East Coast Bias

by Brian on August 22, 2008

Obama’s VP Candidate will be, presumably, announced today. On political grounds I’d prefer the candidate to be Kathleen Sebelius, but on historical grounds I sort of hope it will be Brian Schweitzer. Since Obama is “finishing his pre-convention tour in Montana”:http://marcambinder.theatlantic.com/archives/2008/08/after_springfield.php, it might be too. Here’s why I’d prefer it on historical grounds.

In the lower 48 states of the US, there are four time zones, dividing the country up into roughly equal areas from east to west. In the early years of the country pretty much all of its population lived in the two easternmost time zones, the Eastern and the Central. (Actually in the very early years there probably weren’t such things as time zones, but the people lived in what are now the Eastern and Central time zones.) Even today, if “this information”:http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=714986 is correct, about 77% of the population live in those two time zones. So you might expect that the Democratic Party would have taken a fair time to have someone run on its Presidential ticket who was either born outside those time zones, or lived outside those time zones.

The first Democratic candidate (for either President or Vice-President) to be born outside the two easternmost time zones was Adlai Stevenson (1952, 1956), who was born in Los Angeles. Barring a major surprise, Barack Obama will be the second.

The first Democratic candidate (for either President or Vice-President) to be living outside those two time zones when they are nominated is, I believe, yet to be determined, because there haven’t been any yet. [click to continue…]

Making a House a Whole

by Kieran Healy on August 22, 2008

At present I’m in a part of Ireland where internet access is about as common as sunshine and clear skies. This means I have only belatedly come across Matt Yglesias’s call for technical assistance from my wife, in her capacity as a trained professional mereologist, to help resolve the thorny question of whether John McCain’s luxury double-condo in Phoenix counts as one house or two. My understanding is that mereological relations are somewhat flexible, and it’s quite acceptable for the same material object to be two condos and one home. Nevertheless, I am a mereologist by marriage only, so my views should not be taken as representing the opinions of a trained and licensed professional. I do think that this issue opens up the possibility of a new kind of political philosophy, though.

Discounting Sunstein

by John Quiggin on August 22, 2008

David Weisbach and Cass Sunstein (h/t Nicholas Gruen) have written a piece for the AEI Center for Regulatory and Market Studies[1] weighing into the debate about climate change and discounting, promising “A Guide for the Perplexed”. But their treatment of the topic is only like to add to the perplexity of anyone interested in resolving the issues.

Shorter Weisbach-Sunstein: If ethical considerations suggest that the most appropriate discount rate is 1.4 per cent, but the market rate of return is 5.5 per cent, it’s best to use the 5.5 per cent rate in evaluating climate change policies.

As a hypothetical statement this is broadly correct. Weisbach and Sunstein illustrate the point by considering someone choosing between an investment yielding a 10 per cent increase in value over 2 years and the alternative of putting money in the bank at 6 per cent, which is clearly superior.

The problems arise for the reader who tries to plug in real numbers. According to today’s New York Times the rate of interest on 10-year Treasury bonds is 3.84 per cent. Assuming (optimistically) that the Fed manages to hold inflation at 2.5 per cent over the next years, that’s a real rate of 1.34 per cent, almost exactly equal the rate quoted as justified on ethical grounds.

So to restate Weisbach and Sunstein with real numbers:If ethical considerations suggest that the most appropriate discount rate is 1.4 per cent, but the market rate of return is 1.3 per cent, it doesn’t matter which one you choose.

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