Division of Labour: April 2011 Archives
April 26, 2011
Four Podcasts

I have outside speakers in for my "Econ for Non-majors" class at Duke. So this semester I did four of them up as podcasts. Turned out great! Check them out: Lewis, Kuran, Dougan, Grier.

Posted by Michael Munger at 12:27 PM in Economics

A Sad Day at the White House

Hubert J. "Hub" Schlafly, Jr., the inventor of the teleprompter, has passed away at age 91. More here.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:32 AM

April 25, 2011
"For a limited time..."

No, I'm not talking about how long I was relevent to the economics profession, because even that would be an overstatement. APEE and DoL friend Pete Calcagno's recent FB status says

[Peter Calcagno] loves the responsiveness of markets to changes in tastes and preferences. The day after Easter consumers' demand for Easter candy decreases, and I can buy my candy for a serious sugar rush, at 50% of yesterday's prices.

which reminded me of a similar microeconomics Easter-related issue. I love Cadbury Creme Eggs but can only buy them before Easter. I would wager that I buy more Creme Eggs per year under this system of limited Creme Egg availability than I would if Creme Eggs were available all the time. Ditto with Whataburger's Honey BBQ Chicken Strip Sandwich (since I mentioned FB, there is even a page dedicated to bringing it back).

Anyone familiar with research on the demand effects on products available for a limited time vs. all the time? Comments are open.

Posted by Tim Shaughnessy at 05:00 PM in Economics

What does being an Austrian economist mean for teaching?

This is the central question of a forthcoming special issue of the Journal of Economics and Finance Education (JEFE). More info forthcoming about the time of publication, which should be soon. For now, here are some essential details.

Symposium on Teaching Austrian Economics
Guest Co-Editor, Joshua C. Hall and Co-Editor, Edward J. Lopez
Table of Contents:
1. Edward J. Lopez and Joshua C. Hall, "Symposium on Teaching Austrian Economics: Introduction"

2. Joshua C. Hall and Adam Martin, "Austrian Economics: Methodology, Concepts, and Implications for Economic Education"

3. Peter J. Boettke, "Teaching Austrian Economics to Graduate Students"

4. Steve Horwitz, "Austrian Economists and Liberal Arts Colleges as a Complementary Capital Combination"

5. Emily Chamlee-Wright, "Cultivating the Economic Imagination with Atlas Shrugged"

6. Chris Coyne and Pete Leeson, "An Austrian Inquiry Into the Wealth of Nations: Incorporating Austrian Economics into Economic Development"

7. Greg Dempster, "Austrian Foundations for the Theory and Practice of Finance"

8. Bryan McCannon, "Teaching Austrian Economics in Austria as a non-Austrian: A Note"

Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 01:07 PM in Economics

April 24, 2011
Tax Trends

Don Boudreaux links to this item at Carpe Diem, which shows the share of income taxes paid by the top 1% of earners increasing even as marginal tax rates for that group fall.

Of course, this could result from the income share of that 1% going up even faster, so that the share of their income that goes to Uncle Sam is falling. Not so, as the graph below shows. For the top 1% (top line) the ratio of tax share to income share is just a bit lower than in 1979 (i. e. year 2 BR--Before Reagan), but not by much. The ratio for the top quintile has risen slightly. The ratios for all others have fallen, with that for the lowest quintile vanishing with the Bush Tax Cut For The Rich.

Posted by Wilson Mixon at 10:49 AM in Economics

Poisoning the Grass Roots

I second Frank's offering of kudos to Dan Alban and IJ. This article from The Economist reports other IJ work: "All states regulate professional lobbyists: ie, paid agents who communicate directly with politicians in the hope of swaying them. Fair enough. But a new report from the Institute for Justice, a libertarian group, reveals that 36 states also impose restrictions on "grassroots lobbying' ...."

Also from this article:

The first sentence of the Massachusetts guidelines for grassroots lobbyists is but a whisker shorter than the Gettysburg address and comprehensible only to a lawyer. Small groups cannot afford lawyers. Yet a few states even threaten criminal penalties for breaking the rules. In Alabama, the maximum sentence is 20 years in jail.

The most severe punishments are seldom, if ever, applied. But they still have a chilling effect on the exercise of free speech. The constitution says people have a right “peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances”. Politicians hate that.

See Richard Epstein on the implictions of passing laws that are not consistently applied.

Law is not just an idealized system of rules: It also involves the public administration of those rules by a wide range of elected and appointed officials in an endless array of particular circumstances. For those who would defend a just legal order, the basic challenge is to strike a proper balance — between limiting the discretion of these officials so that they do not undermine the rule of law, while also allowing them enough leeway to perform their essential roles.

Lately in America, we have done a poor job of preserving this balance. In practice — and, increasingly, in legal theory — government officials have been given unprecedented ability to make exceptions to the law, both in enforcing it and in respecting the rights granted under it. Indeed, the past year has seen two of the most enormous pieces of legislation in U.S. history — the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act — make the imbalance far worse. Both laws seek to dramatically transform vast swaths of the American economy; both give enormous power to the government to bring about these transformations. And yet both laws are stunningly silent on exactly how these overhauls are to take place. The vague language of these statutes delegates much blanket authority to government officials who will, effectively, make the rules up as they go along.

Posted by Wilson Mixon at 10:17 AM in Politics

April 23, 2011
A Knockout Blow Against Eminent Domain Abuse

Kudos to my former student Dan Alban and his colleagues at IJ for winning one for the good guys in the National City case. Details here. Background in this video:

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 12:54 PM

April 20, 2011
I Want to Fly Like Superman

A news item:

Florida officials are investigating an unemployment agency that spent public money to give 6,000 superhero capes to the jobless.

Workforce Central Florida spent more than $14,000 on the red capes as part of its "Cape-A-Bility Challenge" public relations campaign. The campaign featured a cartoon character, "Dr. Evil Unemployment," who needs to be vanquished.

Milton Friedman's admonition about people spending others' money less carefully than they spend their own comes to mind.

In other news, bureaucrats are turning their regulatory attention from washing machines and light bulbs to ice makers. Expect hairdryers to be next.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:37 AM

April 18, 2011
Best sentence this week

From (who else?) Don Boudreaux: Only the most naïve social creationist equates the dictates of strongmen (or of groups of strongmen, such as assemble in legislatures) with “law.”

I hope to make "naïve social creationist" a part of my lexicon.

Posted by Wilson Mixon at 01:53 PM in Law

Call for Papers - 4th Conference on Emergent Order and Society

In today's mailbox:

Studies in Emergent Order
Paper Call

The Fund for the Study of Spontaneous Orders at the Atlas Economic Research Foundation is seeking papers exploring the theme

“Coping With Tensions”

at its


October 29 – November 1, 2011

Sise Inn, Portsmouth, NH.

We are particularly seeking original work in two areas, (although we will consider any papers on emergent order and society. For example, papers discussing the impacts of new technologies such as computers and the web on emergent social processes):

1. Exploring the relations between emergent orders and the instrumental organizations within them with particular reference to where the interests of the order as a system adapting impersonally is at odds with the interests of organizations pursuing their ends within them. For example, the role of political parties within democracy that seek to make their environment predictable and perhaps controllable.

2. Exploring organizations that straddle the borders of different emergent orders, such as the market and democracy, democracy and the environment, the market and science, and so on. Different emergent processes are coordinated by different rules biased towards different values. Is it possible for organizations to act in ways in harmony with the principles underlying all the emergent orders within which they exist, and if not, what are the consequences? For example, a forestry corporation must make a profit in the market and maintain a viable forest ecosystem if it is to operate sustainably. Yet the time horizon for market decisions is quite different from the time horizon for natural sustainability. Is this a problem and if so, what can be done about it?

Acceptable papers may be either case studies or more general theoretical explorations. Conference participants are required to submit their papers for possible publication to Studies in Emergent Order (http://studiesinemergentorder.org/).

To be guaranteed consideration, proposals must be in by May 15. Ideally the proposal should describe the anticipated argument and how it relates to at least one of the conference themes. Proposals should be no more than two pages double-spaced, not including an optional bibliography of works the author anticipates discussing. Submit your proposal or inquiries to

Conference Director

The Fund will select a maximum of 12 papers for inclusion in its conference, and will notify authors by May 30, 2011. Final papers must be submitted to the Fund by September 1, 2011.

The Fund will reimburse authors of accepted papers for their conference expenses (round trip coach class airfare or tolls and mileage for drivers, and lodging and group meals), to be held in at the historic Sise Inn in Portsmouth New Hampshire. Authors will also receive $1,500 for accepted papers and full participation in the conference events. In return, the Fund will have the right to first publish any accepted papers in Studies in Emergent Order.

For the Fund for the Study of Spontaneous Orders

Gus diZerega

William C. Dennis

Posted by Joshua Hall at 11:05 AM in Economics

April 16, 2011
No Child Left Unmedicated

The abstract of a new article in the Journal of Health Economics:

Over the past decade, several states introduced varying degrees of accountability systems for schools, which became federal law with the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. The intent of these accountability laws was to improve academic performance and to make school quality more observable. Nonetheless, schools have reacted to these pressures in several different ways, some of which were not intended. We make use of the variation across states and over time in specific provisions of these accountability laws and find that accountability pressures effect medical diagnoses and subsequent treatment options of school aged children. Specifically, children in states with more stringent accountability laws are more likely to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and consequently prescribed psychostimulant drugs for controlling the symptoms. However, conditional on diagnosis, accountability laws do not further change the probability of receiving medication therapy.
Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 03:41 PM in Economics

April 15, 2011
Resources for IHS Career Development Seminar

I'm headed to DC in just a little bit for the IHS Career Development Seminar. The CDS was a formative experience for me when I was in grad school, and I look forward to making deposits into the IHS Favor Bank rather than making withdrawals. I'm giving a talk on writing (and presenting) tomorrow, and Chris Coyne and I are talking about the differences between liberal arts colleges and research universities either tomorrow or Sunday. Here are a couple of resources for my talk on writing:

1. My posts for Stepcase Lifehack, which include a number of short pieces about writing.

2. Scaling the Ivory Tower, published by the IHS. I didn't read this until I was almost finished with grad school. It's really useful.

3. My article "How to Be a Great Conference Participant." Follow all the advice in this paper and people will have no doubts about your professional abilities.

Posted by Art Carden at 08:44 AM in Misc.

Tragedy of the Commons Dance

From the Chronicle of Higher Ed (thanks to Lynn for the pointer):

If Milton Friedman and Martha Graham had a love child, it might look something like the "Tragedy of the Commons."

Antony Davies, an associate professor of economics at Duquesne University, and his sister, Jenefer Davies, an assistant professor of dance at Washington and Lee University, staged the experimental production this month at Washington and Lee to demonstrate a key principle of economics. The tragedy of the commons, enunciated in an essay of the same name in 1968 by the ecologist Garrett Hardin, states that when a resource is held jointly, its owners will deplete it more quickly than when individuals own equal and private portions of the same resource.

"We were talking one day and realized I do a lot in experimental economics," Mr. Davies says. "It occurred to me that she could choreograph a dance that exhibited some economic principles." The tragedy of the commons, he says, seemed like one of the easiest to depict.

In the performance, five volunteers from the audience individually controlled spotlights that illuminated each of five dancers onstage. Volunteers were told that they should try to keep their dancers illuminated as long as possible but that the light was a limited resource: The first performance began with 30 seconds of light in the communal "light bank," and audience members drained that bank when they illuminated their dancers. Turning the light off, however, would slowly replenish the time in the bank.

Immediately after the first performance with the communal bank, the dancers began a second performance. But this time the five volunteers drew light from—and restored it to—private banks, up to six seconds per volunteer.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:29 AM in Economics

Incentives Matter: Lack of Death Penalty Edition

A news item via Drudge:

Berlin said Smirnov had done research on the Internet to determine if Illinois had the death penalty, deciding to go through with Vesel’s murder when he discovered it does not.
Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:21 AM

April 13, 2011
The Association of Private Enterprise Education is Decadent and Depraved: 2011

The Association of Private Enterprise Education's 2011 meeting wrapped up last night. For just over two days, economists and scholars from related disciplines discussed, debated, and dissected the idea of "Institutional Evolution Toward Freedom and Prosperity." Enormous thanks and congratulations are in order for outgoing APEE President Ed Lopez and incoming APEE President Benjamin Powell; they put together a killer program. DOL contributor Frank Stephenson was honored with the Kent-Aronoff Service Award for his dedication to the association and his work with the Young Scholar's Grants that help graduate students and young faculty members attend on the cheap. Frank is the reason I first attended APEE, and he's also the reason I started blogging again. His contribution to my evolution as a scholar and a teacher has been non-trivial, and I'm sure there are many who can say the same.

I also have to say a special word about the students who accompanied me. Brent Butgereit, Trey Carson, Morgan Rote, Lara Wagner, and Rachel Webb shined brightly in the undergraduate paper competition and throughout the conference. I heard a lot of very, very kind and enthusiastic compliments about them over the last few days. Trey is trying to pick a PhD program in economics (he has two very attractive offers), Morgan will work for a consulting firm in DC for a few years before going to graduate school, Rachel and Brent are taking a year to work before they begin PhD study, and Lara is going to law school to study human rights law. They're safe on their flight back to the US now.

The conference started with a lecture by 2009 Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom, and this set the tone for the entire meeting. Deirdre McCloskey delivered a plenary address on Monday afternoon, and George Ayittey delivered a plenary address on Tuesday afternoon. I have pages and pages (and bits and bits) of notes that I'm going to get through when I get back to Memphis. The quality of the papers at the conference, at least in the sessions I attended, was uniformly high, as was the quality of the extracurricular discussions at the bar after the conference programming had ended for the day.

I mentioned that Rhodes was represented by five undergraduate students at the conference. In addition to the vigorous exchanges over matters of scholarship, we spent a good deal of time talking about student programming. Indeed, there was a whole session dedicated to it. It's encouraging to see so many scholars who are working hard to open doors for their students and introduce them to the life of the mind.

I'll grant that part of this is availability bias, but it's really hard not to be incredibly optimistic about the future of scholarship and the future of liberty after a conference like this. It took a lot of hard work by the organizers and the participants, but the final payoff is going to be substantial.

Posted by Art Carden at 02:19 PM in Misc.

April 08, 2011
Happy Travels

This came to mind because, as Ed posted, several DOL folks are headed to this year's APEE meetings in Nassau.

TSA Cartoon.jpg

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 03:05 PM

April 07, 2011
Reason.tv vs. Bernie Sanders

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 02:11 PM

APEE 2011 is nigh!

APEE's international conference will be held Sunday through Tuesday in Nassau, Bahamas. It's a great program, and a very exciting group of people attending, including most of your merry band of DOLers. For the highlights, I'll simply past an excerpt of my "president's welcome letter."

Welcome to The Bahamas and the 36th annual meeting of the Association of Private Enterprise Education. Our conference program, organized by Vice President Benjamin Powell, offers a rich inquiry into the origins and causes of sound institutions. We are fortunate to have yet another capacity program, highlighted by three path-breaking plenary speakers in Elinor Ostrom, Dierdre McCloskey, and George Ayittey. As regular attendees know, a key element of APEE’s program each year is to recognize great scholars and entrepreneurs whose work expands understanding of private enterprise or advances a more open society. This year we are honored that the Adam Smith Award—the highest honor bestowed by the Association—will be received by Professor Elinor Ostrom, whose pioneering work has revolutionized scholarship into the origins of institutions. In celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit, this year’s Herman W. Lay Memorial Award will honor the legacy of Harry Boyd Earhart, who in 1929 used his fortune to start the Earhart Foundation. To receive the Lay Award on behalf of his grandfather, we are delighted to have with us Mr. David B. Kennedy, past President of Earhart Foundation. Moving to member awards, APEE’s Distinguished Scholar Award is presented to Professor Peter T. Leeson for his prolific and seemingly ever-accelerating body of work on entrepreneurship, emergent law, public choice and more. And the Kent-Aronoff Service Award will be presented to Professor E. Frank Stephenson for his many years of service in administering the Young Scholars Program. As for the program, you are sure to find more interesting and important items than you can handle. Also, don’t miss our newest program feature, the undergraduate research poster session. Overall, as in past years, APEE 2011 is again the perfect platform for discussing and advancing freedom and prosperity...
Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 01:06 PM in Economics

April 06, 2011
A Potpourri of Goodies

1. Many economists, including Vernon Smith, have endorsed the Purple Health Plan.

2. Update from the Bolivarian paradise: Poltical opposition to Hugo Chavez can be harmful to both one's earnings and employment.

3. My former student Dan Alban and his IJ colleagues have been busy--they argued an eminent domain case in California (video here) and have sued several Georgia law enforcement agencies over civil asset forfeiture (video here).

4. Speaking of eminent domain--here's a volume edited by Bruce Benson that has a contribution from DOLer Ed Lopez.

5. Two on smoking: Smokers (and the obese) apparently do not increase health care costs. Cigarette smuggling in Spain soars after a tax hike. Who'd have thunk it?

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 02:21 PM

April 03, 2011
Schools for Misrule

That's the title of Walter Olson's new book on America's dysfunctional legal education industry. Judge Douglas Ginsburg appeared with Olson at a recent Cato function to discuss the book. The 90 minute video is here. I strongly recommend it. I think most DoL readers will enjoy Ginsbrug's take-down of behaviorial law and economics.

Posted by Mike DeBow at 09:42 PM in Law

April 02, 2011
What Do Deities Maximize?

Legal Theory Blog explains Judge Posner's "latest." (Hint: Note the date.)

Posted by Mike DeBow at 12:22 AM in Funny Stuff

The statesman who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals would not only load himself with a most unnecessary attention, but assume an authority which could safely be trusted, not only to no single person, but to no council or senate whatever, and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it. -Adam Smith

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