The Right Coast

Editor: Thomas A. Smith
University of San Diego
School of Law

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Rick Perry has distanced himself from George W. Bush’s brand of conservatism - The Washington Post

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, like most of the other GOP presidential hopefuls, says his campaign is about undoing the decisions of President Obama. But Perry also presents a stark alternative to the last Republican to occupy the White House, his fellow Texan George W. Bush.

In his writings and speeches before he entered the race, Perry shared the view, widely held among conservatives, that Bush’s government spending habits in office were a betrayal of the GOP’s core fiscal principles. But Perry went further, dismissing “compassionate conservatism,” the central tenet of Bush’s domestic policy, as just more overreach by the federal government.


August 29, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Everything grows old and breaks down
Tom Smith

[This is a family life update.  Read at your own risk.]

I believe the universe is united by a strange cosmic web that causes related things to happen together sometimes.  How else do you explain the senior law professor who was interviewing me for a job confiding to me, apropos of nothing said by me, that he had a particular abhorence of reptiles, when I just happened to have a smallish savannah monitor in my pocket? (It was either that or leave him to freeze to death in my car parked in the snow outside.)  I believe thus that it was my decision a few weeks ago to get a new mattress that set off the karmic storm that caused everything in my house to break.  LWJ and I have been for about 12 years sleeping, or in my case for the past year, not sleeping on a mattress model accurately named "The Granite", perhaps the firmest mattress ever constructed.  So acutely uncomfortable was it that I normally ended up on the couch in our room, which was much softer.  One finally has enough of this sort of thing, and I researched diligently and finally settled on a memory foam model constructed out of earth-friendly materials (no idea what that could mean).  It's soft and comfy.  The skinny but strong youngsters who came to take the old mattress away explained they recycled the old ones, but in this case, they doubted much could be salvaged out of the ancient slab they removed from our room.  This is when things began to fall apart.

Continue reading

August 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Jeff Toobin on Justice Thomas in the New Yorker
Tom Smith

An interesting if frequently intellectually confused report on the influential Justice Thomas.  You would think after all these years Toobin would have gotten straight the idea of public meaning originalism.  Justice Scalia among others has been explaining it to people for at least 20 years.  If you are an admirer of Thomas, as I am, you will find the article infuriating for its various insinuations and back handed cheap shots, but what do you expect?  It's still worth reading.

August 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The guy the sharks fear -

the national tort-lawyer lobby is set to spend millions to try to stop the GOP presidential hopeful in his tracks.

No wonder: Perry, in his 10 years as Texas governor, has managed to implement serious tort reform in a state that even a top litigator concedes was once “the golden goose” for high-end jury verdicts.


August 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Morning Jay: The Store Is Closed | The Weekly Standard

This message is why Obama attracted so many intellectuals, including some on the right, in the 2008 campaign. Rarely do we hear a politician capture so succinctly the challenge of republican government--how to translate the personal interests of 312 million Americans into the public good? Candidate Obama claimed he could do that, and nearly 53 percent of the electorate in 2008 believed him.

But President Obama behaved very differently in 2009 and 2010.


August 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Crime is economic activity
Tom Smith

Interesting piece here by James Wilson about falling crime rates during the current recession and attempts to explain it.  Criminologists look even to such exotic factors as lead paint consumption and abortion rates to explain why crime rates go down when overall economic activity goes down.

It is almost always presented as some sort of paradox that crime rates go down during recessions or depressions.  I don't get why this should be considered such a paradox.  Crime is after all economic activity.  It's not some sort of anti-economic activity.  Gangs are firms, robbery takes resources and murder is probably some sort of consumption or alternatively a cost of doing business.  

I am sure plenty of criminologists have taken this perspective, but nearly all the discussions I have seen have a deeply embedded assumption that crime is somehow a substitute for lawful economic activity, as if people choose crime if and only if legitimate opportunities are not available. But why should this be the case?  In times of vibrant economic activity, high economic growth, the opportunities for crime will be greater.  People will have more money to buy drugs, just as they do to buy cars.  There will probably be more violent crime among drug dealers competing for markets. The opportunity costs of crime will be greater, but so will the opportunities.  You certainly shouldn't expect crime to be perfectly inversely related to employment levels and other measures of economic activity, should you?

It hardly needs mentioning that a motivation for seeing crime as caused by poverty rather than the incentives to commit crime (to make money, exercise power, make new friends, etc. etc.) is to set up the argument that crime should be addressed by reducing poverty.  Maybe that's a good idea, but if the idea is to explain crime with economics, then crime should be viewed as just a particular sort of economic activity with its own risks and costs and benefits.  Like most of my good ideas, I'm sure this one has been thought of dozens of people starting in the 1950s if not before.  Still, it seems to need some repeating now.

This relates to another of my hobby horses.  Most crime, or what we think of as crime as opposed to perfectly innocent and productive activity that happens to be illegal, such as digging a ditch on your back 40 which you didn't know is a protected wetland, is predatory.  But then, I think a lot of legal economic activity is predatory.  Yet most economic models picture economic activity as consisting of voluntary mutually beneficial transactions.  There is a lot of voluntary exchange in the animal world but also obviously a lot of predation, especially if you roughly include parasitism as a sort of predation.  Why should humans be any different?  If we thought of legal economic activity as including a fair amount of predation and parasitism, we might be more willing to see crime as a sort of economic activity, different in degree but not in kind from legal economic activity.

August 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Comment policy changed
Tom Smith

As loyal readers may have noticed, we have been getting a lot of comment spam.  It is one of those interesting, but highly annoying phenomena.  Because the RC itself gets a fair number of links, by putting links into comments on this blog, the spammer can elevate the Google search rank of the pages linked to in the spam comments.  It is as pure an example of economic parasitism as one could wish.  But it obviously defaces the blog and wastes my time as somebody has to go through comments and delete the spam.  The typepad spam filter does not seem very effective.  Spammers evidently can easily change their IP addresses to get around it.

Anyway, commentors will now have to authenticate themselves to comment.  We apologize for the inconvenience, but we hope this will reduce unsightly comment spam.

August 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Corner - National Review Online

Well, well, well: “The adopted daughter of Muammar Gadafy, whom he claimed died as an infant in the 1986 US bombing of his Tripoli compound, appears to be alive and worked as a doctor in the Libyan capital, documents discovered by The Irish Times indicate.” Read it with relish, baby.


August 26, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Viola Drath’s husband, Muth, charged with second-degree murder in her killing - The Washington Post

Albrecht Gero Muth was arrested Tuesday night and charged with murdering his elderly wife last week, D.C. police said. Muth was taken into custody while walking in the heart of Georgetown, a few blocks from the Q Street home where her body was found.

Muth, 47, had been the only suspect in the slaying of Viola Drath, 91, a former journalist, author and Georgetown fixture. Drath was discovered unresponsive Friday morning in a bathroom at their home, and it was first suspected that she died of natural causes. Medical examiners determined Saturday that her death was a homicide.


August 26, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Unemployment rate continues high and recovery slow because of Hurricane Irene
Tom Smith

I just wanted to be the first one to say it.

August 26, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)