Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Two contrarian articles are on Reason online today. The first mostly points out that the recurring "oil crisis" is mostly hot air. The new contrarian source material seems to be a study by Michael Lynch for Minerals and Energy, rebutting new research by Campbell and Laherrere. The Lynch study does discuss the suitability of a logistic or bell curve (going much further than I did in an earlier post), pointing out that "few countries exhibit production in a bell curve" because we almost never see unrestrained extraction. The statistical analysis of Campbell and Laherrere comes in for serious criticism:
...fields, when ordered by size, appear to yield an asymptote which is interpreted as evidence of an approaching limit... in fact, the asymptote appears to be nothing more than a statistical artifact--that is, use of a large population, ordered by size, will frequently yield an exponential curve with an apparent asymptote.

What I think this means: if Cambell had done the same analysis on another set numbers with a similar distribution, such as the number of bloggers that link to each blogger (the power curve), he'd have seen an approaching limit on that data set too. The key is the distribution - a few large discoveries (or popular bloggers) and many small discoveries (or ordinary bloggers).

It goes on - the Lynch study is quite readable and entertaining particularly if you visualize the blood on the floor. Figure 6 is great, showing how widely an actual production curve diverges from the doomsayers' predictions.

The other contrarian article simply debunks the common meme that TV and movies make kids more violent. Some miscellaneous evidence:
  • "SUNY-Albany sociologist Steven Messner has found that metropolitan areas in which violent TV programs attract especially large audiences have lower rates of violent crime."

  • "the homicide rate barely changed from 1945 to 1967; the big increase started in the late 1960s, suggesting that something other than TV was at work"

  • "The murder rate remained constant in Italy and declined in France, Germany, and Japan following the introduction of TV.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Recently I posted on why people consider many economic exchanges to be zero-sum games, rather than exchanges where many parties benefit. Here's a paragraph related to that thought, as applied to inflation and wages:
Economists should not be surprised that individuals underestimate the effect of inflation on the demand for their own services. One of the most significant differences between trained economists and the lay public is economists’ greater appreciation of general equilibrium. The cognitive difficulty of general equilibrium has been indicated by the fact, noted by the Commission on Graduate Education, that even economics graduate students do not give the correct explanation for why barbers’ wages, in the technically-stagnant hair-cutting industry,
have risen over the past century [Krueger, 1991, p. 1044]. If economics graduate students fail to appreciate the effects on barbers’ opportunity costs from wage increases due to productivity change outside the hair-cutting industry, it would be a stretch to expect the lay public to see that as inflation rises the demand for their services (in nominal dollars) will similarly rise with it.
That's from a Akerlof paper on appropriate levels of inflation.

Friday, February 06, 2004

This blog allegedly has a RSS feed already:
I wish I had seen this because the ABC article is so brief on each topic. 20/20 debunked these nine myths:

  • Getting cold can give you a cold

  • We have less free time than we used to

  • American families need two incomes

  • Money can buy happiness

  • Republicans shrink the government

  • The rich don't pay their fair share of taxes

  • Chemicals are killing us

  • Guns are bad

  • We're drowning in garbage

Except for money buying happiness, and (depending on your beliefs) Republicans shrinking government, it's a good thing that all these myths are false. Why do we believe myths that make us also believe life is worse than it really is?

Sunday, February 01, 2004

We had a party last night -- the invitation is worth reading, and if you were there, your mugshot is up now too.

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