Grasping at Shadows

So it looks as if the sequestration is upon us. The past few weeks have witnessed claims about the catastrophic implications of sequestration and ongoing efforts to assign responsibility (it was the GOP’s idea…unless it wasn’t). It has been quite the circus. My chief concern: we are so busy grasping at shadows that we are … Continue reading Grasping at Shadows

Aeon Skoble’s Three Books – and Thanks

I want to thank Professor Aeon Skoble for joining us for a guest stint here at Pileus.  It was a pleasure to read his contributions, and I trust our readers appreciated his thoughtful posts. I'd also like to plug Aeon's recent piece at the Freeman laying out his three deserted island books.  Here they are: John Tomasi - Free Market Fairness … Continue reading Aeon Skoble’s Three Books – and Thanks

Free Staters, Pack Your Bags

Carla Gericke, President of the Free State Project, wants to "trigger the move."  According to the Manchester Union-Leader: Based on the current recruiting rate, Gericke said, the pledge total would hit 20,000 in 2018, triggering the large-scale move to New Hampshire. Under that scenario, the goal would be to have all pledgers relocate by 2023. However, Gericke … Continue reading Free Staters, Pack Your Bags

University of Texas Secession Symposium

The Center for European Studies at the University of Texas, Austin is hosting a symposium entitled, "Secession Redux: Lessons for the EU" tomorrow (Friday). It will be held all day at the LBJ School, Sid Richardson Hall, Room 3.122. It is open to the public. The schedule is here. I will be speaking on "Secessionism … Continue reading University of Texas Secession Symposium

Matt Zwolinski on Property Rights

Matt Zwolinski of Bleeding Heart Libertarians has written an excellent series of posts on the libertarian justification of property rights. Here's the latest. The first and most important thing to note about both Locke and Nozick’s arguments is that, unlike utilitarian arguments, they are individualistic rather than collectivistic in nature. For the utilitarian, all that … Continue reading Matt Zwolinski on Property Rights

Sequester This

As we approach midnight February 28 (tick..tick…tick…) and March 1st arrives, the nation appears to be headed toward a cataclysm. There is an ever-growing number of stories informing us how bad things could get. The sequestration will force a sharp drop in the economy. It will kill the surging stock market. It will delay tax … Continue reading Sequester This

Zingales on Keynesianism

Ran across this witty quotation below while reading a chapter in Peter Boettke's Living Economics.  Here is a link for the original source of the quotation, a debate in the Economist between Luigi Zingles and Brad DeLong.  Zingales: Keynesianism has conquered the hearts and minds of politicians and ordinary people alike because it provides a theoretical justification … Continue reading Zingales on Keynesianism

What Freedom Allows – Life Project Pursuit

One of the best things about freedom from government interference is that it allows you to define and pursue (and if you are lucky, fulfill) your life project as you see fit.  Governments that do more than simply protect "the law of equal freedom" impose barriers to that project pursuit and essentially disrespect individual moral dignity.  Instead of respect, they impose the … Continue reading What Freedom Allows – Life Project Pursuit

New Data on Old Posts

We here at Pileus have written a fair amount on both the future of higher education (for example, see here, here, here, and here) and ObamaCare.  A few interesting recent pieces dealing with both are worthy of attention: 1.  The number of problems - predictable and otherwise - with ObamaCare continue to mount.  Here we get word … Continue reading New Data on Old Posts

Asymmetrical Information—Update

In response to yesterday’s post, one regular Pileus readers (Shaun ) responded: All the more reason for news outlets to be strengthening their investigative wings, as oppossed to slashing them. It is good to see that the media is thinking along the same lines. As Glenn Greenwald (the Guardian) notes, MSNBC has recently hired two … Continue reading Asymmetrical Information—Update

Asymmetrical Information

Access to information is an important topic. Citizen access to information is critical if norms of democratic accountability are to have any meaning. At the same time, the Bill of Rights and a long series of court decisions limit the capacity of the state to collect information on its citizens without first obtaining a probable … Continue reading Asymmetrical Information

Understanding the NH House Elections of 2012

This piece was originally intended as an op-ed for the Union-Leader. However, they did not pick it up. Therefore, I'm running it here. Why did Republicans do poorly in the last state elections in New Hampshire? There is no shortage of theories, but what has been lacking is any attempt to test those theories on … Continue reading Understanding the NH House Elections of 2012

Rand Paul and Domestic Drones

Some Republicans (including former VP Dick Cheney) applaud the Obama administration’s use of drones for targeted killing of US citizens abroad. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), in contrast, is threatening to filibuster John’s Brennan’s confirmation to head the CIA, based on his failure to answer a simple question during last week’s hearings (transcript here, see pages … Continue reading Rand Paul and Domestic Drones

Freedom as a Moral Concept (Update)

Over at Bleeding Heart Libertarians, there have been some interesting posts recently on moralized and non-moralized conceptions of freedom. Jason Brennan says defining liberty to mean only negative liberty is "linguistic revisionism" without philosophic import. He then makes the case that bleeding-heart libertarianism (or Rawlsianism or various other non-traditionally-libertarian conceptions of property rights) does not … Continue reading Freedom as a Moral Concept (Update)

A State of the Union Address I Would Like to Hear

Inspired by Marc's post, I would like to reprint a State of the Union address---really an inauguration speech---that Frédéric Bastiat offers in his 1850 Economic Harmonies: "You have invested me with the power of authority. I shall use it only in cases where the intervention of force is permissible. But there is only one such case, … Continue reading A State of the Union Address I Would Like to Hear

A State of the Union Promise I Can Embrace

Tonight is the State of the Union. There is little evidence that more than a few of any president’s aspirations find an expression in policy. However, on one point I hope this year’s SOTU proves different. According to the NYT: President Obama plans to announce in his State of Union address on Tuesday night that … Continue reading A State of the Union Promise I Can Embrace

*The Righteous Mind* by Jonathan Haidt

Jonathan Haidt is everywhere these days, giving interviews and TED talks, promoting his working papers in the media, writing for the websites and, and publishing The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (New York: Pantheon Books, 2012). A moral psychologist by training, Haidt has successfully cleared the jump … Continue reading *The Righteous Mind* by Jonathan Haidt

Lessons of the Blizzard of 2013

For those of us who live north of New York City, the blizzard was the dominant feature of the past few days (and will likely be the dominant feature for the next week). During the weekend, I had the opportunity to reflect on the blizzard (there is a lot of time to think when you … Continue reading Lessons of the Blizzard of 2013

Liberty and public decency (part 2)

Click here for Part 1. What I think I know about human sexuality is this: it is complex, powerful, beautiful, mysterious, pleasurable, intertwined with a variety of biological, mental, and emotional processes, and deeply imbedded in countless ways into our society and culture.  Two implications (among many) of this characterization are: Sexuality is a social … Continue reading Liberty and public decency (part 2)

Liberty and public decency (part 1)

I’ve been thinking about my colleague Grover Cleveland’s short post on Beyonce’s wardrobe (or, rather, lack thereof) at the Super Bowl.  He started about by saying, “I don’t think I’m a prude, but…”  Having known the real Grover for many years, I can attest he is very good man, but not much of a prude. … Continue reading Liberty and public decency (part 1)

Hundreds of Unnecessary Deaths in One NHS Hospital

A new public inquiry into abuses at the Mid Staffordshire National Health Service Trust's hospital has found a years-long pattern of fatal mistakes and abuses. The report makes for damning reading. From the BBC report: Years of abuse and neglect at the hospital led to the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of patients. But inquiry chairman, … Continue reading Hundreds of Unnecessary Deaths in One NHS Hospital

Beyond Sequestration

The next few weeks will undoubtedly witness the old back-and-forth on budget cuts and revenue increases combined with claims that this side won’t bargain and that side won’t bring anything specific to the table. The CBO’s Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2013 to 2023 suggests that we should not focus on the shiny objects. … Continue reading Beyond Sequestration

Haidt’s Biased Survey Evidence on Libertarians (Updated)

In his book The Righteous Mind (review coming soon) and in a coauthored paper with Ravi Iyer and others, moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt claims that libertarians are essentially amoral(*): they care less about care, fairness, authority, loyalty, and sanctity than conservatives and liberals and care most of all about liberty. (I blogged the latter study … Continue reading Haidt’s Biased Survey Evidence on Libertarians (Updated)

The White Paper

The Justice Department White Paper on the targeted killing of US citizens is out, and worth a read. There are no surprises here, for anyone who has followed this sordid affair. Much of the same policy was articulated by AG Holder last year in his speech at Northwestern Law. Holder basically assured his audience that … Continue reading The White Paper

In which I overstay my welcome

One of the regular Pileus bloggers asked me to elaborate on a claim I made briefly in my earlier discussion of BHL. I had said "there is an intra-libertarian debate [that it is useful to have about philosophical justification: is a system of individual rights ultimately justified because it accrues the best results for the … Continue reading In which I overstay my welcome


Have you ever driven a group of teenagers somewhere and wondered why they weren’t talking to each other?  After a brief moment you then realize that they all have a cell phone in their laps, which they are engrossed in.  This is what I call an “elsewhere moment,” an occasion where we discover that those … Continue reading Elsewhere

A Case for Regulation? The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

The standard account of regulation focuses on problems of market failure. One form of market failure stems from information scarcity or informational asymmetries. Regulations can deal with this kind of market failure by requiring information disclosure using standard metrics, often in a form that is assessable to relatively unsophisticated actors.  This form of regulation can … Continue reading A Case for Regulation? The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Super Bowl Halftime Show

I don't think I'm a prude, but was Ms. Knowles dressed appropriately for a family event?  Add the ode to her self-described "bootylicious" body, and I'm thinking that she and the NFL could have made some better choices in staging the halftime show.  And I say that as someone who thinks Knowles is both very … Continue reading Super Bowl Halftime Show

David Brooks – Would You Take His Bet?

Polisphiliac David Brooks: Here’s a way to make money off of other people’s misery. Short house prices in Northern Virginia. Starting with sequestration and then continuing over the next several years, the Defense Department is going to be hammered. All the big defense contractors in Northern Virginia are going to be hit. It’s already happening. I … Continue reading David Brooks – Would You Take His Bet?

Quotation of the Day – Super Bowl/Crony Capitalism Edition

No, I'm not surprised that the government is heavily involved in the football world too (its tentacles touch everything), making some men rich(er) at the expense of us all.  But this is still worth remembering when you watch the game tonight: Taxpayers have spent at least $471 million on the Superdome since Hurricane Katrina, allowing a … Continue reading Quotation of the Day – Super Bowl/Crony Capitalism Edition

President Obama and the 2nd Amendment – Just Be Honest, We Can Handle It

Doesn't it figure that President Obama shoots left-handed?! I'm really just kidding as I also shoot rifles and shotguns lefty (though pistols right-handed) and few serious people would accuse me of being a man of the left.  Moreover, I think the traditional left-right scale is fairly unhelpful (see here). But I do find the release of this photo by the White … Continue reading President Obama and the 2nd Amendment – Just Be Honest, We Can Handle It

Natural rights are more than a rhetorical device

Judge Napolitano, an eloquent advocate of liberty, is in fine form here, in his discussion of the relevance of natural law theory to immigration. I was especially pleased with his observation that politicians are at most fair-weather friends of natural law: "This view of the natural law is sweet to the heart and pleasing to … Continue reading Natural rights are more than a rhetorical device

The University System, RIP?

There were a few posts earlier in the week on graduate school, started by Jason Sorens sage advice. I continued the conversation by noting the challenge posed by free online courses.The new issue of The American Interest includes a fascinating piece by Nathan Harden entitled “The End of the University as We Know It.” Harden … Continue reading The University System, RIP?