The Agenda

Stray Links for 23 July 2012

(1) Hanna Rosin has a short post on what the instinctive selflessness of a small handful of young men in Aurora tells us about what it means to be a man in a world in which men’s economic roles have changed dramatically in a short period of time. 

(2) Ross Douthat offers thoughts on the politics of The Dark Knight Rises, arguing that the film reflects “a belief that a compromised order can still be worth defending, and that darker things than corruption and inequality will follow from putting that order the torch.” And for your edification, Gavin Mueller of Jacobin has written a critique of the film from the socialist left. 

(3) One of the problems with how we think about transportation is that we fixate too much on a particular mode and not enough on how to most cost-effectively achieve the underlying goal of getting people from one place to another quickly and conveniently. Because high-speed rail is eye-catching and fraught with cultural significance, we neglect low-cost investments that could greatly increase the performance and throughput of existing rail infrastructure, a subject Alon Levy covers exhaustively. Clifford Winston of Brookings has written a Wall Street Journal op-ed on how rethinking our highways could greatly facilitate the proliferation of autonomous vehicles while reducing construction costs. And last month, Josh Barro published a Boston Globe column that called for a more efficient allocation of take-off and landing slots at airports as a way to improve the broader flow of intercity business travel. 

(4) If offshoring really does reduce real wages for large numbers of less-skilled workers, is it obvious that increasing transfers is an appropriate response? As Tyler Cowen observes, higher transfers might in this case mean stronger work disincentives — unless, that is, the transfers are, like the EITC, directly tied to work, or if they come in the form of in-kind transfers for retraining, etc. 

(5) Daniel Ikenson of the Cato Institute suggests that Fareed Zakaria has misinterpreted the findings of the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, which uses surveys of business executives to assess the quality of economic institutions across various countries. On taxes and regulation, the United States fares very poorly, contrary to Zakaria’s assessment. 

Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

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