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Tag Archives: Political Economy

Consumer Sovereignty: A Response to Greg Autry

Should public policy favor producers at the expense of consumers? A few days ago, I was involved in a short Twitter conversion with Greg Autry that touched this subject. Professor Autry is the co-author, with Peter Navarro, of Death by China (2011). (A recent article of mine in Regulation says more about this book.) I had mentioned that tariffs hurt the consumers of the country in which they are imposed. The essence of Autry’s response was: You also continue the...

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A Retreat from Reason (with an Aside from Rothbard)

People who were living at the time of the Enlightenment did not know that, although the enlightened ones sensed that something was happening. Of course, their precursors did not know they lived in the “Renaissance” or the “Dark Ages.” (On the Scottish Enlightenment, see adamsmithworks.org.) Similarly, we have problems characterizing the times we are living in, and even more what will follow—and which labels future historians will use. But there are troubling...

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Gratis Is Not Great

Almost every psychologically normal human is delighted to here about products everyone can enjoy free of charge.  “The school are free!”  “Health care is free!”  “Lunch is free!” According to basic welfare economics, however, gratis goods are almost automatically inefficient.  Unless the marginal social cost of the product miraculously happens to be zero, setting a price of zero leads to socially wasteful behavior. So what makes “free” so beloved?  The simplest...

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Of Oil Prices and Government Power

Positive economics does not tell us what the price of oil should be, although it does teach much about the factors that determine it. Normative economics or welfare economics suggests that this price should be determined by competitive markets, which will put oil production somewhere on society’s production possibility frontier (PPF). This way, as much of oil as possible will be produced given the production of all other goods and services. In a competitive economy...

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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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You have them… Robots Don’t

Millions of jobs are going unfilled in the United States right now with shortages in the trades profession; blue collar jobs like plumbers, pipefitters and welders among others. The basic body movements required of mechanics and electricians, among others, simply cannot yet be replicated by machines. Some question if they ever will ever be eliminated entirely. At present and for the first time there are more jobs available than people out of work. Author Jay...

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Wisdom from Mark Littlewood

In the last issue of Economic Affairs, Mark Littlewood, the Director-General of the IEA in London, offers his blueprint for arguing a stronger case for free markets in the contemporary world. Mark quotes (approvingly!) Tony Benn, “every generation has to fight the same battles again and again for there is no final victory and no final defeat”. The so-called “battle of ideas”, a metaphor dear to Littlewood’s predecessor John Blundell, is never over. And our current...

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Open Borders as Global Justice: Sowell Edition

Immigration laws don’t merely allow discrimination; they require it.  As the result, such laws are deeply anti-meritocratic.  Employers may be allowed to hire the best citizen for the job, but not the best person. Even more strikingly, the injustice ripples down through the generations.  When you trap a foreign-born father in a Third World country, you don’t just stunt his prospects; you stunt his children’s prospects as well.  Indeed, this physical and mental...

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Enemy of the People

There are good reasons to criticize “the media.” They generally espouse collectivist values in the sense that they favor collective or political choices over individual choices. This bias likely corresponds to the vague beliefs of the majority of the population. Not surprisingly, the media give their customers what they want. (The financial press is less prone to popular biases because it sells something else than entertainment and confirmation bias; it sells...

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The Siren of Democratic Fundamentalism

In an otherwise outstanding primer on Scandinavian economic policy, Timothy Taylor remarks: I won’t try to make the case here either for or against the Scandinavian model of capitalism. Strong majorities of people living in those countries seem to like the tradeoffs, which is all the justification that is needed. “All the justification that is needed”?!  Frankly, this is a textbook case of what I call “democratic fundamentalism.” Almost all economists, regardless of...

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