Friday, July 31, 2015

Concealed Carry Permit Holders Across the United States

Here is a link to a paper by Lott, Whitley, and Riley titled "Concealed Carry Permit Holders Across the United States".

The paper shows that the fear mongering of anti-gunners that allowing concealed carry will lead to increased violence is just that - fear mongering.

Check out the paper.  Here is the Summary.

Since President Obama’s election the number of concealed handgun permits has soared, growing from 4.6 million in 2007 to over 12.8 million this year. Among the findings in our report:

  • The number of concealed handgun permits is increasing at an ever- increasing rate. Over the past year, 1.7 million additional new permits have been issued – a 15.4% increase in just one single year. This is the largest ever single-year increase in the number of concealed handgun permits.
  • 5.2% of the total adult population has a permit.
  • Five states now have more than 10% of their adult population with concealed handgun permits.
  • In ten states, a permit is no longer required to carry in all or virtually all of the state. This is a major reason why legal carrying handguns is growing so much faster than the number of permits.
  • Since 2007, permits for women has increased by 270% and for men by 156%.
  • Some evidence suggests that permit holding by minorities is increasing more than twice as fast as for whites.
  • Between 2007 and 2014, murder rates have fallen from 5.6 to 4.2 (preliminary estimates) per 100,000.  This represents a 25% drop in the murder rate at the same time that the percentage of the adult population with permits soared by 178%.  Overall violent crime also fell by 25 percent over that period of time.
  • Regression estimates show that even after accounting for the per capita number of police and people admitted to prison and demographics, the adult population with permits is significantly associated with a drop in murder and violent crime rates.
  • Concealed handgun permit holders are extremely law-abiding. In Florida and Texas, permit holders are convicted of misdemeanors or felonies at one- sixth the rate that police officers are convicted.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Challenges That Remain After Marriage Equality

Here is a July 29, 2015 New York Time editorial, “The Challenges That Remain After Marriage Equality”.

My comments are in italics.  They are not intended to support or oppose the NYT’s goals.  Rather, they are intended to point out the NYT’s lack of critical thinking about tradeoffs that can hurt the people it is trying to help - and the rest of us, too.

The moral of the story is that you cannot trust the NYT proposals to accomplish what it intends.

It’s tempting to regard last month’s Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage as the coda of the gay rights movement. The joyous celebrations it prompted around the nation had an air of finality for the broader effort set in motion decades ago by the trailblazers who demanded to be treated with dignity.

Yet the marriage equality victory should not be regarded as the final battle, or even a clear sign that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans are on the cusp of enjoying full equality under the law. They are not.

Discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation remains an everyday challenge in many parts of the country. Currently, 31 states lack comprehensive laws that protect gay and transgender Americans from being fired, evicted or denied lines of credit.

Last week, lawmakers in the House and the Senate introduced the Equality Act, a bill that would broaden legal protections by amending the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act to explicitly cover sexual orientation and gender identity. It would not do away with the exemptions for religious organizations in the laws that would be amended.

While federal courts and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have found that gay and transgender workers are protected under federal law, the bill would offer an important layer of protection in the workplace and beyond. Many Americans still worry that being out to colleagues and bosses could jeopardize their job security or career advancement.

Why the Federal Government Fails

Chris Edwards at the Cato Institute has a paper discussing reasons why the Federal Government fails. His paper is longer than necessary, but worth perusing - it puts the problem of Big Government in perspective.

Chris is on target.

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Greek Crisis – A Great Joke That Misses The Point

Here is the joke.

It is a slow day in a little Greek Village.  The rain is beating down and the streets are deserted.

Times are tough, everybody is in debt, and everybody lives on credit.

On this particular day a rich German tourist is driving through the village, stops at the local hotel and lays a 100 Euro note on the desk, telling the hotel owner he wants to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick one to spend the night.  The owner gives him some keys and, as soon as the visitor has walked upstairs, the hotelier grabs the 100 Euro note and runs next door to pay his debt to the butcher.  The butcher takes the 100 Euro note and runs down the street to repay his debt to the pig farmer.  The pig farmer takes the note and heads off to pay his bill at the supplier of feed and fuel.  The guy at the Farmers' Co-op takes the note and runs to pay his drinks bill at the tavern.  The publican slips the money along to the local prostitute drinking at the bar; who has also been facing hard times and has had to offer him "services" on credit.  The hooker then rushes to the hotel and pays off her room bill to the hotel owner with the note.  The hotel proprietor then places the 100 Euro note back on the counter so the rich traveler will not suspect anything.

At that moment the traveler comes down the stairs, picks up the 100 Euro note, states that the rooms are not satisfactory, pockets the money, and leaves town.

No one produced anything.  No one earned anything.  However, the whole village is now out of debt and looking to the future with a lot more optimism.

Unfortunately, the joke is not related to the Greek crisis.

Here is a shorter version of the joke that is related to the Greek crisis.

Nobody in Greece has any debt.  However, the Greeks would like to have more BMWs than they can afford with their income.  They ask the Germans to lend them money to buy the BMWs.  The Germans agree.  The Germans ship the Greeks BMWs in return for pieces of paper signed by the Greeks promising that they will deliver enough money to enable the Germans to buy the same number of new BMWs back at a specified future date.  In other words, the Greeks agree to provide the Germans BMWs in the future in return for the Germans providing BMWs for the Greeks now.

The repayment date arrives and the Greeks refuse to buy the Germans BMWs.

If this seems to complicated for you, consider your lending your car to your neighbor and then having him refuse to return it.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

For more Americans, owning a gun = safety

Here is a link to an article by John Lott about the rapid increase in citizens obtaining permits to carry concealed weapons.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Obama collecting personal data for a secret race database

Here is a link to a New York Post article about Government collecting data that will likely end up in furthering Government interference in your life, if true.

Whether or not this article is true, our freedoms are diminishing every year - Big Government is dangerous.

Too many Americans are too intolerant and have too strong feelings about how other Americans should live.  Given the variety of views, enforcing these views on others will virtually eliminate freedom.  If you are one of those that insists that others live the way you think they should and accept Government micromanagement to accomplish it - you are the problem.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

John Cochrane on Economic Growth

Here is a link to a blog entry by John Cochrane pointing out the lack of good economic thinking by some lovers of government regulations and other impediments to growth.

John's critique is on target.

They Told You So: Economists Were Right to Doubt the Euro

Here is a link to a New York Times Op Ed by Gregory Mankiw pointing out why the Euro was a poor idea fostered by the Elites.  You just can't trust elites.  They often know more than others, but even more often know a lot less than they think.  That discrepancy shows up as adverse unanticipated consequences from laws, regulations, saving the planet, etc. - over and over again.

Which do you prefer? Krugman circa 1998 or Krugman circa 2015?

Here is a link to an article by William Occam (pen name) comparing Economics Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman with himself.

It  illustrates how agenda based on emotion can dominate intellect, even in Nobel prize winners.

Hint:  PK has become more emotional.

Debtors Unfairly Excluded From Protection – says the New York Times

Here is a July 16, 2015 New York Times editorial claiming that the bankruptcy laws are unfair because mortgages, student loans, and some bonds cannot be restructured in bankruptcy.  The Times misses important tradeoffs that hurt the people the Times is trying to help.

My comments are in italics.

The large debt loads that weigh heavily on Americans and the American economy — in mortgages, student loans, and most recently, the bonds of Puerto Rico — have one thing in common: They cannot be restructured in bankruptcy. Creditors cannot be compelled by the court to reduce such debts, leaving insolvent borrowers at the mercy of lenders. The situation is unfair, because creditors often bear at least partial responsibility for loans that fail and so should share the pain of bankruptcy with borrowers. It is also harmful, socially and economically, when the potential of individuals is impaired because they are not allowed a fresh start under bankruptcy law.

Borrowers can get a fresh start by defaulting.

Presumably, the lenders and borrowers signed the loan contract because they both benefited.  The “at the mercy of lenders” phrase gives away the Times’s bias against lenders.

There is no issue of unfairness.  Lenders are not responsible for “loans that fail”, which is a euphemism for borrowers that fail to comply with the terms of their loan contract.  Lenders’ allowable actions when borrowers’ fail to comply are specified in the loan contract – which both parties agreed to.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

On Immigration and Crime

Here is a link to an interesting paper by Martinez and Lee on immigration and crime.  They find that the widespread belief that immigrants' crime rate is higher than the rest of the population is incorrect.  An excerpt from their conclusion follows.

"We can draw a number of broad conclusions from this review of immigration and crime in 20th-century America. First, there are good theoretical reasons to believe that immigrants should be involved in crime to a greater degree than natives. For example, immigrants face acculturation problems that natives do not, and immigrants tend to settle in disorganized neighborhoods characterized by deleterious structural conditions such as poverty, ethnic heterogeneity, a preponderance of young males, and possibly more criminal opportunities in the form of gangs. Also, the cultural codes of immigrants may conflict with the legal codes constructed by native groups. Despite these and other reasons to expect high levels of immigrant crime, the bulk of empirical studies conducted over the past century have found that immigrants are usually underrepresented in criminal statistics. There are variations to this general finding, but these appear to be linked more to differences in structural conditions across areas where immigrants settle than to the cultural traditions of the immigrant groups. Local context appears to be the central influence shaping the criminal involvement of both immigrants and natives, although in many cases, immigrants seem more able to withstand crime-facilitating conditions than native groups."

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Behavioral Paradox Of Government Policy

Here is a link to a paper by Viscusi and Gayer titled "Behavioral Public Choice: The Behavioral Paradox Of Government Policy".

It does a good job of putting behavioral economists claims and policy recommendations in perspective.  The claims are overstated and the policies ignore their own claims when it comes to concluding that irrational individual behavior leads to worse outcomes than government behavior.

Here is the paper's Conclusion.

In recent years, there has been a shift in the traditional economics approach of justifying government interventions based on the existence of market failures such as externalities, public goods, asymmetric information, and market power. Influenced by psychological studies that find systematic biases in how individuals make decisions, the field of behavioral economics has led to recommendations for government policies. These recommendations frequently come in the form of soft regulations or “nudges,” to correct behavioral shortfalls that lead individuals to make decisions that cause themselves harm.

The behavioral economics findings that document systematic anomalies that lead to irrational decisions are important contributions to the field of economics. While these biases can be justifications for government intervention, our evidence suggests that a framework of behavioral public choice should take into account that policymakers and regulators are themselves behavioral agents subject to psychological biases, and further, that they are public agents subject to political pressures and biases endemic in the political process. The behavioral paradox is that government policies are subject to a wide range of behavioral failures that in many cases become incorporated in the overall policy strategy. We have documented many instances in which government policies institutionalize rather than overcome behavioral anomalies, and in some cases, attempt to justify inefficient “hard” regulations, such as mandates, based on the weakly supported need to correct individual irrationality.

Given that government policymaking is not immune to behavioral failures, we suggest a more cautious approach, one that incorporates the insights of behavioral economics in a way that is less dismissive of the merits of individual choice. Rather than assuming that any class of behavioral anomalies constitutes a sufficient rationale for overriding consumer preferences, government agencies should assess the empirical prevalence and magnitude of the behavioral failings as they specifically pertain to the policy context. If there are apparent anomalies, there should also be an exploration of whether these deviations from economics norms stem from legitimate differences in preferences or are in fact errors that, if corrected, would enhance welfare. Thus, in the design of subsequent interventions, there should be increased recognition of the legitimate differences in consumer preferences that may account for purported behavioral failings. Policymakers should also recognize the behavioral failings likely to be incorporated in their policy responses due to public pressure or the behavioral failures of policymakers. Fundamental behavioral failures are often embedded in the current policy strategies. Any critical review of private behavioral failures should be accompanied by a comparable assessment of government failures.

Boudreaux demolishes the New York Times

Here’s a letter to the New York Times from Don Boudreaux:
Eduardo Porter opens his column today by asking “Could President Hillary Clinton restore the American middle class?” (“Sizing Up Hillary Clinton’s Plans to Help the Middle Class”).
Mr. Porter illegitimately presents as an established fact a proposition that is anything but.  It’s true that between 1967 and 2009 the percent of American families with annual incomes between $25,000 and $75,000 (in 2009 dollars) fell from 62 to 39 – a fact that, standing alone, might be interpreted as evidence that the middle class is disappearing.  Yet this fact does not stand alone, for it’s also true that the percent of families with annual incomes lower than $25,000 also fell (from 22 to 18) while the percent of families with annual incomes of $75,000 and higher rose significantly – from 16 to 43.*
So given these Census Bureau data – which are strong evidence that America’s middle class, if disappearing, is doing so by moving into the upper classes – to ask if President Hillary Clinton could restore the American middle class is to ask if she will make the bulk of today’s prosperous families poorer rather than richer.
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Infinity Is Not What It Seems

I have always appreciated the power of mathematics but, unfortunately, am not very good at it.  Of course, in life all you have to know to succeed is a few more pages in the math book than the next guy.

One thing that impressed me was the notion that there was more than one "infinity".  Like most people, I understood infinity to be connected with the number of positive integers. But on various occasions, things seemed not so clear.

One problem is how to determine when two sets of things have the same number of elements (those of you who know math will have to excuse my loose language).  The example I use is to think of two sets of things in two separate bags.  Suppose I draw one item from one bag and match it to one item from the other bag and I never run out of things in the first bag before I run out of things in the second bag.  Well, I think that is a good way to define the number of things in the second bag as no greater than the number of things in the first bag.  If, for each thing in the first bag, there is a unique assignment of a thing in the second bag, then I think that is a good way to define the number of things in the two bags as the same.

So, is the number of positive integers less than the number of positive and negative integers?  The above rule for determining the answer shows that the number of positive integers is the same as the number of positive and negative integers.  All you have to do is start counting the positive and negative integers using only the positive integers.  The correspondence goes like this 1 goes with 1, 2 goes with -1, 3 goes with 2, 4 goes with -2, and so on.  It is clear that the positive integers will never run out and every positive and negative integer will have a unique positive integer assigned to it.  Yes, Virginia, twice the number of positive integers is the same as once the number of positive integers.


It gets worse. Consider the points in the plane characterized by two integers, such as (3,5).  Does the number of these points in the infinite plane exceed the number of positive integers?  Not if we can count them systematically with the positive integers.  And we can.  Start at (0,1) on the x axis and travel in a sort of spiral about the origin.  First, go to (1,1), then (0,1), then to (-1,1), then to (-1,0), then to (-1,-1), then to (0,-1), then to (1,-1). We have used the positive integers from 1 to 8 to go in a "circle" around the origin.  Next move outward to (0,2) and complete the next largest circle.  Clearly we will never run out of the positive integers but will end up counting every pair of positive and negative integers.

We would ordinarily think of the number of pairs of positive and negative integers as infinity times infinity.  But this exercise shows that our suspected infinity times infinity is just infinity.

So, if we define ordinary infinity as the number of positive integers, is that what we are stuck with?  It seems not, because we can find a bag with so many elements that they cannot be counted with the positive integers.  The example I am thinking of is the set of infinite decimals lying between 0 an 1 (inclusive).

The classic approach to showing that this set cannot be counted with the positive integers is to first assume that it has been counted and a two column table has been laid out with the positive integers in the first column and the corresponding infinite decimals in the second column.  Next, consider the following infinite decimal.  Its first digit differs from the first digit of the first infinite decimal.  Its second digit differs from the second digit of the second infinite decimal, and so on.  Clearly this is a new infinite decimal that nowhere appear in column two of our table.  This contradicts the initial assumption that a correspondence between the positive integers and the infinite decimals between 0 and 1 had been achieved.

We ran out of positive integers before we ran out of infinite decimals between 0 and 1.

The number of infinite decimals exceeds the number of positive integers.

Oy, again.

Free Will

What could free will mean?

If we know someone, doesn't that mean that we know something about their personality, i.e., how they are likely to behave in various circumstances?  Doesn't that imply a degree of predictability?  To the extent behavior is predictable, doesn't that mean that it follows rules?  If so, doesn't having an identifiable personality imply some lack of free will?

If rational behavior is something to strive for, doesn't that imply predictability, hence a lack of free will?

If predictability is the antithesis of free will, and what else could it be, wouldn't free will have to manifest as unpredictability?

If someone exhibited free will, wouldn't their behavior have to be random?  Doesn't this imply behavior that is unrelated to circumstances?  If so, free will would seem to imply remarkably unproductive behavior with no survival value.

Perhaps free will is an illusion.

That is not to say that consciousness is an illusion.  Consciousness and free will are entirely different things.

Just Wondering About International Trade

Is a big US trade deficit really bad?  Are foreign workers willing to work for low wages unfairly stealing away US jobs?

Doesn’t a US trade deficit imply that we are buying more foreign goods than foreigners are buying US goods?  Why is it a bad thing when foreigners are sending us more valuable stuff than we are sending them?  It sounds like a good deal for us.
Wouldn't it be even better if we didn't have to send foreigners anything in return for their goods?  That would mean that we were getting their goods for free.  It would also make our trade deficit bigger.

If foreigners decide to exchange their dollars for US goods, doesn’t that reduce our trade deficit by making us work for them?

Are foreign workers who receive low wages being taken advantage of?  Is it immoral to buy goods made with cheap foreign labor?  What if foreign workers are better off with these jobs than without them?

It must be that foreign workers are better off with jobs exported from the US.  Otherwise, they wouldn’t take them.  Does fairness to foreign workers require not providing them with jobs that they want and that make them better off?

Is outsourcing unfair, even if some displaced US workers end up with lower paying jobs?  Suppose these US workers, perhaps through political pressure, have been preventing firms from using cheaper foreign labor.  Isn’t the fair value of their labor what foreign workers charge?  In this case, aren’t domestic workers forcing US consumers to pay more than fair value for their labor and for the goods produced with it?  Isn’t this coercion and theft?  Isn’t it disingenuous to argue that fairness requires that coercion and theft be allowed to continue?  Doesn’t fairness require that those who steal return to their victims what was stolen and that those who would steal be prevented from doing so?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Comparing Death Rates From Mass Public Shootings and Mass Public Violence in the US and Europe

Here is a link to a Crime Prevention Research Center article that puts the issue of relative mass public shooting statistics in perspective.

Needless to say, Obama's comments on the issue were dead wrong (pardon the pun).

Lynne Russell, ex-CNN anchor, and her husband are alive thanks to a gun

Here is John Lott's take on defensive gun use and how the media treats it.  Lott is the leading expert on defensive gun research.

Here is the link.

A reason for hope in humanity's aspirations

Charles Krauthammer has a nice column on how humanity can sometimes soar - as opposed to its normal dysfunctional behavior.

Here is the link.

Thomas Sowell on Slavery and What Should Be Done About Blacks

Thomas Sowell has an excellent column titled "A Legacy of Cliches".

Some excerpts:

Discussions of racial problems almost invariably bring out the cliche of "a legacy of slavery." But anyone who is being serious, as distinguished from being political, would surely want to know if whatever he is talking about — whether fatherless children, crime or whatever — is in fact a legacy of slavery or of some of the many other things that have been done in the century and a half since slavery ended.

Another cliche that has come into vogue is that slavery is "America's original sin." The great Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said that a good catch phrase could stop thinking for fifty years. Catch phrases about slavery have stopped people from thinking, even longer than that.

To many on the left, the 1960s were the glory days of their movements, and for some the days of their youth as well. They have a heavy emotional investment and ego investment in the ideas, aspirations and policies of the 1960s.

It might never occur to many of them to check their beliefs against some hard facts about what actually happened after their ideas and policies were put into effect. It certainly would not be pleasant to admit, even to yourself, that after promising progress toward "social justice," what you actually delivered was a retrogression toward barbarism.

The principal victims of these retrogressions are the decent, law-abiding members of black communities across the country who are prey to hoodlums and criminals.

Back in the 19th century Frederick Douglass saw the dangers from well-meaning whites. He said: "Everybody has asked the question, 'What shall we do with the Negro?' I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us." Amen.

What health care should learn from Uber and How Government Regulations and Licensing Hurt You

Here is a great essay by John Cochrane.

It provides good microeconomic and political insight about why Government's and Unions' claims that the regulations and licensing they advocate to help you are more likely to hurt you, especially if you are low income.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Salaried Overtime Requirements: Employers Will Offset Them with Lower Pay

James Sherck points out why the new salaried overtime requirements are most likely to leave workers no better off or worse off.

Here is the link.

Note the trade-offs that the media and politicians have missed - and that they almost always hurt, not help.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Perspective on school choice and why separation of schools and government makes sense

Don Boudreaux is on target.

If Supermarkets Were Like Public Schools
by Donald J. Boudreaux
Teachers unions and their political allies argue that market forces can’t supply quality education. According to them, only our existing system—politicized and monopolistic—will do the trick. Yet Americans would find that approach ludicrous if applied to other vital goods or services.
Suppose that groceries were supplied in the same way as K-12 education. Residents of each county would pay taxes on their properties. Nearly half of those tax revenues would then be spent by government officials to build and operate supermarkets. Each family would be assigned to a particular supermarket according to its home address. And each family would get its weekly allotment of groceries—”for free”—from its neighborhood public supermarket.
No family would be permitted to get groceries from a public supermarket outside of its district. Fortunately, though, thanks to a Supreme Court decision, families would be free to shop at private supermarkets that charge directly for the groceries they offer. Private-supermarket families, however, would receive no reductions in their property taxes.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

What The Climate Wars Did To Science

Matt Ridley provides much needed perspective about the global warming crowd.  It is a "must read".

Here is the link.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

When Bureaucrats Get Away With Murder

Trade-offs are everywhere.  If you hear someone enthusiastically espousing a course of action based on anticipated benefits, ask about the costs.

Here is an article by Henry Miller that brings home how important it is to address trade-offs, not just anticipated benefits.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

There Ain’t No Such Thing As Free Additional Overtime Pay

Don Boudreaux provides insight into legislating more overtime pay.

Don is on target.

In your report this morning on Pres. Obama’s proposal to force employers to expand the number of employees who are eligible for overtime pay, you featured a clip of a law professor proclaiming that such intervention is made necessary by employees’ alleged lack of bargaining power.
This law professor is a poor economist.
If workers in fact have no bargaining power, then firms will respond to the president’s mandate by demanding from workers fully offsetting concessions such as lower base pay, fewer fringe benefits, or more difficult job duties.  Without bargaining power, workers cannot refuse these offsetting demands.  Therefore, the mandate, by causing the mix of employment terms to change without any increase in overall compensation, will at best leave workers no better off than before.
More realistically, because each unregulated firm – even one with incontestable monopsony power over workers – has incentives to arrange the mix of employment terms (for example, the mix of wages, fringes, and workplace rules) in ways that are most attractive to its workers, the president’s mandate will almost certainly result in mixes of employment terms that are less attractive to workers than were the previously offered mixes.  This mandate will thus make workers worse off.
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030