PPE Reading Group – September 5th, 2017

The PPE group engages in weekly conversations with diverse points of view in an effort to deepen our understanding of the intersection between politics, philosophy, and economics

This week in the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics reading group, we read and discussed the first couple chapters of Richard Wagners, Deficits, Debts, and Democracy: Tangling with Tragedy of the Fiscal Commons. Wagner discussed causes as to why the United States has been continually running deficits since the 1960’s. On the discussion board, the conversation center around two main topics: Short term over long-term thinking and the prisoner’s dilemma of budget making. Next week, the group will be reading and discussing “Collective Action and the Evolution of Social Norms” by Elinor Ostrom and “The Economic Role of Political Institutions: Market-Preserving Federalism and Economic Development” by Barry R. Weingast.

Click “continue reading” for a selection of our conversation:
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Thomson: Fairacres Designation as a Historical Place

The following was written by Kevin Thomson:

The Fairacres neighborhood, located in a wealthy section of Omaha, NE near UNO and Memorial Park, is now on the National Register of Historic Places. The wealthy neighborhood was granted the honor by the National Park Service on July 24, 2017. At first, the designation may seem harmless. The neighborhoods listing on the National Register is a boon for Fairacres homeowners, but the benefits for the average Omaha citizen are less clear. Too many designations can cause problems for the city planners and limit the growth of affordable housing.
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Mercantilism: Not in My Backyard

Everything old is new again, argues Emily Hamilton in a paper comparing the Mercantilists of the past to the NIMBY’s (Not In My Backyard) of today. Both Mercantilism and NIBYism rely on the same incentive structure – private benefit to the collective detriment. These tactics can block development, restrict competition, and stifle growth in the most productive cities. The benefits are concentrated among a few while the costs are spread out among the many.

Mercantilism was the leading economic model for countries between the 16th and 18th centuries. It arose out of a zero sum – I win, you lose – view of the economy. The combative view of economic trade led the economy to favor particular industries by highly regulating imports and exports to keep prices high and escape competition. Ms. Hamilton’s point is that that NIMBYism works in a very similar way.
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