The author of one of my all-time favorite books (The Future and Its Enemies), Virginia Postrel, opens our eyes to progress that we might otherwise overlook.
In today’s Wall Street Journal, David Kopel details another area of progress over the past few decades: the dramatic fall in the homicide – including the gun homicide – rate. What has increased, though, over the same time period is the number of random mass shootings. The salience of the latter should not be allowed to distort our perception of the bigger picture.
More from Mario – a slice:
I believe that intellectuals (including economists) need to be more ideological, not less. They ought to convince the general public to think in terms of big issues and big decisions. The idea of evaluating each issue on its own merits is profoundly unscientific as Herbert Spencer taught. Slippery slope mechanisms are all around us. When people begin to think of specific, narrow policies they cannot help but think in terms of their own particular interests.
It is not enough to win the battle for ideas among intellectuals. We must win in a way that makes a practical difference. Showing the limitations of case-by-case analysis of policy is important. The special interests do not care about the damage done to the general welfare. We must instruct the public that policies that benefit their own particular interests do and will generate policies that hurt them. There truly is no free lunch.
Finally, writing in the December 19 issue of the Financial Times, Jeffrey Sachs is surprisingly harsh on Keynesian economics and favorable to Hayek’s warnings about discretionary monetary policy. (HT Charles Rowley) This development is welcome (although I wish Sachs would apply his new-found appreciation of Hayek’s economics also to calls for energy and transportation “plans” – calls that Sachs still finds appealing). Here’s a slice of wisdom from Sachs’s FT essay:
Second, the zero interest rate policy has a risk not acknowledged by the Fed: the creation of another bubble. The Fed has failed to appreciate that the 2008 bubble was partly caused by its own easy liquidity policies in the preceding six years. Friedrich Hayek was prescient: a surge of excessive liquidity can misdirect investments that lead to boom followed by bust.