The Wal-Mart of Presidential Candidates

From Don Boudreax at Cafe Hayek:

It’s intriguing that the people who most self-righteously criticize the likes of McDonald’s, Anheuser-Busch, pop rock, and builders of ‘cookie-cutter’ houses for being bland and failing to experiment with the Bold and the Edgy – those who condemn conformity, sneer at the crowds in Wal-Mart, and trumpet their devotion to diversity – are especially likely to be among those who glorify politics and to find in democratic elections the possibility of transcendence and of discovering and empowering the bold, the different, and the courageous trend-bucking leader.

What’s he talking about? Elections. Here’s more:

Suppose that you are charged with selling a single food item to at least a hundred million people in a highly diverse society.  You can pick whatever item you wish, but you can pick only one.  If you fall short of getting at least 100,000,000 people to voluntarily choose your item over a rival item that will be offered by a competitor, you lose.  (Your competitor is playing by the same rules that you are playing by.)

His point? By definition, presidential candidates who stand a chance of winning are as bland as mass market products in order to appeal to wide set of tastes. Many people who sneer at these products don’t seem to realize just how bland and mass market their political choices are.

Not a “perfect study?”

I saw a segment on The Today Show was about a study “finding a link between the use of bleach and childhood respiratory problems.”

The expert doctor made it clear that the results weren’t conclusive. Natalie Mourales said, “It wasn’t a perfect study.”

NEWS FLASH…There are no perfect studies. So, this study was just like all others.

Sign of a sports crazed culture

A parent complains and the school asks a special needs kid not to wear a varsity letter jacket. The school principal says that would not be appropriate because he did not participate in the sport at the varsity level.

What’s next? Will parents complain about schools awarding diplomas to graduates who cannot read, write or do arithmetic at the appropriate level? Don’t hold your breath.

It’s a sure sign of a sports crazed culture when a varsity letter holds a higher standard of merit than a high school diploma.

If you really cared about income inequality, you’d be interested in these questions

There’s a lot of noise about stagnating income for the lower classes and income inequality, with strong desires to use government to fix these problems.

Something occurred to me as I was reading Alan Reynold’s excellent Wall Street Journal piece discussing some of the problems with such data, problems that those pushing the stagnating message don’t seem willing to address.

But let’s ignore the data problems for now and give them the benefit of the doubt.

Many government programs — Federal, state and local — intended to reduce poverty and reduce inequality have been put in place and ballooned over the very time frame that the income inequality groups squawk about.

One question they don’t seem interested in asking or answering is: Why haven’t these programs worked?

“More” seems to be the only thing they are interested in.

Another question that might be worth asking is: Have some of these programs caused the problems?

That they are unwilling to consider these questions reveals something that I find disturbing, so disturbing that it caused me to question my liberalness when I was young: they do not care about works and what doesn’t work for the people they purport to want to help. They only care about what makes them look good to the people they wish to identify with and what will get them votes from the same.

Your imagination is fallible

Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek responds to someone who

“simply can’t imagine” that raising the minimum wage by $2.85 [per hour]… “will trigger businesses to hire less workers.”

I’ve been amazed over the years at how many form their opinion solely only at what they can or cannot imagine in the moment.

Have they never had experiences where reality turned out differently from what they imagined?

Have they considered that they may simply lack imagination?

Have they considered that it is difficult to imagine what business owners will do when you are not a business owner?

Even if you are a business owner, it can be difficult to imagine what you will do when faced with changes to your business. You can easily say what you think you would do, but then do something entirely differently when faced with the actual costs and benefits and not even realize it.

Signals v Causes: BINGO!

I’ve written about this a number of times myself, so it’s good to see when others, with better qualifications, agree.

I recommend reading The disease that is government by Antony Davies and James Harrigan in the Pittsburgh Tribune (HT: Mark Perry, Carpe Diem).

An excerpt:

We don’t expect our elected leaders to never make mistakes. But is it asking too much that they learn from them?
Getting the causality backward, government acted as if home ownership caused success.

Getting the causality backward again, government acts as if a college degree causes, rather than results from, success.

They write about how getting the causality in these situations backwards leads to bad policies, like distorting the incentives to encourage irresponsible people to wind up owning homes, by backing bad debt that results from lowering the credit standards for loans in the name of ‘spreading the American Dream of home ownership,” for example.

But, home ownership doesn’t cause responsible behavior, it is a result of responsible behavior — including scrapping to save a down payment and establishing a good income and credit history by being dependable and productive.

Do you want more people to own a home? Encourage these behaviors, instead of distorting the incentives so that these behaviors matter less. These behaviors are the real causes of success, not the home ownership itself.

A college degree isn’t a cause of success, it results from the behaviors that cause success (or used to) — everything from scrapping to pay for tuition, to studying instead of partying and being able to demonstrate your mastery of the material.

Do you want more people to get a college degree? Encourage these behaviors, don’t distort the incentives so that these behaviors matter less. These are the real causes of the success we see in the ‘college earnings premium’, not the college degree itself.

No duh

Two charts posted in this article at Vox “reveal” something most anyone can guess: poorer folks spend more on rent and more of their income on necessities, while wealthier folks spend more on mortgage interest and more of their income on luxuries.