Feed on

As you ponder the inane debates about tax “reform” (i.e. deck chairs and symbolism), suppose you take the work of Martin Feldstein seriously. He has previously estimated that the dead weight loss in an economy due to taxation would be up to 30% of the size of the tax take. Now, I suspect the direct effect is smaller if only because not all taxes are equally distorting.

But for fun, take this to be true.

The US federal government in 2016 collected $3.27 trillion in taxes. The states collected $1.60 trillion in taxes. Local entities collected $1.26 trillion in taxes. Therefore, in total, the government in the U.S. collects $6.13 trillion in taxes.

Note, that taxes are neither bad nor good from a pure economic standpoint. They are transfers. The reason economists may be frustrated with taxes is that the collection of taxes themselves generates distortions in economic activity by shielding the role that prices play in a market mechanism. In other words, taxes generate inefficiency – which means that even if we collected the same amount of taxes, we could still have all of the current government programs we want AND be considerably richer. I do not think many critics of economists understand this point.

How inefficient might our tax system be? (now, I think it is in many regards worse than this, I am just talking about the direct dead weight losses here). Well, if the tax take is $6.13 trillion, then simply because we do a terrible job of collecting taxes our country is poorer by $1.84 trillion!

Let me say it again. We could have exactly the government we have right now, yet could generate an additional $1.84 trillion in economic transactions every year, just by restructuring the tax system to be efficient. Lest you think this is chump change, can you name ANY program that could generate even a fraction of those gains? And not only that, these are not one time gains, this is activity that happens each and every year.

To put that in context, the inefficiency of our current tax system is the equivalent of putting an entire economy the size of Brazil into the trash, each and every year. The dead weight loss of our tax system is larger than the entire economy of Brazil, South Korea, Russia and even Australia and Canada. Let that sink in a little bit as you all argue over the crumbs in the corner.

I would prefer to be the only propertyless person in a propertied world rather than the only propertied person in a propertyless world.

I will preface this again by arguing that universities, when they are not functioning like kindergartens, are still a shining example of US excellence, sources of research and learning and hopefully positive spillovers, and we probably want to not destroy that. That said, redistributing priorities within many universities is probably in order and this tax bill is probably not going to encourage that.

Obviously, our university is alarmed at the prospect of having the “benefits” it pays certain students taxed, and for potentially having a share of its endowment income taxed. It is moderately entertaining to see our university now, forcefully, argue that the law of demand actually exists and that corporations are, in fact, people (the U of R is a corporation, no less than Exxon is). It is also moderately entertaining to hear our university discuss cost, access and affordability all the while sponsoring football teams, entire departments that suck resources and value away from the valuable enterprises on campus, spend hundreds of thousands (probably millions, but we are not told) on “sustainability” efforts, and much much more. Furthermore, despite what universities say about how important their mission is, in terms of access to opportunity, it may already be the case that “too many” people go to college, and it is also undeniably the case that college is a place for the world’s rich and soon-to-be rich are housed. If ever there was a regressive idea, tax support for higher education is. We are all supposed to be progressive advocates for redistribution, correct? It would seem to me that arguing for tax relief for universities is akin to the much maligned (and of course unicorny) “trickle down” economics that is the hobgoblin of many critics of the last 40 years.

On the other hand, and kudos to SSC for pointing this out, for the mostly stupid stuff in the current tax bill (and don’t believe the budget shenanigans, it will increase deficits over the long run) providing a giant pile of money to universities across the board, or making a large number of universities “free” for students would probably have been smarter and more fiscally responsible than the turb-bomb we are going to have dropped on us.

But the chickens are returning like the prodigal chicks they are – for years I have been having it rammed down my throats that we could all pay more in taxes, that minimum wages do not distort the choices of firms, that the “rich” could pay more, and so on. And now we see what happens when the scope is turned onto you. It’s the same thing for the absolute ecstasy and enthusiasm with which executive power and administrative fiat was celebrated just one short Administration ago, never paying attention to our warnings that some day someone you don’t trust or like is going to be at the steering wheel.

My prediction – none of those lessons will be learned. And your government will get bigger and more expansive the next time the Administration turns over.  And your universities will _____ …

Somehow, I do not think that even the current train wreck of both our actual political governance and our political discourse will encourage anyone to actually question whether government should be as big, powerful and as expansive as it is.

As one of my favorite Twitter feeds now reminds me, “Eat Arby’s.”

I frame the analytic discussions about markets versus socialism as a knowledge problem. The key to the success in any “economic system” is to figure out a way to have valuable knowledge and information produced, transmitted and acted upon – even by actors who do not know that they are part of the solution. The standard discussion then revolves around how challenging it is to produce and transmit such knowledge, especially when it is tacitly held and dispersed.

Some may counter that the reason socialist planning does not work is simply a matter of computational power. Once AI and computers are good enough to figure out what everyone wants, when they want it, where they want it, and to figure out how to produce things, we can put the entire economy on autopilot and the government can plan away. This is mistaken for a few reasons, not the least of which is that the process does not allow for entrepreneurial dynamics.

But my point today is simpler. If in fact we get to a world where AI and computers and machine learning are powerful enough to do this, then of course we would also be living in a world where all of the “textbook” assumptions about the Coase Theorem hold. In other words, all transactions costs would drop to zero, potential negotiators would know who and where and how to negotiate, and therefore we truly can live in a laissez-faire world – just make sure someone has an initial property right, and we can seamlessly negotiate our way out of any social problem.

So, dear socialists, the coming computer revolution does not mean what you think it means – there is just as much reason to suspect that it makes a more transactions driven world easier to sustain. And certainly, if you ask people whether they cherish autonomy or some computer system optimizing on their behalf … well, OK, strike that.


When it comes to the environment, we are asking how we can maintain a healthy environment with our continuing human activity? Emissions projections U.S. Energy Information Administration predict that we will likely continue to pollute at an exponentially increasing rate as the years go on. 

But hey, it’s an actual link to the US government, so it must obviously make the point. Except it doesn’t.

CO2 reductions

Projections for U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions have generally been lowered in recent editions of theAnnual Energy Outlook(AEO), the long-term projections of the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The lowered projections reflect both market and policy developments that have reduced recent and projected growth in energy demand and its expected carbon intensity. The chart presents projected energy-related CO2emissions from AEOs issued since 2009 in terms of changes relative to emissions in 2005, a commonly used comparison year, particularly with regard to mitigation targets.

EIA’s AEO reflects laws and regulations in place at the time the analysis was performed. New policies are incorporated in subsequent editions of the AEO as they are put in place. For example, updated fuel efficiency standards for light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles were incorporated in AEO2012 and AEO2013, tending to lower CO2emissions relative to earlier projections. The CO2projection in AEO2013 generally falls below that in AEO2012, and remains more than 5 percent below the 2005 level throughout a forecast horizon that for the first time extends to 2040. However, near-term expectations of industrial growth in response to the availability of low-priced natural gas result in somewhat higher projected levels of CO2emissions at the end of the current decade than in last year’s outlook.

This defiition was particularly excellent:

Sustainability is the ability for something to sustain itself over time

YMMV on where to go with that. But clearly by that definition, …


Today I reprint a slightly edited piece I put together several years ago. I’d change a lot of it, from the content to the tone, if I were to do it over – but one must live with one’s younger self. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Four centuries after the celebration of the first Thanksgiving, there is still widespread disagreement about the reason for the Pilgrims’ feast. But whether it was a harvest festival, a strictly religious observance, or a thank you to the local Wampanoag Indians, such a feast would not even have been possible were it not for the abandonment of the utopian ideas the Pilgrims laid out in the original Mayflower Compact.

Imagine a world where the earnings you generate from teaching, or nursing, or tending your orchard, from working the cash register, or mowing some lawns – all of the fruits of your efforts went into a common pool. Imagine further that each of your friends and neighbors, and every stranger in Monroe County was entitled to an equal share of what was placed into the kitty. It didn’t matter whether you mowed 20 lawns per day or one, whether you treated 30 patients per day or none, whether you taught 50 students per day or none – you received the same “income” as everyone else in the community. Imagine further that your home was owned in common by all in your community and that rearing your neighbor’s children was as much your responsibility as anyone else’s.

Such was the intention of the Compact – by eliminating any semblance of private property and personal accountability, which were declared to be the foundation for avarice and selfishness – prosperity and brotherly love would result. How did it work out?

You need only look at the cleanliness of your office fridge or the condition of a public bathroom for a glimpse into the horrors of such collectivism. People suffered, starved and perished. Governor Bradford wrote in his diary, “For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For young men that were most able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense … that was thought injustice.”

Most shocking perhaps is that this injustice generated penury, jealousy and sloth in a society comprised entirely of (self-professed) holy people, each with a common cause, each from a similar background, and in a community with less than 200 settlers. The lessons for a society comprised of people of varying degrees of “saintliness”, with differing interests and backgrounds, and hundreds of millions in size should be obvious.

Confronting the disaster of collectivism, Plymouth’s elders wisely “resorted” to a system of private property and free exchange. Bradford wrote of the reforms, “… it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression…By this time harvest was come, and instead of famine, now God gave them plenty, and the faces of things were changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many, for which they blessed God.”

I doubt many Pilgrims themselves properly understood the nature of their original problem, nor its solution – which is why I doubt that the first Thanksgiving was a celebration of liberty and private property. While they might have thanked Providence and luck for the bounties that followed the change in property institutions in 1623, it was only their industry, thrift and discipline in response to the formation of private property institutions that such a feast was even possible. For a truly detailed and incredible account not only of the first Thanksgiving, but of the sad and incredible struggle the local Indian tribes had with their new European neighbors, I cannot recommend more highly Nathaniel Philbrick’s bookMayflower in large part because of its telling of the largely forgotten yet historically important King Phillip’s War. 

Fast forward to 2017, where the most productive among us are made to feel like criminals, and the non-productive (those who are able) are portrayed as innocent victims of a tyrannical system of capitalism. That Thanksgiving is a “national” holiday is ironic – for it is was a celebration enabled by an explicit movement away from “nationalistic” ideals – a celebration made possible by the unleashing of the individual productive efforts of all in the Plymouth colony.

I am blessed to have a healthy family, the ability to have completed my formal education, and the discipline to work hard with the lot I was given in life. Providence and luck has been kind to me. I give thanks to that every single day of my life. But on this day, this 395th renewal of Thanksgiving Day, as many in our nation clamor to gallop anew down a 21st century style collectivist path (health care for everyone, financial bailouts, auto bailouts, fairer taxes, public/government schools, managed trade, green-collar subsidies, farm subsidies, licensing restrictions, “living wages”, public-private (i.e. cronyist) partnerships and more) littered with the tragedies of hundreds of failed experiments before us, let us remember what made the first Thanksgiving possible, and what has made our modern prosperity possible.he productive efforts of billions of individuals past and present who unknowingly cooperate each and every day in an effort to improve their own lots, have bestowed upon us a gift even greater than the yams, apples, turkeys, wheat, and other resources that we were naturally endowed with. Just how large a gift have they given to each of us? Imagine yourself alone in the New England wilderness on a cold and wet November day 500 years ago. The difference between the “fire roasted” yam you might conjure up with days of immiserating work in 1516 and the majestic spread set out before you today in 2017 is but a glimpse of the bounty that liberty and property have bestowed upon us. Let us hope that the light of liberty remains lit, so that we may see our way through harsh and brutal winters that might lie ahead.

Before I proceed with this post, let’s get this out of the way. Here is a really cute elephant picture:

And let me get the following out of the way: even though I understand the economics and arguments about why we may want to allow and perhaps even encourage hunting, I don’t like it at all. I don’t really understand why someone wants to shoot an elephant, much less a local deer. And yes, I appreciate the arguments for why you would want to have people hunt deer (not just for population and habitat control, but perhaps for more ethical meat eating purposes and also to promote a larger conservation effort on the part of the citizenry). I get it, I do. And I know I am hypocrite for eating meat and not loving hunting. But this is not a post on that, nor is it going to be a discussion of why I think people hunt, that’s another story for another day.

Setting the Table

OK, so this post has obviously been inspired by the Dumpster Administration’s decision to permit the “trophies” from trophy hunting to be imported back into the country, and his subsequent pause on the decision. Now, I promised myself to not be in the news on a day to day basis, but my students enjoy sending me stuff, and one sent me the following article, with the statement acknowledging that the dreaded question, “what do you think of this” wouldn’t be asked … but of course, the article was sent. When these sorts of controversial decisions get made, I have to stay off social media for a couple of days, because the discourse is just really poor, and gets toxic fast, and to the extent that a few days passes, the articles I see after a few days would be more thoughtful examinations of the topic.

The Basic, Simplistic, Case for Allowing Hunting

An easy question to ask an intro level economics student is to have them ponder why the world seems to run out of so many “renewable” resources (like passenger pigeons or giant sloths) but very rarely, if ever, runs out of “non-renewable” resources like copper or oil. We can go farther and ask why we are not in any danger of running out of chickens and cows yet are mortally close to running out of tigers, pandas, polar bears, and apparently elephants.

As they ponder this, the economist may cheekily quip, “perhaps the best way to save an endangered species is to start … eating it.” Now, the logic here is extremely straightforward and simple, and the kids usually end up understanding the point. But this is NOT to say that any of us who use this thought exercise want to live in a world where the way we “save” spotted owls and tigers and rhinos, etc. is to raise them, kill them and breed them. I would actually hate that world. The point of course is that there are all kinds of incentives and institutions at play when it comes to thinking about animal existence and welfare, and that simple biology and ecology are not nearly enough to know if we want to preserve species. Indeed, we tend to argue that if you want to understand how to take care of a species, the most important thing we want to do is NOT learn about the species range, habits, and such, but rather we want to better understand humans. After all, it is humans who destroy habitat, pollute, poach, poison, etc.

Really, what we would like for the students to take away from this is that if we want to have species thrive and survive, we probably want to think of ways to not make humans and other animals competitors for the same resources, but rather we need to figure out ways to put them in harmony. In most situations where we see animal welfare falling (think about the American Endangered Species Act) we end up pitting nature against humans, and you know how that is going to play out. We need to figure out a way to align the incentives of people with the preservation of animals and ecosystems if in fact we care about protecting and promoting animals and ecosystems. When we ask about eating animals, students then seem to understand that at least in this guise, animals are increased in value in the eyes of entrepreneurs, and so there is a great incentive to figure out ways to have lots and lots of them.

The basic challenge of course is that if we want to see flourishing animals but we also do not want to see then eaten and shot and abused on a massive scale, we need to think really hard about other ways to align the flourishing of animals with the well-being of individuals and the communities they live in.

Most articles (all?) on the topic of poaching and hunting do not go anywhere near this kind of explanation.


The Current Issue

I do not think it needs rehashing. The Dumpster wants to lift the ban on imported trophies, and of course the reaction to this has been entirely predictable, and political. I understand why this is political – it is Trump and it looks and sounds awful and sort of goes along with everyone’s perception of what he is all about. But in the uproar over this issue, much chance to learn is lost. The problem with thinking about elephants is that just about all “takes” on this are forgetting one simple idea: that elephant conservation and well-being is a challenging, complicated problem.

First on the basic economics of the issue. Many people wrongly believe that if you ban the hunting of elephants, that elephants won’t be killed. And that if you permit the hunting of elephants, that elephants are at greater risk of being eliminated. Now, saying nothing again about the morality of hunting them (I am against it), this idea is surely potentially mistaken. Does anyone think that banning drugs prevents drugs from being made and used? Does anyone think that full legalization of drugs means that every American will die of a drug overdose? Quite frankly, the answer is no. Obviously, if you ban easy channels to sell the proceeds of an elephant hunt, you’ve just steepened up the supply curve of elephant materials, and very likely raised the profitability, at the margin, of poaching an elephant. We can debate whether you think the actions decrease the demand for elephant trophies – but I have the drug model in my mind when I am making my claim above.

Rather than listening to my hypothesizing on it, there IS in fact a famous economics paper in the American Economic Review on it by Michael Kremer and Charles Morcom:

Many open-access resources, such as elephants, are used to produce storable goods. Anticipated future scarcity of these resources will increase current prices and poaching. This implies that, for given initial conditions, there may be rational expectations equilibria leading to both extinction and survival. The cheapest way for governments to eliminate extinction equilibria may be to commit to tough antipoaching measures if the population falls below a threshold. For governments without credibility, the cheapest way to eliminate extinction equilibria may be to accumulate a sufficient stockpile of the storable good and threaten to sell it should the population fall.

But Move Beyond Supply and Demand 

Whether banning elephant trophy sales in the US is “good” policy or not depends almost entirely on what is going on outside of the US. The most important factor is to understand the property rights institutions on the ground in Africa where the actual hunting is going to be taking place. The article I was linked to above says nothing at all about property rights in land or elephants, and no popular discussion I have seen in my feeds (pro or anti) have said anything about it. Now everyone is dumber because of the politicized nature of this debate and no one is thinking of the important question of who has  control over the elephants.

If you look at the conservation literature, African cities and countries that have established local ownership rights to “endangered” species have ended up promoting the growth and advancement of species. Interesting case studies have been written up by South African Conservation Economist Michael Sas-Rolfes in particular with regard to the rhino. The story of African elephants is interesting, as populations have plummetted in places where they are “conserved” and improved in places where rights to them have been assigned. And just by assigning rights, that does not mean we have to kill them, it means that locals have incentives now to promote the growth of the species either for tourism or other uses, because they will benefit from them. Shawn Regan and Terry Anderson share some data with us.

From 1979-1990, the Central African elephant population fell from 497,400 to 274,800; the East African population fell from 546,650 to 154,720; the Kenyan population fell from 140,000 to 16,000; the Tanzanian elephant population fell from 250,000 in 1970 to 61,000 in 1990; in Uganda we went from 20,000 in 1970 to 1,600 in 1990. And what did all of these places have in common? They all banned the hunting of elephants.

But not all African countries saw the same results. Zimbabwe (30k to 70k), Malawi (5% growth per year), Namibia (5% growth per year), Botswana (20k to 68k) and South Afirca (5% growth per year) all saw dramatic improvements in elephant populations. What was different in these places? In each case, governments gave rights to villagers and allowed villagers to charge for hunting elephants. While you may not like the idea that elephants are hunted, now there are huge incentives to decrease poaching and to police poaching. When locals have rights to animals, then each animal taken is a cost to them, and they now have an incentive to cultivate the populations, since they can benefit from them. If, instead, a village is told, “you cannot hunt these, or sell access to these,” while it seems to make sense, you have now set up perverse incentives.

Moving Beyond Property Rights Discussion

The articles like the one I was send just really stink because they also ignore Africans in one other essential way. In many places, the elephants are a MENACE. Poor farmers are terrified of these animals destroying their entire livelihood – and so would seem to have an interest in seeing something done about it. It’s so funny how activists tell me that we have a Western bias in our studies by promoting markets and property rights, and on an issue as important as this, we ENTIRELY ignore the poor Africans that have the most at stake here.  I would love to see a group of African college student activists suggest that we ban the “hunting” and poaching of rats and mice from the basements of American homes to see how we would respond to such things. In a world absent property rights, and where elephants might be a menace, you might imagine that some locals would not be very upset at all to have poachers come around and take away the menace. Yes indeed elephants are cute – they are the cutest things ever when you live 12,000 miles from them, get to enjoy pictures of them, and don’t face the prospect of being destroyed by them, especially if your income is 1/100th of what the Americans who are complaining about the situation earn.

An additional missed opportunity for learning comes from the lack of any mention of past US policies in regard to elephants. In recent years the US has gleefully advertised that it is going to destroy tons of ivory that it has stockpiled from previous raids. Going back to examine the Kremer paper above, does anyone understand that this is very likely a policy that is going to increase future poaching? Would anyone compare the impacts of this policy with the relaxation of the importation ban from the current administration? Of course not.


On the Morality of Hunting and Property Rights to Conserve Animals

A good criticism of the “let’s allow hunting to save species” argument is that while this is surely a decent way to ensure the survival of entire species, it may not be the best “way to go” from the perspective of a singular animal (HT to LAP and LF for the criticism). This may in fact be true but it is not entirely obvious to me. First of all, from a utilitarian welfare perspective, we do need to at least ask the question of whether it is better to have lots and lots and lots of animals exist, even if they end up being hunted or having less pleasant lives. Second, the argument seems to be that, “a larger population with lots of deaths is worse than a smaller population with fewer deaths.” But at some level this makes no sense. There are between 50 million and 60 million deaths each year in the world today, but the death rate is considerably lower than it was 10,000 years ago. Indeed, there were something like only 250,000,000 people in the entire world 10,000 years ago, so though a far smaller number died annually, the death rate was much higher and the lives of those who lived would seem to have been worse than our current lives.

But also remember, we are talking about wild animals and not farmed animals. The lives of these animals, one may argue, is FAR superior to farmed animals – what we are focusing on here is what happens at the end of their lives. I am not sure the number of deaths is a good measure of morality, especially if we compare the way animals die when we “intervene” versus the way animals die naturally. I think the way young elephants die “naturally” is quite horrific, especially when they are disemboweled and eaten alive by their prey species, or when they starve to death because the rainy season was too rainy or not rainy enough. I suspect those methods of dying are probably worse than being shot. I know, this is gruesome to consider, but it does seem to me to be a good economic approach. Finally, when we think of animal suffering, we rarely think of (1) how wild animals suffer, quite gruesomely and (2) all of the small animals and non-famous animals that suffer from our various food practices. It is not at all clear that being vegetarian means we cause less animal suffering. Where I am g9ing with this is that while the article I was sent and this discussion is intended to focus on the case of elephants, it is implicitly about animal welfare and probably more about what our role on this planet should be. I offer to you that it is just not that simple a problem. To help you appreciate the complexity, I think a very reasonable case can be made that the most moral thing in the world to do would be to eat ONLY elephants. For a first pass as to why this may make sense – consider perhaps that we care most about (1) the quality of life lived by all of the “sentient” animals on earth and (2) the number of brains we destroy by our eating habits. It seems obvious to me that huge herds of elephants can subsist in areas that are not great for farming and have the potential to turn the sun’s energy into very useful calories in a way that would otherwise be inaccessible to humans. So, if we have lots and lots of elephants, they are not going to be taking away as many resources from people as raising other animals on more fertile ground. Furthermore, on average an elephant is something on the order of 6 tons as compared to a cow being one ton, or a chicken being 1/500th of a ton. So, if you simply look at the potential calories to be had from “eating” each animal, you would need to kill a lot fewer elephants to feed people than you would cows or chickens. If every person on earth ate meat like an American (270 pounds), an elephant could feed 44 voracious people for a year. That would be a lot less suffering and killing than if we tried to do this with cows. Furthermore, the life of an elephant would seem to be considerably more pleasant than the life of a cow, even a free-range cow.

Do I want to live in that world? I doubt it highly, but surely these are valuable exercises to at least consider. As I have said of so many other things before, “elephant outrage is not about elephants” … sadly for both the elephants and for the Africans involved.


From a talk by Larry Summers:

“[T]he current WHO budget for pandemic flu is less than the salary of the University of Michigan’s football coach—not to mention any number of people who work in hedge funds. And that seems manifestly inappropriate. And we do not yet have any settled consensus on how we are going to deal with global public goods and how that is going to be funded.”

By the way, given yesterday’s post, Larry Summers IS actually the absolute best, most thoughtful, serious economist of the left. He would rank as one of my five most favorite economists regardless of any political affiliation. He does not bullshit. He does not straw man. He does not try to place nice. He just tells it like it is. Why there are not more people emulating him is a complete shock to me, it’s not like he has been limited in his career options. And yes, I know about the Harvard Presidency.

An excellent former student of mine writes of the following Noah Smith piece:

Noah Smith making a strong bid as the leading champion of the intelligent center-left,

I have a very hard time with this. Sure, the point of the article is that the term “neoliberalism” gets unfairly tossed around too much and that “markets and trade” broadly defined, have done an absurdly good job of leading people out of poverty. So, what’s the problem? It’s that Smith has written a stream of posts that I find to be disingenuous in their criticisms of basic economics, and Eco 101, and of the value of markets in general. Here is an example from this piece:

“many economists instinctively revert back to the toy models they learned in their introductory economics courses — models where free-market competition solves almost any problem”

Now, Smith portrays in his writing an appreciation for the literature and sound empiricism, yet I have never seen systematic evidence that this point is actually true. I took my first economics class in 1993, I have attended or taught at four different universities, I have read dozens and dozens of economics books, attended hundreds upon hundreds of talks and classes and seminars, and have taught well over a thousand (I should count) lectures in my career(s). And you know what? I have NEVER seen anyone argue that free market competition solves almost any problem. I mean it. Even among the most ardent market enthusiasts, you’ll often hear like, “it looks like this problem here is suffering from a lack of competition.” But since over half of the economics profession already leans left of center, and among those on the right I have never seen the “let ‘errrr rrrrrriiiippp” view of markets espoused, who is this “many?” Indeed, many economists openly mock the “toy models” in the intro courses. Indeed, I am lecturing tomorrow that “perfect competition is useless fantasy, no one believes it, it is not important, and may have only been useful to make it easier for lazy professors to write exam questions.” But maybe I am n=1.

We will continue this discussion.

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