In the January 4th, 2007, edition of the Christian Science Monitor I penned an open letter to Lou Dobbs.  My long open letter is below the fold.

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Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on April 19, 2018

in Growth, Innovation, Standard of Living, Video

… is from page 489 of the late Wesleyan University economic historian Stanley Lebergott’s great 1984 book, The Americans: An Economic Record:

For a thousand years the greatest share of labor in most societies has been supplied by adult women.  They produced and raised children.  They also produced much if not most of the good and services essential to human existence and comfort.  To do all this they typically worked from dawn to dusk, and even later once artificial light permitted it.

In the past 75 years, however, major changes have taken place in the pattern of women’s work in the United States.  Between 1900 and 1975 the workday of U.S. housewives was cut in half.

DBx: It’s easy – and a signal of what are mistaken for higher sensibilities – to demean the hawking of, and the desire for, more and new’n’improved consumer products.  Electrical appliances such as dishwashers, blenders, microwave ovens, and frost-free freezers and refrigerators.  Teflon cookware.  Powerful detergents.  Prepared foods available at every neighborhood supermarket.  Disposable diapers that reflect our understanding that nature is often something which we should be protected from rather than exposed to.  Spacious automobiles that allow the transportation of lots of disposable diapers and other groceries to be stored in spacious closets and cabinets that are part of modern, spacious homes.

When you are next tempted to decry – perhaps with a tweet broadcast globally from your smartphone – commercial society and the alleged shallowness of its materialism, remember the late Hans Rosling’s celebration of the washing machine.

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Little Pink House

by Don Boudreaux on April 18, 2018

in Crony Capitalism, Legal Issues, Movies, Property Rights

In what is perhaps the worst U.S. Supreme Court decision in my lifetime (although here is one of a handful of competitors for that awful honor), the highest court in the land sunk to the low depths at which typical politicians slither.  The Court in Kelo did so by distorting the plain meaning of the U.S. Constitution into a grant of power to governments to seize private property whenever governments assert that they’re doing so for good reasons.

Now there’s a movie, about which George Will writes, on this travesty of justice by five justices.

Here’s the trailer.

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Bonus Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on April 18, 2018

in Growth, Innovation

is from President Ronald Reagan’s May 31st, 1988, speech at Moscow State University (link added):

Like a chrysalis, we’re emerging from the economy of the Industrial Revolution – an economy confined to and limited by the Earth’s physical resources – into, as one economist titled his book, “The Economy in Mind,” in which there are no bounds on human imagination and the freedom to create is the most precious natural resource.

DBx: Reagan’s Julian-Simonesque observation supplied the lead-in to my appearance last Friday on The Soul of Enterprise radio program with Ron Baker and Ed Kless.  (Here’s the iTunes link.)  (I thoroughly enjoyed my appearance and am honored to have been asked to be a guest on the show.)

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Here’s a letter to “Proudly Progressive” – for me a first-time correspondent, and one who does not like my recent column in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

Mr. or Ms. Progressive:

Thanks for your e-mail.

I’m sorry that you’re “sickened” by what you describe as my “opposition” to the recycling of low-value items such as newsprint and soup cans.  But you mistake me: I do not oppose such recycling.  If you or anyone else chooses to recycle such things, I’ve no wish to stop you from doing so.  I do, however, oppose the spread of misinformation that the recycling of low-value items is worthwhile for humanity; I oppose also any government efforts to compel or to subsidize such recycling.

Recycling itself consumes resources.  Therefore, if no private markets exist to encourage the recycling of the likes of cans and plastic bags, a good presumption is that the value of the resources consumed in the recycling of such items is greater than is the value of the recycled outputs.  And remember that one of the resources consumed in recycling is human time and effort – time and effort that, for most Americans, are too valuable to spend recycling low-value items.

You’ll protest that the time and effort humans spend on recycling shouldn’t be reckoned in such narrow, materialistic terms; you’ll insist that we should be pleased to recycle despite the very low material payoff to each of us who does so.  But in response I would ask you this: How do you square your and other Progressives’ demands for minimum wages with your support for recycling that has virtually no payoff to persons who recycle?

If, as you believe, it is unacceptable for people to voluntarily agree to work to earn incomes for pay that Progressives have determined is too low, why do you believe that it is not only acceptable, but morally commendable, for people to be shamed – or perhaps even forced – into working to recycle for pay (typically $0!) that is much lower than are legislatively imposed minimum wages?

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
and
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030

……

I cannot recall from whom I learned the above point about the wage rate of recycling.  To him or her I apologize for not giving you here the credit that you deserve.

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In my on-going effort to archive here at Cafe Hayek as many of my past writings as possible, I repost here an op-ed of mine that appeared in the November 20th, 2006, edition of the Christian Science Monitor.  My op-ed is below the fold.

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Some Links

by Don Boudreaux on April 18, 2018

in Economics, Growth, Housing, Legal Issues, Standard of Living, Subsidies, Trade, War

Mark Perry says that you might be a protectionist if…

John Tamny justifiably laments the influence today of Peter Navarro – a man whose vast ignorance of trade is matched only by that of Donald Trump.

In my latest column in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review I celebrate the power of the economic way of thinking.  A slice:

Take a look, then, in your laundry room.

There you’ll find recycling machines called “washer” and “dryer.” We could, if we wished, throw away each item of clothing after the first time we wear it. But we instead recycle our clothing by, as we say, “doing the laundry.”

We voluntarily incur the expense of buying washers and dryers — and voluntarily take the time to do the laundry — because doing so saves us enough money over the long run to make recycling our clothes worthwhile.

What these observations tell me is that we Americans are not improvident wasters of resources.

Instead, we recycle when doing so is worthwhile and we refrain from recycling when the cost of doing so isn’t justified.

My GMU Econ colleague Pete Boettke writes on the distinction between formal economics and political economy.

Marian Tupy applauds humanity’s recent, remarkable economic history.

Jay Schweikert is encouraged by a recent concurring opinion written by U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Pierre Lemieux has been thinking about war.  A slice:

As always when evaluating coercive interventions (normally called “public policies”), moral judgments are ultimately required to define efficiency, because the latter concept is based on a starting status quo. One moral judgment underlying my reflections lies in the usual recognition of the value of individual preferences, which is a natural moral principle for economists. Ancillary moral judgments are required for thinking about war.

Warren Meyer shares a straightforward and important – yet largely ignored – insight about housing ‘policy’ in the United States.

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Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on April 18, 2018

in History, Philosophy of Freedom

… is from page 169 of Robert Nisbet’s June 1975 Commentary article, “The New Despotism,” as it is revised and reprinted as Essay Five in the 1979 Liberty Fund collection The Politicization of Society (Kenneth S. Templeton, Jr., ed.):

When the modern political community was being shaped at the end of the eighteenth century, its founders thought that the consequences of republican or representative institutions in government would be the reduction of political power in individual lives.

Nothing seems to have mattered more to such minds as Montesquieu, Turgot, and Burke in Europe and to Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin in the United States than the expansion of freedom in the day-to-day existence of human beings, irrespective of class, occupation, or belief.  Hence the elaborate, carefully contrived provisions of constitution or law whereby formal government would be checked, limited, and given root in the smallest possible assemblies of the people.  The kind of arbitrary power Burke so detested and referred to almost constantly in his attacks upon the British government in its relation to the American colonists and the people of India and Ireland, and upon the French government during the revolution, was foremost in the minds of all the architects of the political community, and they thought it could be eliminated, or reduced to insignificance, by ample use of legislative and judicial machinery.

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Bonus Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on April 17, 2018

in Crony Capitalism, Trade

… is from page 261 of 2014 Economics Nobel laureate Jean Tirole’s 2017 book, Economics for the Common Good:

Protectionism takes away the benefits of international specialization, and it removes the stimulus of competition, which pushes companies to improve themselves rather than profit from captive consumers.

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Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:

Nancy McLernon correctly notes that allowing foreign dredgers to compete in the United States would open U.S. harbors and ports wider – and do so at lower costs (“Protecting U.S. Dredgers Kills Jobs,” April 17).  Alas, making our ports more accessible to ocean-going cargo ships runs counter to the Trump administration’s protectionism.  As economists too numerous to name have pointed out over the centuries, tariffs are economically identical to clogged harbors and ports.

Mr. Trump and his trade advisors would protest that they want to keep U.S. harbors and ports unobstructed so that Americans can load onto cargo ships ever-increasing quantities of goods for export.  They want to obstruct only imports.  But they do not understand that, just as poorly dredged harbors obstruct equally the passage of both outgoing and incoming ships, protective tariffs have the same dual effect.  By reducing the dollars that foreigners earn on their imports to us, tariffs reduce the dollars that foreigners spend buying exports from us.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
and
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030

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