On the Federal Reserve and Things Austrian

Robert Wenzel gave an address to the New York Fed earlier this week. It is worth reading in its entirety (here). You can read some positive reviews by Vox Day (Vox Populi) and Tyler Durden (Zero Hedge, see some of the comments). On economic methodology: I hold the view developed by such great economic thinkers … Continue reading On the Federal Reserve and Things Austrian

The Continuing Saga of Drone Warfare

If you recall, in March, AG Holder justified the use of drones in “targeted killings” (see related post here). The comments were of interest, in part, because a drone had been used recently to kill Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen, in Yemen and in part because Congress was authorizing the expanded use of drones domestically … Continue reading The Continuing Saga of Drone Warfare

Seamless Web of Interests – Rubio Edition

Although Romney would be strategically-wise to pick Marco Rubio for the VP slot, let's hope Romney's foreign policy isn't driven by simplistic, misleading, and dangerously wrong statements like these from Rubio's big foreign policy speech: I always start by reminding people that what happens all over the world is our business. Every aspect of lives is directly … Continue reading Seamless Web of Interests – Rubio Edition

Slow Train Coming

Actually, it appears to be accelerating. The train is the impending insolvency of the large entitlement programs. The news today: Social Security. A summary of the latest trustee report (as presented in the Christian Science Monitor): The trust funds that support Social Security will run dry in 2033 — three years earlier than previously projected — the government … Continue reading Slow Train Coming

Zoning as Inefficient Redistribution

Interesting to see this come out of the center-left Brookings Institution: Anti-density zoning — embodied in lot-size and density regulations--is an extractive institution par excellence. Through the political power of affluent homeowners and their zoning boards, it restricts private property rights — the civic privilege to freely buy, sell, or develop property — for narrow … Continue reading Zoning as Inefficient Redistribution

Light Pollution. Part I: Compensation?

Light pollution which brightens the beautiful dark sky with an ugly muted glow is one of the most underrated negative externalities around.  I talked a little bit about this earlier.  Unfortunately, it is a really difficult problem to solve.  On the one hand, Coasian bargaining can't solve the problem given the huge transaction costs of dealing … Continue reading Light Pollution. Part I: Compensation?

Sunday Morning Quotation – The Convenience of Immaturity

From Immanuel Kant's An Answer to the Question: 'What is Enlightenment?': Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-incurred immaturity.  Immaturity is the inability to use own's own understanding without the guidance of another.  This immaturity is self-incurred if its cause is not lack of understanding, but lack of resolution and courage to use it without … Continue reading Sunday Morning Quotation – The Convenience of Immaturity

Reason and Porn

Interesting editorial decision by Reason's blog Hit & Run to put sexually explicit images in a post on a schoolteacher fired for her past employment as a porn star.  One could defend the decision on the grounds that the pictures help the reader better understand the story.  Specifically, they help clarify what the school district was reacting to when it decided to terminate its employee and show … Continue reading Reason and Porn

The Bucket of Warm Spit

FDR’s first Vice President, John Nance “Cactus Jack” Garner, once noted that the office was "not worth a bucket of warm spit” (note: the contents of the bucket vary based on the source). Given his opposition to the court-packing scheme, I will accept his judgment as sound. The question of who will be selected to … Continue reading The Bucket of Warm Spit

Ayn Rand or Rapper Kanye West?

Kanye West or Ayn Rand? There is no more despicable coward than the man who deserted the battle for his joy, fearing to assert his right to existence, lacking the courage and the loyalty to life of a bird or a flower reaching for the sun. Discard the protective rags of that vice which you … Continue reading Ayn Rand or Rapper Kanye West?

Finally, A Proven Plan for Economic Recovery

Sheila Bair, former FDIC chair, has made the following proposal (WaPo), in part, to illustrate the absurdity of what we view as sound economic policy. The set up: Are you concerned about growing income inequality in America? Are you resentful of all that wealth concentrated in the 1 percent? I’ve got the perfect solution, a … Continue reading Finally, A Proven Plan for Economic Recovery

Veggies are yummy (and other lies)

The New York Times website's Room for Debate section today proposes the question:  "Do we need more advice about eating well?" Most "expert" opinions (from people in the food information business) conclude that obviously we need better information.  Otherwise, how would  the nutritionists make a living.  They believe access is key: If no healthy food … Continue reading Veggies are yummy (and other lies)

Morning Links

Your logical fallacy is... (good for papers-grading season, HT: Steve Saideman) “Two years back it could be tough for our employees to be at a family gathering because people were complaining about the banks constantly,” he says. “Now the situation has changed and our employees can go to family gatherings without problems.” The Economist on … Continue reading Morning Links

Sunday Morning Quotation – 2 Year Anniversary Edition

Can't believe it has been two years since we started Pileus.  Thanks a lot to TFAS for its great support! Here is a quotation from Wendell Berry that my dear wife pointed out as worthy of posting, and it seemed quite appropriate for our anniversary: I wish to testify that in my best moments I … Continue reading Sunday Morning Quotation – 2 Year Anniversary Edition

Saturday Afternoon Bemusement

Tyler Cowen makes the case that a large, inefficient public sector can be a good thing: we should not be trying to squeeze the entire economy into the shoebox of the dynamic but risky “Economy I.” For public choice reasons, as well understood by Karl Polanyi (an underrated public choice theorist if there ever was … Continue reading Saturday Afternoon Bemusement

A Journalist Finally Pitches a Fastball at the President

... and President Obama looked as rattled as John Kruk facing Randy Johnson in the 1993 All-Star Game (except that Larry Connors' question was a first strike right down the middle).  Not sure, though, if this was lefty vs. lefty as it was in the Kruk-Johnson matchup.  Either way, you gotta admit that Connors had some guts going into the White House, toeing the rubber, and firing such … Continue reading A Journalist Finally Pitches a Fastball at the President

With Scholars Like This, Who Needs Scholars?! Please Read the 1st Amendment, Professor!

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, David Barash "is an evolutionary biologist and professor of psychology at the University of Washington."  He blogs at the Chrony's "Brainstorm" blog that I occasionally peruse (and I'm wondering more and more why I ever do so).  Barash recently wrote a post with the ominous title: "Major League Baseball Takes On the First Amendment."  … Continue reading With Scholars Like This, Who Needs Scholars?! Please Read the 1st Amendment, Professor!

As a Dog Returns to its Vomit…

As the economy slowly claws its way out of the financial crisis and the deepest and most prolonged recession since the Great Depression, it is good to know that some of the lending practices that contributed to the collapse are once again being deployed. As Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Tara Siegel explain in today’s NYT: as financial … Continue reading As a Dog Returns to its Vomit…


Bryan Caplan takes on Will Wilkinson on the issue of labeling the self and others here in response to Will's piece here.   Caplan's basic argument is that labeling isn't a big problem and that a strong identity in terms of an "ism" or its equivalent can actually be productive.  In short, putting on goggles can sometimes help you see things you might not have … Continue reading Labels

When X is Not-X

There have been some wonderful pieces written in the past few weeks trying to make sense of the President’s claim that a SCOTUS decision to overturn the Affordable Care Act would be unprecedented. Of course, the pieces often proceed as follows The President stated X The President obviously knows not-X  Therefore X must have a … Continue reading When X is Not-X

Sunday Morning Quotation – Let’s Live Up to This Hope and Treat People As Individuals (and Teach Our Children to Do So)

From Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech: I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up … Continue reading Sunday Morning Quotation – Let’s Live Up to This Hope and Treat People As Individuals (and Teach Our Children to Do So)

Why “Vote GOP for the Court” Cuts No Ice with Me

I've never voted for a Democrat or Republican for president at a general election. I've always voted for a Libertarian (in 2008 I voted for George Phillies, who was on the ballot as a Libertarian in New Hampshire in addition to the official candidate, Bob Barr), and I've never had reason to regret my vote. … Continue reading Why “Vote GOP for the Court” Cuts No Ice with Me

Good Friday in Connecticut

Yes, it is Good Friday everywhere, but it is particularly sweet in Connecticut this year. Yesterday, the state Senate passed a bill to repeal the death penalty (read coverage here). The Senate was the largest barrier, but after a lengthy debate the bill passed 20-16, largely along party lines. The bill should pass the state’s … Continue reading Good Friday in Connecticut

A Culture of Prohibitions vs. a culture of Self-Government

What constitutes self- government and its relationship to this illusive thing called culture?On March 15, 2012, a conservative governor, self-described as favoring limited government, signed into law stricter measures on certain substances not previously banned within the state of Indiana, and not specifically banned in national law. This certainly is a state’s prerogative within a … Continue reading A Culture of Prohibitions vs. a culture of Self-Government

The Ryan Budget as Antithesis

President Obama has moved on from constitutional history (his warning that a Court decision to overturn a statute would be unprecedented) to American history more broadly. His remarks focused on the Ryan budget: "Disguised as [a] deficit reduction plan, it's really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It's nothing but thinly-veiled … Continue reading The Ryan Budget as Antithesis

Models That Allow Us to Conclude That Romney Will Be the Republican Candidate Who Loses to Obama

See here in the New Yorker.  These models don't tell us that Romney will lose to Obama but they certainly suggest that Romney will be the Republican nominee.  Of course, you already knew that anyway, but the models help support our intuitions.  Different models will help us conclude that Romney is likely to lose in the generals if … Continue reading Models That Allow Us to Conclude That Romney Will Be the Republican Candidate Who Loses to Obama

“Neoclassical Liberalism,” Property Rights, and Capitalism

Matt Zwolinski and John Tomasi have a thought-provoking piece entitled, "A Bleeding Heart History of Libertarianism," in the latest Cato Unbound. They criticize postwar libertarians (specifically mentioning Mises, Rand, and Rothbard) for seeing property rights as absolute and, in their view, regarding the welfare of the working poor as irrelevant to moral justifications for capitalism: … Continue reading “Neoclassical Liberalism,” Property Rights, and Capitalism

Lessons in Constitutional Law

From the former head of the Harvard Law Review and sometimes professor of constitutional law (via CNN transcript): Ultimately, I'm confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress. And I'd just remind … Continue reading Lessons in Constitutional Law

“[E]mpirical evidence about the inefficiency and motives of the public sector is minimal.”

The quotation above comes from page 16 of a public finance textbook by Robin Boadway and Anwar Shah (Fiscal Federalism: Principles and Practice of Multiorder Governance, Cambridge UP 2009). Is that right? Let me throw out just one counterexample: Bates, Markets and States in Tropical Africa.

Coup in Mali

In case you missed it, there was a coup recently in Mali.  It was probably not unconnected to the recent regime change in Libya, as discussed here by Joshua Keating.  In short, the coup was apparently provoked by the military's concern at how the government was fighting the Taureg insurgency in the north (there was probably a lot more … Continue reading Coup in Mali

Sunday Morning Quotation – Nozick on the Individual Mandate

Harvard philosopher Robert Nozick passed away in 2002 and wrote Anarchy, State, and Utopia in the early 1970's.  So of course he wasn't thinking about ObamaCare's individual mandate when he wrote the following selection.  However, I think it is an important statement about why such coercive acts are morally flawed: Side constraints express the inviolability of other … Continue reading Sunday Morning Quotation – Nozick on the Individual Mandate