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Tag Archives: cost-benefit analysis

An Economist Buys Lunch on the Margin

Herewith a relatively trivial but, I hope, fun application of marginal thinking. Actually two applications: a subtler one by my non-economist wife (who has lived with an economist for 37 years) and an obvious one by me. Most Saturdays my wife and I go out to a nice lunch. A couple of Saturdays ago, she wasn’t feeling well and didn’t want to go out. So we agreed that I would get takeout and bring it home. But where to go? I suggested some of our standard places that...

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Marianne Williamson Gets Her Way and Doesn’t Realize It

Are You Being Served? On her campaign site, Marianne Williamson, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President has an item on “National Service.” It starts out as follows: I believe the United States should institute a program whereby every American citizen between the age of 18 and 26 can perform one year of National Service. Guess what? The United States already has such a program. It’s called freedom. Every American citizen who’s not in prison is now...

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UBI: Some Early Experiments

The Universal Basic Income is only a tangential interest of mine.  Yet when I’ve debated it, I’ve been consistently impressed by how little the eager advocates try to teach me.*  Case in point: I learned more from reading three paragraphs in Kevin Lang’s Poverty and Discrimination than in my typical conversation with a UBI enthusiast: Because the stakes involved in instituting a negative income tax were so high, policy analysts convinced the federal government to...

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Minimum Wage: A Most Remarkable Belief

In a study published earlier this month, “The Effects on Employment and Family Income of Increasing the Federal Minimum Wage,” the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that a gradual increase of the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 (from the current $7.25) would boost the wages of 17 million workers at the cost of 1.3 million pushed out of employment. (Lower increases in the minimum wage would have similar but reduced effects.) The reaction of Rep....

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Against Tu Quoque

War crimes trials often weigh on the consciences of the conscientious.  Aren’t such proceedings mere “victor’s justice”?  The hypocrisy is usually palpable; after all, how often does either side in a violent conflict walk away with clean hands?  Unsurprisingly, then, one of defendants’ favorite legal strategies is to tell their prosecutors, “Well, you guys did the same.”  It’s called the tu quoque defense: An argument from fairness, the tu quoque argument has an...

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The Broader Effects of Trade and Tech

Quite a few people consciously favor “free markets, but not free migration.”  When questioned, many explain that unlike free markets in goods, free markets in labor have “broad social effects.”  At this point, I have to suppress my urge to exclaim, “Are you out of your minds?”  They’re right, of course, that free migration has broad social effects.  They’re crazy, however, to imagine that free markets in goods lack these effects.  Indeed, at least within the observed...

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Historically Hollow: The Cries of Populism

History textbooks are full of populist complaints about business: the evils of Standard Oil, the horrors of New York tenements, the human body parts in Chicago meatpacking plants.  To be honest, I haven’t taken these complaints seriously since high school.  In the absence of abundant evidence to the contrary, I say the backstory behind these populist complaints is just neurotic activists searching for dark linings in the silver clouds of business progress.  When...

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Jencks on Incentives and Single Motherhood

A striking passage from Christopher Jencks’ foreword to Edin and Lein’s Making Ends Meet: Some conservatives oppose all efforts to help single mothers balance their budgets, even when the mother works.  They argue that making life easier for single mothers will just make them more numerous.  For those who see single mothers as a major cause of the nation’s social problems, cutting their numbers is even more important than reducing material hardship. Although liberals...

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Martial Negligence in Game of Thrones and Beyond

I’ve previously argued that George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire is implicitly a great pacifist work.   While rewatching season 2 with my younger son, I re-discovered a scene worthy of a pacifist ovation.  While Talisa, the crucial pacifist character, appears only in the show, the following exchange sheds great light on the role of martial negligence in Martin’s fictional universe.  For context, Robb Stark is the King in the North, Talisa is a battlefield medic,...

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In Sync: How Business Responds to Gratis Government

Whenever people criticize government provision of a product, clever analysts often demur that private suppliers who compete with government have exactly the same problems.  Part of Helland and Tabarrok‘s case for the Baumol effect in education, for example, is that prices have risen at the same rate in both the public and private sectors: Prices are much lower at public than at private institutions. The vertical scale is a ratio scale, so equal slopes mean equal rates...

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