Thursday, April 23, 2015

Elastic Raisins

It will surprise no one that I support the Hornes in their legal challenge, currently before the Supreme Court, to the partial confiscation of their raisin crop by the federal government under a price-support program. But this part of Ilya Somin's post attracted my attention:

Michael McConnell, the prominent constitutional law scholar representing the Hornes, pointed out that his clients are probably still net losers from the program, even if you take into account the way in which they benefit from having a higher price. They would likely be better off if they could sell a larger quantity raisins at the lower price that would prevail in a freer market, than by selling fewer raisins for a higher price under the cartel scheme. Deputy SG Kneedler claimed this was not true because the demand for raisins is so “inelastic” that consumers would not buy more of them if the price were lower. That claim goes against basic economics 101, and I highly doubt that the justices will buy it.

Kneedler's estimate of the "elasticity of demand" (i.e., the price-sensitivity of raisin consumers) may or may not be true -- more on this later -- but it doesn't "go against econ 101". On the contrary, it is econ 101, as any actual basic economics textbook will confirm: the demand for some products, over certain price ranges and in certain economic contexts, doesn't change much in response to fluctuations in price. My own demand for raisins would be an example: I don't actually know what I pay for raisins, a pretty sure sign that a fall to any price above zero would not induce me to increase my family's consumption of raisins. Indeed, a rise in price would have to be large enough to attract my attention to the price in the first place before it would have an impact; I suspect that rise would have to be several multiples of its current price.

But I may not be the marginal raisin consumer. Many families whose food budgets are much more constrained "shop the sales" and might quickly switch to other products in response to changes in price. But that is an empirical question and cannot be settled merely by appeals to "basic economics".

Monday, April 06, 2015

Career Counseling Needed

Ace's Gun-of-the-Week entry a while back was the MP-44, a German WWII automatic rifle from which the Soviets apparently borrowed heavily for the AK-47. Its primary designer was Hugo Schmeisser, whom the Allies handed to the Soviets at the end of the war. I recognized the name from the Frederick Forsyth novel, The Dogs of War; ironically, however, the "schmeisser" sub-machine guns used in the novel likely refer to the MP-40, a weapon in the production of which Hugo Schmeisser himself was not involved.

I read The Dogs of War as a child and wanted to verify my recollection regarding the schmeisser; that page linked to the one for the real-life soldier of fortune Rolf Steiner, about whom is written:

In 1949, at the age of 16, Steiner decided to study for the priesthood. He intended to become a Catholic missionary in Africa. Following an affair with a nun at school, however, he decided that the military offered a more interesting life.

Well, yes.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Diet that Dare Not Speak Its Name

From the Daily Mail:

'Your child could be a jihadist if they've stopped eating baguettes': Bizarre French government infographic shows way to spot radical Islamists

Here is the poster:

Warning: the French government infographic offers nine telltale signs to worried parents 

Except that, according to Google, “Ils changent brutalement leurs habitudes alimentaires” translates to “They abruptly change their eating habits.”  That doesn’t have anything to do with bagettes; in the current context, it means suddenly observing Sharia dietary restrictions, an obvious sign of radicalization.

Unfortunately, rather than illustrating this with a picture of, say, a pig, they tried to appease Muslim sensibilities with a double-bankshot reference to food in general . . . and wound up looking a little ridiculous.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Makeup and Future-time Orientation

Chaeteau, commenting on a study measuring makeup’s only limited ability to improve attractiveness, writes:

It’s not surprising, then, that men and women will breathlessly grasp at the slimmest advantages to tilt the sexual market playing field in their favor, where the only game that matters is played, and played for a zero sum outcome in a battle as pitched, if not quite as bloody, as any war for survival. It’s why women will color their faces, despite receiving little benefit and less still the morning-after when the ruse is smeared off, for an infinitesimally small leg up over their female competition.

The stakes are that high.

Except there are only so many hours in a day.  What I find noteworthy (and frustrating during those happily long-passed times that it affected me personally) is that with the amount of time that some women spend in front of a mirror, they could improve their attractiveness far more with exercise.  That 30 – 60 minutes or whatever, on a day-to-day basis, spent in a gym, would be an SMV enhancer in a way that makeup accomplishes for only a tiny minority of women.*

Of course, the effect is only cumulative.  Any particular 60 minutes spent exercising isn’t going to give a woman anything like the 2% they allegedly get from makeup.  Exercising 60 minutes a day for a month will get you the 2%.  Exercising 60 minutes a day for a year will give you a 20%, two full SMV points.

But that kind of calculus requires conscientiousness, a.k.a. “future-time orientation.”  It doesn’t speak well of women who spend more time at makeup for +2% than they do at exercise for +20% simply because the payoff takes longer to realize.

* If it needs saying, then yes, men can be fat too.  But leaving aside whether being in good shape, in and of itself, improves a man’s SMV as much as it improves a woman’s, I struggle to think of any male analogue to makeup.  Unless we define it so broadly as to encompass . . . well, everything a man ever does.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

"A thousand strands of time . . ."

Tonight's Daily Bread devotional was exceptionally poetic. After reading from Nehemiah 1, wherein Nehemiah expresses his lament at Israel's lack of border control, ODB had this to say:

A thousand strands of time, events, and people weave into a tapestry we call place. More than just a house, place is where meaning, belonging, and safety come together under the covering of our best efforts at unconditional love. Place beckons us with memories buried deep in our souls. Even when our place isn’t perfect, its hold on us is dramatic, magnetic.

The Bible speaks frequently of place. We see an example in Nehemiah’s longing for a restored Jerusalem (Neh. 1:3-4; 2:2). It’s no surprise, then, that Jesus would speak of place when He wants to comfort us. “Let not your heart be troubled,” He began. Then He added: “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:1-2).

Read the whole thing.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Air Force Diversity

From the desk of Deborah Lee James, the 2015 Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Initiatives:

Promotion Board Memorandum of Instruction (MOI):  Through a MOI, the Secretary of the Air Force provides specific instructions to board members for every officer promotion and federal recognition board to ensure only the best qualified officers are selected for promotion or recognition.  In addition to seeking officer demonstrating commitment to the welfare of our Airmen and to our core values of Integrity, Service, and Excellence, board members are instructed to find officers who have demonstrated that they will nurture and lead in a diverse and inclusive Air Force culture.

I’m skeptical that Ms. James really believes her service lacks leadership.  I suspect that she is looking for an end run around the legal precedents from the 1990s that limited racial quotas in promotion boards.  I suspect that participation in various Diversity Days will be taken as evidence for the ability to “nurture and lead in a diverse and inclusive culture”.  Since these ceremonies are radioactive to healthy white men by design, they become a screening tool for minorities and self-hating liberals.

Increased Female Officer Applicant Pool:  Despite a rich pool of talent across our Nation, our female officer applicants typically comprise only 25 percent of our applicant pool.  Therefore, we have set an applicant pool goal of 30 percent for our officer accession sources.  This goal will encourage our accession sources to more aggressively compete for our Nation’s top female talent and encourage the next generation of innovative leaders to apply for our officer corps.  The female officer population was selected as a starting point, as it is a smaller group than the enlisted force on which to focus efforts.

This is pushing responsibility for the quota game downward.  I’m not sure what “aggressively compete” means in this context, but I’m sure that if it goes legally sideways, Ms. James will insist that she never TOLD her recruiters to discriminate against white men.

Post-Pregnancy Deployment Deferment:  some of our most talented Airmen are choosing to leave the Air Force because they are struggling to balance deployments and family issues, especially soon after childbirth.  Since our families are a source of strength and resilience for our Airmen, we are looking to increase our current six month Post-Pregnancy Deployment Deferment to one year.  According to analysis at the aggregate level, the overall impact on manning and deployment levels will be negligible.

“Overall”, perhaps.  But the impact won’t be “negligible” on the men who now have to spend 15% – 20% more of their careers deployed than they did before to take up the slack.

Monday, March 09, 2015

“Nice Guy” Alert

From the autobiography of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, describing his courtship of the future Mrs. Kyle:

Taya was working as a drug rep from a pharmaceutical company when we met.  Originally from Oregon, she’d gone to college in Wisconsin and moved out to the coast a couple of years before we met.  My first impression was that she was beautiful, even if she looked pissed off about something.  We started talking, and I also found out she was smart, and had a good sense of humor.

I sensed right away that maybe she was someone who could keep up with me.  But, maybe she should tell the story.  Her version sounds better than mine.


I remember the night we met; some of it at least.  I wasn’t going to go out; this was all during a low spot in my life.  My days were spent in a job I didn’t like.  I was fairly new in town and still looking for some solid female friendships.  And I was casually dating guys, with not much success.  Over the years I’d had some decent relationships and a couple of bad ones with a few dates in between.  I remember literally praying to God before I met Chris to just send me a nice guy.  Nothing else mattered, I thought.  I just prayed for someone who was inherently good and . . . nice.

Chris would go on to achieve 160 confirmed kills as a sniper during four tours in the Iraq War.