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Tag Archives: cost-benefit analysis

Buchanan, de Jasay, and Utilitarianism

Two contemporary books of political economy and political philosophy that any student of public affairs must absolutely read are Anthony de Jasay’s The State and James Buchanan’s Why I, Too, Am Not a Conservative. De Jasay defined himself as both an anarchist and a (classical) liberal; I have suggested that “conservative anarchist” might be a better description, but perhaps it should be “conservative-liberal anarchist.” Buchanan, a man of the Enlightenment, was...

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Generalizing Huemer

Mike Huemer has yet another great thought experiment: Suppose you learned that there was a school staffed mainly by right-leaning teachers and administrators. And at this school, an oddly large number of lessons touch upon, or perhaps center on, bad things that have been done by Jews throughout history. None of the lessons are factually false – all the incidents related are things that genuinely happened and all were actually done by Jewish people. For example,...

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College: How to Make the Most of It

You don’t learn much in college.  You endure insipid brainwashing.  And don’t me get started on the dehumanizing Covid theater.  Signaling is the only good reason to go.  Still, once you’re on campus, you might as well make the most of it.  I’ve been in college non-stop for the last 33 years, and I’ve been paying close attention.  Here is how I advise you to get good value for all the time and money you’re spending. 1. Read teaching reviews before you pick your...

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Thanks for Less Than Nothing

I know a guy who keeps getting hassled by his Human Resources Department.  Why?  Because he hasn’t submitted his official vacation paperwork. What’s the big deal?  It’s paperwork, and like most people, he hates paperwork. If the paperwork is so hateful, why does it exist?  Because the firm is located in a city where regulators require such paperwork, to ensure that every employee gets all the vacation they’re entitled to. Upshot: Due to regulation, this guy has to...

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Measuring Overreaction

Scott Sumner is happy to admit that we’ve overreacted to Covid, but presents the overreaction as relatively mild: Pundits often criticize the US government for overreacting to Covid, especially the excessive mandates for masks, vaccines, etc. I share their concern. But I also wonder where some of these people have been. On a list of regulatory overreaction, these mandates don’t even make my “top 100”. For decades, overreaction to tiny safety risks has been...

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My Upside of Covid

Covid has killed millions, and trampled the freedom of billions.  For me, the main horror has been the paranoid reaction to the disease, rather than the disease itself.  Much of the social life I built for myself before Covid evaporated during 2020.  But since this is Thanksgiving Week, I’m reflecting on all the ways that my life has improved since Covid.  And the list is not short.   Necessity is the mother of invention – and never before have I felt such an urgent...

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I Win My Climate Shock Bet

Two months ago, Daniel Reeves offered me a remarkable bet.  The terms: 1. Bryan reads Climate Shock.  But feel free to skip the parts about short-term extreme weather events — that’s probably least compelling and least relevant to the long-term cost/benefit analysis. 2. Danny puts up $500 to Bryan’s $250 on Bryan doing a 180 on some important policy question related to climate change, such as supporting carbon pricing or subsidizing clean energy or carbon capture...

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You Had Two Jobs

I’ve long been critical of local government.  Yes, local officials are “closer to the people.”  And yes, moving to a new town is a lot cheaper than moving to a new state or a new country.  Yet local governments are still far inferior to for-profit businesses. Recently, however, I’ve realized that I’ve been too generous.  The two main things that local governments do are: 1. Provide K-12 education. 2. Regulate construction. And on reflection, local governments do both...

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Liberty’s Crisis Crisis

I often remember the parting words of Robert Higgs’ Crisis and Leviathan: [W]e do know something – at least abstractly – about the future.  We know that other great crises will come.  Whether they will be occasioned by foreign wars, economic collapse, or rampant terrorism, no one can predict with assurances.  Yet in one form of another, great crises will surely come again… When they do, governments almost certainly will gain new powers over economic and social...

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Benefits of the American Revolution: An Exploration of Positive Externalities

It has become de rigueur, even among libertarians and classical liberals, to denigrate the benefits of the American Revolution. Thus, libertarian Bryan Caplan writes:  “Can anyone tell me why American independence was worth fighting for?… [W]hen you ask about specific libertarian policy changes that came about because of the Revolution, it’s hard to get a decent answer. In fact, with 20/20 hindsight, independence had two massive anti-libertarian consequences: It removed the last real check...

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