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Thursday February 10th 2011
jomiku's comments
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Feb 9th 2011 5:53 GMT
I like the UK "legless" for drunk.
Feb 9th 2011 5:40 GMT
A simple point is that European business has long accepted that it operates in a relatively high cost environment. They are thus much more focused than the basic US business on how to act efficiently. US business is still largely driven by the notion of lowering costs, while Europeans have accepted they can't compete on cost with the developing world.
Germany, which has had some benefit from lower costs of the eastern workers, has become the largest exporter by putting more value into products, meaning more refined manufacturing and more technology in the product and in the process. One side effect has been stable employment in part because of the profits generated by this approach. This kind of focus is found in many areas in Europe. In farming, for example, European dairy farmers use barn technologies that US companies don't touch because of the cost of investment. The European method turns a labor cost into technology.
There are countless examples. An approach to forestry is right in line with the idea that you must compete efficiently in a world in which you cannot be the low cost producer. Rather than take that out on their own people by cutting wages and reducing investment in education, they instead look for ways to add value.
Feb 9th 2011 5:31 GMT
You have some of your labor history partly wrong - in a way that reflects thinking about models. If you go into factories outside of heavily unionized states, you don't see a difference in how workers are treated, certainly not at car plants and other big manufacturers. The point you left out or missed is that employers changed: they chose to offer workers good working conditions, partly to avoid the cost of dealing with a union, partly for the same reason Henry Ford paid $5 a day. Ford paid $5 a day to reduce turnover, which was so high training and hiring costs became more costly. Modern non-union plants recognize that a stable, motivated workforce is worth having. In blunt terms, union membership started to erode because both sides won: higher living standards and better working conditions equals lower overall labor costs and better productivity.
Remember that unions arose in the US because working conditions were literally hideous and pay was awful. Ford, for example, didn't allow talking on the line. They didn't allow bathroom breaks, gave only a few minutes to eat and the workweek was 6 days. Coal miners had it worse.
Economist-thinking types tend to focus on externality - here, movement to other states - and miss the changes occurring within. Both occurred but the main one was that employers made unions significantly less attractive by improving conditions without the union.
Feb 9th 2011 5:21 GMT
I thought this was a rational pricing scheme based on extracting maximum value. Given that the people who pay the price have no other choice, meaning a sufficient percentage are there because they must be there or because the benefit is worth a high price, then a pricing model says prices should be high because the market is relatively insensitive to price increases.
While one would think high prices would generate more supply, politics can restrict that - as in the Soviet Union.
Feb 9th 2011 5:15 GMT
The Barro / McCleary paper is a fun read. If anyone doesn't have full access, take a look at the abstract. Worth the time.
Feb 9th 2011 5:10 GMT
This exchange highlights how easily economists remove themselves from reality. The original comments were about people working in salons. The training consisted of 150 hours, which is actual hours not credit hours and means something less than a month full time. Why do it? Because salons handle chemicals and apply them to people. Training includes how to handle accidents and how to use and dispose of chemicals properly. Maybe 150 hours is excessive but some training is necessary and some number of hours must be set.
But this kind of licensing, the hours kind, isn't even the norm in many professions. You can in most states become a cosmetologist or an electrician or many other professions by working full or part time. Becoming a hair dresser takes less work experience than getting a journeyman electrical license, which makes sense.
So putting aside that economists seem driven to talk without looking at facts, note that the market adjusts to cover many of the issues brought up. So for example, many people become manicurists because the hours needed are low, meaning the cost and time investment is low. Another market adjustment is that schools have become means for sucking money out of the federal grants and loan system. Studies show that for-profit schools have much higher default rates on student loans and one thing that obviously means is, yes, these people get the loans. The schools need students and, one thinks, they are able to charge so much in part because so many of their students get financing, which the school helps them get. This is true from beauty schools and court reporter schools up to the University of Phoenix.
If there really is a distortion, it's that for profit schools take advantage of the federal financing system to extract higher prices. There is also some blindness since if loans default at a high rate then they really are grants. That then becomes a policy matter: why are we all supporting the University of Phoenix? As for me, I'd rather give the money to the poorer students who are going to beauty school or electrical trade school than to someone higher up the economic ladder so U of P can profit.
Judge Vaughn Walker's opinion overturning CA's gay marriage ban went through every shred of evidence offered to justify the law. There wasn't much but he gave it more time than the amount of evidence actually warranted. Judge Walker spent time discussing facts entered in evidence that showed gay marriage has no bad effects. His opinion found that there was no evidence at all that showed negative effects from gay marriage and that the only evidence showed the actual objections were based wholly on religious principles.
I would add to the list these 3 additional points:
1. American Exceptionalism. This notion has moved front and center and has mutated from "love of country" to a belief that America is the best. In the past, the idea was that America could improve but this modern "exceptionalist" view denies the possibility that America needs improvement, except of course in the need to adhere better to the founding principles that make us the greatest nation ever conceived on earth. Any failings are due to our lack of faith in what makes America exceptional and we manifest that lack of faith through misguided liberal programs designed to mess with the natural scheme. Dealing with other nations about climate change denigrates our basic principles and amounts to a surrender of sovereignty. Our principles are special because they were handed down by God through the Founders to us today in the sacred document of the Constitution. If we agree to restrictions imposed because of other countries, then we deny the Constitution and thus deny God.
2. Coupled to exceptionalism is the "natural systems" idea which dominates so much of conservative ideology now. Government is intrusive because it must interfere with the natural order of free markets. If there is a problem with the environment, the market will fix it because that is the way it is intended to be. If we move away from that belief, we are being untrue to our principles and are thus destroying America in the name of "do-gooderism."
3. The final peg is the extension of "natural systems" and "exceptionalism" to theology: we can't be harming the environment because we are meant to exploit it. God gave us this land and its resources. The Gulf oil spill for example wouldn't have happened if government hadn't made it more difficult to extract oil on land and closer to land. And look at how fast the oil has disappeared! That is a sign!
I didn't know about CLOUD. Thanks. Sounds very interesting.
Feb 8th 2011 6:15 GMT
It's the last point which has had me wondering. Anyone with the most passing knowledge of development in Spain knows it was way over-heated. The money came from somewhere. While some came from Germany or Britain, etc., local and regional lenders had to be in there in big ways, particularly for local mortgages on local property. You see an article here and there about this but, honestly, the talk about a healthy Spanish banking industry has seemed blind to me since before prices crashed.
Feb 7th 2011 11:03 GMT
Having been in commercial real estate, I've dealt first hand with the many regulations that businesses deal with. They do complain about "burden" but when you ask them what the problem is the issues divide in three real categories:
1. Rules that open them to liability they didn't knowingly assume. These are partly state and local environmental regulations but the really big part is imposed by the market, meaning that lenders impose huge restrictions based on their guesses about liabilities as those are developed in various lawsuits. For example, the liabilities imposed by various spills of chemicals, by the use of chemicals in a business - like a hair salon, cleaners, etc. - are real mostly because lenders won't pass a property unless it is clear. The lenders only care because someone has been sued and they run from that kind of liability risk. No clearance, no loan, no sale of the property or the business at a price you want. Remember that rules don't really prevent spills and the enforcement of them is haphazard at best - and sometimes bluntly bought off. The real power comes from market punishment, mostly through lenders and landlords demanding more indemnity, more cleanup. Business owners fear rule changes in part because they worry the market will then react to any changes to impose more "new" risk.
2. Mindless stuff. Most smaller businesses are annoyed but not materially impacted by all sorts of regulations. Like posting equal opportunity notices. They like to point at this because they see it as useless but these rules don't create a lot of cost. People like to complain. If they didn't have this, they'd complain about other things.
3. More state and local regulation, which you mentioned. But the rules are more about fire safety and local concerns like keeping waste water out of the over-burdened sewage treatment system than ways to keep out competition. In a very real sense, the failure to invest in infrastructure then imposes costs on business as part of the need to mitigate impact a better infrastructure could handle. Because of various tragedies and public outcry, the building codes are much stricter. Localities are much more concerned about their wetlands, etc. These are the rules businesses face every day.
Yes and no.
You never mention that legislators at state and local levels are aligned with not against the employees. This is not a case of company versus employees but of employees who are sometimes against and sometimes for other employees. Legislators, for example, can't really give themselves benefits if they don't give them to the other employees. A company executive enriches himself in a different manner than a politician who gets no stock options in a municipality or state, who is not awarded giant bonuses based on stock performance by some board that has little to nothing to do with the company, who may be paid many multiples more than the ordinary employee.
Add then that state and local legislators are elected with whatever organized support they can muster. This need not be unions, but few politicians turn their backs on the police, firefighters, garbage collectors, school employees, etc., all of whom are motivated to vote for their interests, union or not, just like every other voter in America.
It is much less the existence of unions than that the incentives align more than they conflict. If you want legislators to act against the natural constituency of their workers, then you need to change the incentives or you accomplish little.
Feb 7th 2011 6:17 GMT
I agree, with two caveats.
1. Political problem: people leap from saying the standard assumption is too high to saying the proper valuation is treasury rates or some other "riskless" method. That is a political statement designed to stoke a crisis mentality, one that demonizes public employees and of course any semblance of a union - as if a union were needed to increase public pensions shared by legislators! Actual discussion of a range of valuation disappears into the rhetoric of horror.
2. Times change. While it is survivorship, we also don't know the future and the people who do the valuations understand two additional points: that shortfalls are more a product of intentional underfunding - e.g., Illinois - and that adjustments which take effect over an extended period of time, meaning decades, will suffice unless underfunding is truly hideous or they handed all the money to a Bernie Madoff.
Feb 4th 2011 5:54 GMT
Linguistics meets cultural context. Ain't was perfectly acceptable in educated society and now it isn't. Times change.
It's interesting that we always look for a technical solution. As a society, we have trouble punishing drivers because we know that but for the grace of God it might have been us. Maybe we were at a cocktail party after work and got just too tipsy that time. Maybe we got a phone call that we just had to answer while driving.
It's another example of the intersection between individual liberty and the costs that liberty imposes on others. You drink just that once and someone dies and that family bears the cost. We all pay for the cost of caring for those injured.
In most cases, the intersection is merely financial: as in healthcare when Americans want to be able not to buy insurance and then have the rest of society pay for their care. In this case, the intersection is truly personal: my or your fault for having a few too many or for getting distracted by a text message versus the death of someone else. We call those "accidents" because we prefer not to make each of us rigorously responsible for our actions. So we look for technical solutions.
Well said.
As you know, the US tends to see itself as the center of all things and one its oddities - a strength and a weakness - is an obsession over what we've done wrong, why we didn't somehow manage the world to act as we want. It's a weird combination of egotism and self-criticism.
In this context, knowing that Arab countries like all countries are run by their own people and aren't mere actors in an American play, I've found it hard to understand exactly how we should have done things. The idea that we could magically support secular opposition is not only egotistic but would have endangered our relations in toto. Before the end of the USSR, there was a clear alternative but there are always alternatives to being much of an ally of ours, not counting throwing in with Iran. How would the Saudis have felt about our undermining authoritarian regimes in the Arab world and how would that affect things as vital as our oil supply?
Jimmy Carter tried to make morality a central part of foreign policy. I don't think that works, but it is something we like to criticize when the opportunity arises.
I think the constitutional question is a matter of phrasing and that reflects one's conclusions or biases. If you're against, you focus on the requirement to buy insurance, which is a burden placed on the individual. If you're for, the real argument - to me at least - is that you aren't actually opting out of the interstate commerce of medicine but are claiming the right to free load because hospitals are required to treat you even if you can't or won't pay. The former focuses on what the individual is made to do and the latter focuses on what those individuals make me do - because I have to pay for free loading, free riders who choose not to buy health insurance.
This is a version of example posed by Adam Smith himself. He noted that when two people share a party wall it is legitimate to insist they each maintain their side because otherwise the failure of one hurts the other.
Feb 3rd 2011 12:03 GMT
They also believe that the southwest is going to be some sort of Mexican superstate. I assume you're aware of the way that George Soros overturned governments while hating Jews*. Or about the elderly professor who is regularly accused of plotting to destroy the capitalist system and who now gets death threats.
One can say many things about Roger Ailes, but he chose to put a person who is insane on TV.
*For someone not aware, Soros supported pro-democracy movements, ones that like the US, but hasn't managed to bring down any governments. And he's Jewish and supports Jewish causes. But he was accused of anti-semitism.
Feb 2nd 2011 11:58 GMT
Why refer to it as "Detroit's car industry"? The companies are headquartered there but production mostly moved away long ago. The Detroit Metro area is not the city. I grew up in the former and worked in the latter, which became poorer and older and more African-American every year. The problems of the city are not those of the suburbs. They have mostly separate economies. The suburbs on the whole are fine, with lots of business, lots of technology companies in many fields, etc. The city is a mess and I support Mayor Bing's idea of shrinking it in size - Detroit is physically huge.
But think of this when you think about Detroit and then about the role of government versus private industry: Detroit had the 3 largest industrial corporations in the world and none of them located downtown. This meant their many suppliers, often very large companies, didn't locate downtown either. Only Ford located their finance arms in Detroit - GM and Chrysler in NYC and Ford was in Dearborn - so Detroit never developed large banking concerns and a finance sector of size. If these companies had a real civic stake, then Detroit would be a different city. Only Ford and the Ford family really acted as though they were rooted in Detroit.
How do libertarians feel about free riders? The essence of the current system is that you don't buy insurance because you can free ride: laws prevent hospitals and many kinds of clinics from refusing care even if there is no money. We all pay for free riders. One of the lawsuits against the new law explicitly claims the right to free ride.
Would you back a system in which you didn't receive care if you had no insurance or couldn't pay cash? Allowing for some way to treat minors, isn't that like the instance where a fire department let a house burn because its owner hadn't paid the subscription fee?
If you don't back that system, if you insist that free riders get care, then how can you not require them to buy insurance? If you don't, then you are forcing me to pay for you, which is contemptible and infringes on my liberty.
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