Category: Acton Occasional Series

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
By

Note: This is the eleventh post in a weekly video series on basic microeconomics.

Who bears the burden of a tax, the buyer or the seller? Or what about the health insurance mandate in Obamacare—does the employer or the worker pay the tax? In this video, Marginal Revolution University examines these questions and explains why the more elastic side of the market tends to pay a smaller share of a tax.

(If you find the pace of the videos too slow, I’d recommend watching them at 1.5 to 2 times the speed. You can adjust the speed at which the video plays by clicking on “Settings” (the gear symbol) and changing “Speed” from normal to 1.25, 1.5 or 2.)

Previous in series: How to read a supply curve

Fidel CastroFidel Castro, the former dictator of Cuba, died this past weekend at the age of 90. Here are five facts you should know about the long-ruling Marxist despot.

1. Castro was baptized a Catholic at the age of 8 and attended several Jesuit-run boarding schools. After graduation in the mid-1940s Castro began studying law at the Havana University, where he became politically active in socialist and nationalist causes, in particular opposition to U.S. involvement in the Caribbean. By the end of the decade he became interested in the writings of Marx and Lenin and the cause of revolutionary socialism.

2. During his law school days Castro began to adopt the practice of revolutionary political violence. In 1947 he journeyed to the Dominican Republic to participate in a failed attempt to overthrow of the country’s dictator, Rafael Trujillo. That same year Castro was also accused of instigating an assassination attempt on Cuba’s president, Ramón Grau. When in 1952 General Fulgencio Batista seized power, Castro began making plans to overthrow him too. Castro’s use of political violence continued even after he seized power. The Cuba Archive project has documented almost 10,000 victims of Castro between 1952 and today, including 5,600 men, women, and children who died in front of firing squads and another 1,200 in “extrajudicial assassinations.” Thousands more Cubans also died trying to flee his repressive regime.
(more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, November 25, 2016
By

Black-Friday-LineToday is the unofficial first day of the holiday shopping season. Here are five facts you should know about “Black Friday.”

1. The term “Black Friday” was coined by the Philadelphia Police Department’s traffic squad in the 1950s. According to Philadelphia newspaper reporter Joseph P. Barrett, “It was the day that Santa Claus took his chair in the department stores and every kid in the city wanted to see him. It was the first day of the Christmas shopping season.” Barrettt first used the term in the city’s newspaper, the Evening Bulletin, in 1961 to refer to the traffic problems on that day. Local merchants complained to police commissioner Albert N. Brown about the negative association of the term, so Brown released a press release describing the day as “Big Friday.” By then it was too late; the media had already started referring to the day after Thanksgiving as  “Black Friday.”

2. Because so few people were aware of the origin of the term Black Friday, analternative explanation became popular: that it is the day on which retailers finally began to show a profit for the year (in accounting terms, moving from being “in the red” to “in the black”). The earliest use of this meaning, though, dates only to the early 1980s.
(more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
By

Note: This is the tenth post in a weekly video series on basic microeconomics.

In this video Tyler Cowen covers commodity taxes, including who pays the tax and lost gains from trade, also called deadweight loss. He also considers how the tax wedge would apply to the example of Social Security taxes.

(If you find the pace of the videos too slow, I’d recommend watching them at 1.5 to 2 times the speed. You can adjust the speed at which the video plays by clicking on “Settings” (the gear symbol) and changing “Speed” from normal to 1.25, 1.5 or 2.)

Previous in series: How elasticity affects human trafficking

presidential-transitionThe peaceful transition of power from one chief executive to another is one of the most enduring and cherished legacies of the American government. But it’s also a complicated process. There is a lot that has to happened in the 75 days between Election Day and Inauguration Day.

Here is a brief outline of some of the steps that have to be taken in the transition from President Obama to President Trump.
(more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, November 8, 2016
By

 Today, Americans will be electing the 44th President of the United States. To give you something to read while you stand in line at the polling places, here are five interesting facts about elections and voting:

1. In colonial times, a common “get out the vote” strategy was for candidates to offer alcohol at the polling places. When George Washington ran for the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1758 he brought out 28 gallons of rum, 50 gallons of rum punch, 34 gallons of wine, 46 gallons of beer, and two gallons of cider royal. Although it was almost enough for every voter to half a half-gallon of booze, Washington worried his campaign manager had “spent with too sparing a hand” and wouldn’t have enough. (It worked: Washington got 331 votes, more than his three rivals.)

2. The Ohio Constitution includes a clause (Article V, Section 6) that prohibits “idiots” from voting (No idiot, or insane persons, shall be entitled to the privileges of an elector). The provision was added in 1851 to prevent people of diminished mental capacity from voting. In 1970, the Ohio Constitutional Revision Commission noted that, “The lack of procedure for determining who is ‘insane’ or an ‘idiot’ could allow persons whose opinions are unpopular or whose lifestyles are disapproved to be challenged at the polls, and they may lose their right to vote without the presentation of any medical evidence whatsoever.” Despite this concern, the language remains unchanged.
(more…)

Note: This is the ninth post in a weekly video series on basic microeconomics.

Prices can have an effect on the demand of goods and services—even when the “goods” are people. Beginning in 1993, Sudan entered into a civil war, with one of the worst parts being that many people were kidnapped and sold into slavery. Humanitarian groups traveled to Sudan to redeem slaves by buying them out of slavery. Is this good policy? Did it work out, or make it worse? In this video, Tyler Cowen uses the concept of elasticity to analyze the situation.

(If you find the pace of the videos too slow, I’d recommend watching them at 1.5 to 2 times the speed. You can adjust the speed at which the video plays by clicking on “Settings” (the gear symbol) and changing “Speed” from normal to 1.25, 1.5 or 2.)

Previous in series: Understanding elasticity of Demand