Economics

"How I Ran Afoul of Campus Cancel Culture"

Steven Hayward tells of his experience at UC Berkeley. But the most interesting part of this piece is the discussion of famed Berkeley professor Aaron Wildavsky

I've read a little of Prof. Wildavsky's work and one part, in particular, I think very highly of. He was asked how in the world we as a society should prepare for the all the massive threats we face: plagues and meteor impacts and on and on. He replied--not his exact words, but the sense is accurate--that there's no way we could afford to prepare for them all. He stated we should 1) get educated and 2) get rich, and then take our chances. 

UPDATE: Link added now.


"The Harald Uhlig matter"

For those of you in economics academia who may have missed what happened recently to an editor of the Journal of Political Economy, here's John Cochrane's ringing defense of him. (A few of the comments are from people who want him removed, which is much more than enough space to devote to their side.)

Related: Commentary magazine proposes how we should respond to all of this stuff and Peter Wood, ditto.

See also "On the College and Silence: A letter from Hillsdale College".


"Bowling Alone: How Washington Has Helped Destroy American Civil Society and Family Life"

Interesting article at Ammo.com. (If you're in the market for ammunition--handgun, rifle, shotgun, or rimfire--you may well want to visit this site.)

The piece offers a different explanation from Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, for the recent decline in American participation in social life. Whereas Putnam blamed technology, this piece blames big government.

It's an argument that I mostly agree with. I think the decline of the family and civil life is, as the piece contends, at least partially attributable to the Great Society and the subsequent growth of the federal government. I'd like to see those programs and expenditures rolled back at the margin. But unlike Liberals I'm a realist. I would be mostly content just to see the growth level off. 

On one point I disagree with the author. He claims that part of our problem is the market:

If one sees the United States as nothing more than a group of consumers, there’s nothing to fret about here. If, however, one sees the United States as a nation with a value beyond its simple GDP, the replacement of civil society with the marketplace is a disastrous scenario. . . .

While cheap, imported widgets from Walmart benefit consumers with lower prices, they also create an intangible and difficult-to-quantify social problem. When big business replaces small business, wealth is not only centralized, it is also centralized outside of the communities that it serves.

The market creates winners and also some losers. But there are usually enormous net gains. "Big business" and "market concentration" offer little to worry about in my opinion, except where they receive explicit or implicit favors from government. (The author appears to partially recognize this: "The massive amounts of government handouts to big business, in the form of both direct subsidies as well as favorable legislation for regulations and taxes alike, creates an environment favoring those most capable of purchasing influence – namely, big business.") On this, I--amazingly--agree partly with Liberals. When big business gets entry restrictions or tariffs or other government aid in restricting competition, that's bad for society. Liberals want to fix the problem by greatly limiting big business. I, however, would address the problem by limiting government. As a wag once said, "Nobody spends a lot of time or money trying to influence the local dog catcher." If government were smaller, attempts to purchase influence would be smaller, too. There is a vital distinction between the market--capitalism-- and what economists call "crony capitalism," in which businesses earn money not by serving customers and employees better but by purchasing favors from the government. Conservatives have, and should, focus on the huge defects of crony capitalism while continuing to praise "ordinary" capitalism.

That disagreement aside, it's an interesting argument. I wonder what Professor Putnam would think about it.