Category Archives: Economics

Public policy: discovery and bargaining or applied knowing?

Is public policy a discovery process which takes into consideration the diverse interests, experiences and perspectives of the political nation (however defined–in a democracy, that is supposed to be the entire citizenry) or is it an engineering problem, an application of applied knowing? There is, of course, a lot of engineering at the implementation level […]

Free trade, expanding prosperity and technology dynamism are good things: but not everyone wins all the time.

The following things are very much good things: free trade, technological dynamism and expanding global prosperity. Free trade because it gives more people to sell to and buy from, to engage in gains from trade with. Technological dynamism because it allows more and more people to live longer and (in some very basic senses) freer […]

Brexit and EU failure

The 52%-48% win for Brexit in the June 2016 referendum has already been framed many ways, but what should be an obvious one (though for many it will not be) is how much of a failure for the EU this represents. In June 1975, a deeply divided Labour Government held a referendum on the UK’s […]

Can a contemporary Western country have a moral immigration policy with a reasonable risk level?

The intense, and highly moralised, debate over migration in the West is clearly based on a widespread presumption that it is obviously possible for contemporary Western societies to have a moral migration policy. That proposition, when examined, is much more dubious than it might appear. It is obvious that people moving to the West from […]

Post-Enlightenment is the Counter-Enlightenment rebooted

There is a clear difference between the modernist Left and the postmodern progressivism. The modernist Left was an Enlightenment project, and proud to be so. This is the stream of political analysis and commentary represented in our time by such figures as the late Christopher Hitchens and Norman Geras, by Terry Eagleton’s jeremiads against post-modernism and by the Euston Manifesto. They are the […]

Decency, righteousness and the add-more-morality error

Having what we might call a moral sense, but which is better called a normative sense, has been basic to the evolutionary success of homo sapiens. The ability to accept, and internalise, constraints on behaviour hugely expands the range of practicable social interactions. Particularly important over the longer run in “scaling up” human social interaction has been the […]

Against Austrian business cycle theory

Former Austrian school economist Bryan Caplan recently won a bet against Austrian school economist Bob Murphy on the path of US inflation. Caplan won by betting with the key market indicator (TIPS), Murphy lost by betting against it. At first glance, that the ex-Austrian won by following the market while the Austrian lost by not doing so might seem strange, but it […]

Why gold/currency ratios mattered in the interwar period

This is based on a comment I made here. I have been enjoying Scott Sumner‘s history of the Great Depression, The Midas Paradox: Financial Markets, Government Policy Shocks, and the Great Depression. Sumner provides a key ideas summary for the book here. The book is an examination of dramatic macroeconomic instability under a gold standard. In The Midas Paradox, Sumner gives the […]

The EU’s downward spiral

Econblogger Bryan Caplan is rightly sceptical of “it will end in civil war(s)” claims about the European Union‘s (EU) current travails, and is moreover prepared to put his money where his blogging is; hence he will accept bets on the issue. Nobel memorial laureate and economic historian Robert Fogel argued that pressures over mass immigration were a significant aggravating factor in the lead […]

States start with violence and expropriation

I came across this passage in a collection entitled States and Development: Historical Antecedents of Stagnation and Advance (pdf): A realistic, even if stylized, account begins with the coalition building in which the elites of an emergent state are likely to engage, both with other power holders and with economically successful interests (p.11). It is in a similar […]