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Don Boudreaux

Don Boudreaux

He is a professor of economics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Previously, he was president of the Foundation for Economic Education.

Articles by Don Boudreaux

More on the Late, Great Walter Williams

22 hours ago

Here’s a further contribution of mine to this month’s Liberty Matters discussion of my late, great colleague Walter Williams – a discussion both of the man and his work. Here’s my conclusion:
That these interventions today are often supported by people whose motives are emphatically not racist does not render these interventions immune from the charge of being systematically racist. If these interventions’ ill-consequences have – as they do – a distinctly racist profile, then the term “systemic racism” is appropriate.
An important difference between Walter and Progressives on this front is that Walter rightly rejected Progressives’ childish belief that racist intentions are both sufficient and necessary for racist outcomes. It is this naïve understanding of systemic racism that Walter

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Bonus Quotation of the Day…

1 day ago

… is from an e-mail that my friend Jon Fortier, during a discussion yesterday of omicron, sent to a listserve to which he and I contribute; I share this line with Jon’s kind permission:
Remember when we used to fight the flu with cups of tea and rest instead of communism?

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Some Covid Links

1 day ago

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine professor Marty Makary explains the danger of disparaging natural immunity. A slice:
The CDC study and ours confirm what more than 100 other studies on natural immunity have found: The immune system works. The largest of these studies, from Israel, found that natural immunity was 27 times as effective as vaccinated immunity in preventing symptomatic illness.
None of this should surprise us. For years, studies have shown that infection with the other coronaviruses that cause severe illness, SARS and MERS, confers lasting immunity. In a study published in May 2020, Covid-recovered monkeys that were rechallenged with the virus didn’t get sick.
Public-health officials have a lot of explaining to do. They used the wrong

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Quotation of the Day…

1 day ago

… is from page 147 of George Will’s 2021 book, American Happiness and Discontents: The Unruly Torrent, 2008-2020 – a collection of many of Will’s columns over these years; (the essay from which the quotation below is drawn originally appeared in National Review on September 3rd, 2015):
It has been a protracted, serpentine path from Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) and “separate but equal” to today’s racial preferences. The nation still is stained by the sordid business of assigning group identities and rights. This is discordant with the inherent individualism of the nation’s foundational natural rights tradition….

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Bonus Quotation of the Day…

2 days ago

… is from page 37 of the original, 1982 edition of Dominick Armentano’s excellent but regrettably neglected volume Antitrust and Monopoly: Anatomy of a Policy Failure (original emphasis):
It is only because consumers find resources satisfactorily allocated that potential competitors find entry difficult or impossible. Product differentiation, especially a differentiation that increases prices, can act as a barrier to entry only if consumers prefer that differentiation, and are willing to pay the presumably higher prices associated with, say, new annual auto style changes.

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Some Covid Links

2 days ago

Peter Attia tweets this graph, and the comment below it: (HT Martin Kulldorff)

If you want perspective on how how people

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Quotation of the Day…

2 days ago

… is from page 146 of Robert Higgs’s Winter 2001 Independent Review article, “Unmitigated Mercantilism,” as it is reprinted and slightly revised in the superb 2004 collection of some of Bob’s essays, Against Leviathan:
As for the job creation that the bank declares to be its very purpose, one need not pause long over the mathematics. U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) is now approximately $10 trillion. Even if all of the workers required to produce the $16.7 billion of bank-subsidized exports were to become permanently unemployed — a highly unlikely outcome, especially in today’s tight labor markets — the resulting increase in the U.S. rate of unemployment would be swallowed up in the rounding error. The repeated claim that the nation needs the Eximbank to create or maintain jobs is

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Some Covid Links

3 days ago

Writing in today’s Wall Street Journal, Daniel Halperin shares a great deal of important information. Three slices:
This coronavirus, especially the Omicron variant, is so fast-moving that mass testing and contact tracing, and probably even isolation and quarantine, can’t slow it down significantly. The U.K. and other countries, unlike the U.S., already had widespread rapid-testing capacity during their recent surges, yet they experienced the same meteoric rise in cases. As with other interventions such as booster shots, testing is most useful for those at high risk of serious complications, who might benefit from early treatment.
As for masking, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently acknowledged that cloth masks do relatively little to prevent spread. Some experts

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Quotation of the Day…

3 days ago

… is from pages 186-187 of H.L. Mencken’s essay “On Government,” as this essay is reprinted in the 1996 Johns Hopkins University Press collection of some of Mencken’s best essays, Prejudices: A Selection; in this quotation Mencken refers to the typical civil ‘servant,’ wearing at least the veneer of idealism, who became more prominent after the shrinkage of the spoils system and that system’s overt role in dispensing jobs to cronies:
He doesn’t start off with a bald demand for a job; he starts off with a Message. He has discovered the long-sought sure cure for all the sorrows of the world; he has the infallible scheme for putting down [in]justice, misery, ignorance, suffering, sin; his appeal is not to the rules of a sinister and discreditable game, but to the bursting heart of

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What of the Photo of the Space-helmeted Woman?

4 days ago

Here’s a letter to an e-mail correspondent:
Mr. M__:
You’re one of three people to object to my critical posting earlier today at my blog of a photo of a masked woman at the Charlotte airport wearing a space helmet. You write that “chances are the person suffers from an extreme phobia which makes her an outlier…. The photo is worthless as a piece of information.”
Of course it’s true that very few people go to such extremes as to wear space helmets. But I disagree that the photo, as a piece of information, is worthless. I believe that it reveals the dangerous degree of misinformation now afoot.
Before Covid, almost no such sights were seen. Yet now, it’s common to encounter persons who behave in ways that, while (typically) not as extreme as wearing space helmets, are nevertheless most

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Simple

4 days ago

If an historian or archaeologist were to ask you “In what era did humans live lives of the greatest simplicity?”, how would you answer? Your answer would be mistaken if it is anything other than “Today, in the modern industrialized world” – or so I argue in my latest column for AIER. A slice:
Imagine what life was like, say, for a typical New England farm family a mere 200 years ago. Waking up on a frigid winter morning, a fire had to be started in the fireplace. This task was done in an as-yet-unheated home because, well, the fire had yet to be started. The home had no thermostat-controlled HVAC unit. And the person starting the fire had no automatic lighter – or even safety matches – to ease the task of igniting a flame. Nor was there available any easy-to-light artificial logs.
The

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Can’t Be Too Safe from the Covid Monster

4 days ago

For those of you who doubt the reality of Covid Derangement Syndrome – the syndrome that drives people to believe that every further reduction, no matter how small, in the risk of encountering the SARS-CoV-2 virus is worth whatever the cost of this reduction, no matter how large – take a look at this photo of a traveler at the Charlotte airport. (HT Gary Leff and Todd Zywicki)

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Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: “Errant assessments of ‘income inequality’”

4 days ago

In my column for the December 11th, 2011, edition of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review I challenged some popular means of assessing economic inequality. You can read my column, in full, beneath the fold.

Errant assessments of ‘income inequality’
President Obama is again waging class warfare. His message now to the great majority of Americans is, “You’re poor because the rich are rich. Re-elect me and I’ll take from the rich and give to you, the poor.”
This message appeals to three groups of people with much overlap among them.
The first are folks who want to get rich(er) quickly. And what better way to do so than to have Uncle Sam take from rich people? Any guilt that they might suffer about hiring an agency (government) to confiscate wealth from strangers is assuaged by reassurances

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Some Covid Links

4 days ago

Harvey Risch, Jay Bhattacharya, and Paul Alexander call for an immediate end to the Covid emergency. A slice:
We don’t mean that the virus is gone – omicron is still spreading wildly, and the virus may circulate forever.  But with a normal focus on protecting the vulnerable, we can treat the virus as a medical rather than a social matter and manage it in ordinary ways. A declared emergency needs continuous justification, and that is now lacking.
…..
Even in places with strict lockdown measures, there are hundreds of thousands of newly registered omicron cases daily and countless unregistered positives from home testing. Measures like mandatory masking and distancing have had negligible or at most small effects on transmission. Large-scale population quarantines only delay the

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Quotation of the Day…

4 days ago

… is from page 185 of the late Paul Heyne’s March 1985 paper “The U.S. Catholic Bishops and the Pursuit of Justice,” as this paper is reprinted in the excellent 2008 collection of Heyne’s writings, “Are Economists Basically Immoral?” and Other Essays on Economics, Ethics, and Religion (Geoffrey Brennan and A.M.C. Waterman, eds.) (original emphasis):
“Limited government” does not mean government that limits itself; all governments limit themselves at some point. Limited government means government limited by rules that citizens know and can count on. It means a government that revises the rules only in accordance with the rules. Many students of government have in recent years begun to see the limitation of government in this sense as the critical problem facing democracies. The

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A Gruesome Anniversary

5 days ago

Two years ago today – on January 23rd, 2020 – general lockdown of society was invented, by the Chinese communist government, as a means of fighting a virus. What a terrible day. Here’s Will Jones:
Today, January 23rd, is the day, in 2020, when the world changed as China first implemented in Wuhan the novel public health policy that has come to define the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously regarded as impossible, ineffective and far too harmful to be ethically acceptable, humanity now faces the prospect of lockdowns as a constant threat in the face of future outbreaks of contagious disease.
Initially in 2020 seen as something distinctively Chinese in its authoritarian harshness, within days the World Health Organisation had cast aside its own pandemic rulebook and held the Chinese response

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Some Non-Covid Links

5 days ago

David Henderson asks if California’s government will raise taxes even more. A slice:
To add insult to injury, the bill’s authors say the tax would be imposed “for the privilege of doing business” in California. And here I thought doing business was a right, not a privilege. Silly me.
A basic principle in the economics of taxation is that a tax rarely sticks where it lands. Translation: whoever pays the tax almost never bears the whole burden. The payer passes on at least some, and often much, of the burden to consumers.
That’s especially true for a state tax. The reason: businesses are free to move to other states and they will do so until the before-tax rate of profit rises in California to compensate businesses for staying. That means higher prices.
Also from David Henderson is this

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Some Covid Links

5 days ago

As evidenced by her latest column, one of the most sensible and forceful voices throughout Covid hysteria has been, and continues to be, the Telegraph‘s American-born columnist Janet Daley. Two slices:
Have you begun to suspect that at least some of the people who have been responsible for seeing us through, or reporting on, the Covid crisis are unwilling to let it go? Not the virus itself, of course. It would be quite wicked to suggest that anyone in a position of power or influence wanted the illness to continue as a real threat.
So no, it is not the existence of Covid-19 as a disease that is begging to be prolonged but the state of emergency that accompanied it. And it is not just those actually in charge of the policy who seem to be touched by this reluctance to accept its end:

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Quotation of the Day…

5 days ago

… is from page 29 of the 2006 Liberty Fund edition of Ludwig von Mises’s 1956 volume, The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality (available free-of-charge on-line here):
Capitalism provides many with the opportunity to display initiative. While the rigidity of a status society enjoins on everybody the unvarying performance of routine and does not tolerate any deviation from traditional patterns of conduct, capitalism encourages the innovator. Profit is the prize of successful deviation from customary types of procedure; loss is the penalty of those who sluggishly cling to obsolete methods. The individual is free to show what he can do in a better way than other people.
DBx: Indeed.
Loss, though, in market economies can be suffered also by those who do try new uses of resources. More

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The Irresponsibility of Intellectuals

6 days ago

Here’s a letter to Spiked:
Editor:
Christopher Snowdon rightly criticizes the modellers whose “projections” of Covid calamity spread panic throughout society and state, but who refuse accountability for their errors (“The catastrophe of the Covid models,” Jan. 21). Equally deserving of such criticism are the many pundits and professors who – well-equipped with laptops, Zoom accounts, and DoorDash apps – effectively collaborated with these modellers by electronically spitting venom at anyone who proposed alternatives to lockdowns or who insisted that there’s more to life than avoidance of one particular pathogen. These savants and sages will never acknowledge, and much less apologize for, their recklessness and blunders.
Such behavior is par for the course for too many intellectuals.

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Some Covid Links

6 days ago

Writing in Spiked, the Institute of Economic Affairs’s Christopher Snowdon details and decries Britain’s most recent experience with “the catastrophe of the Covid models.” Two slices:
Everything the [British] government has got right on Covid-19 in the past 12 months has happened when it ignored ‘the science’. If the modellers hadn’t made such fools of themselves in the summer and autumn of 2021 they might have been taken more seriously by the government in the winter. As it was, their incompetence had seeded enough doubt in Johnson’s mind for him to resist going beyond ‘Plan B’ despite almost every ‘scenario’ modelled telling him that hospitalisations and deaths from the virus would exceed anything England had ever seen before.
Nevertheless, it was a close call. On 21 December,

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Quotation of the Day…

6 days ago

… is from pages 429-430 of Michael Oakeshott’s 1956 essay “On Being Conservative” as this essay is reprinted the 1991 Liberty Fund collection of some of Oakeshott’s work, Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays:
To govern, then, as the conservative understands it, is to provide a vinculum juris for those manners of conduct which, in the circumstances, are least likely to result in a frustrating collision of interests; to provide redress and means of compensation for those who suffer from others behaving in a contrary manner; sometimes to provide punishment for those who pursue their own interests regardless of the rules; and, of course, to provide a sufficient force to maintain the authority of an arbiter of this kind. Thus, governing is recognized as a specific and limited activity;

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Let’s Separate School and State

7 days ago

Virginia’s new governor, Glenn Youngkin (R), recently issued an executive order that prohibits K-12 government schools in Virginia from requiring that students wear masks. Masks are optional; the decision is up to the student or his or her parents (or both).
But, lo!, at least three school districts, so far, in Virginia have decided to ignore the governor’s executive order and continue to require that the face of each and every child who attends their so-called “schools” be confined behind a mask.
While these school-board actions are maddening, all people of good will and good sense should squeeze these lemons into lemonade. We can do so by trumpeting the fact that such actions as these by these school boards unambiguously reveal at least two detestable facts about the administrators

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Bonus Quotation of the Day…

7 days ago

… is from page 344 of the 2016 second edition of Thomas Sowell’s important volume Wealth, Poverty and Politics (footnote excluded; link added; original emphases):
The concentration of power being sought by the redistributionists is usually as completely ignored as the productivity differences behind differences in income and wealth. Indeed, a whole vocabulary of camouflage words obscures the concentration of power involved. Thus, Professor John Rawls, for example, refers repeatedly to how “society” should “arrange” certain economic outcomes, when only the government has the power to force millions of people to accept a third party’s overriding of the transactions terms agreed to by transactors dealing directly with each other.

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Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: “Middle-class stagnation?”

7 days ago

In my column for the November 23rd, 2011, edition of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, I critically examined the claim that America’s middle-class has for decades been stagnating economically. You can read my column in full beneath the fold.

Middle-class stagnation?
Are Wall Street’s “Occupiers” correct to allege that the richest 1 percent of Americans pay for their luxuries by stealing from the bottom 99 percent?
One can question the intellectual credentials of the Occupiers. They’re overly fond of juvenile platitudes. But don’t blame them too terribly much for believing that American prosperity has been hijacked by a handful of plutocrats.
Not only has Uncle Sam recently revved up his corporate-welfare handouts, the mainstream media have spewed forth for many years now countless

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Some Covid Links

7 days ago

University of Oxford epidemiologist Sunetra Gupta, writing in the Telegraph, explains that it’s time to end Covid self-isolation. A slice:
In order to move fully into “living with the virus”, it is essential to recognise that trying to limit its spread is not only extremely difficult but also undesirable if we are aiming for the sort of relationship we have established with other endemic coronaviruses.
Acknowledging that any attempt to limit the spread of infection is actually retrograde to society is a difficult step to take, and easily lends itself to being characterised as a “let-it-rip” strategy. Yet the implementation of non-pharmaceutical measures such as self-isolation can actually cause more damage to the vulnerable, both by preventing the build-up of herd immunity and because

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Quotation of the Day…

7 days ago

… is from page 157 of the late, great Harold Demsetz’s richly rewarding 2008 book, From Economic Man to Economic System:
A tax levied on corporate profits reduces the care and effort owners will put into its operation, since part of the return that would have been received by owners will go to the state. De facto, private owners of the corporation are saddled with a shirking partner, the state, which takes part of the revenue and provides none of the effort to improve the firm’s return. Consequently, the greater the corporate tax rate, the greater the incentive for corporate owners and managers to pursue the “quiet life.”
DBx: Someone might pick a nit by insisting that, if some of the tax revenues extracted from the corporation are used to build infrastructure, to subsidize genuine

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What Employers Buy

8 days ago

Here’s a letter to a high-school student in Nevada:
Mr. D__:
Thanks very much for your e-mail and for reading my blog. I’m delighted that you find it useful.
You write that you think your economics teacher is “wrong when she teaches us that very low wages paid manufacturing workers in poor countries don’t give unfair advantages to our foreign competitors over in those countries.”
In fact your teacher is correct. But can you tell me the argument she used to justify that correct conclusion? I’m curious.
Here’s my way of explaining this reality. It’s best to think of employers not as buying workers, or workers’ time, but instead as buying the outputs that workers produce. Thinking of the employment of workers in this way makes clear that if Jones can produce (say) two automobile tires

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