(9.30.07) A Bright Idea--no bargain for consumers
In a slightly nuanced version of the classic Bootleggers and Baptists scenario, a number of U.S. manufacturers are seeking sweeping new regulation of their industries. These include some of the biggest manufacturers in the lighting—and thus the light bulb—industry. Incandescent bulbs could become extinct, albeit at a higher cost to the producer.
If manufacturers are willing to impose new costs on themselves, how is it that consumers will do pennance for the bargain?
(9.17.07) Civility, Self Interest, and the Common Good
Why can't people just behave better? It would be nice, but it wouldn't make sense, in some situations, to behave 'better.'
We can avoid a lot of counterproductive and uncivil behavior by allowing opportunity costs to drive citizens to responsible actions. Where self-sacrificing consideration for others fails, self interest can be a reasonable means of achieving socially responsible behavior.
(8.30.07) Truth, lies, and Forty-Two
"An appropriate answer to the right problem is worth a good deal more than an exact answer to an approximate problem." (J.W. Tukey)
And as Douglas Adams observed in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, "Forty-Two" isn't much of an answer to the Great Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, if one doesn't know what the question actually means. Statistics can obscure rather than illuminate a problem, if we aren't careful.
(8.17.07) The Six-Step Rehab: What I Did During My Summer Vacation
Virtually everyone can take steps to play to their strengths. They'll also benefit from dropping the things they loathe.
(8.10.07) The Theory and Practice of Interns
Sure, we send them out for supplies. They move chairs and boxes, collect fees at events, make copies, and man the telephones. They are valuable assets to our research staff and our administrators. The Locke interns work at the interesection of theory and policy here, so reading economic and political theory to inform policy is an integral part of our intern program. I think it's a win-win-win approach.
(7.22.07) Oh say can you sea?
Coastline management issues are taking on added significance these days, both in policy and in conservation circles. One part of the discussion of coastal policy focuses on the increasing costs of storm-related damage to North Carolina's coastal areas and property. Another aspect focuses on the dynamics of coastlines and barrier islands themselves.
But perhaps it's time that beach property owners ante up, or build their 'ocean view' from a distance.
(7.01.07) $3.50, $3.15, $2.79, or $2.50?
When does the market get prices 'right,' according to consumers? To read the news or listen to broadcast media, one might think that the answer is 'pretty much never.' People just aren't happy with prices, of everything from gasoline to groceries. Yet it's not true that markets generally get prices wrong, in spite of the fact that we consumers think we know better.
(6.22.07) Pigging out and hitting the trail mix
Hog farmers, faced with ever more expensive feed corn, are turning to cast-offs from human snack and junk food producers to feed their livestock. Increased demand from biofuels—ethanol from corn specifically—production is making corn significantly more scarce and driving up price. To preserve our personal and economic freedoms, it's far better to let Wall St. rather than Congress give the production signals.
(5.31.07) Horse Feathers!
Why would you pay someone more for a service that you don't use, than for one that you do? Ordinarily, it doesn't happen that way. When customers choose not to engage the services of a musician, handyman, or babysitter, they don't expect to pay a premium above what it would cost to actually have them work.
In telecommunications, customer preferences should be allowed to guide the choice of communications services.
(5.21.07) Why not vaccinate?
The fact that past immunization programs have been enormously beneficial to society doesn't mean that every vaccination program is part of a sound policy. The public health policy toward immunizations in general should be separated from the recent controversy over administering the Gardisill vaccine to nine-year-olds. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that mandatory human papillomavirus vaccination 'has undermined public confidence and created a backlash among parents.'