Interests are More Powerful than Ideas?

by Mario Rizzo There is an interesting interview with Ed Feulner, the outgoing president of the Heritage Foundation, in the weekend (Dec. 8-9) Wall Street Journal. The interview got me thinking about the progress made in the pro-economic-liberty cause, not only over the years of Heritage, but since, say, 1960. I choose this year deliberately … Continue reading Interests are More Powerful than Ideas?

Healthcare as Social Planning

by Mario Rizzo Although I am an advocate of voluntary birth control, I am not happy about (1) the equation of this choice with healthcare – even preventative healthcare (as if pregnancy were a disease); and (2) the government mandating that health insurers must cover these expenses, without even a copayment. A recent “non-partisan” committee has … Continue reading Healthcare as Social Planning

Libya and the Rule of Law

by Mario Rizzo   Frank H. Knight had an important insight about economics. Howsoever we may seek to narrow it, the basic human interests that make the subject important lie at the intersection of ethics, the theory of knowledge, and psychology (at least in a broad sense).  Friedrich Hayek was also right to think that the … Continue reading Libya and the Rule of Law

Easy Money, Emerging Market Miracles and the Revival of Industrial Policies

by Andreas Hoffmann and Gunther Schnabl While most advanced economies continue to suffer from high unemployment and record debt levels, monetary expansions in the advanced economies feed a tsunami of carry trades, hiking asset and raw material prices and accelerating growth rates in emerging markets from Brazil over the Middle East to China. While capital … Continue reading Easy Money, Emerging Market Miracles and the Revival of Industrial Policies

Could Sarah Palin Be Right?!

by Mario Rizzo   In an editorial the Wall Street Journal criticizes Sarah Palin for criticizing Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity campaign. The point seems to be that such talk from the Ms. Bully Pulpit is innocuous or benign. The writer makes an analogy with Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign.  Now if Michelle Obama were just … Continue reading Could Sarah Palin Be Right?!

Pragmatic Road to Bankruptcy

by Mario Rizzo In the September 15th Wall Street Journal there is a chart that gives a quick view of the "pragmatic" expansion of entitlement programs that has led to where we are now. Who could have predicted the long-term consequences of case-by-case pragmatic problem solving?  I suggest Herbert Spencer, Ludwig von Mises, and Friedrich Hayek. The … Continue reading Pragmatic Road to Bankruptcy

Lament for Conservatism

by Mario Rizzo   In today’s New York Times David Brooks argues that conservatives need to plan for “the day after tomorrow.” Tomorrow there will be the revolt against out-of-control government and that is good. But the day after America must return to its traditional non-ideological pragmatism about government. We need to solve problems as we … Continue reading Lament for Conservatism

When Nudging Isn’t Enough

by Glen Whitman In a New York Times op-ed, George Loewenstein and Peter Ubel argue that policymakers are relying too heavily on behavioral economics, when traditional -- that is, rational choice -- economics would often serve them better. On cursory reading, you might think this op-ed repudiates the facile use of behavioral economics to guide … Continue reading When Nudging Isn’t Enough

The Cost of Making Exceptions

by Mario Rizzo   As a political and legal culture, we do not know how to deal with slippery-slope tendencies. The recent discussion (here and here, and many other places) of the public-accommodations provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has made me more conscious of this issue.   I am willing to agree for purposes … Continue reading The Cost of Making Exceptions

New Paternalism, Regulation and Cass Sunstein

by Mario Rizzo The New York Times magazine has an interesting, if somewhat uncritical, article on Cass Sunstein, the Obama regulation czar. The "best" part is the section about me: Some scholars dislike the strong, if subtle, governmental hand that is embedded in this last proposal. It seems more forceful than a nudge. “Once you get … Continue reading New Paternalism, Regulation and Cass Sunstein

New Paternalism: Odds & Ends

by Glen Whitman The Cato Unbound discussion on new paternalism has come to a close, but I want to address a few loose ends that came up during the exchange. The Demand for Evidence Richard Thaler has demanded empirical evidence that the new paternalism has led to slippery slopes. Given that the new paternalism is … Continue reading New Paternalism: Odds & Ends

Cafeteria Marvels

 by Mario Rizzo   The market is a “marvel.” What does that mean? According to Marcus Tullius Cicero, the Roman orator and senator, a marvel is something contrary to or surpassing common understanding.   In that sense, the market is a true marvel – so much so that it even surpasses the understanding of many economists.   Richard … Continue reading Cafeteria Marvels

The Most Important Thing You Can Read

by Mario Rizzo My frequent coauthor, Glen Whitman, has the lead essay on new paternalism at Cato Unbound this month. There will be responses by Richard Thaler (Chicago), Jonathan Klick (U of Penn), Shane Frederick (Yale). This is the most important thing you can read this month -- better than anything anywhere else in the blogosphere, … Continue reading The Most Important Thing You Can Read

Hayek’s Knowledge Problem, as Applied to New Paternalism

by Glen Whitman Mario Rizzo and I have recently published another article on the new paternalism, titled "The Knowledge Problem of New Paternalism," in the BYU Law Review. (Mario briefly blogged about it here.)  The article lacks an abstract, but here's a lightly edited portion of the introduction: The “new paternalism” spawned by behavioral economics … Continue reading Hayek’s Knowledge Problem, as Applied to New Paternalism

New Paternalism on the Slippery Slopes, Part 11: Avoiding Paternalist Slopes

by Glen Whitman This will be the final installment in my series of excerpts from Mario’s and my article on the slippery-slope potential of new paternalism. The comments on the posts have been minimal, so I’m uncertain how helpful this series has been. Since I’m considering doing the same with a closely related article Mario … Continue reading New Paternalism on the Slippery Slopes, Part 11: Avoiding Paternalist Slopes

Regulators Ban Mom’s Banana Bread

by Chidem Kurdas Last week, New York City’s  Panel for Educational Policy approved a new rule for school bake sales. Home-made treats are no-no, but pre-approved packaged products, the ones that are also in school vending machines, are fine. The bake sale ban is supposed to reduce childhood obesity. An education bureaucrat explained that homemade … Continue reading Regulators Ban Mom’s Banana Bread

New Paternalism on the Slippery Slopes, Part 10: Rejoinder to Objections

by Glen Whitman Some new paternalists have recognized the slippery-slope objections to their approach, and they have made some effort to respond. But we find the responses insufficient (p. 735-737): In their book Nudge, Sunstein and Thaler recognize the slippery-slope objections to their policies, and offer three responses. We reply to their responses here.Sunstein and … Continue reading New Paternalism on the Slippery Slopes, Part 10: Rejoinder to Objections

New Paternalism on the Slippery Slopes, Part 9: Framing in Public Policy

by Glen Whitman And after another long interruption, I’m finally going to finish my series of excerpts from Mario Rizzo’s and my article, “Little Brother Is Watching You: New Paternalism on the Slippery Slopes.” There are three more posts, including this one. As discussed in an earlier post, the new paternalists use the notion of … Continue reading New Paternalism on the Slippery Slopes, Part 9: Framing in Public Policy

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

New Paternalism on the Slippery Slopes, Part 8: Hyperbolic Discounting in Public Policy

by Glen Whitman As discussed in a previous post in this series, the new paternalists often use the concept of hyperbolic discounting (roughly, excessive impatience) to show that people make systematic errors that could, in principle, be corrected by government intervention. But what if policymakers, too, are prone to hyperbolic discounting? That is the question … Continue reading New Paternalism on the Slippery Slopes, Part 8: Hyperbolic Discounting in Public Policy

New Paternalism on the Slippery Slopes, Part 7: The Inevitable Misinterpretation of New Paternalist Arguments

by Glen Whitman Happy new year! After a holiday-induced hiatus, I’m now resuming the series of excerpts from Mario Rizzo’s and my recently published article, “Little Brother Is Watching You: New Paternalism on the Slippery Slopes.” A number of our claims in the paper rely on the new paternalists’ arguments (which are largely based in … Continue reading New Paternalism on the Slippery Slopes, Part 7: The Inevitable Misinterpretation of New Paternalist Arguments

New Paternalism on the Slippery Slopes, Part 6: Rent Seekers

by Glen Whitman As discussed in the previous post, the “experts” in charge of implementing new paternalist policies will have a tendency to simplify their own theories to make them useful for crafting policy. That alone creates slippery-slope potential. But that potential is magnified by the existence of rent-seekers – that is, interest groups whose … Continue reading New Paternalism on the Slippery Slopes, Part 6: Rent Seekers

New Paternalism on the Slippery Slopes, Part 5: Deference to Authority

by Glen Whitman Another problem with the new paternalism is that it necessarily involves greater deference to the authority of experts. Here is the basic logic (p. 710): Substantial deference to authority is inherent in the application of new paternalist ideas to public policy. This is because the complexities, vagueness, and indeterminism of their analysis … Continue reading New Paternalism on the Slippery Slopes, Part 5: Deference to Authority

New Paternalism on the Slippery Slopes, Part 4: Context Dependence

by Glen Whitman New paternalists have also relied on the notion of context dependence to justify their policies. But as with hyperbolic discounting, they unjustifiably assume the existence of an inconsistency of preferences gives the policymaker license to choose among the inconsistent preferences. That assumption is the paper’s next target (pp. 703-704): For a variety … Continue reading New Paternalism on the Slippery Slopes, Part 4: Context Dependence