November 23, 2010

Staggering Chart and Stats

From Tim Challies:

Seven hundred billion minutes. That’s how much time Facebook’s 500 million active users spend on the site every month. 700,000,000,000 minutes. Let that one sink in for a moment. Every month we spend the equivalent of 1.3 million years on Facebook; the equivalent of nearly 18,000 lifetimes. More than half of us login every single day; we average 130 friends. And we spend vast amounts of time on there.

Facebook now offers 900 million different objects or pages for us to interact with—groups, events, community pages, and so on. We upload over 3 billion photographs every month (which means we’re uploading millions every hour).

[. . .]

So think about this one. Four years ago most of us did not use Facebook at all. And today we are using it compulsively. A recent study of media habits found that about 1/3 of women between 18 and 34 check Facebook before they even go to the bathroom in the morning; 21% check it in the middle of the night; half of them admit that they are addicted to it. Meanwhile the older generations, those in their 40’s and 50’s, are also migrating to social media; they now represent the fastest-growing population.

But again, 4 years ago most of us did not use it at all. We may have heard the name, but it was just a name. Today it’s a way of life. What’s important to think about is the fact that Facebook is not a site that offers us a better way of doing what we were already doing. It’s not like most of us were on another social media site and we then migrated once Facebook came along (with young people being a possible exception; many of them migrated from MySpace to Facebook). For the majority of us, Facebook is a new thing. Those 700 billion minutes are not minutes that we’ve taken away from other online pursuits. They are minutes that we’ve taken away from real life.

November 15, 2010

Dear Ben

Good day and compliments. I am Dr (Mr) Benjamin Bernanke, Chairman of Federal Reserve of United States of America. This mail will surely come to you as a great surprise, since we never had any previous correspondence. My aim of contacting you is to crave your indulgence to assist us in securing some funds abroad to prosecute a transaction of great magnitude.
Due to poor banking system in America, many subprime borrowers are not paying back mortgages and banks have lost ONE TRILLION TWO HUNDRED BILLION UNITED STATES DOLLARS ($1,200bn) so far. This calamity has caused much suffering in my country. To help remedy this situation, our president, Mr Barack Obama, has authorised to be spent a sum of EIGHT HUNDRED NINETY SEVEN BILLION DOLLARS ($897bn) on stimulus plus many other good deeds like cash for clunkers. Unfortunately, since that time, we are being molested and constantly harassed by bond vigilantes who do not care that their reckless and vicious behaviour could ruin our hopes and plans.
To this effect, last year I authorised the printing of ONE TRILLION TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY BILLION ($1,250bn) of United States currency to purchase government securities. To my great shock, this was not enough so I am now buying another SIX HUNDRED BILLION DOLLARS ($600bn).
If you forward a modest sum to purchase Treasury notes then I can buy many more of them with my unlimited printing press and their price will rise. I am absolutely positive that this arrangement will be of mutual benefit to both of us. I can offer you generous interest rate of EIGHT TENTHS OF A PERCENT after taxes.
I want you to immediately inform me of your willingness in assisting and co-operating with us, so that I can send you full details of this transaction and let us make arrangement for a meeting and discuss at length on how to transfer this funds.
Yours Faithfully,
Dr (Mr) Benjamin Bernanke
N/B: Please contact Mr Timothy Geithner on this e-mail address for further briefing and modalities.

10 Centuries in 5 Minutes

Pretty cool stuff here:

November 8, 2010

Oh, the Irony

Who would have ever thought that the United States of America would be receiving a lecture from the Chinese and Germans on the ill effects of a planned economy:

China's Vice-Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said last Friday that the US step may hurt global confidence, while rejecting state-planning style targets for trade deficits.

.........But on Thursday and Friday, governments focused instead on the global impact of the Fed’s action. “With all due respect, US policy is clueless,” Wolfgang Schäuble, German finance minister, told reporters. “It’s not that the Americans haven’t pumped enough liquidity into the market,” he said. “Now to say let’s pump more into the market is not going to solve their problems.”

November 4, 2010

Obama and FDR

From Burt Fulsom:
The 60+ House seats that the Democrats lost this week is the greatest loss for a party in power since FDR’s Democrats lost 81 seats in 1938. The circumstances of both losses are similar.
For example, shortly after FDR lost his 81 seats, Robert Doughton, the Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, made this comment: “I don’t believe that generations which so far haven’t a chance to vote or to get born should be paying off our headaches.” FDR had almost doubled the national debt in his first six years in the White House, and Doughton was sad that his grandchildren–who may well be alive today–would have to pay the debts accumulated by FDR’s failed spending programs. The large debt being accumulated today under President Obama will have to be paid off by the grandchildren of Congressman Doughton’s grandchildren. FDR transferred pieces of his debt to us, and now we will transfer debts from the stimulus package and the various bailouts to our grandchildren. Voters in 1938 and in 2010 were both saying “no” to more debt. That is a reason for hope.
Interestingly, the groups in the country most supportive of FDR in 1938 and Obama in 2010 are from the areas of the country struggling the most financially. In Alabama and Mississippi, for example, the Democrats controlled all seats in Congress in 1938, and both states voted overwhelmingly for FDR. Yet they were among the poorest states in the U. S. in 1938. Today, California, with its $138 billion in debt, and Nevada, with its near 14 percent unemployment rate, have supported the Democrats most enthusiastically in 2010. Perhaps the states with the weakest level of entrepreneurship are the most anxious to vote to transfer tax money to their states from the wealthier states with more profitable economies.

College Degree - Worth It?

Richard Vedder with the Chronicle of Higher Education recently reported the following statistics:

Over 317,000 waiters and waitresses have college degrees (over 8,000 of them have doctoral or professional degrees), along with over 80,000 bartenders, and over 18,000parking lot attendants. All told, some 17,000,000 Americans with college degrees are doing jobs that the BLS says require less than the skill levels associated with a bachelor’s degree.
Vedder goes on to state:

I have long been a proponent of Charles Murray’s thesis that an increasing number of people attending college do not have the cognitive abilities or other attributes usually necessary for success at higher levels of learning. As more and more try to attend colleges, either college degrees will be watered down (something already happening I suspect) or drop-out rates will rise.

.........This week an extraordinarily interesting new study was posted on the Web site of America’s most prestigious economic-research organization, the National Bureau of Economic Research. Three highly regarded economists (one of whom has won the Nobel Prize in Economic Science) have produced “Estimating Marginal Returns to Education,” Working Paper 16474 of the NBER. After very sophisticated and elaborate analysis, the authors conclude “In general, marginal and average returns to college are not the same.” (p. 28)

In other words, even if on average, an investment in higher education yields a good, say 10 percent, rate of return, it does not follow that adding to existing investments will yield that return, partly for reasons outlined above. The authors (Pedro Carneiro, James Heckman, and Edward Vytlacil) make that point explicitly, stating “Some marginal expansions of schooling produce gains that are well below average returns, in general agreement with the analysis of Charles Murray.” (p.29)

...........Yet, at a time when resources are scarce, when American governments are running $1.3-trillion deficits, when we face huge unfunded liabilities associated with commitments made to our growing elderly population, should we be subsidizing increasingly problematic educational programs for students whose prior academic record would suggest little likelihood of academic, much less vocational, success?

I think the American people understand, albeit dimly, the logic above. Increasingly, state governments are cutting back higher-education funding, thinking it is an activity that largely confers private benefits. The pleas of university leaders and governmental officials for more and more college attendance appear to be increasingly costly and unproductive forms of special pleading by a sector that abhors transparency and performance measures.

Higher education is on the brink of big change, like it or not.