Thursday , January 21 2021
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A Shocking USPS Admission

USPS: We Don’t Care; We Don’t Have To Last Monday, January 11, I mailed off my estimated tax payments to California’s state government (an agency called the Franchise Tax Board) and the federal government (IRS). Both, but especially the check to the IRS, were for large amounts. At about 10 a.m., I put them in a mail box close to my office in downtown Monterey. The sticker on the box says that pick up is at 12 noon. At about 2:20 p.m. I received a call from a man at a...

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Total Government à la Irving Fisher Is Not Ideal

A major issue at the confluence of economics, political science, and political philosophy is, What is morally or economically better, the state (formal and centralized coercive authority), anarchy, or something in between? Ignorance of this question, which parallels the alternative between collective choices and individual choices, mars most political debates. In 1941, progressive economist Irving Fisher said before the Yale Socialist Club (quoted in Mark Thorton, The...

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The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism Book Club, Part 1

This is the first installment of my book club on Orwell’s book-within-a-book, entitled The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism by fictional dissident Emmanuel Goldstein.  I’m going to treat Orwell as the author of the book, even though he probably didn’t agree with all of the general claims, and almost surely didn’t mean to predict the rise of his precise geopolitical scenario.  Today I’ll start with Chapter 1, “Ignorance Is Strength.”  Please put all...

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Without Government, Who Would Stop Us from Feeding Poor People?

In September, a group of residents in Fort Worth, Texas, decided to do something to combat growing hunger in their city. They placed a refrigerator on a city street and stocked it with food that anyone in need could take and eat. For free. Months later, though, their efforts are in jeopardy due to an unwelcome combination of outdated laws and overzealous regulators. So begins a story from Baylen Linnekin, “Fort Worth Regulators Target Community Fridges Providing Free...

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Regulation: It’s much worse than you think

The distribution of vaccines is being held up by regulation. But I suspect that even opponents of regulation underestimate its pervasive effects. Regulation goes far beyond things like price controls and mandates regarding distribution, it extends into all aspects of our society (including the “private” sector), in ways that many people don’t even think about. Let’s start with health care: 1. We have a tax system that pushes people into gold-plated health insurance...

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Charles Barkley Articulates the Benefit Principle

There are various versions of the benefit principle of taxation. One is the James Buchanan/Knut Wicksell version, which says that to get unanimous agreement for a government expenditure, you need to have people pay an amount in taxes that is less than the benefit they perceive. That’s not what former NBA player Charles Barkley articulates but nevertheless he does state a reasonable version of the benefit principle. Barkley said yesterday that NBA, NFL, and NHL...

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The “mad scientist” problem

Last May, I said the following: Occam’s Razor also applies to the lab release theory. We know that dozens of epidemics have come from viruses jumping from animals to humans without any “lab” being involved. Why construct an entirely new theory for this epidemic? . . . Actually, the CCP would look far better (in a ethical sense) if the virus accidentally escaped from a lab doing valid and useful scientific research, rather than from disgusting “wet markets” that the CCP refused to...

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Golden Parachutes: The Alchian Thesis

Where do ideas come from, and how are they disseminated amongst economists? One of the great ironies in the history of economic thought has been the development of particular concepts, the theoretical importance of which is misattributed to another economist. For example, the concept of a Giffen Good, attributed to Robert Giffen, was first coined by Alfred Marshall in Principles of Economics (1890 [1920]). The Coase Theorem first appeared in the 3rd Edition of George...

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Great Moments in California Lockdowns

The Marie Antoinette edition. This was sent to me by a friend last month in response to California governor Gavin Newsom’s order to shut down salons and even outdoor restaurants. I talked to my wife last night and she said that she has 3 close friends in the personal care service business (2 hairstylists and 1 esthetician). Only 1 of them kept working underground during the first shutdown in March. My wife said that all 3 are planning to defy the order since they...

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