Quotulatiousness

January 13, 2018

QotD: Occupational licensing

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Business, Quotations, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

When my mother retired from selling real estate, she toyed with the idea that she — a talented cook who had long made her own croissants — might make a little money on the side by selling homemade baked goods. It’s the sort of business that people have started from time immemorial, letting them share what they love with someone willing to pay for it.

A quick investigation, however, revealed that the thing was impossible. You can’t just bake a little stuff at home and sell it, for fear that you might poison people. If you want to poison people with your deliciously flaky homemade croissants, it must be done on a strictly ad-hoc, volunteer basis.

Welcome to the modern economy, where increasingly, everything not compulsory is forbidden. We are hedged around with rules to protect us, to protect other people, to protect some theoretical victim who exists only in the minds of regulators and judges. And there’s reason to worry that this red tape is getting wrapped so tight that it risks rendering us immobile.

I’m not talking about environmental regulations, or even the labor regulations that make it increasingly expensive and burdensome to employ people. Today I’m talking about occupational licensing, and the burden it places on people who want to build a career.

Megan McArdle, “You’re Gonna Need a License for That”, Bloomberg View, 2016-05-17.

December 29, 2017

2017 wasn’t all doom and gloom and Trump tweet wars

Veronique de Rugy manages to find three things that 2017 produced that somehow didn’t kill millions of Americans (so far, as far as we know):

First, President Donald Trump just signed a historic reduction in the corporate income tax rate, from 35 percent — the highest of all industrialized nations — to 21 percent. And except for a one-time repatriation tax, the U.S. will no longer tax most profits made by businesses overseas.

Both changes should boost economic growth and American workers’ wages. Moreover, the reform removes many of the distortions that discourage companies from investing foreign-earned income in the United States and prompt them to use tax avoidance techniques.

Second, this was a very good year for deregulation. Cutting taxes isn’t the only way to boost growth and raise wages; innovation may matter even more. Getting rid of duplicative and outdated regulatory hurdles to innovation promises to have a real impact on our lives. That’s what the Trump administration, with the help of Congress, seems committed to doing.

When the president first got to the White House, for example, he froze many not-yet-implemented Obama-era regulations. These include the punishing overtime pay regulation, which would have increased the cost of employing workers and ultimately reduced their base compensation to offset the increase in overtime pay.

[…]

Last but not least are the sustained efforts by Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Richard Shelby, R-Ala., to slow down the process that would restore the Export-Import Bank, a bastion of cronyism, to its full and former glory.

Appointing enough board members to give Ex-Im a full quorum would instantly restore the agency’s ability to sign off on deals above $10 million for the benefit of a handful of very large foreign and domestic corporations. By resisting, the two senators are fighting a lonely fight on behalf of the unseen victims of corporate welfare.

December 19, 2017

The imminent threat of Neo-Victorianism

Filed under: Business, Education, Government, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Megan McArdle on the moral panic currently gripping modern American public life:

The same logic applies to the burdens of proof. If unsubstantiated claims are accepted at face value, then eventually enough will turn out to be false that many future claims will be disregarded — whether they are plausible or not, whether they are substantiated or not. That was the harm done by cases like the Duke Lacrosse scandal, the UVA rape case, the Tawana Brawley accusations, and many others. But there’s another potential harm we also have to think about.

Let’s say that we do manage to establish a social norm that a single accusation of “inappropriate sexual behavior” toward a woman is enough to get you fired and drummed out of your industry. It’s the crux of the issue so eloquently explored recently by Claire Berlinski: What would a reasonable and innocent heterosexual man do to protect himself from the economic death penalty?

One thing he might do is avoid being alone with anyone of the opposite sex — not in the office and not even in social situations. You might, in other words, adopt something like the Pence Rule, so recently mocked for its Victorian overtones. (Or worse still, work hard not to hire any women who could become a liability.)

This would obviously be bad for women, who would lose countless opportunities for learning, advancement, friendship, even romance — the human connections that make us human workers superior to robots, for now.

On the radio recently, I pointed out that this might be a logical result of a “one strike and you’re out” policy. The host, aghast, remarked that this was obviously not what we wanted. And of course, that isn’t what anyone wants. It might nonetheless be the logical result of the rules we’re setting up.

It’s easy for me to think of all the things I would have lost out on under a strict Pence Rule. The creative writing professor who conducted my independent study in his house, for example. It was perhaps a more innocent time, but even then I was not unaware of the sexual overtones our culture would see in a young female student going to a much older male professor’s home while his wife was at work. He was a perfect gentleman who made me cabbage soup, taught me to insert little slivers of garlic into a beef roast, and savagely critiqued my prose. David Slavitt, wherever you are, thank you for making me a better writer. And my condolences to all the female students today who will never have similar opportunities — if I may judge by the bemusement/horror of male professors to whom I have told this story.

December 18, 2017

QotD: The perils of well-meaning regulation

Filed under: Economics, Government, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Because the rich and powerful run the government, the poor and other powerless have been regularly hurt by governmental regulation – even by such sweet-sounding regulations as evening closing of shops (making it hard for the working poor to have time to shop) or protections limiting the hours women could work (making it hard for them to hold supervisory jobs requiring one to come early and stay late) or building codes claiming to promote safety but instigated by building trade unions (making it hard to build inexpensive housing) or minimum wages (making it hard for blacks, immigrants, women, and nonmembers of craft unions to get paying jobs).

Dierdre McCloskey, Bourgeois Equality, 2016.

December 16, 2017

QotD: Ending the risk of sexual assault in the workplace

Filed under: Business, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

As an economist I always try to find the simplest, cheapest, and most effective solutions to society’s problems. However, whereas mere mediocre economists talk about multi-factor productivity, education, etc., the reason I’m one of the best economists is because I do something most others don’t.

I think outside the box.

And so, just like I was (in theory) able to prevent the Dotcom Bubble, the Asian Currency Crisis, the Housing Bubble, Education Bubble, and Retirement Bubble, I have found a way to bring the epidemic of sexual harassment and sexual assault to a screeching halt, and at practically no expense to America.

Force men to work from home.

It seems to me that “boys are just going to be boys” and while I know feminists, academians, HR departments, CSR departments, and non-profits are doing their best to eliminate toxic masculinity and bring out the more feminine side of men, until that noble goal is achieved, it may be best to avail ourselves of already available technology and require that men only work from home.

This will bring about a lot of benefits to society that go well beyond ending work place sexual harassment and assault. Women won’t be bothered by men at the office or in the downtown eateries come lunch time. They will not be harassed, allowing for much safer work place environments. An all-women workplace environment will FINALLY come to fruition allowing them the chance to excel that was traditionally the preserve of men. Plus, the highways won’t be as crowded come the morning and evening commutes. One might even say this would force men to be the house husbands, forcing them to see what it was like to be oppressed as a stay at home mom.

Captain Capitalism, “End Sexual Assault by Forcing Men to Work from Home”, Captain Capitalism, 2017-11-13.

December 13, 2017

QotD: Licensing and entrepreneurship

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Business, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Much as I love Silicon Valley, its cultural dominance has disastrously corrupted our sense of what entrepreneurship is. Talking about starting your own business, and too many people think the measure of success is whether you can sell the thing for at least a couple of hundred million dollars. Most entrepreneurship is considerably more humble than that; it is individuals with some talent, or a willingness to work hard, who want to sell their services to the public. They may never employ another person; they may not even work full time themselves. And these people never buy gracious mansions, or endow scholarships, or get buildings named after them. They just make their own lives a little bit better, hopefully, in the process of doing the same for their customers. We are artificially stopping that process, in order to protect insiders who already have the job.

That’s great for the insiders, who get above-average job stability and wages. But it’s terrible for the folks who are outside. And the more industries we put under the control of such regimes, the more the outsiders will show up in our economic data as people permanently stuck at the bottom.

We can do better than that. The problem is that such regimes are politically very stable, because the benefits are highly concentrated, while the costs are diffuse. Every licensed interior designer is passionately interested in shutting out unlicensed competitors, but their potential customers probably have better things to do than phone up their senators to demand to know why they can’t hire this chap they just met who has absolutely splendid taste in early Chippendale.

Megan McArdle, “You’re Gonna Need a License for That”, Bloomberg View, 2016-05-17.

December 11, 2017

QotD: Occupational licensing

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Government, Law, Liberty, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

… occupational licensing laws and Competitor’s Veto laws exclude would-be entrepreneurs from the marketplace — with disproportionately negative consequences for members of minority groups — […] Congress could act today to protect the fundamental human right of economic liberty against unjust state interference.

Licensing laws tend to have particularly harsh consequences on members of minority groups for a couple reasons. First, if a law requires a person to have, say, a college degree to practice the trade of interior design (which is the law in Florida), people who have less money and time to spend in college will find that avenue of opportunity closed to them. Since black and Hispanic Floridians are about 30 percent less likely to have a college degree, they will suffer more from this absurd licensing requirement than others will. Competitor’s Veto laws that forbid a person from practicing a trade unless they get permission from the businesses already operating in that industry are also very likely to create a sort of Old Boys Network, and to exclude entrepreneurs who lack political connections. Second, in a more general sense, any law that restricts economic opportunity for some to benefit others — as licensing laws tend to do — are likely to benefit those who have more political influence and can therefore get the government to regulate in ways favorable to them. Since members of minority groups have less political influence, they tend to be the ones excluded.

Timothy Sandefur, “Testifying to the U.S. Senate Oversight Subcommittee Tuesday about economic liberty and minorities”, Freespace, 2015-09-30.

November 30, 2017

“[W]henever I visit a newsroom these days, I instinctively feel unhealthy, like a 19th-century Lake Poet visiting an especially polluted part of London”

Filed under: Business, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Colby Cosh goes well out of his way to rub salt in the wounds of daily commuters, while basking in the glories of working from home:

When Statistics Canada puts its big brains to work on measuring the time devoted to commuting, and the various ways in which people drag their butts to work, I always read the results with the particular interest-fascination-horror of a permanent non-commuter. I am well into my second decade of working full-time, pretty much exclusively, from home. I’m dragged out of the house very occasionally for assignments and broadcast appearances, but most of what I do for a living happens a few feet from my bed.

None of it, I should specify, actually happens in bed (and relatively little of it involves actual writing). As most people who have to physically travel to a job seem to suspect, working remotely gives you a scary, even nauseating freedom to customize your working arrangements. I suppose most of us professional shut-ins find that we have to establish arbitrary rules and mini-disciplines to prevent our lives from becoming totally unstructured and unhealthy. “Bed is for sleep” is one of mine.

All of my conscious writing and research is done strictly at a desk, whether or not I happen to be wearing pants. With that said, as I get older, I do find sleep to be a more important component of my overall work process. Naps can be magical, and the ability to get around a writing difficulty by means of one is something I would immediately miss if I became a miserable corporate prisoner/drone again.

This kind of consideration deepens the psychic divide between commuters and remote workers: we have trouble understanding one another’s worlds even when we have switched between them. Commuters shudder at the thought of an amorphous life with less social contact and minimal formal barriers between work and non-work. Indeed, I think working at home does make one a little dottier (note: this is not necessarily a practical disadvantage for a newspaper columnist). I suspect it may also discourage groupthink. It definitely cuts down on pointless meetings; and whenever I visit a newsroom these days, I instinctively feel unhealthy, like a 19th-century Lake Poet visiting an especially polluted part of London.

I’ve spent more of my time working from home over the last decade than sitting in the office (and therefore also needing to drag my carcass to and from said office), and I really do understand his viewpoint. It’s one of the things I anticipate with no joy at all, as any new job I’m likely to land will probably require a daily commute. On a good day, it’s about an hour’s drive to downtown Toronto, but there aren’t enough good travel days and taking public transit literally doubles that time. Spending four hours per day to get to work and back feels very wasteful, even when I can get in some reading on the way.

November 20, 2017

QotD: The surprise of motherhood to high-achieving women

Filed under: Health, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Motherhood surprises women these days. Not the fact of motherhood. Many women meticulously plan their pregnancies. Certainly, women of advanced education plan childbearing, occasionally to a fault.

The fact of motherhood does not shock, but the day-to-day of motherhood and the intensity of motherhood do. As a culture we condition women to believe that having a baby is just a biological function and they will go back to their previous lives, albeit with babes in tow, after a few weeks of recovery.

[Insert gentle, hysterical, or bitter laughter from experienced moms here.]

Trained to be doctors and lawyers and such, today’s young educated women did not typically care for babies when they were growing up. College bound, they had better things to do than babysit babies and their mothers had visions of them doing “more” and wouldn’t dream of expecting their child to care for other children. Even now, many of the mothers I know — I’m in the highly educated and metropolitan set — think that expecting older siblings to care for younger ones is some combination of dangerous and unfair. And watching a young girl play with babies is almost pitiable.

In this domestic discouragement, we lay the foundation for the common motherhood shock. Unaware of even what should be the known knowns of motherhood, newly expecting moms tend to read books about pregnancy and childbirth. It is presently happening to their bodies and book learning comes easily to the modern woman. It’s how we made all those good grades and have out-enrolled men in higher education, after all.

Leslie Loftis, “High-Achieving Women Find They’re Not Prepared for Motherhood”, PJ Media, 2016-03-31.

October 17, 2017

QotD: The problem with modern education – an alien conspiracy?

Filed under: Education, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

So, what is going on?

Lots of things. Look, I’m a science fiction writer. It’s easy for me to say “There is a conspiracy by aliens, to make sure we never get to the stars. They infiltrated our education establishment and are destroying competence from within.

Except it’s not just education, and I don’t believe in aliens or that ALL of this is done on purpose.

But Sarah, you’ll say, some of it is, like Bill Ayers redesigning education as a means to bring about a biddable proletariat.

Oh, sure, that might have been how the dumbass conceived it. It’s not why it’s applied though. And dumbass? Yep. Bill Ayers, like most progressives is a clever fool who thinks society spins on words and theories, and not on basic “can do”. This is one of the reasons communist societies QUICKLY become hell on Earth. Because you can’t get rid of everyone who is competent without the rest of society collapsing. The ceiling doesn’t stay up when you remove the walls. People who’ve been educated beyond their competence don’t see that though.

Still, most people who APPLY his poisonous ideas aren’t frankly competent enough to know what they’re doing. No. They’re doing it for other reasons.

    Stupidity – the most powerful force on Earth.

    There are any number of people who’ll do whatever without thinking because someone in authority tells them not only that they should, but that “it’s the new way of doing things. All the smart people follow it.” And frankly they’re not competent enough to evaluate the “new way of doing things” so they settle for APPEARING smart.

    Rapid change.

    Even in the village, the teacher often floundered. They’d added pre-history to the curriculum, and she’d never studied it. So… her idea of pre-history was the Flintstones. I came home talking about cars made of stone (I wish I’d had a camera to take picture of dad’s face.) Mom and dad corrected it. NO BIG.

    If my kids are maleducated in the same way say, about computers, I can’t fix it. What’s more, I’m not alone. H*ll I found out the model of the atom I learned was superseded and that the physics I learned was not at all like what the kids learned (they thought I was nuts.) AND when Robert came home and told me “We’re sequencing DNA in lab. When you sequenced DNA–”

    No, it’s not a complete excuse, no matter what they tell you, but it is PART of it. Not in teachers not being able to keep up, but in parents or even grandparents no longer being able to fill in those deficiencies.

    The same applies to just about any type of work, btw, because the methods are so different now that the old codger who walked to the shop and corrected the new hires? He no longer can teach them anything.

    A belief in “natural” things and “natural” learning and that if it’s not fun, it’s not right. This apparently is the flowering of the student revolts in the sixties. It is certainly what is destroying marriage as an institution.

    You see, every marriage goes through rough patches. I probably have one of the happiest marriages in the world, but yeah, there were days, evenings, and sometimes entire months when I’d have traded the whole thing for ten cents and a pack of chewing gum. It’s just I knew it had been good and would be again.

    The same applies to learning. I don’t care how “gifted” you are at math or languages or even writing, you are not gifted enough to intuit the whole thing at our present level. NO MATTER HOW GIFTED YOU ARE, YOU’RE NOT GOING TO RECONSTITUTE AN ENTIRE SCIENCE OR ART WITHOUT LEARNING. And learning means some tedium, some memorizing and the inevitable patch that is difficult, even though everything else came easily.

    When the entire establishment goes over for “should be fun” you’re going to fail.

    Fear.

    People who are mal-educated and conscious of it don’t hire people who know more than they do. Okay, so some do, but not many and those people are exceptional. This is why the whole “The president can be a dumbass if he hires good advisors” always fails, as we have proof daily. People don’t want their subordinates to upstage them. Any of you who EVER corrected a boss knows exactly what I’m talking about.

    So, let’s imagine that this started with the student revolts (it started a little earlier, with the busy parents who came back from WWII not passing things on.)

    Those people hit the market place and hired people my generation who were LESS prepared than they were. They were AFRAID of being exposed. Then my generation hired people less prepared and then…

Sarah Hoyt, “The War On Competence”, According to Hoyt, 2016-03-04.

September 26, 2017

When virtue signalling is more important than tens of thousands of jobs

Filed under: Britain, Business, Government — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

In Spiked, Brendan O’Neill slams the (mostly left-leaning) critics of Uber for their blatant two-faced attitudes:

The satire writes itself these days. For the past 16 months, ever since voters said No to the EU, the supposed liberal set has been signalling its virtue over migrant workers. These Remainer types have filled newspaper columns and dinner-party chatter with sad talk about foreigners losing the right to travel to and work in Britain. Yet now these same people have chortled as London mayor Sadiq Khan and his pen-pushers at Transport for London (TfL) have refused to renew Uber’s licence in the capital. Which means 30,000 people will lose work. Many of them migrants. They cry over migrant workers one day, and laugh as they lose their livelihoods the next.
Anyone would think their overriding concern is less with migrants’ right to work than with their own insatiable need to engage in political posturing. And right now, when it’s trendy to be anti-capitalist, to sneer at Silicon Valley fat-cats who make apps that employ people in far from ideal conditions, the posture that guarantees one’s spot in liberal circles is to be Uberphobic. Sticking it to Uber, making a spectacle of one’s haughty disdain for the vagaries of life in 21st-century capitalist society, takes precedence over concern for workers themselves. Welcome to 2017, where it’s cool to be anti-capitalist but not pro-worker.

[…]

One of the ugliest sentiments behind Uberphobia is the idea that this service is a threat to the public, especially women. Darkly, the new left is at one with the anti-migrant hard right on this question: both have cheered Uber’s licence loss on the basis that women of London must be protected from unregulated drivers. Let’s get this into perspective. Last year it was revealed that between February 2015 and February 2016 there were 32 allegations of sexual assault against Uber drivers in London. There were a total of 154 allegations against all taxi and car firms, meaning Uber made up a minority of complaints. What’s more, there are millions of Uber journeys in London every year, so the chances of assault are minuscule. It’s the same in the US. There was scandal when it was revealed that Uber had received complaints from women who said they had been raped by drivers. It received five complaints between 2012 and 2015, which means 0.0000009% of car journeys involved an alleged act of rape. Uber is very safe indeed.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that, from both leftish feminists and the hard right, the panic about Uber is driven partly by fear of unregulated foreign men driving around our cities. The state must regulate, they say — and they mean it must regulate both business and foreigners, both fat cats and untrustworthy outsiders, both moneymen and migrants. Cheering as migrant workers lose their work and being complicit in the depiction of migrant drivers as a rapacious threat: sections of the liberal-left have really exposed their prejudices through their posturing against Uber. The tragedy of Uberphobia is that it confirms that even anti-capitalism is now virtue-signalling. It is no longer a serious call to improve working people’s lives; it is just the fleeting thrill of shouting ‘Down with Uber!’ without ever letting the issue of its drivers’ livelihoods cross your pristine, virtuous mind.

September 9, 2017

Minimum Wage: Bad for Humans, Good for Robots

Filed under: Business, Economics, Government — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 7 Sep 2017

Jacking up the minimum wage sounds like a good idea, but it comes with disastrous consequences: low-skilled workers getting canned, employers cutting hours, and, of course, robots.

August 29, 2017

QotD: The power of unions

Filed under: Business, Economics, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Moreover, the ability of unions to raise the wages of some workers does not mean that universal unionism could raise the wages of all workers. On the contrary, and this is a fundamental source of misunderstanding, the gains that strong unions win for their members are primarily at the expense of other workers.

The key to understanding the situation is the most elementary principle of economics: the law of demand — the higher the price of anything, the less of it people will be willing to buy. Make labor of any kind more expensive and the number of jobs of that kind will be fewer.

Milton and Rose Friedman, Free to Choose, 1980.

August 24, 2017

Words & Numbers: Child Labor Was Wiped Out by Markets, Not Government

Filed under: Business, Economics, Government — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 23 Aug 2017

In 1938 the US government passed the Fair Labor Standards Act mandating a forty hour work week, establishing a minimum wage, and prohibiting child labor. Because of legislation like this, government is often credited for making the American work environment safer and more fair. Yet, as Antony Davies and James Harrigan demonstrate with historical data, market forces were already making things easier on the American worker long before the FLSA.

Learn More:
https://fee.org/articles/child_labor_was_wiped_out_by_markets_not_government
https://youtu.be/0zq-2cKENOc

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2015/sep/09/viral-image/does-8-hour-day-and-40-hour-come-henry-ford-or-lab/

https://fee.org/articles/child_labor_was_wiped_out_by_markets_not_government

Data:

http://www2.census.gov/prod2/statcomp/documents/CT1970p1-05.pdf
See page 170 for average weekly work hours.
See page 134 for child labor rates.

August 3, 2017

Words & Numbers: Is UBI Better Than Welfare?

Filed under: Economics, Government — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 2 Aug 2017

A viewer recently asked us what Words & Numbers thought of Universal Basic Income.

Antony Davies likes the idea of it, provided it’s done well, but doesn’t think it could ever possibly be done well. But what about a theoretical UBI? If we could actually figure out how to implement that well, would that work? And why wouldn’t that work in the real world? This week on Words and Numbers, Antony and James R. Harrigan tackle the issue that’s getting a lot of attention in Silicon Valley.

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