Most “economists” aren’t

by John Quiggin on February 18, 2006

I’ve always thought that an economist is someone who understands opportunity cost. If there is one thing a first-year undergraduate economics course should teach, it’s an understanding of this concept. So it’s alarming to discover that most members of a sample drawn from participants in the profession’s most important conference are not, at least by my definition, economists.

Via Harry Clarke, I found this paper by Paul Ferraro and Laura Taylor (guest registration or subscription required). Ferraro and Taylor presented their volunteer subjects with this question:

Please circle the best answer to the following question:

‘You won a free ticket to see an Eric Clapton concert (which has no resale value). Bob Dylan is performing on the same night and is your next-best alternative. Tickets to see Dylan cost $40. On any given day, you would be willing to pay up to $50 to see Dylan. Assume there are no other costs of seeing either performer. Based on this information, what is the opportunity cost of seeing Eric Clapton?

(a) $0
(b) $10
(c) $40
(d) $50.

Take some time to think before looking over the fold

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Folies Berlesques

by Henry on February 18, 2006

Yesterday’s “Economist”:http://www.economist.com/World/europe/displayStory.cfm?story_id=5526708 and “Financial Times”:http://news.ft.com/cms/s/704faaf2-9f59-11da-ba48-0000779e2340.html have uncannily similar stories about the reasons for Berlusconi’s political success.
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Blogs and progressive politics

by Henry on February 18, 2006

“Lakshmi Chaudry”:http://www.inthesetimes.com/site/main/article/2485/ has an interesting piece in _In These Times_ on whether or not blogs can revolutionize progressive politics. Interesting – but, I think, based on a flawed premise. Chaudry’s argument, as I understand it, is that blogs aren’t going to be able to fulfil their promise of creating a vital new progressive movement, based on the netroots, unless it becomes more internally diverse, embracing women, minorities and (something which not many people focus on) people from the working class. Lakshmi seems to buy in, at least in part, to the argument that blogs can be an

bq. inherently democratic, interactive and communal medium, with the potential to instantaneously tap into the collective intellectual, political and financial resources of tens of millions of fellow Americans to create a juggernaut for social change.

Where she disagrees with lefty blog evangelists is in her belief that:

bq. any such strategy is unlikely to work if those in charge of crafting it—be they bloggers, politicians or so-called netizens—show little interest in expanding the reach of the progressive blogosphere to include the largest, most diverse audience possible. If the blogs are unable to bridge the class divide online, there is no reason to think they can create a grassroots movement that can do so in the real world.

This seems to me to be based on the flawed premise that blogs can be the heart of a genuine mass-movement, with appeal to working class voters as well as politics geeks. Blogs are still an elite phenomenon, with a relatively low readership among non-elites. There are a lot of inflated numbers being thrown around – the most “convincing estimate”:http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB111685593903640572-fCzpdsaoZQ6NyRKcqCtIKD0afZE_20060531.html?mod=rss_free that I’ve seen suggests that the biggest political blog around, the Daily Kos, had less than 1% of the readership of the New York Times in the middle of last year (it has probably grown since). Blogs are politically important, not because they are the nucleus of a mass movement, or a new form of radical democracy, but because they are read by journalists, federal law clerks, political activists and others who may then be influenced by them. While Chaudry is right that the blogosphere needs more diversity, this isn’t because a greater diversity of voices among bloggers is likely to make blogs more appealing, say, to working class voters. It’s because blogs do sometimes frame political questions for the media, and to the extent that they’re mostly written by white college educated males who are interested in technology, they’re liable to skew politics a but in favour of the interests of aforesaid college educated males, and against the interests of other groups with different priorities. It seems to me that political blogs are a little better than print media or TV at, say, taking trade unions seriously, but not so much that we should be patting ourselves on the back or anything.

No Extra Push Required

by Kieran Healy on February 18, 2006

Last we heard from Andrew Sullivan, he was “hyping up the danger”:https://crookedtimber.org/2006/02/11/the-papers-continue-fatuous/ of clerical thugs being able to blackmail western democracies into dismantling themselves. I suggested that, insofar as civil liberties were being eroded, this was something elites in these countries were doing to themselves. Now I see that he’s come up with an example from (noted democracy) Russia of, in his words “How Muslim Blackmail Works”:http://time.blogs.com/daily_dish/2006/02/how_muslim_blac.html. One of Russia’s leading Muslim clerics said that anyone planning to turn out for a gay pride parade in Moscow “should be flogged”. The parade was canceled, and QED says Sullivan. Except that, as “Cathy Young argues”:http://cathyyoung.blogspot.com/2006/02/hyping-muslim-peril.html the news reports actually show a more complicated picture. The short version is that rather than being canceled in response to this pressure it was vetoed by the city government, and the muslim cleric was joined in his opposition to the parade by the Mayor, the local Russian Orthodox Bishop and others. Astonishingly, Putin’s Russia turns out not to be such a haven for free speech, civil society or popular dissent. Who’d have thought it?

I was gonna complain about a post that was up … on this blog … about Democrats are traitors. Hell with it. It went like this.

Amazing

Yep, that’s how it went. I nabbed the graphic from ‘dial B for blog’. Which is good, but not as funny as this, on a day to day basis.

JAAIS

by Chris Bertram on February 18, 2006

JAAIS is short for Jane-Austen-Adaptation-Inauthenticity-Syndrome. Sufferers can be of either sex, though most are female. The symptoms are a craving to see the latest TV or film adaptation of a Jane Austen novel, accompanied by anticipatory worries that “I bet it is going to be awful”. If the victim watches the adaptation at home, perhaps on a rented DVD, she feels the compulsion to keep up a commentary on the inauthenticity of the costumes, performances, location and on unwarranted departures from the original novel. “Mr Bennet was never at that ball!” or “They would never have done _that_ !” or “She’s far too old!” are standard remarks. There is no known cure.

I had to help someone suffering from a particularly bad case of JAAIS last night. When we then played the “alternate US ending” to “Pride and Prejudice”:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0414387/ — the awful extra syrupy gooey ending that was demanded by test audiences in Des Moines — I thought I was going to witness a seizure! No doubt the special super-schlocky ending was inflicted all over North America, so that even unsuspecting Canadian JAAIS sufferers were caught.

Salvage?

by John Quiggin on February 18, 2006

My wife forwarded this sequence of photos that are doing the rounds, headed “Irish Salvage”.

No doubt eagle-eyed Irish Timberites and readers will be able to point out that the truck is of a make used exclusively in the UK, or that the superscript on the manifest is of a type not found in the Irish localisation of MS Word.

Update: As expected, too good to be true. The second spill is faked. Still, it’s pretty funny.

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