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Category Archive: Economics

  1. The Economics of Jersey Shore

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    What could denizens of “Jersey Shore” possibly know about economics? In a word, plenty – at least according to Professor Dan D’Amico of Loyola University in New Orleans. Let Professor D’Amico show you how Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino and Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi display a keener grasp of basic fundamental economic concepts than you might think – like the Law of Diminishing Returns, scarcity, opportunity costs, and the role of self-interest in the economics of public choice as it applies to dating, packed dance floors, fist pumping, and tanning.
    Bet you never thought getting fresh to death would teach you so much about economic theory. Sit back, relax, and welcome to the shore, baby!

  2. 4 Reasons to be Optimistic About Mandatory Minimums

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    Mandatory minimum sentencing laws have sentenced people to jail for decades, sometimes for doing something as simple as selling pot a few times. Is there any reason to be hopeful that things could change? Alex Kreit, professor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, tells of four recent contributions to the reform of mandatory-minimum drug sentencing laws.

    Attorney General Eric Holder issued new guidelines on how federal prosecutors enforce drug laws. President Obama himself granted clemency for several drug offenders sentenced under mandatory minimum laws.

    Meanwhile, Senators Cory Booker and Rand Paul joined forces to advocate reform. Bipartisan action is rare, which makes this all the more impressive.

    There are several organizations joining the fight against these laws as well. A group called Families Against Mandatory Minimums is leading the battle against unjust sentencing under these laws.

    Are there reasons for optimism? Professor Kreit believes so, and you should too.

  3. The Costs of Brazil vs Germany: Protest and Poverty at Brazil’s World Cup

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    Brazil gained prestige in landing the World Cup and Olympics, but sometimes hosting a major global event isn’t as glamorous as it seems. For a start, it’s difficult to justify massive spending — Brazil plans to spend $31 billion between the two — for such a temporary payoff. . Many venues created for these events, including those erected for the Olympic Games in Athens and Beijing, have fallen into disrepair after the celebrations ended. Many workers die on these massive construction projects — hundreds, already, for Qatar’s 2022 World Cup. Government often evicts lots of people from their homes, as Beijing did to over 1.5 million people in anticipation of the 2008 Summer Olympics. So why are cities and countries so eager to host? Often for the international prestige. However, support can sour quickly, as it has in Brazil, when the real costs became more apparent. Economist Matt Ryan from Duquesne Universityasks you to consider those costs now – a country that wins the bid may lose big overall.

  4. 3 Things You NEED To Know About Mandatory Prison Sentencing

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    Our three most recent presidents have admitted to committing drug offenses in their youth, though they didn’t pay for their indiscretions with jail time. But most people caught up in our criminal justice system aren’t so lucky. Perhaps the worst aspect of the flawed system is mandatory minimum sentences. Consider Weldon Angelos, one victim — a former record producer who won’t get out of jail until he’s eighty and has served a sentence of more than twice what the hijacker of a plane would face. His crime? Selling marijuana twice.
    Alex Kreit, criminal law professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, explains three reasons why mandatory minimums are really, really, really bad. For one thing, the sentences can be longer than those for more serious crimes. Second, they get the wrong people, despite the intentions of lawmakers. Third, if the goal is to reduce drug use, they fail on their own terms. Among their targets in practice are people who have been convicted of such minor offenses as possession for personal use. Drugs are as plentiful as ever.

  5. You Won’t Believe Why These 3 People Were Sentenced to Life | Learn Liberty

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    A single mother addicted to drugs. A man so desperate to pay for medical treatment that he tried unsuccessfully to sell methamphetamines. A guy busted for selling LSD and another who got in trouble for selling marijuana.  One thing all four of these victims of the drug war have in common is that they’ve been sentenced to spend many years in jail, regardless of whether the judges of their cases even wanted that outcome. Listen to Alex Kreit, professor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, explain why people like these can face jail time more than twice as long as if they’d hijacked an airplane, detonated a bomb in public, or even committed second-degree murder

  6. How They Beat the Oregon Trail IRL | Learn Liberty

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    How did more than 300,000 people avoid bloodshed and chaos when they crossed the American plains between 1840 and 1860? Trappers used to say there was no law west of Leavenworth, Kansas.

    No one established a government to rule the wagon trains — it’s true. But they governed themselves instead. They signed contracts that worked like voluntary constitutions. The contracts anticipated disputes among the various groups of travelers and laid out how to resolve them.

    Imagine the red tape if the government had gone with the settlers. Marvel at the ability of people to innovate rules and order in a most unlikely setting. That’s what Hill advises. Tune in to hear more.

  7. Environmental Protection: The Surprising Solution

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    What do environmental policy, the war on drugs, economics, subsidies and modern music have in common? Learn Liberty professors have addressed all these topics and more.

    What sorts of countries cut down all their trees, pollute without thinking, and wipe out their animals? Prof. Antony Davies and many other professors have studied the best way to protect the environment, among other questions with the objective of finding out how to improve society. These professors discuss the sorts of rules that should be instituted to protect our environment. They have found over an again that economic freedom is the best indicator for environmental protection. Economic freedom enables people to make their own decisions, and countries with more economic freedom—rich and poor alike—take the best care of their natural resources. Have you also thought about these questions? Have you wondered how we can make society a better place? You may find the videos and other resources available through Learn Liberty helpful as you consider these issues and many others. “Give us three minutes and an open mind,” Prof. Davies says, “We’ll rock your world.”

  8. 4 Ways Economists Think We’re All Wrong | Econ Chronicles

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    How much does the average person know about economics? How about trade and immigration? Economists claim to know a great deal about these topics, and study them in depth. And while they often disagree with each other, most economists agree a lot more with each other than they do with the public. So why do democratic citizens tend to reject what economists say? Are there certain biases that make democracies choose bad economic policies? Follow this series of videos to find out.

  9. Working More to Earn Less | Why the Poor Stay Poor

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    You may have heard the term “poverty trap” – the notion that the poor are stuck at the bottom. What if someone told you that our welfare system exacerbates this cycle by punishing the poor for working more? Prof. Sean Mulholland argues that this is happening every day. Well-intentioned welfare programs drastically decrease benefits at certain income thresholds—which in effect can make a breadwinner and his/her family worse off when they start earning more. Sound absurd? That’s because it is.

  10. Foreigners Are Our Friends | Econ Chronicles

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    Some people say technology is the driver of innovation, but society often takes great steps in prosperity by trading. Like technological shifts over history, trade is a powerful way of creating wealth for all parties. In one example, Professor of Economics Bryan Caplan imagines a machine that turned agricultural products directly into cars: it would disrupt the way we do business, but the US would be wealthier for it.

    If, however, that machine was nothing but a freighter that exchanges corn for cars with another nation, many people think this is unfair. Whether in dislike for foreign trade or worry about immigration, Prof. Caplan calls this “anti-foreign bias,” and points out that most economists don’t share these concerns. Professional economists think trade and immigration benefit all parties involved – just like innovative technology. As we said before: trade is made of win!

  11. Can Capitalism Save Lives? | Econ Chronicles

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    Thousands of people die in the US every year because there’s a shortage of willing kidney donors. Some people are saved by the generosity of friends and family, but many more suffer because no willing & compatible donors come forward. As in most countries, it is illegal to compensate donors in the US for donating a kidney. Prof. Caplan argues that we should allow a market: if donor could be paid to donate a kidney through a reputable hospital, they could earn money and save a life in the process. Such a system would encourage many more donors, and save many more lives. But most people are uncomfortable with the idea that individuals or companies would make money by solving that kind of problem. They equate making a profit with selfish intentions, and bad results. Economics professor Bryan Caplan calls this “anti-market bias.”  He argues that most people (and voters) are prone to this bias, leading to harmful policies. Another example Caplan gives is air pollution. While most economists think that markets could help curb pollution, most regular people reject the idea. Perhaps this is partly because for many problems we face, it is difficult to imagine how markets and profit could help us find a solution. Caplan argues that this makes allowing markets even more important: they incentivize people to find new & creative ways of solving problems, many of which we never could have predicted in advance.

  12. Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy | Econ Chronicles

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    People tend to think the world is much worse off than it actually is. Bad news gets a lot more attention than good news. Professor Bryan Caplan calls this “Pessimistic Bias,” and argues that it affects the policies people  vote for. Despite the amazing economic gains of the past 100 years and even the past decade, most people are under the impression that things are just getting worse. But Prof. Caplan argues that even with all the tough problems in the world, there is reason for optimism; contrary to most people’s expectations, he contends that the best is yet to come.

    Hat tip to Louis C.K.