The Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal rightly ridicules attempts by “non-partisan” (but obviously left-wing) organizations to discredit judges who attend educational events conducted by organizations such as the Law & Economics Center (LEC) at GMU’s Scalia School of Law. A slice:
It’s notable that Fix the Court singles out Republican-appointed judges, as if Democratic-appointed judges have never attended seminars at nice hotels. “But there’s nice, and then there’s nice,” the outfit writes. Do progressives have a judicial balancing test to determine when hotels are too nice?
[DBx: Full disclosure: I often lecture on economics at events conducted by the LEC. Sometimes these events are held in locations such as Destin, FL, and Eagle, CO; sometimes they are held in Arlington, VA, where the LEC is headquartered. The intellectual quality of these events is unfailingly high. Most of my lectures are on basic economics, the contents of which would be boringly familiar to the great majority of professional economists.]
An abiding promise of Latin American socialism is public education for all. But when the left gets to power, it rarely delivers the goods. Observe the full-fledged train wreck that is Venezuela’s public school system. Its victims are the country’s most vulnerable children, who number in the millions.
Dictator Nicolás Maduro hasn’t yet announced the date for the reopening of Venezuelan schools after the summer recess. But for most families that’s a mere technicality. Even after the official start of classes, many students will arrive to find class isn’t in session. Never mind the squalid, dilapidated classrooms with leaky roofs, toilets that don’t flush and no food. In many schools there will be no teacher.
The conventional explanation for [Hugo] Chávez’s popularity is that a market economy left too many Venezuelans behind. Yet after Venezuela returned to democracy in 1958, it mostly had populist, left-of-center governments for 40 years. They promised to make life fair through deficit spending, price and capital controls, a state-owned oil company and lots of labor regulation. Instead corruption and poverty flourished—and education came a cropper. When Chávez arrived on the scene, pledging to upend things, he became a folk hero.
He died in 2013 and oil prices plunged the following year. The economy is now in ruins and Venezuelans scrounge daily for food and other necessities amid persistently high inflation. More than seven million have emigrated, many of them professionals.
With the rise of social media (especially Twitter), it has becomes easier to observe changes in the zeitgeist. Over the past few years, I’ve seen the following trends:
1. Claims that increases in the minimum wage do not have negative side effects.
2. Claims that we don’t have to worry about big budget deficits when the interest rate is low.
3. Claims that changes in the money supply don’t impact inflation.
4. Claims that neoliberalism no longer works, and that we need an industrial policy.
In each case, trendy pundits rejected long established economic principles. And now the chickens are coming home to roost.
[DBx: Any competent economist can explain why ‘man in the street’ notions about economic phenomena – for example, about the alleged happy consequences of minimum-wage legislation – are mistaken. But it takes a special kind of genius to craft scientific-sounding ‘economic’ explanations that assure the man in the street that his prejudices and first impressions are correct after all. Economically ignorant intellectuals, and venal politicians, drool over such ‘explanations.’ And the genius economists producing and peddling these ‘explanations’ are touted, by others and by themselves, as cool and cutting-edge. Meanwhile, competent economists continue to repeat the verities, most of which have been repeated over and over and over again by competent economists since Adam Smith first put quill to parchment. In this never-ending effort of competent economists there’s nothing cutting-edge; there’s only the sharing of knowledge and reason to expose the folly of social-engineering schemes such as minimum wages and industrial policy.]