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Tag Archives: government

The Simple Economics of Comparative State Lying

As rumors of war smoulder, the question becomes even more important: Between two states who issue contradictory statements, which one is it safer to believe? The economic answer is, of course, the one that has the lowest incentives to lie. Keep in mind that states don’t lie, only their rulers do, and we know that it is often in their interest to, but the question remains. Answering it is not difficult, at least in some cases. In a free or just open society, the...

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The Basics: Anarchy and Public Goods

Should Socrates have drunk the hemlock? Should you obey the state? What is the state for? The economic concept of “public good” is crucial for economics and political philosophy and for answering that sort of question. Here’s a short introduction (with some further questions). A public good (sometimes called “collective good”) is something for which all members of a group are willing to pay some price but for which it is impossible (or too costly) to charge a price to...

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El Paso etc.: A New Behavioral-Economics Bias?

Over the last few decades, behavioral economists have found rational limitations or biases that, they claim, prevent individuals from pursuing their own good. State agents who intervene to correct individual biases, however, are typically not subject to biases that would prevent them from implementing the common good. (See my recent Reason Foundation paper.) But what if the state instead fuels dangerous individual biases? Consider the “Big Chief bias,” a new bias...

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Madman or Madwoman in Power: A Simple, Realistic, Urgent Idea

Is it possible that a madman or egomaniac (perhaps combined with an ignoramus) become president of the United States? The same question can be asked for any other country although it takes special importance in the United States given the importance of the country in the world and the extraordinary power of its president. Liberal governments, that is, classical-liberal governments were ideally supposed to be madman-proof. Even a madman at the helm of the government...

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A Chicken Game Between Two Governments

If President Trump called off an Iranian attack in order to save innocent civilians, he deserves praise. Render to God what is God’s, and to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But, as a Wall Street Journal editorial emphasized, there is something off in this story (“Iran Calls Trump’s Bluff,” June 21, 2019): It’s important to understand how extraordinary this is. The Commander in Chief ordered ships and planes into battle but recalled them because he hadn’t asked in advance...

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Government Expenditures in GDP

When three economists meet to eat seafood on the Maine coast, chances are that they will talk about economics, or—what is the same—use economic theory to discuss topics ranging from religion and sex (why are some religions more anti-sex than others?) to the inclusion of government expenditures (on goods and services) in GDP. This is naturally what happened when, yesterday, I met Germain Belzile (HEC-Montréal and Montréal Economic Institute) and Vincent Geloso (who is...

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Yellow Metal Versus American Mettle? Nothing Matches Warren Buffett’s Brass

As you probably know, Warren Buffett has never been a fan of gold and has publicly disparaged the yellow metal on more than one occasion. About a year ago, he compared investing in gold and stocks, arguing that over the long term gold is an “unproductive asset” that “doesn’t produce anything.” So, why have it, unless you just want something to “fondle.” At the time, we argued that Buffet’s comments fall apart when you realize that gold is money. After all, I doubt you would ever hear him...

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A New Year’s Resolution for Statocrats

“Statocrats” is an old French word (statocrate) recycled by Bertrand de Jouvenel and meaning “a man who derives his authority only from the position he holds and the office he performs in the service of the state” (On Power: The Natural History of Its Growth, 1945 for the original French edition). I extend the term to encompass the Prince’s academic or quasi-academic advisors who partly or totally depend on the state for their incomes. (I am not implying that all...

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John Stossel Returns to His Roots

Long before he became a libertarian, John Stossel was a consumer reporter on the ABC News. His specialty was reporting on seedy companies. That’s what won him a lot of Emmies. Now John has returned to his roots, reporting on a seedy company or, more correctly, a company that occasionally engages in seedy behavior, named Google. The difference this time: he doesn’t advocate regulating the firm to change its bad behavior. Instead, he reports on its bad behavior and...

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Liberty, Authority, and Giuliani

A Newsweek story claims that Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City and current lawyer of the U.S. President, has long-standing and suspicious ties to the Russian oligarchy, including with respect to money laundering. I don’t know if this is true or not. And let me add that money laundering laws, which did not exist half a century ago, certainly represent a strong advance of the Surveillance State and a general threat to individual liberty. From this point...

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