Bryan Caplan argues that social conservatives should prefer libertines to hypocrites, contrary to the common meme that "at least hypocrites have moral standards." The argument is pretty simple: hypocrites seem to share your values, but when you least expect it, they will betray you. So far as it goes, the argument is pretty convincing. But … Continue reading Libertines, Hypocrites, and the Weak-Willed, With an Application to Socialism
There has been much coverage of last week’s Supreme Court decision on campaign finance (McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission), most of it negative (insert shocked surprise here) given that it will provide more opportunities for the wealthy to shape public policy. As Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) observes: "It is far too often the case in … Continue reading McCutcheon
Austerity, Corruption, and the Long Run
If you see corruption in the upper tiers of government as a major problem for an economy's health in the long run (and the balance of evidence suggests that it is, at least at high levels in capitalist countries), then externally imposed austerity might be the only way to root it out. Syracuse prof Glyn … Continue reading Austerity, Corruption, and the Long Run
Rent-Seeking and Vote-Trading in the U.S. Senate
Last night the U.S. Senate played host to naked special-interest politics, as agricultural subsidy interests won vote after vote on the floor. As this story from Politico notes, the sugar program stands out as one of the most intrusive of the commodity programs still on the books: a mix of price supports, import quotas, and … Continue reading Rent-Seeking and Vote-Trading in the U.S. Senate
Interstate Protectionism and the Dormant Commerce Clause
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
A Quick Public Choice Take on the Fiscal Cliff Deal
I agree with pretty much everything Marc has to say on the deal below. (For my own thoughts, see here.) Nevertheless, from a political point of view, something very like this deal was inevitable. First, the Republicans held a bad hand. All the Bush tax cuts were going away, so they had very little leverage. … Continue reading A Quick Public Choice Take on the Fiscal Cliff Deal
For an Anti-Farm Bill League (update)
Conservatives and taxpayer groups are ready to fight the $1 trillion farm bill when it comes up for a vote in the new Congress. Agricultural subsidies, price supports, and tariffs in developed countries (the U.S., Japan, and the European Union especially) not only harm consumers at home by hitting them with higher prices, but cause … Continue reading For an Anti-Farm Bill League (update)
“[E]mpirical evidence about the inefficiency and motives of the public sector is minimal.”
The quotation above comes from page 16 of a public finance textbook by Robin Boadway and Anwar Shah (Fiscal Federalism: Principles and Practice of Multiorder Governance, Cambridge UP 2009). Is that right? Let me throw out just one counterexample: Bates, Markets and States in Tropical Africa.
Green Auto Corporate Welfare: The Next Solyndras?
ABC News has done a carefully researched investigative report on the Department of Energy's billions of dollars in awards to electric car programs that remain years away from profitability. They lead with a headline intended to appeal to the economic nationalism of the mass public -- "Car Company Gets Loan, Builds Cars in Finland" -- … Continue reading Green Auto Corporate Welfare: The Next Solyndras?
Rate of Return on Bank Lobbying
This working paper is already getting substantial attention, and it's not hard to see why. They find that banks that lobbied more in the years leading up to the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) of 2008 received more money through TARP. What's particularly astounding is the rate of return, which they estimate at between $485 … Continue reading Rate of Return on Bank Lobbying