A Copenhagen for libertarians

The Copenhagen Consensus Center is devoted to trying to funnel government and private monies for development into their most cost-effective uses. They do this by bringing experts together to hash out priorities. The idea is simple, yet often neglected; when financial resources are limited, it is necessary to prioritize the effort. Every day, policymakers and … Continue reading A Copenhagen for libertarians

China and Porn

Although I respectfully disagree with Sven's take on the internet and porn*, his opt-in porn policy is certainly better than China's draconian attempt to "clean up the internet" by shutting down pornographic websites and opening over two thousand criminal investigations.  (Good luck, China!  And when you are finished, I'm sure you'll move on to easily and successfully end … Continue reading China and Porn

Kant and public policy

I've been having a philosophical debate on another thread with Mark LeBar.  Since he is way smarter than I, it hasn't been much of a debate, but it has been fun for me.  It also comes at a time when I'm finishing off my syllabus for next semester for an undergraduate class called "Theories of … Continue reading Kant and public policy

Free Favre!

What, exactly, has Brett Favre done wrong? I don't mean playing exceptionally poorly this year; I mean whatever it is that has led to the many-months-long investigation and has finally culminated in a $50,000 fine from the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Favre was accused of sending "objectionable photographs" and "inappropriate messages" to Jenn Sterger in … Continue reading Free Favre!

Gene Healy’s “Inner Scrooge” and the Worst Op-Eds of 2010

I quite enjoy reading op-eds and writing them is pretty fun too (though not well-paying for us part-timers!).  The obnoxious ones are even worth reading as they provide great insight into the writer if not the subject of the op-ed.  With that in mind, Gene Healy of the Cato Institute has an amusing op-ed on … Continue reading Gene Healy’s “Inner Scrooge” and the Worst Op-Eds of 2010

Please stop helping us

John Stossel's critiques usually aren't terribly sophisticated, but I still like them (since I'm not even a little sophisticated).  He does manage to understand market economics better than almost all of those sophisticated, Ivy League journalists who make up the MSM elite. This piece is based on analysis done by GMU's Todd Zywicki on the … Continue reading Please stop helping us

Is porn like a Happy Meal?

Many feminists and religious conservatives believe (btw: how often do those two groups agree?) that pornography has harmful external effects on society.  But one does not have to share those views to believe that it makes sense to shield children from pornography, most of which comes through the internet. But what is the best way … Continue reading Is porn like a Happy Meal?

Who Are the Most Admired Men and Women of 2010? The Poll is Open

The annual USA Today/ Gallup Poll on the most admired men and women of the year. President Obama tops the list of the most admired men and Secretary of State Clinton tops the list for the most admired women (sorry FLOTUS). The discussion of the results are presented in some detail at Gallup. Hamilton assured … Continue reading Who Are the Most Admired Men and Women of 2010? The Poll is Open

The Most Interesting Legal Scholar in the World

Ok, he's not going to be featured in a Dos Equis commercial anytime soon.  But given his fearless work on both ObamaCare and the Repeal Amendment, I hereby nominate Randy Barnett as the most interesting legal scholar in the world.  He is real smart but also intellectually (and legally) imaginative - and that latter trait frequently … Continue reading The Most Interesting Legal Scholar in the World

Another tax picture

Here is another picture on US tax payments using data from the Tax Foundation.  This picture represents the percentage of US tax filers who pay either no or negative income tax, by year. This trend has wobbled around a lot over the past 60 years, but I'm struck by the increase over the last quarter … Continue reading Another tax picture

Should You Take Your Dog to Work?

An interesting discussion of the question over at Political Science Job Rumors: here.  I particularly enjoyed the discussion of children vs. dogs that evolved out of the main thread (see pages 3, 4, and 5).  And does this "professional" picture (see second one down) seem a bit odd?    I'm ok with, say, a copy of Thucydides … Continue reading Should You Take Your Dog to Work?

Playing Scrooge on Christmas Eve

Grover Norquist and Patrick Gleason have an interesting opinion piece on Politico today entitled “Let States Go Bankrupt.” They correctly note that many of the states have significant unfunded liability obligations, a result largely of lavish pensions and health plans. The total is some $3 trillion. That may seem like a particularly modest sum given … Continue reading Playing Scrooge on Christmas Eve

Really? Billy the Kid?

Apparently Bill Richardson, Governor of New Mexico and Clinton-betrayor, is considering pardoning OldWest gunman Billy the Kid.  This has descendents of lawman Pat Garrett and New Mexico Territorial Gov. Lew Wallace outraged. I won't bore you with further details of this case (it has to do with whether the Territorial Governor went back on a … Continue reading Really? Billy the Kid?

Suggestions for a Different Kind of Christmas Gift

If you want to buy more stuff for your loved ones this Christmas, I'm not going to give you much of an opposing argument .  If you need help doing so, Megan McArdle can tell you (perhaps too much?) more (here, here, and here) about what to buy than I could.  As far as I'm concerned, books are … Continue reading Suggestions for a Different Kind of Christmas Gift

Did You Mean London, Ontario?

Parcel bombs have just exploded at the Swiss and Chilean embassies in Rome, according to the WSJ. I guess the TSA is going to have to give enhanced patdowns to even more children and elderly Americans now. (After having thought really hard about it for several minutes, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who is on the job … Continue reading Did You Mean London, Ontario?

Tax picture of the day

So I've been playing around with federal income tax data provided by the Tax Foundation.  The figure below shows the taxes (in constant 2000 dollars) paid by the top 1% and top 5% of tax filers.  The top 5% of earners paid close to 60% of all federal income taxes collected in 2008.  So much … Continue reading Tax picture of the day

DHS at the Salad Bar

With news that Al Qaeda may have thought about poisoning salad bars and buffets in the U.S., perhaps the Department of Homeland Security should think about posting a guard or TSA-like official inside restaurants across America.  It would be a great jobs program ("spoon ready," if you will)  and these agents could do double-time for Michelle Obama's … Continue reading DHS at the Salad Bar

Security Theater: Close Enough for Government Work

As we approach Christmas and AQ has once again promised a terrorist surprise, it is good to know that Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano--the woman responsible for orchestrating the TSA's "security theater"--is at the top of her game.  As she noted in an interview: “We are thousands of people are working 24/7, 364 days a year … Continue reading Security Theater: Close Enough for Government Work

Rail Failing Again

Yes trains are more aesthetically appealing than the bus.  Yes they seem "less low-rent" for the status conscious among us.  But rail is a bad idea for most American cities, especially compared to buses.  This has been shown time and time again across the United States.  Here is a recent study of the issue.      Therefore it is not … Continue reading Rail Failing Again

A Health Care Bleg

Could someone attempt to provide a reasonable defense of why we shouldn't allow the purchase of health insurance across state lines?  Is there any public interest in preventing said sales? I'd particularly love to hear from libgressives who oppose such a policy change.  And to (try to) incentivize other bloggers to provide such a defense, … Continue reading A Health Care Bleg

Sunday Morning Quotation – Happy Meal Edition

Three cheers for the common sense of Denise Bobcombe in response to the so-called danger Happy Meals present to children: "Are you going to be the parent or are you going to let your kids run you?" Unfortunately, this sense isn't ubiquitous, leading one person to launch a class-action lawsuit against McDonald's because of the Happy Meal.  See … Continue reading Sunday Morning Quotation – Happy Meal Edition

The Mirage of Climate Justice

Here is Mark Pennington's fifth guest post of the week.  It has been great to have him aboard, and I hope we'll have a chance to see his writing here again. The recent Cancun climate change conference attracted much less media attention than last year’s event in Copenhagen. Green activists and some politicians, however, continue … Continue reading The Mirage of Climate Justice

Forward It Creeps – The Paranoid Maximum Security Seeking State

According to the Washington Metro Transit Police, there is "no specific or credible threat to the [Washington subway] system at this time."   Reuters reports that, nonetheless, the Metro police are planning "to randomly select bags before passengers enter subway stations and they will swab them or have an explosives-sniffing dog check the bags." This makes total sense … Continue reading Forward It Creeps – The Paranoid Maximum Security Seeking State

Bounded Rationality, Exit, and Social Justice

Here is Mark Pennington's fourth guest post for Pileus: Two of my posts earlier this week (here and here) focussed on the institutional implications of limited rationality. My claim was that robust institutions are those that minimise the consequence of inevitable human errors. In a nutshell, this is the Hayekian argument for the competitive ‘exit’ principle … Continue reading Bounded Rationality, Exit, and Social Justice

Jumping for joy

On the recent cover of Time there is a little teaser: “Did Obama fight or cave?” Dumb question.  The answer is that he did neither.  He jumped…for joy.   I wrote recently that the new tax deal isn’t hate-worthy.  Sensible Democrats should love it, even if they have to complain publicly about how the President sold … Continue reading Jumping for joy

The Irrelevance of Educational Externalities

Mark Pennington's third guest post here on Pileus: Last week a gathering of British students, organised by the far left (did anybody count the number of Socialist Worker posters on display), trashed much of Westminster, London. In a rare admission by some of their lecturers that ‘incentives matter,’ some of the students had been ‘encouraged’ … Continue reading The Irrelevance of Educational Externalities

An emerging order?

The Hill is reporting on a fascinating news conference just held by GOP spending overlords.  Here is their account: "GOP Policy Committee Chairman John Thune (S.D.) and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) convened a Wednesday morning press conference to criticize Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for trying to speed the package … Continue reading An emerging order?

Klein, Adam Smith, and Overlordship

Economist Daniel Klein of George Mason University has been doing a lot of interesting work recently. Klein is an Adam Smith scholar in his own right, but he has also been encouraging his students to work on Smith as well. He has recently supervised two PhD dissertations on Smith: 1. Brandon Lucas recently defended his … Continue reading Klein, Adam Smith, and Overlordship

Getting serious about mandates

The provocative legal decision this week that ruled private health insurance mandates to be unconstitutional has got me thinking.   Mandated insurance purchases are necessary, proponents claim, because the insurance industry will collapse unless (this is only a necessity because the government is essentially eliminating ordinary market insurance, but I digress) we are forced to prop … Continue reading Getting serious about mandates

Stare Decisis, Wickard, and Obamacare

Is it just me or is anyone else concerned that the judicial and public discussion of the commerce clause in relation to Obamacare - even by libertarians - has (by neglect or omission) conceded too much and essentially focused the fight on the federal government's regulation of inactivity but not activity?  I get the legal and political … Continue reading Stare Decisis, Wickard, and Obamacare

Long Live Creative Destruction

Slate has an interesting article up about the demise of film projectionists.  The piece describes the process by which traditional films are projected at movie theatres and some of the technology involved (I didn't realize that film reels had to be turned into "platters" by individual projectionists at the theatre).  The bottom line, though, is that digital films (following platters and better bulbs) … Continue reading Long Live Creative Destruction

Dignity and Preciousness

I gave a talk to the Yeshiva College Philosophy Club recently in which I made the following claim: In my view, what gives people dignity, what is admirable and noble in them, is precisely their capacity for moral agency. It is when they have the liberty to make free choices but are required to take … Continue reading Dignity and Preciousness

Private versus Public Nudging

Here is Mark Pennington in his second post as our guest-blogger this week. "Private versus Public Nudging" by Mark Pennington Last week I attended a speech by Richard Thaler, of ‘Nudge’ fame. Professor Thaler is an engaging speaker. His assertion that ‘libertarian paternalism’ is merely an extension of methods widely adopted in daily life is … Continue reading Private versus Public Nudging

Why I don’t hate the new tax deal (yet)

I am not a fan of the Obama/McConnell tax bargain.   I'm in favor of economic policies that promote growth and reduce the size and scope of government.  Obviously, this deal doesn't do those things. On the other hand, I have to say that I don't hate this deal.  Here are my reasons: 1. My usual … Continue reading Why I don’t hate the new tax deal (yet)

Individual Mandate Unconstitutional

Breaking news from Virginia federal district court. Consider this an open thread on the topic. I will try to update with reaction from around the web. UPDATE: Here's a link to the decision (PDF). SCOTUSblog has a summary. Orin Kerr says Judge Hudson's decision contains a significant, possibly fatal error.  

A rotten tax deal?

On the right there is growing resistance to the tax deal Republican leaders negotiated with President Obama. The deal trades another extension of the Bush tax cuts for something like $500 billion in new spending and a small cut to the payroll tax (it's devilishly hard to find any concrete details on the plan online … Continue reading A rotten tax deal?

Systemic Failure in Markets and Politics

Below is Mark Pennington's first guest post.  As you can see, it will be an interesting week! - GC Mark Pennington I am delighted to have been invited to contribute as the guest blogger on Pileus this week and to air some of the central ideas in my new book, Robust Political Economy: Classical Liberalism … Continue reading Systemic Failure in Markets and Politics