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.