Felix Salmon

The inverse-floater gasoline tax

June 15, 2009

How to structure a gas tax? You could make it a flat X cents per gallon; alternatively (and this is essentially what a cap-and-trade system does, too) you could make it Y%, with the tax increasing with the price of gasoline.

Regulatory shake-up: Right ends, wrong means

June 15, 2009

I’m a bigger fan of this morning’s Geithner/Summers op-ed than Simon Johnson is. As a statement of where we want to be it’s a good one; I especially like the way that, by regulating OTC derivatives trades, Geithner and Summers are taking a rather more sensible route than trying to make all derivatives (or all credit derivatives) exchange-traded. I also like the way in which capital requirements for banks will rise with banks’ size — it’s a good incentive to stay small(er), rather than, Lewis/Weill-style, going on massive acquisition rampages.

The Success of Development

June 15, 2009

I’ve been glued to my Kindle all day, reading Charles Kenny’s compelling and important new book, The Success of Development: Innovation, Ideas and the Global Standard of Living. Kenny is a great writer, and his book is a true pleasure to read; it’s also a crucial addition to a development literature which has gotten bogged down in debates which will never be satisfactorily resolved.

Excising the cheapest options

June 13, 2009

Alex Tabarrok wonders why no stores stock cheap (as opposed to expensive) HDMI cables, and Kevin Drum — who used to manage a Radio Shack — recounts his own tale of looking for a simple patch cable:

Friday links have a few surprises

June 12, 2009

Nafta infoporn

Pie charts: Pretty boring things. But add some white dots and some black dots, and they become videogametastic!   

Chart of the week: Roubini and the VIX

June 12, 2009

I always knew that Nouriel Roubini was quite volatile. I just never thought to chart it.

Housing chart of the day

June 12, 2009

There’s yet another great housing chart from wcw today:


If this line reverts to the long-term mean, the extra evaporation of housing equity would be utterly devastating. But is there any reason to believe that it won’t?

Whither cap-and-trade? An IM exchange

June 12, 2009

One of the great things about working for Reuters is that I get to pester journalists who actually know what they’re talking about. So after reading Timothy Gardner’s story on the cap-and-trade bill today, I got him on IM, and learned a lot — not least that Waxman-Markey is being considered more of an all-encompassing energy bill, as opposed to simply a way of creating a cap-and-trade scheme. Which on the one hand means that it can be loaded up with enough pork to make it pass, but on the other hand makes everything much more complicated:

Why effective regulatory overhaul is hard

June 12, 2009

Tyler Cowen has a good post on why it might not be such a bad thing after all that the coming regulatory overhaul isn’t going to be nearly as big or comprehensive as many of us originally hoped.