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New Twitter Account for ‘Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics’

August 18, 2014 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken

Capture

You’ll receive general updates about new issues of QJAE at our usual Twitter account @Mises, but you can also follow the Twitter account for QJAE that is administered by Assistant Editor Timothy Terrell if you’re interested in a separate stream specifically devoted to QJAE.

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Light Rail a Bad Choice for Florida County

August 18, 2014 in Economics

By Randal O’Toole

Randal O’Toole

Building a light-rail line at the heart of Florida’s Pinellas County, as the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority proposes to do, is like building an ordinary home but making the walls, ceiling and floors of the hallway out of solid gold. The golden hallway would more than double the cost of the home but add nothing to its functionality.

Light rail offers no advantage over buses other than its high cost, and that’s only an advantage if you are a rail contractor. Both can operate at about the same speeds, but light rail can only go where tracks go, while buses can fan out all over the county, saving people time by not making them transfer from bus to rail.

Railcars hold more people than buses, but for safety reasons light-rail lines can only support about 20 trains per hour, meaning most light-rail lines can move about 9,000 people per hour. By comparison, a single street can serve more than 160 buses per hour, and new double-decker buses can hold more than 100 people, meaning that street can move nearly twice as many people as a light-rail line.

Light rail offers no advantage over buses other than its high cost, and that’s only an advantage if you are a rail contractor.”

Moreover, the bus riders will be more comfortable. When trains are full, more than half of light-rail riders have to stand, but when buses are full more than two thirds can be comfortably seated.

Light rail is a particularly poor choice for Pinellas County, where census data indicate that only about 6,000 people out of more than 400,000 workers commute to work by transit. Spending $1.6 billion or more on a light-rail line is not going to significantly increase that number.

PSTA’s own numbers indicate that, compared with bus-rapid transit, getting one person out of their car and onto PSTA’s proposed light-rail line for one trip will cost nearly $57. That means adding one more transit commuter would cost more than $25,000 a year.

It would cost less to give every new transit commuter a new Toyota Prius every year for the next 30 years than to build the proposed light-rail line.

PSTA has a history of poor management. Between 1991 and 2005, it spent millions of dollars increasing transit service by 46 percent, yet it attracted virtually no new riders.

Instead, the result was emptier buses as average number of riders on …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Summer 2014 ‘Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics’ Now Online

August 18, 2014 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken

qjae

The Summer issue of QJAE is now available online, featuring new research and book reviews:

Error, Equilibrium, and Equilibration in Austrian Price Theory by GP Manish

The Savings and Loan Debacle Twenty-Five Years Later: A Misesian Re-Examination and Final Closing of the Book by Dale Steinreich

Merger Waves and the Austrian Business Cycle Theory by Jimmy Saravia

The Austrian Paradigm in Environmental Economics: Theory and Practice by Edwin Dolan

What Should Austrian Economists Do? On Dolan on the Austrian Paradigm in Environmental Economics by Art Carden

Comment on Dolan on Austrian Economics and Environmentalism by Walter Block

Review of Welfare and Old Age in Europe and North America, edited by Bernard Harris by Dale Steinreich

Review of The Federal Reserve and the Financial Crisis, by Ben S. Bernanke by David Howden

Review of Gun Control in the Third Reich: Disarming the Jews and “Enemies of the State,” by Stephen P. Halbrook by Audrey Kline

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Police Departments are Over-funded: It’s All About Priorities

August 18, 2014 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken

NYPD_ESU_Soundweapon2_(REP)

Based on a reading of reader comments below articles about Ferguson, Missouri, some people seem to be under the impression that the police help people recover stolen property, and that we’ll all appreciate the police if we’re ever a victim of property crime. Everyone who has ever owned a small business or otherwise been burgled, however, knows that when you are a victim of property crime, calling the police is a mere formality in which a police report is filed, and then sent to the insurance company. You will never see your property again, and you know it, but the police report is necessary for insurance purposes. If it weren’t for the insurance side of things, calling the police would be a complete waste of time. (If the thief gets caught (a rare event), it’s generally because someone snitched, and was certainly was not due to the sort of investigative police work we see in fictional TV shows about police. But even if this happens, you’re unlikely to get your property back.)

Actually finding your stolen property is a very low-priority affair for the police. There’s nothing in it for them, since there is no connection between successfully protecting private property and the amount of revenue that the police department “earns.” From a budgetary standpoint, it is far more important for the police to simply assert that they protect property to politicians and, to a lesser extent, to voters. Whether they actually do it is immaterial, since those who are victims of crime have virtually zero say over whether or not the police should be rewarded for their services, or lack thereof.

The situation is further complicated by the fact that police departments receive their funding not through voluntary exchange, but through taxation, which is the coercive redistribution of wealth. Rarely are police budgets ever cut, regardless of the quality of service, and should voters or local government ever suggest that the budget might be cut, the police agencies will immediately respond by threatening to cut enforcement, and it is of course implied that enforcement of laws against violent crime will be cut immediately. Never do the police say “well we’ll just have to cut back on shutting down illegal lemonade stands set up by children, or enforcement of lawn-mowing ordinances and no-knock raids against old ladies.” No, it’s always night time patrols for real criminals that go under the ax …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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With Democrat Hillary Clinton Likely 2016 Neoconservative Standard Bearer, Republicans Should Offer a Real Alternative — Such as Rand Paul

August 18, 2014 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

U.S. foreign policy is a bipartisan fiasco. George W. Bush and his neoconservative allies gave the American people Iraq, the gift that keeps on giving. Barack Obama has proved to be a slightly more reluctant warrior, but he is taking the country back into Iraq.

Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican nominee, appears never to have met a war that he didn’t want Americans to fight. Hillary Clinton, the unannounced Democratic front-runner for 2016, supported her husband’s misbegotten attempt at nation-building in Kosovo and led the drive for war in Libya, which is violently unraveling.

Most of Clinton’s potential GOP opponents share Washington’s bomb, invade, and occupy consensus. The only exception is Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. He stands alone advocating a foreign policy which reflects the bitter, bloody lessons of recent years.

The Islamic State of Syria and the Levant is the latest result of Washington’s incessant and counterproductive meddling in the Middle East. Nowhere has U.S. policy been more disastrous. Indeed, what intervention, under Republican or Democratic administration, has worked well in that region in the last three or so decades?

Support for the brutal Shah helped trigger Islamist rule in Iran. That led Washington to support Iraq in its invasion of Iran. That encouraged Baghdad to invade Kuwait, causing the U.S. to attack Iraq. That was followed by decades of sanctions and bombing after the war nominally ended.

Against Baghdad the U.S. also stationed troops in Saudi Arabia. That helped spur al-Qaeda. Which launched the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That caused Washington to spend some 13 years nation-building in Central Asia and served as the excuse to invade Iraq. The latter led to bloody sectarian conflict, empowered Iran, created a jihadist training ground, and spawned the precursor to ISIL. Which now threatens to destabilize much of the Middle East.

Instead of offering an alternative, leading Republicans are all in for war, more war, forever war.”

Along the way Washington backed rebels in Syria, promoting the rise of the very same ISIL. The U.S. blew up Libya, leaving another national wreck, fueling Islamic extremism, and dispersing weapons region-wide. Decades of support for dictatorship in Egypt ended with short-lived Islamic rule and now even more brutal dictatorship. American presidents routinely embraced the Saudi royals even as Riyadh promoted radical Islamic theology around the globe and repression in next-door Bahrain. Washington demanded the Palestinian elections which brought Hamas to power in Gaza. America was identified …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Just Wait Until Ferguson Police Get Federally Funded Drones

August 18, 2014 in Economics

By Gene Healy

Gene Healy

Through the fog of Twitter, it’s difficult to discern the precise details of what’s been happening in Ferguson, Mo., in the 10 days of protests spurred by the police killing of an unarmed teenager.

Still, maybe it’s not too early to wonder: When, exactly, did the United States become a banana republic?

“Why armored vehicles in a Midwestern inner suburb?” asks my Cato Institute colleague Walter Olson. What could possibly justify police “red-dotting” peaceful protesters with laser sights, or an attempted head-shot, with a tear gas canister, at a man standing in his own yard, insisting, “this [is] my property!”? Here you can watch police fumigate a news crew and take down their cameras — then chase off the other journalists filming the assault.

It’s no accident that technology developed for population control in foreign counterinsurgencies is being turned inward.”

The Ferguson clampdown has even law and order conservatives like Red State’s Erick Erickson worried about “the militarization of the police and overkill by local police forces.” But maybe they’re not worried enough.

Last week, I found myself musing darkly, “Just wait till Ferguson’s cops get federally funded drones.” If you think paramilitary policing looks dystopian now, just wait till you see what’s being cooked up in defense contractors’ labs.

For decades now, as Radley Balko makes clear in his indispensable 2013 book, Rise of the Warrior Cop, federal subsidies have encouraged the proliferation of military ordnance on the home front — from M-16s to grenade launchers to 30-ton armored vehicles. Since 2002, the Department of Homeland Security has accelerated police paramilitarization with more than $7 billion in Urban Areas Security Initiative grants.

With Homeland Security funding, “Police departments are arming themselves with military assets often reserved for war zones,” Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., noted in a 2012 report on the UASI program. Among those assets are surveillance drones and the Long Range Acoustic Device — a sound cannon deployed last week in Ferguson that can disperse crowds with a 149-decibel assault (permanent hearing loss begins at 130).

A Homeland Security report obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in 2013 revealed that the agency has considered outfitting its expanding inventory of drones with “non-lethal weapons designed to immobilize” targets of interest.

Meanwhile, both Homeland Security and the Pentagon maintain a keen interest in developing crowd-control weapons for occupations at home and abroad. In 2007, the department’s science and technology arm “contracted for the development of …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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When Regulators Break Their Own Rules

August 18, 2014 in Economics

By Richard W. Rahn

Richard W. Rahn

Do you think people in government are more or less honest than those in the private sector?

A major function of most regulatory agencies is to keep those in the private sector honest and from abusing power. Yet we know that those in government often abuse the power that has been entrusted to them. The American Founders were well aware of the problem. As Thomas Jefferson warned: “The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first.”

As the size of government has grown, and particularly the bureaucratic state, the chains of the Constitution have been loosened, and predictably the abuse of power has also grown — the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) being Exhibit A. Politicians and government bureaucrats have never-ending demands for more information about the assets and activities of the governed — all made in the name of protecting us. These demands are made with solemn assurances that the information will be kept confidential and not abused. As the Edward Snowden and Lois Lerner cases and endless others show, one can have no confidence that any piece of information the government has will be kept confidential and not abused.

There are two classes of people in America, with different rules for each.”

The government aggressively prosecutes people in the private sector for acting upon so-called insider information (e.g., information that is not available to all potentially interested parties). Many government regulators, in the normal course of their activities, obtain information about private companies that is not available to the public. This information can be very valuable to an investor. For instance, government officials know which companies will or will not be charged for some alleged wrongdoing before the information is made public. Government officials also know who will or will not receive certain government contracts before the companies are notified and the information is made public. There are numerous laws against government officials revealing such information but, as has been seen with the IRS, laws saying it is illegal to reveal information are not always obeyed. The operative question is how often are such laws broken?

A new study by professors David Reeb (National University of Singapore), Yuzhao Zhang (Oklahoma State University) and Wanli Zhao (Southern Illinois University), published in the August issue …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Police States and Inner-City Economics

August 18, 2014 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken

6846

Mises Daily Monday by Ryan McMaken:

The recent civil disobedience, rioting, and police brutality in Ferguson, Missouri reminds us of what happens when police states and bad economics are mixed together.

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Neoconservatives Love Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy — but What about Voters?

August 18, 2014 in Economics

By Christopher A. Preble

Christopher A. Preble

Everyone in DC has an opinion on Hillary Clinton’s interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg - the one in which she criticized Barack Obama’s handling of foreign policy.

The fallout produced a predictable display when the two met up on Martha’s Vineyard. They chatted and laughed together as though nothing was amiss. And, in case we missed it, both camps explained that nothing was amiss.

The performance reflects the delicate political balancing act that Clinton must execute. She must be careful not to offend the base of the Democratic Party that still adores Obama. At the same time, she hopes to differentiate herself from Obama’s policies, despite the fact that she had a hand in shaping them.

If she does secure the Democratic nomination, we might end up with the curious case of a hawkish liberal Democrat facing off against a less hawkish conservative Republican.”

Clinton hopes to convince hawks in the center and right that she can be trusted to respond militarily to foreign policy crises, without losing the support of those on the left who abandoned her for Obama in 2008, in large measure because of her hawkishness.

It might be working. Her support for the Iraq war earns her a measure of respect from neoconservatives, many of whom still believe the war to have been a wise and noble enterprise. Her mea culpa for that vote seems to assuage the concerns of at least some on the left.

Beyond that crucial vote, however, Clinton’s comments to Goldberg represent the essence of the hawks’ critique: a big, important country like the United States needs an organizing principle, she explained, and “don’t do stupid [stuff]” doesn’t suffice.

This is a debatable point. An organizing principle isn’t necessarily superior to ad hocery. Many organizing principles have turned out to be flawed or immoral, or both (e.g. imperialism, racism, communism, totalitarianism, the list goes on).

Weighing the evidence on a case by case basis, and making judgments based on the specific circumstances that prevail at that particular moment, can work rather well. An organizing principle — some might call it ideology — might cloud rather than clarify one’s assessment of the facts, and the prudent courses of action.

But, even if one accepts her claim that the United States needs an organizing principle, the more relevant question is whether we need Hillary Clinton’s.

While cynics might argue that Clinton’s sole organizing principle is self-aggrandizement, …read more

Source: OP-EDS