Of Plutocrats and Arguments

At the meeting of the American Economic Association in Boston last weekend, there were protests organized by a group calling itself "Kick It Over," who, as the Washington Post styled it, were "battling for the soul of economics." Their protest included heckling and disruptions of the talks given by Gregory Mankiw, Larry Summers, and Carmen Reinhart. … Continue reading Of Plutocrats and Arguments

Breaking News: Otteson to Wake Forest University

[Cross-posted here.]Dear Friends, Students, and Colleagues:I have accepted a new position and will be leaving Yeshiva University. As of September 1, 2013, I will be the executive director of the BB&T Center for the Study of Capitalism at Wake Forest University.This is a tremendous opportunity for me. The Center is beginning its sixth year of existence, having been … Continue reading Breaking News: Otteson to Wake Forest University

Marriage and Culture Change

My marriage is a sacred compact between my wife and me before God. No law, proposition, or court decision can ever change that. The government's recognition of my marriage did not make it the sacred compact that it is; the government's recognition of anyone else's relationship does not affect what mine is; and no legal … Continue reading Marriage and Culture Change

Congratulations, Grover!

After no fewer than six attempts, United States president Grover Cleveland has finally been inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame. (Yes, there is such a thing, apparently.) It is a long-overdue honor, but it is well deserved. Of course, President Cleveland has to share the honor with co-inductees like Whitney Houston and Joe … Continue reading Congratulations, Grover!

Adjunct Professors and the Modern Guild

An article on the plight of adjunct professors in higher education, "Labor of Love or Cheap Labor? The Plight of Adjunct Professors," was brought to my attention by its author, Celine James. Ms. James kindly asked me for my thoughts about her article. I thought Pileus readers might be interested in what I sent her. … Continue reading Adjunct Professors and the Modern Guild

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

Nothing to Work For

Richard Vedder has an op-ed in the WSJ today discussing the costs to American productivity that having fewer people working is having. The cost is substantial: According to Vedder, whereas from the 17th century through the 20th American wealth averaged a robust 3.5% annual growth, during the first twelve years of the 21st century it … Continue reading Nothing to Work For

Can New Hampshire Be the Hong Kong of America?

Pileus's own Jason Sorens is, among many other things, the founder of the Free State Project. The FSP is an initiative that aims to put the convictions of people who talk about individual liberty to the test. Its proposal is based on the straightforward premise that a relatively small number of committed and organized activists can … Continue reading Can New Hampshire Be the Hong Kong of America?

Adversity and Innovation

For my whole life people have been predicting the imminent collapse of Western civilization. Readers of this blog may recall that I myself have often gone in for some rather pessimistic fretting about the future, particularly concerning the national debt and growing international unrest. I see the point that some of my compatriots are making … Continue reading Adversity and Innovation

Boston Mayor: Say What?

Some people are boycotting the food chain Chick-fil-A in its attempt to come to Boston because Chick-fil-A has given money to organizations opposing gay marriage and its ownership has publicly affirmed its support for "the biblical definition of the family unit."In a story about Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino's position on this topic, the Boston … Continue reading Boston Mayor: Say What?

Samuel Smiles on “Self-Help”

One of my favorite all-time books is Samuel Smiles's 1859 Self-Help. It is an inspiring essay on what amazing things people can accomplish if they apply some very simple virtues, like perseverance, energy, and self-discipline. It includes numerous real-life stories from giants in medicine, politics, philosophy, mathematics, science, business, economics, fine arts, and many other … Continue reading Samuel Smiles on “Self-Help”

Sandel and ‘Crowding Out’

One of the arguments Michael Sandel makes in his new book What Money Can't Buy is that what he calls "market values," which include "the logic of buying and selling" (6 and passim), can, once introduced, crowd out other values. A striking example he offers is what happened at some child-care centers in Israel. Apparently … Continue reading Sandel and ‘Crowding Out’

An Effective Anti-Romney Ad?

A colleague of mine pointed me to this anti-Romney ad, adding that he thought it was "effective" because of its focus on one compelling story. Have a watch: I did not find it effective. It does focus on one story, and it does make it sound like this person was made worse off by Romney. … Continue reading An Effective Anti-Romney Ad?

What’s Wrong Here?

New York University sent out the following message to all of its faculty and staff this morning: Due to today's forecast of very hot weather, New York City and Con Edison have issued another request to users throughout the city to reduce electrical consumption.  These efforts help reduce the chance of brown-outs, black-outs, and damage … Continue reading What’s Wrong Here?

Adam Smith and “Adam Smith”

I'm sorry, but what does Michael Boskin's WSJ op-ed entitled "Obama and 'The Wealth of Nations'" have to do with Adam Smith? The first sentence of the op-ed is "President Obama should put Adam Smith's 'The Wealth of Nations' at the top of his summer reading list." Perhaps he should---but then again, lots of people … Continue reading Adam Smith and “Adam Smith”

Obamacare Upheld: Thank Goodness!

The Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act (don't call it "Obamacare"!) gives me a great sigh of relief. Although I was one of those who thought it well-nigh impossible to be overturned when the lawsuits were initially filed, over the last several months I began to think that there was actually a … Continue reading Obamacare Upheld: Thank Goodness!

Global Regulation Epidemic, on Freedom Watch

Here is a clip from Tuesday night's "Freedom Watch" with Judge Andrew Napolitano. (Freedom Watch airs nightly on the Fox Business Network. If you don't get FBN, contact your television provider!) The topic was a Reuters paper claiming that 14,215 new regulatory rules were put in place on businesses worldwide in 2012. I was one of … Continue reading Global Regulation Epidemic, on Freedom Watch

Character and Dignity in the Wild World of High School Football Recruiting

It looks as though the Yuri Wright affair may finally now, mercifully, be over. Yuri Wright is a senior in high school; but not just any student at not just any high school: he was a nationally recruited cornerback at football powerhouse Don Bosco in New Jersey---or at least he was until recently, when Bosco expelled him. … Continue reading Character and Dignity in the Wild World of High School Football Recruiting

EJW Symposium on America’s Debt Crisis

I have just finished reading a fascinating symposium of papers on America's sovereign debt crisis published in the most recent Econ Journal Watch (volume 9, number 1: January 2012). It is introduced by Tyler Cowen, and includes short papers by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, Garett Jones, Arnold Kling, Joseph Minarik, and Peter Wallinson. It is fascinating, if … Continue reading EJW Symposium on America’s Debt Crisis

All You Need on Political Economy?

I had an interesting conversation recently about what were the three or four best all-time readings on political economy. If you could read, or have others read, only a handful of relatively short things, what would they be? That question is surprisingly challenging. Here are the suggestions of my interlocutors: 1. F. A. Hayek's 1945 … Continue reading All You Need on Political Economy?

Popping the Education Bubble?

It is easy, all too easy, to make sport at the expense of the Wall Street "occupiers." They are overeducated, whiney, and spoiled, they have no coherent plans, objections, or complaints, and on top of everything they are coarse, ill-mannered, and uncouth. Welcome to many college campuses across the country. But two recent articles make me … Continue reading Popping the Education Bubble?

Caplan on Parenting and Having Children

One of the books I read this summer was Bryan Caplan's Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent Is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think. Having already read works like Judith Rich Harris's excellent books The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do and No Two Alike: Human … Continue reading Caplan on Parenting and Having Children

A Note on Entitlements

The WSJ has an editorial today entitled "Entitlement Nation" in which it outlines America's political history that has led to so many millions of us today receiving, even living off, payments of money, goods, or services from the government. The numbers are shocking: "50.5 million Americans are on Medicaid, 46.5 million are on Medicare, 52 million … Continue reading A Note on Entitlements

A Good Sign for Public Education?

The Daily Caller reported recently that a high school in Medina, Ohio has begun charging parents fairly hefty fees for various of the activities and extras that it offers, even for seemingly basic courses like Spanish I and Earth Science. Parents are upset, of course, believing that since they are already paying taxes they shouldn't … Continue reading A Good Sign for Public Education?

Stiglitz on Deregulation and the Rich

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz argued recently that both the economic downturn of the last two years and the looming debt crisis are the fault of "a powerful ideology---the belief in free and unfettered markets," whose "30-year ascendance" has "brought the world to the brink of economic ruin." As an economist, I can't hold a … Continue reading Stiglitz on Deregulation and the Rich

This Week’s Rants and Raves, TSA Edition

1. In the below video, Senator Rand Paul criticizes John Pistole and his TSA for their ham-fisted and invasive pat-downs, especially on children.   Senator Paul makes several good points. What struck me in particular, however, is one part of Mr. Pistole's response. He said that pat-downs on children and seniors are driven---and, apparently, justified---by … Continue reading This Week’s Rants and Raves, TSA Edition

The Million Dollar Internet

How much money would it take for you to give up the internet for the rest of your life? $1 million? Yet how much do you pay for your access to it? The Fund for American Studies just released a provocative short video using those questions as a basis to explore the benefits that wealthy "first … Continue reading The Million Dollar Internet

Independence Day

On Monday we will celebrate the 235th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. This is one of the few official holidays that I actually celebrate, one of the few that I think everyone in America should celebrate. I plan to spend time with family, and to talk about what is in the … Continue reading Independence Day

The Pharaoh’s Freedom

Pileus blogger Jason Sorens recently released his co-authored study "Freedom in the 50 States." This is now the second edition of the report, and it has deservedly generated a lot of attention. Even Paul Krugman has added his two cents. At Salon.com, Andrew Leonard criticizes the report under the sarcastic headline, "Why do liberals hate freedom so … Continue reading The Pharaoh’s Freedom

Circumcision in California: Update

An update to an earlier Pileus post: The woman who had submitted the ballot measure that would ban circumcision in Santa Monica has now withdrawn the measure (h/t: Roger Ream). The woman in question, one Jena Troutman, claims it had not occurred to her that there might be religious objection to her measure, especially from Jews, for … Continue reading Circumcision in California: Update

Do We Need a Commerce Department?

President Obama has just announced his nominee to be the next Secretary of the Commerce Department. In the WSJ's words: "President Barack Obama will nominate John Bryson, a senior adviser to the private-equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., to be his next commerce secretary." The Journal continues: Mr. Bryson, one of 20 senior advisers … Continue reading Do We Need a Commerce Department?

The USPS Nears Collapse: What to Do, What to Do?

Bloomberg BusinessWeek has a long story outlining the desperate financial situation that the United States Postal Service is facing. The USPS is currently approximately $15 billion in debt, and with revenues continuing to drop---and, as is becoming the all-too-familiar refrain with government agencies these days, costs of health care and retirement benefits for workers are rising rapidly. … Continue reading The USPS Nears Collapse: What to Do, What to Do?

Frightening Sentences of the Day

From Peter Ubel in Free Market Madness: Why Human Nature Is at Odds with Economics---And Why It Matters (Harvard Business Press, 2009): The government could, theoretically, change the finances of the food industry enough to halt the obesity epidemic. [...] Given that information alone may not suffice to encourage better eating habits, policy makers should … Continue reading Frightening Sentences of the Day

Are You a Sovereign Citizen?

A student asked me whether I had heard of a loosely organized group of people calling themselves "Sovereign Citizens." I had not. It turns out that 60 Minutes recently did a story on them (available here), in which they come off largely as deranged people looking for an excuse to engage in violence. The 60 … Continue reading Are You a Sovereign Citizen?

Facebook and the End of the World

AEI is sponsoring a debate tomorrow on whether Facebook is destroying human relationships. The debate boasts a formidable lineup: Roger Scruton, Adam Keiper, and Tyler Cowen. It occurred to me recently that one unintended negative consequence of Facebook is the potential destruction of, not friendships, but acquaintanceships. I have many friendly acquaintances who are my … Continue reading Facebook and the End of the World

Honesty as a Weapon

One reason I support the "virtue" approach to morality is that, attractive as some moral rules are in the abstract, there are almost always cases in which good judgment requires either appropriate interpretation or even suspension of them. Take the moral rule that one should always be honest. Honesty is clearly a virtue, but it … Continue reading Honesty as a Weapon

That Was Fast

Wasn't it just five minutes ago that Democrats and Republicans alike were hailing their budget resolution from last week as "historic" and "unprecedented" in its cuts? Even the usually understated WSJ called it, as I pointed out only moments ago, "The Tea Party's First Victory." I guess that was then. Today the WSJ reports that even … Continue reading That Was Fast

Yahoos of Media Lore

Wall Street Journal editorials are usually very good, the WSJ's editorial page being one of the few of major newspapers whose authors are economically literate. The editors recently argued that last Friday's late-hour budget agreement was "The Tea Party's First Victory." Maybe it was. But consider this passage from the piece: Republicans also showed they are … Continue reading Yahoos of Media Lore