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Saturday, November 29, 2003

Economics doesn't have to be painful...

But some economists sure like to make it difficult where it doesn't need to be.

I was reminded of this when I saw
Tyler Cowen puzzling over the following question:

Why are not all buildings in a city block of the same height, given that their owners presumably face common costs and returns?

Some suggested answers are regulation, non-convex building costs, and diversity of demand. Other things equal, I can see how those would affect the size of buildings.

But it seems to me that there is a much more obvious explanation, and that is that buildings are put up by entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs can only make educated guesses as to what their returns will be. Each entrepreneur has to decide a great many things about his building, including the number of floors, how each floor will be laid out, what the building will look like from the outside, which street will have the main entrance, and countless other factors.

Of course various entrepreneurs are going to have different ideas about what will be most profitable to them. It would be remarkably strange if it were otherwise.

One of Cowen's readers says this ostensible puzzle might keep him awake tonight. I suppose if I relied upon Chicago and neoclassical economic models to make sense of the world, I'd have some sleepless nights, too.

- posted by J. H. Huebert at 3:02 AM

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Unseen costs of America's latest funny money.

The other day I noticed that I would be unable to recharge my laundry card for a few days, because the machines were being refitted to accept the Fed's hideous new $20 bills.

What is the rationale for the new $20? To stop counterfeiters.

Well, that sounds good, I guess.

But why do we need to do that? The private sector had already figured out a way to stop counterfeiters: by making machines like the one I use to put money on my laundry card, that are able to recognize authentic bills and reject fakes.

How does the government reward the laundry card people's ingenuity in helping them fight the war on counterfeiting?

By making them expend who-knows-how-much retrofitting their machines.

By forcing them to spend money producing something that, like Bastiat's broken window, adds nothing whatsoever to the stock of human utility.

By forcing all of us to spend money on ludicrous advertisements for the new $20 bills, which we're required to use and spend anyway.

By making me wait to do my laundry.

You don't even need a cash machine to detect a fake $20 . Anyone can buy a special marker whose ink changes color if used on a counterfeit bill.

So why is the government going to all of this effort to stop counterfeiters, when individuals in the market were handling the situation just fine?

One can only assume to draw attention away from themselves, as the world's greatest legal counterfeiters, who are able to create money from nothing at a whim by using their printing press.

Casual observers note that our new bills look more like Monopoly money than the real thing. The description is apt in more ways than most of them know.

- posted by
J. H. Huebert at 2:39 AM

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Some Girls, even Eminem can't joke about.

You may not have thought it was possible, but now
the media has finally decided that Eminem's lyrics have gone too far.

Was it his recent hit "Superman" about using women for sex and leaving them? Was it the song about drugging women? The one about killing his girlfriend and putting her in the trunk of his car? The one about raping his mother?

Of course not. That kind of stuff is exactly why Eminem is famous and popular. And usually critics and everyone else have the good sense to know that it's all intended more or less ironically, and the joke's on you if you get very upset about it.

But there are some things even Eminem is not allowed to joke about it, and one of them, apparently, are non-white people.

As we all should know by now, "racism" is the worst crime anyone can commit in 21st century America. Anti-racism trumps all other values, always, without exception.

So here are the lyrics that have Eminem in trouble:

Black girls and white girls just don't mix
Because black girls are dumb and white girls are good chicks
White girls are good, I like white girls
I like white girls all over the world
White girls are fine and they blow my mind
And that's why I'm here now, telling you this rhyme
'Cause black girls, I really don't like.

That's it.

No profanity, nothing sexually explicit, no descriptions of or encitement to violence. Just a preference for white girls, expressed in the same joking style of most of Eminem's material, only more tame. But only now is he "embarassed" by something that proceeded from his mouth.

What strange times we live in.

- posted by J. H. Huebert at 11:45 PM

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Everyone loves an internet quiz!

So I took this
economics quiz everyone's talking about, but I'm not sure I understand my result...

It's a trap!

- posted by J. H. Huebert at 2:18 AM

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Apparently they're a bit liberal over at Oberlin.

Reading about Oberlin College's annual
school-sponsored orgy made me curious as to what else might go on at this school in my seemingly wholesome home state of Ohio.

Well, poking around the school's official website, I found this interesting page of journal entries by incoming freshmen there.

The one by Taylor Feyerabend (can't link directly, so you'll just have to go look yourself) is about what I expected. He talks about learning about Oberlin in a copy of U.S. News that he shoplifted, looks forward to stealing his rich roomates' pot, is going to put a poster of Noam Chomsky on the wall, and the like.

Another student, from Japan, writes that he learned about Oberlin from a book he stole from his piano teacher. One gets the feeling that the dining hall at Oberlin must be constantly running out of silverware.

The entry by Delilah Arden is a bit more surprising. Like me, Miss Arden seems to enjoy adventure travel. Unlike me, Miss Arden writes about spending "3 months in the Ozarks with nothing to eat but my girlfriend's [yep, that's right]." She looks forward to becoming the "big dyke on campus" (I expect she has her work cut out for her), but what is more, er, noticeable is the topless photo of herself with another nude girl that the school apparently allowed her to include here.

Still, that's nothing compared to what freshman Tom Trundell has given us. He starts off by telling about how his mom wants him to take medication for his snoring so he doesn't bother his roommate. Well, gosh, that sure would be embarassing, snoring too loud. Good idea, mom!

Then Tom tells us about his roommate, Patel. He hasn't met Patel yet but he just has a hunch that Patel might be "gay."

Now, that preemptive outing, by name, of a roommate you haven't even met yet on the school's official website may strike you as being of questionable advisability.

But you ain't seen nothin' yet.

Tom goes on to tell us that although he's straight himself, and even has a girlfriend, the thought of having a homosexual roommate excites him, because "secretly" he's "VERY excited to go to college and possible (sic) have a gay relationship." Tip for Tom from a college grad: Posting your desires on the internet, together with your name and photo, is not the best way to keep them secret.

Perhaps you are thinking at this point that Tom's journal entry has already given us way too much information, especially given that he has implicated his future roommate in all of this. If so, you would be right. But young Tom is not nearly finished.

Tom goes on to inform us that he does not actually want to have "anal intercourse." (He goes into more detail on this point, which I will spare you.) However, he volunteers, he would be "totally down with" performing oral sex on his roommate (again mentioned by name), or having his roommate do the same for him.

Well, even if Patel didn't turn out to be gay, one thing's for certain: if he read the school website before his arrival, he and Tom certainly weren't hard up for anything to talk about in their first conversation.

Like all young people heading off to college for the first time, Tom has worries, too. "I just hope I don't make too many friends too fast," he writes, "so college loses its anonymity and then I get too chicken to [perform fellatio on] anyone and I have to wait till I move to the big, anonymous city in 4 years."

Uh, Tom, I don't think you have to worry about compromising your anonymity at this point, and something tells me that inhibition isn't exactly your biggest problem, either.

I may enjoy beating up on the conservatives, but now I'm more certain than ever that I went to college with the right crowd.

- posted by J. H. Huebert at 6:12 PM

Debunking the Roosevelt myth (again).

The Wall Street Journal, an ostensible friend of the market, recently ran a
piece by Conrad Black repeating the absurd claim that FDR "saved" capitalism.

Here's Robert Higgs with a brief, appropriate response. And see, generally, The Roosevelt Myth by John T. Flynn.

- posted by J. H. Huebert at 3:18 PM

Thursday, November 06, 2003

"It really is a strange magazine."

One of Lew Rockwell's correspondents
hits the nail on the head in his comments about the other ostensibly libertarian magazine on the shelves, Reason.

Their slogan is "Free minds and free markets," but as the editor acknowledges, Reason has become decreasingly interested in free markets, and more interested in the more nebulous concept of "free minds."

As far as I can tell, having a "free mind" involves not only supporting a free market, but also endorsing anything that someone chooses to do in the free market as a good thing. In Reason, the statist is not the only enemy; so is anyone who criticizes anyone else's personal choices, no matter how self-destructive.

Thus, as the LRC writer noted, we have a book review in Reason in which transsexual economist Donald/Dierdre McCloskey slams a book that has the audacity to suggest that wanting to have one's penis chopped off and replaced with a faux vagina just might be abnormal. After all, how could anything anyone freely chooses to do in the free market ever be wrong in any sense at all?

Thus, we have Jacob Sullum upset that anyone would dare suggest that plunking your infant in front of that wonderful product of the free-market, the TV, and using it as a baby-sitter could be anything but great parenting.

Thus, editor Nick Gillespie blasts the movie Traffic. Oh sure, Traffic may criticize the drug war, but it even suggests that drug use may, in fact, be bad for you.

When they're not celebrating vice and gadgets, they like to pretend that their "hip" personal tastes in popular culture are of great intellectual significance. Thus, we get a lot of stuff like this piece by Virginia Postrel on why Buffy the Vampire Slayer has "deep meaning."

As the Rockwell reader suggested, the Reason people's fondness for vice, novelty, and bad TV are matched only by their apparent contempt for the foundational libertarian work of Ludwig von Mises. As their "top 35" demonstrates, you literally are more likely to see them praise Dennis Rodman as a visionary than give Mises credit for anything. But then, after all, that Mises guy was always such a square.

Still, Reason's not all bad. I liked this cover story on why the heroic Martha Stewart "should go to heaven, and the SEC should go to hell." I found this piece by Joe Bob Briggs, on the bizarre, once-controversial movie Mom and Dad informative and entertaining. Associate editor Jesse Walker often has good things to say. And there's often material of some interest by other good folks.

But as Rockwell's correspondent said, "It really is a strange magazine."

- posted by J. H. Huebert at 5:49 PM

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Truth in advertising?

It seems I overlooked something in my review of the November Liberty.

I negelected to note that, on the inside cover,
Mark Skousen is advertising his forthcoming FreedomFest as "The Greatest Intellectual Show on Earth!" (exclamation point in original).

I might have expected Mr. Skousen to show a bit more originality than that. Or at least give me credit for being the first one to to describe the previous fest as a "circus" and him personally as its "carnival barker."

Incidentally, I picked up the magazine again because it occurred to me that I forgot to review the usual Classified ads. Unfortunately, my search revealed that there weren't any this time, for some reason. Maybe that "HIV-" homosexual who was looking for love month after month finally found his match (or, at long last, gave up).

- posted by J. H. Huebert at 1:13 PM

Copyright 2004 J. H. Huebert.