Bootleggers, Baptists and Cash for Clunkers

Ah, yes, a bit of nostalgia from the "summer of recovery": the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS), also known as Cash for Clunkers. It seemed quite promising to many in the halcyon days of 2009.  Citizens could trade in their old gas guzzlers (which were subsequently destroyed) for a rebate that could be applied to … Continue reading Bootleggers, Baptists and Cash for Clunkers

What Did the President Know and When Did He Know It?

This question, made famous during the Watergate hearings, seems to be the driving question these days, whether one is speaking of the clumsy rollout of the Affordable Care Act, the number of people in the independent insurance market who will in fact lose their coverage, or the NSA’s surveillance program. In Dana Milbank’s words (Washington Post): … Continue reading What Did the President Know and When Did He Know It?

Quotation of the Day – On ObamaCare

A magnificent quotation in the LA Times about ObamaCare courtesy of a health care provider in California: Pam Kehaly, president of Anthem Blue Cross in California, said she received a recent letter from a young woman complaining about a 50% rate hike related to the healthcare law. "She said, 'I was all for Obamacare until … Continue reading Quotation of the Day – On ObamaCare

Capital Punishment’s Deterrent Effect (update)

Update: added missing caption to figure Next year, the New Hampshire House will take up a bill to abolish the death penalty. Several libertarian legislators have signed on as co-sponsors, and observers think the bill has a good chance. What should libertarians think about the death penalty? In general, hardcore civil libertarians have opposed it, … Continue reading Capital Punishment’s Deterrent Effect (update)

The Value of Left-Libertarian Alliances

The other day I referenced Tom Watson’s piece in Salon, rejecting any libertarian involvement in the Stop Watching Us demonstration (as you might recall, libertarians were the ones who use a “few positive civil liberties positions as a predator uses candy with a child”). Watson’s piece generated a useful response  in Salon from David Segal: … Continue reading The Value of Left-Libertarian Alliances

NPR Again – Where Does Wealth Come From?

I've listened to NPR in the car a fair bit over the last two weeks.  If I learned my economics from that station, I'd have to conclude that wealth is essentially just something that exists and is expropriated by individuals and countries.  It is a fixed pie that one either has a slice of (or … Continue reading NPR Again – Where Does Wealth Come From?

GWU Admissions and the Economics of Higher Ed

Jordan Weissmann at The Atlantic has a story on the revelations that George Washington University rejected applicants on the grounds that they would have required financial aid. Apparently the university had advertised itself as "need-blind" in its admissions policies, but in fact the admissions office ended up rejecting marginal needy applicants in favor of marginal … Continue reading GWU Admissions and the Economics of Higher Ed

Hedging and the Dollar

Leaving aside those of you who have rushed to gold over the last year or five, are any of our readers hedging against the future value of the US dollar by buying foreign currencies (or something else)?  If so, which ones?  Are any of you betting on the US dollar?  Why or why not? One … Continue reading Hedging and the Dollar

A Return to Drones and NSA Surveillance?

After weeks of media obsession with Senator Cruz, the GOP-forced government shutdown, and the impact on public opinion, the Obama administration’s use of drones and the NSA’s vast surveillance efforts are once again gaining some space above the fold. The Washington Post has an interesting piece on the civilian casualties from drone attacks, reviewing the recent … Continue reading A Return to Drones and NSA Surveillance?

Solar Power and Negative Externalities

This article on the boom in companies using solar power is only one of many I've seen recently on the declining costs and increased usage of this wonderful sun-based power source.   It even has this nice graphic (see below).  One might even be tempted to conclude that businesses are doing good by doing well. … Continue reading Solar Power and Negative Externalities

“Brinkmanship” or “Brinksmanship”?

Interestingly, the latter Google search yields 4.4 million hits, while the former yields just 1.9 million hits, yet the Google search for the latter redirects to that for the former, unless you tell it not to. Apparently, either term is acceptable. I find "brinksmanship" more euphonious, perhaps due to the parallel with "marksmanship."

The Return of Marx?

The decades roughly separated by Reagan’s 1980 victory and the financial collapse brought a greater respect for markets and growing interest in libertarianism.  The financial crisis, in contrast, led to a rejection among many of market-oriented doctrines and a revival of Keynes (in Robert Skidelsky’s words, it marked “The Return of the Master”).* According to … Continue reading The Return of Marx?

Other Californians Facing Health Law Sticker Shock

Not just my brother. From SFGate: They have been paying $7,200 a year for a bare-bones Kaiser Permanente health plan with a $5,000 per person annual deductible. "Kaiser told us the plan does not comply with Obamacare and the substitute will cost more than twice as much," about $15,000 per year, she says. This new … Continue reading Other Californians Facing Health Law Sticker Shock

Support the Troops! – Lincoln-Douglas Edition

Below is a selection from Abraham Lincoln's response to Stephen A. Douglas in the first of their famous Lincoln-Douglas debates (this one occurred on August 21, 1858).  Mark LeBar, and other readers, may find it particularly interesting given his prior thoughts on supporting the troops. Lincoln: And so I think my friend, the Judge, is … Continue reading Support the Troops! – Lincoln-Douglas Edition

Evidence Shutdowns Increase Government Spending

A few days ago, I gave the theoretical logic for why the availability of the government shutdown results in growing government spending. Advocates of smaller government should advocate a default budget rule that is far milder than shutdown. Now, I have come across academic research by David Primo finding just this at the state level. … Continue reading Evidence Shutdowns Increase Government Spending

Taking Credit

Given the events of the past several years—and, most certainly, the past few weeks—one should not be surprised that Fitch has threatened to downgrade the nation’s credit rating (as you may recall, S&P issued a similar warning in 2011, and followed through). Although Fitch believes that Congress will raise the debt limit, it observes that … Continue reading Taking Credit

An Immoral Investment Opportunity

Newsweek reports on the fundraising woes of cheating website Ashley Madison, despite their profitability: "You're basically talking about a company that's in the sin business," says Lloyd Greif, president and chief executive officer of the L.A. boutique investment bank Greif & Co. "I think there are quite a few institutions that would have some explaining … Continue reading An Immoral Investment Opportunity

“Why Libertarians Are NH’s Most Active Lawmakers”

The title is from Fergus Cullen's latest editorial in the New Hampshire Union-Leader. Here's a taste: A dilemma for conservatives is that to advance the cause of limited government, some of them have to join government and pass laws. Ironically, the most active state legislators come from the libertarian wing of the Republican Party. Rep. … Continue reading “Why Libertarians Are NH’s Most Active Lawmakers”

Breaking Binary

By all indicators, Congress is a failed institution that is no longer capable of executing its basic constitutional duties. Given the role of parties in organizing Congress and controlling the agenda, one should not be surprised that much of the blame is attributed to the GOP and the Democratic Party. A new Gallup Poll has … Continue reading Breaking Binary

Is Free Will a Noble Lie?

Belief in freedom of the will has many beneficial consequences. Lab experiments have shown that people reading deterministic, anti-free will statements are more likely subsequently to cheat in their own favor. Researchers have even identified some of the chemical processes in the brain associated with diminished belief in free will: Since the publication of these … Continue reading Is Free Will a Noble Lie?

Sympathy for the Rebel

I was pleased to read these statements in the textbook I'm using for intro IR (p. 241): [I]deally, we would like to reduce the likelihood that bloody and destructive civil wars will break out in the first place. There are several challenges to this aspiration. . . [T]here are truly repressive regimes that deserve the … Continue reading Sympathy for the Rebel

The Debt Ceiling and Social Security

Forgive me if I am confused. On May 13, 2013, the Social Security Board of Trustees released its annual report on the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Funds. A few salient points: In 2012, the OASDI Trust Funds had $840 billion in income, including $509 billion in contributions, $27 billion from … Continue reading The Debt Ceiling and Social Security

How’d the Libyan Intervention Go?

At least according to the New York Times, not so well: Libya has collapsed into the control of a patchwork of militias since the ouster of the Qaddafi government in 2011. and Since the overthrow of Colonel Qaddafi, Tripoli has slid steadily into lawlessness, with no strong central government or police presence. It has become a … Continue reading How’d the Libyan Intervention Go?

My Brother’s Obamacare Experience

My brother is individually insured in California. Here's what's he says about what will happen to his insurance plan: More details on my forced insurance changes for 2014 (this is the complete summary provided by my insurer - I'm not cherry picking details): Premiums: same. Deductible: $3K -> 5K. Doctor copay: $40->60. Specialist copay: $40->70. … Continue reading My Brother’s Obamacare Experience

The Ted Cruz Shutdown Is Looking like the Charge of the Light Brigade

Apparently, if anyone can make Americans love Obamacare, it's Ted Cruz. What? Just look at the polls. There are brutal numbers for the GOP in a new Fox News poll, confirming numbers from an earlier Quinnipiac poll. Obama's job approval is up, support for Obamacare is up (opposition running at just 47-45 in the Q … Continue reading The Ted Cruz Shutdown Is Looking like the Charge of the Light Brigade

Negotiation 101

I find this quote rather revealing: “We have to get something out of this. And I don't know what that even is.” Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) Perhaps Rep. Stutzman could benefit from the advice of the Stanford Business School. The first pitfall to avoid in negotiation:1. Poor Planning: Successful negotiators make detailed plans. They know their priorities — … Continue reading Negotiation 101

How Government Shutdowns Grow Government

Following Marc's great post on congressional dysfunction, I'd like to point how political science tells us that the availability of government shutdowns actually causes the growth of government spending. The analysis follows the 1979 spatial analysis of zero-based budgeting by Thomas Romer and Howard Rosenthal. Suppose that there is one dimension of politics: the size … Continue reading How Government Shutdowns Grow Government

Government by Continuing Resolution

The federal government has been running by continuing resolutions for some time—a product of the inability of Congress to execute one of its prime constitutional functions: authorizing and appropriating funds. The textbook version of the budget process is quite simple. It is also largely irrelevant given that Congress rarely passes the twelve appropriations bills by … Continue reading Government by Continuing Resolution