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Some Non-Covid Links

My intrepid Mercatus Center colleague Veronique de Rugy identifies the root evil of cronyism. A slice:

My issue, however, is with [Ezra] Klein’s suggestion that changing the status quo requires conservatives and libertarians to stop denouncing Uncle Sam for big fiascoes like Solyndra, the solar company that infamously went under shortly after receiving a $538 million loan guarantee from a green-energy program under the Obama administration. Denouncing such waste, Klein insists, only serves to embarrass the government for its failures, thus prompting it to be more cautious. As such, Klein would like “to somehow quiet these players looking to point out every failure.”

That’s wrong. Klein misunderstands why I and other free-market proponents fight against private companies receiving government-granted privileges—which is called “cronyism.” It’s not the wasteful spending that I mostly focus on; it’s the unfairness.

David Henderson unpacks some of the problems with Eric Posner’s assertion that U.S. labor markets are suffused with monopsony power.

Eric Boehm applauds the fact that Joe Manchin is prompting his fellow Democrats to be more aware of their grotesque fiscal irresponsibility. A slice:

In a lengthy statement, Manchin spelled out the reasons he is unwilling to support the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package his fellow Democrats are hoping to push through Congress within the next few days or weeks. “Spending trillions more on new and expanded government programs,” he said, “when we can’t even pay for the essential social programs, like Social Security and Medicare, is the definition of fiscal insanity.” Manchin went on to say that he worries about how more government spending might drive inflation even higher, how higher taxes necessary to pay for that spending will make it harder for small businesses to compete with big retailers like Amazon, and how an expanded welfare state might slow the ongoing economic recovery.

Manchin’s opinion about these things carries a lot of weight right now. Democrats have the slimmest possible majority in the U.S. Senate, and need all 50 of their members (plus Vice President Kamala Harris) to vote in support of the reconciliation bill or it will not pass. The senator from West Virginia has all the leverage, and he’s using it to force the rest of Congress to take a good, hard look the fiscal mess its made over the past few years (and, more specifically, since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Arnold Kling is somewhat disappointed by Steven Pinker’s new book. A slice:

I have read most of Steven Pinker’s new book, Rationality, and I came away disappointed. Other books on the topic are better.

One aspect that annoyed me was Pinker’s political positioning. He says, in not so many words:

  • Conservatives are stupid and anti-science
  • The academy is too much of a left-wing monoculture

But if conservatives are stupid and anti-science, why shouldn’t the academy be a monoculture?

In his earlier book, The Blank Slate, Pinker addressed the stupidity and anti-science beliefs of the academic left. In this recent interview with Richard Hanania, Pinker readily concedes that things have been getting worse, not better (Pinker notes that without tenure, one could not express his views safely in today’s academy). I wish that this interview could have been included in Rationality, in order to give it better balance.

My GMU Econ colleague Bryan Caplan writes insightfully about public goods (and economists’ theorizing about public goods).

And writing insightfully about so-called “externalities” is Pierre Lemieux. A slice:

This sort of [Coasean] bargaining happens in the real world. Outside the externality framework proper, companies often sell themselves to a competitor because the latter, being more efficient, offers shareholders of the former more than they can make from their own company. Even more often, companies poach employees from their competitors because the poachers can use the talents more profitably and thus offer the employees an enticing remuneration. Companies occasionally sell brand names. Pieces of land are purchased by the most efficient users; so are licenses to use frequencies on the electromagnetic spectrum, an idea directly influenced by Coase. More generally, the price of any input — say steel — is bid up on the market (which is a continuous and invisible auction) until only the buyers who value it enough get it.

Tim Carney points out that being not-Trump is not sufficient.

Ryan Bourne and Brad Subramaniam reveal some of the damage to low-skilled workers caused by minimum-wage legislation.

My Mercatus Center colleague Tracy Miller warns of an unintended ill-consequence of eviction moratoria.

The great John Tierney explains why we should hold on firmly to the throw-away society. A slice:

Meantime, Moore and his competitors were promoting other advantages of disposable products. The invention of cup lids in the 1920s made it easy for people to carry off their drinks. Restaurants could serve customers more quickly and cheaply by using cups and plates that didn’t need to be washed and dried. Consumers were liberated from chores, as Life illustrated in 1955 with an elaborately staged photo for an article titled “Throwaway Living,” a phrase that wasn’t used in disdain. The photo showed dozens of disposable products—plates, cups, pans, towels, ashtrays, a napkin and tablecloth, a baby’s bib and diaper—apparently flung heavenward by two ecstatic parents and their child. “The objects flying through the air in this picture,” the magazine exulted, “would take 40 hours to clean—except that no housewife need bother.”

Disposability remained a self-evident virtue in the 1960s, when Bethlehem Steel advertised its new soda cans by showing photos of two women. One smiled as she tossed metal cans into the trash; the other looked miserable as she struggled to lug armfuls of empty glass bottles back to the store. The ad posed what, at the time, was a rhetorical question: “Why make hard work out of enjoying soft drinks?”

Chris Edwards writes wisely about the taxation of capital gains.