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Art Carden

Articles by Art Carden

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

February 1, 2019

Robert Frost was right: good fences make good neighbors. So do good peach trees, especially when combined with an invitation to the neighbors to come and pick peaches to their hearts’ content because said tree’s branches are positively sagging with fruit.
The invitation couldn’t have come a moment too soon as we had just run out of peaches at breakfast. A couple of the kids and I tromped down the street to the neighbors’ house with a basket, a bag, and visions of a kitchen counter overflowing with juicy, ripe peaches for lessons in division of labor, diminishing marginal returns, how capital goods make labor more productive, and ultimately whether capital and technological changes mean there won’t be any jobs left in the future.
Adding workers gets us more peaches.

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Just Give Them Water Filters And Whatnot

July 16, 2018

Reprinted from
Infant and child mortality has fallen precipitously in the last few centuries, and life expectancy has increased dramatically. We have made a lot of progress in the protection of public health, but we are still wasting staggering amounts of life that gets snuffed out early by disease and war. Consider diarrhea, which is an inconvenience in wealthy countries but a matter of life and death for some of the poorest people in the world. As the CDC reports, “Diarrhea kills 2,195 children every day—more than AIDS, malaria, and measles combined.” We can reduce this by letting people cross borders.
A Malthusian or a misanthrope or a representative of the more extreme strains of environmentalists might respond “good,” repeating with Ebenezer Scrooge, “If they would

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Minimum Wages Might Mean Fewer Benefits, So Let’s Not #Fightfor15

June 18, 2018

Reprinted from Forbes
A recent working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research by the economists Jeffrey Clemens, Lisa B. Kahn, and Jonathan Meer should make us pause and question the wisdom of higher minimum wages. The economists explore how minimum wages affect the probability of employer-provided health coverage and find that a chunk of the increased earnings for workers who get higher wages will be offset by a reduction in employer-provided health coverage.
There are a lot of ways minimum wages can hurt the people they’re supposed to help. By raising the price of something in a competitive market, people will demand less of it. And while there is some mixed evidence, it does appear to be the case that minimum wages reduce employment.
In the simplest versions of the labor

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Marx’s Legacy Is Anti-Intellectualism

May 16, 2017

Reprinted from
Friday marked the birthday of probably the most influential social scientist of the last two centuries, Karl Marx. Enormous amounts of ink, digital and actual, have been spilled interpreting Marx, reinterpreting Marx, exegeting Marx, applying Marx, criticizing Marx, refuting Marx, praising Marx, and burying Marx. The current campus debates about free speech suggest that we should consider Marx’s practical, intellectual, and political legacy.
Scholars working in the classical liberal tradition are no strangers to calumnies and occasional slanders as arguments are met with a sneering “who funded this?” rather than careful and critical engagement.
Opponents of minimum wages must be corporate stooges.
Intellectuals who dissent from orthodox positions on anthropogenic

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Boycott Black Friday?

November 25, 2016

Reprinted from
I’ve seen a couple of exhortations to boycott Black Friday. I completely agree with critics of the consumer economy that consumption does not create economic growth, there is far more to life than material consumption, holiday spending has gotten excessive, etc., etc. Still, some are calling for boycotts of major retailers because they “ruin workers’ holidays.” The boycotters are off base for two reasons.
First, there’s a huge collective action problem here. If you’re not in line at Best Buy, that means more space for me. For the same reason competitive pressure makes cartels break down, a nationwide boycott isn’t likely to work. There are and have been exceptions, but I don’t expect this to be one of them.
Second, workplace disamenities will be reflected in wage rates. Suppose working all night on Thanksgiving is unattractive. If so, firms will have to pay a little more in order to attract workers to jobs where that is a possibility. I’m on board with those who want to be less consumption-focused, but even if we were to stage a successful boycott that made working at Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, and other places more comfortable, the reduced disamenity would ultimately manifest itself in lower wages. Just as people don’t live on bread alone, they are not compensated with wages alone.

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