With Christmas in the rearview mirror and 2014 dawning, I would like to share my wishes for the new year. Like last year's, some are lighthearted, some are serious, and all are heartfelt.
For the world’s Bitcoin miners: The solving of more algorithms -- thus producing more blocks, like this one -- and therefore more Bitcoins. And a fervent wish that the currency becomes more widely accepted in the new year, and that governments, rather than trying to regulate and even outlaw technologies that compete with their traditional functions, search for ways to compete right back.
For opponents and supporters alike of President Barack Obama’s “Preschool for All” proposal: A reading of this new paper surveying the literature on the effect of preschool programs and offering a mixed report with some support for both sides.
For the political commentators who spent December lamenting that the current Congress has passed “only” 57 or 65 bills (the count seems to vary): That we might be informed of the optimal number of new laws to be enacted each year -- and how the number was arrived at. Also, a reminder to go back and read Federalist No. 62, where the author informs us that the bicameral Congress is designed as a foil against “excess of law-making.”
For all who write about or care about sports: A close study of “15 Sports Myths and Why They’re Wrong,” an excellent book that demolishes familiar platitudes on everything from the competence of general managers of professional teams to compliance with Title IX by colleges. It also provides a simple and irrefutable economic explanation for rising ticket prices. Every host of a sports talk show should be familiar with it.
For those enthusiastic for, upset about or resigned to the de facto ban on the manufacture of 60- and 40-watt incandescent bulbs, which goes into effect this year: A perusal of a recent analysis from the National Bureau of Economic Research casting serious doubt on the rationale for the policy.
For the long-term unemployed, in the U.S. and elsewhere: Strong and steady economic growth. And the hope that, contrary to the thesis of Tyler Cowen, maybe average isn’t quite over after all -- that those with relatively few skills can still make a decent living.
For the makers of the video game “The Stanley Parable”: A little more thought next time to the possibility that people might be upset by the image of a white man setting a black child aflame. Better to reflect first than apologize later.
For Jeff Bezos, owner of the Washington Post: Sincere wishes that you will develop an economic model that will allow significant continued investment in the production of news, bearing in mind that the online world relies heavily upon the freedom to transmit without charge the news dug up by others. (I’m not criticizing the online world. I’m just hoping that serious journalists will always be around to give us something to talk about.)
For Democrats who support the president's decision to ease some of the hardship caused by the implementation of the Affordable Care Act by temporarily suspending enforcement of various sections of the statute: A reminder that you will be stuck if a President Chris Christie or a President Marco Rubio suspends enforcement of the law's controversial contraceptive mandate -- or, for that matter, of the capital gains tax.
For Republicans promising to repeal the statute: A recognition that whatever you propose to put in its place will probably face rollout problems every bit as demoralizing, with all of the associated reputational costs borne this time by your party.
For the American Studies Association: A friendly wish that you will cease being so stubborn, and abandon your ridiculous and reprehensible singling out of Israeli academic institutions for a boycott. And also the hope that you will in any case come up with a heartier justification than the one offered by your president, that “one has to start somewhere." (Even in full context, the quote doesn’t sound better.) You might also take down from your website such bizarre Orwellian constructions as “the academic boycott doesn’t violate academic freedom but helps to extend it.”
For those now searching for ways to punish the boycotting ASA professors: A reminder that academic freedom includes the right to take positions ridiculous and reprehensible. One even hopes that the students we are supposed to be teaching might learn something from the contretemps -- goodness knows what.
For television producers: A continuation of your growing appreciation for serious dramas that over their lifetimes will run to dozens rather than hundreds of episodes -- programs that are successful, yet know when to stop.
For Aliko Dangote, the wealthiest man in Africa: Best of luck with your plan to construct a new oil refinery in Nigeria, potentially competing with and perhaps bypassing the inefficient state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corp.
To the suffering families of Newtown, Conn., who have now been through one year since the tragedy: The peace that passeth all understanding -- appropriate to a horror that passeth all understanding.
For all of us: A rereading (unless you are lucky enough to be reading it for the first time) of Bertrand Russell’s classic essay, “In Praise of Idleness." I wish we would take to heart Russell’s central idea, that unless we spend lots of time in solitude, away from connection with the rest of the world, we will never have ideas of our own; instead, we will spend our lives reacting to the ideas of others.
There’s my biggest hope for 2014: that we will avoid the herd and think for ourselves.
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