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QOTD: “Sudden Acceleration” February 28, 2010

Posted by federalist in Transportation.
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Car accelerating out of control? Even if you don’t have the presence of mind to shift out of gear or turn off the ignition, Car & Driver published an amusing test showing that just slamming on the brakes will bring your car to a halt even with the throttle running wide open. And unless you’re running a 500hp sports-car at triple-digit speeds you will come to a stop almost as quickly as if the engine were off.

So what’s the deal with these horrifying “uncontrolled acceleration” reports? Tort lawyers will never admit it, and car companies can’t act dismissive when people have been injured or killed, but the simple fact is that these are uncoordinated drivers who couldn’t find the brake pedal. Holman Jenkins notes:

Years ago, the George Washington University neurologist [Richard Restak] coined the term “neurobehaviorally impaired” for such drivers: “He or she acts too fast or not fast enough; steps on the accelerator when the intention is to put on the brake; slips the gear into reverse instead of forward; comes to a full stop when the sign merely indicates ‘yield.’ In all cases, the response is almost but not quite appropriate to the situation . . . [and] leaves a wake of dented fenders, sore necks and inflamed tempers.”

Fundamental Indices February 25, 2010

Posted by federalist in Finance.
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Assuming stock prices have any noise (and they certainly do) a smoothed-price-weighted index will outperform a market-cap-weighted index. (See also here and here.) The downside of such a strategy (as with anything other than a market-cap-weighted index) are the tax and transaction costs of turnover, which may not outweigh the benefits.

End Adolescent Daycare February 23, 2010

Posted by federalist in Education.
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I like this idea of using board exams after 10th grade to encourage excellent students to go to college. After all, public high school is primarily an adolescent daycare program. At best a good student spends his last two years taking “college-level” AP courses anyway; at worst he languishes in a system designed for mediocre and remedial students.

Even adolescents who can’t or won’t pursue a 4-year liberal arts degree would often be better served beginning more intensive and specific vocational programs before they reach adulthood.

Which Would Be Worse: Global Warming or Global Cooling? February 9, 2010

Posted by federalist in Energy.
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If the earth’s climate grows significantly warmer we will probably have to deal with rising sea levels and more severe weather. But these are changes that both human civilization and planetary ecosystems can take in stride. Over the course of decades people will move inland, build more weather-resistant structures, and shift agricultural production to increasingly fertile regions.

But what happens during the next ice age? Our current technology can’t halt glaciers from first blanketing continents and then sweeping them clean.

We still don’t know to what degree human activity can affect the climate one way or the other. But if we had to err in one direction shouldn’t we prefer warming to cooling?

Why are activists so uniformly dedicated to averting global warming? My guess is that climate change is just a pretext for a number of less palatable agendas: Population control, wealth redistribution, and other attempts by putative elites to build up government machinery to encroach on human rights and activity.

QOTD: Root Causes of Education and Healthcare Inequality February 5, 2010

Posted by federalist in Education, Government, Healthcare, Markets.
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From Will Wilkinson’s paper last year on Income Inequality:

If we are worried about inequalities in education and health care, as we should be, we might stop to consider that these are precisely the areas we have chosen to shield most jealously from entrepreneurship and market