Justices Breyer and Ginsburg Would Hold the Death Penalty Unconstitutional

DeathPenaltyToday, the Supreme Court in an ongoing effort to micromanage state laws and procedures reviewed whether a certain chemical cocktail used by Oklahoma in executions is constitutional. In a 5-4 decision, the Court rejected the challenge to the use of the chemical midazolam.

What is especially of interest is a dissenting opinion in which two justices (Breyer and Ginsburg) stated that they would hold that the death penalty is unconstitutional as cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. Never mind that the Fifth Amendment provides that “[n]o person shall be held to answer for a capital . . . crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury,” and that no person shall be “deprived of life . . . without due process of law.” In other words, the Constitution specifically contemplates a punishment—the death penalty—that two justices would hold is inherently unconstitutional.

This is yet more evidence from the past few weeks that members of the Supreme Court are unabashedly engaged in policymaking rather than rendering legal judgment when presented with an actual case or controversy. While there are many good policy arguments for abolition of the death penalty that legislators should consider when revising state criminal statutes, this is a matter left for the Congress and the various state legislatures. The Constitution couldn’t be much clearer that the death penalty is permissible punishment. Nonetheless, members of the Supreme Court know better, would ignore the written document, and instead write their own opinions into law.

41 Percent of Obamacare Silver Plans Have ‘Small’ or ‘Extra Small’ Networks

DoctorObamaI spent the weekend in Denver at the excellent Western Conservative Summit, where I spoke about health reform with Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner. Mr. Klein has written Overcoming Obamacare, in which he describes three schools of free-market reformers: The “reform school,” the “replace school,” and the “restart school.” (I belong to the “replace school.”) The panel was moderated by Dr. Jill Vecchio, a radiologist and Senior Fellow in Health Care Policy at the Centennial Institute.

Since the King v. Burwell decision, many have rebranded Obamacare as SCOTUScare, per Justice Scalia’s dissent. However, at the summit many said we should call it “Medicaid Plus,” because Obamacare beneficiaries have little access to care.

New research sponsored by the pro-Obamacare Robert Wood Johnson Foundation confirms that Obamacare plans have limited access to physicians. The research defines a network as “small” if no more than 25 percent of physicians in an area are covered, and “extra small” if it covers less than 10 percent. The results:

  • The “narrowness” or size of a network can be quantified, and 41 percent of silver plan physician networks in the ACA marketplace are small or extra small.
  • While consumers are likely to select plans with low premiums, they are not fully aware of the characteristics of narrow networks.
  • Well-functioning narrow networks will survive only if their characteristics are communicated more clearly to consumers and they are regulated to ensure adequacy.

This paper is extremely well researched, especially given the obstacles facing the researchers:

The provider lists from which these data were gathered were not uniform in their formats and coding. Thus we created a multi-stage cleaning process to integrate all lists into a list with unified formats for names, addresses, and specialties. We converted specialties, listed in more than 6,000 ways, into 47 specialty groups. Given the preponderance of errors in these lists including duplicates, misspellings, typos, misclassifications, and physicians who have relocated or retired, we confirmed unique physicians by matching the information to national provider datasets using a set of algorithms that allow for variation in the data.

And these are professional health policy researchers! Imagine poor Joe or Jane Public trying to choose a plan on an Obamacare exchange! There is a lot of talk about increasing regulation of disclosure of physician networks on exchanges. It will not work. There is a fundamental conflict of interest between the Obamacare beneficiary and the Obamacare health plan: The plan wants to enroll the healthy. Therefore, it has no interest in making it easy for beneficiaries to determine which specialists are in the network when they sign up, because only beneficiaries with the greatest need for care will seek that out.

* * *

For the pivotal alternative to Obamacare, please see the Independent Institute’s new book, A Better Choice: Healthcare Solutions for America, by John C. Goodman.

Should Gone with the Wind Be Banned?

GoneWithTheWindTragic events provide platforms for political opportunists—remember we can’t let a good crisis go to waste—and the mass shooting of African Americans by a white racist at a Charleston, S.C., church has created a plethora of opportunities. The one on my radar screen today is New York film critic Lou Lumenick’s argument for banning the Academy Awardwinning film Gone with the Wind. It’s a great reminder of why we don’t want film critics in charge of social policy.

Lumenick notes, accurately, that the film, based “on a best seller by die-hard Southerner Margaret Mitchell, ‘Gone with the Wind’ buys heavily into the idea that the Civil War was a noble lost cause and casts Yankees and Yankee sympathizers as the villains, both during the war and during Reconstruction.” Lumenick also says that the movie, and the Confederate flag, represents slavery and a defense of slavery.

Leaving aside the question of whether an artistic endeavor should be judged on its factual content and accuracy rather than artistic contribution, Lumenick is showing a pretty profound ignorance of history. True enough, Margaret Mitchell was an apologist for the South, and Gone with the Wind is presenting a distinctly Southern view of the Civil War and slavery. It never pretended to be anything else.

But Lumenick is assuming that movie viewers are both ignorant of the Civil War and unable to critically evaluate the content of the movie. The idea that Gone with the Wind should be considered or valued not for its artistic merit but only on whether it fits with the sensibilities of an elite (in this case a New York film critic)–and should be banned–is disturbingly Orwellian.

I remember seeing Gone With the Wind when I was about 12 years old in a movie theater. It remains the only time I have seen the entire movie in one sitting. My biggest recollections as a pre-teen?

  1. The intermission was weird, and I didn’t like it;
  2. A lot of people died, and lot of suffering happened during the Civil War;
  3. Southerners romanticized the war and secession with the result being complete social and personal devastation;
  4. Scarlett O’Hara was a self-centered brat, and I couldn’t see why Rhett Butler would have anything to do with her.

Apparently, according to Lumerick, it’s not enough for a movie to show the devastation of war. It also has to place his politically correct narrative at the center.

Beyond this, was the Civil War only about slavery? No, and this is why Lumerick borders on an Orwellian approach to speech, expression, history, and art. He (and others) are spinning the public narrative to fit a profoundly selective view of history and politics.

Slavery was indeed the proximate cause of the Civil War—sorry Southern apologists, you have to own this. Without pressure by Northern states to limit the expansion of slavery and the election of Republican Abraham Lincoln, the war probably wouldn’t have happened.

But concerns over states rights were very real, even if controversial. Lincoln’s election and the growing abolitionist movement precipitated a constitutional crisis. Southern states believed—with good reason—that it was just a matter of time before enough free states would be admitted to garner the three-fourths majority they needed to amend the Constitution and prohibit slavery within their borders, violating (they believed) the self-determination implied in the Constitution. Many southerners were fighting for sovereignty, not necessarily to preserve slavery. (And even this interpretation is simplified as this essay by Robert Higgs of the book Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men, by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, eloquently points out.)

Robert E. Lee, perhaps one of the nation’s most effective generals, was one of many Southerners offered a commission in the U.S. Army on the eve of the Civil War but turned it down because his loyalty was first to his native state of Virginia. (More than 300 regular U.S. Army officers resigned their commissions to fight for their home states in the South.) Moreover, Lee freed his family’s slaves in 1862, well before the war turned against the South, and proclaimed in private letters the slavery was an evil institution.

None of this justifies slavery, constitutes a defense of the South, or, for that matter, justifies using the Confederate battle flag as a symbol of independence. Rather, my intention is to point out the folly of Lumenick’s argument—that complex social issues and historical events can be whittled down into one narrative, and that narrative should then be used to condemn or laud art. It may work in art, but it doesn’t work in reality. We don’t have to celebrate Gone with the Wind as an example of objective documentary filmmaking before we can recognize its cultural contribution as art or, in this case, a representation of a point of view that is different from our own.

In his column, Lumenick writes: “But what does it say about us as a nation if we continue to embrace a movie that, in the final analysis, stands for many of the same things as the Confederate flag that flutters so dramatically over the dead and wounded soldiers at the Atlanta train station just before the ‘GWTW’ intermission?”

The answer to this Yankee is simple: It recognizes the objective value of individual freedom of expression and a commitment to meaningful public discourse.

When Thinking about Obergefell We Must Distinguish between Policy and Law

LadyJusticeAmong the friends of liberty, there is much confusion about whether the Supreme Court’s Obergefell opinion is a vindication of liberty or an usurpation of power. When thinking about the opinion we should be aware of two different modes of analysis: policymaker and judge. How we see Obergefell depends on which mode we have switched on. Let me explain.

I was an undergraduate when I first encountered the case of Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 405 (1905). Lochner dealt with a New York statute prohibiting bakers from working more than 60 hours per week and/or 10 hours per day. The state argued that the statute was a simple exercise of the police power—the reserved power to pass general legislation for the health, safety, and welfare of the people. The Supreme Court, however, held that the statute deprived bakers of liberty without due process of law contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment. Asserting that bakers were not “wards of the state,” the Court found “no reasonable ground for interfering with the liberty of person or the right of free contract by determining the hours of labor, in the occupation of baker.”

As a believer in free markets, I originally applauded the Court’s decision. Government, in my opinion, had no business interfering with two parties setting terms of contract under which one would labor and the other pay. I was thinking about this issue as a policymaker. Were I in the New York legislature, I would have advocated against this interference in markets and voted against wage and hour prohibitions.

My conclusion about Lochner changed when I switched from the policymaking mode to that of jurist. In examining the idea of “due process” I learned that this concept means that before the government can punish a person for some act or omission, government has to resort to the courts and use established procedures under pre-existing laws. Alexander Hamilton was clear about the scope of due process when writing in the late 1780s: “The words ‘due process’ have a precise technical import, and are only applicable to the process and proceedings of courts of justice; they can never be referred to an act of the legislature.” In other words, before putting someone in jail or forfeiting their property, government must follow a normal and established process. Warrants must be signed by a neutral magistrate, juries should be empaneled to hear a felony case, etc. Due process has nothing to do with the substance of a law, i.e., whether a judge thinks the law is good or bad policy. So long as the law has a basis in reason (when dealing with something clearly within the states’ reserved powers), the judicial inquiry should cease. Thus, I realized that Lochner was an example of judicial legislation: the Supreme Court substituting its policy preferences for that of the New York legislature. When in the jurist mode, I had to concede Lochner was wrongly decided although in policymaker mode I liked the result.

We should think about Obergefell in the same way. As a matter of policy, many of you can give sound arguments on why the definition of marriage should be expanded to include same-sex couples. However, we are debating the propriety of a decision of the United States Supreme Court. We must switch to jurist mode. State laws limiting marriage to one man and one woman have nothing to do with due process, which is entirely a procedural matter. The Supreme Court has no business looking at the substance of the laws to determine if it agrees with the policies enacted by various state legislatures. Linking marriage to procreation is inherently reasonable. There the judicial inquiry should end.

I know this is not easy to do. It was not easy for me to accept that Lochner was bad law inasmuch as I liked the result and believed it good policy. Similarly, it is not easy for many of you to accept that Obergefell is bad law although you like the policy of expanding the definition of marriage. But, if we do not make a distinction between the mode of policymaker and that of judge, then we end up with a system in which nine unelected lawyers make policy decisions for the entire nation and we have no recourse against them. We can’t vote them out of office like we can policymakers in Congress, a state legislature, or a city council.

So, when debating Obergefell, make sure you’re in jurisprudence mode. It might change your perspective on the outcome of this case.

Footnote: Some libertarian scholars believe that the Supreme Court got Lochner right as a matter of policy and jurisprudence. If you are interested in this argument, see David N. Mayer, Liberty of Contract (2011).

Libertarians Should Be Cautious in Celebrating Obergefell

SCOTUSTo no one’s surprise, five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court held that “the right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty.” The full opinion is here.

For example, Robby Soave over at Reason blasts the dissent from Justice Scalia and observes that he is no friend to libertarians. Also, Ilya Shapiro at the Cato Institute gives a thumbs up to the Court’s decision. Undoubtedly many readers of this blog share these sentiments and cheer today that homosexual couples can marry just like opposite-sex couples. However, before you get caught up in celebrating this “victory” for liberty, think about several things.

First, that the main liberty on which this country is founded is the right to self-government. For that reason we seceded from the British Empire so that each colony/state could govern its own affairs. Via the Articles and later the Constitution the states combined for certain external matters such as national defense and international commerce, but as to their internal affairs they remained separate and sovereign. This was supposed to allow the states to govern themselves based on peculiar local circumstances and culture; keep the governors close to the people; and allow for the states to serve as laboratories of democracy. Domestic relations were always seen as a matter of state and local regulation. There is no power delegated to the federal government over marriage, divorce, child custody, etc. When the federal government (legislative, executive, or judicial) acts outside the delegated powers and assumes prerogatives left to the states or the people, this cherished right of self-government is threatened.

Second, although the majority sets forth many good policy arguments on why same-sex marriage ought to be allowed, they are just that—policy arguments. Neither the Constitution of 1787 nor the 14th Amendment speak to same-sex marriage. Sure, there is a Due Process Clause in the 14th Amendment, but that should be understood as a guarantee that certain procedures must be followed in judicial proceedings before a person is deprived of life, liberty, or property. For example, a warrant should be submitted to a neutral magistrate to determine probable cause before a search is undertaken or a jury should be empaneled to decide felony cases between the government and the accused. Giving it a substantive meaning—i.e., giving the courts the power to determine if certain non-judicial policies or laws are “acceptable” in the opinion of the Court—sets the judicial branch above the other branches and the people. Policy is not the business of the Courts. We elect legislatures to debate policy and enact laws based on policy preferences. Actually, that was going on and going rather favorably for the gay community before the Court intervened with this decision.

Third, well what about Equal Protection? The 14th Amendment has an Equal Protection Clause, and states that did not allow homosexual marriage were denying homosexuals equal protection of the laws. Almost every law discriminates and creates classifications. For instance, a law that allows 16 year-olds to drive, but not 15 year-olds, creates a classification: those above 16 can drive, those below 16 cannot. This is not an equal protection violation because the intent behind the clause was to ensure that blacks enjoyed the same rights as whites and because the classification has a basis in reason. Sure, some teens 15 and 14 might drive better than adults who are 40 or 50, but courts have typically looked only to see that the classification has some basis in reason. It is reasonable to conclude that as a general matter a person should be 16 years or older to drive because as a general matter such an age brings enough maturity that the person can be expected to handle a car. Same thing for state laws on marriage. The traditional definition of marriage is based on the state’s desire to channel potential procreative activity into a stable social and legal relationship: marriage. This is per se reasonable, although there are policy arguments that can be made for expanding the definition. Bottom line: the view of marriage that has existed for thousands of years across a variety of different cultures (even cultures that were open to homosexuality, such as ancient Greece) is not bereft of a reasonable justification. And we don’t—or at least shouldn’t want—unelected judges looking beyond reasonable justification lest they be tempted to force their personal opinions—good or bad—on us.

Fourth, as my friend David Theroux pointed out to me, nationalization of states’ laws seldom results in greater freedom. For arguments pointing out the dangers of nationalization, see this Independent Institute op-ed. We should ask ourselves, based on this ruling, whether the federal government can nationalize any state law that increases government power, such as compulsory schooling, confiscatory taxes, bans on soft drinks and meat, higher drinking ages, etc. In other words, can the feds nationalize any state law that is intrusive and even tyrannical? Does this nationalization power bring greater freedom?

Fifth, think about what the gay rights movement has lost with this resort to the federal courts. Chief Justice Roberts puts this nicely in his dissent: “Indeed, however heartened the proponents of same-sex marriage might be on this day, it is worth acknowledging what they have lost, and lost forever: the opportunity to win the true acceptance that comes from persuading their fellow citizens of the justice of their cause. And they lose this just when the winds of change were freshening at their backs.” Opponents of gay marriage will ever believe that the debate and contest about the meaning of marriage was stolen from them. This will increase bitterness and likely close minds rather than open them to reasoned discussion and debate. What use is a democratic government with a First Amendment to promote debate, give and take, and respect when the judiciary decides all issues and questions that it deems important?

Finally, what does this bode for the future? With this decision, nine unelected federal officers firmly take on the power of legislating. The majority’s opinion reads like a collection of aphorisms from a far eastern philosopher and has little, if anything, to do with the application of established legal principles to an actual case or controversy. Many libertarians like the result in this case, but what will these cheerleaders say when the Court finds a state flat tax or state decision to reduce public assistance benefits to be unacceptable (that is, against the Court’s policy preferences) and declares these laws unconstitutional on due process or equal protection grounds? This is not idle speculation. Many progressive law professors urge, for example, that the poor should be considered a suspect class and thus the Court should strictly examine all state laws that impact various benefits. Here’s an article discussing this.

The Supreme Court has gone far from the judicial role outlined for it in the Constitution. Be careful when cheering for a result that you like; the power is there to reach issues and results that no friend of liberty will applaud. And you have no vote—none whatsoever—if you want to remove these Platonic Guardians from office.

UPDATE: Note that is post was updated on 6/27/2015.

Health Spending as a Share of Personal Consumption Keeps Rising

health_costsWhere is your money going? Increasingly, the answer is health care. This morning’s third estimate of first quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was not as awful as previously estimated – a real decline of 0.2 percent, not 0.7 percent.

The overall drop of $7 billion was driven by a decline in exports and nonresidential structures. Personal consumption expenditures increased by $58.3 billion. However, $48.1 billion of that was services, of which $24.2 billion was health care. Almost half the quarterly increase in personal consumption was health care.

As I have noted consistently for over a year, a distressingly large share of our national prosperity is being consumed by the government-medical complex.

Technical note: When I discuss health services in these quarterly GDP releases, I mean only health services. I do not include purchases of medical equipment, or facilities construction. While I include Medicare and Medicaid, I do not include Veterans Health Administration or other government benefits. So, these dollar figures undercount the amount of our economy consumed by the government-health complex.

(See: Measuring the Economy: A Primer on the GDP and the National Income and Product Accounts, Bureau of Economic Analysis, October 2014, pages 5-2 and 5-3; Micah B. Hartman, et al., “A Reconciliation of Health Care Expenditures in the National Health Expenditures Accounts and in Gross Domestic Product,” Research Spotlight, Survey of Current Business, September 2010, pages 42-52.)

The War of Ideas

battle of ideasWriting popular press pieces, you open yourself up to a lot of criticism. If you write about economic topics, you might as well be waving a red flag in front of a bunch of Spanish bulls. Without a doubt, I’ve received my fair share of critical commentary, been accused of pushing all kinds of agendas and being the worst of both political parties. Some comments, though, are pretty creative. Some of my personal favorites include,

“The author probably isn’t smart enough to tie her shoes.”

“The author is clearly a socialist.” (I was writing a piece which, in fact, was highly critical of socialism.)

“Someone forgot her meds this morning.”

I am not alone in my experience. Though these types of comments are often worthy of a smirk or occasional chuckle, some aren’t as amusing. I was once discussing reactions to popular pieces with another colleague who writes a regular column for a popular outlet. He stated that most comments don’t bother him. The exception was one commenter who, in responding to a policy piece, stated he hoped my colleague’s wife and children would die in a car wreck.

In an earlier piece, I discussed how those of us who love liberty have to learn how to argue. Being able to critique those with opposing viewpoints without resorting to strawman arguments, red herrings, and personal (ad hominem) attacks is fundamental in the advancement of liberty.

I find I take the most criticism for pieces that criticize some fundamental idea, ones that takes people outside of their comfort zone. For example, in discussing the Pledge of Allegiance and issues of nationalism, I argued that cultivating blind reverence to the U.S. government results in a cultural shift, one which sits in direct opposition to America’s supposed ideals.

I received a lot of feedback on this piece. Many of the replies, however, had nothing to do with the actual issue I raised (many people stuck to calling me a communist and telling me to “move to Yemen”). I’d hit a big nerve, I’d taken a jab at what many consider to be a fundamental ideal of strong allegiance to flag and country–and got a lot of pushback.

The fact of the matter is, I’m happy to get this feedback, whether it’s productive or not so productive.

Why? It’s not because I enjoy being criticized. It’s because I believe these issues are truly important for those concerned with freedom.

More importantly, these kinds of comments illustrate a very important fact. That is, the first battleground on which we must fight for liberty is not one of policy, but one of ideas.

Remember how markets operate. Markets are exchange and discovery. Just as there is a market for goods and services like phones, bread, and therapists, so too is there a market for ideas. Just as MP3s demonstrated their superiority to CDs, and computers replaced typewriters, we want good ideas to replace bad ones.

Peter Boettke is a master at articulating the importance of ideas. I’ve heard him put it this way: “Bad ideas lead to bad policies. Bad policies lead to bad outcomes. Good ideas lead to good policies. Good policies lead to good outcomes.” As such, it’s important that we get the ideas right. This requires debate, observation of past events, and conversation.

As lovers of liberty, this is what we hope to articulate and achieve. We want ideas to be created, tested, and debated. If someone thinks of something a different way because of something I’ve written, sees an alternative point of view, becomes open to hearing more about a particular idea, or even becomes just irritated enough to reflect on his own position, this is a success.

Sometimes, it seems that those who advocate liberty let perfection be the enemy of the good. That is, they want one argument to completely convert the person with whom they are speaking. But this isn’t how it usually happens. Instead, it’s these small movements, these marginal steps in getting people to think about ideas, that ultimately turn the tide.

The battleground of ideas is an all-important one. Ideas matter. As lovers of liberty, it is our place to advocate ideas that will shape the way we think, work, and live so as to improve the overall condition of mankind.

So I’ll continue to write and relish reactions both good and bad. I’ll consider that trip to Yemen and, if needed, invest is some slip-on shoes, as long as it gets people to think.

CBO: Repealing ACA Would Grow U.S. Economy; Reduce Number of Insured by 10 Million

health_costsI have asked, and the Congressional Budget Office has answered. Well, not really.

Although, I have been urging the CBO to do a comprehensive estimate of all the effects of the Affordable Care Act, effectively for the first time since 2012. It did so last week. The main takeaway is that “repealing the ACA would increase GDP by about 0.7 percent in the 2021–2025 period, mostly because provisions of the law that are expected to reduce the supply of labor would be repealed.”

CBO concludes that repeal would increase deficits. However, this effect is much smaller than previous estimates, because this is the first time CBO has used so-called “dynamic scoring”—taking macroeconomic effects of repeal into account—instead of the simple (“static”) bookkeeping type of estimate it used to do:

Excluding the effects of macroeconomic feedback—as has been done for previous estimates related to the ACA (and most other CBO cost estimates)—CBO and JCT estimate that federal deficits would increase by $353 billion over the 2016–2025 period if the ACA was repealed.

Repeal of the ACA would raise economic output, mainly by boosting the supply of labor; the resulting increase in GDP is projected to average about 0.7 percent over the 2021–2025 period. Alone, those effects would reduce federal deficits by $216 billion over the 2016–2025 period, CBO and JCT estimate, mostly because of increased federal revenues.

However, Charles Blahous of the Mercatus Center explains that the CBO’s conclusion is incorrect, because what the agency is using as “current law” to measure the effects of repeal is not actually the current law. (You really have to wonder at the government’s newspeak.) In fact, deficits will shrink, according to Mr. Blahaus.

CBO also misreports the number of people who will become uninsured as a result of repeal as 24 million. Actually, it would be 10 million, but CBO includes the 14 million on Medicaid as a result of Obamacare. In fact, those people would lose access to a welfare program. It is wrong to count them as currently having health insurance.

Neither of these two errors are CBO’s fault. The agency measures things as the Congress tells it to. Nevertheless, there is one paragraph in the new estimate that is quite odd for a different reason:

Implementing a repeal of the ACA would present major challenges. In the five years since its enactment, nearly every key provision of the law has taken effect and has been incorporated into final rules and other administrative actions. Undoing the ACA would thus be quite complicated.

Why? The law and its regulations are harmful and frustrating. Suppose the government passed a law requiring us to wear cardboard tricorn hats, speak pig Latin on odd numbered days of the month, and hop on one leg on even numbered days. If that law were repealed, we would simply stop doing those things, no matter what regulations had been emitted pursuant to the law.

* * *

For the pivotal alternative to Obamacare, please see the Independent Institute’s new book, A Better Choice: Healthcare Solutions for America, by John C. Goodman.

Donald Boudreaux’s The Essential Hayek

EssentialHayekReaders who want to get a flavor for the ideas of Friedrich Hayek will find an excellent introduction in Donald Boudreaux’s The Essential Hayek. The book can be downloaded free by clicking here.

Each chapter begins with a quotation from Hayek, but the book’s chapters explain Hayek’s ideas in Boudreaux’s words. Those ideas come from various works by Hayek, so the book is not a summary or discussion of specific works by Hayek, but rather an overview of Hayek’s ideas on the economy, on law, and on social organization more generally.

The book provides an excellent discussion of the advantages of free markets and limited government, and on the way that institutions can arise spontaneously without anyone planning them out, as a result of human action but not of human design.

The book is not a study guide to Hayek’s work, or a summary of his work, because, outside of the quotations that open each chapter, there are no references to the specific works of Hayek from which Boudreaux develops the chapter’s ideas. The book does end with suggestions for further reading, which can help guide those who want to know more.

Boudreaux’s discussion is insightful, clearly written, and provides an excellent introduction to the ideas of limited government. Rather than read what I have to say about it, read it yourself. It’s a free download.

Obamacare’s Shrinking Revenues: Medical Device Excise Tax

The House of Representatives voted today to repeal Obamacare’s medical device excise tax, the 2.3 percent tax levied on medical devices sold in the United States. The tax is certainly harmful. Whether it deserves the highest priority in repealing Obamacare, we’ll leave to discuss another day.

Although, repealing the medical device excise tax does nothing to repeal Obamacare. It just gives us a deficit-financed Obamacare. This is the second time the Republican-majority Congress has voted to increase deficit spending on health care this year, without winning any meaningful reform to any program.

With 46 Democrats joining the Republican majority, the votes in favor added up to 280, just 8 short of the number needed to override the promised presidential veto. We’ll see how it does in the Senate.


  • MyGovCost.org
  • FDAReview.org
  • OnPower.org
  • elindependent.org