Labor, Capital, and the Rigged Economy

prisoner's dilemma

No one likes being in a prisoners’ dilemma. The tragedy of the prisoners’ dilemma, as it were, is that all the players in the game can see the cooperative, Pareto-superior outcome, but they can’t reach it, at least not without changing the game. They can’t reach it even though it’s right there, seemingly within grasp, and even though they all agree they’d all be better off if they did reach it.

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Beauty and the Beast

(Photo: Clearista/Facebook)

Skincential Sciences is a small company and something of a curiosity: a significant portion of its capital comes from In-Q-Tel, the investment fund of the Central Intelligence Agency.

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Scalia’s Successor Needs His Virtues

In addition to a commitment to enforcing the Constitution as written, the successor to Justice Antonin Scalia should possess two of his virtues.  First, he or she must unflinching in pursuit of principle even in the face of the rewards that often come from abandoning it.  The highest honors from our legal and academic establishment all go to justices who begin or  drift left. Justice Scalia, of course, was impervious to all such temptations.

But a justice also faces a temptation to decide law in favor of the policy preferences of the team who nominated him. Law, however, has no team, and Justice Scalia knew it. He wrote opinions in cases from flag burning to detention of enemy combatants that conflicted with the sentiments of many of his fellow conservatives.

And it was clear from the time  of his appointment that on the Court Scalia would be a member of only one party—the party of law.  In the academy, he showed his independence by dissenting on issues of central importance to his colleagues, like affirmative action.  At the Office of Legal Counsel in the Ford Admnistration, however, he even made allies unhappy by keeping the executive branch within the metes and bounds of the law.

Second, Scalia’s successor must be capable of pressing the intellectual case for following the Constitution as written.

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Deregulate to Undermine Political Correctness

Destroed  politic

Donald Trump has happily announced that his administration will be dedicated to deregulation. And one very important place to deregulate is higher education. Not only will discarding regulations make education less expensive but it will help temper political correctness.  Higher educational bureaucrats, not professors, are the worst offenders when it comes to forging the manacles for impressionable minds.  And bureaucrats are hired and empowered in so no small part by federal regulations.

The volume of regulation in higher education is truly astonishing. It is not only conservatives who object. Here is a 2015 summary by the bipartisan task force on higher education:

Focusing solely on requirements involving the Department of Education, the HEA contains roughly 1,000 pages of statutory language; the associated rules in the Code of Federal Regulations add another 1,000 pages. Institutions are also subject to thousands of pages of additional requirements in the form of sub-regulatory guidance issued by the Department.  . . . In 2012 alone, the Department released approximately 270 “Dear Colleague” letters and other electronic announcements—this means that more than one new directive or clarification was issued every working day of the year.

But classical liberal and conservatives have particular reason to object to these regulations.

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The Scuttled Mind

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Mark Lilla is a writer whose work is always interesting and yet increasingly frustrating. The topics he chooses to engage are unerringly the right ones, but his writing now seems hasty. The Shipwrecked Mind: On Political Reaction follows upon his The Reckless Mind and, one can presume from this effort, will be followed by The Scuttled Mind or some such. He has hit on a formula and is working it as best he can. This is a great shame, given how original and insightful he can be when honest with his readers and himself.

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What Hath Obama Wrought

Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The defeat of the Democratic Party in the 2016 election is an astonishing and unmistakable repudiation of the “transformation of America” to which Barack Obama dedicated himself as constitutional chief executive. Obama’s transformation of America disavowed the natural law principles on which the country was founded. For more than a century Progressive reformers assiduously indoctrinated Americans in the philosophy of pragmatist relativism. Faithful to the Progressive tradition, Obama appealed to pragmatism to rationalize the transformation of America. While post-mortems are being prepared to explain what went wrong, it is pertinent to reflect on how Left-liberal opinion makers understood the “once-in-a-life-time” opportunity that Obama’s election provided to achieve long sought progressive goals.

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Defining Liberty Properly

On the Originalism blog, Michael Ramsey and Andrew Hyman responded to my post for Law and Liberty on the original understanding of substantive due process. Hyman disputes the definition of “liberty” I provided and asserts a different definition of “due process of law” in the Fifth Amendment, while Ramsey asks for more evidence that the definition of “liberty” given wasn’t unique to Thomas Jefferson.

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How Do You Solve Crony Capitalism?

Hundred dollar bills close up

“Crony capitalism” is the idea that politically well-connected owners of productive factors – land, labor, capital, entrepreneurial skill – can use the government’s coercive power to limit competition and increase their return on those factors. More generally, it’s the use of the coercive powers of the state to redistribute resources to specific groups and their associates.

As Gordon Tullock was fond of pointing out, while government protection is not a factor of production, it can be a factor of profit.

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Classical Liberalism, Free Trade, and Accelerating Change

The 2016 election was a victory for the Republican party but it was hardly a resounding one for classical liberalism at least as historically defined. Classical liberalism, for instance, has reflected an enthusiasm for free trade along with other free markets. But Donald Trump ran the most aggressively anti-free trade platform of any major party nominee Democratic or Republican in the last century.

But rather than simply bemoaning the fact, classical liberals need to take account of it, because the anti-trade turn is a part of the greatest challenge classical liberalism has ever faced: how to address the ever faster rate of social and economic change. The freedom to make such transformations through technology and trade creates very substantial wealth but it disrupts people’s lives, making them less liberal and more eager for state protection than before.

There can be no doubt that such disruption was at the heart of Trump’s victory. ​

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Principle or Policy Preferences?

stahl

What to make of Donald Trump’s interview with CBS’s Lesley Stahl last week?

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