Friday, December 05, 2014

Interesting Split

There has been developing an interesting split in the reactions to Ferguson and the Staten Island chokehold.

The left is outraged that the state is not doing exactly what the left expects from an idealized, unicorn state.  In fact, the state is actually made up of actual human-style people, and people are flawed.  The left wants to rely on abstract systems, and then be perpetually astonished when things go really wrong.  It's not bad people that are the problem.  The THING, the thing itself is the abuse, folks.

The right is just denying that there is a problem, the system is working, the jury has spoken, etc.  The only problem is the protests, who are law-breakers.  No surprise there.

The libertarian splinter accepts parts of the both arguments.  The system is in fact working exactly as designed, so the right is correct.  But this is a really bad outcome, and so the left is correct.

The answer is that we need much less of the system.  Of course police officers are going to use excessive force, of course police officers are going to have and act on racial and class-based preferences.  And then the system, in the courts, the prosecutor's office, and the grand jury, is going to protect itself.  That's the system, unless you believe in unicorns.

The solution?  Fewer laws.  We have criminalized so many behaviors (in the Staten Island case, selling packs of cigaretttes!) that we have given the police enormous pressure to perform, and gigantic latitude to act on prejudice, bigotry, and simple anger.

As long as the left (with the active complicity of the non-libertarian right) continues to criminalize being black, it's not surprising that the police will continue to treat black people as criminals.

White people are largely unaffected, because the system is designed to protect white people.  #crimingwhilewhite shows the truth:  rich white people can break the law, but they won't get charged.

This kind of race-based law enforcement is given the stink-eye by our friends on the left, but they can't seem to draw the obvious inference:  the answer is not better police.  The answer is fewer laws.  Decriminalize normal nonviolent daily activity, and the police will have a lot fewer excuses to harass people they don't like and who can't fight back.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Sharing Economy: Luggage?

The example I have been using is a drill.  Like here.  We all have drills, and never use them.  Why?  We'd rent them if it were cheap in terms of money and bother.  Instead, we own them and they take up space and we never use them.

But that's not the best example. The best example, I now realize, is ....luggage!  Think how much space luggage takes up.  And it gets all dusty and torn up, and you buy cheap luggage because you don't use it much.  Some people may only use luggage two or three weekends a year.

WHY. NOT. RENT. IT?

Because it's a hassle to get it delivered, it's expensive and...wait, what if it weren't those things? 

Some folks are giving it a shot.  Here, at RentLuggage.Com .  You get a nice piece of luggage delivered to you, and you send it back when you are done.  You don't have to store it, and the luggage is nicer.  Instead of sitting unused 350 days a year, your $1,000 (we have at least $2,000 worth of luggage, in the attic, but I'm assuming you people are less insane than we are) can be doing something else.

If I wanted to rent a Lipault bag like this,  It would cost $150 or so to buy.  You can rent it for a  a week for $22.  Of course, then you have to return it.  What if you want to travel again?  You can optimize, because this time you are going to Europe and you want to rent a backpack, like this.  That's $38 for two weeks.  To own both bags would cost more than $400, whereas you rented both for $60, at different times of your choosing, and now you don't have to store them.  It would take at least five years for the "own it" gig to work out, and lots of stuff doesn't last much longer than that, getting bumped around in the back of your closet which you don't have room for anyway.

So...my new example is luggage.  Don't you have some bags that you never use?  Why do you own them?

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

By Two of My Main Men...


The Effect of Fact-Checking on Elites: A Field Experiment on U.S. State Legislators 

Brendan Nyhan & Jason Reifler
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Abstract: Does external monitoring improve democratic performance? Fact-checking has come to play an increasingly important role in political coverage in the United States, but some research suggests it may be ineffective at reducing public misperceptions about controversial issues. However, fact-checking might instead help improve political discourse by increasing the reputational costs or risks of spreading misinformation for political elites. To evaluate this deterrent hypothesis, we conducted a field experiment on a diverse group of state legislators from nine U.S. states in the months before the November 2012 election. In the experiment, a randomly assigned subset of state legislators was sent a series of letters about the risks to their reputation and electoral security if they were caught making questionable statements. The legislators who were sent these letters were substantially less likely to receive a negative fact-checking rating or to have their accuracy questioned publicly, suggesting that fact-checking can reduce inaccuracy when it poses a salient threat.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

These folks need to read Adam Smith...


The topography of generosity: Asymmetric evaluations of prosocial actions 

Nadav Klein & Nicholas Epley 
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General
December 2014, Pages 2366-2379 

Abstract: Prosociality is considered a virtue. Those who care for others are admired, whereas those who care only for themselves are despised. For one’s reputation, it pays to be nice. Does it pay to be even nicer? Four experiments assess reputational inferences across the entire range of prosocial outcomes in zero-sum interactions, from completely selfish to completely selfless actions. We observed consistent nonlinear evaluations: Participants evaluated selfish actions more negatively than equitable actions, but they did not evaluate selfless actions markedly more favorably than equitable actions. This asymptotic pattern reflected monotonic evaluations for increasingly selfish actions and insensitivity to increasingly selfless actions. It pays to be nice but not to be really nice. Additional experiments suggest that this pattern stems partly from failing to make spontaneous comparisons between varying degrees of selflessness. We suggest that these reputational incentives could guide social norms, encouraging equitable actions but discouraging extremely selfless actions. 

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Monday, December 01, 2014

Well Hung Christmas Lights

People, if folks can have Christmas lights like this, why do we have a government at all?




(Nod to WH)

UPDATE:  As a commenter notes, it is a municipal government that deserves the CREDIT. "In this particular case, the local municipality of Plovdiv, Bulgaria."