Posts tagged with: Donald J. Boudreaux

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, August 14, 2014
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keep-calm-and-insert-platitude-1A platitude is a flat, dull, or trite remark, especially one uttered as if it were fresh or profound. Politicians love platitudes, which is why we have laws with names like the Clean Air Act, the Pure Food Act, the Fair Sentencing Act, and the Anti-Puppy Kicking Act (okay, I made up that last one). Since no one is for dirty air, impure food, unfair sentencing, puppy-kicking, who could possibly oppose such legislation?

But the devil, as they say, is in the details. Which is why, as Donald J. Boudreau says, “Platitudes are a poor basis for policy.”

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Since the era of Adam Smith economists have been asking, “What creates wealth?” One key answer is specialization and trade. On a timeline of human history, the recent rise in standards of living resembles a hockey stick — flatlining for all of human history and then skyrocketing in just the last few centuries.

As economist Don Boudreaux explains, without specialization and trade, our ancient ancestors only consumed what they could make themselves. How can specialization and trade help explain the astonishing growth of productivity and output in such a short amount of time—after millennia of famine, low life expectancy, and incurable disease?

RedistributionofWealthAre you a fan of redistribution? Do you think those with more money should willingly or unwillingly spread the wealth? Do you believe the government should step in and help with the redistribution process? Well, economist Donald Boudreaux has a few questions for you.

    • Do you teach your children to envy what other children have? Do you encourage your children to form gangs with their playmates to “redistribute” toys away from richer kids on the schoolyard toward kids not so rich? If not, what reason have you to suppose that envy and “redistribution” become acceptable when carried out on a large scale by government?

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    Don Boudreaux  and Mark J. Perry at Cafe Hayek are here to tell you: life in the 1950s for America’s middle class is not the wonderland we might like to think.

    A favorite “progressive” trope is that America’s middle class has stagnated economically since the 1970s. One version of this claim, made by Robert Reich, President Clinton’s labor secretary, is typical: “After three decades of flat wages during which almost all the gains of growth have gone to the very top,” he wrote in 2010, “the middle class no longer has the buying power to keep the economy going.”

    This trope is spectacularly wrong.

    They point out that 60 years ago, the average middle-class home spent over 50% of its disposable income on food, utilities, rent/mortgage, etc. Today, that figure is closer to 30%. To prove the point that we don’t have a stagnant middle class stuck in some sort of economic time warp, Boudreaux has started a fun series, using commercials from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s to remind us where we were and where our memories may be leading us astray. Like many of us, Boudreaux learned to type on an electric typewriter. It was state-of-art, the best of the best. Do you want to swap your iPad for it?

    You can check out the second of this series here.