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Sunday, August 28, 2011 SEX, MARKETING, AND ELECTRIC CARS, 1897-1913
A fascinating look at the electric car industry of the early 20th century and specifically the attempt to position these vehicles as particularly appropriate for women: Femininity and the Electric Car.
On LinkedIn, there is a frequently-appearing ad that says “Learn Ivy League management at eCornell.” I finally clicked on it and got this page. Note especially the headline:
“Add an Ivy League credential to your résumé” (right under the “save 15% this August” line)
and, under “topics you will master”
How to Strategize for Success
Executive Decision Making
Leading Through Creativity
Unlocking Your Leadership Potential
Motivating Members of Your Team
I’d suggest that anyone who seriously believes they can “master” a single one of these topics, let alone all 6 of them, in an 8-week class requiring “just 3-6 hrs per week” of your time” shouldn’t be allowed near the management of anything or anybody. And I'd also suggest that a university which encourages this kind of thinking is not exactly doing itself proud.
Sunday, August 21, 2011 ABOUT THOSE 15% CAPITAL GAINS RATES
Warren Buffett has been talking virtually nonstop about how tax rates on "the wealthy" need to be increased, and of course the dinosaur media has been praising and amplifying this viewpoint. People who think this way are especially fond of citing the 15% capital tax gains rate and contrasting it with the considerably higher rates on ordinary income.
This simplistic comparison, though, ignores the effect of inflation, which acts to increase the effective tax rate--especially on assets which are held for a long period of time. Consider a simple example: let's say you bought a stock in 2003 and sold it in 2011, with a 30% price increase. To make the numbers easy, you bought $10000 worth and sold it for $13000. But according to BLS data, the consumer price index has risen by 22% over the years 2003-2011. Thus, your $13000 is really only worth $10655 in 2003 dollars.
It gets worse. The IRS is going to tax you on the full $3000 of "gain," even though it is largely illusory. At 15%, you will pay $450, which is a very big chunk of your true, inflation-adjusted gains. If you work through the calculations, you'll find that your real capital gains tax rate for this example is not 15%, but more than 50%. (I'll post the calculations if anyone wants to see them.) Indeed, if you buy and sell an asset whose value just keeps pace with inflation--ie, if you don't make any money at all in real terms--you will still be paying capital gains taxes on wholly imaginary profits. If we get Jimmy-Carter-style inflation...say, 40% over the next decade...and you have an investment which just keeps pace with inflation, then federal taxes will take 6% of the value of your investment (15% times 40%) when you sell it. And that's assuming that the current capital gains rate does not increase, and ignoring any state-level taxes on capital gains.
Warren Buffett is surely aware of the preceding considerations, and anyone who writes about finance and economic policy should be aware of them.
Here's a good video by Christina Sochacki, for the Center for Freedom and Prosperity, about the problems with the capital gains tax.
A civilization is built on what is required of men, not on that which is provided for them
If you would have them be brothers, have them build a tower. But if you would have them hate each other, throw them corn
Most liberals would probably argue that the British rioters did what they did because not enough had been done for them. Conservatives, on the other hand, would tend to say that it was because not enough had been expected of them.
The British secret agent Odette Hallowes was awarded both the George Cross and the French Legion of Honor in recognition of her heroism during WWII. Some years after the war, a burglar broke into her mother's home, and among the items he stole was Odette's George Cross. A public appeal for the medal's return was made, and the burglar sent it back with the following note:
You, Madame, appear to be a dear old lady. God bless you and your children. I thank you for having faith in me. I am not all that bad - it's just circumstances. Your little dog really loves me. I gave him a nice pat and left him a piece of meat - out of fridge. Sincerely yours, A Bad Egg.
Even this criminal had enough identification with his country and its history and accomplishments to recognized that Odette's GC was something that really ought to be returned to its owner.
Does anyone think there are many among the current UK rioters who would do the same?
Saturday, August 13, 2011 CAREER CHOICE, POPULAR CULTURE, DESIGN, AND MANUFACTURING
Kathleen Fasanella, who runs the interesting blog Fashion Incubator, observes that the tv program "Project Runway" has led many people to pursue careers as designers--and that this is not the first time that such a phenomenon has occurred:
I’m troubled by the consequences of the fashion school bubble -350 designers at NY Fashion Week being but one sign of it- the blame for which we mostly attribute to Project Runway. A similar thing happened with the TV show LA Law, law schools were inundated with applicants and our legal system is burgeoning with excessive lawsuits as the logical consequence of lawyers needing to make their student loan payments. Simplistically speaking, these are trend careers.
Indeed, for young people who are making career choices there is a shortage of solid information about what various careers are really like and what they require in the way of preparation. Television tends to focus on a few specific fields--lawyers, doctors, nurses, cops, criminals--with occasional excursions into other areas like fashion design--but rarely provides any realistic sense of what day-to-day life in these jobs ight be like. This is understandable--screenwriter Robert Avrech oberved that movies are like real life, except that the boring parts are deleted--but means that these shows aren't exactly reliable guides to career choice. High school guidance counselors rarely have any broad exposure to the world of actual work. College professors, even with the best will in the world, will tend to sell and perhaps oversell their own fields to talented students. Parents may or may not be useful sources of career information, depending on their own backgrounds and current situations; many will also have strong prejudices for or against certain fields.
Kathleen also observes that in her industry there is a real gap between the numbers of people who want to design the product and the numbers of people who want to have something to do with turning it into physical reality:
Many observers consider Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) to be the dumbest person in the Senate, perhaps in the entire United States Congress. Consider, for example, this 2002 Murrayism regarding Osama bin Laden:
We've got to ask, why is this man so popular around the world? Why are people so supportive of him in many countries that are riddled with poverty? He's been out in these countries for decades, building schools, building roads, building infrastructure, building day care facilities, building health care facilities, and the people are extremely grateful.
Yeah, women in Taliban-controlled areas like the convenience of dropping the kids of at the day care center before they check themselves in for the whipping or the stoning.
Murray's brand of politics has plenty to do with the financial situation in which the U.S. now finds itself. See, for example, her threats of retaliation against any Senators who might vote for an anti-pork bill. Just the sort of person one would want to put on a committee to address the deficit.
An Atlantic article by Jim Tankersley, on the subject of job creation, illustrates the way in which bad economic ideas drive bad policy choices. I have in mind specifically Tankersley's item #5, "Unleash energy companies' spending power," in which he proposes
...a "Clean-Energy Standard"--a mandate that a certain percentage of each utility's power generation come from low-carbon-emission sources. The percentage would ramp up over time. Under current technology, clean energy is often more expensive than, say, coal-fired electricity, but a phased-in standard would allow utilities time to increase electric prices incrementally; a well-designed standard with flexibility (for regions most dependent on fossil fuels today) could blunt much of the long-term impact on consumers. Meanwhile, the new construction could start right away. Such a federal mandate, says Joshua Freed, vice president for clean energy at the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way, "would provide a clear signal, without costing any money, to the private sector to invest in wind, solar, or any of the other technologies that are coming on line today." Several large utilities say that the resulting certainty would spur billions of dollars of investment and drive job growth.
Note that assertion that this policy could be implemented without costing any money. Perhaps it wouldn't cost the government any money, in the short term, but it would certainly cost American consumers and businesses plenty of money...after all, if these generation technologies were more economical than the current ones, they would have been implemented without the need for government force. In addition to directly increasing electricity bills, it would represent yet another blow against American manufacturing companies, many of which are highly energy-intensive. Indeed, there are also plenty of non-manufacturing companies, such as operators of large data centers, which would be harmed by government-mandated increases in the price of electricity.. And the resulting decreases in business activity, and reduced ability of consumers to spend money on things other tha electricity, would certainly cost the government money in the future, in the form of reduced tax collections. Not to mention the costs of unemployment among coal miners.
More than 150 years ago, the French economist Frederic Bastiat wrote about the broken-window fallacy, and explained why the breakage of windows does not really provide a net economic gain, despite the fact that such breakage provides jobs for glaziers and glass-manufacturing workers. Apparently, after all this time Bastiat's insight is still not well-understood. Democrats, in particular, continue to believe that they can push an endless number of "cost-free" mandates on the producers of goods and services, even in the midst of an ongoing economic disaster that has been largely caused by exactly that kind of thinking. And despite all the talk about "conserving resources," they generally seem to have no compunction about writing off and destroying human-created resources (such as coal-burning power plants) which represent vast amounts of human labor and intelligence.
Atlantic link via Instapundit
Thursday, August 04, 2011 STRESSES OF GLOBALIZATION (rerun)
Unfortunately in the year XXXX the whole world was one large international workshop. A strike in the Argentine was apt to cause suffering in Berlin. A raise in the price of certain raw materials in London might spell disaster to tens of thousands of long-suffering Chinese coolies who had never even heard of the existence of the big city on the Thames. The invention of some obscure Privat-Dozent in a third-rate German university would often force dozens of Chilean banks to close their doors, while bad management on the part of an old commercial house in Gothenburg might deprive hundreds of little boys and girls in Australia of a chance to go to college.
It's been reported that Joe Biden referred to Republican opponents on the debt issue in the following terms:
They have acted like terrorists.
Biden now denies that he used that phrasing. But there's no question that Democratic representative Mike Doyle, who was in the same meeting, said:
We have negotiated with terrorists. This small group of terrorists have made it impossible to spend any money.
Numerous other Democrats and Democrat-leaning media types have used the T-word or close synonyms of same in referring to their American political opponents, for example NYT columnist Joe Nocera, who refers to the Tea Party Republicans as having "waged jihad on the American people" and Maureen Dowd, who approvingly quoted "some Democrats" as having described the Tea Party as "the Republican Taliban wing."
Note that this vitriol is coming from a party which rejects the idea of calling actual terrorists "terrorists." They prefer to call terrorist attacks man-caused disasters, and to refer to wars as overseas contingency operations.
I'm reminded, as I often am, of something Neptunux Lex wrote in 2008:
The innate character flaw of the political right, with its thrumming appeals to the logic of blood and soil, is its lamentable tendency to go in search of enemies abroad. The left, on the other hand, with its own appeals to the politics of envy and class warfare, is content to find mortal enemies closer to hand.
Today's American leftists view American citizens who strongly differ with them politically as enemies to a much greater extent than Islamic terrorists or any hostile nation-state.
Regarding Mike Doyle's complaint about it having been made "impossible to spend any money"...the Democratic politicians are like teenagers who have been unwisely been given a credit card and who, now that consideration is being given to not raising the credit limit yet again, whine that "you won't let me spend any money at all"...indeed, they also follow the typical teenage pattern of whining "but all my friends get to spend more"...in this case their friends from Europe...while ignoring the little problem that their friends' parents are being driven into bankruptcy even more rapidly than their own are.