Friday assorted links
23 minutes ago
Coupons basically serve two functions for businesses--advertising, and price discrimination. Advertising means it brings in new customers by making them aware of your service, or giving them an incentive to try it. Price discrimination, on the other hand, is what food processors do with grocery store coupons: it lets them sell their products to customers who are very price sensitive, without lowering the price paid by people who are too busy or embarassed to clip coupons.
As far as I can tell, small businesses viewed Groupons largely as the former....
The problem is that for consumers, it seems mostly to have been about price discrimination....
The average amount of debt for 2011 graduates at Indiana’s public, four-year colleges rose to $27,500.If that is the average, there must be some with very big numbers because there are certainly many with no debt at all. The article has no information about debt of graduates from private colleges.
“In these tough times, a college degree is still your best bet for getting a job and decent pay,” Asher said.There is a difference between correlation an causation. Most highly motivated and highly intelligent students go to college, while most students with little motivation and little intellectual ability do not. The differences in outcomes between those with college certification and those without may mostly reflect these a-priori differences, not value added from college.
•When the FDIC took over Washington Mutual, it paid uninsured depositors in full using money that would have gone to bondholders. Writes Mr. Allison: "This was in complete contradiction to past practice. The bondholders suddenly realized that there is no rule of law when government regulators are involved…The decision to treat WaMu bondholders this way closed the capital markets for banks."
In a 2010 study for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, I examined the four years from 1944, the peak of World War II spending, to 1948. Over those years, the U.S. government cut spending from a high of 44 percent of gross national product (GNP) in 1944 to only 8.9 percent in 1948, a drop of over 35 percentage points of GNP. The result was an astonishing boom. The unemployment rate, which was artificially low at the end of the war because many millions of workers had been drafted into the U.S. armed services, did increase. But between 1945 and 1948, it reached its peak at only 3.9 percent in 1946. From September 1945 to December 1948, the average unemployment rate was 3.5 percent.
But why did this postwar boom occur? The answer, in a nutshell, is that the U.S. economy went from being centrally planned, with price controls and government allocation in large sectors of the economy, to being much more free market. During the New Deal, Franklin Roosevelt had many advisors who were hostile to free markets. But during the war, Roosevelt, although he centrally planned the economy for the duration, kicked out most of his anti-market advisors, people like Ben Cohen, William O. Douglas, trust-buster Thurman Arnold, price controller Leon Henderson, and Felix Frankfurter. In 1945 and 1946, Harry Truman got rid of the remaining New Dealers, including two of the most prominent ones: former Vice President Henry Wallace and Harold Ickes.
Unions raised wages for plumbers and auto workers but reduced wages for the non-unionized. Minimum wages protected union jobs but made the poor unemployable. Building codes sometimes kept buildings from falling or burning down but always gave steady work to well-connected carpenters and electricians and made housing more expensive for the poor. Zoning and planning permission has protected rich landlords rather than helping the poor. Rent control makes the poor and the mentally ill unhousable, because no one will build inexpensive housing when it is forced by law to be expensive. The sane and the already-rich get the rent-controlled apartments and the fancy townhouses in once-poor neighborhoods.He also has a very Schumpeterian line: "Efficiency is not the chief merit of a market economy: innovation is."
One thing that Hardin overlooked is that the political process often replicates the same economic dynamic that encourages the tragedy of the commons -- a dynamic fostered by the ability to capture concentrated benefits while dispersing the costs. Like the herder who has an incentive to put out yet one more animal to graze, each interest group has every incentive to seek special benefits through the political process, while dispersing the costs of providing those benefits to the public at large. Just as no herder has adequate incentive to withhold from grazing one more animal, no interest group has adequate incentive to forego its turn to obtain concentrated benefits at public expense. No interest group has adequate incentive to put the interests of the whole ahead of the interests of the few. The logic of collective action discourages investments in sound public policy just as it discourages investments in sound ecological stewardship. This, in addition to the pervasiveness of special-interest rent seeking, explains many of the failings of centralized regulation.
Facing this reality, in 1988 the government in some provinces compromised just a little and agreed that couples who had a daughter as their first child would be allowed one more try to have a son — provided that there were no unauthorized births or other violations of the population policy by anyone in the couple’s village during that year. While giving a bit on the population front, this “reform” had the salutary effect — from the totalitarian point of view — of destroying peasant solidarity, which previously had acted to shield local women giving birth in hiding. Instead, hysterical group pressure was mobilized against such rebels, with everyone in the village transformed into government snoops to police their neighbors against possible infractions.
According to Acemoglu’s thesis, when a nation’s institutions prevent the poor from profiting from their work, no amount of disease eradication, good economic advice or foreign aid seems to help. I observed this firsthand when I visited a group of Haitian mango farmers a few years ago. Each farmer had no more than one or two mango trees, even though their land lay along a river that could irrigate their fields and support hundreds of trees. So why didn’t they install irrigation pipes? …. But these farmers also knew that nobody in their village had clear title to the land they farmed. If they suddenly grew a few hundred mango trees, it was likely that a well-connected member of the elite would show up and claim their land and its spoils. What was the point?Read the whole thing--it is worth the time.
If national institutions give even their poorest and least educated citizens some shot at improving their own lives — through property rights, a reliable judicial system or access to markets — those citizens will do what it takes to make themselves and their country richer.
If growth is a byproduct not just of good policies like trade liberalization, which can in theory be turned on like a light switch, but rather of basic institutions, then the prospects of foreign aid look dim. ... Bad institutions exist because it is in the interests of powerful political forces within the poor country itself to keep things this way.