Bruce Schneier talks sensibly about how US politicians and others are over-reacting to “the terrorists.” Countries with real terrorism problems haven’t had to adopt absurd “security measures” that trample civil rights. Americans need to get a grip.
Understanding basic economics is crucial for all libertarians. No other field offers as clear and irrefutable a case for liberty. Indeed, statism draws much of its support from the public’s flawed understanding of economics. Even libertarians are occasionally led astray by flawed economic reasoning. A friend recently brought a book designed to combat such flaws to my attention: Geoffrey E. Wood’s Fifty Economic Fallacies Exposed.
Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, stressing “the need for employers to provide real-time information to the government so that it can monitor all payments and make a better assessment of whether the correct tax is being paid”, has proposed to modernize the UK’s income tax system. Once employers provide payroll information in real-time, “it further proposes that employers hand over employee salaries to the government first.”
I’m sure that subjects of the Crown have nothing to fear. The state can be trusted to process their paychecks promptly, correctly, and efficiently. Only a crank would object to this modernization plan. After all, everyone fondly remembers the Star Chamber that evolved out of a similar medieval program for keeping tabs on the Jews. Since it worked out so well last time, how could anyone expect things to go wrong now?
Someone sent me a link to this paper yesterday.
Prof. Harris argues that skilled traders, who consistently profit, do so by taking money from people who trade for extrinsic reasons, to hedge risks, increase their savings, or simply to gamble for entertainment. He then points out an interesting implication:
If gamblers do indeed contribute to market quality in the long run by subsidizing information acquisition, an intriguing argument can be made about public lotteries. Lotteries would appear to compete with financial markets for gamblers willing to lose money. Lottery gamblers subsidize the state through their voluntary participation in a negative-sum game. Financial market gamblers subsidize productive information acquisition. Perhaps prices, and ultimately economic production, would be more efficient if gamblers gambled exclusively in the financial markets.
So there you have it — state lotteries make us worse off by wasting gambling money that would otherwise be productively spent.