Saturday, September 11, 2004

The foreign direct investment of Hooters


Jon Bonné reports in MSNBC that the Hooters restaurant chain is not only expanding to the skies and casinos -- it is also busting out beyond American borders:

With all those reports of call centers heading off to India, one U.S. brand intends to tap into the subcontinent's growing prosperity. Hooters is exporting its controversial brand of home-grown sex appeal.

The Atlanta-based restaurant chain, known more for its scantily-clad female servers than its rib-sticking menu, this week announced it signed a deal to open several Indian franchise locations, though it has not said where....

"I am looking forward to the 'recreation' of this dining atmosphere," Sunil Bedi, Managing Director of franchisee H.O.I. Pvt. Ltd., said in a statement....

Hooters' expansion is the latest sign that U.S. businesses have awoken to the potential of the Indian middle class and its growing disposable income, said Jagdip Ahluwalia, executive director of the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston.

"We've got Domino's there, we've got McDonald's there, we've got all these brands out there," Ahluwalia said. "There is a window of opportunity that’s open. And if we don’t grab that opportunity, Europe will."

Hooters already has a strong global presence with some 370 restaurants, including 26 overseas locations in such places as Austria, Guatemala, Singapore and Taiwan. This is its first location in South Asia, where more modest sensibilities often prevail. But it has aggressive plans for further expansion -- including its first restaurant in China, due this fall, three restaurants in Thailand and elsewhere.

"We're going to continue to fill out Latin America," said [vice president of marketing for Hooters of America Mike] McNeil.

I can already visualize the impending Naomi Klein column, heaving with brand outrage -- of course, Klein has had her own problems as of late.

posted by Dan at 05:35 PM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (0)

Libertarians go medieval on George W. Bush

Clay Risen has a TNR Online story about the Cato Institute's disenchantment with the Bush administration. The highlights:

Cato is on the outs with the administration. From its deficit spending to its regulatory record to the Iraq war, the Institute charges that the administration has betrayed conservative values, bankrupted the government, expanded federal programs, and made the world less safe. Were it not for the occasional, wistful nod to the Reagan era, Cato's policy papers, TV appearances, and columns could be mistaken for those of the left-wing Economic Policy Institute. In fact, Cato staffers and scholars are so fed up with Bush that many say they will sit out the election--or even vote for John Kerry. "Most people at the Institute have no plans to vote for the president this time," said one member of the Cato policy staff who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "There will be some votes for Kerry inside the Cato Institute this year."

Of course, given that Cato has only a few dozen staff members, Bush doesn't have to worry about losing the think tank's vote this November. To be sure, Bush's nascent "ownership society" agenda, which is said to include renewed efforts at social security privatization, could win back some at Cato. But, judging by the depth of the animosity toward him at the Institute right now, it will take a lot more than a stump speech to do so. Moreover, its antipathy is indicative of a growing belief among the GOP's fiscally conservative constituencies--not just libertarian ideologues, but big-business executives, small-business owners, virtually any voting bloc concerned with fiscal restraint--that Bush has been an abject failure. And, in a close election, that could make a difference.

Exhibit A of this antipathy can be found Doug Bandow's essay in Salon, Why Conservatives Must Not Vote for Bush" [Salon?!--ed. Yes, Salon]. The highlights:

George W. Bush presents conservatives with a fundamental challenge: Do they believe in anything other than power? Are they serious about their rhetoric on limited, constitutionally restrained government?....

Republican partisans have little choice but to focus on Kerry's perceived vulnerabilities. A few high-octane speeches cannot disguise the catastrophic failure of the Bush administration in both its domestic and its foreign policies. Mounting deficits are likely to force eventual tax increases, reversing perhaps President Bush's most important economic legacy. The administration's foreign policy is an even greater shambles, with Iraq aflame and America increasingly reviled by friend and foe alike.

Quite simply, the president, despite his well-choreographed posturing, does not represent traditional conservatism -- a commitment to individual liberty, limited government, constitutional restraint and fiscal responsibility. Rather, Bush routinely puts power before principle.

Although anecdotal evidence of conservative disaffection with Bush is common -- for instance, my Pentagon employee neighbor, a business lobbyist friend, even my retired career Air Force father -- for many the thought of voting for John Kerry remains simply too horrific to contemplate. And this dissatisfaction has yet to show up in polls. Fear of Kerry, more than love of Bush, holds many conservatives behind the GOP.

Yet serious conservatives must fear for the country if Bush is reelected. Is Kerry really likely to initiate more unnecessary wars, threaten more civil liberties and waste more tax dollars?

At which point Bandow actually recommends considering Ralph Nader as a viable alternative to voting for Bush.

One could try to dismiss this kind of alienation on the right as the conservative version of Naderites. But that would be a hard case to make.

posted by Dan at 10:03 AM | Comments (36) | Trackbacks (1)

Friday, September 10, 2004

So you want to be a poli sci graduate student....

Hey you, reading this blog? Are you curious about pursuing a career in the up-and-coming field of political science? Do you wonder what it would be like to be a graduate student in this highly marginally lucrative field?

I will repress my first instinct to suggest that you seek professional help and instead suggest that you listen into Extension 720 with Milt Rosenberg this evening. Here's the description of tonight's program (which starts at 9 PM Central time:

Tonight on the program, we go inside the ivory tower with three graduate students from the University of Chicago. Not only do today’s graduate students work on their dissertations and prepare for careers as researchers and professors, they also have nuanced views of the world that are a window into today’s younger generations. Joining Extension 720 to discuss their political views, the current state of academia, and the life of a graduate student today will be HEATHER WILHELM, JOHN SCHUESSLER and EMILY NACOL.

I know all three of these students, and have taught two of them. They're all whip smart -- so I'll be listening in.

Click here to listen online.

posted by Dan at 02:57 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Blog quote of the day

As I'm catching up on the blogosphere, I see that Matthew Yglesias has shut off comments, and that Steven Den Beste has hung up his blog spikes.

For someone who's never been particularly spare in his prose, Den Beste comes up with a very pithy closing line about blogging:

I've learned something interesting: if you give away ice cream, eventually a lot of people will complain about the flavors, and others will complain that you aren't also giving away syrup and whipped cream and nuts.

posted by Dan at 02:51 PM | Comments (18) | Trackbacks (1)

Friday baby blogging

Longtime readers can rest assured that this will not be a regular feature on

However, in light of recent events, readers are invited to be on their best behavior and submit a caption for the following photo of Lauren:


My thought would be, "How old do I have to be before I can pick out my own wardrobe?'

posted by Dan at 02:38 PM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (0)

Michael Moskow on wages and the current economic recovery

As the economy began to generate positive (but not stunning) job growth, and as data on jobs lost due to offshore outsourcing came out, claims that outsourcing or globalization more generally were having a massive job-destroying effect began to ring hollow.

At this point, much of the criticism shifted to the quality of the jobs being created. Even if employment is on the rise, the argument runs, if all the jobs are at Wal-Mart then it's a very hollow recovery. Since even trade theorists acknowledge that an open economy does affect the composition of jobs that are created, and since the numbers suggest that more low-wage jobs were being created than high-wage jobs, this is a critique that cannot be easily dismissed.

On this point, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago president Michael Moskow has a Financial Times op-ed today (subscriber-only) on whether this economic recovery is different from other economic recoveries in terms of the mix of jobs that are created. The highlights:

A great deal of public debate has focused on the wages for jobs created since US employment finally began to grow in earnest this year. Since real, or inflation-adjusted, wages are the key to how fast living standards improve, they deserve scrutiny. However, much of the recent analysis says little about the long-term prospects for wage growth or the policies that would support faster wage growth.

Daniel Aaronson of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago has found, as several analysts have, that job growth in the last six months has been slightly more concentrated in low-wage industries. But Mr Aaronson also points out that the mix between high- and low-wage job growth is tied to the business cycle. High-wage job growth tends to be more rapid than low-wage job growth when labour market conditions are strong; the reverse is true when labour markets are weak or in the earlier stages of improvement. We have every reason to think this normal business cycle pattern will continue.

Rather than focusing on the wage mix of jobs created in the past half-year, we should keep our eyes on more important factors while assessing the prospects for real wage growth. Productivity is the main driver of wage growth. The news here has been positive: productivity growth has been very strong over the past decade and is likely to remain solid. This bodes well for average real wage growth.

But not all US workers have benefited equally from increases in productivity. Workers with more education and skills have generally seen their real wages rise substantially; those with less education have seen little increase and perhaps even a decline.

Much of the increase in the wage premium for education and skills is due to technological change that has increased demand for highly educated workers. Another portion is due to factors such as deregulation and globalisation, which have increased competition in both product and labour markets. Workers with only a high school education were once able to find jobs in industries so insulated from competition that they could expect a lifetime of secure employment and high wages. But such jobs are disappearing....

We must improve the graduation rate. At-risk children need special resources, and research suggests that the benefits to society from investment in these children can be sizeable. But additional spending is not enough. We must develop appropriate standards of accountability for teachers, with incentives properly designed and high achievers rewarded. We must also find ways to inject more competition into the education system.

Human capital investment is not limited to schools. Cognitive and non- cognitive skills development begins at birth and continues well after we turn in our last exam paper. Early intervention programmes can help children get off on the right foot - especially in economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods. And in our dynamic economy, in which technology, international trade or other developments can displace even good workers, retraining needs must be met. The record of government-sponsored training programmes is far from uniformly positive. Still, it will be increasingly important to provide retraining that is efficient, effective and sensitive to labour market needs.

By training workers, rather than protecting jobs, we can take full advantage of the gains from technological advance and international trade. Researchers continue to evaluate society's investments in human capital. Even in an age of sizeable budget deficits, we should invest in programmes for which this research shows the benefits clearly outweigh the costs.

Here's a link to the FRBC press release of the paper by Daniel Aaronson and Sara Christopher, and here's a link to the actual paper. The key paragraph:

We find that the share of job growth in higher-paying sectors typically responds favorably to overall employment growth and, conversely, falls when labor markets weaken. Recent history falls squarely in this pattern. Recent estimates of higher-paying industry job growth have rebounded over the past year and currently stand about where we would expect given the state of the labor market.

posted by Dan at 12:23 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, September 9, 2004

Can two curses cancel each other out?

The Boston Red Sox have been on a bit of a run as of late -- going 21-7 in August and 7-1 in September. They've wone 20 of their last 22 games, and have gone 8-1 in their last three series against the cream of the American League West. Since August 15th, the Red Sox have chopped eight games off the Yankees' 10-1/2 game lead in the AL east. Even more enjoyably, these Sox are winning in a variety of ways -- pounding the cover off the ball one game, and then winning with quality defense and pitching the next. Even though they've suffered through a rash of injuries, everyone is starting to get healthy at the right time. David Pinto's wife thinks the Red Sox are in "kill mode." Even the New York Daily News observes:

For the first time in what seems like forever, the Red Sox don't need to rely on divine intervention to further their cause. If anyone is playing baseball that is blessedly pure, it's Boston, which has a rotation that routinely cruises through seven-plus innings and has barely put a wrong foot defensively since trading Nomar Garciaparra, its favorite son. If anyone is cursed now, it's the Yankees. Even Manny Ramirez stepped out of his own special universe yesterday to ask a visiting New Yorker about Kevin Brown, the Yankee pitcher who did what thousands of Red Sox fans have done across the decades [Brown punched a wall after a so-so start, breaking his non-pitching hand and sidelining him for at least three weeks--DD].

"He punched a wall? Intentionally? Wow," said the man who has been known to do silly things like play with a water bottle in his back pocket, but has never come close to committing Brown's stupidity.

Meanwhile, the Yankess have gotten into a pissing match with the Commissioner's office, and neither side looks good.

Ordinarily, I wouldn't post any of this, convinced from last year's experience that the very act of positive posting about the Red Sox could jinx the team and leave me cursed with spam comments for eternity. However, today I see that the Old Towne Team is on the cover of Sports Illustrated (here's Tom Verducci's article for SI subscribers, and Verducci's mailbag for everyone). Of course, this invites the dreaded SI cover jinx to rear its ugly head. Compared to the aunted Satanic powers of the SI jinx -- especially in this decade -- this humble blog can do little harm.

According to the Boston Globe's Bob Hohler, SI cover boy Curt Schilling and manager Terry Francona aren't too worried:

Schilling said he was not concerned. "We're bigger than that," he said. Nor was manager Terry Francona put off. "It's like worrying about the weather," he said. "You can't do anything."

There are forces more powerful than at work here. All a good Red Sox fan can do is salute the bravery of Schilling, Francona et al, check the Baseball Prospectus' Playoff Odds Report, hope that the baseball gods just let the best team on the field win the pennant (Intriguingly, today's odds sheet gives the Sox a better chance of winning the pennant than the Yankees, even though they're still two games back as of this writing), and pray that in some weird Buffy The Vampire Slayer fashion, the SI jinx negates the residual curse of the Bambino.

UPDATE: Murray Chass mournfully writes in the Times that because of the existence of the wild card, the Sox-Yankees pennant chase will not be as dramatic as the 1978 race. This may be true -- I wouldn't count out either the Angels or the A's just yet -- but overlooks one of the major benefits of the current playoff format. Now, instead of a one day playoff, the possibility looms that the Yankees and the Sox could play another seven-game series. Surely, Chass would grant that last year's ALCS series more than made up for the drama lost from the absence of an exciting pennant chase.

But if Chass wants to forfeit his press credentials to any of the six upcoming Sox-Yankees games, I'll take them.

When bloggers get press passes to Fenway -- then we'll know the blogosphere has arrived!!

ANOTHER UPDATE: The day I post this, the Yankees sweep a double-header and the Sox lose. Arrrgggghhh!!! [Blame Sports Illustrated!! Blame Sports Illustrated!!--ed]

LAST UPDATE: Jim Baker's discussion of the Sox today in Baseball Prospectus perfectly encapsulates the inner monologue of any longtime fan. It's also sidesplittingly funny:

By now, the Red Sox have put themselves in a position where not making the playoffs seems unlikely. What that means is this: as we speak, the following memo is going around the corporate headquarters of The Fates:


I am assuming that most of you haven't noticed that our frequent past project Boston Red Sox have gone on a 20-2 run. Because of that, we must begin planning immediately for their ultimate undoing. It's much too late to dash their hopes à la 1978 during the regular season. Clearly, we are going to have to come up with something for the playoffs, instead. Last year's work was extraordinary but we don't have a Grady Little on hand to make our jobs easy, so this is what we need:

  • I want the boys down in R & D to give me four scenarios of doom.

  • I need marketing to gauge the level of expectation of the Red Sox nation. How high is the cynicism factor? What can we do to overcome it, in order to maximize heartbreak?

  • Creative: Your thoughts? Can we top Bill Buckner without making it too obvious?
  • You have your assignments. I need your preliminary ideas on my desk in one week. In terms of priority, put the Cubs aside until further notice.

    Heh. Rueful heh.

    posted by Dan at 03:02 PM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (0)

    Paul Samuelson's outsourcing "bombshell"

    Steve Lohr breathlessly reports in the New York Times that Nobel prize winner and undisputed godfather of modern economic theory Paul Samuelson is coming out with an article in the Journal of Economic Perspectives on outsourcing that contradicts the mainstream economic take:

    At 89, Paul A. Samuelson, the Nobel Prize-winning economist and professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, still seems to have plenty of intellectual edge and the ability to antagonize and amuse.

    His dissent from the mainstream economic consensus about outsourcing and globalization will appear later this month in a distinguished journal, cloaked in clever phrases and theoretical equations, but clearly aimed at the orthodoxy within his profession: Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve; N. Gregory Mankiw, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers; and Jagdish N. Bhagwati, a leading international economist and professor at Columbia University.

    These heavyweights, among others, are perpetrators of what Mr. Samuelson terms "the popular polemical untruth."

    Popular among economists, that is. That untruth, Mr. Samuelson asserts in an article for the Journal of Economic Perspectives, is the assumption that the laws of economics dictate that the American economy will benefit in the long run from all forms of international trade, including the outsourcing abroad of call-center and software programming jobs.

    Sure, Mr. Samuelson writes, the mainstream economists acknowledge that some people will gain and others will suffer in the short term, but they quickly add that "the gains of the American winners are big enough to more than compensate for the losers."

    That assumption, so widely shared by economists, is "only an innuendo," Mr. Samuelson writes. "For it is dead wrong about necessary surplus of winnings over losings."

    Sounds like a radical break -- oh wait, let's get into the details:

    Mr. Samuelson, who calls himself a "centrist Democrat," said his analysis did not come with a recipe of policy steps, and he emphasized that it was not meant as a justification for protectionist measures....

    According to Mr. Samuelson, a low-wage nation that is rapidly improving its technology, like India or China, has the potential to change the terms of trade with America in fields like call-center services or computer programming in ways that reduce per-capita income in the United States. "The new labor-market-clearing real wage has been lowered by this version of dynamic fair free trade," Mr. Samuelson writes....

    For his part, Mr. Bhagwati does not dispute the model that Mr. Samuelson presents in his article. "Paul is a great economist and a terrific theorist," he said. "And in markets like information technology services, where America has a big advantage, it is true that if skills build up abroad, that narrows our competitive advantage and our exports will be hit."

    But Mr. Bhagwati, the author of "In Defense of Globalization" (Oxford University Press, 2004), says he doubts whether the Samuelson model applies broadly to the economy. "Paul and I disagree only on the realistic aspects of this," he said.

    The magnified concern, Mr. Bhagwati said, is that China will take away most of American manufacturing and India will take away the high-technology services business. Looking at the small number of jobs actually sent abroad, and based on his own knowledge of developing nations, he concludes that outsourcing worries are greatly exaggerated....

    The Samuelson model, Mr. Bhagwati said, yields net economic losses only when foreign nations are closing the innovation gap with the United States.

    "But we can change the terms of trade by moving up the technology ladder," he said. "The U.S. is a reasonably flexible, dynamic, innovative society. That's why I'm optimistic."

    The policy implications, he added, include increased investment in science, research and education. And Mr. Samuelson and Mr. Bhagwati agree that the way to buffer the adjustment for the workers who lose in the global competition is with wage insurance programs.

    "You need more temporary protection for the losers," Mr. Samuelson said. "My belief is that every good cause is worth some inefficiency."

    Before I throw my two cents in, let me just add the following caveats:

    1) I haven't seen Samuelson's essay (anyone who's got a copy of it, e-mail it to my brand-new gmail address listed on the right);

    2) I'm not an economist;

    3) Paul Samuelson is way, way, way, way, way, way, way smarter than I am.

    That said, this dispute boils down to a few empirical questions:

    1) Just how many well-educated workers are there in China and India?

    2) Will U.S. firms have an incentive to offshore sophisticated value-added work in areas where the United States currently has a comparative advantage?

    3) Will the United States continue to be a locus for value-added innovations?

    4) To what extent are wages and employment in the affected industries declining because of outsourcing as compared to technological innovation standardizing and commodifying what used to be highly complex (and highly paid) tasks?

    In the past, my answers to these questions have been a) not as many as you think; b) no, c) yes, and d) not a lot. [On (d), see Tyler Cowen's and Arnold Kling]. Which is why I side with Bhagwati on the outsourcing question.

    Furthermore, Samuelson appears to partially fall into the Douglas Irwin trap of firing a warning shot on outsourcing but providing little in the way of a solution that departs from those who believe outsourcing is not a problem. Indeed, Samuelson explicitly rejects the solution most favored by those who oppose outsourcing -- higher trade barriers.

    So, in the end, I'm not convinced that Samuelson's dissent changes the substantive issues of debate. But as a political scientist, it is impossible to deny the extent to which Samuelson's article will alter the rhetorical balance of power in this policy debate. Samuelson will succeed in reigniting debate on this topic, as well as provide aid and comfort to those who wish oppose the practice of offshore outsourcing.

    So let the debate be joined.

    UPDATE: Arnold Kling links to a draft version of the response paper by Jagdish Bhagwati, Arvind Panagariya, and T.N. Srinivasan alluded to in Lohr's Times story. Kling's summary:

    The authors point out that some of the concern is not about trade per se but about the accumulation of capital and know-how in China and India. They suggest that this could harm the U.S. if it reduces trade by eliminating the division of labor. That is, suppose that the U.S. stays stagnant, but China and India learn how to do everything that we know how to do. Then they will no longer export cheap goods to us, and we will lose. This, they claim, is what Samuelson's theoretical paper describes. If so, then it does not really describe outsourcing.

    LAST UPDATE: Douglas Irwin – who’s read the paper – is underwhelmed. This is from an e-mail he sent to me:

    [Samuelson’s paper] doesn't have much to do with outsourcing. If a foreign country experiences technological progress in a home country's export industry, it can deteriorate the terms of trade of the home country and make it worse off (not vis a vis autarky, but its previous trade situation). We've know this since the U of C's great Harry Johnson pointed it out in the 1950s…. Pretty thin stuff.

    VERY LAST UPDATE: One of the commenters linked to Joe Stiglitz's outsourcing essay in the Singapore Straits-Times from May of this year. That essay contains the following:

    Many of globalisation's advocates continue to claim that the number of jobs outsourced is relatively small. There is controversy, of course, about the eventual size, with some claiming that as many as one job in two might eventually be outsourced, others contending that the potential is much more limited.

    Sounds dispassionate, except for one thing -- I have not seen any estimate even remotely suggesting that "one job in two might eventually be outsourced." That's way higher than any of the upper bound numbers I've seen (the highest I've seen is 30%).

    Readers are invited to post a link to any study that suggests otherwise.

    posted by Dan at 01:49 PM | Comments (33) | Trackbacks (3)

    Wednesday, September 8, 2004

    Bush flip-flops on intelligence reform

    Looks like President Bush has changed his mind on intelligence reform:

    The White House unveiled plans Wednesday to give a new national intelligence director strong budgetary authority over much of the nation's intelligence community, a key provision in the Sept. 11 commission's recommendations.

    President Bush intends to give the intelligence director full budget authority over the National Foreign Intelligence Program and "the management tools" to oversee the intelligence community and integrate foreign and domestic intelligence, the White House said in a statement.

    The administration's plan comes as the Senate prepares to start crafting its own legislation to address criticisms from the 9/11 commission that the nation's 15 different intelligence agencies did not work together properly to stop the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington.

    Bush's actual statement is even more explicit: "We believe that there ought to be a National Intelligence Director who has full budgetary authority." According to the draft plan on the White House's web site, the NID would have significant authority over personnel decisions as well.

    Needless to say, this is a departure from what Bush proposed last month on the subject.

    I'm still not convinced it's the right thing to do -- and Phil Carter is on vacation, so I can't ask him. What's more interesting is why Bush changed his mind -- was this just blowing with the political winds or does he believe this is the right thing to do?

    The title to this post suggests my thoughts on the answer.

    UPDATE: It occurs to me that there's a slightly more generous interpretation of Bush's actions -- that he started out with a deliberately vague proposal and then filled in the details over time. Still, even within that vagueness, Bush implied a lot more decentralization than the current proposal.

    Meanwhile, over at Slate, Fred Kaplan thinks the debate over bureaucratic debate misses the point about personnel.

    posted by Dan at 04:28 PM | Comments (36) | Trackbacks (6)

    Teen sex and TV

    This is one of those posts where I'm reporting something I wish wasn't true but appears to be so. Social conservatives, this is dedicated to y'all.

    The RAND Corporation has a study suggesting that teenagers who watch large amounts of television containing sexual content are twice as likely to begin engaging in sexual intercourse in the following year as their peers. This is from the press release:

    Adolescents who watch large amounts of television containing sexual content are twice as likely to begin engaging in sexual intercourse in the following year as their peers who watch little such TV, according to a RAND Corporation study issued today.

    In addition, the study found that youths who watch large amounts of TV with sexual content are more likely to initiate sexual activities other than intercourse, such as “making out” and oral sex. These adolescents behaved sexually like youths who were 9 to 17 months older, but watched only average amounts of TV with sexual content, according to the study published in the September electronic edition of the journal Pediatrics.

    “This is the strongest evidence yet that the sexual content of television programs encourages adolescents to initiate sexual intercourse and other sexual activities,” said Rebecca Collins, a RAND psychologist who headed the study. “The impact of television viewing is so large that even a moderate shift in the sexual content of adolescent TV watching could have a substantial effect on their sexual behavior.”

    “Television habits predicted whether adolescents went to ‘second or third base,’ as well as whether they had sex for the first time,” Collins said. “The 12-year-olds who watched a lot of television with sexual content behaved like the 14- or 15-years-olds who watched the least amount of sexual television. The advancement in sexual behavior we saw among kids who watched a lot of sexual television was striking.”

    Researchers from RAND Health found that television shows that included only talk about sex had just as much impact on adolescent behavior as shows that depicted sexual behavior.

    “We found little difference whether a TV show presents people talking about whether they have sex or portrays them having sex,” Collins said. “Both affect adolescents’ perceptions of what is normal sexual behavior and propels their own sexual behavior.”

    On a positive note, the study found that one group — African American youth — that watched more depictions of sexual risks or safety measures was less likely to begin engaging in sexual intercourse in the subsequent year.

    Studies show that about two-thirds of television entertainment programs contain sexual content, ranging from jokes and innuendo to intercourse and other behaviors. Two earlier studies have suggested a link between adolescents’ viewing of television and their sexual behavior, but those earlier efforts all had significant shortcomings, according to researchers.

    With funding from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, RAND researchers surveyed 1,792 adolescents aged 12 to 17 from across the nation, asking them about their television viewing habits and sexual behavior. The participants were followed up with a similar survey a year later.

    Here's a link to the actual study, published in the e-journal Pediatrics.

    Ordinarily, I'm skeptical of studies like this because they tend to capture correlation rather than causation. One would expect teens who are more interested in sex to both watch TV shows about it and engage in sexual activity, so this kind of correlation would be unsurprising. However, in this case the authors control for some of the underlying demographic and social characteristics that would act as covariates. So I don't think this can be dismissed so lightly.

    posted by Dan at 12:08 PM | Comments (55) | Trackbacks (4)

    Tuesday, September 7, 2004

    Another comparative advantage of the blogosphere?

    I've been remiss in not congratulating Kevin Drum for his first book review for the New York Times. He deftly critiques Arthus Schlesinger Jr.'s War and the American Presidency -- even though Kevin is undoubtedly sympathetic to Schlesinger's argument. Go give it a read.

    As I was reading it, it occurred to me that Drum's review was probably enhanced by his blogger origins. Why? Because Kevin, unlike many other possible reviewers, was probably not concerned with ingratiating himself with Schlesinger. Which is why bloggers might be the best critics of them all. Bloggers, as the gatecrashers of the commetariat, are less constrained by personal or professional ties from providing honest appraisals. This is not to accuse non-bloggers of acting in an opportunistic fashion -- rather, it's simply more difficult, even at a subconscious level, to speak truth to power when you know what you'll say will hurt someone's feelings.

    [So why does the post title have a question mark?--ed. Because some bloggers are not exactly gatecrashers. Read this Josh Marshall post, for example, and imagine him writing the same review Kevin Drum wrote about Schlesinger's book. But you liked that anecdote!--ed. True, but my current point is that the more bloggers are emeshed within the mediasphere -- myself included -- the more we face the same set of implicit personal and professional constraints that others "inside the tent" currently face.]

    posted by Dan at 10:31 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)

    It's arrival day!!

    Crooked Timber's Eszter Hargittai points out that today is the 350th anniversary of Arrival Day, "the first Jewish immigrants’ arrival in New Amsterdam (today’s New York City) on September 7, 1654." She has a lovely post about going to a Jewish wedding, and closes with these words:

    There are several reasons why I live in the U.S. and although no one factor is fully responsible, one contributing reason is that no matter how people try to downplay it, anti-Semitism is alive and well in Europe. I prefer to live in a country where I do not have to be on my guard all the time about being Jewish. (I realize experiences must vary across the U.S., but this is my experience having lived in seven states in rural, suburban and urban areas and I appreciate it.) At my friends’ wedding, Jews and non-Jews of numerous backgrounds came together to celebrate in the joy of two wonderful people. In my mind, this story is the perfect tribute to Arrival Day.

    Having spent most of my life in this country, but a few years in Europe, I must reluctantly concur with Eszter [Reluctantly?--ed. Why should anyone be happy about anti-Semitism in Europe?].

    For more on Arrival Day, check out the Head Heeb.

    posted by Dan at 02:17 PM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (2)

    Studying happiness

    Tyler Cowen looks at a summary of the economics of happiness and offer this critical conclusion:

    The conventional (academic) wisdom underrates money, status, sex, and marriage. [Could it be that academics do not always get these goods, and thus hope to manage their expectations and feel better about their failures?] As pure "ends in themselves," they can be a mixed bag. But if you can pursue them in a meaningful way, enjoy the process, and meet with relative won't forget Oscar Wilde: "The only thing worse than being famous is not being famous," etc.

    Speaking of happiness, Tyler also has some additional thoughts about Heidi Klum and insurance markets.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again -- Marginal Revolution is worthy of daily consumption.

    posted by Dan at 12:32 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

    Night of the living growth and stability pact

    When we last left the European Union's growth and stability pact in the fall, it had been scuttled for both economic and ;political reasons. The economic reason was that the pact did not make a whole lot of economic sense in a world with a continent-wide monetary policy combined with business cycles; the political reason was that France and Germany were violating the Maastricht criteria of keeping their budget deficit within three percent of their GDP, and the EU finance ministers refused to sanction either country

    Inexplicably, the European Commission then decided to sue France and Germany in the European Court of Justice. This was inexplicable because the Commission was guaranteed to lose either way. If the ECJ ruled against the Commission, then it undercut the power of the EU's principal policymaking body. If they won, they'd be in the awkward and intractable position of trying to force the two largest EU states into compliance -- a highly unlikely outcome.

    The Economist catches up with what's happened since the fall:

    The commission won that procedural battle—the European Court of Justice ruled in July that finance ministers could not suspend the pact at their own convenience—but it has now conceded the war. On Friday September 3rd Romano Prodi, outgoing president of the commission, and Joaquín Almunia, the EU’s commissioner for monetary affairs, announced their proposals for a reformed pact that will be economically literate and politically feasible, albeit legally feeble....

    The single currency’s fiscal rules are meant to ensure that all members maintain sustainable public finances. But sustainability is a complex issue. The old pact tried, in effect, to reduce fiscal prudence to a single number (3%) for a single variable (the annual budget deficit). The new proposals, by contrast, look at the public finances in the round. They take account of where a country stands in its economic cycle and how much debt it carries, as well as how big a deficit it runs in any given year. The new version of the pact sacrifices the legal virtues of clarity and predictability—everyone knew what the old pact meant and where they stood in relation to it. But in doing so, it sheds the old pact’s economic clumsiness and perversity....

    The commission also wants to shift its focus from the size of a country’s deficit to the sustainability of its debts. Italy, for example, is bearing a debt burden worth more than 106% of its annual output. In July, its sovereign credit rating was downgraded. Its finance minister had resigned a few days before, remarking that “it is difficult to manage the world’s third-biggest debt pile without being its third-biggest economy.” And yet Italy escaped censure under the old stability pact, because its annual budget deficit remained within 3% until this year. By resorting to ad hoc measures, such as privatisations and tax amnesties, it sidestepped the stability pact without ever addressing the underlying weakness of its finances.

    How much debt is too much? The commission will work on the loose presumption that debts should be below 60% of GDP, or headed in that direction. But again, it will not be able to rely on a single number. Some countries can sustain a higher debt ratio than others because they have a higher underlying rate of growth, for example; and some countries’ finances are in worse shape than they seem because of the future cost of pensions that have yet to appear on their balance sheet. The commission’s judgment will always be open to question, critics of the proposals say; indebted governments will always find some factor the commission has overlooked. Maybe so. But at least the new fiscal framework forces the commission and the euro area’s finance ministers to exercise their judgment, rather than relying on an arbitrary rule.

    The old pact was politically divisive. Some, such as Mr Prodi himself, thought it stupid. Some thought it sensible but not credible—it threatened countries with fines, but never followed through. Others complained that the threat of punishment was only credible for smaller countries, such as Portugal, not big powerful ones, such as France. The commission hopes its new, revised pact will work by consensus and “peer pressure”. It puts its faith in political persuasion, not quasi-judicial punishments.

    So what does this mean for the debate over whether the EU is an international organization or a supanational one? I argued last year that this type of outcome would undercut the supranational line of argumentation. However, because of the underlying problems with the policy that was at issue, this outcome may be overdetermined.

    posted by Dan at 01:18 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)