TV Commercial Volume Legislation – Pareto Optimal?

According to the AP, Congress is set to pass a law that would mandate standards equalizing the volume of programming and television commercials.  Specifically:  Legislation to turn down the volume on loud TV commercials that send couch potatoes diving for their remote controls looks like it'll soon become law.  The Senate late Wednesday unanimously passed a bill … Continue reading TV Commercial Volume Legislation – Pareto Optimal?

A Winning Agenda

Like many other people, I was underwhelmed by the recently released Republican "Pledge to America." Longwinded, wishy-washy, and mostly tinkering on the edges. I am not a member of the Republican Party (or any other party), and I am indeed one of those who fails to much difference of substance between the two major parties---at … Continue reading A Winning Agenda

Goldberg on education policy

Jonah Goldberg on education policy: But is there another major area of American public policy that is more screwed up and more completely the fault of one ideological side [than education]? Which party do the teachers’ unions support overwhelmingly? What is the ideological outlook of the bureaucrats at the Department of Education? Which party claims … Continue reading Goldberg on education policy

A Theory of Changing Moral Sentiments – Circumcision Edition

Kwame Anthony Appiah has a neat thought-provoking piece in the Washington Post that discusses what currently tolerated practices are likely to meet with future moral condemnation.  He argues that there are "three signs that a particular practice is destined for future condemnation": First, people have already heard the arguments against the practice. The case against slavery didn’t emerge in … Continue reading A Theory of Changing Moral Sentiments – Circumcision Edition

The non-exploding federal government

Many people (including me) take the ever increasing growth in government expenditures as a basic article of faith.   Over the 20th century, we had about a 23-fold increase in real GDP, but a 200-fold increase in real government expenditures.  In other words, from 1900-2000, federal expenditures grew at a rate nearly 10 times the growth … Continue reading The non-exploding federal government

Has Income Inequality Really Risen?

It has long been commonplace to assert that income inequality has been rising in the U.S. since the 1970s. Following Marc's post about Robert Reich's book and my reply to Roderick Long's argument for moral concern about inequality, I thought readers might be interested in a debate going on at the Economist over new data … Continue reading Has Income Inequality Really Risen?

Myths of the Fall

I often disagree with Robert Reich, but nonetheless find his arguments quite interesting. From what I gather, his forthcoming book (After Shock) is going to situate the financial collapse and the troubled recovery in a longer record of declining wages (a product of the decline of manufacturing) and growing inequality (a product of these declines … Continue reading Myths of the Fall

Why Good Principle Doesn’t Make Good Politics

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, under a tough re-election challenge from Republican Sharron Angle, is running ads slamming Angle for opposing health insurance mandates. Angle was one of two state senators to vote against mandated coverage of colonoscopies and correctly argued that these mandates drive up costs for … Continue reading Why Good Principle Doesn’t Make Good Politics

Are These Facts Surprising?

From George Will's recent column on gender politics: "At Bryn Mawr, 4 percent of 2010 graduates majored in chemistry, 2 percent in computer science. At Smith, half of 1 percent were physics majors; 1.4 percent majored in computer science. In 2009 at Barnard, one third of 1 percent majored in physics and astronomy." But does … Continue reading Are These Facts Surprising?

Mandatory Gun Ownership – and an Aside on the Confederacy

The Financial Times has an interesting piece and photo essay on Kennesaw, Georgia, where gun ownership is legally required.  Naturally, I disagree with any law forcing individuals to purchase something from the private sector - whether it is health insurance or a gun.  However, as laws go, this is pretty harmless since it is not enforced and there … Continue reading Mandatory Gun Ownership – and an Aside on the Confederacy

More on Inequality

Fellow blogger Jason Sorens recently asked whether we should care about inequality - and argued in the negative while stressing that we should care more about poverty and market power imbalances. But even if we do care about inequality, it still begs the questions of what causes inequality and how to deal with it.  Enter economist Daron Acemoglu (and his frequent … Continue reading More on Inequality

The Only Issues

I mentioned in a previous post that we as a nation face two problems that are far and away the most pressing and menacing, and that almost every other problem---even all the rest combined---barely amount to a hill of beans in comparison. Those problems are: (1) our public debt, at the federal, state, and local … Continue reading The Only Issues

Stephen Colbert: Doing the People’s Business

For those looking to start the weekend early, a video of Stephen Colbert’s opening statement (before his congressional testimony). On the one hand, one might see this as troublesome. After all, Congress has not been able to come to a resolution on the Bush tax cuts; it has not yet passed a single spending bill … Continue reading Stephen Colbert: Doing the People’s Business

Should We Care About Inequality?

Left-libertarian market anarchist Roderick Long argues that worrying about socioeconomic inequality as such does not count as envy. He gives some examples in support of the position, including a utility that will shut off service to a non-paying customer, while a customer can't shut off payment to a utility with poor service, and a tenant … Continue reading Should We Care About Inequality?

The GOP: Getting Serious About Governing?

I have noted before that the contemporary GOP seemed to be AWOL in the war of ideas, citing John Boehner’s recent remarks in Cleveland as exhibit A. Now it appears that the GOP is attempting to shake its recent label as the “Party of No” by releasing a 20 page document entitled A Pledge to … Continue reading The GOP: Getting Serious About Governing?

Barnett on the Supreme Court on the Individual Mandate

While my fellow Pilei debate the role that moderate Republicans can play in a future return to fiscal sobriety, libertarian law prof Randy Barnett considers whether, with respect to the PPACA, it even matters. What are the chances that the Supreme Court strikes down the individual mandate, including potentially the entire bill, which lacks a … Continue reading Barnett on the Supreme Court on the Individual Mandate

Why party matters: a simple example

The talk about how Republicans are really no different than Democrats is very tiresome.  I won't tire our readers more with a long discussion.  But let me just give one illustration. The "Paycheck Fairness Bill" is still alive in Congress and still has  possibility of passing.  This is a terrible, awful, horrible, despicable, stupid bill … Continue reading Why party matters: a simple example

Washington and the “Spirit of Party”

We have had some discussion on the curious case of Christine O'Donnell (here), and on the apparently dwindling advantage Republicans are enjoying over Democrats as we transition from primaries to the general election (here). For the record, I am not a member of any political party. I am, moreover, repelled by arguments that people should … Continue reading Washington and the “Spirit of Party”

Health Care Reform in a Dynamic Environment: Any Surprises?

The health care reforms were designed to expand coverage and “bend the cost curve.” Did no one suspect that insurers would muster a proactive response to changes in policy? In Connecticut: “Health insurers are asking for immediate rate hikes of more than 20 percent in Connecticut for some plans, citing rising medical costs and federal … Continue reading Health Care Reform in a Dynamic Environment: Any Surprises?

This Time Will Be Different?

The new Gallup generic ballot for Congress shows that things are tightening as the midterm elections approach. In August, Republicans enjoyed an unprecedented 49% to 43% lead. As of today, the lead has dwindled to 46% to 45%. Assuming that the change in the polls is accurate, what explains the tightening numbers? Certainly, the Democrats … Continue reading This Time Will Be Different?

The tea party afterglow

My colleague Jim has posted (see below) that Christine O'Donnell may be a nutcase, but she will likely be a reliable deficit hawk. Sounds good. Stephen Spruiell at NRO makes the case against O'Donnell's Democratic opponent, Chris Coons, as a "reliable down-the-line, tick-the-box, reliable vote for President Obama and the Democratic leadership."  Sounds terrible. Both … Continue reading The tea party afterglow

O’Donnell in Double, Double Toil and Trouble

So about a decade ago Christine O'Donnell somehow got on the vile Bill Maher's "Politically Incorrect" and claimed that while in high school---yes, high school---she had "dabbled into witchcraft." You can see the "Politically Incorrect" clip here. Now, you don't have to be Cal Lightman to realize, on watching that clip, that she's making it … Continue reading O’Donnell in Double, Double Toil and Trouble

More on kids, risk, and liberty

A little while back, I had a short post on the sad death of a 13-year-old motorcyclist and promoted the idea that the state has a critical interest in protecting children from the foolishness of their parents.  This, to me, is one of the central holes in classical liberal thought, that rational, autonomous adults just … Continue reading More on kids, risk, and liberty

The Poverty Rate: Clearly We Are Doing Something Wrong

The headlines are ablaze with news about the new poverty statistics released by the Census  Bureau.  As Carol Morello notes in the lead to a front page story in today’s Washington Post In the second year of a brutal recession, the ranks of the American poor soared to their highest level in half a century … Continue reading The Poverty Rate: Clearly We Are Doing Something Wrong

Big Government’s Latest Expose

Think what you will of Andrew Breitbart as a person, but there's no question that his Big Government site has succeeded in exposing the dirty underbelly of D.C. politics in a way that the mainstream media appear afraid to touch. The Eleanor Holmes Norton audio recording, in which she solicits a contribution from a lobbyist … Continue reading Big Government’s Latest Expose

Lowering the Drinking Age, But Only For Military Members – or Getting Closer to Robert Heinlein’s World

If you've read Robert Heinlein's science fiction novel Starship Troopers (not the terrible movie better known for its mixed-gender shower scene than its cinematic quality), you may remember that in his fictional world the right to vote is granted to only those who have served the state.  Military service, in particular, won veterans the vote.  Fortunately, such a regime is not a real possibility here in … Continue reading Lowering the Drinking Age, But Only For Military Members – or Getting Closer to Robert Heinlein’s World

Quotation of the Day – Welch v. Sullivan

I used to read Andrew Sullivan pretty religiously....before he started to become absolutely fixated on a few subjects and grew quite boring.  I still checked his site out on occasion until he started to engage in weird (and offensive) Sarah Palin conspiracy theories, and I haven't been back since.  Despite only reading half the Welch-Sullivan debate on … Continue reading Quotation of the Day – Welch v. Sullivan

Ideas and the Right

It is said with much confidence lately that the so-called "Right" is bereft of ideas, especially compared to the twenty year period from, say 1962-1982.  There is something to the relative part of the argument - but that is because the earlier period was so rich with proposals and ideas to lay out a new course following the … Continue reading Ideas and the Right

Plagiarism and Essay Mills: An Experiment

Dan Ariely describes an experiment in which he and colleague solicited essays from four websites dedicated to helping students cheat, paying between $150 and $216 for each. The essays were for a hypothetical social psychology class. All four essays were terrible -- real F-quality material even if the student weren't caught. Richly, two of the … Continue reading Plagiarism and Essay Mills: An Experiment

Living a Life of Entitlement, for Now

Sara Murray (Wall Street Journal) has an interesting piece, “Obstacle to Deficit Cutting: A Nation on Entitlements.” The lead paragraphs lay out the problem: Efforts to tame America's ballooning budget deficit could soon confront a daunting reality: Nearly half of all Americans live in a household in which someone receives government benefits, more than at … Continue reading Living a Life of Entitlement, for Now

Passion v. Reason in Delaware (and elsewhere)

In the 2008 Election, Obama beat McCain in Delaware by 25 percentage points.   Delaware is a blue state.  It is always going to be a blue state.  Any Republican who is going to maintain office in Delaware is going to have to be a centrist candidate who appeals to independents and conservative Democrats. It … Continue reading Passion v. Reason in Delaware (and elsewhere)

President Obama Back in the Schools

As you may remember, President Obama instigated no small amount of controversy last year over his campaign speech to school children celebrating himself hard work.  The most disgusting part of the whole thing, though, was the recommended teaching materials put out by the Department of Education that originally included asking students to write letters "about what they can … Continue reading President Obama Back in the Schools

County Sues Farmer Over Too Many Crops

Another bizarre case of town government versus the property owner. DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. -- DeKalb County is suing a local farmer for growing too many vegetables, but he said he will fight the charges in the ongoing battle neighbors call “Cabbagegate.” Fig trees, broccoli and cabbages are among the many greens that line the soil … Continue reading County Sues Farmer Over Too Many Crops

Tomorrow’s Primaries in NY and NH

Tomorrow my current and future states of residence are holding primaries. In New York the Republican gubernatorial contest has generated quite a lot of controversy, even though the nominee is likely to lose to Andrew Cuomo, while I've heard almost nothing about the special senatorial contest, even though that nominee has a fair shot at … Continue reading Tomorrow’s Primaries in NY and NH

Newt Gingrich: the Gift that Keeps on Giving

Grover’s post about the 17 potential presidential hopefuls presents former Speaker New Gingrich as a member of the A-team.  Newt has always been a source of entertainment (remember the tyrannosaurus skull he had moved from the Smithsonian to the Speaker’s Office).   Now that he has ratcheted up his interviews and speeches (undoubtedly as a effort … Continue reading Newt Gingrich: the Gift that Keeps on Giving

2012 Republican Presidential Field

Paul Bedard of U.S. News and World Report lists 17 potential Presidential hopefuls on the Republican side.  John Bolton.... are you kidding?  And aside from the neocons and some over at National Review, do conservatives really "adore" him?    A bit too early to do serious horserace stuff.  Is it me, or does Daniels stand out from this crowd?  More … Continue reading 2012 Republican Presidential Field