Updates from November, 2011 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Hober Short 11:59 am on 29 November 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    When you fly on an airplane, you are directed to turn off electronics for takeoff and landing. Is there any chance whatsoever that an inadvertently-active cell phone (even in airplane mode) could cause any airplane malfunction? Yesterday, I would have said “almost certainly not”. Today, though, my answer is “absolutely not”, thanks to an excellent point made by an NYT blogger:

    Surely if electronic gadgets could bring down an airplane, you can be sure that the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration, which has a consuming fear of 3.5 ounces of hand lotion and gel shoe inserts, wouldn’t allow passengers to board a plane with an iPad or Kindle, for fear that they would be used by terrorists.

    Huh. Yeah, pretty much. So why is the policy still in place? “There was no evidence saying these devices can’t interfere with a plane, and there was no evidence saying that they can.” No one wants to take the bullet and say “we’ve been wrong for years”.

    This point is particularly relevant given EconTalk’s recent podcast with Gary Taubes where he talks about how government dietary guidelines are almost certainly wrong, but nobody is willing to step up and say “We’ve been killing people for decades with bad nutrition recommendations” and change them.

  • Hober Short 12:49 pm on 7 November 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    The economic term “durable good” denotes something that will be useful for multiple (usually at least 3) years. The canonical examples are appliances, cars, and industrial equipment (tractors, factory machines). Because durable goods tend to be something expensive that is paid off over a period of years, consumers tend to spend a while researching the good and waiting for the right time to buy it.

    So what happens when you offer a short-term, multi-thousand dollar incentive to purchase a new durable good, as the FedGov did with Cash for Clunkers? People shift their buying forward by buying sooner rather than later. So although a ton of cars were bought under the program, an estimated 45% of those cars would have been bought anyway (which works out to a billion dollars of wasted incentives).

    Check out page 28 of that PDF for the graph of the new car sales, and note the jump during Cash for Clunkers and the immediately following fall. And then note that the graph is on a log scale.

  • Hober Short 10:37 am on 3 November 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    The importance of economic predictions:

    This year’s plummeting peanut production has caused several peanut butter makers to raises prices. Peter Pan and JIF raised their wholesale peanut butter prices 20 percent Monday, while Smuckers introduced 30 percent price hikes Tuesday.

    . . .

    “It’s a matter of supply and demand,” Sutter said. “Cotton prices were high this spring, and that prompted farmers to plant cotton instead of peanuts this year.” That, plus a bad drought in Texas, caused peanut supplies to be down 13 percent from last year.

    Hopefully our government will let the price system work to equilibrate the problem. And, speaking of prices…

    “Just because (consumers) are paying what they think is a high price for peanut butter, I promise you the farmer isn’t getting any of that increase,” [farmer Jerry] Hamill said.

    So you have a scarce good but aren’t getting paid any more for it? Sure smells like price manipulation…

  • Hober Short 1:41 pm on 1 November 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    This just in from California, the Crazy Gun Law State which also just recently banned open carry of handguns:

    A man trying to stop a robbery in Canyon Country was shot to death Monday afternoon.

    The 30-year-old Good Samaritan [sic] was trying to help a robbery victim who was being beaten up at a parking lot of a strip mall on the 18000 block of Soledad Canyon Road, according to authorities.

    Short version: a guy agrees to meet someone outside a post office to sell them a Nintendo DS. He gets there, and the buyers turn out to be four thugs who start robbing and beating him. A nearby sheepdog sees this happening, grabs his baseball bat, runs over to break it up, and gets rewarded with being shot in the chest. He died.

    See how much safer the world is without civilians legally carrying guns?

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