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Having already written several dozen columns on public policy and the coronavirus, it’s time to add my two cents to the debate over Sweden’s (comparatively) laissez-faire approach to the pandemic. If nothing else, it’s remarkable that the nation Bernie Sanders praised for socialism (albeit incorrectly) is now the poster child for (some) libertarians. What makes […]

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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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Given Social Security’s enormous long-run financial problems, the program eventually will need reform. But what should be done? Some folks on the left, such as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, support huge tax increases to prop up the program. Such an approach would have a very negative impact on the economy and, because of built-in […]

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I know exactly how Ronald Reagan must have felt back in 1980 when he famously said “There you go again” to Jimmy Carter during their debate. That’s because I endlessly have to deal with critics who try to undercut the Laffer Curve by claiming that it’s based on the notion that all tax cuts “pay […]

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I’m in Sweden today, where I just spoke before Timbro (a prominent classical liberal think tank) about the US elections and the implications for public policy. My main message was pessimism since neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton support genuine entitlement reform. But I’ve addressed that topic many times before. Today, motivated by my trip, […]

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Sweden punches way above its weight in debates about economic policy. Leftists all over the world (most recently, Bernie Sanders) say the Nordic nation is an example that proves a big welfare state can exist in a rich nation. And since various data sources (such as the IMF’s huge database) show that Sweden is relatively […]

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I’m still in China, as part of a week-long teaching assignment about markets, entrepreneurship, economics, and fiscal policy at Northeastern University in Shenyang. One point that I’ve tried to get across to the students is that China should not copy the United States. Or France, Japan, or Sweden. To be more specific, I warn them […]

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Senator Bernie Sanders wants to dramatically increase the burden of government and he claims that his policies won’t lead to economic misery because nations such as Sweden show that you can be a prosperous country with a big welfare state. Perhaps, but there are degrees of prosperity. And a large public sector imposes a non-trivial […]

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I periodically make comparisons of the United States and Europe that are not very flattering for our cousins across the Atlantic. Though this isn’t because of any animus toward Europe. Indeed, I always enjoy my visits. And some of America’s best (albeit eroding) features, such as rule of law and dignity of the individual, are […]

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Sweden is an odd country, at least from the perspective of public policy. On the positive side, it has private Social Security accounts. It has an admirable school choice system. And it was a good role model of spending restraint back in the 1990s. But on the negative side, Sweden has one of the world’s […]

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While theory is important, I suspect most people are more likely to be convinced by real-world evidence. This is why I frequently compare nations when arguing that free markets and small government are the best way of generating prosperity. Simply stated, I want people to understand that economic liberty produces faster growth, and that faster […]

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When I first started working on fiscal policy in the 1980s, I never thought I would consider Sweden any sort of role model. It was the quintessential cradle-to-grave welfare state, much loved on the left as an example for America to follow. But Sweden suffered a severe economic shock in the early 1990s and policy […]

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What government spends the most on health care? Is it Canada or the United Kingdom, which are famous (or, if these stories are any indication, infamous would be a better description) for single-payer healthcare systems? Is it Sweden, the home of the cradle-to-grave welfare state? Or France, the land of the world’s most statist people? […]

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In my travels through Europe, I often wind up debating whether policy is better in the United States or Europe. I generally try to explain that this is the wrong comparison, both because Europe is not a monolithic bloc and also because most individual nations have both good policies and bad policies. But sometimes you […]

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Sweden must be a schizophrenic country. Something strange is happening, after all, if a statist like Jeffrey Sachs and a rabid libertarian like yours truly both cited it as a role model in our remarks last month at the United Nations. So who’s right? Well, it depends what you care about. Jeffrey and other folks […]

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Sweden has a very large and expensive welfare state, but it’s actually becoming a bit of a role model for economic reform. I’ve already commented on the country’s impressive school choice system and noted that the Swedes have partially privatized their Social Security system. I even wrote a Cato study looking at the good and […]

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Johnny Munkhammar is a member of the Swedish Parliament and a committed supporter of economic liberalization. He has a column in the Wall Street Journal Europe that does a great job of explaining how Sweden became rich when it was a small-government, pro-market nation. He then notes that his country veered off track in the […]

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Almost everybody (even, apparently, Paul Krugman) agrees that you don’t want to be on the downward-sloping part of the Laffer Curve. That’s where higher tax rates do so much economic damage that government collects even less revenue. But I would argue that tax increases that produce more revenue also are a bad idea. Sometimes they […]

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The most powerful argument for school choice is that children from poor families will be more likely to get a high-quality education. After all, these are the kids most likely to be trapped in failing government schools. But there are lots of secondary arguments for school choice. A much better deal for taxpayers. Less racial […]

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Back in 2016, I created a 2×2 matrix to illustrate the difference between redistributionism (tax Person A and give to Person B) and state planning (politicians and bureaucrats trying to steer the economy, either through direct ownership or industrial policy). The main point of that column was to show that countries should try to be […]

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There are three important principles for sensible tax policy. Low marginal tax rates on productive behavior No tax bias against capital (i.e., saving and investment) No tax preferences that distort the economy Today, let’s focus on #2. I’ve written many times about why double taxation is a bad idea. This occurs when governments – thanks […]

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Back in 2015, I joked that my life would be simpler if I had an “automatic fill-in-the-blanks system” for columns dealing with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Here’s what I proposed. We can use this shortcut today because the OECD has just churned out a report embracing the death tax. So all we […]

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I’m pessimistic about the direction of public policy, especially on fiscal issues such as taxes and spending. But there is a silver lining to this dark cloud of statism. We’re seeing continuing progress on school choice, most notably a big expansion of educational freedom in West Virginia. It appears more and more state and local […]

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The state of New York is an economic disaster area. New York is ranked #50 in the Economic Freedom of North America. New York is ranked #48 in the State Business Tax Climate Index. New York is ranked #50 in the Freedom in the 50 States. New York is next-to-last in measures of inbound migration. […]

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It’s simple to mock Democrats like Joe Biden, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Bernie Sanders. One reason they’re easy targets is they want people to believe that America can finance a European-style welfare state with higher taxes on the rich. That’s nonsensical. Simply stated, there are not enough rich people and they don’t earn enough money (and […]

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In Part I of this series, I explained why it’s absurd to think illegal immigration can be stopped by sending foreign aid to less-developed countries, such as many of those in Central America. Simply stated, government-to-government handouts have never been a successful strategy for turning poor nations into rich nations. Indeed, aid actually discourages countries […]

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As a public finance economist, I’m a huge fan of fiscal reforms such as a spending cap or a flat tax. But, if asked to pick the reform that would have the biggest positive impact for the United States, I’d be very tempted to pick school choice. Largely because of the pernicious effect of teacher […]

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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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There are many compelling economic arguments against entitlement programs. They discourage savings. They discourage work. They are funded with taxes. They are funded with debt. Since I’m a libertarian, I also have moral concerns about tax-and-transfer programs. Today, though, let’s address the big problem of entitlements and demographics, especially with regards to social insurance programs […]

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