Tag Archives: wsj

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:

What if NFL Players Were Paid Like Teachers?

I’m not a big fan of football analogies in politics (think of former Sen. George Allen absurdly carrying a football wherever he went), but Fran Tarkenton has a good one:

Imagine the National Football League in an alternate reality. Each player’s salary is based on how long he’s been in the league. It’s about tenure, not talent. The same scale is used for every player, no matter whether he’s an All-Pro quarterback or the last man on the roster. For every year a player’s been in this NFL, he gets a bump in pay. The only difference between Tom Brady and the worst player in the league is a few years of step increases. And if a player makes it through his third season, he can never be cut from the roster until he chooses to retire, except in the most extreme cases of misconduct.

This would incentivize mediocrity, not excellence. It is also almost exactly how government-run K-12 schools are structured. Reform ideas that ignore those incentive problems are doomed to fail. Adding some competition to the existing near-monoply would do much to give teachers the same incentive to make the most of their talent that athletes currently enjoy.

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.

No Such Thing as an Average Cancer Patient

My colleague Greg Conko has an excellent piece in today’s Wall Street Journal. Greg doesn’t think it’s right that the FDA is denying terminally ill patients access to potentially life-saving treatments.

The latest case in point is a drug called Avastin. It is approved for treating several types of cancer. But the FDA is moving to revoke its approval for treating breast cancer. This has, understandably, upset many breast cancer patients and their doctors.

The heart of the matter is who shall be in charge of treatment decisions. Should it be patients and doctors? Or should the FDA decide for them?

Greg thinks a decentralized approach is better. Different patients will react to the same drug in different ways. A doctor can see if Avastin works or not for a patient, and they can make the right decision from there. The FDA relies on averages and medians for making its approval decisions, ignoring individuals. The trouble with that is, as Greg points out, there is no such thing as an average cancer patient.

A few weeks ago, I interviewed Greg about Avastin and the FDA here.

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.

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.