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Category Archive: Public Policy

  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. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. Make Progress, Not Work | Econ Chronicles

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    As technological developments increased the US agricultural worker’s output tremendously over the last two centuries, the share of the population employed in agriculture fell from around 90 percent to around 2 percent.

    The lay American public supposes that when workers lose their jobs, we become worse off — they suffer from what economist Bryan Caplan calls the make-work bias. But would anyone prefer to live in a society in which many went hungry and no one enjoyed the wealth, financial security, job growth, and innovation created as all those workers lost their farm jobs?

    Unfortunately, the more that democracies enact policies that reflect the make-work bias, the closer we come to such a society. Follow Caplan, author of The Myth of the Rational Voter, as he explains the gap between the lay public and the professional economist’s views about the merits and demerits of making work for individuals instead of letting them find work.

  9. How Much Immigration Is Too Much Immigration?

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    The United States has laws in place to limit the number of immigrants granted entry. How many immigrants should be allowed to call America home? Bryan Caplan, professor of economics at George Mason University, argues that the United States should have open borders. Jan Ting, professor of law at Temple University, argues that there need to be limits on the number of immigrants.

    In this clip from the debate, Prof. Ting argues that the risks of trying an open border policy are too great. He points out that the U.S. population is estimated to grow at a fast rate in the next 50 years and through the end of the century if we do nothing. He is concerned that allowing free immigration will overwhelm U.S. infrastructure and cause too much environmental damage.

    Prof. Caplan responds by arguing that the market will ration immigration just as it rations anything else. Indeed, the idea of immigration without quotas is overwhelming if we do not consider how market forces will play a role. He argues that we can have open borders without fear because of the power of the market.

  10. From Rags to Riches: The Cayman Islands Revolution

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    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

  11. The Relationship Between Commerce and Crime | Off the Clock Economist Explores

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    Professor Daniel D’Amico interviews a New Orleans business owner about crime in the city after Hurricane Katrina. They observe that local businesses can play an important role in reducing crime and increasing the safety of communities. Entrepreneurs and businesses create more connections between people, offer support and economic opportunities, and provide what urbanist Jane Jacobs called “eyes on the street.”

  12. The Game of Thrones Must Be Stopped

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    Why is Game of Thrones so violent? Economist and GoT superfan Matt McCaffrey contends that bloodshed and corruption are to be expected in a society like Westeros, which can also teach us about the use of power in our own world. Using insights from economics and political science, he argues that the only way to win the game of thrones is not to play.