Lessons from the Uber-de Blasio Showdown

August 24, 2015

by Liya Palagashvili

Earlier this summer, de Blasio attempted to cap the number of Uber and other ride-sharing drivers in New York City. Although he ended up dropping the proposal, the event itself serves as a wonderful pedagogical illustration of public choice insights. Here’s an excerpt from my op-ed on this:

What can we learn from this Uber fight and public choice economics? We need to have a more practical understanding of politics rather than indulging in a romantic notion that all policies intend to help residents or consumers. We often get bad policies because of self-interested exchanges between politicians and special interest groups. We shouldn’t fall head over heels every time politicians tell us they support a particular policy in order to “help the people.” Sometimes that’s just a façade for what is going on behind closed doors. So when politicians tell us they want to limit ride-sharing to “protect riders,” residents should take this public justification with caution and not immediately assume that they’re doing it out of the goodness of their hearts.

Read the full op-ed here.

Chickens Coming Home to Roost: The Progressive Destruction of Employment Opportunities

August 6, 2015

By Mario Rizzo

There comes a point where the continual mandating of benefits and restrictions on hiring has big consequences. We can see the handwriting on the wall in Europe as well as in the US. In Europe the young are more and more being left out of the traditional forms of hiring .

A recent article in the Financial Times (August 5, 2015) has a very interesting analysis of the issue. “In a continent known for strong employee protections, more than half of the eurozone’s young workers are in temporary jobs, churning from one short-lived contract to the next.”  And this is in countries with high unemployment rates among the young.

Temporary jobs among the 15 to 24 year-olds (of those who are employed)

Spain: 69.1%

France: 57.0%

Italy: 56.0%

Germany: 53.4%

OECD: 24.1%

UK: 15.2%

Japan: 14.4%

“…[I]n Italy, France, and Spain…fewer than 30 per cent of temporary employees have moved on to permanent jobs three years later.”

These temporary workers are not good candidates for on-the-job training and other employer investments in human capital. In the United States we see an increase in “gig hiring” in those areas of entry restrictions (taxis) and in areas of technological expertise. Some of this in both the US and Europe is, no doubt, desirable to workers from the point of view of freedom to decide one’s hours and so forth.

However, it is one thing to make a decision in an undistorted labor market and another thing to make a decision for this type of employment because mandates have significantly increased the costs of traditional employment. Furthermore, among the groups who have done the most to create this state of affairs – labor unions and so-called progressives – the reaction is quite interesting.  They bemoan the decline of the middle class and the security of the good ole days. And they worry about more and more workers avoiding the “protections” and “benefits” of union and state.

The simplistic line that much of the public has accepted is that we can pile mandate upon mandate, condition upon condition without much effect on labor markets. We can mandate the good things people want. On the other hand, I am not so sure that labor unions really buy this line. After all, their interests lie with incumbent workers, not those who are struggling to get ahead. But ignorance abounds in all quarters.

APEE: Call for Papers

June 30, 2015

Jerry O’Driscoll

The Association of Private Enterprise Education will hold its annual meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, April 3rd to 5th, 2016. This year’s conference theme is Capitalism: Free-Market or Crony? Papers are welcome on that topic, as well as other topics relevant to market economies. That list certainly includes Austrian economics, Public Choice, etc. Here is a link to the Call for Papers: https://www.apee.org/call-for-papers/

I am the Vice President of APEE this year and have responsibility to organize the conference. Visitors to ThinkMarkets are invited to submit papers for the conference. If you want to organize a session, contact me and I will advise how to proceed. My contact is at the Call for Papers.

Calculating the police against citizen homicide rate

June 30, 2015


by Edward Stringham

We hear of high profile cases of police killings, but few look at the larger picture of how often American citizens are killed by police. What is the rate at which police kill citizens and how does that compare to other homicide rates? Although official statistics have historically been scant, we now know that police killed 1,100 Americans in 2014 and 476 Americans in the first five months of 2015. Given that America has roughly 765,000 sworn police officers, that means the police-against-citizen kill rate is more than 145 per 100,000.

Let us put that into perspective. In most countries in Europe the national homicide rate is 1 per 100,000, so that means American police kill at 145 times the rate of the average European citizen. The two most violent countries in the world are Venezuela and Honduras with national homicide rates of 54 and 90 per 100,000. The U.S. government issues travel warnings stating: “The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens that the level of crime and violence in Honduras remains critically high” and “violent crime in Venezuela is pervasive.” If you are not comfortable vacationing in those countries, it is little wonder why so many Americans are uncomfortable with police who kill at more than 1.5 and 2.5 times the homicide rates of the two most violent countries.

Continue reading in my latest OpEd in the New York Daily News here.

Stringham appointed as the Davis Professor for Economic Organizations and Innovation at Trinity College

May 20, 2015


by Edward Stringham

I have enjoyed working with excellent colleagues and Ph.D. students at Texas Tech University, but I am thrilled to be hired as an endowed chair at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. Undergraduate students interested in private enterprise, drop everything you are doing and enroll now! Parents of toddlers destined for success, create a fifteen year plan for your kids to send them our way. The first Episcopal college in New England, Wall Street pipeline Trinity has the fourth highest percentage of alumni millionaires. Actually, the atmosphere on its collegiate gothic campus is ideal in so many ways.

The Davis Endowment was made possible by legendary Wall Streeter and Forbes 400 member, Shelby Cullom Davis. The endowment sponsors classes, lectures, research on private enterprise, and reaches hundreds of students and thousands in the public. With more than $16 million, the Davis Endowment is one of the largest of its kind in the world.

Since its founding nearly 35 years ago, the Davis Endowment has been directed by Gerald Gunderson, longtime editor of the Journal of Private Enterprise, and author of A New Economic History of America and The Wealth Creators: An Entrepreneurial History of America, among others. Armen Alchian stated that Gunderson’s work, “stands head and shoulders above anything else in explaining our history and especially how the capitalist system operated and still operates when allowed.” Along with Gerald Gunderson, I will be working with John Alcorn, Bill Butos, and other great professors.

I am particularly grateful for Gerald Gunderson, Shelby Cullom Davis, and Shelby’s daughter, Diana Davis Spencer, for helping ensure that this endowment is where it is today. Gerald spent many years watching over the endowment and Diana Spencer was influential in speaking out in article on the front page of the Wall Street Journal when an ex-administrator was attempting to divert most of the funds out it. Diana Spencer worked with the American Council of Trustees and Alumni and the Philanthropy Roundtable in the fight to have her father’s donor intent honored. She stated “If colleges like Trinity undermine donors’ confidence that they will respect their wishes, they place at risk the generous support they receive from our foundation and so many others—and the benefits that inure to millions of students from this largesse.” (The ex-administrator who was attempting to divert the funds resigned shortly after coming up with another controversial idea , and more recently the Commonwealth of Virginia names him in a lawsuit for misuse of funds and violation of donor intent for his announced closure of Sweet Briar College.) A Pope Center report “An unusual victory for donor intent at Trinity College” documents some of the details of this multi-year battle and win. Gunderson wins first prize for the most persistent endowment director of all time.

I thank the search committee at Trinity, my professors (especially Peter Boettke), colleagues (especially Benjamin Powell), and countless others for helping me get here. I am looking forward to returning to my Yankee roots and working to build the premier liberal arts center for the study of private enterprise.

Why students interested in free markets should get their Ph.D. at Texas Tech University

May 11, 2015


by Ed Stringham

If you are interested in earning a Ph.D., or if you know someone who is, I strongly recommend studying at Texas Tech University where I have had the pleasure to teach this past year. At the center of the action is my good friend, Benjamin Powell, who directs the Free Market Institute at Texas Tech University. I always found Powell impressive, but over the past couple years he has shown great program building and leadership skills to launch the Free Market Institute programs. Last year they hired me and the most excellent Adam Martin, bringing the number of George Mason University Ph.D.s on campus to four. This month they hired Alexander Salter who earned his Ph.D. from George Mason University in 2014, and they may also be hiring an economist with a long affiliation with PERC and another scholar who is well known in Austrian economic circles. Stay tuned.

Here are some reasons why students interested in free markets should look into studying at Texas Tech. The university is large and growing with more than 35,000 students and a $1 billion endowment. Walk around campus and observe the architecture to the flowers as small indications of how well the university is run.

The administration is actually full of supportive people with can do attitudes that are uncommon on most campuses, and the university plans to continue to move up in the rankings. (Speaking of rankings, as a New Englander, I like how Wes Welker and Danny Amendola played football at Texas Tech, but alas the university’s football ranking was not as good this year as in other years.) The campus is also nicely situated next to a bunch of good housing, restaurants, and bars giving it a close to ideal college town feel with most of what one needs in walking distance. The people in Lubbock are also very nice and the university lacks unkempt hippies found elsewhere.

Although the university is large, Ph.D. students associated with the Free Market Institute have a strong sense of community and can get a lot of face time with professors and visiting scholars. I enjoyed teaching economics of entrepreneurship and the economics of regulation to some great Ph.D. students over the past year. Peter Boettke was the Ludwig von Mises Visiting Scholar with a couple two week visits and Joshua Hall was a Big Twelve Visiting Fellow as well. In the past year and a half we had Walter Williams and Andrew Napolitano help fill 800 person auditoriums and top scholars including Vernon Smith, Israel Kirzner and Robert Higgs present on campus. The Friday research workshop and other seminars also had many interesting speakers including Scott Beaulier, Bryan Caplan, Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, Matt Kibbe, Peter Klein, Robert Lawson, Peter Lewin, Edward Lopez, Bryan McCannon, Phillip Magness, Daniel Sutter, and Richard Wager. We also cohosted conferences with the Institute for Humane Studies and the Free Market Roadshow with speakers including Steve Bradley, Enrico Colombatto, John Charalambakis, and Barbara Kolm.

Powell even has a television show where he discusses the research of many of the scholars who visit campus. Of course the best episodes featured me! Drop everything you are doing and check it out.

Expect great things at Texas Tech University in the future. Congrats to Powell and others who are making all of this possible. If you are a student, find out more about the programs and fellowships here.

Organizing sessions for the Society for the Development of Austrian Economics

April 21, 2015

By Ed Stringham

I am pleased to have been selected as the next President of the Society for the Development of Austrian Economics. Many economists including Karen Vaughn, Mario Rizzo, Peter Lewin, Steve Horwitz, and Peter Boettke, have done great work and help make the society far bigger than I would have predicted.

Sessions over the years have included some great and lively debates between Walter Block and Gordon Tullock. Chris Coyne gave an excellent presidential talk last year on problems with the theory of public goods. I had the good fortune to win two Paper of the Year awards from the Society for the Development of Austrian Economics (read the articles now here and here!), so thanks to everyone who made this latest honor possible.

One of my duties is organizing the sessions at the Southern Economic Association meetings and this year’s paper submissions are due this week. Submit your paper proposal to me today! Details are here.


The Blanchard Danger

September 1, 2014

by Roger Koppl

Oliver Blanchard tells us “Where Danger Lurks”  in the macro-finance world.

The big theme is nonlinearity, which is a profoundly conservative move: DSGE modeling is just fine and we don’t need to rethink it at all. We just need to add in some nonlinearities. Blanchard does not tell how to calibrate a model with extreme sensitivity to initial conditions. But if the system is chaotic, it is also unpredictable, so how can you pretend to merely add nonlinearities to DSGE models?  It seems like a pretty direct contradiction to me. I mean, you can have the model in a trivial sense, of course. But calibration is an empty exercise that will not let you look around corners.

Blanchard’s second main message is alarming: We do need theoretical innovation, however, in measuring systemic risk. In the modern network literature on financial markets and cascades, one key point is risk externality. My portfolio choice makes your portfolio riskier. We need two things to fix this market failure. First, we need Pigou taxes, which cannot be calculated unless everyone tells the regulator his portfolio so that it can measure systemic risk and calculate a separate Pigou tax for each financial institution. Second, we need to reduce systemic risk. (“[S]teps must be taken to reduce risk and increase distance” from the “dark corners” of the macro-finance system.) In the network literature I suspect Blanchard is alluding to, this is to be done (at least in some of the articles) by having the regulator directly control the portfolios of financial institutions. (Names include: Acharya 2009; Beale et al. 2011; Caccioli et al. 2011; Gai, Haldane,and Kapadia 2011; Haldane and May 2011; and Yellen 2009, 2011)

I take a rather different view of both economic theory and the crisis in my recent IEA Hobart paper From Crisis to Confidence: Macroeconomics after the Crash.

Overall, Blanchard’s message is meant to be reassuring: We the smart macro-finance experts have now got the message on nonlinearities. So no further need to worry, we’ve got the situation in hand. To keep the system out of the “dark corners,” however, we will need more discretionary authority. You don’t mind trading off a bit of financial freedom for greater financial safety do you?

Economics of the Undead: Zombies, Vampires, and the Dismal Science

July 11, 2014

by Glen Whitman

Last year in this space, I posted the Call for Abstracts for a forthcoming book called Economics of the Undead. That project is now coming to fruition! The book will officially be published tomorrow; here’s the Amazon page, and here’s the Barnes & Noble page. (The Kindle version should also become available tomorrow.) If the brilliant title and fetching cover haven’t already convinced you to buy the book, then you should visit the official website, which includes the table of contents, chapter excerpts, a course guide, and even a blog.

I know that some economists, including some who might frequent this page, have a problem with the term “dismal science.” For that reason, I thought I should post the following passage from the book’s introduction:

But before you start sampling, let’s return for a moment to the subtitle of this book: “Zombies, Vampires, and the Dismal Science.” In a book about the undead, we couldn’t resist the temptation to use the economics discipline’s most famous nickname. But while many people know economics as the dismal science, few know the true origin of that phrase. It came from Thomas Carlyle, another Scottish philosopher. And Carlyle was not denigrating economists for their (quite real) tendency to emphasize the limits of our resources and the barriers to remaking society as a fanciful utopia. No, Carlyle was criticizing economists for supporting the abolition of slavery! He was incensed by the optimism of economists like John Stuart Mill, who believed that people of African origin—like people of all races—were capable of governing themselves.

We tell this story because we think you’ll find, possibly to your surprise, that this book presents one of the more optimistic perspectives you’ll find on the undead threat. From Darwyyn Deyo and David T. Mitchell’s argument that we should trade with vampires instead of staking them; to Kyle Bishop, David Tufte, and Mary Jo Tufte’s suggestion that innovative humans might ultimately achieve victory over the zombie threat; to Brian Hollar’s discussion of how humans will seek prosperity even after a zombie apocalypse, a broad theme emerges: that humans—and maybe our recently dead brethren as well—have a vast capacity to cope with adversity and somehow make the world a better place.

(There’s also a citation to Levy and Peart in there, which I have omitted from this post.)

Economics Music Video Contest: Markets Promote Peace

June 30, 2014

by Edward Stringham

As a professor, I am a  fan of rigorous economic research, but I am also a fan of helping students learn about how important economics is in an engaging way. John Papola did an excellent job with the Keynes Versus Hayek music videos (especially the second one with yours truly), and over the past couple years I have had students make economics music videos. Think it is impossible to have music videos about Supply and Demand or Economic Value is Subjective? Think again! The results of the 2012 Supply and Demand Music Video Contest and the 2013 Economic Value is Subjective Video Contest have  been fantastic and have had more than 100,000 views on Youtube. See the winning entries below.

I am pleased to announce the 2014 Economics Music Video Contest on Markets Promote Peace. Winners get $2,500 and their professor gets $500. According to the great 19th century liberal, Richard Coben, markets help change a relationship between strangers from one of indifference, or even contempt, to one of mutual benefit. People who may not have cared about each other, now see the other party as an ally. Militarism, on the other hand, causes conflict. To Cobden an important, more humane, and more effective substitute for militarism in the international realm is the expansion of markets.

Continue reading about the contest here: http://hackleychair.wordpress.com/2-economics-music-video-contest/

Winners of  the 2013 Value is Subjective Music Video Contest


Winners of the 2012 Supply and Demand Music Video Contest



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