Good government and the pandemic

Governments at multiple levels are making decisions that affect all of us in ways that really matter. Our health may be protected, or we may contract a serious and life-ending illness; our jobs may be preserved, or we may be furloughed; our savings and retirement funds may be buffered, or they may be wiped out. …

Taxes on business

What is a fair level of taxation for businesses in a state? How much should businesses pay relative to individuals in supporting the services provided by government? How should we even begin to answer this question? The question is easier for individual taxation, since there are only a few possible alternatives: a flat rate income …

Feasibility conditions on social reform

Several earlier posts have raised the issues of social change and social progress (post, post). People sometimes want society to be different (change), and they want it to be better (progress). But not all outcomes are possible, and some possible outcomes are not sustainable over time. So how should we think about sweeping prescriptions for …

How good is deliberative democracy?

The basic idea of deliberative democracy is an appealing one. Suppose we are faced with this basic problem of social choice. There is an important issue facing a community. There are a small number of policy options that might be chosen. The community wants to choose among these options "democratically." There are several ways in …

Malthus blogging on the Corn Laws

I think that Thomas Malthus would have been very much at home in the blogosphere. He weighed in on the issues of the day, bringing careful logical analysis of economic theory to bear on the policy issues that were up for debate. And he was very interested in making the connection between economic principles and …

Contingent historical development

Here's a relatively limited historical puzzle to solve. A powerful new technology -- the railroad -- was developed in the first part of the nineteenth century. The nature and characteristics of the technology were essentially homogeneous across the national settings in which it appeared in Europe and North America. However, it was introduced and built …

Social surprises

The near meltdown of the US financial system this week came as a surprise to most of us -- experts, legislators, and citizens alike. That isn't to say that the components of the disaster were unknown -- the subprime crisis, the earlier financial undoings of Fannie Mae and Bear Stearns this summer, and the sudden …

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