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Category Archives: Public Policy

Domain states, tax states and fiscal states

Have been reading a Ph.D dissertation by Wenkai He on the consolidation of a modern fiscal state in C18th England and late C19th Japan and the failure to do so in late Qing China. (The dissertation has since become a book.) The dissertation references history of public finance literature I was previously largely unaware of. The literature covers domain states and fiscal […]

States and gangs

Having previously defined the state as (a structure of) systematic coercion requiring hierarchy to operate and revenues to sustain itself extracted from a given territory, an obvious question is: what about criminal gangs? They engage in systematic coercion, have a hierarchy which they use to extract revenue to sustain themselves from a given territory. One objection might be that criminal […]

A regulatory wrinkle from rational expectations

The rational expectations hypothesis can be understood in various ways. One is as an equilibrium condition in a model–the model is in equilibrium when expectations of agents in the model align with the predictions of the model (though that does not mean it is a stable equilibrium). Another is that expectations of agents within the model should not be set differently […]

How do you keep an exploited socialist economy going?

You sell people you don’t want (via): East Germany’s economy was in free fall. Many skilled workers and intellectuals had fled and the Soviet Union was stripping the country of its resources. By 1964 the fiscal situation had become so dire that the authorities developed a scheme to sell political prisoners to West Germany. They called it haeftlingsfreikauf. […]

Ebola, Ferguson and political narratives

The Ebola virus reaching the US and the ongoing troubles and controversy over a police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri display the power and the dangers of political narratives from all sides, both of US politics and more broadly. Thus, one of the more tired and embarrassing responses to Ebola mis-steps in the US has to […]

The eternal now of conservatism (3)

In my previous two posts, I looked at pieces by two conservatives–James Livingstone on gender and soldiering and Justice O’Scannlain on gender and marriage–who both imagine they are basing their reasoning on history and verities of human nature when they are doing nothing of the kind. Sodom and genocide In his 2013 lecture, Justice O’Scannlain alludes to the work of […]

The eternal now of conservatism (2)

Catholic writer James Livingstone (see previous post) is hardly the only conservative writer who sees inherited social arrangements as based in verities of human nature rather than contingent historical circumstances. Not counting as human This notion of social arrangements as being rooted in verities of human nature, not the contingencies of history, can have a very […]

The eternal now of conservatism (1)

In a paper on how to reliably measure political (i.e. economic and social) conservatism, psychologist Jim Everett makes a useful distinction: authoritarianism and conservatism are distinct because authoritarianism focuses on aversion to difference across space (i.e. diversity of people and beliefs at the present time), while conservatism reflects aversion to difference over time (i.e. change). As […]

Ahistorical pomposity and gnostic sneering: why academics write deep crap about “neoliberalism”

Humanities and social science academics write a remarkable amount of nonsense about “neoliberalism”, typically understanding neither the reasons for the general shift in public policy nor the motivations and ideas behind it. A nice example of such nonsense is provided in a post by philosopher Robin James: neoliberals think everything in the universe works like a […]

That measure, it does not mean what you think it means

This is based on a comment I made here.  When trying to tease out what sorts of policies work and what do not, people often make cross-country comparisons of, for example, expenditure on education (such as, as a % of GDP). Trouble is, expenditure on education is a remarkably useless measure. An obvious indicator of that […]