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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 Weak Hypothetical In Support of Tyranny

14 hours ago

Here’s a letter to the Washington Post:
Editor:
Leana Wen proposes that people’s freedom to go about the ordinary affairs of life continue to be restricted until and unless there’s a “requirement for proof of vaccination” (“The CDC shouldn’t have removed restrictions without requiring proof of vaccination,” May 14).
Why? Given the now-widespread availability of effective vaccines, why compel proof of vaccination given that anyone who chooses to forego vaccination voluntarily incurs the risk of contracting Covid?
Among the hypotheticals posed by Wen as an alleged reason nevertheless to require proof of vaccination is this: “What if you don’t have child care, so you had to bring your kids along? They didn’t choose to remain unvaccinated – the shots aren’t available for them. Surely,

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Some Covid Links

21 hours ago

Note: Recent relaxation of mask mandates in the U.S. hopefully signals at least a beginning to the end of Covid Derangement Syndrome. Further sense, for me, that we might finally be escaping this madness came when I dined on Thursday evening at a restaurant on the California side of Lake Tahoe and was delighted to discover the place packed with patrons none of whom were “social distancing,” and many of whom were walking around maskless. So I will no longer feature a “Some Covid Links” post; such posts will become occasional. But below are today’s links.…..Jacob Sullum details reasons for rejecting the naive assumption that the CDC is driven exclusively by science.
Eric Boehm rightly ridicules the absurdity of New York’s still-operative Covid restrictions. Here’s his opening:
For a few

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Quotation of the Day…

1 day ago

… is from pages 53-54 of the 2009 edition of the incomparable H.L. Mencken’s 1926 book, Notes on Democracy:
The fact is that liberty, in any true sense, is a concept that lies quite beyond the reach of the inferior man’s mind. He can imagine and even esteem, in his way, certain false forms of liberty – for example, the right to choose between political mountebanks, and to yell for the more obviously dishonest – but the reality is incomprehensible to him. And no wonder, for genuine liberty demands of its votaries a quality he lacks completely, and that is courage. The man who loves it must be willing to fight for it….
DBx: Today the term “inferior man” is anachronistic. By it, Mencken means what we today call – or, what some of us today call – a person who lacks good character. Such

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Some Covid Links

2 days ago

Robby Soave rightly says that “Local officials should end most pandemic restrictions immediately”:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Thursday that people who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks or engage in social distancing while outdoors or indoors. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky explained that except in a few special circumstances, vaccinated people can resume normal life completely.
“We have all longed for this moment,” said Walensky during a media briefing.
The available data made it clear, Walensky said, that the vaccines are very effective at eliminating both illness and transmission of COVID-19, and that they have thus far tackled the variants with incredible success.
“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor

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Quotation of the Day…

2 days ago

… is from page 185 of University of Notre Dame philosopher James Otteson’s superb 2021 book, Seven Deadly Economic Sins:
Cooperative behavior in market economies may be driven by self-interest, but it is not selfish in the sense of disregarding others’ interests. Indeed, the only way that exchanges can be successfully executed in a market economy is with the cooperation of willing others. Thus, market economies are as much cooperative as they are self-interested.
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Bonus Quotation of the Day…

3 days ago

… … is from page 150 of Jason Riley’s new and splendid intellectual biography of the great Thomas Sowell, Maverick:
As Sowell put it, “People often say that I’m denying that there’s racism. On the contrary, racism exists everywhere around the world, down through history. That’s one of the reasons it’s hard to use it as an empirical explanation for anything.”
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Some Covid Links

3 days ago

GMU Econ alum Abigail Devereaux, writing at The Hill, warns of the dangers of vaccine passports. Here’s her conclusion:
We are at a critical social juncture after a year of devastation. We should use the availability of effective vaccines as a reason to put the brakes on new interventions, not plow forward into more uncharted social territory by creating and requiring novel health credentials to participate in normal life.
Richard Rahn rightly decries the Covid-19 misinformation and hysteria – and the galling arrogance of the likes of Fauci – that have cursed America over the past 16 months. Two slices:
Those 24 and under believed they had a 7.7 to 8.7 chance from dying form COVID-19 while the real risk is 0.1 percent.” Much of the ignorance about critical health matters, and notably

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Quotation of the Day…

3 days ago

… is from page 31 of Thomas Sowell’s 2008 book, Economic Facts and Fallacies:
Ironically, having created [with land-use restrictions] artificially high housing prices, government then often supplies token amounts of “affordable housing” to selected individuals or groups. Such selective generosity may be subsidized by taxpayers or by making it mandatory that private builders sell a certain percentage of their housing at prices “below market,” as a precondition for approving building permits. These “below market” prices may nevertheless be higher than housing prices would be in the absence of building restrictions.
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Everyone’s A Social Engineer

4 days ago

Here’s a letter to Bloomberg:
Editor:
Interviewed by Ramesh Ponnuru, Lyman Stone said this: “We know from surveys that Americans actively intend and plan to have 2 to 2.3 children on average, yet at current rates will have just 1.64. We know that Americans say they want to have, or think it’s ideal to have, or say they’d be happiest having somewhere between 2.2 and 2.8 children. So it’s very clear that low fertility is ‘bad’ in the sense that it is not what Americans say they want.” (“Want More American Babies? Make the U.S. More Livable,” May 11).
Nonsense.
People’s true preferences are much more accurately revealed by their actions than by their words. Because Americans are free to have more children, the fact that they have fewer children than they say they want is evidence only

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Some Covid Links

4 days ago

My ever-astute GMU Econ colleague Bryan Caplan assesses his Covid-19 expectations. A slice:
1. Government (all levels, all nations) did even worse than I expected.  I remain stunned that official shutdowns went on for more than a couple of weeks. And by my calculations, it would have been far better to do nothing. Overall, I put government at the 10th percentile of my already low expectations.
2. Regular people did vastly worse than I expected. The initial level of paranoia was no surprise, but its sheer durability continues to shock me. One of the main lessons of happiness research is that pleasant interaction with other humans is our most important source of happiness. And one of the main lessons of COVID is that a mild risk wrapped in official nagging is enough to get roughly half

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A Subtly Misleading Report on Covid-19

4 days ago

Although from early March, the Washington Post report to which I here respond is featured today in a banner ad at the Post:
Editor, Washington Post
Editor:
In “More deaths from Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias in 2020, report says” (March 2), Tara Bahrampour reports that Marc Cochran blames his wife’s death from Alzheimer’s on “the pandemic.” This statement is misleading, as Mr. Cochran’s own quoted remarks reveal: “I can’t tell you that she wouldn’t have, but I could see a definite demarcation point from the time we shut down to the time she had to go into memory care. One of the things that made her happy was seeing people, smiling at them, laughing with them, hugging them, and when she couldn’t do that . . . she would become agitated.”
Mr. Cochran explicitly blames his

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Quotation of the Day…

4 days ago

… is from page 27 of the late Jerry Ellig’s 2001 paper, co-authored with my student Daniel Lin, “A Taxonomy of Dynamic Competition Theories,” which is Chapter 1 of Dynamic Competition and Public Policy (Jerry Ellig, ed., 2001) (references deleted; emphasis added):
Most economic analysis treats uncertainty as a factor that prevents the creation or diminishes the efficiency of markets. Austrian analysis treats markets as one response to uncertainty. Markets permit individuals to act on their limited information, to receive feedback, and to discover and communicate knowledge to others. The market price system is a way to summarize and transmit information in a swift and flexible way to the people who would be most interested.
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“This Is Mental Illness”

5 days ago

A friend who holds a major academic post at a prominent northeastern university sent to me yesterday an e-mail decrying Covid Derangement Syndrome. (Note: the university is not George Mason.) I share here part of her e-mail with her kind permission:
Experience of one of my daughters with her long time friend (LTF) this weekend, which is very disturbing.
We own a second house in Aiken, South Carolina. This daughter is an equestrian. SC is now fully open and Aiken lifted all mask mandates just this past week (thank God). With college classes over, my daughter and her long time friend made a weekend trip there. Sounds like fun, right?
My daughter made dinner reservations, and another friend invited them to see live music outside. It is important to note that my daughters has one shot of

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The Buchanan Thesis

5 days ago

In my latest column for AIER, I dive more deeply into the reasons why deficit financing of government expenditures is fraught with danger. A slice:
But let’s assume, contrary to fact but for argument’s sake, that an actual government – an agency with a monopoly on the lawful authority to initiate coercion – can forever fund all of its operations with borrowed funds. This fairytale government repays and services all of its debts simply by borrowing, infinitely into the future. Contrary to the belief of many, this situation would be especially bad for freedom and free markets. Government would grow even larger and more intrusive.
As argued above, deficit financing allows real-world governments to grow too large and intrusive by enabling today’s citizens-taxpayers to free-ride on the

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Some Covid Links

5 days ago

Phil Magness and Joakim Book bust myths about the alleged wisdom of the draconian anti-Covid measures adopted by countries such as Iceland, Australia, and New Zealand. A slice:
When push comes to shove, Aussie rulers also showed their authoritarian streak: snatch away everyone’s (temporary) life any time there’s an inevitable breach in the outer walls; harass people, including old ladies, and let infants die, all under the auspices of “protection” and “responsible government services” against the mild danger that is Covid.
Those of you who remain impressed with the Australian government’s tyrannical response to Covid-19 should read this item from Paul Collits. A slice:
What does “eliminating” Covid mean for ordinary people?  Basically, it means Stalin on steroids.
It means endless

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Quotation of the Day…

5 days ago

… is from page 120 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 January 8th, 2014, syndicated column, “Politics and Minimum Wage“:
Minimum wages have their greatest unemployment impact on the least skilled worker. After all, who’s going to pay a worker an hourly wage of $10 if that worker is so unfortunate as to have skills that enable him to produce only $5 worth of value per hour? Who are these workers? For the most part, they are low-skilled teens or young adults, most of whom are poorly educated blacks and Latinos.
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Bob Chitester (1937-2021)

6 days ago

I am deeply saddened to learn that Bob Chitester just lost his long battle with cancer. Bob is most famous for conceiving, and producing, Milton Friedman’s remarkable 1980 PBS series, Free To Choose. But Bob did much, much more in addition. He believed in the power of ideas, and cherished, to his core, human liberty.
Here’s David Boaz on Bob Chitester.
Also remembering Bob Chitester are the good people at Guatemala’s Universidad Francisco Marroquin.
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Costs are Subjective

6 days ago

Here’s the short video on subjective costs that accompanies my and Randy Holcombe’s new book, The Essential James Buchanan.
[embedded content]
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Bonus Quotation of the Day…

6 days ago

… is from page 383 of Tom Palmer’s May 1983 essay “Infrastructure: Public or Private?” as this essay is reprinted in Tom’s excellent 2009 book, Realizing Freedom (footnote deleted; link added):
Of course, it may be no accident that the claims made on behalf of state provision of public goods are not borne out in practice; as a consequence, perhaps the theory of government underlying such claims should be revised. Harvard economist Joseph P. Kalt suggests that we should view government “as a means whereby some free riders are able to force others to pay for their rides, rather than as a means whereby we all agree to coerce ourselves in order to overcome a free-rider effect that frustrates desires for public goods.”
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Some Covid Links

6 days ago

My colleague Bryan Caplan reflects on economist Douglas Allen’s paper on Covid-19 restrictions and reactions.
Stephen Humphries, writing in the Christian Science Monitor, explores this question: Will people get back the freedoms they’ve lost to Covid restrictions? Two slices (the second is from the caption of a photo that accompanies this essay):
According to Human Rights Watch, 83 governments restricted free speech and free assembly in the name of pandemic protections. Enforcement of those measures could be harsh. Youths in the Philippines were locked in dog cages following curfew violations, says Ms. Pearson. In India, police physically assaulted 10 journalists who reported that a COVID-19 roadblock in the southeast was preventing villagers from reuniting with their families. South

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Quotation of the Day…

6 days ago

… is from the new David Hart translation – still only on-line, but forthcoming in print – of Frédéric Bastiat’s 1850 Economic Harmonies; specifically, it’s from Chapter XXII, titled “The Driving Force of Society” (references removed; parenthetical remarks original to Hart):
This being so, how do these leaders of (different) schools (of thought) band together under the common denomination of “socialists,” and what is the link that unites them against natural or Providential society? It cannot be other than this: They do not want a natural form of society. What they want is an artificial form of society that emerges fully formed from the brain of the inventor. It is true that each of them wants to be the Jupiter of this Minerva, that each nurtures his own form of artifice and dreams of

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Some Covid Links

7 days ago

TANSTAFPFC (There Ain’t No Such Thing As Free Protection From Covid.)
Freddie Sayers wonders if many in Britain are victims of the Stockholm Syndrome. A slice:
To a degree never before seen in British history, these leaders have had power to control every aspect of our lives — should it surprise us if psychologically they have assumed something of the space of our benevolent captors?
Australia’s government is to be admired for its quick and draconian and response to Covid-19 – a response that has assured Australians now of a life without Covid restrictions? I think not. Definitely not.
Hmmm…. I wonder what this new Van Morrison song is about.
In this very short talk, Roger Watson praises Jonathan Sumption – including Sumption’s principled stand against lockdowns.
Petty tyranny such as

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Quotation of the Day…

7 days ago

… is from page 205 of Jerry Z. Muller’s 1993 book, Adam Smith In His Time and Ours:
Smith was remarkably prescient in identifying the promise of capitalism, and his work contributed in no small measure to the fulfillment of that promise. The difficulties and dangers to which Smith pointed remain with us. That he did not solve them may reflect the fact that they are incapable of resolution. But some insoluble problems are more benign than others, and it was Smith’s judgment that the problems posed by commercial society are preferable to the alternatives.
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Some Non-Covid Links

8 days ago

George Will reflects eloquently and wisely on the experience of turning 80. A slice:
In 1941, life expectancy at birth in the United States was 64.8 (today, 77.8), only 6.8 percent of the population was over 65 (today, 16 percent), penicillin was on the horizon but the Salk polio vaccine was a dozen years distant, and most hospitals spent more on clean linen than medical technologies. Sixty-three percent of households did not have telephones, less than half the U.S. population age 25 and older had a high school diploma (today, 90 percent) and homosexual sex was criminalized in all 48 states. The nation has undergone a moral advancement — consider the casual callousness toward minorities of all sorts eight decades ago — as stunning as its material improvement.
Yet the United States’

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Some Covid Links

8 days ago

Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Riley asks “When is the Republican Party going to declare war on teachers unions?” A slice:
The move is long overdue, and the pandemic offers Republicans the perfect opportunity to explain to voters how the unions’ ironclad control over public education does grave harm to children. We’ve known from the earliest days of the virus that youngsters are the least likely to catch it or spread it to others. We also know that many low-income parents struggle with home schooling and need to go back to work. Distance learning exacerbates racial and economic achievement gaps and takes a heavy psychological toll on kids. Union leaders couldn’t care less.
California, which is the most populous state and currently has the lowest per capita Covid rate in the

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Quotation of the Day…

8 days ago

… is from page 136 of Vol. II (“The Mirage of Social Justice” [1976]) of F.A. Hayek’s great work, Law, Legislation, and Liberty (footnote deleted):
The possibility of men living together in peace and to their mutual advantage without having to agree on common concrete aims, and bound only by abstract rules of conduct, was perhaps the greatest discovery mankind ever made.
DBx: We denizens of modernity – we beneficiaries of the enormous prosperity and opportunities for human flourishing made possible only by the market-driven worldwide division of labor – take our good fortune for granted. Our glass is 99.96 percent full, a fact that causes us to notice only the 0.04 percent that’s absent, and to complain bitterly about this failure of heaven to materialize here on earth.
Unfortunately,

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Perpetual-Motion Machines Are Impossible (Even in Public Finance)

9 days ago

Here’s a letter to a long-time reader of my blog:
Mr. S__:
Thanks for your e-mail.
About the video and chapter that I recently posted (from my and Randy Holcombe’s The Essential James Buchanan) you ask: “Can’t the government just keep paying off debts that come due by issuing new debt? Why does it ever have to use taxation to get funds?”
A government that has the confidence of borrowers can pay off some of its outstanding debt with newly borrowed funds, but it can’t do so forever. Any confidence that creditors have in a government to repay its loans is rooted in creditors’ belief that that government has access to sources of revenue other than borrowed funds. And any government’s chief source of revenue is taxation – either overtly (as through income taxation) or covertly (as through

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Some Covid Links

9 days ago

Jay Bhattacharya debates Alberto Giubilini on ‘immunity passports.’ Giubilini supports such documents; Bhattacharya opposes them. Here are two slices from Bhattacharya’s contribution to the debate:
Age is the most important risk factor for severe Covid infection outcomes; there is a thousand-fold difference between the mortality risk faced by the oldest individuals and the youngest after infection. A comprehensive meta-analysis of seroprevalence studies published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization finds that people aged 70 and over have a 95% infection survival rate. In comparison, people under 70 have a 99.95% infection survival rate.
…..
First, the absolute reduction in Covid infection risk for the medically unvaccinated from an immunity passport scheme is likely to be

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Quotation of the Day…

9 days ago

… is from page 129 of University of Notre Dame philosopher James Otteson’s excellent 2021 book, Seven Deadly Economic Sins:
[C]ulture is critically important for growing prosperity, but culture can change – and quickly. The culture that enabled the growth in worldwide prosperity we have experienced over the last two centuries is not only recent but rare. And it is fragile.
DBx: We humans have been on this orb for at least 200,000 years. Thus, for only about 0.1 percent of our time on this globe have large portions of ordinary men and women lived entire lives well above mere subsistence. For literally 99.9 percent of our existence, we’ve lived lives about as materially prosperous, and perhaps even a bit worse, than are the lives lived today by Americans’ pet dogs, cats, hamsters, and

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