Todd Zywicki

Todd J. Zywicki is George Mason University Foundation Professor of Law at George Mason University School of Law and Senior Fellow of the Mercatus Center. He is the co-author of “Consumer Credit and the American Economy” with Thomas A. Durkin, Gregory Elliehausen, and Michael E. Staten (Oxford University Press, 2014).

A Paradoxical Ascent

true paradox

Christian apologetics—and, one suspects, arguments generally—can take two basic forms: they can be directed toward trying to persuade others of the truth of one’s position or they can be self-reflective, focusing on arguments that one finds personally persuasive and to explain one’s personal conviction as to why one argument is more persuasive than another. In True Paradox: How Christianity Makes Sense of our Complex World, David Skeel, the S. Samuel Arsht Professor of Corporate Law at Pennsylvania Law School, has written a book that is an exemplar of the latter. Rather than seeking directly to persuade the reader of the truth of Christianity, Skeel's apologia instead reads…

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Making Financial Regulation AntiFragile


Nassim Nicholas Taleb, best-known for his theory of “the black swan,” is back with a new book, Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder. A sprawling, somewhat disorderly book (although it is far from clear that the book gains from its own disorder), Taleb’s latest entry is also a provocative, insightful book that holds the potential to provide a new approach to many social and economic issues, particularly issues of finance and financial regulation. Taleb’s central contribution in this book is to introduce a new analytical concept into our understanding of the world—antifragility—and to explore the way in which becoming aware of…

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The Next Financial Crisis: What Will the Market ‘Expect’?


In signing the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act President Obama claimed to much applause, “And finally, because of this law, the American people will never again be asked to foot the bill for Wall Street’s mistakes. (Applause.)  There will be no more tax-funded bailouts -- period. (Applause.)  If a large financial institution should ever fail, this reform gives us the ability to wind it down without endangering the broader economy.  And there will be new rules to make clear that no firm is somehow protected because it is ‘too big to fail,’ so we don’t have another AIG.” Yet there is a…

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Regulatory Decadence and Dodd-Frank


Enacted swiftly in the wake of the financial crisis, the 2,319 pages of the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform legislation contain a thicket of rules overhauling the entire American financial system, creating a bevy of new regulatory entities.  But that is only the tip of the iceberg—for even then, this does not include the thousands of rule-makings, studies, and enforcement actions that will be triggered by Dodd-Frank, nor does it consider all of the international implications of the legislation. Those looking for a roadmap that lays out the basic ideas that animate Dodd-Frank and its key provisions should turn to David Skeel’s book,…

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From Kelo With Love: Revisiting Kelo’s Flawed Economics and Vacuous Constitutionalism


The recent announcement that two California counties are considering using the eminent domain power of the Fifth Amendment to seize underwater mortgages from their owners provides a useful opportunity to revisit the Supreme Court’s extraordinarily wrong-headed decision in Kelo v. City of New London, one of the most publicly-maligned decisions in recent Supreme Court history. Events post-Kelo have confirmed what was evident at the time: that defining “public use” so broadly to permit politicians to seize private property from one person and give it to another is misguided.  Indeed, by unleashing politicians and special interest factions to use the political process…

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Democratic Government and Eminent Domain

Professor Zywicki is right: Kelo is one of the most publicly-maligned decisions in recent Supreme Court history. But it is altogether more debatable whether the hostility was deserved. Professor Zywicki offers a straightforward economic account and critique of eminent domain. He argues that the fair market value standard is inadequate to compensate people for their subjective…

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Kelo With Caveats

My work on takings law reflects my strong disposition for free markets, and my concern that expansive interpretations of eminent domain powers lead to crony capitalism and other abuse. I believe that the Supreme Court’s facile equation of “public use” with “public benefit” in Kelo v. City of New London (2005) is particularly pernicious. So,…

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The Banality of Bailouts, Special-Interests, and Political Corruption


It is now cliché to recite that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality.  Reading Neil Barofsky’s Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street one keeps expecting that at some point he will draw the obvious conclusion from his sordid tale of serving as the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief (SIGTARP): that political opportunism, personal ambition, and special-interest influence will be inherent in any government activity, especially bailouts specifically designed to pick winners and losers in the marketplace, and if you don’t want politics, dishonesty, and…

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