Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Working on Christmas

More evidence that "People Respond to Incentives":

According to the Christmas Day edition of the Washington Post (registration required):
There is no [U.S.] federal law that says an employee must be given Christmas off or that decrees those who work Christmas must be paid overtime.
This year, in the Washington, D.C. area, some Safeway stores decided to stay open. The union objected until Safeway made it clear that it would staff those stores using only volunteers, that they would be paid up to three times their normal hourly rate, and they would work short hours. Those stores that didn't have enough volunteers had no trouble getting volunteers from other Safeway stores in the area that aren't open on Christmas.

All-in-all, it is a well-written story.

What a terrific example of raising the price to induce a larger quantity supplied by meeting or exceeding suppliers' opportunity costs.

Financial Advice

I'm guessing that over half those who read this do not want financial advice; I'm also guessing that over half those who read this need to read this, "The Complete Guide to Wall-Street Self-Defence" from Slate. If you haven't seen it already, it is worth spending some time with. It is also worth book-marking.

I didn't necessarily mean the same halves!

An NCAA Play-off System?

Phil Miller at Market Power has a couple of interesting postings about developments in the BCS [Bowl Championship Series]. He correctly suggests that whatever happens to the BCS, the NCAA will be unlikely to move toward a play-off system, at least not in the short-run.

Keep in mind that the only reason a play-off system works in the NFL is that there are fewer teams and a longer season in the NFL as compared with the NCAA. And for the NCAA basketball playoffs, the games can be played more frequently, and the season is longer, allowing enough time for play-offs even if there are many, many contenders initially.

The only way I can see an NCAA football play-off system working is if the season is lengthened to allow several weeks for some play-downs. If that happens, the current bowls, themselves, would likely become meaningless, and we might likely see the season start a week earlier (long before some university fall terms begin).

And let's face it: all that uncertainty and ranting and raving about who is really the best makes for lots of discussion among the mediots.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Dueling Forecasts: Update

I posted yesterday about the apparently consistent divergences in weather forecasts between Environment Canada and The Weather Network. It turns out that taking an average would have been just about right. Because of the drifting, it is hard to tell for sure, but it looks as if we had between 20 and 25 cms of snow in that 24-hour period.

For the metric-ly challenged, to convert anything in metric to non-metric, double it and add 30. E.g., 10 degrees C (stands for Canadian) is the same as 50 degrees F (stands for Foreign). Double the 10 and add 30. Works the same for weight, distance, and speed.

A Good Example of Interest Rate Parity

According to this piece in the NYTimes (registration required),

The euro briefly traded at $1.35 against the dollar, with traders around the world betting that the dollar would fall further next year.

But long-term interest rates, even though they remain extremely low, have been affected by the dollar's decline.

Analysts note that investors are now demanding higher yields from 10-year Treasury bonds than from comparable European bonds.

Economics Devoid of Property Rights, Institutions, and Entrepreneurship

Cafe Hayek has an intriguing summary of a recent article by Dan Johannson in the December, 2004, issue of Economic Journal Watch. Johannson examined most of the major textbooks in microeconomic and macroeconomic theory, and industrial organization. From Cafe Hayek:
...[A]ny model that rejects change, uncertainty, and creativity also, necessarily, rejects entrepreneurship. That’s pretty obvious. But any such model rejects also property rights – or, rather, rejects the rich role that property rights play in reality....
...[T]he analytically closed, formal, axiomatic equilibrium modeling that prevails in modern economics misses these vital insights. It misses the role of institutions – including that most important institution of all: property rights.

As a former director of The Centre for Economic Analysis of Property Rights, I am very sympathetic to this criticism of modern economics.

However, I think Johannson goes too far when he asks,
"But is it possible for researchers to describe and analyze, for instance, the progress of the furniture industry or the progress of the computer industry, in a credible way, without taking account of the entrepreneurs Ingvar Kamprad or Bill Gates and the entrepreneurial function they have carried out, manifested in founding and expansion of IKEA and Microsoft?"
In a word, "Yes."

Let me pose a question that might shed some different light on the subject: What if there had been no Bill Gates and no Microsoft?

My expectation is that some other firm would have developed approximately the same software in approximately the same time frame and faced approximately the same legal entanglements from having been too successful. If this expectation is correct, then it is important that economic theory not place too much emphasis on specific entrepreneurs or specific institutions.

Rumble strips

My older son, David Ricardo Palmer, works for 3M Canada, where he has won several prizes for his suggestions for new products. One of his ideas, which he did not submit to 3M, involves rumble strips.

Many secondary roads in the country-side of this area have rumble strips preceding stop signs. They make an intermittent noise as you drive over them and alert you that there is a stop sign coming up very soon. [digression: My granddaughter, Joan Robinson Palmer, says the rumble strips are there so blind drivers will know there is a stop sign coming up].

Anyway, my son's idea is that the grooves in the pavement should be spaced so they play "O Canada" as cars drive over them at the proper speed. Neat idea, eh?

The "Economic" Draft:
Coercion vs. Persuasion

Tom Palmer has a recent reference on his blog to a group that says raising the pay for soldiers is economic conscription.
I see -- by offering potential soldiers more money, the gubmnt is forcing them to give up their next best alternative?

I guess the process of meeting or exceeding soldiers' opportunity costs and thus generating supplier surplus is equivalent, in their minds, to drafting them. What idiocy! I expect these folks don't understand the difference between "persuasion" and "coercion" as explained in The Economic Way of Thinking.
[Canadian Edition by the late Paul Heyne and me]

Sounds like the old Flip Wilson line: "the devil made me do it."

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Drugs from Canada

I am referring to prescription, not recreational, pharmaceuticals.

It is really amazing to me that so many people in the U.S. don't understand that these drugs are, for the most part, produced in the U.S. or under licence from U.S. patent holders.

Thomas Luongo has a really nice piece on this topic.

Disinformation in the Middle East

I'm sure there is considerable disinformation being disseminated about the mideast, but this is appalling. I have no idea how reliable MEMRI [The Middle East Media Research Institute] is.

Iran's Sahar 1 TV station is currently airing a weekly series titled "For You, Palestine," or "Zahra's Blue Eyes." The series premiered on December 13, and is set in Israel and the West Bank. It broadcasts every Monday, and was filmed in Persian but subsequently dubbed into Arabic.

The story follows an Israeli candidate for Prime Minister, Yitzhak Cohen, who is also the military commander of the West Bank. The opening sequence of the show contains graphic scenes of surgery, and images of a Palestinian girl in a hospital whose eyes have been removed, with bandages covering the sockets.

In Episode 1, Yitzhak Cohen lectures at a medical conference on the advances being made by Israeli medicine regarding organ transplants. Later in the episode, Israelis disguised as UN workers visit a Palestinian school, ostensibly to examine the children's eyes for diseases, but in reality to select which children's eyes to steal to be used for transplants.

In Episode 2, the audience learns that the Israeli president is being kept alive by organs stolen from Palestinian children, and an Israeli military commander is seen kidnapping UN employees and Palestinians.

You can read more about the episodes and link to the videos from this link.
Thanks to Ben for the pointer.

Dueling Forecasts

I once knew a person who was in charge of economic forecasting for a large corporation. I asked him about the models he used. He snorted with laughter and said that all he did was subscribe to lots of forecasts, take an average, and then write up a story consistent with the average.

I'm beginning to think we should do the same thing in our area with weather forecasts. Where I live has weather that is often difficult to forecast because of various lake effects and because a slight movement of the jet stream can throw off a forecast by a considerable amount. Fortunately, we have at least two regular weather forecast services for this area (and throughout Canada): Environment Canada, and The Weather Network. Here are their competing forecasts for this area for the next little while:

Environ. Can. ...........The Weather Network
Heavy snowfall ..........No explicit warnings
Snowsquall warning

over the next 24 hours:
25 - 40 cms snow ..........15 - 20 cms snow

Thursday night:
blowing snow..............variable cloudiness

The differences shown above seem typical. Often Environment Canada's forecast seem much more alarmist than those of The Weather Network. I've learned that most of the time The Weather Network is closer to what actually happens.

I can imagine that many of my readers will see this as yet another triumph of private providers over the bureaucrats. My own take is slightly, but only slightly, different:
I see The Weather Network as providing the equivalent of point estimates, whereas Environment Canada forecasts seem much more like "there's only a 20% chance the weather will get worse than this."

It's as if The Weather Network strives for being accurate, on average, whereas Environment Canada takes a more in loco parentis approach: we don't want to be responsible if you rely on our forecast and the actual weather is worse. This view is not unlike what Jack Quinn and I once referred to as "The Excedrin Theory of Bureaucracy" -- whatever you do, try to minimize the headaches to the bureaucrats.

Wouldn't it be nice if they'd give us probability distribution functions or confidence intervals or something with the forecasts? Yes, I know I'm dreaming if I think I would even be able to interpret such forecasts, but at least I am beginning to learn that using the two forecasts together gives me a better idea of the distribution function of a reasonable forecast.

Teachers More Honest Than Judges?

That's what people believe, according to the Gallup survey of the professions. Here's the abstract (full article requires $ subscription):

Pharmacists are more ethical than priests, teachers beat judges in honesty - and no one is less trustworthy than car salesmen, according to the annual Gallup survey of professions. Nurses were named the most ethical and honest professionals - a position they've held for five out of the past six years. In 2001 they were beaten by firefighters after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Also, you can read the entire Gallup release here (30-day free trial available).
So much for "honest as a judge"! or is the phrase, "drunk as a judge"?

update: that last link was supposed to refer to this:
Defendant: I was drunk as a judge when I committed the offense.
Judge: The expression is "sober as a judge". Don't you mean "drunk as a lord"?
Defendant: Yes, my lord.

Grinching and Altruism

Sometimes the thought isn't enough, especially when you figure out how much utility is lost with futile gift exchanges. Here's what Justin Stone posted to Lloyd Cohen's Economics and Law e-mail list on December 22nd (quoted in full with permission):

It's that time of year again, when we wade through crowds to buy people we don't really know things they don't really want . . .
It is obvious that (in economic terms) gift-exchanging between peers is a negative-sum game. If I am part of a group of 5 that has agreed to spend exactly $50 on each other, the result is a net decrease in total welfare. I pay $200 for gifts, and take in $200 worth of gifts, and yet each gift is (almost by definition) something I wouldn't have paid $50 for myself (if it was worth more than $50 to me, I would have bought it for myself already). And this is before considering the very real costs (in terms of time and aggravation) of choosing, finding, and acquiring the gifts. When this is added to the net welfare effect of the gift-exchange process, we see a very real drain on resources.
Of course, it is simply argued that the goodwill generated by gift-giving outweighs these costs; that the benefits of sharing gifts with loved ones make up for this huge outlay of wasted resources. To this I say: Humbug! I am legitimately happy to buy 2 or 3 gifts a year, and these typically are not peer-exchange gifts but gifts to individuals who cannot afford them for themselves (i.e., kids). The rest of my shopping I do with the sort of grim resolve usually associated with soldiers on the march. I do this shopping not out of goodwill, but out of fear of the negative social impact that would erupt if I didn't produce some offering for (for example) my fiancee's brother-in-law. Fear of retribution is not an offsetting benefit -- it is an additional cost!
It is clear that the lawmaking bodies of this great nation need to step in and outlaw peer-exchange gifting holidays. These occasions and the social pressures they create generate negative externalities that create net negative welfare effects. Only through government action, complete with criminal sanctions for transgressors, can these problems be overcome.
And then, maybe, I could get my Christmas shopping
I was quite amused by this rant; I had discussed "re-gifting" with some of my fellow actors the other night, and we all agreed that the practice helps reduce the inefficiency identified by Justin (although the discussion was not exactly in those terms).
And not everyone agrees with Justin (although I think there's a fair-sized chunk of his tongue firmly planted in his cheek with some of this). Nicholas Georgakopoulos quickly replied to Justin's post (again, quoted in full with permission):

Having just returned from a hour wasted selecting gifts at a bookstore, I more than share the frustration at the inefficiency of gift-giving. Yet, we are forced by social norms to do it. Inefficient as the norm may be in terms of immediate utility, however, it may be efficient as a signal.
When someone gets me a gift that I really enjoy receiving, it shows that this person has (a) understood my utility function; and (b) managed to produce an item that increases it. I think these are two very important pieces of information for peer relationships. It may be one of the few true signals about who is really your friend.
As much as I agree with Justin's sentiments, I also like what Nicholas wrote. I can remain civil and pleasant to someone who gives me a fruitcake (especially if I'm able to "regift" it), but if I receive something that adds to my utility, I'm pleased, especially if it is something for which (unlike Justin) I wouldn't have wanted to spend the money but which I am delighted to receive (e.g. an expensive bottle of bourbon).
Furthermore, even though I know and teach the indifference curve analysis about how giving cash is better than giving subsidies in-kind, I still want some people to know how much I care for them, and I can signal that by, as Nicholas indicates, showing that I care enough to select something that will add a lot to their utility. [ironically, this is from someone who was, until yesterday, considering
skipping Christmas]. And don't forget, shared experiences are the best gifts.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Top Ten Internet Hoaxes of 2004

Amusing. Except I have a teen-aged granddaughter (14, going on 20) and might have to ask her about "sex bracelets" just to make sure that's a hoax.
[links provided by Daily IT Readings]

The Myth of Self-Esteem

I always wondered how it would be possible to raise the self esteem of people who are, let's face it, losers. It bothered me that social workers and counselors too often spent time working with these folks on their self-esteem. I recall one such client saying, "I know I need to finish school to get a job, but first I need to work on developing my self-esteem."

There's some pretty interesting and compelling research summarized in the Scientific American which refutes this nonsense. And both Ben Muse and King Banaian have posts on this topic.

Here's what Sparky says:

An insert shows a study by Doneslon Forsyth and Natalie Kerr of Virginia Commonwealth. Two sets of students in a college psychology class who are earning D's and F's at midterm are created with equal GPAs. Once per week, one group gets a set of positive messages about "what causes good and bad
grades" like:
Students who improved with each test were thinking:

  • I can be proud of myself.
  • I can do this.
  • I am better than most of the other people in this school.
  • I am satisfied with myself.

This group is told the "bottom line" is to "hold your head -- and your self-esteem -- up."
The other group of students received a set of messages that said ...
Students who improved with each test were thinking:

  • I need to work harder .
  • I can learn this material if I apply myself.
  • I can control what hapens to me in this class.
  • I have what it takes to do this.

Its bottom line?
"Take personal control of your performance."

The first group had its average grade in the psych class drop to below 50%, while the other group improved to 62% (which still stinks, but at least passed that course.)

[Note to my Canadian readers: It takes a 60% to pass in most U.S. university courses.]

These results remind of some of the Carl Rogers-type material that I was taught in a Chicago Theological Seminary course, "Ministry to the Small Child and His Family" (i.e. child development). One thing that stuck with me was the importance of children's having "success experiences". This point seems consistent with the idea that it's pretty hard to develop high self-esteem if you aren't successful at much.
Is it conceivable the opportunity costs of having social workers devote their time to improving clients' self-esteem are zero?

UPDATE: JC just posted this link in the comments section, but it's easier for you to get to if I repost it here. It's a gif and may not be all that easy to read, depending on the resolution of your screen.

Skipping Christmas

Our children and grandchildren are scattered all over the world this year at Christmas time. As a result, I have felt much like Luther, the primary male character in Skipping Christmas. It is a very well-written book by John Grisham, and it captures some, but far from all, of my feelings; unfortunately, the plot is too sappy for words. Too bad. It is also available on DVD, as Christmas with the Kranks.

Is it just me, or does Luther seem a lot like the primary male character in The King of Torts?

Update: This is too weird for words. We've just learned that the whole famn damily will be descending upon us for a post-Christmas get-together on January 2nd. Fortunately, we have over a week to get ready.

Painless Dentistry?

I've been genetically blessed with few but good teeth. Those less fortunate may want to look into this for the treatment of cavities :

The method, popular in Australia and Japan, uses a special disinfectant, activated by laser, to kill instead of drill out the bacteria.
The tooth can then rebuild itself aided by a porous sealant and a tooth mousse, which is used at home and promotes tooth growth.
It looks like a lengthy, expensive process as of now, but it might be worthwhile for those who are extremely averse to dental drilling. Whether this procedure succeeds in the marketplace will, of course depend on our trade-offs between pain (and drill) avoidance in comparison with other uses of our money. In the future, look for continuing technological change to make it less expensive.

[thanks to Ben for the pointer]

More on Alice Munro's Runaway

Alice Munro is a famous short-story writer. She lives part-time in my home town, Clinton, Ontario (population 3200). Here is a recent review of her latest collection, Runaway:
Runaway reveals that Munro is up to some tricks of her own. It's no accident that the story that most explicitly relies on theatricality and self-consciously classical plot devices is called Tricks."...
What galls about "Tricks" is that it so explicitly and self-consciously tries to bring the reader up short; the story's drama is theatrically stylized. ... The problem is that we're so accustomed to realism we bridle at Munro's insistence that storytelling like this has lessons of its own—what's spelled out in the final paragraphs seems unfamiliarly overt, and it's difficult to sort out what seems facile about this ending from its disorienting power to jar [our expectations].
This review is from Slate.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Pop-tarts and Stupidity

Ted Frank, whom I've known electronically since the old early days of the internet, just posted a summary of an intriguing civil case in which a plaintiff left his house briefly, leaving a poptart unattended in the toaster. The poptart caught fire, and the house was damaged.

So now the poptart-deserter, along with his insurance company, are suing the toaster maker! Is this another case of, "No matter what happened, it's not my fault!"? I don't believe it!

Okay, you econ-law types, who is the least-cost bearer of this risk?

Yet Another Upward Bias in the CPI

We all know (or should) that the CPI is biased upward because it overlooks new products and product improvements. Now, Kevin at Truck and Barter summarizes a recent NBER study of another CPI measurement bias by Hausman and Leibtag, "...Does the BLS know that Walmart Exists?"

It seems that in the U.S., prices are measured by the BLS at standard stores, not at Walmart supercentres, despite the growth of the supercentres. Of course, as supercentres expand, and standard stores lose business, average prices actually paid by customers are not rising as fast as the CPI would indicate. The mechanism is complex, but this bias adds between .32 and .42 to the food price component of the CPI.

I wonder if the same biases exist in Canada.

The Most Embarrassing Canadian

In a spoof of CBC's contest on who was Canada's greatest Canadian (surprise, surprise: CBC viewers selected a socialist, Tommy Douglas), this site sponsored a vote on who was the most embarrassing Canadian in 2004.

The winner in a landslide: Jean Chretien (I'm surprised it wasn't unanimous, actually), former Prime Minister.

First runner-up: Carolyn Parish (who embarrassed, sadly, only 40% of Canadians by calling George Bush a "moron" and with other anti-American statements).

Second runner-up: Celine Dion (I guess the voters didn't like her ad for our bankrupt national airline, Scare Canada).

Third runner-up: Governess General, Adrienne Clarkson, about whom I have written before and who appears here in a picture with me.

Fourth runner-up: Ben Mulroney, tv-host, who out-polled his father, Brian, (former Prime Minister) by a 2-to-1 margin.

[disclaimer: I found these results amusing, but I do not agree with politics implicit or explicit in the site].

Monday, December 20, 2004

I Don't Believe it. Somebody Actually Bark-Mitzvahed a Dog

From the NYTimes (registration required):
Colorful dips were set out in double-bowl dog dishes. There was a cake with a picture of the bar mitzvah candidate and his nickname, Boomie, written in English and Hebrew. In the foyer was a bowl of baby blue satin skullcaps, with Boomie's name and the date printed inside.

[Thanks to Ben for the tip]

Becker-Posner-Coase-Palmer on Global Warming

In this week's Becker-Posner blog postings, the topic of global warming is tackled. Posner summarizes the scientific controversies and says that there is continuing evidence that global warming is occurring and that it is likely due to carbon dioxide [CO2] emissions. He favours having the U.S. sign the Kyoto accord. Becker and commenters to Posner are skeptical of the effectiveness of the Kyoto accord. Becker recommends, instead, a market in tradable CO2 emission permits.

Lots of economists have favoured moving toward markets in tradable permits for pollution control: creating well-defined and enforceable property rights that can be traded means that we will have the optimal allocation of pollution reduction. The problems with tradable permits are many, however: who will decide how many permits should be issued? Who will do the enforcement? How effective will the enforcement be? What will be the punishments and deterrents? I certainly do not trust the U.N. to do this, nor do I believe the U.S. would accept any U.N. decisions on these questions.

These problems are serious, to the point of scuppering the idea, within a single sovereign state. Imagine the barriers to such a plan internationally! Who will decide, and by what process, the answers to these questions? Because of the difficulties answering these questions, I just do not see tradable permits as a realistic option for controlling CO2 emissions internationally.

Maybe Posner doesn't either, and maybe that's why he supports having the U.S. sign on to Kyoto.
And then there's Canada: sign the Kyoto Accord but don't do anything about it.

If You Feel Chest Pains...

Advice to my friends:
If it is on or near Christmas Day (or Boxing Day or New Year's Day), and you feel sufficiently ill that you would go to the hospital any other time but you won't go on Christmas Day because you don't want to disturb a physican who might be on call, or because you don't want to break up a family get-together, or whatever, go to the hospital anyway!


More Americans die from heart attacks and other natural causes on Christmas, the day after and on New Year's Day than on any other days of the year, the researchers reported.
It is probably because people are feeling too busy or too festive to go to the hospital over the winter holiday season, the researchers wrote in Monday's issue of the journal Circulation.

Also see here for other coverage of the study. The graphic accompanying the article in this latter link makes it clear that December and January are high-risk periods, but those three days really stand out!

Gasoline Price Controls, modern style

[With thanks to JC].
The United Arab Emirates is a collection of smaller emirates, unified into one country. Abu Dhabi is the big emirate with most of the oil. Furthermore, it de facto sets the retail price of gasoline for all the other emirates, and sets it well below the refined equivalent of the world price of oil. Some people have suggested that these price controls are in place as a way of redistributing their oil wealth to the other emirates in the country.

That might be okay if Abu Dhabi took the direct hit from subsidizing the below-cost pricing. But as JC writes to me, "...the retail station networks with the greatest market share are owned by Dubai, yet Abu Dhabi is the one with 90% of the oil and probably most if not all of the refining capacity."

Meanwhile, the executives charged with operating the refinery and retail operations have appealed to the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources for either subsidies or permission to raise the price of refined gasoline. (see
here and here)

Here is an excerpt from an editorial in the
Gulf News:

As ... the much-touted $22-$28 band [for the world price of oil] has virtually disappeared into the depths of history, retail oil companies in Dubai contemplate their losses and wonder how they can recover from the parlous situation. ...

Of equal concern, however, is the anomaly that persists in maintaining a fixed retail price at the pump. Not only is the price artificial, it could also be a contributing factor to the ever-increasing number of vehicles that ply the roads...

To make their point, the major retailers threatened to close all their gas stations. They began by closing ten stations, but the threat was quickly rescinded for reasons that are not altogether clear. And, of course, the possibility of allowing gasoline prices to rise to reflect the world price of oil does not sit at all well with consumers.

With the world price of oil falling recently, the cost pressures on the UAE gasoline retailers have abated, but when prices are regulated, the process leads to distortions throughout the economy. For more on oil and gasoline production in the United Arab Emirates, see
here and here.

And if you want to see a total misunderstanding of what price controls can do in the way of causing gasoline shortages, just think "NPR", as Peter Mork points out very effectively here in his discussion of the assinine low prices of gasoline (and attendant extreme shortages) in Iraq. According to NPR, "...The Iraqi government has no clear explanation..." for the shortages.

How can economists make it clearer that when there's a price ceiling, the quantity demanded will exceed the quantity supplied?

Update: Alex at The Marginal Revolution has just posted a lengthy quote on this same topic from The Economist.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Do Not Lie about
Being a 4-H Club Member

Doing so is a U.S. federal crime punishable by up to 6 months in jail. See here [link via Dave Friedman].

"Re-Gifting" and the economics of exchange

"Re-gifting" is a term applied to giving someone else a gift of something you received as a gift but didn't really want. Here is an article from the Washington Post about the practice (free registration required).

I expect that opposition to the practice of re-gifting often results from the feeling that the giver didn't much care about the person who gave the gift or who is receiving the re-gift. The pure economics of exchange is not particularly helpful here. Most of the time I don't mind receiving gifts that are re-gifted if there is some semblance of thought and care in their selection. But most painful to me is the process of deciding whether to re-gift something I've received as a gift but which was clearly inappropriate. In such cases, I usually end up re-gifting the item to the Sally Ann.

My greatest joy in re-gifting involves some old slices of pizza that my son in Houston and I have re-exchanged at times.

The High Price of Cement

I confess that I have not noticed any recent rapid and large increase in the price of cement (but it's not a completely new phenomenon - check out the dates on the articles here). It seems plausible that the high prices in the U.S. are the result of alleged anti-dumping policies of the United States against cement produced in Mexico (for example, see here and here). These barriers to trade restrict competition from foreign producers, enabling less efficient U.S. producers to charge higher prices.

Pathetic. Clearly the gains from lobbying outweigh the strength of arguments concerning gains from trade.

Canadian Disguise Kit

An entrepreneur in the New Mexico has seen a niche market made up of Americans traveling to U.S. - unfriendly countries: disguise yourself as a Canadian!

The major sales of the kit (patch, t-shirt, pin, etc.) called GoingCanadian, however, have been to Republicans who are giving the kits as gag gifts for their friends who voted for John Kerry.

Who Links Here