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Category Archives: Public Policy

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, […]

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 […]

Regime matters

A recurring error in Western analysis is to not take ideology (particularly religious ideology) or regime structure seriously in analysing the behaviour of other states. Historian A J P Taylor’s famous statement that: In international affairs, there was nothing wrong with Hitler except that he was German. is a manifestation of this. But so is the […]

The evolution of social bargains — operative not normative

I was reading Yoram Barzel‘s property rights analysis (pdf) of the rise of Parliamentary government in England, when the full force of his critique of normative concepts of the rise of parliamentarianism and representative government hit me. That Iraq is busily messily falling apart, following on from–and partly a consequence of–Syria doing so, with the advance of the Islamic State of […]

Memories of Ray Evans (1935-2014)

I was greatly saddened to learn, via email, of the death of Ray Evans.  I first met Ray sometime in the 1980s, when he was an indefatigable fighter for labour market reform. The attempt by the new Hawke Government, via the Hancock Report, to expand even further the legal privileges of the union movement inspired him to co-found the H […]

Why monetarist victory is necessary: so central banks cannot hide

A guest post at Marcus Nunes’s blog Historinhas (sans graphs). In the debate about how to think about the Great Inflation of the 1970s, Milton Friedman‘s policy advice–constant growth in a targeted monetary aggregate–turned out to be misplaced. Indeed, the failure of the Thatcher Government‘s monetary aggregate targeting led to the popularisation of Goodhart’s Law: Any observed statistical regularity will tend to collapse […]

Hard money is not the same as sound money

A post by Jonathan Finegold on sound money pointed me towards how to express an important distinction–that hard money is not the same as sound money. JF defines sound money thusly: a monetary system that best promotes coordination between market agents. Unsurprisingly, a somewhat “Austrian” definition, but clear enough. I would go with the money that maximises its transaction […]

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, […]

The ECB’s dismal performance and the European elections

These two graphs, taken from here, express vividly how much worse the performance of the European Central Bank (ECB) has been compared to the US Federal Reserve (the Fed). Between the two of them, they caused the Great Recession, but the Fed has done much better since. The ECB’s dismal performance also helps explain the recent […]

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 […]