Thursday, June 21, 2007

Prepositional Confusion

I've heard in several context that English prepositions are difficult. Indeed, my Eastern European boyfriend and his sister frequently misuse prepositions. Eugene Volokh raises this same point today:

Things on paper are written in pencil, but on or with a typewriter. I'm sure there are lots of other similar examples. Oy. People who have to learn English as adults must find it nightmarish, in a Kafkaesque way.

So is English just unruly or is something else afoot.? The latter I think. The trouble arises because prepositions are common in English. We hear examples of their use continually. This means that our knowledge of them is informal. We develop rules governing their use, but lacking careful thought we draw the wrong conclusions.

Eugene's example actually hinges upon ambiguous word usage, not on the prepositions. Consider: pencil is both a tool and a pigment (graphite). When people say something is written in pencil they refer to the composition of the substance marking the page. Just as they might say written in type. But to say written with a typewriter is to designate the tool used. Just as we might say written with a pencil. Also written is used two different ways.

So this example is apples to oranges.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Laffer et al

Reading Fred Thompson's Tax Op-Ed Today led me to these thoughts:

Progressives and even many Republicans often mention that tax-cuts do not pay for themselves, and indeed broad-based tax-cuts do not. This applies to all of the major tax-cuts starting with Kemp-Roth in 1981 thru Bush II. What does this mean? It means that the stimulus of the tax-cut does not expand the economy to at least the extent necessary for the tax policy to be revenue neutral.

This idea of revenue neutral tax-cuts comes to us from Art Laffer. The, so called Laffer curve, describes that above some tax-rate further revenues cannot be had because taxes retard productivity and growth and because of evasion. Under such a situation cutting taxes leads to tax-revenue increases.

Several tax-reduction programs have been sold on the basis of their stimulating effects, but it is plainly obvious that they never seem to pay for themselves. Ergo, we must be below the Laffer point. Or not?

The trouble with aggregate analysis is that it obscures our tiered tax structure. As it happens all tax-cuts have effected all of the tax brackets. This ends-up impeding revenue neutrality. Tax-cuts against the lower brackets tend to be very costly to revenue (because the middle-income bracket is very broad) and because there seems to be very little growth stimulus from cutting mid-range taxes.

The picture changes dramatically though if we only look at the top-brackets. Top-bracket cuts pay for themselves. This is the Laffer effect, only it applies to only the Top Brackets not the middle-brackets.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Debating Climate Change

Garth Paltridge, the retired Director of the Institute of Antarctic and Southern Ocean Studies writes in a recent essay.
The IPCC, he said, has developed a highly successful immune system. Its climate scientists have become the equivalent of white blood cells which rush in overwhelming numbers to repel infection by ideas and results which do not support the basic thesis that global warming is perhaps the greatest of the modern threats to mankind.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

The Paris Affair

The scuffle over Paris Hilton's imprison is by now old news. It even made its way to the pages of the Volokh Conspiracy where Prof. Kerr couldn't resisted a tongue-in-check "call to arms". Although, he meant it as foil against the calls to pardon Libby.

But seriously: was it within the power of the courts to pull Paris back into prison? I don't think so--as much as she deserves to be treated as no more than another citizen. I'm shocked that a judge would overrule the Sheriff's office in this way. Shouldn't it be the case that the continued confinement of an individual requires the concurrence of the court and a suitable executive officer?

I hope this gets slapped down on appeal, albeit with a heavy dose of dicta criticizing the sheriff's office.