My Weekly Reading – Econlib


woman trying to steal trousers from a clothing store

Less time to read this week because of a talk I prepped and gave on Friday evening.

Four main things.

  1. Robert Lawson, “Remembering James Gwartney, 1940-2014,” American Institute for Economic Research, January 10, 2024.

Like Bob, I was a fan of Jim, a smart and humane man. I learned a lot from Bob’s appreciation that I hadn’t known. This paragraph stands out:

He earned his PhD at the University of Washington writing his dissertation on the economics of labor market discrimination, which led to his first publication in the prestigious American Economic Review. At Washington, Jim took numerous courses from future Nobel Laureate Douglass North, and his interest in institutional economics began at this time. He learned his microeconomics from greats like Walter Oi (who was blind and thus would become an inspiration for Jim in later years) and Yoram Barzel, and he took a course in public choice economics from Tom Borcherding, who had been a student of future Nobel Laureate James Buchanan.

What a great faculty Jim learned from. Of the people mentioned above, I knew Walter best because we were colleagues at the University of Rochester, Walter in the econ department and me in the b-school. But I was also a fan of Tom Borcherding, who had such a great unvarnished way of stating basic truths.

2. John F. Early, “Book Review: Poverty by America,” Regulation, Winter 2023-24.

Excerpt:

His only explicit answer to the question [how much poverty is “so much?”] is a claim that America has more poverty than any other advanced democracy, based on data from the Organisation for Economic Co‐​operation and Development (OECD). But the OECD definition of poverty is different from the American definition, which Desmond adopts throughout the book except when he is justifying his “so much” claim. The OECD defines the poor in a country as families with incomes below one‐​half the median income in their country, but this measure describes poverty in terms of income distribution, not material condition. Consider that Americans whom the OECD deems poor have between 40 percent and 100 percent more income than people it identifies as poor in other advanced OECD countries. This relative measure leads to the paradox that a family in the United States with an income of $30,685 would be counted as poor, while families with income of only $14,141 in Italy or $21,904 in France would not be counted as poor. Using the same income standard for all countries shows the United States has at least 60 percent less poverty than other developed democracies.

Early is, of course, the co-author, with Phil Gramm and the late Robert Ekelund, of The Myth of American Inequality, which I reviewed here.

3. Richard B. McKenzie, “The Fragility of Civil Society,” Econlib, January 1, 2024.

Excerpt:

Contemporary Americans could be witnessing an escalating breakdown in societal norms, with each loss feeding the breakdown of others, like the spread of a contagious disease. Hayek didn’t dwell on this prospect, but I will in this short essay. My arguments rest on a well-worn conceptual foundation in economics, that of the “tragedy of the commons,” which is inherently unstable, because of the role of widespread volition in norms’ value and survival. The theme of this essay is that a breakdown in societal norms shares the same economic foundations as a run on a bank, although perhaps at a slower pace.

4. Frank Markus, “First Drive: Toyota’s $10,000 Pickup Truck Is Perfect: So Why Are We Sad?Motortrend, November 6, 2023.

Excerpt:

The Toyota Tacoma pickup is built in America for Americans and Canadians, to dodge the “chicken tax,” but 181 other countries around the world get the Toyota Hilux pickup. It looks a bit like our Tacoma, but more basic. You’d recognize it from global news footage of relief aid or conflict areas. Well, apparently it had gotten a trifle fancy and at about $15,200 to start, it was pricing itself out of some of those markets. The Toyota IMV 0 intends to fill in that low-cost space beneath the Hilux with a target starting price of $10,000. It made its debut at the 2023 Japan Mobility Show, wearing cool Land Cruiser 70 Series style. Shortly after the Tokyo show, we took one for a spin.

 



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