I note by way of interest that Henry Ergas has responded to my comments taking issue with some of his initial thoughts on the ACCC’s draft merger guidelines. He notes that my (i) argument that studies of vertical mergers may be biased towards seeing them as favourable may not be so strong (especially as bad mergers get through: something I argued was the case with AGL-Loy Yang) and (ii) that AGL-Loy Yang wasn’t a bad merger. I can see his point on (i) but that reduces but doesn’ eliminate such biases. On (ii), I refer back to my recent work with Frank Wolak that actually looks back at what happened after AGL-Loy Yang and confirms that the ACCC’s predictions of 20 percent price rises were largely borne out. In any case, I reiterate my view that it is precisely because vertical mergers have ambiguous consequences that merits the ACCC spending extra time being extra clear in how they will look at them and such emphasis is not misplaced. (By the way, one of these days Henry Ergas and I might agree on something. Will that mean we are both right or both wrong?)
In my day, when you wanted to look at the Universe you needed to secure yourself a reasonable telescope, trapse out late at night in the cold and try and search the sky for something interesting with the un-naked eye. There was slim pickings and you would have to be really lucky to actually work out what you were looking at. Well, take a look at this video from TED. Kids today can just sit inside and take an informed tour of the Universe using the best images from telescopes around the world. Of course, it’s not ‘real time’ as you would see with a telescope in the backyard with views of galaxies precisely as they were thousands of years ago.
Today is February 29th. Given that it comes only once every four years, that would make it a rare birthday. But it is even rarer. As Andrew Leigh and I discovered in our research, the birthrate on this day is about 10% lower than if it was an ordinary Friday. Why? Parents like to move their children’s birthdays off days like this and on to something more regular. Of course, today they might get some resistance from their doctors who don’t want those births pushed on to the weekend, so it isn’t as rare as ‘normal’ leap days. [Thanks to Andrew for the reminder].
Well, I am not a lawyer so my views on iPhone legality expressed here and here need to be taken with a grain of salt. Dale Clapperton who is one of the authors worried about iPhone legality thinks that getting past the ACCC on this one is not a given. Kim Weatherall, who is a lawyer (although not a competition one), says ACCC past behaviour on this stuff indicates otherwise. That said, if the legislation on third line forcing is rarely a barrier, calls for its reform are even more important. After all, think about all of the uncertainty it created this week. And let’s say that Graeme Samuel — a noted gadgetphile — did actually challenge an iPhone introduction plane as it has occurred around the world and that led to delay or no introduction, I think that this is not going to win that section of the Trade Practices Act any friends (except amongst iPhone ‘grey’ market importers that is).
So how does someone pick the wrong side in a standards war? Apparently, by looking to price. Read on.
Tim Harford gave a very engaging talk at Melbourne Business School today to a full house. It is great to see so many students interested in economics that they would voluntarily come to a lunchtime lecture. It bodes well for the world. Also, it looks like Tim didn’t run into the kinds of difficulties that he did with his material in Singapore.
I would also like to thank Tim for his generous plug for my upcoming book (and yes, my daughter’s picture has appeared to make the Financial Times website).