BC’s weekend reads

  1. Turkey and the Case of the Magical Vanishing Coup
  2. Is the overthrow of a democratically elected government ever justified?
  3. John and Abigail Adams educated their son, John Quincy, to become the worthy successor of the Founding generation of the new regime
  4. An American economist’s observations from Europe
  5. The Influence of Culture on Science, and the Culture of Science
  6. Confessions of an Ex-Prosecutor

PS: Did anyone else notice that the Brexit vote was 51%-49%? I mean, there’s a lot to think about there, especially for libertarians who claim that democracy sucks but Brexit/Nexit/Grexit is totally and completely justified if the people demand it…

Around the Web

  1. Stiglitz and Toward a Theory of the Rent-Seeking Society
  2. The Truth About Our Libertarian Age; Straw men like this explain why libertarianism will continue to grow stronger.
  3. The Return of Karl Polanyi; Another article full of straw. See if you can spot the piles.
  4. What is the optimal number of immigrants to allow into the US? This is as close to a libertarian answer as you can get.
  5. Hayek and the Intellectuals

Around the Web

  1. Criminal defense attorney Ken White has the most thoughtful take on the recent SCOTUS ruling that pit Clarence Thomas against Antonin Scalia
  2. Ayn Rand versus evolutionary psychology. Economist Bryan Caplan explains why Ayn Rand was wrong
  3. Why were American Economics textbooks so Pro-Soviet? A great question from Caplan (again)
  4. Inequality: Haven’t we had this discussion before? Economist Peter Boettke, a specialist in the history of economic thought, asks the question
  5. Remembering Why Hayek Mattered. A political scientist from Princeton, Keith Wittington, provides a great example

Keynesianism, the Global Economy, and Responsibility

Economist Joseph Stiglitz has an op-ed out in Project Syndicate lamenting bad policies for the current economic stagnation of the West. This response comes from economist Peter Boettke, and I think it is an important and woefully neglected one:

Since 2008, and before, [Stiglitz] has been constantly complaining about neo-liberal policy and how its lack of attention to the appropriate regulatory framework and disregard for fundamental policy priorities has produced the mess we are in.  In fact, he made the argument very simply even while he was in positions of tremendous political power in the Clinton administration and at the World Bank — if only the world would listen to me, and engage in the appropriate interventions then the mess would be avoided.  But who were the so-called neo-liberals that weren’t listening to him?  What neo-liberal thinker had the same powerful positions that he held?  Did F. A. Hayek or Milton Friedman actually come back from the grave to serve as head of the CEA or as Chief Economist at the World Bank?  Or did all this disruptive inequality and global imbalance happen on the watch of other thinkers.

I think Boettke is right, but I also think both economists are wrong in a sense, too. First of all, global poverty over the past twenty years or so has been halved thanks to the very neoliberal policies that both economists are disagreeing about, and that both economists have more or less endorsed. With this important, praiseworthy accomplishment in mind, why would these guys want to spend so much time pointing fingers at each other?

I know why they are pointing fingers (because of the terrible shape that Western economies are in), but I am a little baffled at the audacity of Stiglitz and other Keynesians who have held the levers of power for sixty years to point the finger at something other than themselves.

Really quickly: Some of might ask why Boettke and Stiglitz agree on neoliberalism abroad and disagree on policy at home. My short answer would be because the West already has the institutions (property rights, other individual rights, etc.) that economists have identified as necessary for a market order, so their debates about policy occur within the same theoretical framework. Post-colonial states (“developing states”) have virtually none of the institutions that the West, and so it easy for economists with different theoretical paradigms to agree on generalities concerning these developing countries (“they need to open up to world trade and focus on property rights before they do much else”). Does this make sense?

From the Comments: Regulations, Market Failures, and the Fait Accompli

Dr Amburgey raises an excellent point in Adam’s equally excellent, most recent post. Responding to a link by economist Peter Boettke on the effects that institutions have on political economy, Dr Amburgey writes:

Very nice post; it crystalizes many of my objections to what I sometimes see here, a neglect of the literature on market failure in general and opportunism specifically.

[Dr Amburgey quoting Boettke:] “In my book, Why Perestroika Failed I argue that in assessing the workability of utopian schemes we must first subject them to a coherence test, and then a test of their vulnerability to opportunism. Schemes that are incoherent are deemed impossible; schemes that are coherent but vulnerable are impractical; and only schemes that are both coherent and invulnerable should be considered in the feasible set of workable utopias.”

An anarchist regulatory regime *is* a utopia, but raising taxes on corporations as an alternative is not? Then why propose such a policy in the first pace? I think it’s because Dr A doesn’t realize that his utopia is incoherent. Workable, absolutely, but not coherent.

Do you see how his argument is proposing a utopia, though? There are a number of theoretical responses to the market failure argument. Economist Peter Boettke lists four general responses to the market failure argument: Definitional, institutional, entrepreneurial, and comparative analysis. Adam’s post is an example of a defintional rejection of the market failure argument. I make institutional arguments all the time. Rick’s post on entrepreneurship is a good example of the third. Perhaps we need to do a better job of explaining that our arguments are rebuttals of market failure arguments, but I also think that such rebuttals are implicit in most of our writings.

Dr Amburgey also takes Adam to task for ostensibly failing to see the current regulatory apparatus in place (even though Adam’s initial post was all about current regulations and what to do about them). Dr Amburgey thinks Adam’s argument is all about unicorns and pixie dust:

Unicorns: We’ll completely deregulate one of the most oligopolistic industries in the history of the universe and then the invisible hand of market competition will make everything ok.

Okay, but market competition would include a market for buying and selling regulatory apparatuses. That is to say, regulations themselves would not disappear were they to be withdrawn from the purvey of the State, but rather they would be subject to market competition.

There is also the fact that the oligopolies Dr Amburgey identifies are a result of the state-sponsored regulations.

Pixie dust: “The oil companies should be liable for the full cost of any damages done by their rigs.” Yup. We’ll just add that on to the long list of tort reforms barrelling through the American legislative and judicial systems.

Just because the political system is currently preventing the reforms necessary for full liability does not mean that Adam’s argument is “pixie dust.” Is it not logically sound? If the logic is there (and I see no reason why it is not) then the reforms necessary can take place. Whether or not they will take place is an entirely different topic. I think they could, but only if we can get enough smart people like Dr A to see how they are not thinking their arguments through.

Sure. But they weren’t doing anything they didn’t want to do anyway [see the point just above] they were just externalizing the downside risks. As Adam points out “If the site is not economically viable then there is no reason to drill there.” Classic corporate capitalism in the contemporary US. If it works we get the profit, if it doesn’t you bear the cost.

I don’t think we are disagreeing here. Here is where our misunderstanding begins: Adam’s argument (as I understand it) is that Big Oil is able to externalize these costs through the regulatory apparatus. I think you would have to agree provided you think through the logic of your statement. We all agree that Big Oil was able to externalize the risks involved in drilling off the Gulf, but how, for example, do firms go about “socializing the costs”? If they don’t go through the existing regulatory apparatus, how do these firms achieve the externalization of costs?

“It looks to me like Adam is proposing an alternative for regulating how oil is drilled for by corporations.”

It looks to me like Adam’s alternative for regulating oil [NOT just drilling] is to not regulate it at all. Did I miss some regulations that he would keep?

Again, I don’t know how I can be more clear: Just because government regulations would not exist does not mean that no regulation would exist.

Around the Web

  1. Reading Tocqueville in Qatar and at Georgetown
  2. Colonialism and Anti-Colonialism: Blame Nationalism for Both
  3. The Issue of Selective Prosecution
  4. Eric Prince: Out of Blackwater and into China; The WSJ‘s weekend interview with the founder of Blackwater is particularly good. If you hit a paywall, just copy and paste the title and enter it into your Google search bar. Click on the first link and voila.
  5. A short history of economic anthropology (grab a cup of coffee first)
  6. The market may be colorblind, but politics isn’t: Race, class and economic opportunity

Around the Web

I don’t know if I can echo Andrew’s prodigious output, but here’s my own reading list for the weekend:

  1. Modesto Junior College, bureaucracy and censorship: Haughty arrogance edition. Ken White explains Weber’s ‘iron cage’
  2. Liberty after Lehman Brothers: What have we learned? Peter Boettke muses about the infamous bailouts
  3. Who were the anti-Federalists, and why do they still matter? Trevor Burrus of the Cato Institute explains
  4. The Christian Exodus. Another disaster in the Middle East

PS I just got in to Santa Cruz. Wish me luck!