“Which States Are Most Free?” at Cato

William Ruger and I will be participating in a discussion of our new study, Freedom in the 50 States 2011, at the Cato Institute on Wednesday June 8 at 4 PM. Michael Barone will be commenting, and John Samples will moderate. All Pileites in the DC area are of course very welcome, and the event … Continue reading “Which States Are Most Free?” at Cato

Do We Need a Commerce Department?

President Obama has just announced his nominee to be the next Secretary of the Commerce Department. In the WSJ's words: "President Barack Obama will nominate John Bryson, a senior adviser to the private-equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., to be his next commerce secretary." The Journal continues: Mr. Bryson, one of 20 senior advisers … Continue reading Do We Need a Commerce Department?

Eye for an Eye: Retribution or Restitution?

I recently came across this interesting, five-year-old interview with law professor William Ian Miller on "talionic" law in the Middle Ages, which specified literal "eye for an eye" justice. Talionic law developed in societies that lacked stable state institutions, like Iceland and early England. As such, it was embedded in strong extended-family institutions that used … Continue reading Eye for an Eye: Retribution or Restitution?

The USPS Nears Collapse: What to Do, What to Do?

Bloomberg BusinessWeek has a long story outlining the desperate financial situation that the United States Postal Service is facing. The USPS is currently approximately $15 billion in debt, and with revenues continuing to drop---and, as is becoming the all-too-familiar refrain with government agencies these days, costs of health care and retirement benefits for workers are rising rapidly. … Continue reading The USPS Nears Collapse: What to Do, What to Do?

City and State Welcome Signs

Wouldn't it be nice if city and state welcome signs were simply honest to goodness "welcomes" as opposed to subtle campaign signs for incumbents who get to advertise their name and associate it with a positive message?  Given that name recognition is an important commodity in elections, incumbents who plaster their names on welcome signs and every … Continue reading City and State Welcome Signs

Worst economic reporting of the week

I don't expect much from mainstream journalists, but this quote from Fareed Zakaria at Time made me puke: The good news is that the American economy is back to its pre-crisis size. The U.S. GDP is now about $13.5 trillion, a bit above what it was in 2007, before the financial crisis. The bad news … Continue reading Worst economic reporting of the week

Frightening Sentences of the Day

From Peter Ubel in Free Market Madness: Why Human Nature Is at Odds with Economics---And Why It Matters (Harvard Business Press, 2009): The government could, theoretically, change the finances of the food industry enough to halt the obesity epidemic. [...] Given that information alone may not suffice to encourage better eating habits, policy makers should … Continue reading Frightening Sentences of the Day

Are You a Sovereign Citizen?

A student asked me whether I had heard of a loosely organized group of people calling themselves "Sovereign Citizens." I had not. It turns out that 60 Minutes recently did a story on them (available here), in which they come off largely as deranged people looking for an excuse to engage in violence. The 60 … Continue reading Are You a Sovereign Citizen?

A Deficit-Neutral Plan to Slash Unemployment

While the U.S. economy has been officially out of recession for a while and growing at a decent clip (1.8% at a seasonally adjusted annual rate in the first quarter of this year, 3.1% in the last quarter of 2010 - see chart), unemployment remains very unusually high, 9.0% in April 2011 (seasonally adjusted), compared … Continue reading A Deficit-Neutral Plan to Slash Unemployment

What is the carbon footprint of a U2 concert?

You know, just asking.  I started contemplating this as we were walking away from the Stadium and saw easily 100 semi trucks in the parking lot, with their diesel engines running of course.  And then there was all the travel involved in getting 40,000+ people to the stadium from all over the state, plus probably … Continue reading What is the carbon footprint of a U2 concert?

The Last Days of Public School

My son on his day in public school: We got to watch videos all day and no learning. As you might guess, I was thrilled to hear this.  Perhaps he should testify in front of the legislature when teachers claim they are overworked and underpaid?  And I supposedly live in a district with excellent schools!  I … Continue reading The Last Days of Public School

Humble beginnings

Writing at NRO, Christian Schneider is annoyed at Tim Pawlenty's playing up his humble beginnings.  He asks, "is it really relevant to anything?"  The answer is: absolutely! Humble beginnings, in themselves, do not qualify oneself for office any more than going to a prep school disqualifies.  As Schneider correctly notes, it is what one will … Continue reading Humble beginnings

Privacy and the “Nothing to Hide” Trope

After reading this interesting excerpt from a new book on privacy by Daniel Solove, I've got to add one more tome to the pile (Nothing to Hide: The False Tradeoff Between Privacy and Security, Yale University Press).  Solove takes on the the "Nothing to Hide" argument made by those who want to increase surveillance and interfere … Continue reading Privacy and the “Nothing to Hide” Trope

Say It Ain’t So

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels is apparently not running for President.  Even though I still think the smart money is on President Obama to win reelection, I would have liked to have seen Daniels run on a fiscal hawk platform combined with his truce on social issues.  The adult vs the Red Menace and its enablers.   For the … Continue reading Say It Ain’t So

Sunday Morning Quotation – War Powers Resolution, Section 5b

Given what the United States has been doing in Libya for the last 60 days or so, here is a relevant part of the War Powers Resolution: SEC. 5. (b) Within sixty calendar days after a report is submitted or is required to be submitted pursuant to section 4(a)(1), whichever is earlier, the President shall … Continue reading Sunday Morning Quotation – War Powers Resolution, Section 5b

Huntsman: No-Label Libertarianism?

Mitch Daniels seems to be the potential Republican presidential candidate getting the most attention from libertarians if one excludes the forthrightly libertarian candidates Gary Johnson and Ron Paul. Our own Grover Cleveland has expressed his man-crush here, while Ilya Somin puts the case for Daniels here. But I want to take a look at Jon … Continue reading Huntsman: No-Label Libertarianism?

How Important Was Benjamin Strong?

Megan McArdle asked recently whether the rape charges against IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn could have a negative impact on attempts to deal with the current economic crisis within the Eurozone.  In the process, she notes that an argument could be made that the absence of Benjamin Strong in the 1930's contributed to the inability of authorities … Continue reading How Important Was Benjamin Strong?

What Caused Recent Tax Increases at the State Level?

The recent recession cut deeply into state treasuries, forcing legislatures to raise taxes or cut spending or both to eliminate budget deficits. It is interesting to note which states opted for big tax hikes over big spending cuts. USNews Money blogger Rick Newman has compiled a list of the 10 states with the largest enacted … Continue reading What Caused Recent Tax Increases at the State Level?

U.S. manufacturing continues to impress

Paul Krugman's column today in the Times is full of the usual "everything bad is the fault of Republicans" drivel.  He is trying to claim that recent good news on manufacturing is the result of the Administration keeping the value of the dollar low in the face of GOP opposition.  So, a weak dollar leads … Continue reading U.S. manufacturing continues to impress

Liberty: the example of circumcision

The Seattle Times, Slate, and other outlets have run interesting stories in the last couple of days discussing a new initiative that will appear on this November's ballot in San Francisco--and hold onto your privates, gentlemen: It would ban circumcision for all minors (under age 18), rendering it a misdemeanor punishable by up to one … Continue reading Liberty: the example of circumcision

Malcolm X – His Birthday, Resources, and His View of the Right to Bear Arms

Today might have been Malcolm X's 86th birthday had he not been assassinated in New York City on February 21st, 1965.  It would have been interesting to see how his life and political views would have played out had it not been for those murderous thugs responsible for his death. As I've written before, I'm … Continue reading Malcolm X – His Birthday, Resources, and His View of the Right to Bear Arms

Character and consent

The latest news on Dominique Strauss-Kahn is that he has been formally indicted by a grand jury and has made bail, though he is confined to 24-hour confinement in a Manhattan apartment, as opposed to the 11 by 13 jail cell at Rikers where he had been staying---and to which he will hopefully return one … Continue reading Character and consent

The Koch Foundation and Florida State

Conversations among academics have been buzzing lately with talk of the Koch Foundation's alleged interference in the Florida State Economics Department. The rumor was that the Koch Foundation was requiring veto rights over the hiring of new faculty from a $1.5 million grant to the department, which would indeed have seemed heavy-handed. According to James … Continue reading The Koch Foundation and Florida State

Institutional Failure and the Tragedy of Climate Change

I am a Libertarian. I believe that market processes based on secure property rights and competitive ‘exit’ provide the best hope of discovering ‘solutions’ to the vast majority of socio-economic problems including environmental ones. Profit-driven capitalism and its desire to ‘make people pay’ for goods they were previously consuming ‘for free’ provides the key to … Continue reading Institutional Failure and the Tragedy of Climate Change

Journalists and Basic Economics

One of the most frustrating things about reading the newspaper is that journalists frequently display a nearly absolute ignorance of basic economics.  For example, I remember reading a news story back around the time of Hurricane Andrew discussing how that natural disaster had a silver lining: it would be good for the economy!  Yes, that … Continue reading Journalists and Basic Economics

Quotation of the Day – On Presidential News Conferences

Sid Davis (former NBC Washington bureau chief) on Presidential news conferences: If you watch an Obama news conference, and watched a Bush news conference previous to that, where correspondents sit in their seats with their hands folded on their laps, [it's] as if they are in the room with a monarch and they have to … Continue reading Quotation of the Day – On Presidential News Conferences

Summer Reading Suggestions

Many a Republican legislator would argue that now that classes are over and my grading is done, I don't have to work again until September.  Although the "summers off" description might be true for some professors, it isn't for most profs I know.  Myself, I'll be revising syllabi, trying to get a couple of scholarly articles out the … Continue reading Summer Reading Suggestions

Whistling Past the Grave Yard

There has been lots of good news recently regarding America’s fiscal state of affairs. The life spans of Medicare and Social Security have been adjusted down (and this ignores the fact that the trust funds are not stores of wealth. Under current conditions, the only option is to borrow funds to cover the transfers from … Continue reading Whistling Past the Grave Yard

For all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these “it might have been.”

It is official: the Donald will not be running for the presidency. "I maintain the strong conviction that if I were to run, I would be able to win the primary and ultimately, the general election," Trump said in a statement. Although the Donald likely overestimated the inevitability of his ascension to POTUS, you must … Continue reading For all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these “it might have been.”

Interposition: Part Six: The Virginia and Kentucky Resolves

Both Jefferson and Madison were keenly aware that a direct assault upon the Alien and Sedition Acts would likely bring on them the same charges of seditious libel as had been leveled against Congressman Cabell of Albemarle. Wholly aside such risk, the personal views of both men were already well established. Madison had resisted from the floor … Continue reading Interposition: Part Six: The Virginia and Kentucky Resolves

Not free to move about the country

A few weeks ago I took my family from Tucson down to Tombstone. That's a drive of a little over an hour (and well worth it, if you're into kitschy Old West stuff, or just interested in the history of the American West). On the way back we ran into a permanent ICE (Immigration and … Continue reading Not free to move about the country

Gingrich 2012

Is there anyone not related to or currently married to Newt Gingrich who thinks his candidacy is a good idea or something America needs?  Well, I'm sure there are some Republicans and lots of Democrats who do.    But sorry, Newt was so 1994.  Admittedly, Gingrich burned bright as an insurgent member of the minority leadership and then Speaker in Congress.  His (and … Continue reading Gingrich 2012

Learning the Wrong Lesson

Paul Krugman had a piece in the NYTimes yesterday entitled “The Unwisdom of Elites.” Krugman objects to the claim that the fiscal problems that beset the US and many European nations can be attributed to the public: “The idea is that we got into this mess because voters wanted something for nothing, and weak-minded politicians … Continue reading Learning the Wrong Lesson

Hayek versus Habermas: Round 3

In this final round of the H versus H contest I want to question the claim that communication in markets is ‘distorted’ by ‘money power’. According to this Habermasian refrain not only do markets embody and reproduce inequalities they also corrupt the democratic process by allowing those with deeper pockets to buy support and to … Continue reading Hayek versus Habermas: Round 3

Facebook and the End of the World

AEI is sponsoring a debate tomorrow on whether Facebook is destroying human relationships. The debate boasts a formidable lineup: Roger Scruton, Adam Keiper, and Tyler Cowen. It occurred to me recently that one unintended negative consequence of Facebook is the potential destruction of, not friendships, but acquaintanceships. I have many friendly acquaintances who are my … Continue reading Facebook and the End of the World

Socialism in One State

Vermont has passed a law authorizing a single-payer, government-run health insurance system. Apparently the plan fails to grasp the fiscal nettle and thus may never come to fruition. Nevertheless, I hope they go forward with it. I don't think it will work - to the contrary, the experiment should serve as an object lesson to … Continue reading Socialism in One State

Monday Morning Distractions

For those of us tenured/tenure-track professors who are cursing our jobs as the grading stacks up, a reality check on how good we have it via William Deresiewicz at the Nation. Pew has an online poll that might help identify your specific political tribe. Some of the options are a bit odd, but it is … Continue reading Monday Morning Distractions

Bailouts and the Optimal Size of States

Risk-pooling in an era of frequent financial crisis is not as good an argument against Scottish independence as Tyler Cowen thinks it is. First off, bailing out is a policy choice to which there are alternatives. Second, financial governance matters. Who had a worse financial crisis in 2008: the United States (population 300 million) or … Continue reading Bailouts and the Optimal Size of States