The proposal for a UK constitutional court is half-baked, unnecessary and potentially dangerous

The Constitution Unit Blog


Recent media reports have suggested that the government plans to introduce a new ‘constitutional court’, based on the model of the German Federal Constitutional Court, in an attempt to assert parliamentary sovereignty ahead of the upcoming EU referendum. Jeff King argues that, for a variety of reasons, this is not a sensible proposal

Of all the rushed ideas for major constitutional reform that could be adopted by the current government, the one for a UK constitutional court (UKCC) as a solution to the perceived EU problem is by far the worst. The President of the Supreme Court Lord Neuberger told The Times last week that the idea is a ‘recipe for complication, for cost and for unnecessary duplication’, and the cross-bench peer Lord Pannick added that ‘the proposal has no merit’. In this post, I am less kind to the idea. I argue that it is half-baked, unnecessary, and potentially dangerous, regardless of…

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The valuable contribution made by the peak oil hysteria

Fabius Maximus website

Summary: The peak oil hysteria provides rich lessons for us today about learning from activists and the value of listening to our major professional institutions. Easy cynicism led people to believe outlandish forecasts, wasting valuable time and resources. Worse, we have had many such barrages by doomsters — aided by their clickbait-seeking enablers in the media — which have us almost immune to warnings, no matter how well-founded. We can do better.

It's an Oil World

Where were you during the peak oil hysteria? It began in 2015 and died in 2013, marked by the opening and closing of The Oil Drum website. Despite their analysis and forecasts proving to be mostly wrong, most of their authors are still “experts” publishing elsewhere. That follows the pattern of modern American doomsters, as with those in the 1970s predicting global pollution and famine catastrophes and the military “experts” who cheered our disastrous occupations of Iraq…

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Paid-in minimum capital (% of income per capita) required to start a business in OECD countries

The most mystifying bureaucratic rule I have come across is in Western Europe. A number of these countries require entrepreneurs deposit a minimum sum of money in a bank or before a notary up to a month before registration and 3 months after incorporation. If they cannot do this, they cannot start their business lawfully.


Source: Historical Data – Doing Business- World Bank Group.

I am mystified as to what this regulation is designed to do other than make it difficult to start a new business. It is a private commercial matter as to whether trade credit is extended to new businesses. That indeed is one of the challenges facing every entrepreneur: discovering who are reliable business partners or not.

One of the functions of banks is to issue letters of credit. These vouch for the financial strength of a customer when seeking new business or export markets.

is economics partisan? is all of social science just wrong?

Last week, put up a piece titled, “Economists Aren’t As Nonpartisan As We Think.” Beyond the slightly odd title (do we think they’re nonpartisan? should we expect them to be?), it’s an interesting write-up of a new working paper by Zubin Jelveh, Bruce Kogut, and Suresh Naidu. It went up a week ago, but since it gives me a chance to write about three of my favorite things, I thought it was still worth a post.

Favorite thing 1: Economists

The research started by identifying the political positions of economists, using campaign contributions and signatures on political petitions. This suggested economists lean left, by about 60-40. Not surprising so far. Then Jelveh et al. used machine learning techniques to identify phrases in journal articles most closely associated with left or right positions. Some of these are not unexpected (“Keynesian economics” versus “laissez faire”), while others are less obvious (“supra note” is left, and “central bank” is right).

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does piketty replicate?

Ever since the publication of Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century, there’s been a lot of debate about the theory and empirical work. One strand of the discussion focuses on how Piketty handles the data. A number of critics have argued that the main results are sensitive to choices made in the data analysis (e.g., see this working paper). The trends in inequality reported by Piketty are amplified by how he handles the data.

Perhaps the strongest criticism in this vein is made by UC Riverside’s Richard Sutch, who has a working paper claiming that some of Piketty’s major empirical points are simply unreliable. The abstract:

Here I examine only Piketty’s U.S. data for the period 1810 to 2010 for the top ten percent and the top one percent of the wealth distribution. I conclude that Piketty’s data for the wealth share of the top ten percent for…

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Will a free market in horns save the Rhino?

Mostly Economics

Prof. Tyler Cowen has a depressing post on state of rhinos in the world. From around 500,000 rhinos in 1900 we have reduced them to just 29,000. As one of the article in Cowen’s post says, at this pace, we can just painfully say – Rhinos, it’s been nice sharing the planet with you.

The bans have barely worked so there are talks of having a free market in rhinos as a solution:

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Occam’s razor of public policy

Mostly Economics

Ajay Shah has a food for thought post on public policy:

Occam’s razor is the idea that when two rival theories explain a phenomenon, the simpler theory is to be preferred. Aristotle’s epicycles fit the data as well as Kepler’s ellipses, and a pure empiricist could have been agnostic between the two. Occam’s razor guides us in preferring Kepler’s ellipses on the grounds that this is a simpler explanation.

In the world of public policy, a useful principle is: When two alternative tools yield the same outcome, we should prefer the one which uses the least coercion.

Gives a lot of examples where least coercion just works and even better than more coercion..

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Matthew Kahn on urban climate change adaptation @RusselNorman @JulieAnneGetner

If you do not follow this guy’s blog, there is a serious gap in your education in urban and environmental economics especially with regard to climate change.