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Category Archives: Law

Equalising consumption => lowering vulnerability

A comment on a previous post expresses a common set of views among conservatives: Darwin has the final word on sillyness. If same sex marriage was a useful thing in society, then the vast range of human societies would show us a successful society with same sex marriage as normal. This confuses natural selection with social selection, […]

Marriage is about …

A common argument against same-sex marriage is that marriage is “about” children. Or that the purpose of marriage is the raising of children. Or some similar claim. Conservative philosopher Keith Burgess-Jackson rebuts a certain class of arguments against the claim that marriage is “about” children here. But the claim he defends–that marriage is about children–strips marriage […]

Modernity struggles: how priests and clerics are unreliable moral guides

Priests and clerics tend to be unreliable moral guides, because their interests are served by complexity and differentiation. Which is not to deny that, for example, Christianity has been a major factor in the distinctive achievement of Western civilisation. The ambivalent civilisation The late Kenneth Minogue argued that (via) the Enlightenment saw a shift among Western intellectuals from belief that […]

Migration, history and countries as club goods

This is based on comments I made here and here. Thin conceptions There is a line of argument which holds that if free trade in goods and services is good for economies, if free trade in capital is good for economies, then surely free trade in labour would also be good for economies. So, just as one should […]

Too big not to fail: the rise and fall of Fannie Mae

The debate over the role (if any) of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) in the sub-prime crisis, and thus the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), often seems to be a stand-in for other issues. In particular, to what extent was either financial meltdown the consequences of government regulation (or the lack thereof). The answer to the former question is: almost entirely, […]

Small-yet-broad is beautiful (or why it is good to have been British)

The central purpose of Calomiris & Haber’s Fragile by Design: the Political Origins of Banking Crises is to explain to Americans why their banking system does not perform as well as other countries–particularly compared to that of their neighbour, Canada. In chapter 14, the authors put the matter quite starkly: … if a highly stable banking system […]

Arsonists in charge of the fire brigade

A favourite economic justification for state action is to deal with externalities–the effects on people of some action or transaction that they were not willingly a party to.  The problem with this is that the coercive nature of the state makes it a prime creator of externalities: since it has coercive power, it can force consequences […]

An awkward wrinkle in Bagehot’s dictum (or Circeronian public policy)

Bagehot’s Dictum (aka Bagehot’s Rule)—that [in a financial crisis] the central bank provide money at higher interest rates to illiquid financial institutions if they are solvent (their assets are greater than their liabilities) but lets insolvent financial institutions (their liabilities are greater than their assets) fold—has, as it is usually summarised, an awkward wrinkle. Tight monetary […]

Banking privilege as social bargaining: a nice case study

Have been reading Fragile by Design: The Political Origins of Banking Crises and Scarce Credit by Charles Calomiris and Stephen Haber. It is an excellent, and highly readable, history of banking: slides from a presentation explaining the basic thesis of the book are here (pdf). The information in the book also explains a puzzle of economic history. Technologically, the key […]

SL’s Australian visit – 2nd ALS Friedman Conference (and other goodies)

As some of you already know, due to the kind sponsorship of Thought Broker, I shall be travelling to Australia for the 2nd Australian Libertarian Society Friedman Conference (speaker schedule here) and shall also be sharing a platform with new Freedom Commissioner Tim Wilson at one of Thought Broker’s in-house events (details here). Thought Broker […]