Learn Liberty

Category Archive: Market Failures and Solutions

  1. From Rags to Riches: The Cayman Islands Revolution

    Leave a Comment

    Enroll in the program here!

    The rule of law, Hayek wrote, is “a rule concerning what the law ought to be”: It ought to be general and abstract; equally applied, with legal privileges for none; certain, not subject to arbitrary changes; and just. In this Learn Liberty Academy, Andrew Morriss sets sail to show how the law of the Cayman Islands conforms with Hayek’s ideals, how it got that way through astute political entrepreneurship, and how the world at large benefits from its legal wisdom. The benefits of Caymanian rule of law are so diffuse and far-reaching that we can even attribute the American poor’s high consumption of healthcare to it.  Embark on Morriss’s expedition — read, watch lectures, and discuss!

    Song credit: “Coconut Water” – Dan O’Connor

    Archival images courtesy of the Cayman Islands National Archive

  2. Recycle Smarter Than A Third Grader!

    Leave a Comment

    Reduce! Reuse! Recycle! All right? Maybe — maybe not, says scholar Daniel K. Benjamin. Making an unused tissue out of a used one wastes resources and hardly benefits the environment. Melting and casting aluminum cans, though, both saves resources and benefits the environment. But you don’t need to exhort the aluminum company to save those resources: saving scraps is in its own interest. So why does it take a lesson from your third-grade teacher to get you to recycle household waste?

  3. Digging Out of Debt | Life of Debt Episode 3

    3 Comments

    Sign up here for the whole program!

    They have your name, your number, and your credit card records.  Debt collectors have a funny way of tracking you down and can take people to court. What can we do? For Lee Campbell, he can rely on keg colleague and college professor Peter Jaworski to magically appear and teach him a few tricks to negotiating with collectors over the phone.  Watch as Peter guides Lee through the debt battlefield – you might learn a thing or two.

    Check out the whole series!

    Episode One: Brave New World (of Debt)

    Episode Two: The Debt Luck Club

  4. The most dangerous monopoly: When caution kills

    5 Comments

    Everyone wants the items they buy to be safe to use or consume. When products undergo third-party certification processes to determine their safety, market forces are able to optimize the amount of testing conducted and consumers can use the information provided by certification firms to make their own decisions. It is difficult to say how much testing is enough: another test can always be run on a product, but at some point the benefit of the extra testing outweighs the costs. In a free-market system, competition among certification firms allows the market to work as it should and prevents both under- and over-testing of products. Conversely, when the government holds the monopoly on safety standards, products are likely to be over-tested, delaying their entry into the market and making them more expensive. Sometimes the costs of such delays cannot be quantified; lives can be lost while life-saving medicines are held up in safety-testing processes.

  5. Stealing from the Poor to Give to the Rich: An Anti-Robin Hood Story

    7 Comments

    Have you ever thought much about property rights? Many believe ownership protections primarily favor the wealthy, but it turns out that the wealthy and politically connected actually benefit more when ownership is vulnerable. Without strong property rights, those with the power are able to take property from those who lack such political connections. In places like Zimbabwe—where the government is able to confiscate profits, merchandise, and even businesses with ease—the lack of property protections has been one cause of the country’s decline. Today, Zimbabwe is the poorest country in the world, and eroded property rights are at least partially to blame. Prof. Dan Russell argues that “doing less to protect ownership turns out to be a really effective way to create poverty.” Perhaps property rights deserve protecting. Except, maybe, among Finnish race car drivers.

  6. Can One Person Save an Endangered Species? See for Yourself.

    7 Comments

    Think you’re too small to save the world—even one species at a time? Sometimes big change starts with thinking big and perhaps a little outside the box. Take it from enviropreneur Hank Fischer.

    Hank Fischer was concerned about the gray wolf. It was on the endangered species list and extinct in the American West. Efforts to reintroduce it in the region had been unsuccessful, largely because the local population didn’t want hungry wolves killing their livestock. Rather than fight the ranchers in the region, Hank established a fund to compensate them for losses and give them incentives to support the growth of the wolf population. And it worked! Today, the gray wolf isn’t even considered endangered. Hank’s story is just one of many stories of enviropreneurs around the world. Laura Huggins of the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) explains how thinking outside the box and innovating can work for the environment as it does for business. Enviropreneurs like Hank have been able to save species. Think about the difference you could make!

  7. When Capitalism Fails (Why Won’t Anyone Think Of The Children?)

    5 Comments

    The question of how to address poverty in the United States is complicated. Steven Horwitz, chair of the department of economics at St. Lawrence University, and Jeffrey Reiman, professor of philosophy and religion at American University, debate the level of government assistance that should be given to help the poor.

    In this clip, professors Horwitz and Reiman discuss how children who are poor can best be helped. While adult poverty may, in many cases, be due to some fault of the adult, should children have to suffer their parents’ mistakes? Both argue in favor of improvements in the education system, especially in creating more choice. While Prof. Horwitz suggests this can be done outside of government, Prof. Reiman argues that government will still have to be involved, even if only to create the vouchers.

    Prof. Reiman also turns the question on its head, suggesting that perhaps the children of successful parents should not benefit from the parents’ success any more than children of poor parents should not be punished for their parents’ failings. Should all children start out on an equal footing, financially as well as educationally? What should be done to improve education opportunities for the poor? Is the government the best provider of education? What are your thoughts?

  8. What Is Free Banking, and Why Should I Care?

    5 Comments

    What would happen if we didn’t have a central bank? Prof. Lawrence H. White explains that private banks would be able to circulate money by issuing notes and checks redeemable for coin. Trustworthy banks would make arrangements to accept each other’s notes and checks. Banks would have better incentives than the federal government to ensure their currency retained its value, because if it didn’t, people would bank elsewhere. By contrast, central banks controlled by the government are able to devalue currency as they see fit and can even quit redeeming notes for coins of real value if they want to do so. It sounds like social-science fiction, but there are numerous real-world examples in history of successful free-banking systems. In fact, central banks arose largely because governments wanted an institution willing and able to lend them money with easy terms, not because of any problem with the free-banking system. Free markets offer the most efficient system for allocating goods and services, and money is no exception. As failures among central banking systems mount, it is time to reconsider the alternative of free banking.

  9. This Professor Slays Zombies with Economics (and Guns)

    7 Comments

    Presumably you’ve already made plans for surviving a zombie apocalypse. You have detailed escape routes, stockpiled weapons made for killing zombies, stores of food . . . or at least plans for these things. But have you thought through the important economic factors that might make the difference between surviving and losing your brain to one of the walking dead? If uncertainty about how market prices and currency changes might affect your odds in a zombie-dominated society has been keeping you up at night, fear not. In this video, Prof. Antony Davies provides a crash course in how a zombie apocalypse is likely to affect the economy. Hint: sell your designer shoes now while you can. And buy bullets.

  10. The Surprising Answer for How to Handle The Next Recession

    6 Comments

    When economic troubles strike, policymakers are eager to do something to try to help the citizenry. But Prof. Lawrence H. White argues that government doesn’t necessarily know how to relieve economic woes, and in fact, often wastes and mismanages resources. Individuals in the market know better what they need in their circumstances, as economist Friedrich Hayek argued during the Great Depression. Relying on government to fix our economic woes instead of allowing individuals to make decisions for themselves means putting all of our eggs in one basket. Individual decisions in the market won’t  be mistake-free, but each individual mistake will be smaller and will correct more quickly. The unusually slow and painful recovery that we have seen in this recession point to problems with the “government should do something” view. What do you think might be the best way to handle economic difficulties? Why?

  11. Save Our Parks! How to Keep National Parks Open During a Government Shutdown

    10 Comments

    As part of the government shutdown that started October 1, the National Parks Service has closed all U.S. national parks and monuments. Would-be visitors will be denied entry to Yosemite and Yellowstone and acres and acres of national park lands until the government resumes business. Economics professor Holly Fretwell suggests an alternative that would have enabled parks to stay open despite the government shutdown.

    She recommends leasing our national parks to entrepreneurs who would be responsible for managing the maintenance, campgrounds, trails, and infrastructure in the parks. The private management company would have to adhere to strict parameters, maintain low admission fees, and would pay the federal government for the right to lease the management of the parks. Under such a system, our national parks would generate income for the government instead of costing the government money to run. If this system were already in place, the parks could have stayed open during the shutdown.

    You may feel skeptical about a private business’s ability to manage and maintain the beauty of our national parks, but private businesses currently manage thousands of public recreation areas and campgrounds and nearly half of all Forest Service campgrounds. Most campers who use these public lands don’t even realize they are managed by private companies. Private management for our national parks would make them accessible to visitors even during the government shutdown, and could make our parks revenue generators for the government.