Day: June 9, 2019

Pope Francis is backward on economics

Coase’s influence on economics, and Adam Smith’s influence on Coase

Knowledge Problem

Understanding the economy as a dynamic, complex system relies on the foundational work of several economists, including Adam Smith (of course) and Ronald Coase. As Coase observed in his 1991 Nobel Prize address,

What I have done is to show the importance for the working of the economic system of what may be termed the institutional structure of production. …The concentration on the determination of prices has led to a narrowing of focus which has had as a result the neglect of other aspects of the economic system. Sometimes, indeed, it seems as though economists conceive of their subject as being concerned only with the pricing system and that anything outside this is considered as no part of their business. … This neglect of other aspects of the system has been made easier by another feature of modern economic theory – the growing abstraction of the analysis, which does not…

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Appreciation of Ronald Coase

Knowledge Problem

Ronald Coase passed away yesterday, four months shy of his 103rd birthday and working right up to the end. An archive search here shows how deeply Coase’s work influences Mike’s and mine, and we are not alone — Coase was one of the most influential economists of the 20th century, an influence made even more striking by the fact that it derives from relatively few publications. Few, but subtle and nuanced, and blockbuster. I cannot think of any aspects of my research that his work has touched, and his method of analyzing and thinking through problems also informs most of my teaching and research, and writing more generally.

Some appreciations of Coase come from Peter Klein, Geoff Manne, Jonathan Adler (on Coase and Ellickson and on Coase and externalities, the second being a must read), Todd Zywicki (making the essential point about the subtlety of Coase’s argument…

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marxism, more practically


This weekend I read Leszek Kolakowski‘s 1974 essay “My Correct Views on Everything” (well worth the read) – a response to British historian E.P. Thompson, who took Kolakowski to task in a scathing article (titled “Open Letter to Leszek Kolakowski”) arguing in effect that Kolakowski had sold out his Marxist ideals. While Marxism undoubtedly is highly influential theoretically, it is hard to dismiss the practical of it all (particularly if we believe Lewin’s epithet of [roughly] ‘nothing is quite as practical as theory’). As Kolakowski notes – the practical outcomes of Marxism, theoretical ideals and potential misconstruals aside, have been devastating.

My reading of the Kolakowski essay coincides with a recent translation of his 1,283-page tome Main Currents of Marxism, published by Norton. The book is reviewed by Tony Judt in the NYRB here (also recommended). On the Kolakowski essay mentioned above, Judt notes:

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Animal Rights Extremists: Terrorism vs. Protest

Green Jihad

During February, Vice News released a very good and revealing documentary about the animal rights terrorist group Direct Action Everywhere (DxE). At first it seems to be favorable to DxE, but (fortunately) the reporter and producers of the film seem to have done their best to be even handed in their presentation. The events surrounding DxE’s activity involve their trespass and theft of chickens at a Petaluma, California poultry farm.

Ultimately, what counts is the interview with the poultry farm owner. Despite the changes made to some of their procedures resulting from what DxE did, he still has fear that they will be back and the hoodlums are still terrorizing Sonoma County farmers. Ultimately, as DxE’s leader Wayne Hsiung implies, their mission is to get animals legal recognition the same as humans to not only stop using animals for food but also to destroy the meat and dairy industry built…

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Hate Speech: Golriz Ghahraman strikes again – proving she is a threat to free speech

The Inquiring Mind

Now a few days ago ACT MP David Seymour was vilified on social media

Supposedly Seymour was responsible for Ms Ghahraman needing a security guard. Seymour wrote

“Let it be known, the public beating has not gone out of fashion.” So goes the quote from the movie Thank You for Smoking, as politicians attack the wildly unpopular protagonist, a tobacco lobbyist.
I’ve found those words to be true over the past week and it has strengthened my belief in the importance of freedom of expression.
To recap, I was asked about Green MP Golriz Ghahraman’s stance on free speech. In her own words “it is vital that the public is involved in a conversation about what speech meets the threshold for being regulated, and what mix of enforcement tools should be used.”
I believe that such an idea, and by extension politicians who promote it, is a…

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