Tag Archives: wall street journal

Rick Moranis, Economist

Rick Moranis is an actor, comedian, and writer. Among other roles, he played Dark Helmet in Spaceballs, one of my favorite movies. Turns out he also knows a bit about the economic way of thinking. Here he is in today’s Wall Street Journal:

This morning, while I was grinding my blend of French, Colombian and Italian coffee beans, it occurred to me that I could be doing harm to the coffee shop and diner businesses in my neighborhood by making my own coffee at home. Might I have a responsibility and obligation to consume their product, either within their premises or brought right to my door by one of their speedy, undocumented-alien delivery men?

How much of this country’s economy am I personally destroying by my consumption preferences? I honestly never intended to do so much harm.

Read the whole thing.

John Axford Profiled in WSJ

The Wall Street Journal has a nice profile of how mustachioed Brewers closer John Axford crawled, clawed, and climbed his way to success in the big leagues.

Read it here.

The article doesn’t show it, but Axford is known for his wry sense of humor, which is one reason why he fits in so well in what may be baseball’s loosest clubhouse.

In addition to being a proud nominee for the American Mustache Institute’s 2011 Robert Goulet Memorial Mustached American of the Year award (vote here), he also endorses Ax Mustache Spray in this video:

The Believing Brain

Reason‘s Ronald Bailey reviewed Michael Shermer’s excellent The Believing Brain for The Wall Street Journal. If you don’t feel like reading all 340 pages, Bailey summarizes them well:

Superstitions arise as the result of the spurious identification of patterns. Even pigeons are superstitious. In an experiment where food is delivered randomly, pigeons will note what they were doing when the pellet arrived, such as twirling to the left and then pecking a button, and perform the maneuver over and over until the next pellet arrives. A pigeon rain dance. The behavior is not much different than in the case of a baseball player who forgets to shave one morning, hits a home run a few hours later and then makes it a policy never to shave on game days.

It’s surprising how much of human behavior can be explained by what Shermer calls patternicity and agenticity. Like pigeons, we seek patterns and therefore find them. But we also have the ingrained instinct to believe that some kind of agent has to be behind those patterns: god, a politician, somebody, anybody. Every design must have a designer.

No wonder Hayekian spontaneous order polls so poorly, despite having the benefit of being true. Lessons abound.

CEI Podcast for April 21, 2011: The Male-Female Pay Gap

Have a listen here.

Kathryn Ciano guest hosts. Carrie Lukas, Managing Director of the Independent Women’s Forum, argues that the pay gap between men and women isn’t due to discrimination. She also wrote the issue last week in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

Should Helicopter Parents Stop Hovering over Their Kids?

Helicopter parents — constantly hovering over their children — have their heart in the right place. But that style of parenting has always struck me as… unnecessary.

My former professor Bryan Caplan agrees. He has a new book out that’s based on his research on identical twins. As it turns out, a lot of how kids will turn out as adults is based on nature, not nurture. The implication: parents can ease up on the high-maintenance parenting style that is so fashionable today.

In The Wall Street Journal, Caplan writes, “With a few exceptions, the effect of parenting on adult outcomes ranges from small to zero.”

He continues:

Once I became a dad, I noticed that parents around me had a different take on the power of nurture. I saw them turning parenthood into a chore—shuttling their kids to activities even the kids didn’t enjoy, forbidding television, desperately trying to make their babies eat another spoonful of vegetables. Parents’ main rationale is that their effort is an investment in their children’s future; they’re sacrificing now to turn their kids into healthy, smart, successful, well-adjusted adults.  But according to decades of twin research, their rationale is just, well, wrong.

Caplan also uses the law of demand to encourage people to have more kids. One reason people have fewer kids than they used to is because they make parenting very costly for themselves than previous generations did.

By easing up a bit, parenting becomes much cheaper in terms of time, effort, and stress. And when something becomes cheaper, people tend to buy more of it. Or, in this case, Caplan says they should at least give it serious thought.

I’ll have to read the book before I can call myself convinced or not. But Caplan’s thesis that parenting doesn’t have to be a chore makes some intuitive sense. And while fatherhood is probably a few years away for this blogger, It does make the prospect of parenthood seem a little less daunting.

CEI Podcast for March 21, 2011: How Washington Ruined Your Washing Machine

Have a listen here.

CEI General Counsel Sam Kazman talks about how ever-stricter energy efficiency regulations are making washing machines more expensive and less effective than they used to be. Sam recently wrote about the issue for The Wall Street Journal; you can read his article here.

The Two Americas

Maybe there is something to John Edwards’ “Two Americas” conceit after all. Except the warring factions aren’t the haves and have-nots. They are what Steven Malanga calls tax eaters and tax payers. And the two see the world very differently. See this revealing excerpt from today’s WSJ Political Diary (subscription required).

Pollster Scott Rasmussen uses several questions to break down voters demographically, but one of his most original tweaks is to differentiate between those voters he calls the “Political Class” and those he calls “Mainstream Americans.” The “Political Class,” representing about 14% of the electorate, tend to express “trust” in political leaders while rejecting suggestions that government is its own special interest and often works with big business against consumers. In contrast, “Mainstream Americans” represent about 75% of the voting public and identify with or lean toward a more populist skepticism about the intentions and actions of political leaders.

Striking is how the two groups divide on the question of repealing ObamaCare. “Mainstream Americans” support repeal by an overwhelming 73%, while the numbers are almost exactly reversed among the “Political Class,” 72% of whom oppose repeal.

Are Economists Cheap?

According to an amusing article in today’s Wall Street Journal, some are:

Children of economists recall how tightfisted their parents were. Lauren Weber, author of a recent book titled, “In Cheap We Trust,” says her economist father kept the thermostat so low that her mother threatened at one point to take the family to a motel. “My father gave in because it would have been more expensive,” she says.

and some aren’t:

[T]he principles that can make economists seem cheap sometimes lead them to hire help, because they are taught to value their own time.

Ms. Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, also of the Wharton School, gave a friend $150 to hire movers instead of helping him themselves. Harvard University economist David Laibson pays to have a driver pick up his sister from the airport rather than driving himself.

So are economists just cheap, or does their fixation on tradeoffs make them act in ways that only make them appear cheap? You be the judge.

Net Neutrality and Rent-Seeking

Here is a letter I sent recently to The Wall Street Journal:

September 22, 2009

Editor, The Wall Street Journal
200 Liberty Street
New York, NY 10281

To the Editor:

Your article “Bad News for Broadband” (editorial, Sept. 22) hints at, but does not make, a key point: net neutrality proposals are driving a wedge between service providers like AT&T and content providers like Google.

Strange, is it not? Their interests are actually closely aligned. If AT&T upgrades its network, Google benefits from the increased bandwidth. If Google improves its products, AT&T benefits from increased demand for broadband.

Net neutrality proposals give companies the incentive to seek rents at each other’s expense when they could be benefiting from each other’s innovations instead. This must be music to the ears of lobbyists, but how sad for consumers.

Ryan Young
Fellow in Regulatory Studies
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Washington, D.C.