And what does this new research on activists say to libertarians?

A new study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology suggests that social and political activists may be harming their own causes.  Here is a piece in the Pacific Standard that highlights the study and summarizes its finding thusly: Why don’t people behave in more environmentally friendly ways? New research presents one uncomfortable answer: They don’t want … Continue reading And what does this new research on activists say to libertarians?

Debating Natalism

Bryan Caplan has responded to my post opposing natalism, the view that we should try to create many more human beings because doing so will make us better off. This is a brief rejoinder to his post on the most important issues outstanding (Bryan's quotations are in blockquotes). In fact, there's a good reason to … Continue reading Debating Natalism

Against Natalism

There seems to be very little disagreement among market-oriented economists that the optimal number of people on the planet is much larger than the number of people currently alive (see here, here, and here for examples). Here are some reasons for skepticism about that claim. The main advantage of more people is a deepening of … Continue reading Against Natalism

Defunding Obamacare: In Search of a Strategy

As we all know, if a continuing resolution (or CR) is not passed by the end of the day on September 30, the government will shut down. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has threatened to filibuster the House CR because if debate is suspended, the provisions defunding Obamacare will be eliminated via majority vote. If Senator … Continue reading Defunding Obamacare: In Search of a Strategy

The German Election (update)

In yesterday's German federal election, the Christian Democrats dramatically increased their seat share and moderately increased their vote share, while their coalition partners, the classical liberal Free Democrats, lost all their seats for the first time in party history. Since the Christian Democrats came five seats short of a majority, it looks as if they … Continue reading The German Election (update)

Collective Action Problems and the GOP

Ezra Klein has an interesting piece (Wonkblog) on the collective-action problem facing the GOP with respect to Obamacare. Stated concisely: Here's the Republican Party's problem, in two sentences: It would be a disaster for the party to shut down the government over Obamacare. But it's good for every individual Republican politician to support shutting down … Continue reading Collective Action Problems and the GOP

A Real Abstract or a Parody of One?

A real abstract from an article in a new journal on critical security studies: We offer a provocation – that we should stop appending ‘Critical’ to ‘Security Studies’.  Critical security as an academically and politically contested terrain is no longer productive of emancipatory alternatives. In making this claim, we seek to reflect upon the underlying dynamics … Continue reading A Real Abstract or a Parody of One?

Is Decentralization Overrated?

I recently read Daniel Treisman's brilliant book, The Architecture of Government: Rethinking Political Decentralization. This book is particularly important for classical liberals who defend decentralization as an important institutional reform for promoting and protecting individual freedom. Treisman's thesis is essentially that decentralization is overrated. He doesn't argue that decentralization generally has bad consequences, even under … Continue reading Is Decentralization Overrated?

Time for a Speech on the Affordable Care Act?

On Tuesday, President Obama devoted 16 minutes to making the case for some unspecified action in Syria under conditions yet to be determined. After seeing the new CNN/ORC poll, one wonders whether it is time for a speech on the merits of the Affordable Care Act.  According to the poll (conducted September 6-8), 6 percent … Continue reading Time for a Speech on the Affordable Care Act?

Chemical Weapons

They were at the heart of President Obama’s speech last night. Sheldon Richman (Reason) has written a piece that places the US position on chemical weapons in broader context. Unfortunately, US policy and practice has not been nearly as consistent as the President suggests. Moreover, although the US made a commitment under the Chemical Weapons … Continue reading Chemical Weapons

The Latest from New Hampshire and the FSP

Will May has done some really interesting analysis of roll-call voting in the New Hampshire legislature. Recently he did an analysis of where Free Stater legislators fall on the left-right spectrum as revealed by W-NOMINATE data (this procedure places legislators on a dimension of votes as revealed by correlations in voting behavior, not an "objective" … Continue reading The Latest from New Hampshire and the FSP

A Libertarian Case for Compulsory Military Service?!

You have to admire the sheer gall of a man who defends compulsory national service on libertarian grounds. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry does so in this month's Cato Unbound. What really got my attention was this bit: Libertarians think it’s legitimate for the state to use violence to take people’s money. If you don’t think taxation is … Continue reading A Libertarian Case for Compulsory Military Service?!

_Scientific American_ Supports GMO Foods

In its September 6 issue, Scientific American published an editorial supporting genetically modified foods and opposing GMO labeling: Instead of providing people with useful information, mandatory GMO labels would only intensify the misconception that so-called Frankenfoods endanger people's health [see “The Truth about Genetically Modified Food”]. The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the … Continue reading _Scientific American_ Supports GMO Foods

Toward the Next Financial Crisis?

In 2010, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act “to promote the financial stability of the United States by improving accountability and transparency in the financial system, to end ‘too big to fail’, to protect the American taxpayer by ending bailouts, to protect consumers from abusive financial services practices, and for … Continue reading Toward the Next Financial Crisis?

Nominal Wage Growth Over Time

Here are quarterly data on "usual weekly earnings" in current dollars from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The first graph shows the first (lowest) decile of wage earners. The second shows the ninth (why not the tenth? BLS does not make that an option). These data should be relevant to the debate over whether most … Continue reading Nominal Wage Growth Over Time

Rand Paul on Syria

Senator Paul has written a brief explanation at Time on why he will vote no on Syria. The argument is quite straightforward (and worth reading in its entirety): “War should occur only when America is attacked, when it is threatened or when American interests are attacked or threatened.” “If American interests are at stake, then … Continue reading Rand Paul on Syria

Trade and Employment

I teach my undergraduates that trade has no long-run effect on aggregate employment. I teach it because it's right, and very few economists would disagree. Tyler Cowen's recent postings on MR about the negative employment effects of trade have the potential to mislead. To the extent that trade and technology correlate with persistent disemployment in … Continue reading Trade and Employment

What Coase Might Say to Zoning Boards

The Coase Theorem, which tells us that the social optimum may be reached by exchange no matter how property rights are assigned if transaction costs are zero (and not if transaction costs are high enough), has relevance to the problem of zoning. In much of the U.S., zoning is excessively strict, pricing moderate-income households into … Continue reading What Coase Might Say to Zoning Boards

Ronald H. Coase, RIP

Ronald Coase has died at the age of 102.  Many scholars in law, economics, and public policy benefited greatly from Coase’s insights. His 1960 paper “The Problem of Social Costs” is one that I have assigned annually in several of my courses and it has always given rise to some lively discussions. There is a … Continue reading Ronald H. Coase, RIP