Carpe Diem

Government Crackdown on Good Samaritans

INDIANA, PA — Denise George never thought she was breaking the law. Living on the outskirts of Dayton, she didn’t think twice about helping her Amish neighbors — whose religion prevents them from owning vehicles — make a trip or two into town during the week for supplies and other reasons.

That is, until she got a cease-and-desist letter from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission informing her that her actions were illegal.

HT: Reason

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Upbeat Economic News: It’s Not All Gloom & Doom

HELENA — With Montana’s unemployment rate at an amazingly low 2%, finding qualified workers for Helena employers is the biggest challenge facing the city’s employment agencies.

SYDNEY — Australia’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate fell to a record low of 4.1% in January from 4.3% in December, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

HONG KONGHong Kong’s financial chief said Wednesday he will cut salary and corporate taxes and abolish duties on beer and wine after a booming economy pushed the city’s budget surplus to a record high.

SEATTLE — The unemployment rate in Washington fell to a near-record low of 4.5% in January, in part thanks to the creation of 5,800 new jobs last month.

TAIPEI — The unemployment rate came in at 3.8% in January, down from 3.83% in December, and the lowest jobless rate for January in seven years.

RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil’s economy is estimated to have grown by as much as 5.3% last year, its highest rate in three years, as booming commodity exports and a stable currency helped Brazil record a $40 billion trade surplus. Inflation came in under 5%, and employment and foreign investment have reached record highs.

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20 Ways Wal-Mart Clinics Will Affect US Healthcare

Big-box behemoth Wal-Mart has ventured into the healthcare realm, offering low-cost, walk-in clinics in more and more of its stores every day. Although Wal-Mart medicine may not sound like a great idea at first, these clinics can bring good changes to the health care industry, like insurance-free care, eased emergency rooms, and more widespread treatments.

Continue reading “20 Surprising Ways Wal-Mart Clinics Will Affect US Healthcare.”

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Flawed WSJ Editorial: Wages Are a Price, Too

From today’s WSJ editorial “Inflation May Be Worse Than We Think” by David Ranson:

The graph above shows how rapidly the purchasing power of income declines from an ongoing inflation of 4%. After nine years, an income of $100,000 is worth only $70,000. After 17 years its purchasing power has been cut in half, and after 30 years by about 70%. The cumulative loss of purchasing power if inflation persists above 4% is an awesome prospect that is surely going to be unacceptable.

Comment: David Ranson is way off-base on his inflation analysis and has made a serious and fundamental error: he has assumed that income remains constant for 30 years and all other prices increase annually by 4%. That’s pure nonsense and nitwitery.

Reason? Wages are just another price, the price of labor. And inflation affects all prices, including wages, see chart below:

From 1964 to 2008, average hourly earnings have increased at almost the same rate as the Consumer Price Index, suggesting that Mr. Ranson’s graph, adjusted for wage increases at the rate of inflation, would look like this:

Inflation may or may not be a problem, but to assume that prices go up but wages don’t IS a real problem for this WSJ editorial.

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Assorted Links

Thomas Sowell: Venezuela is currently giving us a lesson on the consequences of price controls. The government of leftist President Hugo Chavez has imposed price controls — and seems to be surprised that lower prices have lead to reduced supplies, even though price controls have led to reduced supplies in countries around the world and for thousands of years.

Walter Williams: The worst thing the West can do to Africa is to give more foreign aid. For the most part, foreign aid is government to government. As such, it provides the financial resources that enable Africa’s grossly corrupt and incompetent regimes to buy military equipment, pay off cronies and continue to oppress their people. It also provides resources for the leaders to live lavishly and set up “retirement” accounts in foreign banks.

The worst thing the West can do to Africa is to give more foreign aid. For the most part, foreign aid is government to government. As such, it provides the financial resources that enable Africa’s grossly corrupt and incompetent regimes to buy military equipment, pay off cronies and continue to oppress their people. It also provides resources for the leaders to live lavishly and set up “retirement” accounts in foreign banks.

John Stossel: How many shootings at schools or malls will it take before we understand that people who intend to kill are not deterred by gun laws? Last I checked, murder is against the law everywhere. No one intent on murder will be stopped by the prospect of committing a lesser crime like illegal possession of a firearm. The intellectuals and politicians who make pious declarations about controlling guns should explain how their gunless utopia is to be realized.

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Wal-Mart Puzzle: Why Is It Thriving?

According to Daniel Gross at Slate.com, Wal-Mart’s stock is at a 2-year high (see chart above) because:

1. Wal-Mart sells necessities, not discretionary items. The overwhelming majority of its sales are not impulse buys. Even in a recession, most people don’t drastically reduce their spending on staple groceries, light bulbs, or diapers.

2. In a pinched economy, consumers are embracing their inner skinflint. And Wal-Mart is a penny pincher’s paradise.

3. The economic-stimulus package President Bush signed earlier this month seems to have been designed to help Wal-Mart. It funnels cash to individuals making less than $75,000 or to families making less than $150,000, many of whom might shop at Wal-Mart. $300 really isn’t enough to put a dent in a payment for a new car or to pay off a mortgage, but it might be enough to spur a shopper to throw a few extra goodies into the Wal-Mart shopping cart.

4. As the U.S. economy idles, the rest of the world is still growing quite rapidly. And Wal-Mart finally has meaningful international sales to report. In 2003, international sales were just 16.7% of overall revenues. But thanks to aggressive expansion in Mexico, China, and elsewhere, Wal-Mart has become an increasingly multinational corporation. In the 12 months that ended in January 2008, international sales rose 17.5% and constituted 24.2% of overall sales.

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Markets in Everything: Rent Out Your Driveway II


Last July, I had a CD post about ParkAtMyHouse.com, a U.K. company which “enables property-owners to rent out their empty driveways and garages to drivers needing somewhere to park.”


After its success in London and the U.K., the company recently launched its service in the U.S.:

Press Release: ParkatmyHouse.com, a successful British-based website designed to connect drivers with open parking spaces, announced today that it will launch the service in the United States. The site is run by Anthony Eskinazi, a 24-year old entrepreneur from London, England (pictured above), whose modern innovation has changed the way people find parking.
By connecting people who want to rent out or sell their under utilized parking spaces with those who are looking for convenient and cheap parking, ParkatmyHouse.com offers a modern, high tech response to what is typically thought of as a low tech challenge.

From an email I received from Anthony: “With the credit crunch hitting hard at this moment in time, we feel that for those who live in areas where the demand for parking is high, our service will offer homeowners a great opportunity to make an additional income from their property.”

See the first listings for
parking spaces in Boston.