Graph of The Day

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FreshPaint-6-2015.03.03-08.19.48
http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/?g=12Qv

This graph effectively proves much of the per capita income growth between 1962 and 1990 in the United States was nothing more than a result of the changing age structure and female entry into the workforce (resulting, presumably, from increasing automation of household tasks). It also explains some of the unemployment boost the U.S. had in the 1970s and confirms my suspicion that a lot of the crime boost in the 1960s and crime decline in the 1990s may have simply been due to the changing age structure of the population. My other explanations for the crime boost and decline in the U.S. from 1945 to today include changes in imprisonment, increasing availability of contraception, and the hollowing-out of the inner city. Changes in welfare policy may have also been a factor.

Scott Sumner made a similar point about the importance of age structure just as elegantly a few weeks ago.

Two Ways To Save a Screenshot in Windows 8.1

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Yesterday, I saved the screenshot shown in yesterday’s post by emailing it to myself using the Windows 8.1 Share charm, then cropped it with the Photos Metro App. So far as I know, there are two ways to save a screenshot on a tablet in Windows 8.1 without an Internet connection:

1. The way Microsoft recommends. Press the Windows button and the Volume Down button at the same time (Windows button first, though by no more than a couple seconds). The screenshot will be saved to the Pictures folder.

2. For people who feel superior to using anything but the touchscreen on a tablet with only three buttons (like me), there is an alternative:

a. Make sure the Fresh Paint Metro App (by Microsoft) is installed on your computer.
b. Open Fresh Paint.
c. Switch to whatever you intend to screenshoot (do NOT close the Fresh Paint app by dragging down or by clicking on the X in the right-hand corner-instead, use the charms to get back to the Start screen or swipe from the left).
d. Swipe to charms. Click on Share. Make sure you see a “Share a screenshot of…” in the Share charm. If you don’t, maneuver there using the drop-down menu.
e. Still in the Share charm, click on Fresh Paint.
f. Click Share.
g. Switch to the Fresh Paint Metro App. You will see the screenshot in your Paintings (if you don’t, close and re-open the Fresh Paint Metro App). Click on it. Click inside the grayed-out area or the background when you’re finished rotating or shrinking your screenshot.
h. Click the floppy disk icon to save your screenshot where you want.

An example of a screenshot made using this method.

An example of a screenshot made using the second method.

Oil Price Moderate to High by Historical Standards

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Bob Murphy pointed this out a few months ago on his blog (link not available due to unresolved search engine-related issues), but I thought I’d try to make the point a different way:
oilpricewagescreenshot
Barrels of Oil which could be bought with an Average Hour of Production and Nonsupervisory Worker Earnings

And people wonder why first-world growth was so much slower after 1973. Good thing I brought my keyboard, mouse, and USB jack with me to plug into my tablet while in Russia, as these enable me to compose posts much more quickly.

Windows 8.1: The Bad

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In order to keep up with goings-on in the U.S. while I’m in Russia (where I’m writing this from), I bought a $60 WinBook TW700 tablet (on which I’m writing this) equipped with full Windows 8.1 in mid-January of this year (like it or not, Windows 8.1 is currently the only non-mobile OS with the full backing of Microsoft as of the time of writing). I think it has the greatest variety of ports for a tablet of its price range, with a MicroSD slot, a Type D HDMI port, a micro USB charging port, and a full-size USB 2.0 port. The screen’s pretty decent, too, although there’s under six gigabytes of useable disk space out of the box, forcing me to block the installation of all Windows updates but Windows Defender malware definitions to conserve disk space. So far, without using a keyboard or mouse, I’ve been able to post multiple blog comments, watch a couple of hour-long YouTube videos, and even check five check boxes in the Windows 8.1 File Explorer (one of the hardest things to do without a mouse in Windows 8.1). I found the separately sold tablet folio to be very useful for protecting the screen from damage.

As I’ve used this tablet for a month now, I think I am able to judge well the merits and demerits of Windows 8.1. This post shall focus on the demerits.
*In XP, Task Manager is used to kill unresponsive apps. In 8.1, Task Manager is the first app to become unresponsive. Instead of killing unresponsive apps, it is used to kill Modern UI apps. Even attempting to kill unresponsive apps with the 133 kilobyte XP task manager failed, as 8.1 does not appear to allow any new programs to open until issues with the unresponsive one have been resolved.
*”Closing” Modern UI apps (by dragging down) does not actually mean closing them.
*There being no easy way to shut down the OneDrive Sync Engine Host without a registry hack.
*OneDrive (which cannot be uninstalled easily) bans literally at least 85% of the Internet (also, links to it and uploading of the same content more than once). Yes, these policies are effectively enforced. Even if they’re not meant to be. So there’s never really a reason to use OneDrive for personal use, despite Microsoft’s aggressive promotion of it (see above). Dropbox has similar, though much less broad and more vague policies. Google Drive has infinitely more sensibly-written and explicit policies, suggesting a greater willingness to listen to reason (this doesn’t mean they always do so; just listen to some of Thunderf00t’s complaints about YouTube policy enforcement).
*The LoveSummerTrue mousepad (a requirement in some cases; e.g., moving forward/backward without arrow keys in some video players, scrolling quickly in File Explorer and Control Panel, mousing over to find menus on some websites, dragging some items in some websites) is not built-in.
*8.1 File Explorer and Control Panel are terrible for touch. Checkboxes and scrolling are the worst.
*Modern UI only being able to serve a very limited purpose in desktops and laptops, with many (most?) Modern UI apps being unnecessary for large screens attached to computers with 4+ gigabytes RAM. Most desktop and laptop users do not even open one Metro app per day.
*The default calculator not having a quick way to convert square units.
*Having to go through some hoops to truly remove the default apps from the hard disk (Uninstall just won’t do; you’ll also have to delete some hidden folders and change folder ownership). Default apps include Health and Fitness, Games, Zune X-Box Music, and Mail+Calendar+People.
*I found the learning curve to be excessively steep due to omnipresent Mystery Meat navigation. I’d never have guessed where the Show Desktop button is without intoxication, excessive concentration, or Googling. Neither would I have known how to move or remove Modern UI apps. Or fill half the screen with one app and the other half with another. The charms are quite difficult to purposefully pull up on a desktop without some experience, but are much easier to pull up (while actually meaning to) on a tablet.
*The Windows Mobile and Windows RT/Full Version Windows App stores not being the same thing. Mobile Windows apps are unavailable on Windows for tablets and desktops. That’s just insensible.
*Related to the previous point, fewer and less feature-filled apps (for why, see above).
*No way to view exact percent battery left in Modern UI without installing a quite cruddy third-party app.
*OneNote requiring constant connection to the Internet.
*No free Office Online Modern UI apps (other than OneNote). Office Online is available for free on live.com. But why isn’t it available as a set of Modern UI apps in the Windows store?
*The tabs in the latest version of Internet Explorer for Desktop are too small when there are more than about five of them.
*Internet Explorer for Modern UI not supporting extensions. What’s up with that?
*The toxic rule that only the default web browser is allowed to have a Modern UI mode. The fact other browsers are allowed to be default does not change the fact this is a clear anti-competitive business practice, since Internet Explorer for Modern UI was always the best-established Modern UI web browser. That rule successfully killed Firefox for Modern UI, which was shaping up to become the best Modern UI web browser up until 2014.
*No screen sharing in the Modern UI Skype App (this is part of an issue mentioned above, but shouldn’t Microsoft have some respect for what it owns?).
*The Windows app store having a more-than-decent amount of questionable apps (including a questionable “UC Browser”).

Liability Markets?

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Currently, the U.S. government issues Treasury bonds, which are liabilities for itself and assets for the private sector. But what if it did the reverse? What if it regularly issued assets for itself and liabilities for the private sector in the form of tradeable revenue bills sold on the open market? The bills would effectively be very low-interest loans. As the IRS is a much more powerful collection agency than any bank, only those borrowers most prone to seeking low interest rates above all else would ever consider accepting Revenue Bills. Currently, the closest real-world equivalent to my proposed Revenue Bills system in the United States are Federal student loans. Currently, the way for the Federal Reserve to lower interest rates and curb inflation is for the New York Fed to buy more Treasury bonds. But what if it instead issued new offerings of my proposed Revenue Bills? By doing so, it could temporarily boost inflation while lowering interest rates, and even offer nominal negative rates if need be (though this would surely result in an insolvent Fed). Crowding out via higher interest rates could occur in reverse. My only question is, why, except for a substantial expansion of its student loan programs, had the Federal Government not done this in the aftermath of the 2008 recession? Under this system, the government could at last become the lender of last resort.

I also wonder why there is not a functioning and thriving market for liabilities like there is a market for assets, or at least any that I’ve heard of.

The Great Stagnation: U.S. Employment Gains and Losses

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My last post dealing with the Great Stagnation pointed out a number of U.S. economic trends. However, it did not discuss changes in the composition of the labor market. This post will rectify this omission.

employmenttrendsline
http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/?g=VCv
employmenttrendsarea
http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/?g=VI6
The fastest (or second-fastest)-growing private-sector occupation category, before and after 1973, in the U.S. is (no surprise) Education and Health Services. Its growth was very closely related with that of the ever-mysterious Other Services up until the 1990 recession, when Education and Health Services showed itself to be utterly recession-proof. Education and Health Services jobs are typically high-skilled, but medium-paid. In recessions, the first-hit occupation categories are Professional and Business Services and Trade, Transportation and Utilities. The third-fastest-declining occupation category, both before and after 1973, was Information Services. This is probably due to the declining scarcity of information. Unskilled nondurable and durable goods manufacturing has, as has been noted by practically everyone commenting on it, been shipped off to Asia (first Korea, Thailand, and Indonesia, then China, Vietnam, and Bangladesh), though nondurable manufacturing employment was clearly on the decline before the rise of Asia. This deindustrialization has led to increased unemployment among the unskilled and the unionized. Professional and business services jobs are generally skilled jobs which have below-average unionization rates. Their growth thus exacerbates income inequality. Leisure and Hospitality jobs are typically low-paid, and their employment is fairly fast-growing. The percentage of construction jobs has stayed remarkably constant. There are not nearly enough job-creators in the financial industry. Income inequality within occupations has clearly risen, as well, as earnings for production and nonsupervisory workers in finance (where they have grown the most) have still been lower than GDP growth.

Fourth Blog-o-versary

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This blog has been around for four years. Very little change has occured over the past year, with this blog focusing more on economics&politics rather than the Lands of the Bible. Several commentators have been banned. Due to the fact I have been linked to by a famous economist, the record number of daily pageviews for this blog occured less than a month ago. This is my 597th post, and I plan to write the 600th today as well.

The Great Stagnation: Signs of the Times

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Recently, I viewed Tyler Cowen’s TEDx talk on the post-1973 Great Stagnation in the U.S. (and, therefore, the rest of the First World). I wrote a few sentences on this stagnation in a post Tyler Cowen ended up linking to, thus setting a new record of daily pageviews for this blog. I tried at first to write a post on the causes of this Great Stagnation, but before I could do that, I had to identify the trends of this era. Since I’m more familiar with the country I live in than with countries in which I do not, this post will focus almost exclusively on U.S. trends. It’s not like trends in any other country besides Singapore are significantly better; there is no country with a higher per capita GDP (PPP) than the U.S. that is neither a tax shelter, a gambling island, nor an oil kingdom/oligarchy. This post took me about three days to write.

The post-1973 trends I find relevant to this Great Stagnation are:

*No more military conscription (or its effect on the unemployment statistics) since 1973.
*A rising consumption share of GDP (slowing nondurable goods consumption drove the fall in the consumption share of GDP before 1968/73; you can check).
*Complete and permanent stagnation in U.S. per consumer nondurable consumer goods production, with a very sharp turn in 1973, as well as stagnation in U.S. per consumer durable consumer goods production, with a very sharp turn in 1973, with the exception of significant growth during the 1991-1999 period and the post-Great Recession era.
*No (or hardly any) general stagnation or slowdown in per-manufacturing-worker U.S. manufacturing productivity, at least, as of 2007, as there has been a productivity slowdown since the Great Recession. Some stagnation is evident in the 1973-1981 period, but this was made up for later.
*More gradual stagnation or slowdown (depends on price index; see below) in per consumer nondurable goods consumption, clear slowdown in per consumer services consumption, and per consumer durable goods consumption being almost on (exponential) track, if the PCE durables price index is used. Similar results if you look at U.S. Multifactor Productivity.
*Definite stagnation in per consumer food and energy consumption.
*Falling labor compensation share of GDP (this has accelerated since the Great Recession).
*Average production and nonsupervisory worker compensation falling behind GDP.
*Rising share of production and nonsupervisory workers in the labor market.
*Stagnating government share of employment after a peak in 1975.
*The 1947-1973 boom’s picket fence of equitable earnings growth being replaced by a stepladder of both labor and capital income concentration.
*Black-White income gap slightly narrowing (see above link).
*More slowly growing consumption inequality than earnings inequality.
*Greater divergence between price deflators (CPI starts rising significantly above PCE deflator in 1973; PCE deflator starts rising significantly above nonfarm business output deflator in 1983). Most of this, as a useful table from the BEA points out, is due to the weight effect; that is, the CPI gives more weight to goods and services with greater price increases than the PCE price index.
*Stagnating per-worker total carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. (since 1973) along with stagnating per capita energy consumption (since 1979 and especially since 1999).
*Stagnating worldwide per capita oil consumption (since 1979).
*Growing immigrant share of labor force.
*Declining unionized share of labor force since peak in 1954.
*Increased imports (with stagnation after mid-2008).
*Growing financialization of economy (since 1979), with hourly compensation of production&nonsupervisory workers in finance growing faster than those of production&nonsupervisory workers in any other sector.
*Booming stock market (since 1979; after a bearish stock market between 1973 and 1978), with the exception of the 2000-2003 and 2007-9 stock market deflations. Great divergence between DJIA and industrial production.
*Newly rich replacing heirs in top of wealth distribution.
*An explosion of Federal regulation beginning in the early 1970s, which continues unto this day.
*Stagnating U.S. High School graduation rates since the mid-to-late 1960s.

A note: U.S. pre-tax, pre-transfer income inequality is by no means unique in the developed world. What is unique are its unusually low taxes and transfers.

Another note: As you can see, I’m using total civilian employment and the labor force as rough proxys for the number of U.S. consumers. You can easily change the charts if you want to use some other series in place of these.