Adam Smith’s Oft-Missed Lesson on Human Imagination

One of my favorite teaching lessons in economics is the division of labor. It’s one of those ideas that reminds me of my late father’s dual roles, that of both professor of economics and part-time professional magician. The division of labor story creates that wonderful “aha” moment, similar to my father’s reveal of his latest […]

Taxes, Spending, and Powerball Winnings

In 2016, I described what Congress could have done with the then-astronomical $1.5 billion Powerball winnings. With the recent $2.04 billion Powerball prize, it’s time for an update. What could Congress do with the money if they were the sole winners of the Powerball, based on the CBO’s budget for 2022? Federal spending on education […]

Weekly Initial Claims Continue to Trend Higher

Initial claims for regular state unemployment insurance fell by 16,000 for the week ending November 26th, coming in at 225,000. The previous week’s 241,000 was revised up from the initial estimate of 240,000 (see first chart). The four-week average of weekly initial claims rose to 228,750, up 1,750 for the week. That was the fifth […]

Mental Health Is In Crisis. What Is the Answer?

Reprinted from the Independent Institute The US is still in a state of emergency for Covid-19 and monkeypox. However, the country has another longstanding and quickly worsening public health concern—mental health. According to, about 20 percent of American adults experienced a mental health issue in 2020. Nearly 1 in 20 Americans live with a severe mental illness.  Perhaps […]

Private-Sector Job Openings Remain High Despite Falling in October

The latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the total number of job openings in the economy decreased to 10.334 million in October, down from 10.687 million in September. The number of open positions in the private sector decreased to 9.412 million in October, down from 9.627 million […]

There’s No Natural ‘Carrying Capacity’ for the Human Population: An Essay Inspired by the Happy News that the Human Population Has Reached Eight Billion

The late, great Julian Simon spent decades battling intellectually against biologists and zoologists who were convinced that human population growth, if governments did not hold it in check with draconian measures, would spell doom for multitudes of humans. (I might as well have used the present tense above, because many of the scientists with whom […]

Privacy in the Digital Era: Who Controls Private Data?

The boundaries between physical and digital spheres are collapsing. The digital sharing of personal information is now embedded into the economic and relational activities of daily life. Following the COVID pandemic, the popularity of work from home and other hybrid work relationships continued to erode traditional boundaries. These rapid changes in data sharing have created […]

Yes, an Academic Free-Speech Conference Needed Protection from the Mob

Reprinted from the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal Jumping to conclusions is sometimes a big mistake. I recently became puzzled and mildly infuriated when I read that Stanford University was going to have a conference on freedom of expression and academic freedom—but was admitting only invitees, allowing no press or other interested persons to attend. […]

When Lenin Read a Book on Marx

I expected pushback against the thesis of my paper (co-authored with Michael Makovi) “The Mainstreaming of Marx: Measuring the Effect of the Russian Revolution on Karl Marx’s Influence” from Marxists and other followers of the socialist philosopher. In the paper, we use Google Ngram and a separate newspaper database to track textual mentions of Karl […]