September 2004 Archives

Government Gets Out of the Way (A Little)

| 1 Comment

Note that governments can do sensible things. In the wake of the devastation wrought by serial hurricaines, the executive government of Florida is relaxing government licensing requirements for specialty building contractors:

Spearheaded by the Florida Home Builders Association, the executive order temporarily alters contractor licensing regulations in order to keep the state's home-building industry on track. The goal, says Edie Ousley, FHBA's director of public affairs, is to provide qualified labor and quality materials to begin the rebuilding process in regions hit hard by the hurricanes.

"We're thankful that the governor issued this order allowing out-of-state, licensed contractors to help with re-roofing homes in Florida," says Ousley. She adds that the FHBA will be "monitoring the rebuilding efforts very closely" over the next few months.

In other words, this requires local governments to get out of the way of contractors licensed elsewhere. Can all of us (who are not locally-licensed Fla. contractors!) agree that this is good policy? Should it be extended beyond the emergency period?

The full text of the executive order is here.

Regarding the "Draft"

Those who think a military draft likely should ask themselves one single question, "why the hell would they want you?"

In other words, you're not that important.

Hat tip: A former mentor, in a different context.

What I'm Reading

| 3 Comments

Sorry for the limited blogging lately.

I've been reading widely, most notably Claude Bernard's Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine, Gordon Tullock's The Organization of Inquiry, Lessler and Kalsbeek's Nonsampling Error in Surveys, and the most bizarre book I've ever read, Vining's On Appraising the Performance of an Economic System (which is not as good as the articles he built it on top of).

In a lot places, ex-felons can't vote. I'm not sure of the strength of the arguments for and against, really, since I don't see it being of very much importance at all.

Aside: Take a look at who votes. Now take a look at the demographics for those who commit crimes. How many likely voters are we really losing?

But I did think this NYT article on how felony voting rules affect the black population was a bit odd in its discussion of the issue. Not that loose association with definitions and associations is anything new for the media...

The studies, the first to look at felon disenfranchisement laws' effect on voting in individual cities, add to a growing body of evidence that those laws have a disproportionate effect on African-Americans because the percentage of black men with felony convictions is much larger than their share of the general population.

Uhhhmmm...if the law says anyone that has a felony conviction can't vote, it falls on each felon in direct proportion to their criminality. One felony, one revocation of the ability to vote. How can it fall "disproportionately" on a group when it's directly in line with the number of people in the group that have been convicted of a felony? Now, the issue of incidence of felony convictions among a certain group of people is another matter entirely.

Ex-felons also have to report being convicted of a crime in greater numbers than those people who have not, in fact, been convicted of committing a crime. This doesn't have any bearing on the distribution of race, gender, age, educational attainment, or income of those people. The problem, to me, is the erroneous conflation of a result with a cause.

Book Reimportation?

| 5 Comments

One of these days, I'll get back to some original ideas. Right now, work and life demands mean that I'm operating largely on the "reactive" side of things (yes, that's a quick dig at Scientology, something I both loathe and can't seem to read enough about).

That said, take a quick look at this post from the appropriately lauded Marginal Revolution:

The economic problem is simple: professors assign a book without worrying much about the cost that students will pay. In fact a pricey book might be a nice way to drive down your enrollment and lower your workload.

I've recently started another class in the evenings that requires a hefty textbook. (The subject is almost embarrasing to mention; suffice it to say I should have had it years ago, have essentially taught it to myself, yet need the paper documentation for future advancement.) As I learned to do WAY back in grad school (that is, a couple of months ago), I went to Amazon and looked to see if they had a copy.

Of course, they did. But what they also have is a "New and Used" section from affiliated booksellers. Usually among the first results you receive after having become enticed by the lower price for a NEW! book and clicking the link is somene selling the "International Edition" of the book you might be interested in.

Here's an example. Compare this price with the price on the second listing for Gujarati's Basic Econometrics. (Yes, I'm hawking a book I was a huge fan of. No, that's not the subject I was referring to.)

The price difference is considerable. What's off about the International Version? It's paperback, and the regular cover design is usually shrunk down so that the words INTERNATIONAL VERSION can be printed on the front. Oh, and big text on the back declaring that selling the book in the US or Canada is illegal. Other than that, nothing.

It wasn't until I tought about Cowen's post, however, until I realized that I was being a hypocrite.

I'm thoroughly against the idea of drug reimportation; something I plan to expound on further when I get the chance. Suffice it to say I think the effects would be disastrous to the single best drug research and production facility in the world: the US. And yet, here I am blatantly reimporting books. The rest of the world clearly faces a lower price for these things -- largely because of a lower demand driven by fewer higher-education facilities I would assume -- and I freely take advantage of that by buying it for less than the domestic price and slightly higher than the international one.

Now, I suppose I could make an argument that the price of the books is far more removed from the support of research and teaching that keeps good authors working at universities than is the price of drugs from the labs that find new ones or cheaper and better ways to produce existing ones. I might also suggest that international subsidies for textbooks are a bit less than those for health care and medicines, which places the issue a bit more into the realm of "price discrimination" than drug purchasing in Canada. In fact, the general system of book development strikes me as less distorted by bad incentives, taxes, subsidization, and (perhaps most importantly), slow testing and verification than is the case for drugs.

But really, were I to be ideologically consistent, book reimportation is essentially the same as drug reimportation. Of course, foolish adherence to ideology might not be the best idea, either.

Carping Already

| 1 Comment

In general, I try to be a positive person. Left unchecked, my skeptical side can turn quickly into cynicism. Which is why I was trying to be positive when I read that DeLong and Stiglitz were putting out a new pub called The Economists' Voice. Aside from my distaste for the punctuation choice (really, putting that thing after the second "s" just makes hissing sounds, and places everyone into a group that I find odd -- but then, I'm a bit of an obsessive about those things), I thought it sounded like a fine idea, if only to give economists a chance to write for a less technical audience. (Let's be honest -- one large reason that economists are losing "mindshare" is that many of them are awful, awful writers. Not just because of the piles of charts and a tendency to use greek letters like Aristotle was about to grade their homework.)

Here are the inagural articles. The first three "columns" are all well done, and provided excellent reading. While I tend to disagree frequently with Prof. DeLong, let it not be said he doesn't write a compelling article.

But then I read the "Feature", and was promptly disappointed. Why is it that so many of the lawyers that enter into "law and economics" do the second part of it so poorly?

I'll let you read the article for yourself, but want to mention a few things here.

The point of the piece is to say that the Bush policies towards crime have been a direct reversal of Clinton's, and have thus eroded the gains made in crime rates under Clinton. Now, I've not followed much of Bush's policies on crime, and have enough other issues with our current president to occupy my time. My issue isn't with Bush v. Clinton, but rather the absolute paucity of validity in the article.

First of all, the trends in violent crime, property crime and more don't really show a huge increase under the Bush administration. The movements have all been small, some up, some down. However, I will concede for the moment that the discussion in the paper is more about policies than anything else.

Why then, do all the charts presented show declines starting in 1999? Bush didn't take office until 2001. At best, the argument could be that Bush didn't see the gains Clinton had made and push hard to get funding levels back up to 1997-8 levels. But in every chart the precipitous drops in cops and funds started in 1999. I can't tell if I'm supposed to infer something from that, understand some sense of history that would indicate why the funding was slipping under Clinton, etc. Moreover, the level of Hiring Funds from 2001-2002 looks pretty steady. In the meantime, I do seem to recall something in 2001 that might have cause some dollars to shift in the 2002 budget. Now, you can argue that the presence or more police is necessary during a time of potential terror strikes, but that's not what the author does. Other funding reductions are discussed, and may well be accurate in defining Bush weaker on crime. But the charts presented are almost laughable.

The other issue is the odd argument about the assault weapons ban. As we should know now from the news coverage, that ban didn't end until recently. Up until then, there's no way to say losses in crime reduction were because of Bush's stance on the ban. Even if Bush had come out screaming at the outrage of such a ban, it wouldn't make a difference until it was gone. Of course, he didn't, and has said he would sign it if the bill was put in front of him. And as we all know, the president doesn't write laws, the Congress does. Sure, Bush could have sat on a couple of Senators to sponsor a renewal, but since this is published in an econ journal, I'm assuming Donohue's familiar with the concept of opportunity costs.

Over 100,000 Served

| 2 Comments | 1 TrackBack

Thanks to the Iraqi Dinar speculators, T&B just had its 100,000th visitor.

Cool.

Swiss Boycott of American Products?

A while back, some good bloggers were discussing an apparent US consumer boycott of French products and travel to France. Of course what's good for the goose is good for the gander. But wait, it's not France taking it out on the US, but Switzerland, who sends 42% fewer tourists to the US than it did in the year 2000. But it's more than tourism:

While the total value of Swiss imports worldwide was virtually unchanged in 2003 at SFr122.4 billion, imports from the US fell by 17.3 per cent...

The [Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce] said the decline could partly be explained by the fact that Swiss consumers were turning away from US products in protest against some of the Bush administration�s policies.

Imports of wine fell by nine per cent in 2003, while the number of cars imported from the US declined by seven per cent. Both are what US officials call �emotional� consumer products.

But don't make too much of this though, because other factors--different recovery cycles, poor consumer confidence, and, OF COURSE, the exchange rate--explain the drop too:
[T]he US had recovered much faster than Europe after the global economic slowdown of 2000 and 2001.

[T]he economic impact of the war in Iraq was less pronounced in the US than it was in Europe....

The chamber's annual yearbook noted that it was �not surprising� that imports from the US had declined during 2003, as Swiss consumer confidence remained subdued.

�It has to be said that [trade] is falling back from an extremely high level. Over the past 30 years, trade has quadrupled and the business relationship between Switzerland and the US is [still] very healthy,� said Naville.

�Trade has retracted due to a weak dollar, which makes Swiss products in the US very expensive. But it's also due to weak demand in Switzerland, which has [found it difficult] to get out of recession over the last few years,� he added.

Religion and US Progress

| 4 Comments

First off, a disclaimer: I've not read the book Don Boudreaux mentions in this post discussing a rejection of science at the new National Museum of the American Indian. Potentially, the book could answer the point I'm bringing up now.

That said, I'll barrel headlong into it and wait for a potential upbraiding if I get too far afield.

In classes and discussions elsewhere, I've heard the same argument the book makes; namely, that a population still that still heavily identifies with "mystical ideas" are at a disadvantage when it comes to development. Too much mysticism retards the progress of science, and thus of progress in general.

How, then, to reconcile this notion with the rather public religiosity of the United States as compared to most other developing nations? As this Pew Global Attitudes Study has detailed, the US still places a great deal of imporance on religion, and yet enjoys a very high level of per capita income.

Without being too anecdotal, I have to say I tend to reject the notion that this is simply the result of people believing they should appear religious, and thus they answer the questionnaire in the affirmative out of some sense of necessity or responsibility. I'd expect the effect to be much smaller than we actually see. Some place US church attendance around 40-44%. Or, if you happen to find the sources for that suspicious, even the avowedly partisan (in this fight, anyway) atheist groups put the number around 26%. But that still far surpasses the rate for countries with similar per capita incomes. For instance, it's 3% in Japan (again, using the potentially inflated numbers from the first report), and 14% in South Korea.

The issue strikes me as more than academic, since Iraq is soon going to have to deal with it head-on, and numerous other states are grappling with the tesions between the presence of extremist forms of Islam and general movements of modernism. Perhaps the issue is one of state-sponsored religion? Though, one would have to draw a fine line between a religion that appears in a constitution and an "effective" state religion that is imposed on the nation.

My guess, and so far in the confines of my office and busy day, that's all it has time to be, is that the question of religiosity of a population slightly misses the mark. (Again, this could all be old hat since the book addresses it, but I remind you again that I've only had time to order it, not read it.) The issue, I think, concerns more the effectiveness of state institutions. In lesser developed countries the church/mosque/community of worship often replaces roles that states have taken on in more developed places. Not only do they provide for spiritual well-being, the community of worship often assists in feeding and caring for physical well being. The state-based institutions in these places are simply unable to provide such goods, so the delivery of religion is intimately tied to the delivery of food, care, etc. In the more developed nations communities of worship are populated by those making a choice of how to spend leisure time. Other activities make sure you are clothed, fed, and cared for should the need arise. Strong, effective institutions make this more possible through provision of certain goods (roads, national security, delineation of property rights, etc.). The separation of church and state occurs not only because the state supports no religion above others, but also because they need not attempt to address the same issues.

Which, to be honest, raises a bit of a chicken-and-the-egg issue. Do people start moving away from religion when the state becomes stronger, or does the state become stronger because the people start having as much or more faith in it to deliver than the church or mosque? I'm not sure; but in the meantime it would seem to cloud our ability to say that reliance on mysticism (which, in this case, seems not too distinct from religion in general -- a belief in things unseen and an adherence to a spiritual doctrine dictated by a power greater than our own) is clearly an impediment to growth.

That said, Boudreaux's point about the rejection of science is salient. The crowding out of science for mysticism or religion could function as de facto imposition of belief, retarding progress of any kind. A deep intermingling of religion and the provision of relatively public goods enables coercion on the part of the religious or mystical leaders.

More on the Cost of Regulation

| 2 Comments

This, to me, is astonishing. (Found via Brian Cooley.)

Kids being killed, as Cooley says, is always a horrible thing. But equally so a child that falls off a step, someone being hit by a drunk driver, or any one of the numerous people who die while on the toilet.

So how bad is this problem?

A number of anecdotal reports of child deaths and injuries related to power windows have been received by NHTSA in recent years. These non-crash events are not yet included in NHTSA�s databases. But an average of three fatalities every two years have been confirmed by the agency through a recent review of death certificates.

Clearly the answer, then, is to make car manufacturers alter their designs. Why, however, don't we require Kohler make foam-rubber toilets? More people die in bathroom incidents. Why not eliminate bathubs to prevent people from downing in them?

I suppose it sounds flippant, especially considering that children are, in fact, dead because of the problem. But so are the people who fall, the people who drown, and everyone else that dies from accidental causes.

I propose that, if the regulators were to look beyond the death certificates themselves, they might find that these three deaths were also correlated with things such as the children not being restrained proper seats, parents not being in the car at the time, or any of a host of things that might mean supervision and parental control was lacking. After all, I know of few cars with electric windows that don't have some sort of locking mechanism that prevents all but the driver from manipulating the windows in the car. Did the cars in which these children were killed have such a mechanism, and if so, why wasn't it activated? My point is not to suggest that the parents of these children were necessarily negligent but rather to say that horrible accidents do, indeed, occur, and that to simply find a common element among them is not to find the real cause.

Meanwhile, you, me, and the rest of the taxpayers of the US saw tax dollars go to an agency to review the proposed problem, verify whether or not it happened, identify potential causes (wrongly, most likely), and to find solutions. The solution, then, is that car makers have to change their products to conform with these requirements. (The briefing suggests this is a "cheap" solution. I suggest they find out the hourly costs of engineers, design verification folks, and everyone who has to retool the plants to accomodate different buttons for every car maker on the road today, before they make such a claim so quickly.)

My impression is that this sounds reasonable to those folks who proposed it because it's unlikely to affect the cost of a car. That, of course, would be far too narrow a view for the cost of regulation.

Cold Hearted Economists

| 11 Comments | 2 TrackBacks

Dave over at Always Low Prices points out that the jobs being lost to outsourcing and overseas manufacturers are going people in dirt poor nations. This fact is always over looked by politicians and "journalists" who take an anecdote to make these loses into a national tragedy. Most of the world is dirt poor in comparision to Americans, but politicians seemingly want to put up trade barriers and at the same time tax citizens for foriegn aid.

There is a reason the Delong's and Krugman's have been accused of being right-wingers and there seems to be many economists who actually fit that description. Economics today is what many left-wingers decry as liberal economics or, if your Australian, rational economics( does that make the opponents irrational?). This is why Delong and Krugman both support free trade while, I know from reading Brad's site, advocating some sort of state support for those negatively affected by globalization. They recognize that markets are the best choice for the allocation of resources, but seek a safety net so that the losers aren't affected too badly.

What about those economists, like myself, who aren't American liberals, surely I don't give a damn about other people? Let me ask a question, what other profession devotes as much time and resources to researching how man can better themselves? The fact that so many economists sound like right-wingers is the result of research which points them in that direction, but believe it or not, a lot them have a heart too. I sometimes joke with my friends that I'm a socialist. This doesn't have to do with actual beliefs but the simple facts that it's much easier to get laid in a country with a socialist government as an American.

There is nothing that makes me happier than when I see solid economic growth coming out places like India and China. Every person who led a miserable life and then entered the middle class makes me richer in ways beyond just short-term job growth. That's the way we should should look at the situation and not through the lense of spoiled kids on the streets of Seattle. Economists study how man betters himself even if its not the technical definition of what we do.

RAND & the Right to a Mentor

| 2 Comments

My former employer is described as a house of sex discrimination by Karen Donovan of The New York Times:

RAND now faces a sex-discrimination class action filed by a group of women on its research staff, and three years ago it paid almost $200,000 to settle a government claim that it was violating the federal law that governs health and pension benefits.
Please note that these charges are not brand new, and as the man said, "I question the timing."

Since I am not affiliated with either party, and wasn't at RAND during any of the alleged doings, I have chosen to put in my two cents, as follows:

I find these sex discrimination charges absolutely absurd, ridiculous, and unfounded.

I base my comments on my limited personal experience and interaction with others as a full-time RAND employee from November 2000 to July 2004.

More Violence in Chixoy

If your land--and the land of all your neighbors--has been confiscated by the government, and you are all given shoddy replacements, your options are limited--that is, unless you live in Guatemala:

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) - Hundreds of angry farmers seized Guatemala's largest hydroelectric dam Tuesday, threatening to shut off power to large parts of the country unless the government agrees to return nearby lands to them.

The farmers forced their way into the Chixoy dam complex in the northern province of Alta Verapaz, seized the control room and were trying to force employees to close the gates that supply water to the facility's turbines...

President Oscar Berger urged the farmers to hand over the facility. "This is no way to negotiate or solve conflicts," Berger said.

The farmers are demanding the institute give them land around the dam. The agency expropriated that land - and gave residents other plots - in order to secure the dam's watershed and catchment basin.

However, the estimated 500 farmers say they were given land of inferior quality in compensation.

The takeover of the plant, which supplies about 60 percent of the country's electricity, comes on the eve of a deadline set six months ago by various peasant groups for the solution of the problem.

You might remember the Chixoy Dam Massacres, even if only because the survivors wanted the World Bank to pay reparations for financing the project.

This is what the state of nature looks like, and it ain't pretty. I am uncertain how one is to "negotiate" with a government that was complicit in murdering 444 of 791 of your fellow men, as they tried to expropriate your land.

Hate the Game, Not the Playa

| 3 Comments

Knowing my co-blogger's prediliections concerning game theory, I tend to relish finding fun/useful reasons to reference it on this site.

Over at Mahalanobis (one of my all time favorite blogs), is this great post placing a dating situation into a game-theoretic structure. (And due note to the inciting post at JMMP.)

Ah, how I could have used this back before I met my current love (the "dark days", as they're known now). How often have we all been faced with the prospect of multiple people trying to win our attention through strategic choices? Boy does that take me back...

Scattered Thoughts about Politics

| 1 Comment | 2 TrackBacks

My friend and dissertation committee member Don Boudreaux notes with approval this superb Robert Samuelson column (rr) on how politicians are avoiding serious discussion of the sacred cows of Medicare and Social Security. Don notes that the special interests served by these programs are worse than piggish children, and politicians are worse than pandering parents.

So true. But the pathetic state of honest, frank political discussion is how things have been for my entire life, under every President, Congress, and Chief Justice of the U.S.. Why on earth should I expect a better outcome from our defacto social democratic political system? (Don doesn't imply that we should).

New York Times Roundup

| 2 Comments

The New York Times is a sophisticated paper, at its best when it avoids politics altogether. Three recent articles demonstrate some great reporting:

I. Although the federal government subsidizes paved roads to no end, it is still not enough for Greyhound to make a profit taking you there.

Ritzville is one of 269 stops in 17 states throughout the West and Midwest that Greyhound dropped over the summer. In Washington State, 21 Greyhound stops were cut; in Minnesota, 59; in North Dakota, 11, including the capital, Bismarck.

Six senators and a number of other officials in the affected states have asked Greyhound to reconsider. The company has responded that it cannot continue to make the unprofitable rural runs....

With that in mind the federal government already offers a subsidy program to promote rural intercity bus service. But in a letter sent in July to the senators who asked that he reconsider the cuts, Greyhound's president, Stephen E. Gorman, said the program was not enough to compensate for the company's losses.

Though some smaller bus companies are sprouting up, they're also likely to be feeding at the trough.

II. I'm writing this post on my Acer Aspire 2012WLMi laptop; Acer is once again trying to conquer the U.S.--and China:

Last week, Acer named as its president Gianfranco Lanci, an Italian who led its operations in Europe and the United States. The current president, J. T. Wang, will become the chairman and chief executive. The management shuffle was caused by the retirement of Stan Shih, the company's founder.

The promotion of a Westerner to the No. 2 post is an unusual move for a Taiwanese company. But Acer may need Mr. Lanci's understanding of cross-cultural issues....

The company has signed deals with Carrefour, Europe's largest retailer, and Best Buy, the largest electronics chain in the United States, as well as with prominent distributors like Ingram Micro and Tech Data.

I love competition.

III. Also note that inflation has caught up with New York's mansion tax:

The Gramercy Park co-op purchased by the young eye surgeon just three weeks ago has two spacious bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms and a large terrace with unobstructed views of the Empire State Building. It's quite nice by Manhattan standards, but few would confuse it for a mansion....

Yet New York State seems to think the co-op is a mansion, at least for tax purposes. Because the 1,850-square-foot apartment sold for $1,065,000, he was required to pay a "mansion tax" of $10,650, or 1 percent of the purchase price, as part of his closing costs. All buyers of one-, two- or three-family homes in New York that sell for $1 million or more are subject to this levy. New Jersey began imposing a similar fee on Aug. 1.


Neurotic CD/DVD Packaging?

| 16 Comments

I recently purchased a CD from Target with a nearly intact case and outer plastic wrapping, but the CD had been removed without breaking the seal. When I returned it to the counter, the associates were NOT surprised. Hence, I understand the commercial need for better theft protection. Some others don't:

But what really struck me is how neurotic Hollywood still is with regard to packaging.... Think about how long it actually takes you to open a CD after you've purchased it. It's hard enough to find a loose piece of plastic on the shrink-wrapped packaging so that you can tear through to the inside of the CD container. But after completing that laborious task... you're still only about a third of the way there. Now you must find a way to remove the clear, plastic sticker from the front cover of the CD - you know, the one that is apparently applied using Super Glue....

The DVD market is beyond obsessed; they're paranoid! As we all know, they use the same hard-core plastic shrink-wrap packaging that the CD industry uses. But loathe to use just one of those Super Glue-based stickers on the spine, they use three of them -- one on the spine, one on the top and one on the bottom of the DVD case. This is ridiculous. It is impossible to cleanly remove all the, apparently, theft-proof packaging and leave the DVD case intact.

What is going on here? Is DVD theft really that bad?

What struck me about that article was not the redundancy of all that plastic, or "Hollywood"'s implicit indifference to consumer experiences, but the path that has led us to such tight packaging, and the paths already leading us away from it.

I don't think I need to demonstrate that multiple small pieces of plastic adhered with super-glue is a low cost front-end solution to theft, although it imposes removal costs on the consumer, and downgrades the overall experience.

But, theft actually is that bad, which seems to justify attempts to seal packages with plastic strips, and ugly, clunky, and intrusive cages for each jewel case:

The current furor surrounding illegal internet downloading has overshadowed the age-old problem of theft from shop floors. Which can be anywhere from 1% to 10% of the stock....
Note that alternative anti-theft technologies do exist:

CD and DVD packs are increasingly being designed with the aim of fending off would-be thieves as well as being lightweight, strong, and with branding opportunities aplenty. At its most basic level, case makers are adding internal lips and extra hub security to make it more difficult for the in-store thief to steal the disc out of the case....

The Red Tag security system from AGI Amaray, producer of the Amaray DVD-Safe case, integrates a disk and case locking mechanism with the possibility of tagging.

The case is locked and the disc secured by inserting a security slider at the retail stage. The disc is locked on the hub and cannot be removed without either destroying the disc or the case. The slider can be removed easily and quickly at the point of sale. Having proved immensely successful in Australia, the system is also being further developed in the UK and continental Europe.

This is just like those tags on clothing that have to be removed at the counter; I look forward to these visually appealing solutions on my local CD and DVD racks.

A Challenge to the Poor

Below is a letter to The Times ($,rr,academic) , January 2, 1855; Page 9 col b:

TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES

Sir,--I have lately noticed in your journal several letters from persons complaining of the high price of food and the comparatively low rate of wages; among others, one from "A Poor Parson," living near Colchester; where "a labourer with anything like a family requires a bushel of flour a week, costing 13s. 4d.," and where "the tip-top price of labour is 12s. a week."

The "Poor Parson" expresses his opinion that the labourer should be as well off now with 12s. as he was formerly with 7s. per week, and he asks you to use your powerful advocacy in obtaining for these poor people "the common necessaries of life.

Now, Sir, I beg to hint to this gentleman that he lays the saddle on the wrong horse when he blames the farmer for receiving the market price for his produce and for paying his workmen at the market price of labour. He should rather blame the absense of a spirit of enterprise and improvement in the district in which he lives, which I think is fully proved to apply to landlord, tenant, and labourer by the "Poor Parson's" statement that wages are now only 12s., and were formerly only 7s. per week--the maximum in that county being below the minimum in the border counties of England and Scotland. Were the landlords and tenants enterprising improvers, wages would soon rise above the shamefully low rate stated above, or were the labourers enterprising on their part, they would find their way, as do the poor Irish, to more improving counties, such as this is, where I am able to state that, out of many hundreds of men at present cutting drains under my inspection, not one able-bodied man makes less than 18s., and some superior workmen as much as 24s. per week, and even at these prices half the required number of hands cannot be obtained.

I may further state, for the information of the "Poor Parson" of Colchester and the insolvent labourers for whom he asks charity, that if they can find their way, by Government train or otherwise (with draining spade and scoop), to this county, I shall be able to set them to work at once in the vicinity of some of the stations on the York, Newcastle, and Berwick Railway.

Your Obedient Servant,
G. A. Grey
Assistant Drainage Commissioner
Milfield-hill, Northumberland

Quotes of the Day

| 2 TrackBacks
Sociologists generally do not like economics and, I must admit, the feeling is more than reciprocated.
And later on:
In this, we followed the mainstream. If you read any economic journal, you will find statements that various things are Pareto optimal. In most cases, this is merely a slogan. No effort is made to solve the computation problems given above. In general, we are back to Adam Smith or, perhaps better, Marshall. This is no criticism. Whether he intended to sabotage economics or genuinely thought he was making a step forward, Pareto would have paralyzed the science if he had been taken seriously.
Gordon Tullock in "Smith v. Pareto", Atlantic Economic Journal, September 1999.

A New Blog

Take a look through the new (to me anyway, but it does look as though it hasn't been around long) Technology Liberation Front.

Some interesting stuff on markets for downloaded music, broadband, copyright law, and more.

Pages

Powered by Movable Type 5.02

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from September 2004 listed from newest to oldest.

August 2004 is the previous archive.

October 2004 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.