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Tag Archives: Economics of Crime

Prohibitions: Frontiers of liberty & markets

For the next ten weeks, I will write a series of posts about prohibitions: frontiers of liberty and markets.  This will be a topic discussion club, inspired by Bryan Caplan’s recent book club about persistence of poverty.  However, we won’t focus on one book.  I will provide links here and there to short, ungated readings about facets of our general topic. Let’s keep in mind two overarching questions: Why are some behaviors, which don’t intrinsically involve force or...

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The Mule

My wife and I rented the recent Clint Eastwood movie, The Mule, last night. I would give it an 8 out of 10. At various points, we paused and talk about the fact that we had no idea where the movie would go. Once it ended the way it did, it was plausible, but I wouldn’t have necessarily predicted that. I want to make two points, though, one of which relates to economics and the other of which relates to liberty. That’s why they fit on this blog. Economics (Minor...

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Good intentions are not enough

In the past, I’ve made three arguments about utilitarianism: 1. It’s the correct moral system.2. It’s the way the world is trending.3. It’s consistent with classical liberalism. I used examples such as the prohibition on the sale of kidneys, an anti-utilitarian policy that is likely to be repealed at some point. I predict something similar will eventually happen in the sex industry, for similar reasons. The New York Review of Books has an excellent essay on the...

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Reflections on The Sopranos

I just finished re-watching the entirety of The Sopranos, HBO’s classic Mafia drama. I saw it season-by-season when it originally aired (1999-2007), and I still hew to the allegedly philistine view that the ending was not only bad, but insulting. Overall, though the show’s reputation is well-deserved. Here are the top social science insights I take away. (minor spoilers) 1. Human motivation is overdetermined. For any important action, people usually have several...

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Change the culture

The recent college admissions scandal has received a lot of attention. Unfortunately, there’s a great deal of confused thinking on this issue. Here’s the NYT, discussing the criticism received by parents who bribed college officials: The playwright David Mamet, the couple’s friend and collaborator of many decades, sprang to their defense in an open letter urging people to hate the game of corrupt college admissions rather than hate these players, whose parental...

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A Signal of Corruption

I don’t support scandals, but scandals support me!  Thanks to #CollegeGate, I’m in the next issue of TIME.  Highlights: Consider why these parents would even desire to fake their kids’ SAT scores. We can imagine them thinking, I desperately want my child to master mathematics, writing and history — and no one teaches math, writing and history like Yale does! But we all know this is fanciful. People don’t cheat because they want to learn more. They cheat to get a...

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A Modest Proposal for Prosecutors Who Lie

The title is a little simplified because this post is not just about prosecutors who lie. It’s also about those who hide exculpatory evidence and get witnesses to lie. The proposal is this: Any prosecutor who does this should be charged with a crime and the penalty should be equal to the penalty that the judge has imposed on the defendant. The one exception is when the judge has imposed capital punishment. In that case, the penalty for the prosecutor should be life...

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It’s blackmail all the way down

David Henderson recently raised doubts about whether blackmail should be illegal, and Robin Hanson advocated legalizing blackmail. David cited the argument that activities that are generally legal (such as gossip), should not become illegal merely because money changes hands. Robin cited the argument that blackmail is a way of enforcing society’s norms, and that the threat of blackmail might deter bad behavior. Tyler Cowen argued against legalizing blackmail, as did...

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Another big success for libertarianism

Pot legalization is an issue that has been largely ignored by Democrats and Republicans, but championed by libertarians. And now it’s sweeping the country, as more and more states jump onboard. I often get newsletters from various libertarian groups, and I’ve noticed that asset forfeiture laws are another big concern. Police who pull someone over on the highway can simply take the driver’s money, on suspicion that the funds were used in some sort of crime.  No crime...

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Should Blackmail be Legal?

In his latest column for Bloomberg, “Seven Lessons About Blackmail,” economist Tyler Cowen takes up the issue of blackmail. What motivated it, of course, as he makes clear, is the recent controversy involving Amazon’s Jeff Bezos’s allegation that the National Enquirer has blackmailed him. Although Tyler recognizes that a case needs to be made that blackmail should be illegal, he doesn’t do justice to the issue. His only statement on the issue in his piece, other than...

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