Monday, November 1, 2010

Big Bag of Oddities in Political Incentives

Insider Trading is Legal for Congressional Insiders, but if you work at a company and see the writing on the wall, boy you'd better watch out. Tabarrok notes that he "wrote about a study showing that the portfolios of US Senators 'outperformed the market by an average of 12 per cent a year in the five years to 1998.'"

Efforts to stamp out corruption in South Africa mingled with worries about untouchable corruption at the top. Speaking of which, Africa News complains about the use of perceptions-based corruption measures that don't respond much to changes on the ground. People continue to rate developed countries highly even in the midst of scandal while African nations get little credit for their efforts.

From Newmark: The IRS is planning on a power-grabbing licensing change that will "likely harm over 87 million American taxpayers while benefiting a few politically-favored insiders." In Bethesda, one government agency is selling a 10 story building for which it has no use while other agents of the same agency are trying to find a 10 story building to rent. Minnesota built a large new airport only to have the main airline that was going to use it pull out. The kicker for me is when a government representative said they wished they had known about it before because they "might not" have done this otherwise. Might??

Bipartisanship by alternation in Britain vs. the US where "it’s hard to do anything but then once anything’s been put in place it’s almost impossible to scrap or alter it as long as any non-trivial constituency is willing to back it."

A different view of bipartisanship is that your party choice depends on ... concern about cleanliness or bad smells. That is, if you ask people about their political stances while standing near hand sanitizer or in the midst of a bad smell, they report more conservative beliefs than without those cues. They also express more moral indignation at any immoral or unethical choice. Any Republicans out there in favor of making sure there are hand sanitizer dispensers near every voting booth? Would that be voting manipulation? If so, how would you prove it?

2 unusual theories of democracy: high rainfall supports stable agriculture, which in turn supports institutions that help democracy. The Brain Drain may be helping strengthen democracy by 1) removing dissidents and 2) giving low and medium skilled residents more opportunities, possibly. At the same time, just drawing maps with thicker, darker border lines makes people more likely to feel safe and discount cross-border threats

lastly Yglesias discusses the problems of electing judges and reminds us that politics has always been just politics and attack ads haven't changed much in over 200 years, you "hatched-faced nutmeg dealer." (video below the fold):

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