Carpe Diem

Markets in Everything: Rent Out Your Driveway II

Last July, I had a CD post about, 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:, 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, 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.
Carpe Diem

Smoking Bans Can Be Hazardous to Your Health?

From “Economics: Public and Private Choice” by Gwartney, Stoup, Sobel and Macpherson:

Guidepost #6 to Economic Thinking: “Economic actions generate secondary effects in addition to immediate effects.”

Pitfall #2 to Avoid in Economic Thinking: “Good intentions do not guarantee desirable outcomes.”

Application/Case Study:

Boston Globe article: “Smoking Bans Can Be Hazardous to Some People’s Health:”

A rigorous statistical examination has found that smoking bans increase drunken-driving fatalities. One might expect that a ban on smoking in bars would deter some people from showing up, thereby reducing the number of people driving home drunk. But jurisdictions with smoking bans often border jurisdictions without bans, and some bars may skirt the ban, so that smokers can bypass the ban with extra driving. There is also a large overlap between the smoker and alcoholic populations, which would exacerbate the danger from extra driving. The authors estimate that smoking bans increase fatal drunken-driving accidents by about 13%, or about 2.5 such accidents per year for a typical county. Assuming a smoking ban is still worth it, the results suggest the need for a more aggressive approach to drunken driving – or a nationwide smoking ban.

Adams, S. and Cotti, C., “Drunk driving after the passage of smoking bans in bars,” Journal of Public Economics (forthcoming).

Article Abstract: Using geographic variation in local and state smoke-free bar laws in the US, we observe an increase in fatal accidents involving alcohol following bans on smoking in bars that is not observed in places without bans. Although an increased accident risk might seem surprising at first, two strands of literature on consumer behavior suggest potential explanations — smokers driving longer distances to a bordering jurisdiction that allows smoking in bars and smokers driving longer distances within their jurisdiction to bars that still allow smoking, perhaps through non-compliance or outdoor seating. We find evidence consistent with both explanations. The increased miles driven by drivers wishing to smoke and drink offsets any reduction in driving from smokers choosing to stay home following a ban, resulting in increased alcohol-related accidents.

Carpe Diem

Fastest Global Diffusion in History: The Cell Phone

From today’s Washington Post:

The human race is crossing a line. There is now one cellphone for every two humans on Earth.

From essentially zero, we’ve passed a watershed of more than 3.3 billion active cellphones on a planet of some 6.6 billion humans in about 26 years. This is the fastest global diffusion of any technology in human history — faster even than the polio vaccine (see related chart above from The Economist).

And cellphones are the first telecommunications technology in history to have more users in the developing world — almost 60% — than in the West. Cellphone usage in Africa has been growing close to 50% annually — faster than any other region. More than 30 African nations have more cellphones than land lines.
Carpe Diem

Top 10 Reasons $280B Farm Bill is Bad Legislation

According to the NY Times:

1. The House and Senate bills, each costing about $280 billion over five years, are way over budget and include an array of gimmicky tax increases to make up the shortfall.

2. Even worse, the bills perpetuate an unfair, wasteful program of price supports and direct payments.

3. Half the subsidies would go to farmers in just seven states producing a handful of crops — corn, cotton, rice, soybeans and wheat.

4. Two-thirds of the nation’s farmers would not benefit at all.

5. Subsidies will flow to farm families making as much as $2 million a year.

6. What makes these subsidies even more outrageous is that just when the rest of the country is sliding into recession, commodity prices are booming and big farmers are rolling in clover.

According to the Orlando Sentinel:

7. The largest commercial farmers reap the bulk of the subsidies, while most growers get little or nothing.

8. Subsidies spur overproduction, wasting resources and harming the environment.

9. They impede efforts to open more foreign markets to U.S. products.

10. Subsidies are especially uncalled for now, when biofuel demand has sent farmland values and crop prices soaring.

Carpe Diem

Remote Robotic Surgery:Outsourced to Bangalore?

Thanks to an anonymous CD reader for this comment:

“As remote controlled robots are utilized more and more to do operations it is conceivable that one day a surgeon in Bangalore, India will perform operations on patients located in a Walmart surgical clinic in Mobile, Alabama. The technology has been here for a relatively long time.”

For example, in 2001, surgeons in the U.S. Performed an Operation in France Via Robot.

More recently:

Northeast Georgia residents needing cardiac surgery will have an innovative new treatment option next year in the region. Officials with Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville said they have received a $1 million gift from an anonymous donor to purchase a da Vinci Surgical System, which can be operated remotely.

The physician actually sits in a different location and operates through a screen, a robot, that can actually enter the chest cavity or the abdominal area, depending on whether they are doing an abdominal area or doing a heart.”

And what about remote robotic surgery for the U.S. soldiers in combat?

WAIKOLOA, Hawaii — “Robotic surgery, which could be performed on patients in remote locations such as Iraq while the surgeon is in another location, is feasible despite needing significant mechanical improvements, a surgeon said here.”

Carpe Diem

India, Inc. Fights Back Against Anti-Outsourcing Rhetoric With Full Page Ad in Chicago Tribune

1. CHICAGO: India Inc., which is facing the heat from U.S. Presidential candidates who blamed ‘shipping jobs’ to China and India for rising U.S. unemployment, has launched a counter-offensive here telling Americans that the industry is creating new work opportunities for them and “gifting” thousands of jobs to Americans and not “stealing” them.

A full-page advertisement in the Chicago Tribune on Tuesday, by industry body FICCI (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry), gives an elaborate account of how the legendary Tata Group, along with several others like Ranbaxy, Mahindra USA, Bharat Forge, ITC Kitchens of India and HCL America have created thousands of jobs in America by investing in different sectors of the US economy. According to FICCI, Indian corporate investments in the U.S. were over $10.25 billion in 2007.

2. Watch a video here from India Reuters on India Inc.’s ad.

3. The Chicago Sun-Times and more than 70 sister newspaper titles throughout the metro area have entered into an agreement to outsource most of its print and online ad production. The outsourcing agreement with Elgin-based Affinity Express Inc. is expected to reduce operating costs by $3 million a year at The Sun-Times News Group. Affinity, with production offices in India and the Philippines, was chosen because of its “extensive infrastructure and expertise in the field of advertising production for news companies,” including the Charlotte Observer and the Columbus, Ohio Dispatch.

Comment: Wouldn’t it have been ironic if the production of the FICCI’s full-page ad in the Chicago Tribune had been outsourced to India?

It’s possible the only way that the U.S. newspaper industry can remain profitable and survive in the future is with increased outsourcing to India? In other words, although some ad production might be outsourced to India, those outsourcing efficiencies and cost savings might end up helping to save thousands and thousands of U.S. newspaper jobs.

Carpe Diem

Body Count: 85-100 Million Dead From Communism

The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression” documents communist crimes against humanity, but also crimes against national and universal culture, from Stalin’s destruction of hundreds of churches in Moscow to Ceausescu’s leveling of the historic heart of Bucharest to the widescale devastation visited on Chinese culture by Mao’s Red Guards.

As the death toll mounts—as many as 25 million in the former Soviet Union, 65 million in China, 1.7 million in Cambodia, and on and on—the authors systematically show how and why, wherever the millenarian ideology of Communism was established, it quickly led to crime, terror, and repression. An extraordinary accounting, this book amply documents the unparalleled position and significance of Communism in the hierarchy of violence that is the history of the twentieth century.

Essentially a body count of communism’s victims in the 20th century, the book draws heavily from recently opened Soviet archives. The verdict: communism was responsible for between 85 million and 100 million deaths in the century.


Carpe Diem

Stagflation Update: Monetary Base

Stagflation update: the chart above compares the growth of the monetary base during the peak of the stagflation period of the 1970s (the 85 month period from December 1974 to December of 1981) to the growth of the monetary base over the last 85 months, from January 2001 to January 2008. (The monetary base is set to equal an index value of 100 in the beginning month of each sample period.)

Notice that there is a significant difference between the two periods: During the 1970s, the monetary base grew by more than 70%, compared to less than a 40% growth during the last 7 years.

Bottom Line: The money supply data (M1, M2 and monetary base) don’t support the position that we are entering a period of 1970s-like stagflation.