Monday, January 24, 2011

Poverty and the Census of Rome

From Michael Hicks, writing for the Indiana Economic Digest:
There is a certain poignant irony in the U.S. Census release of 2010 poverty statistics this Christmas week. It reminds us that, behind the green eyeshades of professional data collectors, the folks at the Census have an acute marketing sense.

The Gospel of Luke tells us that Mary and Joseph traveled to their familial birthplace as part of a census. The details and timing of the Roman census are hazy, but the intent of these counts was to levy taxes for Rome. This is a rich story and serves as a high point of the New Testament's beautifully subversive backdrop of freedom from tyranny. Unlike the Roman census of Quirinius, the modern U.S. Census affects the distribution, not collection of tax dollars. It is understandably a bit more welcomed.

Among the first of the big Census releases (that will continue for years) are local poverty rates for 2010. These are widely reported, but what do the data tell us? The sad truth is almost nothing of consequence. Here's why: (More)

(Hat-tip: My mom)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Forced sharing leads to disappointment, bad behavior at church picnic

Cecil Bohanon, writing for the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel:
When I was 12 years old, the Youth of First Christian Church had a picnic at Honor Heights Park in Muskogee, Okla. The good ladies of the church brought loads of potato salad, baked beans and coleslaw, but every child knew the real action was in the sack lunch Mom had packed with their favorite delight. Our mom had fried some chicken.

That was a real treat for us as she opposed fried food on general principle long before such health concerns were fashionable. I had the breast pieces, my younger brother, Robert, got the drumsticks, and sister Susan got the thigh pieces.

Just before the prayer was to be given, the Rev. Wilbanks made an admonition that went something like this: You young folks should not be greedily holding on to your own sack lunches; rather you should empty your sacks and contribute the contents to the common table — after all, sharing was the Christian way.

I was horrified. Nonetheless, along with all the other children, I pliantly obeyed the minister and surrendered my lunch. We then all bowed our heads in prayer and I did something I had never done — I impiously opened my eyes and slowly edged toward the picnic table. . . . (More)

(Hat-tip: My mom)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Economist job more exciting than most think

Michael Hicks, writing for the Indianapolis Business Journal:
Recently, my wife has stopped calling me an economist. It is too hard to explain what I do, so she calls me a professor (which has far more cool points to Harry Potter or Gilligan’s Island fans).

Her reticence begs the question, “What does an economist do and why would anyone want to be one?” . . . .
(Hat-tip: My mom)