Voting Decision Models

James Lileks writes great angry.  Here is an example.  James used to have a section of his website, we think it was called screeds, for his collection of angry, nasty humor.  We loved them.  Kevin D. Williamson is also a master of the genre.  David French is not.  We are not either.  That’s why it has taken us time to respond to David’s “Dump [The Donald], But Don’t Burn Down The GOP” at The Dispatch.  David’s Dump doesn’t have the style of James or Kevin but who does?  The problem is that it doesn’t make much sense either.

Our disagreement is interesting because we suspect that if asked to pick who should be president now we would both have the same response: Mitt’s second term.  We are not saying David is not a conservative.  We just think he is wrong about voting models.

One issue we are ignoring is the conjunction of dumping The Donald AND burning down the GOP.  Near the beginning David says:

In other words, in the furious argument over the future of the Republican party and political conservatism, consider me squarely in the camp that seeks to dump [The Donald] but not to seek vengeance on the rest of the GOP.  [Emphasis added]

It must be a Twitter thing since we are not in that milieu.  We see that there are still some Never The Donald folks out there and there are some folks that want to burn the GOP because it doesn’t support The Donald enough but we didn’t know anyone was for both.  We weren’t aware of an argument of any kind never made a furious one.  We are not interested in that part of David’s Dump.  We are interested in the Dump The Donald part.  David quotes himself on how Christians should vote:

First, they must possess a personal character that is worthy of the office they seek. Second, they must broadly share my political values. If a candidate fails either prong of that test, he or she doesn’t receive my vote.

Then he goes on about The Donald’s incompetence.  He needs to reread The Weed Agency to remind himself of the difficulties of governing.  Yes, we know it is a work of fiction but it is instructive.  He goes on to say that competence is a character trait.  He is surely wrong about that.  Expertise relates to specific limited areas.  Everyone (do we need an almost before everyone?) has limited areas of competencies.

Sidebar One: The winner of a recent bridge tournament with thousands of entries including MWG is also (self reported) a crossword puzzle champ.  We are amazed by that combination of extraordinary skills.  End Sidebar One.

Our major complaint is that David’s voting model has people staying home on election day or only making a couple of votes.  How many people have you voted for enthusiastically in your life?  If your two main criteria are character and political values while competency fits in too do you want to help The Frontrunner win?  VDH isn’t always right (is he?) but you might consider this in your voting decision.

When we get down to the general election we think you need to compare the two candidates.  It is a binary choice: either The Donald or The Frontrunner will win in November.  Even if you live in Wisconsin only rarely do you get to vote for a Ron Johnson.  Pick the best candidate by your model and vote.  If your model has you staying home often reconsider it.

Sidebar Two: One rational model for staying home is that the value of your vote is not worth the cost of making it.  It is not an unreasonable conclusion.  The problem is that this model means that rational people vote less.  We don’t think that having rational people voting less is a good idea.  End Sidebar Two.

Don’t stay home or leave the presidential choice blank on David’s orders.

Two COVID-19 Problems; One Solution

COVID-19 causes many problems.  Two have popped up this week.  Two very different sets of officials in two very different places are confronting two very different sets of problems.  The Italian government has a specific COVID-19 problem: the price of face masks.  The University of Wisconsin has a more general COVID-19 problem including the likelihood that both sources of revenue, student tuition and the state government, will not meet expectations.

The Italian government has created a problem for itself by replacing market signals with central planning.  Alberto Mingardi at the WSJ tells it all in the headline: Italy’s COVID Price-Control Fiasco.  As folks often say, to be fair, we should only report when government price controls are not a fiasco.  Still you should read the whole thing just to remind yourself of the problems of central planning.  Here is a tidbit:

Companies were allowed to import only masks that were already allocated to health-care institutions. No one was allowed to import masks and sell them to the highest bidder. Those who were buying up masks to hoard risked government confiscation. These moves clamped down on price gouging but created a shortage. Through a later adjustment, importers were able to keep 20% of their masks to sell on the market. Yet the signal was clear: importing face masks is better not left to “animal spirits.”

Central planning always leads to the need for more central planning.  Later, Alberto lets us know that the market worked for hand sanitizer.

On this side of the Atlantic, the University of Wisconsin System (UWS) has created The Blueprint For The UWS Beyond COVID-19.  UWS has two different meanings.  Sometimes UWS means all 26 campuses.  The Blueprint applies to all 26 campuses.  UWS also means UWS central administration.  They created the Blueprint.  It is no surprise when they conclude:

To address the significant costs of the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Wisconsin System must play a more direct role in operations at the campus level to more rapidly achieve systemwide efficiencies.

We are convinced that UWS works because each campus has a fair degree of autonomy.  Perhaps you should read it all.  It is only seven pages and it sounds plausible but it will meet with all the problems of central planning.

So we have two different sets of officials on two sides of the Atlantic dealing with COVID-19 and they both decide that they need more power to solve the problem.  We know in Italy that the people being planned took “unexpected” actions.  Expected the “unexpected” in Wisconsin too.  Another action we can expect is for more officials to conclude that more central planning is the solution to COVID-19 problems.  We really should expect the “unexpected” from both the planners and the planned.

After COVID-19: The David French Version

In the VDH version we talked about three things should happen in the intermediate to long term after COVID-19.  First, the federal government needs to improve its intelligence gathering on disasters and be better prepared for them.  The Donald is making steps in the right direction.  Second, we need to pay off the debt incurred in supporting our population.  Third, and this is where we don’t entirely agree with VDH, we need to in-shore critical production while making sure America doesn’t become a protectionist nation.

David French’s newsletter title is that “It’s A False Choice To Pit Public Health Vs. Economic Health.”  Here is the link at The Dispatch.  David’s headline is exactly right but the problem with the text becomes clear at the start.  Here is his first paragraph:

One of the most frustrating aspects of the online debate about coronavirus is the ongoing idea that we confront some kind of stark binary—that we can have a lower number of deaths and a dreadful recession or our government can tolerate a higher level of risk and “open up” the American economy, thereby avoiding most of the economic pain. In reality, our national challenge is almost fiendishly complex. Human behavior, urban/rural economic disparities, international trade, and federalism all combine to mean there is no either/or, but rather a series of both/ands that ultimately require that we keep the virus under control.  [Emphasis added]

His last two sentences that we have put in bold are exactly right and reflects what serious people are talking about.  His first sentence doesn’t seem to make any sense until later on he tells us what he is responding to:

Interestingly enough, this either/or conversation is taking place—especially in conservative Twitter and on conservative media—just as coronavirus deaths are spiking to almost 2,000 per day in the United States, with the state of New York now facing more confirmed cases and deaths on a per capita basis than the worst-hit European nations of France and Spain.

His link on quite militant is a Tweet!  We understand that pundits who write for a living need to be on Twitter to get the brand out and feel the zeitgeist (thank you auto spell) but David is complaining Twitter with character limits doesn’t have enough nuance.  Like The Donald, David ought to ease up on using Twitter.  We are glad we don’t use it but we don’t need readership.

Serious discussion abound on the fiendishly complex process of opening up.  You could find it in theBest Of The Web almost every day recently.  Or here, here, or here.   Then David brings up a false binary of his own (David really has a problem understanding binary choices):

Is it even possible to restore the economy before the virus is brought under control?

As David discusses below the false choice quote there are lots of reasons why the economy won’t come roaring back immediately.  He is right but that is not an argument that we should continue or not continue lockdown.  Both COVID-19 and economic lockdown cause suffering and death.  Our guess is that NYC isn’t going to open anytime soon, in fact the public schools just closed for the year, but other states and localities should.  Retired folks like us are going to be more cautious compared people half our age.  What we need is a little federalism and local control.  We think David is in favor of those concepts.

Leadership is going to be required to balance the damage from COVID-19 versus the economic lockdown.  Different areas can and should make different choices.  One of big problems for politicians making decisions is that the damage from COVID-19 is reported much more and is more quantifiable (x deaths) than the damage from the economic lockdown.  We hope we are wrong but we think that David’s false choice might carry the day.

Expertise And COVID-19

You don’t want to be on the left.  In the United States the exception is that you walk on the left.  People, let’s make it easy to keep our social distance by walking on the left.

OK, with our public service announcement out of the way let’s talk about COVID-19 and expertise.  Daniel Tanreiro at NRO has an excellent article, Up From Expertise that you should read in full.  While you are there it is a good time to donate to NRO.  There is a donate button near the top left on the NRO page.

Long Sidebar: COVID-19 and the economic regulations that have come with it have had widely different economic impact on individuals.  Some folks have lost their income and are being squeezed by expenses.  That’s why we don’t like to call government relief stimulus.  It is not intended to stimulate the economy.  It is imperfect relief to the individuals that the government took away their livelihoods.  For others, like us, income is relatively unchanged but expenses are down substantially because we can’t do much.  To be flippant, Jameson is cheaper by the bottle than the shot.  It is good for us fortunate folk to give to organizations that directly help with COVID-19 but don’t forget about places that are indirectly hurt by COVID-19 like NRO orAPT.  End Long Sidebar.

There are three things you should know.  Two of them are about expertise.  The first thing you should know about expertise is that it relates to a specific discipline.  A person can have more than one area of expertise but each person has a limited number of areas of expertise.  The second thing you should know, and you probably already do, is that experts make mistakes.  We were reminded of this just yesterday when we were kibitzing a high level bridge tournament at Bridge Base Online.  One expert pair absolutely butchered the bidding on two consecutive hands.  If they were playing at our local club they would have finished last on those two boards.  The third thing is that counterfactuals are really difficult.

We are often in agreement with Daniel but he confuses expertise with science and  forgets about political expertise..  Scientists are experts within their area but so are military leaders.  Daniel refers glowingly to “he German war scholar Carl von Clausewitz called it coup d’oeil:” and then says:

The ability to survey the landscape and render quick judgments, informed by both knowledge and intuition, to build a coherent whole “out of fragments visible to the human eye.” That the sciences reject intuition minimizes their utility when the moment calls for haste.

The first sentence describes expertise.  That is exactly what bridge experts do better than novices almost all of the time.  The second one is, at best, partially true.  Experts of all kinds including science experts are perfectly happy with predicting certain things with great haste like lockdowns during an epidemic will save lives. The data problem that needs time  is exactly how many and where lockdowns are needed.

Then there is political expertise.  The Donald planted his COVID-19 flag by correctly restricting entry from China on January 31.  Other politicians made the wrong move by calling him xenophobic.  Daniel doesn’t give him nearly enough credit for being right early in difficult choice.  As Daniel says:

The World Health Organization,[WHO] which in a matter of weeks has brought itself permanent disgrace, assured the public in January that there was “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the [COVID-19].”

Of course, what WHO was showing was political expertise or at least deference to China rather than scientific expertise.  In the US, politicians and bureaucrats are showing their expertise by taking dramatic action.  We should remember that one thing they have expertise in is at getting elected or keeping their position.  It doesn’t mean they are wrong.

At some point soon we are going to need the detailed science and the political expertise to come together to decide when to end the lockdowns.  Even if science can get perfect data it is going to be a hard political decision because of the counterfactual problem we brought up earlier.  People die from COVID-19 but there are a variety of problems caused by lockdowns including death. What if we end the lockdowns on the perfect date based perfect data and perfect science and then either The Donald or The Frontrunner die from COVID 19?  It might have been the right choice overall but that one death would cause huge problems.

Daniel is closer than most on understanding expertise. It is a difficult subject.

Silly Folks

We were visiting some friends and they were talking about how busy one grown child and spouse was with multiple young children.  Dinner preparation was a problem.  Both the adults in the young family are college educated professionals.  We forget if Blue Apron was mentioned explicitly but those types of options were rejected because they had too much packaging.  We are not making this up.  Do they go to the grocery store to see what the packaging is when products arrive there?  Do they go to Blue Apron to see what packaging arrives there?  They probably don’t to package stores either.  Cost would be a much better way to evaluate efficiency.

There is a cock-up in Iowa results to the Democrat caucuses.  It appears that the Iowa Democrats created an app for that purpose and it didn’t work.  An app for results seems like a really bad idea given the concerns over hacking election results.  Now the Democrats will have to cheat the old fashion way.  We await to see the degree of resistance to Iowa results.  Even folks at CNN have jumped ship:

The caucuses are an embarrassment to the Democratic Party and the United States. This is no way to pick a nominee.

The latest headline at CNN is that Iowa Democrats promise a majority of the results soon.  These are happy days for The Donald.

Sheila Bair is trying to make the Republican Case for Elizabeth Warren at the WSJ.  She is trying to help her friend Liz.  It nice of the WSJ to encourage editorial diversity.  The sub headline says:

She has independence and integrity and is no socialist. She just wants the market to work for everyone.

We want to emphasize the second sentence in the sub headline.  First, Sheila calls it the Republican case rather than the conservative case.  We are not sure that a majority Republicans have ever been believers in the market but certainly in the age of The Donald it seems unlikely.  Sheila says:

Indeed, [Liz] is more market-oriented than the incumbent president, whose economic policies rely on near-trillion-dollar budget deficits, aggressive monetary policy, more tax loopholes, and government-managed trade.

For us capitalistic orphans we are not even sure of fidelity of a majority of conservatives to the market.  So we don’t know if Shiela is taking the right direction to convince Republicans.

Here is Sheila on Liz’s wealth tax:

A 2% tax on fortunes above $50 million and 6% on those above $1 billion won’t break a Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos, who can surely generate returns far in excess of those modest assessments. And by making it more expensive to stockpile wealth, the tax would give the rich an incentive to spend their money, which helps the economy.

Liz is not making the market work.  Do we really think that spending is better than investment.  We are not sure if Bill and Jeff can continue their investment success but why would we want to discourage our most successful investors to stop?  And, of course, Liz will need to build that wall to keep Bill and Jeff as US taxpayers.

Sheila doesn’t mention Liz’s proposals for the environment and fracking.  She is going to ban fracking “everywhere” on her first day as president.  To quote George Will, “Well.”  Support for the Green New Deal is second on Liz’s list of policies.  We agree with Sheila that there are some shortcomings to The Donald but Liz’s anti-market and crony capitalism proposals make The Donald look like Milton Friedman.  Sheila might find some Republicans to support Liz but if she did it would be for the wrong reasons.

There are lots of silly folks around like our friends, Iowa Democrats and Sheila and Liz.  The 2020 presidential Democrat primary and general election will be interesting.  Silly folks will assure us of that.



Guilty Not Guilty by Felix Francis

We are a huge fan of Dick Francis.  We have read and enjoyed all of his fiction books.  Dick was a steeplechase jockey and all of his books involve horse racing but most of them have it as the appetizer rather than the entree.  He wrote his last few books with his son Felix.  Felix’s new novel that we review today, Guilty Not Guilty, published in 2019, still says a Dick Francis Novel on the cover despite the old man dying in 2010.  The son is still in the shadow of the father.

Guilty is Felix’s best work.  We gave it nine of ten and we give out very few tens.  The hero is Bill Russel who is the third son of an Earl.  Dick and Felix almost always go for a new set of characters rather than producing a series.  He is not the heir or the spare.  He is the other.  Bill is an actuary who spends lots of time trying to be just Bill rather than his full hyphenated name.  He is an actuarial consultant who lives in a village so he can have a home with his wife who has psychological problems.  As always there is a horse racing tie-in and Bill is a volunteer steward at the races.  He became one after being an amateur steeplechase jockey. He is at the races when he finds out that his wife has died in their home under suspicious circumstances.

The novel is really about decision making, mostly bad decision making.  The police first focus on Bill as the killer rather than trying to understand the case.  Bill’s brother-in-law, Joe Bradbury, found the body and hates Bill and has been nasty to the couple for several years.  Did Joe find the body or kill her?  Joe is trying to implicate Bill and Bill believes that Joe killed her. Nobody is taking the Jimmy Perez viewpoint and try to understand what really happened.

Sidebar: Jimmy is from Ann Cleeves Shetland series.  Felix is much more helpful than Ann in understanding the local lingo and traditions.  For example, Felix has a chapter explaining solicitors and barristers for those outside the UK.  Ann lets you figure out all the locations and terminology yourself.  End Sidebar.

Guilty is a really rich book as we go through the police investigation, coroner’s inquest, and trial.  And, of course, there are the snippets on horse racing.  The discussions of the decision making by stewards as opposed to the decision making by the police and principals in the book makes for a great theme.  The previous ones were good by we think Guilty Not Guilty is Felix’s best novel to date.


Problem Solving By Time Travel

We love time travel: The Technicolor Time Machine, Dr Who, and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure to name a few.  Time travel can be silly and profound at the same time.  So when we saw Kevin D. Williamson writing “This Month In American Decadence” on NRO that discussed an article at his former employer’s we were intrigued.  Kevin starts:

On the back page of The Atlantic is a feature called “The Big Question.” For November, the question is: “If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be?”

We think there should be one more parameter: How are you going to do it?  The professor that wants to stop agriculture is going to have a hard time doing it because tribes are going to try it in many different places.  The idea that Kevin likes, putting the ixnay on the Interstate Highway System, would be another challenge to implement.  Who do you need to convince to stop it?

Then there are the expected and unexpected consequences of changing the time line.  If there were no Interstates how would we get to go 120 MPH as a teenager?  Our first thought was to avoid WWII.  Knowing our Churchill and having just read VDH’s The Second World Wars, we know that there is a good chance that WWII can be avoided by confronting Hitler when Germany was weak.  Our solution would be to visit VDH and convince him to pick a time for us to visit the British and, perhaps, French.  Ah, but there is a rub.  No WWII almost surely means no Lady de Gloves.  We are not willing to give that up.  There is, as Marco fails to appreciate, a real difficulty in determining the common good.  We could conclude that taking down Hitler might embolden Stalin and lead to an even worse situation.

Instead we are taking a different mission.  We will pick up Milton Friedman and go back to convince Calvin Coolidge to run for president in 1928.  It doesn’t matter that Milton is currently dead because we have a time machine.  We think he would win and it would mean no Hoover presidency (at least not 1929-’33), no Great Depression, and no, or a very different, FDR.  Even if Milton doesn’t come it should still have a very positive impact.  It sounds like a great novel or screenplay but we don’t have time to write it.  You are welcome to it.


Between Two (Or More) Minds

A book with an accountant as a real hero and a reference to Sitting on the Dock of the Bay has a real chance at being the first eleven on our scale of zero to ten.  There are, as you are surely wondering, seven tens so far out of 110 books on our book spreadsheet that we starting keeping a few years ago.

Jim Geraghty’s new book, Between Two Scorpions: A Dangerous Clique Novel (BTS) is a tough review for us.  Thrillers, meaning save the world or at least the USA, are not our favorite genre although we read a few.  The ensemble cast is a challenge.  And we loved Jim’s earlier book, The Weed Agency.  We finished it before we started the spreadsheet so it doesn’t have a rating.  We loved parts of BTS but there were a few meh parts as well.  Another way to describe our reaction to BTS is that it didn’t register on the envy meter.  Alan Furst, VDH, and Herman Melville, to name a few, make us envious because we couldn’t even imagine doing what they do.  We think, and we are almost surely overconfident, that we could write something like BTS.

Let’s start with what Jim does well in BTS.  Well, there are lots of good parts so let’s limit ourselves to three categories.  First, there are lots of pop connections and inside jokes.  There is Sitting on the Dock of the Bay (cited above) from our generation, then some things we vaguely remember, and some stuff we are not sure if it is made up.  Our favorite inside joke is the National Reconnaissance Organization.  Alec says, “NRO is the best.”  Alec is right.

Our second positive is even more fun, this time with God.  On page 290: “Brigitte Bardot posed in a bikini [in Cyprus], and if ever there was compelling evidence of God’s love for man and for his desire for his creations to be happy, it was the sight of Bardot [yes, you deserve some pictures] in a bikini.” A few pages before, 278-9, Alec has a great conversation with God. Jim has a light touch with God but at the same time he is bringing up the notion that God might be taking sides in human events.  We find it really intriguing.

Our third positive is that Jim has a great eye for organizational evaluation.  The Clique (Raquel, Alec, Katrina, Dee, and Ward) can be effective because it is small and agile.  The Clique is also problematic because its agility means that there isn’t much oversight.  Do we really want American citizens on American soil killed by unauthorized missile launches?  Jim does a great job of reminding us that there are real difficulties fighting the War on Terror.

Well, if it is so good then why did it only get an eight of ten?  Part of the reason is that we grade on a tough scale.  Eight is a good grade.  Another reason is that we don’t read much crap so it is a tough comparison.  What Jim and BTS needs is another gift.

Sidebar One: We were disappointed not to learn more about Alec’s accounting background.  We may not have many fellow travelers in our desire to know more about his accounting history.  End Sidebar One.

There are many choices for additional gifts but two obvious ones are painting the scene and patience related to tension.  It could be painting the scene but that isn’t our first preference although we love when Alan Furst (cited above) does it.  We have a hard time remembering if cerulean is a shade of blue or the chop sticks they used on Red Dwarf so painting the scene isn’t our first choice.

Sidebar Two: We looked it up and we were wildly wrong about one of those word choices.  End Sidebar Two.

We like that Jim is a matter-of-fact story teller.  He could, however, ratchet up the tension by sometimes showing a little patience.  It is not that Jim never goes into detail on some arcane point or wanders off when somebody is in danger but he could do it more often.

We recommend Between Two Scorpions.  It is a really good book but it is not a great book but it is a fun and interesting read.  You should buy BTS so Jim can write his great book.  It is in him.



Bad Decision Epidemic

There seems to be an epidemic of bad decisions recently.  No we are not talking about Jussie Smollett.  Wow, Jussie’s problems have really gotten worse since we started this post.  Individuals, not just Jussie but all of us, make lots of bad decisions.  Most of the time, like when we make a bad decision at the bridge table, the impact is limited unless partner goes postal.

Sidebar: Sometimes you escape the ramifications of bad decisions.  Thursday we made what we felt was an epic defense error causing our score to go from plus 50 to minus 140.  But under ordinal scoring it made no difference as there were no scores between those two outcomes so we got two out of three despite our error.  End Sidebar.

Epically bad business decisions are usually zero-sum games.  When Montgomery Ward (see Decline) anticipated the recession that never came after World War II, it was bad for them but good for Sears and JC Penny. Most really bad decisions come from government because the can enforce them because they have the means.

We are not saying we have collected all of the really bad decisions but we would look at The Donald’s state of emergency, NYC and Amazon, NY state and energy, and Marco Rubio and innovation.

The Donald paid homage to his immediate predecessor by declaring a state of emergency to build some fence on the southern boarder.  It is a terrible idea because it harks back to the previous administration and its tendency to make decisions with a phone and a pen rather than legislating.  As the NRO editors tell us it is bad but not all bad because:

He will also access other pots of money that don’t require a declaration of emergency, and here he may be on much firmer ground legally.

We hope he loses every legal challenge related to the state of emergency.  Otherwise, every president will use it.  Kamala will cause even more mischief.

Amazon has abandoned its plans to have a headquarters in NYC.  The Washington Examiner headline says this is a win for [the media darling (MD)] and a black eye for the NYC mayor and NY governor.  The Examiner has second thoughts about MD:

Then again, maybe “triumph” should come with an asterisk next to it. Gianaris and [MD] may have gotten their way, besting far more powerful political figures, but at the cost of the estimated 25,000 jobs that the Amazon deal was projected to bring to their part of the city.

Since NY and NYC tax folks and things in every way they can think of they are in need of folks with jobs and assets.  It was a bad idea to give lots of incentives to Amazon and an even worse idea to chase them away.  Holman at the WSJ thinks it will cause difficulties for the NY left.  It couldn’t happen to a nicer group. [Alert: satire]

NY has some strange energy policies.  The costs of these policies are coming home to roost.  Robert Bryce has a story at the WSJ that you should read several time to soak it all up.  NY state has banned fracking.  To help with the comparison, Pennsylvania has not.  NY has also blocked or delayed gas pipelines.  Here is Robert’s summary:

In 2008 New York drillers produced about 150 million cubic feet of natural gas a day—not enough to meet all the state’s needs, but still a substantial amount. That same year legislators in Albany passed a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, the process used to wring oil and gas out of underground rock formations. In 2015 the Cuomo administration made the moratorium permanent. By 2018 New York’s gas production had declined so much that the Energy Information Administration quit publishing numbers on it.

In some areas of NY, Consolidated Edison is no longer accepting new customers.   How are things in PA?  Robert tells us:

At the end of 2018, Pennsylvania drillers were producing about 18 billion cubic feet of gas a day. That’s more gas than Canada now produces. [That is more than 100 times what NY was producing ten years ago]

By keeping its natural gas in the ground, New York has lost out on jobs and tax revenue. By 2015, some 106,000 people were directly employed by Pennsylvania’s oil and gas industry, making it a bigger employer than the state’s famous steel sector. This year Pennsylvania’s state government is expected to take in some $247 million in gas-related fees.

Beyond the fees there is lots of income and spending for PA to tax too.

At NRO Samuel Hammond tells us that Marco Rubio wants a national innovation strategy.  Marco is the chair of the Senate Small Business Committee.  Samuel summarizes a report from the committee that supports industrial policy:

“This report’s central conclusion is that the U.S. cannot escape or avoid decisions about industrial policy,” its authors write, after opening with an extended quotation from Alexander Hamilton’s “Report on Manufactures.”

The committee doesn’t get its conclusions exactly wrong but it is close:

But what makes the report interesting, particularly from a Republican-chaired committee, is its suggestion that America shouldn’t merely punish China for unfair trade practices, but also should pursue a national innovation strategy of similar ambition.

The WTO should punish China.  The federal government should stay out of the market and the punishing countries business. Please say it isn’t so Marco (and Samuel).  This is the Green New Deal for the GOP.  It is a really foolish idea that might have some electoral resonance.

Our summary is that the bad decisions by NYC and NY are less of a problem because folks can freely leave NYC and NY.  Of course, these decisions are worse on the poor because it is more difficult for them to relocate.  The good news is that the comparison between NY and PA help us avoid the Green New Deal.

Fake states of emergency and industrial policy at the federal level are much more worrisome than the foibles of NY politics.  NY has instructed us on what not to do at the federal level.  When we do foolish things at the federal level folks and organizations have a much more difficult time leaving or adapting.



Good Advice Depends On Circumstances

John Taylor has a fun column about opportunity cost, curriculum, and Tiger Woods.  As it happens Tiger was one of John’s students during freshman year at Stanford.  John says about Tiger:

With Tiger Woods just winning the Tour Championship, I have a wonderful example today of opportunity costs. Tiger took my course in 1996. He was the best economics student: As I have often said, he learned opportunity costs so well that he left Stanford and joined the pro tour.

As John says, it is about the choices people make when faced with scarcity.  The stock answer to, “I am a good student.  Should I stay in school or follow my dream?” is stay in school.  But the back story matters.  If you have the proven skills of Tiger Woods

In 1995, he successfully defended his U.S. Amateur title at the Newport Country Club in Rhode Island[46] and was voted Pac-10 Player of the Year, NCAA First Team All-American, and Stanford’s Male Freshman of the Year (an award that encompasses all sports)

Then leaving school in 1996 looks to be the right choice before the fact and obvious after the fact.  Here are two of our experiences about advice and opportunity cost.  A student comes to our office and says she has a local offer that she likes because it requires less hours but she wants as much money as her classmates that will be working in bigger cities and working more hours.  Our answer is that that is the trade-off she wants.  She should jump at it.

Another student comes to our office and asks for a couple of days off.  We ask why.  Our expectations were a wedding or a senior vacation.  Instead we hear that he has been invited to the NFL combine.  We said yes and he went to the Combine and played in the NFL for several years.

Trade-offs matter.  Tiger and the other folks are in the best position to make their own decisions.  Those of us that give advice for a living should always recognize that the stock answer isn’t always the best.  We need to find out about the individual when giving advice.  Exceptional golfing skills, a need to stay local, or ability to make the NFL all change the typical answer.  Then, sometimes, we wander beyond the economics to all that other stuff.