My sister wrote yesterday that their financial advisor is pessimistic about economic and market outlooks for the next several months. She asked what I think. Here is what I sent her, somewhat edited:
Thomas Sowell is one of the top economics-policy writers. I've been reading his pieces for nearly 35 years. His recent column on how minimum wage laws cause disproportionate unemployment among teens and especially among minority teens is compelling [via Marilyn]. His concluding few paragraphs:
In European welfare states where minimum wages, and mandated job benefits to be paid for by employers, are more generous than in the United States, unemployment rates for younger workers are often 20 percent or higher, even when there is no recession.
Unemployed young people lose not only the pay they could have earned but, at least equally important, the work experience that would enable them to earn higher rates of pay later on.
Minorities, like young people, can also be priced out of jobs. In the United States, the last year in which the black unemployment rate was lower than the white unemployment rate -- 1930 -- was also the last year when there was no federal minimum wage law. Inflation in the 1940s raised the pay of even unskilled workers above the minimum wage set in 1938. Economically, it was the same as if there were no minimum wage law by the late 1940s.
In 1948 the unemployment rate of black 16-year-old and 17-year-old males was 9.4 percent. This was a fraction of what it would become in even the most prosperous years from 1958 on, as the minimum wage was raised repeatedly to keep up with inflation.
Some "compassion" for "the poor"!
Please, if you think the minimum wage should be raised, read these two items about "unintended consequences", both via Wonkbook at The Washington Post.
BARRO: New York's new fast-food minimum wage makes no sense. "The raise would apply only to fast-food workers, and only if they work for a chain with at least 30 locations. A wage increase applying to such a narrow segment of the economy is bound to have unintended consequences. ... A business owner who previously ran chain fast-food franchises might choose instead to open independent stores so he could avoid the wage requirement. If he already has 29 stores, he might choose not to expand. If subject to the requirement, he could install iPads at the counters to take orders instead of live, wage-earning humans. He could buy food that is already prepared by an outside vendor (who wouldn’t have to pay the higher wage) and employ fewer workers in the kitchen. Economists call these changes 'distortions,' and they cause two kinds of problems. One, fewer workers get a raise as a result of the minimum wage. Two, it encourages businesses to do things that customers may not prefer." The New York Times.
McARDLE: Upstate New York can't afford the new minimum. "The median hourly wage for New York state is only $19.65, meaning that fast-food workers will now be paid 75 percent of the median for doing work that involves so little skill that it is frequently performed by teenagers who aren't old enough to drive. And in the poorer regions, that disparity is likely to be even more stark. ... The rural north is so economically depressed that prisons are fondly regarded as sources of employment, and the deindustrializing western portion of the state has many of the same problems, plus large brownfield areas from long-departed factories that no one can afford to clean up, and a structural overhang of buildings, government programs and people left over from flusher times. The more young people depart in search of work elsewhere, the worse the problems become." Bloomberg View.
Last night I went out to Fanshawe Pioneer Village on the NE edge of London, Ontario, to see Jason Rip's original script about the impact of WWI on a small southern Ontario town. The play is "The Big Lad". It was amazing. There is one final performance tonight. Go see it!
The story is about life in a small farming community from 1914-1917. Young men wanted to go to war, but some were turned down for various reasons while others did go. Meanwhile xenophobia reigned as Canadians feared and resented the Germans in their communities [digression: indeed, the people of Berlin, Ontario, renamed it Kitchener]. Rip, the playwright, and the actors captured so many facets of all these emotions, and more, in a play that lasted only about an hour.... It doesn't matter that it was only an hour --- it was brilliant.
All of the acting was good. I knew two of the actors (Demis Odanga and John Turner) and fully expected the high quality performances from them that I saw; I wasn't disappointed. And I had seen Taylor Bogaert recently and was pleased to see him more than live up to the standards of Alvego Root Theatre (the company that produced the play). But most impressive for me was Shayne Coffin who played the title role, The Big Lad. He was truly brilliant in the role.
Adam Corrigan Holowitz directed and produced the show. His direction and staging were beyond brilliant. The venue is an old barn set up in a mini-proscenium style. It is not the set that amazes, though, because it doesn't: it is simple. It's what Adam and the actors do with the set, the 8' x 8' angled proscenium, the entrances, the exits, and the actions. Just wonderful.
[by the way, I saw this play on the evening of the hottest day we'd had so far in Ontario, and the venue wasn't at all uncomfortable.]
I have seen other plays about WWI and southern Ontario, and I have thought they were really very good. The Big Lad was better.
There is one more performance of this play, tonight. It's only about $17 (with taxes) and well worth it. There are plenty of seats available, so you can buy tickets at the door.
Go see this play. You won't regret it.
From Terence Corcoran:
Maybe you missed the news last week, which is that Canada under Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has just regained its title as the most reputable nation in the world. According to the Reputation Institute’s annual report, Canada remains at the top of a 55-nation list for perceived trust, admiration and respect, based on a survey of 48,000 people around the world.
Easy to miss, that story, since few media picked it up. Instead, the Canadian media complex is in the grip of Harper Derangement Frenzy (HDF), which is an upgrade to hurricane status from Harper Derangement Syndrome, identified several years ago by Lorne Gunter as “an ideological hatred of Prime Minister Stephen Harper that is so acute its sufferers’ ability to reason logically is impaired.”
A table in the column shows:
Every person I know who has used Uber has been extremely pleased with it. The cars are clean, the drivers are polite and generally quite knowledgeable, and the smartphone app lets both driver and customer know what's what.
So why is there a problem with allowing Uber to compete with taxis and with limousine services? As most of you know, I am strongly in favour of limiting restrictions on competition in the taxicab industry, having played a role the local changes that allow limousines to compete more directly with licensed taxicabs.
The only problem I see with Uber is insurance. In Ontario, we have no-fault auto insurance. Furthermore, Uber charges for (and is believed to provide) liability insurance for their drivers, even if they aren't carrying a passenger, so long as the driver is logged onto Uber as "available". So customers are probably covered, as are third parties (but see below).
The problem comes with the drivers themselves. If they carry paying passengers, they need to carry "commercial", not "personal" auto insurance. To drive for Uber and to have only personal auto insurance is taking a personal gamble, as well as possibly imposing a risk on potential third parties; and it is quite possibly defrauding the insurance companies.
I asked my insurance agent for RSA, with whom we have our auto insurance, about this and here is what she replied:
At this time, a Personal Policy with RSA will NOT provide any coverage for UBER driving.
As you would now be “carrying passengers for hire”, you would need to get a commercial policy if that was something you were interested in.
Although UBER may provide some liability in a lawsuit situation, there are other factors (Accident benefits / damage to your vehicle etc) which would also have to be dealt with.
Part of the application does specifically ask about carrying passengers so we are required to disclose it to the insurance company.
... [W]ith this being new to London, the companies are just reacting to [it] now. This may be something that changes in the future; however at the moment it is not something they are willing to cover – and all coverage would be denied in the event of a claim. [emphasis added]
To be clear: no, I am not intending to drive for Uber (though I would consider it if personal auto insurance were sufficient).
What this means, then, as someone pointed out somewhere on Facebook, is that if you ride with Uber (in London, Ontario, as of now), you are likely signaling that you are willing to give business to someone who is likely lying to their insurance company.
And with that in mind, I probably will not be using Uber in the near future.
If you want to reduce the probability of divorce, marry in your late 20s.
But the important thing, for Wolfinger, is that "we do know beyond a shadow of a doubt that people who marry in their thirties are now at greater risk of divorce than are people who wed in their late twenties. This is a new development." And it will take some further research to suss out what this means for the demographics of marriage going forward.
Here are the data, including confidence intervals!!!
On Saturday, I visited with friends at the Masonville Starbucks and then walked home along the Thames Valley Trail.* Along the way, I used my iPhone to take a few photos.
I have never seen double-layered thistles before, and I fell in love with them.
And of course I am enamoured of the Fibonacci sequences and formations in these flowers.
I also saw some beautiful finches/warblers but couldn't zoom in on them or crop the photos sufficiently well. I gotta take a real camera with me next time.
Near Harris Park, there were some Black-eyed Susans (which always remind me of "the Highwayman") and these wonderful purple flowers providing nectar for the bees.
Once again, though, I had the feeling that I love the patterns and colours of the inner flower. I really do need to take a better camera with me on these walks.
*Over two months ago I injured my knee during a performance of Neville's Island. I thought it had been something minor, but as time went on, it got worse. Fortunately though with rest and appropriate exercise, I am now nearly recovered [whew!!]. Last Monday I did a two-mile walk, and this one was about 4.5 miles. Aside from needing to rebuild my strength and stamina, all seems well.
Back in the days of rec.sport.baseball, Gary Huckabay advocated the use of cameras and computers to call balls and strikes for baseball games. He knew the technology could do it, but also knew it would take some time to be accepted.
Now it will be tried in an independent baseball league for a couple of games on an experimental basis. Yea!
According to John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Pacifics will use an automated computer system to call balls and strikes later this month in the first human umpire-less games in professional baseball history. The team plans to use the technology on July 28 and 29 against the Vallejo Admirals.
The system is called PitchFX, and utilizes a multitude of camera angles to calculate pitch speed and trajectory. All 30 MLB stadiums are already equipped with PitchFX, and it is used to evaluate umpires as well as for analytics purposes.
I must say that after watching the pitch tracker for the past several years and seeing how many incorrect calls are made, I welcome this development. May it please happen in my lifetime!
Eventually, I expect the sport will use computerized voices to call balls and strikes and not rely on someone to relay the computer results. I can also imagine that a similar scheme can be put in place to assess whether a batter holds up on checked swings. However,
As my umpire friend Jim Cressman says, though, who will sweep off home plate?
When this question first occurred to me, I assumed (following a mid-70s National Lampoon article about Canada) that the answer would be "tapioca". 8-)
And let's face it: the question assumes there IS such a distinctive thing as "Canadian cuisine" [what, poutine? what else?]
But after looking at the list of the most common ingredient in many cuisines, [via King],
Ms Eclectic and I agree that likely the answer is "butter".
But actually I think it's probably "water".
When there is little or no good competition, people providing a service tend to have less incentive to do a good, pleasant job. Or, as Scott Sumner says,
... government offices don't have to compete for customers as private companies do, so they don't care very much about customer relations. Of course some private monopolies suffer from the same problem.
Of course his statement is provocatively strong, but in general he is right. Petty bureaucrats can get all officious when dealing with us if their bosses don't much care, and their bosses will tend to care less if we customers have few, if any, good options.
Yes, some gubmnt employees provide great service. In fact we had a very pleasant experience last week at the passport office, renewing our passports.*
And with increasing competition from private couriers, we have noticed that the postal service is slowly improving the quality of its service, at least in areas where the competition matters.
Harold Demsetz frequently argued, the major source of lasting monopoly power is gubmnt. Whether the monopoly is gubmnt activity or gubmnt-created or gubmnt-protected monopoly, it is in these types of monopolies where people tend to have less incentive to provide good customer service.
And, after all, people respond to incentives.
Note: I said "tend". I know there are dedicated people who work hard to provide good service in gubmnt or other monopolies.
*Digression: We took a gamble and renewed our passports for ten years. When I laughed about that, the passport official said someone who is 100 years old had recently renewed their passport for ten years! Heck, I'm still <90.
Regular readers of EclectEcon know that I try to avoid swearing here and on Facebook. At home, around friends, and in the classroom my Edward Hyde side emerges, in a sense. In this list, I use all but "Gosh" and "Darn" with varying and sometimes great frequency.
Almost a billion tweets, from October of 2013 to November of 2014, were collected by Diansheng Guo at University of South Carolina, totaling nearly 9 billion words. Here’s how Grieve explained what happened once the data was collected:
For any word ... we measure its relative frequency in each county by diving the total number of occurrences of that word in that county by the total number of words in that county.
We take that raw map and smooth it using a hot spot analysis (a Getis-Ord Gi local spatial autocorrelation analysis).
Here is the map for "Gosh". There are seven different maps for seven curse words along with more details and explanations at the link.
I am really, really tempted to get one of these.
So it's a trumped up shopping holiday. So what if there are good sales and good prices? And even if you aren't a member of Amazon Prime, this might be a good time to try out their 30-day free trial.
This week, warnings of an impending “mini ice age,” set to hit in the 2030s, have been circulating in the media. ...
The ice age idea got rolling last week when researcher Valentina Zharkova, a professor of mathematics at Northumbria University in England, presented some of her recent research into solar variations at the Royal Astronomical Society’s National Astronomy Meeting in Wales. The presentation was based on a study ... which presented a technique for understanding variations in solar radiation and made some predictions about how this radiation will change in the near future. Most notably, the research predicts that between 2030 and 2040, solar activity should drop significantly, leading to a condition known as a “solar minimum.” ...
According to the research, solar activity at this time should resemble conditions last seen in the mid-1700s during a period known of low solar radiation known as the “Maunder Minimum.” The interesting thing about this period was that it coincided with a “little ice age” in Europe and North America — a time marked by unusually cold temperatures and bitter winters. Now that Zharkova and her colleagues are predicting another solar minimum coming up, media coverage has jumped on the idea that a modern “mini ice age” is in store.
Michael Mann, a leading proponent of concern about AGW (and whose work has been seriously criticized [see this] ), doesn't buy it, but his apparent only explanation is
As far as the solar variations go, “The effect is a drop in the bucket, a barely detectable blip, on the overall warming trajectory we can expect over the next several decades from greenhouse warming,” said Michael Mann, distinguished professor of meteorology at Pennsylvania State University, in an e-mail to The Washington Post.
The article points out that Zharkova refuses to go on the record scientifically as to whether her predicted mini-ice-age would have much of an impact on the earth's temperature. It does add, however, that
On the one hand, Zharkova maintains that her research was not intended to make assumptions about the effects of solar variation on climate — only to lay out predictions about the solar activity itself. “What will happen in the modern Maunder Minimum we do not know yet and can only speculate,” she says. On the other hand, she adds, her gut assumption is that temperatures will drop as they did 370 years ago.
Some years ago, while we were living in Clinton, Ontario, a group from Investigation Discovery came to Vanastra (a small village just south of Clinton) to film the story of Steven Truscott., a young teen who was unjustly convicted of the murder of a classmate, likely on the basis of the trumped-up testimony of a pathologist.
A number of my friends were in the show, including my son and two of my granddaughters. I played the murderer, but since no one is sure who that was, you can't see my face as I was driving the old white Chevy or dragging the victim's body into the woods where she was found.
Shakespeare without words? Gimme a break. As my Shake-o-phile grand says, "His language is perfect." or words to that effect.
In Act 5 of “Love’s Labor Lost,” one character scoffs at pedants: “They have been at a great feast of languages, and stolen the scraps.” The latest Shakespeare fashion, at least in the Washington area, is to invite people to a feast of language and serve nothing but grunts, grimaces and grins—with a few gyrations thrown in for dessert.
The Synetic Theater has harvested a bushel of Helen Hayes Awards (the local version of the Tony Awards) for its Silent Shakespeare shows in the past dozen years. The company (whose name blends “synthesis” and “kinetic”) is run by a husband-and-wife team who were raised in Soviet Georgia and pride themselves on making Shakespeare “very accessible.” Paata Tsikurishvili, described in a Synetic video as a “visionary director,” explains: “Why I do Shakespeare, like this with less text, is because we have that vocabulary to express without the words—like crying and laughing; I take it to the next level.”
And the conclusion is really spot on:
Still, Silent Shakespeare is akin to mental nouveau cuisine with more flourishes than calories. The fact that many Washingtonians consider Silent Shakespeare an improvement rather than an oxymoron reflects unkindly on the capital’s cultural pretensions. But perhaps we should not be surprised that the city that pioneered obfuscation is now exalting expunging English altogether.
The photo that accompanied the article:
Compliance failure is hard wired into the agreement, according to this account: