Archive for June, 2012

In 2011 professor Kirchgaessner from the University of St.Gallen published an interesting article in Kyklos:

Econometric Estimates of Deterrence of the Death Penalty: Facts or Ideology?

Therein he discusses the long literature of economic analyses of the death penalty in the United States. At the core of the topic there is the question whether or not capital punishment reduces the number of homicides.

After having reviewed several inconclusive previous studies, Kirchgaessner describes the econometric problems that lead to inconsistent estimates. Furthermore he states four questions that need convincing answers by the proponents of the death penalty:

1) Why is the homicide rate in those U.S. states which do not apply the death penalty consistently lower compared to those states applying it?

2) Why does the number of executions not have an impact on the difference in the development of the homicide rates between those states which do not apply the death penalty compared to those states applying it?

3) Why is the homicide rate in Canada consistently lower than in the United States despite the fact that Canada does not apply the death penalty but the United States does?

4) Why does the number of executions not have an impact on the difference in the development of the homicide rates between Canada and the United States despite the fact that Canada does not apply the death penalty but the United States does?


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For almost fifteen years Dr. Thomas Sowell has been publishing articles in the Jewish World Review. One of his latest essays “Socialist or Fascist?” presents two important thoughts on current politics in the United States and elsewhere. First, Sowell clarifies that unlike many conservatives claim President Obama is not a socialist. Instead he wants government to have greater control of the economy, while leaving ownership of the means of production in private hands. According to Sowell this provides him win a win-win situation:

Thus the Obama administration can arbitrarily force insurance companies to cover the children of their customers until the children are 26 years old. Obviously, this creates favorable publicity for President Obama. But if this and other government edicts cause insurance premiums to rise, then that is something that can be blamed on the “greed” of the insurance companies.

In a second step, Sowell explains the bigger picture of this strategy, the vision of the anointed:

The left’s vision is not only a vision of the world, but also a vision of themselves, as superior beings pursuing superior ends. In the United States, however, this vision conflicts with a Constitution that begins, “We the People…”

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About a week ago Nigel Farage, member of the European Parliament, presented his thoughts on why one EU “solution” after another has failed:

The Spanish prime minister […] might just be the most incompetent leader in the whole of Europe. And that is saying something because there is pretty stiff competition.

Ten years ago […] we were told that with the Euro, by 2010 we would have full employment and indeed that Europe would be the competitive and dynamic powerhouse of the world.


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Here are some thoughts by George W. Romney. Hopefully his son, Republican candidate Mitt Romney, paid attention at home:

The most unusual thing about our country was that when its people faced problems they did not first turn to government. They turned first to their fellow citizen.

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An important question is whether the concept of liberty includes the freedom not to act. Some decades ago, Nobel laureate Milton Friedman was confronted with the Good Samaritan paradox. His thoughts are remarkable:

Note the shift you made: you started with society and ended up with government. Are those synonymous?

A good society will certainly be one in which people in that position will be strongly inclined to move out and rescue that man. But that is a very different question from saying that if the society is bad we can make it good by using force.

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You may have heard about President Obama’s recent gaffe. He said the “private sector is doing fine”. And despite the fact that he corrected himself just four hours later, Mitt Romney’s campaign had already exploited Obama’s gaffe.

To me, this whole issue reminded me of a previous post arguing that the 2012 election will be more about style than substance.

Meanwhile, Jon Stewart brilliantly commented on the role of gaffes in American politics:

Jon Stewart Explains the Life Cycle of the Political Gaffe

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The other day I came across this ingenious idea from Dr. Thomas Sowell:

Elections should be held on April 16th – the day after we pay our income taxes. That is one of the few things that might discourage politicians from being big spenders.

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If we were to believe in Keynesian economics, shouldn’t we encourage more Greek people to riot in the streets? One day they will have destroyed enough to make reconstruction jobs stimulate the economy…

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More than a decade ago, Nobel laureate Milton Friedman wrote a comprehensive essay on how to cure the American health care system. It is neither surprising that Congress has not followed any of his proposals, nor that things have not improved at all. Today, most people in the US and elsewhere do not even understand what a health insurance ought to be in general. Thus, with the upcoming presidential election in mind, Friedman’s article is worth reading more than ever:

How to Cure Health Care

We generally rely on insurance to protect us against events that are highly unlikely to occur but that involve large losses if they do occur – major catastrophes, not minor, regularly recurring expenses. […] Yet in medicine, it has become common to rely on insurance to pay for regular medical examinations and often for prescriptions.

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Fortunately, a few weeks ago Dr. Thomas Sowell once again joined Uncommon Knowledge. Together with Peter Robinson he discussed one of his favorite topics, the role of intellectuals in society. If you like, you can watch the whole interview or some highlights below:

Intellect is not wisdom.

All of us only have a narrow range within which we may be great, but a few steps outside that range we are completely lost.

The percentage of cabinet appointments who had experience in the private sector: administration of Dwight Eisenhower almost 60 percent, George W. Bush over 50 percent, Barack Obama barely 20 percent.

The whole discussion reminded me of two other brilliant sentences by Dr. Sowell:

Much of the social history of the Western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good.

There is usually only a limited amount of damage that can be done by dull or stupid people. For creating a truly monumental disaster, you need people with high IQs.

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