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EconLog Library

The Covid election

Over at MoneyIllusion, I did a post discussing some odd election anomalies. Now that I’ve had a chance to look at the detailed election map more closely, certain consistent trends seem to show up. Let’s start with the basic overview. In 2016, Clinton beat Trump by 2.9 million in the popular vote. In 2020, Biden won by over 7 million votes. So obviously the country shifted substantially toward the Democrats. But many sub-groups went the other way: 1....

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Cost/Benefit Analysis or Rock, Paper, Scissors

President Reagan began regulatory reform with Executive Order 12291, titled simply “Federal Regulation”; President Clinton watered it down with EO 12866; and President Trump beefed it up with EO 13771 (“Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs”) and EO 13777 (“Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda.”) The executive orders required a cost/benefit analysis to assure that the costs of major regulations would be compared with their benefits. But on his first...

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A Burkean Beautiful Bubble

From my co-author‘s brother Greg Weiner: [I]n addition to being treacherous and menacing, the insurrectionists are also, strictly speaking, pathetic. These are grown men and women whose lives are apparently so devoid of other sources of meaning that their self-worth depends on who occupies the White House. No one should care about presidential elections so intimately or intensely. If single elections are sincerely perceived to threaten personal identity or...

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An 18th-Century Revolution, With Current Examples

One of the greatest discoveries of the 18th century did not come from physics or astronomy but from the nascent science of economics. It is the theory that if individuals independently and freely pursue their ordinary self-interest, the resulting social order will be efficient, that is, will allow virtually all these individuals—or at least their vast majority, given their starting points in life—to better satisfy their own preferences. Adam Smith is, among the first...

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Margins and the 2020 Presidential Election

The Power of Thinking on the Margin Because I understand the power of one vote–it’s very close to zero–I always vote in Presidential elections for the candidate who’s closest to my views. The first time I was able to vote in a Presidential election was in 1988 and from then until now I have voted for the Libertarian Party candidate. That’s where thinking on the margin has led me. But Presidential candidates have a much thicker margin. They make hundreds of...

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Censorship is a two-edged sword

Reason magazine has a very good Nick Gillespie interview of former ACLU head Ira Glasser.  (The bolded question is Gillespie, the rest is Glasser): It wasn’t until my 30s that I began to understand free speech, that the real antagonist of speech is power. The only important question about a speech restriction is not who is being restricted but who gets to decide who is being restricted—if it’s going to be decided by Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Rudy Giuliani,...

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The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism Book Club Commentary, Part 3

You’ve got reactions to Orwell; I’ve got reactions to your reactions.  Here goes: robc: How close are your 5 steps to what Pinochet did in Chile? I think he at least followed steps 1 and 2. I was offering for steps for reforming a socialist dictatorship from within.  While Pinochet did step down and allow a return to democracy, the dictatorship he built was mild enough (and non-socialist enough) that he didn’t need a master plan to unravel it. Thomas DeMaio: I can’t...

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Robinhood and Redditors: Who’s robbin’ who?

The recent story of Robinhood and the “short squeeze” on GameStop has raised the question whether Robinhood was doing some squeezing of its own, applied to the delicates of the small traders it serves. The comedian and renowned financial analyst John Stewart said it was all, somehow, “bullshit.” An article in New York magazine declared “Robinhood banning GameStop proves the free market is a lie” without, however, saying whether the “lie” is that “the free market”...

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Reciprocal Externalities: A Refresher

A key insight of the Coase Theorem is that externalities are reciprocal.  Yes, a polluter imposes a negative externality on his neighbor.  But if the neighbor insists on clean air, he imposes a negative externality on the polluter.  While common-sense morality may urge you to take the side of the neighbor, economic efficiency urges you to keep an open mind.  If the polluter’s cost of reducing pollution greatly exceeds the neighbor’s cost of enduring pollution, the...

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My new article on MMT

I have a new Econlib article, which will appear in two parts. It summarizes the results of my research on MMT. Note that this sentence in Part 1 has a typo: “In Singapore, both the interest rate and the exchange rate are endogenous.” It should have been interest rates and the money supply are endogenous. It might be corrected by the time you read the article. Thanks to commenter Garrett for pointing that out.

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