August 8, 2009
According to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, in the US,
Taller people live better lives, at least on average. They evaluate their lives more highly, and they are more likely to report a range of positive emotions such as enjoyment and happiness. They are also less likely to report a range of negative experiences, like sadness, and physical pain, though they are more likely to experience stress and anger, and if they are women, to worry. These findings cannot be attributed to different demographic or ethnic characteristics of taller people, but are almost entirely explained by the positive association between height and both income and education, both of which are positively linked to better lives.
So should we start taxing taller people for the sake of equality? That is what Greg Mankiw suggests a Utilitarian should want. He explains,
If you are going to take that [utilitarian] philosophy seriously, you have to take all of the implications seriously. And one of those implications is the optimality of taxing height and other exogenous personal characteristics correlated with income-producing abilities.
A moral and political philosophy is not like a smorgasbord, where you get to pick and choose the offerings you like and leave the others behind without explanation. It is more like your mother telling you to clean everything on your plate. If you are a Utilitarian redistributionist, the height tax is like that awful tasting vegetable your mother served up because it is good for you. No matter how hard you might wish it wasn’t there sitting on your plate, it just won’t go away.
In his paper on the height tax, Mankiw concludes,
Our results, therefore, leave readers with a menu of conclusions. You must either advocate a tax on height, or you must reject, or at least significantly amend, the conventional Utilitarian approach to optimal taxation. The choice is yours, but the choice cannot be avoided.
August 3, 2009
A new study by Solon Simmons of the George Mason University ranks academic disciplines by political correctness.The study defines political correctness as,
The belief that gender gaps in math and science fields are largely due to discrimination; support for affirmative action; and belief that discrimination is a key cause of racial inequities in American society. Generally, members of this cohort see race and gender as fundamental.
The most PC: Psychology, Sociology, English, History, Elementary education
The least PC: Criminal justice, Economics, Marketing, Accounting, Computer science, Biology, Finance, Management information, Mechanical engineering, Electrical engineering
July 21, 2009
Greg Mankiw points out that cccording to Austan Goolsbee, who currently serves under President Barack Obama as a member of the Council of Economic Advisers:
“Conventional wisdom holds that the social rate of return to R&D significantly exceeds the private rate of return and, therefore, R&D should be subsidized. In the U.S., the government has directly funded a large fraction of total R&D spending. This paper shows that there is a serious problem with such government efforts to increase inventive activity. The majority of R&D spending is actually just salary payments for R&D workers. Their labor supply, however, is quite inelastic so when the government funds R&D, a significant fraction of the increased spending goes directly into higher wages. Using CPS data on wages of scientific personnel, this paper shows that government R&D spending raises wages significantly, particularly for scientists related to defense such as physicists and aeronautical engineers. Because of the higher wages, conventional estimates of the effectiveness of R&D policy may be 30 to 50% too high. The results also imply that by altering the wages of scientists and engineers even for firms not receiving federal support, government funding directly crowds out private inventive activity.”
This, of course, stands strikingly at odds with Obama’s speech in April:
“At the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, President Obama presented a vision of a new era in research financing comparable to the Sputnik-period space race, in which intensified scientific inquiry, and development of the intellectual capacity to pursue it, are a top national priority.”
Data is a bitch.