Watson my mind today

Apart from grading, reviewing, and my soon-to-be 5-yr-old’s birthday, that is…

–  A good question from Don Boudreaux. “Assuming (contrary to fact) that American trade deficits do necessarily cause Americans’ indebtedness to foreigners to rise, why do you bemoan these deficits? Why not instead cheer them? … Being indebted to foreigners means that we Americans must repay these debts, which in turn means that we Americans must in the future work to produce more goods and services for export. Isn’t this situation precisely what you and other protectionists want? Isn’t a rise in the demand for American exports – especially a rise not derived from, or offset by, a simultaneous rise in American imports – your very ideal?”

–  Speaking of protectionism, Tyler Cowen on Elizabeth Warren’s agriculture proposal: “a disappointment on two fronts: too wonky to be considered a purely political document, but not nearly wonky enough to be defensible in terms of substance.” It fails to understand inflation and food price data, calls for more protectionism, and doesn’t remove subsidies. He says he might be persuadable on a “right to repair” law, but worries about copyright infringement.

–  One of the issues Ludwig von Mises himself, I am told, never fully settled in his mind was over patents and copyright. It seems a necessary evil to encourage innovation, but granting someone a government-sanctioned monopoly just grates the wrong way. Now we’ve got “patent trolls” to add to the mix, who do not innovate themselves but buy up patents to collect licenses and sue or threaten to sue others. A paper finds that patent trolls encourage more upstream innovation while discouraging downstream innovation.

–  Why does Scott Sumner simultaneously support the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike last year and expect a cut this year? As a market monetarist, he would like the market to dictate Fed policy and “the fed funds futures market forecasts a rate cut. … Because markets continue to forecast slightly below 2% inflation, even as the economy slows, the market forecast of an interest rate cut should be taken as evidence that a rate cut is probably needed at some point this year.” I also enjoyed the picture that goes with the article – he is an owl, neither a hawk nor a dove.

–  There’s a dictionary, detailing how Africans speak about politics, including some fascinating idioms. “Three-piece suit voting” refers to supporting the same party for all elected positions. On the contrary, “skirt-and-blouse voting” means to vote for different parties for presidential and legislative elections.” Other enjoyable examples at the link.

–  538 has an interesting piece on the perceived fairness of kidney donation systems, and the real struggle that still exists trying to get people to accept slightly less-regulated systems (let alone actually compensating donors’ families).

–  David Henderson: Occupational Licensing is a Bad Idea. Still. Really.

New Issue of Econ Journal Watch is Out

For those of you who don’t know, co-editor Fred Foldvary is an editor for the Journal, and Warren Gibson is the math reader. From the website:

James Tooley on Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo’s Poor Economics: Banerjee and Duflo propose to bypass the “big questions” of economic development and focus instead on “small steps” to improvement. But, says Tooley, they proceed to make big judgments about education in developing countries, judgments not supported by their own evidence.

Why the Denial? Pauline Dixon asks why writers at UNESCO, Oxfam, and elsewhere have denied or discounted the success and potentiality of private schooling in developing countries.

Neither necessary nor sufficient, but… Thomas Mayer critically appraises Stephen Ziliak and Deirdre McCloskey’s influential writings, particularly The Cult of Statistical SignificanceMcCloskey and Ziliak reply.

Was Occupational Licensing Good for Minorities? Daniel Klein, Benjamin Powell, and Evgeny Vorotnikov take issue with a JLE article by Marc Law and Mindy Marks. Law and Marks reply.

Mankiw vs. DeLong and Krugman on the CEA’s Real GDP Forecasts in Early 2009: David Cushman shows how a careful econometrician might have adjudicated the debate among these leading economists over the likelihood of a macroeconomic rebound.

Rating Government Bonds: Can We Raise Our Grade? Marc Joffe, a former Senior Director at Moody’s Analytics, discusses limitations of the methods employed at the credit rating agencies and problems in trying to infer default risks from market prices, suggesting another approach.

Also, if you’re unsatisfied with the status quo in terms of political parties, including the Libertarian party, Dr. Foldvary has established the Free Earth Party for you to look at. Be sure to check it out!