Monty Python on the economics of begging and do-gooders


Early temperance movements were a public health setback

Watching a history of prohibition. Started in 1850s, at least half a century before safe drinking water was freely available such as through tap water. 

Beer was much safer than drinking water until a good way into the 20th century. Initial temperance movement was against hard liquor but quickly was about abstinence.

Humanitarians redeemed Sudanese slaves by buying them out of slavery. Did it work out?

Why is the Swedish gender wage gap so stubbornly stable (and high)?

The Swedes are supposed to be in a left-wing utopia. Welfare state, ample childcare and long maternity leave but their gender wage gap is almost as bad as in 1980. They must be a misogynist throwback.

swedish gender wage gap by percentile

Maybe Megan McArdle can explain:

There are countries where more women work than they do here, because of all the mandated leave policies and subsidized childcare — but the U.S. puts more women into management than a place like Sweden, where women work mostly for the government, while the private sector is majority-male.

A Scandinavian acquaintance describes the Nordic policy as paying women to leave the home so they can take care of other peoples’ aged parents and children. This description is not entirely fair, but it’s not entirely unfair, either; a lot of the government jobs involve coordinating social services that women used to provide as homemakers.

The Swedes pay women not to pursue careers. The subsidies from government from mixing motherhood  and work are high. Albrecht et al., (2003) hypothesized that the generous parental leave a major in the glass ceiling in Sweden based on statistical discrimination:

Employers understand that the Swedish parental leave system gives women a strong incentive to participate in the labour force but also encourages them to take long periods of parental leave and to be less flexible with respect to hours once they return to work. Extended absence and lack of flexibility are particularly costly for employers when employees hold top jobs. Employers therefore place relatively few women in fast-track career positions.

Women, even those who would otherwise be strongly career-oriented, understand that their promotion possibilities are limited by employer beliefs and respond rationally by opting for more family-friendly career paths and by fully utilizing their parental leave benefits. The equilibrium is thus one of self-confirming beliefs.

Women may “choose” family-friendly jobs, but choice reflects both preferences and constraints. Our argument is that what is different about Sweden (and the other Scandinavian countries) is the constraints that women face and that these constraints – in the form of employer expectations – are driven in part by the generosity of the parental leave system

Most countries have less generous family subsidies so Claudia Goldin’s usual explanation applies to their falling gender wage gaps

Quite simply the gap exists because hours of work in many occupations are worth more when given at particular moments and when the hours are more continuous. That is, in many occupations earnings have a nonlinear relationship with respect to hours. A flexible schedule comes at a high price, particularly in the corporate, finance and legal worlds.

#GarethMorgan wants sitting tenant laws

Morgan wants to restrict the ability to evict tenants for reasons other than damage to the property and non-payment of rent. This includes not been able to evict a tenant on sale of the property.

We intend to change the regulations around residential tenancy law so leases make it far easier for a tenant to remain in the premises long term…

This will be achieved by restricting the conditions under which a landlord can evict a tenant to those of non-payment of rent or property damage. Sale of a property is not necessarily a legitimate reason for eviction. Tenants will be able to give 90 days notice.

That policy will make winding up of estates difficult. Houses will be have to be left vacant rather than rented while affairs are put in order. That is to name one of many flaws in a policy announced by a party that prioritises being different over been useful and right.


Source: RENTING Werner Z. Hirsch at encyclopedia of law and economics.

Doug Allen on same-sex divorce

Doug Allen argues that marriage is an institution designed and evolved to regulate incentive problems that arise between a man and a woman over the life cycle of procreation.

The real problem with same-sex marriage is same-sex divorce according to Allen. Marriage includes a set of exit provisions in terms of the possible grounds for divorce, rules for splitting property, alimony and child support rules, and custody rules. Allen also argues that:

  1. Many institutional rules within marriage are designed to restrict males from exploiting the specific investments women must make upfront in child bearing;
  2. Since same-sex marriages are not based as often on procreation, these restrictions are likely to be objected to and challenged in courts and legislatures;
  3. To the extent divorce laws are changed, they may hurt heterosexual marriages, and women in particular; and
  4. Given that same-sex relationships are often made up of two financially independent individuals, there will be litigation and political pressures for even easier divorce laws since the problem of financial dependency will be reduced.

Alterations in divorce laws to deal with issues of same-sex divorce necessarily apply to heterosexuals, and these new laws may not be optimal for heterosexuals, making marriage a more fragile institution for them. The actual outcomes of no-fault divorce laws, as an example, could hardly have been more different than what was expected and intended. The most obvious outcome was large increases in divorce rates.

No fault divorce laws influenced the rate at which women entered the workforce, the amount of hours worked in a week, the incidence of spousal abuse, the feminisation of poverty, and the age at which people married. No-fault divorce influenced a series of other laws related to spousal and child support, child custody, joint parenting, and the definition of marital property.

Marriage may provide a poor match for the incentive problems that arise in the relationships of gay and lesbian couples. Doug Allen is also of the view that putting all three relationships under the same law could lead to a sub-optimal law for all three types of marriages.

Allen in summary argues that marriage is an economically efficient institution moulded around the long-term interdependencies of child-rearing heterosexuals. He argues that homosexuals wishing to marry would be better served by a separate, gay-specific form of marriage.

I forgot to mention second wives clubs which lobby for limits the length of time of alimony to the first wife. The British 2nd Wives club in their legal advice page starts with these points:

  • Do you need to disclose your income or assets to an ex-wife?
  • Should your income be taken into account when assessing child maintenance?
  • Should child maintenance change when you and your husband have children of your own?

2nd wives clubs are natural allies for higher income gay divorcees wanting to pay less alimony. Nothing I have sent here is an argument against same-sex marriage willing as long as you are willing to live with the fact that it may have a few unintended consequences.

Expressive voting, more gun control or fewer gun free zones

If you want fewer mass shootings, reduce the supply of gun free zones where even the craziest gunmen have been able to find despite being tormented by the voices as John Lott explains

Time after time, we see that these killers tell us they pick soft targets. With just two exceptions, from at least 1950, the mass public shootings have occurred in these gun-free zones. From last summer’s mass public killers in Santa Barbara and Canada, to the Aurora movie theatre shooter, these killers made it abundantly clear in their diaries or on Facebook how they avoided targets where people with guns could stop them.

And even when concealed handgun permit holders don’t deter the killers, the permit holders stop them. Just a couple of weeks ago, a mass public shooting at a liquor store in Conyers, Ga., was stopped by a concealed handgun permit holder.

The USA is in an arms race between criminals and law-abiding citizens. Both have lots of guns so the only people who gain from disarmament to those who obey the law to have fewer guns. They are in a high gun equilibrium where it very difficult to get out of this arms race.


Demands for more gun control and bans on specific weapons postpone the hard work of how to reduce mass shootings in a society with easy gun access. It is expressive politics at its worse.

An Australian politician today in an unrelated context regarding universal health insurance in Australia called Medicare made this point about politics is hard work, not political theatre

It’s so much easier today to be a cynical poseur than a committed democrat, it’s easier to retreat to observer status than convince your friends of the merits of incremental change.

It required hard slog to ensure those institutions could survive the heat of adversarial politics. Then it took election campaign after election campaign, tough political negotiation, administrative effort, and the making and breaking of careers and governments to finally make Medicare stick,” she said.

The creation of Medicare took more than a hollow-principled stand, it took more than just wishful thinking, it took more than slogans, it took more than protests. It took real, tough politics. It took idealists who were prepared to fight to win government.

Expressive politics is about what voters boo and cheer, not whether policies actually work if adopted. Voters want to feel good about what they voted for and find a sense of identity in who they oppose and what they support. After a mass shooting, voters feel they must do something, cheer for something better and cheering for more gun control is an easy way to feel better.

Gun control is not going to happen in the USA because of the poor incentives for law-abiding individuals to retreat from high levels of legal private gun ownership when criminals will keep their guns. Harry Clarke pointed out that:

The political popularity of guns is strengthened by Prisoner’s Dilemma disincentives for individuals to retreat from high levels of gun ownership.

Accepting a gun buyback would be unattractive to citizens who would recognize high levels of overall gun ownership in the community and, hence, their own personal increased vulnerability if those with criminal intent acted rationally and kept their weapons.

If you want fewer mass shootings, fewer gun free zones is the way to go. That might have other  unintended consequences but more mass shootings is not likely to be one of them. Ready access to guns in moments of despair increases suicide rates. Suicides in the Israeli Defence Force fell 40% when young soldiers were not allowed to take their guns home at the week-end. Suicides do not increase during the week so the lack of weekend access to guns got them through dangerous moments of despair where ready access to a firearm would have led to a suicide.


The last thing spree killers want is to be quickly shot down like the dogs they are such as at an American church in 2007. The last wannabe jihadist to try it on in Texas died in a hail of gunfire.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey showed the risk of serious injury from a criminal attack is 2.5 times greater for women offering no resistance than for women resisting with a gun. 97% of murders are by men. Any arguments about gun control should be about gun control for men.

The sharemarket perception of gun control is every time there are calls for more gun controls, the share prices of gun manufacturers surge of the back of an anticipated spike in sale. Buying two gun shares on the first trading day after 12 recent mass shootings and selling them 90 days later produces a return of 365% over a nine-year period compared to 66 percent for the S&P 500 Index. A buy-and-hold bet on Smith & Wesson stock starting in January 2007returns 137%.

The key to the success of Australian and New Zealand gun laws was low levels of gun crime and minimal use of guns for self-defence. There was no arms race as compared to the USA where criminals and civilians are both armed. It is easy to control an arms race that has not started. The New Zealand, Australian and even the British police rarely have to discharge their weapons.


Martin Luther King was a gun owner for obvious reasons. Tom Palmer was the lead litigant in the recent Supreme Court case on gun control in the USA. He saved himself and a fellow gay man from a severe beating in 1987 by gang of 20 men by pulling a gun on them. Pink pistols has been in the thick of anti-gun control litigation in the USA.

Repugnant markets and the demand and supply for counterfeit legal ivory

A huge legal sale of ivory in 2008 backfired. Instead of crashing the price of ivory and undermining poaching, poaching exploded in East Africa. It increased by 65%.

The international trade in ivory was banned in 1989. In 2008, China and Japan were allowed to pay $15m for 107 tonnes of ivory from elephants that died naturally in four African nations.


Source: Study finds global legalization trial escalates elephant poaching | Berkeley News.

Hsiang and Sekar this week found that this legal sale of ivory was followed by “an abrupt, significant, permanent, robust and geographically widespread increase” in ivory poaching. They were right to conclude that the legal sale provided a cover for poached ivory.

The economic intuition was that if we allow the sale of some legal ivory in Japan and China, then there would be fewer people left to purchase it illegally. We found that that intuition was incorrect. The black market for ivory responded to the announcement of a legal sale as an opportunity to smuggle even more ivory.

The legal sale of ivory created new demand for ivory in China, where it no longer had the stigma of an illicit product. The presence of legal ivory provided cover for smugglers trying to peddle illegal ivory sourced from poachers.

As illegal ivory can now masquerade as legal ivory in China, transporting and selling illicit ivory has gotten easier and cheaper, which can boost illegal production even though prices are falling.

Ivory is a repugnant market. Many friends will be revolted by you having ivory products.

The presence of legal ivory made it possible for counterfeit legal ivory to be passed off as legal ivory and therefore your friends will not reject you. This is a real  and striking example of a unintended consequence. The solution to poaching is property rights.