Problems with Progressivism and Populism
Econlib Blog
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1d ago
Over time, ideologies can evolve in unforeseen ways. Consider the following four public policy developments: 1. The Biden administration has attempted to forgive many student loans for college education. 2. Several cities in California have imposed rent controls. 3. Florida recently banned lab grown meat. 4. North Carolina is attempting to ban mask wearing in public. While the first two examples are often views as progressive legislation and the other two are viewed as populist initiatives, they all share something in common. In each case, the legislation can be seen as a perversion of an ear ..read more
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Purpose, Pleasure, and Meaning in a World Without Work (with Nicholas Bostrom)
Econlib Blog
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1d ago
If you didn’t have to work to enjoy material abundance, would you do it anyway? If an algorithm or a pill could achieve better results, would you bother shopping or going to the gym? These are the kinds of questions we’ll need to ask ourselves if AI makes all human labor and other traditional ways of spending time obsolete. Oxford philosopher Nicholas Bostrom, author of Deep Utopia, is downright bullish about our ability, not only to adjust to a life stripped of labor, but to thrive. Listen as Bostrom explains to EconTalk’s Russ Roberts what pleasure and leisure might look like in a worl ..read more
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Are You a Product?
Econlib Blog
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2d ago
We should be careful about words, expressions, and catchphrases, especially those political hyperboles that buttress the statist zeitgeist of our time. You are a product of greedy corporations. The author of the May 16 Economist newsletter “The World in Brief” says it in passing: Walmart’s ad operation is much smaller than that of Amazon, which is ahead in e-commerce and video streaming. But Walmart has the advantage in the ground war. In its 10,000 stores advertisers can buy access to customers on signs, screens and in-store radio. Next time you browse a supermarket for products, remember th ..read more
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My Weekly Reading for May 19, 2024
Econlib Blog
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2d ago
Brickbat: Robot’s Day of Rest by Charles Oliver, Reason, May 10, 2024. Excerpt: A German court has ruled that the robots at the Tegut supermarket chain must be given Sundays off, just like human workers. Under German law, retail stores must close on Sundays and Christian holidays in order to give employees a day of rest. Tegut has gotten around that law by fully automating its stores, and it gets 25–30 percent of its sales on Sunday. A union that represents shop workers filed suit to force the stores to close on Sundays, saying it fears the company’s success could undermine support ..read more
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Beneath the Mask
Econlib Blog
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3d ago
In his book Minority Report, H.L. Mencken writes: “The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it.  Power is what all messiahs really seek: not the chance to serve.  This is true even of the pious brethren who carry the gospel [sic] to foreign parts.”   With a little rewriting, we can update the quote for protectionism: “The urge to defend the nation is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it.  Power is what all protectionists seek: not the chance to serve.” National defense is a common justification for protectioni ..read more
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Population and density
Econlib Blog
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3d ago
Chicago’s population is down about 25% from its peak back in 1950. That statement might conjure up images of empty blocks of homes, as you see in Detroit. In fact, Chicago remains quite crowded. I cannot find the article, but I recall reading that Chicago now has more households than ever before. Average household size has shrunk dramatically since 1950, due to factors such as fewer children and more independent living for young adults and the elderly. The OC Register reports some seemingly odd data for California. Its housing stock has grown since 2020, its population has shrunk, and yet hom ..read more
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“Junk Fees” Typically Serve an Important Purpose
Econlib Blog
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4d ago
Charging extra for specific preferences, such as a seat selection on a flight, enables lower basic prices, increasing access to no-frills options for lower-income customers, while allowing businesses to customize their services to individual customers’ preferences. Airlines unbundle in-flight food and checked bags, for example, leading to more profit opportunities and lower base fares. Yes, “price discrimination”—charging various customers different amounts for the same product—can sometimes be harmful to customers on net. But banning such unbundling when consumers put wildly different value ..read more
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Professor Hugh H. Macaulay: A Tribute on His Centennial
Econlib Blog
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4d ago
Click-a-ty-clack, click-a-ty-clack . . ., click-a-ty-clack.    Those were the sounds that regularly echoed down the second-floor hallway of Clemson University’s Sirrine Hall in the 1980s and before. Those sounds of metal-on-metal could be expected by the economists on the floor at 10:00 in the morning, carrying a clear message: “Time for coffee!”  The sounds came unmistakably from Professor Hugh Macaulay’s steel leg brace that he had worn since he suffered a bullet wound in France in World War II. He had proudly volunteered for service.  The “clickities,” combined with Hug ..read more
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My Life as an Austrian Economist: My Philosophical Vision and the Critique of Scientism
Econlib Blog
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4d ago
As with any tale, it is useful to begin at the beginning.  And in my instance, all my beginnings related to Austrian economics are found at Grove City College.  How I ended up at Grove City is an extremely unlikely journey with zigs and zags, the probability of which defies all calculation.  I was not a focused student in high school or even as I began my college career.  My interests were focused elsewhere and my dreams were directed at a life far removed from anything associated with the “life of the mind”. Once I got the bug to study economics, my professor Dr. Hans Senn ..read more
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Slow Down and THINK
Econlib Blog
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5d ago
When you think of statistics, do you think of a helpful tool for real-world analysis, or does the phrase, “Lies, damn lies, and statistics” come to mind? Regardless of your answer to that question, Jeremy Weber wrote his new book, Statistics for Public Policy, for YOU. In this episode, host Russ Roberts welcomes Weber to talk about it. Weber argues that no statistics textbooks include integration of context and purpose and audience with statistical analysis. That’s a problem. Roberts congratulates Weber for his use of illustrations rather than equations, and describes how he thinks of statist ..read more
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