Marine archaeologists and wine connoisseurs have known for a long time that wine brought up from shipwrecks is often quite good and even improved (as long as its seal isn’t broken underwater).
So a winemaker decided to experiment. They sank some wine on purpose.
When they brought it up, taste tests showed it was better, and chemistry tests showed some of the reasons why.
So they decided to start selling it.
And what did our government do? Ban it. As unfit for consumption. Without ever obtaining a bottle upon which such a claim might be made.
It gets worse. The agency that did this is one I’ve never even heard of (and my gosh as a macroeconomist aware of current events I can probably name a few hundred agencies in D.C. off the top of my head). You guessed it; it’s the ATTTB. You remember them, don’t you?
Their justification for this? That the ocean isn’t sanitary. Umm … maybe … but don’t you think that misses the forest for the trees?
In a parting shot, the agency threatened to revoke our Federal Alcohol Administration Act permit, even though the couple dozen cases involved are a minuscule fraction of our total annual production of fine wine.
I’d call that a pretty serious threat: stop your experiment on a minuscule of what you produce or we’ll kill your whole business. Note that this isn’t stop selling the minuscule fraction, instead it was stop the experiment: you can’t even drink it for fun.
Yet to the best of our knowledge, the bureau has neither acquired nor tested a single bottle of our product.
The other day I posted about how any blame for bad policies ruining Upstate New York needs to focus on the fact that 1) for a very long time the state has been run almost completely by the 3 people at the top, and 3) for decades those 3 people at the top have been drawn exclusively from the Downstate area (New York City and its suburbs).
Hmmm. They’ve now lost a majority of the top 3 on corruption charges in the last 6 months.
Oh … and they had to have an election within the State Senate for a new majority leader. As of Monday, The New York Times noted that there is a broad field of possible successors:
Even if Mr. Skelos were to step aside, the field of potential successors is small, and the next in line is clouded by other controversy: The Republicans’ No. 2 is Senator Thomas W. Libous, of Binghamton, who is facing a federal indictment, accused of lying to federal agents during a corruption investigation.
Other potential candidates include Senator Catharine Young, from Western New York, who would be the chamber’s first female majority leader; Senator John A. DeFrancisco, a veteran legislator from the Syracuse area and chairman of the finance committee; and Senator John J. Flanagan, from Suffolk County, who served 16 years in the Assembly.
Let’s count those folks off: an Upstater, a second Upstater, a third Upstater, and bringing up the end of the list a single Downstater.
Perhaps Mr. Flanagan doesn’t deserve this next bit.
There was this movie that Eddie Murphy made about 25 years ago called The Distinguished Gentleman. In it, a member of Congress dies in office, and the special election for his successor is a con man with the same name who’s campaign slogan is “vote for the name you know”.
What does this have to do with the new New York State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan Jr.? Well, he’s the son of John Flanagan Sr. I’ll let The Times continue:
John J. Flanagan was 25 and a second-year law student when his father — Assemblyman John Flanagan Sr., a well-respected Republican from Long Island — died of a heart attack while jogging near the family’s home in Suffolk County.
It was 1986, and just weeks before an election. But a few days after his father’s death, the younger Mr. Flanagan entered the race, at the urging of party leaders, and easily won his father’s seat.
Gosh. I wish most states were run by people who’d completed their first year of law school.
Once you get out of the New York City that most Americans are vaguely familiar with, say, north of 123rd St., “The City” starts to fade into “Upstate”. There’s not a sharp borderline, but even 50 years ago when That Girl was a hit sitcom, going to Brewster to visit her parents was definitely going upstate.
That leaves about 50,000 square miles or so of New York (the state) as Upstate.
And it’s been economically dead for a long time: a macroeconomic zombie.
I hate to break it to the writer, but it’s the other way around: Detroit is becoming Upstate New York with less grass.*
I was a kid when it first dawned on my that my hometown was going down the toilet, and quickly at that. Somewhere between 1975 and 1978 I know I had to start making excuses to people from other places about why Buffalo was just as good. And we’re not talking resort locations. Instead, this was why Pittsburgh couldn’t be that good, or why would anyone want to move to Sacramento.
I’m motivated to write this post because one of the author’s sources got it wrong:
“It all began in 1959 when the interstate highway system was completed,” says Carl Schramm, professor of innovation and entrepreneurship at Syracuse University. “That was also the year commercial jets went into service and half the homes in Florida were air-conditioned.”
Schramm’s a much bigger fish than me. And he’s right about 1959. But the reason is the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway. This is the system of canals that allows ships to get around Niagara Falls (and other smaller falls, and rapids) to go from Duluth all the way to the open Atlantic.
The reason this is a big deal is that most of Upstate New York thrived on the basis of transshipment. Buffalo was the interior port of New York City: ships came east and transferred their loads to trains bound for New York City, while goods came west on the trains, and loaded on ships bound for Cleveland, Toledo, Detroit, Chicago, and Milwaukee (but also Erie, Sandusky, Windsor, Sarnia, Bay City, Traverse City, Muskegon, Gary, Racine, Sheboygan, Green Bay, Sault St. Marie, Marquette, Superior, Duluth … and probably in a small way, my eponymous town of Tofte, Minnesota). And Buffalo got that way by being the terminus of Erie Canal, which linked to the inland ports of Rochester, Syracuse, Rome, Utica, and many others.
So, in 1959, they bypassed the reason for the existence of a the populous ribbon running through the middle of Upstate New York. It’s been dying ever since.
For perspective, consider this great chart of relative size of large metropolitan areas. Find Buffalo: it has a hump in the 1950’s. Now go across to the present day, where the comparably sized cities are Seattle, Phoenix and San Diego (larger original here).
Let that roll of your tongue: Buffalo — the Phoenix of the 1950’s.
The author is right about the rest: bad weather, tax and regulatory policies that satisfy those from the City but hurt those from Upstate, New York’s unusual method of financing Medicaid, and the fleeing of the big industries that anchored all those cities. So let me be perfectly clear: the St. Lawrence Seaway bypassed something that everyone wanted to bypass anyway.
I think the author is a little wrong also about the politics involved. Yes, New York is a blue state. But the bigger problem in New York is the domination of the state’s political system by three officeholders: the governor, the Speaker of the Assembly (legislature, and the majority leader in the State Senate. It was huge news in New York when one of them was arrested for fraud a few months back. I won’t go into the details, but if you’re number 4, you may as well not bother; I actually know a former # 4, and he hitched himself to Hillary because he wasn’t moving up any further within the state.
Don’t believe me? They let an upstater serve as Speaker last year … for 12 hours. That was between the fraudster and 20 year veteran from Manhattan, and the new guy from The Bronx. They let another upstater serve for 3 days in 1991. The last upstater to serve a long term as Speaker left office in 1959. Senate Majority Leaders are much the same, although Wikipedia doesn’t make it easy to figure out what they represent. Governors? Don’t even bother looking for one from Upstate.
I actually don’t have much of a problem with this set up. Politics is politics, and if New York was a success story I’d be lauding these troikas.
But it isn’t.
Upstate New York is a victim of a political system based around New York City. And really, Upstate isn’t a zombie at all: it’s more like the victim of a vampire … already cold and quickly fading away.
* Funny story. Many western Mormons do a pilgrimage of sorts: they go to the northeast and midwest to follow the trail that the early Mormons followed for the 20 years or so before they emmigrated to Utah. My friend and colleague GP did this with his family about ten years ago. While passing Buffalo, instead of going through on the interstate, they decided to bypass it on U.S. highways. This took them through the suburbs I know well. When he returned, he told me that he never understood why riding lawn mowers were invented until he saw how big the lawns were in that area. That’s one thing Upstate has going for it … nice lawns.
Here’s some perspective on politics from Don Boudreaux (a libertarian economist from George Mason University, who coauthors the blog Café Hayek.
This blog is for an economics class, and it’s a common question why economists tend to be more conservative than other social sciences. Economists tend to be more politically conservative than other social sciences, although academic economists still break 70/30 towards the Democrats. I teach this class in a heavily Republican state. And, just for to get it out there, I tend to vote Republican, although I voted for Obama in 2008 because I thought he was the better candidate.
If this blog were more explicitly political – rather than being chiefly about economics as well as political ideas – I’d start a series entitled something like “Repeat After Me: Republicans Are No Good Friends of Free Markets.” (Republicans are indeed pro-business, just as are Democrats. But Republicans are emphatically not reliably pro-free-market. Having said that, I will admit that the number of Republican politicians who come – for politicians – respectably close to supporting free markets is larger than the number of Democratic politicians who do so. The number of Republicans today in this lonely camp is tiny, but it is, if just barely, positive; the number of Democrats in this camp is, by my count, zero.)
It’s a given that we worry about the wrong thing in contemporary society.
My previous post highlighted the ultimate cause of death. This is the wrong thing to worry about: dying of cancer in 2014 is sad, but it also indicates that you missed out on dying from something like typhoid fever as you would have done a century ago. There’s an aphorism that I heard years ago that’s relevant here: “Most men die with prostate cancer, but not of prostate cancer”.
Basically, we ought to be focusing on days of potential life lost, rather than cause of death. That we’d focus on more important stuff, like car crashes, suicides, and AIDS.
Anyway, an improved version of the previous post focuses on this diagram (via bookofjoe). This shows life-years lost (that’s good). But, it shows them worldwide (which doesn’t do much for America’s weird proclivities). And it uses a misleading 3-D perspective (which distorts our senses).
There also isn’t a before and after: cancer is as big a pink area as it is because the yellow and green areas have gotten smaller through time.
What can we learn from this?
Malaria is huge. Bill and Melinda Gates, or Bjorn Lomborg, are right to be focusing on this.
War is tragic, but is hugely overrated as a problem.
AIDS is a much bigger problem than most of the stuff we spend money on in hospitals and doctor’s offices.
Road accidents are tragically large. I wonder how much of this could be completely eliminated by stronger enforcement of road rules. Given how little of the rest of the chart is related to crime, perhaps it’s time we recognize that bad driving is the biggest crime of all.
Huge chunks of the yellow block are essentially macroeconomic: starvation, diarrhea, pre-term birth, lower respiratory infections, neo-natal conditions and neo-natal infections. It is a tragedy of contemporary developed economy politics that we don’t hold accountable leaders of developed countries who’s policies lead to untimely deaths. These people are mass-murderers before they even get out the guns.
What’s wrong with the FCC’s move towards ‘net neutrality’ — the change in regulation of the internet from Title I to Title II? Try this on for size:
For those with short memories, the video refers to the fact that the FCC introduced a policy in 1949, known as the Fairness Doctrine, that it applied to media it regulated under Title II. It took about 2 generations for this policy, set out by unelected officials, to be ruled unconstitutional because it violated people’s rights to free speech under the First Amendment.
For my part, the FCC violating the Bill of Rights is not a historical footnote that we should ignore when they move in the same direction in 2015.
Guilt by imagination, trying to guess what will go wrong in the future ...
For those still trying to figure this out, what the FCC did, and why they were able to do it without input from, say, our elected representatives in Congress, was by changing the classification of the internet under existing law.
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