Category Archives: Public Policy

Question 1: Rent Seeking Run Amok

Mailboxes are flooded with direct mail fliers.  The roadsides are littered with plastic signs.  We are admonished to Vote Yes On Question 1 on November 7.  This is one of the clearest examples of rent seeking behavior I have ever seen.  It is text book quality. Rent seeking occurs when an economic actor, in this […]

The Lesson for Maine From Hurricane Harvey

The pain and suffering of the residents of coastal Texas and Louisiana fill us all with feelings of empathy and concern for their future.  Most of us can only imagine losing all of our physical possessions and having to start over again. Hurricane Harvey brought an unprecedented rainfall event in U.S. weather history.  So the […]

A Health Care System Rent Apart

Republicans in Congress failed to fulfill their promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), called by them “Obamacare.”  The fight over the fate of the ACA reflected a narrow ideological battle over health insurance in the United States.   At issue were different world views on who should provide health insurance (private firms, public programs, […]

What Gets Measured, Counts

A few years ago I was visiting the museum of a local Maine historical society.  When the docent discovered I worked as an economist, he immediately wanted to show me their collection of early currency that had circulated in the community.  His assumption was that an economist would, of course, be interested in money.  I […]

Political Courage and Cowardice on Taxes

The trouble with taxes is that no one likes to pay them.  We want the services of government (good roads, public schools, national defense, a functioning court system, etc.) but would rather that someone else pay for these things.  Yet taxation is necessary in modern society.  Taxes are needed to fund what economists call public […]

Two Facts and One Big Question About American Health Care

For several years, Republicans in Congress routinely made a show of voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which they pejoratively labeled Obamacare.  Having refused to participate in the crafting of health care reform, they offered no alternative to the ACA.  Nor did they suggest ways to improve the system despite the President’s call […]

Be Happy You Didn’t Live in 1870

Robert Gordon’s 2016 book The Rise and Fall of American Growth is a comprehensive history of “the U.S. standard of living since the civil war.”  Gordon, a Northwestern University economist, details changes in consumption of food, clothing, shelter, and transport during a period when Americans experienced unprecedented improvement in quality of life.  From brutally difficult, […]

Was the Internet a Good Idea?

I remember clearly my first inkling of something new called the world wide web.  I had recently started using email and two colleagues brought me a U.S. Department of Agriculture publication describing a new information system.   One would be able to use a computer and software that would “crawl” about looking for information stored on […]

When Dollars Meet the Grizzly Bear Spirit

When most people hear the word economics they think of money.  I remember visiting a local Maine historical society and the excitement the caretaker felt when he learned that I was an economist.  He immediately assumed that I would want to see their collection of 19th Century currency in circulation in Maine.  I did not. […]