Evaluating Pinker’s Claim That States Reduced War

Did the emergence of the state reduce the rate of human death from warfare? Steven Pinker's outstanding book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, surveys many reasons why you are less likely to die from violence today than your ancestors were. Part of his explanation is that warfare was constant in … Continue reading Evaluating Pinker’s Claim That States Reduced War

*Classical Liberalism and the Austrian School* by Ralph Raico (updated)

Classical Liberalism and the Austrian School is the latest collection of essays from Ralph Raico, published by the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Ralph was kind enough to send me a print copy. The introductory, eponymous essay concerns the relationship between Austrianism as an economic methodology and classical liberalism as a political program or ideology. Raico … Continue reading *Classical Liberalism and the Austrian School* by Ralph Raico (updated)

Brief Book Reviews

This post is about three books I've polished off recently, all quite different from one another: Timothy Besley & Torsten Persson, Pillars of Prosperity: The Political Economy of Development Clusters - nothing to do with industrial districts or network externalities; this is a (mostly) theoretical exploration of the reasons why rulers might choose to invest … Continue reading Brief Book Reviews

Interposition: Part Nine: The Hartford Convention

Few in power find it convenient to notice inconsistencies in their own conduct. Alas, but President Madison was no exception. Federalism and decentralization exist precisely because free constitutions should not depend on the good graces of those in office, but on the checks necessary to harry them back under the law. Seeking the financial means … Continue reading Interposition: Part Nine: The Hartford Convention

Interposition: Part Eight: Federalism, Finance and The War of 1812

When tensions with England finally began to degenerate into violent altercations, first on the western frontier in such places as Tippecanoe and later along the Great Lakes, the Madison administration decided the time had come to vindicate America’s claims of offended sovereignty. Unsurprisingly, these claims also happened to coincide with popular desires to expand into … Continue reading Interposition: Part Eight: Federalism, Finance and The War of 1812

Interposition: Part Seven: The Embargo and Noncooperation

With the war in Europe between France and England intensifying, Americans found their rights as neutral traders regularly violated by both French and British navies, and French and British port restrictions further limited American opportunities for commerce. To make matters worse, on numerous occasions, English vessels had boarded American ships and “impressed” many of their … Continue reading Interposition: Part Seven: The Embargo and Noncooperation

Eye for an Eye: Retribution or Restitution?

I recently came across this interesting, five-year-old interview with law professor William Ian Miller on "talionic" law in the Middle Ages, which specified literal "eye for an eye" justice. Talionic law developed in societies that lacked stable state institutions, like Iceland and early England. As such, it was embedded in strong extended-family institutions that used … Continue reading Eye for an Eye: Retribution or Restitution?