Airline Deregulation Allowed Entry, Lower Prices, and More Routes


Source of graphic: online version of the NYT column quoted and cited below.

The top graph above usefully summarizes one of the main results of airline deregulation–lower fares. Other results are sketched below in a couple of passages from a Leonhardt column.

(p. C8) Flying is less expensive, as fares have fallen steadily, adjusted for inflation, and there are more flights to more cities. The barrier to entry is lower. Over the last 30 years, more than 150 airlines have sought bankruptcy protection or disappeared, but more keep springing up as investors continue to put hope over experience, said Denis O’Connor, managing director with AlixPartners, a restructuring firm.
“People don’t understand how easy it is to start an airline,” Mr. O’Connor said, because of a ready supply of pilots and other employees, as well as used airplanes. “Why would you put capital in something if you can’t make a go of it? Southwest is an example of why you would.”
. . .
. . . Southwest’s transformation from a Texas puddle jumper to the biggest airline in terms of domestic traffic (at least until the Delta-Northwest merger is completed) would not have happened without deregulation.
That airline’s evolution is what some experts point to as the best proof of why deregulation, for all its troubles, ultimately is better than a regulated environment.
“This is the free market at work, and we’re not used to it,” said Mo Garfinkle, a lawyer and a longtime airline industry consultant. “The idea of deregulation was to allow entry, whether it was successful or not.”

For the full commentary, see:
MICHELINE MAYNARD. “Did Ending Regulation Help Fliers?” The New York Times (Thurs., April 17, 2008): C1 & C8.
(Note: ellipses added.)

“Economics of Science” Published Today in The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics (2nd ed.)


Source of image of the books:

Today (May 30, 2008) is the publication date of the second edition of The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, which includes my “Economics of Science” article. The article surveys the history and current status of research on the economics of science, and the relationship of the economics of science to the economics of technology.
For a much earlier, and much longer, take on some of the same issues, see “The Economics of Science.”

References to both articles:
Diamond, Arthur M., Jr. “Economics of Science.” In The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd Edition, edited by Steven N. Durlauf and Lawrence E.Blume. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.
Diamond, Arthur M., Jr. “The Economics of Science.” Knowledge and Policy 9, no. 2 & 3 (1996): 6-49.

Private Space Companies Compete on Price and Quality


“A rendering of XCOR’s Lynx rocket-powered vehicle.” Source of the caption and image: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. B1) A price war already is brewing among companies seeking to sign up would-be space tourists, years before the first privately financed rocketplanes are scheduled to begin flying.
XCOR Aerospace of Mojave, Calif., the latest entrant to the derby to blast thrill-seekers into the upper reaches of the atmosphere, is expected to unveil plans Wednesday for a rocket-powered vehicle that is substantially smaller, slower and less expensive to build than any of those proposed by rivals. With tickets projected at $100,000 a pop, the low-fare carrier to the heavens would hardly be cheap.
Anticipated to cost less than $10 million to build and to be more compact than many propeller planes used by recreational pilots, XCOR’s Lynx vehicle is intended to carry a pilot and a single passenger at twice the speed of sound to about 37 miles above the earth. The entire outing, which would begin and end at a conventional airport and include about two minutes of suborbital zero gravity, would take less than half an hour.
That is a significantly shorter trip — and only about half the ticket price — envisioned by British billionaire Sir Richard Branson on his Virgin Galactic spaceship. A sleek and more powerful six-passenger craft, it is designed to travel at about four times the speed of sound and zoom completely out of the atmosphere — reaching true space more than 60 miles above the earth.

For the full story, see:
ANDY PASZTOR. “Economy Fare ( $100,000) Lifts Space-Tourism Race.” The Wall Street Journal (Weds., March 26, 2008): B1-B2.

“Virgin Galactic will launch its rocket from a plane.” Source of the caption and image: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited above.

The Persistent ‘Project Entrepreneur’

Rosenberg and Bridzell (1986, p. 150) briefly mention that it took John Harrison four long tries before he got the chronometer right.
This is the case wonderfully documented in:
Sobel, Dava. Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time. 1st ed. New York: Walker & Company, 1995.
Another example of dogged persistence is Cyrus Field, as described in the A Thread across the Ocean.
Yet another is Marconi, as described in Thunderstruck.
These are good examples of the type of entrepreneur I tentatively call the ‘project entrepreneur’. (As contrasted with entrepreneurs who have other primary motives, like making money, or winning for the sake of winning.)
I’m going to keep looking for the best name for this type of entrepreneur; maybe the ‘idealist entrepreneur’?

Democratic Representatives Drive Gas-Guzzlers at Taxpayers’ Expense

CarsCongressGraphic.jpg Source of graphic: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

Seven of the eleven representatives in the table above are Democrats. Look at the gas mileage of the cars, and recall that it is the Democrats who are given to lecture us on how we need to do more about the environment.
(The four Republicans on the list are Reynolds, Fossella, Walsh and Saxton.)

(p. A1) Charles B. Rangel, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, is not so caught up in the question of gas mileage. He leases a 2004 Cadillac DeVille for $777.54 a month. The car is 17 feet long with a 300-horsepower engine and seats five comfortably.
“It’s one of the bigger Cadillacs,” Mr. Rangel, of Harlem, said cheerfully this week. “I’ve got a desk in it. It’s like an airplane.”
Modest or more luxurious, the cars are all paid for by taxpayers. The use of a car — gas included — is one of the benefits of being a member of the House of Representatives.
. . .
(p. A19) Mr. Rangel said he frequently offers rides to constituents so they can discuss their concerns in the luxurious confines of his DeVille.
“I want them to feel that they are somebody and their congressman is somebody,” Mr. Rangel explained. “And when they say, ‘This is nice,’ it feels good.”

For the full story, see:
RAYMOND HERNANDEZ. “What Would You Drive, if the Taxpayers Paid?” The New York Times (Thurs., May 1, 2008): A1 & A19.
(Note: ellipsis added.)

RangelCadillac.jpg “Representative Charles B. Rangel says his leased Cadillac DeVille projects an image of success.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.

“A Single Frame of a Movie”

(p. 144.) In all Western countries, the inventory of physical facilities for economic production changes. The inventory at any given moment is unquestionably important, but it is like a single frame of a movie; taken alone, it misses all the action, and it is the action that we need to understand and that holds the promise of economic advance to non-Western countries.

Rosenberg, Nathan, and L.E. Birdzell, Jr. How the West Grew Rich: The Economic Transformation of the Industrial World. New York: Basic Books, 1986.

How Corning Invests in Major Innovations


Source of graphic: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. B1) Corning Inc. has survived for 157 years by betting big on new technologies, from ruby-colored railroad signals to fiber-optic cable to flat-panel TVs. And now the glass and ceramics manufacturer is making its biggest research bet ever.
Under pressure to find its next hit, the company has spent half a billion dollars — its biggest wager yet — that tougher regulations in the U.S., Europe and Japan will boost demand for its emissions filters for diesel cars and trucks.
. . .
An investment 25 years ago has turned Corning into the world’s largest maker of liquid-crystal-display glass used in flat-panel TVs and computers. But another wager, which made it the biggest producer of optical fiber during the 1990s, almost sank the company when the tech boom turned into a bust.
In Erwin, a few miles from the company’s headquarters in Corning, the glassmaker is spending $300 million to ex-(p. B2)pand research labs. There, some 1,700 scientists work on hundreds of speculative projects, from next-generation lasers to optical sensors that could speed the discovery of drugs.
“Culturally, they’re not afraid to invest and lose money for many years,” says UBS analyst Nikos Theodosopoulos. “That style is not American any more.”
Corning also goes against the grain in manufacturing. While it has joined the pack in moving most of its production overseas, it eschews outsourcing and continues to own and operate the 50 factories that churn out thousands of its different products.
Corning argues that retaining control of research and manufacturing is both a competitive advantage and a form of risk management. Its strategy is to keep an array of products in the pipeline and, once a market develops, to build factories to quickly produce in volumes that keep rivals from gaining traction.

For the full story, see:
SARA SILVER. “Corning’s Biggest Bet Yet? Diesel-Filter Technologies.” The Wall Street Journal (Fri., March 7, 2008): B1-B2.
(Note: ellipsis added.)


“Corning DuraTrap diesel-engine filter.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited above.

The Importance of the City for Human Progress

I remember Stigler in his history of economic thought class, waxing eloquent about the wondrous idyllic life of the countryside, and then ending with a Stiglerian zinger; something like: ‘and where there is no idea to be found for miles and miles.’ (I believe, in his memoirs, that Stigler mentions that it is good for a great university to be located in a great city.)
Rosenberg and Birdzell attribute even greater importance to urban life:

(p. 78) The merchants were consigned to the towns, and the towns themselves were nonfeudal islands in a feudal world.

Rosenberg, Nathan, and L.E. Birdzell, Jr. How the West Grew Rich: The Economic Transformation of the Industrial World. New York: Basic Books, 1986.

Prices of Education and Medical Care Increase Dramatically Over Decade


Source of the graphic: online version of the NYT article cited below.

The most interesting part of a recent David Leonhardt column, was not what he wrote, but the graphs that were included with the article, especially the one at the top of this entry. Notice that the price of education and medical care have increased much more dramatically than other categories of consumer spending. (And remember how heavily government is involved in those two sectors, both directly through government run institutions, and indirectly through regulations and subsidies.)

For the full commentary, see:
DAVID LEONHARDT. “ECONOMIC SCENE; Seeing Inflation Only in the Prices That Go Up.” The New York Times (Weds., May 7, 2008): C1 and C11.

ConsumerSpendingGraphic.jpgSource of the graphic: online version of the NYT article cited above.

Voting with Your Feet in the Middle Ages

An application of the ‘voting with your feet’ technique for comparing consumption bundles is made by Rosenberg and Birdzell to compare life on the medieval manor with life in the medieval town:

(p. 51) The path of escape was from manor to town, not from town to manor. Stadluft macht frei, as the German proverb went.

Rosenberg, Nathan, and L.E. Birdzell, Jr. How the West Grew Rich: The Economic Transformation of the Industrial World. New York: Basic Books, 1986.
(Note: italics in original.)

Candy Competition

CandyIndustryGraphic.gif Source of graphic: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

In class, we discuss how consumers pay higher prices for candy and soft drinks because the U.S. government limits on how much foregin sugar we can import. Sometimes a student will claim that candy companies would not lower prices if the price of sugar declined. And sometimes that issue leads to a discussion of whether the candy industry is competitive.
The graphic above, and the quotation below, provide some relevant evidence.

(p. B1) The global confectionary industry has long lacked a dominant player. The top 10 manufacturers controlled just 47% of the $141 billion market as of 2006, the most recent available data. . . .
. . .
If the Wrigley acquisition is successful, Mars will become the world’s largest confectionary company with about 14.4% of the market, overtaking Cadbury’s 10.1%, based on 2006 figures, the latest available, from Euromonitor International.

For the full story, see:
JULIE JARGON and AARON O. PATRICK. “More Sweet Deals in the Candy Aisle?; Cadbury and Hershey in the Spotlight in the Wake of Mars-Wrigley Linkup.” The Wall Street Journal (Tues., April 29, 2008): B1-B2.
(Note: ellipses added.)