16 Oct 2014

Blog Issues

All Posts 7 Comments

Hey everybody,

I know the blog was down for some time today. This happens often enough that I’m seriously looking into switching hosts.

16 Oct 2014


Potpourri, Shameless Self-Promotion 27 Comments

==> I know, I know, I have a grudge when it comes to Krugman. When he says things that will mislead 98% of his readers on what the published literature says, I feel the need to blog about it. Call me crazy. In this case, I contrast Krugman’s remarks about the irrelevance of tax cuts to economic growth, with a 2010 Romer paper.

==> Speaking of the US history of marginal income tax rates and economic growth, check out this post. I particularly liked the author’s link to this CRS report contrasting the statutory top rates with the effective marginal rates; I need to look into that to see if it’s valid. If so, that goes a long way to explaining the mystery here (for those who think incentives affect economic decisions).

==> David R. Henderson takes a nuanced position on the new laureate Jean Tirole. Henderson argues that Tirole actually was not the huge foe of big business that the Nobel committee describes; instead (David claims) Tirole is being pigeon-holed. I don’t know enough about him to independently weigh in; we used some of his stuff in game theory in NYU, but that was more theoretical rather than pertaining to policy.

==> Jeff Tucker on government quarantines. Is this worth me writing again on? (Recall I wrote on Ebola back in August.) If so, tell me what gaps are missing in the libertarian position. And remember…I’m not a medical doctor.

15 Oct 2014

Secession Solves Social Strife

Secession, Shameless Self-Promotion, Tom Woods 31 Comments

My latest LibertyChat, amplifying a remark Tom Woods made in a recent podcast. My conclusion:

Last thing: Whenever someone brings up secession as a strategy for modern American politics, some wiseguy will say, “Didn’t the Civil War show that doesn’t work?” This is such a monstrous quip that it’s hard to know how to respond. The critic is effectively arguing that because the U.S. government slaughtered hundreds of thousands of people the last time someone took the Declaration of Independence seriously, that therefore it must not be valid after all. By the same token, if we’re debating whether an Indian tribe should get the right to open a casino, a wiseguy could ask, “Didn’t the Trail of Tears show that won’t work?”

Virtually every political problem in America could be cut in half…if we cut the federal government in half. Say it with me (if you can): Secession solves social strife.

15 Oct 2014

Acton and Market Monetarism

Shameless Self-Promotion 3 Comments

==> For those in the Grand Rapids area, on November 4 I’ll be speaking at the Acton Institute on the importance of sound money.

==> Speaking of which, how about those Market Monetarists? In this Mises CA post I pit Nick Rowe against Scott Sumner.

15 Oct 2014

City of Houston Subpoenas Pastors’ Sermons

Economics 19 Comments

I saw several people denouncing this on social media, and I assumed they were exaggerating. But no, the city of Houston has been subpoenaing local pastors for written copies of their sermons. As the Houston Chronicle explains:

Houston’s embattled equal rights ordinance took another legal turn this week when it surfaced that city attorneys, in an unusual step, subpoenaed sermons given by local pastors who oppose the law and are tied to the conservative Christian activists that have sued the city.

Opponents of the equal rights ordinance are hoping to force a repeal referendum when they get their day in court in January, claiming City Attorney David Feldman wrongly determined they had not gathered enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. City attorneys issued subpoenas last month during the case’s discovery phase, seeking, among other communications, “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.”

The subpoenas were issued to several high-profile pastors and religious leaders who have been vocal in opposing the ordinance. The Alliance Defending Freedom has filed a motion on behalf of the pastors seeking to quash the subpoenas.

The slippery-slope danger here is obvious: It’s very bad news if people worry that their public advocacy for an upcoming vote can invite government scrutiny.

However, beyond the obvious issues, let me raise the more general problem of taxation: The government can always justify its investigations into church sermons or the activities of many not-for-profit organizations because their special tax treatment comes with strings attached. Namely, they are not supposed to agitate for specific political candidates or other causes. Indeed, the cheekily titled “Freedom From Religion Foundation” organization won a lawsuit earlier this summer (filed in 2012) in which  the IRS agreed to step up its monitoring of churches in this respect.

As with any form of systematic theft, there is no way to “fix” this problem. If the government takes money from people against their will, and this is considered the default position, then to exempt any individual or group is construed as a special gift to which strings can be attached. If people agree that the government has a right to take a large chunk of an organization’s income, then the government certainly has the right to say, “We’ll give you your money back if you don’t talk about things on Sunday morning we don’t like.”

The ultimate solution to these conflicts won’t be through codification of “free speech” codes; we already have the 1st Amendment. The solution is to convince the public that the default position is they get to keep the income they earn. That’s not a special favor from the IRS.

15 Oct 2014

Would Milton Friedman Have Supported a Carbon Tax?

Climate Change, Shameless Self-Promotion 3 Comments

My sources say no. And one of them is Milton Friedman from 1999. (Thanks to Keshav–I think?–for digging that one up.)

14 Oct 2014


Krugman, Potpourri, Shameless Self-Promotion 34 Comments

==> My column at FEE talking about outsourcing in the context of the “Million Jobs Project.”

==> No joke, I submitted this to the blog of unnecessary quotation marks.

==> Glenn Greenwald explains why endless war is now literally US doctrine.

==> A Kontradiction or a contradiction? Krugman vs. Krugman on carbon taxes.

==> Don Boudreaux with a good quote from Lachmann on capital deepening.

==> Joe Salerno on Jean Tirole winning the Nobel in econ. Hey, why was Kirzner considered in the running this time around? I first heard the theory that Baumol would win, and then they’d have to give it to Kirzner too, a good ten years ago. Why was there such a buzz this year for Kirzner?

14 Oct 2014

Wealth of Nations Bask

All Posts 7 Comments

I’m sorry to ask such a silly thing, but does any reader have a physical copy of Wealth of Nations on hand? I’m trying to get the exact citation for this famous quote:

“The things which have the greatest value in use have frequently little or no value in exchange; on the contrary, those which have the greatest value in exchange have frequently little or no value in use. Nothing is more useful than water: but it will purchase scarce anything; scarce anything can be had in exchange for it. A diamond, on the contrary, has scarce any use-value; but a very great quantity of other goods may frequently be had in exchange for it.”

I got the quote online, but where I’m using it, the editor wants a full citation including page number. So if anybody can help me out, that would be great. Just remember, if you do look it up, can you please tell me the full bibliographical info too, so I can put your edition of the book in my Bibliography?