Some Non-Covid Links

by Don Boudreaux on April 5, 2022

in Antitrust, Books, Economics, Education, Hayek, Taxes, Trade

Phil Gramm and Christine Wilson warn against Progressives’ attempt to turn antitrust regulation away from the consumer-welfare standard. Two slices:

The modern progressives who dominate the Biden administration have labeled themselves Neo-Brandeisians after Justice Louis Brandeis, who claimed that “the evils of excessive bigness are something distinct from and additional to the evils of monopoly.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who believes that only government should be big and powerful, has worked to ensure that committed progressives hold key levers of regulatory power in the Biden administration. Notable examples include Tim Wu, a special assistant to the White House National Economic Council; Lina Khan, chairman of the Federal Trade Commission; and Rohit Chopra, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

These officials see the world through the lens of class warfare, as a zero-sum game. Like Progressives before them, they view the rule of law not as a cornerstone of liberty and democracy, but as an impediment to equality and the means by which the ruling class suppresses the masses. In their view, economics-based antitrust enforcement under the consumer-welfare standard drives this oppression. Sandeep Vaheesan of the Open Markets Institute, who has written academic papers with Ms. Khan, claims that an “antitrust enforcer anchored in consumer welfare is an antitrust enforcer anchored in anti-labor.”

While antitrust enforcement since the 1970s has sought to rise above politics by using economics-based analysis to measure consumer benefit, modern progressives reject the idea that antitrust enforcement is, and should be, apolitical. To them, economics isn’t a value-neutral discipline that guides sound decision-making. Matthew Stoller, who worked with Ms. Khan at the Open Markets Institute, believes “the point of economics as a discipline is to create a language and methodology for governing that hides political assumptions from the public.” To Ms. Khan, “all decisions are political insofar as government agencies are bringing them.”


With the consumer-welfare standard uprooted, antitrust would become a license to control the American economy, capriciously rewarding favored businesses and punishing disfavored ones. The president has appointed regulators who are openly hostile to those they regulate and to the economic system of the country. A goal of Republicans in the upcoming antitrust debate should be to codify the consumer-welfare standard. It would be a tragic irony if Republican hostility to Big Tech for its leftist political leaning and censorship empowered the Biden administration to exert even greater control over the American economy.

Ed Gresser calls for an end to shoe protectionism in America. A slice:

Second, shoe tariffs are especially biased against the poor. A lawyer in dress leathers unwittingly pays an 8.5% tariff and a college student in elite running shoes pays 20%, but a maid in a cheap pair of sneakers imported for $3 or less pays an extraordinary 48%. This is the highest ad valorem tariff rate imposed on a manufactured good, nearly double the highest Trump tariff.

Third, they are an international outlier. No major economy taxes cheap shoes as heavily as the U.S.

Fourth, shoe tariffs are almost entirely ineffective as job or production protectors, given that the 1.9 billion pairs that were imported in 2021 account for 98% of American shoe purchases. This last fact makes the shoe tariff a scandal that, in theory, is easy to solve.

In this 2022 tax season, as policy makers look for ways to cool off consumer prices in an inflationary environment and make the tax code friendlier to the working poor, eliminating tariffs on imported shoes would be an obvious win.

Arnold Kling has wise advice for economics majors. Two slices:

If you are an economics major, then you have already taken too many economics courses for your lifetime. Stop taking econ, and think in terms of alternatives to going for an advanced degree.

You already have been exposed to all of the important principles in economics. Applying those principles, you should appreciate that the marginal value of another economics course is low relative to its opportunity cost.


For your career, I am telling you not to do what I did. I obtained a Ph.D in economics. After I graduated college in 1975, I was a research assistant at the Congressional Budget Office and then at the Fed. The Fed was strongly credentialist, as are most government agencies. So I knew that without a Ph.D my ceiling there was below the floor I could have with a doctorate.

For actually understanding the economy, it is hard to think of any course I took in graduate school that had value. I learned a lot of mathematical models, some of which were wrong and all of which were useless. My knowledge of economics has increased over time, but from general reading, not from graduate school.

Richard Rahn likes Mark Skousen’s book The Making of Modern Economics.

My GMU Econ colleague Dan Klein shares some quotations from C.S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man.

Here’s Liz Wolfe on Bernie Sanders on American ‘oligarchs’ (so called).

Richard Williams is right: “The IRS doesn’t need more workers, it needs less work.”

Alexander Riley debunks the asinine and absurd Robin DiAngelo. (HT George Leef) A slice:

Robin DiAngelo has suddenly gotten very well-known and much wealthier because of her tapping by cultural and educational elites as one of the “experts” on white racism and concomitant non-white suffering. The university at which I am employed lists her “groundbreaking” book White Fragility on its page of antiracism resources. All of us, we are told, would do well to consult her writings or, better still, to hire her to come preach to us face-to-face on our college campus. Her knowledge does not come cheap. An hour-long keynote address will run you in the vicinity of $30,000, a half-day antiracist retreat upward of $40,000.

I have not had the opportunity to attend one of these enlightening events, but I did indeed find it instructional to go through a brief video DiAngelo did for NBC News in which she succinctly “debunk[s] the most common myths white people believe about race.” What I discovered is that the real mythology has more to do with the questionable and often straightforwardly untrue things DiAngelo believes than about what she imagines “white people” do.

Pierre Lemieux reviews the new edition of Hayek’s Law, Legislation, and Liberty.

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