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Home / Coordination Problem / Change the Rules, OK — and Yes, Norms and Culture (and Character) Matter By Lowering the Costs of Enforcing the Rule Changes!

Change the Rules, OK — and Yes, Norms and Culture (and Character) Matter By Lowering the Costs of Enforcing the Rule Changes!

Summary:
The conversation between Russ Roberts and Michael Munger concerning Crony Capitalism is full of insight and wisdom.  It is a great conversation in part because they are very comfortable with each other --- this is Munger's 36th appearance on EconTalk! --- and it is a insightful because they both have a deep appreciation for the economic way of thinking and for the history of political economy. I do think they both could stress a bit more that interaction effect of norms and culture on the evolutionarily stable strategy of adopting certain constraining rules.  It is not -- precisely as Munger stressed -- that the liberal democratic order will work due to better people, but due to better rules.  But those better rules, no doubt will be more easily protect from "invasion by alternative

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The conversation between Russ Roberts and Michael Munger concerning Crony Capitalism is full of insight and wisdom.  It is a great conversation in part because they are very comfortable with each other --- this is Munger's 36th appearance on EconTalk! --- and it is a insightful because they both have a deep appreciation for the economic way of thinking and for the history of political economy.

I do think they both could stress a bit more that interaction effect of norms and culture on the evolutionarily stable strategy of adopting certain constraining rules.  It is not -- precisely as Munger stressed -- that the liberal democratic order will work due to better people, but due to better rules.  But those better rules, no doubt will be more easily protect from "invasion by alternative strategies" the lower the cost of enforcement because norms and the broader culture reinforce the rule.

A good complement to this podcast would be to read Randall Holcombe's Political Capitalism.

As with most episodes of EconTalk, Russ pursues important tangents and this episode with Munger is no different. They have an intriguing conversation about the difference between Milton Friedman and George Stigler -- and I would add that James Buchanan's position is different even still.  And, finally Russ has a great discussion directed at aspiring economists which I can only hope they listen to with great attention and interest ... see around min 50-60 and all I can say is "Preach Russ, Preach!!!!"  Economics is too important a subject matter to be left to those who seek to curry favor with those privileged with power.  Our job is to speak to power, not to justify power.

That too is all about the rules in which our discipline interacts -- with other practitioners and with those who utilize the ideas percolated in our discussions.  We can hope for "better" economists, or we can think about changes in the rules that govern and organize professional inquiry. But in the meantime, we need the Russ Roberts of the world to be preaching loudly, persistently, consistently, and persuasively.  If you cannot tell, I love EconTalk!, and I believe wholeheartedly so should you.  Even if that means putting up with a lot of Munger!

Peter Boettke
Peter Joseph Boettke (January 3, 1960) is an American economist of the Austrian School. He is currently a University Professor of Economics and Philosophy at George Mason University; the BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism, Vice President for Research, and Director of the F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center at GMU.

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