Pessoas estranhas

Este eu cito integralmente. Há links no original. Mas as histórias merecem atenção.

WHAT WOULD GANDHI DO? Fred Thompson thinks Code Pink’s sanctimonious question is actually reprehensible.

During World War II, Gandhi penned an open letter to the British people, urging them to surrender to the Nazis. Later, when the extent of the holocaust was known, he criticized Jews who had tried to escape or fight for their lives as they did in Warsaw and Treblinka. “The Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher’s knife,” he said. “They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs.” “Collective suicide,” he told his biographer, “would have been heroism.”

Speaking of Jews and knives:

Suspected 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed confessed to the beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl and a central role in 30 other attacks and plots in the U.S. and worldwide that killed thousands of victims, said a revised transcript released Thursday by the U.S. military.

“I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew, Daniel Pearl, in the city of Karachi, Pakistan,” Mohammed is quoted as saying in a transcript of a military hearing at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, released by the Pentagon.

“For those who would like to confirm, there are pictures of me on the Internet holding his head,” he added.


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Outra boa pergunta do David Friedman: O “puzzle” dos restaurantes

Primeiro, para os empreendedores tipo-Z (os piores da classe), não basta dizer “puzzle” com a boca cheia e ar de empáfia para que você entenda do assunto. Hoje em dia, a selva está cheia de gente assim, que acha que é só construir uma frase com “sujeito + verbo + object” que já é um gênio da raça.

Feito o alerta anti-arrogância (sim, estou irritado hoje), vamos ao que interessa, reproduzido na íntegra:

A restaurant provides me with two different products: Food and a place to eat it. Both are valuable to me, both are costly to the restaurant. Yet restaurants price only the food. The table is free, however long you use it. Why?

To see the puzzle, consider how a restaurant designed by an economist might operate. At each table there is a clock; it starts running when you sit down and the waiter shows up to take your order. When you get your bill, one of the items is table rental, proportional to the number of seats at the table and the length of time for which you used them.

The advantage of this approach is that it can be used to give diners the right incentives on both margins. Diners who want to spend an hour and a half in conversation are free to do so, with no dirty looks from the waiters—but they will pay for the privilege. Under current circumstances they are imposing a cost on the restaurant and the patrons waiting to be served and, social pressure aside, have no incentive to take account of that cost in deciding whether or not to move the conversation to some less costly space, perhaps someone’s living room.

Since the restaurant is recovering part of its cost from table rentals, the price of its food can be correspondingly lower; patrons will not be discouraged from getting soup or salad by the fact that their price is higher than the actual cost of producing them by the full amount needed to pay the restaurant’s fixed costs. Economist readers should be able to fill in the argument for themselves. It is the usual argument in favor of using prices as incentives to make it in the interest of individuals to take proper account of the costs and benefits of their choices.

I have, of course, oversimplified a bit. When a restaurant is half empty, the marginal cost to it of my sitting at the table is essentially zero. So a restaurant run its table clocks only during the hours when it expects to be operating at capacity. That will give diners who like leisurely conversation an incentive to try to fit their conversational meals into the times when they do not impose costs on others.

It’s easy to imagine special reasons why a restaurant would not adopt such a policy. Perhaps it almost never operates at capacity. Perhaps the nuisance of keeping track of table time is greater than the gains. Perhaps a clock at the table would interfere with the aesthetic experience of fine dining for its patrons.

Each of these reasons would apply to only some restaurants. So we would expect to observe a world in which some restaurants priced only the food, some priced only the table and gave away the food—all you can eat buffets come close, although they charge a fixed price for the table, not a price per minute—and some priced both. Yet, so far as I know, no restaurant follows what I have just argued is the most natural and obvious pricing strategy, separately pricing food and table rental.

Which is the puzzle.

A pergunta é boa. Comentários? Nenhum? Sabe que esta é uma boa questão para um exame de Economia? Um método de estimular o raciocínio é valorizá-lo. Esta questão, na minha opinião, faz exatamente isto.

Se você quer lecionar e realmente fazer seu aluno pensar, o ideal seria ter sempre questões na prova constituídas de um texto como este e uma única questão: “desenvolva um modelo microeconômico – desde as hipóteses até os principais resultados – que explique a questão central do texto”.

Aquele que “ensina” o sujeito dizendo-lhe que basta decorar que já é um ser inteligente (e passa-lhe a mão na cabeçinha) criam uma geração futura com baixo capital humano. Os que estimulam o raciocíno, não. Este é o ponto importante do ensino, quer se goste dele ou não. A média dos alunos não gostam por motivos óbvios…que são os mesmos pelos quais os professores, em média, também não gostam. Há ainda o problema dos incentivos que uma escola oferece aos professores e alunos para que sejam adeptos do uso do raciocínio (não confundir isto com picaretagens que existem por aí). Incentivos são importantes, porque perguntas inteligentes não nascem em árvores e nem caem do céu: é preciso tempo para pesquisa e análise, um fator geralmente escasso nas faculdades da selva (públicas e privadas).

Mudando um pouco de assunto, David Friedman é um sujeito extremamente sagaz (filho do Milton Friedman, para quem não sabe) e sempre tem perguntas muito interessantes sobre aspectos econômicos da vida. Quer trucar um sabichão? Pergunte-lhe sobre este “puzzle”. Ele não saberá responder. Conheço pouca gente que arriscaria cinco minutos de seu tempo, pelo menos, para discutir este problema de forma sincera (não apenas para se fazer passar por um sujeito inteligente). Se você encontrar um destes, converse mais com ele.

Eu vou pensar neste “puzzle” ao longo da viagem que farei hoje, entre uma leitura e outra.


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David Friedman sobre o aquecimento global

Nada como um pouco de inteligência no debate entre os eco-fanáticos, os eco-sensatos ingênuos e os eco-sensatos inteligentes.

Com vocês, David Friedman.

In earlier posts I argued that global warming is probably real, probably anthropogenic, and will probably impose real but not catastrophic, costs. This raises an obvious question: What, if anything, should we do about it?

If I were dictator of the world, the answer would be fairly obvious. Impose a tax on activities that create greenhouse gases designed to reflect the marginal cost they create. That’s the standard economic solution, due to Pigou, for problems of negative externalities. Since the tax brings in additional revenue, combine it with a corresponding reduction in whatever taxes currently have the largest adverse effects.

I do not, in fact, support such carbon taxes. The reason is that I do not believe that, if imposed, they would fit the pattern described above.

To begin with, they would not be based on a realistic estimate of the marginal costs; insofar as they would be based on anything, judging by the ongoing arguments over Kyoto and similar proposals, they would be based on some target level of emissions. If, as seems likely, the level of taxes needed to substantially slow global warming was much higher than the marginal damage done, the result would be to buy lower temperature at a price much higher than it was worth, making the net situation worse, not better.

I offer as further evidence the arguments I have been having over at Brian’s “Backseat Driving” blog with people who are absolutely convinced that global warming would have catastrophic consequences but curiously unwilling to support that conviction with anything more than handwaving arguments. Judging by casual observation, they are the norm, not the outliers, of their movement.

Furthermore, I think it unlikely that income from carbon taxes would be used to reduce other taxes. The clear evidence here is the repeated pattern with regard to wars. New taxes are introduced as an emergency measure for a war, retained long after the war is over; there is always some politically profitable way to spend the money. In the case of carbon taxes, I am confident that they would be used as an additional source of revenue, perhaps with the argument that the money was needed to ameliorate the effects of whatever global warming continued to occur.

Finally, I suspect that widespread acceptance of the catastrophist view of global warming would result in quite a lot more than carbon taxes. It would provide a new justification for politically motivated interferences in a wide range of human activities. Anyone who questioned such policies would be labelled a denialist, accused of wanting Bangladeshis to drown and African children to starve. Again, look at the ongoing exchanges on Brian’s blog.

Hence I conclude that serious efforts to combat global warming would have large costs, costs justified only if there were good reason to be confident that not taking such efforts would have catastrophic effects.

For the benefit of Brian and his friends, I think it might be useful to clarify the relevant terminology, as deduced from their and my usage:

Denialist: (1) Someone who refuses to accept the current scientific evidence on the existence and causes of global warming.

Denialist: (2) Someone who refuses to reject the current scientific evidence on the likely future scale of the effects of global warming.

Catastrophist: Someone who rejects the current scientific evidence on the likely future scale of the effects of global warming, preferring to believe that sea level will go up much more than current estimates predict, and that global warming will result in large increases in frequency, violence, or both of hurricanes as well as other large climatic changes, all of them adverse.

Nada como uma análise inteligente e direta de um dos aspectos do tal “aquecimento global”.


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De como o plágio continua estúpido

Plágio continua um negócio comum. E estúpido.

Quem nunca apresenta nada escrito ao professor (ou só o faz no início e no final do período) candidata-se a uma vaga no rol dos suspeitos. Que coisa terrível a preguiça faz com as pessoas, não é?

Deve haver uma lição positiva e outra normativa aqui e as pessoas racionais não perguntam quais são estas.


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O que acontece quando você não tem direitos de propriedade sobre seu corpo?

Óbvio: alguém o rouba de você.

A organização de defesa de direitos humanos Human Rights Watch (HRW) disse nesta quarta-feira, dia 14, que as doações “voluntárias” de órgãos dos réus executados na China são na realidade forçadas.

A Corte Suprema “não nega que os órgãos venham dos prisioneiros, mas diz que as doações são voluntárias. O fato, porém, é que temos evidências de que o processo não é transparente”, disse Nicholas Bequelin, porta-voz da HRW na China.

Bequelin explicou que “há evidências de que muitos condenados não assinam o formulário de doação e as autoridades da prisão falsificam a assinatura”.

“As autoridades da prisão obtêm diretamente do condenado o consentimento, e não da família. Não é um consentimento livre e voluntário como exige a lei”, acrescentou.

A notícia completa está aqui.


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Esta propaganda do governo norte-americano me parece bem atual e pouco propagandística…

Bem mais atual do que gostariam certos bolivenezucubanos…

p.s. uma versão para o Brasil, adaptada para nossa maravilhosa realidade gostosa e suave do tropicalismo mestiço seria interessante. Mas aposto que não teria patrocínio oficial. Pensando bem, nem seria desejável. Aliás, bons filmes aqui.

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