Saturday, October 05, 2002

Dilbert manages to capture the academic racket. Here he describes more than a few academic papers, and here he explains how deans are picked.

Friday, October 04, 2002

Zell Miller is on OpinionJournal saying that the Democrats are repeating 1972, going the losing peace-at-any-price route. He calls it well intentioned but wrong. Does Miller really still believe this? The old Henry Jackson wing of the Democratic Party is dead. Sam Nunn is gone, too. They are now part of the Republican coalition. Will Miller switch parties, or descend into irrelevance?
While spending the weekend at the conference of the International Society for the New Institutional Economics, I stayed at the local Raddison, a decent enough hotel. My first morning there, the conference hadn't started up, so I had breakfast at the hotel. Although there were a lot of big thinkers at the conference (John Nye of Washington University asked why democracies fight wars differently than dictatorships?), I still stick with Robert Solow's old observation that economists are "determined little thinkers". My big puzzle was the price of my breakfast. I had oatmeal (porridge on the east side of the Atlantic) with bananas. Just the oatmeal, with milk and brown sugar, cost $2.95. The sliced banana was an extra $2. Why is the banana so expense relative to the oatmeal Could this really be cost driven? It adds pretty much nothing to cost for the waite to carry it out with the oatmeal; it adds only to the kitchen cost. Bananas are cheap, and slicing a banana seems like awfully low skilled work compared to making good oatmeal (it was actually pretty good). Given that there weren't a lot of restaurants handy near the hotel, the hotel restaurant had some market power, so maybe that is the explanation. Without good substitutes, the elasticity of demand for breakfast facing the hotel shouldn't be very high, but I would think that the demand for a top-off like a banana would be more elastic, not less. The bulk of the customers are probably businessmen on expense accounts, but although that may affect prices, I am at a loss to see how it would affect the relative price of oatmeal and bananas. I am at least temporarily beaten here. Comments are definitely welcome on this one.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

The Mirror is brutally shown up as a pack of degenerates (via Cold Spring Shop)
A Findlaw story from the AP contains some curious information about a lawsuit by Jerry Falwell against the state of Virginia. A law dating to the eighteenth century restricts the amount of land a church can hold. Falwell's Thomas Road Baptist Church ran up against the limit, and sued on constitutional grounds (some details can be found here). The lawsuit ended when the government accepted that, as a corporation, the church was exempt from the law. The constitutional questions were therefore left unaddressed. I find it fascinating that such a law would survive this long. Having few facts, it seems appropriate to try out some analysis [In an entirely different context, Eugene Volokh quotes Mark Twain's comment: "There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact."] Is it really possible that no one has sued before this? Perhaps this is like antitrust. Political support for antitrust has come heavily from small firms looking for protection against larger, more successful, competitors. Perhaps the law protected all the small, less successful churches from competition from more successful churches.
I am very tired of the pro-Israel left. In the New Republic, Michael Crowley offers up excuses for McDermott and Bonior, Saddam's good buddies. Specifically, he describes them as "naïve" (and yes, the pretentious French spelling annoys me too) and "idiotic", rather than, say, traitors. But he remains desperate that there be a war against Iraq but that under no circumstances is Bush to be given any credit for it. So we get
To be sure, it's far from crazy to say that the Bush administration has presented a shifting, and often suspect, array of evidence and arguments to support an invasion of Iraq. (Indeed, it was hard not to guffaw when "This Week"'s roundtable panelist Michel Martin blithely declared that Bush "is the commander-in-chief, and we have no reason not to believe him.")
and a sadly pathetic
And so when the conservative Republican Senator Don Nickles of Oklahoma later suggested that Bonior and McDermott had sounded "somewhat like spokespersons for the Iraqi government," he wasn't entirely out of line.
In what conceivable way was Nickles out of line? This is the pro-Israel left at its worst. We have childish temper tantrums about Bush, and the pretense that Gore would be doing anything other than tough talk and lots of appeasement and inaction. Israel needs and deserves more grown-up allies than this.
Crowley makes me think of the spoiled 17 year old who bums a fifty off his father for a date, and then spends the date bragging about how independent he is of his dopey old man.
Michael Barone takes a nice shot at the reflexive anti-Americanism of the German (read European) left. He remarks that Bush will not forget Schröder's flunky comparing him to Hitler. No sane person would. He also remarks that Germany can kiss off having a security council seat for another generation.
With Michelle Cottle, the New Republic reaches new lows. She tells us that the arrest of Noelle Bush, Jeb Bush's daughter, is news, not a private affair. There is a fair case to be made for that proposition. But she gives us this:
But one way in which Noelle clearly is different is that she belongs to a family uniquely positioned to correct some of this nation's more irrational and discriminatory drug policies--many of them upheld by her dear Uncle George.

I have read that sentence over and over, and it still reads:
She isn't an elected representative, but she sure makes a handy hostage for people who don't like her father's or uncle's positions on drug legalization.

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Here is another way to control misconduct by corporate executives.
George Will is brutal today on the Democrats fronting for Saddam Hussein. Here is the opening:
Hitler found "Lord Haw Haw" -- William Joyce, who broadcast German propaganda to Britain during the Second World War -- in the dregs of British extremism. But Saddam Hussein finds American collaborators among senior congressional Democrats.
A good interview with Bernard Lewis in the Princeton Alumni Weekly, which I picked up through a column by Jay Nordlinger in National Review Online.
John Kass in the Chicago Tribune has a good time making fun of the MacArthur Foundation grants.
Andrew Stuttaford over at National Review's The Corner is down on parents who restrict their children's television watching time. In part, he seems on to something. There is some valuable television, and some television is more valuable than some reading. A simple limit to watching time doesn't seem all that useful without some content watch as well. But television is still a very passive medium. I would rather a child be watching Hamlet than reading a cheap romance, but even a cheap romance is useful because it builds reading skills. Most television builds no skills at all; it is simply entertainment.
More criticism of the "disinvest in Israel" proposal at Harvard, this time from Jay Harris, a professor of Jewish studies at Harvard.
The Independent Review also has an interesting dispute between Joseph Bast and Andrew Coulson on the merits of education vouchers.
Wendy McElroy is after UNESCO in the Independent Review. The Independent Institute has gone, well, wacko, on the subject of war. I sympathize with their concerns that war gets turned into an excuse for bigger government, a subject Robert Higgs (in Crisis and Leviathan) has written on extensively and often persuasively, but bringing in Gore Vidal and his buddies is frankly creepy. Notwithstanding that, they publish some interesting polemics, and McElroy is a feminist worth reading (I will rarely say that).
Back after a trip to Boston for the annual conference of the International Society for the New Institutional Economics. Absolutely fascination stuff. Virginia Postrell was there, so it might make the New York Times soon. It has already been discussed at EconomicPrincipals, a web page run by David Warsh, who used to write a regular and fairly interesting column on economics for the Boston Globe. I'll be posting more on this as I get through some papers.