Friday, July 20, 2012

Negativity

PAC spending in the last week:

CommitteeEntire Cycle TotalLast Week TotalLast 24 Hours TotalSupportedOpposedSuper PAC
Republican National Cmte (R)$9,485,456$9,485,456$0$0$9,485,456
Priorities USA Action (D)$14,900,294$1,244,192$0$0$14,900,294x
Restore America's Voice PAC (R)$582,952$111,900$0$0$582,952x
America's Next Generation(R)$106,500$42,500$0$0$106,500x
Moveon.org (D)$367,171$33,552$0$5,400$361,771
National Rifle Assn (R)$110,952$31,459$0$0$110,952
National Right to Life Victory Fund (R)$163,260$6,786$0$0$163,260x
Candidate money spent last week:

CandidateEntire Cycle TotalLast Week TotalLast 24 Hours TotalSupportedOpposed
Obama, Barack (D)$27,761,536$9,678,101$0$2,852,327$21,064,674
Romney, Mitt (R)$32,603,333$1,277,744$0$7,285,760$25,161,173

I added rough party affiliations for the PACs, but it's worth noting that Moveon.org spent some money in opposition to a democratic candidate for the House of Representatives.
Notice more generally how the money is all piling into the "opposed" column. Source: http://www.opensecrets.org.

Violence and Social Orders: A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History (9780521761734): Douglass C. North, John Joseph Wallis, Barry R. Weingast: Books

By Douglas North, John Wallis, and Barry Weingast.
In the middle of this book right now. Makes some interesting arguments about democracy and capitalism, and how countries make the transition from "Natural States", with limited access to modern states, with open access. The discussion of property rights will please the political right; the discussion of the role of government and public goods will please the left. Both groups will walk away from the book equally unhappy with his discussion of special interest groups (spoiler alert: special interests are not all bad!). The argument for how and why democracy is essential for modern capitalism is the only convincing logical case I've seen and is not based on some half-baked liberty argument.

A Couple of Links on Immigration

Migration and Remittances during the Global Economic Crisis and Beyond: Myths and Realities | A blog about migration, remittances, and development:


Children of Immigrants Study More - NYTimes.com:


Outsourcing and the Campaign


I've had a little time to reflect on the Bain-outsourcing-Romney stuff. So here are a couple of observations, which I share with the Free Exchange editors at the Economist.
(1) Outsourcing is good on the net, not just for the country receiving the investment, or even some vague global sense. It is welfare-improving for the US in the aggregate.
(2) Outsourcing can be pareto-improving, meaning that not only does it increase income, wealth and efficiency on average, but it is possible to ensure that no one is worse off.
Point (1) implies that, even if you support President Obama, the criticism of outsourcing by itself is misplaced. That includes this criticism by Paul Krugman. We should be outsourcing when it is profitable to do so.
Point (2) is tougher. Basically, it qualifies the political feasibility of (1) by implying that, in order to bring everyone on board with free trade, outsourcing, etc., you need pretty extensive structural adjustment assistance programs also known as the Welfare State. Here, as the Economist correctly points out, we could learn a little something from the 1997 incarnation of Professor Krugman when he says that voters aren't nuanced enough in their understanding of trade and public policy to grasp this subtlety - or care. They know jobs are gone, and US companies are growing operations in China. They win, I lose.
The Economist article points out that Obama could come out with a more nuanced and correct argument. But really, either candidate could take up this mantle and make it part of their platform without abandoning their core values. Mr. Romney, for his part could say, "yes, I am for free markets and outsourcing, and the fact that it puts some folks out of work only highlights the need to reform existing welfare programs so they help people who really want to work." Mr. Obama, instead of spewing protectionist garbage could say, "see, people are hurt by some aspects of free markets and we need social programs like my health care law to make markets work better for everyone" (he could even throw in some of his "shared prosperity" catchphrases).
But neither candidate is doing this. Obama is pretending to be protectionist (when we all know he won't govern that way); Romney is acting like the attacks are simply unfair, which doesn't seem to help much - do we really want a crybaby for a President? Obama's strategy, sadly, is the politically effective one, and I expect to see much more of it through November.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Some Links on Trade

Trade Policy and R&D.

New Services Trade Database

Is Anti-Dumping a Good thing After All

More on High-Tech Education

More classes are being offered, by prestigious universities - I'm not talking about your diploma mill online courses from the for-profit sector - online, including some I might be interested in myself. More shockingly, many of these classes are being offered free of charge. The question is, "Is this a threat to my job?"
I think not. These sites are very aware of supply-side factors, but they say little about the demand side. While it's true that information transfer does not need to be as costly or labor intensive as it is, it is exactly what many average students need. Motivated, intellectually-curious students can easily absorb information, but many students are not sufficiently motivated or intellectually curious to do so.
Instead, I still think that technology is an effective complement to labor-intensive instruction at many liberal arts colleges and universities, but perhaps less so at large state flagship universities, and will make personalized (but still labor intensive) instruction more enhanced.