Sunday, April 26, 2015

Wedding Industrial Complex

"It's wedding season, kid!" 

People amply agree it is out of control until it is their little princess going through the rite of passage. At that point they rush headlong into all the trite and sometimes ridiculous traditions including songs, bouquet tossing, and smashing cake in faces not to mention all the apes in tuxedos riding in limos. The nonsense starts with an arms race in diamond rings and doesn't end until the honeymoon on the International Space Station catered by the Food Network. But is it really that out of bounds? Despite going from something around $6,000 in the 1930s (inflation adjusted to 2013) to around $30,000 (or over $31,000 according to this), this growth does not outpace the growth in real GDP per capita

The importance of de gustibus non est disputandum must be invoked here. Yes, these expenses would nicely make a down payment on a home [or insert your own favorite worthy cause], but it is not your (the outsider's) decision to make. In fact one shouldn't look back with second-guessing regret about their own decision years ago to spend all that money on a wedding and reception they can scarcely remember. You are a different you than you were then. You're not better now or were better then. You are just different. And in most cases the preferences you have now are not relevant to the decisions you made then.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Highly Linkable

Want to know how much better life is? Look to the Easter Bunny.

Water, water everywhere . . . before you get caught up in the hyperventilating panic, read this and listen to this. Thirsty for more? Try this and this and don't miss this including the block quote at the bottom from a reply to Mother Jones.

They weren't wanting for water at Woodstock as these rainmakers played on. (HT: Tyler Cowen)

Jeffrey Tucker blends up market confusion.

Arnold Kling offers some brief but vital points on sustainability properly considered under the wisdom of economics.

While we're on the subject of the environment, Ronald Bailey asks a great question with wide applicability, but in this case he focuses on global warming. I could make my thoughts on this a much longer post, but for now allow me to make four points:

  • Climate change is a fact! Well, yes. But that is not the debate of substance. No serious thinker believes the climate is static. Many in the environmental movement seem to take as a given that the climate should not change, that species should not go extinct, that man most certainly should not alter his environment . . . in extreme conflict with evidence and reason. This emanates from a status quo (change-hating) bias in opposition to the scientific viewpoint of adaptation. The serious questions are more subtle. 
  • It is important to understand what we can know versus what we most certainly cannot yet prove. Is the climate changing (evolving)? Yes. Are the actions of man partially responsible? Yes. Do we know how much? Not with any reasonable amount of precision. Can we make confident predictions of how the climate will be in the future? No, at best we can make a range of predictions resting on high sensitivity to a host of assumptions. Can we "solve" climate change? No, this kind of question is intellectually bankrupt.
  • There are many implications behind possible climate futures. The good news is we won't be simply thrust into one via time warp. We will have time to continue to discover solutions to various problems including adapting to climates different than what we have become accustomed to as opposed to the impractical luxury of always avoiding those climate changes. Much of Florida might be underwater in 100 years. It is not obvious that Florida as currently conceived is morally superior to things that might significantly affect Florida in the future--assuming we even can pinpoint what those causal things are. Regardless, the future generations will most likely be fabulously wealthier than we are today. They will have resources that we cannot possibly dream of to resolve climate changes. 
  • Beware top-down, all-powerful solutions. This is good advice almost always. Especially this is true when the problem is multifaceted and ill-defined. 
David Henderson has a very good grasp on freedom of association and its implications.

Here's an idea: take a super-powerful organization that is failing at two things and give them a third important task to fail at. Brilliant!

Megan McArdle shows two examples (one for the young and one for the old) where government is making systematic errors that WILL have colossally bad effects.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Bundle Is Dead

Advertising-financed, pushed, bundled-content media is quickly dying. For newspapers there are two critical truths: the medium has changed (newsprint is now online), and (much less understood in the industry) the nature has changed (one-way production and distribution of "the news" from one to many is no longer reality). The second point is the more important. We now can have access in depth to a much, much wider array of news and it is a two-way channel, "a conversation" in the words of BuzzMachine, that is many to many many times over. Often this is in a more raw, unrefined form. And it extends much beyond news into all aspects of media entertainment--it's not just Hildy Johnson that we're losing.

Before fretting that this is all a huge net loss, remember we used to have milk delivered to our doorstep--Those were the days! That was the cost-effective method, but it was a lot more expensive than milk is today. As markets evolve, the value propositions shift. There are always tradeoffs. More of everything for less cost is not ever a near-term option. So you shouldn't be surprised when to get the same channel lineup in a cord-cut world you have to pay as much or more than you pay today. Some of us are enjoying bundles that will not for long be profitable. This media trend began in earnest for print about 15 years ago. It began for radio about 10 years ago. And it began for television about 5 years ago, and it is accelerating.

Bundling was a natural and rewarding byproduct of economies of scale--falling average fixed costs created by mass production. But we are progressing past that part of economic growth into an era dominated by falling total fixed costs--Moore's Law has crossed a tipping point in magnitude. As that unfolds, we will continue to see the withering of business models singularly reliant on a combination of high fixed costs as a barrier to entry and the consequent economies of scale in production and marketing.