Archive for March, 2011

Conflating Choices

March 11, 2011 4 comments

In this remarkable clip, Rand Paul goes off on deputy assistant energy secretary for efficiency on how she’s restricting consumers’ free choices yet doesn’t see the hypocrisy in being simultaneously “pro-choice” for abortion.

Senator Paul is echoing a very common argument among libertarians that they repeat amongst themselves to laugh at those inconsistent liberals! Ha ha ha. Oddly, Paul is against a woman’s right to have an abortion so it’s a bit strange for him to be making the argument but oh well. I could hammer him for his hypocrisy, but that’s not what bothers me.

PZ Myers, who I got the clip from, and Irin Carmon (PZ got it from her) bash Paul because of the degree of conflating a woman’s choice with a choice to buy a toilet. But it’s not the degree (or not just the degree) for why Paul is wrong. It’s quite simple. Having an abortion is a personal choice without large negative externalities that shape other citizens’ choices. Buying products that use wasteful amounts of energy, deplete common resources, or pollute the public environment affect other consumers, which restricts their choice to breath clean air and drink safe water. Conservation isn’t a leftist plot for capricious power to control; it’s to conserve scarce resources so the rest of us can make more choices.

Categories: Rand Paul

Real America: Home of the… Cry Babies?

March 10, 2011 Leave a comment

Everyone should check out this interview Ezra Klein had with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack after Klein praised cities. If you want the short version, rural people get generous yet economically inefficient subsidies and constant praise from politicians, but are sad because not enough journalists speak up for them. So now we know where this “Real America vs Coastal elites” complex comes from. You’d think they’d be happy with billions of dollars in subsidies and overrepresentation in Congress, but I guess we have to thank them for that too.

Categories: Ezra Klein Tags:

The March of the Machines

March 7, 2011 2 comments

Every morning that I wake up worried that I might end up in too positive a frame of mind to properly mope through my day, I make sure to read a Paul Krugman column. Today he further crushes my optimism for the future by explaining why increased innovation is reducing the demand for educated workers.

Computers, it turns out, can quickly analyze millions of documents, cheaply performing a task that used to require armies of lawyers and paralegals. In this case, then, technological progress is actually reducing the demand for highly educated workers.

And legal research isn’t an isolated example. As the article points out, software has also been replacing engineers in such tasks as chip design. More broadly, the idea that modern technology eliminates only menial jobs, that well-educated workers are clear winners, may dominate popular discussion, but it’s actually decades out of date.


[T]he notion that putting more kids through college can restore the middle-class society we used to have is wishful thinking. It’s no longer true that having a college degree guarantees that you’ll get a good job, and it’s becoming less true with each passing decade.

As computers and other technologies get better at preforming more complex tasks the more our labor markets will dramatically change. From reading this you might come away awash in despair at the prospect of the inevitable march of robots taking your good jobs away. But hold on a nanosecond. (I was so tempted I was to write an updated Candlemakers’ petition.) This march isn’t inevitable; we could become luddites and stop innovating – problem solved, right? Framing it that way concentrates the mind a bit: I’m not saying better technology and innovation don’t pose any problems for us, but those problems come linked to massive gains in productivity and material wealth. That we don’t need “armies of lawyers” to analyze legal documents is a good thing. When was the last time you thought, “man, getting good legal help was just too damn inexpensive!”? Yes, many jobs in the medical field may soon be obsolete; but, if our country’s finances face any problem right now it’s not cheaper medical costs.

These same “problems” also come with free trade and immigration. Policymakers need to help transition workers displaced by trade, technology, and immigration, but we can’t forget that these things bring enormous benefits. We could all go back to hiring lamplighters, typists, and switchboard operators yet somehow I think most people realize we’re better off because we don’t have to.

Categories: Paul Krugman Tags:

Here’s a Tip.

March 5, 2011 6 comments


(20% to the Daily Dish)

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

GTSCW: Health Care Edition

March 1, 2011 1 comment

In another installment of Graphs that Subvert Conventional Wisdom here’s a chart that surprised me and dispels a common fallacy about American vs other health markets.

Probably due to sheer repetition I always bought into the notion that one of the trade offs of expanding coverage usually had to be longer wait times due to doctors having to deal with more volume. Previously I assumed we’d just have to do our best to mitigate that inevitable downside – it doesn’t seem so inevitable after all.

Expanding health coverage continues to be a worthwhile goal and I remain convinced that a greater governmental role is necessary (a free market linked with guaranteed catastrophic coverage is a political impossibility). Wait-times was one of my bigger reservations about increased state involvement; I still worry about decreased competition arresting medical innovation. Is that another myth or is there more truth to that?

(via: Kevin Drum)

Categories: GTSCW, healthcare Tags:
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