Non-Profit Asteroid Hunting

I’ve been hoping that SpaceX’s successful commercial launch would lead to an awesome future involving the privatization of outer space, and it looks like it’s already leading to some cool new stuff.  The non-profit B612 Foundation has announced plans to launch a telescope that will scan for asteroids in our solar system and assess their potential threats to Earth.

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Kicking The Student Loan Bill Can

While everyone was focused on the Obamacare ruling this week, the other branches of government worked out their disagreements and passed a giant bill yesterday for funding transportation and student loans, among other things.

Before Obamacare reclaimed the headlines, we heard lots of fretting that the interest rate on federal student loans would double form 3.4% to 6.8% if Congress didn’t extend them by June 30. The news rarely questioned whether or not extending the lower rate was a Good Thing, because it is an unquestioned assumption that Subsidizing Education is a Good Thing, and that More Subsidizing is always better than Less Subsidizing.

Additionally, media reports often implied that this was an unprecedented thing, leaving out the important fact that the rates were only lowered from 6.8% to 3.4% five years ago as part of a “temporary” five-year deal. Even worse, some reports called the doubling “an automatic increase that Congress enacted five years ago to save money,” implying not only that the rate has always been at 3.4%, but that a stingy Congress actively decided to increase it in 2012. The truth is that the rate had been 6.8% for a long time, and Congress decided to lower it in 2007 but only made it “temporary” so they could say they were making things better now while saying it only cost X amount (instead of raising taxes or cutting spending somewhere to pay for it permanently, because that would require pain and sacrifice).

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How is Obamacare the “largest tax increase in American history”?

So the Supreme Court ruled that the Obamacare mandate was not constitutional as a mandate, but it was constitutional as a tax. I find this very disappointing and also ironic, but I am surprised to see so many conservatives claiming this makes Obamacare the largest tax increase in American history.

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Congress Can’t Make You Buy Things, Unless They Tax You If You Don’t

A few hours before the Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act, Scott at Expected Optimism speculated that the court might not find the Act constitutional under the Commerce Clause or the Necessary and Proper Clause, but they might under the Tax and Spending Clause. He was right. From page 32 of the court’s decision:

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Thursday Links

Here are some random things to read before the Supreme Court announces Obamacare and everyone stops caring about anything else for awhile…

1. Drones Are Awesome? I’ve been generally pessimistic about the coming drone boom, due to concerns about government abuse and invasion of privacy, but this long post in Wired has converted me to being excited about the technology. Chris Anderson details the recent hobbyist history of the private flying machines, how the technology has improved, where it stands now, and where it might go next.

2. We’re Not Running Out Of Oil. A lot of people are talking about a new report called “Oil: The Next Revolution,” an 84-page PDF in which Leonardo Maugeri argues that in the last few years the world has come upon an abundance of oil that is likely to persist for a long time, although many risks remain. Maugeri is described as an oil executive, but the report is full of detailed analysis and reasonable conclusions. Here is some discussion from a NYTimes blog.

I remain optimistic that the market will buy us time to replace old energy sources, and that the market will ultimately provide those replacements, subsidies or no subsidies. Although as it looks like we’re going to have plenty of the stuff to burn for the next several decades, I sure hope the skeptics are right about climate change.

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Why is 2008 the worst year for banking crises?

Or, How A Bunch of Econ Bloggers Got Fooled By A Poor Graph

Or, Mood Affiliation For My Bias That Most Academic Research Is Low-Value Rent-Seeking Data-Massaging Justification For More Low-Value Rent-Seeking Data-Massaging

Yesterday, Greg Ip blogged at The Economist about a new paper on banking crises. Someone analyzed 147 banking crises from 1970 to 2011 and found that September was an unusually bad month.

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Where is that hyperinflation, anyway?

I saw an article in a business magazine the other day about the inevitability of the coming inflation and how to prepare for it from a business perspective. There have been a lot of voices over the last few years predicting harmful levels of inflation, usually as a consequence of the Federal Reserve’s recent interventions in the economy. (Here are a couple classic examples from doom-pop site Zero Hedge.)

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Why Conservatives Should Love Obama’s Economy

It’s fashionable among many conservatives to claim that Obama is destroying the economy. Some even claim he’s doing it on purpose. But there are a number of reasons conservatives should actually be happy about what’s happened to the economy since Obama was elected.

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Thank Government For Something: United States Geological Survey

A month or two ago I got a book series on The Old West, and I’ve been reading parts from The Alaskans. For the most part, this history of the settlement and exploration of Alaska highlights the hard-working individualist spirit of nineteenth-century Americans. But when the coast dwellers attempt to explore the interior with their limited resources, they come across many obstacles, and progress is slow – until the federal government shows up:

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