Archive for the 'Public Choice' Category

An Appreciation: James M. Buchanan (1919-2013)

January 22, 2013

by Shruti Rajagopalan* 

James M Buchanan, who died last week at age 93, was one of the most profound thinkers of our age. Few Indians would be familiar with his academic contributions or even recognize his name. Yet, the insights from his research would strike a chord with every Indian navigating the inefficiencies and excesses of government on a daily basis.

Buchanan, professor emeritus at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 1986 for his contributions to the economic analysis of political decision-making. By bringing politics back into economics, Buchanan made economics more humane, realistic, interesting, and relevant. He challenged the economics orthodoxy, dared to be different, inspired his students and colleagues, and developed one of the most unique and creative research programs in economics at the Center for the Study of Public Choice at George Mason University.  Read the rest of this entry »

James M. Buchanan: A Preliminary Appreciation

January 9, 2013

by Mario Rizzo

The great economist James M. Buchanan died today at 93. I am still too stunned to write a proper appreciation of his tremendous contributions to economics and, indeed, to moral philosophy.

Buchanan won the Nobel prize in Economics in 1986. But even this does not capture his greatness. There have been many Nobel prizes in Economics since 1969, the year they were initiated. (In my view there have been too many.) Many of these prize winners will be long forgotten and even viewed with puzzlement by future generations, but this prize will stand out. Read the rest of this entry »

In Favor of Across-the-Board Cuts in Government Spending

January 3, 2013

by Mario Rizzo

I am not sure which is worse: superstitions based on science or superstitions pure and simple.

Many people would react to across the board cuts in government spending by saying something like: “This is crazy; some things are more important than others. We should cut the less important things first.” And, indeed, economists would seem to agree. After all, the equi-marginal principle was one of the first “discoveries” of the marginal revolution. No sense cutting programs in such a way that some will have very high returns, however measured, at the margin while others will have very low returns. Irrational!

However, what is rational for a household or an individual need not be rational policy for the government. Why is that? Read the rest of this entry »

After the Fiscal Imbalance is Resolved: What Then?

December 15, 2012

by Mario Rizzo

Let us suppose that not only the immediate fiscal cliff problem is solved but also the long-run fiscal imbalance is corrected. What then? Presumably federal spending will then be on a sustainable trajectory which is able to cope with cost-of-living increases. Ordinary trend economic growth will already have been figured into the sustainability of the spending trajectory.

So what room is there for more spending without derailing the whole “solution?”  Consider that the contemporary federal government – executive and legislature – exists for the purpose of giving favors to various groups in exchange for electoral support.  Thus, even assuming the unlikely event that the long-term imbalance is resolved, how do we stay within the solution range?  After all, we did not get where we are by accident.

Only a real change in the philosophy (ideology) of government will work. The pragmatic solutions of those who do not challenge the welfare-warfare state, root and branch, are not enough. They are not “pragmatic” enough!

European Austerity in Perspective

April 26, 2012

by Chidem Kurdas

Attempts to rein in government spending necessarily have unpleasant side effects.  Thus the Dutch government collapsed amid budget talks to control the deficit.   And British national output appears to be shrinking.

Keynesians and advocates of the Obama administration’s colossal budget see this as vindication for unrestrained government spending. But in fact what we see in Europe is a very unfortunate consequence of past unrestrained spending. Read the rest of this entry »

Bo as Emblem of State Capitalism

April 19, 2012

by Chidem Kurdas

The fallen Chinese political chieftain Bo Xilai and his wife are starting to sound like a bizarre combination of Macbeth and his Lady, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and Fannie Mae—yes, the government created and backed housing finance entity.

Under the leadership of the Mao-admiring “new left” Mr. Bo, the fast-growing city of Chongqing built extensive public housing. Apparently the local government  created investment vehicles to finance its various projects, issuing bonds with land as collateral. The WSJ reports that analysts regard this debt as increasingly riskyRead the rest of this entry »

Taxpayers’ Future in Wisconsin Vote

April 12, 2012

by Chidem Kurdas

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is in the extremely unusual position of facing a recall vote less than two years after he was elected in 2010. The recall is orchestrated by unions that have gone all out to reverse his valiant effort to contain the growth in state and local spending. This vote has wide implications beyond the state of Wisconsin, implications for all government budget making and the question of  whether taxpayers can be protected at all against predatory interests.

Mr. Walker’s supposed crime is to be on the taxpayers’ side. Read the rest of this entry »

Oil Price Politics Implication

March 24, 2012

by Chidem Kurdas

My previous post about government restrictions on oil and gasoline transportation drew comments saying prices are set in a world  market and the effect of United States policy is negligible. Numerous economic and geopolitical forces influence the price of oil, no question. That does not Read the rest of this entry »

Politics of Oil Prices

March 13, 2012

by Chidem Kurdas

Oil from North Dakota is selling at a record discount, according to a March 1st news item in the local paper, the Bismarck Tribune.   By contrast, here in New York gasoline prices are near record highs. Between North Dakota and New York are thousands of miles but more crucially standing between us is a gigantic entity, the federal government.

With North Dakota’s Bakken and Three Forks shale formations producing at a rip roaring rate, the issue is getting the oil to refineries and from refineries to population centers. The Bismarck Tribune article quotes the State Mineral Resources Director, who said: “prices for North Dakota sweet crude generally mirrored West Texas Intermediate prices last year but began widening in January when President Barack Obama temporarily halted the $7 billion Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL pipeline, which would have carried 100,000 barrels of crude daily from North Dakota and Montana.”

Presidential obstruction of Keystone XL is one factor. The producers are getting around the lack of pipeline by transporting some of the crude to Louisiana via rail. But that doesn’t much help northeasters like me. There’s this federal law called the Jones Act, which was in the news in 2010 after the BP oil rig disaster in the Gulf of MexicoRead the rest of this entry »

Russian Lesson on Term Limits

February 26, 2012

by Chidem Kurdas

The point of term limits is to prevent the buildup of political power by one person or group. In Russia’s ersatz version, Vladimir Putin merrily plays revolving door with his protégé Dmitry Medvedev. Mr. Putin may win the election on March 4th despite the persistent protests sparked by his latest round of musical chairs with Mr. Medvedev.

That means Mr.Putin could potentially be Russia’s president again for two terms lasting through 2024, bringing his overall reign at the top as either prime minister or president to almost 25 years.

I would like to know what Mikhail Khodorkovsky, one-time-Putin-crony-turned-arch-critic, thinks about this. But the Siberian prison camp where he is held is not welcoming visitors.  A documentary about him, starting to make the rounds of some US cities, is as close as we get to understanding what’s happened to Mr. Khodorkovsky, Read the rest of this entry »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,731 other followers