Archive | Mercatus Center RSS feed for this section

Libertarian women’s history month: Veronique de Rugy

24 Mar

Veronique de Rugy (May 20, 1970 – ) is a French born economist, living in the Arlington, Virginia suburb of Washington, DC.  She received her PhD from the Sorbonne in 2000; her dissertation analyzed the interaction of private and public tax revolts, the interactions and trade offs between tax evasion and tax limitation initiatives.  De Rugy has at times written on women and economic policy.  Speaking at a panel at the America’s Future Foundation a year ago on women outside the Democratic Party establishment, De Rugy made it clear she is not comfortable with conservatives or Republicans, and views her libertarianism as outside of the GOP.

In the 1990s she was an instructor at the University of Tours, and after receiving her PhD immigrated to the United States.  While preparing her thesis, she oversaw academic programs in France for the Institute for Humane Studies Europe. Eager to live in the United States,she was hired by the Cato Institute as an analyst, specializing in tax competition.  She then worked at the American Enterprise Institute where she specialized, among other topics, in matters of internal security, and bio-terrorism. In 2007, she joined the Mercatus Center at George Mason University where she is a senior research fellow and mainly deals with US budget and tax issues, as well as the US economy, the federal budget, homeland security, tax competition, and financial privacy. Her popular weekly charts, published by the Mercatus Center, address economic issues ranging from lessons on creating sustainable economic growth to the implications of government tax and fiscal policies. She has testified numerous times in front of Congress on the effects of fiscal stimulus, debt and deficits, and regulation on the economy.

De Rugy writes regular columns for reason magazine and the Washington Examiner, and she blogs about economics at National Review Online’s the Corner. Her charts, articles, and commentary have been featured in a wide range of media outlets, including the Reality Check segment on Bloomberg Television’s Street Smart, the New York Times Room for Debate, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, CNN International, Stossel, 20/20, C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, and Fox News.  Her worked has been discussed by writers Brad DeLong and Matthew Yglesias.  She has been attacked by statist polemicists like Paul Krugman and Jonathan Chait, some of whom tend to snarky and somewhat misogynist “criticism” like one writer at a so called “progressive” website:  “Veronique de Rugy is a Doctrix of The Economy, says the Sorbonne, which is weird because the impression Wonkette gets from reading her column is that she learned everything she knows about economics from a cardboard cutout of Ron Paul’s left nut.”

De Rugy has two children and is connected to reasonTV editor Nick Gillespie, with whom she sometimes collaborates on articles and projects.

New Obama stimulus plan – $2 billion for fertility clinics

18 Nov

I’m joking.  

But this photo isn’t photoshopped. 

Apparently in some Asian countries this is the word for “cement.”

That said, a public policy study I NEVER saw anyone anywhere write about, would have been on a regulation that people (i.e., upper middle class people with high option insurance and deep wallets), which required that sperm (and maybe egg) donors had to be HIV tested not with any of the common HIV tests, but with the more expensive anti-nucleic acid test.  Only a few labs in the whole country could do it when it became required back during the Bush administration, and it costs hundred of dollars per test.  It’s hard to imagine that the person who owned the patent to that test in the U.S. was not politically connected.  I’m sure it is a more accurate test.  But why were only the deep pocketed couples already spending thousands to conceive babies in their 40’s saddled with this extra expense?

Side note:  Star Parker once whispered to me at a CATO event that employer provided insurance programs (pre-Obamacare) that included fertility treatments for people who had put off having kids for two decades were “welfare for white women.”  She’s not totally wrong.

Race, racism and rationing — the case of taxis

13 Sep
Here is a free market economics grad student project:

Some African Americans claim they cannot get a cab.

The supply of cabs in most cities is regulated and restricted below free market levels.

Does the number of complaints (per capita) that cabs won’t come to black neighborhoods or stop for black people correlate with the amount of regulation of cabs, by municipality?

Are taxi drivers simply skimming off the cream, by taking the customers in the safest neighborhoods, who they believe are the most likely to tip, because there is not an unregulated supply of taxi drivers that can match the total demand for taxis at a market clearing price?  Supply is restricted to below demand, so only the safest routes and best tippers get the supply.

In a free market would a racially discriminatory cab company lose business to an UrbanTaxi app that hired or affiliated drivers who (whatever precautions they take about safety etc. of neighborhoods) did not ignore customers of color?

DC and other territories over-looked again…by the Mercatus Center!

25 Nov
The Mercatus Center has released its annual freedom index of the 50 states.  And it is just that.  Guam, DC, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and Guantanamo are not rated!

Maryland ranks low at number 44:

Virginia ranks at #8, unlike Maryland rising in the rankings:

Roger Stone, LBJ, and Public Choice Theory: Notes from my homework

20 Nov
I’ve recently been in a graduate school course that surveys both microeconomics and public choice theory, which led me to observe that the standard critique of voting proferred by some libertarians  is actually a simplifying, and perhaps overly simplistic and fallacious, model of reality, in much the same way the neoclassical model of perfect competition is.  (Though to be sure, paedagically useful in demystifying democracy.). Voters, like consumers, exist outside of time or at a point in time, performing a function statically; there is no discovery process, learning, ignorance, asymmetric information.  Voters are like the neoclassical price taking producers, whose actions have no effect on outcomes.

I once asked one of my favorite frenemies, reason editor Katherine Mangu-Ward, if her critique of voting (derived from the work of economist Bryan Caplan and others), wasn’t arithmetically and logically unassailable, and yet false and irrelevant.  It’s not voting that is worthwhile, but campaigning:  it’s an empirical issue of whether 100 hours or $1000 donated to reason magazine, or the Mercatus Center (where public choice theory is articulated), or to a candidate or referendum calling for ending the drug war, stirs more people to rethink the issues.  The critique of voting abstracts from candidates, canvassing and campaigning, just as the neoclassical model of perfect competition leaves out innovating firms, consumers discovering new needs, desires, goods and services, entrepreneurs discovering new factors of production, etc.

Which leads me to wonder if public choice theory has also been over simplifying things.  I don’t know since after years of reading articles about it, or even hearing James Buchanan speak (to my senior high school math class actually, long ago), I’ve only just started reading it.  But I am struck by how in initial formulations the public choice theorist analyzes her “market” of interactions between voters, politicians, bureaucrats, and special interest groups, and simplifies the way they actually behave.

For example, there are “profit-making” behaviors of politicians that seem to be left out of introductory public choice discussions, in which politicians are simply described as lying for votes and buying votes and donors by stealing from taxpayers to give out subsidies.  I am struck by how this model leaves out two or three major aspects of politician behavior.

The first is how politicians create barriers to entry for competitors, from ballot access laws, character assassination by digging up dirt on potential rivals, and above all, by amassing a huge war chest in a candidate PAC so that no one will waste time running against them.  A politician doesn’t need to buy votes if instead you buy donors who fund such a huge war chest that no serious rival will emerge even if voters don’t approve of you.

Second is how politicians and political assemblies themselves are examples of the regulatory capture public choice economists use to describe bureaucracies.  Recently there has been a lot of evidence that the stock portfolios of elected officials always outperform the market, because they possess insider information about what laws and policies they will promulgate that change the values of firms and stocks.  Aren’t legislatures themselves now bureaucracies that are captured by a politically connected subset of the investor class, who will always inflate the currency to keep stock prices up, and pass laws that favor the stocks they invest in, knowing that those stocks will be favored by their legislation?

And then there is assassination, the ultimate barrier to entry, which Roger Stone now tells us LBJ committed (he also used the FCC to enrich his wife).  How do these large, historically specific, institutional features of particular national political processes fit into public choice theory?

Robert Caro Sins By Omission

Robert Caro

By Roger Stone

As my book The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ has become an Amazon Top 100 best seller (# 18 at this writing) I have been asked again and again how Lyndon Johnson’s definitive biographer Robert Caro could have missed LBJ’s role in an assassination plot.

Yet, Caro’s masterful biography is flawed. There were two enormous scandals surrounding LBJ in the fall of 1963. One involved Secretary of the Senate, Bobby Baker, once described by Johnson as “my strong right arm” and the other involved the Texas wheeler-dealer, Billie Sol Estes. A review of news coverage of both scandals reveals substantially more column inches dedicated to coverage of the Billy Sol Estes scandal, yet nowhere in his biography does Caro even mention Sol Estes. Perhaps this is because Baker never testified against Johnson and served his prison sentence without comment while Billie Sol Estes served his prison term but later testified before a grand jury detailing Johnson’s role in the murder of U.S. Agriculture Department official Henry Marshall and President John F. Kennedy. Sol Estes also wrote to the Justice Department outlining the serial murders committed by LBJ. Time for Robert Caro to ‘fess up.

TO READ MORE go to: The StoneZone

To order the Man Who Killed Kennedy – The Case Against LBJ,
by Roger Stone with Mike Colapietro —
 Go Here

New Tyler Cowan book on meritocracy

12 Sep

Professor Tyler Cowen Declares ‘Average Is Over’ in New Book

Posted: September 12, 2013 at 5:01 am, Last Updated: September 12, 2013 at 6:58 am

By Buzz McClain @

Tyler Cowen. Mercatus Center photo

Tyler Cowen.
Mercatus Center photo

A new book released this week by George Mason University economics professor and bestselling author Tyler Cowen explores how new technologies affect the economy and influence culture as society grows ever more dependent on machines.

Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation” (Dutton), the sequel to his 2011 book, “The Great Stagnation,” tackles a number of issues relevant to today’s global economic developments, including education, jobs and wages, and even the evolution of human emotions. In “Average Is Over,” Cowen, who was called “America’s hottest economist” by Bloomberg BusinessWeek, advises readers on how to live with, and prosper in, the Great Stagnation.

Cowen, a regular contributor to a variety of publications including the New York Times, is the Holbert C. Harris Chair of Economics at George Mason and is co-author, with Mason professor Alex Tabarrok, of the blog Marginal Revolution, and co-founder, also with Tabarrok, of Marginal Revolution University, which offers economics courses. He is also director of the Mercatus Center at Mason. A renowned lover of ethnic cuisine, Cowen is the author of last year’s An Economist Gets Lunch: New Rules for Everyday Foodies.

Write to Buzz McClain at