Learn Liberty

Category Archive: Public Policy

  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. Can Conscious Capitalism Save Communities? | 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.”

  4. The Game of Thrones Must Be Stopped

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    Sign up for Prof. McCaffrey’s FREE program on Game of Thrones

    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.

    If you like this video, sign up for Prof. McCaffrey’s online program for tons more!

  5. Brave New World (of Debt) | Life of Debt Episode 1

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    17 trillion is usually a number reserved for distances in outer space, water in the ocean, or sand in the desert. But it’s also how much this next generation is in the hole for as they become adults. Thanks to our parents and the officials they’ve elected, America is $17 trillion in debt. Despite the way the federal government has dealt with this issue, debt is not theoretical. It’s real, it’s owed, and can take on a life of its own. Watch debt (and its sidekick debt collectors) interrupt birth, love, sleep, and more.  This is “Life of Debt.”

    Don’t forget about:

    Episode 2

    Episode 3

  6. The Debt Luck Club | Life of Debt Episode 2

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    What would you do to get rid of your debt? Would you sell your childhood toys, your blood, or ‘other’ fluids? That’s the question Tom has to answer. Overburdened with student loans, he has stopped making payments, and is now forced to dodge phone calls from snarky debt collectors. What can he do to escape this nightmare? When did taking on college debt become akin to living in a Kafka prison? But with any luck Professor Peter Jaworski may be able to lend a helping hand. Watch and learn from Tom’s mistakes!

    Check out episodes one and three too!

  7. How to Make a Criminal Cocktail | Off the Clock Economist Explores

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    With a social-capital-inducing King Cake in tow, Off the Clock Economist Dan D’Amico heads out to a backyard bar. Discover how to make a New Orleans Sazerac, which many say was the very first cocktail ever invented. Why? Keep watching to learn how the criminalization of alcohol in the United States forever changed the way we consume liquor. There is no tastier way to figure-out how social capital, unintended consequences, and government intervention helped the Big Easy create this famous drink – and don’t worry, the recipe is in the video too!

    Check out Rob Hahne’s shop: Homestead NOLA

  8. Frank Underwood’s Top 3 Lessons for the Voting Public | House of Cards Review

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    Netflix recently debuted season two of its original series House of Cards. Some have suggested the show reflects a deeply cynical view of politics, but Prof. Steve Horwitz argues that it is an unromantic and realistic portrayal of how the incentives politicians have in the United States can give rise to the same kind of behaviors Congressman Frank Underwood exemplifies. Prof. Horwitz also describes three lessons viewers of House of Cards can gain from the show.

    1. As a general principle, we should be very skeptical of politicians.
    2. House of Cards shows the constant backroom trading of favors among politicians, their staffers, special interests, and the occasional member of the public.
    3. Politics attracts those who are especially skilled at public relations, favor trading, and power plays, not necessarily those who best serve the public interest.

    It is important to remember that politicians are just normal people seeking their own personal self-interest over anything else. If we do not have a limited government designed to keep selfish motives in check, Frank Underwood–style politics will rule the day. If we want to keep ruthless and power-hungry people from ruling our country, we need to change the incentives politicians have and reduce their power. Prof. Horwitz says, “We need a more limited government without the possibility of dealing with these kinds of special favors.” How realistic do you think the political portrait in House of Cards is? What, if anything, do you think should be done to change the political system in the United States today?

  9. Is Fixing Inequality A Matter of Justice?

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    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, Prof. Horwitz suggest that the least amount of government necessary should be involved in alleviating U.S. inequality. He discusses the use, for example, of charitable donations from private entities as a way to help the poor without government involvement.

    Prof. Reiman, in contrast, suggests that poverty and inequality is a matter of justice. That is, everyone is entitled to a certain standard of living, a certain level of equality in outcome. He argues that charity hurts the dignity of the recipient. When it is a gift, the recipient is made to feel that he does not deserve the charity, that he is made lower than the giver. Instead, he argues, assistance given to the poor should be something they receive because they have a right to it. They should not have to feel that it is undeserved. This is an interesting philosophical question tucked inside a larger debate about the role of government in helping the poor. What do you think?

  10. A Marxian Case for Capitalism

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    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 from the full debate, Prof. Reiman answers Prof. Horwitz’s question about the role he sees for markets in addressing the poor. Prof. Reiman says he is a believer in capitalism and a believer in free markets. He finds that capitalism has worked well to raise the general standard of living for the poor in the United States and elsewhere in the world. He has even written a book titled, A Marxian Case for Capitalism. But he suggests that these gains are general and that more should be done for the individuals who are struggling in our country. Prof. Reiman also argues that the current system has degraded the dignity of many of the poor and that there are many problems that stem from bad government programs. But, he says, he does not favor abolishing the role of government dogmatically.

    Prof. Horwitz responds that the question of reducing government is not so much a dogmatic question as it is an empirical one. Has government worked at these things? Can it solve these problems? Prof. Reiman argues that perhaps the results are mixed. What do you think? Watch the full debate for more.

  11. The most dangerous monopoly: When caution kills

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    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.