Frank Buckley was kind enough to send me a copy of his new book, The Once and Future King: The Rise of Crown Government in America, and now seems like an appropriate time to post my review. Buckley argues persuasively -- and surprisingly -- that the Founders intended to establish a semi-parliamentary form of government … Continue reading *The Once and Future King* by F.H. Buckley
This paper of mine is now available online in Constitutional Political Economy. It empirically investigates competing theories of how fiscal federalism constrains government. The main conclusion is that different federal systems conform roughly to different theoretical models, with the U.S. - a bit surprisingly - coming closest to "market-preserving federalism." Some of the early findings … Continue reading “Fiscal Federalism, Jurisdictional Competition, and the Size of Government”
"The state," wrote sociologist Max Weber, "is a relation of men dominating men." I agree. Furthermore, no human being should dominate another human being. Therefore, the state should not exist. But I'm not an anarchist. How can that be? We have to distinguish between "governments" and "states." Anarchy is the absence of formal government, and … Continue reading The Difference Between Governments and States
"Why did the autonomous city-state die?" asks political-economic historian David Stasavage in a new American Political Science Review article. He finds that new autonomous city-states enjoyed higher population growth rates than nonautonomous city-states, up to 108 years. After that point, their population growth was lower than that of nonautonomous city-states. His argument is that the … Continue reading More Evidence on Law of Political Entropy
Libertarians often bemoan the expansion of the federal government over the centuries and cite Thomas Jefferson's quotation, "The natural progress of things is for liberty to yeild [sic], and government to gain ground." Of course, there have been important advances for liberty in the U.S. in the 20th and 21st centuries too, yet overall, government's … Continue reading A Law of Political Entropy?
Having finally turned the corner on a brutal, 11-day (and counting) cold, I feel up to getting back to my blogging routine. First up: a followup to last month's post, "Why So Little Decentralization?" To review, that post posed a puzzle (a problem for political scientists to ponder, you might say). The puzzle is this: … Continue reading Why So Little Decentralization? Part Two: Secession Prevention
Some of these developing countries are both huge and ethnically and regionally diverse, India and Indonesia most notably. One might think that these governments would have even more reason to decentralize than would the governments of comparatively homogeneous Western democracies. Therefore, the relative lack of decentralization in developing countries remains a puzzle.
Twenty years after its establishment, the World Trade Organization finally reached its first global trade deal last night at the meeting of the world's trade ministers in Bali. The successful agreement foiled expectations that this meeting, like all others of the Doha Round, would end in failure and acrimony. Media outlets have been reporting the … Continue reading WTO Reaches First-Ever Agreement
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?
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
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
All 50 states ban the direct sales of motor vehicles from manufacturers to consumers. The politics of this regrettable policy are clear: auto dealers are powerful political players in every state, while only a few states actually have manufacturing facilities. Banning direct manufacturer sales benefits dealers while hurting manufacturers and consumers. State governments continue to … Continue reading Interstate Protectionism and the Dormant Commerce Clause
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?
John Samples at the Cato Institute defends the filibuster: Allowing majority rule to always trump minority interests would undercut the intent and structure of the Constitution, with its many protections of minorities from the tyranny of majorities. As political scientist Gregory Koger has noted, the filibuster has been used to force Senate majorities to consider … Continue reading John Samples on the Filibuster
Conservatives and liberals are both mad over the Senate's mundane filibuster compromise. Liberals wanted the filibuster abolished or severely pared back, and conservatives didn't want any reforms at all. Of course, the sides are exactly flipped from 2005, when it was Senate Republicans who threatened the "constitutional option." Both sides are afflicted with short-termist thinking. … Continue reading End the Filibuster
Whatever merits the regime uncertainty thesis has in explaining the length of the Great Depression (and they may be significant), it cannot explain the stagnant recovery of 2009-2012.
Libertarianism.org - Finally! A non-technical, one-stop shop for the major ideas in the philosophical tradition of liberty. Cato Institute project. Governance Without a State: Policies and Politics in Areas of Limited Statehood (Columbia UP) - File under "order in anarchy." Mostly European scholars giving somewhat different takes than you get with the UK-US "economics of … Continue reading Briefly Noted
The latest issue of Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization is dedicated to James Buchanan's work. Some of the most provocative pieces here include Kliemt on Buchanan as Kantian, Leeson on why clubs have self-enforcing constitutions and governments do not, and Voigt on how to test hypotheses drawn from constitutional economics. Especially recommended for those … Continue reading Boettke, Munger, Leeson, Horwitz, Coyne, Sen, Ostrom, & others on James Buchanan
Political scientist John Sides has contributed an interesting guest post to FiveThirtyEight, in which he reviews the evidence that social class influences the way Congresspeople vote. In particular, Congresspeople are unlikely to come from working-class backgrounds, and class seems to affect voting at the individual level. If Congress had the same mix of class backgrounds … Continue reading Do We Want Everyone Represented Equally?
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
The last issue of The Economist has a feature on "middle-income fragile and failed states" (MIFFs). It compares the World Bank list of countries by development level (high, middle, and low) to the OECD list of "fragile and failed states," finding that fragile and failed states are by no means exclusively low-income: [S]ome 15 of … Continue reading Stability, Peace, and Poverty
Noel Johnson, Matt Mitchell, and Steve Yamarik have a new working paper answering that question in the affirmative. They look at state fiscal and regulatory policies and find that Democrats generally like to increase taxes and spending when in control of state houses and Republicans do the reverse. But when states have tough balanced-budget requirements … Continue reading Do Politicians Regulate When They Can’t Spend?
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
At a recent Institute for Humane Studies conference, I had a bit of a debate with Bryan Caplan about the potential popularity of this proposal. In conjunction with this poll, which admittedly suffers from serious self-selection bias, I have another poll running on a non-political site. We'll check back in a few days and see … Continue reading Multiple Voting in Elections
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
In a few hours, polls open in the United Kingdom for local and devolved elections and for a referendum on moving to a new electoral system, Instant Runoff Voting, which Brits and Aussies insist on calling, undescriptively, "alternative vote" (AV). This referendum came about as a demand of the Liberal Democrats, who held the balance … Continue reading Is There Such a Thing as a “Libertarian” Electoral System?
New York was Hamilton’s great project. So closely divided was the state, that at various moments, he despaired of its coming into the union. At one point the Antifederalists offered a compromise. They would support a conditional ratification dependent on the passage of certain key amendments, including the all important construction of delegated and reserved … Continue reading Interposition: Part Four: New York and the First Act of Interposition
One overlooked electoral reform to decrease the power of special interests in the U.S. political process would be to expand the size of the U.S. House quite significantly, so that legislators cater to much smaller electorates. (More radically, state partition could also be promoted to expand the size of the Senate.) Accordingly, I thought today's … Continue reading Are Americans Underrepresented?
Among the defenders of the Constitution, a great deal was said about the states as a check to the power of the national government that informed the first ideas about interposition. Madison’s contention in Federalist 39 is well-known. Our union was to be “partly federal and partly national.” Among the premier federal attributes were such provisions as the equal … Continue reading Interposition:Part Two: Publius and the Federal Check to National Power
A rumble can be heard emanating from assemblies and governor’s mansions across these fruited plains. It is a sound reminiscent of by-gone days that echo down through centuries of constitutional thought. Prompted by everything from unfunded Congressional mandates to the new omnibus healthcare bill, (See here and here) these reverberations strike cords of distant legal memory that … Continue reading Interposition: Part One: An Essential Purpose of the States
The first of a series will begin tomorrow, the Ides of March (the 15th), an appropriate time to initiate an investigation of interposition and federalism in America. On that date in 44 B.C., Julius Caesar was slain for his offences against the Roman Republic. It was a futile act of desperation. The empire was not … Continue reading Interposition: The Teeth of Federalism: Introduction
At Hit & Run, Ron Bailey expresses a surprisingly confident explanation of Arab countries' economic and political woes: oil. Yes, the resource curse is back in the news. But as longtime readers of Pileus know, recent research suggests that the resource curse may be a myth. To the extent that oil wealth explains poor economic … Continue reading Arab States Cursed by Oil?
A bill to adopt approval voting has been filed in the N.H. House, and one of the co-sponsors is a member of the relevant committee. The bill would establish approval voting for all state offices and presidential primaries. Approval voting is an electoral system for single-winner elections that allows voters to cast not more than … Continue reading Will New Hampshire Be the First State to Abolish First-Past-the-Post?