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Carbon Taxes: Worrisome in Theory, Bad in Reality

I don’t have strong views on global warming. Or climate change, or whatever it’s being called today. But I’ve generally been skeptical about government action for the simple reason that the people making the most noise are statists who would use any excuse to increase the size and power of government. To be blunt, I […]

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The Government’s War on Money Laundering Is Causing the Wrong Kind of Casualties

President Trump says he wants to roll back the burden of regulation. Give the morass of red tape that is strangling the economy, this is a very worthy goal. It’s also a daunting task. Fixing the sprawling regulatory state is the modern version of cleaning the Augean stables and I’m not brimming with confidence that […]

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Occupational Licensing: How Government-Created Barriers to Work Are Undermining Mobility and America’s Economy

Red tape is a huge burden on the American economy, with even an Obama Administration bureaucracy acknowledging that costs far exceed supposed benefits. And the problem gets worse every year. If I had to pick the worst example of foolish regulation, there would be lots of absurd examples from the federal government, and the crazy […]

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In One Story, Everything You Need to Know about Big Government and Small Business

All things considered, I like small businesses more than big businesses. Not because I’m against large companies, per se, but rather because big businesses often use their political influence to seek unearned and undeserved wealth. If you don’t believe me, just look at the big corporations lobbying for bad policies such as the Export-Import Bank, […]

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A Secret Glimpse at Life Inside a Bureaucracy

More than two years ago, I shared a couple of humorous images showing the languorous lifestyle of lazy bureaucrats. While those images were amusing, they didn’t really capture the true nature of bureaucracy. For a more accurate look at life inside Leviathan, here’s a video showing an unfortunate woman trying to get a permit from […]

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A New Year’s Message for Interventionists: Workers Do Best in Unregulated Labor Markets

It’s time to channel the wisdom of Frederic Bastiat. There are many well-meaning people who understandably want to help workers by protecting them from bad outcomes such as pay reductions, layoffs and discrimination. My normal response is to remind them that the best thing for workers is a vibrant and growing economy. That’s the kind […]

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Hopes and Fears for Policy in 2017

Since yesterday’s column was a look back on the good and bad things of 2016, let’s now look forward and speculate about the good and bad things that may happen in 2017. I’m not pretending any of this is a forecast, particularly since economists have a miserable track record in that regard. Instead, the following […]

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Montreal Learned the Wrong Lesson from Ayn Rand

I’ve always viewed Ayn Rand’s most famous novel, Atlas Shrugged, as a warning about the dangers of over-regulation, over-taxation, and excessive redistribution. I won’t spoil the plot for those who haven’t yet read the book, but it’s basically a story about what happens to a society when the people pulling the wagon decide that’s no […]

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Deadly, Expensive, and Foolish Policies from the Food and Drug Administration

I routinely grouse about the heavy economic cost of red tape. I’ve also highlighted agencies (such as the EEOC) that seem especially prone to senseless regulations. And I’ve explained why private regulation actually is a very effective way of promoting health and safety. Today, let’s get specific and look at the Food and Drug Administration. […]

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Markets Should Guide Mergers, not Politicians and Bureaucrats

Last year, I explained the theoretical argument against antitrust laws, pointing out that monopoly power generally exists only when government intervenes. There’s monopoly power when government takes over a sector of the economy (i.e., air traffic control, Postal Service, Social Security, etc). There’s monopoly power when government prohibits or restricts competition in a sector of […]

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A Housing Bubble in China: A Rationale for Government Intervention

As of October, 2016, China was in the midst of a dizzying housing bubble. A month before, “economists at the Bank of China warned in a report that worsening asset price bubbles were adding to a frothy market that could result in trouble.”[1]  Shanghai’s average housing price was up nearly one-third from a year before; prices in major cities like Beijing and Guangzhou were not far behind.  The recognition of the bubble—which does not come easily—should have triggered counter-cyclical measures by the Chinese government.

The full essay is at “A Housing Bubble in China.”

1. Neil Gough and Carolyn Zhang, “In China, Property Frenzy, Fake Divorces and a Bloating Bubble,” The New York Times, October 16, 2016.

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Money Laundering Laws: Ineffective and Expensive

Beginning in the 1970s and 1980s, the federal government (as well as other governments around the world) began to adopt policies based on the idea that crime could be reduced if you somehow could make it very difficult for criminals to use the money they illegally obtain. So we now have a a bunch of […]

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Tech Industry Self-Regulation: Sufficient to Handle the Ethics of A.I.?

Five of the world’s largest tech companies—Google’s Alphabet, Amazon, Facebook, IBM, and Microsoft—had by September 2016 been working out the impact of artificial intelligence on jobs, transportation, and the general welfare.[1]The basic intention was “to ensure that A.I. research is focused on benefiting people, not hurting them.”[2]The underlying ethical theory is premised on a utilitarian consequentialism wherein benefit is maximized while harm is minimized. The ethics of whether the companies should be joining together when the aim is to forestall government regulation is less clear, given the checkered pass of industry self-regulation and the conflict of interest involved,

The full essay is at “Tech Industry Self-Regulation.”


[1]John Markoff, “Devising Real Ethics for Artificial Intelligence,” The New York Times, September 2, 2016.

[2]Ibid.

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Another Lesson from Bastiat: So-Called Employment Protection Legislation Is Bad News for Workers

Frederic Bastiat, the great French economist (yes, such creatures used to exist) from the 1800s, famously observed that a good economist always considers both the “seen” and “unseen” consequences of any action. A sloppy economist looks at the recipients of government programs and declares that the economy will be stimulated by this additional money that […]

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California Passes Stricter Pollution Targets: Bringing Business Around

California’s legislature approved a bill (SB 32) in August, 2016 that extends the climate targets from reducing greenhouse-gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2020 (the former target) to just 40 percent of 1990 levels by 2030.[1]A second law, which includes increased legislative oversight of California regulators and targets refineries in poor areas, passed as well. Diane Regas of the Environmental Defense Fund pointed to California’s climate leadership. “As major economies work under the Paris Agreement to strengthen their plans to cut pollution and boost clean energy, California, once again, is setting a new standard for climate leadership worldwide.”[2]At first glance, it would seem that the legislature had freed itself from big business to pass the bills, but the sector itself was split. I submit the anticipation of a refreshed “cap and trade” program as an alternative (or mitigating factor) to stricter regulations played a role. Simply put, using the market mechanism in government regulation makes the stricter targets more palatable to market-based enterprises.

The full essay is at “California on Greenhouse Gases.”


1. Chris Megerian, “’A Real Commitment Backed Up by Real Power’: Gov. Jerry Brown to Sign Sweeping New Climate legislation,” Los Angeles Times, August 25, 2016.

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Amusing Anti-Libertarian Humor

The presidential contest between Clinton and Trump (can we shorten that to “Clump”?) is so depressing that it’s time to distract ourselves with some libertarian humor. And I’m even willing so share such humor when libertarians are the target of mockery. Cartoons on libertarian ice fishing and libertarian lifeguards. A mosaic showing 24 types of libertarians. A poster showing […]

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Libertarian Humor for a Dismal Topic

I’m a bleeding heart libertarian in that I get most upset about statist policies that make life harder for disadvantaged people so that folks with more money can get undeserved goodies. For instance, I despise anti-school choice leftists because they value political support from teacher unions more than they value opportunity for poor kids. And […]

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Regulation Nation

If you look at the methodology behind the major measures of economic liberty, such as Economic Freedom of the World and Index of Economic Freedom, you’ll notice that each nation’s regulatory burden is just as important as the overall fiscal burden. Yet there doesn’t seem to be adequate appreciation for the importance of restraining red […]

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Panama Papers, Tax Planning, and Political Corruption

I wrote a couple of days ago about the “Panama Papers” issue and touched on the key issues. I explained that this non-scandal scandal is simply another chapter in the never-ending war by high-tax governments against tax competition, fiscal sovereignty, and financial privacy. Here are a few of the other points I made: . People […]

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Operation Choke Point, Bank De-Risking, and Obama Administration Coercion

For all his faults, you have to give President Obama credit for strong convictions. He’s generally misguided, but it’s perversely impressive to observe his relentless advocacy for higher taxes, bigger government, more intervention, and limits on constitutional freedoms. That being said, his desire to “fundamentally transform” the United States leads him to decisions that run […]

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