Saturday, May 10, 2014

Highly Linkable

Last Saturday, May 3rd, saw the passing of a giant in economics, Gary Becker. Becker was one of the first economists I got a regular exposure to via his column in BusinessWeek. I immediately found an intellectual home in his economic wisdom. David Henderson memorializes Becker here. Russ Roberts remembers him here. Cass Sunstein reflects here.

Assuming the standard arbitrary delineation of the economy into parts, there is perhaps now a new "largest" one.

Josh Barro puzzles over why anyone would want to be a homeowner. Steven Landsburg offers a good critique of Barro and a valuable overview of the issues involved. Megan McArdle counters to a slight degree. With a nod to Arnold Kling, there are major problems with leveraged homeownership as the primary middle-class asset: owning an asset that by its nature is depreciating--try as you might to fight the tide via HOAs and monitoring city council meetings, at the end of the day you're planting flowers as the local factory closes. King Canute could relate as the former actions are immaterial relative to the latter, exogenous, effects. And the latter doesn't have to be a local economic shock like a major employer leaving town. That is just a stand in for depreciation in general. There are two forms of depreciation: wear and tear and out dating. As you perfect taking care of the former, you risk maximizing the latter. At some point you have completely rebuilt an outdated house or you have chosen an expensive way and place to build a house brand new--an interesting spin on the Ship of Theseus paradox.

On a related personal note, I have two friends about to realize a big dose of depreciation in similar ways. One is going to nearly fully replace his heat/air system and the other is going to fully replace both sides of his two-unit heat/air system. The first is looking at about $5,000 in cost while the second will see about $13,000 in cost. All that just to get back to even so to speak--nothing different to show for the huge purchases.

Caplan is playing matchmaker between Western Civ and Open Borders.

Jeffrey Tucker says P2P will prove to be a death blow to the state.

Questioning the conventional wisdom in two examples: (1) saturated fat does not or at least may not cause heart disease, and (2) race perhaps is genetic and is not a social construct.

Humanity has officially jumped the shark. Of course, we knew Las Vegas would be in on it.