Saturday, December 31, 2011

Arsenal 1 - Queens Park Rangers 0

Because of the group ride in Indy, I was able to watch only the first 15 minutes of the match live. I watched the remainder after the ride (thank goodness for Fox Soccer On-demand).

Just like the last game, Arsenal dominated possession and scoring opportunities in the first half, although Szczesny was forced to make one good save early. The Gunners once again failed to take advantage of a handful of decent (or better) scoring chances. A goalless draw at the half was disappointing for fans hoping for a better reaction to the Gunners' midweek disappointment.

Arsenal came out for the second half displaying a great sense of urgency and aggression. Arteta, in particular, appeared to take up a more forward role. In the 54th minute, Arsenal's most dependable defender, Thomas Vermaelen, had to leave the game with a heavy limp. A very disturbing sight to all Gunners fans, who can only hope the injury is minor and not a recurrence of the major injury that ruled Vermalen out all of last season. Shortly after Vermaelen's departure, Theo Walcott, who was poor throughout the match, was played in on goal by a great pass from Aaron Ramsey, only to pull his shot wide of the QPR goal. Finally, in the 59th minute, the breakthrough came when the right player, Robin van Persie, was played in on goal by a slide-rule pass from Andrei Arshavin. In contrast to Walcott, van Persie showed no self doubt at all, and simply played the ball past the QPR keeper with his lethal left foot. That goal gave RvP the Arsenal record for goals in a calendar year with 36, and put him within one of the Premier League record of 37 goals, set by the great Alan Shearer.

RvP's goal settled the nerves of Arsenal fans and players alike. Having the chase the game, QPR inevitably created counterattack possibilities for the Gunners. Arsenal had a few such chances, but could not score a second. More importantly, QPR were unable to score a first, which left the Gunners with all three (much needed) points. The win put the Gunners back into fourth place in the Premiership, two points ahead of Liverpool and Chelsea.

The winter transfer window opens tomorrow, and Arsene Wenger is expected to sign Arsenal hero Thierry Henry on a two-month loan from New York Red Bulls. Henry will provide some much needed goal-scoring support for Robin van Persie, especially with strikers Marouane Chamakh and Gervinho scheduled to miss a number of games in February while on duty for their countries in the Africa Cup of Nations. Arsenal also need a bit of defensive help, and that need may have increased today depending on the severity of Vermaelen's injury.

New Year's Eve Ride

I drove up to Indy for a group ride - really two group rides. First, a small group, including Coach Bob and Dr. Wilkes, rode from Fishback Creek to Shamrock Springs Elementary School in Carmel, which was the departure point for the larger group ride known as "Smokey Row." Both groups were well led and a real pleasure to ride with, despite the overcast skies and chilly temperatures (about which one cannot complain too much - we're lucky to be riding at all on Dec. 31). It was a good ride with which to end the year, which has not be the best cycling year for me. Here's hoping for a better cycling year, for everyone, in 2012.

That's Why They Play the Game (Still I'm Gobsmacked)

How did title contenders Man U lose at home to bottom dwellers Blackburn Rovers? Old Trafford is a virtually impregnable fortress, but it was overrun today by (relatively speaking) a light infantry, and on Sir Alex Ferguson's 70th birthday. How does that happen?

Friday, December 30, 2011

Two New Anti-Environmental Court Rulings

Two federal courts published decisions today that obstruct environmental protection efforts. In my view, one of the cases is correctly decided, while the other is only a temporary injunction pending full judicial review on the merits.

The more momentous decision is the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of California's ruling in Rocky Mt. Farmers Union v. Goldstene, 211 US Dist. LEXIS 149593 (2011), which enjoined the California Air Resources Board (CARB) rule establishing a Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) under that state's Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32). Specifically, the court found the rule violates the federal Constitution's Dormant Commerce Clause, which prevents states from enacting laws or rules that substantially disadvantage producers from other states in its markets. In this case, the plaintiffs alleged that CARB's LCFS did just that by, in effect, raising the cost of low-carbon fuels produced in other states and sold in California relative to the cost of low-carbon fuels produced and sold within California, essentially by taxing transportation (as a component of the carbon intensity of production). I believe this decision is correct as a constitutional matter, even though as a matter of economic policy it makes sense to impose a higher price on fuels that are more carbon intensive because they have been shipped (using carbon-based technologies) a longer distance. Unfortunately, the Constitution does not necessarily support every economic policy, however sensible.

In the second case, EME Homer City Generation v. EPA, USCA Case #11-1302 (Dec. 30, 2011), the DC Circuit stayed implementation of EPA's new Cross-state Air Pollution Rule, pending full judicial review of the rule on the merits, which could take up to a year. The rule would impose stringent new requirements for reducing emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides on power plants (the largest sources of such emissions). Plaintiffs complain that the cost of the new rule will force plant closings, layoffs, and possible blackouts. However, other utilities support the rule. EPA's regulatory impact analysis for the new rule finds that it would reduce premature mortality by between 13,000 to 34,000 per year (starting in 2014), yielding between $120 billion and $280 billion in annual social benefits, compared to just $800 million in annual costs. I do not know why the court issued the stay pending final judicial review of the rule; in its order, the court merely states that the plaintiffs met the requirements for a stay without further elaboration. I find that lack of explanation troubling especially given the high social costs of delaying implementation (if EPA's numbers are anywhere close to correct).  I wish I could confidently predict that the DC Circuit ultimately will uphold the rules on the merits, but I'm finding it more and more difficult to predict with any kind of confidence how courts will rule in complex environmental cases. In most such cases, the US Supreme Court allows the DC Circuit to have the final say. I wouldn't be surprised, however, if this case proves an exception.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Auness on Forthcoming Supreme Court Ruling on Navigability Test for Ownership of Beds and Banks of Water Bodies

Over at Jurist.com, Richard Ausness (Univ. of Kentucky Law School) has an interesting assessment of the oral arguments in PPL Montana, LLC v. Montana, which represents the Roberts Court's first opportunity to decide a case of disputed ownership of the beds and banks of a body of water.

The state's claim is based on the constitutional "equal footing doctrine," according to which ownership of beds and banks of navigable water bodies passes from the federal government to state governments upon statehood. Since the Republic's inception, a persistent question has been what constitutes navigability for purposes of first federal, then state ownership. From Ausness' description of the questions raised during oral arguments, it sounds to me as if the conservative members of the Court are prepared to consider this issue de novo, that is, without regard to nearly two centuries of precedents (an approach the Roberts Court has previously undertaken in Citizens United, which overturned well-settled precedents extending back a century). At the oral arguments, Justices Alito and Scalia questioned whether the state really needs to own the beds and banks to protect navigation. But that should not be a pertinent question, as navigability has been the basis of state ownership (regardless of necessity) since the Republic's founding. A contrary ruling now would amount to brazen judicial activism.

The more liberal members of the Court seem to be angling to avoid deciding the case at all by characterizing it as a dispute between the federal government, which is not a party to the current dispute, and the State of Montana. Will this be another 5-4 decision in which Justice Kennedy determines the outcome?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Football Jargon

From the Little Caesars Bowl: "Nice job of trickeration there" (spelling appoximate).

Two Points Lost: Arsenal 1 - Wolverhampton 1

On paper this was an easy home match for the Gunners, but games aren't played on paper. Wolves hadn't scored (let alone won) at Arsenal in 34 years, that is until the first half of today's game. Arsenal were leading 1-0 after a fine goal by Gervinho (created by an equally fine through ball from Benayoun). Throughout the opening period, the Gunners heavily dominated possession. Wolves hardly threatened. But the Gunners once again displayed their susceptibility to set pieces on a corner kick, when Steven Fletcher headed in after a deflected shot. The score was 1-1 at the interval, but Gunners fans had every reason to believe that their side would finish off Wolves in short order in the second-half.

They didn't. Tried as they might, they could not get past the excellent Wayne Hennessey in Wolves' goal. The Gunners dominated possession throughout the second half, as they had in the first, and steadily increased the pressure on Wolves' defense. Arsenal's midfielders, especially Rosicky and Benayoun, made several good forward runs, but they were too focused on feeding the closely marked van Persie and sometimes missed better passing options.

The first real scoring chance of the second half came in the 67th minute (shortly after Arshavin came on for Benayoun), when a van Persie free kick was well saved by Hennessee. A moment later, Rosicky crossed well, with the outside of his right boot, finding Mertesacker, whose close-range header Hennessee likewise saved. Still, the Gunners pressed for the winning goal, and as the second half wore on the Wolves appeared to be hanging on for dear life. And that was before midfielder Nenad Milijas was shown a straight red card for lunging in on Mikel Arteta on the edge of Wolves' box with a quarter hour left to play. From that point on, nearly the entire Wolves squad was encamped in their own box, defending doggedly. Several more times, Arsenal came close, but they could not beat Hennessee, who was plainly man of the match.

A disappointing result for the Gunners, but their effort cannot be faulted. They deserved more than they got from the match.

Sen on Snakes and Ladders of the Global Economy

The beyondbrics page of the Financial Times offers us all a holiday gift from Amartya Sen (if only we could find two more wise men, we'd be on to something).

Monday, December 26, 2011

An Opening for Arsenal

Arsenal's match tomorrow at home against Wolverhampton Wanderers provides an opportunity for the Gunners to reclaim fourth place, after both Chelsea and Liverpool stumbled to draws today in matches against, respectively, Fulham and Blackburn. The Gunners currently sit one point ahead of Liverpool and two behind Chelsea with tomorrow's game in hand.

Between now and May, as the two teams from Manchester fight it out for the League championship, the real action will be the four-team fight for the last two Champion's League positions between Tottenham (currently in third), Arsenal, Chelsea, and Liverpool (I don't fancy Newcastle's chances of staying in the hunt). 

An Unfinished Poem for the Day After Christmas

It's a post-Christmas morning
And all through the house
Not a creature is stirring,
Not even my spouse.

A new week is dawning
And I must take an oath
To work or be lazy
For I cannot do both.

My own book to write
And others to read.
New classes to prepare,
But I'm going to seed.

I think I'll lie back down
And sleep like a log.
When I reawaken,
I'll return to this blog.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Rare Christmas Day Bike Ride

How often is it in the upper-40s and sunny on Christmas Day? Son of Cyclingprof accompanied me on a 20-mile jaunt out to Dolan and back. In something of a minor Christmas miracle, I made it all the way up Earl Young hill without getting off the bike.

A Perverse Sense of Humor?

Why else would I choose Christmas Eve to start reading a biography of Baruch Spinoza, progenitor of the Enlightenment and bete noir of Reformation religious establishments (both Jewish and Christian)? The book is Steven Nadler, Spinoza: A Life (Cambridge 1999).

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Great Sen-tence and a Bad Review

From Amartya Sen's article in the forthcoming Dec. 29, 2011 issue of The New Republic (behind a pay-wall here), "The Boundaries of Justice: David Hume and Our World":
The usefulness of reasoning is not dependent on its being able to solve every problem at hand.
Sen believes a contrary presumption has harmed decision theory and the theory of rational choice, and observes that understanding the incompleteness of our knowledge is in fact central to human reasoning.

Sen's observation is usefully borne in mind while reading the review of Jonathan Israel's Democratic Enlightenment, which appears in this Sunday's New York Times (here). I've previously blogged about the Israel book here and here. While some of the reviewer's criticisms hit the mark (Israel does too strongly distinguish and elevate radical enlightenment thinkers, such as Spinoza and Diderot, over their more moderate brethren, like Voltaire and Hume), the overall tenor of the review is far too glib and jaundiced, treating Enlightenment studies, and seemingly the pursuit of reason itself, as somehow passe.

Life Goes On

Celebrating our first Hannukah/Christmas/Festivus since my mother's passing earlier this year. It's tough, but my wife and kids are trying to make it feel more normal for me by yelling at each other in the kitchen.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Grasping Defeat from the Jaws of Victory, By Winning

I cannot believe the Colts are going to blow the Andrew Luck sweepstakes, although the Texans deserve a lot of credit for helping Indy secure the victory this evening.

In this morning's Indianapolis Star (here), Bob Kravitz asks: "Is there any such thing as a devastating victory?"

The New Arrival

I'm proud to announce the arrival of a new bike in the Cyclingprof household, a healthy Bianchi Oltre Nero frameset measuring 59 cm and weighing in at about 1500 grams for the frame, fork, seatpost, and seatpost clamp. Here is generic photo of the bike (mine was sold in "like new" condition, having been ridden under 500 miles, but it looks absolutely brand new):

My build plan for the bike includes a new Campy Record 11 gruppo (2011/12) with a compact crankset and an 11-25 cassette, 3T Ergnova Team handlebar and ARX Team stem, Speedplay X2 pedals, a Specialized Toupe saddle, and HED Ardennes SL wheels. Total weight should be under 16 pounds (I'll weigh it and let you know after it's built). 

High Market Valuations of Fossil-fuel Companies Do NOT "Contradict" Government Pledges to Reduce Carbon Emissions

This "profound contraction" reportedly originated with Lord Nicholas Stern, who as an economist should know better, and has been publicized by Grist writer David Roberts (here and here). The claim is premised on a simplistic presumption that market valuations of fossil fuel companies are based (exclusively?) on the further presumption that all known reserves of fossil fuels will be extracted and sold, which cannot happen under government pledges to prevent global mean temperature increases beyond 2 degrees Celsius.

But the claim of a contradiction (either logical or as a matter of policy) is false because the premises and presumptions underlying it are false. In the first place, it is erroneous to presume that the market value of any company depends exclusively on its existing stock of assets, as if features such as (changeable) market demand, good will, and competition have no bearing on a company's value. Moreover, even if government regulations tie up some amount of carbon in the ground, that does not necessary mean that a coal company's market valuation must decline. Assuming demand is reasonably price elastic, so that the market price of coal rises as a consequence of reduced supply, fossil fuel companies could (in theory) remain equally profitable selling lower quantities of coal and oil at higher prices. They might also diversify into alternative, low-carbon energy sources, as many energy companies are in fact doing. Thus, the relation between a regulatory supply constraint does not necessarily equate with a reduction in overall profitability or market value for any particular company. (It is worth observing, in this context, that financial services companies like American Express and Wells Fargo are still highly valuable a century or more after their initial cartel-based transportation businesses were heavily regulated by the US government.)

It is even possible that regulations could increase the market value of a fossil fuel company that meets regulatory standards, for example, by improving productive efficiency. As former BP chairman Lord Browne bragged in a 2004 article in Foreign Affairs (here), his company reduced overall emissions by 10% (below 1990 levels), while increasing shareholder value by $650 billion, simply by reducing leaks and waste. Of course, because higher levels of emissions reduction are increasingly expensive emissions reductions do not invariably lead to direct increases to shareholder value. But just as companies have managed to increase profitability and market value despite increased costs of doing business (due to various market and non-market constraints) in the past, no reason exists simply to presume that (even stringent) GHG regulations would reduce their market valuations.   

Even if a regulatory restriction did reduce the profitability and market valuations of fossil fuel companies, it is a mistake to conflate a mere "pledge" by governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with the actual imposition and enforcement of regulations (either quantitative or tax-based) that reduce either the supply or demand (or both) for carbon-based resources. The history of international climate negotiations to date suggests that "pledges" are worth little more than the paper on which they are printed. In other words, mere pledges do not equal credible commitments of the type generally required to move markets.     

In short, there is no contradiction between government pledges made earlier this month in Durban and market valuations  of companies that are heavily invested in fossil fuels. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Final Mercury Standards for Power Plants

As promised the other day (see here), EPA has finalized new regulations on mercury emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants. The final rule in its entirety is here, and the regulatory impact statement, which includes the highly favorable cost-benefit analysis is here. For those who don't want to work so hard, a brief summary of the the rule is here.

Monday, December 19, 2011

New Bike

I just bought a new bike (well, new to me). Details to follow, including photos, when it arrives.

How We Navigate Crowded Spaces

The Economist has a fascinating story (here) about how humans (or "particles with a will") maneuver in groups on more or less crowded sidewalks, concourses, etc. Coincidentally, the story also describes how the pathology of religious fervor (ideology) undermines social norms that coordinate individuals' movement in crowded spaces.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Segal Targets ABA

A new screed by the bete noir of legal academia, David Segal, in today's New York Times (here), takes on the American Bar Association (ABA) as overseer of American legal education. I never thought I say this about a David Segal article, but I actually agree with him about this: to a large extent, the increasing expense of a law school degree is driven by over- and outdated-regulation by the ABA. In fact, I deplore the monopolistic role of the ABA in legal education, and agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments expressed by Andy Morriss in the article.

A couple of other points worth noting about Segal's article: He refers positively to a couple of law review articles, a genre he previously has suggested is comprised of worthless, theoretical drivel. And he quotes approvingly several law professors throughout his article, which suggests that he managed to find some members of the new "leisure class," who are hard-working, self-critical, and not resistant to change. I wonder if he's compiling a list of the few good ones.

Manchester City 1 - Arsenal 0

This was always going to be a tough one for the Gunners. Man City's all-star team (with a stratospheric budget to match) are top of the league and virtually invincible at home, where they have lost none and drawn just two matches all year. That the Gunners did not win is disappointing, but they played hard and with poise, giving as good as they got for most of the game. Neither a victory nor a moral victory, but a tough loss from which the Gunners can take some solace about the quality of their side at the half-way point of the season.

Arsenal appeared nervous at the start (perhaps remembering their most recent trip to the City of Manchester, when they received an 8-2 drubbing from United). City, by contrast, started strong, with sharp, incisive passing that looked likely to cut open the Arsenal defense at will. Fortunately, the Gunners withstood the first ten minutes and gradually began to play themselves into the match. Both sides created decent scoring chances in the first 45, but City had more of them. Solid team defending by Arsenal and a couple of fine saves from Szczesny preserved the scoreless tie to halftime - not at all a bad outcome from the Gunners' perspective.

The Gunners play improved in the second half, creating as many or more chances than Man City; the only difference was that Man City converted one of their chances, when Silva scored from close range after Szczesny parried a hard shot by Balotelli. After the goal, Arsenal did not collapse but continued to attack, pressuring Man City's goal on many occasions. Robin van Persie missed one particularly good opportunity, and Vermaelen nearly scored twice toward the close. But no luck. Like every other Premier League team this season, Arsenal came away from the Etihad Stadium with no points.

Alex Song played exceptionally well for the Gunners, as did Szczesny, without whom game would have been lopsided. Indeed, the entire Gunners defense kept a good shape and played strong for most of the game (Koscielny's poor passing aside). Unfortunately, in midfield Arteta failed to make any impression on the game until midway into the second half; before that, he was virtually invisible. Likewise, Theo Walcott, who did nothing much with the ball on the few occasions when he had it in his possession. Walcott was replaced midway through the second half by Andrei Arshavin, who was even worse, wasting passes, possession, and one good scoring opportunity.

It is not a bad result for the Gunners, especially compared to their last trip to Manchester. The current Arsenal team is so much better than that Arsenal squad of August; it's like two completely different teams. The fact that some commentators are now writing Arsenal out of the title hunt is itself a significant indication of Arsenal's improvement. Only two months ago, they were sitting near the bottom of the table. Who would have imagined then that today's game would be considered, by some, to be a "must win" game for the league title?

Significant or Spurious Correlation?

Am I the only one who's noticed the perfect correlation between my move to Bloomington and a dramatic improvement in the IU Men's Basketball team? I'm not saying I caused the improvement (it's at least possible that the improvement is due to my wife or kids moving here with me), but the coincidence is striking.

Here are some other spurious correlations recently posted at Crooked Timber:

Saturday, December 17, 2011

EPA Finally Finalizes Air Toxics Rule for Mercury

Not so much a "job-killing" regulation as a long-overdue protection (developed under court order) that finally will prevent utilities from committing involuntary manslaughter 17,000 times per year (not to mention hundreds of thousands of non-fatal assaults on public health).

According to this Washington Post story (the finalized rule is not yet available online), the new rule will force utilities, which are the largest emitters of air toxics in the US, to install scrubbers to remove emissions of mercury and soot, which will cost them $10.6 billion between now and 2016, but result in estimated mortality and morbidity cost savings of between $59 billion and $140 billion per year.

As soon as the final rule and regulatory impact assessment are available, I will link to them.

Friday, December 16, 2011

How to Distinguish Environmental Doomsaying from Rational Attention to Potential Envrionmental Catastrophes

It's easy: If the concern is presented with full acknowledgement of risks (probabilities of occurrence) and uncertainties, it is not doomsaying but rational attention to potential environmental catastrophes. Doomsayers never talk about the relative (im)probabilities of the crises and catastrophes they foretell. With respect to climate change, for example, Al Gore (see, e.g., here) is a doomsayer; Martin Weitzman (see here) and Richard Posner (see here) are rational economists (which is not to say that they would necessarily agree about how much and how soon greenhouse gas emissions should be mitigated).

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My New Commute

Here's the profile (to and from, just under 10 miles round trip):

Ron Paul Wants to Abolish the EPA

No surprise there. And he offers a conventional libertarian bromide as a substitute for the regulatory agency: "Polluters should answer directly to property owners in court for the damages they create...." For years, small minorities of economists and libertarians calling themselves "free-market environmentalists" (see, e.g., here and here) have argued that common-law property protections, by themselves, can and would supply efficient, even optimal, levels of environmental protection. They would certainly be right, if we lived in the mythical world of the "Coase theorem," in which information is complete and transacting is costless (see here). Indeed, if we lived in that world, we wouldn't even need property law or courts to resolve environmental disputes as parties in the free market would costlessly bargain to optimal allocations of pollution. But, as Coase himself acknowledged many times (see id.), the world we live in is not at all like the world of the "Coase theorem." In the real world, theories of free-market environmentalism are dangerously misguided because of transaction costs and the real limitations of common-law solutions to environmental problems.

Here's what Coase had to write about environmental protection in his 1959 article on "The Federal Communications Commission" (see here, p. 29):
[I]f many people are harmed and there are several sources of pollution, it is more difficult to reach a satisfactory solution through the market. When the transfer of rights has to come about as a result of market transactions carried out between large numbers of people or organizations acting jointly, the process of negotiation may be so difficult and time-consuming as to make such transfers a practical impossibility. Even the enforcement of rights through the courts may not be easy. It may be costly to discover who it is that is causing the trouble. And, when it is not in the interest of any single person or organization to bring suit, the problems involved in arranging joint actions represent a further obstacle. As a practical matter, the market may become too costly to operate.

In these circumstances, it may be preferable to impose special regulations (whether embodied in a statute or brought about as a result of the rulings of an administrative agency).
 Peter Grossman and I build on Coase's arguments in Chapter 15 of our book, Principles of Law and Economics (Aspen 2011), pp. 397-8:
The causation-proof problems Coase recognizes are especially important. Many pollutants travel long distances, and pollution-related diseases can have long latency periods. To prevail in court, plaintiffs must be able to trace their harm to a particular pollution source that might be located hundreds of miles away, and prove that their harm was proximately caused by exposure to a certain pollutant that may have occurred several decades ago. This evidentiary burden is often unbearable, and always very expensive. Moreover, common-law courts have traditionally restricted nuisance remedies to cases involving visible air pollution, such as smoke and dust; bad odors were usually not enough to state a claim. But, of course, many harmful pollutants - including some of the most toxic - are invisible. 
In addition to causation-proof problems, common-law remedies only protect environmental resources subject to property rights; they do not protect unowned, common-pool resources, regardless of social value.

The problems raised, respectively, by Coase and Cole and Grossman bear on Paul's belief that common-law causes of action provide sufficient remedies for environmental harms, but ultimately they are inapposite to his opposition to EPA and large-scale environmental regulation because Paul is not a welfare-consequentialist. As true-believing libertarian, Paul is more interested in maximizing individual liberty than overall social welfare (although he might believe that maximizing the former would maximize the later). Paul's strict libertarianism distinguishes him from his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination. While they mostly pander to anti-environmental interest groups, Paul's environmental position is principled. But, if implemented as policy, it would be disastrous for the health and welfare of the American people.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Workshop Mini-conference (and Book Parties)

On of the wonderful and unique traditions at Lin and Vincent Ostrom's Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis here at IU is the "mini-conference," which is held at the end of each semester. The idea is to provide an opportunity for grad students (working toward their PhDs in various social-science departments) and visiting scholars (a dozen or more each semester from all over the world) to gain valuable experience in writing and presenting conference papers in a true workshop format. At the mini-conference, authors do not present their own papers; rather, they are presented and then critiqued by other scholars. The authors then have a short time for response prior to further comments, questions, and suggestions from the larger group.

This semester's mini-conference started yesterday and run's through this afternoon. This morning, I'm presenting an interesting paper by a grad student on how the Institutional Analysis and Design (IAD) framework (on which see, e.g., here) could improve Mancur Olson's analysis (in The Logic of Collective Action) of impediments to large-scale collective action.

While I'm on the subject of excellent traditions at the Workshop, I should mention "book parties," which are occasional events designed to provide feedback to Workshop-affiliated authors on manuscripts in progress. Workshop faculty, grad students, and even outside scholars from other institutions are each assigned a chapter of the draft book to review and critique at a day-long workshop (you can see why the Workshop is called the "the Workshop") We've had three book parties this semester, which may be one too many (time being a scarce commodity), but they're a great way for book authors to improve their manuscripts prior to publication.

I'm biased, of course, but if I were a grad student in any social scientific discipline, I would be attracted to do my dissertation at IU, first and foremost, because of the existence of the Workshop. It provides opportunities for collaborative learning, along with motivation and support, that are hard to find elsewhere.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Canada to Become First Country to Formally Withdraw from Kyoto Protocol

While George W. Bush withdrew US support from the Kyoto Protocol, he did not withdraw the US signature. That is a step that no country has taken, until now. Today, Canada's conservative government announced that it would withdraw formally from the mitigation regime, under which it committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6% from 1990 levels during the 2008-12 compliance period (see here). Its stated reason: because emissions from the US and China are not covered by the Protocol, the treaty cannot be an effective mitigation device and should be jettisoned in favor of something new. It's ulterior motive: oil sands, which give Canada the third largest quantity of known oil reserves in the world (after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela).

Producing oil from the sands is a potentially lucrative business (especially if the US eventually approves the Keystone pipeline), but also a very dirty business, emitting at least three times the carbon (not to mention other hazardous air pollutants) of conventional oil production processes (see here). So, Harper's government is not interested in a new and improved mitigation regime but with no mitigation regime at all.

This hardly makes Canada a special case; the US is in the same boat, which Japan and Russia reportedly are getting ready to climb aboard. Harper's ideal scenario was that Kyoto would die at Durban. That it did not must have been a disappointment to his government. Still, the timing of Canada's announcement is interesting, coming just a day after the end of the Durban meeting. Given the Kyoto Protocol's persistent weakness (bordering on irrelevance), Harper's conservative government hardly needed to withdraw from the Protocol at this point; it could have gone on ignoring it, as it has done since taking office after the 2006 elections. The move could well backfire in the same way that President Bush's 2001 denunciation of the Kyoto Protocol arguably backfired, by removing the US delegation's voice from the negotiating table.

Whatever the reasons and the timing, one point is perfectly clear (regardless of deceptive comments to the contrary from Canadian government officials): this decision is not about building a better international regime for reducing greenhouse gas emissions; it is about black oil and cold cash.

Text of the Durban Agreement

Text of Durban Agreement

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Climate Talks End in Victory or Defeat or Inevitable Compromise, Depending on Your Point of View

The 2-page agreement (supposedly - the official text is not yet publicly available) commits all parties, including developing countries, to adopt binding emissions reduction targets by 2020 (see here). At least some parties hailed the agreement as a breakthrough, while others blasted it for transferring cuts from richer to poorer countries, and environmental groups lamented the failure to commit to early emissions cuts (see here and here).

From my perspective, getting China and India - two of the world's four leading emitters (in nominal terms) - on board with mandatory emissions cuts was an important achievement, and necessary to ensure that global emissions start trending downward. It is important to bear in mind, however, that this is just an agreement to take some action in the future. The actual commitments are yet to come.

I'm not so disturbed as some observers by the 2020 starting point for new binding emissions-reduction targets. For one thing, it's probably going to take at least that long to put large-emitting developing countries in a position, economically, institutionally, and technologically, to make verifiable cuts. For another, the 2020 start date does not prevent the attainment of large-scale cuts in carbon emissions between now and 2050; it just steepens the necessary reductions curve. Nor does it undo commitments countries or confederations, such as the EU, have made to reduce emissions between now and 2020.

However, this new agreement should not be confused with real action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is merely represents a more or less credible (depending on which party you're talking about) commitment to reduce emissions in the future. Between now and at least 2020 (and perhaps much longer after that), we should keep our eyes where the real action is, in Europe and California, which are leading the way as carbon-cutting entrepreneurs. Whether or not more countries follow their leads may be a more reliable signal of trends in global climate policy than any piece of paper the climatocrats signed in Durban.

I will post the agreement, when it becomes available.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Mancur Olson's "Logic of Collective Action" Encapsulated in Two Concise Sentences Written 200 Years Earlier

Mancur Olson's Logic of Collective Action (Harvard 1965) is rightly celebrated as one of the most important works of political-economy in the past century. Among other things, it is a foundation stone of public choice theory. But did you know that the main thesis of Olson's 170-page book was expressed in just two sentences written 200 years earlier?

Here's David Hume, from the Treatise on Human Nature [1739-40], Book 3, Part 2, Sec. 7, p. 538 (1978):

Two neighbours may agree to drain a meadow, which they possess in common; because ‘tis easy for them to know each other's mind; and each must perceive, that the immediate consequence of his failing in his part, is, the abandoning the whole project. But ‘tis very difficult, and indeed impossible, that a thousand persons shou'd agree in any such action; it being difficult for them to concert so complicated a design, and still more difficult for them to execute it; while each seeks a pretext to free himself of the trouble and expence, and wou'd lay the whole burden on others.
Of course, what Hume doesn't provide and Olson does is a clear implication of the potential of minoritarian bias in political processes to rival, or even exceed, the problem of majoritarian bias which was pretty much the sole concern of political theorists of democratic republicanism prior to the second half of the twentieth century.

Heisman Trophy Goes to Robert Griffin III

No Luck for Luck in the Heisman balloting. As a Stanford guy, I have to say he was robbed. Who truly believes that Griffin is a better player or more deserving winner than Luck? Anyone want to bet on the first player/quarterback taken in the next NFL draft?

Arsenal 1 - Everton 0

Before the game, Arsenal celebrated their 125th anniversary as a club, and many great players from the past were in attendance. The current Gunners team chose to emulate not the goal-happy sides of recent memory, but the George Graham Gunners, when the motto was "1-nil to the Arsenal."  Unlike those teams, however, they didn't do it so much through strong defending as by spurning a number of gilt-edged scoring chances (especially in the first half).

In the first half, the Gunners surgically cut Everton's defense to pieces on several occasions but failed to put the ball in the back of the neck (perhaps because none of the really good chances fell to van Persie). They really should have been up at least 3-0 by the break. It was frustrating, but instead of concern that Everton were still in the game and might steal a goal, my sense was that plenty more chances would come for the Gunners after the intermission, and that Everton's luck wouldn't last. I was wrong - not that Everton wouldn't steal a goal (they threatened occasionally but never really tested Szczesny), but that Arsenal would create plenty more gilt-edged chances. Everton's defense tightened in the second 45, and the Gunners found the chances fewer and farther between.

After a choppy start to the second half, the deadlock was finally broken in the 70th minute by a moment of brilliance from the Gunners, notably Song, who made a beautiful cross-field pass, and van Persie who put it in the back of the net with a perfectly hit, first-time volley. Everton goalie Tim Howard could only watch RvP's strike fly across him and crash in off the far post. Such an exquisite goal made up for all the missed chances of the first half, and effectively sealed the victory, as Everton could not manage to put a shot on goal.

The victory puts Arsenal up into fourth place (the last qualifying place for the Champion's League) in the Premiership, pending the outcome of Chelsea's big home match Monday against Man City.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Federal Courts of Appeal Cite Law Review Articles More than They Used To

That's according to a new empirical study David L. Schwartz and Lee Petherbridge recently published in the Cornell Law Review (Vol. 96, pp. 1345-74, 2011). Here's the take away from their article:
The study reported here adds a substantially more comprehensive data set to this important body of work than previous studies: an assessment of citation to legal scholarship in 296,098 reported decisions of the federal courts of appeals  between 1950 and 2008. Using clearly described and easily reproducible methods it further adds to the existing body of knowledge by empirically exploring the stridently pressed conventional wisdom that legal scholarship has drifted so far from the interests of the bench and bar that courts have little use for it.

The study produces two important results. First, the data collected support the interpretation that the use of legal scholarship by the federal circuit courts of appeals has not declined. Rather, the use of legal scholarship by such courts has increased. Taken together, the data gathered in this study call into serious question the conventional wisdom that courts have little use for legal scholarship.Second, the study provides evidence that a relatively small cohort of judges is responsible for the overwhelming majority of citations. Using empirical and theoretical methods, the study also considers explanations for the empirical results.
I wonder whether David Segal of the New York Times will retract the blanket claim he made in an article he wrote a couple weeks ago about the uselessness of legal scholarship (see here).

Tabarrok on Medical Patents

Over at Marginal Revolution, Alex Tabarrok has an excellent post on the intellectual property bar's latest efforts to propertize everything, no matter what the social costs, including perverse consequences for research and innovation.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Man U and Man City Fail to Make Knock-Out Stage of Champion's League

Arsenal fans are too high-minded to take much pleasure in the failings of the Gunners' Mancunian rivals. And if you believe that, could I interest you in purchasing the Brooklyn Bridge?

In any ordinary season, the early Champion's League exits of Man City and Man U arguably would be bad news for Arsenal because they would be playing fewer games, while focusing exclusively on success in the two other competitions that really matter: the Premiership and the FA Cup. This season, since Arsenal are unlikely to challenge for the Premiership crown, the early exit of the Manchester clubs matters less at least as far as that competition is concerned.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Olympiakos 3 - Arsenal 1

Arsenal had already won the group, qualifying for the knock-out stage of the Champions' League; so they had little to play for today in Greece. Wenger started a side full of back-ups, with the exception of Vermaelen and, perhaps, Santos (who had to leave the game injured in the second half). Aside from a very fine volley from the classy Benayoun, Arsenal always looked second-best in this match. On to more important work this Saturday at home to Everton in the Premier League. Mikel Arteta should be looking forward to facing his old mates.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Economists Urge President Obama to Designate More Federally Protected Lands in the West to Stimulate the Economy

An impressive list of 100 economists, including (among many others), Kenneth Arrow, Robert Solow, Joseph Stiglitz, Roger Noll, Eban Goodstein, Deirdre McCloskey, Richard Norgaard, Thomas Michael Power, and Richard Zerbe, signed the letter, which argues that "federal protected public lands," including national parks, national monuments, and wilderness areas, "are essential to the West's economic future" (emphasis added).
In the West ... public lands play a pivotal role in attracting and retaining people and businesses. This is the case for all sectors, including manufacturing.
The rivers, lakes, canyons, and mountains found on public lands serve as a unique and compelling backdrop that has helped to transform the western economy from a dependence on resource extractive industries to growth from in-migration, tourism, and modern economy sectors such as finance, engineering, software development, insurance, and health care.
The full letter with signature page is here.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Provocative Assertion about the Conservatism of the Legal Profession in the 18th Century

From Jonthan Israel, Democratic Enlightenment (Oxford 2011), pp. 231-2:
Modern historical surveys of the Enlightenment often seem to suggest that Europe's judicial systems could be and were swiftly and almost painlessly reformed in the eighteenth century, as if this was just a question of ending judicial torture, modifying the harsh treatment of debtors and unmarried mothers, and a few other widely acknowledged defects, and as if there was widespread support for the proposed changes in society and among the legal profession. But the evidence strongly suggests otherwise. Significant sections of the Enlightenment, and Hume in particular, systematically undermined every overall approach to rationalizing the law, thereby drastically limiting the scope for legal reform. In the legal and moral sphere, it was neither public opinion, nor economic pressure, nor governments, and especially not ... magistrates or lawyers that acted as agents of change. The legal profession in fact contributed practically nothing to the reform programme anywhere in Europe. Rather it was philosophy itself - and especially la philosophie moderne - helped by the sheer accumulation of social difficulties and pressures (as distinct from public attitudes), that spread awareness of deficiencies and urged root and branch reform.
I am not enough of a legal historian (especially of Europe in the 18th century) to adjudge the accuracy of Israel's strong claim. I suspect he is correct about the general conservatism of the legal profession, which seems a persistent quality. On the other hand, I find it hard to imagine that the successful legal reforms Israel discusses could have been achieved without at least the strong support, if not the instigation, of some enlightened magistrates and lawyers. If the legal profession, as a whole, possesses a conservative (perhaps Humean) mindset, the existence within that profession of a minority of reformers - both moderate and radical - seems another of its persistent qualities. Of course, Israel's apparent bias for the philosophes, especially those like Spinosa, Bayle, and Diderot with a more radical reform agenda, is understandable given his own heavy investment in their works. But it seems doubtful that they their works were the sole drivers of enlightened political, legal, and economic reform.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Wigan 0 - Arsenal 4

Wigan really put up little resistance in this match, hardly ever threatening Szczesny's goal, while giving Arsenal's offense too much room to operate. The Gunners dominated possession, and their passing was more fluid than it has been perhaps all season. The most surprising aspect of this match is that van Persie only scored the fourth and final Arsenal goal (finishing off a fine play by Theo Walcott), preceded by the excellent Arteta (on a long-range shot that the goalie probably should have stopped but appeared not to see clearly), Vermaelen (heading in at the back post from a corner kick), and Gervinho (following up a parried shot from van Persie). From the point of view of an Arsenal fan, it was one of the few games this season that was a sheer pleasure to watch, without any nervous sense that the Arsenal defense might contrive to spoil it. Speaking of the defense, it's great to have Vermaelen back seemingly in top form, alongside Mertesacker, who had a better game today. Koscielny, who has really improved throughout this season, is proving to be something of a revelation on the left side of defense, where he's been forced to play because of injury. He's really getting up field to support the offense, passing the ball effectively, and covering defensively down his wing. Overall, things really are looking up for the Gunners, despite their loss in midweek to Man City in the Carling Cup quarterfinals.

From Global to Polycentric Climate Governance

My recent article of that title, published in the journal Climate Law (Vol. 2, pp. 395-413, 2011) is now freely available online here (from the IU repository).

Friday, December 2, 2011

Washington Environmental Council v. Sturdevant

Yesterday, Federal District Court Judge Marsha J. Pechman ruled (here) that Washington State agencies must  promulgate technology-based standards for greenhouse gas emissions from oil refineries in the state. The decision is based on a highly technical (but not convoluted) reading of state regulations under the federal Clean Air Act (CAA), according to which the state environmental agency must set RACT (reasonably achievable control technology) standards  for certain categories of existing stationary sources (in this case oil refineries) pursuant to their State Implementation Plan (SIP).

The most interesting aspect of this opinion to my mind is that SIPs are a compliance tool for attaining (or maintaining) national ambient air quality standards (NAAQSs), which are set for criteria pollutants. To date, the EPA has not established criteria documents for greenhouse gases, which would lead to the promulgation of NAAQSs for them. Yet, the federal court did not hesitate to require Washington state agencies to include regulations in their SIPs for GHGs. As Judge Pechman notes in her ruling, nothing in the SIP provision (sec. 110) of the CAA restricts the state from regulating air pollutants beyond federal requirements.  So long as the SIP "meets all the applicable requirements," EPA must approve it, even if it is more stringent than federal law requires. And it remains enforceable by both federal and state courts. In this case, the state's RACT regulations were broader than federal requirements in applying not only to criteria pollutants but to "all air contaminants." A 2009 executive order (09-05, May 21, 2005) by Washington Governor Christine Gregoire specifies that "greenhouse gases are air contaminants."

Presumably the State of Washington could easily avoid the court's order in this case simply by amending the language of its current RACT regulation to explicitly exclude GHGs. However, it may be politically difficult to for it to do so, given the 2009 executive order.

This is the first case (to my knowledge) where environmental groups have succeeding in regulating GHG emissions from existing (as opposed to new or substantially modified) stationary sources of greenhouse gas emissions under the CAA. The EPA has studiously avoided bringing GHGs under the general ambit of Title I of the CAA, which would require an endangerment finding (under sec. 108, separate from the endangerment finding EPA made under Title II for auto emissions of GHGs), issuing criteria documents, and promulgating NAAQSs (under sec. 109). Even in the absence of NAAQSs, emissions from new and substantially modified sources are subject to federal regulation because of  broad language in the relevant sections of the statute. However, "existing" sources are not subject to direct federal regulation under the act (broadly speaking); rather, they are regulated by the states, pursuant to sec. 110 SIPs. The EPA must approve SIPs that meet certain federal requirements relating to attainment (or movement toward attainment) of NAAQSs. This case shows how language in state regulations, if it is sufficiently broad, can bring SIPs into play in regulating GHGs from existing stationary sources with technology-based standards.

Lawrence Friedman on the Aridity of Constitutional Law Scholarship

I'm proud to say that Lawrence Friedman, America's foremost legal historian, was my mentor during (and after) my  graduate legal studies at Stanford Law School. He remains among the most professionally impressive and personally influential scholars I have ever known, never wavering from his commitment to avoid writing anything dry and uninteresting.

Lawrence's most recent publication, "Law and Economics in Society," published in the Hofstra Law Review (Vol. 39, page 487), and presumably based on a lecture he gave there, is, as usual, full of wit and wisdom. In it, he criticizes some (but not all) practitioners of Law and Economics for ignoring both the limitations of economics and the advantages of  other social-scientific approaches to understanding the operation of  law in society. My favorite part of his new paper, however, is towards the end, where he laments that neither Law and Economics nor any of the other social scientific approaches to law have appreciably influenced certain "citadels" of legal scholarship, most notably constitutional law:
Most legal scholarship is sadly lacking in rigor and objectivity. Every year, law reviews publish thousands of pages of old-fashioned legal writing - blind to the realities of society, incurably solipsistic, and inbred. To be frank, constitutional law is a particularly arid field. It seems incurably devoid of interest in empirical data. Its very success, its very relevance to public issues, breeds scholarship that is either pure ideology and punditry, or the elaborate exposition of doctrines that make little or no difference to outcomes, to life in society, or reality. Most writing in the field is bloated, dismal, and biased. Many of the scholars seem eager only to spin out their own pet theories which rest on their own particular prejudices, and pass these off as some sort of eternal truth. As a legal historian, I find the pseudo-history of some constitutional lawyers, the habit of passing off their normative arguments as history, particularly irksome.... As an amateur legal sociologist, it bothers me that legal scholars seem so uninterested in whether doctrines and decisions make any difference in the real world. Maybe they assume that anything the Supreme Court says has some magic effect in society. Almost all of the "impact studies" come from political scientists. Nobody else seems to see any use for actual data. (495). 
I agree entirely with Lawrence's argument, but even if you don't, you must admit it's not dull!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Congratulations to my friends and colleagues at the Indiana University School of Law at Indianapolis, which has just been renamed the Robert H. McKinney School of Law after a $24 million gift (over $31 million including matching funds) from that prominent IU alum and Indianapolis attorney. Along with the new name, the law school gets funding for five faculty chairs to help recruit and retain nationally (and internationally) prominent faculty. Dean Gary Roberts has done a fabulous job securing the future of the law school, which is great news for all of IU.

The official IU news release is here. A video of the public announcement can be viewed here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

COP 17: Durban

The 17th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change opened  yesterday in Durban, South Africa. (If I hadn't already known it, I would have learned it from the literally dozens of announcements I received by e-mail yesterday and today of "side-events" hosted by the hoards of NGOs that follow the globally roving cocktail party that is the UN COP).

In contrast to past meetings, many of which opened with high hopes and much fanfare, the tone this year (as it was last year) is subdued, if not outright pessimistic. At the top of the agenda is answering the question of what happens when the Kyoto Protocol's compliance period expires on December 31, 2012? That issue was supposed to be put to rest two years ago at COP 15 in Copenhagen, but China (among other countries) scuppered those efforts (see here). Since then, progress towards a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol has been halting, and there is virtually no hope that a successor treaty will be adopted at this year's conference.

The European Union, which has taken its mitigation requirements more seriously than perhaps any other country (or collection of countries) in the developed world, has given up hope of a brand new treaty. Instead, it is calling for new commitments and a new compliance period under the old Kyoto treaty. But the US delegation, sounding more like Bush in 2001 than Obama in 2009, is already pouring cold water on that idea. The head of the US delegation, Jonathan Pershing, announced yesterday that the US will not support any successor treaty or Kyoto extension that does not include mandatory emissions reductions on high-emitting developing countries, including China and India (see, e.g., here). Everyone knows that the US Senate will not ratify the Kyoto Protocol or any other mitigation treaty if that condition is not met. Yet, the Obama Administration is probably naive to imagine that there are 60 votes in the Senate for any climate treaty he might sign. In any case, it is difficult to imagine that US negotiators could possibly cajole China and India into accepted binding mitigation targets to reduce nominal emissions for two reasons: (1) they are both developing countries with per capita income levels well below those of even the poorest developed countries; and (2) they have contributed much less than the US or EU to the existing stock of GHGs in the atmosphere. And by the way, China has at least credibly committed to reducing the carbon intensity of production in a way that requires deviation from business-as-usual emissions, which is more than can be said for the US. So, unless the US delegation stops its impotent posturing and adopts a more realistic negotiating position over the next two weeks, the failure of the Durban talks is assured from the start.

How likely is the US to do that? Not very. While the rest of the world may be focused on the expiration of the Kyoto Protocol compliance period at the end of December 2012, President Obama is focused on the first Tuesday in November 2012, when his own political future will be decided. In a country where politicians and the electorate are still debating well-settled questions of basic climate science, and China is widely perceived as a potent economic competitor, the US delegation's negotiating position has become a hostage to domestic political agendas. If China scuppered the Copenhagen negotiations for reasons that remain murky, the US can be expected to scupper the Durban negotiations for reasons easily explained by public choice theory. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Holding My new Book

I received my editor's copies of Property in Land and Other Resources (Lincoln Institute 2011) today. It looks and feels great. Lin and I are very grateful to all the contributors and the editorial assistants at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

A Riddle

I got this from one of my students this morning: If the opposite of pro is con, what's the opposite of progress?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The State of Higher Education

Anthony Grafton offers an unusually balanced and sensible view, avoiding both the standard blame-game and facile solutions, here in the New York Review of Books.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Saturday Ride

I got out late this afternoon for what I thought would be a short and easy recovery ride. I stayed off the hills, and just rode up Bethel to 45, south on 45 until I hit the tracks (blocked by a slow freight train), and then back north past New Unionville. Just as I was turning around to spin back home, it started raining, not especially hard, but hard (and cold) enough that, with 4-5 miles left to home, I didn't want to dally. So, now I need to recover from my recovery ride.

As the weather's supposed to be nasty tomorrow, I plan to head back north to Indy, where Coach Bob is holding a special 2-hour indoor training session. It's worth the two hours in the car just to work out with the group, rather than on my own in the basement.

Arsenal 1 - Fulham 1

Having expected three points from this game at home to Fulham, Arsenal were disappointed to get just one. Looking tired following their Champions' League match against Borrusia Dortmund in midweek, the Gunners played a lackluster game at the Emirates, lacking pace and ideas. For all of their possession during the first half, they lacked a cutting edge in the final third. Fulham, playing mostly on the counterattack, had as many decent scoring chances as the Gunners.

The second half started just like the first, with Arsenal dominating possession and Fulham looking for opportunities on the counter. A few minutes after a van Persie shot was cleared off the line by a Fulham defender, Fulham turned an innocuous-seeming bit of possession at the other end into an own goal by Arsenal's Thomas Vermaelen. Fulham would have been up 2-0 a couple  moments later but for the linesman's offside flag. With 20 minutes left, Arsenal were trailing a team that had never before beaten them at home.

Looking to light a fire under his team, Wenger brought on Gervinho and Abu Diaby (just back from a long injury layoff), replacing Aaron Ramsey and central defender Per Mertesacker. Diaby made an immediate impression, forcing a great save from Fulham goalie Mark Schwarzer on a header from a corner kick. Schwarzer could not, however, prevent the inevitable game-tying goal after the 80-minute mark. Thomas Vermaelen - making up for his earlier own-goal - authoritatively headed home an excellent cross by Theo Walcott.

From that point on, it was pretty much all Arsenal. Schwarzer saved a hard shot by Gervinho at the near post, and then a tamer effort by Walcott. But Arsenal could not create the game winner. If the Gunners had played the entire match as they did the last 15 minutes, they easily would have won this match. A disappointing result for the Gunners and their fans.

Van Persie did not score today, but his work rate and the intelligence of his movement without the ball were truly impressive. It's no wonder he generates so many scoring chances for others as well as himself; and of course his ability to finish is unparalleled in the Premiership. 38 goals in 42 games during 2011 says it all.

Tyler Cowen Pushes My Button Again

In this post, he suggests that the impeding settlement of the NBA strike puts the Coase theorem "back in the saddle." I can only shake my head in dismay that someone so erudite and sensible has failed to read Coase carefully enough to avoid this elementary (and all too common) error.

UPDATE: Looking at the comments, after my own, to Tyler's post at Marginal Revolution, I am astounded at the depth and breadth of misunderstanding that persists relating to Coase's theories of transaction costs and social costs.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Day After Thanksgiving Ride

I drove up to Indy this morning for what turned out to be quite a big group ride. A small group of us rode to the ride, which officially started at Nebo Ridge, from Traders Point. Another 20 or so riders met us there, including a former pro and several other really strong (and in-shape) riders. I knew I should have turned tail then. With a strong wind blowing from the south, we quickly rode north with Kirklin as our (initial) destination (part of the group would carry on from there to Frankfort, while other riders, myself included, would turn back south toward home). On the northern leg, I was riding between 25 and 27 mph heading north, but couldn't stay within a mile of the pack, riding at well over 30 mph.

By the time was started heading back south after the SAG in Kirklin, the wind was gusting to over 25 mph. It wasn't long before I lost my tether to the back of the group, and found my self riding into the wind on my own, suffering like a dog. Fortunately for me, the dynamic duo of Mark and Graham Dewart dropped back to pick me up and shepherd me (along with a couple other wayward sheep, err, riders) back home. I wound up with 64 miles on the day, but I can't honestly say it was a good ride, except in the sense that any ride I survive is a good ride.

It was good to see several of my old cycling buddies, even if I had only scant chance to talk with any of them (aside from Mark and Graham) because they were so far ahead of me.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day Ride

Had time for just a couple circuits today. Two times west on Bethel, north on Old 37, east up Old Meyers Rd (which runs into Boltinghouse just before Bethel), and back west on Bethel. Only 14-15 total miles, but those two climbs up Old Meyers hill certainly give a good work-out and pre-burned at least some of the calories I'll consume later this afternoon. Tomorrow, I hope to burn off the rest at a group ride up in Indy.

Happy Thanksgiving

To all my family, friends, colleagues, and loyal readers of this blog.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Arsenal 2 - Borussia Dortmund 1 (Champions' League)

Arsenal booked a place in the knock-out round of the Champion's League this afternoon (with one group-stage match left to play) by defeating Borrusia Dortmund at the Emirates Stadium in London. Robin van Persie scored both of Arsenal's goals (bringing his 2011 tally to an amazing 38 goals in 41 total games). The first was created after a brilliant run by Alex Song, who beat at least three or four defenders before crossing the ball for RVP to head home. The second came off a corner kick, when Vermaelen received the ball at the near post, glanced a header to the back post, finding RVP free for the simplest of tap-ins.

With this victory, Arsenal became the first English team to qualify for the final 16 of the Champions' League. They have now qualified for knock-out stage for 12 years running, an unmatched mark of consistency. A season born in doom and gloom is now shaping up into an exciting season for Gunners fans. Unlikely to overtake the top two (Man City and Man U) in the Premiership, they are still in the run for a top-four finish (for qualification for next year's Champions' League) and chasing hardware this season in three other competitions.

A Concise Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind

Here in Philosophy Now, by Laura Weed. Very nicely done.

Hat tip: The Browser.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Another Month, Another New House

At least, that's the way it seems. The family moved from our rental house today to a beautiful new (well, new to us) home on the north side of Bloomington, up in the hills. From here, at least I won't have to start my bike rides heading uphill. Lot's of unpacking and little things to do to fix up the house for our purposes (including getting some shelves built in my office), but at least we're in.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dissent, Repression, and the Occupy Movement

I confess that I'm not sure what the so-called "Occupy Movement" is for (or against). I find it even less coherent than the "Tea Party Movement," which is saying something. For all of its hypocrisy and historical confusion, the latter movement seems pretty easily explained by public choice theory: leave us alone, protect our stuff, and to hell with everyone else. The "Occupy Movement" seems altogether more varied, issuing statements that range from support of progressive taxation and more regulation of the financial services industry to a far more radical restructuring of the economy. Coherence and practical goals may not be the most important values for grassroots social movements, but they are unlikely to gain much social traction without them. From individual "occupiers," as reported in the press, I hear diverse, sometimes inconsistent, propositions, many of which I find disagreeable. But that is beside the point.

What I really want to focus on here is the increasing repression of the "Occupy Movement," which is in the process of being shut down in cities and on college campuses all across the US in what seems to be a coordinated overreaction to a perceived threat to business and the public order. No doubt cities and colleges have reasons, including maintenance of public/campus order and safety, to manage protesters on public lands. But in some cases, at least, colleges and municipalities seem intent on preventing protesters from continuing their protests, raising serious First Amendment concerns. Overall, the level of political repression seems to be on the increase. The video below shows police pepper-spraying and then arresting student protesters, who were sitting peacefully on a college campus, which is designed as a place for the exchange of ideas, including strongly dissenting opinions. As an American, I find this very troubling.

Another Attack on Law Schools from the New York Times

In recent months, the New York Times has been attacking law schools and, more generally, the structure of legal education in a series of articles (see, e.g., here, here, and here). In today's edition (here), David Segal writes about the deplorable fact that law school graduates have no idea how to close a merger deal by drafting a certificate of merger and filing it with the Secretary of State's office. That's right, after spending $100,000 or more on a legal education, most law grads don't have that nugget of professional wisdom, and must learn it (presumably from a legal secretary or another practicing attorney, in a one minute conversation). The message is clear, law school curricula need to change to make sure that our grads not only know what a certificate of merger is but also where to find the Secretary of State's office. Such practical knowledge is far more important than actually thinking about and understanding complex legal rules and the various contexts in which they apply (or not).

Segal also, inevitably, takes a run at the hundreds of practically useless law review articles that are authored each year. No doubt, the various titles he quotes constitute a representative sample, so no need to worry about bias. He's certainly correct that law reviews publish a lot of drivel, a pile to which I have contributed my fair share (or more). But that too many articles are theoretical rather than practical is a common refrain for which I have yet to see any empirical evidence. Each week, when I receive the list of newly published articles,  I see a lot of abstract theoretical-looking articles and also a lot of very practical stuff, including many articles on recent court decisions and how they fit into or alter the preexisting body of law. What should be the proper percentage of practical to theoretical scholarship (assuming we can always tell the difference between the two)? I have no idea. I'm never quite as sure as jurists and journalists seem to be about which scholarly offerings, from which scholars (at which schools), contribute most to society's stock of useful knowledge.

The sum and substance of Segal's screed against legal education is that it is way too theoretical and insufficiently practical, leaving poor law firms to engage in remedial practical training. He ignores, conveniently, the fact that during the past 30 years law schools already have become far more practical in response to pressures from law firms. A relative of mine graduated from the Columbia Law School in the 1970s without having written a single paper. That would not be possible at any accredited law school in the country today thanks to  mandatory legal research and writing courses (whose teachers are, as Segal correctly notes, deplorably reduced to second-class status on most law faculties).

Unfortunately, Segal and the several wonderful lawyers and jurists he quotes in his article (all of whom somehow survived all of the theoretical nonsense, and lack of practical instruction, in law school), neglect two basic functions of academic legal training that, to my mind, are (a) far more socially valuable than knowing such discrete factoids as how to file a certificate of merger with the Secretary of State (something a beginning associate's secretary could probably do) and (b) could never be taught by law firms. First, law students learn about the legal system as a whole, beyond the specific areas in which they end of practicing (assuming they do end up practicing, rather than running businesses or doing the myriad other things in life for which legal education is relevant and valuable). This broad education empowers them to be active citizens and even leaders in their communities. Second, law schools teach the deep analytical skills needed not just to practice law but to judge, make, and even change the law. Third, law students learn how to decipher court decisions, legislation, regulatory rules and communicate about them in clear, sensible and critical writing. Without these skills learned in law school, it simply wouldn't matter that graduates knew what a certificate of merger was or where to file it.

Law schools certainly are far from perfect; they should and will change (however begrudgingly) as the market and broader society require. But the problem is not that they are hiring too many PhDs and too few practicing lawyers (many of whom apply to law schools seeking a cozy retirement from practice). Whatever changes are needed, the notion that law schools should change merely to serve the interests of the existing cadre of lawyers and jurists is far from clear. Law schools are and will remain professional and academic institutions that combine theoretical and practical training (in some combination that will never please everyone). The proper mix of the theoretical and practical (assuming we can always disentangle which is which - I've always thought of Legal History as a practical course) inevitably remains contestable. Law schools are not and never will be non-professional graduate schools. Neither should they become white-collar, vocational training schools for practicing lawyers.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Finding Diderot

Reading Jonathan Israel's intellectual histories of the Enlightenment (see here) has motivated me to start reading the French essayist Denis Diderot. But his writings, including his Pensees philosophiques and his Pensees sur l'interpretation de la nature do not seem to be available online in English translation in either Kindle, pdf, or html format. I find it very disappointing that important works by a major Enlightenment thinker, which are in the public domain, are not freely available. I guess I'll have to resort to the library. How old-fashioned.

Norwich City 1 - Arsenal 2

The scoreline really should have been 1-4 or better, as Arsenal, especially Gervinho, missed several gilt-edged chances. Norwich rarely threatened. Their first-half goal was mostly due to weak marking and a slip by Mertesacker, who has not yet rounded into form in a Gunners jersey. Van Persie (who else?) scored both Arsenal goals, the first a tap-in from a fine cross by Theo Walcott, who had an excellent all-around game, and the second, a cool finish after a pass from Alex Song put him in on goal.

"Property in Land and Other Resources" Is Now Available for Pre-Order

My new book, co-edited with Elinor Ostrom, Property in Land and Other Resources (Lincoln Institute 2011), is now available for pre-order at Amazon.com (here) for just $28.63. That's $6.37 (18%) off the cover price. According to the Amazon listing, the book will be published on November 28.

You can also purchase the book directly from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy (here).

You can see the full Table of Contents, read Doug North's forward, and read Lin and my Introduction to the book here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Who (or What) Killed the Obama Ozone Rule?

In today's New York Times (here), John Broder takes us inside the White House to explore the political machinations that resulted in the demise of the EPA's proposed ozone standards under the Clean Air Act. I have my doubts about certain aspects of the story, including the insinuation that OIRA chief Cass Sunstein was somehow out to "make his mark" by stomping down the EPA rule. However, Broder's overall story does strongly support an argument I make in my new paper on the political uses and abuses of cost-benefit analysis (CBA) (here), that the Obama Administration's CBA for its ozone rule played a significant political role in its demise. The Obama standard would have generated fewer net social benefits (on median estimates) than the Bush standard it would have replaced. It was, relatively speaking, less efficient. Thus, it would have been politically difficult to justify, especially heading into an election year. No doubt other, purely political considerations also played a part in the President's decision, but the fact that the CBA played any significant role is noteworthy, especially considering the Clean Air Act's express prohibition on cost-considerations in setting  air quality standards. Simply put, as I argue in my new paper, cost considerations matter even when the law says they cannot.

Monday, November 14, 2011

When is Command-and-Control Efficient? Evidence from the Field

"Command-and-control" is a derisive label usually applied (mainly by economists) to traditional forms of environmental regulation including technology-based "design standards" and "performance standards" (which are non-tradable quota limits). In most of the environmental instrument-choice literature, "command-and-control" is considered generally inefficient both nominally and relative to so-called "economic instruments,"* which include effluent taxes and cap-and-trade (a performance standard with trading of pollution rights or allowances).

More than a decade ago, Peter Grossman and I published a long article (a pre-publication version is here), with an unusually long title, in the Wisconsin Law Review about the limitations of cap-and-trade and effluent taxes as substitutes for traditional forms of quantity-based regulations.** In “When is Command-and-Control Efficient? Institutions, Technology, and the Comparative Efficiency of Alternative Regulatory Regimes for Environmental Protection,” we explained why, as a matter of both theory and historical experience, traditional forms of environmental regulation have sometimes been, and sometimes remain, more efficient and effective than so-called “economic instruments” mainly because of monitoring and enforcement cost differentials. In at least some cases, command-and-control regulations, particularly technology-based standards, can have administrative cost advantages that offset, or more than offset, the admitted compliance-cost advantages of cap-and-trade or effluent taxes.

One important implication of our analysis in that article is that compliance costs are not the sole concern in environmental protection (although they are often treated as such by economists*). Rather, society should be concerned with minimizing the total costs of environmental protection, which are the sum of compliance costs, administrative (monitoring and enforcement) costs, and residual pollution costs. Seee.g., Peter Z. Grossman and Daniel H. Cole, "Toward a Total Cost Approach to Environmental Instrument Choice," in T. Swanson & R. Zerbe (eds), An Introduction to the Law and Economics of Environmental Policy: Issues in Institutional Design, 20 Research in Law & Economics 225 (2002) (see here). Moreover, it is a mistake to presume that minimizing compliance costs necessarily minimizes total costs, as if differential administrative or residual pollution costs are either insignificant or inevitably move in the same direction as compliance costs.

In the years since we published our Wisconsin Law Review article, it has been cited hundreds of times (more often by legal scholars than by economists). To date, our analysis and findings have not been substantially challenged. Now comes a new article in the October 2011 issue of The American Economic Review providing further empirical support for sometimes preferring traditional forms of regulations over "economic instruments."

In “Clearing the Air? The Effects of Gasoline Content Regulation on Air Quality,” co-authors Maxmiliian Auffhammer and Ryan Kellogg, analyze empirical data on national and state-level (California) gasoline-content regulations, and find that the more flexible federal approach has virtually zero cost-effectiveness (costs of compliance were minimized but at the price of completely nullifying the environmental effect of the regulation), but California's more stringent set of traditional regulations have reduced substantially emissions that contribute to low-level ozone pollution, albeit at higher cost of compliance (but providing substantial net social benefits). Here is their abstract:
This paper examines whether US gasoline content regulations, which impose substantial costs on consumers, have successfully reduced ozone pollution. We take advantage of spatial and temporal variation in the regulations' implementation to show that federal gasoline standards, which allow refiners flexibility in choosing a compliance mechanism, did not improve air quality. This outcome occurred because minimizing the cost of compliance does not reduce emissions of those compounds most prone to forming ozone. In California, however, we find that precisely targeted, inflexible regulations requiring the removal of particularly harmful compounds significantly improved air quality.
The empirical information and conclusions of Aufhammer and Kellogg's article further support Cole and Grossman's conclusion that command-and-control regulations are sometimes (but certainly not always) more effective and efficient than market-based mechanisms. Where our analysis focused on differential administrative costs that sometimes favor design standards, Aufhammer and Kellogg have a somewhat different concern, that more flexible regulatory mechanisms, by focusing myopically on the minimization of compliance costs, might fail to achieve emissions reductions necessary to achieve the (exogenous) environmental goal. For reasons that should be obvious, a regulation with zero cost-effectiveness (purchasing at some positive cost zero additional increments of environmental protection) cannot be considered efficient, let alone more efficient than another regulation, albeit one with higher compliance costs, but which actually furthers the environmental protection goal (assuming the goal itself is economically sensible).

Aufhammer and Kellogg's empirical analysis provides a welcome reminder that social scientists, legal scholars, and policy analysts should not neglect or underestimate the potential of traditional command-and-control instruments in the environmental policy mix.

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*In effect, all forms of regulation are economic instruments. Even technology-based standards function by raising the costs of polluting activity, which shifts the supply curve outward and (assuming some price elasticity of demand) reduces the rate of demand for pollution-intensive goods. What economists really mean when they use the phrase "economic instruments" is "economically more efficient instruments." This presumes that the compliance cost advantage of cap-and-trade and effluent taxes means that they necessarily have lower total costs than command-and-control instruments. As noted above, this presumption is unwarranted.

** Unfortunately the full, final published versions of the three articles cited in this post are not freely downloadable on the Web. Each, however, is available behind a pay-wall.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Time for Caldwell to Go

Peyton Manning is a great, great quarterback, but his absence cannot explain just how bad the Colts have become. At 0-10, they are laughingly, embarrassingly awful. They can't even compete with truly poor teams like Jacksonville. From week to week, the coaching staff seems to have no clue as to how to fix the situation.

At some point, Jim Caldwell has to take responsibility for not preparing the players to even compete against opponents that are, on paper, no better. But changes in the coaching staff is only a necessary beginning to the renewal required in Indianapolis. Every one of the Colts' best players, including Manning, Freeney, Mathis, Vinotieri, Clark, Wayne, Brackett, and Saturday, have played at least 9 seasons, and cannot be expected to play for more than a few more. The younger  players surrounding them, with the possible exception of punter Pat McAfee, are mediocre at best, and scrubs at worst. If GM Bill Polian has any magic left in him, it is time to clean house and start the rebuilding from the top. Obviously, drafting Andrew Luck would be a great start. But he'll quickly be killed if the Colts don't surround him with some higher caliber players.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Saturday Ride

Thanks to Dr. Coughlin for showing me a new route around B-town today. After riding across campus and up Hinkle Rd., we headed over to Old 37, which we took north toward the Orchard. After crossing 37, we fought a pretty strong headwind all the way back along Bottom Rd, before heading back home across town. It was the longest ride I've done in some time, and between the 2800+ feet of climbing and the 30 mph wind gusts, I bonked at about mile 30. It remains to be seen whether Bloomington will make me a better rider or a non-rider.

Whatever Happened To...

...the federal investigation into doping by Lance Armstrong's US Postal Service Team? Back in May, there were news reports about the ongoing investigation and coverage on "60 Minutes." Since then, nothing. Not a single news report. Is the investigation still ongoing?

UPDATE: My question has been answered. See here. Apparently, everyone's still waiting to see whether the grand jury will hand down any indictments. Since May, its deliberations have been very, very quiet.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What are the Social Costs and Benefits of EPA's Various Greenhouse Gas Regulations?

Just last week, the EPA sent for OMB regulatory review one of several proposed regulations on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (see here). This is another important step in a regulatory process that began on Dec. 7, 2009, when the EPA issued an "Endangerment Finding" for GHGs, which requires their regulation under the Clean Air Act. Among the regulatory proposals already completed or in the pipeline are: (1) a mandatory GHG reporting rule (see here); (2) a "tailpipe" rule to control motor vehicle emissions of GHGs (see here); (3) sequestration rules to govern carbon capture and storage projects (see here); (4) the GHG "Tailoring Rule," to limit the number of stationary sources of GHG emissions subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act (see here); and (5) a  "Scheduling Rule," adopted pursuant to a court settlement according to which EPA must issue final regulations imposing New Source Performance Standards on electric power plants and refineries by the middle of 2012.

Each of these regulations is controversial and entails significant economic costs. And the question OMB will be asking in regulatory review is whether the costs are justified by the benefits. As required by statute and by executive order of the president, EPA must prepare a "regulatory impact analysis" (RIA) for each major rule, and the central feature of the RIA is a cost-benefit analysis (CBA). EPA has not completed RIAs for its "Scheduling Rule" (which, after all, does not substantively regulate emissions) or its proposed "Sequestration Rule." It has, however, published RIAs for its "Tailpipe" and "Tailoring" rules (see here and here).

On the EPA's analysis, the "Tailpipe Rule" will provide around $188 billion in net social benefits over the course of its lifetime, and the "Tailoring Rule" is expected to provide around $193 billion (and perhaps double that, depending on what EPA ultimately decides for the third stage of the phase-in process) in net social benefits. However, the net social benefits of the "Tailoring Rule" have to be taken with several grains of salt because it is entirely about exempting (relatively) smaller emitters of GHGs from regulation. In this respect, the social benefits provided by the "Tailoring Rule" are not benefits stemming from regulation but gross benefits stemming from the lack of regulation that otherwise would be subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act. They are gross, rather than net, benefits because they are not offset against the social costs of the GHG emissions from the sources that the rule exempts. Moreover, one wonders how EPA determined just what the regulatory savings are, as it has yet to prepare an RIA estimating the costs of not-yet-determined regulations on plants that are not exempted by the "Tailoring Rule." As a CBA, the EPA's RIA for the "Tailoring Rule" is neither very informative nor persuasive.

Pending more information about the costs and benefits of the various GHG regulations, it is too early to say that they will, overall, be good or bad for social welfare in the US. So far, about all we can conclude is that, on EPA's own estimates, the "Tailpipe Rule" appears economically sensible; absent any major flaws in EPA's CBA for the rule, the positive outcome should make it difficult for political opponents to overturn it (pursuant to the political-economic analysis of CBA presented in my new working paper, here). The biggest hurdle for the "Tailoring Rule" will not be economic objections but legal ones (lawsuits already have been filed) because of the way EPA has had to de facto amend the Clean Air Act to regulate without over-regulating GHG emissions from power plants.

One development that should assist EPA in preparing future CBAs for its GHG regulations is the federal Inter-agency Working Group's schedule of valuations for the "social cost of carbon," published in 2010. The  central estimate for 2010 (using a 3% discount rate) is $21.40 per ton of CO2eq, rising to $23.80 by 2015, $26,30 by 2020, and $44.90 by 2050. Even though these valuations are on the low side (according to some more recent literature estimating the social cost of carbon), they should help EPA to justify economically its various proposed GHG regulations.