Tag Archives: Bryan Caplan

Milton Friedman Would Have Been 100 Today

There have already been a lot of great paeans. I’d recommend this article by Thomas Sowell or this blog post by Bryan Caplan or this collection of remembrances by David Henderson. Friedman is justifiably remembered as an excellent economist whose timely and careful research on consumer behavior, money, and economic history literally upended conventional economic wisdom. But he is also remembered as an eloquent and impassioned public voice on behalf of individual freedom.

In that spirit, I think the best tribute is to let him speak for himself. Courtesy of Don Boudreaux, here is Friedman on freedom, government and conformity:

What the market does is to reduce greatly the range of issues that must be decided through political means, and thereby to minimize the extent to which government need participate directly in the game. The characteristic feature of action through political channels is that it tends to require or enforce substantial conformity. The great advantage of the market, on the other hand, is that it permits wide diversity. It is, in political terms, a system of proportional representation. Each man can vote, as it were, for the color of tie he wants and get it; he does not have to see what color-the majority wants and then, if he is in the minority, submit.

It is this feature of the market that we refer to when we say that the market provides economic freedom. But this characteristic also has implications that go far beyond the narrowly economic. Political freedom means the absence of coercion of a man by his fellow men. The fundamental threat to freedom is power to coerce, be it in the hands of a monarch, a dictator, an oligarchy, or a momentary majority. The preservation of freedom requires the elimination of such concentration of power to the fullest possible extent and the dispersal and distribution of whatever power cannot be eliminated – a system of checks and balances. By removing the organization of economic activity from the control of political authority, the market eliminates this source of coercive power. It enables economic strength to be a check to political power rather than a reinforcement.

And courtesy of Professor Miles Kimball, here is a collection of Friedman videos. In the spirit of Mercatus’s latest initiative on cronyism, here is Friedman on the government and the power of the industrialists:

 

(HT, Steven Mitchell)

New Research on Immigration Policy

Immigration reform is something that has already surfaced in the recent GOP debates and will certainly receive more attention in the coming months as we make our way further into another presidential election year. The Cato Institute recently released a special edition of the Cato Journal titled “Is Immigration Good for America” in order to influence this debate and help individuals better understand the possibilities for reform.

Each of the 13 articles in this edition of the journal provides a unique insight into a wide variety of issues concerning current immigration policy. Here are a few summaries of some of the arguments I found particularly interesting.

In his article titled “Why Should We Restrict Immigration?” Bryan Caplan explores many of the prominent objectives to the liberalization of immigration policy through a moral lens. He concludes his argument with the following:

there are cheaper and more humane solutions for each and every complaint [against liberalization]. If immigrants hurt American workers, we can charge immigrants higher taxes or admission fees, and use the revenue to compensate the losers. If immigrants burden American taxpayers, we can make immigrants ineligible for benefits. If immigrants hurt American culture, we can impose tests of English fluency and cultural literacy. If immigrants hurt American liberty, we can refuse to give them the right to vote. Whatever your complaint happens to be, immigration restrictions are a needlessly draconian remedy.

In his article titled “Immigration and the Welfare State” Daniel T. Griswold, the editor of this edition of the journal, provides an interesting argument concerning the assertion that immigrants impose extreme long term fiscal burdens on U.S. taxpayers. He concludes with the following:

For those concerned about the fiscal impact of immigration, the goal should be to wall off the welfare state, not our country. As far as constitutionally possible, Congress and the states should deny welfare payments to non-citizen immigrants. This would be good for the immigrants because they could more easily avoid the disincentives to work and family formation caused by welfare payments. It would be good for U.S. taxpayers because it would reduce demand for welfare spending. And it would be good for the U.S. economy because it would remove one of the more potent political arguments against expanded legal immigration.

In our article titled “U.S. Immigration Policy in the 21st Century: A Market-Based Approach,” Joshua Hall, Richard Vedder, and I argue that visas should not be allocated based on arbitrary political criteria but instead through the price system. Our proposal has several components but consists largely of creating an NASDAQ-style international market for visas. From our paper:

The United States is the light of the world, a beacon of freedom and opportunity. Immigration is both a cause and a consequence of this reality. It is obvious that high volumes of immigration can lead to cultural clashes and can challenge our infrastructure. Thus realistically the body politic will insist that limits be placed on it. Let’s allocate access to our great country on the basis of supply and demand, reflecting the intensity of preferences of immigrants themselves and potential employers, rather than on a political process that is simply not as good as the market in allocating resources.

I think these articles, along with the other articles in this edition of the Cato Journal, are definitely worth a read and hopefully we will see these ideas influence the coming debates.