’re not very good at their jobs:

For a movement that so prides itself on being the vanguard of wonky wonkery on wonkiness, Cohn’s admissions are rather stunning. It’s one thing to believe event X is more likely than event Y, but to write off event Y as unimaginable? To ignore entirely a specific provision of law that says event Y is eminently possible? That’s a special kind of wonkery right there.

“But his 2010 comments didn’t really address the subsidy issue that was central to Halbig,” you might say, “so what’s your point?” That’s a fair question, and I don’t mean to pick on Cohn, who has regularly contributed very helpful information for many years now.

His remarks are important, though, because they reveal the massive gap between what self-styled progressives wonks think they know and what they actually know. That gap becomes increasingly relevant when these same wonks claim that their unparalleled coverage of the bill in 2009 and 2010 magically grants them intimate knowledge of not just the bill’s text, but also the innermost thoughts of the bill’s authors and supporters.

It’s not the only example, but it’s more glaring than most.

The Latest Take-Down Of Piketty

It’s long, and too much there to pick out a quote, but worth the read.

As I’ve noted before, Marxism is not a discipline, or even an ideology, really. It’s an attitude founded in envy and a grasping for power. Simply put, if you believe your judgment of someone else’s need to be superior to their own, and are willing to enforce it at the point of a gun, you are a Marxist. And that attitude describes a large majority of Democrats, and far too many Republicans.

Speed Limits

A great piece on the general irrationality about them, and the history. I find most interesting (and new) the point that the main benefit of posting a speed limit was not to slow the fastest down, but to speed the slowest up. More people need to understand that it is not absolute speed that is dangerous, but relative speed. When I was young, in Michigan, before Nixon’s double-nickle stupidity, the freeway signs had both a maximum and a minimum: 70/45. That was back in the days when older cars weren’t as safe or reliable at higher speeds. Today, I’d make it more like 80/60.

I’m also glad that they (as I always do) pointed out what a problem a lack of lane discipline is. If they’d give tickets for hogging the left lane, instead of speeding, traffic would flow both more smoothly and more safely.

The List Of ObamaCare Disasters

Add fraud:

It sounds like the systems that are supposed to check identity, immigration status and income simply aren’t working at all; the system just assumes that you are who you say you are.

Gosh, it’s almost like they don’t care.

Of course, I’m not sure that “add” is the right word. The whole thing has always been pretty much fraud all the way down.

Infinity Aerospace

Announcing tools to utilize ISS. Ardulab, is an Arduino modified with features to work on the station. Developed with NASA and Nanoracks. Enabled an 8th-grade class to do a plant-growth experiment for different light conditions in space, ready to fly. Takes up only ten percent of allowed volume, leaving remainder for experiments. Completely open source, hardware and software. Will be opening web site right after talk today.

Jurvetson

Need competition in space industry, and known prices, to allow non-insiders to enter and put together business plans. #NewSpaceCon

Citing Arthur Clarke’s suggestion that vehicles need to be reusable fo make space affordable, from 45 years ago as Apollo 11 went to the moon.

Skeptics in the industry have scoffed at SpaceX goal of retroburning, entering, flying back to site and reflying. Both attempts would have been fine if they’d been on land, instead of in the ocean. Most amazing things was that it worked the first time, demonstrating the power of modern simulations.

When you start with a founding vision so far beyond the industry you have to invent a lot of new things (e.g., vertical landing on a planet, manufacturing propellant on another planet). Challenge is to see what is necessary to achieve vision, but come up with intermediate solutions that generate revenue. If you’re an incumbent not being disrupted, you’ll just incrementally improve, not go after revolutionary solution.

[Update a few minutes later]

For other info on the talk, follow @jeff_foust.

ObamaCare Is Slowly Dying

from its birth defects.

A great analogy.

Congress has no authority to grant bureaucrats such discretion either way. It cannot simply hand over its powers to another branch of the government. That is the subject of a recent book by Columbia Law School professor Philip Hamburger, Is Administrative Law Unlawful? Hamburger’s thesis is that federal agencies are under the control of the executive branch and, by definition, have no power to create regulations that legally bind anyone. That is, of course, precisely what HHS attempted when it drew up its list of “must cover” contraceptives.

During oral arguments in Burwell v Hobby Lobby, Justice Kennedy was obviously interested in this issue and its implications for the separation of powers. Among his questions to the government lawyers was the following: “Now, what kind of constitutional structure do we have if the Congress can give an agency the power to grant or not grant a religious exemption based on what the agency determined?” According to Hamburger, it gives us a structure more like that which England’s James I presided over than anything envisioned by the framers.

The latter favored a very weak executive branch. In fact, according to Hamburger, they didn’t want it “bringing matters to the courts or … physically carrying out their binding acts.” This is why the Constitution is so specific about the separation of powers. The framers must have been spinning in their graves when the government lawyers were arguing Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Halbig v. Burwell. But shady deals like the cornhusker kickback and violations of the separation of powers doctrine are but two of the birth defects with which Obamacare was born.

And, as he notes, the Origination problem will be potentially fatal as well.

Halbig

The appeals court has ruled against the administration. This really guts ObamaCare.

[Update a few minuts later]

Jonathan Adler has some initial thoughts:

If this decision is upheld, it will present some three-dozen states with a choice: Establish exchanges so as to authorize tax credits for state citizens while also triggering penalties on employers and individuals who do not wish to purchase qualifying health insurance. As my co-author Michael Cannon notes, the implications of this decision go beyond its effect on tax credits. How will states respond? Time will tell. As with the Medicaid expansion, it is not entirely clear how states will react now that so much of PPACA implementation is clearly in their hands.

A lot of dominoes could fall from this.

[Update early afternoon]

Thoughts from John Hinderaker:

If the D.C. Circuit does re-hear the case en banc, it may reverse today’s panel decision. If that happens, there will no longer be a split between the circuits, but one would think the Supreme Court will take the case regardless. In that event, we may be back in familiar territory, with Justice Anthony Kennedy deciding what Congress had in mind. If you think that discerning Congress’s intent is, in this case, a fool’s errand, since no one in Congress had read the law before voting on it, you are probably right. Which is one reason why courts look to the words of a statute rather than to the subjective intentions of 535 legislators. Given that Justice Kennedy was willing to deal Obamacare what he thought was a death blow under the Commerce Clause, Democrats cannot view their ultimate prospects with much confidence.

Especially after the election.

Complexity

Frustration with the leftist fools who don’t understand the knowledge problem:

Mr. Bouie insists that he is not simply trying to make an excuse for the president’s revealed incompetence in sundry matters, but of course that is precisely what he and other apologists for the administration are doing. If they were really interested in complexity as such, then they would bring it up on the front end of the policy debate, rather than on the back end.

I’ve seen this happen so many times that every other policy debate looks to me like an ancient rerun of Three’s Company: Do you think there’ll be a comic misunderstanding in this episode, too? It unfolds like this: Politicians on the Barack Obama model promise that they will muster their native intelligence and empirical evidence to bring order to, e.g., the health-care industry, through the judicious application of regulation. People like me tell them that the effects of such regulation are almost certainly going to be other than what was intended, because such markets are too complex to be understandable, predictable, or steerable, even in principle. Even if every bureaucrat who touches health care or the labor market has the brain of an Einstein and the soul of a St. Thomas Becket, it will not turn out the way it is intended. And then, when it doesn’t turn out as intended, Jamelle Bouie et al. protest that the toldya-so chorus “betrays an ignorance of the size and complexity of the federal bureaucracy.”

And they never even consider the question: If the federal bureaucracy is so vast and complex that its behavior cannot be adequately managed, how is it that the phenomena that the bureaucracies are tasked with managing—orders of magnitude more complex than the bureaucracies themselves—are supposed to be manageable? To consider the question with any intellectual rigor is to accept real, meaningful, epistemic limits on what government can do.

Can’t have that. It doesn’t allow them to run other peoples’ lives.

NASA Adrift

Eric Berger has Part 3 of his series up now:

Working with engineers at Johnson Space Center, as well as five other field centers, and using same tools NASA uses to estimate costs, Miller says, “We found we could put astronauts on the moon within a decade, inside the existing budget.”

The plan used the commercially available Delta IV Heavy rocket to conduct a steady stream of missions to the lunar surface, allowing humans to begin tapping into the moon’s resources.

“We briefed it to all the key NASA human spaceflight centers, giving them a chance to challenge the conclusion,” Miller said. “I thought it was a tremendous result for human spaceflight. We could have a plan that flies early and flies often.”

NASA never published the study and Miller’s contract wasn’t renewed.

Not enough opportunities for graft.

The Apollo Cargo Cult

Over at USA Today, I say that after four lost decades, it’s time to end it:

After over four decades, it is time to stop awaiting a repeat of a glorious but limited and improbable past. We must, finally, return to and embrace the true future, in which the solar system and ultimately the universe is opened up to all, with affordable, competing commercial transportation systems, in the way that only Americans can do it.

I’ll have some other stuff up later, in other venues.