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?

Public Unions vs. the Real Underdog

by Chidem Kurdas Wisconsin governor Scott Walker successfully made the financial case to limit collective bargaining by public unions. Not only have the unions imposed an immense burden on taxpayers, present and future, but they create bureaucratic rigidities that cause dysfunction and, in financial crunches, layoffs of promising employees. Yet in recent weeks it has … Continue reading Public Unions vs. the Real Underdog

Egypt Best Case Scenario via Korea

By Young Back Choi and Chidem Kurdas Compared to the turmoil in the Middle East, South Korea appears to be an oasis of calm. But as recently as 20 or so years ago you could  still smell tear gas on the streets of Seoul. Violent demonstrations shook the city for decades—-making it look like Cairo … Continue reading Egypt Best Case Scenario via Korea

Voters’ Best Interest

by Chidem Kurdas Ronald Dworkin, a well-known legal scholar, describes last month’s election results as depressing and puzzling. In a commentary in the New York Review of Books, he asks, “Why do so many Americans insist on voting against their own best interests?”  The New York University law and philosophy professor is not the only … Continue reading Voters’ Best Interest

Friedman on Social Security Reform

by Chidem Kurdas This may be a good time to revisit Milton Friedman’s proposal for reforming all entitlement programs and social security, in one fell swoop. His idea goes back several decades but is no less powerful in its simplicity. A serious discussion on reform may now start with the Roadmap put forth by Wisconsin … Continue reading Friedman on Social Security Reform

Two Takes on Political Donations

by Chidem Kurdas The Wall Street Journal reports that the biggest campaign spender of 2010 is a public sector union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which lavished $87.5 million on helping Democrats. This single union outspent the US Chamber of Commerce, which came second with $75 million. Reading the WSJ article … Continue reading Two Takes on Political Donations

Equality Destroyed in the Name of Equality

by Chidem Kurdas Law and government should treat people equally. This old principle may seem obvious and firmly in place, but in fact it’s much violated. Instead, the focus is on income distribution. Thus Robert H Frank in the NYT points to the bad effects of income inequality – like people spending too much money … Continue reading Equality Destroyed in the Name of Equality

Constitutionalism: Point/Counter-Point

By Chidem Kurdas and Thomas McQuade In our previous post, Thomas argued that voter feedback is weak in constraining the exercise of legislative power. Chidem countered that the other fundamental constraint, the constitution, is therefore all-important. Commentators were divided, with cogent arguments pro and con. We continue this discussion. Chidem:  Constitutionalism is the idea of … Continue reading Constitutionalism: Point/Counter-Point

Understanding Politics: Point/Counter-Point

by Thomas McQuade and Chidem Kurdas Our previous post and the ensuing discussion raised points for and against the appropriateness of understanding markets as complex adaptive systems. We discuss here whether the same approach can say something useful about modern political systems, taking the US as the illustrative example. Thomas: I think it could be … Continue reading Understanding Politics: Point/Counter-Point

Lobbyist Job Creation Act

By Chidem Kurdas Happy Fourth of July! Don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, but  the state of the Republic requires serious thought. Our government has managed to create endless opportunities, but not for ordinary people—only for political operators and influence peddlers, with the Obama Administration pushing some 4,500 pages of medical and financial regulation … Continue reading Lobbyist Job Creation Act

Grounding Oil Spill Politics

by Chidem Kurdas BP flounders, the Obama administration hastily reverses its deep-water oil drilling policy and bans what it previously wanted to expand and another regulator proves itself worse than useless. Better – or at least more realistic – decisions should be made about a valuable common resource like offshore oil. For that, we need … Continue reading Grounding Oil Spill Politics

What Oil Leak Politics Says

By Chidem Kurdas In the Obama administration’s script for passing around oil-spill blame, the drilling regulator Minerals Management Service shares the stage with chief villain BP. The disaster is said to have exposed the weakness of MMS, a problem the president has now tackled by appointing a new head for the agency. One can understand … Continue reading What Oil Leak Politics Says

Understanding Efficient Markets

By Chidem Kurdas Headline topics like derivatives are part of the larger issue of how markets function.  About this big question there’s been profound confusion in the past two years.  Peter Boettke's article in the Winter 2010 issue of the Independent Review clarifies the muddle. A particular mathematical interpretation of what an efficient market is … Continue reading Understanding Efficient Markets

European Bailout’s Scapegoats and the Future

by Chidem Kurdas Before the near-trillion-dollar bailout package for financially shaky euro-zone governments was announced, French president Nicolas Sarkozy hauled out the financial whipping boys yet again. He promised to “confront speculators mercilessly.” They would soon “know once and for all what lies in store for them,” he said. Presumably he meant that those betting on … Continue reading European Bailout’s Scapegoats and the Future

Two Takes on Class Conflict

by Chidem Kurdas A presentation at this week’s NYU Colloquium by Ralph Raico, professor of history at the State University of New York Buffalo, generated a thought-provoking discussion.  His paper traces the early-to-mid 19th century development  of the classical liberal theory of class conflict—which long predated Marx and is different from class conflict in the Marxian … Continue reading Two Takes on Class Conflict

Gigantism in Lawmaking

by Chidem Kurdas Here’s another aspect of Obamacare. Last week we witnessed a demonstration of how politicians benefit from a massive law. President Obama signed the vast bill – 2409 pages – with great fun fare.  A video of the signing was all over the web.   The media was full of gushing reports.  Mr. Obama … Continue reading Gigantism in Lawmaking

Dodd Liquidation Panel

by Chidem Kurdas There is one new regulation that is truly needed—a way to wind down, without major disruption to markets, failing broker-dealers and other financial companies. The new financial industry bill introduced by Senator Christopher Dodd claims to do this and solve the “too-big-to-fail” problem. Reading the particulars of the bill, however, makes one … Continue reading Dodd Liquidation Panel

Mysterious Moody’s Move

by Roger Koppl The Christian Science Monitor reports that Moody’s is considering downgrading US government debt.  (HT: Mario Rizzo)   Is that a credible threat?  Moody’s is one of ten “Nationally Recognized Statistical Rating Organizations” (NRSRO) officially recognized by the SEC.  Moody’s, S&P, and Fitch are the big three and do most of the rating.  Would … Continue reading Mysterious Moody’s Move

Money and Banking in a Free Society

by Jerry O'Driscoll    At the Coordination Problem, Pete Boettke drew our attention to James M. Buchanan's paper, "Economists Have No Clothes". It's a short piece, chock full of insights.  I want to draw on some not raised by Pete.   Buchanan observes that protagonists are prone to claim "that 'the market' (or 'capitalism') either works or does not work … Continue reading Money and Banking in a Free Society

The Price of the Mega-State

by Mario Rizzo   The recent Supreme Court decision that “ruled that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections” is a true victory for freedom of speech.    What many people do not realize, however, is that both sides in this dispute had important and valid points. The terrible truth of the … Continue reading The Price of the Mega-State

The Rule of Law Kneels Before the Welfare State

by Mario Rizzo The rule of law always suffers before the political exigencies of welfare state legislation. This is because, contrary to its name, the welfare state has little to do with the general welfare. It is essentially a vehicle by which some groups benefit at the expense of others.  The latest is the sweetheart … Continue reading The Rule of Law Kneels Before the Welfare State

The Joy of Reading Financial Regulation

by Chidem Kurdas The financial regulation bill approved last week by the House of Representatives does not, of course, refer to James Madison. But it might as well be an exhibit specifically created to demonstrate, by contrast, the advantage of limited and transparent government. “It will be of little avail to the people that the … Continue reading The Joy of Reading Financial Regulation

News Flash! Water still runs downhill only

by Roger Koppl Today's Los Angeles Times reports that "Businesspeople join the ranks of climate treaty proponents." This support is old news as I noted last May in a post entitled "Water does not run uphill."  The L A Times report nevertheless express surprise saying, "an unlikely batch of advocates has emerged to champion a … Continue reading News Flash! Water still runs downhill only

Regulating Financial Services

by Jerry O'Driscoll   On Friday, the House of Representatives passed a bill to alter the regulation of financial services.  The Senate has yet to act.  Still, the House passage advances President Obama's agenda to change how financial services are regulated.   How to regulate large, complex financial institutions remains a sticking point between the two houses. On the big issue, however, no radical … Continue reading Regulating Financial Services