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We describe an ultra-wide-bandwidth, low-frequency receiver recently installed on the Parkes radio telescope. The receiver system provides continuous frequency coverage from 704 to 4032 MHz. For much of the band (
), the system temperature is approximately 22 K and the receiver system remains in a linear regime even in the presence of strong mobile phone transmissions. We discuss the scientific and technical aspects of the new receiver, including its astronomical objectives, as well as the feed, receiver, digitiser, and signal processor design. We describe the pipeline routines that form the archive-ready data products and how those data files can be accessed from the archives. The system performance is quantified, including the system noise and linearity, beam shape, antenna efficiency, polarisation calibration, and timing stability.
Panspermia, the dissemination of life through space, would require resistance to the conditions found in space, including UV light. All known life forms depend on DNA to store information. In an effort to understand the liabilities of DNA to UV light and modes of DNA protection in terrestrial life forms, we established UV–VUV (125–340 nm) absorption spectra for dry DNA and its polymerized components and mononucleotides, as well as for a selection of potential UV screens ubiquitous in all organisms, including proteins, selected amino acids and amines (polyamines and tyramine). Montmorillonite clay was included as a potential abiotic UV screen. Among the potential screens tested, adenosine triphosphate (ATP) appeared to be particularly attractive, because its UV absorption spectrum was similar to that of DNA. We suggest that the use of ATP in UV protection could have pre-dated its current role in energy transfer. Spectroscopy also showed that UV absorption varied according to nucleotide content, suggesting that base pair usage could be a factor in adaptation to given UV environments and the availability of UV screens.
A community league operated in the neighbourhood in which I grew up. It was funded by the families living in the neighbourhood, and had a number of functions. One of them was to operate an outdoor skating rink each winter. Particular time slots were made available to figure skaters, hockey players, and recreational skaters, but if you were prepared to change into your skates outdoors, you could use the rink just about any time. This rink would certainly seem to fit the description of a congestible public good.
Some parents would also construct smaller rinks in their backyards, so that their younger children could skate without having to walk to the community rink. Since skating alone isn't much fun, these children generally had the company of other neighbourhood kids. Arguably, these parents were providing for their own benefit a good which had positive externalities for neighbouring families.
These projects are intrinsically very similar, and yet we do not hesitate to categorize one as a public good and the other as a good with positive externalities. We hope that the distinction between these two goods is a useful one, and indeed our analyses of the two goods have been quite different, but this example suggests that we might be making strong distinctions between quite similar goods.
One might argue that the backyard rink offers distinctly different benefits to the family that builds it than it does to other families, and that it should therefore be categorized as a good with externalities.
The theory of the second best states that if all of the distortions in the economy cannot be eliminated, all bets are off. Eliminating or reducing another distortion might raise welfare, but can just as easily reduce welfare. For example, Samuelson recognized that the optimal quantity of a public good would not be characterized by the Samuelson condition if the public good were financed through distortionary taxation. This condition assumes that expanded provision of public goods is costly to consumers only in that it requires scarce resources to be transferred from the production of other goods. However, if the production of public goods is financed through distortionary taxation, providing more public goods is also costly because it increases the amount of revenue that the government must raise, and hence increases the deadweight loss of the tax system. The optimal quantity of a public good when taxes are distortionary is generally (but not always) smaller than that dictated by the Samuelson condition.
This chapter looks at two important illustrations of the theory of the second best: the design of the tax system, and the pricing of goods produced by a regulated or government-owned monopoly.
Every tax system that raises a significant amount of revenue will impose a deadweight loss upon the economy. The system that raises the required revenue with the smallest deadweight loss is said to be “optimal.”
The consensus among art experts is that a number of the Van Goghs hanging in prestigious galleries around the world are forgeries. There is less agreement as to which paintings are the forgeries and which are genuine. Some experts question the authenticity of Garden at Auvers. The French government had once considered this painting to be so important that, in 1992, it declared the painting to be an historic monument to prevent its sale to a foreigner. When the painting was last offered for sale, in 1996, concerns over its authenticity were so great that it failed to find a buyer. Other experts question Sunflowers, which was purchased by a Japanese company in 1987 for $39.9 million (U.S. dollars), at that time the highest price ever paid for a work of art. Also under suspicion are the “self-portraits” hanging in the Gemeentenmuseum in the Hague, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, and the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The number of possible forgeries is currently estimated to be about 100.
Some of these paintings reached their privileged positions in innocent ways. They are copies of real Van Goghs made by art students, or paintings in the style of Van Gogh done by competent hobbyists. They were incorrectly attributed to Van Gogh at some time, and the attribution stuck.
By Christmas of 1999, initial public offerings of dotcom companies had netted many of these companies millions of dollars in operating capital. The founders of these companies also acquired personal fortunes, based on the market value of the shares that they had retained. Investors went smug to their beds, while visions of huge profits danced in their heads.
The operating capital was quickly spent. The companies argued that this was an inevitable feature of growth. They would have to rely on advertising for most of their revenues, but only the most popular sites would be able to earn sufficient revenues from this source. The strategy, therefore, was to grow as quickly as possible, elbowing aside their dotcom competitors. Costs would initially be large and revenues small, but the potential for future profit justified these expenditures. Investors seemed not to notice the corollary of this argument, that most of the companies in which they had invested were doomed.
By Christmas of 2000, it had been realized that the potential for profit was much smaller than had originally been believed. A great many dotcom companies had “gone for a walk in the snow,” and the market value of the rest had imploded. The resources of these companies had been squandered for no evident gain.
The investors were credulous, but they weren't crazy. The advent of the dotcom companies represented the opening of an industry in which there are enormous economies of scale.
Markets range in size and sophistication from neighbourhood flea markets to global currency markets, but every market exists for the same reason. Some exchanges of goods and services between two or more people are mutually beneficial, in the sense that they would raise the well-being of every party to the exchange. Markets are a mechanism through which people identify these trades and carry them out.
The simplest mutually beneficial trades involve only two people, for example, a dairy farmer and a poultry farmer who trade cheese for eggs. Underlying these trades is a double coincidence of wants: each person wants the goods that the other person is willing to give up. Double coincidences are relatively rare, and a mortician or divorce lawyer who relied upon them to furnish his table would not eat well.
The benefits from trade generally rise with the number of people who are potentially involved in each trade, for two reasons:
Multilateral trade – trade involving more than two people – might be possible even when bilateral trade cannot occur. For example, if the poultry farmer does not want cheese, there can be no trade involving only the dairy farmer and the poultry farmer because there is no double coincidence of wants. A multilateral trade in which the dairy farmer gives his cheese to the barber, who cuts the hair of the poultry farmer, who provides eggs to the dairy farmer, might nevertheless be possible.
It is inevitable that people will try to avoid paying taxes. These attempts are, in the aggregate, futile – the government ultimately does raise the revenue that it wants – but they do have important economic implications. The adjustments that people make in their attempts to dodge taxes reduce economic efficiency.
Governments have a role to play in the provision of public goods, and in the regulation of externalities and “increasing returns” industries. In each of these roles, the government's activities have the potential to reduce economic inefficiency. But these activities must be funded through taxation, and taxation generates other inefficiencies. The social benefits of additional government expenditures will at some point fall short of the social costs of the additional taxation required to finance them, so that the intervention reduces welfare instead of raising it. The welfare gains of intervention will be maximized if the government targets its expenditures to generate the greatest social gains, and designs its tax system to minimize the damage done by it. These issues are discussed in the next few chapters.
Governments also, to greater or lesser degrees, attempt to reduce economic disparities by redistributing income. A major element of any redistributive policy is the design of the tax system, and the welfare costs associated with taxation limit the government's ability to redistribute income, or its willingness to do so.
Even if there were very few pure public goods of any importance, their properties would be worth investigating. Actual goods vary in the degree to which they are excludable and rivalrous. The private good (excludable and completely rivalrous) and the pure public good (non-excludable and completely non-rivalrous) mark the limits of this variation, and for that reason alone, pure public goods would be worth studying. But there are pure public goods that are of far greater consequence than lighthouses. This chapter examines two of them.
Knowledge is a pure public good: once something is known, that knowledge can be used by anyone, and its use by any one person does not preclude its use by others. As an example, our use of calculus to study economics does not prevent millions of other people from simultaneously applying calculus to entirely different problems in industry and science. Or consider penicillin. Each unit of penicillin is a private good, requiring scarce resources to produce and available for the treatment of just one patient, but the knowledge of penicillin's antibiotic properties, and of the methods of producing it cheaply, is a public good. Possession of this knowledge means that an infected scratch need no longer lead to death.
Public goods are generally divided into two categories, public consumption goods and public factors of production. These categories are not mutually exclusive.
A common property resource is a consumption good or factor of production whose ownership has not yet been decided. Ownership is established simply by taking the good. Individuals quite rationally believe that if they do not quickly appropriate the good themselves, someone else will and their own chance will be gone. (Rarely does anyone who finds a $10 bill lying on the street leave it where it is, on the grounds that he can always come back for it when he needs it.) This belief, if acted upon by everyone in a society, leads to an undesirable erosion of the resource. One example of this erosion is the exhaustion of fisheries that cannot be brought under the control of a single nation. The Grand Banks off Canada's east coast is one such case; the west coast salmon fishery is another. A similar erosion results from the poaching of elephants (for their tusks) and rhinoceroses (for their horns), which proceeds at such a pace that these species might not survive. Extinction is more than a theoretical possibility – as any dodo can tell you.
THE STATIC COMMON PROPERTY PROBLEM
For concreteness, consider the case of a fishery. The annual catch from the fishery, y, depends upon both the stock of fish, s, and the number of active fishing boats, b. (Non-integer values of b imply that at least one boat fishes for only part of the season.)
Many of the goods in our economy are rivalrous in consumption, meaning that consumption of a unit of the good by one person precludes consumption of that same unit by another person. Shoes have this property: if I am wearing a particular pair of shoes, you cannot wear the same pair. The goods ale and bread, discussed at such great length earlier, are both rivalrous in consumption.
Other goods are non-rivalrous in consumption, but these goods are much rarer than rivalrous goods. Consumption of a unit of a non-rivalrous good by one person does not preclude its consumption by other people. The classic example of a non-rivalrous good is the lighthouse, whose beam of light warns vessels away from hazardous rocks. If the lighthouse signal can be seen by one boat, it can be seen by all other boats in the vicinity. Knowledge is another non-rivalrous good. Once something has been discovered, one person's use of that knowledge does not preclude others from applying the same knowledge.
Rivalry and non-rivalry are extremes, and there are many goods that lie somewhere between these extremes. Often the degree of rivalry depends upon the number of people using the good. Suppose, for example, that one person is viewing a film in a theatre that seats one hundred people.