08 Sep 2014

Further Thoughts on Plea Bargains

Police, Shameless Self-Promotion 14 Comments

I tried to deal with some of the (excellent) objections I got from my last post. An excerpt:

Don’t plea bargains minimize the coercion against individuals? As one critic put it, who is the “victim” here? How does a defendant lose by being offered a deal that he has the right to refuse?

Although superficially plausible, this way of framing the issue might be misleading. Look, by the same token I can describe it like this: I’m not suggesting that the government remove the ability of defendants to accept plea bargains. Rather, I’m suggesting that the government take away the option from prosecutors of offering them.

08 Sep 2014


Potpourri 114 Comments

==> In the last third of this Tom Woods podcast on book publishing, he goes off on his critics who accuse Tom of “just writing books to get money from the liberty movement.” (Just think about what kind of a person would make such a comment.) I love it when Tom goes off on Internet commenters.

==> Joe Salerno has a good article on the alleged stable (real) price of gold. I didn’t realize people believed the misconceptions that Salerno (rightly) explodes. I think a true liberal arts education would force kids to not only read Macbeth, but also to learn about the classical gold standard.

==> The irascible John Cochrane has an amusing reply to a recent Krugman jab.

==> Not only did David R. Henderson work in the Reagan Administration, but more important, he was interviewed by Joan Rivers!

==> Speaking of David, he puts numbers to it and quotes Scott Sumner’s own linked survey to show that only 6.6% of business economists agreed with Sumner about what went wrong with monetary policy in 2008. (Remember that Scott had recently complained that conservatives were listening to the “5%” of climate scientists who disputed the standard view.)

==> Perhaps due to my patronizing double-standard, for some reason I have tended to pull back from bashing Hillary Clinton. But c’mon, listening to her praise Henry Kissinger is just plain creepy.

==> Sheldon Richman also was perplexed by Dan McCarthy’s article on liberalism & empire.

07 Sep 2014

Norman Horn on Christian Libertarianism

Religious 3 Comments

06 Sep 2014

Obama on Pulling Troops Out of Iraq

Foreign Policy 88 Comments

This is pretty awesome, just watch the whole thing, it’s short.

05 Sep 2014

Government Plea Bargains Are a Horrible Practice

Big Brother, Police, Shameless Self-Promotion 88 Comments

I think you will like this one; it has a plot twist near the end. The opening:

Because it is so commonplace, most people accept the practice of State prosecutors offering a “plea bargain” without much thought. After all, it seems like a win-win situation: the State saves on court costs and other resources, while the defendant who takes the “deal” does less time than what he or she is likely to suffer if the case goes to a full trial. Yet even though they are very common in the U.S., a prosecutor offering a plea bargain is actually quite horrible and a travesty of justice, when you think about it from a certain perspective.

To warm you up to my view–which may at first seem odd–consider this quotation I found from a legal website: “Plea bargains are extraordinarily common in the American legal system, accounting for roughly 90% of all criminal cases. Many countries, however, do not allow plea bargains, considering them unethical and immoral.” Isn’t that interesting? By the end of this post, you’ll understand why this typical U.S. practice is considered a miscarriage of justice in many other parts of the world.

05 Sep 2014

Health Insurance Premium Bask

Health Legislation 10 Comments

(Bask = Blog Ask for newcomers, not to be confused with a Bleg.)

There is a new wave of projections for increases in health insurance premiums for 2015 (relative to 2014), and they are not heart attack inducing. But I’m concerned that something fishy may be going on with some of these relatively innocuous analyses.

It’s one thing to look at how much a given insurance plan, with specified benefits, deductibles, caps, etc., increased in price because of the introduction of the Affordable Care Act (aka “ObamaCare”).

However, that type of analysis doesn’t really correspond to what most people think when they say, “Holy #)($*! My premiums jumped up x percent!”

For example, in my case my policy is going up about 50%. But I’m being forced to get a “better” policy. So I’m wondering if my type of situation would go into these studies as a 50% increase, or instead as a (say) 20% increase because that’s the premium hike for the new policy that I’m being forced to buy, compared to that same policy pre-ACA.

And then of course, how do you do a percentage calculation for the people who used to pay $0 for health insurance, not because they had a pre-existing condition, but because they were young and healthy and didn’t think it was worth the money? That’s an infinite percentage increase, though I understand it’s a tricky situation.

In any event, does anyone know of a scholarly treatment of these subtleties? I have never seen an actual study that made the above distinctions.

04 Sep 2014

Private Judicial Rulings and Law Enforcement

private law 38 Comments

I looked this up because some people were arguing about these issues in the comments of a previous post. I’ve given this talk at Mises U several times, but I think I really nailed the private law enforcement part in this version. Specifically, from 4:00 – 22:00. I talk about the distinction between being morally justified in taking certain restitution, versus the wisdom or utility of doing so when the community at large doesn’t know whether you are justified. I also explain very precisely why the private enforcement agency would want to first get a ruling by a respected judge before taking action.

04 Sep 2014

Clarification on Fama vs. Shiller

Efficient Markets Hypothesis, Eugene Fama 20 Comments

In the comments here at Free Advice, regarding my Mises CA post on Fama, J Mann was bringing up some good points. In response to one of his comments I wrote the following clarification, which may help some of you:

J Mann wrote:

If I’m being as charitable as I can to Fama, then if Shiller claims there’s a bubble in equities, and equities somewhat underperform other assets over the next 5 years,.

Here’s what I think happened:

(1) Shiller claimed a tech bubble.
(2) A few years later, tech stocks crashed hard.
(3) People said, “Shiller called it, he’s a prophet.”
(4) Fama pointed out, “Wait a second, tech stocks went way up after Shiller called bubble. So we need to see what the crash looked like, compared to when he first called bubble, not compared to the peak.”

If the above (4) steps were all Fama/Sumner had done, then they would be great. I would congratulate them on their caution before rewarding people with kudos for calling “bubble.”

However, Fama went further:

(5) He looked at the market bottom, saw that it was higher than the price when Shiller first called bubble, and concluded that Shiller had in fact been an idiot.

So that’s what I was objecting to.

Further, the stuff with housing was just complete nonsense. With perfect certainty and a static equilibrium, you would expect house prices to be flat at a price that capitalized the annual rental equivalent at the market rate of interest. If your house price went down 6.7% or whatever over a 9-year stretch, you wouldn’t say, “Oh that’s OK, I got to live in my house for free.” Fama totally ignored the opportunity cost of the funds you invested in your house in 2003. He stated something matter-of-factly about the preferences of the home buyers that only makes sense if you ignore interest over 9 years. That’s kind of a big deal, especially in a Nobel acceptance speech pertaining to the subject matter for the award.