A while ago, Greg Mankiw made a simple point:


I just stumbled upon this rather interesting study (pdf) on the same subject. If you include local taxes and the public spending part as well, the picture looks like this:


The study notes that “overall, households in the bottom quintile receive $8.21 in government spending for every dollar of tax, while households in the third quintile receive $1.30, and households in the top quintile receive $0.41.

July 30, 2007 Posted by | data, economics | Leave a comment

A concise history of the Russian Revolution

I have hinted to the contents of the book a few times, now I’ve finally completed it.

Even if it is just a précis of The Russian Revolution and Russia under the Bolshevik regime, it is a long book, 400+ pages. I liked most of it, a lot of new stuff and only a few things I don’t yet know if I agree with (to the untrained eye they would appear to be nothing but insignificant technicalities; ie. I am not sure if I agree with Pipes evaluation of the impact of Stolypin’s reforms before the Revolution) – however one horrible thing really, really annoyed me: Sources! He pretty much doesn’t tell us anything about his sources in the book, there are only 13 references altogether. I assume they are saved for those who read the two aforementioned books – according to the introduction, they have a combined 1300 pages and 4500 references. But it is still very annoying if you don’t have them at hand and wish to dig a little deeper. I shall have to buy the other two…

If you don’t care about this, then the book is just great. I would say that some knowledge about World War One is an advantage (I have already mentioned where to start – by reading both you get more of “the full picture”), but it is not absolutely necessary.

July 29, 2007 Posted by | books, communism, history, Russia | 2 Comments

James Waterton on Global Warming

The samizdatist James Waterton:

Like most who contribute and comment here, l classify myself as a “global warming skeptic”, due to the evangelical, anti-science and frequently absurd rhetoric that typifies global warming activists of all stripes. I am not a complete denialist – I have not written off the theory of anthropogenic global warming entirely. I simply believe there is an awful lot we do not yet know, and it is rash to be making grand predictions about impending weather-related catastrophes, and demanding action based on such flawed predictions. If, however, I was to reconsider my position and embrace the concept of AGW, I would still not champion the Kyoto Protocol or any other effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The fact is that if AGW is a genuine phenomenon, it is inevitable. There is absolutely no point in the rich world winding back its CO2 output, because China, India and the rest of the developing world will replace any first world CO2 reductions several times over. Despite the occasionally placatory noises about limiting CO2 emissions heard from the likes of the Chinese central government, the fact is that the Chinese, the Indians, the Russians, the Brazilians, nor anyone else from the developing world will ever stymy their nations’ opportunity to develop by hobbling their industrial output via significant CO2 emissions controls. Nor are the leaders of these countries likely to do anything to incur the wrath of their citizens by curtailing their perfectly reasonable aspirations to own motorcars, motorcycles, air conditioners and enjoy the convenience of air travel – all enormous direct or indirect sources of CO2 emissions. If significant CO2 reduction could be achieved with minimal economic and social cost, then perhaps the developing world would cooperate. However, large-scale CO2 reduction is an extremely expensive and socially disruptive exercise, and this reality will persist for several decades.

And it is too late to roll back the clock – too many people in the developing world have tasted the fruits of development, and quite legitimately demand more. Those governing the aspirational billions are far more likely to be influenced by them than An Inconvenient Truth. Global CO2 emissions are going to continue to grow for many years, there is no doubt about it. The “global warmenists”, as the mighty Tim Blair calls them, need to re-evaluate their positions, because what they propose at present is simply an exercise in developed-world wealth destruction on an epic scale.

Basically, I agree with all of the above.

July 29, 2007 Posted by | global warming | Leave a comment

The last Potter-book (no spoilers)

Got it yesterday and now I’ve finished it. So Pipes have had to wait a bit.

I agree on what has been stated here, as well as most of what has been stated here.

On the first part, I don’t necessarily think the book is too long, it’s just that too much unnecessary stuff has been included, that take up valuable space that could have been put to better use. Ockham’s razor and all that…

As to the “economics of magic” part, this has been a source of some annoyance to me throughout the series, even if I liked most of the books. I think the “magic” part of the series is too unstructured, it simply needs a firmer foundation in order to make the story (a little more) credible. Even when specific laws are spelled out, there are many places throughout the books where “the standard laws”, of which we are often not even told before they break down, conveniently enough do not apply. A “laws of magic” compendium would have been nice, but this alone would not solve the problem. As it is, the problem of scarcity and the influence and implications of magic on this very important subject is not convincingly addressed. For instance, how does convertibility between muggle-money and wizard-money work? Just think of the implications if there were no restrictions… Also, why do wizards have to buy cauldrons in a shop, when they can make one themselves with a wave of a wand? Even if it does not last, most of the time it needs only to work for one or two school-lessons at a time, right? There are other problems of course, many of them, like this one: If secrecy is paramount to the magic community, why aren’t students taught how to dress like muggles in school?

One other general problem I have had, though not directly related to the problem above still related to economic concepts, which I incidentally have found was a problem most peculiar, given the general setting, is also this: Is the supply of total spells fixed or not?

It probably is not (we are told that there were wizards a very, very long time ago, but ie. alohomora hardly came about before doors with locks, right?). But then how are new spells invented – Hogwarts-teachers do not seem to use much time (if any) developing new spells, they use most of the time reading old books, as everything seems already to have been written down? If top academics do not spend time developing new spells, who are? The point is, the magic part is supposed to be a flow-variable in order for us to believe in it as it works in the books, but it is at the same time to a very large extent treated as a stock-variable throughout the series.

I’d like it if more economists started writing fiction. That said, even if some parts of the last book are too long and there are obvious problems with the setting, it is all right. Rowling knows how to tell a good story, and on the whole this she does.

July 24, 2007 Posted by | books | 4 Comments

Quote of the day

of the foodstuffs consumed in Russian cities in the winter of 1919-20, as measured by their caloric value, the free market furnished between 66 and 80 percent.

From “A concise history of the Russian Revolution”.

July 24, 2007 Posted by | communism, quotes | Leave a comment

Update på sommerlaesning

Jeg vil genoptage bloggingen de næste dage, fra starten af august holder jeg en pause igen.

Jeg har læst Mises nu, men jeg har ikke lyst til at tale om Human Action, før jeg har nærlæst ham. Jeg ved ærligt talt ikke rigtigt hvad jeg skal sige til det lige nu, og så må man hellere lade være med at sige noget…

Jeg har også fået læst min signerede kopi af Tyler Cowens Creative Destruction, en bog jeg helt glemte at inkludere på min liste over sommerferielæsning (som for mit vedkommende i øvrigt varer indtil september…) andetsteds. Bogen er udmærket, men mindre teoretisk og økonomisk inspireret end jeg havde troet. Det er altid lettere at tilegne sig ny viden, som man kan relatere til viden man allerede har tilegnet sig, så bogen tog længere tid end jeg havde regnet med, fordi genren er helt ny for mig. Hvorom alting er: Bogen er et forsvar for globalisering ud fra et kulturelt perspektiv, og jeg er på det grundlæggende plan enig i meget af det han skriver, om end ikke alt.

Jeg modtog for nyligt “A concise history of the Russian Revolution” fra Amazon, og det selvom jeg troede, jeg havde bestilt “The Russian Revolution”… Jeg spurgte sælgeren først om der var tale om en fejl, men efter at have kigget nærmere efter i mails fra amazon kan jeg se, at det bare har været mig, der har været uopmærksom da jeg bestilte værket, så jeg fik kørt en forkert bestilling igennem. Det er for så vidt slet ikke et problem, i og med at denne bog er et sammenkog af “The Russian Revolution” og “Russia under the Bolchevik regime”, og jeg gad ærlig talt ikke til at bytte (heller ikke økonomer er upåvirkede af endowment effects…). Så lige nu læser jeg “A concise history…”, og den er slet ikke dårlig. Bliver nok færdig i morgen eller overmorgen, og så vil jeg skrive lidt mere.

Jeg venter stadig på den sidste Potter-bog, endnu et værk jeg glemte at inkludere på listen…

July 22, 2007 Posted by | bøger | Leave a comment

A few good sentences

1. From free-exchange:

Becoming an economist while denying the benefits, and beauty, of the overwhelming majority of markets that works, seems rather like becoming a physicist while refusing to believe in gravity.

2. Greg Mankiw on taxes:

[…] for the richest Americans — those in the top 0.01 percent of the distribution — the percentage of income derived from capital fell to 25 percent in 2004 from 70 percent in 1929.

If your image of the typical rich person is someone who collects interest and dividend checks and spends long afternoons relaxing on his yacht, you are decades out of date. The leisure class has been replaced by the working rich.

3. This one (from the comments) made me smile:

Q:Why do universities like mathematicians?
A:Because they’re cheap. They only need pencils, paper and a waste paper basket.

Q:Why do they like sociologists even more?
A: Because they don’t need the waste paper basket.

July 16, 2007 Posted by | quotes, taxation | Leave a comment

Quote of the day

In Kentucky, prosecutors offered a plea deal to a man they accused of murder because the statute was too confusing to explain to jurors.

From this article, HT: instapundit.

If jurors, before a trial begins, don’t know the law in question, something is just horribly wrong. Now, if you can’t even explain the law to them…

July 12, 2007 Posted by | bureaucracy | Leave a comment


Blogging is about a lot of things, but one of the most important one of them surely is information sharing.

I assume my readers know about the existence of youtube, google, myspace, wikipedia ect. Of course you do. Well, I have a treat for you: Here’s one online ressource you probably didn’t know about: Mathworld.

It really is a wonderful site, and unless you are like an expert on cryptography working as a codebreaker for the NSA or something like that, there are very few questions you would be able to ask about math that this site is unable to answer. Wikipedia is no longer my first place to go for mathematics anymore, as this site is superior in this area.

July 10, 2007 Posted by | mathematics, random stuff | 1 Comment

A picture is worth a thousand words…

Even if dilip did leave a link to his blog in the comment section, I had to share this with you:


July 9, 2007 Posted by | pictures, random stuff | 1 Comment

Quote of the day

Human beings have human rights, religions and ideas don’t.

From Flemming Rose’s new blog.

July 2, 2007 Posted by | freedom of speech | Leave a comment