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Tag Archives: Public Choice Theory

Government Failure on a Grand Scale

Any person or organization can make mistakes, including governmental organizations and the state itself. And, as the popular saying goes, it’s easy to criticize. The problem, however, is that governmental mistakes have much worse consequences than any individual error. It appears that the US government, just like the Chinese government, totally botched the initial response to the coronavirus epidemic, albeit in different ways. It is now admitted that the repeated...

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Ready, Set, Go! Five Great First Books on Public Choice

Public choice is about understanding the rules of the political game. Romantic notions of politics suggest that what is in the public good is obvious—or at least that it would be if we could get rid of corruption/greed/that one jerk—and that politicians will have no difficulty in setting aside their personal interests in pursuit of that good. Public choice economists take the alternative view that successful collective action is hard to pull off. Even when a large...

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You Will Never See the World as Before

When, a few minutes ago, I read that the Italian government has announced a temporary suspension of mortgage payments (“Mortgage Payments Suspended Across Italy Amid Coronavirus Outbreak,” March 12, 2020), I quickly pulled the Twitter trigger: Lenders are humans too and the virus, contrary to the state, does not discriminate on the basis of balance sheet. Moreover, bankrupt states may direly need more lenders soon. The mortgage lenders include the pleb’s pension...

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Hannah Mather Crocker on Groveling Minds and Women who Shine

In a recent post, I shared some background on Hannah Mather Crocker’s Observations on the Real Rights of Women (1818) and thoughts on why it has been so overlooked by history. Although there aren’t a lot of quotables from Crocker that are likely to take Twitter by storm, she was an avid defender of women’s intellectual and moral capabilities. Further, she made arguments from within her time that defended women taking on advisory, religious, and civil leadership roles....

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Predicting Mitt Romney’s Vote on Impeachment

Earlier today, I was talking to a friend who’s a political junkie. He doesn’t like Trump but he’s against impeachment. (Aside: my friend’s argument was: (1) if you impeach Trump and fail, you strengthen him in the election, and (2) if you impeach Trump and succeed, you get President Pence.) I was telling my friend that I was fresh off watching Mitt Romney’s very moving 8-minute speech in which he stated why he would vote for the first article of impeachment. As I...

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George Selgin on Geography and the Fed

Although one might suppose that, to be eligible to serve as a Federal Reserve governor, a candidate should know something about monetary policy or banking or both, so far as the law is concerned, only two things clearly matter: a candidate cannot serve more than once, and he or she can’t be from just anywhere. Few Americans will know that that second requirement exists, why it does, and how it has come to be routinely ignored. Yet the question of geographic...

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Trump, Behavioral Economics, and Public Choice

As President Trump’s impeachment trial plays out in the U.S. Senate, it’s striking that such a grave situation has resulted from such a trivial cause. By that I don’t mean the allegations against him are trivial, but rather that the gains he allegedly sought from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky seem meager when compared to the legal and reputational risks he and several of his adjutants appear to have taken. A Ukrainian announcement of an investigation into...

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Which contentious issues are not partisan?

With America’s politics being increasingly polarized, it’s worth giving some thought to the issues are not partisan. What makes an issue cross party lines?  In San Diego, a proposal to limit growth has split the Democratic party: “The ‘Yes on A’ side was unable to address the racial problem, in a way that clearly made our African-American voting members very uncomfortable,” he said. “Some language in the initiative seemed coded, things like defending neighborhood...

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A Simple Argument Against Ex-Im

Ex-Im’s mandate in financing American exports has been reconducted by Congress with the blessing of President Donald Trump, who first appeared to be against but changed his mind because, apparently, exports are important and cannot be left to the market. The law’s intigators won by “tucking it into a large must-pass spending package,” to use the terms of the Wall Street Journal, making sure that it would not be debated by the glorious representatives of the people....

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Who Chooses? A Short Appreciation of Cost and Choice

James Buchanan’s Cost and Choice may be “[his] little book,” but it is jam-packed with economic wisdom. It is easily one of my favorite books. In it, Buchanan discusses in detail what he calls the LSE Theory of Choice (although it also shows up in the UCLA tradition of Armen Alchian as well). Costs are forward-looking, Buchanan states. Since they influence our behavior, they must occur in the future, and thus they are “ephemeral” (as Thirlby puts it). Since costs are...

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