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, June 18, 2005

Tomorrow is Father's Day

Just in case you need a reminder.

Have you noticed that many stores have toys tools on sale this weekend? Even though this is likely to be a peak demand period, competition is such that prices are driven down near short-run marginal costs for many products, with much smaller mark-ups.

Ain't competition grand?

Mandatory Retirement

During one of our many recent graduation ceremonies, we went through the process of honouring four professors emeriti. By the time we finished the fourth one, a senior member of the platform party (to be left unnamed) said to those of us within earshot,

One good thing about getting rid of mandatory retirement is we won't have so many emeriti going through graduation.
Someone else said that we'd have just as many but it would be deferred for a few years.

His/her response:

Not if they die or get too sick to show up.
Now that Ontario is getting rid of mandatory retirement, I'm staying 'til I'm 90.

More Amusing Convocation Stories

Every April, the Ivey Skool of Bizness at The University of Western Ontario holds a separate graduation ceremony for its MBAs, at which the University President presides. As each graduate goes through, kneels in front of the prez, and is hooded, the prez not only congratulates them, but he chats them up in fine fashion [he really is remarkable at making each student feel special].

He often asks, "What's next for you?" or something along those lines. Students usually tell him about their job offers, which can be eye-popping, or their prospects. Some of the other responses, however, have been
    • Golf this afternoon. Would you like to join us?

    • I don't know....maybe work a few years and then retire.

    • I have no idea. What's next for you?

Friday, June 17, 2005

Too Much Big Gubmnt Interventionist Nonsense

At this morning's UWO graduation ceremony, the university honoured Marc Lalonde, former politician, cabinet minister, etc., when the Liberals were in their prime under Pearson and Trudeau. It was the standard talk: work for the common good, and we need businesses to have better ethics, etc. He even made a negative remark about Milton Friedman.

Enough, already!

Please! Send me your suggestions for people I can nominate to address future convocations, people who advocate market solutions instead gubmnt intervention! Several years ago, I nominated Michael Walker, of the Fraser Institute, and he did receive an honourary degree shortly thereafter. But we need more. Here are some of the people I am considering nominating, in no special order:
  • Ted Rogers
  • Paul Godfrey
  • Preston Manning
  • Tom Courchene
  • Bill James (okay, he's a baseball guy, but he'd be a good candidate, too)

I'm sure there are many others who should also be considered. Please let me know so I can nominate them and I won't have to sit through so many bleeding-heart liberal interventionist elitist diatribes next year!

Digression: At one point, I had to control myself to keep from bursting into laughter when Lalonde said,

....having lived for many years in both the public and the private sectors, I have no hesitation in saying that our politicians as a whole compare very well with our society as a whole...

I guess he doesn't think very highly of "our society as a whole."

I know, it's out of context. But I prefer it this way.

Canadian Health Care: No More Universal Than U.S. Health Care

In a terrific piece in the National Post, Norma Kozhaya points out that U.S. Health Care for the poor and needy is just about the norm for Canada's universal health care [thanks to Jack for the pointer]. Everyone else gets something better.

The uninsured have at their disposal a safety net, namely the public hospital network: This in fact constitutes a sort of informal hospital insurance. Even the uninsured can obtain health care. The Congressional Budget Office writes that "many people without insurance have access to at least some sources of health care, either through public hospitals, community health centres, local health departments, or Department of Veterans Affairs facilities." OECD researchers have made a similar observation: "Local governments, in conjunction with states, play an important role in financing the so-called safety net providers (e.g., county hospitals) that serve the indigent."

These facts are illustrated by a letter last year from Susan W. Weathers, a doctor in Texas, to the Wall Street Journal. The Canadian system, she explained, "resembles the county hospital where I work. Our patients pay little or nothing. They wait three months for an elective MRI scan and a couple of months to get into a subspecialty clinic. Our cancer patients fare better than the Canadians, getting radiotherapy within one to three weeks. The difference is that our patients are said to have no insurance (a term used interchangeably with no health care) whereas Canadians have 'universal coverage.'"
She goes on to point out that gubmnt spending per capita on health care in the U.S. is greater than it is in Canada, and that total spending (because people can buy private insurance and private health care to top up the gubmnt funding) is much greater.

All told, the U.S. spends more on public health care than most large western countries. Public health care spending as a proportion of GDP is 6.6% in the U.S., ninth among the 30 OECD countries, and just after Canada's 6.7% of GDP. Moreover, per capita government spending is higher in the U.S. than in Canada - $2,364 compared to $2,048 at purchasing power parity, based on OECD data.
If these facts are correct, bring on more privatization, please!

Centsless Website

I have long advocated that we get rid of the one-cent coin in Canada [see here, here, and here].

Recently, Alan Lewis has developed a website called Centsless, devoted to the cause. If you have any other good pieces on the topic, please send them to him.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Especially Not in Socionomology

At every one of our many graduation ceremonies, in the opening remarks, the Chancellor says something like,
...your learning days are from over... . Western has not provided you with answers to all questions.
There is absolutely no truth to the rumour floating around that I offered a substantial cash sum to a student to yell out, at that point,

Especially not in socionomology.

Morgentaler Cites Freakonomics
on Abortion and the Crime Rate

In his graduation address today at The University of Western Ontario, pioneer abortionist Henry Morgentaler cited (without attribution) the theory put forward by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner that abortion has reduced the incidence of violent crime. He did not mention the intense criticism the book has taken. [see here, here, or just Google "levitt abortion crime"].

Only about 300 protestors showed up this morning, when Henry Morgentaler was awarded his honourary doctorate. They were calm and well-received by the university. The university did an excellent job of working with the anti-abortionists. As Paul Davenport, university president said to me,
The university is about the free exchange of ideas; we welcome those who disagree with our decision to honour Henry, and we did everything we could to work with them.
They sure did, providing the protestors with parking, washroom facilities, transportation for the disabled, bottled water, etc.
There were (at least) four levels of security for the event: campus security, city police, private rent-a-cops hired by the university, and Morgentaler's own security squad. There were uniformed and plain-clothes officers everywhere, including at least one in cap and gown in the academic procession! Man, the risk of crime imposes high costs on society.

The Media Are Out in Full Force

This morning Henry Morgentaler is scheduled to receive an honourary degree from the University of Western Ontario. Protestors/prayers are expected to number in the thousands, which makes for great visuals on the news. In preparation, the media trucks from at least three networks were already on campus yesterday afternoon, and a separate room has been set aside as a media centre. I am carefully rehearsing the following sound-bite, should I be interviewed [note to print media: you may use this as if you actually spoke to me].

I dislike abortion, and I am firmly opposed to late-term abortion, but I think the anti-globalization policies promoted by people like Maude Barlow, who received an honourary doctorate here on Tuesday morning, have caused more death and misery throughout the world than all the abortionists in the history of the universe.

Trade-offs, by Harold Winter

About two weeks ago, I received a copy of Tradeoffs, an Introduction to Economic Reasoning and Social Issues, by Harold Winter, in the mail. After briefly looking through the book, I thought to myself, "This looks interesting. I'll have to read it and post a review about it to The Eclectic Econoclast blog."

Two days later, Craig Newmark posted a comprehensive review of the book to his blog, Newmark's Door. It appears that Craig is a much faster reader than I am [and/or the US Postal system is faster than Canada Post; and/or Craig's copy was sent before mine was, which is likely (see below)]. Be sure to read Craig's review, along with the write-ups at Here are some disjointed thoughts I would like to add to those reviews.

I have a strong bias in favour of this book. It emphasizes the concepts of opportunity costs and scarcity, which lie at the heart of economics. As I tell my intro students (and remind my other students)

Limited resources + Unlimited Wants = Scarcity; and scarcity necessitates choice [i.e. trade-offs].
One of my favourite concepts in the economic analysis of law is the distinction between property rules and liability rules. I love teaching the classic article on this distinction, by Calabresi and Melamed. Trade-offs does a great job of explaining this material, without a lot of tedious detail or introductory build-up, on pages 72-73. The entire section from page 68 - 78 provides a very nice, intuitive introduction to the economic analysis of property and tort law.

I also like the coverage of health, law, and economics, provided at page 95ff. Here, Winter does a superb job of explaining the impossibility of providing the very best health care possible for everyone -- because of scarcity. This section is so good you might even think he has some familiarity with the Canadian health system, and by golly he does: he was raised in Montreal.

His discussion of the economics of product liability and foreseeable misuse (p108) is excellent, and I loved his coverage of the 2003 blackout (p.107ff):

Before too long... the experts were called in to discuss the solution to the problem, even before anyone knew precisely what the problem was.

... [H]ad I been asked for my professional opinion during the early hours of the blackout, ... I would have raised only one question: What is the optimal blackout rate?
Terrific!! This man is a true economist!

Now for the real reasons for my biases in favour of this book. First, Winter uses hockey to illustrate the Sam Peltzman seat-belt risk-compensation theorem by quoting Don Cherry. Back in the 70s, Cherry argued that requiring hockey players to wear helmets would lead to rougher play and more concussions; he was right (pp 89-90).

Second, in the introduction he relates how, after he explained the trade-offs in health economics to his mother, she looked at him in disbelief and said, "You're a monster." Very amusing, but too true about how non-economists perceive our analyses. [When I asked him about this in e-mail, he said his mother no longer sees him as a monster; in fact, she seems to be a strong convert.]

Finally, and I quote (p88),
I was home during Christmas break one year, after just completing the first half of an economics and law course. That course greatly affected the way I thought about economics.
I was his professor in that course, along with Stan Liebowitz. Damn, that really warms the heart.
Craig Newmark probably received his copy of the book sooner than I did because his came from the University of Chicago Press, but mine was sent to me by Harold Winter, with a very nice note inside the cover. It was almost enough to make me skip writing the next paragraph...

My major complaint about the book is that The University of Chicago Press did not do its job. The references at the ends of the chapters appear to be end-notes, not references, but they are not numbered and are not linked to specific portions of the text (and why does anyone use end-notes these days? They're a real pain). Also, the grammar, style, and exposition need a good copy editor. I fully expect this book to be popular enough that it will eventually go into a second edition, and these flaws will be corrected then.

Despite these drawbacks, the book is a keeper; it is a good read and a good exposition of the applications of fundamental economics to important policy questions. Other reviewers must see it as a keeper, too --- as of this writing there are no used copies available on e-bay or Amazon!

Rondi Adamson:
You Must Read Her Stuff

Rondi Adamson writes for The Christian Science Monitor and the Ottawa Citizen, among others. She is an outspoken Canadian who is pro-American:

Not all Canadians hate George W. Bush, contrary to the received wisdom. There is a secret underground society of Bush fans (three and a half of us, at last count) in Canada. How do I know this? It started with a T-shirt an American friend of mine gave me earlier this year. It has a big "W" on it, next to a wee American flag and an "04."

To clarify, I am a Bush fan, in the way Woody Allen's character, Mickey, in Hannah and her Sisters, wanted to become a Roman Catholic. Mid-existential crisis, Mickey tells a priest that some aspects of Catholicism entice him, but he would prefer to join the "against school prayer, pro-abortion, anti-nuclear wing" of the church. That's how I feel about Bush and his Republican party. I support the against school prayer, pro-war on terror, pro-war in Iraq, pro-war in Afghanistan, pro-pressure on tyrants, pro-gay marriage, pro-choice, pro-death penalty, thumb-your-nose-at-the-UN wing. And, on a human level, I like Bush, who seems to genuinely like and respect women -- a refreshing break from his predecessor.
Add fiscally conservative, and I'm with her on much of this.

... recently, an older, 1960s leftover lady I had shared friendly chitchat with asked me if my T-shirt was a joke. I told her no. She looked dubious and told me she was "very far left." "How fun for you!" I said. Days later, she introduced me to a friend of hers. "This is Rondi," she said. "She likes George Bush." She then paused, before saying, desperately trying to convince, "But she's very nice!" I was tempted, in turn, to introduce her to people thusly: "This is Peggy. She's a leftist." Pause. "But she's not always illogical, infantile and myopic!"
I regret to inform my friends who have asked that I do not have pictures of the t-shirt.

[Link via Silly Little Country]

Film Depicts Saddam Hussein as Monster

CANNES, FRANCE – Twelve months after Michael Moore scooped Cannes' top award with "Fahrenheit 9/11," - a scathing indictment of the Bush adminstration's handling of the war in Iraq - a very different movie director screened a very different view of the war at the world's premier cinematic gathering.

Director Hiner Saleem did not win the Golden Palm this year. But his film "Kilometre Zero" created a good deal of buzz at the competition...

"We're free! We're free!" two Iraqi Kurdish exiles shout exultantly as they hear the news of Saddam Hussein's overthrow on April 9, 2003. "We're free! We're free!"
That joyous reaction to the invasion of Iraq is not likely to go down well with the European audiences who idolized Mr. Moore. But Mr. Saleem, an Iraqi Kurd, is equally worried about being adopted as a standard-bearer by the war's supporters.
"My film is not the opposite of 'Fahrenheit 9/11' because I don't judge George Bush or the United States," Saleem says. " I judge Saddam Hussein and I simply say he was a monster."

In fact, the controversial ending was tacked on to the original screenplay to give the film more currency, for fear that foreign audiences might find the central story line too distant. Most of the film - about a young Kurdish man press-ganged into Iraq's war with Iran in 1988 - explores the suffering and humiliation that the Kurds experienced at the government's hands.

The movie follows Ako from his village in the Kurdish mountains to the front line near the southern Iraqi city of Basra, and then back again when he is assigned to escort home the corpse of a fallen comrade.

Read more about it at the Christian Science Monitor [thanks to BenS for the link]

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Convo Update: Half Done.
Criticism of Policy Asymmetry

We have now completed five of this week's graduation ceremonies at UWO; five more to go.

At this morning's ceremony, the graduates were nearly all from the Administrative and Commercial Studies programme (a general undergraduate business programme offered by our Faculty of Social Sciences because our bizskool wouldn't offer one).
Nearly all, but not quite.
There were about 15 or 20 graduating students whose faculty is having its ceremony tomorrow morning, when Henry Morgentaler is receiving an honourary degree, but these students were given the option to graduate a day early if they didn't wish to graduate in the Morgentaler ceremony.

I'll bet people who favour the use of market solutions were not offered the option of changing ceremonies to avoid listening to the drivel from elitist interventionists who come through so damned often.

Strikes me as downright unfair.

Kofi Annan, AGAIN!

I wrote back in December that Kofi Annan should either resign or be removed.

The scandals in the Oil for Food programme are being ignored and/or hushed up; U.N. peace-keepers have at times had less-than-honourable behaviour; and the U.N. bureaucrats have carefully insulated themselves from anything and anyone requiring accountability. If it is to survive as an institution, it must clean house, starting at the top.
And now the Globe and Mail (via the Associated Press) is saying that a memo reveals there is a good chance that Kofi Annan knew about his son's scandalous behaviour.

Investigators of the UN's oil-for-food program said Tuesday they are “urgently reviewing” new information that suggests UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan may have known more than he revealed about a contract that was awarded to the company that employed his son.

The December, 1998, memo from Michael Wilson, then a vice-president of Cotecna Inspections S.A., mentions brief discussions with Mr. Annan “and his entourage” at a summit in Paris in 1998 about Cotecna's bid for a $10-million(U.S.)-a-year contract under the oil-for-food agreement.

Given the nature of the U.N. bureaucracy, I'm not at all sure things would be any better with anyone else in the position.

Price Floors on Booze in Prince Edward Island

The PEI [Prince Edward Island] Liquor Control Commission has introduced minimum prices for alcoholic beverages in an attempt to cut down on binge drinking at bars.

A recent price war among some Charlottetown bar owners had resulted in beer and shots of hard liquor going for as little as $2. At one point, some were selling a shot of liquor for $1.

The result of the price war was, surprise! that some people were binge drinking in bars. To solve this binge-drinking problem [there was no indication that anyone presented any evidence that it was more of a problem],

The commission has introduced minimum prices of $2.85 for a beer and $2.35 for a shot.
I am willing to bet a $1 beer that the bars were strong supporters of this policy. Surely the PEI Liquor Control Commission could have obtained the same result by raising taxes on alcoholic beverages. The way they did it, though, increases the business values of existing bars and liquor licenses.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

More Notes from Convocation

I have attended LOTS of graduation ceremonies. This morning something happened that I hadn't heard before. After one young woman's name was announced, a guy in the audience yelled out, "Will you marry me?" We didn't see that she answered either way.
Yesterday, one of the people shaking hands and confirming the degrees was a bit nervous since he hadn't had much experience at the job. He wanted to do a good job, so he tried to make sure he called each student by name. In one instance, he couldn't quite make out the name because audience members were making some noise, so he asked the student, "What's your name again?"

To which the equally nervous student replied, "Thank you very much."

I have seen variants on that theme several times over the years.
One person has suggested that it would be an interesting strategy for the University of Western Ontario to give the honorary degree to pioneer abortionist, Henry Morgantaler, tomorrow (Wednesday), without announcing the change in advance, instead of waiting until Thursday. That idea has some fun implications....
Speaking of Henry Morgentaler, recall from my earlier posting that the Chair of the Board of Governors issued an open letter dissing the selection committee for their choice. I wrote then that the guy should resign.

He didn't resign; in fact, he showed up at yesterday afternoon's ceremony, where the talk was given by a long-time fund-raiser and donor to the university. I doubt, though, that he will show up at the Morgentaler ceremony on Thursday morning.
One more thing about Morgentaler. The Chair of the Board of Governors alleged in his open letter that the invitations to the honorary degree recipients are always the result of a unanimous, consensual decision of the committee. He argued that since the committee wasn't unanimous in its vote on Morgantaler's invitation, he shouldn't have been invited.

That is pure nonsense. The President of the University, Paul Davenport, is a respectable and respected economist. He sits on that committee, and I cannot imagine that he voted in favour of inviting Maude Barlow to speak this morning.

Maude Barlow:
"Won't Somebody Think of the Children?"

Three down. Seven graduation ceremonies to go this week at UWO.

This morning's guest speaker was Maude Barlow, a conflicted yet sincere person who has no realistic idea about the concept of scarcity but knows it shouldn't exist:
  • She is reputedly an expert on international trade, but when she listed the benefits of trade, she didn't even hint at understanding the ideas of comparative advantage, specialization, division of labour, and gains from trade. But by golly she knows the rich countries, driven by transnational capitalism, are making poor countries worse off.
  • She is a champion of social justice, which means redivide a pie [and who cares if doing so makes it whole lot smaller]. She didn't mention Robert Mugabe for some reason.
  • She is allegedly an expert on water, but she claims we'll run out of water by the year 2025 if we don't do something about it. She didn't mention the obvious solution -- raise prices, and she explicitly denied the value of property rights and free market solutions in allocating water.
  • And, she says we need to spend more money on public education and not let rich folks get more than poor folks do. Just like our wonderful health care system in Canada!

She was addressing a convocation for the Faculty of Education. In Canada, these folks have all earned degrees in some other discipline and must compete to gain entry into this post-degree programme. But I really worry when the professors teaching there would invite someone like her as their honourary degree recipient. Interventionist elitism motivated by moral superiority is anti-intellectual. As one person wrote to me after yesterday's rant,

She's not very bright (that's my third iteration on that description, and by far the kindest). She reminds me of that character on The Simpsons who pops up at absurd moments saying "won't somebody think of the children?"

I also received some other, even less-flattering descriptions that I won't put on the blog.

The Benefits of Free(r) Trade:
a Small Example

My older son, David Ricardo Palmer, recently returned from a visit to Arizona. When I met him for coffee at Starbucks, he was proudly wearing a new pair of cotton slacks that he had bought at a Target store in Phoenix for only $10 [similar pants are available from Wal-Mart for between $12 and $15 (all prices in U.S. dollars)]. They looked great on him, but maybe that's just because he's a good-looking guy.

I asked him how much he thought he'd have to pay for them if there weren't free (-ish) trade in textiles and clothing.

We decided maybe $60 [is that the list price for a pair of Dockers or something similar but more upscale?], but perhaps that was a bit too high. I do recall, though, paying 4 or 5 dollars for a pair of polished cotton slacks (with a belt thingy on the back but with no perma-press and no stain resistance) back in the mid-1950s. At the same time, starting salaries for assistant professors were about $5 - $6 thousand, so relative to those incomes, it shouldn't be too surprising if pants prices had increased by nearly tenfold in 50 years.

Lucky for consumers, pants prices have only doubled or tripled in 50 years, thanks to free trade and innovation.

Deposits on Paper Coffee Cups?
I'm Rich!!

From the CBC [with thanks to BF]:

The New Brunswick Solid Waste Association wants the province to put a deposit on paper beverage containers, including takeout coffee cups.

It says the products should be recycled, not thrown in the garbage – or worse – tossed out the car window.

Of course the group is very happy to have the demand for its services increased, but it doesn't address the costs of the service, assuming that taxpayers will pick up the tab.

Ten cents per cup? I have several hundred dollars worth in the loft of my garage, just waiting for Ontario to bring in this scheme.

What Do Parking Fees Buy?

In a very funny column about what he would do if he were president of UNC-Wilmington, Mike Adams writes, [link via Newmark's Door]

The university is also stealing your money by charging you $175 for parking every year and not providing you all with a parking space. Currently, there are four students for every parking space. Pardon my language, but that really sucks. Expect to immediately receive a 75% reduction in your parking fees. Next, I will build a parking deck on campus. When I am finished, you will be able to park there for free.
I have two really serious problems with this.
  1. At most universities, the parking fee is not an entitlement or guarantee to a parking space. It is more like a hunting license, giving you the right to hunt for a parking space. I have no problem with this concept, so long as we all know that is what the parking permit buys us, but I would rather use the price mechanism to allocate parking spaces than use the "who-can-get-up-earliest-to-get-to-campus-in-time-to-find-a-parking-space" [aka queuing] mechanism.
  2. "free" parking is a massive waste of scarce resources. The land, the space, the monitoring, etc., all have valuable alternative uses -- opportunity costs.

I hope he retakes an intro economics course before becoming president.

Stephen Ayers of Disinterested Party has this to say about "free parking" in urban areas.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Offensive Graduation Speaker Invitees

There is a big controversy at The University of Western Ontario because on Thursday we will be honouring Henry Morgentaler, a pioneer abortionist. There will be thousands of protestor/praying folks outside the ceremony hall, and security has been beefed up considerably.

Even though I do not like abortion and I'm strongly opposed to late-term abortions, I am not too bothered by our university's decision to bestow this honour on him. I am much more bothered that we would honour someone who opposes the trend toward increased globalization. I consider the positions of Maude Barlow, who will be honoured Tuesday morning, not only morally questionable but intellectually bankrupt. Here is the UWO write-up about her:

Maude Barlow, activist, author and policy critic, is an outspoken crusader for Canadian sovereignty and citizens’ rights. She is the National Chairperson of The Council of Canadians, Canada’s largest citizen’s advocacy organization. She is a best-selling author and a director with the International Forum on Globalization, a San Francisco-based research and education institution opposed to economic globalization.
The anti-globalization folks have probably caused more death and misery in the world than the abortionists. And I have to sit through whatever drivel will spew forth in her address. I think I'll sleep instead.

Where are the free-market protestors and emoters? We need more folks to show speakers like her the folly of their ways.

First of 10 Graduation Ceremonies This Week

That's right. At The University of Western Ontario we hold ten graduation ceremonies this week [plus six more in the fall and a few others scattered at various times throughout the remainder of the year]. Parents love the cermonies, because each convocation is comparatively small, and the pomp and ceremony make each one very special to those involved.

I attend all the convocations as the ceremonial mace-bearer, aka Esquire Bedel [or see here for a picture from this morning's convocation]. I had thought of trying to live-blog them, but decided against it, figuring that not many people would care. 8-)

But the convo speaker this morning, Doris Anderson, was pretty good. I'm sure she's far to the left of me politically, but she got me on side by referring to her speech as a "...sort of dignified pep talk." She also told some gripping stories about sex and race discrimination 50 years ago.

She also told the students they were very privileged, relative to previous generations and they should do their best to make the world a better place. I wonder if she would accept using their skills to convince people that gubmnt intervention in markets is often inefficient.

Tort Liability:
Who is the Least-Cost Preventer of the Accident?

From the NY Post ($ req'd)[thanks to BenS for the link]:

Abstract (Document Summary)
Staff at the front desk assured [Eileen Boulger] there would be nary a pinfeather in her seventh-floor room, but two days into her stay a maid accidentally replaced the hypoallergenic bedding with the life- threatening variety, according to Boulger's Manhattan lawyer, Ralph Drabkin.
This is a standard tort case: somebody goofed. The questions that need to be addressed involve expected types of loss, the expected sizes of the losses, and the probabilities involved. It all comes from the "Hand Formula", enunciated in Carroll Towing. The analysis is also well-explained in Posner's text, The Economic Analysis of Law.

Anonymous Lawyer

It isn't as if we do not already have enough material out there to tell us what life is like in go-go law firms. John Grisham's The Firm or The King of Torts or The Partner do a great job. But the blog, Anonymous Lawyer, presents a wonderful fictional diary of a partner in a major law firm. The cynicism and humour make the entries really fun to read. These excerpts below do not do the site justice.

A recent entry intricately details the nuances and ramifications of summer associates' going to a strip club and submitting the bill to the firm for reimbursement.

From the previous week (about the influx of summer associates):

The two weeks before the summer program starts is always a whirlwind of activity. First, there's the matter of offices. If I had my druthers, I'd load up a conference room with a couple dozen desks and stick all of the summer associates in there for the summer. Every few hours, I'd send an associate in to explain an assignment, and, Survivor-style, the last one to complete the task would be eliminated. It would keep the summer associates on their toes and let them feel some of the pressure that the young associates do. One of the things we do very badly here is make the summer stressful enough.
And from the entry before that (about how "life coaches" are those who can't make it in the real world themselves):

I think it's very hard to work at a place like this and have integrity. The pressure to bill hours is too high. The pressure to cover up mistakes, to lie to clients, to create busy-work simply to enable more hours to be billed, the need to cut corners in order to maintain some semblance of control. But at least I know this. And I cling to the hope that this somehow makes me better than the people who don't. That somehow this means I would never take that final step, that one last step toward complete inhumanity. There's a check in the system. I know when I'm over the line. I do it anyway, but I know. On the other hand, maybe that makes me worse. But in either case, I don't need a life coach to tell me. And it's the ones who do need a life coach, for whom the life coach is really adding value, that I'm most frightened of. Because they'll do anything to get ahead, and won't even know just how evil they are.

Garlic Flavoured Ice Cream?

Last Saturday evening, Ms. Eclectic and I had the privilege of spending a wonderful two hours with Alan Adamson (co-blogger with me at Curling) and his charming wife. Even though we blog together, Alan and I had never met until then, and it was a splendid evening, dining at a restaurant in London, Ontario, called "Garlics".

The meal was great; we all enjoyed our entrees. For dessert, we shared some nice things, but we also took a chance and ordered one dish of garlic ice cream [recipe here] for the four of us to share. We each took one bite, but then we left the rest for our waiter.

The Adamsons then attended the opera, Tosca.
We went home and watched a ballgame on television.
Alan is in serious danger of losing his membership in the PLO.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Student Arrested and Fined for Calling Horse "Gay"

From the Oxford Cherwell on-line, via Melanie Phillips [h/t to MA]:

Brown and his friends ...had emerged from the Cellar Bar and were surprised to encounter two mounted policemen.

Brown inquired, “How do you feel about your horse being gay?” of one of the policemen, stating that his colleague’s was clearly not gay. After repeated comments on the sexuality of his horse, and despite warnings from the policeman about his behaviour, Brown’s offer of an apology to the horse was rejected and he was handcuffed and taken by the officers to the police station.
The idea of apologizing to a horse amuses me. Other than that, do you think maybe Brown is homophobic when sober?

The Cloud Appreciation Society

As Dave Barry would say, "I'm not making this up." There exists a "Cloud Appreciation Society." It looks like the sort of thing Phil Miller should join [click here to see why].

At The Cloud Appreciation Society we love clouds, we're not ashamed to say it and we've had enough of people moaning about them. Read our manifesto and see how we are fighting the banality of ‘blue-sky thinking’....

Clouds that Look Like Things: Besides continuing to add members' beautiful photographs to our cloud gallery pages, we are very pleased to reveal more clouds that look like things. The current crop includes a camel, and elephant, a mysterious face and King Kong.

As a photographer, I can admit to a fond affinity for this group [thanks to JohnH for the pointer].

I Do Not Cross-Dress

I do pretty well in teaching evaluations. But I don't cross-dress to get my point across.

Jeremy D. Kerr is a sociologist [sic] who uses cross-dressing to make points about gender and society.

But Kerr, an adjunct who teaches at the University of Kentucky and who used to teach at Georgetown College, has been told by his department chair at Kentucky to stop cross-dressing in class, and Kerr has sued Georgetown, charging that he lost an adjunct position because of his cross-dressing in area restaurants.

Kerr was not available for comment.

Before you wonder whether Kerr considered the expected incremental benefits, compared with the expected incremental costs, of cross-dressing in area restaurants, the answer is, "Of course he did." At least he behaved as if he made the comparison. Otherwise he wouldn't have done it. Thanks to JC for the pointer.
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