100 Economics Question of the Day: An Intermittent Blog: September 2006

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Out of Context Quote, Small Sample Size

"Rapid price changes lead to economic inefficiency." - Samuelson and Nordhaus, 16th ed., p. 373

TOS currently: $139.99 (though I believe it's $44.99 per season in the stores).

Original pricing from late 2004:

Season 1: $106.99
Season 2: $106.99
Season 3: $ 99.99

Memory serving, the set was offered last Xmas for around $270. Best Buy now lists it for $179.99.

Does this count as deflation?

By the way, the best Star Trek series is coming out for Thanksgiving.

(Cross-posted to Marginal Utility)

The Times Drinks Habitat's Kool-Aid—Still...

The letter from Peter Ostrower praising the efforts of his organization, Habitat for Humanity, in the rebuilding of New Orleans is revelatory.

(To be clear: I gave regularly to Habitat until they shifted their literature to emphasize that they are a "Christian" organization, at which point I shifted to other organizations. I still admire the work they do and their publicity skills.)

Mr. Ostrower declares his group "the city's largest organized rebuilding effort." How much rebuilding?
Habitat has handed over the keys to more than 30 houses this summer and plans to complete 100 homes this year.

Cool. At that pace, it would only take 300 years to rebuild the city. Ostrower continued:
Habitat's goal of 1,500 new houses by 2011 creates a significant demand for volunteer labor. Although our current progress may seem like a modest first step, it's an energetic start.

So, if they get the "volunteer labor," Habitat would be able to build an average of either 280 (if he means 2007-2011, inclusive) or 350 (if he means 2007-2010) houses a year. Which would have the city almost rebuilt around the end of this century.

Don't get me wrong; to re-emphasize, I support the effort of Habitat for Humanity in spirit (the rest of you can send cash). But their capacity and "energetic start" isn't anywhere near what would be needed.

Tell me again, please, why we should believe that private charities are any more efficient or effective than government support and funding?

(Cross-posted at Marginal Utility)

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Understatement of the Century

In the continuing Economists-cage-match, Duncan Black puts into words (a bit too glibly, perhaps) what often bothers me about Brad DeLong's arguments:
This, in a nutshell, is the worldview of the Sensible Liberal. It's the belief that there are Sensible Policies concocted by Wise Men (and women), preferably ones with advanced degrees, which are Right and True and Good. Wise Men may disagree a bit about the means, and we should throw a few conferences to hash these differences out. Politics and ideologues who do not share the ideology of the Wise Men, who of course are not really tainted by ideology, get in the way of enacting policies which are Sensible.

It's a dangerously wrong view of the world.

As they say in the blogsphere, read The Whole Thing.

Especially, though, see DeLong's post that inspired the reply, since the discussion (with himself) is not unreasoned:
First, I think...that the benefits of using government policies to strengthen unions (while they are certainly there) are much smaller than Paul [Krugman] judges them to be.

This is perhaps a matter for discussion as described, though one notes that many of DeLong's cohorts (and himself) are perfectly willing to argue for R&D credits that don't benefit workers either directly or proportionately while making such statements.

The second half of the argument is more clear-cut, though.
The events of the past decade and a half have convinced [Paul Krugman], I think, that people like me are hopelessly naive, and that the Democratic coalition is the only place where reality-based discourse is possible. Thus, in his view, the best road forward to (a) make the Democratic coalition politically dominant through aggressive populism, and then (b) to argue for pragmatic reality-based technocratic rather than idealistic fantasy-based ideological policies within the Democratic coalition.

He may well be right.

Xenos, in comments, finishes the job of hanging DeLong's hide to the shed (De Long tanned it himself), but is short by two orders of magnitude.
"He may well be right."

Understatement of the year. [typo corrected]

(Cross-posted from Marginal Utility, where Tom continued the concept with more discussion and data.)