- First, Tyler Cowen continues to talk about what he calls the "new federalism", this time citing a decision not to build a hospital in New Hampshire. I'm having more and more trouble recognizing this federalism that Cowen has made several posts on at this point. It seems like his "new federalism" is "governors that decide not to spend money on things". On its own, of course, that's fine. The whole point of federalism is that more of these decisions are made at the state level. But I don't think we would have gotten a post from Cowen if the governor decided to build a hospital (or high speed rail, in the case of Florida). If states are going to be empowered of course they have to be judicious, but state empowerment is going to involve the states spending and doing more, all else equal, and the federal government spending less. I don't know if Cowen would recognize this as a "new federalism". I'm used to people applying the label "new federalism" to the late Clinton administration (we had a research agenda at the Urban Institute called "Assessing the New Federalism (ANF)" dedicated to evaluating these reforms. During that period, with respect to welfare specifically, "federalism" was about more being done and decided at the state level, not simply the fact that governors were making cuts. You want to see a rebirth of federalism in the U.S.? Step one is doing away with the state balanced budget requirements.
- I am a big Mars booster on here, and I'm skeptical about talk of bothering much with the Moon. I'm not even sure of the value of another manned mission there. That's because I'm largely focused on human settlement. But Jennifer Ouellette shares information about some intriguing mining prospects (helium-3) on the Moon. Add that to the recent discovery of ice and I may have to reevaluate. It still oughta be automated for the most part. It's not a place for humans to thrive. But it's probably worth looking into. Aside from some up-front start up costs that could be subsidized, etc., note that this is just mining. Whereas I'd see a state role for human colonization for reasons I've reviewed in the past, mining is something we've done for millenia and oughta be an entirely private endeavor.
- Robert Stavins in the AER on the tragedy of the commons (HT Mark Thoma)
- Stickman argues that tort law is no panacea for the environment. I strongly agree - I talked about this issue here and here. I must register a complaint with stickman, though. He piqued my interest by saying in the beginning that he would talk about "non-representation of future claimants", but he never seems to have gotten around to it. Stickman also links to a new Buchanan paper titled "The Limits of Market Efficiency". A great excerpt from stickman:
"I think that scepticism of government is absolutely justified in many cases, as I have tried to indicate at the beginning of this post and in a number of my previous posts. If there are market imperfections, it doesn't necessarily follow that government involvement will adequately address them. Indeed, it could exacerbate the situation and, frankly, it’s ridiculous to pretend otherwise. Where possible, I absolutely support community/individual management of resources above that of the State, just I support individual responsibility in many economic aspects. I also think that tort law can play an important role in controlling for localised environmental externalities. However, as per my reasons above, I disagree that regulations are inherently inefficient in comparison to a purely market-based system underpinned by tort law. Again, the danger is in applying blanket rules to complex situations that require evaluation on an individual basis."