A Persian Cafe, Edward Lord Weeks

Friday, 27 March 2015

The Past was Way Creepy

86% of people asked would rather see the lanterns with Flynn Rider than dance in the forest with Prince Philip. This is not enough, because the dancing-in-the-forest-scene from Sleeping Beauty is horrendously rapey:
I mean, what was Philip thinking?

(1) I'll creep up on this teenage girl who is all alone in the woods!
(2) I'll grab her and start dancing with her before she even knows that I'm there!
(3) Every time she gets loose from me and starts walking away, I'll grab her wrist and pull her back!

Or more to the point, what were the animators thinking? Did they realise how creepy Prince Philip's behaviour is, or did they just see it as a mixture of confidence and love-at-first-sight?

Thursday, 12 March 2015

All government departments are useless, but some are more useless than others

From a description of the Taxpayers' Alliance's proposed budget:
the Plan makes for sobering reading. An implementation of the first, less stringent, programme would, among other things, see the abolition of no less than three government departments (the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills; for Culture, Media and Sport; and of Energy and Climate Change), an end to national pay bargaining in the public sector, and a sizeable cut to Scotland’s grant from the UK government.
Compare those departments: the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is basically a highly inefficient  way of subsidising big business, The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is an undeniable waste of taxpayers' money. The Department for Energy and Climate Change is despised by conservatives and libertarians, and is loved by lefties. Global Warming is a politically polarising issue in the UK, with everyone from the centre-right to the far left viewing it as a massive threat demanding government action and everyone right of there denouncing it as a myth.

The average left-winger will struggle to find much to say against cutting the first two departments there. If you were constructing a bipartisan deal to slash government, then they would be prime candidates for destruction. The inclusion of the DECC, however, firmly stamps this proposed budget as "right-wing". Quite apart from the issue of whether Climate Change is something that the government needs to respond to, trying to get rid of the DECC is a middle finger raised at the political left which will obstruct this contribution to debate from being taken seriously.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Diminishing Marginal Returns is not known A Priori

Taken from an online discussion of Austrian economics, in which someone is attempting to prove that the law of diminishing marginal returns can be known a priori.
The law of marginal utility is indeed universally true. Any person will value less of a good more than if he had large quantities of it. For instance, the cigarette addict will value his last two cigarettes higher than if he had all twenty in his pack. He would also value two cigarettes far less if he had a whole carton of them at his disposal. Of course he would prefer to have more of them, which is your point and actually a consequence of the law. The law of marginal utility states that with an increase in quantity, the value of each individual item decreases. Thus, he can put each one to its next best use: 

A.) Smoking one now.
B.) Smoking one in an hour.
C.) Magic tricks with a cigarette.
D.) Having a cigarette for a friend.
E.) Smoking one in two hours.

Or, if he's down to his last two, all other uses will be put aside so that he will prefer to smoke one now and the other in an hour, instead of using one for a magic trick, saving one for a friend, etc. The reason he would want more is so that he could achieve all of his desired ends.
Counterexample: suppose your friend will be visiting in an hour and you would like to smoke with him. If you have two cigarettes, you hold onto them so that in an hour each of you will smoke one. If you have only one cigarette, you prefer to smoke it immediately.

Thus, we have a case where your preferred use for your first cigarette is different across the cases where you have differing numbers of cigarettes. Hence, a possible counterexample to the law of diminishing marginal returns, meaning that it cannot be known a priori.

I'm not familiar enough with Austrian economics to know if this is the argument that Mises would use to "prove" diminishing marginal returns, but in any case this argument is bunkum.

(Neoclassical economists have a far better way of establishing the law of diminishing marginal returns: we simply assume it. But at least we're honest about the fact that we're assuming it and have the tools to relax that assumption if necessary. Fortunately it seems to hold up pretty well in the real world).