"Why and how we care about inequality"

I dare say this is brilliant. These paragraphs come from the beginning and the middle:

In middle incomes, as Kevin Murphy told us, the “returns to skill” have increased. This has nothing to do with top-end cronyism. As Kevin so nicely reminds us, wages go up when demand for skill goes up and supply does not. He locates the supply restriction in awful public schools, taken over by teacher’s unions. Limits on high –skill immigration also restrict supply and drive up the skill premium. There’s a problem we know how to fix. Confiscatory taxation isn’t going to help! . . .

America has a real problem on the lower income end, epitomized by Charles’ Murray’s “Fishtown.” A segment of America is stuck in widespread single motherhood, leading to terrible early-child experiences, awful education, substance abuse, and criminality. 70% of male black high school dropouts will end up in prison, hence essentially unemployable and poor marriage prospects. Less than half are even looking for legal work.

This is a social and economic disaster. And it has nothing to do with whether hedge fund managers fly private or commercial. . . .

Why does it matter at all to a vegetable picker in Fresno, or an unemployed teenager on the south side of Chicago, whether 10 or 100 hedge fund managers in Greenwich have private jets? How do they even know how many hedge fund managers fly private? They have hard lives, and a lot of problems. But just what problem does top 1% inequality really represent to them?

These paragraphs are near the end:

Finally, why is “inequality” so strongly on the political agenda right now? Here I am not referring to academics. Kevin has been studying the skill premium for 30 years. Emmanuel likewise has devoted his career to important measurement questions, and will do so whether or not the New York Times editorial page cheers. All of economics has been studying various poverty traps for a generation, as represented well by the other authors at this conference. Why is there a big political debate just now? Why is the Administration and its allies in the punditry, such as Paul Krugman and Joe Stiglitz, all a-twitter about “inequality?” Why are otherwise generally sensible institutions like the IMF, the S&P, and even the IPCC jumping on the “inequality” bandwagon?

That answer seems pretty clear. Because they don’t want to talk about Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, bailouts, debt, the stimulus, the rotten cronyism of energy policy, denial of education to poor and minorities, the abject failure of their policies to help poor and middle class people, and especially sclerotic growth. Restarting a centuries-old fight about “inequality” and “tax the rich,” class envy resurrected from a Huey Long speech in the 1930s, is like throwing a puppy into a third grade math class that isn’t going well. You know you will make it to the bell.

But please read the whole thing.

"The Tao of Panda Express"

Go ahead, explain to me again how awful capitalism is.

The Chinese food chain’s success story—how a single outlet in the Glendale Galleria grew to 1,800 locations worldwide—begins with one secret ingredient: owners who care.

Related: "Buc-eenomics".

Over the weekend, I stopped to buy gas at a Buc-ee’s in Bastrop, Texas, and was greeted by (in addition to a man dressed as a giant aquatic rodent) an A-frame sign advertising Buc-ee’s version of the minimum wage: cashiers, $12 to $14 an hour; food-service and car-wash help, $13 to $15 an hour; team leaders, $14 to $17 an hour; assistant, $17 an hour and up. Each job came with three weeks paid time off each year, which employees are welcome to use, roll over, or exchange for cash. If you want 40 hours a week, there’s 40 hours a week to be had; if you want more than 40 hours a week, that can happen, too.

"Do You Believe in Magic?"

Don Boudreaux:

People who really believe that trade restrictions prevent domestic unemployment or raise domestic wages – people who really believe that minimum wages raise the incomes of low-skilled workers without causing any loss of employment or worsening of other terms of these workers’ jobs – people who really believe that government-mandated family leave leaves workers better off – are like people who attend magic shows and really believe that the magician causes a rabbit to materialize out of the thin air within the magician’s hat.

Such people and their belief in the magic of economic policy resemble what many 17-year-old boys believe about women and sex. They believe things that are mostly or entirely untrue, and they probably know, somewhere, deep down, that they aren't true, but they continue to believe just because it is so much fun to believe.

"Unicorn Governance: Ever argued public policy with people whose State is in fantasyland?"

Mike Munger nails the core problem of big government advocates.

My friends generally dislike politicians, find democracy messy and distasteful, and object to the brutality and coercive excesses of foreign wars, the war on drugs, and the spying of the NSA. 

But their solution is, without exception, to expand the power of "the State." That seems literally insane to me—a non sequitur of such monstrous proportions that I had trouble taking it seriously.

Related: Peter Gordon, "Not Just the Toadies," refers to some of the relevant literature.

"Larry Summers sits in traffic, has epiphany on regulation"

In the tradition of George McGovern's epiphany trying, after leaving the Senate, to run a business, Mr. Summers is shocked, just shocked by the reality of excessive government.

“How could our society have regressed to the point where a bridge that could be built in less than a year one century ago takes five times as long to repair today?” Summers asks.