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Iceland is a tiny little country with just 338,000 people (about the population of Santa Ana, CA), but that doesn’t mean it can’t teach us lessons about public policy. I wrote about the nation’s approach to fisheries in 2016, and explained that the property rights-based system is the best way of protecting fish stocks from […]

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Being a glass-half-full kind of guy, I look for kernels of good news when examining economic policy around the world. I once even managed to find something to praise about French tax policy. And I can assure you that’s not a very easy task. I particularly try to find something positive to highlight when I’m […]

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An incredible 93 percent of voters in Iceland voted against financing British and Dutch bank bailouts. The politicians in England and the Netherlands argued that they were bailing out local subsidiaries of an Icelandic bank, so Iceland’s taxpayers should pick up the tab, but those branches was operating under the rules of the European Economic […]

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Republicans made many big mistakes when they controlled Washington earlier this decade, so picking the most egregious error would be a challenge. But continued American involvement with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development would be high on the list. Instead of withdrawing from the OECD, Republicans actually increased the subsidy from American taxpayers to the Paris-based bureaucracy. […]

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How should Nazism be classified, particularly when compared to socialism? Are these ideologies at opposite ends of a spectrum, or are they simply different sides of the same collectivist coin? In my humble opinion, both views are correct, which is why I think this triangle is the best way to classify various ideologies. Nazis are […]

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The 2021 edition of the Index of Economic Freedom was released today (as I’ve repeatedly stated, it’s my favorite annual publication from the Heritage Foundation). There are five things that merit attention 1. Hong Kong is no longer in first place. Indeed, it’s no longer even part of the rankings because the authors have determined […]

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Early last decade, a former Prime Minister of Iceland was brought before a special tribunal to determine whether he was legally responsible for his nation’s 2008 economic downturn. As you might imagine, I had mixed emotions about that story. On one hand, I don’t like politicians and I viscerally like the idea of holding them […]

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I’ve written many columns about Sweden and Denmark over the past 10-plus years, and I’ve also written several times about Norway and Iceland. But I’ve mostly neglected Finland, other than some analysis of the country’s experiment with “basic income” in 2017 and 2018. Now, thanks to a very interesting column in the New York Times, […]

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The Nordic nations punch above their weight in global discussions of economic policy. Advocates of bigger government in the United States, such as Bernie Sanders, claim that those countries are proof that socialism can work. But there’s a big problem with that claim. The Nordic nations don’t have any of the policies – government ownership, […]

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I’ve repeatedly warned about the downsides of socialism, calling it “evil and stupid,” as well as a “dreary failure.” Though these debates can be frustrating because of vague definitions. Some people, when they talk about socialism, are referring to government ownership, central planning, and price controls. Others, by contrast, are referring to Scandinavia’s market-based welfare states. And […]

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I periodically explain that a European-sized welfare state can only be financed by huge taxes on lower-income and middle-class taxpayers. Simply stated, there aren’t enough rich people to prop up big government. Moreover, at the risk of mixing my animal metaphors, those golden geese also have a tendency to fly away if they’re being treated […]

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What’s socialism? Is it the centrally planned economies of Cuba and North Korea? Or the kleptocracies of Zimbabwe and Venezuela? How about the interventionist welfare states of Greece, Italy, and France? Or the redistribution-oriented Nordic nations? Since socialism means different things to different people, the answers will be all over the map. But there’s one […]

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My favorite annual publication from the Heritage Foundation, the Index of Economic Freedom, has just been released. Like the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World and, to a lesser extent, the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, the Heritage Foundation survey is filled with interesting data on economic liberty in various nations. We’ll start […]

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When I think about social welfare spending, I mostly worry about recipients getting trapped in dependency. But I also feel sorry for taxpayers, who are bearing ever-higher costs to finance redistribution programs. Today’s column won’t focus on those issues. Instead, we’re going to utilize new OECD data to compare the size of the welfare states […]

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5000 Columns

Although the original goal for my blog was to periodically share information with congressional staffers and journalists, the audience has expanded and the site has now become the primary outlet for my work on public policy. And today is a milestone of sorts since it is my 5,000th column, something I would not have predicted […]

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I don’t think I’m a glass-half-empty kind of person, but I realized that I have a habit of sharing “depressing” charts. The “most depressing” chart about Denmark. A “very depressing” chart about the United States. The “most depressing” chart about Japan. Well, as the Monty Python folks advised, it’s time to look on the bright […]

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I’m currently in Iceland for a conference organized by the European Students for Liberty. I spoke earlier today on the case for lower taxes and I made six basic points. Taxes undermine prosperity. Taxes reduce competitiveness. Taxes are self-destructive. Taxes are unfair and corrupt. Taxes are immoral. Taxes “feed the beast.” Sadly, not everyone agrees […]

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According to leftists like Bernie Sanders, European nations have wonderfully generous welfare states financed by high tax rates on the rich. They’re partly right. There are very large welfare states in Europe (though I wouldn’t use “wonderfully” and “generous” to describe systems that have caused economic stagnation and high levels of unemployment). But they’re wrong […]

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There’s a lot to admire about Switzerland, particularly compared to its profligate neighbors. It has a spending cap, imposed in a landslide referendum early last decade, that has constrained the growth of government. It has a genuinely decentralized system with a very small central government and vigorous competition among cantons. There’s widespread gun ownership, and […]

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I don’t like election years because the policy debate tends to revolve around the various proposals put forth by candidates. And since those ideas generally don’t make much sense, it’s a frustrating period. But the silver lining to that dark cloud is that it does create opportunities to comment on what the candidates are saying…and […]

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Programs about the improbable success of Chile and Estonia already have aired on nationwide TV, and those were joined last weekend by a show about the “sensible nation” of Switzerland. Here’s the 28-minute program. When I first watched the program, I was slightly irked that there was very little discussion of the role of fiscal […]

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I’ve previously argued that private property rights are a vital component of a pro-environment agenda. Interestingly, the Washington Post sort of agrees. At least with regards to fisheries. In a recent editorial, it acknowledged that the current communal system doesn’t work. The world’s fisheries, which feed billions of people, are in serious decline. The authors […]

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What were the most noteworthy events from 2015? Regarding bad news, there’s unfortunately a lot of competition. But if I’m forced to pick the very worst developments, here’s my list. Resuscitation of the Export-Import Bank – I did a premature victory dance last year when I celebrated the expiration of the Export-Import Bank’s authority.  I […]

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The fact that there’s widespread support for spending caps from groups that support limited government is hardly a surprise. After all, we have lots of real world evidence that limits on the growth of government spending – if sustained for multi-year periods – can quickly shrink the burden of government and reduce red ink. So […]

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I’m not a big fan of the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. That international bureaucracy is controlled by high-tax nations that want to export bad policy to the rest of the world. As such, the OECD frequently advocates policies that are contrary to sound economic principles. Here are just a few examples of […]

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What’s worse, Democrats who deliberately seek to make government bigger because of their ideological belief in statism, or Republicans who sort of realize that big government is bad yet make government bigger because of incompetence? I’m not sure, though this is a perfect example of why I often joke that Washington is divided between the […]

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Last month, I cited data from Economic Freedom of the World to explain that the United States was becoming less competitive because of creeping protectionism and reductions in the rule of law and property rights. Now I have more bad news to share. Last year, the United States ranked #12 for economic liberty. But according […]

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At the risk of stereotyping, the Chinese people are remarkably productive when given the chance. Hong Kong and Singapore are dominated by ethnic Chinese, and those jurisdictions routinely rank among the world’s top economies. Taiwan is another high-performing economy with an ethnic Chinese population. Ironically, the only place where Chinese people don’t enjoy high average […]

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The European Commission’s data-gathering bureaucracy, Eurostat, has just published a new report on government finances for the region. And with Greece’s ongoing fiscal turmoil getting headlines, this Eurostat publication is worthwhile because it debunks the notion, peddled by folks like Paul Krugman, that Europe has been harmed by “savage” and “harsh” spending cuts. Here’s some […]

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Back in March, I shared a remarkable study from the International Monetary Fund which explained that spending caps are the only truly effective way to achieve good fiscal policy. And earlier this month, I discussed another good IMF study that showed how deficit and debt rules in Europe have been a failure. In hopes of […]

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