Flights were delayed by up to two hours across the country on Monday…Airline executives were furious over how the {Federal} aviation agency handled the government-inflicted chaos, and privately said the agency was seeking to impose the maximum possible pain for passengers to make a political point.

The airline executives in this NYT story are using a venerable and plausible theory of how government agencies behave in response to budget cuts. An agency would strategically cut areas that make the public howl in pain so as to increase the probability that the cuts will be reversed. If the agency cut areas that did not directly affect the public, it risks the public and politicians saying “good riddance” and making the cuts permanent.

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Owen Barder adds an April 17 statement by World Bank President Jim Kim to his century-long list of leaders who have declared about once a decade: “for the first time in history, we can end poverty”. Owen had already published this list 3 months ago.

Why does this phrase keep recurring? One thought (not original to me) is that advocacy messages are driven by what works best for advocacy, and not by any necessary relation to reality.

“We can end poverty” — the task is doable, the cost is manageable, it’s almost easy.

“For the first time in history” — this answers a question implied by “we can end poverty”: if it’s so easy, why didn’t it already happen?

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The New York Times and every other newspaper in the United States reports:

The official Chinese Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily reran a story from The Onion that they headlined:  ”North Korea’s top leader named The Onion’s Sexiest Man Alive for 2012.” They did not realize it was satire.

Quoting The Onion’s spoof report, the Chinese newspaper wrote, “With his devastatingly handsome, round face, his boyish charm, and his strong, sturdy frame, this Pyongyang-bred heartthrob is every woman’s dream come true.”

“Blessed with an air of power that masks an unmistakable cute, cuddly side, Kim made this newspaper’s editorial board swoon with his impeccable fashion sense, chic short hairstyle, and, of course, that famous smile,” the People’s Daily cited The Onion as saying.

There IS a serious point here. Satire that mocks authority obviously is not allowed in an authoritarian system. Having never seen satire, and instead receiving nothing but fawning praise themselves, the autocrats are incapable of recognizing satire. It’s very funny, but it’s also very sad.

HT Mari Kuraishi @mashenka

From Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek, quoting Jane Jacobs’ book Cities and the Wealth of Nations:

Nations are political and military entities… But it doesn’t necessarily follow from this that they are also the basic, salient entities of economic life or that they are particularly useful for probing the mysteries of economic structure, the reasons for rise and decline of wealth.

So for example, two important factors in development are technology and culture. Neither spreads primarily at the unit of the nation.

This is the kind of helpful insight that will DEFINITELY have NO impact WHATSOEVER because it is so much more convenient both data-wise and politics-wise to focus on Nations.