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What if...

Mort Zuckerman on this week's McLaughlin Group:

If you take out food and energy, the inflation rate is literally under 1.5 percent.

What if we eat and drive cars? What's the inflation rate then?

$10,000 Pencils

Quick thought experiment:

Congress, having realized the importance of pencil-ownership, passes the "Americans with Pencils Act" (APA). It's goal is to promote the ownership of pencils by helping to make them more affordable. The bill creates tax incentives for Americans who purchase pencils. Essentially, anyone purchasing a pencil is given a $10,000 tax rebate for EACH pencil purchased in that year, starting NOW.

a) What happens next?
b) Does the bill achieve its stated goal?

Rent Rant

It sometimes amazes me what passes for economic common sense. My pet peeve is the oft-repeated "throwing money away on rent" argument. It's often followed by something like "You could be putting that money towards equity!"

The idea that one is wasting money by paying rent is absurd. Has no one heard of Opportunity Cost? Buying a given house might be a good investment, but living in that house isn't necessarily a good idea. A good investment is a good investment. A good place for one to live might be somewhere else. They don't necessarily coincide. Read more »

Set your sights higher

An editorial in today's NY Times points out that a recent decision of a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Massachusetts sets a scary precedent, whereby the content of private emails are fair game for use by email service providers.

The Times' conclusion: Read more »

Tell Me What to Do!

Somewhere out there someone is doing something stupid, that isn't yet illegal. One approach is to find that person, jail him, make the act illegal, then pat ourselves on the back. Another approach is to refrain from subsidizing stupidity, and let people pay for their mistakes. Read more »

Chain Letter Nonsense - Again

Here's the latest iteration in the evolution of chain letter nonsense. I've edited it down to the most stupid parts.

This makes MUCH MORE SENSE than the don't buy gas on a certain day
campaign that was going around last April or May! The oil companies just
laughed at that because they knew we wouldn't continue to hurt ourselves
by refusing to buy gas. It was more of an inconvenience to us than it
was a problem for them. BUT, whoever thought of this idea, has come up
with a plan that can really work.

Elvis Costello v Walter Block?

They each have large followings, are quite prolific, and have their own domains of expertise. But, have you ever wondered who would win in a no-holds barred matchup between Walter Block and Elvis Costello? Sources have it that the two are not talking to each other. Read more »

Chain Letter Nonsense

More Reality TV Economics

If you're a student of Reality TV Economics, set your TiVo Wishlist for Colonial House. It airs starting Monday night in New York. Similar to PBS's Frontier House, 1900 House, and Manor House, Colonial House is hands-on "experimental history". The "colonists" will arrive on a period tall ship, and be forced to make due with "tools and technology of the era." Read more »

The Good, the Bad, and the Entrepreneurs

While I make no claim that HBO's weekly series "Deadwood" is a fount of historical realism, I am intrigued at the prospect of gaining any hints of what life in a state of true freedom is like.

RealDeadwood.jpg Read more »

Separation of Philosophy and State

Why do we treat religion as a big exception? We don't tax churches. It's illegal to discriminate in employing someone based on his religion.

What is the difference between my personal philosophy on life and how one should live it, and a formal, government-recognized, religion? I would argue that it's not religion on which the law should be silent, but philosophy.

Some might argue that it's a belief in a supernatural being or deity is why it merits special classification.

The Economics of Higher Education

An editorial in today's New York Times laments the "soaring tuition and dwindling aid" in US colleges.

...the aid programs contained in the federal Higher Education Act of 1965, which is due to be reauthorized this fall, need to be updated. The top priority should be increasing the amount of the Pell grant, which covered more than 80 percent of public-college tuition a quarter-century ago but covers only about 40 percent today.

Chris Rock on HBO Thursday

ChrisRock.jpgIf you enjoy hearing a comedian who's not beholden to the Republicans or the Democrats, has some libertarian material, and you missed Chris Rock on Saturday night, you have another chance Thursday night (9:30pm on HBO). Read more »

Intrinsic Value - Ain't No Thang

One concept I repeatedly come upon when debating economics is intrinsic value. It's so hard to imagine that something useful or something big, or something aesthetically pleasing, or something complicated, or something that takes many man-years to produce, doesn't have a value in and of itself. Never mind exactly what that value might be, it's at least almost obvious that it exists. Read more »

Universal, affordable X

President ____:

"We ought to have universal, affordable access to _______ by the year ____. And then we ought to make sure as soon as possible thereafter consumers have plenty of choices."

These words sound like they could come from almost any public official, talking about almost anything. Could it be health care? Medicare? Could it be prescription drugs? As it happens, it was George Bush speaking of broadboand technology, and the year 2007. Read more »