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2013 is a year in which a disproportionately large number of superb economists died, including four of the greatest in history: Jim Buchanan, Armen Alchian, Robert Fogel, and Ronald Coase.  The most recent passing of a remarkably insightful economist came on Christmas Eve with the death of the University of Rochester’s Walter Oi.  Steve Landsburg remembers Oi.  As does David Henderson.

One of the worst criminal-‘justice’ ideas of recent decades is mandatory minimum sentences; it’s yet another result of legislators (in this case, I suspect mostly conservative ones) posing as lawmakers and, in the process, making a mess of things.  George Will recounts several examples of the injustice of such criminal-‘justice.’

Writing in The Atlantic a few weeks ago, Cato’s Marian Tupy reports some happy news about the state of the world.  A slice:

First, consider inequality. Academic researchers—from Xavier Sala-i-Martin of Columbia University, to Surjit Bhalla, formerly of the Brookings Institution and Rand Corporation, to Paolo Liberati of the University of Rome—all agree that global inequality is declining. That is because 2.6 billion people in China and India are richer than they used to be. Their economies are growing much faster than those of their Western counterparts, thus shrinking the income gap that opened at the dawn of industrialization in the 19th century, when the West took off and left much of the rest of the world behind.

Paradoxically, the shrinking of the global inequality gap was only possible after India and China abandoned their attempts to create equality through central planning.

(Marian, by the way, is a chief force behind HumanProgress.org.)

Ben Powell and Darren Hudson are rightly unimpressed with Pope Francis’s economics.  Likewise Alberto Benegas-Lynch.

I love this letter from Phil Harvey in today’s Wall Street Journal:

Barton Swaim (“‘Giving Back’ to Our Sanctimonious Selves,” op-ed, Dec. 20) misses the central insult of the words “giving back.” While giving generously to the needy and to the talented is a long American tradition, the term “giving back” suggests a prior “taking away,” i.e., theft. That single adverb “back” embodies the core conceit of the modern progressive liberal: that wealth is theft, requiring atonement; that unequal wealth—the fruit of a successful meritocracy—is criminal; that “society” is the only rightful owner of all that any individual can build and earn.

Give back our language!

Phil Harvey

Hampton Falls, N.H.