The past 18 months have been lethal for the heroes of those of us who cherish sound and rigorous economics. Since the first of last year we’ve lost Jim Buchanan, Armen Alchian, Ronald Coase, Robert Fogel, and – yesterday – Gary Becker. The Wall Street Journal remembers Becker, as does David Henderson. Other remembrances will pour forth over the next few days, justifiably so. I learned of Becker’s death while I was reading Thomas Piketty’s Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century – a book long on words and statistics, but sorely short on solid economic analyses of the sort done by Becker (and by Buchanan, and by Alchian, and by Coase, and by Fogel). The contrast of reading the works of economists such as Piketty and Krugman (economists blind to most microeconomic forces as well as to public-choice realities) alongside the works of Becker and Buchanan and Alchian and Coase and Fogel (economists highly tuned to these forces and realities) is stark.
Jim Bovard explains that the Obama administration is cruel to government watchdogs. Here’s Jim’s conclusion:
Perhaps the Obama team believes that revelations of federal failures violates the president’s prerogative to keep Americans in the dark. Or maybe Mr. Obama is only in favor of “good government” in the abstract — as a phrase that helps make people docile to the latest power grabs from Washington. Or perhaps he simply decided that open government was irreconcilable with his 2008 campaign promise “to make public service cool again.”
Scott Winship, of the Manhattan Institute, asks if inequality in the United States is growing out of control. Two weeks earlier, this same author explored the economic condition of ‘the’ bottom 90 percent.