The NSA’s website has a children’s section featuring cartoon mascots and video games.
Have a listen here.
Deirdre McCloskey, a distinguished economic historian and author of many books, including The Rhetoric of Economics, The Bourgeois Virtues, and Bourgeois Dignity, will receive CEI’s Julian Simon Memorial Award on June 20 at CEI’s annual dinner. CEI Founder and Chairman Fred Smith talks about how McCloskey’s work embodies the same joie de vivre and optimistic spirit that animated Simon’s thought.
Back when he was a congressman, Jason Altmire (D-PA) bucked his own party and voted against the Affordable Care Act. He left office earlier this year and now works for a health insurance company in Florida. Seeing as the law legally requires people to buy his employer’s product, he unsurprisingly now supports the law.
There is a good reason for the time-tested presidential election strategy of candidates taking relatively progressive or conservative positions during the primaries, and then moving to the center for the general election. It’s because the way to win an election is to appeal to the median voter. In a partisan primary, that median voter is relatively ideological. But in a general election, the median voter is centrist.
This is the median voter theorem, and it plays a key role in understanding how politicians behave during election season. It explains why the two parties can be so hard to tell apart — they’re chasing after the same voter. Utah State University economics professor Diana Thomas ably explains the median voter in this short Learn Liberty video (click here if the embed doesn’t work):
The concept of lending money for interest hasn’t needed many defenders since roughly the Renaissance, when usury laws fell out of fashion. Even so, some people are still innocent of economics and the time value of money. They still attack the very notion of interest. Ludwig von Mises offers a pithy defense on p. 41 of 1940′s Interventionism: An Economic Analysis:
In order to do away with interest we would have to prevent people from valuing a house, which today is habitable, more highly than a house which will not be ready for use for ten years. Interest is not peculiar to the capitalistic system only. In a socialist community too the fact will have to be considered that a loaf of bread which will not be ready for consumption for another year does not satisfy present hunger.
Objections to interest then, must clear hurdles as high as human nature, hunger, and time itself. Good luck, I say.
When you sit down at a Mediterranean restaurant, your server will typically set down some bread on the table, then pour some olive oil into a saucer or small bowl for dipping. Many restaurants also keep small jugs of olive oil as part of their table setting for general use. It’s a delicious way to begin a meal.
New European Union regulations are set to change this centuries-long practice. Starting January 1, 2014, any olive oil served at table “must be in pre-packaged, factory bottles with a tamper-proof dispensing nozzle and labelling in line with tight EU standards.” That means no more saucers of oil for dipping, and no more refillable jugs at the table.
Most complaints about the rule have been directed at the EU’s micromanagemerial tendencies, and there is certainly something to it. But there is also a public choice angle that’s worth looking at.
Many restaurants buy their olive oil from small family farms that aren’t able to comply with the new labeling and sealing standards. Restaurants buy from them because many diners prefer their olive oil to the more homogenous product put out by larger firms. These larger firms are also precisely the people who will benefit from the new rules. A public choice theorist would point out that the big producers very likely had something to do with pushing for their passage, and their added business comes at the expense of smaller farms – and consumers’ palettes.
This kind of rent-seeking behavior is all too common. And the more regulations there are, the more rent-seeking one sees. These olive oil rules are only the latest example. Most supporters of the rule might be motivated by health and safety, but certain other supporters are more concerned with securing an artificial competitive advantage for themselves.
From Politico: “The IRS softball team in Washington canceled a game scheduled for Friday against a team from Texas Sen. John Cornyn’s office and wasn’t able to reschedule.”
The plot thickens.
Well worth five minutes of your time. Features the ACLU’s Michael MacLeod-Ball, David Keating from the Center for Competitive Politics, and Cato’s John Samples and Gene Healy (Gene’s column on the same subject is also worth reading). Click here if the video embedded below doesn’t work.
The only surprising part of this story is that the IRS apologized. Whichever party is in power, its critics can expect more IRS attention than usual. Since the executive branch is currently run by a Democrat, tax-exempt groups with phrases like “tea party” and “patriot” in their names were targeted. But the tables turn when a Republican is president. Charlotte Twight gives a historical example on p. 271 of her book Dependent on D.C.:
Republican President Richard Nixon in 1971 expressed his intention to select as IRS commissioner “a ruthless son of a bitch,” who “will do what he’s told,” will make sure that “every income tax return I want to see I see,” and “will go after our enemies and not go after our friends.”
President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, is also alleged to have abused his position to punish political enemies.
Conservatives are right to be outraged by today’s news. But they shouldn’t be surprised by it. Nor should they direct their ire at President Obama or the IRS staffers who initiated the unnecessary investigations. They should be outraged that politics has become such a high-stakes game in the first place that officeholders view this type of behavior as a legitimate political tactic. The problem is systemic, not partisan.
One criticism I face fairly often is the assertion that I must be dishonest — I must be cherry-picking my evidence, or something — because the way I describe it, I’m always right while the people who disagree with me are always wrong. And not just wrong, they’re often knaves or fools. How likely is that?
But may I suggest, respectfully, that there’s another possibility? Maybe I actually am right, and maybe the other side actually does contain a remarkable number of knaves and fools.
Evidence of a closed mind. Always such a sad thing to see.