Assorted Links (5/31/2012)

Here’s a list of articles that I have been reading and videos I have been viewing lately:

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

“Why can’t our political leaders work together as threats loom and problems mount? Why do people so readily assume the worst about the motives of their fellow citizens?” I am looking forward to reading social psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s new book entitled “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion”. Here’s’s description of this book: “His (Haidt’s)starting point is moral intuition—the nearly instantaneous perceptions we all have about other people and the things they do. These intuitions feel like self-evident truths, making us righteously certain that those who see things differently are wrong. Haidt shows us how these intuitions differ across cultures, including the cultures of the political left and right. He blends his own research findings with those of anthropologists, historians, and other psychologists to draw a map of the moral domain, and he explains why conservatives can navigate that map more skillfully than can liberals. He then examines the origins of morality, overturning the view that evolution made us fundamentally selfish creatures. But rather than arguing that we are innately altruistic, he makes a more subtle claim—that we are fundamentally groupish. It is our groupishness, he explains, that leads to our greatest joys, our religious divisions, and our political affiliations. In a stunning final chapter on ideology and civility, Haidt shows what each side is right about, and why we need the insights of liberals, conservatives, and libertarians to flourish as a nation.”

Is Free Enterprise Social Darwinism?

Earlier today, I attended a luncheon at the Texas Public Policy Foundation Texas Public Policy Foundation featuring Dr. Arthur C. Brooks, who is the president of the American Enterprise Institute.  I highly recommend watching the video “Is Free Enterprise Social Darwinism?” (the answer is “no”) and also to the audio of today’s luncheon presentation at TPPF here (video is forthcoming (this coming Monday, June 4) at  Quoting from his inspiring new book “The Road to Freedom” (entitled so in obvious deference to Hayek’s famous tome “The Road to Serfdom”), “If not money, then what do people really crave? The answer is earned success, the ability to create value with your life or in the lives of others. It does not come from a lottery check or an inheritance. It doesn’t even mean earning a lot of money… To earn your success is to define and pursue your happiness as you see fit. It’s the freedom to be an individual and to delineate your life’s “profit” however you want. For some, this profit is measured in money. But for many, profit is measured in making beautiful art, saving people’s souls, or pulling kids out of poverty.”

The Clash of Economic Ideas: The Great Policy Debates and Experiments of the Last Hundred Years

“The Clash of Economic Ideas interweaves the economic history of the last hundred years with the history of economic doctrines to understand how contrasting economic ideas have originated and developed over time to take their present forms. It traces the connections running from historical events…”  This will be my personally assigned reading during my upcoming summer vacation. I am looking forward to becoming better a better informed citizen and scholar; wish me luck!

Hunter Baker on Secularism

I’d like to give a “shout out” to the latest Research on Religion podcast on the topic of secularism (defined here as a “…an ideological position wherein religious practice and discourse must be removed from public visibility, either physically in terms of the display of religious symbols… or rhetorically in terms of how religious ideas influence policy”). IMHO, Research on Religion (located at (as well as Econtalk @ provide some of the best continuing education (particularly for people interested in the social sciences and public policy) that money can’t buy!

Putting the ‘Insurance’ Back in Health Insurance

“If we really want to make health insurance affordable and accessible to everyone, we need to go back to basics, and understand all of the government-induced distortions that have made health insurance look nothing like actual insurance.”  This Forbes article applies basic economic concepts such as are taught in principles of risk management and insurance courses in colleges and universities to explain how to make health insurance affordable and accessible. It would appear that the author may have read the “famous” August 2009 blog posting entitled “My preferred approach for reforming health insurance…”, which is located at :-).

Living within your means is so inconvenient

GMU economist Russ Roberts’ latest on the Eurozone crisis – excellent analysis, with a tip of the hat to Charles Dickens and Adam Smith…

Meet Robert Mugabe, the New Friendly Face of the United Nations

“Feckless UN bureaucrats have tried to ban Dante and give Mt. Rushmore back to the Native Americans. Now comes news that serial human rights violator and war criminal Robert Mugabe has been appointed as an International Envoy for Tourism.”

The Bain Ads Are About Spending

“In The Wall Street Journal, Business World columnist Holman Jenkins writes that the Obama campaign ads against Romney and Bain Capital are an attempt to divert attention from the need for government fiscal restraint.”

Subpar Obama Recovery: 6.5 Million Jobs Below Average

“President Obama has touted recent job growth as a sign of “extraordinary progress.” But the U.S. economic recovery has been the worst since World War II.”

Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall, Which President Is the Biggest Spender of All?

A financial columnist named Rex Nutting recently triggered a firestorm of controversy by claiming that Barack Obama is not a big spender. Here’s Cato’s take on this claim…

It’s time to drop the college-for-all crusade

“A focus on what is best for each student.”

Do Organic Consumers Shop Exclusively at the Jerk Store?

“A new study examines the connection between organic food marketing and anti-social behavior.”  While the title of this article seems a bit over the top, the article nevertheless provides some interesting and thought provoking perspectives on food marketing…

Renewable Energy Can’t Run the Cloud

“In The Wall Street Journal, Robert Bryce writes that data centers for companies like Google and Facebook now consume about 1.3% of all global electricity.”

Four More Years?

Quoting from this article by the former Governor of Delaware Pete du Pont, “The president many people felt would unite the country has instead used one wedge issue after another to divide our people along the lines of income, race, sex and class. This setting of one group against another is part of the re-election process and prospects. It may lead to a more difficult, divisive, and nastier election than we have seen in a while. And that may in turn mean an more difficult time for whoever is president in 2013.”

The Law Firm Business Model Is Dying

“In The Wall Street Journal, the Brookings Institution’s Clifford Winston and Robert W. Crandall write that rules adopted to protect the legal profession from outside competition are actually stifling it.”  This is a fascinating article which explains how regulatory barriers hamstring not only the legal profession, but also many other sectors of the economy. Quoting from this article, “…deregulation of transportation that began during the late 1970s enabled motor, air and rail carriers to reduce costs and, particularly in the case of railroads and airlines, to regain market share by offering consumers lower prices and better service.”

Number of the Week: Half of U.S. Lives in Household Getting Benefits

“Cutting government spending is no easy task, and it’s made more complicated by recent data showing that nearly half of the people in the U.S. live in a household that receives at least one government benefit.”

The History Boys

“The Wall Street Journal on Obama’s fiscal blowout that never happened, according to Obama.”  The temptation for politicians of all stripes to play fast and loose with statistics for the purpose of bolstering weak arguments can be breathtaking at times; as Mark Twain once famously remarked (with a tip of the hat to British PM Benjamin Disraeli), “”Lies, damned lies, and statistics”… (cf.,_damned_lies,_and_statistics) .

The Liberal Legal Meltdown Over ObamaCare

“In The Wall Street Journal, Michael W. McConnell writes that if supporters of mandatory insurance were as confident of its merits as they claim to be, they would offer legal arguments, not moral accusations.”

Memorial Day and the American Bible

“In The Wall Street Journal’s Houses of Worship column, Stephen Prothero writes that Americans disagree, but we share a collection of core texts that ‘we the people’ regard as authoritative.”

Vulture Capitalism? Try Obama’s Version

“In The Wall Street Journal, Potomac Watch columnist Kimberley Strassel writes that a profit-driven economy is preferable to one run by political favoritism.” Interesting commentary by Kim Strassel on the important differences between private equity and “public” equity…

The Service Patch

“As college graduates consider their career prospects, they should think about how to be as much as they think about what to be.”

A Mess the 45th President Will Inherit

“The Wall Street Journal reports that taxpayers now stand behind derivatives clearinghouses.”  Here is some more important information about the policy train wreck known as Dodd-Frank. Specifically, Dodd-Frank “…authorizes the Federal Reserve to provide “discount and borrowing privileges” to clearinghouses in emergencies. Traditionally the ability to borrow from the Fed’s discount window was reserved for banks…”

Why Oil Prices Will Keep Falling

“In The Wall Street Journal, Nansen Saleri writes that oil will cost less in the future because energy extraction technologies will overcome bad policies and geopolitical risks.” I can’t help but wonder what in the world happened to all the greedy speculators who just one month ago were driving oil prices up (see…

Greece’s False Austerity

“In The Wall Street Journal, David Malpass writes that the best outcome would be for Greece to stay in the euro, reduce government spending, and ask Europe for a mix of loans and gifts as it downsizes its government.”

Dodd-Frank’s Too-Big-to-Fail Dystopia

“In The Wall Street Journal, Peter J. Wallison writes that the government is expanding crony capitalism to insurers, securities firms and other non-banks.”  It’s official: thanks in no small part to Dodd-Frank, the US system of free enterprise is at risk due to Dodd-Frank’s codification of the “SIFI” (“systematically important financial institutions”) designation…

Prostate Testing and the Death Panel

“In The Wall Street Journal, venture capitalist Tom Perkins notes that a free economy leads to life-saving innovations, while a highly taxed and overregulated economy leads to government agencies that discourage their use.”

A Tutorial for the President on ‘Profit Maximization’

“In The Wall Street Journal, Emory University economist Paul Rubin reminds us that profits provide the incentive for firms to do what consumers want.”  Paul Rubin provides a particularly clear explanation of the conceptual linkage which exists between the notions of profit maximization and maximization of social welfare in this short WSJ op-ed…

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