David R. Henderson  

Two New Blogs

Alex Tabarrok on Innovation... Freddie Mac and Inverse Floate...

I recommend two new blogs that I've been reading in the past week. What they have in common, besides being good, is that both bloggers have been frequent commenters on Econlog. One is "PrometheeFeu's Blog." This recent post on tax incidence is outstanding. I might use it in class when I teach that topic.

The second is "You Say You Want a Revolution" by blogger Ted Levy. His latest post reminds us of how often we fail to use our imagination to conceive of non-government solutions. One excerpt:

Similarly, now that the government cares for the poor, few of us can imagine how civil society handled such matters a century ago. Down the memory hole go the vast array of voluntary organizations that handled problems of health, insurance, and unemployment for the poor and did so until they were no longer needed because the government "took care of that." And now we can't conceive of it being done without government. To oppose federal programs for the poor is now assumed tantamount to wishing the poor were dead.

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COMMENTS (13 to date)
david writes:

Don't Poor Laws in the English legal tradition date to the 1300s?

Daniel Kuehn writes:

On that second link - I think a lot of people still volunteer with non-government groups.

The lack of imagination I usually see is people failing to realize that this is not an either/or question. Humans evolve and invent lots of institutions to deal with our problems - government, non-government, for-profit, not-for-profit, etc.

I don't understand why some people pretend that if you think one is a decent idea you somehow lack dedication to the others.

Daniel Kuehn writes:

I suppose I'm just having trouble understanding who out there is under the impression that only the government addresses poverty issues.

I think we can't conceive of it being done without the government because the government has proven such an important institution to get involved in all these efforts. I don't know of anyone who thinks it's the only institution that it makes sense to get involved.

Some examples of exactly who he's thinking of that thinks this would be interesting to hear.

roystgnr writes:

Bear in mind, sometimes authoritarians know about the non-coerced solutions and just despise them. Consider the reactions to voluntary fire department economics:

Forcing someone to pay a fee to protect their house from fire is considered fine, but giving them the choice to opt out is considered intolerable. That's dubious ethics but it's pretty solid psychology.

Hector writes:

The fact that state welfare substituted the 'welfare' provided by fraternities indicates that in the view of most people, the state takes care much better of this than fraternities (else, why would they have been 'replaced'?).

Just because there might have been historical incidents in which people organized themselves in order to carry out national defence, this is not a good argument for why national defence should not be taken care of by the state.

david writes:

The key notion of the central authority having an obligation to strictly control the franchisees of its monopoly on the use of force took a while to evolve, at that, and it is a precondition for being able to speak of a distinct "state" and "civil society".

Hector writes:

@ roystgnr

It's not so dubios ethics, because of a classical moral hazard problem. If the house of an uninsured burns, the insured have a huge incentive to put out the fire anyway. The burning house usually imposes great danger for the surrounding houses, and the burden of a homeless family might be taken on by the community afterwards. It is therefore very sensible to announce ex-ante that every burning house will be attended by the fire department, and to deny the possibility to opt out.

PrometheeFeu writes:

@David Henderson:

Thank you for the link and the compliment. I appreciate knowing my posts may be of use.

Jody writes:

The fact that state welfare substituted the 'welfare' provided by fraternities indicates that in the view of most people, the state takes care much better of this than fraternities

Indeed. As highly motivated special interests have never been able to enact legislation favorable to them but at odds with the best interests of an unwitting public, there can be no other rationale for how activities that had heretofore been adequately performed by volunteers became salaried (and pensioned!) positions.

Ted Levy writes:

Dear Dr. Henderson,

Thanks very much for the kind words about my new blog. I'm trying to add new material several times per week, so I hope you'll continue to drop by and occasionally comment.

As to some of the comments above, I must respectfully disagree that state takeover of function A carries any implication that market provision of function A was inadequate on any systemic level. Neither history nor economic theory justifies that leap. See for example Professor Charlotte Twight's Dependent on D.C.: The Rise of Federal Control over the Lives of Ordinary Americans for a detailed discussion, among other topics, of the origins of Social Security, which had more to do with FDR's desire for Prussian-like control than populist uprising of the masses unable to save for their retirement.

steve writes:

There was not a lot that the government could actually do hundreds of years ago. Health care was mostly voodoo.


Mark V Anderson writes:

This is a good thing to publicize new blogs. And it shows how important commenters are to a good blog. I liked Prome's much more than Ted's, but not because of the initial posting, but because the comments were so much more interesting.

In fact that's the same reason this is my favorite blog, but I rarely visit CafeHayek, even though I think the bloggers' postings are both pretty good. The commenters here often make good points, and will hold the bloggers accountable for bad postings. On CafeHayek, the commenters are horrible.

Dan j writes:

I think Thomas Sowell mentioned this in one of his books, Either 'Applied Economics' or 'Intellectuals and Society'. It might Be worth considering that well intended individuals once sought GOVT vast abilities and resources, via legislation and taxation, to turn a charitable org. That was limited into the hands of a powerful entity like GOVT to do more. But, alas, I think the intent, most often today, IS to put more power and distribution into hands of the GOVT for political and ideological purposes.

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