Re: guess the correlation

2004-12-16 Thread fabio guillermo rojas
My guess is positive because California and New York tend to have a lot of
high income people. Around 0.4? Fabio

On Thu, 16 Dec 2004, Bryan Caplan wrote:

 I've calculated the correlation coefficient between per-capita state
 income and the percent of the vote Kerry got.  Guesses?  I'll post the
 answer in an hour.
  Prof. Bryan Caplan
 Department of Economics  George Mason University  [EMAIL PROTECTED]

 But we must deplore and, so far as possible, overcome the evils of
  habitual newspaper reading.  These evils are, chiefly, three: first,
  the waste of much time and mental energy in reading unimportant news
  and opinions, and premature, untrue, or imperfect accounts of
  important matters; second, the awakening of prejudices and the
  enkindling of passions through the partisan bias or commercial greed
  of newspaper managers; third, the loading of the mind with cheap
  literature and the development of an aversion for books and
  sustained thought.

--Delos Wilcox, The American Newspaper (1900)

Re: Siberia and Canada

2004-04-08 Thread fabio guillermo rojas
Yes - evidence: the population of Canada is highly clustered around the
border. I have hunch they would bolt the second the border was opened.


On Thu, 8 Apr 2004, Bryan Caplan wrote:

 Question: If there were free migration between the U.S. and Canada,
 would Canada lose a lot of population to California, Florida, and other
 more desirable locations?
  Prof. Bryan Caplan

Re: Siberia and Canada

2004-04-08 Thread fabio guillermo rojas
Check out:


It's a map of Canadian population density. Highest density around the
great lake and the west coast. Otherwise, just a bunch of wawas up
there. Fabio

On Thu, 8 Apr 2004, Bryan Caplan wrote:

 Can any Canada experts weigh in?  That includes all Canadians.  Eric?

 fabio guillermo rojas wrote:

  Yes - evidence: the population of Canada is highly clustered around the
  border. I have hunch they would bolt the second the border was opened.
  On Thu, 8 Apr 2004, Bryan Caplan wrote:
 Question: If there were free migration between the U.S. and Canada,
 would Canada lose a lot of population to California, Florida, and other
 more desirable locations?
  Prof. Bryan Caplan

  Prof. Bryan Caplan
 Department of Economics  George Mason University  [EMAIL PROTECTED]

 I hope this has taught you kids a lesson: kids never learn.

 --Chief Wiggum, *The Simpsons*

Re: divided government

2004-02-24 Thread fabio guillermo rojas
I think the argument goes like this:

1. The policies both parties agree on is smaller in size than what each
party advocates individually. I.e., the equilibrium of the bargaining game
is smaller than the whole policy space.

2. In general, most of what each party wants is un-libertarian and
un-libertarian outcomes are evenly distributed across the policy space, so
you'd expect the equilibrium set to be about the same quality as the whole
policy space.

3. Therefore, divided government yeilds the least un-libertarian outcomes.

Why the specific combination of Dem congrees and GOP executive? I don't
know. It probably depends on which policies you have a preference for.


On Tue, 24 Feb 2004, Bryan Caplan wrote:

 Many smart libertarians I've talked to lately have embraced the view
 that divided government (especially Dem president and Rep Congress)
 yields the least un-libertarian outcome.  Are they right, and if so,
 what's the theoretical explanation?
  Prof. Bryan Caplan
 Department of Economics  George Mason University  [EMAIL PROTECTED]

 I hope this has taught you kids a lesson: kids never learn.

 --Chief Wiggum, *The Simpsons*

Re: spamonomics

2004-01-20 Thread fabio guillermo rojas
Simple - you can anonymously buy impotence treatment over the Internet. No
need to tell a real person that you ahve a sexual problem. I've also heard
people use v!agra for enhancing sexual experience, not too cure a medical
problem. Those people probably want to avoid doctors.


On Tue, 20 Jan 2004, Bryan Caplan wrote:

 Why is such a high fraction of spam devoted to selling impotence
 treatments?  Are there really impotent guys who make an impulse purchase
 of v!agra because they got some spam?

 P.S.  I killfile everything spelled v-i-a-g-r-a in the title or body, so
 let's call it v!agra for this discussion.
  Prof. Bryan Caplan
 Department of Economics  George Mason University  [EMAIL PROTECTED]

 I hope this has taught you kids a lesson: kids never learn.

 --Chief Wiggum, *The Simpsons*

Re: Oscar Political Business Cycle

2004-01-04 Thread fabio guillermo rojas
On Tue, 30 Dec 2003, Bryan Caplan wrote:

 The Political Business Cycle story has not fared well empirically in
 recent years (though Kevin Grier has done interesting work on Mexico's
 PBC).  But it seems overwhelming in the Oscars.  It seems like roughly
 half of the big nominees get released in December.  What gives?  Is
 there any way to explain this other than Academy voters' amnesia?

Basically the only way to win an Oscar these days, unless you come up with
the insanely good smach hit (a la Titanic), you have to wage an expensive
campaign involving massive advertising, video/DVD's sent to academy
voters, etc. Thus, you have to include the advertising cost in the
calculation you describe. Given the rather strong amnesia regarding
Oscars, I'd say it's the best bet to load up on December.

F Ro

Re: Economist IQ?

2003-12-15 Thread fabio guillermo rojas
At Chicago, econ math GRE's tend to be substantially higher than other
social science Ph.D.'s. Verbal scores are comparable to humanities
Ph.D.'s. Also remember that econ depts take a lot of asian students, which
probably pushes down the verbal GRE score. More generally, any time you
require math, you get higher caliber people.

IMHO, the highest quality social science students tend to be in econ Ph.D.
programs. By doing well in calculus and statistics, they've singalled a
great deal of ability. This doesn't happen in other fields, and many
social science undergrad programs tend to be watered down. For ex, the soc
dept at Berkeley (my alma mater) does not require a course in introductory
statistics. Instead, they require one semester of quantitative reasoning,
which can be fulfilled with just about anything. Contrast that with
economics, where you simply can't graduate from a top program without
about a year of calculus.

OTOH, economists are probably lower IQ than many physical science
Ph.D.'s. IIRC from the Chicago statistics on GRE's, it was typical for
non-biology science Ph.D.'s to have nearly perfect math scores.


On Mon, 15 Dec 2003, Rodney F Weiher wrote:

 Why not look at GRE scores (or do they still require GREs?)

 Rodney Weiher

 Stephen Miller wrote:

  I doubt anyone has hard data on this, but I'm wondering what people on this
  list would guess is the average IQ of Ph.D. economists?  Would it be much
  different from the average IQ of Ph.D.s in general?

Re: Economist IQ?

2003-12-15 Thread fabio guillermo rojas
In the book Sociology and its publics, Neil Smelser has a chart
comparing GRE's for various disciplines. His point was that sociology, in
comparison to other social sciences such as economics, get bad recruits.


On Mon, 15 Dec 2003, Bryan Caplan wrote:

 Do you have a cite for that, Zach?

  A far cry from perfect, but if you use the GRE as a test of intelligence, 
  economics PhD students are the fourth most intelligent behind physicists, 
  mathematicians, and computer scientists - according to the ETS in 2002.  Mean 
  scores for engineering (in some forms) are not much lower - but anthropology, 
  archaeology, history, political science, theology, sociology, and communications 
  are all fields with significantly lower scores.
  I suspect intuitively, due to a number of reasons - mostly the analytical nature 
  of the field and the mathematical rigor - that economists are significantly more 
  intelligent than PhDs in many other fields.  But probably not all fields, and 
  maybe not even most.
  - Zac Gochenour
  - Original Message -
  From: Stephen Miller [EMAIL PROTECTED]
  Date: Monday, December 15, 2003 10:40 am
  Subject: Economist IQ?
 I doubt anyone has hard data on this, but I'm wondering what
 people on this
 list would guess is the average IQ of Ph.D. economists?  Would it
 be much
 different from the average IQ of Ph.D.s in general?

  Prof. Bryan Caplan
 Department of Economics  George Mason University  [EMAIL PROTECTED]

 I hope this has taught you kids a lesson: kids never learn.

 --Chief Wiggum, *The Simpsons*

Re: Sub-optimal equilibrium vs. Culture

2003-11-29 Thread fabio guillermo rojas
 Whenever we look at violent, underdeveloped nations, we often have two
 responses to their condition:

 1. They have a preference for institutions that restrain peace, growth and
 development. Example: Middle Eastern people are poor because people have
 a taste for big, bad government.

 2. They are stuck in a sub-optimal equilibrium. People realize the status
 quo is bad, but the incentives are to stay. Example: Ethnic conflict in
 Somalia/Bosnia/etc. won't stop because if either side stopped, the other
 side would take advantage

 Is there any systematic evidence for one explanation over the other?


Re: MVT and policy portfolios

2003-10-19 Thread fabio guillermo rojas
  Related to this is the question of whether there really is a median voter.
  Let's take 10 issues--abortion, gun control, gay rights, trade policy, tax
  rates, immigration, middle east policy, racial preferences, CO2/global
  warming policy, and SDI/star wars missile defense.  What percentage of
  the electorate is in the middle quintile (if we could quantify these issues)
  on all 10?

 The General Social Survey is online and has a lot of information on
 public opinion, though not all of these exact topics.  At least on a
 crude measure of do you want more/less/the same level of spending or
 regulation, the median position is usually the same.
  Prof. Bryan Caplan

Is this an artifact of the survey? Would people say the same just because
they don't care or don't know about an issue? In general, I'm a firm
believer in the GSS, but I've always been skeptical about this kind of
question. Seems like a good case of leading the respondents.


Re: Levitt article

2003-08-14 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 I couldn't access the article. Could anyone either copy and paste it to me 
 (privately so as not to distrub others) or perhaps just give me a briefy 
 summary?  Thank you.
 David Levenstam

The article discusses Levitt's research style: his tendency to ask odd but
interesting questions and be clever enough to be able to test the
hypotheses with publically available data. It also has some discussions of
his career path and a little about his personal life. Fabio

Re: Levitt article

2003-08-14 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 The article discusses Levitt's research style: his tendency to ask
 odd but interesting questions and be clever enough to be able to
 test the hypotheses with publically available data. It also has some
 discussions of his career path and a little about his personal life.
 Thanks, Fabio.  So what's so bad about that?

Well, the article's style and tone was a little odd. For example, as
someone else pointed out, it seemed to imply that Steve Levitt was alone
in the economic analysis of crimes and other non-market behaviors. It also
has this aw-shucks attitude, depicting a wunderkind who was ignored by
the profession until the profession was stunned and surprised by his wit.
All in all, not the worst article ever written, combining the story of an
interesting economist with some weird framing. Fabio

Do prices exist?

2003-08-14 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

Seriously - consider the use of a pay phone, or a hotel phone. It is often
hard for me, and many other customers, to get completely accurate
information on phone call prices. When it comes to phone calls, I've
always missed some charge or tax, or there is change from when I last got
the info. 

So: (a) how many other economic transactions have this feature, that it is
hard to get an accurate price? (b) If there are many such examples, should
we think about fuzzy prices or prices-as-sets, or expected
prices? A lot of basic micro assumes there is a single number p. Maybe
we should think of price distributions instead. 


Re: Levitt article

2003-08-04 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

What I found interesting is that in economics, like in many other fields,
there are problem solvers (people who figure out specific paradoxes,
empirical facts, etc) and theory builders. Levitt is a supremely
able problem solver, a niche that didn't exist 30-40 years ago in the
economics profession. Fabio 

On Mon, 4 Aug 2003, William Sjostrom wrote:
 It is an annoying piece, even if it shows the public what Levitt is up to,
 because it strongly indicates that Levitt is an outlier in the profession in
 his interests.  Forty years ago, he would have been a rarity in the
 profession.  Today, he is pretty standard.
 Bill Sjostrom

Re: Levitt article

2003-08-04 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 and on (including work by ICES colleagues)... On balance I would argue that
 Levitt is indeed unusually clever (in the sense that he comes up with good
 questions and also finds interesting natural manipulations to study them),
 but that his particular approach to economic science is not novel: Vernon
 Smith has been using it for decades. - Dan

Correct me if I am wrong, but a big difference between Vernon Smith and
Levitt is that Smith focuses mostly on a single area - experimental econ
with a cognitive focus - while Levitt is a bit more wide ranging in his
interests. Nothing wrong with that, but maybe that's a reason Levitt is so
distinctive. Few people have the cleverness to consistently spot
interesting puzzles and then have the tenacity to find data that can
actually test hypotheses.

Of course, the long term interesting question: will such puzzle solving
lead to greater economic insight? I think so. In mathematics, such puzzle
solvers are good at showing all sorts of cherished ideas are wrong and the
evidence accumulated from such research can force people to think in new
ways. Also, puzzle solvers are good at finding tricks that can be used to
solve other problems. I wouldn't be surprised if Levitt's long term legacy
is like that of Paul Erdos the mathematician who was notorious for solving
goofy problems, but whose solutions forced people to rethink a lot of


Re: Senators Denounce Policy Analysis Markets

2003-08-02 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 I help run a large non-profit colocation and hosting center for various
 groups of which an implementation of this would fit perfectly with our
 If people are interested in trying this in a fully transparent method I am
 willing to provide our resources and my time to make it happen.

Seriously - how hard is it to set up such a market? If indeed it can lead
to better prediction of violent events, and if it is something that is
relatively easy to set up, then why not? Could this be shut down by the
Feds? Under what justifications?

Fabio Rojas 

Re: Senators Denounce Policy Analysis Markets

2003-07-31 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

Could this not be an opportunity? Maybe a private sponsor could set up the
market? Fabio 

On Tue, 29 Jul 2003, Robin Hanson wrote:

 That sure looks like the likely outcome.  We never really got a chance to 
 correct misconceptions about the project.  (For example, it was never 
 intended to forecast specific terrorist attacks, but only overall 
 trends.)  They didn't want to hear.
 At 01:10 PM 7/29/2003 -0400, [EMAIL PROTECTED]:
 More likely than not they'll say nothing and the story will quietly go 
 away... conveniently relieving people like reporters and senators from the 
 need to admit they spoke out about something they didn't have much, if 
 any, comprehension of.
   All of the criticism seems based on the betting on events, not on the
   use of conditional markets for developing policy.  Wonder what they'll say
   when they figure that bit out
FYI, our DARPA project ( has just been 
by two senators:
 Robin Hanson  [EMAIL PROTECTED]
 Assistant Professor of Economics, George Mason University
 MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030-
 703-993-2326  FAX: 703-993-2323 

Re: Senators Denounce Policy Analysis Markets

2003-07-29 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

On Tue, 29 Jul 2003, Jeffrey Rous wrote:

 I seem to remember looking at the Iowa Electronic Market right before
 the 2000 election and noticing that it had Gore winning the
 winner-take-all and Bush getting a higher percentage of the vote. And
 I remember thinking that this was just an indication of how close the
 race really was.
 Am I remembering this correctly.

Yes, that is correct. I remember making the same observation. I think the
Iowa markets seem to do better than most pundits. Fabio 

California Recall

2003-07-28 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

Ok - let's put game theory to the test: what is the normal form of
declaring your candidcay for California governer-game? What's the
predicted outcome? And what would Robin Hanson wager on the answer?


Re: California Recall

2003-07-28 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

On Mon, 28 Jul 2003, fabio guillermo rojas wrote:
 Ok - let's put game theory to the test: what is the normal form of
 declaring your candidcay for California governer-game? What's the
 predicted outcome? And what would Robin Hanson wager on the answer?

It seems that optimal strategy for Democrats is to choose one candidate
and pay off the others not to run, and hope the GOP vote is split. The GOP
candidates would like to do the same, but at least 3 candidates (Issa,
Riordan, Simon) seem certain to run, suggesting that they think have a
real chance in a 4 way contest (3 GOP's, 1 Dem). It doesn't seem that Issa
stands a chance against a strong Dem (Feinstein, for ex), and his presence
just splits the GOP vote. I'd venture that Issa can afford to be a
political bad boy. Given that Issa's already started to run, why would any
GOP sign up? They would have to fight Issa and steal centrist Dems. Very
up hill battle.


Re: fertility and government

2003-07-14 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 1. Why is fertility higher in dictatorships? Do dictators like bigger
 populations, and democrats like smaller populations? Does population
 growth influence choice of government? Or is there a third factor that
 affects both fertility and form of government?

The question should be: what causes dictatorship and do these conditions
encourage high fertility? Well, we have a lot of data and research on both
questions. Financially stable nations with democratic institutions tend
not to succumb to dictatorships, while nations that explicitly reject 
capitalism tend to evolve into dictatorships. Ok - what causes high
fertility? Low wealth, low education and no access to birth control. 
The nations at risk for dictatorship probably are poor and do not have
good mass education. Fabio 

Re: Competition vs. Profits in the NBA

2003-07-10 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

Robin said:

 The conflict you describe is that some people want more of a fair fight, and
 others put more weight on wanting my team to win.  Of course the second
 group doesn't want to win via too easy or obvious an advantage.  They may want
 the rough appearance of fairness, but in fact want enough unfairness for them
 to win.

 Can we model this behavior as resulting from rational agents, or is some
 irrationality required to make such a story work?

It doesn't seem to require any irrationality. Say insisting on an unfair
game brings you benefits but has the cost that people may complain. It
seems natural to assume that the costs created by complaint will increase
as the unfairness of the game increases. If the complaint-unfairness
curve crosses the unfairness-advantage curve, then people will be more
more fair. Dictators, for example, have pushed the complain-unfairness
curve down by ruthlessly hurting dissidents. In democratic societies, the
costs imposed by complaints can be high enough to force people back to the
crossing point of the curve. Now that you put it this way, I'd say it's a
nice econ 101 problem.


Re: Marketing vs. Economics

2003-06-30 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 The usual response to someone ought to do X is why not you?.  Introductory
 classes must meet a lot of constraints.  They must prepare those who will
 continue in the tools that are actually used at higher levels.  And they
 must give the rest some tools they can actually use to understand some
 phenomena around them.

Well, first, I am not an economist. Nothing much I say will be taken
seriuosly by economists (aside from my friends who have to listen!). I do
produce models of rule base behavior, but since they aren't published in
econ journals, they'll probably have zero impact in economics. That's ok.
That's just the nature of academia. But second, rule based modeling can
easily be taught to undergraduates. For example, the Schelling model, as I
pointed out in another post, could easily be taught and yeilds simple but
important results.

 Yes, some people are having some success in explaining some kinds of behavior
 with rules, but such papers have hardly taken over the journals.  And I'm
 somewhat at a loss to think of what particular rules I would teach GMU
 undergraduates to take up half of an Econ 101 class.  Of course one could
 just grab material from current marketing 101 classes.  But is learning to
 market really that important?

I brought up marketing to make a slightly different point. I wasn't
arguing that econ classes should become marketing classes. I was arguing
that people whose profession is to predict economic behavior seem to
do perfectly well without utility maximization theory. A lot of economic
behavior seems to be well described by rules rather than searches for
optimal behaviors. 

Couldn't this be a sign that we should consider a fundamental shift in the
construction of economic theory? Could it be the case that economic
behavior is a continuum? Some large classes of behaviors are probably rule
based while others are the result of searching to optimal outcomes. I
think the most interesting possibility is to think of some situations as
combinations of rules based and classical economic actors (my example was
voting - politicians= rational, voters = rule based). Or how about stock
markets? Professional investors are probably closer to the rational actor
than mompop investors. Small time investors seem to go on gut reaction
rules, at leas many of the ones I talked to. How would our understanding
of stock markets change if we thought that there was always a mix of 
rational and rule based actors? 


 Robin Hanson  [EMAIL PROTECTED]
 Assistant Professor of Economics, George Mason University
 MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030-
 703-993-2326  FAX: 703-993-2323 

Re: socialism historical?

2003-06-17 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

Political labels are notoriously contextual. The passage of a few years
renders many labels unintelligible. However, there is something more
interesting to say. Political parties frequently co-op  specific policies,
which distorts our association of a label with a policy. Example:
the two politial parties in the US have played football with balanced
budget. Perot also made a big deal about. So what label would you use?


On Tue, 17 Jun 2003, Fred Foldvary wrote:

 --- [EMAIL PROTECTED] wrote:
   government money, as it predates socialism, probably doesn't rightly
 fall under the category of socialism. 
 Does the meaning of socialism include a time frame, so that a policy that
 is socialist after that time is not socialist before that time?
 What is socialism, what year does it take effect, and why is the time
 element involved?
 Fred Foldvary

Re: Charity

2003-06-04 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

I remember a discussion with Bryan, where he claimed that the average
proportion of income donated to charity is about 1% or 2%. Say somebody
makes $30K, that $300/year. I can easily imagine a religious person 
giving a few bucks a week to church ($2x52= $110) plus maybe some extra
during fund raising drives at church and work ($200 total). So people are
willing to give about $30 month to charity.

Is that low or high? I'd say it's probably ok, most people can't afford to
give much anyway, with mortages, student loans, children, etc. Only the
wealthy could give thousands and still pay the phone bill.


On Tue, 3 Jun 2003, Jason DeBacker wrote:

 Why don’t more people give more money to charity?
 If you asked someone if they would rather see $50 used to 
 feed a child for a month or on another month cable TV (or 
 whatever), I can’t imagine someone not saying that the child 
 should be fed.  But almost no one gives $50 a month to 
 charity and many give that to watch cable television (or 
 spend it on other “frivolous” purchases).
 Why does this happen?
 A few possible reasons:
 - The history of charitable money getting into the wrong 
 hands has scared people from donating.
 - There is some kind of market failure (a la the story of the 
 woman being attacked while the whole block watched and no one 
 stopping it or calling the police).
 - People really don’t care about helping someone else, but 
 are ashamed to admit that.
 - People just don’t think about donating.
 Jason DeBacker

Re: Theory of Perverse Government Tangents (fwd)

2003-06-02 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

Not sure if this made it... fabio

 While it may appear that the Warnick Theory of Perverse Government Tangents
 has thus been born full grown, it is nevertheless recognized that
 improvements or amplifications may be possible.  They are welcome.
 Walt Warnick  

Sorry, Walt. You've been beaten to the punch:

Read Meyer and Rowan's 1977 article Institutionalized Organizations:
Formal Structure as Myth and Ceremony in the American Journal of
Sociology. The point of their article is that you should think of a lot of
bureuacratic behavior as a signal of legitimacy. The behavior may have no
obvious benefit and it's done only to satifsy legal regulation, noisy
interest groups or public opinion. Since then, they've scaled down their
claims (they originally claimed most behavior was a legitimacy signal) but
the basic point is well taken, especially for public administration.


Re: Personal vs. Political Culture: The Other Box

2003-05-31 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 Absolutely speaking, sure.  But e.g. the U.S. and U.K. have been 
 *relatively* more sympathetic to these ideas for centuries.
  Prof. Bryan Caplan

I think my email got crunched, but if you are talking relative levels,
then some Latin American countries have semi-decent political culture, but
atrocious private. For example, take Colombia - I'm no expert, but
Colombia was fairly resistant to socialism and nationalization of industry
(compared to other Latin American nations), but it suffers a great deal of
crime and drug use.


Re: Theory of Perverse Government Tangents

2003-05-31 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 While it may appear that the Warnick Theory of Perverse Government Tangents
 has thus been born full grown, it is nevertheless recognized that
 improvements or amplifications may be possible.  They are welcome.
 Walt Warnick  

Sorry, Walt. You've been beaten to the punch:

Read Meyer and Rowan's 1977 article Institutionalized Organizations:
Formal Structure as Myth and Ceremony in the American Journal of
Sociology. The point of their article is that you should think of a lot of
bureuacratic behavior as a signal of legitimacy. The behavior may have no
obvious benefit and it's done only to satifsy legal regulation, noisy
interest groups or public opinion. Since then, they've scaled down their
claims (they originally claimed most behavior was a legitimacy signal) but
the basic point is well taken, especially for public administration.


Re: Personal vs. Political Culture: The Other Box

2003-05-30 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 Now Pete Boettke asked me if there are any peoples with the opposite 
 combination: bad personal culture, good political culture.  The best 
  Prof. Bryan Caplan

Note that insistence on free markets, limited gov't, democracy, etc. is a
pretty recent phenomena - so one should find few examples of *any* group
that has good political culture. Fabio

Re: Lott

2003-02-05 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

How would one estimate the accuracy of self-reports of self-defense? I
know in medical research you can assess the validity of self-reported
health by doing follow up medical exams or seeing if the respondent dies
or becomes seriously ill shortly after the survey. 

Is self-defense just one of those issues where we'll never have decent
data? Fabio 

On Wed, 5 Feb 2003, William Dickens wrote:
 Which is highly suspect. It is computed by projecting the fraction of
 people in a relatively small sample who say they used firearms
 defensively to the whole population. Anyone who has ever worked with
 survey data knows that error rates of a couple of percent (at least)
 on all sorts of questions are common. Both coding errors and reporting
 errors substantially increase (in percentage terms) the fraction of
 respondents giving positive responses to questions with very low
 fractions of positive responses. Think also about how people treat
 surveys (for example the number of people who say they have been
 abducted by aliens).  I would bet any money that the true fraction of
 people who use firearms in self-defense (brandishment or otherwise) is
 a whole heck of a lot lower (an order of magnitude or more) than what
 is suggested by Kleck's survey. - - Bill Dickens
 William T. Dickens

Re: Questions about the stagflation episode...

2003-02-03 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

On Mon, 3 Feb 2003, William Dickens wrote:
 That is not what I meant. Of course there is. Its thermodynamics.
 However, to an outsider it looks to impose about as much structure on
 weather modeling as the notion of general equilibrium imposes on
 macro-modeling - - that is that the devil is in the details, big
 models can be less informative than the careful eye of a specialist in

Thermo, by itself, is not an example of a paradigm for meteorology. A
paradigm, in Kuhn's sense, is (a) a theory, (b) empirical observations
that are predicted by the theory, (c) the acceptance of the theory by most
practitioners in the field, who use the theory to resolve new cases. The
empirical results are the blueprint for future research. It seems that
thermo is simply a rule for constructing paradigms within meteorology -
i.e., any paradigm must not contradict thermo. Kind of like any macro
theory must have correct microfoundations. 

Of course, I can't say if your depiction of meteorology is accurate, but
we can ask if macro satisfies (a)-(c). 

Is there currently a widely accpeted theory whose legitimacy rests on the
successful prediction of a specific business cycle? 

Is that theory the blueprint for most work in macro?

Alex says yes, there is a widely accepted theory, and Brookings Bill
Dickens says no. But neither person has provided the model achievement -
the business cycle or other economic phenomena whose successful prediction
by the theory legitimizes is position as a dominant macro-economic theory.

Is there any such empirical example? The stagflation episode overturned
the old theory, but is there a new theory that uses stagflation as its
main example?

 Some core parts of physics deal with complexity -  how about statistical
 mechanics? Is there a macro counterpart to statistical mechanics?
 Not sure what you mean by this, but I suspect that is exactly what the
 stochastic mechanics of the typical general equilibrium model is

Adressing the idea that complexity undermines attempts at econ's Kuhnian
development as a science, I was simply pointing out that some parts of
physics deal with complex systems but still have Kuhn style
paradigms. Statistical mechanics is one such example: theory behavior
gases - a complex system - has dominant theories. The theory of phase
transitions might be another example.

 But you miss my point. I'm arguing that the phenomena
 physicists study at the core of the discipline are amenable to
 sufficiently exact theory and exact measurement that you can have
 decisive paradigm shifts driven by anomalous research results.
 Economic theory is not as precise so measurement can't provide the
 sort of strong evidence that one sees in core physics.

Fair enough. Measurement definitely would preclude anamoly driven change
because adherent of a theory could always claim that measurements do not
capture the real story.

[clipped a long discussion on recent history of macro]

 economics. If you mean neo or new-Keynesians then the differences
 between them and new-classicals (the heirs to 60s monetarism) is minor
 compared to their differences with Austrians or post-Keynesians. But
 so what? Post Keynesians and modern Austrians play absolutely no roll
 William T. Dickens

The point of the thread - at least my goal - was to assess Kuhn's
model. If it is indeed the case that general equilibria theory is the
paradigm for macro,  then schools of economics that reject gen equi. would
small time players in the field. So  gen eq succeeds as a paradigm because
Austrians and post-Keynesians are marginal. 

However, to satisfy Kuhn's definition of paradigm, there has to also be a
classic example and future research has to be derived from the example.
I don't know macro well enough to judge, but so far no one has given me an
example such an empirical prediction. Altough we know stagflation led to
the revision of a given research tradition.


Re: Questions about the stagflation episode...

2003-02-02 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

IIUC, macro was characterized by multiple schools but there was an
outstanding critique that the micro picture was flawed or asbent, which
served to undermine one popular school. The anomaly didn't serve to usher
in a new macro, but unravel some old science, which still has adherents in
a modified version. The new macro is still fragmented and there is no
consensus yet. Sounds like an example of science as muddling through. Or
in Kuhn's terminology, macro is pre-science - a stage where there is no
central idea providing coherence for macro. Fabio 

On Sat, 1 Feb 2003, William Dickens wrote:

 None of the above. Macro was already fragmented and remained fragmented after the 
70s. Hard core monetarism probably did pick-up some adherents due to the events of 
the 70s, but the internal dynamic of the profession - - the relentless march of the 
rational actor model into all aspects of the work of economists - - was probably only 
speeded by these events. What stagflation did was convince people of the correctness 
of the Friedman/Lucas critique. This set nearly everyone off on a much more 
determined search for micro foundations for macro theory. I'll go out on a limb and 
say we still haven't gotten there. Thus Keynesian theory is still taught to 
undergraduates and it is what is behind most commercial forecasting models (though 
they may have some new-classical tweaks here and there). This is why I don't think 
this was a paradigm shift in the sense of Kuhn because there was no alternative 
paradigm to take the place of the Keynesian model. — Bill Dickens
  [EMAIL PROTECTED] 02/01/03 02:06PM 
 What would be the most accurare description of the economic profession's
 response to stagflation:
 1) Everybody dropped Keynesianism and adopted a new model (monetarism?).
 2) Macroeconomics broke up into competing schools, with different concepts
 and theories.
 3) Keynesians kept going, but new economists adopted one or more models.

Re: Questions about the stagflation episode...

2003-02-02 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

Well maybe macro *is* in a scientific state, from your description.
Sticking to Kuhn's terminology, normal scientific activity occurs when
scientists use existing models to solve outstanding issues. From one
perspective, maco is organized around general equilibria, and the fighting
is over the details of money, capital and labor markets, as you
describe. The situation is similar in many branches of physics - people
often accept very broad ideas (Newton's mechanics) and then squabble over
details, which may seem huge to insiders, but small to outsiders.

Also: I've never bought the whole social science is too complex argument
for why economics and physical science differ. A lot of the life and
physical sciences deal with complex systems - ever study turbulence
theory?  It's prettty friggin' hard and complex. Or ecology - lot's of
interrelated parts. But we still consider them sciences.


 in macro-economics. Everybody in main stream economic thinking about
 macro-problems has a general equilibrium ! model with capital markets,
 labor markets, and money markets in mind. The specifics of how some of
 those markets should be represented and what the rationale is for the
 representations used is the main items for debate. - - Bill Dickens

Re: Questions about the stagflation episode...

2003-02-02 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

On Sun, 2 Feb 2003, William Dickens wrote:

 don't fit easily into Kuhn's categories.  We're in the same situation
 as meteorology (only worse because our subjects have minds of their
 own). We know that weather systems are chaotic and therefore
 unpredictable beyond very limited time frames. Same for economics.

I'm actually not a Kuhnian on these issues, but I am trying to see how far
Kuhn's theory goes in accurately describing economic research. Is it
really true that there aren't reigning paradigms in meteorology? I should
note that experimental econ seems to be developing in a very Kuhnian

 the hallmark of modern physics. Sure there are physical problems where
 chaos and complexity cause the same sorts of problems that economists
 have dealing with the economy, but they aren't at the core of the
 discipline the way they are in economics. Thus I think that a lot of

Some core parts of physics deal with complexity -  how about statistical
mechanics? Is there a macro counterpart to statistical mechanics?

 Finally, You and Alex both seem to want to classify the state of
 modern macro as normal science. Personally, I think that the
 differences between the different approaches within macro are much
 more profound than either of you apparently do. Although everybody

Is the difference between monetarists and post-Keynesians smaller than
between post-Keynseians and Austrians? Austrians don't even accept
equilibira theory as a starting point of economic analysis.


Economic anamolies and Kuhn

2003-01-30 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

I'm teaching a course on the sociology of science and we read Kuhn's
structure of scientific revolutions. FYI, Kuhn says that science is
characterized by paradigms - most science works from basic assumptions
justified by model achievements. Scientific change occurs when anamolies
- observations contradicting theory - undermine the paradigm and new
ideas are adopted.

Can someone provide me an example of an anamoly from the recent history of
economics that led to a fundamental change in economic theory?


European Soveriegnty

2003-01-20 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

Is there an economic explanation of why Europeans seem to want to give up
soveriegnty to the EU or the UN? Fabio 

Re: Grade inflation - an easy explanation?

2003-01-14 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

Also consider the possibility that many departments get budgets based on
enrollments - and tough grades scare students away! Fabio 

On Tue, 14 Jan 2003 [EMAIL PROTECTED] wrote:

 In the Rhetoric Department at Iowa instructors who tried to actually teach 
 writing  and therefore generated many student complaints were offered out of 
 their contracts--that is, forced out--because the chair and assistant chair 
 didn't want to deal with student complaints.
 In a message dated 1/14/03 2:17:30 AM, [EMAIL PROTECTED] writes:
 Has anybody tested the hypothesis that professors assign easy grades
 because it sucks up too much time?
 Consider the costs of tough grading - spending more time correcting
 papers, extra time spent arguing grades with students and the extra effort
 it takes to design challenging tests and assignments. 

Grade inflation - an easy explanation?

2003-01-13 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

Has anybody tested the hypothesis that professors assign easy grades
because it sucks up too much time?

Consider the costs of tough grading - spending more time correcting
papers, extra time spent arguing grades with students and the extra effort
it takes to design challenging tests and assignments. 


Re: Babynomics

2003-01-11 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

  Question: At what can humans engage in economic behavior? Are there
  studies showing when children learn to trade ? 
 Humans start to engage in economic behavior as soon as they are born.
 Trade is not a necessary characteristic of economic behavior.  The issue is
 rather whether infants are consciously choosing their actions.  It seems to
 me that the genetic basis for behavior is the same in an infant as in an
 Fred Foldvary

I think this is a vacuous answer. By that logic, animals are economic
actors - animals seem to choose their actions. 

Perhaps, then, my original question was vague. The question I have is:
when do humans start to engage in *sophisticated* economic behaviors not
found in animals? For example, at what age are children able to understand
the concept of interest? At what age do children understand that exchange
can make you better off?


Re: Babynomics

2003-01-11 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

Oh, come on!! Animals are economic actors only in the most general sense. 

 Animals are economic actors.
 as to: 
 For example, at what age are children able to understand
 the concept of interest?- any baby knows that something is better now 
 then tommorrow.

That's not the same as interest. Interest is the price one pays for having
it now rather than later. When are people able to udnerstand that concept?

 At what age do children understand that exchange
 can make you better off?- if you read the popular media, it seems they 
 never do.

Well, I was hoping for some better answers. Many somebody knew of
psychological research showing when children are able to make tradeoffs
and make other economic decisions.


Re: Babynomics

2003-01-11 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

This is a great page! It's exactly what I was lookign for. Fabio 

On Sat, 11 Jan 2003, john hull wrote:

 You may profit from visiting the page of an old prof.
 of mine at Oregon, , specifically,
 his Nanoeconomics? Pedianomics? The Economic Behavior
 of Children Homepage, .
 I'm not sure what help it will be, but it's the best I
 can do.
 Best regards,
 Do you Yahoo!?
 Yahoo! Mail Plus - Powerful. Affordable. Sign up now.


2003-01-10 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

Question: At what can humans engage in economic behavior? Are there
studies showing when children learn to trade ? 


Re: [Fwd: a non-profit oddity]

2003-01-07 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

Jim said:

Opera houses have felt the pinch of a weakened economy.  A significant
number of them have canceled works with the explanation that they were
substituting obscure works with more popular ones to increase ticket
sales. I don't think that opera ticket revenue is actually counter
cyclical, but I still think the phenomenon is pretty funny.  Imagine
Warner finding out the economy is bad so they greenlight more summer

This isn't odd at all - artistic institutions subsidize less popular work
all the time with profits made from blockbusters. If the profits on
blockbusters are not enough to cover these productions, then you might as
well produce another blockbuster and not go into the red.

Movie studios owners only care about profits, while opera owners consume
both money and art.


Re: University overhead

2002-12-04 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

How sticky is the price for university overhead? Fabio 

On Wed, 4 Dec 2002, Rodney F Weiher wrote:

 As a purchaser of university research, we often bargain with the PI on
 overhead, who in turn must bargain with their administration.
 Rodney Weiher
 fabio guillermo rojas wrote:
  Do universities compete over the overhead they charge? For example, when
  wooing senior faculty, is it ever the case that universities offer lower
  overhead for big projects?
  for [EMAIL PROTECTED]; Wed, 4 Dec 2002 12:32:46 -0600 (CST)
 Received: (from daemon@localhost)
   by (8.12.5/8.12.5) id gB4GJvCl007013
   for [EMAIL PROTECTED]; Wed, 4 Dec 2002 10:19:57 -0600 (CST)
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   for [EMAIL PROTECTED]; Wed, 4 Dec 2002 11:19:55 -0500 (EST)
 Date: Wed, 04 Dec 2002 11:19:56 -0500
 X-PH: V4.4 (uchicago), $Revision: 1.60 $@midway
 From: Brian Steensland [EMAIL PROTECTED]
 User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:1.0.1) Gecko/20020823 
 X-Accept-Language: en-us, en
 MIME-Version: 1.0
 Subject: Indiana
 Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii; format=flowed
 Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
 Status: O
 Hi Fabio--
 If you still have questions about the Indiana department or Bloomington, 
 I'll be around all afternoon today if it would still be helpful for you 
 to talk to people here.

Re: Self-assesment vs. Rationality

2002-11-10 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 I presume you mean irrationaly optimistic self-assesment?  I'd say quite 
 a lot.  But then comes the
 hard question:  what policy implications follow from this conclusion?  

Yes, irrat self-assesment is a good word for it. Robin, I know you are a
fan of taxing people for not using their abilities. How would you tax
people here to make them more efficiently invest or make them have more
rational self-assesments?

A key free market principle is that investors better know how to spend
money than the gov't. Should we be in the business of judging who is


Re: Economists job market/search costs

2002-11-01 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 Having publications before you go on the market can make a very big
 difference. At least 10 years ago very few people did and having
 - - Bill Dickens

An article in the Journal of Human Resources about 10 years ago showed
that having 1 article had a big effect on landing a job, 2 articles a
little more, and then you get diminishing returns. The JHR articled did
quality of the journal counts a lot, too. The bigger the better.

I'm saddened to hear that the norm of 4 years and yer out is breaking
down. Engineering schools still maintain it to no harm. What has happened
in the economics profession? Fabio 

Theory of Teams

2002-10-18 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

Occasionally, someone mentions the theory of teams. Can someone please
tell me what the economic theory of teams is?


RE: Journal response times

2002-10-15 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 friend had a paper go three rounds at AER and that took 3 years. I
 wouldn't be surprised if a lot of bad papers get rejected quickly and
 that would bring down the average turn around time a lot.

That is indeed the case. Journals get many papers of low quality, and it's
easy to reject the bad ones out of hand. And remember, most papers could
be improved, and will go through a round of revision.

 But that is
 irrelevant if you are submitting a good paper that is eventually going
 to be published. Then you care about the time to publish and its
 disgraceful at nearly all economics journals. - - Bill Dickens
 William T. Dickens

It's not irrelevant at all, and it's not prima facia disgraceful, at least
on the part of journals. First, it's not irrelevant because its a signal
that your paper is being taken seriously, rather than a curt  this is
lame. After having seen some lame papers in my day, this happens more
than you might think.

Second, don't blame journals - blame your colleagues. It is simply
impossible to get decent reviews on papers. Take a non-hypothetical
example - my recent article in Rationality and Society. This paper is an
agent based simulation of an epidemic where agents engage in a very simple
signallying game. Now how many of my colleagues could read that
paper? Among sociologists, relatively few. Add into the mix that some
might lazy, on sabbatical, have family issues, etc. Then it becomes very
hard to get reviewers. That happened when I first submitted it to a health
journal - nobody they knew was willing to read a technical model. 

I know one person whose paper was sent to *ten* reviewers. There were
promises that the reviews would come in, but they never did. But what can
the journal do?

I know among sociology journals and some others, turn around times have
been cut by doing the following: reject papers if they don't survive the
first RR; reject papers based on a single bad review; accept papers one
only two decent reviews if they author has a good track record. I know
economics journals have setup incentives, but in general it doesn't seem
to have worked if the members of this list are to be believed.

So let me conclude by observing that the Journal of Artificial Societies
and Simulations is the fastest reputable social science journal I know.
It's on line, has a cadre of dedicated reviewers and a very smart editor -
so you think papers whiz through the review process. Some papers do appear
in print in a month or two, but most take about 6 mo-year to see
publication. Why? Simple, humans are slow and the editors wants
quality. It simply takes time to have people read through a paper and then
have the author thoughtfully respond.

While there is a lot of nutty stuff in academia, journals do the best they
can given the constraints. If you want decent peer review and not have
full-time paid reviewers, this is the best you can get. The only thing you
can do to imporve the system is to review the papers you get, and
encourage your colleagues to do the same.


RE: Journal response times

2002-10-14 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 The data are average times (measured in months)
 between initial submission and acceptance at various
 economics journals in the year 1999.
 It seems that the long times quoted in this article
 are something different than what fabio was talking
 about.  I have not read the article but the above

Hmmm... seems like the data is censored. Need to sample rejected
papers too. Ok, then. I feel better about my original statement.


Journal response times

2002-10-13 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 Anyone have any idea why the norm in economics allows referees so much
 time to do a report? Why its so different from other fields? Is this one
 of those soft vs. hard field things? Its my impression that the
 physical science journals all want fast turn around on their referee
 reports. Anybody know what its like with Anthropology, Sociology, or
 Political Science? 

I'd say economics has a pretty decent turn around time. I currently work
at the American Journal of Sociology and we usually get papers back
to authors in less than 90 days, often 60 days. My experience is that top
tier journals do better than second or third tier because they often have
prestige and staff, which encourage quick reviewer response. Most
sociology journals do much worse than AJS.

As far as discipline goes, economics and political science is best because
their is consensus on what constitutes decent research and you don't have
to master every detail of a paper to assess its quality. The worst is
mathematics because you really have to understand every symbol in every
equation. Humanities are also bad - you don't have to understand every
word, but humanities professors are very unresponsive. On another
list-serv, I saw one math professor complain that a 5 page research note
had spent *years* at one journal. You can get similar complaints from
humanities professors.

In the middle are engineering, sociolgy, education and other fields. Most
journals get stuff back from 3 months to a year and these fields are
in-between fast fields like economics and slow pokes like math.


Re: Traffic School and Vehicle Insurance

2002-10-04 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 It seems to me, that traffic school makes everybody out to be a greater
 risk than their driving record indicates. If risk is a primary factor in
 an insurance company's rate determination, doesn't that mean that
 traffic school makes everybody's rates higher than they otherwise would
 Michael Giesbrecht

Maybe the Median Voter is a bad driver and this is a wealth transfer from
good drivers to bad drivers. Fabio 

Re: Why does tenure exist?

2002-09-19 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 One possible explanation for tenure is that university departments 
 are to a large degree worker managed firms. One problem with a worker 
 David Friedman

David's explanations make sense, but I'm empirically skeptical on
two grounds:

(1) Why is it that only educational worker managed firms have tenure?
I could be wrong, but why don't kibbutzes have tenure? or Berkeley's
bohemian co-ops?

(2) I am beginning to doubt that worker managed firm
describes the university. I'm not faculty (yet!) but from what
I understand, the university administration has great
power in the university. If they want, administrators can change
standards for tenure and cut budgets and they control the
physical plant, and other stuff. The worker managed lable
applies just to the department. There is no reason the administration
has to allow tenure to exist. 


Re: Why does tenure exist?

2002-09-18 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 raise.  Government subsidies and private charity give universities the
 cushion they need to avoid being put out of competition by
 performance-oriented for-profits.
 Prof. Bryan Caplan

While I share Bryan's skepticism, I don't buy his argument because
universities/schools are the only non-government organizations that 
have tenure. Does the Ford Foundation or the YMCA have tenure?
Or how about churhes? Do priests or rabbi's have a version of tenure?

There may be de factor tenur, because no one wants to rock the
boat, but these institutions have not evolved legal rights pertaining
to tenure.


Why does tenure exist?

2002-09-17 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

Seriously, why does tenure exist at all? I know the motivations
for tenure, but why isn't it competed away somehow? I would like
to know what economic process ensures its continued existence.


Re: Feral Children

2002-09-06 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

Diego! Diego! The definitive source on outlandish, but possibly
true facts is the weekly Straight Dope Column in the Chicago
Reader, written by Cecil Adams. To sum up Cecil's column,
yes, there a few authenticated cases of feral children, but
most researchers doubt that any of these were raised by animals,
a common misconception. Feral children remain stunted most of
their lives, unable to acquire a vocabulary of more than fifty
words. See the link below. Fabio

Check out:

On Fri, 6 Sep 2002 [EMAIL PROTECTED] wrote:

 Maybe the topic of feral children is a bit of target from the armchair 
 list, but I am curious to see if someone could share their knowedge 
 about this. Do the stories about feral children -lost or abandoned 
 children raised in extreme social isolation, either surviving in the 
 wild through their own efforts or 'adopted' by animals- have any 
 truth behind them or are they just old wives tales? I guess the 
 question should be refined: how much truth is there behind 
 particularly famous stories of feral children (Amala  Kamala, Victor 
 the wild boy of Aveyron, Wild Peter, Kaspar Hauser, John Ssabunnya, 
 the Hessian wolf-boy, etc.)? Most importantly, what are the 
 conclusions and findings -assuming there is a general consensus- about 
 them? What are the consequences of extreme social isolation in 
 children regarding their abilities to develope complex forms of 
 reasoning and abstract thinking? Is there a critical period for 
 language acquisition?

Re: Median Voter and Sampling

2002-08-28 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 But I do have a naive question:  Is there a median
 voter for each issue, so that if there n issues, there
 can be up to n median voters?  Or, is there only one
 median voter who satisfies the vector median as I
 described above?  Can such a person be proven to
 exist, sort of like a voter version of the Ham
 Sandwich Theorem?

Well, sure. It's just the proof of the regular MVT, but done
with multiple integrals. F Ro 

Re: Median Voter and Sampling

2002-08-28 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

Another MVT deviation:

Marijuana decriminalization


Re: Nations as Corporations

2002-08-14 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 Imagine that a nation like the US were run like a corporation.  To live 

How would you enforce shareholder rights and monitor managers? For
corporations inside nations, one could appeal to the state for law
enforcement or start a lawsuit. What recourse do shareholders have in
such a worlds? Fabio 

Re: charlatanism

2002-08-14 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 Does anyone think, at least in the excerpts we read, that the article 
 attacked libertarian or libertarian-leaning economics as much as it attacked 
 economics generally?
 David Levenstam

It's typical to say that bad science is X, and my political
opponents just happen to do X. IMO, it is usually easier to attack an
economic theory in this roundabout way than just to confront the idea
head on because you really don't have to understand what's going on.

Example from my professional life: As is probably obvious, I'm not
an economist - I'm a sociologist who takes economics very seriously
and I sometimes use economic tools in my research. So I'm always
in a position of explaining economic ideas to non-economists and I
frequently find that people tend to avoid economic issues. For
example, when I explain human capital theory to people, they seem
horrified and obsess over whether their sacred cow - education -
can be thought of as something as dirty as an investment. Instead of
asking whether the idea is internally coherent and has empirical
support, they go nuts over just the wording of the theory.

Similarly, I find that these articles that trash economics because it is
psuedoscientific do the same - they obsess over the wording (the use
of math) rather than think real hard about the intuitions behind things.
Of course, there is always bad research hiding behind equations - but
the equations just express an idea - that can be debated - in a coherent


Re: charlatanism

2002-08-14 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

  The real charlatans in academia are the many frauds who build
  their whole careers by getting their names put on coauthored
  papers to which they have not legitimately contributed.
 That's a sort of embezzlement; but `charlatan' implies
 that the *content* of the papers is fraudulent.
 Anton Sherwood,

It is a sort of charlatanry about the content of your career - you sort of
imply you've done a bunch of original stuff by associating yourself with
the successful. Fabio 

Re: Nations as Corporations

2002-08-14 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 Are state-enforced lawsuits really what keeps large multinational
 corporations honest now?  If not, then the concept here is to use
 mechanisms similar to whatever large corporations now use.
 Robin Hanson  [EMAIL PROTECTED]

Multinationals come in different flavors. Those based in Western
nations and that have assets that can be seized after litigation
are probably kept in line by fear of lawsuits and jail terms.

I have no idea how share holders keep faith in firms based in dodgy
Third World nations. Probably some kind of trust, where paying out
dividends and respecting voting rights signals that future investors
will be treated well. But how often does this occur? Are these
multinationals not based in 3rd world not trying to avoid shareholder


Re: Why Compact Cars Identical?

2002-08-12 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 That makes sense for the cars all made by the same company, or which
 share subcontractors.  But Toyota, Honda, Subaru, and Ford all make cars
 with virtually the same shape and layout.
 Robin Hanson  [EMAIL PROTECTED]

Among management theory/organizational sociology types it's commonly
believed that firms just copy each other once someone has innovated
a solution to a problem (making cheap cars for the masses). It has
to do with management fads. Why bother to come up with a totally different
approach to small cheap cars when you can copy the competition and
compete on labor costs and marketing, which are easier than coming up
with new ideas? 

Or to rephrase in economic terms, risk averse managers prefer copying
a proven strategy (low risk/low payoff) than engaging in RD (high
payoff/high risk). 


Re: Why Compact Cars Identical?

2002-08-12 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

  Or to rephrase in economic terms, risk averse managers prefer copying
 a proven strategy (low risk/low payoff) than engaging in RD (high
 payoff/high risk). 

 reduce drag coefficients to increase fuel economy.  The summer I sold cars 
 (1997 at a Pontiac-Mazda-Jeep-Eagle dealer) one of the young salesman pointed 
 out that Mazda still used the aero styling, while everyone else had abandoned 
 it, giving the Mazadas a bit of an out-of-date look.

Let me add that some have speculated that industries are chasing
moving targets. Fads get set in motion, and firms play catch up until
the next fad comes along. Easier than being original and persuading
customers about your product. Fabio 

Re: taxi transitional gains trap

2002-08-04 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 Is there really a transitional gains trap?  If a majority of NYers
 seriously wanted free entry in cabs, wouldn't it happen regardless of
 the opinions of cab companies?
 Prof. Bryan Caplan

Uh-oh. The Median Voter Theorem rears its ugly head again.

Couldn't we just say that taxi cab owners are a small well organized
group with huge incentives for the status quo, while NYers are a large
group with weak preferences? Ie, why can't just invoke Mancur Olson


Re: cultural cues and queues

2002-08-03 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

Alternative hypothesis: people will accept money only if other people
are accepting money.

Fred - next weekend, I want you recruit a person who will get in line
before you. When you arrive, announce that you will give $20 to somebody
who will let you cut in line. That planted person will then accept
the offer. Then have your fake person make the same offer. I bet somebody
will take the money.


Re: Public Opinion On Spending

2002-07-31 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 In other words, all of the main items in the budget are popular and
 indeed if anything the public wants them to be larger. (Presumably views

Question: could public opinion be endogenous? Ie, maybe there might
be some status quo bias? Would people before the New Deal or the Great
Society have approved of specific programs before they existed?

Isn't it folk wisdom that many gov't programs start with promises
they'll stay small (income tax, social security, medicaid) but once
they exist, they become popular?


Re: taxi transitional gains trap

2002-07-27 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 Alex Tabarrok wrote:
  . . . In addition, there are serious constitutional
  issues involved in opening the market to free-entry because this would
  probably constitute a taking. . . .

Can somebody tell us exactly what the legal status of the medallions
are? Does the state own them, rent them or is it like a driver's
liscence where the has ultimate authority over them? 


Re: New article on cooperation the brain

2002-07-18 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 When I play the prisoner's dilemma in class, I see very little cooperation.

I know one researcher who has repeated a trust game (not prisoner's
dilemma)  with many classes of students and groups of business men.

He finds that students are remarkably untrustworthy and businessmen
tend to give their trust quite frequently. He thinks that students
are socially isolated from each other and have little experience
in social worlds were trust is common, unlike business men. 

I wouldn't be surprised if there were a similar difference when you
P.D. Can anybody confirm or reject this claim about students?


Re: New article on cooperation the brain

2002-07-18 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 The part about students being socially isolated from each other and lacking 
 social experienceis interesting.  Are there any studies that might confirm 
 this?  I teach at a community college, so the students probabl mix with each 
 other less than they do at other colleges. If I recall correctly, I did 
 obsverve more cooperation when I played this game at a small liberal arts 
 college that I used to teach at.
 Cyril Morong

Interesting. I should note that isolated doesn't mean literally
isolated (college students do live in dorms!) but that acheivement
in college is mainly through individual effort, while sucess in
business really is a team effort. Fabio 

RE: Republican Reversal

2002-07-17 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 In the real world we have almost 600 in Congress, dealing with
 innumerable matters more or less simultaneously.  One of the things each
 CongressCritter does is to decide what to do not  about, say, farm
 subsidies generally, but about SB1234, sponsored by Sen. This and Sen.
 That, which goes through specific committees with specific members, at
 specific times, during which times specific other things are happening,
 and other things are reasonably foreseeable (to happen or to avoid).

Let me add a very non-economic note to this discussion. The economic
approach to studying policy outcomes is essentially some combination
of median voter theorem and public choice - ie, how much can the 
politician screw the voter before getting fired? 

Some political scientists have taken the approach outlined the above post.
They understand policy outcomes as the result of institutions,
networks of politicians,lobbyists and gov't bureaucrats and
exogenous events (Ie, the terrorist attacks, Enron) that frame policy.
The focus here is on the stuff that happens between the voter
and the politicians. 

I don't think these approaches are really in conflict but what they
do is capture different parts of the political procss. The median
voter thing seems to capture the broad outlines of politics. America
won't turn into Sweden just cause Tom Hayden read Robert's Rules
of Order one day. Public opinion and honest elections set the broad
paramters for what politicians can accomplish.

OTOH, the gov't does so much stuff that politicians have to depend
on committees, lobbiests (sp?) and gov't agencies to get anything passed.
How can a semi-comprehensible law on uranium mining or Alaskan fishing
rights be passed without consulting a million committess, the GAO
or affeced parties? Furhtermore, all sort of random events may 
abruptly change how people percieve a law and add to this mix
ths interactions between politicans and voters. Remember, 
you can do anything you want - if you can convince the median voter
it was ok!

If you buy this second story, then it's quite easy to see how 
individual policies may deviate greatly from the median voter.


Autism, brain damage and cooperation

2002-07-12 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 In any case, all of the deficiencies in children's brains you point out
 more or less sound like extensions of their low absolute IQ.

Not really. One listed deficiency is memory. That might be correlated with
IQ, but it's certainly not the same as IQ. Analogy: a computer with a
small storage capacity might have sophisticated software (analogy with
low memory/high IQ).

Real world example: Autistic children. Their behavior is described
as misbehavior because they simply can't learn how to interact with
adults. However, they can perform very complex tasks such as math
problems and some autistic people have been able to score well on IQ

Abother real world example: In the book Descarte's Error, a well
adjusted rail road worker in the 19th century is injured on the job. He 
recieves a severe trauma to the head which results in localized
brain damage. According to the author, the part of the brain which
was damaged many scientists believe is responsible for producing
emotions, which may conflict with detached rationalist thinking. 
Once the railroad worker recovered from his injury, he abandoned his
job, started to consort with criminals and lived the rest of his
life as a con-artist. As far as people could tell, he retained his
cognitive abilities but his personality completely changed.

My conclusion from such facts is that the ability to conduct normal
social interactions is a combination of learning, IQ, percpetion,
memory and other mental abilities. You really can't bundle them
all together. Child misbehavior is not reducible to IQ, but might
be a result of one or more of a deficiency in one or more of these
mental abilities. A simple economic model really seems to leave
a lot out. 


Re: Autism, brain damage and cooperation

2002-07-12 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 Come on, Fab - pointing out examples of brain differences explaining
 behavioral differences is hardly convincing evidence that brain
 differences are the right explanation in this case.

My point is that behavior is more than cost-benefit calculations
with IQ as an intervening variable. My purpose in citing this kind
of evidence is that behavior depends on cognitive faculties which
are dependent on well developed parts of the brain. Damasio's book
shows some evidence that brain differences *might* lead to behavioral
differences. I'm not an anatomist, but I wouldn't be surprised if
children's brains simply didn't have all the parts developed for
correctly learning social behavior. 

 Yes, there are cognitive abilities with low g-loading, and memory is
 one.  But now that I think about it, I shouldn't have let you get away
 with citing memory differences in the first place.  Children in fact
 seem to have much *better* memorization ability than adults in numerous
 Prof. Bryan Caplan

It's well documented that long term memory is nil for children less
than five years of age (doctors call it pediatric amnesia) and
is very spotty until about 12. Maybe children can remember strings
of numbers well in labs, but they can't remember things from a year
or two ago terribly well. And it's this long term learning that's
needed for socialization. Social behavior draws from a large
pool of past experience, not the short term memory tested in laboratories.

(Do a real world test: ask a 7 year old about how they misbehaved
two years ago. If you get anything remotely accurate, I'll
buy you lunch.)

Also, while were at it, I think you overinterpret the G-loading thing.
A G-loading is essentially a factor analysis of responses to a
standardized test. Statistically, you estimate a linear model.

G - response to Question 1
G - ... Question 2, etc.

G is often called a latent factor that is *unmeasured*. See any
non-economics statistics book (economists rarely use this and it's
not in Golderger, Amimiya or Greene). 

Then you can test alternative models like

G1 - Q1, Q2, Q4
G2 - Q3, Q5, etc. and do model comparisons.

IIUC, the psychometric literature has found that the first model
has a really good fit while other models have poorer fits for
tests of abstract thinking. What is this G? It's a *construct* from
the test, not a direct measurement of anything. Which means to
assert one single process called IQ is really strecthing it.

What you can safely say is that G is the dimension along which
test responses vary. This dimension can be the consequence
of a bunch of other things and you can collect data to test
hypotheses about these more complex models:

F1, F2 -- G -- Q1, Q2, Q3.

My whole point is that obsessing over G might lead one to ignore
the stuff that leads to G. In a lot of these IQ/behavior debates
people seems to take extreme positions that IQ is this all powerful
explanatory device, or that it is meaningless when it's neither.

I really think that some people are more intelligent than others
and that this matters alot, but explaining everything in terms of G
seems a bit dicey to me. 


Why do people pick stocks?

2002-07-12 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

If it is common knowledge that picking stocks is no better than
using an index, then why is stock picking so popular? 

Ie, why do people accept lower returns just for the privilige of
picking the stocks themselves?


Re: double vs. single entry

2002-06-27 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

Double entry means that you have one column for money going out
of an account and one column for money going into an account. Thus, 
it very easy to keep track of cash inflow and outflow (just add up
the columns). With single entry, there is more error because you
mistakenly count a debit as a credit. The advantage is huge 
when you have to do things by hand. It also helps you track errors
more quickly. Fabio 

On Thu, 27 Jun 2002, Bryan Caplan wrote:

 What exactly is the advantage of double-entry accounting over
 single-entry accounting?
 Prof. Bryan Caplan
Department of Economics  George Mason University  [EMAIL PROTECTED]
   He wrote a letter, but did not post it because he felt that no one 
would have understood what he wanted to say, and besides it was not 
necessary that anyone but himself should understand it. 
Leo Tolstoy, *The Cossacks*

Re: double vs. single entry

2002-06-27 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 What's wrong with negative numbers?!
 Prof. Bryan Caplan

Bryan - it's not mathematical. It's book keeping. Keeping the two
columns separate is simply easier for finding mistakes. With spreadsheets
its easy, but if its teh 13th century and all is done by hand, then
it makes a big difference. F

Re: double vs. single entry

2002-06-27 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

On Thu, 27 Jun 2002, William Dickens wrote:

 Does anyone answering here know any accounting or are people just guessing?

Just enter double entry accounting into google and you can easily
find some answers. It hard for us modern people to understand, but
simply accounting techniques can make a world of difference
of semi-literate people like medieval Europeans. Bryan asked
about negative numbers, and as any historian can tell you, it
took a long time for negative numbers to become widespread.


Re: Republican Reversal

2002-06-26 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 These are all good comments on the Republican reversal.  Thus, I take it
 that the list agrees that democracy works pretty well in reflecting the
 wishes of the voters.

I'd say democracy reflects general trend in voter opinion pretty
well, although some policies may be way out of whack. For example,
who would argue that either Bush or Gore is very far from the median
voter (except on abortion)? Or that conservative states like Idaho
tend to have more conservative policies?


Re: Not such a fantastically entertaining paper

2002-06-20 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

Let me also add that the basic assumption of Frey's article is also
wrong - the assumption that editors slavishly follow referee's.
My take is that it's editors choose referees, so the editor's
really do choose the articles because they choose referees
and indirectly choose the outcomes.


Re: In Praise of Pay Toilets

2002-05-28 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 Plausible, but then the question is: *why* do people have a disutility
 of paying for toilets?  Does this fit into any pattern of the sorts
 of things people have a disutility of paying for?

As noted earlier, people did pay for toilets before and it is common in
Europe. So it seems we are trying to pay for a rather specific fact, not a
general disutility for paying for toilets. 

Let me also add a peice of anecdotal evidence that retailers offer free
toilets to attact customers: A recent NPR show interviewed Hong Kong
residents who said they would congregate in McDonald's in the 1960's
becuase it was the only place open in the evening that was public,
you could hang out and use the facilities. Eventually many such hang outs
popped up all over Hong Kong.


What is a market?

2002-04-28 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

Imagine that an alien arrives on planet earth and asks you what
is a market? What kind of economic system would count as a market?

I know this can be a sticky question, but how would you describe the
economy of Russia or China, and why doesn't it count as a market? Is it
just the lack of the state, or the presence of a state supported system of
law, or would the economy of a place like Sweden count?


Re: nafta

2002-04-21 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 I recently visited a web page by a political scientist
 that seemed to suggest that NAFTA was a failure.  I'd

Could you summarize the evidence he/she presents? 


Re: nafta

2002-04-21 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 I hope that answers your question Fabio, without too
 much prattle.
 Best wishes to all!

I think you certainly answered my question and it seems that the
anti-free traders employ unusually low standards. And of course,
they seem to jettison basic economic thinking. 

I think the real question is how do you identify a consequence of
NAFTA and what the is distribution of consequences? If somebody
gets a job post-1994, how do you know it was NAFTA related?
In some cases, it's but others it's hard. I wonder if anyone's
done a really thorough study of NAFTA's effects that doesn't
amount to a handwaving story about aggregate trends.


Re: Economists' views

2002-04-20 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

Why don't you email Bryan Caplan, this list serve's moderator and founder?
He's published stuff on exactly these issues. Fabio Rojas 

On Sat, 20 Apr 2002 [EMAIL PROTECTED] wrote:

 Is there a website that might have data on the opinions of economists on general 
questions like the role of government, minimum wages, macropolicy, etc?
 Cyril Morong

Re: Grade Inflation

2002-04-15 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

  The effect of this is to draw students away from math, science and
 economics and towards the softer social sciences.  Similarly, within
 departments students are drawn away from harder graders and towards
 softer graders.  Budgets go where students go!  Thus grade inflation
 causes a *misallocation of resources* (measured in student time or in

Alex, were you reading the New York Times this morning? Seriously,
how much misallocation is occuring? Why is better to have more math and
physics majors, and less English majors? Maybe this is in some sense
optimal. Why should people who can't do math clog up math classes?
English professors are cheaper and more numerous, so maybe lax grading
is a way of allowing people to get the degree while not burdening
the big money generators of the university.


Re: PhD Gluts

2002-04-11 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 2) To attract good thinkers to become historians,
 schools must keep the wage high enough to compete with other 
 disciplines and occupations that require intelligence. Therefore, 

I think this is a big part of it. Compeitition to get into
the best humanities programs is as fierce as law school.
It's common for humanities Ph.D.'s from good places to jump
to law school if academia doesn't work out. 

Consider the following fact. There are some nations where
many faculty are paid badly, where they could be paid better.
In Latin America, there are entire departments and universities
that are treated the way we treat adjuncts in American. Consequently,
they don't attract the best, and are considered frequently 
to be not very good institutions.

 John-Charles Bradbury, Ph.D.

Re: economic history question

2002-04-10 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

   Most observers have always been very surprised that there never was a
 big demand for socialism in the United States - even at the height of
 the depression.  The New Deal was very much driven by the Executive
 branch not by Congress - thus I think things could have been quite
 different had we not had FDR.

I don't share that interpretation. I think the American party system was
able to absorb and ameliorate the demand for socialism. My take is that
the American labor movement was quite like the European socialist
movement, and was quite prominent (remember Eugene V. Debs?). But the big
parties were able to produce concessions - for ex, TR's trust busting
or FDR's New Deal. Fabio

RE: Ph.D. proliferation

2002-04-06 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 orientation. Thus, as we become wealthier as a society, we are more able
 to support children who pursue such uselss topics at the graduate
 Why, this could mean that the wealthy feel some sort of urge to preserve

You are a very deluded person if you think the average English Ph.D.
is in a rush to preserve civilization. I'm persuaded that half of them
are dedicated opponents of standard written English. Fabio

Panic Room and Beautiful Mind

2002-04-04 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

Talking about game theory movies - does anyone remember if the
game depicted in Beuatiful Mind accurately capture the Nash eq?


 David Fincher's new movie *Panic Room* may be the finest artistic
 expression of game theory around.  Beautiful illustrations of commitment
 problems, subgame perfection, focal points, backwards induction...  And
 its pure entertainment. Prof. Bryan Caplan

RE: Emotions and Entrepeneurship

2002-04-01 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 My just comment is that we should not use irrational expectations
 term in this discuss, because nobody, for sure know the
 difference between rationality and irrationality of human beigns.

I'm just using the phrase irrational expectations in a sense similar
to how many economists would use it: not the expected utility of
the activity. Like I said in my post, don't take the words to seriously.

MBA's for senior exec's

2002-03-11 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

Why do older executives desire MBA's or B-school Ph.D.'s? They don't
need to signal brains because they have a track record, and they
won't learn much useful stuff. It can't terribly useful credential
when you are in mid or late career. Any takes? or is this just
consumption on the part of execs?


Re: Campaign finance changes

2002-03-03 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

Hypothesis: John McCain. Campaing reform has been a favorite to talk
about but not to pass for many years. I think that when you had
a charismatic cadidate adopt an issue, it can really change things.
I bet a lot of congressmen saw little John McCains in their night mares
if they opposed campign reform one more time.


On Sun, 3 Mar 2002 [EMAIL PROTECTED] wrote:

 What can legislators possibly aim at when changing campaign finance laws?  
 What determined the 70s wave of campaign finance reforms... what changed in 
 the meantime, and why the issue regained interest again?  I know that 
 contributors intentions are also a bit puzzling, but how can one explain the 
 rationality of legislators limiting their own funding abilities?

Re: Economics of rank vs. Economics of the most money

2002-02-21 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

Maybe the real puzzle is under what conditions do people maximize
rank or total stuff. F

 It doesn't have to be complicated, but it does have to be specific.
 A business trying to maximize market share is pretty specific, though
 with multiple product lines and sets of consumers there remains the
 question of how to weigh these different market shares.  An employer
 wanting only to minimize the wages of workers of some race is also
 specific, though we have to distinguish that from them wanting to
 minimize the consumption of those workers, to minimize the regard
 in which those workers are held by associates, or to maximize their
 mating with potential partners who these workers might compete for.
 Robin Hanson  [EMAIL PROTECTED]
 Asst. Prof. Economics, George Mason University
 MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030-
 703-993-2326  FAX: 703-993-2323

Economics of rank vs. Economics of the most money

2002-02-20 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

This week's Economist magazine reported an experiment where subjects
could pay to decrease the income of other subjects in the experiment, 
which they did with some frequency, although it didn't increase their
income from the experiment. The article's author suggest that this
was evidence for people's desire to put others down, even when they
incur the costs of doing so.

Question: How would economic theory change if we assumed that people
would are trying to maximize their relative rank in a group, or
had a taste for decreasing other's utility? 


Re: privatize parking spaces - market failure?

2002-02-17 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

I understand that some toll roads charge more during rush hour.
It's not as sensitive a mechanism as Fred suggested, but it's
not bad. Fabio

 I was looking for, but such a system would be hard to implement. Can you 
 think of an existing analogous system in a similar market?
 Would there be a bound to the charge per time? The parking spaces would be 
 more attractive if they offered some sort of guarantee.

Re: Decision Markets

2002-02-12 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

 be informative for decisions.  Anyone want to give odds that I'll be
 able to keep the term meaning what I want it to mean? :-)

According to Stigler (the statistician, not the economist) almost
every named scientific term is in error. So I'd say the odds
are huge that your name will be incorrectly attached to something,
and somebody else will get the credit for what you  invented.


Re: drink prices

2002-02-04 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

Actually, I've dealt with this situation and it's quite different than
the drink at a bar. When you hire a (decent) carpenter, they will
tell you what additional labor cost, should it be required. A reputable
contractor will have this written out before hand, and you will
have signed an agreement saying you know extra work might be reuqired
@ $X per hour. Contracts are used to control uncertainty.

However, when you order a drink/make a hotel call, there is often
no menu, or its hidden. People seem to operate with a price range in mind
that is acceptable to them. 


 There are also many situations where the price can change, and alter prior
 price agreements.  Suppose you hire a carpenter to fix a stairway.  He quotes
 you a price.  But halfway thru the job, the carpenter discovers rotten pieces
 that were not previously known, that have to be replaced, and the price
 increases.  You have already contracted and paid some of the expenses; most
 folks will just go along with reasonable price changes.  So often, in such
 cases, we really don't know the final price.
 Fred Foldvary 

Re: drink prices

2002-02-03 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

Are you sure this is what happened? I'd guess that the woman
expected a range of price, and was shocked when when she found
out the drink was $13. 

 (1) Where else do people buy things without knowing the price first?  
 (I've been thinking and have been unable to come up with any examples.)

People are drunk and/or trying to have a good time. I think it's an
example of people with very short time horizons caused by drunkeness
or distracted by other events (televised sports, pool, flirting,
music, etc) If you wanted a biological explanation, I'd guess bars
are places where people's adrenaline goes up, they get excited
and lose their patience. 

 (2) Why does this happen in bars?
 - Joel

Spam: Legal, economic or technical problem?

2002-01-26 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

When faxes were invented, people got pissed off when their valuable fax
line was used by unsolicited advertisements. Thus, in many places fax spam
is now a legal offense punishable by a large fine for each unwanted faxed

Ie, the conflict was resolvd simply by having the practice 
banned, rather than some economic mechanism.

What about e-mail spam? The technology seems to prohibit an effective ban
on spam, yet neither an economic nor legal solution seems
available. Any thoughts on whether spam can be reduced via
some sort of economic or technical mechanism?


Re: The Median Voter Theorem and Adoption Law

2002-01-08 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

You are misinterpreting the function of these little issues.
Little issues don't build up. Little issues tend to be signals to
certain constituencies. For example, nobody has ever lost the vote due to
rap music, but Clinton in 1992 signalled to many in the democratic party
that he wouldn't be held hostage by the Civil Rights wing of the party by
bashing rap star Queen Latifah. It's a low cost signal. Nobody will really
care if you bash a rap musician. Same for the community investment
act (I forget what this even is). I'd guess that few people
are explicitely against it, and it's a cheap way to signal to 
political moderates that urban issues won't be forgotten by
either Gore or Bush.

Consider a similar move for adaoption law. Unlike rap, adoption workers
are considered experts in their field. They could bash you on the talk
shows. A politician who goes for adoption law as an issue might get
smeared as someone breaking up black families. How do you counter
that? Well, you could argue that having any parents is better than no
parents, but then you'd get into an emotional, difficult argument with
people who think that children get unintentially hurt by different
ethnicity parents, and that adoptions are moves by wealthy whites to steal
kids from blacks in financial straits. Basically, like most family issues,
it's messy and emotional issue that probably wouldn't yeild easy points
for a politician.


 But politicians spend a lot of energy working on issues that no one has
 ever lost an election on.  To take one tiny example, both Bush and Gore
 made a loud point about their support for the Community Reinvestment
 Act.  Who votes on that?  The logic, I presume, is that positions on a
 lot of little issues add up.  And it isn't the absolute size of the
 issue, but the size relative to the effort that counts.
 Prof. Bryan Caplan

Re: The Median Voter Theorem and Adoption Law

2002-01-08 Thread fabio guillermo rojas

Build-up has two meanings in this context. 1)Politicians could
send a series of signals to win small groups of voters. 2) Politicians
could send a series of signals to large group of voters who need
repeated re-assurances that the politician really means what he
says. Ie, build up of votes vs. build up of perception. My claim is that
the adoption of campaign issues a) does not build up the # of  votes
because the class of people for whom this is the most pressing issue is
small and b) if you try to build up perception on the adoption issue,
there is a very good chance you will get whacked because adoption workers
can easily mobilize to change public opinion, since they are recognized
experts on adoption.

 And the point of sending that low cost signal is to ... get more votes! 
 And if you send a lot of them, that adds up.  

  care if you bash a rap musician. Same for the community investment
  act (I forget what this even is). I'd guess that few people
  are explicitely against it, and it's a cheap way to signal to
  political moderates that urban issues won't be forgotten by
  either Gore or Bush.
 So do the political moderates care or not?!

A little. You claim Gore/Bush made a big deal over the Community act,
although I see very little compared to other issues. I think they could
care less.
 Translation: Pre-public debate, the median voter wants a different
 policy; post-public debate, the median voter will want the status quo? 
 That's an interesting story, but it's different from your earlier ones.
 Prof. Bryan Caplan

Incorrect interpretation of what I said. My claim was that adoption
workers are well established authorities over adoption, thus it requires
effort to combat them. I also claimed that because they are well
established experts, they can smear politicians, imposing high costs
over them. They change the terms of the debate from does the child
have a home? to are we breaking up black families and damaging
the child's identity? 

This is NOT a claim about changing preferences, it's a claim that  
adoption workers are quite able to change the terms of the debate.

I know economists are genetically incapable of understanding the role
that rhetoric plays in politics, but adoption is a great example.
If you ask a voter if a black orphans should have white parents when
there aren't enough black parenets, they'd say yes. If you ask a voter
whether black orphan's personality be messed up because his white
parents can't relate to him, then many will say no.

A lot of politics is jockeying for the median voter, but remember 
that the median voter is defined by preferences defined over a set
of issues. But of course, you can always try to argue with what the
choices are, and that's what I'm talking about.


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