Thursday, September 16, 2010

What's in a name? Economics, Sugar, Flour, and "The Problem"

Games for teaching economics at ..., HT:Mankiw. Speaking of teaching economics ... what is economics? Easterly complains:

Sorry, I’m not all that concerned with “how individuals, blah, blah, optimal choices, blah, blah, scarcity, blah, blah…”  I’m concerned why some people are so rich and other people are so poor. I want to understand why some economies work and others don’t, and why even the ones that work still don’t work for everyone. I want to understand how other Americans and I got 64 times richer than our ancestors. ... Economics principles are a set of tools that have evolved to transcend scarcity into abundance.
Rodrik also has a complaint about how economics is defined:
what grates in his article is the view that economics as a science is defined by its ability to forecast the future. No, it is not, and whoever said that is not very knowledgeable about economics as a discipline.
Well, except that Rachman takes his definition from … Joe Stiglitz!  

M. Nestle on replacing "high fructose corn syrup" with "corn sugars":
I would prefer Corn Sugars (plural) to indicate that it is a mixture of glucose and fructose.  But as long as they don’t call it “natural,” the change is OK with me.
And she links to this comment:
Only Big Food would find a way to make a product full of refined white sugar (which at one time was also demonized) seem like a healthy alternative. It’s like I always say, the food industry is very good at taking criticism and turning it into a marketing opportunity.
Speaking of defining sugar, let's also try defining flour for a bit. Why? Because part of the definition (for tax purposes) of candy is that it contains no flour. Okay, so what's flour?
If only the word “flour” is listed on the product label, it is assumed that the product contains grain based flour. However, if the word “flour” on the label is preceded by a modifier used to describe the product the “flour” was made from and the modifier is not a type of grain, then the product is not considered to contain “flour” for purposes of the definition of candy. For example, flour substitutes or products that are not made from grain but which are finely milled so that they meet the Food and Drug Administration’s definition of “flour,” such as “peanut flour” or “cocoa flour” are not “flour” for purposes of this definition.
Isn’t this fun?  Scott-Thomas points out that under this flour rule, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Three Musketeers are considered candy and taxable, but Kit Kat and Milky Way, which contain flour, would be cookies and exempt.  Apparently, the Tax Board does not view this distinction as arbitrary.

Roberts unpacks Krugman's argument about what "the problem" is [Krugman claims it's 'low sales'] and finds plenty to blame on government in the current recession:
In fact, if there had been one category called “Taxes and Government Regulations” it might have been seen as the biggest problem, listed by 36% of respondents, up from 29% in the year before and surpassing sales as the biggest problem. ...

So when the stimulus was put in place, 28% of small businesses cited sales as their biggest problem. A year into the stimulus, somehow, the proportion citing sales had climbed to 31%. And today, 18 months or so into the stimulus, the number is still 31%. So somehow, during the first part of the stimulus, during all that government spending,  a greater proportion of small businesses found sales to be to their biggest problem. But the sum of taxes and government regulations went from 30% to 36%
Oh, and a couple freebie links: Rent-controlled housing:
In the end, the goal of the rent control laws is thwarted (the low rents are enjoyed by well-paid tenured faculty rather than the needy), the income tax laws are thwarted (a sizable part of compensation is untaxed), and all this is done by a nonprofit institution (the university) whose ostensible purpose is to serve the public interest.
First past the post vs. last past: parenting incentives.

No comments:

Post a Comment