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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

A Note on Cafe Hayek

9 hours ago

Dear Patrons of Cafe Hayek:
You’ll notice that there are no more ads at Cafe Hayek. The annoyance of these ads – to you and to me – grew over time to a height that swamped the value to me of the income these ads generate. Cafe Hayek will remain ad-free for a while, perhaps forever. If I can find a source of ads that serves up ones more tasteful and less disrupting, I will perhaps in the future try again to use ads. But for now and for the indefinite future, whenever you visit this blog you’ll be accosted by no ads.
My elimination of the ads, however, will not stop the pestilential spammers who invade the comments section with their absurd get-rich-quick-and-easy scams. I’m still exploring for the best way to end that plague.
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Some Covid Links

10 hours ago

Earlier this month, Martin Kulldorff explained why he spoke out against lockdowns. Three slices:
I had no choice but to speak out against lockdowns. As a public-health scientist with decades of experience working on infectious-disease outbreaks, I couldn’t stay silent. Not when basic principles of public health are thrown out of the window. Not when the working class is thrown under the bus. Not when lockdown opponents were thrown to the wolves. There was never a scientific consensus for lockdowns. That balloon had to be popped.
…..
Instead of understanding the pandemic, we were encouraged to fear it. Instead of life, we got lockdowns and death. We got delayed cancer diagnoses, worse cardiovascular-disease outcomes, deteriorating mental health, and a lot more collateral public-health

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Quotation of the Day…

21 hours ago

… is from page 145 of Douglas Irwin’s excellent 2011 volume, Peddling Protectionism: Smoot-Hawley and the Great Depression:
In enacting the Smoot-Hawley tariff, members of Congress considered only its immediate impact on their producer constituents. The well-being of the overall economy or the potential retribution by foreign countries rarely entered the discussion.
DBx: Thus it always has been, is, and always will be.
Politicians are not gods able and willing to engineer the national economy closer to earthly paradise. Politicians (and their appointees) are, like all human beings, poorly informed and self-interested creatures. Invariably. The fact that so many people continue sincerely to believe that holders of government power can be something higher than ordinary human beings is a

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Some Non-Covid Links

2 days ago

Jeff Jacoby rightly calls for an end to the requirement that any Americans register to be conscripted. Here’s his conclusion:
The creation of the all-volunteer force has been one of the most successful policy shifts in US history. Short of some catastrophically existential threat to the homeland, mandatory conscription is never coming back. That being the case, what justification remains for making young people register?
Selective Service has outlived its usefulness. It ought to be consigned to history. Let my son’s cohort be the last one required to sign up for a draft that will not be needed again. Congress shouldn’t just end male-only draft registration. It should end draft registration, period.
In one simple chart, Scott Lincicome shows how American manufacturers are harmed by

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Quotation of the Day…

2 days ago

… is from page 279 of the 1996 Johns Hopkins University Press edition of H.L. Mencken’s immensely enjoyable 1941 autobiographical volume, Heathen Days; here, Mencken recalls when he, upon entering journalism, first encountered politicians:
They shocked me a little at my first intimate contact with them, for I had never suspected, up to then, that frauds so bold and shameless could flourish in a society presumably Christian, and under the eye of a putatively watchful God. But as I came to know them better and better I began to develop a growing admiration, if not for their virtue, then at least for their professional virtuosity….
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Some Covid Links

3 days ago

Wall Street Journal columnist Barton Swaim – inspired by Notre Dame law professor Carter Snead – discusses the inhumanity of lockdowns. A slice:
Physical presence is what governmental authorities snatched from people, especially from the vulnerable, during the pandemic. Some of those interventions were necessary, Mr. Snead concedes, but the authorities—together with alarmist news media—showed little capacity to weigh costs against benefits.
We exchange stories of well-intentioned but cruel policies carried out on the elderly and infirm. Mr. Snead tells me about a court case in New Mexico in which an elderly man had to sue the state to care for his wife. The couple lived in an assisted-living home—the husband in independent living and the wife in a dementia unit—and a government edict

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Quotation of the Day…

3 days ago

… is from pages 198-199 of Maverick, Jason Riley’s splendid 2021 intellectual biography of the great Thomas Sowell:
Most analyses of social and economic intergroup differences focus on the immediate surroundings in which people live. Sowell’s writings exposed the limitations of that approach. He concluded that it isn’t the immediate environment per se, but cultural values and human capital – skills, work habits, saving propensities, attitudes toward education and entrepreneurship, developed sometimes over long period of time – that are the more dominant factors in explaining disparities.
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64 + 15

3 days ago

Fifteen years ago today Paul McCartney turned 64. I stand by what I wrote when Sir Paul turned 64. I share the text below the fold.

Lots of media are noting that today Paul McCartney turns 64 – notable chiefly because McCartney wrote and sang, as a Beatle, the song “When I’m 64.” Of course, many of these reports also mention Paul’s recent separation from his second wife, Heather Mills, and the fact that she’ll get a sizeable share of his fortune of $1.5 billion.
I don’t care about McCartney’s personal life, but I do love Beatles’ music. I’ve loved it since, as a five-year-old boy on February 9, 1964, I sat in my grandmother’s lap and watched the Beatles’ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.
When I read of McCartney’s fortune, I’m struck by how puny it is compared to the amount

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Celebrating the Repeal of the Corn Laws

4 days ago

One week from today – June 25th – is the 175th anniversary of the repeal of the corn laws. On June 25th, 1846, the Duke of Wellington persuaded the House of Lords to join the House of Commons in repealing Britain’s protective tariffs on grain imports. This move was a major step on Britain’s road to a policy of unilateral free trade.
To commemorate this historic event, I spoke last month about the corn laws, their repeal, and the repeal’s legacy with historian Steve Davies and with economists Doug Irwin and Arvind Panagariya.
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Some Non-Covid Links

4 days ago

My GMU Econ colleague Bryan Caplan was interviewed on PBS about his book (illustrated by Zach Weinersmith), Open Borders.
My Mercatus Center colleague Liya Palagashvili moderated this discussion, on immigration, among Chandran Kukathas, Alex Nowrasteh, Adam Cox, and Robert Krol.
GMU Econ student Agustin Forzani – inspired by Adam Smith – decries Argentine “meat nationalism.”
Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan rightly applauds Bill Maher’s criticisms of what Steven Pinker calls “progressophobia.” A slice:
The comedian Kevin Hart had recently told the New York Times “You’re witnessing white power and white privilege at an all-time high.” Mr. Maher: “This is one of the big problems with wokeness, that what you say doesn’t have to make sense or jibe with the facts, or ever be

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Some Covid Links

4 days ago

GMU Econ alum Dan Mitchell supplies further evidence of the recklessness and irresponsibility of politicians – recklessness and irresponsibility that, clearly, are not necessarily tempered during times of crises.
Here’s more wisdom and a wise warning from my GMU Econ colleague Bryan Caplan. A slice:
When government explicitly admits that, “The probability of a severely bad outcome is low, but caution makes sense until we know more,” the natural response is to try to swiftly ascertain the truth. Mostly notable, if the world’s governments had responded to COVID with an earnest admission of ignorance, the impetus to apply the time-tested experimental method would have been far stronger. Voluntary Paid Human Experimentation wouldn’t merely have given us vaccines sooner; it would have

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Quotation of the Day…

4 days ago

… is from page 202 of Lord Acton’s late-1890s lecture “The Influence of America,” as this lecture appears in Essays in the History of Liberty: Selected Essays of Lord Acton, Vol. 1 (J. Rufus Fears, ed., 1985; on-line access to this essay is available free of charge here):
Who are a free people? Not those over whom government is reasonably and equitably exercised; but those who live under a government so constitutionally checked and controlled that proper provision is made against its being otherwise exercised.
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No, the Burden of Deficit Financing Is Not Confined to the Present

5 days ago

Here’s a letter to John Tamny:
John:
Much of what you write in your essay “Misunderstood Deficits” is correct. But your continued insistence that the burden of government indebtedness is incurred in the current period rather than passed on to future taxpayers is incorrect. It’s simply bad economics to assert, as you do, that “Government spending is always, always, always a tax that is paid right away.”
While all resources loaned to government are indeed used by government right away, this fact emphatically does not mean that these resource uses are paid for right away.
The reason should be obvious. Creditors lend money to government today in exchange for increased purchasing power tomorrow. If these borrowed funds are used to build, say, a highway, the creditors – quite correctly –

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Some Non-Covid Links

5 days ago

Scott Lincicome and Huan Zhu have written a new paper on the dangers of industrial policy. A slice:
Perhaps the most widespread industrial policy obstacle is the “knowledge problem.” In “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” economist F.A. Hayek explained that the information needed to secure the best use of scarce national resources “never exists in concentrated or integrated form but solely as the dispersed bits of incomplete and frequently contradictory knowledge which all the separate individuals possess.” Because this information is unique and ever-changing, central planners cannot discern it via aggregate, retrospective statistics: “The continuous flow of goods and services is maintained by constant deliberate adjustments, by new dispositions made every day in the light of

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The Market for Scary Covid Fiction Must be Huge

5 days ago

Here’s a letter to the Washington Post:
Editor:
Leana Wen continues to stoke excessive fear of Covid by making false claims (“Coronavirus vaccinations for young children should be an urgent priority,” June 16). An example is her assertion that “Covid-19 is now one of the leading causes of death among children.”
Is it? By her own admission a few weeks ago, the number of children in the U.S. so far who have died from Covid is “just more than 300.” Yet a quick check of data compiled by the CDC on the ten leading causes of death, in 2019, in America of people under the age of 15 reveals that the number of children whose lives were taken by these causes was 20,660. Of this figure, the number of children killed since 2019 by Covid is a mere 1.6 percent.
Drilling down into these CDC data

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Some Covid Links

5 days ago

James Bovard argues that “Covid-19 is enabling politicians to turn freedom from an individual right into a conditional bureaucratic dispensation.” Two slices:
G-7 leaders enjoyed parties and plenty of backslapping – privileges denied to nearby British citizens whose lives continue semi-paralyzed by pervasive government restrictions. Brits were told that their lockdown misery would end on June 21, which became known as “Freedom Day.” But British politicians have invoked the fear of new variants to justify extending the lockdown at least another month and possibly far longer. Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared on Monday, “Now is the time to ease off the accelerator,” regardless of how many individual rights become roadkill. Spiked editor Brendan O’Neil declared that “this further

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Quotation of the Day…

5 days ago

… is from page 171 of the original 1960 Harvard University Press edition of Frank Knight’s collection of lectures, delivered in 1958 at the University of Virginia, titled Intelligence and Democratic Action:
Probably the supreme economic stupidity – real prejudice – generally held is that employees are working for the bosses, any more than these are working for the employees. All are working for themselves, indirectly and far more effectively by working for one another – which is the nature and supreme merit of exchange relations.
DBx: Yes. And while there is no shortage of economic stupidities to compete for the distinction that Knight assigns to this one, Knight’s central point is subtle and deep and vitally important.
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Bonus Quotation of the Day…

5 days ago

… is from page 17 of Thomas Sowell’s great 1987 volume, A Conflict of Visions:
Where intellectuals have played a role in history, it has not been so much by whispering words of advice into the ears of political overlords as by contributing to the vast and powerful currents of conceptions and misconceptions that sweep human action along.
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Some Covid Links

6 days ago

Christian Britschgi shares insightful responses by Matt Kibbe, Karol Markowicz, and others to former Biden Covid advisor Andy Slavitt’s grotesque accusation that Americans, over the past 16 months, failed to sacrifice enough.
British MP Desmond Swayne is rightly appalled by the straw-man’s recent decision to continue to stomp through Britain. Here’s his conclusion:
I never believed that the Government’s response to the epidemic was proportionate: it had no right to the freedoms it took from us; now it continues to withhold them despite the emergency having passed, accordingly it has set the most disastrous precedent for the future of liberty in England.
Here’s a snapshot of life under the Covidocracy.
Take note of the deceptiveness used by the Covidocracy to justify its continued

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My Tribute to the Late, Great Walter Williams

6 days ago

I just realized that I’ve not yet shared here at Cafe Hayek the full text of my December 3rd, 2020, tribute, in the Wall Street Journal, to my late, great colleague Walter Williams. So here it is, beneath the fold.

Walter Williams, R.I.P.His research was rigorous, and he was one of the few economists who know how to engage with the public.By Donald J. BoudreauxUpdated Dec. 2, 2020 5:24 pm ET
America has lost one of its greatest economists and public intellectuals. Walter Williams died Wednesday morning after teaching his final class at George Mason University on Tuesday. He was 84.
For 40 years Walter was the heart and soul of George Mason’s unique Department of Economics. Our department unapologetically resists the trend of teaching economics as if it’s a guide for social engineers.

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Quotation of the Day…

6 days ago

… is from page 135 of my late, great colleague Walter Williams’s 2015 book, American Contempt for Liberty, which is a collection of many of Walter’s columns and essays; this quotation specifically is from Walter’s July 22nd, 2009, syndicated column, “The Racism of Diversity“:
Colleges and universities with racially preferential admittance policies are doing a great disservice to blacks in another, mostly ignored, way. By admitting poorly prepared blacks, they are helping to conceal the grossly fraudulent education the blacks receive at the K through 12 grades.
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Some Economics of Pricing in the Real World

7 days ago

In my latest column for AIER I explore some basic economics of pricing in a world – our world – in which there are costs of transacting. (This column is the first in what will be a two-part series.) A slice:
Consider supermarkets. Nearly all supermarkets offer customers ‘free’ parking, despite the fact that building and maintaining these parking lots is costly. These costs are recouped in the prices supermarkets charge for groceries. Yet not all supermarket customers use automobiles. Some customers walk to the supermarket. I live within walking distance of a Whole Foods store, and so although I shop there frequently, I never use its parking facilities. Other customers take taxis or public transportation.
Are non-parking customers, myself included, being ripped off by the fact that

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Some Non-Covid Links

7 days ago

Ryan Bourne reports on a new study that finds – shockingly! – that retailers adjust their employees’ work schedules in ways that reduce retailers’ costs of higher minimum wages. A slice:
Their results are striking. The minimum wage hikes are found to have no impact on overall hours worked at the California stores. So, if one was looking at hours alone as a proxy for employment, you might conclude that “the minimum wage has no apparent effect on employment.” Yet the researchers find that the business changes its workforce composition and scheduling significantly to try to mitigate the cost increase of the rising wage floor.
First, the number of workers making up those total hours increased significantly–i.e. the company used more workers working shorter hours. When the minimum wage

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Some Covid Links

7 days ago

E.J. Antoni and Casey Mulligan, writing in the Wall Street Journal, report on collateral damage unleashed by trusting governments with greater powers to respond to Covid-19. A slice:
The Biden team and Democrats in Congress were warned repeatedly that the March “stimulus” bill would shrink employment by five million to six million because of the rewards for not working. Three months later the evidence is clear: The stimulus bill stimulated unemployment, not employment.
More than a million jobs are waiting to be filled in the construction and manufacturing sectors, but these industries have gained almost no new employees over the past two months. These are high-paying blue-collar jobs.
Who decided that suffering and dying from cancer is a more acceptable fate than suffering and dying

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Quotation of the Day…

7 days ago

… is from page 302 of Kristian Niemietz’s great 2019 book, Socialism: The Failed Idea That Never Dies:
If we judge market economies primarily by their shortcomings, while judging socialism primarily as an idea, and by the intentions of its proponents, then the market economy can never win.
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Britain Is No Longer a Free Country

7 days ago

The vile iron-fisted and steel-booted straw man continues to pummel Britain. So sad. So horrifying. (Thank you Gen. Washington for winning for us Americans independence from that now-deranged nation.)
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Bonus Quotation of the Day…

7 days ago

… is from page 589 of the 2006 Liberty Fund edition of Adam Smith’s student and friend John Millar’s posthumously published 1803 treatise, An Historical View of the English Government (original emphasis, footnote deleted):
The authority of every government is founded in opinion; and no system, be it ever so perfect in itself, can be expected to acquire stability, or to produce good order and submission, unless it coincides with the general voice of the community. He who frames a political constitution upon a model of ideal perfection, and attempts to introduce it into any country, without consulting the inclinations of the inhabitants, is a most pernicious projector, who, instead of being applauded as a Lycurgus, ought to be chained and confined as a madman.
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