Monday, January 29, 2007

Best Quote on the Week

From a State Senator early today -

You're asking me why we always want to tax the rich. For the same reason Willie Sutton robbed banks - Cause that's where the money is

Saturday, January 27, 2007


There is much brouhaha over Krugman’s NYT book review piece on Friedman. In it Krugman argues that Friedman was a great and honest economist but perhaps a less than honest public intellectual.

Commenters on Greg Mankiw as well as Arnold Kling himself have taken Krugman to task for what they see as pot-kettle syndrome. The following passage draws the most heat

Friedman's effectiveness as a popularizer and propagandist rested in part on his well-deserved reputation as a profound economic theorist. But . . it must be said that there were some serious questions about his intellectual honesty when he was speaking to the mass public

However I focus on the following lines and find a different conclusion

He says
Milton Friedman the great economist could and did acknowledge ambiguity. But Milton Friedman the great champion of free markets was expected to preach the true faith, not give voice to doubts. And he ended up playing the role his followers expected

But first he notes

Keynesianism was a great reformation of economic thought. It was followed, inevitably, by a counter-reformation. . . . If Keynes was Luther, Friedman was Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits.

and he concludes with

But what the world needs now, I'd argue, is a counter-counterreformation.

Is Krugman saying that he playing the role his followers expect. That like Friedman before him he is taking a harder line than he truly believes because the world needs it now?

Comments are welcome.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

People Who Say Money Can’t Buy Happiness . . .

Either don’t know a lot about money or don’t know a lot about happiness.

That has been among my favorite quips for over decade. Yet, how does it jive with the observation by Tyler Cowen and others that the rich aren’t much happier than the rest of us?

Studies of happiness reveal that moving out of poverty does indeed make people happier. However, it’s difficult to separate the happiness of the middle-class from the happiness of the rich. Does this mean that money can’t buy a nicer life after all?

Well, like so many things, it depends. In particular, it depends on what one means by rich. Traditional definitions of rich involve either having a lot of wealth or a lot of income. In particular most studies classify individuals as rich or not based on their yearly income.

Yet, income is not free. It often comes from giving up free time, relationships with family and friends, or work in field that you truly love. A person who chooses to have more time for hobbies or their children is giving up potential income in exchange for these experiences.

In essence they are buying those experiences with lost income. Indeed, time is one of the most expensive things that you can buy and people often appear rich, precisely because they haven’t bought very much free time.

In other words they have tons of money because they didn’t buy happiness. If they had bought happiness they’d have a lot less money left over, and so they wouldn’t show up on our national statistics as rich.

Yet, if by rich we mean having the potential to have a lot of income then I’ll be the rich are certainly happier. Those born into wealth but choosing to spend it providing a comfortable life for their friends and family are probably happy. Those whose natural intelligence, beauty or skill allows them to work only a few hours a day a still command a healthy salary are probably fairly content as well.

Those accidents of fortune are what make people truly rich and spending that fortune on time with family and friends will make them truly happy.

To My Loyal Readers

I know you’re out there somewhere. You’ve checked back a few times over the past months only to be disappointed that there was nothing new.

Well, I am back - new and employed.

That’s right, someone has seen fit to hire your lowly blogger and call him professor no less. The end is surely nigh.

My indubitably duped employer is that little blue university nestled in the Carolina hills, who by the way disavows all knowledge of this blog, my opinions, or anything else that might appear on these pages.

Sunday, January 7, 2007


I am not quite ready to hit the blogging mill full speed again but I had to note that like Samwick, I am vexed by the following statement.

It is also a fact that our tax cuts have fueled robust economic growth and record revenues.

Not only is this not supported by any reasonable take on the economics - that is that cut the increase in tax DEDUCTIONS that were the core of the Bush tax cuts could have a strong enough supply side effect to increase revenue - but moreover this is of a general class of "This is the most in history" type statements which sound big but mean nothing.

Today more people are walking the earth than ever in its history!

Today more people are using the Internet than ever before!

Over the next year record numbers of people will experience climate change!

Well of course all of these are true. Except for down turns now and then we should always be experiencing record revenues because the country is growing and our currency is inflating.

Upon seeing your nine year-old neice for the first time in a few years would you exclaim "My gosh Jenny you are taller than you have ever been in your entire life!"