Lavoie Essay contest results

I’m pleased to announce that Claudia Williamson and I have won the Don Lavoie essay contest this year.
Claudia is doing fascinating work on the empirical differences between formal and informal institutions and their influences upon economic growth and development through the development of secure private property rights. To make a long story short she concludes that informal cultural norms are more influential on the security of private property rights rather than formal codifications of private property.
Congrats to Claudia and thank you to all of the judges.

Quote of the day

In The Perils of Regulation: A Market Process Approach, Israel Kirzner writes:

A realization that the market yields knowledge — the sort of knowledge that peple do not at present even know they need — should engender among would-be social engineers who seek to replace or to modify the results of the free market a very definite sense of humility. To announce that once can improve on the performance of the market, one must also claim to know in advance what the market will reveal. This knowledge is clearly impossible in all circumstances. Indeed, where the market process has been thwarted, in general it will not be possible to point with certainty to what might have been discovered that has now been lost (ibid., 1985, p. 131).

Rehabilitation: Nothing Works or Something Works? Choice Works.

This 1989 Washington Post article takes Martinson’s classic “nothing works” conclusion to task. It implys that Martinsons method was short sighted and overly stated. What seems to be the understated implication of the Post piece is that political support of rehabilitation programs does not necessarily translate into effective rehabilitations (a conclusions Martinson would most surely have agreed with). In other words, maybe Martinson meant “nothing the political apparatus can do will work to rehabilitate.” The innovative techniques of psychotherapy and community based rehabilitation program require hard budget constraints to be discovered and applied efficiently.


Though I wish Kling had mentioned Austrian-ness as an essential quality of Masonomics I was glad to read this:

Why do Masonomists blog so avidly? I think it is because there is a sense that we are onto something, and we want to ramp up the conversation among ourselves as well as communicate with a wider audience.

Very similar to the way Klein and I interpreted the prominence of blogging at GMU in our paper.

Quote of the day

[Charles] Logan [in “Crime Stories”] notes, it is commonly claimed that “increasing freedom brings with it increasing crime. Liberals respond with proposals that would decrease economic freedom: conservatives respond with proposals that would decrease social freedom.” Both types of proposals tend to involve more government and less liberty. But in reality, crime is likely to decrease through greater emphasis on the tenets of individual liberty, because there is a “corollary of freedom: individual responsibility.” Thus in contrast to widely held beliefs, reductions in liberty (limits on people’s ability to use private property in the pursuit of happiness while recognizing an obligation to respect others’ private property) are associated with increased crime, because both reflect the same attitudes toward property rights (Benson, 1996, p. 98).

Taken from Benson, Bruce L. (1996). “Restitution in Theory and Practice,” The Journal of Libertarian Studies. 12:1 pp. 75 – 97.

If you call me Eddy, I will call you Nobel.

In honor of Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize, I invite everyone to watch “The Great Global Warming Swindle” its a great documentary on climate change. Alongside “Mine your own business” these are a hard hitting duo against the anti-development consequences of the modern environmentalist movement. Hat tip to Michael Thomas for the great reference.

David Friedman still an anarchist

David Friedman has a great post about the predictable content of laws under market anarchism. What’s to keep law in market anarchy libertarian rather than oppressive?
This is similar to an argument I’ve been grappling with in my dissertation. Theoretically we can imagine a state that creates a restitution-based criminal law, and a market-provided legal system that promotes retributive punishment. They would not be impossible, but they would be unlikely and prone to change. In each case the motivations and rewards of shifting to the alternative criminal justice paradigm is preferred by the actor (the state in one case and individuals in the market in the other case). The following two by two matrix might be helpful:
The off diagonals are stable equilibrium, they are self-reinforcing. The rewards to states of using retributive punishment are higher than if they were to create restitution norms. So the state-retribution norm is self-reinforcing. Vice versa for the market system and restitution.

Empirical Puzzles of International Criminal Justice

I’m very excited about the current project I’m working on with fellow GMU student Diana Weinert. We are in the process of data to take stabs at some very interesting questions concerning the international use of prisons and criminal justice.
One of the two papers we’re working on, I hope to use for the third section of my dissertation. To what extent do state sponsored criminal justice systems suffer from rent-seeking and capture? We’re using prison populations, police expenditures, and populations for legislatures and judiciaries to develop proxies for the size of the corresponding criminal justice institutions in various countries. These are the underlying institutional variables that induce outcomes of two kinds.
Our intuition is that countries with larger criminal justice systems are correlated with larger state power, taxes, regulation, and the other complementary institutions of criminal justice. But size doesn’t always matter. Big institutions for criminal justice doesn’t necessarily mean quality institutions. We then look at the correlations between those foundational institutions and the actual social phenomenon they are claimed to promote: peace, prosperity, property rights, etc. Looking at a first few runs of correlations it looks like the relationships between big prisons, police forces, judges, and law makers are not negatively related to crime rates and functioning property rights but weekly related at best.
The data implies that larger criminal justice institutions are more correlated with large states than they are correlated with low crime rates.