Sunday, February 28, 2010

VIDEO: Hitler on ClimateGate

Warning: the subtitles include profanity at least 3 times.

Other than that, I found it hilarious. Hat tip to Neptunus Lex.

C4P on Bastiat's Broken Window Fallacy

Doug Brady and has a nice post from last year that I ran across that includes a more contemporary paraphrase of Bastiat's Broken Window Fallacy, as well as a John Stossel video on it.

Henry Hazlitt, an economist who was influenced by Bastiat, explained the broken window fallacy in his book, Economics in One Lesson. Here’s the relevant excerpt:

A young hoodlum, say, heaves a brick through the window of a baker’s shop. The shopkeeper runs out furious, but the boy is gone. A crowd gathers, and begins to stare with quiet satisfaction at the gaping hole in the window and the shattered glass over the bread and pies. After a while the crowd feels the need for philosophic reflection. And several of its members are almost certain to remind each other or the baker that, after all, the misfortune has its bright side. It will make business for some glazier.

As they begin to think of this they elaborate upon it. How much does a new plate glass window cost? Two hundred and fifty dollars? That will be quite a sun. After all, if windows were never broken, what would happen to the glass business? Then, of course, the thing is endless. The glazier will have $250 more to spend with other merchants, and these in turn will have $250 more to spend with still other merchants, and so ad infinitum.

The smashed window will go on providing money and employment in ever-widening circles. The logical conclusion from all this would be, if the crowd drew it, that the little hoodlum who threw the brick, far from being a public menace, was a public benefactor.

Now let us take another look. The crowd is at least right in its first conclusion. This little act of vandalism will in the first instance mean more business for some glazier. The glazier will be no more unhappy to learn of the incident than an undertaker to learn of a death. But the shopkeeper will be out $250 that he was planning to spend for a new suit. Because he has had to replace the window, he will have to go without the suit (or some equivalent need or luxury). Instead of having a window and $250 he now has merely a window. Or, as he was planning to buy the suit that very afternoon, instead of having both a window and a suit he must be content with the window and no suit. If we think of him as part of the community, the community has lost a new suit that might otherwise have come into being, and is just that much poorer.

The glazier’s gain of business, in short, is merely the tailor’s loss of business. No new “employment” has been added. The people in the crowd were thinking only of two parties to the transaction, the baker and the glazier. They had forgotten the potential third party involved, the tailor. They forgot him precisely because he will not now enter the scene. They will see the new window in the next day or two. They will never see the extra suit, precisely because it will never be made. They see only what is immediately visible to the eye.*

VIDEO: Paul Ryan at Health Care Summit

Paul Ryan does an excellent job of summarizing the budget gimmickry and issues with the current health care bills. It amazes me that the conversation could just go on without addressing these numbers. Obama just said that he had some problems with Ryan's numbers and moved on to another Democrat to speak about something else.

I hate the format where each speaker gets to talk for a set period of time, and there's very little back and forth actually hashing out any issues. And the whole summit, Obama gets to constantly frame the discussion after every Republican speaks.

In this case, there should have been considerable discussion addressing the points that Paul Ryan made.

By the way, I wish the Republicans had tried a lot harder to pin down Reid and Obama by asking them both to commit to not passing a bill using reconciliation or signing a bill that was passed using reconciliation. It would have made headlines if while being pressed hard Obama and Reid refused to make that commitment during the bi-partisan summit. It would have exposed how much of a sham the summit was. I'm willing to bet that if the Democrats think they have the votes to pass the Senate bill in the House, and a 2nd bill in both houses that would pass the Senate via reconciliation, that they will jam in through in the next few weeks.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

2 Graphs: Jobs and Housing prices

Powerline blog has a great post with two informative graphs.

1. A graph of job gains or losses per month. It shows the natural cycle already starting trending upwards before Obama's policies could have had any effect. It's always important to keep in mind the business cycle's trends when evaluating whether policies have helped or not.

2. A graph of the housing market, asjusted for inflation, since 1900. It makes it clear how government policies and lower lending standards and easy money policies and the market irrationality caused by opaque mortgage-backed securities and their derivatives had thrown housing prices completely out of whack. They are only now back down near, but still higher, than the historical average. Based on this graph, you could expect anything from a stabilization in prices in the near future to a further pendulum swing down another 20-30%.