Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

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:

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.

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.

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:

Winners of  the 2013 Value is Subjective Music Video Contest


Winners of the 2012 Supply and Demand Music Video Contest


Gary Stanley Becker (1930-2014): Through My Austrian Window

May 5, 2014

by Mario Rizzo

It is tempting to over-romanticize a person when he or she is gone. I will strive to be balanced in keeping with how I feel and think about Gary Becker.

I am saddened by his recent death (May 3rd). I have known him since at least 1974 – some forty years. He was not on my dissertation committee but he took a strong interest in and liking to my dissertation on the effect of crime on property values. I audited his version of the first-year sequence in price theory at the University of Chicago. It was, in my view, the best of the three versions I was exposed to. He was a little scary insofar as he lectured and then suddenly would call on a student with a question. Since I was an auditor only, my name did not appear on the class list so I escaped the surprise questioning.

He loved economics and loved to apply it to a wide range of problems. He was no enemy of mathematical economics but thought that theory should be as simple as possible and developed with applications in mind. He was a true follower of Alfred Marshall on this: theory as the engine for the discovery of concrete truth. He was also no “positivist” in methodology. (Some people are quite careless about how they use that term.) He did not think that every statement in economic theory has to be falsifiable or testable. In response to what I believe to be the methodological disaster of behavioral economics, he argued that rationality per se is never testable. What is testable is the complex of assumptions and basic structure of a theory when it is applied to concrete problems. (I add, for those schooled in the philosophy of science, that he invoked the “Duhem-Quine Thesis.” )

He accepted Lionel Robbins’s view that economics is a science of choice generally, and not only a science of market exchange (what used to be called catallactics). In accepting that view he accepted the same perspective on this matter as Ludwig von Mises and the British economist Philip Wicksteed – from both of whom Robbins derived his own view. So there is immediately an undeniable Austrian connection.

Within the past couple of years or so, I wrote to Gary about how I thought his view on “irrational” preferences was similar to those of Philip Wicksteed who, in 1910, argued that irrationalities and inconsistencies of preference tend to be eliminated under the pressure of costs, when in fact those preferences detract from the agent’s attainment of his own goals. He agreed with me, with – in typically Beckerian fashion – the proviso that Wicksteed didn’t have adequate empirical evidence, but Becker did in some of his papers. Okay.

Some Austrians may think that Becker was an enemy of Austrian economics because in 1962 he and Israel Kirzner had a debate in the pages of the Journal of Political Economy. In the fullness of time, I believe that neither of them had a clear view of their own developing perspective in 1962. Nevertheless, Kirzner was emphasizing that some assumption about rationality (later “alertness”) was necessary if a market is to move from disequilibrium to equilibrium. Becker was arguing that you don’t need a rationality assumption to get a negatively sloped demand curve – scarcity is enough. Becker, I believe, was getting at a point later made by Vernon Smith that “rational” behavior can be provoked or engendered by the (institutional) constraints of the system under study. The interesting question is when is alertness the key and when are institutional constraints the key. What is the relative role of each?

I think to a certain extent contemporary economics has moved beyond (but probably not nearly enough) the equilibrium versus process divide. Most good theories borrow from each paradigm. Nevertheless, it is hard to argue that Becker’s relatively equilibrium-oriented approach has not provided useful insights about the real world.

Gary Becker will be missed not only for the breadth and depth of his ideas, but also because of his kindness and generosity to others.

Ave atque vale.

Congress Should Grow a Pair

June 17, 2013

by Roger Koppl

I was thinking of the NSA scandal while jogging through Rome’s Park of the Aqueducts  this morning. I guess it was that setting that made me think of our new computer-geek overlords as a virtual Praetorian Guard.  Augustus created the original Praetorian Guard about 27 BCE to protect the emperor. It quickly came to exercise independent power, once even auctioning off the empire to the highest bidder.  This outrage led the Roman general Septimius Severus to march on Rome and displace Emperor Julianus who had won the Praetorian bidding war. Severus disbanded the old Preatorian Guard only to set up a new Praetorian Guard, which quickly achieved a similar authority, power, and autonomy. The “intelligence community” of the US government seems to be playing a similar role today.

We now have secret interpretations of public laws  that some members of Congress have obliquely warned of. Read the rest of this entry »

F.A. Hayek: His 114th Birthday

May 8, 2013

by Mario RizzoHayek as Street Art

Today is Hayek’s birthday. Much has been and will continue to written about him. When I look around at much of what passes for economics today, especially in the prestige circles, I cringe.  But reading his work always comforts me that something better is possible. And, in fact, there are many economists all over the world who take their inspiration from Hayek and his work. This is their day too!

Hayek, of course, was more than economist. He also had profound things to say about the mind, the rule of law, and ethics. Recently, I saw a stark example of the difference in ethical thinking between Hayek and more conventional moralists. This was in the case of the tragic fire in a Bangladeshi factory making clothes for western companies. The new Pope Francis condemned it as an example of corporations only caring about their bottom-line.

Now there are legitimate issues, from the point of view of the individuals working in this and other such factories. Can they rely on the attestations of a certain degree of safety in their working environment? Before people can voluntary assume the risks associated with certain kinds of work they must have at least a pretty good idea of what those risks are.

And yet there is a more fundamental issue.  Workplace safety is a matter of degrees. It is a working condition that is part of the cost of labor. There is an inevitable tradeoff between wages and level of employment, on the one hand, and workplace safety on the other hand. In rich countries workers can afford to sacrifice something for greater workplace safety. This is all part of increasing wealth.

Now major corporations are re-thinking their use of factory labor in Bangladesh.  They don’t want the images of large numbers of dead ruining their reputations. Ostensibly, they will argue that since they cannot trust Bangladeshi authorities to keep the factories safe they will not deal with them. Voila, the moral stance. Read the rest of this entry »


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