"Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking" - JMK
- Jeff Tucker, of the Mises Institute, has a great talk titled Bourbon for Breakfast. One of the many things he discusses is drinking in the morning, something he's written more extensively on in the past (and that I agree with him on). But this talk is broader than that - I suppose I would simply call it a discussion of the value of living a life uninhibited - or at least that is not unwillingly constrained - by the social construction of reality. Understand the oddness of the convention of our time and place that says we can't drink at breakfast. Understand the incongruity of the way we criminalize the mundane in this country. Read very old books. Appreciate the value of non-scarce resources, like ideas (I have some difference of opinion from him on this - reproducing and sharing ideas may be virtually costless, but producing them isn't). He frames it somewhat more narrowly and takes this as a libertarian way of living - and he's got a lot of challenges to state power in here (most of which are perfectly legitimate challenges that he makes in my mind). I think that's a somewhat narrow way for him to look at his own wisdom provided in his speech. It's more than just freedom from government coercion, and it's silly to pretend that coercion is the only potential quality of government action. Regardless of my disagreements with how he frames his points, the talk is excellent simply as a reflection on living deliberately, and living in a fulfilling and self-aware way.
- The Pentagon recently announced major budget cuts, much of which would fall on Virginia. In an effort not to sound like a parochial, pork-gobbling militant I didn't really say much about it. But this was an eye-opening post from Cowen on the issue. He writes: "Three years of 10 percent cuts to military contracting, as announced by Gates, could swallow up as much as half of the economic growth projected for Northern Virginia in coming years [I live in Northern Virginia and my wife works for a defense contractor as do a gazillion of our friends, btw]". Even if we can say objectively that we want to move away from this sort of military-industrial complex economy, the significance of that transition is still impressive. I don't know the details of what is being cut. I don't like to make vague pronouncements about dismantling the military-industrial complex or cutting military budgets because the fact is the military is very important and someone more knowledgable than I am about what is necessary and what isn't necessary should be making those pronouncements in the blogosphere rather than me. But it sure is eye-opening to take a step back and realize how important this is to your community.
- Maxine Udall, "girl economist", has an interesting post up on the "price of motherhood" (HT Mark Thoma). It brings up some very standard points about the non-market production of mothers. But it also has some interesting things to say about the fact that the productivity of future workers is dependent on the work and the costs incurred by mothers. In other words, another pervasive, systemic externality and where there are externalities we can expect that there is room for improvement over laissez-faire capitalism. Now, of course evolutionary instinct, social convention, etc. provide a pretty good emergent solution to this externality. But obviously not a perfect one either. This is a special type of externality I've been thinking a lot about in the last year (that I should really write something on) that I like to call "temporal autarky". It's an externality that occurs not because property rights don't exist necessarily, but because of the fact that we are constrained to contracting in uni-directional time. It's really an infinite transaction cost, I suppose - but that makes it act like an externality. Grown children enjoy benefits that they didn't have to pay for and mothers incur costs that they aren't compensated for. If we could contract across time and space these sorts of temporal autarky problems could be solved by the market. But we can't. So what you get is a sub-optimal investment in motherhood unless there is some other biological or cultural solution that improves on the situation to some extent.
Comparative advantage: a partial truth
13 hours ago