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Since I Was Asked

One of my best former students asked me recently, “What one US policy change would have the biggest impact for improving the US economy?  Same question regarding the world.”

I am usually loathe to answer these sorts of questions, because I don’t want anyone to mistake an answer for something that would be easy to achieve – or even morally right. That said, if I had a gun to my head I would answer:

The latter is the easier, far easier question – and perhaps the most unpalatable for many people.   ALLOW THE FREE MOVEMENT OF WORKERS AND CONSUMERS ACROSS ANY NATIONAL BORDER.   For example, if you take the average Namibian and dropped them into even the poorest part of America – their quality of life and standard of living would improve SUBSTANTIALLY (like over 20 times).  For the US, I would try to focus on a policy that made business and government transparent, and got to the core of all of the special priveleges that pervade our economy (e.g. occupational licensing, public sector unions, etc.). Absent me coming up with an answer to that, my one proposal would be to eliminate the virtual public school monopoly and the traditional method of funding public schools – for obvious reasons, I hope.  

I gave that answer before I saw this. And also before I saw this. Economists, especially me, always warn about the broken window fallacy to explain why storms and natural disasters cannot be good for an economy. And despite the fact that the clean slate for schools is working, I hope people understand that even that good outcome is nothing in lieu of those hundreds of individuals who lost their lives to the storm.

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