It may be a bit of an exaggeration to say that 2017 was the best of times and the worst of times for classical liberalism in the United States but not much of one.
A while back I talked about the health care and health insurance market and how it is the result of tremendous government regulation. There are portions that involve competition, but they are limited by a variety of matters, including large distortions from licensing, regulation, tax exclusions, and government provided health care. The matters are so complicated, it is hard to get a handle on it. The transfers and redistributions are significant and hard to follow. But it is worthwhile just attempting to describe some basic aspects of this sector. One take on what is happening is the following story. It is my…
The world would be a much better place if economists, politicians and pundits had this line from Henry Hazlitt memorized: “What is harmful or disastrous to an individual must be equally harmful of disastrous to the collection of individuals that make up a nation.”
It’s arguably the most important line ever written in any economics book. Hazlitt (1894-1993) was making the essential point that an economy is not a living, breathing blob; rather it’s a collection of individuals.
In his column "Robber Baron Recessions" Paul Krugman argued this Monday that American companies have been investing less because of greater market concentration in their industries. Exhibit A for Krugman is Verizon: he contends that it has not sufficiently invested in Fios, a fiber optic system that would accelerate internet speeds. He thus wants more government intervention to police monopoly power and decrease economic concentration. Both Krugman’s claim and his remedy are dubious. Let’s begin with alternate explanations for low corporate investment. The most obvious is government regulation. The Obama administration has been one of the most aggressive regulators in history.…
In the last couple of generations, regulation has exploded, with harmful effects on both our freedom and the economy. One of the areas of regulation involve rules that are designed to protect consumers from being harmed by the products that they purchase. Yet, there is a strong argument that these regulations are largely unnecessary.
Free market advocates generally argue that much of this regulation is not needed – that the market will develop mechanisms for protecting consumers. The reputations of sellers and brand names provide strong incentives for sellers to provide safe and effective products. Moreover, private companies, such as consumer reports, can also test the products and sell the information to consumers.