Christian Lawn Care

The campaign sabbatical continues.  Here, with a hat tip to my brother Steve, is a dialogue on lawn care from a Christian perspective.  It makes a lot of sense to me. Read the rest of this entry »

Toward a Conservative Foreign Policy of Non-Interventionism

During the presidency of George W. Bush, those of us who criticized U.S. foreign policy as overly hawkish tended to be considered “liberal,” a tendency neoconservatives had little reason to resist.  I personally found this very frustrating, for reasons that probably mystify some readers.  Does it really matter whether any given position is suitably “conservative”?  It does to a conservative, because conservatives are supposed to obsess about continuity with the past.  Conservatives are, by definition, strongly committed to the proposition that our received political traditions represent centuries of political wisdom which, at least in the ordinary case, should trump all but the most extraordinarily well-founded private judgments.  Read the rest of this entry »

Market Failures and Government Failures

Discussions about whether government should interfere with the workings of an otherwise free market tend to take on a dogmatic flavor; frequently, assertion meets counter-assertion with nary an empirical fact in sight.  In part, this is because such discussions are forward-looking, and the future is by definition data-free at any present moment.  To make matters worse, historical experience is often of limited usefulness in macroeconomic matters, either because there are simply too many economic variables to account for (and no way to control for irrelevant factors), or because some party to the discussion claims that “this time is different.”

Nonetheless, there are times when the balance of empirical evidence is so overwhelming that some conclusions are inescapable.  For example, anyone who claims that government can fix the prices of goods and services without courting calamity is rightly dismissed as ill-informed (unless he’s talking about the price of money, in which case he’s appointed to the Fed).

As a further contribution to the list of Topics on Which We Have Very One-Sided Evidence, I offer this link to an interesting study by Clifford Winston Read the rest of this entry »

Tax Complexity Marches On

The gist of this post is so obvious, it’s hardly worth writing.  But I sometimes find myself unable to remember specific examples of April income tax silliness when I’m discussing the need for fundamental tax reform at election time.  So here are some of my favorites from this year’s Maryland return. Read the rest of this entry »

How to Call a Bluff

It’s hard to imagine any long-term improvement in the public schools that does not involve some combination of encouraging good teachers to teach and encouraging bad teachers to do something else. This is all the more important in light of the difficulty of predicting someone’s teaching ability before he or she is hired.

Fortunately, once we get a look at them in the classroom and we can distinguish the good from the bad, there is no mystery about how to retain the former and eliminate the latter.  If we pay good teachers more, we’ll attract and retain at least some good teachers who would otherwise do something else.  If we pay bad teachers less (all the way down to zero in the cases of teachers who should be fired), we’ll induce them to pursue other opportunities.

Read the rest of this entry »

A New Gold Standard?

This occurred to me last year, but I didn’t write anything about it because it’s the sort of thing about which I don’t know enough to have an intelligent opinion.  The question is this:  If people around the world buy and sell gold and quote its price in paper currency, how different is this from a de facto gold standard?  Now along comes Dr. Marc Faber and says,

“I think we already have now a gold standard . . . created by the market place.”

Read the rest of this entry »

The Census

I received my census form the other day, and fortunately it was the short form.  That spared me from a lot of questions I wouldn’t dream of answering.  Unfortunately, it didn’t get me completely out of the woods.

As most readers probably know by now, Question 8 asks whether we are “of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin?”  If we are, then we are invited to be more specific, distinguishing Mexican ancestry from Puerto Rican, Cuban, etc.  Question 9 then asks for each person’s race, offering us 14 specific options followed by “Some other race.”

I hate these questions.  For one thing, it seems to me there are now large numbers of people who have parents or grandparents in at least two of the Census Bureau’s 14 “race” boxes. What box are they supposed to check?  What box is President Obama going to check?  During the campaign, people used to write a lot of nonsense about whether he was too black, hardly black at all, not black enough, etc.  It was somewhere between unseemly and repugnant then, but now it seems the Census Bureau really wants an answer. Read the rest of this entry »

Fear the Boom and Bust

À propos of the upcoming vote on whether to confirm Ben Bernanke for another term as Chairman of the Federal Reserve, I pass along the following video.  Proving once again the capacious bounds of human imagination, it presents some of the basic differences between Keynesian and Austrian economic perspectives by casting Keynes and Hayek as . . . well, you’d better just watch it yourself.  (Bernanke and Geithner make an appearance (in character at least) at 4:28.)

One of the creators, Russ Roberts of George Mason University, has a weekly podcast called Econtalk that’s terrific.

Found and Lost?

Forgive me if this is old news, but I’m just hearing about the legal dispute between Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. and the government of Spain.  In case anyone else has missed this story so far, the dispute is about who owns $500 million in gold and silver coins that Odyssey Marine retrieved from the bottom of the ocean.  I don’t know which side has the better legal argument, but if it’s Spain — backed by our own Department of Justice — then it seems like a real miscarriage of justice to me.

Here are the basic facts:  Read the rest of this entry »

No Such Thing as a Free Colonoscopy (Continued)

Ezra Klein’s  “analysis” piece in the Sunday Washington Post doesn’t go into a lot of detail, but it’s worth a read if you’re puzzled by the fact that so many people are clamoring for health care reform while insisting that nothing change.  Klein hits the nail on the head when he makes the point we’ve discussed here:  “The surest way to cut health-care spending would be to make people shoulder more of the burden directly, as opposed to hiding it in taxes and lost wages.”  If Congress passes anything that resembles the “plan” the President released last week, that’s exactly what won’t happen.