Cato’s David Boaz is the featured speaker at the March Economic Liberty Lecture Series on George Mason’s Fairfax campus . It’s this Monday, March 3rd, beginning at 5:30pm. (This series is co-sponsored by the Future of Freedom Foundation  and the enthusiastic, bright, and committed students who are the GMU Economics Society .)
A regular theme of this blog is that, contrary to many claims by “Progressives,” middle-income and even poor Americans are materially prospering today more than they were in the 1970s , the decade during which the living standards of middle-class Americans allegedly peaked. I have no doubt that this happy trend in improved living standards continued at least until 2010. Writing in today’s Wall Street Journal, the always-insightful George Melloan worries that Pres. Obama’s policies might well bring this trend to an end . A slice:
Costs originating from government policies that are passed along to the public hit the little guy hardest. A boost in the light bill can be shrugged off by someone making $100,000, but not for the $25,000 earner. A coal-industry study, admittedly self-serving but hardly challengeable, says that energy takes nearly a quarter of the budget of a household earning $20,000 to $30,000 but less than 10% of a $50,000 income. Mr. Obama’s war on fossil fuels has sent energy costs up.
The great science writer Matt Ridley argues – quite correctly, in my view – that current weather events are not evidence of climate change . (Note that this argument is not that there is no evidence of climate change.)
Bill Easterly’s new book, The Tyranny of Experts , hits the shelves on Tuesday. I’m especially eager to read it.
The wise and insightful Alberto Mingardi reflects on the demise of what are widely called independent bookstores . (I actually prefer the term “small bookstores.” Barnes & Noble and Amazon aren’t small, of course, but I believe these companies to be independent in all relevant senses of the term.)
Another study, published in Public Finance Review in 2004, zeroed in on counties that lie along state borders. Because territories in such close proximity often share characteristics that might not be captured in other measurements, this is a promising approach for isolating the effects of state policy. Studying 30 years of data, the authors concluded that states that raised their income tax rates more than their neighbors had significantly slower growth rates in per-capita income.
Similarly, economists Brian Goff, Alex Lebedinsky, and Stephen Lile of Western Kentucky University grouped pairs of states together based on common characteristics of geography and culture. This is the economic equivalent of studying identical twins to probe the relative importance of genetics and environment. Writing in the April 2011 issue of Contemporary Economic Policy, the authors found “strong support for the idea that lower tax burdens tend to lead to higher levels of economic growth.”