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Regulation, Discretion, and Public Choice with Stephen M. Jones

What follows is an edited partial transcript of my conversation with Stephen M. Jones. He is an economist for the US Coast Guard. However, we are discussing his own research, so nothing in this conversation should be taken to represent the official views of the US Coast Guard.


Petersen: So Stephen, let’s start just by defining regulatory discretion. What does that mean in this context?

Jones: Sure. So, I think first off, we should probably define regulation because when Congress writes a law, they pass the law on to regulatory agencies and it will say something to the effect of “agencies: issue a regulation.” So, when we talk about regulations this point isn’t always clear because people just aren’t familiar with this process. The regulation is a statement that kind of clarifies existing congressional law or is written in direct response to congressional law. And this could be as specific as, say, Congress can direct an agency to set an exact amount of pollution that is permitted for an industry to as broad as saying something like “protect consumers from unreasonable risks.” And then the agency has room to interpret that statement as wide as it wants to.

So, when I talk about agency discretion what I’m really talking about is Congress wrote a rule that gave the agency power to issue legally binding rules that may or may not trace directly back to Congress. Continue reading Regulation, Discretion, and Public Choice with Stephen M. Jones

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Canada’s Cartel Problem with Maxime Bernier

What follows is an edited transcript of my conversation with Maxime Bernier. If you like his ideas, I encourage you to go to his website to learn more about them.


Petersen: You’re listening to Economics Detective Radio. Before we start let me give a quick disclaimer that although today’s guest is a politician this show is nonpartisan and doesn’t endorse any particular candidate for office. My guest and I are also Canadian so we’ll be talking about some Canada-specific issues. I know I have an international audience but sometimes it’s fun to learn about what’s going on in other countries. So I hope you’ll listen nonetheless. And now on to the episode.

My guest today is Maxime Bernier, he is the Member of Parliament for Beauce, Quebec and a contender for the Conservative Party leadership race. Maxime, welcome to Economics Detective Radio.

Bernier: Thank you very much for having me.

Petersen: So, our topic today will be Canada’s economy and its economic policy. There’s a lot to get to on this topic but let’s start with the positive. The Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World Index ranks Canada as the fifth freest country in the world, actually tied for fifth. We’re well ahead of our neighbors, the Americans, who come in at number 16. So, to start our discussion, Maxime, what is Canada doing right with respect to its economic policy?

Bernier: First of all, I think that this was the ranking that the Fraser Institute did a year ago, if I remember very well, and at that time we had a balanced budget when we were in government and also we were successful in lowering taxes for every Canadian. And I think that’s a key when you speak about more freedom you must also have less government and a limited government in Ottawa. And I think that was the goal of the Conservative government when we were in government.

And also we have a lot of free trade. That’s very important. We signed free-trade agreements with I think, if my memory is good, 45 countries. So, when you have more free trade like that, Canadians are able to buy goods from every country and they are able to also export products. So, that’s helping also.

More free trade, less government, lower taxes and I think that’s a big reason why we are there now. Continue reading Canada’s Cartel Problem with Maxime Bernier

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DonorSee and the Future of Charitable Giving with Gret Glyer

What follows is an edited transcript of the first part of my conversation with Gret Glyer, creator of DonorSee. For the full conversation, listen to the episode.


Petersen: My guest today is Gret Glyer, he is the creator of a new app called DonorSee. Gret, welcome to Economics Detective Radio.

Glyer: Thank you for having me, Garrett. How are you?

Petersen: I am great! So, DonorSee is a charitable giving app with a very interesting twist which—we’ll get to the app itself in a little bit—but first let’s start with some background. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved with the nonprofit sector.

Glyer: Sure. So, I graduated from college in 2012 and immediately started working at a rental car company and did that for about a year and did really well. And I was promoted very quickly and I was told by upper management I was going to skyrocket through the ranks and that whole idea of being very successful having six or seven figure income, getting a company car, that kind of stuff, was just a depressing thought to me because I didn’t want to wake up in twenty years and be really good at renting cars to people. Continue reading DonorSee and the Future of Charitable Giving with Gret Glyer

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Money, Markets, and Democracy with George Bragues

What follows is an edited partial transcript of my conversation with George Bragues of the University of Guelph-Humber. We discussed his new book, Money, Markets, and Democracy: Politically Skewed Financial Markets and How to Fix Them. This is his second appearance on this show, you can hear the first one here.


Petersen: So your book looks at the interaction between Democratic politics and financial markets. In your introduction, you quote the Greek Prime Minister Alexi Tsipras, who claimed that “democracy cannot be blackmailed.” And this was in the context of the 2015 bailout referendum that would have helped pay some of the massive Greek debt but at a cost of forcing them to adopt fiscal austerity. So, can you talk a little bit about that situation and how it played out and also what it tells us generally about the relationship between democracy and finance?

Bragues: Yes, sure. That situation has its origins about a year or two after the financial crisis of 2008. The financial crisis of 2008 initially arose out of the subprime mortgage sector in the United States. It affected banks worldwide that were holding or otherwise exposed to the subprime mortgage assets. Continue reading Money, Markets, and Democracy with George Bragues

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How Bad at Math Are You Really?

Many if not most people do not like math. They will tell you they are “not a math person.” Perhaps you are one of these people. You took exactly as much math in school as they made you, and not ε more!

The problem with being “not a math person” is that math people enjoy a significant earnings premium over non-math people. Take a look at this list of the highest earning degrees (source):

  1. Petroleum Engineering
  2. Systems Engineering
  3. Chemical Engineering
  4. Actuarial Science
  5. Computer Science & Engineering
  6. Nuclear Engineering
  7. Electronics & Communications Engineering
  8. Electrical & Computer Engineering
  9. Computer Engineering
  10. Aeronautical Engineering
  11. Computer Science & Mathematics
  12. Physics & Mathematics
  13. Electrical Engineering
  14. Applied Mathematics

Continue reading How Bad at Math Are You Really?

Medicine, Entrepreneurship, and Health Policy with Ray March

What follows is an edited transcript of my discussion with Ray March about the economics of medicine and health insurance. We had a fascinating and far-reaching discussion about health care policy, both in the United States and Canada, as well as some cases of entrepreneurship in the medical sector.

This includes a slightly awkward discussion of the development of sexual pharmacology, the early experiments with nitrates and Viagra, and the, uhhh, “firmness” those drugs produce. Enjoy!


Petersen: My guest today is Ray March of Texas Tech University. Ray, welcome to Economics Detective Radio.

March: Thanks for having me.

Petersen: So our topic today is the economics of medicine. Ray’s research concerns entrepreneurship and regulation in medicine. Let’s start by talking about this idea of entrepreneurship in medicine.

The medical field isn’t like Silicon Valley. You can’t just launch a pharmaceutical company out of your parents’ garage. In fact, the whole field is tightly regulated and controlled by the government both in the United States and Canada, other countries. So how do people in the medical field still manage to be entrepreneurial?

March: Entrepreneurship is fundamentally a question about how do I find resources I have now and put them towards their best use and that will help me turn a profit and therefore we have market signals. You’re right to point out medicine is a much more regulated area compared to other service industries but what makes medicine entrepreneurial is that there’s always a void to discover, there’s always a need to find better uses and better cures or better ways to treat patients. Continue reading Medicine, Entrepreneurship, and Health Policy with Ray March

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Early Modern London, Wages, and the Industrial Revolution

What follows is an edited transcript of my conversation with Judy Stephenson. We discuss her work on the economic history of the Industrial Revolution, particularly as it pertains to early modern London.


Petersen: You’re listening to Economics Detective Radio. My guest today is Judy Stephenson of Oxford University’s Wadham college. Judy, welcome to Economics Detective Radio.

Stephenson: Thank you very much. It’s nice to be here.

Petersen: So, our topic for today is economic history. Specifically we’ll be looking at some interesting research Judy has done on wage rates in the early modern period in London. This period is particularly interesting because it’s the start of the Industrial Revolution which leads to a dramatic increase in the growth living standards and of technology and that trend of course is what has shaped our modern world and made it different from the world of the past. So, it’s very important of course to understand this period if we want to understand the world as it is now. So Judy, start by giving us historical background. What was the world like in the period you study?

Stephenson: Well, I work mostly on researching London, so urban environments. And London is very developed in this period between about 1600 and 1800. And London becomes the biggest city in the world during this period and as the biggest city in the world it’s hugely vibrant, some of the largest merchant houses in the world are there, banking is advanced and developing. Most of the occupations of London are tertiary or service sector, even at this early date. Continue reading Early Modern London, Wages, and the Industrial Revolution

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Wrongful Convictions, Exoneration, and Criminal Justice with Samuel Gross

What follows is an edited transcript of my conversation with Samuel Gross.


Petersen: You’re listening to Economics Detective Radio. My guest today is Samuel Gross of the University of Michigan Law School. Sam, welcome to Economics Detective Radio.

Gross: Great to be here.

Petersen: So our topic for today is criminal justice, in particular, we’re going to be looking at the issue of wrongful conviction. Dr. Gross was part of the establishment of the National Registry of Exonerations which has provided valuable data in this area. So let’s start by talking about the registry. What is it? How was it developed? And what was your part in it?

Gross: I’m the founder of the registry. It was created because after doing work on false convictions and exonerations for half a dozen years it became clear that the only way to get any sort of systematic information on exonerations that have occurred in the United States would be to put together the wherewithal to collect that information directly because nobody else was doing it. There’s no official system for gathering information on exonerations or for that matter a single legal definition of what is an exoneration. And from there this project just took off on its own and became what’s now a lasting institution that’s in the process of handing over to other people to run. Continue reading Wrongful Convictions, Exoneration, and Criminal Justice with Samuel Gross

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The Basic Income Guarantee, Freedom, and the Welfare State with Otto Lehto

What follows is an edited transcript of my conversation with Otto Lehto.


Petersen: You’re listening to Economics Detective Radio. My guest today is Otto Lehto of King’s College London. He is formerly the chair of Finland’s Basic Income Network. Otto, welcome to Economics Detective Radio.

Lehto: Oh it’s my pleasure to be here.

Petersen: So our topic for today is the basic income guarantee. Otto, you approach this idea from the perspective of political philosophy, so let’s start by discussing that. How about we start by talking about two of the major figures in political philosophy: John Rawls and Robert Nozick. What do each of them have to say about the welfare state and where do your views diverge from theirs?

Lehto: That is a good point to start indeed, although it is I think a bit lamentable that we have to start from those two figures because they have dominated the discussion so much during the last 50 years. In fact, it’s very hard to have a conversation outside the boundaries set by those two figures, but they’re both geniuses. They set the stage for the discussion, certainly in philosophy but also in public policy in many respects. Continue reading The Basic Income Guarantee, Freedom, and the Welfare State with Otto Lehto

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