Calculating the police against citizen homicide rate

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 … Continue reading Calculating the police against citizen homicide rate

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

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

James M. Buchanan: A Preliminary Appreciation

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 … Continue reading James M. Buchanan: A Preliminary Appreciation

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

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, … Continue reading In Favor of Across-the-Board Cuts in Government Spending

After the Fiscal Imbalance is Resolved: What Then?

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 … Continue reading After the Fiscal Imbalance is Resolved: What Then?

European Austerity in Perspective

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 … Continue reading European Austerity in Perspective

Bo as Emblem of State Capitalism

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 … Continue reading Bo as Emblem of State Capitalism

Taxpayers’ Future in Wisconsin Vote

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 … Continue reading Taxpayers’ Future in Wisconsin Vote

Oil Price Politics Implication

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 change the fact that the Jones Act … Continue reading Oil Price Politics Implication

Politics of Oil Prices

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 … Continue reading Politics of Oil Prices

Russian Lesson on Term Limits

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 … Continue reading Russian Lesson on Term Limits

M. Friedman Goes to Washington

by Chidem Kurdas Early in his career, long before he became a Nobel prizewinner and the household name for free market economist, Milton Friedman worked for the US Treasury. The following anecdote is from his 1998 memoir with his wife Rose, Two Lucky People.  This revealing example of how public officials operate illustrates, in Friedman’s words, … Continue reading M. Friedman Goes to Washington

Primaries, Public Interest and Angels

by Chidem Kurdas The Republican primaries have been all-out fights, with a series of contenders showing strength in polls and challenging the establishment favorite Mitt Romney, only to fall back after the initial success. Newt Gingrich is the latest to rise and, after his loss in the Florida primary, presumably to fall. It is not … Continue reading Primaries, Public Interest and Angels

Why Public Policy Is Inconsistent

by Chidem Kurdas Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JP Morgan Chase, says regulatory policy is working against economic recovery and as such is contradictory. His complaint is about the new bank rules, but in fact government actions in myriad areas are at odds with each other. Consistency does not appear to be an object in … Continue reading Why Public Policy Is Inconsistent

Keynes, the Future and Present Austerity

by Chidem Kurdas In 1930, John Maynard Keynes dashed off an amazing prophecy. Extrapolating from the productivity gains of the past centuries, he came to the bold conclusion that the fundamental economic problem of scarcity would fade away in 100 years or so. Thanks to technological innovation and the accumulation of capital, the ancient condition … Continue reading Keynes, the Future and Present Austerity

Fannie, Dodd-Frank and Barney Frank

by Chidem Kurdas Barney Frank  won’t run for Congress after his present term expires.  This May there were news stories about his  ex-lover getting a high-paying job at mortgage finance giant Fannie Mae while he sat on the Congressional committee that oversaw the government-sponsored entity.  Regardless of what voters now think of Mr. Frank, Dodd-Frank, … Continue reading Fannie, Dodd-Frank and Barney Frank

Is USPS as American as Pumpkin Pie?

Chidem Kurdas The United States Postal Service is in a deep financial hole that looks to get deeper unless the institution undergoes a major revamp.  Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe says current bills in Congress do not provide enough savings to get out of the hole. US Mail has historical roots. What would Benjamin Franklin, who was appointed … Continue reading Is USPS as American as Pumpkin Pie?

Energy Policy vs. Market

by Chidem Kurdas No matter how thoroughly public policy fails, there is no end to efforts in the same area.  Energy is a case in point. Reviewing the history of US energy policy in his new book, Columbia University legal scholar Michael Graetz writes: “The book  is, then, in one sense a story of failure…”  … Continue reading Energy Policy vs. Market

Politics of Healthcare Rationing

by Chidem Kurdas The Obama administration’s remake of the US healthcare system stands on three legs. It makes the purchase of insurance compulsory. It doles out new entitlements via expanded Medicaid, subsidies and certain benefit mandates. And it promises to control the growth of medical costs. The title of the 2010 law, the Affordable Care … Continue reading Politics of Healthcare Rationing

Revolution on Wall Street?

by Chidem Kurdas Protestors have “occupied” a square near Wall Street for weeks. Hundreds of them were arrested, some 700 while blocking the Brooklyn Bridge. The movement may be spreading to other American cities. At least one demonstrator says: “This is a revolution.” They complain of joblessness and the inequities of global capitalism, though the … Continue reading Revolution on Wall Street?

Dodd-Frank Starves Congo; Advocates Win

by Chidem Kurdas While I decided the financial regulation act Dodd-Frank is a gigantic dud after scanning its thousands of pages, I missed the bit on Congo that David Aronson brought to light in a NYT op-ed column this Monday. Activist-lobbyists apparently inserted into the act a requirement that public companies buying minerals from Congo show … Continue reading Dodd-Frank Starves Congo; Advocates Win

Spending Cuts and Politics of Bureaucracy

by Chidem Kurdas I just read The Politics of Bureaucracy by Gordon Tullock, one of the best books written on the behavior of bureaucrats. Although originally published in 1965, it remains very much relevant today, especially as the debt deal currently in Congress could bring spending caps on programs administered by numerous bureaucracies. These entities … Continue reading Spending Cuts and Politics of Bureaucracy

Japan Reveals Regulatory Trap

by Chidem Kurdas Once upon a time, people tried to explain the post-war “Japanese Miracle” of rapid growth. Then in the current century, the puzzle shifted to Japanese stagnation since 1990. The lesson from these two distinct phases of Japanese history is germane for current American policy. Chalmers Johnson’s influential book, MITI and the Japanese … Continue reading Japan Reveals Regulatory Trap

Why Dodd-Frank is Dud-Blarney

by Chidem Kurdas It is a shame that Christopher Dodd  did not become a lobbyist earlier, before he teamed up with Barney Frank to sponsor the Dodd-Frank Act. Mr. Dodd first helped set into motion a fast-expanding web of obscure bureaucratic dicta for almost all financial activity, then took a lucrative job as Hollywood lobbyist. … Continue reading Why Dodd-Frank is Dud-Blarney

Is Economics a Public Good? How Would We Know?

by Mario Rizzo What is the economic justification for using tax money to subsidize the production of economic research? The standard answer is that academic economists produce a public good. In other words they produce knowledge for which they do not charge and for which it is not feasible to exclude non-payers. Let’s accept this … Continue reading Is Economics a Public Good? How Would We Know?