Some Non-Covid Links

by Don Boudreaux on April 1, 2022

in Books, Budget Issues, Energy, Immigration, Inflation, Other People's Money, Philosophy of Freedom, Regulation, Taxes

My intrepid Mercatus Center colleague Veronique de Rugy knows exactly who’s to blame for America’s current inflation. A slice:

Second, global supply chains are, obviously, global. If inflation were truly the product of supply-chain issues, we would witness roughly the same rates of inflation throughout the industrialized world. But we don’t. Most industrialized countries have lower levels of inflation than the United States. These other countries also implemented significantly lower amounts of COVID-19 spending.

For instance, France, South Korea, and Norway all have inflation rates below 4 percent. Their governments spent less than 10 percent of GDP on fiscal stimulus in response to the pandemic, compared to about 26 percent in the United States.

One also needs to distinguish supply constraints, which increase the price of some goods relative to other goods, and inflation, which occurs when the prices of everything, including labor, rise. Supply shocks and constraints do not cause the same broad-based pattern of price hikes that true inflation causes. In addition, price-level hikes caused by supply-side shocks are generally not ongoing month after month; they are one-time jumps that gradually dissipate when the supply shock is over.

“Biden tries everything to cut gas prices, except what would work” – so explains the Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal. A slice:

He could also strike a deal in Congress to remove regulatory obstacles to U.S. oil and gas production in return for more green-energy spending, as Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) has suggested. The 2015 deal between Paul Ryan and Barack Obama to lift the 40-year ban on oil exports in return for extending renewable-energy tax credits provides a template.

But markets are reacting as if they simply don’t take Mr. Biden’s pleadings seriously. That’s a dominant theme across his Presidency, and Americans are paying the price.

Pierre Lemieux writes: “Two contemporary books of political economy and political philosophy that any student of public affairs must absolutely read are Anthony de Jasay’s The State and James Buchanan’s Why I, Too, Am Not a Conservative.”

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, GMU Econ alum – and Mercatus Center scholar – James Broughel calls on the Biden administration to roll back many government regulations. A slice:

In both Idaho and Rhode Island, the default for regulations shifted toward elimination. Regulators were required to justify keeping a rule. This is both revolutionary and necessary when thousands of obsolete or duplicative regulations fill the rule books in every state and no one has time to scrutinize each one. Pragmatic use of sunset provisions (expiration dates for rules), regulatory caps and reduction targets may be effective means of not only halting regulatory growth but reversing it.

Can reforms like these work at the federal level, where there is far more regulation than in any state? Partisanship may be the biggest hurdle. It’s relatively easy to generate consensus in states that are politically homogenous. Agreement is much harder for the nation as a whole. But it’s a good sign that three very different states all support pro-business, pro-growth policies. The “laboratories of democracy” are living up to their reputation.

Eric Boehm reports on some interesting, recent evidence of what Adam Smith described as humans’ “propensity to truck, barter, and exchange.”

About Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife’s texts, George Will describes it all as ” kerfuffle over appearances.” Three slices:

So, about the kerfuffle concerning Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife, Virginia. She is, politically, mad as a hatter. The shelves in her mental pantry groan beneath the weight of Trumpian hysterics about the 2020 presidential election having been stolen and the republic’s certain ruination under Joe Biden. She bombarded Donald Trump’s White House with 21 (that are known) texted exhortations, and received eight replies, about preventing Congress’s Jan. 6, 2021, certification of the electoral vote. To say that she was “strategizing” with the White House is akin to saying that the guy in the stadium’s upper deck yelling “Roll Tide!” and shouting suggested plays is strategizing with Alabama’s football team.

Be that as it may, let us assume, as feminists and other enlightened thinkers should set an example by doing, that Virginia is not under Clarence’s direction. Should we not also assume that he is not under hers? So, what exactly is the problem? Appearances, apparently.

…..

Particularly because the fastidious often are selectively so. Would Thomas’s current critics argue that a justice whose spouse is an environmental activist should recuse in cases involving the Environmental Protection Agency? Unlikely. This, however, is likely: A Venn diagram of people who think Thomas’s recusal is required to protect the court’s reputation for impartiality, and of people who denounce the court as a conservative, illegitimate mini-legislature, would show a substantial overlap.

…..

Thomas does not mind criticism — for the unbending originalism of his jurisprudence, for his minimal reverence for precedents he considers mistaken, for the company his wife keeps, or for many other things. People who consider his starchy independence a problem have a problem.

I love this letter that will appear in tomorrow’s print edition of the Wall Street Journal:

Your editorial “Taxes, Taxes and More Taxes” (March 30) concludes that the “Democratic appetite for your money really is insatiable.” I’m reminded of a quote by the economist Thomas Sowell from his 1999 book “Barbarians Inside the Gates and Other Controversial Essays,” in which he writes, “I have never understood why it is ‘greed’ to want to keep the money you have earned but not greed to want to take somebody else’s money.”

William Congleton
Falls Church, Va

Randy Holcombe is not impressed by Biden’s proposed billionaire tax.

My GMU Econ colleague Bryan Caplan reflects on Ukrainian refugees.

In a new paper, GMU-trained economists Yahya Alshamy, Christopher Coyne, and Nathan Goodman look at “noxious government markets.” Here’s the abstract:

Existing scholarship examines the moral status of markets, identifying some markets as “noxious”—markets deemed morally objectionable due to the background conditions preceding exchange and the resulting consequences. This literature primarily focuses on market exchanges between private parties. We broaden the analysis to include government markets—markets involving exchanges where either the buyer or seller, or both, are government officials. We develop a general theoretical framework to understand the conditions under which government markets are likely to be more or less noxious. We then apply the framework to the international arms trade to demonstrate its usefulness for understanding noxious government markets.

I’m always honored and pleased to be a guest on my friend Ross Kaminsky’s radio show:

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