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Tag Archives: Economic Philosophy

Self-interest and Capitalism Are Not Synonymous

“I am in favor of self-interest and thus of capitalism. It follows that I may legitimately judge any public policy according to whether or not it furthers my personal interest.” This is a paraphrase of what an intelligent Twitter correspondent of mine seems to believe. Although he does know something about business and economics, he is completely wrong on that point. It is not because one favors self-interest that one must support capitalism. (I take capitalism in the...

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Dominance: Material vs. Rhetorical

Do the rich dominate our society? In one sense, they obviously do.  Rich people run most of the business world, own most of the wealth, and are vastly more likely to be powerful politicians. In another sense, however, the rich aren’t dominant at all.  If you get in public and loudly say, “Rich people are great.  We owe them everything.  They deserve every penny they’ve got – and more.  People who criticize the rich are just jealous failures,” almost everyone will...

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Ethnic Studies and Hxrstory: Not Doubleplusgood

In his last book, The Fatal Conceit, Nobel Laureate economist Friedrich Hayek seemed too pessimistic on the future of civilization. But when one looks at the current project of a mandatory Ethnic Studies class for California high school and Cal State students (“Ethnic Studies May Soon Be Mandatory. Can California Get It Right,” August 13, 2019), some pessimism is warranted. Hayek believed that traditional, evolved morality formed the basis of a civilized society. He...

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The New York Times Is Truly Messed Up

Although rightly rejected today, the Virginia-born Fitzhugh attained national prominence in the late antebellum period as one of the most widely read defenders of a slave-based economy. Charles Sumner called him a “leading writer among Slave-masters,” and his regular contributions to the pro-South magazine DeBow’s Review gained him a national readership in the 1850s. In 1855 Fitzhugh embarked on a publicity tour of the Northeast, jousting with abolitionist Wendell...

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Socialism Does Indeed Suck

Two free-market economists, Robert Lawson of Southern Methodist University and Benjamin Powell of Texas Tech University, have pulled off a marvelous stunt. Their just-published book, Socialism Sucks, is a humorous travelogue about their experiences in various socialist and allegedly socialist countries in the last few years. The book, subtitled “Two Economists Drink Their Way Through the Unfree World,” is the best in this genre since fellow drinker P.J. O’Rourke’s...

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The Bayesian Prisoners’ Dilemma

Suppose someone sends you a new article claiming X.  Intuitively, we think, “This will either make you more likely to believe X, or have no effect.”  Once you understand Bayesian reasoning, however, this makes no sense.  When someone sends you an article claiming X, you should ask yourself, “Is this evidence stronger or weaker than I would have expected?” If the answer is “stronger, ” then you should become more likely to believe X.  However, if the answer is...

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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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A Delight in Despotism: The Case of Vaping

Not jumping the Berlin Wall can save lives. Somebody won’t get shot. Over the longer term, however, it is likely that tyranny wastes more lives than liberty. Anyway, the real question is not how many lives are destroyed under the two regimes, but what can justify forbidding a specific individual to cross what he thinks is a wall against his own flourishing. I was reminded of this sort of questions when I followed a link in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal about a...

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Antitrust and Ideology

Most people, including many among those who think of themselves as defenders of free markets, believe that antitrust laws are justified. It nearly goes without saying. So the recent paper of Ryan Young and Clyde Wayne Crews (“The Case Against Antitrust Law,” Competitive Enterprise Institute, April 2019), which reviews the case against these laws, is most welcome. They conclude: Antitrust regulation harms competition, consumers, and innovation, and therefore should be...

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