The Nationalist Politics of the al-Megrahi Release

The release of the terminally ill Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, convicted of involvement in the Lockerbie airplane bombing, is in the news again, due to the oil spill, of all things. The U.S. Congress wants to know whether there was a quid pro quo: whether BP lobbied the Scottish government to release Megrahi so that Libya would … Continue reading The Nationalist Politics of the al-Megrahi Release

Rants and Raves

1. The state government of Massachussets is engaged in a brinksmanship battle over gambling: how many casino resorts to allow, how many slots-only casinos, etc.  Why is this up to the state government? I don't think there is any compelling state interest here. If the owners of the relevant property, which is apparently properly zoned … Continue reading Rants and Raves

Operation “Drain the Swamp” Update

In 2006, Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) famously pledged to "drain the swamp" of corruption" and to "turn this Congress into the most honest and open Congress in history. That's my pledge — that is what I intend to do."  Time for an update on Operation Drain the Swamp. Following the resignation of Rep. Eric Massa … Continue reading Operation “Drain the Swamp” Update

Recovery Summer Update

The Summer Recovery Tour has just completed its scheduled stop at Yellowstone National Park, as the touching account on the White House Blog informs us. Meanwhile... The Beige Book, released yesterday, “underscored the Fed’s view that the recovery, while still moving forward, is progressing at a slower pace than earlier in the year.” (BusinessWeek) James … Continue reading Recovery Summer Update

Atlas Shrugged – Movie Edition

Well, it looks like an Atlas Shrugged movie is going to get made after all.  Reason TV has a short clip with the director and the actor playing Hank Rearden here.  In case you haven't heard, the plan is for this to be a trilogy - so we'll only get the first 127 pages in Part I. … Continue reading Atlas Shrugged – Movie Edition

What’s in the Sausage?

As commentators begin to read the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, they are discovering some hidden gems. The most recent discoveries: Diversifying the Portfolio (via Carrie Budoff Brown at Politico): Congress gives the federal government authority to terminate contracts with any financial firm that fails to ensure the “fair inclusion” of women … Continue reading What’s in the Sausage?

Advice for the GOP: Soak the rich

I don't remember that much from my public finance class in graduate school except one thing: all taxes (except politically irrelevant lump-sum taxes) cause market distortions.  In other words, they all cause dead weight losses.  This is true of payroll taxes, consumption taxes, income taxes, capital gains taxes.  Indeed, a popular exercise in public finance … Continue reading Advice for the GOP: Soak the rich

“In the Long Run, We’re All Dead.”

Democrats heaped praise on the Congressional Budget Office during the health care debates (remember SpeakerPelosi’s  breathless excitement over the “scoring” from the “bipartisan” Congressional Budget Office?).  The CBO’s newest “Long-term Budget Projections” have not engendered the same level of attention…but it should. The report was released about a month ago and my guess is that … Continue reading “In the Long Run, We’re All Dead.”

Who Is John . . . ?

A row has broken out in higher education regarding grants that the BB&T Foundation has made to some institutions, grants that typically require, as a condition of receiving the money, that Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged be assigned in its entirety. The grants apparently do not stipulate what else may or might be taught, nor do … Continue reading Who Is John . . . ?

Exaggerating about exaggerating

Friend and sometime Pileus commenter Damon Linker has a post in the New Republic that left me unsettled.   I have to say that Linker's usually measured conclusions are a tad unhinged. He correctly points out that the historical norm of American journalism is not one of high-minded neutrality, but one of passionate partisanship.  Still, … Continue reading Exaggerating about exaggerating

For Our New Readers – and for loyal ones who may have missed these

Given that we have a lot of new readers out there, I thought it would be useful to post together a few of our most interesting past pieces: 1.  Marc Eisner's fiscal reality check where he explains why our fiscal situation is not going to return to the 1990's again (even with a Republican midterm victory a la 1994). … Continue reading For Our New Readers – and for loyal ones who may have missed these

Who wants a ride on this boat?

OK,  I'm blatantly stealing content here, but the following snip from John Fund in the "Political Diary" newsletter from is too much to pass by: "Let's not get silly here." That was Senator John Kerry's response Friday to questions about his new $7 million yacht, Isabel, which last week was berthed in Rhode Island … Continue reading Who wants a ride on this boat?

Academic Tenure, RIP?

By way of disclosure: I have tenure at a private university. I must admit that I love the job protection, the intellectual freedom, and the lifestyle that are available to tenured professors. But I have a very difficult time making a principled case for retaining tenure as an institution. As we enter a new hiring … Continue reading Academic Tenure, RIP?

We Aren’t Asking for the President to Fly Commercial

This story about Obama's entourage at the 2009 G-20 is evidence of what I was talking about earlier in terms of how our leaders have assembled trappings and habits more appropriate to monarchs.  Indeed, it strikes me as a bit obscene: Obama arrived with 500 staff in tow, including 200 Secret Service agents, a team of six … Continue reading We Aren’t Asking for the President to Fly Commercial

Sunday Morning Quotation

Apropos of North Korea's bluster, the following from Kenneth Waltz - the arch realist - in his co-authored book The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: A Debate: Deterrent strategies lower the probability that wars will begin.  If wars start nevertheless, deterrent strategies lower the probability that they will be carried very far.  Nuclear weapons lessen the … Continue reading Sunday Morning Quotation

A tasty market outcome

As I write this, the’s front page story is on an attempt to “corner the market” in chocolate.  Given that cocoa is grown and processed in lots of places (and eaten almost everywhere), cornering the market seemed like a highly improbable economic outcome.  But, hey, how could the “paper of record” be misleading? According … Continue reading A tasty market outcome

Randy Barnett on Obamacare – and a Note on Conscription

Barnett is one of the most interesting voices on the law out there.  I wonder what my fellow blogger Marcus Cole thinks about his work.... Here is a discussion with Barnett about Obamacare from the Wall Street Journal.   It includes an interesting discussion of the mandate as a "commandeering of the people": "What is the … Continue reading Randy Barnett on Obamacare – and a Note on Conscription

FinReg, Sherrod and the Attention Cycle

Even though the President should have been able to claim some political credit for the financial regulation legislation (regardless of its ultimately efficacy), defeat was once again snatched from the jaws of victory. The  White House became embroiled in the USDA’s firing of Shirley Sherrod, losing control of the news cycle. As WaPo noted: Remember … Continue reading FinReg, Sherrod and the Attention Cycle

Cap-and-trade: Will the dead rise again?

Senate Majority Leader Reid has declared cap-and-trade dead (for now). As the Christian Science Monitor notes: In a bid to win Republican support, Democrats will drop proposed controls on greenhouse gas emissions in favor of more limited measures that have attracted bipartisan support in the past. These include: lifting the liability cap to hold BP … Continue reading Cap-and-trade: Will the dead rise again?

Best Books of the 20th Century?

I recently wandered upon a few "best non-fiction books of the 20th century" lists, such as this one from National Review and this one from ISI.  What surprises me most is that Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia is not on either of these lists.  So, no Nozick but Kenneth Starr's Starr Report makes the NR list?  Huh?!  Does … Continue reading Best Books of the 20th Century?

Ready, Fire, Aim

Doesn't the Shirley Sherrod controversy speak to the wisdom of taking a moment before we fire people?  I appreciate the importance of punishment and forcing people to take responsibility for their actions/misdeeds.  However, I would argue that any boss or executive out there should think very long and hard before firing someone since it has so many negative repurcussions on the life and … Continue reading Ready, Fire, Aim

Prime Minister Flies Commercial

According to press reports, British Prime Minister David Cameron flew commercial to Washington for his meetings in the U.S.  I'm sure that there was a strong element of politics here, but I'll fall for it and note that this was great to see.  I especially enjoyed the comment from No. 10:  "When we are asking the country to tighten their … Continue reading Prime Minister Flies Commercial

Libertarians and Porn

Reason has produced about 20 posts/articles/tweets just this month on the John Stagliano trial   For those who don't read Reason's blog as religiously as I do or who aren't into adult films pornography, Stagliano is a big name in both the porn world and the libertarian world.  In terms of the latter, he is a financial supporter of libertarians and libertarian causes, including the Reason Foundation (and in … Continue reading Libertarians and Porn

Financial Regulation Update

The President is scheduled to sign the 2,315 page Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act at the Ronald Reagan building today, July 21, 2010. His prepared remarks read: These reforms represent the strongest consumer financial protections in history. And these protections will be enforced by a new consumer watchdog with just one job: … Continue reading Financial Regulation Update

This Time is Different?

I have been working through the stack of books I have accumulated in the wake of the global financial crisis. One of the best, completed on a rather long set of plane rides (thank you Delta for serial delays) was Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth S. Rogoff, This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial … Continue reading This Time is Different?

Thank God for the South

There is a lot of talk these days about the need for enlightened and educated people to help guide---nudgeif you will---people's choices. Academics especially have a penchant for believing it their right, perhaps even their humanitarian duty, to protect others from their own bad decisions. Albert Jay Nock called this a "monstrous itch" to run … Continue reading Thank God for the South

Whither the U.S. – South Korea Alliance?

Doug Bandow on the U.S. - South Korea alliance.  I think what these types of pieces about particular alliances suggest is that we reallly need to have a broader discussion of our overall grand strategy and how any particular relationship fits (or does not fit) into it.  And everything should be on the table for that discussion, including NATO.

Crisis and Leviathan: the Continuing Saga

A three part series in the Washington Post (“Top Secret America”) should prove quite interesting.  Dana Priest andWilliam Arkin are exploring the security state that has emerged in the wake of 9/11. The lead quote: The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, … Continue reading Crisis and Leviathan: the Continuing Saga

Sunday Morning Quotation

Jacqueline Novogratz in The Blue Sweater discussing microfinance as an alternative to typical development aid: By lending women money instead of giving hand-outs, we would signal our high expectations for them and give them the chance to do something for their own lives rather than waiting for the "experts" to give them things they might … Continue reading Sunday Morning Quotation

Children and Adults

In the WSJ yesterday, Peggy Noonan argued that President Obama might have been well served if he had had some "adult supervision"---someone, that is, older and wiser who could have advised Obama to steer away from issues that appealed to him out of his youthful but naive enthusiasm and toward issues that mattered more for the … Continue reading Children and Adults

A Word of Thanks to Four Black Men and A Gun

As an American, I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to many, many people who have risked and given their lives to defend our liberty. But as I reflect on the recent Supreme Court decision in McDonald v. City of Chicago, I thought I should take a moment to mention four Americans who have made … Continue reading A Word of Thanks to Four Black Men and A Gun

Let’s call a game a game

This week saw the passing of George Steinbrenner.   As a kid, I loved the New York Yankees.  I remember watching the World Series game in which Reggie hit three home runs.  Steinbrenner made this possible.  Steinbrenner was also a jerk.  Not a garden-variety, see-one-everyday type of jerk, but a jerk of monumental proportions.  He was … Continue reading Let’s call a game a game

Libertarians’ Proper Allies

Reason magazine recently hosted a debate in its pages over "where do libertarians belong?" The question was really whether libertarians ought to continue a tactical alliance with Republicans and the right, embark on a "liberaltarian" project, or disassociate themselves from both sides. The Cato Institute's Brink Lindsey had previously argued in favor of the "liberaltarian" … Continue reading Libertarians’ Proper Allies

Ratio of Farmers to Department of Agriculture Employees

Depending on how you calculate the numbers (which is trickier than it seems), the ratio is anywhere from 1:11 to 1:510.  Here is a discussion of such calculations from Politifact, a neat service of the St. Petersburg Times and the Miami Herald: Using 105,000 total USDA employees and the BLS figure of 1.2 million farmers … Continue reading Ratio of Farmers to Department of Agriculture Employees

Can we make sense of fear?

If you are bored enough to dig through my older posts, you will find the argument that a central driver of the recent financial crisis (and business cycles generally) is fear and that, unfortunately, we are lacking any kind of theory of fear.  Keynes understood it was important, but did little to explain it. Victor … Continue reading Can we make sense of fear?

O to Be in Academia

When I speak to people outside of academia about some of the things that go on inside it, they often don't believe me. But I never lie about such things. Here is one of the stories people find hard to believe. I defended my dissertation in the philosophy department of the University of Chicago in … Continue reading O to Be in Academia

The Economy and Migration

The Migration Policy Institute estimates that the total stock of illegal immigrants in the United States has fallen slightly, from 12.1 to 11.9 million, between July 2008 and July 2009, due to the poor economy. (Inflows of legal migrants continue.) What's interesting is that those numbers haven't fallen more. The Economist argues that even in … Continue reading The Economy and Migration