Nancy MacLean’s generalized rewriting of James Buchanan’s views on democracy

I have only read a small bit of Nancy MacLean’s book on James M. Buchanan, public choice, and politics. I’m reluctant to buy a copy, but I wanted to see if it was as bad as some critics have said. (Now you know something of my limited knowledge of and pre-existing bias against the book. … More Nancy MacLean’s generalized rewriting of James Buchanan’s views on democracy

Fun with Footnotes (A game of scholarly discovery)

“Let’s … have … fun … with … footnote[s],” MacLean said.* Here is a simple game of scholarship that anyone can play and everyone who plays by accepted norms of scholarship wins!** How to play: Take the recently published book Democracy in Chains, open it randomly to a page in the text, find a footnote … More Fun with Footnotes (A game of scholarly discovery)

Public Choice Theory: Skwire’s First Law

Some time last spring, my friend and occasional KP contributor Sarah Skwire formulated on Facebook what’s now dubbed “Skwire’s First Law”, and we’ve been using it, kicking its tires, and discussing it all summer. In a timely manner (given what we’ve learned this summer about widespread, unwarranted government surveillance and the impending likelihood that yet … More Public Choice Theory: Skwire’s First Law

Intrusive TSA searches create profit opportunity for Adidas

Lynne Kiesling A concise public choice analysis of the distortionary economic rents created by the ever-increasing “layers” of TSA security theater, as reported today on the Wired gadget blog: Airport “security” theater may be sickeningly pointless, but this stealthy introduction to a police state brings certain commercial advantages to those willing to cash in. First, … More Intrusive TSA searches create profit opportunity for Adidas

Complexity essay question from Megan McArdle

Lynne Kiesling Megan McArdle offers an essay assignment: Pascal Emmanuel-Gobry has an essay question: Tainter’s story goes like this: a group of people, through a combination of social organization and environmental luck, finds itself with a surplus of resources. Managing this surplus makes society more complex–agriculture rewards mathematical skill, granaries require new forms of construction, … More Complexity essay question from Megan McArdle

Eternal truths about those who are attracted to politics

Lynne Kiesling Over the past week there’s been an interesting online conversation with the participants discussing one of the eternal tautological conundrums: why does politics attract power-hungry narcissists? Matt Yglesias kicked it off with what I think is a pretty naive query about the degree of cynicism and immorality in politics. Such cynicism and immorality … More Eternal truths about those who are attracted to politics

Walmart supports employer health care to raise rivals’ costs

Lynne Kiesling I have to admit, I thought that this point was obvious. Clearly Walmart (accurately, I think) sees itself as well-positioned to leverage its size nationally to negotiate better health care arrangements than its competitors, so its newly-announced support of employer-based health care is a classic example of raising rivals’ costs. Apparently, it’s not … More Walmart supports employer health care to raise rivals’ costs

The continuing relevance of the bootlegger-and-Baptist model

Lynne Kiesling In 1983 Bruce Yandle wrote an influential article in Regulation, “Bootleggers and Baptists: The Education of a Regulatory Economist”. His model explains how two parties with seemingly incongruent values can come together to get a regulation passed that meets the objectives of both parties. In the bootlegger and Baptist case, both parties benefit … More The continuing relevance of the bootlegger-and-Baptist model