My book review of "The Age of Sustainable Development" by Jeffrey Sachs: 3 Stars
Jeffrey Sachs basically expands on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by explaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to address what he calls extreme poverty, environmental degradation, and political-economic injustice worldwide.
He provides valuable information throughout the book and some insightful solutions to address these issues, such as adaptation by communities to prepare for current and future social, economic, and environmental issues. However, as was the case with the MDGs, much of the focus is on governments solving these problems because there is an assumption that the free market fails to internalize the social cost, fails from asymmetric information, and fails from other reasons leading to the necessity of government intervention. Meanwhile, Sachs doesn't consider the poor choices made by government (public choice) and potential opportunity costs that are often substantially worse than outcomes in the private market.
There are key issues addressed in this book and some good ideas included in the SDGs, but it is too close to central planning for my taste and unlikely to resolve the major issues of our times as we live in a dynamic world where policymakers are often, if not always, behind the curve. However, works such as this might help us get closer to better understanding big social and economic issues and find ways to address them.
Overall, the book is rather repetitive and the recommended actions are based on many assumptions that aren't necessarily supported by data or research. In addition, the public policy choices are based on the precautionary principle that can be very costly.
For example, there is much discussion about getting the world off of fossil fuels (i.e. oil, natural gas, coal, etc.) as a source of energy but there is little to no discussion about the benefits of greening the earth and substantial improvements in well-being from fossil fuels and more greenhouse gases. So, if the world is to get off of fossil fuels and the potential gains from doing so, we must consider the large losses in economic activity and human improvement that would have happened over time. This is a common mistake in much of the environmental research as they focus on the social cost of carbon that's dependent on the discount rate and ridiculous assumptions in large-scale models but dismiss the social benefit of carbon.
I learned much from this book, which is why I gave it 3 stars, but I think there is still much that we need to learn about these issues before making radical global public policy choices. Check it out for yourself.
The authors provide an excellent overview of how to influence your child's whole brain so they can be better prepared for the future with specific examples of how to do so.
The left brain (logic) and right brain (emotion) are well-known, but the authors explore the upstairs brain (ability to stay in control and make decisions) and downstairs brain (lack of control and no ability to make decisions) whereby these constitute the pre-frontal cortex of the brain where decisions are made.
By helping your child, and adults, understand and mature the full integration of the brain, hence the "whole-brain child," they can become a more well-rounded individual who will be more ready to deal with different types of situations. There are 12 suggestions on how to achieve a whole-brain child throughout the book that are relevant and fairly easy to understand and implement.
I enjoyed this book and learned much about the science of the brain, my child, parenting, and myself that I hope to put into action. Because of these factors, I gave the book 5 stars.
This presentation provides information about Texas’ economy, labor market, and fiscal situation and key public policies for the 2017 Legislative Session that would increase individual liberty and economic prosperity.
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The Fraser Institute’s recently released annual report on economic freedom in North America shows that Texas continues as one of the most free jurisdictions in the nation and continent in 2014. Specifically, Texas retained its third place status in the U.S. for the sixth straight year while improving to fourth place when including jurisdictions in Mexico and Canada.
Because of its positive relationship with measures of standards of living, this economic freedom measure serves as a valuable guide for states to use when designing policy.
Individuals are said to have economic freedom when:
(a) Property they acquire without the use of force, fraud, or theft is protected from physical invasions by others; and
(b) They are free to use, exchange, or give their property as long as their actions do not violate the identical rights of others.
This essentially calls for less government manipulation of markets to allow voluntary exchange between buyers and sellers to satisfy their desires. Data indicate that high levels of economic freedom result in economic success among businesses and families, including those in poverty.
When compared with state economies of similar stature, the Texas model of low taxes, no personal income tax, relatively restrained government spending, and stable regulation leads the way. California, the only state with an economy larger than Texas, ranks an abysmal 49thin economic freedom, outranking only New York—the country’s third largest economy.
New York and California have placed burdens on their citizens with high personal income and business taxes as well as forcing many workers in unions instead of encouraging individual choice. California and New York’s low rankings in these categories and their overall tepid scoring in government spending and market regulation question the hands-on governing approach.
Meanwhile, Texas continues to enjoy superior rankings across most metrics thanks, in part, to the passage of a conservative budget that limits increases in government spending to no more increases in population growth plus inflation. However, Texas still has room for improvement to surpass New Hampshire and Florida.
Texas’ most critical rating is that of “sales tax revenue as a percentage of income,” which includes both sales and gross receipt taxes. Contributing to the state’s poor scoring is the onerous gross receipts-style business franchise tax. Putting this tax on a path to elimination in the upcoming legislative session would likely result in a major improvement in economic freedom and help generate more economic prosperity.
Additionally, Texas must not fall prey to the temptations of raising the minimum wage, which is a labor market regulation. The authors of the report note that their minimum wage “component measures the annual income earned by someone working full time at the minimum wage as a percentage of per-capita income.” Given that Texas has a low cost of living, a higher minimum wage hurts low-skilled workers and those near the minimum wage much more than in more expensive states.
While Texas’ high level of economic freedom should be celebrated, the Fraser Institute’s report provides a valuable guide for simple steps to take this session to further improve Texans’ well-being.
Chris Anderson provides tips on what works best when giving a speech.
After working with hundreds if not thousands of speakers in the TED Talks series, he explains best practices for public speaking.
I've already started implementing Anderson's best practices by including a hook in the opening of my presentations. Specifically, I've chosen to share a personal story in my opening that's about the importance of institutions in our personal, professional, and government lives. This presentation format with a story arc that builds on different mental models has received numerous compliments based on the structure and information, and it is fun to present.
If you're interested in taking your public speaking to the next level, this book is for you! I highly recommend it, which is why I gave it 5 stars.
This commentary originally appeared in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on December 2, 2016.
As the start of the 2017 Texas Legislature on Jan. 10 quickly approaches, legislators have already pre-filed bills intended to improve your livelihood.
While some bills may accomplish this goal, others shouldn’t see the light of day. One of those is raising the minimum wage.
For example, House Bill 285 aims to alter Texas’ Labor Code section 62.051, which states, “an employer shall pay to each employee the federal minimum wage.”
Currently, Texas is one of 21 states that have a minimum wage at or below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
This bill would raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour or subvert Texans’ wage control to Congress if the federal mandate exceeds that level.
The bill may aim to help people in poorer districts, like District 104 in and around Dallas, where more people live in poverty than the state’s average. However, basic economics explains that a $15 minimum wage would hurt those it most intends to help.
There’s a common misconception that the labor market is different from other markets where individuals negotiate prices.
A minimum wage is a government-mandated wage control that centralizes power out of the hands of workers and employers.
There’s a rare consensus among economists that binding price controls lead to bad outcomes, such as long gas lines in the 1970s, but politics gets in the way of seeing the fallacy of a minimum wage control.
As with other markets, the labor demand curve is downward sloping — employers hire fewer workers as wages go up.
Setting a minimum wage floor above the market wage results in a bad outcome called unemployment.
It also pushes currently unemployed workers who would take a job less than the minimum wage into long bouts of unemployment and dependency on family or taxpayers.
In addition, the minimum wage puts more power in the hands of more highly skilled workers who will build and maintain labor-saving products, leading to an upward redistribution of income.
Research shows that Texas could lose nearly 1 million full-time jobs if the minimum wage was raised to $15 — more than any other state.
The state cannot afford this massive unemployment — nor can the country, as Texas has been the job creation engine for the last decade.
If employers aren’t able to quickly fire low-skilled workers, another option to avoid profit losses or shutting down is to raise prices.
As prices rise, the prevailing higher cost of living would leave the less than 5 percent of Texans who earn at or below the minimum wage no better off, highlighting the arbitrary nature of a government-mandated wage.
Instead of resorting to the misdirected policy of a minimum wage that doesn’t raise standards of living in Texas, the Legislature should focus on solving the underlying causes of poverty.
A good place to start would be with education savings accounts.
These would allow parents the opportunity to determine the type of schooling that best meets their child’s needs, whether that’s public, private, home school or some combination.
By increasing human capital, future workers can demand a higher pay.
For those already in the labor market, holding government spending increases below population growth plus inflation and putting the business franchise tax on a path to elimination would go a long way to increasing well-paying job opportunities statewide.
Raising the minimum wage may seem helpful on its surface, but a deeper look reveals that government control of wages hurts those it most intends to help.
Instead, legislators this session should support more prosperity achieved in Texas by further freeing markets from government intervention so limited taxpayer dollars fund core government provisions.
Vance Ginn is an economist and Elliott Raia is a research associate in the Center for Fiscal Policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation in Austin.
Vance Ginn, Ph.D.