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Category Archive: Politics & 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. 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.”

  3. 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

  4. 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!

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

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    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

  6. Debate – What Would Happen if America Opened its Borders?

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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, Prof. Ting argues that open borders would result in an enormous increase in the number of immigrants to the United States. He points out that there are so many opportunities here that people would come in huge numbers from less developed countries. The strain on the United States infrastructure and environment could be enormous.

    In his response, Prof. Caplan argues that the fact people would want to come in such great numbers is, in his mind, an argument favoring open borders. People should be living in places where they can achieve their potential. For many people around the world, this means they need to move. Would this have effects on the U.S. economy? Absolutely. Prof. Caplan argues that in the short run, housing prices would probably increase, for example. In addition, we may see a move to having personal servants, as many of the low-skilled workers in the world have skill sets that fall below the lowest-skilled workers in the United States. To offset pressures on the environment, Prof. Caplan recommends increasing costs for pollution and other environmental hazards.
    What do you think? Do you think the fact that many people would want to immigrate to the United States is an argument in favor or against opening the borders?

  7. 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?

  8. 3 Absurd Reasons for Banning Drugs

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    Did you know the war on drugs is founded on racist principles? Prof. Stephen Davies shows the historical thought process behind banning drugs. One of the main reasons drugs were banned initially is because people were concerned drug use would lead to interracial relationships. Can you imagine someone making that argument today? Yet it was a principle reason for some of the laws banning drugs that we still have. Other reasons for banning drugs included fear of conspiracies and the misguided notion that the government somehow has a right to the productivity of its citizens. All three of these reasons are truly absurd, but all three were historically used as arguments that contributed to the war on drugs. If these are the arguments on which the drug war is founded, can we be sure it’s a war worth fighting for?

     

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

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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, 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?

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

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    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.

  11. Debate – Who Is Harmed Most by 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.

    Economically, native-born high school dropouts are the most likely to lose out from the competition from low-skilled workers that will increase if the United States has open borders. In this clip, Prof. Caplan argues that although these are the most vulnerable Americans, they are some of the wealthiest people in the world. Prof. Ting argues that part of being a country means having greater concern for your fellow citizens than for the world as a whole.

    Prof. Caplan argues that while it is fine to care about fellow Americans more than about the world as a whole, immigration laws are about saying we’re going to take care of Americans no matter what the cost we impose on other people.  Even when you care more about one person or group of people than others, it is still important to treat the others fairly. The clip also brings up interesting questions about how competition and trade affect individuals and society.