I’m spending too much time around economists

Well, actually I think the time is well-spent.  But it is funny how often economic thinking and concepts directly intrude on my thoughts the older I get and the more time I spend with economists in person and in print.  Two cases in point, both related to the concept of opportunity cost: 1.   I was stuck at … Continue reading I’m spending too much time around economists

The Tale of the Fat Man

There once was a man who, by every possible measure, had reached a girth that was too great to be compatible with a long and flourishing life. One could have considered any number of indicators if one had wished—percentage of body fat, body mass index, blood pressure—and they all pointed in the same direction and … Continue reading The Tale of the Fat Man

Liberty, Responsibility, and Virtue – Amy Winehouse Edition

I don't want to speak for the other Pilei, but I am in favor of nearly total drug legalization.*  The large majority of harm (and potential benefits) from drug use itself is largely internalized by the person engaged in that particular behavior.  When there are spillovers to others not party to the drug use (what economists call externalities), the government can legitimately punish the resulting behavior … Continue reading Liberty, Responsibility, and Virtue – Amy Winehouse Edition

A Note on Entitlements

The WSJ has an editorial today entitled "Entitlement Nation" in which it outlines America's political history that has led to so many millions of us today receiving, even living off, payments of money, goods, or services from the government. The numbers are shocking: "50.5 million Americans are on Medicaid, 46.5 million are on Medicare, 52 million … Continue reading A Note on Entitlements

Obama’s Towering Inferno

The ever-entertaining Jonah Goldberg on the President's handling of the debt-ceiling limit: Imagine you’re in a burning office building. Obama’s plan for getting out alive: “Okay, you guys break up into different groups and come up with a series of proposals about how we get out of the building. I will then negotiate with each … Continue reading Obama’s Towering Inferno

A Good Sign for Public Education?

The Daily Caller reported recently that a high school in Medina, Ohio has begun charging parents fairly hefty fees for various of the activities and extras that it offers, even for seemingly basic courses like Spanish I and Earth Science. Parents are upset, of course, believing that since they are already paying taxes they shouldn't … Continue reading A Good Sign for Public Education?

Stability, Peace, and Poverty

The last issue of The Economist has a feature on "middle-income fragile and failed states" (MIFFs). It compares the World Bank list of countries by development level (high, middle, and low) to the OECD list of "fragile and failed states," finding that fragile and failed states are by no means exclusively low-income: [S]ome 15 of … Continue reading Stability, Peace, and Poverty

Stiglitz on Deregulation and the Rich

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz argued recently that both the economic downturn of the last two years and the looming debt crisis are the fault of "a powerful ideology---the belief in free and unfettered markets," whose "30-year ascendance" has "brought the world to the brink of economic ruin." As an economist, I can't hold a … Continue reading Stiglitz on Deregulation and the Rich

On the President’s Speech

Although I did not watch POTUS live last night, I have seen clips and read the transcript. A few thoughts: 1. POTUS chastised House Republicans for rejecting an increase in the debt ceiling. The President explained: “Understand - raising the debt ceiling does not allow Congress to spend more money. It simply gives our country … Continue reading On the President’s Speech

The Circus Continues, as Does the Crisis

It appears that the political theatre of the past few weeks may be drawing to a close. There is little question that we have a significant long-term structural debt problem. In my mind, at least, the tens of trillions of unfunded liabilities and the ever-growing debt cannot be addressed without significant cuts in domestic and … Continue reading The Circus Continues, as Does the Crisis

What’s real and what’s in the mind

This weekend I went to see the last Harry Potter film. I agree with a number of critics I’ve read that it was the best and most satisfying of the series. But I was struck by a moment late in the film when Harry is talking with Dumbledore. Harry asks, “Is this real? or just … Continue reading What’s real and what’s in the mind

Do Politicians Regulate When They Can’t Spend?

Noel Johnson, Matt Mitchell, and Steve Yamarik have a new working paper answering that question in the affirmative. They look at state fiscal and regulatory policies and find that Democrats generally like to increase taxes and spending when in control of state houses and Republicans do the reverse. But when states have tough balanced-budget requirements … Continue reading Do Politicians Regulate When They Can’t Spend?

What Ha Joon Chang Doesn’t Tell You about ‘Free Market Economics’

Professor Ha Joon Chang has become something of a hero to those who champion heterodox economic theory and who rail against the supposed intellectual hegemony of ‘neo-liberalism’. In a number of books such as Kicking Away the Ladder Chang sets out to overturn the alleged orthodoxies of mainstream economics by questioning the case for free … Continue reading What Ha Joon Chang Doesn’t Tell You about ‘Free Market Economics’

Long live the revolution

In classical (pre-Keynes) macroeconomic thinking, there was no accounting for the creation of bubbles, the fact that bubbles might burst, and that the burst might lead to painful, lengthy consequences.  In the classical world, prices adjust and markets clear.  End of story. Of course markets sometimes take a long time to adjust, and Keynes got … Continue reading Long live the revolution

You are not worthy

Perhaps it is because I'm trying to whittle down a list of books for a class this Fall that won't make all the students lynch me or drop the class, but I was amused by this professor's approach: Henry Liang, who teaches finance in English at Shanghai Maritime University, notified students on his personal blog … Continue reading You are not worthy

When Lawn Nazis Attack

Last year I had a little run-in with the town authorities over my garden. Fortunately, it ended well. However, for other people around the continent troubles with the local lawn nazis seem more severe, possibly involving jail time! Some of you may have heard of the woman in Oak Park, Michigan who faced jail time … Continue reading When Lawn Nazis Attack

My earmark isn’t really an earmark

The NY Times has a clever (if politically motivated) piece poking fun at the new Tea Party congressmen who publicly condemn earmarks but, nonetheless, are fighting for earmarks in their districts.  These include bridges, beaches, harbor dredging, and military projects. In defense of these projects the Republicans use the tried and true defense of "my … Continue reading My earmark isn’t really an earmark

Compromise is no virtue

According to the editors at the NY Times, pledges that candidates make to not raise taxes "undermine the basic principles of democratic government built on compromise and negotiation." I'm wracking my brain to think of what type of political theory supports the notion that compromise is a principle.  A strategy, yes.  A necessary evil, sometimes.  … Continue reading Compromise is no virtue

Liberty as Amenity: Freedom, Migration, and Growth

Is liberty an "amenity" that people find attractive? We know that people do not necessarily tend to vote for liberty, in part because they are politically ignorant or even irrational, but when it comes to where they choose to live, people can be expected to pay close attention to how the laws in different places … Continue reading Liberty as Amenity: Freedom, Migration, and Growth

Capital Strike II – Obama Edition

This rant below by Steve Wynn (of Las Vegas fame) is absolutely Back to the Future - as in 1930's.  It is more evidence that part of our problem today in fully recovering from the Great Recession is that we are again experiencing a "capital strike" due to the anti-growth, anti-capitalism policies of the current regime in Washington (not to … Continue reading Capital Strike II – Obama Edition

Obama May Need To Study His Birth Certificate – and His Daughter’s Too

President Obama has some real trouble with birthdays.  As ABC News reports, first he got Malia's birthday wrong, now he has apparently forgotten his own birthday.*  Of course, since he's the smartest President ever, I'm sure these important dates are crowded out of his brain by much deeper thoughts.  Actually, I have some sympathy for … Continue reading Obama May Need To Study His Birth Certificate – and His Daughter’s Too

Sunday Quotation – Soccer Edition

I'm sure something like this has been said before, but this earlier comment by John Feinstein (of the Washington Post) is worth reposting in light of the Women's World Cup soccer game just decided by penalty kicks: You don’t decide Stanley Cup hockey games in shootouts. Regular season, fine, but when the championship is at stake … Continue reading Sunday Quotation – Soccer Edition

Escaping the Game of Chicken

The GOP and the President seem locked in a game of chicken over the debt ceiling (remember the scene from Rebel without a Cause). The GOP is hoping the President capitulates on cuts without taxation (i.e., that the President swerves). The President is hoping the GOP accepts taxation with some amorphous spending cuts (i.e., that … Continue reading Escaping the Game of Chicken

More on the Role of the State in Protecting Children – Obesity Edition

There is a bit of a blind spot among certain classical liberals when it comes to children.  Rand is the most notorious, but not only, example of this.  However, we here at Pileus have frequently tried to think through some key issues in terms of how the state should deal with children and what limitations, if any, there should be … Continue reading More on the Role of the State in Protecting Children – Obesity Edition

This Week’s Rants and Raves, TSA Edition

1. In the below video, Senator Rand Paul criticizes John Pistole and his TSA for their ham-fisted and invasive pat-downs, especially on children.   Senator Paul makes several good points. What struck me in particular, however, is one part of Mr. Pistole's response. He said that pat-downs on children and seniors are driven---and, apparently, justified---by … Continue reading This Week’s Rants and Raves, TSA Edition

What About the Social Security Trust Fund? Depends on When (Not Who) You Ask

In an interview with CBS News, the President has issued some stark predictions of what will happen should Congress fail to extend the debt ceiling. "I cannot guarantee that those checks go out on August 3rd if we haven't resolved this issue. Because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do … Continue reading What About the Social Security Trust Fund? Depends on When (Not Who) You Ask

A Prediction About the Drug War

At The American Interest, Walter Russell Mead makes a prediction about the future of the drug war. Unlike many libertarians and legalization activists (whom he calls the "Stoner Lobby"), he believes that legalization would be a disaster - but that continuing the drug war would be a catastrophe. As a "least bad" option, he believes … Continue reading A Prediction About the Drug War

The Incandescent Light Bulb Ban Repeal

The Frum Forum's has an article up besmirching the Congressional move to repeal the incandescent light bulb ban.  Jacob Sullum nicely eviscerates it at Reason's Hit and Run.  As Sullum points out, David Jenkins - the author of the Frum article - makes his case by relying in part on the fact that the light bulb industry supports the ban.  Not only does this bring to mind … Continue reading The Incandescent Light Bulb Ban Repeal

The Real Fiscal Armageddon

Michael Tanner  of Cato has an interesting piece today on the debt ceiling. Tanner is less concerned about the events of the next few weeks than I am but does a good job of placing things in historical context. “If the government is not able to borrow more money after Aug. 2, spending will have … Continue reading The Real Fiscal Armageddon

The Constitutionality of the Debt Ceiling

An increasing number of pols and legal analysts (and the NYT editors) are making the claim that if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling, the President could claim the constitutional authority to continue borrowing money. After all, section 4 of the 14th amendment notes: The validity of the public debt of the United States, … Continue reading The Constitutionality of the Debt Ceiling

The Million Dollar Internet

How much money would it take for you to give up the internet for the rest of your life? $1 million? Yet how much do you pay for your access to it? The Fund for American Studies just released a provocative short video using those questions as a basis to explore the benefits that wealthy "first … Continue reading The Million Dollar Internet

Rearranging the Timing of Economic Growth

Interesting piece on Robert Barro in today’s Telegraph.  Money quotes: On the stimulus package: Turning to the $600bn (£373bn) to $800bn US package, he added it was "mainly a waste of money". Stimulus programmes, he said, offer little more than "rearranging the timing" of economic growth. "Possibly you could make an argument that it's worth … Continue reading Rearranging the Timing of Economic Growth

Cuts, Responsibility and the Public Sector

Last week saw large scale strike action from public sector workers here in the UK, campaigning against changes to pension arrangements and more generally ‘cuts’ to government spending. The most common refrain from these workers, as on similar days of action in the UK and elsewhere, was that because the public sector was not responsible … Continue reading Cuts, Responsibility and the Public Sector