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I’m a day late on this, but here are four economists below who make the case for why you shouldn’t have voted yesterday (or shouldn’t feel guilty if you didn’t), starting with the economist Gordon Tullock who passed away yesterday in Des Moines at age 92. As Don Boudreaux pointed out, it’s appropriate that Gordon died during election week, and this post will serve as a tribute to the late, great Gordon Tullock.
1. In a heretical, irreverent look at voting, economist Gordon Tullock explains in the video above (featured previously on CD) why he doesn’t vote, and why he believes you’re better off avoiding the polls altogether on Election Day. Here’s Gordon:
People think they should vote because they’ve been told that in school and there’s a large volume of propaganda and a great number of people are under delusions as to the importance of their vote. They think their vote makes a lot of difference, but as a matter of fact it doesn’t.
It’s more likely that you’ll get killed driving to the polling booth, than it is that your vote will change the outcome of the election.
But then what if nobody voted? Professor Tullock answers…
2. In a post at Cafe Hayek, economist Don Boudreaux writes a letter to CNN”s John King, host of Inside Politics, who stated recently that “of course each vote matters.” Here’s Don:
I’m sure that you understand that the probability of any one vote truly mattering in any political election in the U.S. is practically zero. So I suspect that you, like many other people, justify your public insistence that each vote matters as being a noble lie – a claim that, while objectively false, inspires people to perform socially beneficial actions that they would otherwise be less likely to perform.
If you instead told the truth about voting – namely, that any voter who feels that he or she has a meaningful say in electoral outcomes is deluded – people might become less enamored of politics. Enlightened about the reality of voting, ordinary people might come to depend more on their own trustworthy personal initiative and less on the untrustworthy initiative of power-craving strangers; depend more on the very real affections and friendships of their families and neighbors and less on the fake, theatrically proclaimed affections of politicians; and depend more on merchants and employers who must compete daily to satisfy each customer and each employee and less on politicians who compete only each electoral cycle, not to satisfy each individual, but merely to win the approval of the crowd.
3. Don points to this post “The General Challenge to People Who Believe There’s a Duty to Vote” by Georgetown economics and public policy professor Jason Brennan, here’s an excerpt:
Suppose there is a medical genius, Phyllis the Physician. Phyllis is such a genius that she produces new medical breakthroughs hourly. If Phyllis cares about serving the common good, she has little reason to vote. An hour at the voting booth is worth less than an hour at the lab. Now, imagine we said to Phyllis, “You’re a jerk. You free ride off of voters’ efforts.” Phyllis could respond, “No, I’ve paid voters’ back by producing my research. I don’t owe them anything more.”
There’s no reason to hold that non-voters specifically owe a debt to voters. Rather, if we have a debt, it’s a debt that each of us has to millions of other people, since we benefit from all sorts of positive externalities. However, we can pay that debt any number of ways. For any given citizen, given what other citizens are doing and are good at doing, there will be an optimal mix of political and non-political ways for her to pay her debt. For some citizens, this will mean heavy political engagement at the expense of other pursuits. For other citizens, it will mean complete disengagement so as to free the citizen to pursue non-political activities. For most citizens, the optimal mix will be some combination of political and non-political engagement. Though each citizen might contribute in different ways, they can all pay their debts.
I often hear people claim that citizens who fail to vote aren’t “doing their part.” In my view, when people say that, they disrespect their fellow citizens. They dismiss the contributions their fellow citizens do make. They fail to recognize that most of their fellow citizens are doing their part and are paying their “debts to society.”
4. And finally, University of Oklahoma economist Kevin “Angus” Grier wrote a post yesterday titled simply “Today I am not voting.”
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According to Reason’s Nick Gillespie, both Republicans and Democrats have to face this reality: Neither party as currently constituted has a real future. Here’s an excerpt of his Daily Beast article from yesterday “Relax — Both Parties Are Going Extinct“:
Whether you like it or not, The Libertarian Moment is here, a technologically driven individualization of experience and a breakdown of the large institutions—governments, corporations, churches, you name it—that used to govern and structure our lives. The result is that top-down systems, whether public or private, right wing or left wing, have less and less ability to organize our lives. That’s true whether you’re talking about the workplace, the bedroom, or the bar down the street (that may now be serving legal pot). This is mostly good, though it’s also profoundly disruptive too.
Indeed, the signal characteristic of the past several decades of American life has been the ways in which all sorts of decision-making has been pushed outwards to individuals or end-users in whatever system you want to gin up. In virtually any commercial transaction, for instance, even budget buyers have far more information and leverage than they did 30 years ago (think of the immense difference in the experience of purchasing a car before and after Edmunds.com came online).
For libertarians in particular, this isn’t news and it’s cause for celebration. It’s good to see other folks catching up.
For liberals, it’s always 1965 and social justice is just one mega-entitlement program away from arriving. For conservatives, it’s always 1980 and the next tax cut will solve all problems forever. Each side can appreciate some but not all aspects of decentralization. Conservatives and Republicans can embrace it when it applies to some economic issues and to things like school choice, but they can’t abide the profusion of sexual and cultural identities and the diminution of authority in general. Liberals and Democrats may be more comfortable with some of the latter but then they want tighter and tighter controls and limits on all sorts of commercial transactions.
In a world where you can personalize and individualize your online experience, your clothing, your work situation, even your sexuality, why would anyone join up for ossified, rigid, centuries-old groups such as the Democrats or Republicans? “The Repulican brand sucks,” Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said recently of his own party, which he compared to Domino’s Pizza. If the Republicans are Domino’s, then the Democrats are Pizza Hut. Neither is appealing in a world of easy-to-find gourmet fare.
And that’s why the future of politics and policy doesn’t belong to doctrinaire Democrats or Republicans who want to control large swaths of everyday life. It belongs ultimately to the libertarian decentralists such as Paul who not only understand what is happening to America but are growing comfortable with it. Americans are increasingly wary of government’s power, and they don’t want it to teach a single set of morals either. Everything is proliferating and people just want a government that will keep people from starving on the streets and get out of the way as they go to the corner pot shop to buy edibles to take to their friends’ gay wedding celebrated by ministers who are not forced to do so.
Politicians and parties who champion policies that embrace economic and social decentralization will own the future, even as they wield less power by letting people discover how they actually want to live. Whoever wins tonight would do well to remember that. Because if they don’t, they’ll be losers again, and sooner than you think.
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I’ve written many times before about the Surgery Center of Oklahoma, the “free market-loving, price-displaying, state-of-the-art, AAAHC accredited, doctor owned, multispecialty surgical facility in central OK.” A few recent news reports have highlighted the Surgery Center’s fastest growing group of patients – Obamacare enrollees.
From an August Watchdog.org story “Oklahoma doctor making a run around Obamacare“:
About a year before the birth of Obamacare, Dr. Keith Smith, director of the Surgery Center of Oklahoma, posted all the prices for his center’s surgeries online. Today, he’s in expansion mode, looking to build two more operating rooms. His fastest-growing group of patients? Obamacare enrollees.
Though armed with Obamacare health insurance plans, the patients are saddled with high deductibles. Looking for alternatives, some of them fly from around the country to the Surgery Center of Oklahoma, where the cost of care and travel together amounts to less than their deductibles under their Affordable Care Act plans.
The Surgery Center of Oklahoma is a physician-owned operation that does not take Medicare or Medicaid and only selectively works with private insurance plans. Patients pay in cash or with cashier’s checks.
“Even if someone has an Obamacare insurance card in their pocket, they are soon going to find out that it’s worthless,” Smith said, citing both higher prices and doctor shortages under Obamacare. “Coverage doesn’t mean care.”
From a FOX 25 KOKH-TV (Oklahoma City) report yesterday “Patients with ‘Obamacare’ having a hard time paying with plans, doctor says“:
There is one group of patients growing faster than any other at the Surgery Center of Oklahoma. Medical Director Keith Smith says patients with ‘Obamacare,’ plans under the Affordable Care Act, are flocking to his facility.
“They’re not the largest part of our business but they’re definitely the fastest growing part of our business as patients discover they can actually buy their health care cheaper than they can buy their coverage,” Dr. Smith said. “We started with the idea we could do it better and cheaper than the hospitals and to say it’s been a success would be a wild understatement,” Smith said.
Now, Smith says, more and more Affordable Care Act patients are becoming attracted to this different approach to healthcare. “They can actually buy a hernia procedure here for instance, or a gallbladder procedure here, cheaper paying for it themselves rather than going through the insurance benefit paying,” Smith said.
Smith said that is because many people with these insurance plans have high deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs. The prices he offers are actually smaller than these costs.
MP: I think that we can expect to see a lot more of this type of market-based, price-displaying, innovative disruption in the health care industry. As Dr. Smith says, Obamacare enrollees are quickly finding out that “coverage is not care,” and his center is offering an affordable solution. If the Surgery Center of Oklahoma can offer surgery prices below the high deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs for Obamacare patients, this type of health care, and not government-managed health care, could represent the future of medicine.
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…. is from C.S. Lewis’s book “God in the Dock“:
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.
MP: The first government tyranny that comes to my mind is America’s deadly, senseless and expensive War on
Drugs Otherwise Peaceful and Innocent Americans Who Voluntarily Choose to Ingest Plants, Weeds and Intoxicants Currently and Arbitrarily Proscribed by Government Tyrants.
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Dartmouth economics professor Douglas Irwin has an excellent op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal — “The Ultimate Global Antipoverty Program,” with the subtitle “Extreme poverty fell to 15% in 2011, from 36% in 1990. Credit goes to the spread of capitalism.” Here’s an excerpt:
The World Bank reported on Oct. 9 that the share of the world population living in extreme poverty had fallen to 15% in 2011 from 36% in 1990. Earlier this year, the International Labor Office reported that the number of workers in the world earning less than $1.25 a day has fallen to 375 million 2013 from 811 million in 1991.
Such stunning news seems to have escaped public notice, but it means something extraordinary: The past 25 years have witnessed the greatest reduction in global poverty in the history of the world.
To what should this be attributed? Official organizations noting the trend have tended to waffle, but let’s be blunt: The credit goes to the spread of capitalism. Over the past few decades, developing countries have embraced economic-policy reforms that have cleared the way for private enterprise.
The reduction in world poverty has attracted little attention because it runs against the narrative pushed by those hostile to capitalism. The Michael Moores of the world portray capitalism as a degrading system in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Yet thanks to growth in the developing world, world-wide income inequality—measured across countries and individual people—is falling, not rising, as Branco Milanovic of City University of New York and other researchers have shown.
Capitalism’s bad rap grew out of a false analogy that linked the term with “exploitation.” Marxists thought the old economic system in which landlords exploited peasants (feudalism) was being replaced by a new economic system in which capital owners exploited industrial workers (capitalism). But Adam Smith had earlier provided a more accurate description of the economy: a “commercial society.” The poorest parts of the world are precisely those that are cut off from the world of markets and commerce, often because of government policies.
MP: From a December 2013 CD post, “the chart above could perhaps qualify as the ‘chart of the century’ because it illustrates one of the most remarkable achievements in human history: the 80% reduction in world poverty in only 36 years, from 26.8% of the world’s population living on $1 or less (in 1987 dollars) in 1970 to only 5.4% in 2006. (Source: The 2009 NBER working paper “Parametric Estimations of the World Distribution of Income,” by economists Maxim Pinkovskiy (MIT) and Xavier Sala-i-Martin (Columbia University).
In that post, I also featured the video below, where AEI president Arthur Brooks also makes the case that free markets, free enterprise, and capitalism are responsible for the remarkable reduction in world poverty over the last 40 years:
It turns out that between 1970 and 2010 the worst poverty in the world – people who live on one dollar a day or less – that has decreased by 80 percent (see chart above). You never hear about that. It’s the greatest achievement in human history, and you never hear about it.
So what did that? What accounts for that? United Nations? US foreign aid? The International Monetary Fund? Central planning? No.
It was globalization, free trade, the boom in international entrepreneurship. In short, it was the free enterprise system, American style, which is our gift to the world.
I will state, assert and defend the statement that if you love the poor, if you are a good Samaritan, you must stand for the free enterprise system, and you must defend it, not just for ourselves but for people around the world. It is the best anti-poverty measure ever invented.
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The map above comes from the Quartz article, “Where and why some middle-class American families are actually getting giant raises.” The answers to those questions are the same: “shale oil and gas plays” and “shale oil and gas plays.”
The pink regions in the map are the country’s biggest shale plays — regions in the US where shale oil and shale gas extraction are or will soon be taking place. The top 25 US counties ranked by the largest increases in median household income between 2010 and 2013 are colored dark purple.
The US county with the largest increase in median household income between 2010 and 2013 was Williams County, in the heart of the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota, where the median household income increased by a whopping 26.7% from $64,217 in 2010 to $81,363 in 2013 (57% above the US median household income of $51,939 in 2013). Nearby Stark County came in third with a 22.6% increase in median household income to $68,284 in 2013, and another Bakken-area county – Ward – ranked No. 8 with a 14.4% increase to $58,846.
Overall, it looks like 11 of the top 15 counties (and 18 of the top 25 counties) with the highest growth in median household income between 2010-2013 are in or near oil and gas shale plays. As Quartz points out “It’s undeniable that the shale boom has led to sharply higher salaries for middle-skill workers, which is something that’s increasingly hard to find in the US economy. After all, the income of a typical American household is basically where it was a quarter century ago.”
It should be no surprise by now, and it’s further confirmed by these new data, that the shale revolution is by far the brightest spot in the US economy. The oil and gas shale boom in US has brought thousands of new well-paying jobs to middle-income Americans, rising median household income while the national median is stagnant, jobless rates as low as 0.8% in Williams County ND, housing and construction booms, and millions of dollars in royalty payments to landowners.
It’s a very positive formula for economic prosperity: Shale = jobs = rising incomes = economic growth. And for that prosperity, we can thank America’s “petropreneurs” and the “Made in the USA” drilling and extraction technologies that they perfected to extract the oceans of energy treasures that were previously inaccessible.
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The New York Times has a great article about how Uber is changing the night life scene in Los Angeles (“Los Angeles in the Rider’s Seat“), here’s an excerpt:
Ryan O’Connell is part of a growing contingent of urbanites who have made Ubering (it’s as much a verb as “Googling”) an indispensable part of their day and especially their night life. Untethered from their vehicles, Angelenos are suddenly free to drink, party and walk places. Even as their business models are evolving, these ride-sharing services, which include Lyft, Sidecar and others, have upended the social habits of the area, and rallied its residents to be more peripatetic.
A night out in Los Angeles used to involve negotiating parking, beating traffic and picking a designated driver. Excursions from one end to the other — say, from the oceanfront city of Santa Monica to the trendy Silver Lake neighborhood on the eastern side — had to be planned and timed with military precision, lest they spiral into a three-hour commute. More often than not, they were simply avoided.
At the Mandrake, a bar near Culver City, customers may be more likely to order a third cocktail when they know they can be whisked home safely. At the end of the night, “I see people reach for the phone and call the Uber,” said Drew Heitzler, an artist who lives in Venice. Taxis here were often unreliable, he added, but ride shares are always just a swipe away.
Once, only the privileged few, the studio bosses and pampered starlets, could afford to have a chauffeur and a waiting car to transport them around sprawling Los Angeles. Now anyone with a credit card can enjoy that freedom.
At the Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles, a steady stream of Ubers, with their glowing “U” in the windshield, or Lyfts, with their goofy pink mustaches on the hood, disgorge passengers on weekend nights, where they line up for the rooftop bar, hot tub and rock shows. At Bestia, the buzzy Italian restaurant tucked into an industrial alley, many diners still valet park, but ride shares outnumber taxis five to one, said Kenny Arbuckle, a bartender. New bars and lounges emerge seemingly weekly, adding to the ride-share demand.
Ride sharing, some analysts say, has become a viable alternative to owning a car: between the cost of gas, insurance, garages and valet tips, it’s often more economical to get a lift in a professional’s Toyota than to drive solo in your own, and that’s without factoring in the mental cost of sitting in gridlock on Interstate 405. A short ride through downtown in UberX, the company’s lower-priced service, introduced here last spring, can cost as little as $4, while parking lots charge $5 for 15 minutes.
MP: It’s clear from this article that Uber is becoming more than just an alternative to a traditional taxi, it’s actually even much more disruptive than that – it’s changing the way people live and socialize in Los Angeles, and even giving people a viable alternative to owning a car. This is turning out to be a much bigger economic story than Uber and its rivals taking away market share from Big Taxi — there are implications that go way beyond a simple story of substituting riding in an UberX car for a taxi.
The profound changes from Uber could be so revolutionary and transformative, that there’s no way for current regulators, city planners and government officials to even begin to fathom the disruptive innovation coming from ride-sharing services. As the NY Times article illustrates, Uber has already changed the night life scene in LA, and this change will be coming to many other cities around the country if it hasn’t already. The proliferation of ride-sharing services could also eventually impact important decisions about where people live and whether they need a car, how they get around cities for work and socializing — and this could even have public transportation implications. An expansion of ride-sharing services in some cities could make expensive public transportation alternatives like the light-rail system in Minneapolis-St. Paul unnecessary, or could eventually contribute to the demise of those outdated and inefficient methods of moving people around the city.
Here’s my economic forecast for the transportation industry: Expect continued and very strong hurricane-strength Schumpeterian gales of innovative disruption from Uber and the other ride-sharing services, with a high likelihood of market disruption and creative destruction of Big Taxi, accompanied by huge tsunami-level tidal waves that represent billions of dollars of increased consumer surplus.
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Reason Magazine science correspondent Ronald Bailey has an excellent article titled “Liberty and the Environment” in The New Atlantis (see shorter version at Reason here), here’s an excerpt (emphasis added):
Human activity is remaking the face of the Earth: transforming and polluting the landscape, warming the atmosphere and oceans, and causing species to go extinct. The orthodox view among ecologists is that human liberty — more specifically economic activity and free markets — is to blame. But the notion that economic activity and free markets are antithetical to the flourishing of the natural world is complicated by the fact that the countries with the biggest environmental problems today, and the least means and apparent interest in addressing them, are not the liberalized ones with advanced capitalist economies but the ones with weak or nonexistent democracies and still-developing economies.
So is it really the case that liberty and the environment are simply opposed? Does the good of one come only at the expense of the other? Or can liberty and a flourishing natural environment reinforce one another, the good of one encouraging the good of the other? Can economic activity under a system of liberty be environmentally sustainable in the long run?
[These] debates should begin with the following fundamental points of agreement, drawn from history and economics. Free markets are the most robust mechanism ever devised by humanity for delivering rapid feedback on how decisions turn out. Profits and losses discipline people to learn quickly from and fix their mistakes. By contrast, top-down bureaucratization tends to stall innovation and to make it more difficult for people and societies to adapt rapidly to changing conditions, economic and ecological. Centrally planned economies fail; centrally planning the world’s ecology will fail as well. Our aim must be to find ways for liberty and the environment to flourish together, not to sacrifice one in the vain hope of protecting the other.
HT: Warren Smith