"For the GOP, politics is not a zero-sum game — and I don’t mean this in a good way. It is entirely possible for Obama to lose on a variety of issues and for Republicans to lose as well, in ways that make future victories less likely." Michael Gerson (Washington Post) decries those in the … Continue reading Negative-sum Politics
Month: April 2013
Freedom and Migration: More Numbers
In Freedom in the 50 States, we present some statistical results on the association between the three dimensions of freedom -- fiscal, regulatory, and personal -- and "net interstate migration," that is, the number of movers into a state from other states minus the number of movers from a state to other states, divided by … Continue reading Freedom and Migration: More Numbers
Cato on Subsidizing Wealthy Allies
Quick but effective video from the Cato Institute:
Monday Morning Reading
Grading time is here, but these pieces/stories might provide some helpful between-papers distraction: 1. More violence in Iraq. According to CNN, "At least 25 people were killed and 69 others were wounded in five car bombings in Iraq on Monday." 2. Friend of Pileus Damon Linker finds a Christian message in Terrence Malick's "To the Wonder." Apparently everyone else … Continue reading Monday Morning Reading
Sunday Morning Quotation – Impartiality in Foreign Policy (pre-John Quincy Adams)
Columbian Centinel editorial, January 4, 1794: It is unworthy of the dignity, as well as equity, of Americans, to become partizans of either of the belligerent nations. We are bound to wish liberty and good government to every people under heaven—Having professed an impartial neutrality, public exultation shewn on one side, and goading the other … Continue reading Sunday Morning Quotation – Impartiality in Foreign Policy (pre-John Quincy Adams)
Affirmative Action: Unequal Protection?
The Economist has come out against race-based affirmative action in the United States, a surprising (to me) move given the magazine's socially left-of-center outlook (e.g., for legalizing drugs and banning handguns). Indeed, the way in which affirmative action as currently practiced discriminates against Asians even more than against whites is difficult to justify. (I argued … Continue reading Affirmative Action: Unequal Protection?
Congress and the Affordable Care Act: File under Revealed Preferences
John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman (Politico) report (unsurprisingly) that those who brought us the Affordable Care Act are scurrying to create exemptions for Capitol Hill. The big concern: the costs of insurance on the exchanges will lead to the rapid exodus of legislative aides—a policy-induced brain drain. The talks — which involve Senate Majority Leader … Continue reading Congress and the Affordable Care Act: File under Revealed Preferences
Debt and Growth: The Politics of Ideas
The Economist provides a concise discussion of the debates surrounding the impact of debt on economic growth. The focus is on the work of Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, drawing on some of the research they conducted for their fine book This Time is Different. The Reinhart/Rogoff paper (link here) had a simple takeaway point: … Continue reading Debt and Growth: The Politics of Ideas
Pay Politicians More?
At Econlog, the very sharp Garett Jones makes an argument for paying politicians more: There's some evidence that when it comes to politician quality, you get what you pay for; Besley finds that higher pay for U.S. governors predicts governors with more experience in politics, and Ferraz and Finan look at Brazilian data and find … Continue reading Pay Politicians More?
Earth Day 2013
Celebrate Earth Day by reading about "Free Market Environmentalism." Here is a short essay on FME by Richard Stroup. It starts this way: Free-market environmentalism emphasizes markets as a solution to environmental problems. Proponents argue that free markets can be more successful than government—and have been more successful historically—in solving many environmental problems. A book length treatment … Continue reading Earth Day 2013
Sunday Morning Quotation – Rock and Roll HOF Edition
A friend and fellow scholar who wishes to remain anonymous recently had this to say about Rush, a Canadian prog rock band that was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this past week: "It's perfect, too, that this message [the libertarian/Ayn Rand strand in their earlier music, especially Trees] is married to music … Continue reading Sunday Morning Quotation – Rock and Roll HOF Edition
A Lame Duck President?
Two term presidents have a very small window of opportunity to move significant legislation and cement their legacies. The week has not been a good one for the Obama administration. With significant investment in the issue of gun control, background checks went down in defeat. Any explanation of this result would have to include several … Continue reading A Lame Duck President?
Prudence and Suspect 2
While many (justly) enraged Americans would probably like to see Suspect 2 meet his maker today, let's remember that we will almost certainly learn more about the attacks if he is taken alive than if he is killed or blows himself up, etc. Here is the National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen last year on capture … Continue reading Prudence and Suspect 2
Nice Graphic of What Happened Last Night in Boston
Upside Down Congress (and that’s a good thing right now)
The standard American government textbook discussion of our bicameral federal legislature will often note that the Senate is the body that is more deliberative and that acts, like a saucer, to cool the more passionate House's hot teacup. Indeed, the Senate itself says this on its own website: In selecting an appropriate visual symbol of the Senate in … Continue reading Upside Down Congress (and that’s a good thing right now)
Libanius on Trade
Libanius, a 4th century (non-Christian) Greek, saw God's hand in trade: God did not bestow all products upon all parts of the earth, but distributed His gifts over different regions, to the end that men might cultivate a social relationship because one would have need of the help of another, and so He called commerce … Continue reading Libanius on Trade
The Value of Living Well
My book, The Value of Living Well, now exists in physical form, for those who are interested. It looks like Oxford plans to ship next month, but it can be ordered now from Amazon. It is a work in contemporary ethical theory: I try to flesh out a view of the nature of practical rationality (in … Continue reading The Value of Living Well
Rob Farley over at LGM makes two key points about the bombings that are worth passing along: 1. Our thoughts are with anyone injured in the bombing. 2. Initial reports are very likely to be wrong; this is inevitable, and does not mean that a conspiracy is afoot. I'd add a few others about terrorism: 1. The … Continue reading Boston Bombings
A few weeks ago, Jason responded to my critique of the new atheists (which was inspired by an excellent review done by Damon Linker). Jason’s response was interesting but (modestly) mis-characterizes my argument. Jason boiled down what I was saying to a simple logical argument for the existence of God. Though I don’t mind such … Continue reading More chemistry
Sunday Morning Quotation – Three Level Chess or Cold War Foolishness?
From Martin Meredith's The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence: One of the paradoxes of the Angolan conflict was that Cuban forces were given the task of defending American-owned oil installations from attacks by American-backed rebels. My position on the Reagan Doctrine and American intervention in places like Angola has changed … Continue reading Sunday Morning Quotation – Three Level Chess or Cold War Foolishness?
The Political Costs of Reform
President Obama’s budget proposal supports entitlement reform, in part, through the introduction of the chained CPI (rather than the current CPI-W) for calculating cost-of-living adjustments. This change has been part of various reform proposals over the years, although it has often been discussed as part of progressive indexing (i.e., maintaining the CPI-W for low wage … Continue reading The Political Costs of Reform
FBI Trying to Infiltrate Keene, New Hampshire
The Keene Activity Center (KAC) is a place where (mostly) young libertarians and anarchists in Keene, New Hampshire congregate to talk philosophy, plan activism (including civil disobedience), and generally relax and socialize. Apparently the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been trying very, very hard to infiltrate the KAC, judging from this account of the arrest … Continue reading FBI Trying to Infiltrate Keene, New Hampshire
Drone Policy, Revisited
Yes, the administration’s drone policy finally attracted some significant attention as of late. But many critics were willing to accept the assurances that the administration’s use of drones was limited to “specific senior operational leaders of al Qaida and associated forces” that constitute an “imminent threat.” In the first lecture of my public policy courses, … Continue reading Drone Policy, Revisited
Margaret Thatcher, RIP
Margaret Thatcher, the so called “Iron Lady,” died on April 8th at the age of 87. The White House released the President’s statement, characterizing Baroness Thatcher as “one of the great champions of freedom and liberty.” (Note: In this instance, being a champion of liberty is a positive attribute). A poll conducted by the Guardian … Continue reading Margaret Thatcher, RIP
Freedom and Prosperity: Some Comparative Historical Reflections on State Policies and Performance
In his 1982 book, The Rise and Decline of Nations, economist Mancur Olson argued that over time, stable societies accumulate "distributive coalitions," narrow special-interest organizations that complexify social life and burden the economy with overregulation and opaque forms of wealth redistribution. The notion that distributive coalitions are more often bad than good for economic performance, … Continue reading Freedom and Prosperity: Some Comparative Historical Reflections on State Policies and Performance
Should You Go to Grad School? Taste the Bitterness
Great piece in Slate that fits nicely into the relatively packed genre of recent works on the decision to go to grad school or not (which is probably just a subgenre of bearish pieces on academia). The bitterness just drips off the page, from the title ("Thesis Hatement: Getting a Literature Ph.D. Will Turn You Into An Emotional Trainwreck, Not … Continue reading Should You Go to Grad School? Taste the Bitterness
A good answer to Landsburg’s excellent question
David Friedman provides what I think is the best answer to Landsburg's provocative question. I think I have now answered Steve Landsburg's puzzle. The difference between his example (or mine) of an action that imposes only subjective costs and his example of an activity such as reading pornography, or Bork's of using contraception, that imposes … Continue reading A good answer to Landsburg’s excellent question
This Week in the Broken Window Fallacy
From Todd Crowell in New Geography: Hay fever is thought to have a measurable impact on Japan’s economy, both in a negative and a positive way. The Dai-Ichi Life Insurance Research Institute estimates that the economy lost about $3 billion due to absenteeism in the memorable hay fever year of 2005. On the other hand, … Continue reading This Week in the Broken Window Fallacy
A Path to Fiscal Stability or Symbolic Politics?
The Washington Post reports on some of the details of the Obama administration’s budget proposal, which is to be released next Wednesday. There are several important proposals (the largest of which have appeared before in the negotiations with the Speaker). Although the devil is in the details, a few salient points: $200 billion cut from … Continue reading A Path to Fiscal Stability or Symbolic Politics?
What the Freedom Index Considers and Why
Cross-posted to freedominthe50states.org The recent release of the 2013 edition of Freedom in the 50 States has sparked a great deal of interest and comment among academics, students, the media, and the general public. Since the goal of our study is really to spark a conversation about freedom and state policies, William and I have … Continue reading What the Freedom Index Considers and Why
Taking offence at thought experiments
I love Brad DeLong's academic work. He's way smarter than me and, more importantly, clearly works much much harder than I do. And he tackles interesting questions. But every time I check his blog, I get an awful "Everyone in the world is evil or stupid or both except Brad and a few of his … Continue reading Taking offence at thought experiments
Justice and sentencing
My Twitter feed has been filled with Americans and others expressing outrage about a Saudi court's sentencing a man to be paralyzed from the waist down. He had stabbed a man in the back, paralyzing him. I'm not going to defend or oppose the sentence, but I am going to defend a principle here: the … Continue reading Justice and sentencing
File this under “Lessons Not Learned.”
Seems like Washington is trying to return to the “ownership society.” As Zachary Goldfarb reports in the Washington Post: The Obama administration is engaged in a broad push to make more home loans available to people with weaker credit, an effort that officials say will help power the economic recovery but that skeptics say could … Continue reading File this under “Lessons Not Learned.”
Now, where was I when we were so rudely interrupted?
Last time I was here, I had a lot of fun teasing American libertarian readers, at least until the earthquake brought my guest blogging to an abrupt halt. Support for liberty is a lot like support for GMO-free food. If you survey people, they'll tell you how much they love it. They might even tell … Continue reading Now, where was I when we were so rudely interrupted?